(Philadelphia, PA) – On January 28th, BeerPulse’s Chris Ferullo sat down with Yards Brewing Owner Tom Kehoe, and then-Operations Manager, Steve Mashington, for a conversation about the craft beer industry and related topics.
In Part One, Tom and Steve gave insight into Yards’ 2012 portfolio. The second and final installment chronicles the potential New Belgium expansion to this area of the country, what Philadelphia means to Yards and vice versa, and the intricacies of the online beer community.
BP: There are reports that New Belgium may be picking this area for its upcoming expansion. Any thoughts on that?
TK: My first reaction was “Wow, that’s going to really affect the landscape of what is going on here with another huge brewery coming to town and demanding taps and things like that.” And then I thought about it and it’s like “Well, they’re gonna try to be the hometowners but they’re still always going to have that Colorado stigma.” And then I thought about it even further, about what it takes to build a brewery in Philadelphia…good luck. Especially a project of that size, it’s going to be very much on everybody’s radar. It’s like putting in a casino, there are going to be people who want to take advantage of you starting a business in the city. Even though from what I understand, the city government has romanced them very much to come in, and there are breweries in town that are growing which they’re not really trying to romance to grow any further, so it’ll be interesting.
SM: If they were to come to Philadelphia, it would help the Philly beer scene. Philadelphia makes a claim as being the best beer-drinking city in the country. I think it’s well-earned and absolutely valid, but I think something like that would just put the stamp on it, you know? “Philadelphia is one of the preeminent world class destinations for great beer. You don’t have to argue that anymore. It’s just a fact.”
BP: What’s the dynamic between the collaborative nature of brewing and the fact that you’re all businesses? The reality is that you’re competing on some level. How does that work?
TK: It works because we have a variety of products, and we can have our tap right next to another guy’s tap, and two people can get two different beers and be happy. I’m happy when I’m next to a Victory tap, it doesn’t bother me. I’m happy when I’m not there and Victory’s there, just to use Victory as an example. We have beers that are dissimilar enough that we can stand with each other in a row of taps. I think that’s part of how we operate. We’re all competitors, but we also all look out for each other. It’s like “Oh, you have Victory Hop Devil on and Sierra (Nevada) Pale. You should have the local pale, Philly Pale”, or something like that. Supporting local is one way you sell the business, and at the same time, sometimes we might be going for the same tap. Our Love Stout might be competing with (Sly Fox) O’Reilly’s stout.
SM: And even those are different kinds of beers. I think it’s a great time to be in this industry. One of the reasons that it also works is we represent such a small volume of the total beer that’s sold, so that you’re either wasting your time fighting with each other over bones, or going for the bigger picture.
TK: And the other thing is, it’s beer. I mean, I drink the other guy’s beer. I like the other guy’s beer. And I think we like each others’ beer so we like each other also. So that’s part of the dynamic.
BP: How do you go about marketing a craft beer?
SM: It’s a challenge because you’ve got a proliferation of beers that are out in the market, you’ve got an educated crowd, and you’ve got new customers who are just getting into your beers, and within that you’ve got all these different segments. With us, a lot of it is face-time. It is sending stuff out through different sites, and press releases, making sure people are aware of what we’re doing. We don’t really dabble too much in print media. We have a couple different commercials in the works for public radio and public TV. We’re not really into mass media advertising–we don’t really have the budget for it, and it’s tough to gauge the effectiveness of it. It’s something we’re looking to maybe try out this year. It’d be a big step for us. How we get our word out is through us, it’s grassroots, face-time.
TK: Supporting a Wing Bowl contest, stuff like that. It’s very touchy-feely selling. The first thing you have to have is a product that’s unique, different, fits some sort of niche. Once you have that, you can market that appropriately.