A version of this post previously appeared on our marketing guy’s personal blog.
The current explosion of American craft breweries could not have happened the way it did without social media.
Our modern craft beer renaissance is a long-tail game. When beer drinkers pass from the realm of “casual” into enthusiast, they become ravenous for the next new thing, be it a can release, brewery or trend. Perpetual Instagram streams fulfill this utility.
This form of marketing allows a brewery’s personality to shine. We find ourselves drawn there by perceived values and atmosphere, all broadcast through our phone screens.
At Red Tail, we talk constantly about small businesses and brands. We even put together another article about our favorite beer and brewery brands.
In this article, we’ll discuss how owning where you’re from allows breweries to create a unique connection with audiences and consumers.
Here are three (in no particular order) who captured my attention.
Pen Druid Brewing – Sperryville, VA
Why: “TINNNNYYYY BUBBBLLLEEESSSS!!!!”
Pen Druid conveys a charming obsession with natural carbonation. All of their beers are also wood-fired. Which is, quite frankly, insane. I don’t know a lot about brewing but I know enough to know that.
And if you’re wood-firing everything, you might as well ferment it with wild native culture in some homemade copper coolships.
You might be thinking: okay it’s not some magical Instagram marketing hack to take pretty pictures of beer or show off your bucolic brewery, and you’d be right.
But Pen Druid also stands out with an energetic tone and bold voice used in their captions. They employ interesting punctuation, long drawn out capitalized words, with a consistently enthusiastic energy.
Again, not wildly remarkable in of itself, but it fits perfectly with Pen Druid’s attitude while maintaining a quirky intimacy that suits their small scale.
On to the next one.
Scratch Brewing – Ava, IL
Why: Reminds me of our home, Southeast Ohio.
I grew up in a farmhouse a little ways outside of Marietta, Ohio, close to the Ohio River. I spent a large chunk of my childhood in fields, woods and ravines. So you can see how Scratch Brewing might appeal to that sense.
Scratch is renowned for their foraged beers that incorporate all the ingredients you would expect to find in an edible plant field-guide.
Scratch stands out not just for ingredients but also for utilizing a range of methods that follow the foraging mindset. Here’s a description of the process that went into making one of their beers:
Mashed in a barrel through a false bottom made of cedar and several herbs. Boiled completely with granite rocks in wooden barrels and fermented in a red wine barrel.
Over-the-top? Goofy? Gimmick? To me, it reminds me of home. Things like staining the floorboards of our farmhouse dining room with the shells of black walnuts that grew over the back yard. Making fresh caught pond bass ceviche on the 4th of July. Or the lightning-struck persimmon tree on the hill, gnarly and delicious.
Fonta Flora Brewery – Morganton, NC
Why: Cleveland is the reason.
Fonta Flora is the brewery that I know the most about on this list. They are arguably the most well-known among the three.
Having worked at Jackie O’s Pub and Brewery, I became aware of them a few years ago when I saw an Instagram post of Fonta Flora brewer Todd Boera foraging for ramps in the woods of Southeast Ohio. Boera is from Cleveland and fell in love with Appalachia when he went to school in North Carolina. So it makes sense that the first time I heard of Fonta Flora was from witnessing Boera reveling in our home state’s own slice of Appalachia.
The brewery creates flavor profiles and hybrid localized styles that just flat-out make sense.
Take Underground, their “brezelvass” for example. Why not brew a kvass with smoked pretzels, and use some North Carolina sea salt? That all seems to go together, sounds great.
Or, maybe a pale ale with kudzu flowers.
Fonta Flora also works to further the cause of heritage revitalization, highlighting heirloom crops in beers such as Bloody Butcher.
If you follow the American craft beer scene, you’re probably already quite familiar with Fonta Flora. They stand out as the vanguard of Appalachian terroir brewing and have rightfully gained a ton of buzz for it.
A sense of place
You’ll notice a common thread running through this list. There’s a woodsy, wild and spontaneous shared trait.
These three breweries exude a strong sense of place. Sense of place relates to brewery branding and identity. It can help a brewery showcase its values.
On top of that, appealing to sense of place in a consumer is a marketing strategy that many breweries employ using neighborhood-based names or landmark can art.
But not as many breweries actually incorporate the place into their beers with wild caught yeast, local fruit, twigs, sticks, stones, mushrooms and more.
Pen Druid, Scratch and Fonta Flora made this this list because their identity feels familiar despite them all being about 7 hours away from the hills I grew up in.
Who wouldn’t want to bottle up the essence of somewhere that feels like home?
Header image- sky and hills outside Marietta, OH. By Evan Chwalek.