Taproom Success at Mother Road Brewing

mother road brewing

Although the goal is to be available from Chicago to Los Angeles, the hometown feel of Mother Road Brewing Co. in Flagstaff, Arizona, is quite apparent at its taproom located right on the former Route 66.

A 2,000 barrel distribution brewery, owners Michael and Alissa Marquess have created what they like to call “Flagstaff’s living room,” with their quaint and in-need-of-expansion taproom that opened in 2007.

A couple with hospitality backgrounds, the Marquesses have molded a place where regulars are friends and tourists feel like they are just as welcomed. “People tell their friends while on their travels,” Alissa explained. “They have a good experience at the place and they remember that.

“It also has helped with distribution because people get that warm fuzzy feeling when they see our beer on the shelves where they live.”

Using Michael’s degree in hotel management and Alissa’s background as a waitress and being just a general “people person,” Mother Road’s taproom was used as a prime example of a successful taproom at the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, Oregon. This spring the couple dished on their experiences and tips and tricks. About 60 percent of their clientele are from locals in the area despite being in a tourist town. The taproom uses 25 percent of the beer volume Mother Road manufactures, yet is 45 percent of the company’s revenue.

Using a family approach, Mother Road has toys and games for the kids, and big kids alike, along with a friendly staff, and community events throughout the year. Dogs are welcomed on the patio as well. It is all a measurable step back in the past to biergartens with a 21st century vibe.

“Sometimes, Americans can be a bit of a prude when it comes to alcohol, but in the craft beer community, it really is about community and more than just alcohol,” Alissa said. “This sense of having a taproom build further on that community and it hearkens back to what people originally felt when they came to a brewery where it was a gathering spot.”

What you won’t find are televisions or a food menu, although patrons are more than welcomed to order in or bring in a dish to complement one of the brewery’s beers.

“We started with a sense of what we wanted,” Alissa said. “We didn’t have TVs in the taproom because we wanted to encourage conversation. We keep music at a level where people can talk. We went into the business saying this is the feeling we want.

“What’s been fascinating over the years is that we came in with this vision of what we would like to happen, and our staff and the community have gotten involved and everyone has helped shape our involvement with the community. It’s really a back-and-forth relationship, and that feels really good.

“People really take ownership of the place because they have been invited to have ownership there. There had to be a give-and-take and notice of what people are enjoying.”

Mother Road features seven taps with three flagship beers, a rotating seasonal along with various one-offs and experiments brewed on a 2 bbl. system.

Alissa sees a taproom as a viable option for both distribution breweries and breweries that just have a taproom as their only outlet.

“If that is all you have then of course you want it to be the place for people to come to,” she said. “If you are using it as a ‘visitor center’ and helping tell the story of your brand by having that vibrant feeling there kind of reinforces for us what we want to bring out of the world and it gives our story.”

Can it be hard for brewers that aren’t people persons? Sure says Alissa, but that’s where hiring a staff that is keen to the hospitality side can be key. “I think you can still notice what makes you feel good about when you go into a place,” she said.

The taproom also caters to the family atmosphere by not being a late-night destination. Mother Road closes during the week at 8 p.m. and 9 p.m. on the weekends.

“The crowd shifts at about 8:30 or 9 to people that are out to go out to drink,” explained Alissa. “We are a distribution brewery so we don’t need to compete with the bars and those are places that you can go to get our beer anyway.”

The brewery looks to increase production by a third with hopes of more distribution deals outside Arizona. They have secured parts of New Mexico and will continue to follow Route 66 for deals, all along the “Mother Road” with a stop off at Flagstaff’s living room

“When you add a place like this to your community and you do it with heart, it gives people a good feeling about where they live,” Alissa said.


2 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. Arizona's Mother Road Partners with Helton During Expansion Effort
  2. How Breweries Can Help Develop Their Neighborhoods

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.