Craft brewery start-ups have a bevy of business choices. Chief among them: the brewery size and type. Will it strictly be a production brewery or will the brewer diversify its brand offering into a tasting room or brewpub? Craft Brewing Business has already looked at crafting a successful tasting room, and now we’re opening the Brewpub Files — a series of brewpub case studies that investigates the strategies and philosophies behind some of the most successful brewpubs in the country.
While it’s a sizable investment upfront, a brewpub brings together beer and food in a tandem support system. It’s also a great way to showcase your brewery’s portfolio and educate customers on different beer styles, not to mention sell more beer. So let’s get into it and open our first Brewpub File.
Subject: Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats
Brewery/Size: Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (2012 annual production of 170,000 bbls)
Brewpub best seller: 60 Minute IPA
Mantra: “Original beer. Original Food. Original music.”
Brewpub representative: Justin Williams, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery off-centered storyteller
“The brewpub in Rehoboth Beach, Del., just a few blocks from the Atlantic Ocean, was our original location and started in 1995 with a glorified homebrew rig that was delivered via UPS,” Williams said. “To keep the beer flowing, our Founder and President Sam Calagione brewed two or three batches a day, five days a week. Four years later, we opened our first production brewery in nearby Lewes, Del. In 2001, the production brewery moved to Milton, Del., where it remains to this day.”
“Sam [Calagione] considers the pub the ‘soul’ of Dogfish Head.” — Justin Williams, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery off-centered storytellerAs with any piece of real estate – location, location, location. Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats has become a beer destination, attracting visitors from all over the world. It also helps that the brewpub is located in a resort area that brings in tens of thousands of visitors each summer. According to the 2006 Census, the city’s 1,556 population balloons to more than 25,000 in the summer months and thousands more in the surrounding areas. While the population of Rehoboth increases by tens of thousands, the Delaware tourism board estimates the number of visitors to be around 1.5 million, Williams explained.
The Dogfish Head brewpub is open year-round. “The popularity of the pub and the sheer volume of beach-goers makes for busy nights and weekends,” Williams said. “We have a crack staff that knows how to handle a crowd, but waits aren’t uncommon during the busiest times.”
Pick your pairings
Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats has been a food-centric brewery from day one. The brewery’s mantra, as stated above, is “Original beer. Original Food. Original music,” and those three aspects are still thriving at the pub today.
“We’ve always considered the entire culinary landscape as fair game when it came to brewing, so it made sense to open our brewery in the context of a restaurant,” Williams explained.
Don’t let the food-centric idea fool you. As Williams mentioned, Dogfish Head regularly dives into the culinary arts for brewing inspiration, bringing unique ingredients into the brewing process. Just one look at Dogfish Head’s unique beer portfolio speaks volumes — from the black tea used in its Sah’tea to the massively hopped, apricot-infused Aprihop. Creating a menu that matched the creativity of the beers takes as much time and attention to detail as the beers.
So between food and beers — what is really bringing customers through the door?
“Hmm. That’s a tough one,” Williams paused. “We put so much effort into our menu, and blending the two worlds — beer-centric food and food-centric beer — that we really hold both dear. That said, we do offer brewpub exclusives at the pub, Dogfish beers that you can’t get anywhere else, so plenty of hardcore beer lovers go there in search of unique brews.”
In the way of marketing, the brewpub does a little advertising on local radio and in local newspapers. Additionally, the Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats offers live music every Friday and Saturday, which is a big draw for the brewpub. Of course, it also has a mug club and off-season food specials. In the tourist off-season, the brewpub does a beer dinner series over the winter.