For the latest in our series of Hume region business case studies, we spoke to Ben Kraus – owner of Beechworth’s award winning Bridge Road Brewers.
Bridge Road Brewery started in 2004, moving to the old coach house on Ford Street and opening to the public in 2005. Today, the Beechworth brewery also operates as a bar and pizzeria, and their beer is sold around Australia. At the 2012 Australian International Beer Awards, the brewery brought home ten awards for their products.
Web and social media
- The Bridge Road Brewers website has been a key part of the brewery marketing strategy since they opened, providing brewery and beer information, an online store, and links to the business’ social media profiles.
- The brewery is listed on several information portals – however, Ben notes that it can be difficult keeping information current across all of them. Beechworth now has three different online directories, leading to a lot of duplicated information.
- Staff are very active on social media, using Tweetdeck to manage their Twitter and Facebook accounts. They also receive alerts from keyword searches – listening for public discussions about Beechworth, their beers and the brewery name. The latest print run of beer labels now have the Bridge Road Twitter and Facebook accounts listed, in addition to the website.
- The brewery has been trialling Google AdWords for around six months. They generally don’t target people who are already searching for the brewery, as Beechworth is far enough away from the major cities that it needs a special trip to come and visit. Instead, the AdWords campaign focuses on people who are looking for information about buying beer online – directing customers to the online store.
- Currently, online direct sales are fairly low in volume, but the store infrastructure is now in place to handle higher demand for this in future.
Beer tourism attracts some very serious beer fans, who plan trips based around brewery visits – much like the visitors to the region’s vineyards and wineries. These fans tend to be very active on social media – letting people know where they’re going, picking up extra cartons for friends back at home, and reviewing the places that they visit. Websites like the Crafty Pint and Brews News cater to fans of the craft beers and microbreweries.
Bridge Road Brewers are also part of the High Country Brewery Trail – a collaboration with Black Dog Brewery, Bright Brewery and the Sweetwater Brewing Company to encourage visitors to visit the high country and explore the four breweries.
Ratings and reviews
Like many of the businesses we’ve interviewed for the Digital Hume project, Bridge Road Brewers are listed on TripAdvisor. Generally, the brewery staff check review sites after busy periods like school holidays and long weekends, when many more customers are visiting the town. These also tend to place the most pressure on the business, when the brewery is most likely to book out their dinner tables. TripAdvisor is one of the most popular websites for restaurant and accommodation reviews, but Ben notes that the size and number of reviewers on the site can cause problems. When anyone can leave a review, there are no controls over whether those people actually visited the business – potentially letting inaccurate reviews bias potential visitors.
The review websites, blogs and forums used by the community of craft beer fans are generally seen as more valuable to the business, as they get exposure for the brewery among an audience who are more likely to travel out to the brewery, order online, or sign up for a Posse membership. As with any small business, it’s important to understand your target market and know where to find them online.