Savvy Beer Brand-Selection Techniques

Ray Daniels Tap proliferation doesn’t always guarantee appealing beer choices for customers and can actually hurt beer quality. Instead through savvy brand-selection techniques, owners can accomplish variety and interest in their draft lists.

Ray Daniels, director of the Cicerone Certification Program has more than 20 years’ experience as a brewer, beer judge, and brewing and beer educator. His presentation for the upcoming VIBE Conference will examine consumer thinking about beer variety and how style, brand, abv and serving size play into the consumer’s mind during the ordering process.

We caught up with Daniels to discuss:

VIBE: How does one go about choosing a savvy brand selection that fits their audience?

Ray Daniels: The key elements are certainly understanding what types of beer drinkers are found in your audience and offering true variety in your selection--and that's something that can be done without having 50 taps. Beer variety can be done well with as few as a dozen draft lines. In my VIBE talk I'll show an analysis of three great beer lists with an average of 14 taps. Seeing the patterns there can be pretty enlightening, I think.

VIBE: What are some ways style, brand and abv play into the consumer’s mind when ordering?

Daniels: Alcohol is a big one that often gets overlooked. With some beer menus, I personally eliminate half the offerings based solely on abv being higher than I'm willing to drink on that occasion. After that every consumer has a "hit list" of brands and styles they enjoy--just like people have certain groups or songs that they like to hear when selecting music. When a beer drinker looks at the menu, they are looking for something that's on their list whether it is an old favorite or a new release.

VIBE: What are three of the must have beer styles for a chain restaurant?

Daniels: The "no brainer" is IPA--or India Pale Ale. That's far and away the number one craft beer style and in some markets in the US today it is starting to account for nearly half of ALL beer sales. The next one would be some type of wheat beer: American wheat, Belgian Wit or German Weizen.  These pale, low-bitterness but distinctively flavored beers appeal to a lot of beer drinkers.  Then if I only get three, I'd probably do something that pairs well with the food I'm serving, most likely amber or brown ale like a Belgian Dubbel. There are a lot of variations within these three groups that you can use to broaden your offerings and heighten interest in your beer list and I'll discuss that in my VIBE presentation.

VIBE: What are some strategies chain restaurants can implement to sell more than one beer to a customer?

Daniels: Good beer menus and educated servers make a big difference. Today's consumers care about where their food and drink comes from, how it is made and what it tastes like. Accurate and informative menus can help them make a choice and servers who can answer questions and who are empowered to offer tastes can help people explore the full range of beers being offered. I think it also helps to realize there are several different beer occasions during each visit to the store such as cocktail, meal and dessert and that different beers are appropriate for each. 

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