The Importance of Your Merchandise

Against the Grain’s Sam Cruz said it’s always incredibly satisfying and flattering to see the Louisville, Kentucky’s brand being represented out in the world.

“It occurred to me long ago, that the only way we could truly reach everyone possible with our message that ‘We give all the [expletive]! We’re here to have fun and to make the highest quality beer possible!’ was to make sure we were giving our customers an engaging story, with engaging characters,” said Cruz, who is a co-owner and visionary for the brewery.

“We did this by giving our passion for beer a life of its own through characters representing our personality and ideas about beer types.”

The brewery recently upped its merchandise game with a Black Friday opening of a new retail store and bottle shop.

Cruz fondly reflected on the first line of shirts, which was of the brewery’s character HOP that appears consistently on their hoppy beer packaging.

“As soon as those [shirts] became available, they sold out,” he said. “Now I see those 7-year-old tee shirts out in the wild, being worn by people who look like the character on the shirt.  I love it.”

Although it costs money to create merchandise, Cruz said brand awareness is paramount in the creation of various items. Not the sale themselves.

“It’s more about brand awareness,” he said. “It’s naive to say that we don’t have an interest in our bottom line, but we don’t hang our prosperity on the pull through of merchandise.

“We have put so much energy and intention into creating a cohesive story with our beers and how we market them and how that reflects our feelings about life and beer, as well as our relationship with our customers; that our brand merchandise is a great way to help accomplish those goals more thoughtfully.”

Along with cans and bottles from Against the Grain, they also carry beers from Stillwater Artisanal and Marz Brewing along with specialty beers exclusive to the store and keg sales to go along with Against the Grain-branded merchandise.

Cruz said he ‘absolutely believes’ in a diverse line of merchandise items.

“We are a diverse company with a very diverse clientele,” he said. “So it only makes sense that we try to accommodate as many facets of that as possible. In addition to trying to keep everyone happy, we also have to make sure we are feeding our creative self in the items we work on. It’s a balance really.”

Cruz said that the brewery has been reliant upon their branding for marketing. It’s all by design, in fact.

“We have, since Day One, believed that every aspect of the beer had to be of the highest quality,” he said. “So the package it comes in and the shirts we sell are no exception. It all has to communicate our intention and who we are.

“We are a little weird, we are a little crass, we make amazing beer, and we are a lot of fun. So we had to make sure we were giving people that message with all aspects of our production, from the beer to the package, to the service at our pub, to the merchandise we offer.

“At the end of the day, how will the world ever know what we are all about if we don’t tell them?”

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