17 Apr Go To a Party or Throw a Party – Ways For Smaller Breweries to Become Known
by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap
Large breweries need to get their beer in front of many people’s faces. They make a lot of beer; therefore, they need to sell a lot of beer. In their cases, festivals are good ways to show off their wares to potential customers in markets that they are entering or in which they are trying to increase sales. For small breweries, there isn’t the same sort of motivation to attend many festivals; they thrive from the people coming to their taprooms and brewpubs.
However, people can’t come to your establishment if they don’t know it exists. Social media can help with that, but again, are people seeing your social media posts if they don’t know you exist? Indiana On Tap tries to help out – we write about everyone and support all of Indiana craft beer and spirits. But if a brewery wants a way to help people learn about them, festivals close to them are a way to do it. If they do send some beer out the door but aren’t big enough to use a distributor, then festivals can help people recognize a brewery in package stores and restaurants.
There are a lot of festivals – there’s no doubting that, but just where these take place are crucial for whether they will drive business to a small brewery’s taproom. And since there are more breweries in small towns now, festivals are now likely to be farther away from their taprooms. In this case, breweries need to pick and choose the festivals that might do them some good.
That may mean limiting participation to festivals very close in proximity, in which case the festivals may be smaller and their time and money invested reaches fewer people. Or, a brewery may choose to go to a festival that is a bit farther away, but which caters to the audience and message that it wishes to get out. On the other hand…. a brewery may choose to take matters into their own hands.
On Saturday the 13th of April, Walter and I ventured out to two festivals that used different mechanisms to make people aware of breweries. Our first stop was the 3rd Annual Muncie BrewFest at the Cornerstone Center for the Arts downtown. This is a great festival that supports the arts education programs of Cornerstone year round. The arts focus of this festival was in full view during the event, with many of the Cornerstone faculty demonstrating their art during the festival.
There was a potter throwing clay, an artist doing free caricatures of the attendees, and other arts organizations showing their items and promoting their programs. The music was part of the art as well, with the three rooms of the festival each having their own entertainment. Laura Turvey of Tipsy Turvey’s was on hand selling cupcakes and other snacks made with the beers of the various breweries; this was just another way of highlighting the different ways to be creative. But the focus was on the breweries, the producers of our favorite kind of creative product.
The 500 attendees had a good selection of beers and other beverages to choose from, with a few surprises along the way too. The participating breweries mostly did fall into the small and self-distributing modes, with several sending no beer out their own doors – yet. Give them some time, and they will pick up a wider following, something for which they will ultimately be able to thank the Muncie BrewFest.
As for the great offerings of the afternoon, there were several that stood out. Monon Beverage Brokers brought one bottle of Indulge from Moonlight Meadery in New Hampshire, an ambrosia of vanilla, cinnamon and honey that was the best thing we have had from them since we tasted Last Apple. The Guardian Brewing out of Muncie had something just as limited when they started pouring the Tropical Manifesto, a pineapple and coconut milkshake IPA that was snapped up in minutes.
The soon to open Creatures of Habit from Anderson had their very nice British Strong Ale called Meridian Medicine, but they also brought a new beer called Mangose, a mango gose. It would be well worth the trip to get to their taproom opening on April 26th, even if it’s just to stare at Dan Hiles and his half mustache. Elm Street from Muncie brought several beers, including the Gretel, which has been one of Walter’s favorites ever since they opened.
Centerpoint Brewing brought the Sara’s Saison, a beer brewed for International Women’s Brew Day. The beer was very light and well seasoned, with contributions to the recipe made by taproom manager and avid homebrewer, Amanda Wallace, and named for Sara Romweber, a local drummer in the 80s and 90s music scene. Finally, we were introduced to Lake Rat Brewing from Celina, OH, just across the Indiana border east of Portland. This was another example of how the festival highlighted small breweries that choose to serve people from their taprooms, like New Corner, Bad Dad, CT Doxey, and Half Moon Restaurant & Brewery.
After saying hi to many people and enjoying the hospitality of Muncie, Walter and I motored up to HopLore Brewing in Leesburg to catch last part of their festival, called Lore’d of the Hops. Instead of participating in a local festival hoping then that some people liked their beer enough to come out to the brewpub, owners Stefan King and Joe Hull decided that another way to publicize their establishment was to have their own festival.
They invited many breweries to come celebrate with them, especially breweries that other people don’t get to see often at festivals (not unlike Muncie BrewFest), and put on the festival with co-host Indy Craft Brew. It was similar to other festivals people attend, but this one was on HopLore’s own property and that was sort of the point. Plus, brewing is such a great community of like-minded individuals, they rally around another brewery hosting an event and are happy to come out and pour. Stefan and Joe are some beer geeks themselves, so bringing a festival to a portion of the state that hasn’t had one was just another way to get their geek on.
As hosts, HopLore brought out many excellent beers, including their new beer for the day called The Dude Provides, a White Russian-like white stout with chocolate, caramel and vanilla and then aged on coffee beans. There were also several collab. beers from HopLore and friends, including And The Hipsters Rejoice, a partner beer made with Goshen Brewing and 2Toms Brewing.
2Toms was one of two breweries that we saw at both festivals on Saturday, serving up Dark Necessity and the Key Lime Berliner in Muncie and Hypersonic Daydream and Morn’n Yawn’n and others in Leesburg. The other double dipper for the day was Tin Man Brewing Kokomo, who had their Hibiscus Petal Pucker sour and their Hopefully Hazy NEIPA at HopLore. That hibiscus sour is going to sell so well this summer (and during the other seasons as well).
Being that these two festivals were 100 miles apart, we did get a chance to try local breweries from each region, new places like Plat 35 Brewery from Portage and their mango habanero IPA, or Orthocity Brewery & Smokehouse who had a small stash of their Warning Letter BBA stout with cinnamon and vanilla that was such a huge hit at Winterfest this year. All of the attending breweries had interesting offerings, like the barrel aged kolsch from Man Cave Brewing called Bourbon Badger, the Crystal Gravy SMaSH APA from Four Fathers, and oh that Kashmir single hop IPA from Off Square Brewing.
The turnout for the festival was nice, with Robert Rolfe Feddersen and Tony Pebworth providing the music and many people getting to see HopLore for the first time. I think the festival did a good job to highlight craft beer of the region and bring people to HopLore; it served its purpose well.
While Walter and I discussed the different things breweries go through to make themselves known to the drinking public – attending and hosting festivals, doing collaboration beers, hosting every kind of weeknight or Saturday morning activity you can think of…we got hungry. Our last stop of the day then was to duck into Warsaw and grab some fantastic BBQ from Orthocity. By the time we got there, the meat-mad patrons had gobbled up all the brisket, pulled pork, and smoked chicken, but we did get to try some of the smoked brats and ribs. I guess this just another way to pull people in to try the beer – make food no one can resist.
All in all it was a profitable day, seeing many friends and talking a lot of beer. Your Indiana breweries are working hard to please you with beers and food that you will like and will be willing to search out. Be a good local craft beer fan and visit as many of the taprooms as you can. This way, they will see that attending festivals and throwing their own festivals pays off, and they will continue to come together in large or small groups for wonderful Saturday afternoons of beer tasting.