Nov 28, 2016 / by jugglingswords / In Content marketing, News, Uncategorized / Tags: Alloa, blogging, brewery, Content marketing, craft beer, Edinburgh, Juggling Swords, social media, Untappd, Williams Brothers / Leave a comment
This week Juggling Swords were able to catch up with Chris from Williams Brothers to find out what exactly is going on in the world of craft beer and how they manage to stay on top of their own content marketing.
Founded in 2004, Williams Brothers Brewing Company is based in Alloa, set in the old George Younger’s bottling hall in Kelliebank. Once regarded as Scotland’s beer capital, Williams Brothers’ brewery remains the last bastion of brewing in the area.
We have been in the industry since the early nineties, although craft beer was already booming in the USA then – so, we were a good few years behind. Our early exports to the US took Bruce over to support our importers with tasting events and beer dinners. Luckily for us that also gave us an insight into the US market which would eventually have a massive impact on the UK in the coming years.
Since the craft beer boom landed here we have experienced a spike in growth; it pushed us to make more contemporary brews and tweak recipes to suit the modern palate. We experimented with new hops and there was a lot of excitement when Citra first arrived and we got to put it to work in some of our recipes. The backbone of our sales had been bottles, in fact over 75% of our sales in the mid-2000s were from bottled products, the rest being cask ale.
Since we started kegging our beers – Joker IPA, Draught Lager & Caesar Augustus in particular – our volume on these has grown very fast. However, bottle growth (and cans now too) have been growing again – currently we are operating on around 60% packaged, 5% cask & 35% keg sales. Year on year our overall production has been increasing: 7 years ago, we had 16 members of staff and brewing 4 times a week, now we employ around 50 employees and brew up to 18 times a week – if we continue to grow at this rate we will need to look at a bigger brewhouse soon!
In our earlier days, there probably was not more than 20 independent brewers in Scotland. Now we are up to almost 150 with more opening all the time. It is a good network and generally a very friendly industry to be involved in. We always enjoy chances to chat with our peers and try their new beers. There has been talk of market saturation. Indeed, there has been some brewers close of late. However, there are new customers switching to craft beer from the mainstream macros every day.
We are probably not the most effective at utilising social networking these days. I used to have time to think about it and schedule posts. However, these days it gets a bit manic around the brewery and it is all hands-on deck – so I duck in and out, mostly reactively. We do use it to inform our followers about new beers and general goings-on around the brewery and are always responsive to questions. It is a great platform to reach customers in our leisure time. It gives us a chance to share our news and direct people to stockists or our online shop. It is also a great way for to receive feedback, especially since the arrival of new technologies, like the app – Untappd.
Untappd is a great addition to the social web – it gives us inside information on our beers and public opinion of our brews. It is great to read about people enjoying our beers but it can also be painful to read some of the feedback if it is not quite well received.
Our biggest seller, Joker IPA is very much an English style IPA, as in it tends to be more malty, less bitter, boozy, and aromatic than its American cousins. In a world where big USA-style IPAs are becoming increasingly popular, our Joker IPA is often compared to these. Although, despite having some things in common, it is very much a different beer and not always rated to style on Untappd – a lot of ratings are down to personal taste as well of course.
Untappd makes it much easier for the beer drinker to review a beer quickly and easily on a phone one handed while sipping at the beer with the other hand.
Blogging is great for us as it works much as a newsfeed on our website. People who maybe just stumbled across our brewery for the first time can read back on what has recently been going on. It is also where we get to word things just how we want, with no loss of information (or incorrect info) and we can publish links across our website. It also gives us good content to push out on to the social channels; bringing traffic into our website, perhaps even turning into sales from our online shop.
What was the marketing decision to start canning some beers as well as bottling them?
Canning was just a natural step for us. We have a bottle shop in Glasgow, Valhalla’s Goat, where can sales are growing all the time. It is a much better format for hoppy beer than bottles for a couple of reasons. Cans are completely air-tight and prevent nasty UV rays spoiling the hops, as-well-as keeping the O2 in the air from oxidising the contents. Brown bottles do block most of the UV rays and oxygen out, however, not as-well-as properly packaged cans will.
Then there is of course the environmental impact; cans are 100% recyclable, lighter to transport, do not smash and are generally more environmentally friendly than glass. There is also the aesthetic look of them – they have a wide brand-able area so it gives plenty of space for our designer to get the design looking great as well as including all the important legal information required.
It is very difficult to pick a favourite beer! I am very much a “there’s a beer for every occasion” kind of guy. However, from what we currently produce I would say my “go to” is our Caesar Augustus. Simply because it is super crisp, refreshing, sessional % ABV with plenty of hop kick. Outside of our own brews I like very dry, punchy West Coast or murky, juicy New England IPAs.
There are a few USA brewers who seem to merge these two opposing styles into one by making wheaty IPAs and I am a total sucker for them! I regularly grab a six pack of Jackie O’s Mystic Mama, New Belgium Accumulation or Laguinitas Little Sumpin when I’m over in the USA visiting my wife’s family and in need of a refreshment (or 6). Jackie O’s happen to be her local brewery so I’m always happy for an excuse to visit them – in fact we had Mystic Mama on tap at our wedding and we managed to kick three kegs of it!
Any business needs passion to succeed, no matter the industry you are in, and Williams Brothers have that in barrel loads (or kegs). They love their craft beer and it is clear that they love seeing people enjoying their beer.