The big takeaway from the GABS Hottest 100 Craft Beers list for 2015 is that the winner sends me free beer…
… and I always get a short personalised email. They do the same for a lot of others too.
I’m not conceited enough to think that my receipt of free beer is enough to send a beer rocketing up the charts to #1, but instead, it’s what that gesture says about Stone and Wood as a company.
It might seem minor in the greater scheme of things but it shows one thing – they are actually doing some basic marketing. Other breweries definitely send out free beer (although the amount I receive I could count on one hand, so not that many do), but none as regularly and as interestingly as Stone and Wood who often include things like hats, beanies, tshirts and stickers.
It all really comes back to something I’ve banged on about numerous times, and that is engaging the customers. None of the beers in the top 10 would’ve made it without that. They all do things their own way but more importantly they work on building a loyal fanbase. Some have more money to do it than others, but it doesn’t take that much money to run a facebook campaign, send out some press releases and post out a slab worth of samples.
They also need to brew good beer. If you look through the top 100, for the most part they are pretty damn consistent. Whether or not you enjoy their beer, James Squire wouldn’t have the support it does if every second batch tasted like butterscotch, and a couple a year went sour. Looking through the second list of beers 101-200 I can’t say the same about many of the breweries there.
This is a national poll that is rapidly gaining in visibility and as such it has national repercussions. It can also be seen as a reflection on what breweries are doing things right. Breweries that want to sell more beer, and get higher on the list for 2016 need to be looking at it and asking themselves “what are they doing that I am not?”
That doesn’t mean to brew middle of the road pales (many breweries made it with beers that are definitely not middle of the road), or having national distribution (again, many breweries are there that don’t have large distro), it means having a clear brand, great beer and being able to communicate to and engage with the public. It means getting enough people to care about your beer that they want to put it into their list.
If breweries can’t do those things then they are going to be drowned out by the breweries that can. It’s not up to the public, it’s not up to the complainers to stop whinging about the results, or the GABS team to improve the poll; it’s up to the breweries themselves. It’s the breweries that you love not doing what they can to get the support.
It’s all the little things done right that result in enough votes to get to the top and it’s those little things that will also see some brands outlast others in the wider market.
It’s the little things that mean the difference between a brewery expansion or cost cutting. It’s spending the money on branding or a good copywriter, it’s spending money on some basic lab equipment, it’s talking on social media, it’s hosting tastings, it’s sending samples, it’s QCing your beer, it’s building a fanbase that know your beer and support it enough to say “this is a top five beer”.
The Hottest 100 list is a list of all the breweries doing all the little things right.