Brewery Merchandise 101: The Key Components for Success that are often Overlooked

I sat down with Erik Olson, a Business Development executive for Huge Brands. Erik is a beer and nightlife fanatic. His passion for breweries has enabled him to optimize brewery merch for more than 20 breweries across the country.  

In this post, you will learn how:

  • Breweries can create custom offerings that incorporate branded merchandise.
  • The kinds of merchandise that breweries should offer.

Let’s jump in! 

Erik Olson

Drew Crawford: What do you think of when you consider the value of local breweries to the community?

Erik Olson: Breweries are unique because they’re a combination of local hangouts and destination spot for out of town visitors. When people travel, they often look for breweries that are local to the area.  As a comfortable space to have a conversation with friends or the rallying center for a fun night out, local breweries are the lifeblood of the nightlife community.

DC: What’s been your experience and favorite memories at local breweries?

EO: When I used to work late nights and get off around 11:30 pm. to midnight on Fridays, a brewery in Salt Lake City, Utah called Squatters would be open until 1 am. My friends and I would get food and beer. It’s always a good time at Squatters because of the products they offer and how they interact with the community and people from diverse walks of life. Squatters hosts brunch and Pride Events, and they are always a good time. 

DC: Do you feel that over the past decade local breweries' mindsets have shifted regarding how they interact with their clients or the public?

EO: An increasing number of breweries will now host, participate, or sponsor events in their locale. For example, you’ll have block parties that are sponsored by a brewery. The brewery will invite all of their friends to the event, and they will do collaborations with other breweries. Brewery owners’ mindsets have broadened from a brewery being just a place where you can grab a beer, to a location where you can enjoy and participate in an experience.

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The value proposition of brewery merchandise

DC: Where does brewery merchandise fit into the experiences that local breweries create?

EO: Customers that are local to a particular region want to rep places they like. If you’re a diehard fan of a local brewery, you’re going to want to show off the place that you love and talk about it, especially if you’re a beer connoisseur. 

For example, a place like Salt Lake City is a destination location. People travel here for vacation or business. If the brewery gear catches their eye and they really like the brewery, they will want to purchase a memento from the trip. Custom merchandise has evolved to play a larger role in these experiences. 

Get started on your brewery merchandise today!

The key components of successful brewery merchandise and examples

DC: When we talk about breweries that have merchandise, what’s the difference between breweries that have the best brewery merchandise and those that do it the wrong way?

EO: There are many breweries that do merchandise the right way, and many breweries that just try to make it work. When you offer merchandise, you’re generating a secondary source of revenue and getting your name out. Merchandise is essentially a walking billboard for your brand. 

To truly do merchandise the right way, breweries should update their merchandise for different seasons, offer various styles and colors, and most importantly, realize their brand is more than just a logo. 

DC: Can you provide our audience with some examples of breweries that are doing merchandise the right way? 

EO: Yes, I’ll be able to give a call out to two of my favorites that I have worked with!  Grid City Beer Works here in Salt Lake City have always created on-trend merchandise and have been open to all of our design suggestions.  This has resulted in a retail space that looks straight out of a magazine.  

On the other side of the spectrum, Fisher Beer only has one primary logo, but it’s iconic and recognizable.  By selecting quality blank [items] and focusing on that logo, they’ve created a staple piece that has come to define their brand. 

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Case Studies of Brewery Merch Done Correctly

DC: Let’s talk about success stories. Since you’ve worked at Huge Brands, what has been your favorite experience working with a brewery on their merchandise?

EO: My favorite experience was working with Prodigy Brewing in Logan, Utah. We had worked with them a while back. There was some miscommunication and things didn’t work out. We reconnected with them at the Craft Brewers Conference in Nashville. We rekindled our relationship, and when we got back from the conference we drove up to Logan. 

Prodigy brewing is the only brewery that I am aware of in Logan. Logan is a college town, and you get many people driving down from Bear Lake in Idaho that pass through that want to grab a bite to eat. 

We talked to the owner and were able to identify issues with their merchandise that were limiting their strategy. The company that Prodigy was working with for their merchandise was just printing their logo on different stuff. But Prodigy has some of the best beer names that I have ever heard. Their beer names are very tongue-in-cheek, like “The Old Rusty Hoe”, “The Red Light District”, and “The Red Hop District”. 

