December 15, 2011
Craft beers get marketing boost
Schumer campaign promotes Cortland Beer, other microbreweries
A new promotional campaign by U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer and the New York State Brewers Association will provide a marketing boost for Cortland Beer Co. and other microbreweries in the state.
The “I Love NY Brew” campaign is aimed at putting more local beers from the state’s 77 breweries on shelves and menus across the state.
Dan Cleary and Tom Scheffler, the owners of Cortland Beer Company, just opened a 900-square-foot tasting room and store in the former shoe repair shop next to their brewery at 16 Court St.
Along with more space for merchandise and tasting, the company also expanded its production and storage facilities.
The city gave the company a $35,000 microenterprise grant in August, allowing the company to expand its production and bottling facilities, which means it can produce more 22-ounce bottles than before.
“Before, we had to fill each bottle by hand,” Cleary said. “Now we can push out 48 cases an hour, rather than spending all weekend doing it.”
Along with the bottles, the company offers half-gallon refillable “growlers” as well as kegs to over a dozen local bars.
As the company’s brews became more popular, it realized it would need to expand, Cleary said.
“In the old tasting room, if we got a crowd it was wall-to-wall,” he said.
The company sells eight different beers, ranging from a lager to several heavier stouts.
The old tasting room will be used for new production and storage tanks. While the brewery updates the facilities, there will not be any tours.
Along with the expansion, the brewery also debuted two new beers: the Flight Level 410 and the Bourbon-Aged Red Dragon. The beers are aged in bourbon barrels.
Aging the beer in the barrels extends the process another four months, but adds a layer of depth and taste to the beers, Cleary said.
“It works better with the darker beers,” he said. “Right now we have the Flight Level in limited quantities and then after that we’ll have the Red Dragon.”
Next week the brewery will introduce a winter beer, called Nut Job.
Schumer announced the campaign during a conference call Wednesday afternoon with Dave Katleski, president of the New York Brewers Association; Gregg Stacey, vice president of Marketing and Sales at Brown’s Brewing Company in Troy; and Nick Matt, president of Saranac Brewery in Utica.
There is no funding for the campaign right now. Instead, Schumer wrote a personal letter to the National Association of Convenience Stores and Fuel Retailing and the New York State Restaurant Association, asking them to consider stocking more craft beers.
“This is a word of mouth campaign right now,” Schumer said. “If it goes somewhere, there may be funding, either public or private, down the line.”
Craft breweries and beer pubs are one of the state’s fast growing industries, Schumer said.
“There were 59,000 people employed by the industry last year and there’s 42 new breweries that are in the planning stage,” he said.
The money required to successfully advertise and market their products to a wider audience is often far too expensive for smaller brewers, Stacey said.
“We can’t compete with the major brewers and having more support and awareness helps all brewers.”
Nick Matt, head of Saranac Brewery, said the campaign will hopefully duplicate the success of craft brewers in Oregon and Colorado.
“In those states, the breweries are so successful because the bars and restaurants are very supportive,” he said. “In some cases, local beers are almost all you can find on their menus.”
Those problems are some of the same that Cleary and the Cortland Beer Company face — the cost of marketing and advertising is tough on a small brewery, and if they can not keep bars stocked, they lose their tap.
“If we don’t get kegs to them, there’s no beer coming out and they’re not making any money,” Cleary said. “So for us, we can’t expand much further until we know we can definitely supply them.”
The company plans to continue distributing its products itself, rather than relying on a third-party distributor. Instead of just kegs though, the company wants to see more bottles on local menus, Cleary said.
“Out West, having a 22-ounce beer on the menu is perfectly normal and it’s just not a normal thing around here,” he said. “We’d like to change that.”
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