“A Twist In Beer Tasting”-A Brew Bracket Update

Back in July I told you about the introduction of the Brew Bracket home beer tasting kit after co-founders Mike Sale and Ryan Coyle presented it to a group of lucky beer fans.(Brew Bracket intro.) A Kickstarter program was launched and their initial goal was met. I wondered what has happened since, so Mike sat down with me at Danny Boy Beer Works to give me a Brew Bracket update.

First though, if you’re unfamiliar with Brew Bracket, Mike and Ryan had presented live blind-tasting public events in Indianapolis the last several years until they crafted their idea into a home kit. Pick a beer style and offer blind, head-to-head samples to your guests, choose a beer each round until a winner is determined. The BB home version kit gives you everything you need to get started. Beer and friends, however, not included.

You met your KS goal, what has gone on with Brew Bracket since?

Mike Sale: The campaign pulled out about 250 kits or so and we’re FullSizeRender (39)building beyond that, and we’re selling that online at brewbracket.com. We have product in Great Fermentations and we’re going into the new homebrew shop on the southside (Final Gravity), where we’ll have a few kits. Anita (Johnson, Great Ferm.) was very excited about selling online and bringing that into the store, and we’re working with a liquor store in town to try and get a pilot early next year.

We like the e-commerce play for that direct sale but we’d really like to get it in front of people. Great Ferm. is the perfect place for that gift, buy it for that home brewer or the beer drinking enthusiast. You get into a liquor store, it’s more potential for the whole package and now you’ve got the whole party right there. So those are the avenues we’re knocking down right now.

We’re working with some of the folks from the (beer blogger) conference in Asheville, and Beer Connoisseur magazine is going to talk about us as a holiday piece because they found us and they like us. Very organic right now, trying to… for lack of money to do that, trying to avoid paying for things and just trying to spread the word through our network, and trying to get the products ready to sell….We’re hoping to see an uptick for the holidays.

There’s a local bar, I’ll leave the name out until we get everything locked, but in January we should be hosting a smaller Brew Bracket event at potentially multiple locations of theirs around the city. That would look exactly like our events at Tomlinson, just scaled down possibly to about 50 to 100 people, but the theory is that we can help the bars with everything we have learned with these events. They have the right infrastructure, the liability, the beer, and the servers, and almost like a trivia model. Come to the bar on a weekday night, perhaps they have food as an option. Closer to January we should be able to roll out more news on that.

What has been your biggest surprise through your campaign, good or bad?

FullSizeRender (37)I’d say…I can do both. The bad is; there’s a lot of unforeseen costs. There are legal costs if you go down certain paths. There’s a cost to get a UPC, there’s higher costs when things are a small volume, even being conservative in some assumptions, Kickstarters can be expensive. They got us rolling down a good path, but we do appreciate even more anybody building something small and trying to grow it.

The good is the people that came out of the woodwork, either through KS …we’re shipping all over the country to people we’ve never met that are very excited about what we are doing, ya know, people that own bottle shops or bars, so some of the emails and conversations we’ve gotten and had because of KS, as opposed to what we were doing localized in Indiana, has been great.

I had one bar owner, the opener to the email was, “I pooped my pants while I watched your Kickstarter video!” And he was looking at how he could integrate that in his bar, and we’ve just had some great, fun conversations about possibly us or how they can do some blind tastings activities and have fun with that. I would have never gotten that email if not for going through this campaign route.

What has been the best experience?

I would say, always people in the middle doing it. And I need to go back now and find out more about (a customer) that completed his first one. Even the one where you came to (Experimental IPA), I have a blast watching people taste, compare and just shake off any assumptions except for what they like on the taste. That’s my favorite part of every one of these. So I’m hoping that just by putting 250-plus kits out there, we see even more of that.

After seeing it action, you still feel the live public version FullSizeRender (38)translates to the home version?

The host has a lot of ability to make it as showy as he or she wants. And I think that’s the fun part. If you want to reveal the beers at the end of each round and have a good discussion about them, that’s your right. If you want to hide it the whole time and not tell anybody anything until the end, then also your right to do so…

People in these days, everybody is collecting experiences where you can turn something like this into a new experience…Yeah, you can put beers in a couple bags, we’re just trying to ease that experience, giving you an opportunity to do something different on a Friday night.

Mike’s passion for beer, and people, is apparent as he describes exactly what brewers also say when they see someone enjoy their beer. The satisfaction of the whole experience is just that…the experience. Learning without being taught can be the best way to grow, but then introduce fun into the mix? Now you’ve got a winner.

In a true “labor of love”, all of the handsome and sturdy home kits were painstakingly put together by the guys themselves, so I won’t be covering them with beer stickers. You certainly can though-remember, no rules!

So, create a journey of your own. Get the Brew Bracket party-in-a-box, host an event, and enjoy the very same experiences that Mike and Ryan have.



The Brew Bracket Home Tasting Kit is the perfect holiday gift for your favorite beer fan. And someone else too. Visit Brewbracket.com.

You can follow Rick Burkhardt on twitter @indybeersleuth.