As soon as word hit the press about The Bruery’s new beer membership club, entitled The Hoarders Society, opinions and emotions ranging from happy to jealous to venomous were loudly displayed.
As someone who has been closely following the four year old company The Bruery, I had my own thoughts on the matter. I was in the Reserve Society last season, so I understand the model. Being located in the heart of “Reserve Society Country” affords me to poll many members for their take on the experience of being an RS member. So between some of my own assumptions, and a bit of shop talk amongst other high end beer enthusiasts, I put together a few assumptions and questions for Mr. Patrick Rue.
Before reading the exchange between Patrick and I, please know that I am a happy customer of The Bruery. I don’t have any strong emotions regarding the Hoarders Society, and find it fun watching this four year old brewery break all the rules of starting up a craft brewery.
Current Reserve Society Standings
Assumption: The Bruery may have ramped up too much in 2012 using demand data from 2010 and 2011 Reserve Society allocation purchases, and are looking to their most frivolous customers to make up for slow sales from 2012 Reserve Society.
Patrick Rue: I don’t agree. We’re having a great year with the Reserve Society, and the Hoarders Society is not an attempt to make up slow sales. Since the first year of Reserve Society I wanted to offer different membership levels to best suit the wants of our members, but administratively we needed to have enough members with different needs to make this feasible. Given the small window to implement changes every year, we decided this would be the year we’d change how our memberships work. We’ll also be implementing an introductory level membership for next year as well and will announce it shortly.
TFP: Last year, your team crunched the numbers to where you factored in more Reserve Society members and put in motion expanded production and barrel aging. Have you hit the mark, exceeded the mark, or are you below the mark with supply and demand for the Reserve Society supply and demand?
PR: It’s always hard to tell since it’s release by release, but on average we are hitting our projections with Reserve Society releases.
TFP: Not counting the increased membership price for 2012 RS, has the average dollar amount spent per member increased, decreased or stayed the same? I know we are about half way through, so say January thru June.
PR: We’ve had the highest amount of Reserve Society offerings this year than in previous years, so the amount of bottles purchased per members is slightly down but the amount being spent per person is up overall.
TFP: Some of the more vocal RS members have been of the opinion that purchasing many of the offered allocations are a gamble (sometimes not worth taking) : buying $20-30 bottles of beer without the beer being proven. If your sales are up compared to last years RS, it’s proof members find the gamble worth taking, if not what is your response to people not taking that gamble on some of your new products?
PR: Our members want us to innovate, so that means we’ll always have new beers coming out and very few people are able to try them before buying them. We’ll do our best to have as many members be able to try the beer first when it’s feasible to do so. I definitely understand the reluctance to buy a beer that no one has tried.
Assumption: The Hoarder Society is a response to create needed revenue that may have been projected to come from the 2012 Reserve Society in order to pay for ongoing expansion.
PR: Hoarders Society will certainly help get some debt off our books sooner than later, which is very helpful for us to be able to expand in the future (i.e. take on more debt), but it’s not all about money. It’s about listening to our most loyal customers over the years (many of whom have 2-3 Reserve Society memberships currently and frequently buy everything they can get) and creating a membership that serves them better.
TFP: How many Reserve Society members were invited?
PR: Sorry, we won’t disclose this.
TFP: How many members to you project biting on this offer?
PR: I won’t disclose my projections, but overall I’m happy if we completely fill the club or if only 20% of those who received an invite join. I want to give our members options that best fit their desires and expectations, but I’m not looking to sell someone on the club if it doesn’t make sense for them.
Assumption: The Hoarders Society may play into the great debate about gray market/black market beer sales.
TFP: The sprit of the Hoarder Society gives a nod to the traders and hoarders. There is a good deal of traders and hoarders who for various reasons, also use these special beers to sell online at 4-6x the retail value. While it’s cool you understand that’s the world we live in, and it helps your company thrive, what do you say to the Shaun Hill’s and the Vinnie Cilurzo’s of the world who have been on a crusade to curtail the secondary market?
PR: I support those who trade our beers for other beers, I think it’s a neat and interesting phenomenon. I do not support the secondary sales of our beers on eBay or elsewhere. I don’t have enough time in the day to get involved with policing the sale of our beer on eBay. I think there’s been some progress made with regards to eBay blocking sales of beer and I hope that continues.