February 4, 2019

Beer Marketing, The Interviews – Cody Beer Night In San Diego

Beer marketing is about beer and marketing. The main thing both of those have in common is people. If you want great beer or great marketing you need great people.

At #BeerMarketing our goal is help beer people get better at marketing and to help marketing people get better at marketing beer. So enjoy an ongoing series of interviews of beer people, marketing people and our favorite: beer marketing people.

Beer Marketing: Cody Thompson, Beer Night In San Diego – Three B Zine Podcast Network

Cody is a lynchpin of the San Diego Craft Beer scene and he has been doing it for seemingly forever! Check him out at Three B Zine and Beer Night San Diego Podcast.

As the longest running consistent podcast in San Diego covering local beer and for over 200 episodes, Beer Night in San Diego Presented by Three B Zine Podcast has worked tirelessly to bring craft beer drinkers the best entertainment we can through weekly podcasts. We strive to push the envelope each and every week with guests who make the craft beer world the amazing place that it is to share their stories, their work and of course lots of craft beer.

cody thompson

How would you describe what you do to your grandma?

We are 4 friends who sit around once a week, share beer with each other while discussing local beer news, events and we discuss in depth differences in styles of beers and we happen to do it into microphones, record it, and put it on the internet for folks to listen to.

How would you describe what you do to beer industry peers?

Beer Night in San Diego is the first and longest running beer podcast in the city of San Diego. Each week we sit down to sample new (to us) beer offerings while discussing them in depth for both novice and veteran beer drinkers. We set our focus on not only entertainment with comedy, jokes etc,, also one of our main goals is beer education for all levels of beer drinkers. One of the things I like to say is “come laugh and learn with us” because we are proud that our show will help listeners laugh, and learn more about the beer community. We focus on style centric shows to break down styles so we can all learn more together. We also break down local beer news, local beer events, and interview the folks that make the beer community the wonderful place it is. Deep diving questions while presenting a friendly conversation type environment. We were the first to start using “Support #IndieBeer” almost 4 years ago and we have been hardcore supporters of strictly Independent, local beer of quality since day one. This has been, and always will be our focus.

What’s your super power?

Wow, that is a good question. Difficult, though; what does one gauge his response on? Physical prowess? Keen deductive skills? The ability to banter well with super villains? It would be cool to be invisible, so I could order an extra slice of pizza without people thinking I was eating too much. Maybe that’s my super power, ability to crush pizza to a degree that others would find fantastic and “super”. I should have sent this question to our host Tom – he would probably present a better answer than me.

How long have you been involved in the beer industry? 

Three B Zine started originally as an online blog/web zine covering local beer, music and biking in 2011.The entire reason was to share great things about San Diego culture which includes biking, local music and of course the ever growing community of local beer. Not long after, the decision was made to move from the “blog” type model and change to a podcast and focus primarily on the beer community. We were the first beer podcast in San Diego and currently the longest running. The first episode was released in July 2013, and we haven’t stopped since. We changed our shows name from Three B Zine to Beer Night in San Diego a little over a year ago, and Three B Zine is now our own Network which will be releasing lots of new content and other podcasts in 2019, including Tom Cast Pop Cast – Our Pop Culture show which is available now as well as Beer Night.

What was your ‘gateway/intro/omg’ beer that got you into enjoying beer rather than just consuming it?

The easy answer of course is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. That beer was one of the first, if not the first, that made me realize that beer could be something exciting, and dare I say magical. I also spent a lot of time on the Central Coast well before Beer Night in San Diego was even a twinkle in our eyes. So it would only be fair for me to also include DBA from Firestone Walker, as that was readily available in 22s at the time. Both of those beers blew my mind, and to this day Sierra Nevada is one of my all time favorites.

What are the last three beers you drank? (Brewery, beer name)

We just wrapped up our 205th local beer podcast, so those were the last beers I drank. The last 3 that we drank on the show were –
Berried at Sea – Fruit Beer made with Raspberries, Blackberries and Boysenberries by Coronado Brewing. 
Smylex IPA – Brand new release, heavily Nelson hopped IPA by Pariah Brewing.
Passion of the Kiwi – Berliner style with passion fruit, guava and kiwi.

You get only two beers while stuck riding the mars rover. Which two do you pick? (Brewery, beer name) and why?

Not to say it would be a bad pick, in fact it would be a great pick, to choose Pale Ale from Sierra, as its one of my all time favorites. But since our podcast started saying support #IndieBeer almost 4 years ago, I will stick with local picks.  Coronado Islander IPA – One of my favorite local beer offerings, and has been for many years. It’s a classic, outstanding west coast IPA that always tastes like home. So if I was stuck up on Mars, it would be great to have a classic, phenomenal beer that reminds me of the waves, sunshine and the beauty of our home town San Diego.  Burgeon Beer Lot 19 – Anyone who listens to our show knows I love Burgeon Beer. One of my favorite spots in the entire city for beer. One of the best. Lot 19 is their classic style pale ale with Cascade and Amarillo. Its balanced so well, and executed in my humble opinion perfectly and I cant get enough of it. Hoppy enough for hop heads and deliciously drinkable for everyone. Although its not canned, I would happily strap a 5 gal keg to the back of the rover for all day boss pours.

