Operators of 44 Café Bar and Bistro in Leamington Spa, Gavin Leach and Robert Singleton, who also run Windmill Hill Brewery, told The Morning Advertiser using local and independent suppliers was the best place to start for operators looking to expand their craft beer offering as consumers are increasingly looking for "storytelling" from the category.
Singleton urged publicans to “train their staff on what’s on the doorstep” by visiting local breweries and learning how the beer is made, meet the people brewing it and start a dialogue that can continue.
He said: “If you can tell the story to [consumers], that adds value to them. Consumers like to come in and start hearing a story.
“Their experience is then vastly improved. People come to the pubs for connection, not just drinking and eating.”
Leach continued flexibility and smoother communication were also added benefits of using local suppliers, enabling outlets to try different things and see how customers respond to engage their desire for discovery.
He said: “[Local and independent businesses] can give a feel for what consumers are looking for in terms of styles and trends. Having the direct feedback really helps."
Singleton added small batch brews provided more scope to showcase “different flavours”.
He said: “There’s so many different flavours and with the freshness of [craft], I think it's a no brainer having local having local breweries supply your beer, it’s what people want to drink as well.”
In terms of current trends within the craft beer category, the duo added consumers are “still loving” unfiltered and hazy IPAs.
Leach said: “IPAs are still a sort of buzzword. We found things like bitters dropping off quite a lot.
“We don’t actually do cask at the moment at 44, but we do want to have some cask in there eventually.
“There's also a bit of want for alcohol free as well. There's a lot of talk about it, a lot of hype, but the demand isn't quite there [yet].”
“Predominantly we are still selling alcoholic drinks, with around 97% of the sales still alcoholic.”
Leach added while some craft beers come at a “premium”, it was worth the investment.
He said: “Locally produced stuff can come at a slight premium, but every pound you spend is going back into the local economy.
“It's also as part of that story and part of knowing that it's come locally, people aren't too upset about paying slightly more for high quality local produce.”
Food pairings were another way the operators suggested outlets could maximise their craft beer offering to satisfy preferences for variety and innovation.
Singleton continued: “When we developed the menu at 44, the reason we went down the tapas route, along with the steaks and burgers that we at the Bistro side, is because it's food that complemented our beer.
“The beer will taste completely different depending on what you are eating with it and this creates infinite flavour combinations that someone might not have had before. Everyone's always looking for something a bit new.”