The numbers are in for beer sales this spring, and if Adages’ headline “It’s Brutal Out There” is any indication, Big Beer isn’t doing all that well. Much blame has been put on the unusually cold and wet spring, as the light lagers that Big Beer are (in)famous for are drunk more often outdoors during such activities as BBQing and pig skin tossin’.
But it seems as if craft beer has, ehem, weathered the storm, with a continued rise in sales. Why? Because craft beer’s seasonality and diversity. While many small businesses might not have the same ability to offer diverse and innovative seasonal products, the craft beer world’s attempt to maximize sales and customer satisfaction during times of year when overall sales tend to be lower is something to be revered and emulated.
Create Innovative and Seasonal Products.
Nearly every brewery (the macros included) will release some sort of summer beer- be it a citrusy IPA or a light wheat beer. I mean, only the hardiest of beer nerds will want to sip an imperial porter in 105 degree heat. Yet some, like Austin Beerworks, went out did their research and found a seldom brewed style that went perfectly with summer; the Berliner Weisse. By going above and beyond what other breweries were doing to find a style that perfectly fit the Texas summer (low ABV, tart and light), Austin Beerworks was able to sell every drop of the Einhorn Berliner Weisse. Austin Beerworks’ founder co-founder Michael Graham explains how the crew even attended a Berliner Weisse seminar put on by quite possibly the most German man ever: “Before making it for the first time last year, two of our owners/brewers actually attended at Berliner Weisse seminar hosted by a German Brewmaster. He was wearing leather pants, and suspenders. That’s how German he was.”
But how about defeating the cold weather slump in sales? One of my favorite things ever is sipping an awesome stout on a cold, crisp winter’s eve. And if their purchasing is anything to go by, the wider public is starting to acknowledge that Big Beer’s seasonal winter line is extremely limited. Even Texas,
where winter persists for what, three weeks in January, has an excellent selection of winter-ready beers. I’d highly recommend getting ahold of the Austin staple, 512’s Double Pecan Porter, or Jester King’s Black Metal Farmhouse Imperial Stout for starters.
As spring turned out to be an elongated winter, craft brewers were able fall back on their winter beers as consumers stuck to their dark ales and stouts. As a result, beers like Miller Lite saw an astounding 8.8% drop in sales.
Go Beyond Your Core Products.
Most breweries will already have a diverse amount of beers, including two or three year-round releases and several smaller batch beers. However, it’s becoming more common for breweries to move outside the realm of beers to increase seasonal sales.
In the recent years, cider sales have been going crazy, and you can thank us English for that (our favorite summer pastime being cider drinking and cricket watching). A few micro-breweries have started making their own hard cider to bolster their summer numbers; Harpoon offers two varieties whilst Steven Points brewery in Wisconsin started its own cider brewing company, and saw massive gains. Austin’s own Rogness brewery too plans to start their hard cider line this summer after expanding their brewery into an adjacent lot.
Ranger Creek Brewing & Distillery in San Antonio has a somewhat unique method of combating the winter slump. Not only do they release great cold weather friendly, barrel aged, small batch beers, but they also see a marked raise in winter sales from the craft whiskey that they produce.Ranger Creek’s Co-founder Mark McDavid explains that isn’t just the cold weather that boosts whiskey sales during the winter:
Our whiskey sales are definitely boosted during the fall and winter. I think it’s due to a couple of factors. The cold weather is certainly one of them. The other is that our whiskey is a special occasion drink that you break out around family and give as a gift, and there just seems to be more special occasions during that time period”
By tailoring their products to the seasons, craft brewers have created an imitable template for any small business by making their products noticeably fresh and attuned to their consumers’ desires. And with innovative ways of combating times of slower growth, it’s no surprise that this craft trade is posting record numbers even during a significant industry-wide slump.
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