84. Bare Necessities: What Info Does a Brewery's Website Need?
Breaking down what we need to know ahead of time and why; plus tarot for wishful thinking and smart decision-making.
This tweet got Beer Twitter talking earlier this month, and also probably succeeded in annoying my friends and family, blissfully living their lives not on Beer Twitter, but to whom I took this conversation offline and irl. I wanted to ask them in order to get opinions from people who like craft beer and go to breweries, but aren’t like craft beer people, you know? How much do they care, and how much do they rely on this kind of info and easy access to it before a brewery visit?
On one hand, I get what Chris is saying, and I agree that a lot of us go to a brewery to hang and drink good beer, regardless of what we end up finding. Maybe the surprise factor is even part of the appeal. And I think that extends from bona fide beer geeks to regular humans who simply appreciate craft beer. The former know they’ll find something they like and want to experience the menu when they arrive, and the latter are really just going for the hang, anyway—research might feel like overkill.
However, there are so many exceptions to this, and so many splintering possibilities for what people need and want, that my answer to “should a brewery website feature its tap list?” is such a big, emphatic, “YES.” There are tons of examples of these reasons in the responses to the tweet, which I recommend giving a skim if you haven’t yet, but here are the ones that resonated with me plus some additional ones:
For every time you do indeed go to a taproom just to chill and you’re sure there will be at least one or two options that make you happy, there’s another time when you’re after something specific. Even my friends who are only very casually into craft beer will see a mention of something on social media or hear about it and then want to go try it; how would they know they’d actually find it on tap? And for those of us more ~serious~ beer enthusiasts, there are tons of examples of times when we are looking for a particular beer.
As many people pointed out, being able to check tap lists ahead of time is crucial in decision-making. Remember, for both better and worse, this country is absolutely saturated with breweries. Your city might have ten different options, maybe more. You could have three taprooms within walking distance—idk, I don’t know your deal, but the point is, many of us don’t just have the one taproom that’s our only choice every time we feel like venturing out into the world to drink on-premise. And traveling ups the stakes plenty: you’ve got X amount of days in a certain city and so can only visit X amount of breweries. Sure, there are other factors to consider—food truck lineups, live music and events, vibes, reviews you’ve read and heard, and (I hope) the brewery’s culture, but I feel safe in declaring the tap list right up front among those priorities. I know I use tap lists on websites to pick what breweries to make sure I hit when traveling all the time.
This won’t be relevant for everyone, of course, but information like a brewery’s tap list is key for the media. Not having a tap list on your site is a great way to not get press, especially if your social media pages are inconsistent. If I don’t know what you’re pouring, that rules you out of a lot of different coverage opportunities. This applies to some other pieces of info that breweries love to leave off their sites, too—why do so many make it so difficult to contact them? I know there are a handful of breweries that intentionally do these types of things to engineer an air of mystery (sigh), but for most, especially in ~these times~ when competition is tight and selling opportunities are fewer than years past, making your site media-friendly is just good sense.
Let me make sure this is loud enough for the people in the back: BREWERIES SHOULD BE INCLUSIVE. It is so, so low-effort and low-investment to just be fucking welcoming to all. WHY ISN’T EVERY BREWERY DOING THIS? Every piece of information you list on your website is another step toward making sure another person knows they can happily and safely visit your taproom. How long could it possibly take to list the things you know about your own brewery? I don’t even care how pretty it looks. Are you too cool to list info that makes people feel comfortable and sure your brewery is for them, too? Too lazy? I’m sure for plenty of breweries, they just haven’t realized where they’re falling short here and why, and it’s an innocent mistake. So let’s fix that now, shall we?
In this case, in particular, this means putting your menu on your site so that someone who can’t have gluten can figure out if there’s anything for them there. Or someone who’s brand new to beer and so far, only knows they like sours, so they want to make sure they can continue their discovery in your taproom. Or someone who doesn’t drink but whose friends want to celebrate someone’s birthday at your brewery—they’ve got to see what kind of NA options you have. Or if you have small pours and low-ABV options because they’re driving. The reasons are endless and you are reaching so many more people by simply listing your menu.
This is related enough to the previous point that you might tell me I’m being redundant, but hear me out: a brewery’s menu on their site means I can help my friends and family members figure out if that taproom is for them. I think this is a separate point worth making because it’s almost like the more everyday, even easier form of having info accessible for the media. I can confidently spread the word about your business if I know you have something my friend will like, and I can confidently invite my family member or co-worker to your brewery if I can check or they can check that you’ll be pouring something they’re into. This piece is huge for building that bridge from beer geeks to casual customers—they may not be researching dozens of brewery websites, but their beek-geek friends are.
