23 Dec In The End, All a Brewery Has is Its Reputation
Beer, after all is said and done, is just beer – and beer is subjective. Beer and breweries are subject to trends, fads, deserved love, undeserved love, hate for no reason, hate for good reason, and everything else that humans can imagine. You can make great beer and have great patrons, you can make average beer and have great patrons – if you build a great patronage.
But what builds a great group of patrons? There are many aspects; being part of the community, holding dear what they hold dear, admitting mistakes, giving people more than they expect, helping customers stretch their boundaries (both in and out of beer), and of course making good beer. If a brewery sticks in people’s minds in a good way, they will have a better shot at building loyalty. As has been said, breweries aren’t in the beer business, they’re in the people business; they just happen to sell beer.
Some people love a brewery for what it does for them and the community; some people love a brewery for what they can get from it. A brewery wants the former kind of crowd. Lasting love of a brewery, just like with relationships between humans, is based on mutual respect and admiration. Each party has to take the other seriously, meaning that they have to treat them with consideration and work in their best interest.
There are examples on both sides of the situation; one great positive example was shown recently with the fire at Black Acre Brewing in Indianapolis. On the morning of Saturday the 21st, a two alarm fire broke out in an office of the pub on Washington Street. There was extensive damage to the back of the property, but luckily no one was hurt. Most of the damage was confined to the Black Acre kitchen and office due to the quick and diligent work of firefighters, who had the blaze under control in less than 35 minutes. There was some damage to the Black Sheep store next door, but Jockomo Pizza and Guitar Town to the east of Black Acre were open for business on Sunday. Co-owner Holly Miller told me, “While this is very devastating, the good news is that no one was hurt. We will be able to rebuild, but we don’t know timelines quite yet. Insurance and restoration crews are there right now trying to figure that out.”
Black Acre no longer brews at the Washington Street pub, so there will be no interruption of beer production, just at the place where they sell a lot of it. There’s no good time to have a fire, but this comes at a particularly busy time for Black Acre. They were in the middle of expanding the pub and kitchen, they had recently added the beer garden at the production brewery, they just added a distillery line of spirits, and they are building out the Corvus location, which will open in Zionsville in early 2020. Now rebuilding has been added to their plate when they could really use more income not more out go.
This is where the caring relationship between Black Acre and their customers comes into play. Within an hour of the fire, Black Acre showed how much they care for their employees by setting up a Go Fund Me page to help with lost wages while the pub/taproom is closed for repairs. The customers are showing how much they care by funding it (go here to donate https://www.gofundme.com/f/black-acre-brewing-co-lost-wagestips-fund). As of Monday morning, the fund has already gathered more than $4300 in donations. That doesn’t happen to breweries without a very loyal following.
In order to maximize the hours for employees and minimize the downtime for patrons seeking them out over the holidays, Black Acre has opened the Beer Garden on Bonna for limited hours. Walter and I headed over to show our support in person and with our dollars on Sunday afternoon (the 22nd). It was 52˚F out, which ain’t bad for the 22nd of December, so people were all out in the beer garden instead of using the tables and chairs that had been set up in the grain storage area (those came from the pub, the front of house wasn’t damaged much at all). But, the garden was packed, with people buying pints and packaged beer.
Many people brought growlers to be filled, basically anything to put money in Black Acre’s coffers, but they couldn’t fill most growlers. It isn’t something anyone would think about, but all the caps were over at the pub; the only growlers they could fill were those with their own lids. Still the point is made, people were looking to help out however they could. Jokomo dedicated all their taps to Black Acre beers on Sunday, so it’s apparent that it isn’t just the patrons that revere Black Acre.
People came out because they know Black Acre cares for them – they support their causes, they speak to them honestly, they care about what their patrons want. As our new friend Janeale said at the beer garden on Sunday, “People are willing to help them because they know that Black Acre helps others.” That about sums it up. Sometimes fate burns your brewery down, and sometimes a brewery burns itself down; it’s better to be in the first group than the second. In the end, all any brewery really has to their name is their relationship with their drinkers. Abuse it and it will go away. Care for it, and it will be there when you need it.