Why some breweries are moving toward internet pre-sales.
By James Reddicliffe
Much has been written about craft beer seekers waiting in unfathomable lines for a chance to purchase the newest Double IPA, Barrel Aged Stout or Wild Sour Ale collaboration between two hot breweries. Brooklyn’s own Josh Bernstein detailed what it was like to wait 11 hours for beer during Other Half Brewing’s third anniversary can release in January, in the pages of The New York Times. To many it is unfathomable to spend hundreds of dollars, travel many miles and brave frigid temperatures all night just to score a few four-packs of ale. Yet not only do people keep doing it, the process is getting more extreme.
On October 28 Anchorage Brewing is releasing a special box set with six different variations of “Deal With the Devil,” their Barley wine. They will have versions that were aged in apple brandy barrels, rum barrels and Glenmorangie Scotch whiskey barrels, to name a few. How many box sets will they have? Roughly 400, and it is going to be first come, first serve based on who lines up. People are flying to Alaska for a shot at purchasing six bottles of beer! So what are people who love beer, or want to see what all the hype is about, to do? Luckily some breweries in New York have figured that out.
Breweries in Brooklyn like Threes Brewing and KCBC (King’s County Brewers’ Collective) are holding pre-sales of their canned beer on the web so that you can skip the mayhem. Right now, you can buy packs of a Threes Saison “Mixed Metaphor”, and pick it up at the bar starting October 13th? Order and pay for beer now, pick it up and drink it later. I’ve done this at both Threes and KCBC in the past and it’s as easy as it sounds.
Josh Stylman from Threes Brewing in Gowanus said that their pre-sale system was born of necessity. The day of their first can release 18 months ago was rainy and unpleasant, but despite the gloomy conditions, there was a line. While Threes was thrilled that people were excited about their beer, they determined there was more “elegant” solution. “We could announce releases via our email newsletter and allow customers to pre-purchase online and then do a pickup during specified windows to show their IDs and grab their beer,” Mr. Stylman says. “In and out in less than three minutes. Of course if they want to stay and have a beer, they're absolutely welcome to.”
For Kent Falls Brewing, located in Kent, Connecticut, it is a matter of principle but also good business practice. “If people want my beer, they should be able to get it,” says Barry Labendz, one of the owners of the brewery. In addition to ensuring people don’t make the trek and leave empty handed, Mr. Labendz adds that it creates flexibility and minimizes stress. “If I know how many people have purchased beer, I can more easily figure out how many people to staff at the taproom that day.”
While both breweries found that this system works for them and their customers they were quick to point out that one size does not fit all. Mr. Stylman says, “I should note that we're friends with folks at other breweries that always have long lines at their releases. We've come to appreciate the sense of community that goes along with that - it's akin to tailgating at a sporting event or music show. While it may work for them, it simply doesn't fit within the construct of our business model. “ Other breweries simply think it is fairer to reward the people who decide to make the visit in person. So each brewery will set up its system and leave the choice up to you. Get in the car, on the train or even on a plane and pack your tent and sleeping bag. Or: wipe the Cheeto dust on your sweatpants and order online.