Rocky Mountain Brewing News August/September 2015 : Page 1
AUGUST/SEPTEMBER 2015 VOL.13/NO.4 H.A. BREWING CO: By Amy Moses C heck in. Log that beer. Find out what your local brewery has on tap. Search for your favorite beer in bars and liquor stores around town. Cheers your friends – virtually! As craft beer con-noisseurs navigate their way through an ever-expanding array of prod-ucts, they turn to their phone for assistance. Using a mobile phone means using apps, as a Nielson study reported that 89% of the time people spend on media using mobile phones is spent using apps, versus only 11% being spent using media through the mobile web. Another recent Nielsen analysis found that on average, U.S. smartphone users accessed 26.7 apps per month in the fourth quarter of 2014. Entrepreneurs have seized this opportunity and created several thousand beer apps, a number that can be just a bit overwhelming for the average beer consumer. Savvy breweries are taking advantage of the opportunity to interact with customers on these apps – or build their own. Steve Kurowski, marketing director for the Colorado Brewers Guild explains, “Craft beer was built on grassroots marketing and social media is grass roots.” By Alan McCormick Head north out of Whitefish, Montana, on U.S. Highway 93 and it doesn’t take long before it starts feeling “out there.” Long stretches of empty highway pass between parts of the Kootenai National Forest with spruce and fir trees giving way to the occasional vista of craggy peaks. You’d be forgiven for wondering if you’re headed the right direction to the brewery. Some forty miles later -and only fifteen before you’ll need a passport to cross into Canada -the sign pointing to H.A. Brewing Co. only tem-porarily eases your doubt. It’ll be another two and a half miles up a narrow, winding road until you find the packed parking lot just down a single-lane graveled driveway. Owner and brewer Chris Neill has built a destina-tion brewery on his fam-ily's homestead. P HOTO CREDIT A LAN M C C ORMICK See Apps p.2 Colorado Mark Choate, Founder/ President of Craft Beer Planit , explains, “We decided to start a craft beer app company after attending countless beer festivals and talking with craft brewers across the country. I began to ask the same question of all of them: ‘Aside from cash flow, capacity and distribution, what is the biggest hurdle you face?’ The overwhelm-ing response was, ‘People don’t know What Spurred the Need? H.A. Brewing Co. (previously known as Homestead Ales) takes up the western half of brewer/co-owner Chris Neill’s cabinet and furni-ture making shop. The capacity crowd filling the beer garden on a warm summer evening tells you something about the relative nature of distance. It also tells you a lot about Neill. See Homestead p.3. A Homestead Becomes a Brewery INSIDE Calendar of Events ....................15 Craft Beer Directory ................ 8-10 State by State News Montana..........5 Idaho...............6 Wyoming.........7 Utah...............11 Denver..............................12 Central Peaks..................13 Western Slope.................14 Four Corners...................14 Front Range................... 14
Are Craft Beer APPS For You? APP-Solutely!
Check in. Log that beer. Find out what your local brewery has on tap. Search for your favorite beer in bars and liquor stores around town. Cheers your friends – virtually!
As craft beer connoisseurs navigate their way through an everexpanding array of products, they turn to their phone for assistance. Using a mobile phone means using apps, as a Nielson study reported that 89% of the time people spend on media using mobile phones is spent using apps, versus only 11% being spent using media through the mobile web. Another recent Nielsen analysis found that on average, U.S. smartphone users accessed 26.7 apps per month in the fourth quarter of 2014.
Entrepreneurs have seized this opportunity and created several thousand beer apps, a number that can be just a bit overwhelming for the average beer consumer.
Savvy breweries are taking advantage of the opportunity to interact with customers on these apps – or build their own. Steve Kurowski, marketing director for the Colorado Brewers Guild explains, “Craft beer was built on grassroots marketing and social media is grass roots.”
What Spurred the Need?
Mark Choate, Founder/ President of Craft Beer Planit, explains, “We decided to start a craft beer app company after attending countless beer festivals and talking with craft brewers across the country. I began to ask the same question of all of them: ‘Aside from cash flow, capacity and distribution, what is the biggest hurdle you face?’ The overwhelming response was, ‘People don’t know where to find our beer’.”
Rex Halbeisen, CEO and Founder of Mobile App Network, explains, “A brewery is no different than any other business, they need to be able to stay connected to their clients. April 2015 was the first month that big box retailers Wal-Mart and Target experienced more traffic from their mobile apps than their websites. That is really an indication that the time is now to have a mobile app for all small businesses including breweries.”
The stats point to app use, but Bryan Simpson, PR Director for New Belgium Brewing, describes it this way…“apps help breweries be in the pocket of the millennial."
Benefits to Consumers
Let’s explore why craft beer drinkers are cuckoo over apps...and one in particular.
