In mid-May, Julia Herz, the Craft Beer Program Director at the Brewers Association, predicted that the number of craft breweries would continue to increase even with the COVID lockdowns and economic uncertainty. A couple months later, the Brewers Association have released the first half of 2020 data and it looks like her prediction was on target. According to Bart Watson, Chief Economist at the Brewers Association in the 2020 Midyear Survey Shows Challenges for Craft Brewers (behind firewall):
As of June 30, the Brewers Association database showed 8,217 active craft breweries, up from 7,480 during a comparable time frame last year. Adding in large and other non-craft brewers brought the U.S. total to 8,341. Although considerable growth, that is a deceleration from mid-year 2019, where the number had increased by more than 1,000 during a similar time frame.
Looking at our database, the decrease is largely attributable to a slowdown in openings, more so than a sharp increase in closings. While it remains possible that closings will accelerate as 2020 continues, through the end of June, our database only shows 112 closings. That’s only 4% higher than the number we had found during the same time period last year. In contrast, we have only counted 301 openings, a number that is about 20% lower than the opening count through the first 6 months of 2019 (found by this point last year).
Regarding openings, we are actually surprised that the drop was only 20% lower — based on the lockdowns that we had experienced over the Spring. Yet in our interview below Ms. Herz stressed that breweries in planning actually had a hidden advantage in that they planned for an opening during a stressful economic climate. These breweries could not afford to rush their opening without proper due diligence. And based on monthly data inferred from the New Brewer Magazine, over 60% of the 301 new openings occurred after March 1 — right before the national lockdown.
As for closures, only a 4% increase shows the resilience and flexibility of small independent craft brewers. And according to the same monthly data, only 40% of the closures occurred after March 1 as brewers have modified business models to cope with the pandemic. Furthermore, the overall number of closures was affected by the retrenchment among larger craft brewery chains. Gordon Biersch, Rock Bottom, Granite City, and RAM closed a combined 18 brewpubs in the first half of 2020, representing 16% of all closures. Removing this number from the overall closures would actually show a 10% decline in the overall number of closures.
Mr. Watson alludes above that closures may accelerate in the second half of 2020, and the statistics referenced here relies on the Brewers Association obtaining valid non-member data. However, there is optimism that the craft beer industry will not only survive the pandemic but continue to grow. In the same article, Mr. Watson mentions the optimism expressed by smaller brewers – where they predict 12% growth in the second half. In six months we will discover the accuracy of this prediction or are smaller brewers “simply wearing rose-colored glasses”.
Many of us may never return to a traditional office setting and we need to be prepared. All across America companies are allowing or requiring all of their employees to work from home. Some companies are giving employees a choice to stay home. For those struggling with this hardship here are some guidelines to keep sane and productive.
How to stay sane working from home
Use a blocker to avoid social media Block apps like news, FaceBook, Twitter, Instagram
Keep a separate office space (if possible)
Don’t watch more than an hour of news (this is important to keep stress levels down)
Set a schedule (to the best of your ability)
Include mental and stretch breaks
Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated but also to force bathroom breaks which force you to walk around
Use an hour of cleaning the house time to problem solve work issues. It will be surprising how solutions will come.
Do not overschedule just to make yourself seem busy
Tackle larger projects you have been putting off by breaking them up into smaller segments that you can accomplish within a day
Turn The TV off and use the radio or a music app to provide soft background noise if you must
Allocate time to get organized for the future
Take regular physical and mental breaks. Break contact with your computer for at least 60 seconds every hour. Look off into space or day dream for 60 seconds it only takes a minute.
Try and find a comfortable space, working from the kitchen table is often the only option but if you can put a small table and chair in a corner somewhere you might fare better.
Set semi-hard deadlines and learn to forgive yourself if you miss one or don’t have enough to keep you busy to the end of the day.
Working from home
Perhaps most important, LUNCH. Do not skip this, working from home already means working longer and later so the line between work time and home gets blurred. Take a lunch break everyday even if it’s 30 mins and a snack. Taking a lunch break is important for you to reset for the rest of the day.
