Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Brand Loyalty and Beer

Yup, Local Love at Total Wine
We have had a couple of beer events in the last few days and several more before the end of the month.  At these things, I get to meet a whole bunch of nice folks and talk about beer and breweries.  A couple of days ago, at Total Wine & More in the Spokane Valley, I talked a lot about the three beers that were available for their growler fill station that day, but also about a number of other beers and breweries that people like.

A couple of things jumped out at me.  First, it's interesting in the course of the day to talk to such a wide variety of folks, who range from "I like mass-produced swill and don't want to drink craft but I like free stuff and alcohol so I might as well choke down yours" to the other end of the spectrum with the "Even though you spend 7 days/week involved in a brewery, I still spend more time on it since I truly love this and I can school you on beer" types.  Honestly, I like talking to both types and everyone in between.  You see, beer is fun and the people that don't like beer or alcohol at all are not likely to wander up to a beer-tasting table.

Even the folks who exclusively drink cans of Budmillercoors "like" beer in a general way and I enjoy surprising them with how much they end up liking our Huckleberry Ale or Girlfriend Golden.  And the folks who have an intimidating knowledge of all things beer and brewery are usually still nice to me and are willing to give me a free pass for whatever ignorance I express since I work at a brewery.  All in all, though, it's fun.

The second thing that jumped out at me, is that most people who like craft beer have two questions - one, what are pouring today, and two, what else are you making that is one-off and interesting?

I confess to a high degree of fickleness when it comes to beer, but it does strike me that we have moved from a generation of people who picked a beer (and maybe a car brand) and stuck with it no matter what.  I have the distinct impression that 30 years ago there was no point telling a Chevy guy about the new Ford because it never would get past the "Ford stands for Fix Or Repair Daily" filter firmly engrained in his mind.  And, by that token, a Bud guy might pass up a beer rather than drink a Miller High Life, just because.

Now, however, I think that craft drinkers have something much more like a brand-preference than a brand-loyalty.  In other words, not only is okay to drink something else, but often preferable.  We have become a bit wanton in our ways and everyone wants to try whatever is new.  I hesitate to use the term "slutty" in any context, but you have to admit that many of us will jump from tap to tap to tap without a second thought. We don't even have one-night stands, because we might try several on the same day.  Check out any Untappd account for proof.

For a brewery, there are both good and bad aspects to this.  The upside for a new brewery is obvious - you don't have to struggle to get people to "try" your beer.  Craft drinkers will seek it out if they haven't tried it.  They not only feel no misplaced shame for straying from "their" beer, they are proud to have tried whatever they can find ahead of their drinking buddies.  And, therein lies the downside for breweries new and old - it's hard to get something to stick.  With a lot of restaurants constantly rotating taps, it's not that hard to get a try, but it's also not that hard for every other brewery to get a try (which knocks you out until the next go around).  And, this results in breweries always wanting to have something "new" so that people want to try it.

Again, some pro and con to this, but mostly good.  Brewers and drinkers get to keep exploring and building on the craft.  It's true that Mickey D's has had the same menu for 145 years, but that isn't something you want or expect from the neighborhood gastro-pub.  In that vein, it's not enough for a brewery to come up with a list of 10 beers that range from sunshine golden to fork-worthy stout; you have to mix in one-timers, one-offs and anything special that seems to come down the pike.  Right now, we are working on a Imperial Jalepeno-Egyptian-Sour Bock.  I don't know how it will turn out, but I'm quite confident that there will be a group of people willing to try it no matter what.  See you at the tasting table.

1 comment:

  1. WOW! What a cool collection of beer and wines getting served through Beer Tap it is really amazing collection.