Untappd is an extremely popular app - and the definition of popular is 2.3 million users! The app allows consumers to post ratings and photos of the beers they drink, thus providing a tracking mechanism. It’s also an avenue for brewery-beer drinker interaction, as breweries can toast or comment on a user’s check-in. There is a social component as well, allowing people to see and read about which products their friends are enjoying. By logging a beer, a user can also earn badges, awarding them for imbibing…and really, who doesn’t like a good ol’ pat on the back for drinking a variety of beers, drinking a large quantity of one style of beer, or drinking on specific holidays (e.g. during craft beer week)? Immediate gratification, check!
Tim Mather, Co-Founder of Untappd, shares, “We see a lot of enthusiasm surrounding our badges, with some users going out of their way to unlock them. They view it as a challenge and oftentimes battle with their friends to see who can unlock it first.”
Need a beer now? Untappd also provides a map, easily allowing a user to find a brewery or bar nearby.
Many of the 7,000 breweries that have claimed their beers on Untappd take advantage of the feedback provided by consumers. Katlin Birdsall, Marketing Manager for Kannah Creek Brewing Company in Grand Junction, Colorado, explains, “We interact with customers every day via Untappd. They recently updated their settings, so as a brewery we can now toast or comment on anyone's ratings of our beers. It allows us not only to toast those that give us a stellar rating or comment but we can also get feedback from customers that were less pleased with our beers. It is a great tool for us as a brewery and we love having that direct connection to our customers.”
“Untappd removes the barriers between the brewers and the beer drinkers,” Mather adds, “allowing them to interact with each other, which ultimately can lead to more and better beer for everyone!”
When asking Mather what drives the wild popularity of his app, he replied, “Untappd has a very large grassroots movement behind it. The majority of our community has grown via word of mouth. Our users also have the option to share their check-ins and badges via their own social networks (Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare), which in turn can lead their friends back to Untappd.”
If You Promote It, They Will Come
Taking things to a whole other level are the breweries with their very own app – customized to meet their needs and the needs of their raving fans.
Craft Beer Planit is one of the companies making these brand apps possible, as they develop, design and build a beer finder app for a specific brand featuring that brewery’s beer styles and on and off premise accounts. Working with industry giants such as New Belgium, Boulevard, and Abita, Craft Beer Planit also caters to brewpubs such as Arvada, Colorado’s Yak & Yeti.
Using New Belgium’s app, simply enter the beer you want to find such as La Folie, and you’ll receive a list of businesses near you that carry it on draft or in bottle. Or, you can search for a specific restaurant, bar, or liquor store and see all the New Belgium products they carry. Other features include beer descriptions, links to share information via social media, and a news feed.
Mobile App Network provides a wide variety of apps including religious apps, wedding apps,family apps, and you guessed it – craft beer apps! They’re the company Grimm Brothers Brewhouse in Loveland, Colorado, selected to partner with for their brand app. Rose Schlosser, Marketing Baroness at Grimm Brothers explains, “One of the features I really liked is that it is so customizable, so it looks like it's our app, not just customized for us.”
Schlosser continued that one of her favorite features is the ability to send push notifications to their app users. She adds, “There aren't very many ways that you have a guarantee on reaching your customers with your message. Using this app I can choose when and what to send and all app users will see it. This is great for things like special events or new beer tappings.”
The three most popular features of Grimm’s app are a list beers on tap at any given time, a description of upcoming beers, and a calendar of events. The list of food trucks that frequent the brewery is also available, allowing visitors to the taproom the ability to plan their beer and food pairing ahead of time.
You may be wondering if we really need each brewery to have their own app in addition to their own Facebook page, Twitter handle, and Instagram account? Kurowski’s philosophy is, "Give craft beer drinkers all the tools they need to drink all the beers they want to drink. Feed hardcore beer geeks with info."
When asked about the primary benefits of apps to breweries, Choate answered, “Building on their customer base, increasing engagement and, very important at this stage of the craft beer industry, controlling the message. The breweries have absolutely no control of what is said about their brand or products on the consumer-owned apps. When building a brand, if you don’t control your brand’s message, someone else will.”
Kaylee Kulich, Brand Manager at Fort Collins Brewery (FCB) agrees…”I don’t think it’s necessarily important for the customer to promote our beers, but I do think it’s a great way for the customer to engage with FCB, fellow beer enthusiasts and friends on a shared interest. It also provides open channels of communication from the consumer to the brewery to provide thoughts, compliments, suggestions and overall feedback.”
Steve Jones, owner of Pateros Creek Brewing in Fort Collins shares, “I think any kind of name recognition is good. Even if they don't like the beer, it may alert me of an issue I have or a trend that I am unaware of.”
