Multiple Taproom Logistics

With a more attractive margin, the ability to interact directly with consumers and the availability to have more on-premise taps with your brewery’s name on it in your taproom can help draw consumers in.
Sun King Brewing has found ways to address the need for more taprooms in the Indianapolis market by slowly branching out with a total of five spots in the metro area over the past five years. In the first six years, there was just one location near Indy’s downtown. Since, the brewery opened a small-batch/R&D facility in Fisher’s on the northeast side of town in 2015, along with a distillery/brewery location in Carmel on the north side in 2017. An opportunity to take over a fledgling brewpub in 2018 arose to open a spot on the south side in Broad Ripple while adding an airport location on a partnership level became reality in 2020.
“Each of our taprooms are very unique — not just in their look and feel but they’re their own kind of living breathing entity — yet they still have that umbilical cord back to the mothership,” said Sun King co-founder Clay Robinson.
Although Sun King has multiple outlets, they are fairly close to each other, but discussions to open out of state or around Indiana have been presented in the past.
“The places that we chose to expand in our home market are really based on population density and it was kind of an opportunity to grow our brand as a really strong home base,” Robinson said. “We’ve actually looked at opportunities … but nothing has really quite fit what we were looking for. And for us, given the population that we have, it’s made a lot of sense to continue to drive that home market space.
“I don’t feel like we need a lot more taprooms in or around Indianapolis and we kind of feel like our next opportunity needs to be a little bit farther away so that we can take advantage of planting the flag and having a brand lift whether it be in northern Indiana or someplace like Louisville or Cincinnati.
“We’ve even discussed Florida. That’s a really good market for us.“
Robinson believes that taprooms in new markets or existing markets that are farther away from your home base can give you an overall brand lift.
“It gives you some more visibility,” he said. “It can make you function as a local [brewery] would. So you’re definitely part of the community, and we like to be a part of communities with our community programs and try to give back and create a positive impact for the places in and around where our taprooms are.
“It’s a little easier to do when you have a physical presence. I think that there are a lot of benefits to having a taproom in a market that’s a little farther away from your home base.”
Like Sun King, Schlafly Beer saw the need for a second location in its hometown of St. Louis. Wil Rodgers, Head of Marketing for the veteran brewery, said that the second location was driven by overall demand and capacity needs.
“We needed a location to brew more efficiently and package our beers,” he said. “If we were building another brewery in a St. Louis neighborhood, we figured we should make a place for people to enjoy our beer as well.“
When Schlafly‘s management team talks about its pubs, it all comes down to the experiences the consumer has when inside the four walls. Schlafly opened its first taproom in 1991 and the second one in 2004, and CEO Fran Caradonna points out that the world has changed a lot since then.
“We’ve learned to be more strategic in every way,” she said. “If we were to open a new taproom today, our commitment to great beer and support of the community would be at the forefront just as it is with our two existing locations.“
The taprooms are the place where Schlafly can tell its stories and serve the freshest beer, Rodgers said.
“It also helps for people to come in and see where their beer is made, and see the local people who make it,” he said.
The first Schlafly location has such a different look and feel than the second location. Rodgers says that while both are evocative of the brand, they each tell their own story and reflect the characteristics of the neighborhood where they’re located.
“Our original location carries the spirit that inspired our founders to start a brewery under the shadow of the big guy,” he said. “It has a strong English pub atmosphere, with a history that you can almost feel when you walk into the building.
“The second location was built for the purpose of larger production, but we wanted to make sure we were doing things the right way and fitting into the community without disrupting it. This is where we saw an opportunity to embrace our sustainability movement by adding in a garden, solar panels, sourcing local food, and helping to start a compost program that would soon spread through the neighborhood and the city as a whole.“
Caradonna noted that Schlafly tries to balance risk and opportunity to be responsible to their stakeholders and maximize profitable growth when it comes to leveraging capital for such an endeavor such as a new location.
“We will consider all options to start and narrow down based on the specifics of a deal,” she said.
Robinson said when Sun King opened the Fishers taproom in 2015 it was a proof of concept and the brewery has learned a lot from the first experience.
“Everything that we do is an evolution. And I actually feel like every spot that we opened, we get better at it,” Robinson said. “Not only do we get better at just a physical build-out and opening, but the execution from a people standpoint.”
Robinson said handling two sets of crews and keeping them a cohesive family is tough to start.
“I think overall for us was getting everybody on the same page,” he said. “People would say all the fun stuff happened at the downtown brewery, and trying to get people to take ownership of being the R&D facility was a tough start for us.
“While we do have some cool fun stuff and big releases come from the main brewery, there’s a lot of cool new fun things that came from there as well. Everybody kind of has that grass-is-always-greener feeling. So we had to show what made them as a small batch brewery unique and give them things that they can be proud of as part of the Sun King team. We had to tell them, ‘you’re not just another outpost.’”
He added that everything that Sun King does, whether they do it well or they screw it up, they try to take a look at it and the decisions around it, so that the next time that they do it, they do it better. In fact, Sun King has moved the Fishers taproom into a new spot recently to capitalize on functions they couldn’t do in the smaller first space, like adding partnership food pods and an outside patio.
Sun King owners have even discussed what does opening just a taproom vs. adding a production element does to the brand.
“Does it matter if you were to open a smaller taproom in a smaller community that was just a taproom, would people be as excited about it as they would be if there was an element of production,” Robinson pondered. “But as everyone in our industry knows, you add an element of production — even a nano brewery — you’re still adding a significant amount of costs and at the end of the day, what pays the bills are people’s butts in seats.”

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.