12 pack boxes make fantastic helmets for kids. My dad drank a ton of Meister Brau when I was little, so that was my helmet of choice. To pay him back for those helmets, I took him along with me to Coachella Valley Brewing Company. Due to unfortunate circumstances, David Humphrey, owner of Coachella Valley Brewing was unable to meet, but not all was not lost. Their tap room dude Devon gave us a tour, showed us a great time and humored my dad as he asked typically embarrassing dad questions (Does that mean that since I’m a dad, I too will embarrass my kids with my questions? Yes, yes it does).
Rather than recount the tour, I interviewed my dad about his experience. He is probably a lot like many baby boomer dads in that he drinks more wine than beer, but that preference started relatively recently in his alcoholic beverage consuming career (in last 15 years or so). He drinks some beer but not craft beer. I think his responses provide some interesting insight into a barriers that craft beer faces in gaining a stronger hold on the beer drinking public. So let’s hear what he has to say . .
Q. You like beer. What is your favorite other than MGD?
10 second pause. . Miller Lite. . no no, don’t write that. The problem is there are different moods. Easy and quick - Dos Equis. Something with more flavor - Newcastle. Occasionally - Guinness (usually not more than one). The heavier the taste, the fewer I will usually drink.
Q. Those beers are not so interesting. Why not something more interesting or unique?
Craft beers are a crap shoot. There are so many variations that it is hard to put up money to buy one without knowing what you are getting into. And some of the craft beers that come in the large bottles are so expensive that you may buy one and not like it and for the the same amount of money I can buy something I am sure I will like and get a lot more.
Q. Before today you had never visited a brewery and tap room. What were your expectations?
I didn’t really have any expectations. I just imagined it not being very sophisticated or interesting. Probably because the beers I like aren’t very sophisticated or interesting. But I like the beers I drink, I just don’t consider them very complicated.
Q. What surprised you by what you saw?
It immediately reminded me of a wine tasting room where there is a lot of talk about how wine is crafted from all of the ingredients and processes. I was surprised by how similar the crafting of the beer is to the crafting of the wine.
Q. What would you say are the most important things that would make you visit a tap room in the future.
A beer that I like - it would be tough for me to visit a tap room without prior knowledge to what they have - however, that is a bit of a chicken and egg thing.
Interesting bar food to go with the beer
Location - Unless it is close and easy to get to, I’m not going to go to one.
Q. On a scale from 1-10, how terrified are you of your 33 year old son’s plans?
I give it a 3. You are a big boy and know what you are doing. No matter what I say, you are going to do it anyway. And I like that you are doing it. It shows spunk, determination, commitment, energy, passion. Passion is the most important thing. Plus you are a lucky person if you can find something you love to do.
Q. You spent half a lifetime in marketing, from that perspective, what would you tell a brewery owner who is just opening.
It doesn’t make any difference how good your beer is, if people don’t know it exists. For example, the brewery we went to today, I’d never heard of it before, they had one beer I really liked but would never have bought it in a store because I’d never heard of it. I have no idea what a Vienna Lager is and the label didn’t give me any idea if I would like it. Why spend $8 on something I have no idea about?
Q. What question would you ask me after this tour/visit?
What can you do that will be that will be unique enough that will make you different from the many craft beers that are already in the grocery store. What are you going to do to break through to people like me who don’t have an understanding of the hundreds of variations of beer?
That’s some pretty real talk and I think there are millions of potential craft beer drinkers who share similar thoughts. As much as craft beer is expanding (now 10% of the US beer market and growing) finding a way to educate people in the way the wine industry has will be critical in gaining even more appeal. I feel tasting rooms are the front line of that battle, where people can drink beer, learn about what they are drinking, and experiment with styles of beer they might not be willing to take a risk on in a supermarket.
On the topic of “how to get people to know you exist” - That’s a great question and something I constantly think about at this early stage. This blog is a tiny part of the answer, however because distribution will initially be extremely local, the marketing focus will reflect that. Meeting with other brewery owners and finding out what has worked for them is a no-brainer and something I am already doing. Brainstorming ideas is the other major component. One idea in particular that I am excited about is getting booths at the wildly popular local farmers markets (A new California law allows selling packaged beer at farmers markets, hopefully sampling will be allowed in the future), where I can teach people about our beer (and making beer in general) in a setting where people are eager to hear about where their food comes from.
Finally, my dad bought two bombers of Coachella Valley’s Phoenix Vienna Lager after we tasted it in the tap room. Then the next day he bought six packs of MGD and Dos Equis. Baby steps.