Brewer Magazine Q&A: Keith McEly, Angel City Brewery

This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the brewing community from across the U.S.
Brewer Magazine will share business and personal insights from Brewmasters, Head Brewers, Brewing Managers, Sales Directors, QCQA Managers and others each weekend to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.


Keith McEly, Marketing & Events Manager​,​ Angel City Brewery​ — Los Angeles​

​BREWER: ​How do you feel your job has had to adapt in the beer market compared to a few years ago?
McELY​: Truth be told, I think we’re in a new and frankly, unpredictable time. So the main way the market has changed is that all the old rules about how you market beer, about how you put together a sales program, or how you talk to the consumer has kind of been turned on its head. That’s not to say that some traditional things don’t work at all, it’s just that outside-the-box thinking has been rewarded in massive ways in the last few years. I think if you told anyone 10 years ago that hard seltzer would be outselling beer in 2019, they would have laughed at you.

BREWER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
McELY​: I’ve had a few different mentors since beginning my journey in craft beer, but the main one I would point to is Stacey Steinmetz, formerly of Magic Hat and A & S Brewing. Stacey is adept at being able to think outside the box and come up with cool and creative ideas for events. And I think she really instilled in me that cause marketing and being a values-driven business is vitally important. Beer needs to be bigger than just beer. You need the right values, the right creativity, the right events — all of it to be successful.

BREWER: ​Can you share a success story that you are proud of in your job or maybe a story of how you learned from a situation that has altered your thoughts on how you do your job now?
McELY​: I think the traditional beer festival model will always be around, but is just not that creative of a way to activate your brand and make a lasting impression. I think that looking at events that are on-brand where you can really speak to your consumers is much more important. For us, we’ve found things like art gallery openings can be really effective. It’s a big part of our branding, so it makes sense for us. But if you look at a brand like Sufferfest, they’ve really established a niche of being at competitive races and the like. Just all about what makes sense for you as a brand and speaks to your core values.

BREWER: Can you touch on something your brewery has added lately that’s unique or making your business more successful (it could be equipment, technology or people)?
McELY​: Sour beers. We’ve been doing them for years, but I think in the past two years or so, we’ve really become more experimental and tried out barrels that are a bit outside of the norm. We’ve had a lot of success with wine barrels, and making beers that almost feel like a beer/wine hybrid. I think this type of thing will continue to gain traction with drinks, because they like things that cut across different categories.
BREWER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the brewing industry, what would it be?
McELY​: Diversity is important, both in the employees that you hire and the type of drinker you are trying to attract. Beer is a universal language and it cuts across all races, classes, and types of people. And the beer industry has spent far too long marketing and appealing to a singular type of consumer. I think even big beer is waking up to the fact that this is not sustainable long term and that it has to be more inclusive. But we still have a long way to go.

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