Time to draft in more craft?

The right approach to the category can tempt in new customers

A good range, knowledgeable staff and effective marketing can drive craft beer sales, brewers say.
A good range, knowledgeable staff and effective marketing can drive craft beer sales, brewers say.

FROM IPAs to stouts and lagers, the craft movement has revolutionised the beer category in recent years.

And with new breweries appearing every year and a growing army of craft connoisseurs, there is a chance for licensees to appeal to enthusiasts and even secure some new regulars by stocking a good range of craft beers.

Brewers said that the right range, backed up by some staff knowledge and marketed correctly, can set a venue apart.

As many craft beer drinkers like to experiment with different styles from different breweries, offering an array of options to pique their interest is vital, said Katy Heppell, sales and marketing executive for Moray-based WooHa Brewing Company.

She said: “The on-trade is where a lot of people are first introduced to new breweries, new beer styles and new flavours.

“For everyday consumers it provides an opportunity to maybe try out a new beer that they may add to their roster of favourites.

“For beer aficionados, the craft beer movement is less about finding their new favourite but more about trying new styles and new experiences with each beer. On-trade premises are key to this.”

However, a sizable number of bars are yet to stock craft beers.

Craig Steven, commercial director of Sinclair Brewing, believes operators of venues in this position should start with a small selection of premium beers.

“Don’t over do it when it comes to ranging,” he said.

“Focus on packaged craft beers if starting the journey and look to charge a premium – as long as you can meet the drinker’s aspiration for quality and provenance.”

A well-known brewer recently made headlines by predicting that IPA would overtake lager as the UK’s favourite beer style within the next ten years.

And although this was rebutted by two beer firms contacted by SLTN, IPA is said to continue to be a strong style in craft beer.

“IPA is still incredibly popular amongst craft beer drinkers due to its big punchy flavours and how diverse it can be,” said Heppell of WooHa.

Jamie Maitland, Fallen Brewing’s sales manager, agreed.

But he added that with summer on the horizon operators should also think about including a sour beer in their range to exploit a style well-suited to warmer weather.

He said: “IPA has long been the go-to style for many drinkers who know beer well, and those who are only dipping their toe in the water.

“However every summer we see a growing interest in sour beers, from light, crisp Berliner Weisse to full bodied Gueuze. They’re not to everyone’s taste, but it’s definitely worth seeking out a good one to enhance your summer range.”

Having decided on a selection of craft beers, licensees should ensure their staff can talk with a degree of confidence about their selection, said firms.

“Bar staff need to stay ahead, talk to brewers and work with the industry,” said Paul Smith, managing director of Black Storm Brewery.

“I don’t know of any brewery that won’t spend time going into the on-trade to train and educate both staff and customers when asked.

“At the end of the day, the consumer looks to bar teams to recommend products and understand their needs, so they need to know what they are talking about.  Beer sampling can work well too.”

Whether a venue has an expansive array of craft beers or only a few options, it’s essential to get the word out online about what beers a bar is stocking, says Iain Smith, marketing manager at Fyne Ales.

He said: “Having a good social media presence shouldn’t be overlooked, especially on Twitter where there is an active, engaged audience of craft beer drinkers, journalists and products constantly in conversation about what they’re enjoying and where.

“Make sure you’re part of the conversation, and make sure people know what they can easily find on draught before they set out for the night.”