The craft beer industry is booming, which has led to more bars and tasting rooms where the beer-making process takes place in the same building as the beer being served. This boon has been especially great for the consumer: with so many options, the pressure is on these breweries to step their game up and create a better experience for the customer.
This has never been more apparent with the options available for craft beer enthusiasts to rate the breweries they attend. This includes a new app for that specific purpose, a more involved option for those who really want to get a discount, and social beer apps to help you achieve maximum drinking enjoyment along the way.
The App: PintPass
PintPass is a new, free app (not scheduled for public access until October 15th, 2018) that allows users to rate the breweries they attend, Yelp-style.
How does it work?
This one seems very simple:
Step 1- Download the app.
Step 2- Create an account.
Step 3- Grab a beer at a brewery.
Step 4- Make sure notifications are turned on, and answer a few quick questions about your experience.
Step 5- Get money on your PintPass account.
Screenshots of the app from the PintPass official website.
What do I get out of it?
The consumer will get $2 on their PintPass account, which seems as though it will act as basically a credit card. Your bartender can input your account number when you settle your tab. As for the brewery, they will get word of mouth approval or disapproval from PintPass users.
The Application: Become a Secret Hopper, or Get Secret Hopped
This one’s a little more involved, but has higher compensation. If you put in the time to fill out an application and impress the Secret Hopper higher-ups with your writing skills, you’re on your way! If and when you’re approved to be a Secret Hopper, you’ll rate your experience in terms of atmosphere, service, and impressions. The Secret Hopper doesn’t have to be a beer snob. The company assumes the breweries are doing a great job on beer quality, so that is not rated in this process.
For businesses that want someone to review their brewery, just complete this form and Secret Hopper will contact you regarding a Secret Hopper coming in to review your bar.
How does it work?
Step 1- Fill out an application, and do a good job of it. According to their site, the more detailed the application, the more likely you are to be selected.
Step 2- Review the Independent Contractor Agreement, if reading long-winded legal documents is your thing.
Step 3- Gain approval from Secret Hopper, hopefully!
Step 4- Receive an assignment from Secret Hopper to attend a specific brewery. At the brewery, you are to order a flight of beer, then a pint, without disclosing your true identity as a Secret Hopper.
Step 5- Complete your assignment, and file your report to a link that Secret Hopper will provide, along with a photo of your receipt. Your report will provide answers to 25 various questions about the atmosphere, customer service, and overall experience at the brewery.
Step 6- Secret Hopper will reimburse you through PayPal.
What do I get out of it?
The consumer will receive a flat rate of pay that may vary according to the assignment. From what I can gather on the contractor agreement, the standard rate of pay is $20, though in some circumstances it may be slightly higher. The brewery is the one paying to receive the information provided by the hopper. These reviews can give them a glimpse into ways that they can improve their business to fit the needs of a variety of customers.
To Breweries: Differentiate, or Die
The level of competition in the craft beer market and the many methods by which customers can rate them puts a lot of pressure on the breweries. It’s important to stay in tune with what customers want, as well as to build a brand that stands out. I spoke about this topic with Justin Steinberg, co-founder of Sacred Vice, and his company’s transition from homebrewing to entrepreneurship. Sacred Vice is in the process of opening a tasting room in Philadelphia, PA. Steinberg and his partner/cousin “...liked the idea of a tasting room because it allows us to control the conditions of how our beer is served.”
In addition to other legal paths to cross, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) requires that a tasting room must serve snacks in their building. Sacred Vice “...saw the snack law as a jumping off point. My mother makes very popular rosemary mixed nuts, so we’ll serve those. I learned from a British friend about ‘pork scratchings’, which are a fancier version of pork rinds. We have also discussed serving Bombay mix, which is a popular Indian snack mix.”
Snacks are one way to set yourself apart. Great beer is another. One thing that is non-negotiable is to have a well-oiled machine of an organization. In this highly ambitious craft brewing market, it’s impossible to succeed otherwise. For brewers and bar owners looking to improve everything from how their beer is made to how their business functions, there are many options available:
Software and Apps to Improve the Management of Your Brewery
OrchestratedBeer, or OBeer, is a Brewery Management Software system that shares some similarities to QuickBooks. However, there is one very important difference: it’s made specifically to help craft brewers run their businesses better. From inventory to sales to delivery to invoices, everything is placed on a web portal that is also mobile friendly. You can also fill in and save recipes during the brewing process.
BeerRun is another Brewery Management Software system. Similar to OBeer, it allows a business to manage operations and inventory, as well as simplify and automate manual tasks to increase productivity. Unlike OBeer, BeerRun integrates with QuickBooks or your existing system directly. If you already have a system that works for the most part with a few shortcomings, BeerRun is made to improve those issues. They also offer BeerRun Light for those who aren’t sure if their brewery is big enough or aren’t interested in paying the full price for a smaller business.
KegShoe is an iOS and Android-capable app specifically designed for tracking the inventory of your kegs. Track brewing, shipping, and delivery actions, quickly gauge inventory levels, and prevent loss of kegs with timely pickup.
Brewing Apps and Software: Develop Your Beer and Concoct New Recipes
BeerSmith is a very popular tool used by many, from the homebrewer all the way up to a brewing expert. It is designed to help you develop and tweak your recipes to perfection. It also allows the brewer to start with a template for any different kind of beer and change their recipe as they go along. The yeast calculator is a helpful tool for brewers to utilize. This one also comes with a mobile app.
Brewtarget is beer-making software along the lines of BeerSmith, but is free! It also has gotten pretty universally great reviews as an alternative to the paid service. However, unlike BeerSmith, this one does not have a mobile app.
Brewtoad is a web application that users can pay for monthly or yearly. Its interactive structure makes for easy customization of recipes and encourages users to share what they came up with. However, it allows for custom ingredients as well, if a brewer does not wish to share that secret ingredient with other users. With over 101,000 users and over 411,000 easily searchable recipes, it is a great way to build off the work of others and to add something else to make it your own.
Brewer’s Friend is similar in many ways to Brewtoad, in that it is built to encourage recipe and information sharing. It also has mobile apps for both Android and iOS. The app costs $4.99 and there are both free and paid versions that you can sign up for on the site.
In this world of instant feedback, market saturation, and support at your fingertips, the level of competition for breweries is at an all-time high. The onus is on the brewers to make great beer and to give their customers a great experience. Luckily for us, the vast majority of them are delivering just that!