Looking for a way to cost-effectively market your brewery?

You are the brand manager and Chief Marketing Officer of your brewery.  If you expect patrons to actively support your taproom or pick up your retail bottles and cans in local stores, you need to instill in them a sense of the awesomeness of your beer and why it stands out from all the others.  Without question, the most critical element of success is brewing great beer that folks enjoy and plan to enjoy often.  First, however, you need to get them to visit your taproom in the first place and hopefully, if their experience is good, they will want to come back and better yet, encourage their friends to come as well.

Offering them cool swag is a cost-effective way to raise awareness and keep your brand in public view.  In short, it’s very cost effective advertising.  Think about it.  How many times have you seen a friend with a brewery t-shirt, hat or key chain that caught your eye?  Most likely, you asked where is that brewery and does it have a good selection of craft beers?  Think of your patrons as FREE walking billboards and voluntary brand ambassadors for your beer.

Selling your swag

There are three good outlets where you can sell your personalized merchandise, your taproom, online from your website and social media sites, and at outside events like festivals or chamber of commerce shows where you conduct off-site samplings.  If you limit yourself to only selling your swag in-house, you are severely limiting your sales and reach.  Keep in mind that with the explosive growth of our industry there are tens of thousands of people who have become craft beer swag collectors.  In order to get the most out of your merchandise sales there are a few merchandising tips you will want to follow:

  1. Quality of merchandise is critical – Don’t look for the cheapest items available. You and your customers will get what you paid for.  You wouldn’t think of making a watered down Pilsner in order to offer a cheaper beer, that’s Bud’s job.  You pride yourself on the quality of your beer and the food that you sell in your brewpub so make certain you are proud of the craftsmanship of your branded merchandise as well.
  2. Merchandising is an artform – Done correctly a display of products will catch a visitor’s eye, invite them to examine the goods and make it a simple decision to make a purchase. Don’t make the mistake we see far too often visiting a taproom.  Items are draped haphazardly on hangers hanging from pipes in the ceiling, glassware is dusty, and sizes are limited to small and 3XL.  Locate your merchandise display in a traffic area and make certain that everything is well signed, items are near eye level as much as possible and the items offered are well stocked.
  3. Better variety means more sales – Offering two t-shirts and a cap does not come close to covering the basses when it comes to brewery non-beer merchandise. Increasing your variety and offering some items seasonally as in & outs, keeps your shop fresh and invites patrons to visit often to see what’s new.  We understand that carrying inventory for the sake of variety, however, often does not make financial sense.  For that reason, you will find that we keep our reorder minimums to the lowest counts in the industry.

    Here are some ideas to help keep your inventory levels low but not be out of stock on too many items:

    • Consider not carrying all items in the taproom but selling them only on your web store. Items like cribbage boards, backpacks, sports bags, and jackets may be great additions to your line but you need not offer them for sale in your taproom. Limit sales to online for these items.
    • Apparel items can cause problems because of multiple sizes and color offerings. Consider only selling infrequently used sizes like small, 2XL, & 3XL online.
    • When seasons change let inventories of seasonal items run down and consider a fire sale on the last few to clean up the clutter.
  4. Promote your merchandise – Far too often. breweries order merchandise and that is the last that they think about it until stock runs out and patrons complain. Assign someone in the business the task of managing the inventory and promoting the merchandise.  Take weekly inventories or more often if necessary, to be certain that you are well stocked.  Pick a different item each month to promote in the taproom and online.  Use tabletop signs or small poster signs throughout the taproom to promote the item, mention it in newsletters, and post the featured items on social media pages.  Your account manager at is available and eager to help you maximize the promotion of your entire line of branded merchandise.
  5. Keep it fresh – it’s a law of retailing that some items may do well in one location and be a real stinker in others. It will inevitably happen to your shop but don’t let dead inventory implead the sale of other goods.  When you try something, and it doesn’t sell, reduce the price and clear it out.  Then replace the dog item with something new and promote it online and instore to let folks know that something new has arrived.
  6. Wear your brand – As we have said, apparel with your logo screened or embroidered on it is a great source of free advertising. It’s wonderful to have your patrons advertising your brand for free on the clothes that they wear however, the same applies to the brewery staff.  Smart owners require each employee to wear one item from their apparel collection at all times while on duty.   You can provide each employee with an item or two free of charge if you can afford it or at least offer them a significant discount (no less than 40% off) as part of the employee benefits offering.