Why ​You ​Need ​a ​Consistent ​Food ​Option ​Right ​Now

WeldWerks didn’t have to move heaven and earth to make it work, but they did demolish a previous office space and employee lounge to make sure the brewery would hope to see larger ticket sales per customer while having more control over a solid food option in the process.

In mid-February, the Greeley, Colorado brewery announced the opening of The Annex, a new eatery at the brewery’s taproom.

“[It] has certainly created some challenges for a staff that’s now over 60 people, but it allowed us to have an open-concept kitchen that blends pretty seamlessly in with the general taproom aesthetic,” the brewery’s Jake Goodman told Brewer. “It’s something we’ve always looked to as a great way to elevate the overall taproom experience, and so when the right opportunity came along, especially as it relates to our Head Chef (Tim Meador), we jumped on it.”

An in-house option is both much more reliable and also more lock-step with the brewery’s overall identity, Goodman pointed out.

“Having the eatery makes it vastly easier to create and capitalize on synergies in a way that, at least ideally, resonates to a much greater degree with our guests,” he said.

The brewpub model allows you to control your own destiny​, said Three Creeks owner Wade Underwood.

​“​Why build a business to sell beer and let someone else make the money on food​,” he pondered. “​Having our own kitchen has always been critical to our brewpub success. Providing quality, diverse food options expand the appeal of our brewpub to customers beyond the core craft beer audience.”

The new Annex restaurant is fully under the purview of WeldWerks and Goodman said they wanted to make sure that was the case to help ensure consistency in both service and overall philosophy.

“Until the recent opening of The Annex, we had always had food trucks, usually from Thursday-Sunday,” he said. “Food just goes so indelibly with great beer and the overall taproom experience, so it’s something we’ve been keen on pretty much ever since opening.”

Similar to WeldWerks’ constantly rotating tap list, menu items at The Annex will be ever-changing, evolving, and expertly paired with the current beer menu.

“I hope that guests will feel our excitement and reverence for food—and that the first bite will hopefully elicit the same involuntary ‘whoa’ as when someone tries a beer that really resonates with them,” Goodman​ said​. “Even more so, I hope that The Annex brings a whole new category of non-beer-centric visitors, drawn in by the food, and turned into regular fixtures at WeldWerks because they found their new favorite restaurant and discovered something amazing about beer that hadn’t previously occurred to them.”

​In Fredericksburg, Virginia, Mark Faller helped open 6 Bears & A Goat Brewing with the concept of the classic German Biergarten concept in mind. He feels that having food options on-site can really help open up clientele.

“We never put anyone on the clock,” he said “People can come in here and can be in and out, or they can stay all day. Whatever suits the customer.

“You can’t really do that if you’re just a brewery with a food truck where you have some snacks. It’s hard to hold people because you need to have the food with the beer.”

Food, beer, and the environment in which those things are enjoyed are critical, pointed out Surly’s Bill Manley.

“Great food can enhance and complement the great beer, and vice versa,” he said. “We understand that the whole of an experience — rather than the individual components — is what helps to drive that intense loyalty that Surly provokes among our fans.”

Surly first opened its production brewery and Beer Hall in 2014, so Manley said they have known for a long time the importance of having that on-site impact and pairing beer and food together.

“That said, I wouldn’t say we’re a brewpub,” he added. “Our Beer Hall was modeled to be sort of a modernized German-style beer hall, with long communal tables, shareable plates, and a lively atmosphere. It’s a gathering place where guests can linger and enjoy great food over multiple courses and share a good time with those that mean the most to them.”

Often, Manley said that patrons coming to the Beer Hall or Surly Pizza is the first contact they may have with Surly, and those experiences can leave a lasting impression.

“Having some control over how those experiences come across is critically important,” he said of why the brewery has a kitchen staff and doesn’t hire an outside vendor or just have a space for food trucks.

Faller feels the return rate also is higher as well for a consumer base looking to eat than drink.

“You gotta eat three times a day, you don’t have to drink every day,” he said. “So you’re giving them an opportunity to come back multiple times in one week. It’s hard, but if you find the right formula, you sell a lot more beer.

“At the end of the day, if you sell more food, you sell more beer. And the restaurant helps bring both of those up. I wouldn’t do it any other way.”

​Six Bears & A Goat’s philosophy on controlling the food aspect of the brewery has evolved over time​, starting by contracting with a vendor and now planning to expand the kitchen this year to help accommodate more than 200 patrons at one time.

Hiring for those multiple added aspects of business can be tough. Coming from a homebrewer background where Faller only focused on the beer, now being a part of the hospitality industry can be a tough switch and understanding that focusing on the front and back of houses are important and can be the toughest aspect.

“It’s the hardest part, the restaurant,” he said. “Those guys in the back, … you get a good head brewer, you don’t have to worry about it. In the kitchen, there’s always churn and challenges. It’s just part of the business.”

​Manley said to treat food as the main event, and not an afterthought.

​“​Make sure everything on the menu is as good as your beer​,” he said​. ​“​Make sure you’re as proud of each item as you are of the latest special release tapping, and you’ll do great.​“

Photo courtesy 6 Bears & A Goat Brewing

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