Tuesday, November 24, 2009

If it's good, you needn't give me the glass to persuade me to drink it.

The current vogue in the Louisville metropolitan area is to stage "pint nights" wherein supposed craft beer fans are attracted to an on-premise establishment to buy craft beers, usually special releases, and "keep the glass" as part of the price.

That's all well and good with me, and I'm sure that NABC will indulge in the same on scattered occasions, but this is beginning to sound like a broken record. Is this sort of thing really good for the segment?

I'm not directing this at anyone or any place in particular, just idly wondering if there is any conceivable, creative, different way that an establishment might choose to promote the wonders of craft beer without, in effect, openly bribing potential customers with free glassware?

Is the formula "freebies = promotion" being deployed solely because of the sluggish economy, or out of marketing laziness and an absence of ingenuity?

Is there a suggestion here that craft beer releases nowadays are no longer truly special, or sufficiently unique to merit perhaps a fair opening night price for a signature pint glass, with the bar or restaurant keeping the glass so that when one purchases the beer subsequently, it will come in the correct signature glass?

When did the imperative become bribery?

I believe this "free glassware" trend is cheapening the craft beer product by implicitly suggesting that it isn't good enough absent a giveaway to stand on its own, and that bothers me.

Anyone care to talk me down from this ledge?


Matthew D Dunn said...

For all you and yours do for the beer scene in the Louisville area, it still is the Louisville area. You are light years ahead of things down there. In the late 90s and early 2000s Victory brewing company in SE PA had pint nights twice a week where pints were 2$ AND you got to keep the glass. They stopped that practice 6 or 7 years ago and have since raised their regular prices several times. They went through a major brewery expansion and pub renovation, and are still growing by leaps and bounds despite the similar continued growth of their regional and national competitors.

The bottom line is that I think good markets "mature" and that Louisville is behind SE PA as SE PA was behind PNW etc.

The question of course remains as to whether Louisville will ever mature or are regions just not equipped with the appropriate socio-cultural milieu for a mature craft beer market, no knocks on Louisville, but there are some areas of the country that just won't ever have a mature craft beer market for whatever reason.

So yes, I think there needs to be fairly dramatic promotions to get people in markets like Louisville to buy craft beer, but hopefully not forever.

Tovrax said...

Is the purpose of the free glassware to get patrons to drink a specific type of beer, such as "craft vs macro," or is it simply to entice patrons to patronage the establishment?

To me, pint nights are not much different than "ladies" nights in terms of principle. The establishment is offering discounts on goods in order to entice certain segments to walk in the door.

The NABC "beer festivals" do much the same thing, instead of offering discounted goods, you offer rare goods that cannot be found elsewhere. This entices people to come to your establishment when they otherwise might not have, increasing your business.

I believe the Louisville Market for craft brew is growing. I do think there is an appropriate milieu here--a city with an area like the Highlands/Bardstown Road has to be included as one of "those regions". It wouldn't surprise me to see an end to the pint nights in the near future.

It actually surprises me that they haven't already switched to doing it only once a month instead of every week.

Rob said...


Do you need Saturnalia or Gravity Head festivals to get people to drink craft beer? I actually think its the same question, and the answer is: of course not. The festival is a time when you have special beers that you dont get otherwise, so its fun to go to them.

Ditto for these places. Ive been going to one semi-irregularly for the last year. I have a cabinet full of glassware, I really dont need any more. However, I only go with they have something unusual going. The problem is, for them, unusual isnt the same as it is for you, for example. But, they do have occassion beers that are unusual even for you and on those nights, Im there, free glassware or not (but Im not turning down the free glassware).

As the previous commenter said, I think its a lot like "ladies" night. It draws in a crowd on off nights.

Jeremy said...

I think it's pretty harmless. The interesting thing is that these glasses often aren't free. The establishment pays for the glass (at a wholesale rate) and then upcharges the patron so that they are actually paying a premium for the glass. As Matthew said, I think the market is just maturing and people are getting familiar with these brands.