Today I want to look at beer station pros and cons, for breweries. For those who follow my articles, apologies for not posting recently.
I recently moved and had to take some time out, to get the family and I set-up. So far, so good and we’re all starting to get settled in.
Anyway, today I want to talk a little about beer stations. As it’s something I’m seeing in China, with the likes of 30KM Brewing opening them throughout Shanghai. I saw several stations in the city before I left.
I’ve done some further research and found beer stations are becoming more common around the world in general. I wanted to share some of what I learnt about them, including some common themes.
Pros and Cons of Beer Station for Breweries – What are They?
A beer station is a standalone space where a brewery can sell its beers. Their footprint is tiny, and the main aim is to sell beer for takeaway.
Usually, the station will have at most have one staff member. With some stations actually being “self-service”.
Where a patron will pre-pay for the beer electronically, and then pours the beer themselves. Usually with one staff member looking on, or assisting with the process.
Please see the video of a “self-service” station by 30KM Brewing, which I mentioned before.
Thanks to my friend Milton, for sharing the video he took at CBCE (Craft Beer Conference & Exhibition) in Shanghai last year.
When looking into these stations and doing some research, I found come common themes as to why they are implemented by breweries.
Pros and Cons of Beer Station for Breweries – Being Local
It’s fair to say globally, people seem to be going out to bars and pubs a lot less. As the cost of living rises quicker than salary increases, many people have less money.
Drinking at home, either with family of friends is becoming more popular, as it’s cheaper than going out. People through, still want fresh beer, AND this is where beer stations come to the rescue.
Take 30KM Brewing from China, their plan is to have beer stations all across Shanghai. So, a person is never more than 10KM away from a station. This is my understanding, anyway.
Meaning for beer drinkers, fresh beer is never too far away. This is a common theme I found for most of the beer stations, around the globe which I researched…emphasis on being local as well as fresh.
I found beer stations in Israel, Slovakia, India and elsewhere. The Israeli company for instance, has beer stations in four different cities in the country. Highlighting their stations are where to go, to get “fresh beer direct from the brewery”.
The ethos of all these companies: To have fresh beer available to local consumers at affordable rates.
Affordability of Craft Beer
Offering affordable craft beer to local clientele means…
These beer stations had a small footprint with often one, maybe two staff members’ total. The cost of opening a station and running it, is therefore low.
Stations are generally geared for people to take the beer away, although some places had limited seating for people to drink on site.
The lower cost of running them, means the savings made (as compared to a proper bar) can be passed on to the consumer for cheaper craft beer.
Pros and Cons of Beer Station for Breweries – Freshness
There’s an emphasis on freshness of the beer, particularly when it’s the brewery itself running the beer station. These stations are one a small footprint.
The idea is for people to come grab some beer, take it away and share with others. So, breweries can do good volumes from a small site. This will lead to high beer throughput, for lower overall costs.
When combined with the brewery being able to provide fresh beer direct to the consumer. Means the customer is getting the freshest beer.
Compared to going to a pub/bar, owned by 3rd party, who buys beer from a distributor.
The beer may be older plus, as there are likely other choices sold from the same venue, it’ll mean significantly less fresh beer to the customer.
Being A Way to Build a Brand
Take the example of Drifters Brewery, from Mumbai, India who have now opened up a beer station in Pune.
If a customer purchases beer from this station, the chances are it’ll be much fresher than from another location in the same city (Pune).
Customers likely know this too, So, it means a brewery which open a shop, will have people actively seeking out their beer station to get the freshest beer possible.
So, as you can control the narrative, you can increase your reach with a beer station in the right location. Plus, people who buy the beer can become your brand ambassadors too.
Getting your brewery out there by word-of-mouth is priceless.
Some of the Downsides – Pros and Cons of Beer Station for Breweries
It seems we should also, speak about some of the possible negatives from having beer stations.
Requires A Good Staff Member
As there is often only one employee at a time overseeing the beer station. There’s a lot of emphasis on this staff member being competent.
