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question_mark.jpgA buddy of mine is starting up a new brewery in Massachusetts and was asking for some advice as he moves forward with selling his beer. While a lot of what I say seems pretty obvious, it’s amazing how many start-up breweries make some of the critical mistakes I mention below.  I apologize for the slightly bawdy language.

Hey Mike,

We’ve really started to get rolling with our brewery and was wondering if you could offer any insight as far as gaining traction, getting accounts, keeping accounts, etc. – things that I don’t already know.

I know you need to sell the bar managers, educate the staff, host tastings, blah blah blah. But when you really get down to it, is there a piece of the puzzle that I might be missing? How much should I truly give up to get accounts (merchandise, glassware, swag..) ?

Any and all help would be great.

Thanks man,
Nate

In the days of craft beer, loyalty is difficult. While you guys are probably experiencing tremendous growth, a lot of that is going to be due to a “newness” factor. Craft beer drinkers and bars are always looking for what’s new. This doesn’t mean you’re not going to have growth, but just be aware that at some point things will cool a bit. You’re no longer the cool new toy.

But what that means is that you’re going to need to be the best toy out there. You’re going to want to make the best beers possible, because why else would someone want to keep drinking your beer? You need to be your toughest critic and you need to surround yourself with opinions that will be tough but fair.

I’m always shocked by breweries making sub-par beer that seem to think they’re making some of the best beer in the world. I don’t understand how someone making a sub-par IPA doesn’t taste something like Firestone Walker’s Union Jack, or Odell IPA, or Green Flash West Coast IPA and think, “Damn, why doesn’t my beer taste as awesome as these?”

Part of this is taste. You should absolutely brew to your taste, but your taste isn’t everything. The consumer will dictate more about your beer than your tastebuds ever could. Always listen to opinions. Doesn’t mean you need to change the beer to fit everyone’s taste, but if enough people are saying something, then you probably need to take a hard look at your beer.

The best way to maintain loyalty is to remain loyal to the places that are selling your beer. While all of the POS in the world will certainly help a lot (because who doesn’t like getting free shit?) having face time with bar owners, restaurants, and beer drinkers will mean more to some people than a stupid tchotchke.

Face time also means sampling. Get as many people as possible to try your beer. A sell sheet (an informational pamphlet used to sell beer) means jackshit to most people because most people still say stupid shit like, “I love stouts, but I don’t like ales.”

But honestly, the biggest piece of the puzzle I’ve found is that you need an army of people requesting your beer. There is no better way to convince a bar or restaurant manager into bringing in your beer than having 3 or 4 people asking for it. Creating a buzz is easier now because of social media, but it’s still important to emphasize to your fans to request your beer in places where it currently isn’t on.

There isn’t a single secret to selling beer, but having great beer will be much easier to sell than mediocre beer. Good luck.

question_mark.jpgIn one of the only features that has been around since the beginning of STL Hops, it’s time to look into the old mailbag:

Do you know of any STL sites that keep up on the happy hour deals of local bars/breweries? Everyone likes a cheap happy hour, but I would like to find ones that
have good products.

So, what say you?  Where can someone not only find a place to save some money, but also a spot to have a delicious craft beer?

question_mark.jpgWe haven’t dipped into the old mailbag in a while, maybe someone could help these ladies out:

So my boyfriend and I are both STL beer fanatics.  I am trying to brain-storm a beer themed surprise.  Have considered splurging on VIP tickets to Soulard Oktoberfest, other beer festival tickets, etc.  But we tend to go to a lot of those things as a matter of course already.  Have you heard of any events happening in October or early November slightly off the standard festival beat.  Moulin sometimes does beer tasting menus at Vin de Set, but they don’t have any coming up.  Any other restaurants/brew pubs you can think of that do special tasting menus – perhaps on request if not as an event?  Anything you can think of off the top of the head would be great – but I know this is an unwieldy question.  Thanks for your time!

