How One Convention Uses Craft Beer to Create a More Authentic Experience

Author: David McMillin       

When Gen Con 50 attendees arrived in Indianapolis on Aug. 17, they found they had a locally produced beverage companion for the four-day exploration of the gaming industry: a Belgian golden ale brewed for the event. The organizers of the longest-running gaming convention have been partnering with Indianapolis-based Sun King Brewing Company since 2012 to offer attendees an exclusive beer recipe. “Our partners at Sun King truly understand the Gen Con attendee,” said Scott Elliott, vice president of business development at Gen Con, when the beer was announced. “A significant portion of last year’s 61,000 Gen Con attendees sampled the Sun King beer, and their feedback on its taste, branding, and packaging art was our best yet.”

Many of those attendees were actually involved in the branding process this year. Sun King invited attendees to submit names for the convention’s official beer, and the Gen Con community contributed more than 2,000 ideas. Those ideas were narrowed to a list of eight finalists, and Gen Con attendees voted on their favorite in an online survey before traveling to Indianapolis. After all the votes were cast, the ale was crowned Dragon’s Delight, and attendees could buy the beer at an opening night celebration on Georgia Street in Indianapolis — the pedestrian-friendly location where the Super Bowl festivities were held in 2012. In addition to drinking fresh draft beer on the first night of the convention, attendees could purchase pints of the beer at downtown bars throughout their time in Indianapolis.

Many event organizers have invited attendees to vote on educational topics and certain programming decisions, but the Gen Con/Sun King partnership is a reminder that crowdsourcing can be fun, too. It also solves one of the key questions for the industry: How can attendees feel like they’re getting a unique experience that gives them a true taste of the host destination? When those tens of thousands of attendees left Circle City, they wouldn’t be able to find Dragon’s Delight at their local bars or on the shelves at the corner store. Perhaps, though, they took some home to recreate memories of the event — Sun King distributes the Gen Con beer at liquor stores in the Indianapolis metro area during the convention.

Two of this year’s attendees will have more to savor than the fruit-and-spice combination of Dragon’s Delight. Click here to read about the couple who got engaged at the convention.

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