And brewers say bottled craft beers give operators a chance to tell the product’s story in a way that isn’t possible with draught beer.
“Bottled craft beers have seen an explosion in availability and range in the past year and consumers are increasingly eager to expand their repertoire by trying these new products,” said Gordon Muir, brand manager at Belhaven.
“Craft beer consumers are looking for interesting, flavourful beers that are well presented and have a bit of a story to tell.
“Packaged beers are great for this as the label design and text can tell that story in a way that is not always possible with draught beers.”
Ryan Ringsell, brewer at Eden Brewery in St Andrews, reckons local beers should be promoted “first and foremost” by bars and says bottled craft offers a chance for operators to stock worldwide selections.
He also argued that craft beer offers a great opportunity for more mainstream and traditional outlets.
“The benefit of buying bottled beer is outlets can buy single cases at a time allowing the potential to have a much greater selection of beers,” said Ringsell.
“Bottles also mean the bar doesn’t have to have a single keg on for lengthy periods of time without giving the consumer variation on beers.
“Premium beers from all over the world can be found in bottle in UK craft bars, the ease of transport, length of time it can remain in bottle and minus the need to return a keg to the breweries means it’s the preferred option for higher end bars.”
Bob Hogg, business development director at Inveralmond Brewery in Perth, said the bottled beer category is in “excellent health” in both on and off-trades.
But he believes it is in the on-trade where craft beer varieties can really be explained and communicated to interested consumers.
“Craft bottled beers are a real opportunity for the on-trade to create a real point of difference, either in the range of drinks they have on offer, or in the uniqueness of the food they make and serve,” said Hogg.
“Pairing beers with meals, or using them as key ingredients is something we are increasingly seeing and as is well known, bottles take up a lot less space in smaller establishments so it enables them to flex their offering more regularly, or provide a wider selection for customers.”
It is vital for bars to encourage consumer dialogue to promote bottled craft beers as fridges can often be overlooked.
John Mercer, marketing manager at Lerwick Brewery, said: “One thing we’ve definitely found is that the absolute key to this process is customer engagement.
“There’s no use putting a decent range of bottled beers in if no-one’s peering into the beer fridge – the fridge is nowhere near as visible as the pump clips on the bar, so get a sign up in a prominent place and list the bottled beers you’re offering.
“Get your staff to point out the bottle range and talk it up enthusiastically.
“Also, engage the customers for feedback and encourage them to tell their mates that you are moving towards a wider range of beers.
“Let them know that they use it or lose it.
“There will be beer enthusiasts in your area who will hear about it and come in. They will then tell all their mates and so it goes.”
Point of sale, tasting evenings and ‘meet the brewer’ events can also help promote an outlet’s bottled range, said Matt Fawson of Mordue Brewery.
And operators shouldn’t be afraid to regularly tweak their range and introduce new products.
“It’s very important to feature guest bottled beers as it helps drive custom through having choice,” said Fawson.
“How often you refresh your range depends on what sells and what’s new.”
Kenny Webster, managing director of Isle of Skye Brewery, believes choice is key to keeping customers interested.
“Outlets should look to continually refresh their range around the core offering to keep customers interested,” he said.
“Seasonal and limited edition beers are always popular so outlets should research and try new lines wherever possible.
“It’s important however not to lose sight of the core offering as this will still be important to customer satisfaction.
“A good licensee will know their customers inside out and know what will work and what won’t.”
At Arran Brewery, managing director Gerald Michaluk said bottled craft beers are vital if operators want to demonstrate their knowledge of the craft beer movement.
“It says to your customers you know where it’s at,” said Michaluk. “In the end it is not about having a wide choice but rather a quality choice.”