Craft beers are becoming an increasingly popular trend with people who are in their lower to mid twenties, bartender Emily Ashford said.
Most bars sell craft beers, however, not all are able to really succeed in doing so. So why are some bars successful where others fail? What makes a bar successful in selling craft beers?
Gregg Butler is the manager of Mahony’s, which is a local bar on the edge of LSU’s campus. He said the main reason for the bar’s success of selling craft beers is because of the bar’s location.
“We’re right next to a college,” Butler said. “We have more of a younger crowd that is open minded and willing to try new things.”
“There are a lot of new breweries in Louisiana that are brewing new beers like IPAs or Stouts,” Butler said. “So college kids, or people of around that age group, want to order these beers to say they tried something new.”
Mike O’Neal is the owner of Big Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill in Denham Springs. He also said that craft beer drinkers are more common out of a trend rather than particular taste preferences.
“Kids in this generation just want to try new things and be different,” O’Neal said. “If a brewery comes out with a chocolate peanut butter flavored beer, that beer will sell no matter how it tastes because people want to try something different.
Danny Blouin and Phil Estelle are both regulars at Big Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill. They both said they only drink domestic beer because that’s what they have always drank.
“I drink Miller Lite because it’s what I have always drank,” Blouin said. “In college we couldn’t afford most beer and Miller Lite was what we could get our hands on.”
“It just depends on what kind of customers a bar attracts,” Estelle said. “If a bar can attract a good amount of people from a younger crowd, then it will have more success in selling craft beers as opposed to a bar that attracts only an older crowd.”
“It tends to be the younger crowds that tend to order more craft beers,” Croft said. “They tend to order the most recently released beers, because they want to be up to date with what beers are popular.”
Butler said that it also thrives when people from out of town visit his bar because they are looking to try a beer that is brewed locally.
“People want to say they visited Baton Rouge and had a beer that was brewed in that location,” Butler said. “I do the same thing when I go out of state or locations I’m not familiar with.”
Butler also said his bar’s success in selling craft beers is largely because of the bartenders that work there. He said that having bartenders that are knowledgeable about the craft beers helps to cater to people’s beer pallets, which helps when people want to try beers that taste similar to what they like.
Allison Tichenor is a bartender at Mahony’s, and said her knowledge of how the beers taste gives her an advantage when recommending new beer to customers.
“If someone who likes hoppy beers asks for a beer recommendation, I would refer them to an IPA, or another form of pale ale,” Tichenor said. “That really gives us an advantage when trying to advertise new beers.”
Austin Croft is a bartender at Capital City Grill in down town Baton Rouge. He also agreed that a knowledgeable bartender directly correlates with a bar’s ability to successfully sell craft beers because price is a deciding factor for most.
“People aren’t going to be willing to pay five dollars for a beer they’ve never had before,” Croft said. “A bartender that knows how the beer tastes and has the ability to compare it to other beers the customers are accustom to will have success in selling them a craft beer.”
Croft also added that a good bartender should be able to do more than compare similar beer tastes. He said a good bartender should also be able to refer the right beer to complement the customer’s meal.
“Certain beers go better with different meals, because like wine, they can help to bring out the food’s flavor” Croft said. “A good bartender or waiter should not recommend the same beer to a person who orders a hamburger as the person who may have ordered grilled fish.”
“The ability to compare beer tastes to recommend a customer similar beers as well as the ability to choose the right beer for each meal is what separates a good bartender from the mediocre ones,” Croft said. “It also brings success to that bar or restaurant.”
“It also comes down to the type of people you’re selling beer to,” Brice Gaudet, bartender at LSU Champions Club said. “We don’t sell craft beers as well as domestics at the Club.”
Gaudet said that the customers he deals with are usually of a much older crowd and mainly order domestic beer if they aren’t ordering liquor.
“Most people who come in the Champions Club order domestics because that is what they grew up drinking and that is what they’re used to,” Gaudet said. “They generally aren’t interested in trying new beer that tastes nothing like what they are used to.”
“We also cater to a college student’s budget by offering drink specials for craft beers,” Butler said. “For example, Wednesday nights are Abita nights and we sell each Abita for $2 each.”
Butler also said presenting the customers with a challenge as well as a reward to that challenge helps to sell a lot of craft beers.
Mahony’s has a challenge called the “Around the World Challenge,” in which customers who have tried all 140 of the available beers have their name inscribed on a plaque, which is hung on the wall in the bar, Butler said. He said this is their most successful way of selling craft beers, especially ones that no one has ever heard of before.
Devin Dugas is a craft beer enthusiast. He enjoys trying new beers and collecting the different bottles. He said he and his roommates are very proud of their collection, which is over 250 bottles strong.
“Me and my roommates take advantage of drink specials at bars like Mahony’s and Chimes,” Dugas said. “I love to try new craft beers, but I’m a college student living on a budget, so I’m limited to what beers I can afford.”
“I also like the around the world challenge at Mahony’s,” Dugas said. “It gives me the opportunity to try beer that I otherwise would have never heard of and really helps to expand our bottle collection.”
“We have really good relationships with distributors and breweries,” Jessica Kessler, bartender at The Chimes said. “We just want people to come try the local beers.”
“We also have a thing called Chimes Beer University, which can be found at our website ChimesBeerU.com,” Kessler said. “The website teaches people a lot about the different types of beer so they can learn about the beer while drinking it.”
Kessler said their website makes the bar very successful in selling craft beers.
So what makes a bar successful at selling craft beers? According to various different bar sources, it takes some marketing and advertising. It takes being able to cater to the right crowd as well as providing some sort of incentive as to why a customer should choose craft over domestic.
Bars like Mahony’s, Big Mike’s Sports Bar and Grill and The Chimes are all successful in selling craft beers.
Jessica Kessler at The Chimes, in front of their large selection of craft beers.
Devin Dugas proudly standing in front of his impressive craft bottle collection.
A recent survey consisting of 31 people showed that roughly 71 percent of people are open to ordering a craft beer over a domestic. The survey also showed that most people believe having knowledgeable bartenders, a large selection and good drink specials are all important for a bar to be successful. However, most people said that having knowledgeable bartenders is the most important variable.
These graphs from the survey prove that people are open to trying craft beers over domestic, however most believe it requires a knowledgeable bartender for them to be convinced.