“Drink Craft Beer.” It’s more than a catchy phrase. It is a call to action. When I arrived in Boston from Florida back in 2012, I was overwhelmed by the amount of craft beer that was available around me. I had never been to a beer festival before. Here I was, a law student in the big city, surrounded by options but unsure of how to dive into the world of craft beer. It wasn’t until I attended a Drink Craft Beer festival that I learned all that craft beer could be and more. Little did I know that Drink Craft Beer had already reinvented itself because of people like me and would continue to reinvent itself again and again as they years went by. To this day their festivals hold a special place in my heart. Let me share part of their story with you and you may understand why that is.
Back in 2006, good buddies Jeff Wharton and Devon Regan founded Drink Craft Beer as a beer blog. Jeff and Devon would travel the country interviewing brewers and tasting amazing beer. However, they realized that by only blogging about beer they were simply talking to people like them who were already interested in craft beer and that they weren’t doing anything to broaden craft beer’s audience. That is when they started to host small, in-person tasting events for a few dozen people. These events would grow into much more than they could have ever imagined.
Their first reinvention came about thanks to a local company called Taza Chocolate. One of their sales reps was at a liquor store pairing wine with some of their chocolates. Jeff suggested they could pair beer with their chocolate as well. They went down to the Taza Chocolate factory to do just that, and a light bulb went off. They could build an event around something like this! They did so and what was once dozens of people became hundreds of people showing up for their events. Based on their growing popularity, they decided it was time to reinvent themselves once more.
Their second reinvention happened when they had an idea for a seasonal rotation of beer festivals in 2012. They hosted Summerfest, Fall to Winter Fest, and Springfest, each fest focusing on a different style of beer. I personally attended their first festival and went on to volunteer at others then began to write about them and for them before becoming a simple attendee enjoying the experience once again. These events regularly sold out, had an amazing list of brewers, and even won a prestigious Best of Boston award in 2014 from Boston Magazine. Besides all that, what drew me into these festivals and kept me coming back was the community around them. Drink Craft Beer is a company built by friends and family, and they make each person attending their festivals feel like a friend. The smaller size of their festivals allows for a greater level of intimacy and the ability to actually talk to and get to know the people behind the beer while hearing their stories. Not only does one learn a great deal about beer at these festivals, but they make connections and develop friendships that help to grow one’s love and passion for craft beer and its community.
After years of hosting these festivals, Drink Craft Beer wanted to bring something more to the table. There were many beer festivals in Boston, but they wanted to do something different. They figured that Drink Craft Beer is for people who like stuff that tastes good, so why not host a festival featuring producers of both food and beverages pairing their creations together? This was their third reinvention, and in 2015 they hosted the inaugural Boston Beer & Cheese Fest. It sold out faster than any of their events had ever before. Many brewers wanted to be part of it, and cheese makers from around New England keep asking to come back every year.
Their fourth and most recent reinvention came from the realization that the audience for craft beer had changed significantly since 2006, when it was a small niche and mostly homogeneous. The audience for their fests was transcending the stereotypical craft beer crowd you saw at other fests. It was much more diverse, with a majority of attendees being women and the overall crowd being different than your typical festgoers. They were more aligned with foodies than the craft beer uber-enthusiast. They were people who liked stuff that tastes good! With this greater diversity came the need for greater inclusion and so, on the eve of Drink Craft Beer’s 20th festival last week, they launched a new look for their brand. Whereas before their brand was made up of more in-your-face, gritty, masculine imagery, their new logo is much more subtle, sleek, and modern. Their events had fit their audience, and now their brand and merchandise do as well. It is a brand that is open and appealing to anyone who likes stuff that tastes good.
I’m not sure what Drink Craft Beer’s next reinvention may be, but I can tell you that I am excited for whatever they have planned for the future. I’ve been happy to be able to witness part of their story and to see them grow both personally and professionally over the years. It is because of them that I got into craft beer and that I continue to be passionate about it to this day. Their festivals are about so much more than beer, with cider makers featured prominently and often winning the “best of show” along with culinary creations from around New England that I have never tried before. They feature local brewers and give new brewers a chance. Their brand is about more than beer, too. It’s also about the people that love making stuff that tastes good and the people they share it with.
It is because I identify so closely with their brand that I drank from my favorite Drink Craft Beer pint glass for years and will use their new glassware featuring their new logo for years to come. If you haven’t been to one of Drink Craft Beer’s events or seen their new branding, you should check them out at DrinkCraftBeer.com. Become part of their story and let them become part of yours. I promise you will not be disappointed. See you at the next fest!