Opinion

Why crowdfunding became the new norm for craft beer

By John Longbottom

- Last updated on GMT

Perfect pairing: crowdfunding can only serve to strengthen the fabric of the craft beer community according to Signature Brew's John Longbottom
Perfect pairing: crowdfunding can only serve to strengthen the fabric of the craft beer community according to Signature Brew's John Longbottom
Signature Brew's John Longbottom discusses how and why crowdfunding has become a key feature of the craft beer industry.

In recent years crowdfunding has become a regular fixture on the craft beer landscape.

Our brewery, Signature Brew, just shot past 100% on a raise of over £400,000​ and is now in a period of over-funding – proof, were it needed, that the crowdfunding model is as healthy as ever in our industry.

Other recent and notable successes include Northern Monk, Wild Beer Co and Left Hand Giant, which all comfortably completed and [ended up] significantly over-funded.

Mutual benefit

But why did crowdfunding cement itself as the new norm?

Well, for both drinkers and breweries alike, a good crowdfunding campaign is mutually beneficial.

As a drinker, I’ve invested in other brewery’s crowdfunding campaigns and my conservative investments have given me significant perks (including discount beer, free merchandise, event access and more) from a handful of breweries I love.

I enjoy the feeling of supporting something I care about and I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a sense of pride when the breweries I’ve backed do good. For me, it’s the same rush as seeing your team score – vicarious, sure, but oh so rewarding.

From a brewery’s perspective the chance to be even closer to our drinkers is equally important.

A brewery is nothing without its drinkers – so why wouldn’t we rather be owned by them than say, a bank.

Signature Brew is a relatively unique brewery in that as well as a passion for quality beer, we also wear our passion for music on our sleeve. For us, our crowdfunding campaign has allowed us to assemble a tight-knit family of like-minded drinkers who understand what we stand for, believe in our message of ‘bringing great beer and great music together’ and want to help us grow. 

For a small company, that feeling of energy and support is invaluable.

Clarity builds confidence

When we were penning our crowdfunding we spent a lot of time considering the difference between a good campaign and a great one. Every campaign is different but, for ours, we put a defined emphasis on being transparent about our goals and championing our achievements. Oh, and perks. Lots and lots of excellent investor perks

We were clear about our goals from the start. We’re crowdfunding to meet existing demand for our beers. The crowdfunding investment will directly fund a new brew kit. From a potential investor’s perspective, that’s a clear and defined sell.

Personally speaking, I’ve been put off investing in some brewery’s crowdfunding campaigns in the past because they were particularly woolly about where the investment would be spent and what it would directly achieve.

Clarity builds confidence and, with our campaign, we want our investors to be as confident in our brewery’s goals as we are.

When it came to championing our achievements we wanted to let drinkers know we’re a brewery they can be proud of – however, we’re not natural braggarts so we decided to ‘show don’t tell’. It seems like at any given time there are multiple brewery crowdfunding campaigns active. Every single one of them will tell you they are the best brewery going. And they rightly should, after all, if the brewery themselves can’t bang the drum for how good they are, who can?

But for us, we felt testimony from independent experts and bodies was infinitely more valuable to potential investors than us repeatedly telling them how great we are.

With this in mind, we put our achievements in the spotlight and let them do the talking – from the numerous awards for our beers we’ve accumulated over the years and our jewel-in-the-crown Brewery Business of the Year 2018 from the SIBA Awards, we never once had to justify in our own words why we’re worthy of investment.

Craft and community

Finally, the perks. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve invested in breweries I care about before partially for the perks.

As I also mentioned, we’re a brewery that marries beer and music. We therefore went above and beyond to ensure our investor rewards are not only excellent, but unique to Signature Brew.

As well as all the discount beer, exclusive merchandise and events you’d expect, we’re also offering once-in-a-lifetime opportunities such as meeting artists we work with, VIP music festival tickets and more. One of the more out-there rewards is recording a song with one of our collaborating artists in the new brewery itself. No one has claimed that… yet. But we guarantee no other brewery is offering it.

Ultimately, craft beer is as much about community as it is about the beer itself.

It’s fair, therefore, to say that crowdfunding is currently the best method we have to bring brewers and drinkers closer together. And long may it continue. After all, if drinkers can own a piece of their favourite brewery and brewery’s can both benefit from the support and​ thank them for it, then why not?

It can only serve to strengthen the fabric of the craft beer community.

Related topics: Beer

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