Beer and Cars Don’t Always Mix; Lyft is Trying to Change That

Like IPAs and peanuts, Georgia craft beer lovers are about to enjoy something else with their taproom visit: a cheap, safe ride home.

Ride-sharing service Lyft announced today a partnership with the Georgia Craft Brewers Guild. It’s just the latest in an ongoing effort by the San Francisco-headquartered, on-demand transportation company to focus on getting patrons to and from brewery taprooms by forming partnerships with state guilds across the country.

Speaking to Brewbound, Georgia Craft Brewers Guild executive director Nancy Palmer called the partnership “good policy” and “good politics.”

“I feel as though ‘big beer’ is very good and forward-thinking on responsible drinking and driving,” she said, “and it’s not something that craft beer spends a lot of time on, and we probably should — especially as taprooms are becoming more popular in Georgia.”

Increased interest in the state’s can be traced back to August when the state of Georgia began allowing direct-to-consumer sales in brewery taprooms, leading to crowded parking lots and more passengers in need of a ride.

As part of the program, Lyft riders who visit one of eight participating breweries and show their bartender their ride receipt receive a coupon code for 50 percent (up to $5) off a ride to their next destination.

Participating breweries include Sweetwater Brewing (Atlanta), Jekyll Brewing (Alpharetta), Southbound Brewing Co. (Savannah), Eagle Creek Brewing Co. (Statesboro), Gate City Brewing Co. (Roswell), Service Brewing Co. (Savannah), Arches Brewing (Hapeville) and Three Taverns Craft Brewing (Decatur). Lyft plans to add other breweries to the program as it builds “geofences” — virtual fences — around them in order to track redemptions of the codes.

Palmer said the program is funded through the end of the year, and she hopes to keep it going into the future. As the program grows, she said hopes to see the state’s breweries adopt Lyft “house accounts” for employees to use after working events such as beer festivals and dinners.

“If you’re a brewery owner and you have a sales rep and they’re at a beer dinner, you should have a ridesharing house account that they can log into and take a car every time,” she said.

Increasing its Local Presence via Guilds

As the competition for riders increases between Lyft and Uber, Lyft appears to have identified local brewers’ guilds as strategic partners, forging alliances with the Massachusetts Brewers Guild, the Texas Craft Brewers Guild, the Brewers of Pennsylvania, the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild, the San Diego Brewers Guild, and the Colorado Brewers Guild, among others. Details of the programs vary by state.

In an email to Brewbound, Brewers Association (BA) director Paul Gatza wrote that rideshare partnerships have become “pretty universally accepted” and “a standard operating procedure for guilds (or even individual brewers) for that matter.”

“I feel like I see some rideshare presence at nearly all beer events I attend,” he added.

That includes the BA’s marquee event, the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Last year, Uber was the “preferred ride” of the festival. Gatza said to expect an announcement on another ridesharing partnership closer to this year’s event in mid-September.

For Lyft, the partnerships emphasize the service’s most well-known use: providing a paid designated driver at the tap of an app. However, the programs are not part of a “targeted strategy,” Charles Stephens, regional director of Lyft’s central division, told Brewbound.

Stephens said the programs are the work of regional teams that have established relationships with breweries and guilds. However, he said he would like to see the program expanded nationally to every guild and brewery brand.

“I honestly think we cannot support these initiatives enough,” he said.

So what is Lyft looking for in a partner? Sam Bond, general manager of Lyft’s southeast region, who helped set up the program in Georgia, told Brewbound that it’s a combination of Lyft having boots on the ground in a market in order to “bring the partnerships to life” and timing.

Since the introduction of Lyft’s partnership with the Massachusetts Brewers Guild in October, the number of rides to and from the program’s more than 30 participating breweries have increased 35 percent, a Lyft spokesperson told Brewbound.

Massachusetts Brewers Guild executive director Katie Stinchon told Brewbound that the guild is looking to expand the campaign to more breweries.

In Texas, Lyft offers discounted rides at 78 of the state’s breweries. As new riders sign up for Lyft, the rideshare company deposits a $5 credit into a “credit bank” that the brewery can use to give rides to employees or patrons.

“It can grow forever,” Aaron Fox, general manager of Lyft in Austin, told Brewbound. “There’s no cap on the bank for each brewery.

Exposure Through Other Partnerships

Lyft is also looking to collaborate with breweries in other ways. Stephens said the company is interested in creating collaborations similar to one it had with now-shuttered Chicago brewery Baderbrau Brewing. The two companies released Five Star Lager, a collaboration beer that featured a coupon code redeemable for between 40 and 60 percent off a ride (up to $5). The beer was available in 65 Chicago-area bars.

“We are looking for either brewing organizations, breweries themselves, beer brands anywhere and everywhere that we can to partner to make all of this happen,” he said.

As Palmer, the Georgia guild director, pointed out, large beer manufacturers have long promoted “responsible drinking” programs to consumers. The two largest U.S. beer companies, Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, have each partnered with Lyft and Uber, respectively, to provide hundreds of thousands of rides.

Last holiday season, A-B through Lyft offered 150,000 round-trip rides in nine states and Washington, D.C.

Meanwhile, MillerCoors and Uber teamed up to offer discounted rides to more than 43,000 consumers in about 100 markets in 2017.

Lyft has also made deals with retailer groups. The company runs a statewide safe ride program with the Tavern League of Wisconsin, a trade association representing the state’s alcoholic beverage retailers. According to Lyft, the program has provided 96,000 rides to inebriated passengers — the cost of which was split between the taverns and the state.

And Lyft has turned its attention to providing rides in at least one state where recreational marijuana use is legal. In Colorado, the rideshare company partnered with the state Department of Transportation and the Marijuana Industry Group to promote sober driving by offering monthly ride discounts.

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