And this nice lady is looking for a Brazilian beer:

My husband is Brazilian and is dying to drink a Skol, its a Brazilian beer. I heard that there is a store downtown that sells them. Do you know anything about this or if Skol is available for purchase anywhere in St. Louis?

Can anyone provide any help for these questions?

Way back in May, Derek was trying to find Lion Stout in Missouri:

I live in St. Louis, but I used to tend bar at a place in Wisconsin that housed a selection of over 450 beers. While there, I developed a love of a Sri Lankan beer called Lion Stout. I am desperately trying to locate some of this beer in St. Louis, but so far with no luck. I was hoping maybe you knew of a place that carries Lion stout, or at least knew of a place that might. Any help would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.  

Well Derek, I hope you were paying attention to Friday’s Round-Up, because if you were, you’d now see that Lion Stout from Sri Lanka is now available at the Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton.  This beer gets very good marks on Beer Advocate, so maybe we should all give it a go.

If you’re anything like me, you have too much glassware. Far, far too much. But what if you wanted to narrow it down to just 2 or 3 glasses, do you think you could? Dave emailed me in hopes of trying to find the perfect glassware for his new bar:

I’m currently building a home bar with an intention of having the minimum of glassware type.

I have recently narrowed down my wine glasses to buy to 2. That apparently can serve and enhance all wines. I would like to find a beer glass or 2 or fit the same purpose. At present, I find I need to have about 5 to 10 ‘different’ types of glasses for different beer. Heck, Riedel has about 200 glasses for their wine. WAY TOO MUCH. I think 10 different beer glasses is likewise too much. I presently use a pint glass but want to enjoy and enhance my beer drinking.

If I was forced down to just two glasses, a deserted-island selection, these would be my two choices:

nbelgium.jpgThe first would be the tulip glass from New Belgium Brewery. I find that it provides just about the most perfect beer drinking vessel for almost any style. Enough room to swirl the beer for aroma without spilling any. Enough volume to hold a full beer with a lot of head, which is perfect for your Belgian style beers. Also enough surface area to allow for easy warming if the beer is served too cold. It’s my go-to glass for beers I really want to take time to enjoy. My only issue is that I wish I could find it without a NB logo.

imperialpint.jpgMy second choice is just a standard Imperial Pint Glass. With having two homebrews on tap at any time, it’s nice to walk downstairs and pour off 20oz of beer whenever I like. It also makes drinking things like Pale Ales and Stouts just seem more authentic.

One other thing to possibly consider Dave, since you’re doing a bar with wine as well look at getting some large Champagne flutes. They’re just about the same shape as a pilsner glass and would allow you to do double duty. I’d be curious what everyone else thinks about possible glass choices.

Mark Gustafson from Wisconsin (and with a name like that, you just knew he’d be from Wisconsin!) wrote in to ask:

Mike, I am hoping you can help me out in locating a decent liquor store that carries New Belgium beers on the east side of St. Louis. I am going to be in the O’Fallon area in a few weeks, and am hoping to stock up (no, not just Fat Tire, but all the other goodies that we can’t get up here in Wisconsin). I appreciate any help you can give me, as I have some friends back here in Milwaukee that I would like to treat to some beers as well.

After talking to Ryan Beach from New Belgium Brewery, he confirmed to me that Fat Tire, 1554 and Mothership Wit are now available in Southern Illinois.  But I’m not very familiar with O’Fallon, IL.  I realize he could take a short trip over to Corral Liquor in Granite City, but maybe someone knows of some place in O’Fallon?

Well, I can sort of answer this question:

I was wondering if you knew of anybody in the St. Louis area that carried Tennants? Lukas Liquors only has it in 1/2 barrel quantities and I haven’t found anybody else that has it. I figured that you are the man that would know where I can turn. Thanks for any info!

I know that the Scottish Arms carries this on draught but anyone else know where you can get it?