The Wall Street Journal published an interesting article today on the correlation between a ballpark’s winning percentage and the cost of the beer there. I’m admittedly not the biggest baseball fan (I blame it on one massive failure of a year playing Little League), but beer and economics is right up my alley. Beer prices can vary dramatically depending on the stadium. A 21 oz beer costs $4.75 in Pittsburgh, but a 20 oz beer costs $8.75 in San Francisco. That’s a hefty margin. So what’s the correlation?
A team with a .600 winning percentage charges, on average, about $1.30 more for a 16-ounce beer than does a team with a .400 percentage.
There are obviously anomalies, as writer Justin Merry points out.
[T]here’s Nationals Park where, in exchange for watching baseball’s worst team, fans get to spend $7.50 for a 20-ounce beer. Of course, nothing compares to Boston’s Fenway Park. There, you’ll pay $7.25 for just 12 ounces?a rate that is, ounce for ounce and win for win, the worst beer value in baseball.
No word on where Atlanta falls in all of this. At least we aren’t the Nationals.
?The craft beer industry is a very creative industry,? explains Matt Polacheck, Art Director at Brooklyn-based Shmaltz Brewing, whose Coney Island Craft Lagers line features colorful, sideshow poster-inspired labels. ?The artful labels tie in to the whole culture of craft beer ? it?s about creating new, interesting beers ? and so to go along with those beers, we?ve made the experience of the bottle as interesting as what?s inside.?
Craft beer labels do tend towards the artsy side of things. New Belgium has been using watercolors from the founders’ neighbor for its beers since the beginning. Flying Dog takes label art to a whole new level with their Ralph Steadman creations. One of my favorite recent examples of this is Deschutes The Dissident:
Now that is a good-looking label. Simple, retro, powerful. It reminds me of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Personally, I think the whole “label as art” phenomenon among craft breweries is a function of two things:
Craft breweries are small and quirky. It’s the small, quirky companies that have the courage and opportunity to play around with things like labels. Budweiser is catering to too many people to get too creative, but Coney Island Craft Lagers has a very specific (and accepting) demographic. Plus, the people behind craft breweries, ourselves included, generally want to express themselves. We’re a bunch of white collar guys trying to enjoy life, so our labels reflect that.
There are a ton of craft breweries and you have to stand out. Have you been to the package store lately? At last count there were over 1400 craft breweries in the U.S. Hop City carries over 1200 different beers. With so many choices, it makes sense to make your labels pop, and art is one of the best ways to do this.
Artsy labels are obviously no substitute for great beer, but the label may be the thing that sets a beer apart on the shelf and gets someone to try it. Once that someone has purchased a six-pack, it’s up to the beer to retain that consumer.
Recently we’ve been writing a column for a new online beer magazine, Beer Connoisseur. I’ve even got to the point where I spell “Connoisseur” correctly on the first try. A couple weeks ago we ran an article about the basics of marketing a new brewery. I’d like to present a slightly updated version of that same story here.
First, this is about the first steps in marketing a new brewery. We will get more in-depth later, but this post discusses the importance of names and logos. Once you know you’re starting a brewery, you need to call it something. You need a logo. You need names for your beers. Before you go all crazy brainstorming, consider the following:
Your mission. Why do you want to start a brewery? How do you want to do things differently? What’s your story and what things will you never compromise on?
Your market. Who are the big craft beer players in the geographic area you plan on targeting? Are there any gaps in terms of beer styles or brand strategy that you can exploit? Atlanta was lacking a cosmopolitan-feeling microbrewery, which is where we thought our strengths were.
Your consumer. Newsflash: you aren’t the first craft brewery to open its doors. And craft beer drinkers are notoriously fickle, though not necessarily in a bad way. Most craft beer drinkers are different from mainstream beer drinkers in that they don’t stick to a particular brand. However, they may gravitate towards certain brands. To make sure that one of these brands is yours, you have to stand for something. Think about your target consumer as a literal target. You need to choose a bullseye. Something narrow and focused. It doesn’t have to say everything about your brand, but it does have to say something. Once you stand for something, people will automatically start attributing other things to you, thus widening your target and your appeal.
Once you’ve got some clarity on the three large buckets above, you can start brainstorming a name for your brewery. And once you’ve got that, you can start in on the logo. Both of these are important elements. They will be the first things a consumer hears or sees regarding your beer. Even before you open your doors, they can help to define what others expect of you. What should you look for in a name?
Descriptive of who you are and what you’re about
Short and sweet
Easy to spell
Domain name is available
Sufficiently different from competition
As for the logo, there are many different ways to go about designing it. You can do it yourself. You can turn to friends or family with some graphic design expertise. You can hold a logo contest online at a place like 99designs.com. You can go to a freelancer, ad agency or graphic design firm. We designed it ourselves with initial idea input from an online logo contest. Total cost was $150 + hours and hours of my time. Whatever option you choose, here are some things to think about:
Imagine it on a tap handle, pint glass or bottle. Logos don’t float around by themselves, they need to be experienced in context.
Can it be easily converted to one color? One-color printing is much cheaper, so it’s something to consider. Seriously.
Can it be deciphered from far away? Chances are consumers aren’t going to have it 3 inches in front of them when they first see your logo.
Is it flexible enough to stay with you as you grow? Drastic logo changes should be avoided if possible.
Give as much specific feedback to your designer upfront as possible. In my experience, both with Monday Night and as someone who has worked with designers and ad agencies, you’ll get a better quality product if you give them a head start to where you want to be. Think about what words you want the logo to convey. Any font styles you particularly like? What about colors? Are there any that you absolutely need or absolutely need to stay away from?
