It’s that time of year again: the birds are singing, the flowers are blooming — and American Craft Beer Week is right around the corner!
Whether your restaurant is just starting to broaden its beer selection, or you’ve got a crowd of customers constantly asking you about the best new local brew, one thing is certain: space on your menu absolutely should be dedicated to craft beer.
According to the Brewers Association, craft beer now makes up approximately 11 percent of the total beer sold nationwide — and accounts for an astounding 19.3 percent of the market share in dollars spent.
Not to mention, at a time when the beer industry is showing only incremental growth, craft beers shows growth in the double digits — a 22 percent increase in sales since 2013, to be exact — despite coming from brewers that, be definition, produce less than 6 million barrels per year.
Now’s the Time to Raise a Glass!
It’s just this phenomenal growth — and the ever-growing group of beer-lovers who are helping to make it happen — that inspired the first American Craft Beer Week 10 years ago. Although there are events all over the country celebrating this season of suds from May 7–11, the best way to get your customers in on the fun is to host your very own beer-centric event.
Hold a Beer Dinner
If you’re already brewing your own beer or you have a favorite brewery you’d like to feature, this week is an excellent opportunity to host a beer dinner. A new take on traditional wine pairings, a beer dinner not only showcases your delicious dishes, but also your best brews.
Pick out a few of your favorite options and pair them with items on your menu that have similar — or very different, yet complementary — flavor characteristics.
Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try developing a few brand-new menu options designed specifically to highlight the beer, or using the beer as an integral ingredient. You can then advertise the event as an all-inclusive dining experience, and use it as an opportunity to gauge the tastes of your local drinkers.
Just remember, most diners don’t want to be interrupted while digging in, so try offering your guests a premade placemat or information sheet with tasting notes for each pairing. Or, to add a certain sense of occasion, you can describe the menu and the pairings to the entire group as the first dish is being served.
Just make sure that no matter which option you choose, have a few extra staff members available to walk between tables to offer more information, provide additional tasters of beers that didn’t make the dinner list, and ensure each pairing is explained thoroughly.
Partner Up with a Local Brewer
Just like local restaurants, small brewers want to reach the people right in their own backyard — so if you don’t already have a relationship with these vendors, American Craft Beer Week is the perfect opportunity to develop one!
If you’re unfamiliar with the brewers in your area, try asking your beverage rep, staff, or even your customers which their favorites are. Although you may not have a larger operator nearby, there might just be a particularly prolific — and popular — home-brewer around who would love the chance to showcase their work.
You can then collaborate with the brewer(s) on the menu, or have them by for a personal tasting of your menu to see which dishes they feel are most compatible with their brews.
Even if your restaurant is BYOB or doesn’t have a set up for several different taps, you could bring a variety of easily transported dishes to a tasting event at the brewery, exposing your food to an audience you may not have been reaching before.
Host a Tap Takeover
If you prefer to leverage the relationships you already have, there’s one person in your wheelhouse who has the exact knowledge base and inventory you need: your beverage rep!
Ask your rep what options they have available from local or small-scale breweries. If you don’t have access to enough variety from a single operation, you can opt to purchase a sampling from a few different breweries to hold a “tap takeover.”
Replace several or all of your handles with craft suds, then advertise the event as an opportunity for local beer-lovers to familiarize themselves with all the options your region has to offer. Don’t have room for the kegs? Even getting a few local or craft beers in bottles can make for an enlightening — and thirst-quenching — tasting.
Regardless of which event you choose, you can pull a whole suite of advertising materials from CraftBeer.com, the official website of American Craft Beer Week, ensuring every customer knows you support your local breweries.
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