Taking a page from wineries and distilleries, some breweries are now offering customers the experience of hand selecting beer from a barrel (or barrels) to create a custom blend and then have it bottled.
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Super fans of breweries will line up early for special releases. They’ll buy tickets for parties that give them a shot at limited edition cans or bottles. These hearty souls will travel to festivals and stock up on commemorative blends and collaborations that won’t be found anywhere else.
Scarcity breeds desire and beer has long embraced the limited release, seasonal, member’s only offerings and secret stash. Consumers looking to tick on Untappd,or get bottle share bragging rights have lapped them up.
Bottles, cans, and sometimes growlers are usually how these beers are released. Now, however, there are a few breweries that are taking pages from wineries and distilleries and offering customers a crack at their own barrel.
Of course, that doesn’t mean actually rolling out a barrel and placing it into the trunk of a Camry, but rather an experience to select liquid from a barrel (or barrels to create a blend) and then have it bottled.
There is a collector’s appeal to this. Often it comes with personalized labels and a cool story to tell. It’s rarefied air for the discerning drinker.
Earlier this month The Bruery, in Orange County, California announced the continuation of it’s private barrel program that can be used as a good roadmap for other breweries that have a robust wood cellar and are looking for an upgraded drinker experience.
There are three tiers to the Bruery’s program. The first two offer a group barrel tasting to pick a blend, party invitation, and customized labels. A dozen bottles costs $700 while 24 will cost $1,200 and the beers will be finished in Amburana wood.
The third tier is designed for deep pocketed drinkers. For $10,000 drinkers get to pick their own single barrel of Black Tuesday, the brewery’s signature abv stout. This includes four different labels, an engraved barrel head, and 200 bottles to bring home.
Obviously that price point won’t work for a lot of consumers, but it does more than just offer a good experience. It encourages loyalty and a deeper connection with the brand. Every time a bottle is opened or gifted it’s a chance to share the story and experience and that breeds intrigue.
Brewers have rightly become proud of their barrel-aged beers. Sourcing desired wood from distilleries and wineries brings a cache to the finished product along with flavor and nuance. There is a financial commitment that comes with bringing in new barrels and then storing them until the beer is ready to be consumed.
By offering customers a chance to get their own barrels, a special blend that is unique to them is a chance to offset some costs but also forge that deeper relationship. It’s something that every brewery with the bandwidth should consider.