The basics of beer tourism August 2022

This series on Beer Tourism is proudly brought to you by Australia’s Craft Beer Capital.

Beer tourism continues to be a driving force for many breweries across Australia however, it can be difficult for businesses to invest in this depending on resources, location and of course, funding.

Entering this space first starts with a change in perspective, according to the founding director of Sunshine Coast Craft Beer Tours, Josh Donohoe.

“Most breweries don’t see themselves as a tourism attraction, but in recent years this has definitely started to change,” he said.

“Some breweries have invested more into promotion with tourism than others and in return they have seen a more diverse range of visitors at their taprooms and venues.”

One brewery that has specifically focused on beer tourism for its business is Alice Springs Brewing Co. which has won awards for its tourism efforts previously.

Initially, the Northern Territory brewery sought out tourism companies to determine the best business model, according to co-founder Kyle Pearson.

“In our early days, which were luckily pre-pandemic, we did a lot of networking with tourism operators, especially tour companies to work out what products their customers were after,” he said.

“We also visited as many breweries and similar businesses that we could and looked for good ideas and strategies that we felt we could develop and adopt to fit our business.”

For a brewery in a smaller town like Alice Springs, Pearson said tourism continues to be an essential part of attracting new customers.

“Tourism is a great driver for our business and essential for our ongoing viability,” he said.

“Over time we have developed our offering to become a “must visit” tourism destination in Alice and we are proud of this.”

Learn more about Alice Springs Brewing Co. in this Beer is a Conversation episode with Kyle.

How to do it?

Understanding how to utilise tourism can be difficult for breweries that are time and resource poor, however it can start with smaller practices, according to Josh Donohoe.

“Customers start their experience from the second they arrive at the venue,” he said.

“A great sign/mural/entry way gives people an introduction to the venue.

“The next contact point is front-of-house staff – which I believe is the most important part of the journey, the first personal interaction with the venue, and it sets the tone for the overall experience.”

Donohoe explained that the message of the experience needs to be diverse and welcoming to all kinds of customers, not just beer enthusiasts.

“It needs to welcome them and make them feel like they are being guided on their journey.

“This is not something all breweries do, or do well, mainly due to the cost and challenges in finding and keeping staff who are capable of delivering this experience.

“Those breweries who do this well always get great reviews from guests on our tours.”

Alice Springs Brewing Co’s Kyle Pearson agreed and said it’s important to prioritise accessibility and variety.

“Not everyone that visits breweries has an epic beard and a podcast about sours and Hazy IPAs… I think it’s important to ensure your offering is accessible to anyone that walks in the door and also to understand your customer base,” he explained.

“From the early days we knew we had to make our beers easy to approach and make them suitable for hot weather consumption.

“We love our big beers and they certainly have an important place in our business, however, the reality is we serve a broad cross-section of people who aren’t always after that.”

In a WA Brewers Association’s Beer & Brewing conference panel that discussed crafting an ale trail, Donohoe said it’s also important to collaborate, especially with tourism bodies.

“Brewers are not inherently into tourism. They’re either great brewers, they’ve created great products, and they can also run an amazing venue, their headspace is not in tourism,” Donohoe said.

“So to have someone come on board and take that off their plate and introduce them to that sector is huge.”

This was a helping factor for Alice Springs as well, according to Pearson.

“We have memberships with Tourism Central Australia and also work closely with Tourism NT and have benefited greatly from these relationships.”

Listen to the full Crafting an Ale Trail panel below from the WA Brewers Association’s Beer & Brewing conference.

While it is important to prioritise the customer’s experience, Pearson advised it should come down to ensuring the product is at its best.

“We have focused on having an easy food and beverage offering in an atmosphere that isn’t too serious,” he explained.

“The most important thing I think anyone can do is make sure your product is good, as the best marketing in the world doesn’t fix a poor product.

“Everyone is short staffed at the moment so it may be a matter of reducing or fine-tuning your offering.

“I’ve found that people will happily accept a smaller food menu or reduced bar offering if it means they get a higher level of service.

“After all is said and done, word of mouth is still the best form of marketing in my view and having a great product always gets people talking.”

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