Try to avoid feeling guilty, that feeling of just having to constantly check email, respond right away and not taking time to formulate a response. Working from home does not mean working 24/7 and being available all the time.
The bosses are often in the same boat, stuck at home with husbands or wives they are not used to spending 24 hours a day with and children that once were in school 8 hours a day. No one is alone in this.
May is Michigan Wine Month and the Michigan Wine Collaborative has partnered with BevFluence in order to promote Michigan wines throughout the summer. The Michigan Wine Collaborative (MWC) is a non-profit organization formed “to enhance the sustainability and profitability of the Michigan wine industry by supporting wineries, growers, related businesses and individuals connected to the industry – today and for future generations”.
Left Foot Charley is a winery located in Michigan’s Traverse City region — also called the Traverse Wine Coast because of the abundance of wineries located in the nearby Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail and the Wineries of Old Mission Peninsula trail. One reason is that this northern Michigan region is situated on the 45th Parallel — lined up with the world’s most prestigious wine regions (Bordeaux, Burgundy, Piedmont, and Oregon’s Willamette Valley to name a few) where these regions experience the same angle of the sun and length of a day.
Yet, that only is a partial explanation – particular microclimates matter such as found in the Old Mission Peninsula where Lake Michigan creates a very favorable grape growing environment. The “lake effect” snow protects the vines in the winter from freezing temperatures and provides a diurnal change in temperatures during the summer. Think bright acidity.
Left Foot Charley leverages small family-owned vineyards in the Old Mission Peninsula with most of these planted with less than 2 acres of vines. This translates to abundant tender loving care. The grapes are very intriguing and include many found in Germany and Austria: Riesling, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, and Blaufränkisch – in addition to Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc.
Aurora Cellars is situated in the middle of the Leelanau Peninsula American Viticultural Area (AVA), which was established in 1982. The AVA is comprised of a peninsula between Lake Michigan on the west and Grand Traverse Bay on the east. The lake effect caused by these two bodies of water helps moderate the climate making it highly suitable for viticulture. These are cold-climate grapes predominately Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc — all vinified by Aurora Cellars in addition to the Austrian Grüner Veltliner and Blaufrankish.
12 Corners Vineyards is located on the shores of Lake Michigan within the Lake Michigan Shores AVA. In fact, this AVA is the oldest modern commercial grape region of the state and home to a majority of Michigan vineyards and half of the state wine grape production. That is because the region is sheltered from the harshness of winter by the “lake effect” which blankets the fruit vines with snow and providing slightly warmer temperatures. The winery is based on a 115-acre estate planted with both vinifera and hybrid grapes that includes Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Marquette, Traminette, and Gewürztraminer. Expect very affordable and clean wines whether dry or off-dry, semi-sweet or sweet.
Seven BevFluence community members will be sharing their thoughts of these wines on various platforms and social media. The campaign was kicked off by an interview with Emily Dockery on the BevFluence YouTube Channel and will continue into July with various virtual tastings and interviews. On May 25th, 6 PM ET, Nick Drinks will stream an interview with Aurora winemaker and founder Drew Perry followed by another streamed interview with 12 Corners Vineyard winemaker Glen Greiffendorf on July 11th, 6 PM ET. On May 28th, 9 PM ET Gina Shay of the MWC will appear on WineAntics Live for a lively conversation with Jenn Nelson and Stub. Moving into June, Wine With Paige will stream on Instagram Live an interview with Left Foot Charley winemaker and founder Bryan Ulbrich on June 13th, 5 PM ET and 12 Corners Vineyard winemaker Glen Greiffendorf on June 17th, 8:15 PM ET.
Furthermore, in June, on the 18th at 8 PM ET, the BevFluence team will be hosting a Twitter Wine Chat discussing the wines of Left Foot Charley. We encourage all wine lovers to participate by not only joining the chat but joining with a bottle or two of their wines. We will be providing a link for a discount on these wines shortly.