They need to be self-motivated, to be able to work independently and understand about beer and sensory.
Your choice of employee to run a beer station needs to be properly managed and the staff trained in beer knowledge and sensory.
So, they can relay relevant information to customers and also answer questions which are asked.
This means a brewery needs to have proper procedures in place. For example, I’m working on a new project brewery which will have a large taproom.
As we are waiting for the brewery to be built, I am writing out documentation to be used in the new brewery.
This includes putting together a “cheaters guide” to beer sensory. So, new staff can learn and refer back to this guide to understand beer. Thus, provide relevant information to customers and answer their questions.
You need to give people the tools to be able to do their jobs properly.
The Right Draft and Package System
When it comes to beer, oxygen is the enemy. When beer is packaged in a brewery, ensuring no oxygen is picked up during filling is vital.
Oxygen pick-up will lead to shorter shelf life, as the beer degrades much quicker. If you’ve ever had a beer which tastes like wet cardboard, it has become oxidized.
Another indicator, beer has become oxidized is it’ll become darker in color, like the image below.
This means when you are serving beer, to take away, then oxygen pick-up has to be kept to a minimum. Now as we said before, you need properly trained staff to run these stations.
They can tell people who come to buy beer, the beer will slowly degrade over time. It’s best to drink the beer taken away as quickly as possible, for the best possible experience.
Plus, drink the beer as the brewery planned it to be. Most people know beer bought from a station is supposed to be drank quickly and will do so.
However, doing you research to find the right filling system and pack type for take-away; will give the customer the best product possible for longer.
The Last Pro – Recycling
The brewing industry (as well as the general public), is certainly more aware of being sustainable and responsible.
The right packaging, can be recycled, for instance using glass growlers for people to re-fill when buying beer from a beer station.
Glass growlers aren’t for every brewery, and there’s the physical process of cleaning a growler and the associated SOP’s (standard operating procedures).
Also, if people do have your glass growlers and share the beer within with other people. The growler with your livery can become a good advert for your brewery.
Free Brand Ambassadors
Plus, the person who bought your beer and shares it, in essence is like a free brand ambassador too. Within a social group where the persons opinions are likely trusted.
Ideally there should be perks for the people buying your growlers and filling them. Often breweries offer a discount for people using such reusable vessels.
Often these taps at a beer station are designed to fill plastic bottles. Companies like Talos, who make dispense equipment, have developed taps which make filling plastic bottles/mini kegs easy and quick for servers at a bar.
Using light weight larger plastic bottles made of recyclable materials, is still a green option. Also, these bottles are usually 1, 1.5 or 2-liters, meaning less packaging, than using several 330ml alternatives.
Pros and Cons of Beer Station for Breweries – Conclusions
With their small footprint and the ability to staff with minimal people, makes a beer station an attractive proposition for a brewery to expand their reach for an affordable outlay.
It can bring a brewery’s beer to a local population so; they can get the beer fresh. With a customer drinking fresh beer, it’s being drank the way the brewery designed it.
Rather than say getting it from a third-party vendor. Where it could be several months old. If the brewery owns the beer station themselves, it increases profits.
Increased Profit per Liter of Beer Sold
As compared to selling the beer to a distributor or to a bar, where the price point is lower for the brewery. Bars or distributors needs to make a profit themselves.
So, a brewery will sell the beer cheaper than for what they’d receive if they owned the point of sale (POS), which is the case with a beer station.
The station is cheap to run, as there’s likely one or two staff members. The overheads, such as rent and salary are low too.
Meaning, there’s profit to me made even if the beer is cheaper. So, there’s still a decent profit margin to be made per liter of beer sold.
Plus, the consumer feels like they are getting a good deal as well.
Yes, you need to invest in a good system to pour and package the beer for freshness plus, good staff to run them too. Decent pay and proper training, is the way forward.
Overall, the positives plus, the green/recyclable element explains why more breweries are considering beer stations a viable option.
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