Brewers Marketing, visited with the Connecticut Brewers Guild (CBG), to reconnect with the region’s growing craft beer scene and see how Brewers Marketing can help support them. The visit was an opportunity to catch up with family, see how the community has evolved over time plus, the timing of the trip was great, with the end of October’s fall foliage and harvest season to see the creativity of the local craft beer business.

As a developer of custom apps designed specifically for the local craft beer industry, Brewers Marketing works closely with brewer guilds and beer festivals to create apps that connect beer lovers to their local independent breweries and new beers. Specifically, the craft beer industry in Connecticut (CT) has exploded in recent years, expanding from an economic impact of $745.7 million in 2017 to $3.1 billion just a year later, in 2018. Similarly, the number of breweries in the state has grown from 16 in 2011 to 90 in 2018. More recently, Phil Pappas, executive director of the CBG reported this number to have jumped to 123, reflecting the growing popularity of craft beer.

With this growth has come an increasing need for emerging brewers to build visibility and brand awareness among consumers. Toward this end, the CBG engaged Brewers Marketing to build the CT Ale Trail app, a mobile app that promotes economic development and engagement with local businesses by letting users see the locations, hours, and beers on tap at participating breweries, map the breweries that they’d like to visit from the CT “ale trail”, and earn points towards gifts such as Labyrinth Brewery Kegs shirts and growlers by checking in at participating breweries.

“We’re looking to bring our already successful passport program to the digital age to make it more convenient and user-friendly for our craft beer enthusiasts and brewery staff,” said Phil Pappas, executive director of the CBG. “We decided to work with Brewers Marketing due to their reputation and success with other guilds’ apps, like Vermont’s.”

Pappas added that CT beer lovers’ value and seek out local brews because they are unique, handcrafted, and reflect their communities. Brewers Marketing explored the foliage, apple orchards,  pumpkin patches plus two popular but very different CT breweries and saw the growing public appreciation for unique brews handcrafted from local ingredients. One brewery was a lively family- and dog-friendly tavern and the other a family-owned farmhouse brewery a few steps from a small winery and vineyard operated by the same family. Brewers Marketing also saw how apps customized for specific regions and guilds, such as the Ale Trail app, could help bring curious beer aficionados and small independent breweries together to improve the economy and quality of life in their communities.

Gary Richardson, executive director of the neighboring Rhode Island Brewers Guild (RIBG), also decided it was time for his state’s popular beer passport program to go digital, joining Pappas after learning about the Ale Trail app. “After two to three years of running the paper passport program, we realized that we had not been collecting any information about our customers, except to see that the passports seem to be very popular, based on anecdotal evidence as well as the fact we keep having to print more of them,” Richardson said. “Being able to collect even basic information about the customers through the app should help us improve the program even more.“ According to executive director Eric Radovich of the Washington State Beer Commission (WBC) the data collected from their Brewers Marketing app provides useful insights for tourism promotion, Radovich said. “We are able to track which breweries and how many stamps at each, have been collected.”

Richardson also shared a great story about the Rhode Island (RI) passport program. “One of my favorite passport stories is about two young men from Wisconsin who flew to RI last Spring and
completed all (22 at the time) visits on the passport in five days, even to a seasonal brewery on Block Island, 11 miles off the coast, that was closed. But they took a photo of themselves there to
document reaching all the breweries in the state!”

“The Tourism folks love that story, because those two fellows used the PVD airport, stayed in hotels, ate meals throughout the state, and managed to visit just about every city and town in RI in the process,” Richardson continued. “We posted a photo of them enjoying their last beer at a brewpub near the airport as they prepared to fly home.”

After visiting a few of CT’s varied craft breweries, spending quality time with Pappas and talking with Richardson, Brewers Marketing knew that with the Ale Trail app, guilds would have even more such stories to share. “With a virtual passport right on their phones, craft beer lovers won’t have to worry about losing or forgetting their passports, and breweries won’t have to spend time checking and stamping them”.

Brewers Marketing was also able to see how the burgeoning craft beer movement has taken root in CT and how it celebrates the places and culture. “Traveling through New England reinforced our belief that the appeal of craft beer is the personal craftsmanship that goes into it.” “Each brewery has its own personality, its own local flavor, and way of doing things. People seek out new breweries because they yearn for that local handcrafted, personal touch. At Brewers Marketing, we’re using technology to help connect them to this experience.”

Richardson and Pappas are looking for the same type of support from their respective states as other states have, in reaping the economic benefits of Brewers Marketing apps. In 2017, the Ohio On Tap app for the Ohio Craft Brewers Association won the prestigious RUBY award from the Ohio Travel Association for outstanding innovation in marketing and in 2019 CT won high recognition for winning several medals (2 gold) at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.

 


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