Birdsall explains, “People love sharing their experiences with the world and we love that people want to share our beer with their friends. It takes word of mouth to a whole new level. But at times it can be hard because we as a business have no control and through these apps people can spread the word (good or bad) about your beer quickly.”
Simpson’s opinion is that apps have made the dialogue between brewer and drinker that much richer.
Jones shared that he uses Taphunter to spread the word regarding the beers Pateros Creek will be releasing and the events they’ll be partaking in or hosting.
On the consumer-side of the spectrum, Eric Seifert uses the BeerMenus app for locating different products, special releases, and tap lists. He also adds that he uses “Beer Buddy - to get reviews by simply scanning the UPC codes on bottles,” and “Beer Exchange for logging and trading.”
Liquor Limo brings craft beer to you - literally! Place your order and someone will purchase your selections and show up at your doorstep with the products at a time convenient for you - no tipping required.
Want to learn all the nitty-gritty details about the BJCP styles? You guessed it – there’s an app for that!
Apps for events are a whole other ballgame. If you’re one of the lucky individuals to score a ticket to the Great American Beer Festival this year, there’s an app to help you navigate the seemingly endless options up and down the aisles of the Colorado Convention Center.
Pombe, founded on the principle of connecting people to businesses and events that provide them with the beers they enjoy, has been supporting major events including SAVOR, the DC Craft Beer Festival, and Twin Cities Craft Beer Festival.
There are a whole slew of other drinkingrelated apps – not related to craft beer or even beer in general, but just trying to grab the attention of an alcohol consumer, such as R-U-Buzzed or BeerCounter.
Is It All Too Overwhelming?
This question applies to both the brewery and the beer drinker. Does all this focus on looking for a specific beer, analyzing it, and sharing it take away from our spontaneity and enjoying the people we are with and the beer we are drinking?
And for the brewery, does trying to constantly push into the cyberworld what they are offering now, brewing up for the future, and where their products are at become more work than it’s worth?
Steve Jones wears many hats while operating his brewery and admits, “I do my best to interact with people the best I can but it's difficult and time-consuming for sure.”
Bryan Simpson offers this final thought… “The mobile app is a great way to find specific beers in strange places and you can learn a lot of technical info if you really feel like some deep geeking. At the end of the day, though, nothing beats putting the phone down, focusing your senses, and drinking deep the finer moments in life."
H.A. Brewing Co: Beer From The Homstead
Head north out of Whitefish, Montana, on U.S. Highway 93 and it doesn’t take long before it starts feeling “out there.” Long stretches of empty highway pass between parts of the Kootenai National Forest with spruce and fir trees giving way to the occasional vista of craggy peaks. You’d be forgiven for wondering if you’re headed the right direction to the brewery.
Some forty miles later - and only fifteen before you’ll need a passport to cross into Canada - the sign pointing to H.A. Brewing Co. Only temporarily eases your doubt. It’ll be another two and a half miles up a narrow, winding road until you find the packed parking lot just down a single-lane graveled driveway.
A Homestead Becomes a Brewery
H.A. Brewing Co. (previously known as Homestead Ales) takes up the western half of brewer/co-owner Chris Neill’s cabinet and furniture making shop. The capacity crowd filling the beer garden on a warm summer evening tells you something about the relative nature of distance. It also tells you a lot about Neill.
Following time spent in locations as diverse as Colorado and South America, Neill and his family were looking for somewhere that felt more like home. “My wife and I found this property after driving around the West looking for a place to settle,” says Neill. “When we discovered this area we felt it was a blend of all the things we loved about the Colorado Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest.
“We were lucky to find this property and have worked hard to live a homesteader's life and raise our two boys in a way that celebrates self-reliance and an appreciation for where the things that sustain life come from.”
Starting the brewery more than nine miles from the closest town of Eureka, Montana, made sense to Neill. His family’s homestead is where he does his best work, he explains, and it is where he experiences the most freedom to study and create.
“In the beginning I believed H.A. would be more of a passion play business and that I would have to continue to build cabinets and custom furniture to support my family. Converting a portion of my cabinet and furniture workshop into the brewery and tap room was the most logical and economical option.
Neill continues, “Nobody anticipated that H. A. would blossom into a destination brewery serving my beer six days a week. I had no clue that H.A. would turn into a full-fledged brewery and tap room requiring my full time commitment, the hiring of and working with 12 people to help do the work. Fortunately for me, and our customers, the homestead is an awesome place to make and drink beer!”
That awesome place includes a five-barrel brewhouse, taproom and outdoor beer garden, and nine tap handles, five of which are dedicated to the brewery’s flagship beers: Pioneer Pale Ale, Grave Creek IPA, Boulder Mountain Stout, Big Creek Porter, and Black Irish Stout.