What is your “OMG, right now, can’t get enough of it, must drink more” beer?

Bacon and Eggs from Pizza Port just dropped recently, and we all know this beer is not available all year, as it moves quickly. And its still just chilly enough in San Diego to want to crush this beer any time of the day. Although, this beer is so delectable it is an easy choice any time of the year. A beer I would love to drink more of would also be Normcore from Burning Beard. Now that it has hit cans, I would love to keep that in my fridge at all times. Also, Societe’s version of Resilience was also an A+ and wish I had like 6 crowlers to myself right now.

What does “Beer Marketing” mean to you? (be as verbose as you want)

Beer marketing for what we do is a totally different beast than actually marketing a beer from a brewery. Nowadays it doesn’t seem like a brewery can just rest on a quality product, they need to find a way to cut through all the noise. Noise, meaning, the amount of beer constantly being released (such as specialty, one off cans and such) social media is blaring with new photos of cans, bottles, tap handles etc, so how does one cut through that noise and stand out? Eye catching designs and art, solid fonts and descriptions, and cracking the code to really connect with the consumer is key if you ask me. Obviously, quality beer is a must as well, at least for me personally. Just because a can is beautiful doesn’t always mean the beer inside matches the design.

What beer company do you think does an exceptional job at overall marketing? (product, promotion, people, retail, packaging, social etc)

Modern Times (amazing artistry)– Burning Beard (ground level events that actually connect with beer geeks)

You have to give a nod to Modern Times. In a noisy, very busy landscape they cracked the code long ago to not only cut through the busy world of beer, but to actually create their own beautiful sound, which resonates with beer drinkers all over. Not just San Diego. Plus they are crushing it on Social Media which is a powerful marketing tool with over 171k followers on Instagram. I would have to also give a nod to Pure Project. They also kill it with marketing, art, designs and connecting with consumers on what seems like a personal level. People who like Pure, LOVE Pure. Its almost as though people see Pure as THEIR brewery, and really want to assist in their marketing to push them to the next level. They are also doing a great job by racking up over 40k followers on IG in just 3 years of existence. I think I would also give credit to one of the kings of San Diego beer in Stone. You see a Stone beer on a shelf and you know exactly what it is and what you can expect from them. All of their labeling and designs present a rock solid stamp or “sticker” if you will, that has sort of always dominated shelf space. They also work with the community a lot with collaborations, home brew competitions bringing people from the community in to make a winning beer and their descriptions have always been top notch for beers. Plus, 435k followers on Instagram, I mean come on, they must be doing something right.  Although not local, I would also give a huge honorable mention to Fieldwork. Their labels are world class artistic, their beer descriptions are phenomenal and they have grown from not only marketing, but also with top notch, incredible beers to be one of the most wildly popular breweries in CA. Their beer descriptions are so good, they could release a coffee table book of their labels and beer descriptions, and I would buy it easily.

What’s your favorite beer marketing this year? (brewery and whatever marketing they did)

Sierra Nevada Resilience, easily. They took this project on and ran with it, and got so many breweries involved to make essentially the same beer (although some breweries took artistic freedom which was awesome too) and they were able to raise millions of dollars for people in need after the terrible fires in California. Banding together with so many folks in the beer community was a beautiful thing, and it was all to help people in need. Easily, the best project of the last few years, in my opinion.

beer night podcast

What Beer Marketing do you wish Breweries would stop?

Any brewery who released cans or marketing materials that were blatantly offensive. Offensive can definitely be a sliding scale depending on what people deem “offensive” but sexist labels or marketing, labels that rely on sad attempts at humor but come off as either sexist, racist…This is all the worst. This sort of stuff needs to stop. The world of beer should be an inclusive community, and marketing beer as “Dude Beer” or whatever, serves no purpose but to exclude members of the community. I really would love to see these types of labels and marketing end. Its pathetic.

What is your #1 pet peeve about what too many beer companies do wrong in their marketing?

See above. Sexist marketing isn’t for the Independent, true craft community. Leave that sort of garbage to ABI. Keep it out of independent beer. This is supposed to be a community, lets start acting like it. 

What two marketing related activities do you wish more breweries would do more of?My comments really only relate to San Diego but establish a face of your business (an owner, taproom manager, etc) so that us beer geeks have someone to identify with. We need to feel a personal connection to your brand if you’re looking for long term clients. Have fun! I can’t tell you how boring it is to scroll through Instagram and see a picture and a few words, I’m guilty too, it’s not just you. That being said, fun is contagious, if you and your staff are conveying a feeling that they love their job and the brand, those of us on the other side feel that more than you think. End “keep the glass” nights that are front for bullshit. If you are selling the glasses to the bar, then it’s not a fucking free glass! Do something else, like having an actual person that knows about your beer onsite to talk about how awesome you are! 

