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The Future of Freetail Bottle Releases (for now)

After  Super Mega Awesome Bottle Release Day, I decided we needed to rethinking bottle releases (again). This time, it isn’t because it was a fiasco or because things didn’t go well… it was because I felt we’d become a little too popular for own good. When I arrived at 7:15am for SMABRD, I was handed a list of 92 people who were already in line to buy bottles. While we are extraordinarily flattered by this, my team and I are all in agreement that we need to tweak things again, especially with releases that involve a small number of bottles.

As is customary for any instance in which I have time to sit in front of a keyboard and expound, I want to reiterate a little bit of our philosophy, which will provide context for why things will be the way they will be.

Philosophical Tenet #1: Beer is the Democratic Beverage

I’ve talked about this tenet to the point of nausea I am sure; but we aim for our beers — all of our beers — to be accessible to all, both in terms of the price at which we offer them and the means by which we make them available. It would be very easy for us to simply increase the price of our special releases and ration limited supply by that means. I have little doubt that we could charge double for some of our beers and still sell out of them in the same time we do now. However, to do so would be to exclude some people from enjoying our beer, and we have no interest in doing so. We charge a price for our special releases that we feel is reflective of our cost to produce them while including a level of profit that is necessary for our business to continue to grow and succeed. We do so with the explicit knowledge that we are leaving money on the table with the goal in mind of building a real, sincere, long-term relationship with our customers.

As such, we’ve gotten to know a lot of them over the years. We consciously resist the temptation to extract the maximum dollars from you for the simple reason that we want you to have enough money to go try some other beers. To take your families out to the park. To hang out with your friends. To go on vacation. And yes, to come back and share another pint with us later.

The other reason we keep our pricing as low as we can is that we want good beer to be a beverage as many people can have access to, financially, as possible. The fact is I’ll never be able to afford to taste the world’s best wines, spirits or foods (or, sadly, be able to drive a Lambo). But insofar as I can think of ZERO reason for this also to be true of the world’s best beers, I’m going to do everything in my power to keep pricing accessible. I don’t begrudge other breweries’ rights to charge higher prices for their product, but I don’t have a compelling reason to charge more for mine.

Philosophical Tenet #2: Trading is Cool, but I Really Don’t Care About Your Trades

Another one I’ve gone overboard explaining. In a nutshell: I think trading is awesome. I simultaneously put traders last on the list of people I care about. I take that back, I put people who illegally resell my beers at a 100% mark-up last… and by a wide margin over traders.

Note, this doesn’t mean I don’t want you to trade our beer. By all means, trade away! I’m actually amazed you can get such awesome beers with our beers, and it is flattering. However, I want to make sure people who want to drink our beer here in San Antonio get it before traders. I think this is a pretty fair policy, if you disagree I’d love to talk about it.

Philosophical Tenet #3: It’s Going to Be Okay

This is a new one, but basically it goes like this. If there is a beer you really want, but you don’t get it… it’s going to be okay. I did spend a fair amount of time in my early 20′s lamenting the fact that that I’d never marry Heidi Klum, but I eventually got over it and… it all turned out okay.

ENOUGH ALREADY JUST TELL US HOW IT’S GOING TO WORK!!!

Okay okay… here is how it will work:

Formal Bottle Releases.

We’ll have 3 formal bottle releases throughout the year: Ananke Day, Super Mega Awesome Bottle Release Day, and Dia de La Muerta. At these bottle releases, we’ll host a bottle share on the patio. These will be the only bottle releases where this is allowed. Some tweaks to the way it’s worked in the past:

  • No one will be allowed on the patio prior to the start of the bottle share, which will occur at 7:30 am. No one will be allowed to consume alcohol while waiting in line to get onto the patio (and, doing so would be in violation of the law, FYI, since it would fall outside of our secured area and public consumption is not legal in San Antonio)
  • As soon as you show up, you’ll get your wrist band, which will be numbered and color coded.
  • Details are still forth-coming on this next part for Dia de La Muerta on 11/2, but we will allow payment and bottle pick-up in advance of opening at 11:00am and will have two registers inside to make payment, which will speed things up considerably. Basically, the bottle process will start earlier, and then you can go back to the bottle share.
  • The bottle share will still end promptly at 10:45 am in preparation for open for business at 11:00 am.

