While at the Craft Brewers Conference 2017, I got a chance to sit in on a panel discussion about defining narratives in craft beer, hosted by Good Beer Hunting.
I never miss a Good Beer Hunting (GBH) podcast, so there was no way I was going to miss Michael Kiser live in person! In fact, I spent 3+ of my 5 hour drive to Washington D.C. listening to 3 GBH podcasts that I purposefully saved for the drive.
There were two main takeaways from this panel discussion for me as a entrepreneur, with several craft beer businesses in planning.
When the customer latches on to a particular view of your business, it will be nearly impossible to change their viewpoint.
Josh Hambright (pictured 2nd from the left), Co-Founder and Head Brewer of Central State Brewing, provided an anecdotal story explaining his personal run in with this idea. Central State is a brewery without a taproom. At the same time, Josh wanted to open a bar (The Koelschip) that would bring a diverse beer menu to his local market, exposing people to the types of beer that Josh fell in love with prior to his professional brewing career. In addition to the primary purpose of Josh’s local bar, he would maintain 6 Central State beers on tap. Here is the rub. The local customer base viewed The Koelschip as Central State’s tap room. When talking to Josh, locals would even refer to his bar as “The Taproom”. Josh and his crew spent the better part of a year trying to fight the distinction before realizing that it is pointless to expend energy trying to fight the public perception.
As someone who wants to open a niche craft beer bar, this story is somewhat concerning. I want to execute my vision, but at the end of the day, a business needs to make money. If customers latch onto anything outside of the core vision, a good business owner will take advantage of the situation. Josh mentioned that instead of continuing to fight the perception of his bar, he is in the process of installing more draught lines to feature even more Central State beer. If the customers view your bar as a tap room, then give them a tap room that also features beer within the original vision of the establishment. Josh’s original intent can still be met by featuring “guest taps”.
A business needs to factor growth into their narrative development.
The GBH folks provided a great discussion about the recent stumbles of BrewDog to illustrate this point. BrewDog branded themselves as “Punks”, fighting the establishment and the status quo of the beer scene in Great Britain. The company was started in a garage in 2007. Today they are a multinational company with triple digit growth and recently sold 22% of the company’s stake to a San Francisco based private equity firm. It’s really hard to continue branding yourselves as punks when your company is massive and needs to taken on private equity to continue expanding.
Time will tell how this story plays out, but GHB’s well articulated point rings true. If you are an entrepreneur developing your brand strategy, you must look at how customers can related to your brand as you grow. Because of this panel discussion, I am currently reworking a brand concept that I have in the works.
This event was one of the better uses of my time during CBC. As if this event wasn’t great enough, I sipped on a Bluejacket English Mild dispensed from a cask! It’s rare to find an English Mild, let alone one in cask. It was also neat to see the Good Beer Hunting folks in person as well as listen to Erin Jones from Burial Beer Co. talk about how they tightly control their distribution.