The Brewers Association is awesome. Seriously join now if your brewery is not already a member.
They wrote an evergreen article about staying relevant in changing times. Targeted for brewpubs it nevertheless applies to almost any customer facing beer brand. We have the first half here. Read to the end to get the rest.
As brewpub brewers, we have lived to see our wildest dreams come true. We now have an audience that appreciates us for being more than a casual dining establishment. Our quest to educate the consumer on the merits of craft beer has paid off, and our patrons are significantly smarter in their buying choices.
But success comes with a price.
Where we may once have been the only darling local brewery on the block, now there are several with full retail applications. The beer consumer is pickier about what they drink and more demanding of quality and uniqueness. Coupled with a healthier economy, other restauranteurs are also figuring out the merits of offering craft beer at their establishments, adding to local competition for the craft consumer.
So I set out to query other successful brewpubs, asking: “What are your sources of competition in this new marketplace—restaurants or breweries? What are you doing to stay relevant and set your business apart in the eye of the consumer?” Here are some responses…
1. Do what you know works well
In Raleigh, N.C., there has been a recent proliferation of new breweries—but most have opted not to mess with food. That presented an opportunity for Boyland Bridge Brewing.
“If I had to pick, I would say I compete more with restaurants than breweries. We set our business apart by offering standard beers along with our food. People can always expect an identifiable beer profile in our products, not risky flavors,” says proprietor Andrew Leager. Boyland Bridge focuses on refinement of service to stand out. Apparently, being “normal” has come to be unusual.
2. Capitalize on your best features
Being a full-service restaurant allows Whetstone Station in Brattleboro, Vt., to compete with restaurants more than brewery neighbors that offer only snack food. The brewpub’s large, diverse menu maintains its competitive edge by taking advantage of those looking for a combination of good food and good beer.
In addition, Whetstone’s location on the waterfront clearly helps attract a wider audience than just beer adventurists, who might not be turned off by an industrial warehouse. This feature also sets the brewery apart from other retail locations.
An extensive and frequently changing craft beer list offers advantages on the beer side as well. Chief Bier Maker Tim Brady says Whetstone maintains a large guest draft selection, which keeps an edge on other craft beer bars. With only one flagship house beer, his other five options are all one-off batches, encouraging regulars and repeat customers to try new offerings on each visit.
3. Do what you set out to do
At my own brewpub, Ladyface Ale Companie in Agoura Hills, Calif., our company culture has always been to educate the guest on craft beer and provide a brewery experience less commonly found in other restaurants. It sets us apart from the local competition and defines our daily actions. Prioritizing beer culture helps us provide a better quality of service to patrons, and increases our bottom line—both for the servers, and for the profitability of the company.