So, what other pieces of information should a brewery’s website prominently list? I touched on this nearly a year ago in an issue focusing more generally on overall inclusivity and access in breweries, especially in the design of their physical spaces, but let’s really get into the nitty-gritty when it comes to what info a website provides. From my own journalism needs to duh-it’s-just-good-business to our main priority here, again, inclusivity, here’s what I feel is necessary:
Very clear location and hours. This sounds so obvious and yet…you would be surprised…or perhaps not, if the surprise you’ve actually experienced is pulling up to a brewery whose threadbare Facebook page made it seem like it’d be open and here it is unmistakably closed.
CONTACT INFORMATION. So many breweries just have a form, and so many breweries do not answer these form requests. I get that answering emails can certainly build up to a considerable workload for someone, and many breweries are operating on tight budgets, and I definitely don’t want to see more work get dumped on an employee already not paid enough for this shit. But see what you can strategize here, breweries. Can you make one email address and give a few people access and develop a basic organizational system so you can divide and conquer? There are ways to make sure people’s questions get answered, because, well, people’s questions need to be able to be answered.
Pet policies. Some breweries may feel this is superfluous, but so, so many people want to head to taprooms with their dogs, or know they can do that at some breweries so apply that logic to others, or will have their dogs with them for different physical, mental, and/or emotional needs. Knowing whether I can bring my dog to a brewery so very frequently decides for me whether that’s where I’m going. And for every person who is coming with a dog, we’ve got to be real clear on the rules for the safety of staff and patrons. Are they only allowed in the patio, or even a certain section of the patio? Presumably, they must be leashed, but why not just say that to be absolutely crystal-clear? (Because people will really shock you with what they think is totally chill.) This is the kind of info that takes 30 seconds to type onto your Wix or SquareSpace.
Ditto that for kids. Is your brewery a family-friendly haven? Tell us. Does it go adults-only after 7pm? Gosh golly, you’d really better tell us.
What food is available and when. This matters for some of the same reasons that having a beer list available does. People should be able to plan. Someone’s having a big family get-together that could last hours—will there be food, or should they bring some—can they bring some, by the way? Someone’s gluten-free, or lactose-intolerant, or vegetarian, or vegan, or diabetic…if they might want to eat while they’re in your taproom, what can they expect to find? Snacks? Food trucks? An easy way to order from outside businesses? People should be able to be prepared, especially because having some kind of sustenance while drinking is a good idea. And, this is a great way to increase business! More people might feel inclined to visit if they know you’ve got food and what sort. You’re likely to even attract people not coming strictly for the beer.
Event listings. This is another no-brainer. If you’re going through the trouble of having events, you might as well go through the trouble of making sure people know to come to them, right? I think this can easily be accomplished on a well-kept Instagram page, but so then why not link out to that from your site, especially for the less social media-active?
Wheelchair accessibility. I think some people in some cities—where buildings are newer and there’s more space—might be surprised how many businesses are actually completely wheelchair-unfriendly. My mom was in a wheelchair for years, and I truly cannot tell you how many times we got to a restaurant, bar, cafe, etc., and found doorways too narrow for her chair, or stairs that my dad and brother would have to lift the chair up—and often, if it was just her and I, staff would have to help. My mom would feel like a spectacle and a burden instead of a regular patron like everyone else, and would also worry about the employees helping, which is a good point—it’s not a fantastic position for a business owner to put staff in if there’s a more permanent solution like making a wider doorway and building a ramp. And since some buildings especially in places like New York are just too old and tight, this would be a great situation in which to make sure this info is on the business website. Now, I don’t think this happens a ton with breweries because the very nature of the business requires a bigger space, but I’m sure I’ve been to tiny taprooms that are escaping me, and I know I’ve been to taprooms where the entrance was up a flight of stairs.
Code of conduct. Remember, hopefully more and more people are choosing what breweries they frequent based on brewery culture. Many of us want to support the breweries doing right by their people. We also, importantly, want to know that we’ll be safe. I think we’re about past the point where it’s understandable, especially with the Brave Noise collab kicking for some time now, for a brewery to not have a code of conduct. If you’ve got it, make it easy to find on your site.
Not mandatory but certainly very helpful and a good idea: an “About Us.” This is another example of how to make your brewery a million times easier for media to find and feature. I definitely do not think we need to see the brewery owner’s memoirs here, and I do indeed come across some pages that are way too long (I’m sorry, breweries, but my nearly 14 years of copywriting experience backs me up in saying, almost no one is reading all that). But if there’s anything that helps your brewery stand apart from the other 5,734,972 we seem to have now, tell us!
