As I mentioned in my last post beer marketing is changing to focus on beer style as much if not more than brand. So then how important is it to have a flagship beer or dominate a certain beer style?
I would argue that it depends on what your market is. If you are largely a small regional brewer then having a true flagship beer is less important and being a “jack of all trades” offering constant variety can be a great strategy. As a self proclaimed beer connoisseur I love breweries that offer multiple style offerings and are always trying something new. After all variety is the spice of life right?
However, if your brewery is already distributing out of your local market, or aspires to do so, then I think the flagship is important. Take Sierra Nevada for example. They launched their signature or flagship Pale Ale in the early 80’s and has come to dominate that category. You can go almost anywhere in the US and even overseas now and find Sierra Nevada Pale Ale on tap or in a bottle. Sierra built their brand around the pale ale and has continued to put out great beers in other styles. But their flagship beer has done the heavy lifting and really helped put them on the map.
I would also argue that a strong flagship beer helps open doors and get tap space in bars and restaurants. If you have a great style that already has strong demand you will be far more likely to get a bar or restaurant to take on one or two more of your offerings because you have built in name recognition and people are far more likely to try a new style from a brewery they already like.
So from a pure beer drinking standpoint I love the regional brewery that is always experimenting and offers a ton of different styles. But from a pure business standpoint I think the flagship beer is key for success. Think of it like a brand extension strategy but you have to have that anchor first before you can really roll out extensions or in this case new styles.
Are you more likely to try a new style from a brewery you know and like, or try a completely new brewery and style? I suspect the former.