Bars are seeking out limited-edition brews for the social media-driven beer tourist
Beer enthusiasts are nothing new, but the proliferation of social media has turned them into a force to be reckoned with. Community websites like Beer Advocate and Untappd not only educate consumers on different types of beers available, they tell them just where—and when—to find them. The result is a knowledgeable, motivated, and occasionally demanding body of customers just waiting to visit your bar, provided you have what they want.
An early user of Untappd, Christopher Riley, beverage director at Chicago-based Jake Melnick’s Corner Tap, personally uploads new beers to the menu, which are then delivered as push notifications to anyone interested.
“I’ve been a user of Untappd for years, so when we had the opportunity to bring them in I did it right away,” he explains. “I do all the updating whenever we put a new beer on, which is a great opportunity to reach those people looking for that special beer.”
Highly anticipated beers are often celebrated with a release party, particularly the now-iconic Black Friday release of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout. “Goose Island will come in and we tap all of the Bourbon County variants and do a massive rollout,” Riley says.
At Russell House Tavern in Cambridge, Mass., bar manager Lex Russo keeps his offerings broad while sourcing exclusively from breweries located within 150 miles of the restaurant.
“We have a seasonally driven program here, and everything is local,” he stresses. “We try to find beers that are unique to the area and will resonate with our guests.”
While he maintains a robust social media strategy, Russo says that an educated staff is what really sells new beers.
“We always let them taste new beers when they come in,” he explains, “because the more they know, the more they can offer guests something good they may not have had before.”
At Chicago’s WhirlyBall, which features a popular ball game involving bumper cars, VP of strategic planning Adam Elias knows that no modern bar is complete without an extensive craft beer program. Yet, in a twist on the standard beer-release party, drinkers have an opportunity to compete against brewers for small prizes on their unique playing field.
“We partner with a different brewery every month in an event we call ‘Beat the Brewer,’” Elias explains. “You can come in, enjoy beers that are limited and unique, and also interact with the brewers as you play against them in WhirlyBall.”