Why Your “WHY” Is The Secret Ingredient to Craft Beer Success (and How to Do It Right)

The Secret Ingrethe-secret-ingredient-to-craftbeer-success
The Secret Ingrethe-secret-ingredient-to-craftbeer-success

The craftbeer industry is a competitive industry. To succeed, you should be able to offer something distinct to stand out from the competition

Craft Beer is an increasingly competitive market. We’ve all heard the stats – over 2,400 breweries in the U.S and growing quickly. In 2013 we’re seeing more than 1 new brewery open its doors EVERY SINGLE day.

Though craft beer’s portion of the overall market is certainly growing, it’s still only around 10% in dollar figures and even less by volume. That means it’s more important than ever for you as a craft brewer to differentiate yourself.

A lot of people throw around that word, but what does it really mean?

I read a comment by a very wealthy businessman (He’s built and sold 3 different businesses and was managing a multi-billion dollar company at the time) say it best:

“People don’t buy what you do. They buy WHY you do it.”

(I’m pretty sure he stole that from Simon Sinek’s book – Start with Why. If you have a minute, here’s a FANTASTIC presentation by Simon on the topic.)


Simon Sinek is an author noted for popularizing the concept of “the golden circle.”

It’s the belief that people buy your WHY and not your WHAT that has guided brands like Apple to enormous success. At one point they were sitting on more money than the U.S. treasury.

This same concept, that people buy WHY you do it, is ESPECIALLY true of craft beer drinkers.

Think about the last time you were in a beer store and couldn’t decide what to buy. How did you end up choosing?

While I’m sure you could give a lot of rational explanations for whatever you bought, those are probably just that – rationalizations.

The same thing that influenced your choice is the same thing that has tens of thousands of people lining up at the Apple store every time a new iPhone comes out. Your emotional connection to the brand drove you to the decision.

It’s normal for most craft beer drinkers to have a dozen (or more) different beers in their fridge at any one time. There’s no shortage of quality craft beers in the market now.

At the end of the day though, it’s your WHY, the purpose behind your brewery that people will resonate with and keep coming back for.

(If your WHY is in place, you’ll also probably be brewing damn good beer and that’s not a trivial fact in the whole marketing thing…)

Take a look at some of these comments on an article on CraftBeer.com on “Why Craft Beer”

“When a beer afficianado appreciates the beauty of a kellerweis freshly poured into a sleek weizen glass, with its opaque, but majestic yellowish hue, and its soft, white, pillowy head, there is much more being perceived than a beverage in a glass. No, it is the joy, almost the ecstasy, of all 5 senses being employed, even strained to imbibe the simplicity and complexity of the masterpiece set before him or her. … And through this, the afficianado can imagine the master craft brewer pouring his or life, heart, and soul into the contents of his weizen glass. The taster can feel what the brewer had felt, think what the brewer might have thought, and connect just a little closer than the customary six degrees.”

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think the guy was having a religious experience.

While not everyone has such a personal connection with their beer, craft beer still creates an emotional connection:

“Craft beer is the way beer is supposed to be. It gets at the root of the tradition that’s made beer great: creativity, innovation, and a sense of adventure.”

“I absolutely love craft beer because of its personality and uniqueness.”


For many craft beer drinkers, beer is something that they have a strong personal connection with.

For many craft beer drinkers, especially the most passionate ones (and consequently the early adopters), beer is something that they have a strong personal connection with. It’s a part of their WHY.

So, how do you identify  your WHY?

Sinek explains it like this:

The WHY does not come from looking ahead at what you want to achieve and figuring out an appropriate strategy to get there. It is not born out of any market research. It does not come from extensive interviews with customers or even employees. It comes from looking in the completely opposite direction from where you are now. Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention.

I believe it’s essentials that all craft brewers have a clearly defined articulate statement that they use to guide their brewery.

The truth is though, Many breweries and brewery owners haven’t done this.

If you’re working at a craft brewery, let’s be honest, you’re probably not in it for the money. One of the things that’s so invigorating about being in the craft beer community is the passion and love of everyone in the community.

The trouble is, a lot of people fail to communicate their why in the marketing and products. I’m betting you have a pretty awesome story to tell. So tell it!

How to Grow your Brand by Infusing Your Marketing and Products with Your Why

Taking it to the Streets…

The first place to start doing this is…real life! No one is better at communicating your brewery’s WHY to your customers than you and your employees.

Whether it’s at the brewpub, on a brewery tour, or after a long day pouring at a festival, the in person interactions you have with your customers is the best opportunity you have to communicate your message.

I recently saw a great video on the Brooklyn Brewery Blog in response to a video by co-founder Steve Hindy. In the video, Hindy tells his story of getting into home brewing while working as a war correspondent in Lebanon and the profound impact that both events had on his life.

He’s communicating the WHY behind his story and his breweries.

When I scrolled down to look at the comments, I was struck by the first one:

Brooklyn Brewery Comment

Now one of the largest craft breweries in the U.S., Brooklyn Brewery started with it’s founders going out into the community and telling their story.

Years later, those people are still the bedrock of the brewery’s success! They’re the people that aren’t just buying Brooklyn beer, they’re out there telling it’s story.

Authenticity in Packaging

For many craft beer drinkers – the first exposure they’ll have to your brand is on a shelf next to dozens of other choices or walking around a beer festival with dozens of other breweries. You won’t have the opportunity to tell your story in person. This means your packaging has to  communicate your message, you WHY.


Flying Dog Brewery (Photo Credit: Flickr)

As this article from Cirqlemedia explains:

“…what really makes or breaks a purchase decision (in the pre-recognition stages) is what the eyes can dissect. It’s the beer brand’s character and personality.”

One of my favorite examples of this is Flying Dog Brewery.

Their founder, George Strahan, lived next door to Hunter S. Thompson’s “fortified compound”  in Colorado and the two forged a relationship over their mutual love for “explosives, high-powered weapons, politics, football, whiskey, and beer.” (Really, not that surprising for the founder of gonzo journalism and a brewery owner…)

Because of that background, Flying Dog uses Ralph Steadman, the illustrator that worked with Thompson on his most popular works including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

Steadman’s art communicates the devil-may-care attitude that Flying Dog is known for.

Beyond the design, their slogan – “Good People Drink Good Beer” is an old celtic axiom that Thompson invoked in a toast with founder George Strahan after Flying Dog released one of their first batches.

All of these details in their packaging help to communicate the richness and compelling nature of their story.

Want to Tell Your Story Better?

One of the best venues for telling your story and growing your brewery is, without a doubt, beer festivals. Whether you’re just getting started or already in expansion mode, our guide 5 Steps to Fueling Your Brewery’s Growth with Beer Festival Marketing will help you:

  • Grab attendees attention more effectively
  • Arm your pourers with the information they need to tell your story
  • Turn first time tasters into long-time brand advocates

View the Guide to Beer Festival Marketing Now

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