We told Prodigy that instead of just printing their logo on shirts, we could create fun merchandise that reflects the creativity of their beer names. We did this, and when they got their new brewery t-shirts, they absolutely LOVED them. 

It was really nice to hear that we could rekindle this relationship and turn Prodigy’s merchandise into something that was feasible. They enjoyed working with us, and we helped them turn their merchandise strategy around. That’s one of my favorite stories. 

Ways to build your brand with custom brewery merchandise

DC: Are there other ways that breweries can build their brand or generate brand awareness and recognition through the power of merchandise?

EO:  All Breweries can and should lean into how they display and market merchandise as something to pick up while visiting but also as a way to add value for their local customers! 

Something that I like to suggest is a type of “package deal”l. For breweries that do beer deliveries, or have a beer subscription, adding in merchandise alongside the order is a great way to increase the per-order-spend as well as increase general brand exposure. 

If breweries put in the money and time to participate in a program like this, it’s a way of saying “Thank you for being a loyal customer for us, here’s something more.” A program like this is really cool, and customers will tell their friends and family about it. 

There is so much untapped potential with programs like these. People traveling prefer to visit places that their friends tell them about. Breweries are places that people frequent when they visit from out of town. Brewery merchandise travels with these people and news about how awesome these breweries are spreads. 

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Another great idea is for breweries to leverage brewery apparel with a monthly beer drop. If a customer signs up for the beer drop, they come in and get their 6-pack, and get a brewery t-shirt or hat that correlates with the product drop. 

We are experts at helping create the best brewery merchandise, and we can make anything for them, so the possibilities are endless.  

DC: Can you give our audience some other examples of breweries that are leveraging merchandise in cool ways?

A good example is Utah Ogden Brewing Company (UTOG) in Ogden, Utah. UTOG likes fun sayings. This makes their brewery apparel completely different than when a company just slaps a logo on a shirt. One of the brewery t-shirts we created says “Make The Beehive State Buzz Again”. It is a double entendre because bees buzz and Utah is The Beehive State, and beer also makes you buzz.  We also created merchandise that says “Give Your Beer a Chug”, a play on “Give Your Balls a Tug” from Letterkenny.   

Most importantly, UTOG has really dedicated themselves to marketing and displaying their merchandise.  You walk in and the first thing you see is a floor to ceiling display that covers the entire entrance. No matter where you sit, you have eyes on their full offering.  We can create the best brewery merchandise in the world, but in order to properly leverage it you’ll need to optimize how it’s displayed. 

DC: In that case, what are your typical brewery merchandise recommendations?

EO: Shirts, beanies, hoodies, hats, and accessories will sell all year, especially in today’s market with Generation Z and people that are going to breweries and coming of drinking age. They will wear hoodies in the summer and beanies all year. Having all of these products available, including accessories is ideal for your merchandise.

DC: What can a brewery expect when they reach out to Huge Brands for brewery merch?

EO: We always want to have a conversation about the following when we talk with a brewery:

  • Is your clientele local to your region? 
  • Are most of your customers tourists or visiting your area from out of town? 
  • What are your brewery’s busy seasons? 
  • Where is your brewery located? Location is very important when creating a merchandise strategy. A brewery based in Key West, Florida, for example, is not going to have flannels because there isn’t necessarily a need. 
  • We also want to find out what customers wear when they come in. Does your brewery receive visitors from a working crowd that wears Carhartt style clothing? Do they wear tank tops? Are they on a beach?

After we identify the answers to these questions, we can curate their brewery merch. We can determine the main products the brewery should offer, as well as other “one-offs” like tanks or crop tops to set them apart from other breweries. 

What we never want to do is create the same merchandise with a different logo for every business. We design original merchandise for every brewery. We will recommend products that will help you stand out. 

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Huge Brand's discovery process for brewery merchandise: What to expect

DC: What does the rest of Huge Brand’s Merchandising process look like for breweries? 

EO: If the brewery has current artwork they can send it over, but we can also design something original for them. If they have fun ideas of merchandise they have wanted to create, we can bring them to life.  

If a brewery has an idea of something they want to create, they can work with our art team directly. If they have a beer drop coming up we just need to know what they are and we can create some amazing merchandise for them. 

