Whether we’re gearing up to work with a brewery-in-planning or helping a 25+ year old brewery rebrand, we see wide variations in what people think they need for their website. Some breweries come to us wanting features that are way too big (expensive) for their immediate plans while others aren’t thinking big enough. And every now and then, we’ll run into people who question whether or not they even need a website.
In any of these cases, we like to get people to think about their website in a few different ways so we can work towards an appropriate plan to move forward. The questions we ask clients are:
1. Your website is a tool that works for you, 24/7. What’s the most important thing your website should do?
2. You’re busy (presumably, you’ve got a brewery to run). What can this website do to make your life, your employees’ lives, and your customers’ lives easier? How can we save time, automate processes, minimize downtime and mistakes, and convert on other goals?
Once you work through these questions, we can begin to discuss overall scope and features. We’ve written about the web design process as well as some different types of websites, and won’t rehash that here. But we will touch on several common content and functionality requests we receive and offer our thoughts on whether or not they’re valuable for your particular brewery concept.
Common Brewery Website Content Types
First up are nonnegotiable things that belong on the barest of barebones splash page and the most feature-rich website. You need to clearly list your hours, whether you’re 21+ or family friendly, dog friendly, and if you’re feeling frisky, cat friendly. You also need to share your address, newsletter signup, social links and whether or not you serve food.
And if you’re looking for a chance to inject a fun Easter egg into your site, don’t forget to set your 404 page to redirect as needed. Where will you send someone if they’re not 21 years old? Or if one of your links breaks, messing up someone’s search? This can be a fun way of connecting with your fans.
We used a temporary splash page for Ballad Brewing to build their newsletter signup list and recruit employees while we built out their larger site. This contained all the necessary boilerplate info.
Here’s where you can tell your story and connect with people. Why did you found your brewery? What does your name mean? What type of beer do you brew, and why? What role do you play in your community? Give people as much information as you can to bring them into your brand, your team, and your beer.
Other than looking for the aforementioned boilerplate stuff, this is likely the biggest reason people visit your site. Your broader brand strategy and messaging should drive how you describe and present your beer. If you’re taproom-focused, a simple list may be best. If you focus on off premise, showing people your packaging itself along with specs can be a great way to help them know what to look for out in the wild. Make sure to delineate between Flagships (year round beers) vs. Specialty vs Seasonal releases and share your beer release calendar (assuming it’s public-facing).
If you want to maintain a current tap list, you can go with a simple form through your website or use a service like Tap Hunter or Untappd. These all cool because you can update your current offering in one place and have it auto-populate on your website and anywhere else that communicates with the service (like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Farmers Only, or a digital tap list in your tap room).
And bonus points for folks who can effectively track and share what kegs are currently available for carryout. I hate driving all the way to a brewery only to find out they’re out of a particular sixtel when their site says otherwise. C’mon guys, don’t make me look like a jerk.
Thunder Road Brewing puts their beer front and center.
Common Brewery Website Functionality Requests
A lot of breweries come to us wanting eCommerce functionality right off the bat. While a solid merch program can be a great (I would argue crucial) way of building brand loyalty (while increasing cash flow), we’ve seen it take a year or two for some breweries to gain enough traction to execute it properly. If you want your eCommerce ‘storefront’ to look good, it’s a lot of extra design / development time which translates to a higher price tag from your design partner. You also need to account for the extra time needed to manage the program (keeping items in stock / shipping / exchanges & returns / integrating with your taproom POS system / etc.). While this can all be valuable, we’ve found again and again that it’s usually a good idea to phase it in a year or so after opening.
Printer’s Ale uses their eCommerce store to generate additional cash flow and build brand loyalty.
Events calendars are great for breweries with consistent programming—beer release parties, trivia nights, concerts, and other events can all be housed here. But for a lot of folks, social media is a more effective way of broadcasting this info.
The problem we see again and again are a brewery may have a few sparsely programmed months throughout the year. If you check out the calendar at that time, it may send a bad signal to your customers (that you’ve got nothing going on). You can prevent this by building in a list-view option for your calendar, but again, social media may be more effective for this.
Wooden Bear Brewing makes great use of a calendar and list view.
Beer finders are great if you’re widely distributed. However, if you’re starting out and are only carried in a few locations, a simple list may be a better solution.
You can always grow into a more complex map with custom styling, filters, and information. Just make sure you consider how you track this info so it’s current. If applicable, make sure to delineate between draft availability (if you can keep up with it) and off premise packaging availability.
Even if you don’t have food, proper, you should give people a lay of the land. Do you have snacks? Can people bring in outside food? Why are there no cats in this neighborhood? If you do have food, include your menu on the site.
Blog / News
While this should be driven by your communication strategy, your blog can become home base for all your communcation. You can share info on new beers, stories behind the names, travel, collaborations, awards—anything you do that your fans would be interested in hearing.
Yes, it can be hard to maintain a blog while you have a million other things to do during the day, but this is a powerful way to connect with people and tell your story. It also shows Google that your site is frequently updated which can help you rank higher in search results.
Many of the breweries we work with complain about the amount of donation requests they receive. Not because they don’t want to support local nonprofits, but because of the additional admin work it requires. A simple way to mitigate this is to create a form on your site to handle donation requests along with an automated response to let them know you’ve received the email and will be following up.
How you handle it from there is up to your team, but this approach allows you to batch the work, say in an admin session, one morning per month. This can often be nested on the Contact page, or even deeper in the site map if you don’t want to field dozens of requests a month.
Depending on how large you are, you may also consider the following:
If you’re big enough that you go to multiple events per year, sponsor multiple outings / programs, and are distributed in multiple states (or even just all over your own state), a page with all your brand assets can go a long way to keeping your look consistent. You can’t control what people do with your logo, but you can gird against as much stretching and morphing and tilting and color changing chicanery as possible by giving people access to the correct native brand identity files.
Listing your distributor partner(s) on your site can be good info to include for retailers who may want to carry your product.
This can be a stand alone repository for your press releases. Though, depending on your site map, these could also end up living on your blog / news section.
Are you hiring? Let people know.
We’ve found that this list, or at least parts of it, will be enough for the majority of breweries out there. If you think about what you want your website to do for you, and how it can make your life easier, you’re already on your way to making something that’s useful for your team and your fans.
Stay tuned for part 2 of this series where we dive into content strategy, information architecture, media (copy / photos / videos / illustration), and email marketing.
Interested in branding your own brewery? Check out our comprehensive craft beer branding guide over at www.craftbeerbrandingguide.com