The month after it opened in August 2013,H. A. won best IPA at the Montana Brewers Festival, an event featuring more than 100 Montana-made beers. The brewery’s first bottling of small-batch barrel-aged and bottle conditioned beers, Harry’s Imperial Porter, sold out quickly. A second bottle release, an open-fermented saison, is due out soon, to be followed by a whiskey barrel- aged imperial IPA and a whiskey barrel-aged imperial stout.
From Homebrewing Roots to Commercial Success
Like many commercial brewers, Neill got his start in homebrewing. While living in Colorado he picked up an interest in brewing with the people who now own and operate Ska Brewing. His dad gave him a homebrewing kit in 2010 and within months he was reading and brewing as much as possible.
“The more I brewed the more I became passionate about the process, the recipes, and the aspect of brewing that is yeast farming,” says Neill. “By developing my own recipes and sharing the results with friends, I saw people's excitement and hatched the notion that building and operating a microbrewery would be a lot of fun and serve my passion and habit at the same time.”
Sharing his homebrewed beer became a regular event for Neill and brought more and more people out to the homestead. Encouraged and inspired by many in the community who appreciated good beer, Neill began developing a business plan for the brewery. It’s a plan that seeks to use the terroir of Neill’s homestead and the artesian water that flows in the ground beneath the brewery.
Neill’s business partner Karl Kassler describes Neill as H.A.’s founder, owner, innovator, brewmaster, general manager, mechanical engineer, builder, and bon vivant. In turn, Neill explains Kassler fills the role of owner, founder, sales and distribution, regional promotion, builder, wordsmith, and prospective and ex post facto manager. Andy Kavasnak rounds out the team as founder, owner and builder.
What they’ve built is an eclectic mix of equipment which they use to turn out a variety of beers perhaps as surprising as the location. H.A.’s well-balanced IPAs, pale ales, porters and stouts are flanked by wild ales, Belgian-style beers, and barrel-aged offerings.
H.A. has two barrel aging programs operating at the brewery. They use whiskey barrels from Jack Daniels and Glacier Distilling, a local distillery near Glacier National Park, for imperial porters, stouts and IPAs. Wine barrels from the area’s Mission Mountain Winery are used for H.A.’s Farmhouse Series of saisons, wit beers and other Belgian-style beers.
Neill has been experimenting with fermentation using open top wine barrels and brettanomyces yeast. “All of these experimental beers blossomed nicely and have sold out in our tap room and other select locations,” says Neill. “We’re particularly impressed with the saisons and oatmeal pale beers like our Mirielle and Bretta Saison and our award-winning Plein Air Series saison, Aura.”
“We’re looking forward to drinking Sommet Funky IPA which will soon be ready. Local support has been very encouraging. Our customers have a thirst for these very unique and regionally unusual styles of beer.”
Remembering the Importance of Community
Though its relatively remote location might seem like a disadvantage, H.A.’s taproom remains as busy as those far more centrally located. That’s in part due to the brewery’s focus on community.
“We are passionate about providing a great environment for our local and regional customers,” explains Neil, whose parking lot is often filled with cars bearing license plates from British Columbia and Alberta.
“We consciously give a lot of thought and attention to our customer experience. Everyone I work with at the brewery is aware that our community needs to benefit from the existence of our brewery. As much as H.A. is about beer, we are also about providing our community with a ‘meeting room,’ a place for families to gather, a place for relaxation and celebration.
“We love that the tap room has become a cornerstone in our community for folks to deepen and form new friendships, network their ideas and passions, share their experiences and history of our great valley, hear and play music, to have a venue for community building.”
Neill draws inspiration from many of Montana’s other breweries. “They constantly inspire me, and the rest of the folks I work with at H.A., to keep at the hard work of running a business in a small community, to produce high quality beer, to provide an excellent experience for people who come to our tap room, and to keep learning about the great tradition of making and enjoying beer.”
For the near future, H.A. is taking a break from expansion and building projects following the construction of a custom walk-in cooler and an addition to the tap room to double its size. Like nearly everything out on the homestead, Neill, Kassler and Kavasnak did most of the work themselves.
Instead, Neill is looking to continue developing the brewery’s Farmhouse Series of open fermented beers by introducing more of the area’s harvests. Plans include aging the beers on local choke cherries, sour cherries, and saskatoons in various barrels and vessels. He also hopes to harvest natural yeast from the homestead’s orchard.
H.A. has set a loose goal of canning Grave Creek IPA and Pioneer Pale Ale using a regional mobile-canning outfit by summer of 2016. Until then you’ll need to make the rewarding drive out to the homestead or keep a sharp eye out around western Montana for the occasional self-distributed tap handle.