Guilds Find Ways to Connect Breweries with Consumers & Each Other

A state guild can be key in connecting fellow brewers to other brewers, and state breweries to the consuming public.

Finding new and exciting ways to do that has been on the mind of the Brewers of Indiana Guild, which has seen the number of breweries in the state nearly double in the last two-plus years. That means needed communication and more resources for not just educating the public on craft beer in the Hoosier state, but also educating and introducing the various breweries to each other. That partnership can lead to strong communal ties and a bigger voice in unison when needed.

“As the industry grows and technology changes, guilds can have a stronger voice than ever,” said Brewers of Indiana Guild Communication Director Tristan Schmid. “It can act as both an amplifier and a filter for those consumers who are dedicated to supporting the industry in their state, helping them choose the best of what’s going on as choices become almost overwhelming. As the world’s largest brewing companies fight harder for tap handles and shelf space, it’s imperative that guilds use the networks they’ve built to mobilize their breweries and enthusiast members in supporting legislative initiatives that benefit the industry.

“The Brewers of Indiana Guild has an audience of tens of thousands of Hoosier craft beer fans, and we’ll leverage that support base and encourage them to contact their legislators when important issues arise at the statehouse regarding our membership. Beer fans who love their local brewing community will fight for it.”

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Digital communication is important Schmid said. The Indiana guild has a regular member newsletter that includes event info, legislative surveys, marketing tips and new brewery updates. Last year, it started an online members’ forum for breweries and affiliates to share info about equipment, events, business operations and other aspects. It also has a member directory, which helps breweries connect. Print and face-to-face communication is extremely important, too, he added.

Last year was the first Indiana Craft Brewers Conference, which offered a variety of educational sessions on both business operations and technical brewing.

“Our biggest takeaway from that, though, was the social aspect of it,” Schmid said. “At our annual festivals, brewers don’t necessarily get to mingle with many of their peers, because the events are focused on providing a good experience for attendees. But at our conferences, the brewers are able to hang out with their peers, share what they’ve been up to, share ideas, and have fun.”

Using the #INbeer hashtag on social media has helped twofold. It has helped consumers find beer news across the state and it has connected fellow brewers.

“We see more and more breweries adopting that in their tweets and on Instagram,” Schmid said. “We’ve also seen breweries from different parts of the state responding to each other’s posts, which is simply fun and might lead to some collaborations. Indiana isn’t the biggest state, but it’s still difficult for us to get face time with breweries across the state, so perhaps the biggest way it’s helped us with our members is by providing a way to form relationships with people whom we may never have even met.”

The BIG launched a new enthusiast membership program (called the IN Beer Brigade) on July 30 at its summer Indiana Microbrewers Festival. Although many brewers’ guilds have enthusiast programs, Indiana says its is unique in that it gives members exclusive access to one-of-a-kind collaboration beers brewed by member breweries.

The inaugural brew day is this week at 3 Floyds. The brewery is hosting brewers from across Northwestern Indiana to brew “Corn King” IPA, brewed with locally grown corn malted locally by Sugar Creek Malt Co.

The beer will be available at release parties in October around the state. Premium members receive two complimentary bombers for carryout, in addition to a members-only tee, sticker, and glassware. Next year, Sun King hosts a Central regional collab, and in 2018 Upland will host South Central Hoosier breweries to brew a sour beer.

“It’s been a long process, and we’ve put forth significant effort and resources to get the Brigade up and running,” Schmid said.

He said the Indiana board of directors was initially inspired by its neighbors in Michigan and surrounding states.

“Though some are well-established and popular, we knew that we couldn’t simply mimic what another guild was doing and assume it would be worthwhile for Hoosier beer lovers,” Schmid said.

Instead, Schmid brought a consumer perspective.

“I knew that we had to offer something that you couldn’t get anywhere else, and ideally with a digital component,” he said. “Because we want the program to represent the best in Indiana craft beer, I also knew that whatever we offered — t-shirts, membership cards — had to be high-quality.”

Rob Caputo, the Indiana guild’s Executive Director and a founder of Flat12 Bierwerks, had an idea a few years ago when he was still a board member to loop all three elements of the guild’s membership (breweries, affiliated businesses, and individual beer fans) into a program by getting the first two together to brew and package one-off, one-of-a-kind beers and offer them to the enthusiast members.

“Rob’s a skilled brewer, but we knew that coordinating the effort would take considerable resources — after all, we only have three staff people,” Schmid said “But in the end, it’s basically getting people together to do the same thing they do every day, but for a cause they’re all invested in: supporting local beer.”

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