In my neck of the woods, the Illawarra Brewery underwent a makeover last month. One that includes demolishing the old bar so they can put in 24 taps. Since the relaunch those taps have included the Illawarra Brewing Company range (obviously) but also beers from the likes of Young Henrys, Akasha, Batch, Modus Operandi, La Sirene and Nail. Some of these beers have never been on tap in Wollongong before.
Now, this is great news for a beer geek like me who thinks having 24 beers to choose from is much than five or even 10. It means the likelihood of finding something new is increased (yeah, I can be one of those geeks who always wants something new). And also, it means the likelihood of me going to the brewery more often is increased too. On a recent Friday I walked past several other bars to get to the brewery for a post-work beer.
While I was there on that Friday, sitting outside on a cool winter’s afternoon looking at the Pacific Ocean, I started wondering if some people might see having access to loads of taps as a bad thing. What prompted me to think this was seeing several guys come outside with bottles of Boags. My initial reaction was, as always, ‘‘you’re in a place where they brew their own beer, why would you buy a beer you can get anywhere?’’. You know, it’s like going on holidays and choosing to eat at McDonald’s rather than trying a local restaurant.
Then followed my other reaction which was, as always, ‘‘don’t be such a dick, they can drink whatever they want’’. But then I went a bit further and wondered about their reaction when they walked up to the bar and saw 24 different taps, many including beers they’d never heard of before.
While I found that level of choice exciting, perhaps they found it unnerving. Perhaps, when they see so many options they get scared and, rather than ask the staff for help, they revert to a beer they recognise in one of the fridges behind the bar. Because that’s exactly what can happen when we’re overwhelmed by choice – rather than jump right in we reach for something familiar for stability.
So it is conceivable that more beer taps could make it less likely for some people to become craft beer converts. While Wollongong beer geeks like me are stoked about a place in town with so many taps, maybe it will force others to hold on even tighter to the beers in that fridge they’re familiar with.
Categories: beer business
Branding plays a role here – people persisting with bottled beer do so as much for ‘devil you know’ as walking away with a labelled bottle of beer that tells others what they’re drinking. That’s why bottled beer will outlive us all. As for multiple taps – I’d imagine they can only increase in number successfully as standards of service improve in tandem. Without engaged bar staff it might be hard to justify the move. I love seeing it, but yeah, it’s bewildering to a lot of people. This is where truth in labelling/origins/descriptors matters