Discovering What Sells For Your Brewery in the Market

It sounds simple enough. A beer sells well in the taproom means to move it on to distribution in the market, be that in kegs at various accounts or even packaging it for shelves.

For the majority of beers, that case is true, but sometimes taproom favorites don’t hit the same note outside of a brewery’s walls and that’s when research needs to happen.

Buoy Beer relies a lot on the market and customers to tell co-founder David Kroening and his staff — both literally and through sales — what brands consumers want and how.

The Astoria, Oregon brewery has a pilot system onsite and they primarily keep those beers in-house for customers to drink in the taproom. The brewery also has a core of three brands which is what drive off-premise sales and most of the brewery’s overall growth.

“But new changing beers are really important for on-premise to stay fresh for accounts and customers alike,” Kroening said. “On-premise does require a lot of constant interaction with wholesalers and accounts to keep them informed of new styles coming through all the time, which is necessity and definitely a challenge.

“We’re seeing similar trends that most of the industry is: cans are growing, single serve bottles are shrinking, IPAs are dominant, sessionable/light/lagers/tart sours are climbing.”

As the brewery has grown Three Notch’d in Charlottesville, Virginia now looks more towards retail locations to shape the choices for distribution.

Typically, when a new beer is released in their four locations, the sales numbers over a month or two are analyzed against the beers they know are already high performers. Those include Minute Man NEIPA and a rotating Gose series as the most recent adds to their distribution portfolio.

“Both started out as draft-only tasting room ‘experiments,’ ” noted Roth. “Listening to our customers’ feedback and using the data to confirm, we quickly realized that both products had the opportunity to rise to the top of our SKUs in popularity.”

Two years later Minute Man is the brewery’s fastest growing beer, and was ranked the 10th IPA in the country by Draft Magazine, and is the No. 1 craft SKU in some big-time Virginia stores, Roth said.The Gose series is now on its final flavor rotation to complete its first full year in distribution and is growing nearly as fast at the Minute Man SKU.

“With a lower ABV and fruity flavor compliments to a solid Gose base this beer is attracting a growing subset of drinkers that includes not only craft beer fans but wine lovers as well,” Roth noted. “In the end there is no magic number, but the data we can gather by having multiple retail locations has really allowed us to understand how a beer will be received not just in its home market, but across much of the state as well.”

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