From the Field — 12 June 2012

So, here we are. It’s 2012. Craft beer is bigger than it has ever been and it is perpetually growing. Retailers and end consumers alike are becoming savvier too, due largely in part to the embracing nature of this niche of our amazing industry and the wealth of information available to those looking to learn more.

There is a plethora of great places to drink and enjoy delicious craft beer in New Jersey now and there’s more getting on board every day. However, we still have a long way to go. How can that be? Hasn’t everyone heard how ridiculous the demand is for unique, high quality craft beer? Well, here’s the interesting part: Every single potential account that I walk into knows about it and a lot of them initially tell me, “I can’t sell that. My customers won’t buy it.”

Anybody and everybody can sell craft beer. And anyone who can sell craft beer can sell it really well. Craft beer finds solace in every venue: from the cozy hole-in-the-wall, “beer and a shot joint,” to the finest of fine dining and everywhere in between. A well-crafted Belgian Wit makes a great companion to a hot and humid New Jersey summer day just as a big, bold double IPA entertains a hunk of sharp English Cheddar better than any bottle of wine could dream.

Why then, is there so often resistance on this frontier? I think Mr. Staats very well assessed one part of the equation in his From The Field submission, “Nothing Shakin’ on Shakedown Street.” But, I believe it boils down to this: change is difficult. Accounts become comfortable dealing with the same vendors and selling the same beers they have been for the past two decades. Change usually requires a catalyst; a new manager comes on board who wants to shake things up; business is a little slow and the account is looking to bring in new and different clientele; the salesmen shows up at the most convenient time imaginable. I’ve personally witnessed a change in management (and a subsequent complete overhaul on the previously lackluster beer menu) turn a stagnant bar into a booming business in a matter of weeks. The previous management said those exact words to me, “I can’t sell that. My customers won’t buy it.”

What about the customers you don’t have? Or better yet, the customers that you would have if you did offer craft beer? Craft enthusiasts are, in my experience, the most adventurous and audacious consumers. They’ll actively and persistently seek out new venues in which to enjoy their libations. If you aren’t selling craft beer, then your bar/restaurant isn’t even a blip on the radar. It’s also worthy of note that these tend to be some of the most loyal and consistent customers you could possibly imagine.

The bright side is that selling craft beer is really pretty easy. You’ll certainly have to put some work into it, just like anything that’s worth doing, but the payoff will be more than sufficient to justify the labor. Not once have I seen a bar that started selling craft beer, cease to do so because it wasn’t of value to them. If you’re not selling craft beer, what are you waiting for?

CHEERS!

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