What happens when you pull together a hot craft brewery, a popular downtown bar, and a hard-working beer distributor? You have a party and sell some beer, that’s what.
This was exactly the scene recently at Sam’s Uptown Cafe & Bar in Charleston, West Virginia, when the Country Boys met up with their local beer distributor’s crew to do a tap takeover.
Bar promotions build sales
None practice this art better than guys at Country Boy Brewing Company of Lexington, Kentucky, It’s fun to watch these guys put on a bar promotion clinic.
The Country Boys are regulars for bar promotions in the Huntington and Charleston, WV markets. They don’t just send their marketing reps either—the owners and top management often participate.
Last week at Sam’s Downtown Cafe it was Country Boy Brewing’s co-founder/co-owner D.H. Harrison and brewery production manager Daniel “Sink” Sinkhorn shaking hands, handing out stickers, and talking craft beer. That’s the kind of commitment that builds brands.
Hard work distinguishes Country Boy
Todd Moore, a manager with Proud Eagle Distributors, which handles Country Boy Brewing in the Charleston market, is impressed with the brewery.
“They understand that (as a small craft brewer) they need to come into the market and be recognized,” he asserts. “And they do a very good job of that. It also helps that they have a good drinkable product across the board.”
Paul “PG” Greco, owner of Sam’s Uptown Cafe, has been around the bar business for many years and knows what it takes to succeed. He says he likes the guys from Country Boy because they are such hard workers.
“They like coming here,” he says when commenting on the fact that they have already been in his bar several times during the two years the beer has been available in the Charleston market.
“And, they make great beer,” Greco adds, while explaining that he even won a local chili cookoff last fall with a recipe that had Country Boy’s cult favorite Jalapeño Smoked Porter as a special flavoring ingredient.
Country Boy beers on tap at Sam’s that evening were Black Gold Porter, Amos Moses Brown Ale, Sinkhole Imperial Stout, Shotgun Wedding Dark Brown Ale, Halfway Home Pale Ale, and Alpha Citra IPA.
We try harder
Country Boy D.H. Harrison says they try to get out as much as they can. He believes it’s the best way to keep in touch with the beer drinker.
“People really connect with seeing the people who make the beer, the folks that are behind it,” he says. “You get to sink your teeth into talking to folks, helping them understand what we’re about and to put a face to the product.”
Sink Sinkhorn agrees.
“Craft beer is a lot about personality,” he says. “With Country Boy, we bring a lot of personality to the table. We like to share that with all our fans.”
Harrison wishes he could tell everyone about the Country Boy way.
“We try to work harder than everybody else.” he says. “We want to put a product out there that has integrity, that we can be proud of. There’s no beer drinker that we don’t want to reach. If you’re a beer drinker, you can be a Country Boy beer drinker.”
Country Boy grows fast, expansion under way
Country Boy Brewing is one of those fast-growing craft beer brands that are poster boys for the industry. Starting up in 2012, they have added capacity to their original Lexington brewery until there is no more room to expand at that site. Selling 500 barrels in its first year, Country Boy is expected to sell somewhere around 10,000 barrels this year.
To meet the fast-growing future demand, a new $5.9 million brewery is being constructed in Georgetown, KY. It should come into production by late fall. This one will be large enough to meet the demand for Country Boy beer for at least the next several years.
The 23,000 sq. ft. Georgetown brewery will house a 50-barrel brewhouse and, initially, around 800 barrels of fermentation space. This set up will put the maximum annual production capacity at about 20,000 barrels. The new facility will have plenty of room to add additional tanks and other equipment as demand grows. The building will have space to eventually take annual production up to 75,000 barrels. A complete, on-site, state-of the-art packaging operation will handle bottling, canning, and kegging.
Committed to West Virginia market
Country Boy remains committed to the West Virginia market, even as their supply has been under pressure. The West Virginia market will get a lot more Country Boy beer once the new brewery comes on line in late 2016.
When the Georgetown brewery is in full production, the original Lexington brewery will turn its focus more to seasonals and small-batch specialties. Look for Country Boy beers to then be available in all West Virginia markets, as well as to move into parts of Ohio, especially Cincinnati and other areas of southern Ohio.
Country Boy plans to produce a new one-off brew each month, with at least some of those making it to West Virginia.
While Country Boy may be a Kentucky brewery, West Virginia is lucky to have them take us on as one of only three states in their initial distribution footprint. (KY and Indiana are the other two.) They are showing us a level of respect we don’t receive from a number of big-name craft brewers who think our market is not sophisticated enough for their beer. Country Boy knows different.
In return, Country Boy beer has registered strong sales in West Virginia, gaining the firm foothold they’ll need to be successful against the big boys. They think they made the right decision. We agree.
Brewery moves into cider
It’s not just beer that keeps the brewery motivated these days. Cider is something the Country Boys are really excited about.
“We rolled it out about two years ago,” says Harrison. “We’ve played around with a lot of different kind of apples from Evans Orchard in Kentucky. So far we’ve made about 10 different varieties.
“We’re using a lot of old, traditional cider apples that people have long forgotten about. We love to get the Red Field, the Arkansas Black, these old varieties that you thought were too bitter to ever put on a table, we’ll take ’em.”
Country Boy cider is mostly sold in the Lexington market. There are no immediate plans to bring it to West Virginia.
Country Boy earns craft beer community respect
Industry observers can’t help but notice the respect Country Boy Brewing receives from its peers, industry trade groups, and others. That doesn’t happen unless a brewery has that special something.
Country Boy has been invited to pour at a number of the most highly selective and prestigious craft beer events organized by other breweries, among them Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America – Midwest Edition (2014) and Cigar City’s Hunahpu’s Day (2015 & 2016). The Brewers Association invited them to pour at its annual SAVOR craft beer gala in 2015 and 2016. The National Beer Wholesalers Association invited Harrison to speak at its annual convention (2014). Washington DC’s esteemed Birch & Barley craft beer restaurant included Country Boy in its 2015 Brewer’s Brunch menu. It seems everybody wants the Country Boys.
Nacho Bait appears at Mi Cocina de Amor
We can’t leave Country Boys’ visit to Charleston without mentioning one of the area’s rare appearances of Nacho Bait.
Country Boy Nacho Bait is a Habanero Blonde Ale that has earned quite a following, when you can find it. It recently made an appearance on draught at Mi Cocina de Amor, a popular Mexican restaurant on Charleston’s West Side. When the word got out, the place was immediately sought out by craft beer fans. It just goes to show the power that craft beer has today to drive business.
More information at the brewery website.