More social media presence. Let beer drinkers know about upcoming releases, when they will be released and how beer drinkers can find the beer. Its interesting sometimes how deep you have to dive to find info on an upcoming release, or when you go into a shop and say “I had no idea this beer was released…” Make it easier to connect with breweries. The community wants your beer, make it easier for us to find information on releases, tap room beers (whats on tap), food truck availability and your hours. It is a bummer when you email, tweet or IG message a brewery about info, and never hear back. Communication is key and is a big help for beer drinkers. It makes beer drinkers feel a connection to your brand and that is worth so much.  Events, such as Meet the Brewer would be awesome. Lots of breweries and beer bars do this, but I think on a larger level and not just during Beer Week would be incredible. Beer drinkers these days are hungry for education, and information on beer. Also, in a very social media, screen focused world, it is great to speak to a human being about their passion, tap into their knowledge and get to know the folks who make the beer you love. Growing a connection with your community and the people who support your brand, I think, can do wonders for a brands growth. If you make a connection with beer drinkers, they are almost guaranteed to come back. Its exciting and helps your consumers and supporters feel like they are not just there to buy beer, but an actual part of the brand. Bring people in and let them feel like your tasting room is that beer drinkers “home.”

You only get to choose one: What’s more important for the long term success of a brewery? And Why? Exceptional Product or Exceptional Marketing & Branding

Regardless of what I said above about a noisy market and all that, I still truly believe an exceptional product is the key to long term success. You can dress your low quality beer up in the actual Mona Lisa, but people will learn eventually that your world class art doesn’t fully translate into the beer inside. As far as catchy titles, great art and all the IG Ads in the world go, if the product itself isn’t exceptional, people may come in once to try a hype looking beer, but to get return visitors who will buy and share your beer, its got to be exceptional. Societe kills it at this. No cans on shelves, but the beer is some of the best in the USA, and people know it. So we keep coming back.

Is the overall Beer market:

  1. Over-saturated (too many breweries, not enough drinkers, more closures than openings) or
  2. Under-saturated (unmet demand, more breweries open than close, more beer will be consumed.)

Breweries are still looking to expand into other markets, but I don’t truly think it is OVER saturated necessarily. (Some) Beer drinkers these days are looking for the hot new shiny thing on the market, so I understand why out of town breweries want to expand into other markets, including San Diego. I do think that expansion will start to slow down, and I think we have already seen some of that. And hyper local will be the focus for at least smaller breweries. But the fact remains, that big beer continues to dominate shelves at non craft specific locations, and is still under represented nationwide. So, it would be cool to see shelves stocked and loaded with independent beers. There is still room for independent true craft to grow into markets and to become the daily drinker for big beer lovers.

Is YOUR City Over or Under saturated?

San Diego is definitely very saturated but in specific neighborhoods. There are still many communities, like Escondido where I live, that could easily welcome more local spots. Rancho Bernardo, Penasquitos and other neighborhoods could benefit from a tasting room or brewery, for sure. So I think yes, San Diego is exploding with tap rooms and brewery spaces, but there are still areas that would be a great fit and home for local beer. Just produce local, independent beer of high quality in these neighborhoods that are THIRSTY and become your neighborhoods local home base form quality beers. That being said, we are getting to a point where there are SO many breweries its hard to even keep up with them all, and we have seen some local fan favorite spots suffer, struggle and even close their doors. So, as we always say on our show, if there is a local brewery that you love, make sure you are going there and supporting them. Now more than ever before.

What are your Top Three breweries in your city?

My top 3 favorite breweries in San Diego in no particular order are – 
Burgeon Beer – Phenomenal beers, great folks who own and work there. They are a top notch establishment and it excites me to see them continuing to grow. I don’t think ive had a single beer that I wouldn’t drink 3 of. They make some of, in my opinion, the best hazy offerings in town, but they also crush it with pils, pales, dark beers and most recently out of this world Barrel Aged beers. 
Karl Strauss – True OGs of San Diego beer. They have been absolutely killing it for decades in San Diego, and have in recent years turned up the radness even more with beers like their Mosaic Session, Aurora Hoppyalis, Isomerizer and their wide array of barrel aged and sour beers. Always has been and always will be one of my all time favorite breweries. 
Pizza Port – I don’t think I can name 3 local spots as my favorites without mentioning Pizza Port. Pioneers in beer and was the home base for legends like Tomme Arthur and Jeff Bagby among others. Have you ever had a Pizza Port beer you wouldn’t finish? Didn’t think so. From west coast IPA to pilsners, stouts and so much more, Pizza Port has solidified themselves as a world class operation and San Diego is lucky they are in town.

Beer Marketing People are Awesome.

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