We’re really good at getting breweries to think outside of their comfort zone to come up with ideas of products their customers want to buy. 

DC: Merchandise is something that a brewery is always going to want to sell. I feel that the main difference between print on demand companies and other companies that produce merchandise, is that Huge Brands takes the time to understand each brewery so that we can create something uniquely tailored to them and their customers. 

EO: Yes. The best thing about working with Huge Brands is that you get a dedicated sales rep. Anybody can go onto a print-on-demand company’s website and throw a logo on a t-shirt and get it in two days. You can sell something like that for 20 bucks, but we aren’t selling 20 dollar shirts; we’re selling retail-quality merchandise that people will wear. Our shirts will become their favorite shirt. That’s our goal. 

DC: I feel like there has been a renaissance in the patronage of local businesses since the end of the Pandemic lockdowns. Do you think that there is a specific way that breweries can capitalize on this local fervor with merchandise?

EO: There’s always a way to capitalize on local spirit. It’s all tied to being a part of the community and hosting events that people want to go to. Being a part of the community is the best way to draw in a local audience. Host events and create experiences that become a part of peoples’ routine where they can throw darts or watch a football game. An atmosphere like this is much more inviting, and then, with merchandise, you have something that people can take away from this experience. 

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Tips for your brewery merchandise display

DC: What’s the best way that you have seen breweries sell their merchandise?

EO: Breweries should have their merchandise displayed using the gift shop methodology. “You enter through the gift shop and you exit through the gift shop.” Breweries that don’t do merchandise well are often not visibly displaying their merchandise. They have it tucked to the side or behind the register.

Merchandise should be the first thing that customers see when they walk into your establishment. When customers sit down, they can look at the shirts, and when they leave, they will buy your merchandise.

If merchandise is hidden, nobody will see it. One time I visited a brewery in Portland. I walked in and asked the employees if they had merchandise. They told me that they did, and showed me their brewery t-shirts. They were in a cabinet. If they hadn’t told me that, I wouldn’t have known that it existed. I guarantee you that displaying merchandise like this doesn’t generate any sales.

Breweries should make sure that their merchandise is proudly displayed so that it sells well. They shouldn’t roll up their merchandise and put sticky notes on it. The whole idea is to create a retail store. A retail environment is much more attractive to customers and enables you to create powerful offerings. 

GridCityHat

Suggestions for breweries St. Patrick's Day merchandising strategy

DC: We talked about how a brewery’s merchandise can be leveraged at their events. Let’s talk about St. Patrick’s Day. What are some ways that merchandise can be leveraged for St. Patrick’s day?

EO: Breweries St. Patrick’s Day merchandising strategy is difficult to create. Most places will offer a lot of free things from sponsors or items that people will wear because they are green. 

If breweries want to stand out and generate merchandise sales on St. Patrick’s Day, they should offer merchandise that has the date, event name, and the logo on it. This way, it will be an experience that a customer can remember. They will say “I got super wasted on St. Patrick’s Day”. They will look back at the merchandise and say that they had a fun day. 

DC: That makes complete sense. You want to offer merchandise that commemorates the experience, not something that customers will easily forget. Can you think of any other pitfalls that breweries should avoid with their merchandise? 

EO:   Breweries should look at their merchandise as synonymous with their BRAND.  We strongly believe that the first two steps to any successful brand is to make the items only identifiable as that brand.  This means private label size tags and retail hem tags are super important.  We believe this so much that we include both of these in all of our pricing. 

DC: You sound pretty passionate about brewery merchandise? How did that begin?

EO:  I’ve spent my entire adult life working in nightlife and working on people’s brands.  It’s a natural evolution for me to marry these two passions together.  I love beer, food, and fashion so let goooooooooo!

Conclusion

It's no surprise that we love beer and that hanging out at a local brewery is one of our favorite things to do. Because we're beer lovers and merch lovers, we have what it takes to craft a unique offering for your customers. Merchandise has the power to spread your brand like wildfire. Similar to taste-testing a new flavor of ale, you don't fully know how good something is until you experience it. Are you ready to create the coolest brewery merchandise in the industry? Get started today and grow your brand!

And if you're still not convinced about what custom merchandise can do for your brand (and how bad a** your customers would look decked out in it), take a couple minutes out of your busy day to check out our other blog posts. Cheers!

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