Craft beer continues to gain market share at the expense of American lagers and light beers, offering opportunities to operators seeking to expand or improve their beer sales, according to a panel of experts at the International Wine, Spirits and Beer Event, part of the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show in May.
Tips for how to achieve this goal were revealed by George Barton and Dave Dronkers, partners in Barton & Dronkers Consulting Group; Patrick Kirk, director, guest experience & beverage innovation for Buffalo Wild Wings; and Drew Larson, certified cicerone and beverage director at Chicago’s Hopleaf Bar.
Kirk said operators need to train their employees in how to market brands, since the number of craft beers available can be overwhelming. “It’s daunting to understand all of the beers you have. We condensed information to appearance, aroma and taste. If you spend the time, the staff will learn and retain it,” he advised.
With every new craft beer being promoted, he teaches servers to distill their descriptions of it to one sentence. “We like the personality of our team members to show,” he added.
Larson focused his presentation on the importance of serving craft beers in the proper glassware, saying that using the right glass actually can help to sell the beer. “You have to show your customers that you understand craft beer,” he explained.
Higher-alcohol beers should be served in smaller glasses, such as a snifter or a chalice. The smaller size enhances the flavor and also avoids overserving.
“Always offer a glass to your customers,” Larson said, because about 75 percent of the taste comes from the aroma. “If you drink it in the bottle, you can’t smell it, and you’re losing all that flavor.”
Larson also reviewed the basics of how to pour a beer to get the ideal amount of foam. He suggested pouring at a 45-degree angle before straightening the glass.
Never put glasses in the freezer to chill them, he advised, because melting ice crystals add unwanted water to the beer, throwing off the balance. He also does not recommend chilling glasses in the cooler, taking up valuable space, unless the air temperature in the establishment is very hot.
If the customer requests a chilled glass, Larson said the bartender should go ahead and chill it. “I suggest trying to educate customers,” he said.
The primary target audience for craft beer is aged 21 to 27, according to Dronkers. Because this age group is extremely tied into social media, operators need to use it to reach them.
“If your millennial son or daughter tells you to change your marketing program and use social media, listen to them,” he said.
In addition to growth in craft beers, there is burgeoning growth in hard cider and gluten-free beer, Barton noted.