Hello, I’m Rob, founder of Big Drop. Thanks to all of you who recently responded to our Big Survey.
We recently sent out a short survey to our mailing list subscribers and on our social media channels to ask what we’re doing well, what we’re doing badly and what we could improve. The (hundreds and hundreds of) results are in and a couple of things popped up more than few times. Any excuse for a (ten-minute-read) blog post….
“Can you please get Big Drop stocked in my [insert supermarket/local craft beer shop/pub here]?”
When I started Big Drop way back in the mists of November 2016, I was completely naive about the challenges involved in getting our beer into people’s hands (I had absolutely no experience of the beer industry). And with the benefit of hindsight, if I’d have known how difficult it was going to be, I might not have started – which is why ignorance is sometimes a blessing!
At the time, I held the simple notion that I would walk into a pub, ask the manager to compare their mass-produced alcohol-free lager with a Big Drop pale ale – and Boom! The scales would fall from their eyes and Big Drop would immediately be stocked in their fridge! Job done! Next pub! Onwards!
As it turns out, it’s not quite as easy as that.
I won’t bore you with the complexities of (getting to the) buying teams, range reviews, retros, discounts, supply chain logistics and any number of things I’m still not sure I fully understand.
But the headline is this: whatever they might say to the contrary, most places (and I include pubs, supermarkets, beer shops and anywhere else which might think about listing a beer brand) will not stock a product unless they are pretty sure someone is going to buy it.
Which gives rise to the wonderful chicken and egg scenario: how do you convince a beer buyer that people will buy your beer if there isn’t anywhere for people to buy the beer in the first place?
We’ve worked really (really) hard over the last couple of years to make sure that if a pub, shop, restaurant, bar or club wants to stock Big Drop then we can get it to them (this was also a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. Another story, for another day).
And of course, our sales team also work really (really) hard going around as many places as they can sampling Big Drop, talking to people who work in these places selling our own brand.
But our biggest brand ambassadors are you. The easiest, quickest and most simple way for you to get Big Drop in the place you want to buy it from, is to ask them to stock it. If a place knows that you will buy Big Drop, then it will sell it to you.
It gets a bit more complicated if the place you want to sell Big Drop is a pub which, although you may consider it your “local” is actually owned by a massive pubco with 500 sites across the country (if it is truly an independent then it will be a lot easier – just tell them to contact us). If it is 1 pub in 500, the chances are that there is one person, somewhere, in that company who is in charge of deciding whether their 500 pubs (including yours) can sell Big Drop. But if you ask the landlord to pass the request up the chain, they may well do so. And if you can find out the twitter/insta/facebook details of that pub company (or even better the buying team), then you can contact them direct and say nice things about Big Drop.
The same goes for supermarkets. There was one supermarket mentioned repeatedly by you that we’re not in, that we would love to be in (and you would love us to be in). We can (and do) talk to their beer buyers about listing Big Drop. We talk to them all the time. We show them our new beers, we tell them how great we are and we tell them (nicely) that we think they should put us on their shelves so that you can find us more easily. But unless they know you’re going to buy Big Drop, they won’t. So again, find out the twitter handle for the right people and tweet them. Send them emails. Tell them how much you love Big Drop and that you’d love to buy the stuff from them. And they might just put it on their shelves.
And we promise we’ll keep working really (really) hard to get Big Drop on as many shelves as we can. We’re striking out into the world soon, with launches in Canada next month and, hopefully, Australia next year.
“Can you please get on draft in my pub?”
This is the Big One.
In theory: yes. We have the beer in kegs and we can (probably) get it to your pub.
But the same applies to the first point – the chances are that your pub is one of a group of many (whether dozens or hundreds) and the person in charge of whether your landlord or lady can put us on tap is likely someone in an office in a different town.
So the same strategy applies – find out who owns your pub, ask all the same people on email/twitter/facebook/insta, jump up and down about wanting to buy lovely pints of Big Drop and see what happens.
But in my humble opinion, we’re a year away from a 100+ site pub group being brave enough to take the leap into providing great AF beer on tap.
Please don’t stop asking though. We don’t.
“I’d love you to do a [insert style of beer here]”
The first beer we made was a stout because I’m a stout drinker and I couldn’t find an AF stout. The next beer was a pale ale because the bottle shops told me that’s what would sell and was the most popular style.
But we need to know what you guys want to drink.
Turns out what you’re gasping, above all else for is wheat beer, porter and fruit-infused beers.
Let’s start with the good news. Because so many of you have asked for it, I’ve told Johnny (Big Drop’s Head Brewer Extraordinaire and General AF King) to start developing a wheat beer. We’ve never produced one before because, frankly, the AF wheat beer options coming out of Germany are so good. But let’s see what Johnny comes up with. Watch this space.
Porter you say? Great minds … watch this space towards the end of the year.
Finally, a brief note about sours and fruit-infusions (whether in sours or otherwise). Of all the beers we have tried, tested and sometimes released, our Sour has been, by far and away, the most difficult to produce. The reason for that is simple: alcoholic sour beer is produced using a particular strain of bacteria called lactobacillus. Lactobacillus is what is responsible for creating the sour flavour in sour beer. However, it is also a monstrously aggressive little b*gger and converts sugar to alcohol like it’s going out of fashion.
One of the ways Big Drop manages to produce beer of 0.5% ABV without halting the fermentation or artificially extracting the alcohol, is to use a “lazy” yeast which is a bit rubbish at converting sugar to alcohol. If you add lactobacillus to our brews, our ABV would go through roof. And it wouldn’t be a Big Drop.
For that reason, our sour beers are never going to be as sour as traditionally fermented sours. That’s just one of those things. We’re constantly improving though and you’ll see some new iterations coming out soon, so do try them and let us know what you think.
A similar issue arises with fruit infusions. What does fruit have lots of? Sugar. What does sugar turn into when fermented…? That’s right. Alcohol. So if we stick a load of raspberries/grapefruit/whatever into our brews, the ABV will go through the roof (well, at least to 1% ABV!!)
We are investigating the use of fruit essences (again, watch this space….) but the recipe becomes much more complicated as fruit essences are very concentrated.
But what we always want to do is to innovate. And as it turns out, we’ve gotten pretty good at AF. So again: watch this space for fruit infusions and sours….
Thank you for the kind words amongst the, almost universally constructive, criticism. I think we’re doing something right but we can do it better and it’s gratifying to hear from you that, by and large, you think we’re doing it right too.
It’s an epic journey and we’re glad you’re on it with us.
CEO & Founder