How to Sell High End Beer

I recently sold a $59.99 bottle of Imperial Coconut Porter (50.7 oz bottle) brewed in Stone’s brand new Berlin brewery. I sold it in under two sentences. Here is how the interaction went down.

Customer: “Is that a $60 bottle of beer”? Me: “Yeah, what’s cool about it is it’s the first collaboration from Stone brewed in their brand new brew house in Berlin Germany”. Customer: “I do like Coconut Porters”. Me: “I personally haven’t had this but if you like Stone, you are probably going to like this 9.4% beast.

….and I just walked away.

The key to any high end beer is explaining why it is worth the high price tag. I once talked to a distributer sales rep and asked him which offering in his portfolio was the hardest to sell. He gave me two answers; a really high end brewery because of their high prices, and a horrible brewery because the taste of their beer is not worth the price. So back to the key…you only have to explain why the high price tag is justified.

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What if I said to the potential customer, “yeah that is a crazy price for a beer”? If you were just looking at volume as the primary metric of value, then this beer is way over priced. A 6-pack is 72 oz. and the highest price Stone limited 6 pack in the store is $14.99. This one bottle is only 50.7 oz. and costs $59.99. But that is just it, craft beer buyers are not looking at price per oz. as the key metric for value. They value flavor over all and a close second is rarity.

If you want to sell high end beer, you must explain what value the customer gets for the price and let them decide if it is worth it. Another great example is Cascade Brewing, out of Portland, Oregon. They produce high end sour beer that is usually the most expensive beer in the store I work. So let’s dive in and figure out what makes this $30.00 750ml bottle worth the price. Their alcohol by volume average 7-9% with a couple offerings getting up to 12%. Surprisingly, +10% ABV will often become a discriminator for average beer consumers. I like to compare Cascade to wine. How many wine customers make purchasing decisions based off of ABV? My experience is very little. I laugh to myself when I see someone read a beer menu and say they cant have a 10% beer because its too much ABV. Zero, absolutely ZERO, of the wine drinkers look at the same menu and say, “I can’t have a 12-15% wine”! So back to the perceived value in Cascade Brewing. I explain to customers the two reasons why their beer is so expensive. First, Cascade does a lot of their fruit additions by hand. Adding real fruit to barrels is a tedious task. Do you know what it is like to cut up thousands of apricots? Neither do I, but just like an ultra marathon, I don’t have to run one to know it sucks. Second, the process to make a barrel aged sour beer is long. The company needs to tie up precious real estate to effectively condition the beer. A simplistic way to look at this is, up to a year to brew/ferment in oak, and a year to condition and mature in the bottle before it is ready for sale. I assure you, it is not that simple but you get the picture. The company needs to hold on to the product for 2+ years before it is ready for sale. This is what makes their beer worth the wine like prices.

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To sum this up, each product on the shelf has a different value per customer. Explain what the value is per product. An 8 month old 10% Double IPA that is marked 80% off has a very different value than a fresh 10% Double IPA. Most likely, those products will have completely different customers. It is important to understand what the intrinsic value actually is and let the customer decide if that value is something they want.

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