'Appeal in this industry is very strongly based on authenticity': Craft beer names just as, if not more important than product itself
MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The state of Wisconsin is home to roughly 250 craft breweries. In a land where brewing giants like Molson Coors have built an empire, it can be a challenge for those smaller businesses to make their product stand out from the rest.
At MobCraft Beer in Milwaukee's Walker's Point neighborhood, President Henry Schwartz and his team feel like they've found a winning recipe.
"We've been cranking out really fun beers for quite some time," Schwartz said. "We started as a crowd-sourced brewery where we go to our fans, ask them what they want to drink and then turn those ideas into beer."
Celebrating ten years of business in 2023, the plan has worked well for the craft brewery. In September, it celebrated its 100th crowd sourced batch.
"From a production standpoint, turning hair-brained ideas of beer fans into actual liquid that you'd want to drink, pretty challenging," Schwartz admitted, praising his team for the work they're able to do. "If you let your fans pick the beers, you get really dumb stuff sometimes or things that don't actually taste good. We put a lot of time and effort into making sure that the beer ideas that come in are going to be awesome liquid that comes out in the right season."
While producing high-quality beer is at the top of the to-do list, there are a lot of other factors that play into whether a brew will be successful. Stanislav Dobrev is a professor of strategic management at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee. He also enjoys a cold beer.
"It's very hard to give me a beer that I don't like. It's a personal weakness," Dobrev laughed. "Craft is very much associated with authenticity and with sort of putting in the backside the drive for profits and instead caring about the quality over everything else."
Along with colleagues, Dobrev has analyzed more than one-million online reviews on roughly 42-thousand beers posted to the website Beearadvocate.com to determine what makes a craft brew successful. The team learned it isn't so much what's inside the can or bottle, but what's on the outside.
"We looked at how the name of the beer by a given brewery affects the response by the reviewers, and looking for inferences of authenticity, that is specific words based on a dictionary associated with words conveying authenticity, how many of those words pop up in the review," Dobrev explained. "Whenever the beer has a name that conveys a negative emotion, we see there's more authenticity relating to words in the review and also the score is higher as well. Both in terms of predicting appeal and predicting perceptions of authenticity, negatively named beers do better."
Now, the reason those names that portray a negative meaning do better on the market isn't because craft beer consumers are 'in a mood.' Dobrev says it's a bigger message.
"Appeal in this industry is very strongly based on authenticity," Dobrev said. "Authenticity really conveys a sense in non-instrumentality. 'We are not doing this for the money, we are doing it for the beer.' Negativity kind of squares with the opposition toward the conventional mass producers."
As more and more craft breweries try and find their way in the competitive brewing industry, Dobrev is hopeful the work he and his team have conducted will help guide them toward being successful.
"I Hope that this will be a message to our local brewers," Dobrev said. "Continue to do the good work and keep craft beer independent."
Something Schwartz and company plan to do, one crowd-sourced pint at a time.
"You crack open a pint of beer and you're in a good mood. You're laughing, you're hanging out with friends, you're coming up with ideas, you're solving the world's problems," Schwartz said. "Seeing people in the taproom enjoying our stuff is what makes me keep coming back to work every day."