The Great Uniter
How Societe Brewing is helping bringing the world together through craft
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Coachman, The Pupil and The Harlot walk into a bar… Okay, maybe you have to be from the San Diego area to know that The Coachman, The Pupil and The Harlot may be three of the best craft beers on the West Coast. At least that is the story San Diegans tell when they discuss their favorite West Coast IPAs, and sour and wild ales.
Founded by Doug Constantiner and Travis Smith in 2011, Societe Brewing Company has become a bastion for award-winning craft beers and the place where beer aficionados go to get their craft on.
The little brewery that could continues to forge an epic reputation in national and international beer competitions—driven by its tightly-focused, employee-driven business model and a series of polished beers that include, along with the aforementioned styles, names like The Butcher (dark, roasty and sinister), Not Enormous (bubbly, tart and refreshing), Fest Bier (crisp, clean and festive) and The Bachelor (curiously hoppy).
To get a look at what the future holds for Societe Brewing and where the market is heading, we sat down with CEO Doug Constantiner and VP of Operations Mike Boggess.
What’s your story from a brand perspective?
Beer is the world’s greatest social uniter. It is as equally important as what’s in the glass as the social connections going on around it. Beer is something that is available to anyone. We believe what’s special about it is that we are able to bring world-class beer to everyone, every day. We produce beer that is likely to be enjoyed by most people—it isn’t too niche or for one type of person.
Beer, more than any other beverage, can be used for formal tasting or getting a case of “brewskis’’ to crush with your buddies before a game. We don’t need to pick a side; we like to create a quality product that can appeal to either. Societe is for everyone.
Walk us through your branding strategy.
We had a long history of being a “special occasion” beer because we were small and less available. We wanted our beer to become more accessible and less of the “waiting around to pop a bottle on someone’s birthday” type. You can go to the corner liquor store in your flip flops right now and find our session IPA, The Coachman, which also happens to be the most award-winning session IPA.
What’s the biggest issue today related to the marketing/sales side of the craft business?
For us, we like to provide a simple message that’s easily digestible to our customers. Sometimes brands will go over the top to stand out when, ultimately it just becomes confusing for the consumer.
What’s the secret to creating a branding story that consumers can buy into?
Authenticity and relatability. We aren’t flashy. We don’t talk badly about anyone. And we create a sense of “come togetherness” through our voice and product.
What’s the one thing every craft brand should do in the way of marketing?
Use social media. It’s free, and there are a variety of platforms to fit your brand’s style. It’s the best way to get people near and far talking about and promoting your brand. It helps tell your story how you want to tell it, and directly connect with your customers.
What adjustments have you made to your business model with everything that has happened?
We went from nearly 100% draft beer at restaurants only, to the majority of our beer being sold in cans at grocery stores. Additionally we partnered with local food partners at our tasting room to comply with safety orders.
What kind of conversations are you having with your customers?
When it comes to Societe, there is no barrier to entry. Social responsibility is something we believe in—inclusivity and safety are very important to us. We are vocal about everyone being welcome at Societe, and that it’s a safe space for them. We regularly remind our guests of our rigorous safety protocols through social media and on our website.
What role should a brand play in being a leader in a distressed market?
Leading by example through ethics. Do the right thing. Follow government orders. If you’re a brand leader, people are looking to you. You should be a role model for them.
What’s the best piece of advice you can offer to other brands in how to deal with the unthinkable like this?
Accept the way things are, and stop trying to predict the future in the sense that things will change and be back to ”normal.” As difficult as it is to accept the “new normal,” it’s better to pivot than be behind.
Give us a snapshot of today’s craft market from your perspective.
Things are more exciting and dynamic than ever before in the history of craft beer. There are more beer styles available and new innovative products on the market. This is a win for the customer. Companies also have the chance to get out of their day to day and work on new exciting projects.
What’s likely to happen next?
We don’t know and don’t plan on knowing. We focus on what we do best, which is making great beer.
What trends are defining the space?
There is a growing focus and demand for healthier options, including low ABV, non-alcoholic and seltzer styles. All those things, yet staples like IPAs and blond ales still reign supreme.
What do you see as some of your biggest opportunities moving ahead?
Craft beer continues to grow its market share, and while some breweries have to climb in volume, it gives smaller breweries like Societe an opportunity to grab shelf space.
What’s the biggest item on your to-do list right now?
Managing expansion while balancing financial stability and growing consumer demand.
Sitting down with...
Doug Constantiner, CEO, Societe Brewing Company
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
What makes me happy at the end of the day is seeing our employees happy and fulfilled. Seeing every team member at Societe work together on our company culture is inspiring.
What’s the best advice you ever received?
Cash is king.
What’s the best thing a customer ever said to you?
Any time I have received a compliment that has everything to do with everyone else’s efforts in this building and little to none to do with mine. It re-enforces how proud I am of my team.
What’s your favorite brand story?
Southwest Airlines approach to simplicity, employee satisfaction and customer service.