From the moment Beale’s Brewery’s latest release, YOUR MANAGER IS BITCH (YMIB), hit the social media superhighway and went viral, it proved yet again one fact that is integral to craft beer success. That consumers want to feel a personal connection to their brands. Making a statement using their beer labels, the billboard to their customers, to advocate for a cause can and often is successful for their business.
The beer is the third release in a series brewed in response to negative messages the brewery has received due to its enforcement of the state of Virginia’s mask policy to help deal with the pandemic. While the preceding limited releases, Troll the Trolls and Closed By Christmas, did well, neither seized the public’s eye like YMIB.
Created in response to an email from a customer who was turned away due to their refusal to mask up, the beer has garnered the small brewery in Virginia a growing fanbase. In one week, they have had over 300,000 views on Facebook, gathered over a thousand new followers on their Instagram feed, and has landed them on Fox News nationally.
“By featuring a picture of our taproom general manager, Brittany Canterbury, and including an image of the abusive email directed at her on the label, we felt like we took our story back in hand,” says Emily Sanfratella, VP of operations at Beale’s. “It seems to have touched a nerve with service people across the nation who have had to deal with this type of ridiculous behavior from customers over the last year.”
Using their beers as a soapbox is nothing new for craft brewers. From Lagunitas Brewing Company’s Undercover Shut-Down Ale, a droll jab at a 2005 St Patrick’s Day police raid on their brewery, to the plethora of anti-Trump beers released over the last few years, courting controversy sells a product.
With its close ties in local communities, the craft beer industry has long served as a sounding board for causes advocated by its consumers. Many established and up-and-coming breweries have created beers to help spread particular messages and serve as fundraisers. That’s only accelerated over the last several years as social causes have come to the forefront. There have been beers brewed in support of Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, the Latino Cultural Center of Chicago, and the Pink Boots Society. Nowhere is a beer label’s power to make a statement more evident than the massive Black Is Beautiful movement that swept across the country and globe last year.
YMIB is not the first beer over the last year to comment on the pandemic and the effects it has had on our society. In Michigan, Rake Beer Project released a lineup of Big Gretch beers last year, supporting Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s stay-at-home orders. While they generated a buzz and some negative backlash on social media for the small brewery, it hasn’t hurt business. “The public outpouring of support for those beers is what got us through the darkest times of the pandemic,” says Josh Rake, the owner and head brewer. “Each release’s sale grew exponentially and introduced us to a much larger audience. While Big Gretch has been retired, we still are seeing our sales grow.”
For Beale’s Brewery, their clap-back has been a success. They have seen a decided uptick in business and are fielding calls from across the country from people wanting to buy their beer in support. While they can’t ship out of their state, they are starting to see consumers planning weekend trips to come to their brewery and restaurant to visit. It has led to much-needed income and puts them in a position for a successful summer. They plan to keep releasing beers calling out their trolls and are hoping to use the interest in their brand to grow sales and hopefully expand their footprint.