Source Farmhouse Brewery’s Limited Release Grateful Dead Beer Shows Their Unconventional Playbook Is Succeeding

When Source Farmhouse Brewery opened its doors for the first time in August 2019, they hoped that their hunch that drinkers in central New Jersey were hankering for farm to tap beers was correct.
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When Source Farmhouse Brewery opened its doors for the first time in August 2019, they hoped that their hunch that drinkers in central New Jersey were hankering for farm to tap beers was correct. Situated in the quiet community of Colts Neck on a small 125-year-old farm, their tasting room offered visitors space to relax and connect. Business took off from the moment they started to pour beer with over 200,000 visitors in the first nine months.

Lines stretching out the door were the norm. Their customers willingly waited over thirty minutes for a beer. Part of the reason they had such success was their highly unorthodox idea about what a brewery should serve. They had no core beers, no flagships. Instead, each week they rolled out two to four new creations to the public.

“When the market’s saturated with one or two particular styles, we think it’s great to be able to provide people with something different,” says Phillip Petracca, the co-founder and managing partner of Source. “We focus on more classical styles that are highly crafted with very high-quality local ingredients.” 

A wide array of IPAs, farmhouse Saisons, German-Style lagers, and stouts were offered, along with anything else they dreamed up. Each one different than the last and built around whatever products they could source from local harvests. Their customers loved it.

Then the pandemic hit, and their tasting room shuttered. It might turn out that that was the best thing ever for Source.

Forced to think fast, they reached out to Iron Heart canning company to have their mobile canning service come to the brewery. They posted on their social media feeds that they would be doing a package beer sale, their first ever. They were mobbed and sold over 1,000 cases in less than twenty minutes.

Realizing that there was a demand for their products, they began releasing package beer every Friday morning. They often sold out that day, and the buzz around their beers increased. The cans they produced quickly became the products that people talked about when they saw them in someone’s fridge. Much like The Alchemist and Lawsons Finest, two legendary Vermont breweries whose beers for years were the alcohol equivalent of Bigfoot, Source had created something almost unattainable. It only helped grow their name.

Their phones started ringing off the hook as people reached out to them from across the country. Social media had spread their presence. In an effort to get their beers out to consumers, they decided to partner with Tavour, the beer app that has quickly become the darling of the craft beer community, especially during the pandemic. An online craft beer retailer, it provided a lifeline to many brewers when they needed it most.

“There’s a lot of beers that we make that have a far-reaching appeal. We were getting phone calls from all over the country asking us to ship beer which we can’t do based on restrictions in place,” says Petracca. “So, we partnered with Tavour, which we knew and respected. They provided us the ability to make our beers available in twenty-five states.”

The partnership enabled them to spread their reach from coast to coast, something they could not have achieved before the delivery culture exploded during the lockdown. It gave Source access to detailed analytical reports that allowed them to see what customers were looking for and how their limited releases fared. They were able to use Tavour as a giant test taproom to what beers their consumers wanted.

One of their hottest sellers was part of their Artist Tribute Series. A Grateful Dead-themed IPA, HELP>SLIP>HAZY, it sold out quickly and led to hundreds of calls from people begging them to bring it back. So, they did something that they shy away from, a reissue of a beer. But this time, they decided to package it with a custom pint glass and sticker, that together with a four-pack of beer, is priced at $42.

The beer goes on sale this week and is expected to sell out quickly. They have several more beers queued up for release on Tavour over the next few months. As the country reopens and people start traveling again, the chances are that those same consumers that have been quickly snapping up their products online will start stopping by their brewery soon.

Building on that momentum, they continued with a planned expansion of their facility and took it a step further. They took over a recently shuttered brewpub nearby Fishtown, PA that soon will open with a full kitchen. These two moves combined will more than double their brewing capacity from 3,000 barrels a year to 8,000 barrels.

Their upwards trajectory has not slowed, their recently reopened tasting room filled with lines of drinkers awaiting their chance to order a pint, and their Friday morning beer sales are events. It seems that their conscious decision to blaze their path is working, and all of the interest generated by selling their beers in limited releases nationwide is paying dividends. They are positioned to thrive coming out of the pandemic.