On July 2nd, 8 PM ET, the BevFluence team will be hosting a virtual tasting of Aurora Cellars’ wines where Drew Perry will be able to discuss Aurora, the Leelanau Peninsula AVA, and his wines in more detail. We once again encourage all wine lovers to participate by not only joining the chat but joining with a bottle or two of their wines. We will be providing a link for a discount on these wines shortly.
Finally, there will be multiple engagements across other media platforms which you can follow by searching for the #UnderTheBevFluence tag. Cheers to Michigan wine.
We are content creators, industry experts, and lovers of libations. If you are interested in similar campaigns or want to learn how we can help your region, state, operation, or collective please reach out!
The use of craft beverage virtual tastings erupted frantically when the economy closed as producers sought means to engage with potential consumers. And participation was quite active as consumers looked for entertainment during the shutdown and proactively desired to support their local craft beverage producers. But like most engagement activities, enthusiasm wanes over time, and producers must continue to entice consumers to join these virtual tastings. Particularly if craft beverage producers choose to continue this means of social engagement once the economy re-opens.
This post will illustrate several best practices that the BevFluence team has drafted as well as ideas for attracting sustained participation. These practices are generally equivalent across all craft beverage industries with only minor deviations between them. And the tips provide opportunities for producers to attract a larger audience and engagement and sustain this marketing technique.
The loss of tasting room access across the nation means that brands struggled for an alternative. Many haphazard tastings, winemaker events, sales pitches, cocktail classes and promotional sessions all held virtually have clogged the already strained content highways. Be above the fray, and follow these best practices and ideas to take your tastings to the next level.
With so many brands flooding the web with content this will help stand out.
Determine the goal of each virtual tastings
Obviously, the end goal is to increase sales but determining a goal for each session will provide a better return on your marketing dollar. It will force you to stay focused and brainstorming ideas. Are you introducing your brand, a particular product, or a marketing campaign?
If your only goal is to increase sales then you will probably not do well. The goal needs to be education, engagement, meaningful content and outreach.
Determine the hosting platform
Zoom and Facebook Live seem to be the most prevalent platforms being utilized at the moment. YouTube Live and a slew of other platforms have all exploded on the scene. Instagram Live or Twitter chats are also possibilities and are considered important in some circles.
Inform the public
Once you have discerned a topic, notify consumers as early as possible and frequently. Most importantly provide participants the ability to purchase the featured product(s) as soon as possible. Shipping can get complicated so plan ahead since logistics vary based on geographic location. We recommend a minimum 14 days notice before the event. Producers will receive much greater participation during the virtual session if participants are sipping along with the presenter. Do not waste the chance to get the customer to taste alongside the presenter. The better you plan, the more chance you can get people to buy before the tasting and after.
In addition, when sending notifications via email, blogs, or social media posts, add links to create calendar reminders so that consumers can easily save the virtual tasting date. Here is one source to generate the calendar event across multiple platforms: Add to calendar button.
Finally, follow your initial announcement with daily or thrice weekly reminders and updates until the tasting. Do not bombard people but get the information out early and often.
Advertise far enough ahead.
Get the wines so people can watch and taste along.
Discounted shipping and a promo code.
Planning the tasting session
Before you begin, choose a physical broadcasting location that not only provides sufficient audio and lighting, but also a sense of comfort and security – particularly if the presenter has any sense of self-consciousness or insecurity. Will broadcasting from a tasting bar or similar structure in your home provide more comfort or authority? Or will a bookshelf filled with craft beverage books and awards? Next, draft a sensory experience for those participants who were unable to purchase the featured product(s). How are you going to explain the tasting notes to those not tasting along? Finally, accumulate graphics to display throughout the session which should include bottle shots, photos of the establishment, andor maps – lots of maps. Show attendees where you are located as well as specific vineyard locations as regards wineries.
Interact with participants
During the tasting session, encourage questions and participant input. During marketing or registration, ask participants to submit questions beforehand and reserve time to answer and engage the questioner. Be sure to mention the person who asked it; they will appreciate hearing their name. Also, directly engage with attendees you recognize by recalling shared experiences or asking them to discuss a topic in the chat. DO not neglect this, have someone monitor the chats or streams for questions during the event.
