Brew Talks GABF: The Bruery, Monday Night and Calicraft Leaders Discuss Innovation

“We budget to fail,” Monday Night Brewing co-founder Jeff Heck shared during Brewbound’s final Brew Talks meetup of 2018.

Joining a panel discussion that examined innovation within the craft space, Heck along with The Bruery founder Patrick Rue and Calicraft Brewing founder Blaine Landberg, gave more than 150 beer industry professionals a peek into their individual innovation strategies, which includes both success and failures.

“If you’re not flushing beer down the drain on a regular basis, then you’re not failing enough,” Heck said, stressing the importance of having a pilot system for small breweries.

“If you’re between 7,000 and 10,000 barrels and you don’t have a pilot system, then it’s going to really, really hard to innovate,” he added. “It just lowers the cost of failure so tremendously.”

Nevertheless, Heck, Landberg and Rue all agreed that newly created brands benefit from receiving feedback from discerning consumers in their respective taprooms.

According to Rue, although the innovation process starts with The Bruery’s staff, the instant feedback from consumers in his company’s taproom has helped the company decide whether a new beer would be scaled up for wider distribution.

“If we don’t like it, our tasting room customers aren’t going to like it, so we don’t move it on,” Rue said. “But if we like it and our tasting room customers don’t like it, it’s not going to move on to our club members. It needs to have a success rate, first with us and then with our immediate customers and then our larger customer group.”

Beer rating apps such as Untappd have also provided crucial feedback on whether a new offering is successful, Rue added.

“When we can get over 50 reviews, and it’s above a four [rating], we have a winner on our hands,” he said.

For Landberg, gaining feedback from wholesalers and retailers is also crucial in deciding whether a new product has potential to sell in a broader market. He added that Calicraft’s ability to experiment is aided by producing at its small production facility as well as on larger systems with its contract brewing partners.

“I believe that’s a great model because I get to play with so many other tools that I never got to play with before,” he said.

Heck agreed that illustrating to wholesalers that a brand is performing well in Monday Night’s two taprooms has helped build support for new offerings while also building excitement among distributors.

“What we’ve really tried to do is let our distributors in behind the veil to see what we’re doing, what’s coming down and then to turn around and say what are the best brands that are performing in our taproom and having leverage then and get them into their hands so they’re excited about about it as well,” he said.

Watch the entire discussion in the video above.

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