How a Consumer’s Experience Can be Heightened During a Tour

Finding a way to enhance a customer’s experience is what a brewery tour is all about. It’s a chance for the consumer to ingrain themselves into the culture and beer of a brewery through its facility…and suds.

For New Belgium, finding a way to attract and retain those clients were thought out during the construction of its Asheville, North Carolina “Liquid Center” brewery.

The facility will officially open to the public on September 2 with free tours that start every half hour. New Belgium estimates it will give 8,000 public tours, hosting 200,000 people, between North Carolina and the brewery in Fort Collins, Colorado.

“Building a new brewery allowed us to actually build a space where we could leverage years of experience in Fort Collins,” said Liquid Center manager Tyler Foos.

In Fort Collins, the brewery’s tour route and guest experience had to be “pieced together” as the brewery grew.

“With Asheville, we had the opportunity to think about how our Liquid Center experience could be improved and how our brewery spaces could accomplish two goals: be a highly efficient world class brewery and offer great spaces for our guests,” Foos said.

So New Belgium focused on functionality and entertainability. One part of making it a great experience for both guests and coworkers is it designed a bar in the brewhouse.

“We did this in Fort Collins and to us it just seems like a normal part of our culture to enjoy what we make in one of the spaces we make it,” Foos said.

Foos said Liquid Center is different from the Fort Collins experience for consumers, yet the same. Both offer a snapshot into the brewery’s day-to-day functions, but the physical view is much different.

“The vibes are the same, the focus on brand storytelling is the same, we sell merchandise, and we offer the chance to enjoy more of our beers than anyplace else,” he explained. “What is different is that the Liquid Center is its own building in Asheville, with a large deck overlooking the French broad river and plenty of outdoor space for guests to enjoy.”

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The river view isn’t new for Asheville, however the perspective is, Foos noted. Elevated on the west side of the river with a greenway underneath, “that’s an experience that’s new for those living here and those that are visiting Asheville,” he said.

Work from regional artists and materials from the previous uses of the campus are highlighted along the tour, as well as the brewing process and the company’s commitment to sustainability and progressive workplace practices.

But how does New Belgium mold its story after 25 years to both knowledgeable and inexperienced consumers?

“I think we’ve worked really hard to nail [that],” Foos said, noting that lots of information on how to brew is available online. “A public tour is always a mixed bag, some people really want to learn about beer because they don’t know anything about it, some want to geek out getting super technical, and some just want to take selfies and drink beer.”

Foos noted that a tour of brewery should offer a little bit to everyone.

“You can’t have a super technical tour, exclusively, then the folks that know nothing about beer will leave more confused than when they walked in. You can’t not talk about how beer is made, then you’re not giving that uber beer fan what they need. It’s a balance, enough information so that they inexperienced guest leaves knowing how beer is made and not focusing on getting a little technical so that the knowledgeable beer drink learns how our process is unique.”

One thing, Foos pointed out is that New Belgium’s tour guides are also a part of the tasting room. That means they person that led the tour is in the tasting room to be a part of additional questions or comments.

“It allows for the relationship to continue that was formed over that past 90 minutes,” he said. “It gives tour guide the opportunity to continue conversations with everyone on their tour. It also creates time for the more knowledgeable consumers to have their questions answered, or if we don’t know the answer, we’ll go run and get a brewer and let those the guests ask questions.”

Finding a way to connect helps with return visits. Foos noted that 20 different guides will work tours for New Belgium at Liquid Center. And those 20 are encouraged to have their own personality and style for each tour.

“People continue to come back to take tours specifically because they want to take a different tour guides tour, or they want to go back on tour with the same guide because they loved it,” he said. “You need to focus on having a team of people that understand what it means to take care of people as if they were taking care of them in their home. I’ve always told guests, it’s not my tour, it’s your tour.”

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