One of my favorite pastimes is knocking back a cold one after a long media planning day. And so, I’ve decided to list my favorite beers… but not just any beer – my top 3 domestic drafts. It got me thinking about how I discovered these brews in the first place and so I dived a little deeper into the unconventional yet effective advertising (or lack there of in some cases) of domestic specialty breweries. All of my three picks, for example, became known to me through WOM (word of mouth). All three beers have very little advertising yet continue to increase distribution year after year. In fact, based on the Brewers Association reported growth of the craft brewing industry in 2009 was 7.2% by volume and 10.3% by dollars compared to growth in 2008 of 5.9% by volume and 10.1% by dollars. Moreover, the number of breweries in the US continues to climb.
Now, to the good stuff. My top 3 domestic beers are:
#3 Two Hearted Ale – Bell’s Brewery
A very lovely IPA, the Two Hearted Ale has a nice hoppy and fizzy grapefruit light taste that I very much appreciate. Bell’s Brewery is in fact one of the older Michigan craft breweries out there, based in Kalamazoo. Recent news from Mlive.com reports that Bell’s is rapidly expanding and is edging themselves out to become one of the top 10 selling craft breweries in the US. To date, I have seen no advertising for this beer. I’ve discovered it through some friends and that’s as far as it goes. They also have the usual going-ons in social media which they can take to a whole new level with brand advocates, fans etc. They’ve revamped their website to be more user-friendly and engaging.
#2 Purple Haze – Abita
A solid summer beer with infused raspberries, this is one of my fruity beer favorites. I mean, yes, I know fruity beer is not for the hard-core beer aficionados, but regardless, I like what I like in Abita. Their regular beers are awesome too. As far as advertising goes, in the South, Abita has more billboards and regional advertising so that it really pulls in for the locals and the communities around Louisiana and neighboring states. For example, Abita Brewing Company recently donated $50,000 from their SOS Charitable Fund, established by the brewing company to assist with restoration and recovery after the disastrous oil spill. Abita created a special beer, SOS (Save Our Shore) – A Charitable Pilsner, and donates 75 cents for every bottle sold to the fund. So far, the SOS charitable fund has raised more than $255,000 for Gulf Oil Spill relief. I discovered Abita on my trip down to New Orleans. You cannot go into a bar without seeing several varieties of Abita on tap.
#1 Fat Tire – New Belgium Brewery
Last but not least, this beer kicks butt. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder, and I absolutely feel this way about this beer. I yearn for it and still, it is one of the hardest beers for me to get. It may be the reason why I love it so. I discovered a couple years back at a soiree in the midwest where it was the prized highlight of the night. People have roadtripped this beer between states for music festival tickets as the distribution for this beer is extremely particular. In fact, it is impossible to find this beer in NYC as the distribution does not reach here. To some degree, I feel New Belgium is unapologetic about its limited distributions lines. A private company, their website conveys a sense of whimsical snarkiness on the site that really gets fans revved and talking. Events are also a major draw for New Belgium creating a very buzzy WOM operation. For example, last year, there was a Tour De Fat event in which New Belgium went through 13 US cities encouraging in each location, a lucky winner to trade in their car for a fully loaded commuter bike. The site linked to a special Facebook book page apart from the official New Belgium Brewery Facebook page and carried much buzz for this rather unique promotional exchange! New Belgium continues to grow and has opened six new states in 2009 with production growth upwards of 15%. I’m crossing my fingers for 2011!