Pop-Up Taprooms Are a New Way to Bring Beer to New Customers

Pop-Up Taprooms Are a New Way to Bring Beer to New Customers

by Mark E. Lasbury for Indiana On Tap

Craft breweries have a clear and constant need to get their beer in front of new customers. Participating in community events and craft beer festivals can help, but the greatest impediment to taking beer to potential regulars is that a taproom is static; it’s always in the same place. True, this adds a sense of constancy and familiarity that patrons like, especially neighbor brewpub patrons, but it requires people to come to you. Outside of Indiana there has been a new mechanism for spreading the beer love, but it hasn’t caught on here.

Trillium’s pop-up beer garden in Boston. image credit: Brewbound

The pop-up taproom is the craft beer equivalent of the pop-up market or store, and is a distant cousin to the food truck. In a market or some other place with adequate space and whose owner is amenable, a craft brewery sets up a taproom for a limited time span. Popular in the summer months when the weather is nice, pop-up taprooms or beer gardens allow a brewery to market to many new faces, without incurring all the costs of retail rent and other overhead.

Starting in 2016 or thereabouts, pop-up taprooms began to..well…pop-up across the country. Boston has been most active with this marketing method, started by Trillium’s pop-up taproom in a park last year (to which they returned this summer) and now followed by several other area breweries that have set up temporary shop around town. The latest is Night Shift Brewing, written up in a nice article on Brewbound by Justin Kendall. See the entire story here. Zelus Brewing even set up a taproom near the Boston Marathon route and had extended hours on the day of the race.

Sun King’s Gen-Con pop-up. image credit: Obsessive Nerds

In a method similar to food trucks, Raised Grain Brewing in Waukesha, WI has posted a schedule of their pop-up beer gardens for the summer of 2018, with tweets and FB posts to remind everyone where they are that day or weekend. Phoenix has gotten in to the pop-up action as well. Huss Brewing opened for three months early this year in DeSoto Market and this summer Founders took over the same pop-up space from April until the end of July. In a reversal of the scenario, Newburyport Brewing brought in a pop-up store to their taproom in hopes of drawing new customers in. This is somewhat similar to the craft markets that Books & Brews use to run, but for the most part, this is a marketing ploy that has not been used by Indiana breweries.

There have been a few instances of pop-up beer gardens and taprooms in Indianapolis, most apparent being the Sun King beer garden on Georgia Street during Gen-Con, the summer beer garden at Newfields (was the Indianapolis Museum of Art), and the Lockerbie pop-up that was also manned by Sun King. I would think that many other breweries could make this work, and the existence of previous pop-ups in Indiana suggests that the alcohol laws here are amenable. If you have examples of pop-ups around Indiana, Indiana On Tap would love to hear about them. A study of how they seem to work for breweries is in order, and if they do seem to stir up business, this needs to be shared with all Indiana brewers.

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