Like a bad beer, craft beer sales are flat at best or, at its worst, declining – depending on which USA Today stats you reference. In Colorado with the passage of Senate Bill 16-197 that allows big-box grocery stores to carry full-strength beer, fewer people are visiting breweries to grab their weekend crowlers.
To remain competitive, you’ll need to be your own cheerleader for each beer release. Each beer is part of your brand story and needs to be woven into your messaging. From a business standpoint, getting the word out will drive off and on-premise sales as well as visits to your taproom for events. Even if you don’t distribute outside the region, receiving media mentions for your beer in national publications will build brand recognition that is absolutely necessary should you begin more widely distributing your beers.
Crack open a cold one and read four methods on how to spread the word about your brew:
1. Make editorial calendars and award opportunities your best friend
Craft Beer & Brewing and Wine Enthusiast (you read that right!) are just two publications that share their editorial calendars at the beginning of each year, letting breweries know when they need to submit beers to be considered for “Best Of” awards. For example, “IPAs will be need to be shipped to Craft Beer & Brewing in Fort Collins, Colorado by August 1.” After the judging process, the “Best of IPAs” article will run in the November issue. Should you win award, this adds legitimacy to your brewery, builds brand awareness, improves your brewery’s SEO and provides you with social media content.
Even non-beer centric publications like Wine Enthusiast, Chilled and Paste Magazine include beer tastings in their editorial calendars, so make sure to comb through any publication that regularly covers alcohol.
The legalities of beer shipping vary by state, so check with your local brewers guild if you have questions before shipping off any crowlers.
2. Pitch like a pro
Breweries are releasing dozens – if not hundreds– of beers across the country every day, so be mindful of who you are pitching for the reporter’s sake and on behalf of your strategy.
You’ll have the competitive advantage if you have a schedule of beer release. Send out a press release outlining the tasting notes and release dates at the beginning of every season to give reporters plenty of time to follow up with questions, receive requested samples, and mull over how your brand and brews fit into what they’re working on. If you release new beers less often, send release party and beer details to your local publications about a month in advance of each beer release. We know it can be difficult to plan when a beer will be ready, just remember earlier is always better when it comes to disseminating information.
Before sending to national media contacts, find a hook. It’s not enough to simply send them the news of another IPA release. Is the beer a collaboration with any local businesses? Is it a newer style that is rarely being done, like a smoked beer? The hook doesn’t need to be an absolutely groundbreaking angle, but there should be something – such as why it’s the perfect beer for spring – that would allow it to be tied into a bigger story.
There are a few beer columns, such as those in Craft Brewing Business and PorchDrinking, that solely focus on highlighting new beer releases from around the country. No need for a hook. Just a delicious beer. Reach out to these reporters, offer samples of your beers, then regularly update them with any new releases.
3. Connect the dots for the reporter
Though you can receive media attention at the local level by crafting a solid beer, you need to fit into a bigger story for the big national placements, such as The New York Times and Condé Nast Traveler. It’s extremely rare (dare I say never) a national publication will ever feature a single brewery or a single beer.
It is possible.
Here’s one example: it’s early 2018 and you created a beer that craft breweries have never touched before: a hard seltzer. Not much comes of your media efforts and that’s okay. Fast forward a year and a half and hard seltzer beers are *the* beer of the moment. If you’re ahead of the trends, i.e. shockingly releasing a seltzer all the way back in 2018, and you see a trend picking up steam, don’t be afraid to reach out again to beer reporters. This gives you and your beer a better chance to be included in that narrative, and you’ll be showcased as an early adopter.
4. Take control of your press release
If you’re not receiving the attention you’d like from reporters, you can still post your news online, as many online publications have a calendar portion on their website where users can upload their own news. We recommend uploading your news on both regional news websites, such as 303 Magazine and Thirst Colorado if you’re based in Colorado, as well on beer publications’ websites, such as CraftBeer.com and Brewbound.
If you have an official press release to upload, that’s great. If not, write up a few paragraphs detailing your new release, including tasting notes, availability and inspiration behind the beer.
If you were strategic in your public relations efforts and struck gold with media mentions, leverage them! Create a “Media” tab on your website to highlight the true gems, post on social media (tag the reporters and outlet so they feel some extra love) and consider including it in any newsletters you send out to your mailing list.
If you’re looking for more strategic ways to market your new beers and your brewery, feel free to contact us.