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Craft beer customers: the best or the worst customers?

Last updated July 07, 2023 · By Dylan Blake

This week we've got short interview clips with two NYC bar owners that describe two different aspects of the craft beer customer pool. Keep on reading to learn more about their points of view.

Gerard Leary, owner of Sweet Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens talked about the majority of them. His thesis: craft beer, in general, brings a really nice crowd.

  • Most of them come into his place and are just baseline grateful to be there.
  • "You're not getting orders for vodka soda, vodka soda, vodka soda, followed by a key bump in the bathroom and then come back out. You're not dealing with that crowd."
  • These people are just pleasant and nice to be around. And they care about your business succeeding because they want to be able to come back.

Zach Mack, owner of Alphabet City Beer Co. (among other places) talked about a much more challenging (and way smaller) subset of craft beer customers: "whale hunters."

For the unfamiliar, "whale hunters" are people who go after the big name, hard to find beers (these are the "whales" being hunted) and nothing else. We all know these folks—they're the ones constantly checking beers in on Untappd, etc. Here's why they're a challenge:

  • They're way more likely to complain if something isn't perfect. For Zach this manifests when folks complain about fancy hazy IPA cans being dented.
  • Whale hunters couldn't care less about how his business is doing—they just pop in when they know he has something special and then don't come back. They never become regulars.
  • Zach has started thinking a bit more about this, and has considered shifting away from the super exclusive stuff and instead just focusing on having awesome beer that's usually available. It's not as flashy, but there's a good chance it could be a better business model, since someone who falls in love with that awesome and always available beer could know it's always available, and all of a sudden you've got yourself a new regular.

Check out the interview clips for more from Gerard and Zach about craft beer customers:

Gerard: In general, craft beer brings a really nice crowd

Zach Mack: whale hunters are tough to deal with