That’s it on the name and logo. If you have any thoughts, feel free to leave them as comments. I’m hoping to talk more about marketing a brewery as time goes on. It’s a subject that is near and dear to my heart, and also a subject that we’re learning about daily.
In a moment of weakness, Eric over at HolzBrew thought it would be a good idea to interview us about the process of starting a brewery. Eric soon realized the folly of this interview request, but nevertheless he followed through with it.
The weeks that we don’t brew are inevitably worse. I think brewing has become something of a weekly catharsis for us, a way to regroup and pour ourselves out into something that we are passionate about.
But why exactly? There’s an obvious social angle to all that we do, which is great. But I also think there is something about brewing that appeals to all types of people. Brewing addresses both art and science. Spontaneity and spreadsheets. It appeals to my right brain and Jeff’s [large] left brain. And Joel’s thumbs.
First, let the record show that we are still technically homebrewers. But after being entrenched in the homebrewing culture for a few years now, and after having some exposure to the professional brewing culture as well, we thought it might be interesting to point out one of the fundamental differences between the two. There are obviously more differences, some of which I’m sure we will probably learn the hard way.
While we homebrew (only brewing small batches and never selling anything), we approach the art with a focus on the future, specifically commercial production. What does this mean? Realistically we will only be able to launch with a few beers (we are targeting two), and so we need those two beers to be as good as they can possibly get.
Homebrewing traditionally has been a bastion of experimentation and creative expression. Charlie Papazian’s phrase, “Relax, don’t worry, have a homebrew,” has become a rallying cry to many homebrewers. Homebrewers embrace the unexpected and even seek it out in their beers.
We, however, have been brewing the same couple beers with only minor tweaks in controlled environments for years now. After becoming relatively comfortable with an initial recipe, it has been our blessing and curse to massage every last drop of goodness out of that recipe that we can. We brew the same IPA, over and over, trying to get it one iota closer to where we want it to be. Once we’re past the concept phase, we brew for consistency, not creativity.
Most commercial breweries (even craft breweries) deal with this same truth. It isn’t uncommon for a particular beer to be 70-80% of a craft brewery’s sales. Think Fat Tire from New Belgium. Or closer to home, 420 from Sweetwater. In those cases, the time for experimentation are indeed over, and consistency is the key to success.
That’s not to say that the two viewpoints are mutually exclusive. This great article points to the fact that many craft breweries are still rooted in homebrewing:
?I?d say over 90 percent of small brewers I talk to today have roots in home brewing,? says Papazian, who now serves as president of the Brewers Association, a trade group. ?The creativity and innovation they?ve brought to the business has been amazing. The American wheat beers. The fruit beers, the honey beers, the chocolate beers. They were all homebrews first.?
In fact, much of the craft beer revolution we’ve experienced in the U.S. grew out of a response against the bland macro lagers. Creativity is a natural part of this uprising. But once you make it, you need to make it consistently or you’ll be going home.
Brewing for consistency can wear on you. We obviously look forward to the day when actual production will free up our homebrewing to experiment more (time permitting). But for now, we’ve embraced this necessary dichotomy at Monday Night Brewery. We work hard to create not great beers, but consistently great beers.
Thoughts from any homebrewers or professional brewers out there? We’d love to hear them.
We’re going to try a little something new here at MNB. It’s called empowerment. Jeff, being the unwieldy CEO, isn’t too keen on the idea, but he doesn’t know how to delete blog posts. So here’s the drill. If you want to write something about MNB or your experience at MNB, shoot me an email. We’ll make it happen. This first installment in Monday Night Perspectives is brought to you by Colin Ake, the lovable but ultimately dimwitted regular. Colin decided to take on the persona of Joel’s new outsourced replacement, Mohindar.
This brewing recap, much like Joel’s former role with Monday Night Brewery’s operations side, has been outsourced. My name is Mohindar, and I spent all night cleaning stuff and doing Jeff’s beckoning. Brewing was wet. We tried our newest recipe – Acid Rain IPA (if any of you marketing types have a clever name for this, that’d be ideal). It should be a little more… acidic than our previous IPAs, with a touch of that one leaf that fell into the boiling wort.
Joel showed up tonight, but he mostly stood around looking useless, checking his iPhone. He mumbled something about “not being sick anymore” since he saw that poll on the website, but since I’m getting a paycheck, it’s TOO LATE, sucker. Little does Jonathan know, but Jeff is having me slowly overtake his duties as well. I’m currently reading two books: Being an Intemperate Asshole for Dummies, and How to Win Friends and Influence People. It is Jonathan’s unique combination of the two techniques that has brought some of the “feel” to Monday Night Brewery’s branding, but Jeff told me he thinks it will be REALLY easy to duplicate.
Most of our so-called “fans” stood in the garage and drank beer. Pansies. The real hardcore, come-almost-every-week guys, Colin and Nathan, stood outside in the rain and watched. Colin even washed something, being the swell guy that he is. Scott washed at least two things, which is obviously him just trying to win my job.
As a budding outsourced brewer that does simple tasks like Joel and Jonathan, I am humbled to be a part of Monday Night Brewery, no matter how little money I make. I hope one day to be trusted with the responsibility of manning the Monday Night Brewery call center. Soon, all you’ll have to deal with is the polite and kind Jeff, and won’t have to deal with the bumbling Jonathan. You already don’t have to deal with Joel.
Also, Jeff offered a $500 reward to whoever gets him to start using Twitter. If you read this and get Jeff on Twitter, I was a part of that and expect at LEAST half. Joel is finally on Twitter. We’ll see if he uses it.
I look forward to serving you some of our Acid Rain IPA sometime soon. Many blessings to you.