Craft Beer Membership

5 Things To Consider Before Launching A Membership For Your Brewery

Thinking about creating a membership, mug club, or bottle society for your brewery? My first piece of advice: don’t mess it up! I’ve spoken with countless breweries who have created a membership with the best intentions, only to realize…. oh man, this is a pain in the ass to manage.

But have no fear! I have laid out all the major factors you need to consider before creating a successful membership for your business:

1. INVENTORY MANAGEMENT

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How are you going to keep track of your inventory?

  • How will you know who has and has not picked up their bottle/cans or filled up their free monthly growler?

Recommendation:

You need one universal source of truth. Many breweries sell the membership on a web-store and then use printed out Excel spreadsheets to mark off members as they pick up their bottles/cans. Spreadsheets get lost or destroyed, are a pain for your staff to manage, and require someone to update info on the computer later. We recommend you use a technology like CraftCellr (shameless plug), where redemption of the bottles/cans is done via the members phone or an iPad in the taproom and information is synced in real time. That way you always have a one universal source of truth to measure the health and progress of your membership.

2. PICK UP

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How many memberships do you hope to sell?

  • How many bottle/can releases or growler fills are you offering over the term of the membership?

  • Do you have the additional space to store that inventory if the members decided not to pick up after each release?

Recommendation:

Provide designated pick up windows for each release. I can’t tell you how many times we run into a scenario where a brewery is running a bottle society or membership where the members have until the end of the membership to pick up all their bottles/cans. This causes two main issues:

  1. You are now responsible for storing all of that inventory in your taproom, where space is usually at a premium.

  2. Inevitably there will be a flood of members trying to pick up at the last minute and if you don’t have a good process for inventory management (see #1) you’re going to have no earthly idea which members have or have not picked up.

We recommend you set a pickup window of 30-60 days for each release. For growler/crowler fills or free beers, they should be redeemed on a monthly basis. The added benefit of this approach: more taproom visits from your members.

3. MEMBERSHIP TERM

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How long should my membership last?

  • Should I have a rolling sign up or a fixed window?

Recommendation:

Create a fixed term for your membership, preferably based on the calendar year. If you are brewing and blending beer specifically for the membership, you will want members to commit for a year. This will give you the time to plan your beers, order new ingredients/equipment, and brew, condition, and package the beers. If this is your first membership or you are implementing a new barrel aging program, consider only offering 6 bottles/cans for year one. This will give you more wiggle room if the beer needs a little longer to condition.

Rolling sign ups, even after the membership has begun are fine, but keep the membership term fixed. You do not want to be responsible for managing different start/stop dates for each of your members. The membership should start and stop on the same date for every member.

4. MEMBERSHIP TIERS

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How many tiers of membership should I offer?

  • Should I create different price points with different benefits?

Recommendation:

Keep it simple. Don’t get overzealous about creating value for your membership. The more tiers and benefits you create, the more you and your staff have to manage. The true value you should offer is access to exclusive (or extremely limited) high quality beer. Use swag, glassware, early access to can/bottle release pre-sales, and a discount on draft beers in the taproom to round out the membership. We suggest only offering one tier of membership, especially in your first year.

5. COMMUNICATION

Questions to ask yourself:

  • How are you going to effectively communicate with your members?

Recommendation:

Give your members the ability to manage their membership themselves. The most common member complaint we hear from breweries is communication. Members want to know about upcoming releases, when they will be available, what they’ve picked up, what they haven’t picked up, and the list goes on... Effective use of email, social, text messages, and your staff are all part of the equation for effective communication. But to truly nail communicating with your members, give them access to manage their membership right from their phone. Any time they want to read about an upcoming release, manage their pick ups, rsvp to an event, or see whats next, they can do it from their phone. Easier for them, easier for you.

Want to create a membership, mug club, or bottle society for your brewery? Need help managing an existing membership? We’d love to help!

Our headache-free membership platform makes it easy for you to create, sell, and manage your membership. For more information, email us using the button below.

Cheers! - Eric Thelen, Founder