YXE Beer Wars: A New Festival Added to Summer Fun

Rick Mah (left) and Dave Mah, the founders of Foodtruck Wars, are launching another festival in August. (Photo by Cam Hutchinson)

Summer in Saskatoon is becoming a war zone — in a good way.
Rick and Dave Mah, who relocated Foodtruck Wars successfully to Riversdale last July, are adding YXE Beer Wars to the city’s festival calendar. 

The new festival will be held Aug. 23-24 at Kiwanis Park, on the north side of the Delta Bessborough Hotel. The event will feature 28 booths for craft beer makers, as well as those who make wine and spirits, and will have some traditionally brewed beer available. 

“The craft beer industry is really exploding right now, so we are giving people what they want; another festival,” Dave Mah said. “It’s unique; an outdoor festival at the tail end of summer, so it should be a good time for everyone.”

Mah said he and his father, Rick, have enjoyed creating festivals. The two also ran a two-day collector’s show this spring that attracted 1,600 people and 25,000 attended Foodtruck Wars.

“We had a successful event with Foodtruck Wars,” Dave Mah said. “We have some down time in August, so we brainstormed ideas to host another event. We had a bunch of different ideas and I came up with the craft beer one.”

Rick Mah is retired, although festivals have become darn near a full-time job. The pay’s not good, but the rewards of putting on a good festival compensate for that, he said with a laugh.

“When Dave broached the idea of a craft beer festival, I automatically thought that’s a heck of an idea. And that’s coming from a non-drinker, but I recognized the idea was good,” Rick Mah said.

“We approached about six of the local craft brewers and they immediately said, ‘That’s an awesome idea and we would definitely attend.’ We knew we were on the right track.”

YXE Beer Wars will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. both days in a fenced area in the park. Admission is $15 to the 19+ event. The admission charge will help cover expenses, Dave Mah said.

There will be a large covered tent with table seating, food vendors, a free video game lounge and music supplied by Red Bull, pumped through its mobile DJ truck.

Rick Mah said he and Dave have had success finding sponsors for the event. That’s not always easy to do, especially for the first year of a festival.

“That’s always the hardest thing. We’ve run a few events in the past and it’s always difficult trying to convince someone else that it’s a good idea and to put a few dollars behind your idea.”

They were able to get a big one.

“When we contacted Co-op Liquor about becoming the title sponsor they were in right away, so we didn’t even have to go to a second organization. After a quick telephone conversation, Co-op said hold that for us; we want that.”

Getting music supplied by Red Bull was a bit of a coup.

“They said it fits into their summer festival stuff so they are helping us with some tenting and they are bringing in their mobile DJ truck,” Dave Mah said. “That adds a lot to the festivities.

“We like to stay busy. I have a bar I run full time and summer is slower for the bar, so it’s nice to do these events in the summer. It’s a nice change from our daily lives. We enjoy it.”

Dave Mah owns Bartari Video Game and Restaurant on 20th Street West.

“We aren’t doing it for the money, that’s for sure,” Rick Mah said. “We put in countless hours. It’s almost a full-time job for me. I’m retired, but it takes up a lot of my waking hours. Like Dave said, summer is slow for us, so we don’t want to be sitting in the arm chair too long watching TV. We like to get out and do stuff.

“We don’t mind giving back to the community. We just hope the festivals are successful and we have people coming and attending them. We hope it gives people another thing to do on a nice weekend.

“As we put on events, we try to figure out different ways to get people to come to our shows. A lot of it is trial and error.”

He said he has no idea how many will attend Beer Wars.

“For Foodtruck Wars 2019, we fully expect 30,000 people to come. We base that on the attendance last year and on the feedback we received. We do have some funding this year for some extra advertising, so we are going to put that into full force, for not only Saskatoon but the surrounding areas.

“Beer Wars is a first-year event. We’d be happy, let’s say, if 2,000 people came, but we could just as easily draw 10,000 to 15,000 for this event. It is one of those festivals that could explode.

“The province is really behind the craft brewing industry. We have the craft brewers wanting to participate, so if we have decent weather I could see our attendance being really high. And it is downtown which is really key for us as well.” 

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