Extra credit: some details about how you serve. I don’t think this is mandatory but hey, because of the aforementioned factor of more information, more comfort for any person walking through your doors, why not make sure anything extra that might give people an idea of what to expect at your taproom is listed? Do you not do flights, or only do full pours? Do you actually only do table service? Are tables communal? This can easily go into FAQ’s, so why not?
What am I missing? If you can think of anything else a brewery’s site should always list, let’s talk about it!
This week, I pulled the Seven of Cups.
Cups is the suit of love, emotions, and relationships. If you look at the different things each of the cups hold here, you’ll see that this card represents choices and opportunities—though some of that is misleading, represented by some of the monstrous chalice contents. Basically, what’s happening is this: you’re being presented, or are about to be presented, with a decision or decisions, and that’s good! This fork in the road is about opportunity, and depending on which way you go, your path will lead you to bigger and better things. But that’s just it, you’ve got to be careful. Because some paths aren’t what they seem. The job with the better paycheck isn’t necessarily the right choice, for example, because it might mean working so many hours you lose a lot of yourself and your life, and maybe even have to spend a lot of that increased cash flow outsourcing errands. The Seven of Cups says, “Yay, you, you’ve got possibilities, kid! But do your research. Think long and hard about this decision. Play out each scenario long-term and you can end up with a fulfilling choice rather than one that turned out to be wishful thinking.”
That wishful thinking component to this card also stresses that you can’t just stay stuck in the daydream phase of planning your life and goals. Yes, doing the long and hard thinking, but then you’ve got to act or you’ll become stuck in this rut of wanting different things for yourself, things that obviously can’t ever happen if you don’t actively work toward them. Life is way, way too short for this—you’ve got to get up, roll up your sleeves, and start actually making some of this stuff happen.
I really wanted to find a beer called Wishful Drinking, which is the clever title of Carrie Fisher’s memoir, but alas I could not. I did find a beer I think is relevant here: Pour Decisions, a hazy triple IPA from Revision Brewing Company. Don’t make poor decisions, but do drink “pour decisions.” Except, don’t drink too many “pour decisions,” or you will in fact begin to make poor decisions.
This Week’s Boozy Media Rec
Aaron Goldfarb’s “Dads Untappd: TikTokers Can’t Stop Roasting Their Craft-Beer-Loving Fathers” is such a fun read, and is also an important one, I think, because we could all stand to be reminded every so often that craft beer’s most dedicated followers are, well, aging. I do hope I am not the first one to alert you to the fact that we are all merrily slogging toward our graves! Sorry, too dark? Anyway, the same way I think it can be easy to forget how small the pool of craft beer enthusiasts actually is compared to everyone else who just likes to drink beer when you are in fact one of those enthusiasts, I think it can also be easy to forget that us enthusiasts aren’t the young cool kids anymore. We never feel as old as we are, do we? Things like smoothie hard seltzers might rudely remind us from time to time, but the trend of people old enough to drink poking fun at their dads for being on Untappd? Oof, brutal. The takeaway is important, though, whether you’re making and selling beer or just drinking it: we’ve got to make room for the next generation and stop being so cranky and pretentious about new trends, and we’ve got to make craft beer that’s still friendly to folks as they mature (smaller serving sizes, lower ABVs, etc.). And above all, we can’t take ourselves too seriously.
Ex-BEER-ience of the Week
I’m cheating and choosing two here, because A, there was no newsletter last week, and B, both of these fill me with NYC brewery pride.
Last week, we went to a twice-monthly comedy show Endless Life has on Wednesdays. I’m thrilled to now live about a four-minute walk from this fantastic brewery. I knew the beer was great, but now I know there are really fun, community-connecting events there multiple nights a week. I often must sacrifice my love of good craft beer to go to comedy shows, but at Endless Life, I can take in some fresh talent while drinking a smoked lager! If you’re local, check it out—and it’s worth noting that Wild East does a good regular comedy show, too.
And, this weekend, I was happy to be able to drink a delightful IPA from LIC Beer Project at MSG while watching the Rangers absolutely dominate the Predators. Craft options are next to non-existent here, so the one bar serving up an NYC local was like a little oasis.
Until next week, here’s Darby keeping watch over her new neighborhood.
One important thing: get a real website; don't just throw up a Facebook or Instagram page. There's plenty of people who don't want to use those sites because of their "track everything we can about everyone" attitude — many ad/tracker blockers will break them anyway.
Facebook might be cheap and easy, but you're excluding people by only putting information on there.
IF you're going to sell merch and/or beers to-go on your website, you should make sure it's up-to-date, including availability