The Lane That 42 North Drives for its Top Selling IPA

With a sea of cans and a vast array of tap choices in many places, creating a brand identity is key for any brewery. For 42 North Brewing, founder John Cimperman went one level deeper for the Borderland IPA the brewery has been making since opening in 2015. Cimperman said finding a niche and working on that to help the brewery’s flagship make new inroads each year.

“We can’t be all things to all people,” he said. “Find a lane and stay in it. … if you try to be all things to all people, you’re nothing to everyone, which is a shame.”

With the brewery name alluding to being built near the 42nd parallel in New York State — just south of Buffalo – the branding has been geared toward the outdoor lifestyle. But Borderland, a 6.8% ABV, mid-60s IBU IPA with Amarillo, Simcoe, and Citra works to be a brand built to be drank at live music events.

“I really think it’s important that every beer has to tell a story,” Cimperman said. “The story around the Borderland brand is really live entertainment and live music. I know a lot of our brewery brethren can attest to the fact there’s a real strong correlation among live music lovers and craft beer drinkers.”

Starting in 2018 the Borderland Music Festival began, which took the name of the IPA and tied it to a regional festival to help strengthen that bond of the beer and live music.

It started in the 42 North taproom with Cimperman investing in a great live-music sound system and began to work to attract great musicians to our place. It grew from there, showing support to other music venues and clubs that shared a similar vibe.

“While it’s important for folks to come into our taproom to try our beer, it’s equally important for us to promote the fact that our beer is also available at these great entertainment venues across the region,” Cimperman said, noting the brewery now covers Western New York along with Northeast Ohio and around the Cleveland area. “The bar owners, the club owners really appreciate the fact that we’re helping them put butts in their seats as well.”

42 North has built a really passionate group of followers and using that base helps drive business between his taproom and to venues supporting his brand.

“[They are], passionate fans of our beer and of our brewery, and it’s an engaged group,” Cimperman said. “They open our emails, they react to our social media posts, they come in our taproom. That’s some real valuable inventory to other venues so we’re fine cross-promoting other venues that are supporting us. So it really is a two-way street.

“Why give us a draft line when there are 9,800 other options, right? But if we can demonstrate that we support them, and we support what they’re also passionate about, in this case, live music. It really goes hand-in-hand. … Not only are we supporting them, but they’re supporting us as brand ambassadors. So it’s really been a great a great collaboration.”

Cimperman added it comes down to creating personal relationships and delivering on your promises.

“If a music club puts our beer on draft or even in cans, we’re gonna follow that up, and let our followers know that our beer is available there,” he said. “But also, look at these great musicians that are there. It’s my team, and our distributor now understands the strategy. So they’re helping support it as well.”

About 18 months ago the brewery created a bunch of video features to highlight local clubs as well to add to their website.

“It was in some cases, free publicity for these clubs, but also it really showed this market — Western New York in particular — has a great live music scene,” Cimperman said. “We’re taking that same strategy now to new distribution markets, like Northeast Ohio.”

This strategy has pushed Borderland IPA to become the No. 1 sold 16-ounce can in Western New York and is about 50% of 42 North’s 4,000 barrels made per year. But it took a lot of well-placed ideas to be put into motion. The top strategy, Cimperman said, was a dedication to getting it done.

“We’re just gonna keep grinding, and not take our customers for granted,” he said. “And that means both our consumers as well as in the trade. The liquid has to be good to get in the door. That’s a given. But what else can you do to support your customers?”

Photo courtesy 42 North Brewing

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