All Other Bottle Releases

All other bottle releases will be done on a semi-silent basis. We will simply put them on the shelf one day. After a few days, we’ll probably send a push notification via our app. After a few days we’ll post on social media.

Some other details on these:

  • We will still reserve the right to limit the number of bottles you can purchase per day
  • We may split releases up. For example, say we are releasing a Jostaberry-Pumpkin Spice Wild Ale (which we wouldn’t do, because that sounds disgusting, but roll with it for a moment). Maybe we put 5 cases out one random Tuesday. A few weeks later we put another 5 cases out, etc.
  • We don’t mind if you immediate tweet out a picture of you in front of the cooler, but doing so of course limits your ability to come back and buy more bottles tomorrow (since they’ll all be gone)

I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch of details, if I remember them, I’ll edit the post (and highlight what I edited).

I know a lot of this sounds draconian and maybe a little bit fascist… but we’re doing it so that we can ensure a smooth experience going forward. In the end, we love seeing you guys and love seeing you have a good time. As always, don’t be shy about your feedback. I’m not promising that I’ve thought of everything or that this is perfect, and I am open to changes if they will make things better and are consistent with the 3 philosophical tenets above.

Cheers,

Scott

5 Responses

  1. Matthew B

    Sounds like a great way to do business. I don’t intend to speak ill of another brother in the craft world,but i feel increasingly alienated from someone like Jester King. I was there in the beginning, buying T-Shirts and promoting their beer. Now i cant even get a bottle of their special releases without buying tickets to special releases and spending almost $20 per bottle. I wish you guys luck with the new method!

    October 8, 2013 at 5:25 pm

    • The special event you speak of is our Funk n’ Sour Fest. We have approximately 400 bottles each of our two special release beers — Aurelian Lure and Nocturn Chrysalis. Inevitably we’re bound to disappoint some in trying to manage a release that small. For our Atrial Rubicite release, we had a reservation system with a two week pickup window. We cannot think of any other way to conduct a limited release at our brewery more equitably.

      We charge $16/bottle (500ml) for our oak aged beers refermented with fruit. These beers take a year to make. If you don’t feel the price point is fair, that’s certainly your prerogative.

      Jeffrey Stuffings
      Owner/Brewer
      Jester King

      October 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm

      • smetzger

        Matthew (and Jeff) I’ll also add that Freetail and Jester King are much different animals and each needs to come up with methods that fit us accordingly. JK has a well-deserved reputation that greatly exceeds ours and thus generally have a higher level of demand than we do. While I obviously like my solution for Freetail (since I wouldn’t have come up with it if I didn’t) – I like it because it works for us, and for no other reason.

        Only Jeff and his crew know what ultimately works best for them considering all their circumstances. I can definitely echo Jeff’s statement that in the end, someone is bound to be disappointed (I saw a few people express disappointment with our new method). I’m the kind of guy who wants to try to make everyone happy, and it bums me out when I can’t, but there is no way around it.

        Thanks Matthew for sharing your opinion and thanks Jeff for chiming in with yours. I think these discussions are important and I’m glad they can happen on a civil playing field.

        Cheers,

        Scott

        October 25, 2013 at 8:24 am

  2. Thanks for being open Scott, you need to run your business to how you see fit.

    The easy answer is to make more but it isn’t always the best answer. Good luck and I will continue to support Freetail and other awesome craft breweries here in the States

    October 8, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    • smetzger

      The good news is that once the new brewery is up and running, we will be able to make more! Thanks for your support Conrad!

      October 9, 2013 at 11:28 am