This episode is a two-parter devoted to the intersection of taprooms and retailers as they increasingly find themselves in competition with each other for the limited number of customers and dollars available in their markets for craft beer.
There are a number of factors that have made taprooms a newly competitive aspect of the three-tier system—or what’s left of it in some cases. Laws have been changing, the consumer experience is shifting, OG beer bars are feeling the squeeze from every bar and restaurant seemingly carrying craft beer now, and larger trends like at-home consumption, bottle shares, trading circuits, and beer tourism. It’s hard out there for a retailer right now, and it’s kind of becoming taprooms versus everybody.
The purpose of this two-part series was to dig into that tension and determine if there’s a concrete principle at play, or if, like most things in craft beer, it’s more of a loose relationship-based thing where some competition is welcome, and some isn’t. Most of all: how are we going to be thinking about all this in the future? Because I think we can all agree that competition that works in the drinker’s favor is generally a good thing, but if we start losing great bars in the process, then maybe we’re not all getting what we want in the end.
Solemn Oath Brewery in Naperville, Illinois is the catalyst behind these episodes. As a small production brewery making right about 8,000 barrels, with an expanded taproom and a new one opening in the city of Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood, they were starting to feel the pushback from some key retail accounts who see them as competition. So they took the bold step of reaching out, inviting those accounts to brew a beer called Taproom Exclusive, and serving it anywhere but.
They asked us to come along and lead a discussion around how we can maybe sort all this out productively and gain some perspective. Bavarian Lodge and Hopleaf joined in—both accounts that have carried Solemn Oath over the years, but who have been vocal about how they don’t like where things are heading.
Kudos to everyone for being willing to come the the table—both figuratively and quite literally—over a beer and dig into the issue.
This episode is recorded at the Bavarian Lodge in Naperville, Illinois, and I’m joined by:
Alan Taylor, owner of the Bavarian Lodge
John Barley, co-founder of Solemn Oath Brewery
Dave Hawley, owner of the Beer Cellar, a bottle shop and taproom
Dakota Defever, Minor Threat Restaurant Group in nearby Plainfield, Illinois
This is Taprooms Vs. Everybody, Pt. 2. Listen in.