Post links to the recorded session and to purchase the wines and distribute to consumers via email, blog post, or via social media. Start marketing your next tasting session. Mention the wines or products you are tasting on the next session so people in theory have the time to get them.
We have used affiliate links to track how well sales do for the brands during our tastings. If you can track the data you can better understand how well you are doing and learn your true ROI.
Tips for Sustaining and Widening Engagement
Widen the audience
Do not think entirely of the subset of existing consumers, but look towards other genres for new customers. Music lovers love craft beverages. So do gardeners. And cooks. Thus provide virtuals sessions on these subjects by inviting an expert and pairing with a craft beverage. Cooking demonstrations are already being presented as they are easiest to implement. Reach out to a local garden center or within your own staff for someone knowledgeable enough to demonstrate creating a custom plant container. Or pair your targeted beverage with music; maybe an album, song, or musician. Many musicians are performing at home in similar settings so reach out to one and trade a sample for a song. And with all these examples, the actual demonstrations or performances could be recorded earlier and showed during the session.
Use social media targeting when promoting your event. It will help you narrow down the theme and the audience. Look outside your comfort zone, you never know who could be watching. Collaborations are a great way to expand your audience across many platforms. These are often overlooked due to the legal and regulatory hurdles, but given the virtual
Yes, cocktail demonstrations are obvious for craft distillers, but they are also intriguing options for breweries, wineries, and cider producers. For the latter, think of a Josie Russell, Hemingway’s favorite cider cocktail using hard cider and rum. For craft brewers, check out Craft Brewing. Or Liquor.com. And sparkling wine is an obvious candidate for cocktails, but what about red wine? Try these Red Wine Cocktails.
Over time, even your most rapid supports will start to wane interest so plan educational sessions to keep them engaged. We recommend discussing glassware, which is appropriate for each beverage style and how the sensory character of the beverage can change based on the serving vessel. If you have a glassware partnership all the better; this is another potential channel to get your message circulated when they share your content.
Specific Educational Topics
Depending on the industry, there are other topics that a producer can present that may include additional planning and logistics, but should be engaging and interesting topics. Wineries can discuss and demonstrate cellar practices such as racking and blending sessions. Vineyard managers could present grafting, pruning, ground cover, pests, or grape varieties. Brewers can discuss malting, hops, sour programs, and beer styles such as lagers versus ales. And distilleries can present bourbon regulations, casks, or historic liquors.
This article was not written to encourage every brand to rush out and produce online virtual tastings. In fact, the opposite is true; not all brands need an online virtual tasting regime. How can you discern if you should be hosting virtual tastings? Look at your email list, look at engagements online, look at the number of people who follow your brand on Facebook or other social media platforms. Is your audience still engaged? Have you never been able to sustain continual engagement activity? Then perhaps this may not be worth your time. However if you are committed to establishing and maintaining your brand’s online presence, then online tastings could be a valuable tool to expand followers and potentially sales.
Making the choice to market your brand in a virtual tasting format is complicated.
The beverage industry—from wineries to distilleries, cideries to brewhouses—is constantly changing.
As such, it is of utmost importance that the media who creates content for these incredible industries remain flexible in our coverage. We feel this is best achieved through constant learning and collaboration.
It is this collaborative spirit that brought the BevFluence team together with the goal of promoting learning and collaboration within the beverage media community. In the age of social media, all of us who create beverage content are influencers.Many of us have turned what began as a passion into professional pursuits. BevFluence was created to meet the unique needs of this cohort.
For months, BevFluence team members considered the myriad ways we could collaborate and expand our knowledge and opportunities to better cover the industries about which we are passionate. Ultimately, we decided that the community grows when we have time to learn from each other. In the coming months we will be building up resources and collaborations with a sew of industry experts, influencers, taste makers and content creators.
We already have a form for potential collaborators to fill out so that we may learn better our own strengths as a community.
BevFluence is designed to provide the experiential, collaborative, relevant learning we deserve. As we move ever closer to new experiences, opportunists, events and collaborations we will keep you posted.