I didn’t know World Giraffe Day existed. But it does, and it happened last month. 3rd Turn Brewing hosted an event for a group raising money for the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, an organization dedicated to protecting giraffes in the wild.
It was part of a growing trend of odd and creative ways breweries are using to get people through their doors. Sure, there are still beer releases, can releases, tap takeovers, trivia competitions, movie nights — you get the idea. But lately, there seems to be a fun trend that has local breweries flexing their creative muscles.
For what it’s worth, World Giraffe Day was a new concept for 3rd Turn cofounder Greg Hayden, too. One day, a customer approached and mentioned the possibility of doing an event for giraffes.
“I didn’t know there was someone raising money for giraffes in J-town,” Hayden said. “When I heard it, I said, ‘What, again?’”
He wasn’t about to say no. For 3rd Turn, it’s about giving the community what it wants, as well as having a little fun.
That’s going around. Akasha Brewing, back in April, held a Pintwood Derby — people drinking beer while racing hand-built, wooden cars, an event usually reserved for Cub Scouts. Apocalypse Brew Works hosts live music events, but also has had Yappy Hour and two-stepping lessons (yes, that happened in late June). Donum Dei Brewery and Great Flood Brewing Co. host local art installments. Heck, Against the Grain Brewery and Smokehouse once hosted a wrestling match.
You get the picture.
Falls City Brewing Co. just this week teamed up for a beer dinner with Another Place Sandwich Shop. Sure, breweries get together with restaurants to do beer pairing dinners all the time, but this one is a bit different — it’s sandwiches. Five courses of sandwiches, in fact, including a sandwich for dessert. It’s simply another angle to draw interest to two local businesses.
“The brands are so similar in terms of being iconic Louisville brands that have reinvented themselves,” said Brian U’Sellis, marketing manager for Falls City. “We just want people to have a good time. Sometimes the beer community can take itself a little too seriously. We just want people to have a good time.”
For Falls City, often a community organization will come in with an idea. The policy is to say “yes,” assuming it works financially. Being charitable is what the brewery wants to do whenever possible. Other times, it’s the managing staff sitting around, brainstorming.
A recent event was on Father’s Day, and the day was set aside for customers to bring in their dads, watch the U.S. Open, and play miniature golf, which was brought in for the occasion. Similarly, 3rd Turn offered a promotion called the Dad and Me Contest, in which people submitted photos with their dads. Whoever looked the most like their dad got a T-shirt.
It’s not a tough formula. U’Sellis looks for two things: Is it unique, and does it give back?
“I don’t like doing events just based around, ‘This beer is being released.’ There’s enough good beer being brewed in the city that you have to give people some other reason to come,” he said.
A good example is a recent Sunday jam session with the Louisville Leopards Percussionists, featuring local musician Brigid Kaelin. It was just something they tried, and it worked on both levels — it was unique, and it helped out a local cause.
Pet charities are big with local breweries, in part because many of them don’t serve food (which means they can have pets on the premises) and are pet-friendly — Apocalypse, Old Louisville Brewery, Great Flood are among several that regularly work with pet organizations such as Pit Bulls of St. Francis and Saving Sunny. Hayden said the director of My Dog Eats First lives near the brewery and is a frequent customer, so doing an event with that group not only served the client base, but a community need.
The Kentucky Opera came in one day to sing songs about beer. And at Christmastime, the brewery hosted a group leading customers in Christmas songs. The result, he said, was sort of a gang version of holiday karaoke.
“By the time we got done, everyone was holding hands and singing songs,” Hayden said, adding, “I don’t know if we’re going for weird, but we don’t shy away from it.”
U’Sellis is always looking for more chances to play host to special events, and like other breweries, Falls City isn’t shying away from weird, either.
“We’re always trying to figure out, ‘Why would we want to go drink beer somewhere?’ and ‘What would we want to do?’” he said. “You’re starting to see people get more creative, because you kind of have to.”
The good news is, beer is always involved.