Ginning Up Interest: Marketing House-Made Spirits at Your Brewery

Creating alternative lines of revenue and products has been on the minds of many breweries that can do so, depending on state laws.

“Craft” alcohol as an industry is still maturing, said Interboro Spirits & Ales founder and CEO Laura Dierks. Brewing and distilling under one roof is part of that growth for Interboro.

“Artisans at the craft scale are pushing the boundaries as they learn more about producing great alcohol products,” she said.

There is some crossover in consumers between craft beer and spirits, so finding ways to market to both is a new challenge for these “brewstilleries.”

“No matter what, every group of friends has people who prefer spirits over beer and vice versa,” Dierks said. “We have found that the craft beer aficionado’s selections shift as they age.

“Sometimes we market our beer using our spirits or use our spirits as an entry in getting our beers in cocktail bars. We like for them to complement each other as much as possible.”

Offering craft spirits and craft cocktails has expanded Cahaba Brewing’s clientele, explained Cat Golden, the company’s Production Manager.

The Cahaba spirits program is three years old now and in that time, it has grown to become roughly 25% of all taproom sales.

“We’re a little overwhelmed by such quick growth, but we’re thrilled,” Golden said. 

The distribution of spirits in Alabama is controlled entirely by the State, so the company would not be working with a wholesaler, but with the Alabama Beverage Control, which operates wholesale distribution centers for retailers, and small chain stores for direct-to-consumer purchases.

“We do not currently distribute our spirits, but with our newly increased capacity, we are looking at the potential of distributing a few selected products in the future,” Golden explained.

Now with a fourth location planned solely as a cocktail bar, Pollyanna Brewing will look toward adding more spirit-centric front-of-house employees as well as expanding into distro.

Co-founder Ed Malnar of Pollyanna Brewing told Brewer that the distro side is a little bit of a work in progress but is in the process of rebranding the spirits side first. The challenge he said is that most people look at Pollyanna as a brewery and a beer company. Making those small changes will take time.

“We [want to] provide more of an identity with each [spirit], which required us to come up with names, and new labels … tweaking what we had,” he said. “We do have retail partners out there too. But typically, these are restaurants and small bottle shops that some of our stuff has gone out to.

“We’re not on the shelves at the big retailers yet. I don’t mind the slower approach to it since we’re building out our retail concepts with spirits as well. It’s just taken a little while and hopefully, I would say, maybe as we get into the second quarter [of 2023], things are going to pick up on the distro side.”

Photo courtesy Pollyanna Brewing & Distilling

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