Fall and winter usher in more than just cold weather, endless loops of holiday music, and a relentless onslaught of holiday sale emails. The two seasons also provide many opportunities for our customers to gather with friends and family through New Year’s Eve. And for beer lovers, beer aficionados and the beer curious, seasonal, and holiday, limited edition, and rare beer selections are rolled out on a regular basis.
That means that operators have the opportunity to leverage not only the interest in beer and the demand for the latest and greatest but also the festive moods of customers seeking memorable dining experiences. Whiskey has been (and continues to be) the darling of spirits, with Irish whiskey and single malt Scotch whisky up in growth and volume in bars and restaurants across the United States, and wine sales in the retail space have, as expected, spiked as Thanksgiving approaches. Chefs like Giada De Laurentiis and Rick Moonen are highlighting, respectively, wine and whiskey with tasting menus and pairing dinners at their restaurants.
But beer pairing dinners are an exciting and interesting way for operators to attract customers seeking to learn more about their preferred libation, and to share that learning experience with their significant others, family members, and friends.
As far as concepts go, a beer pairing meal is fairly straightforward. Your goal, as you’ve likely already put together, is to enhance the food experience with properly curated beer selections, and to heighten the beer experience with thoughtfully and expertly selected food items. When done correctly, flavors are enhanced across the board, which means that the guest experience in its entirety is elevated.
There are multiple ways to go about planning and executing this type of promotion. One of the simplest is to involve your beer distributors by way of showing them the holiday menu items you have planned and asking for their input in terms of holiday, seasonal and limited release beers in their portfolios. Since this type of beer promotion can be as simple or elaborate as an operator wishes, take your concept, distributor relationships, and guest expectations into account to plan the experience that best fits with your brand. Customers expect to purchase tickets beforehand, either on your website or through a third-party event service such as Eventbrite. Allowing customers to plan and purchase ahead of time provides you with money upfront and valuable information, such as what to expect in terms of inventory and labor.
BJ’s Restaurants and Brewhouses is one operation that allows customers to purchase pre-sale tickets directly on their website. The site uses location to show customers the ideal location for the 5-course Holiday Beer Dinner, and the date and time of the event for that particular location. Customers are encouraged to take action and purchase tickets ahead of time through a discount; pre-sale tickets are $35per person while tickets the day of the event are $40. Designated eater (food only) tickets are just $20.
Interestingly, BJ’s isn’t including only their beers on their Holiday Beer Dinner menu. Rather, Samuel Adams Winter Lager, Anchor Christmas Ale, Blue Moon Cappuccino Oatmeal Stout, Rogue Yellow Snow IPA, and Rogue Santa’s Private Reserve are featured on the special menu. BJ’s is also pouring 7 beers, not just five, with Sam Adams serving as an introductory beer and BJ’s own Grand Cru cleansing customer palates before the fifth and final course of the dinner.
In order to pull a beer pairing meal promotion together, to truly pull the seams tight, you’ll want to consider having a brewmaster, chef, cicerone, or other expert on hand to host the event. A pairing meal, much like any tasting, should be approached as though it is a guided tour, because that’s precisely what it is.