Article By: Brandy Rand
L. Knife & Son Companies has been in business since 1898 and consists of over 2O wholesaler divisions across 14 states, including the Craft Brewers Guild in Massachusetts. At a time when the craft beer business is booming, Director of Communications Dave Mevoli has overseen a smartly sophisticated system of sales tools with a focus on education and inspiration, reaching not only the trade, but consumers through greatbrewers.com and the BeerCloud mobile app. With “knowledge as power” as a guiding principle, Mevoli is a passionate advocate of craft brewers and their growing share of the marketplace. I sat down over a beer (of course) at Salem’s popular Gulu Gulu Café to talk about the changing landscape of craft beer in Massachusetts.
BRANDY RAND Tell me about your professional background and your current role at Craft Brewer’s Guild:
DAVE MEVOLI I have been in the beverage industry for almost 17 years working for the L. Knife and Son Company in Syracuse New York for the first 15 where I held a variety of positions in operations, marketing and sales management. I transferred to my current role as Corporate Director of Communications a couple of years ago. I just moved my office from Kingston to our newest facility in Everett. I manage our website and mobile applications and direct our social media and marketing efforts for all of our 22 operating divisions across 14 states. I feel lucky to have fallen in to a job that I love. I get to enjoy what I do every day. How many people can say they get to have a beer at lunch?
BR How many craft brewers and SKUs of craft beer do you represent?
DM In all I think we are closing in on almost 9OOO SKUs and a few hundred breweries. Each of our companies has a different portfolio concentrating on the best national, regional and local brewers in each market.
BR How have you seen the craft beer industry change over the years?
DM When I first joined the industry, the only two players in craft were Sam Adams and Pete’s Wicked Ale. Now there is a huge variety of brewers from across the country and in our own backyard. The selection is amazing and the flavors complex.
BR What is the biggest challenge for the craft brewer these days in terms of growing their business?
DM Competition. The variety has grown so much that the field becomes more competitive every day. The successful breweries will be the ones who differentiate themselves and those who make great beer, not just good beer.
BR What trends are you seeing in craft beer?
DM Great growth in variety and quality. More of our retailers are diving deep into craft on their menus and on their store shelves.
BR You are a Certified Cicerone; what is the importance of this type of education among the trade?
DM There are three levels to the Cicerone Certification Program: Certified Beer Server, Certified Cicerone and Master Cicerone. I teach a 12 week internal training class to prepare our employees for level two. Currently, we have 4OO people that have passed the Certified Beer Server and our goal is to have 1OO of them move to the next level. We are most successful when we act as a consultant to accounts, and the Cicerone program provides a broad base of beer knowledge so we can do staff trainings on everything from beer styles to how to pour properly. In the end, we want bartenders to pour the best beers they can so the consumer gets the best experience they can.
BR On a hot summer day, the beer you’d most likely be found drinking is . . .
DM Wow, that is a tough one . . . I’d have to go with Brooklyn Summer. It’s a great beer, kind of like summer in a bottle, plus I’m originally from New York!
BR What’s the landscape of craft brewers in Massachusetts compared to other markets?
DM Craft brewers in Massachusetts are growing at an incredible rate. It seems there are new ones opening up every week. This is a very competitive market with a wide selection of brands and styles for consumers to choose from. Massachusetts also has a craft savvy consumer base that is always searching for the newest variety from a brewer or the new one-off.
BR Talk about greatbrewers.com.
DM Greatbrewers.com is one of the world’s most trafficked beer websites. It contains a huge amount of information on beer, brewing, beer pairing, etc. The best feature is the Beerfinder that shows you where to buy your favorite beers. I am just beginning the development of the next generation of greatbrewers.com and its mobile application, BeerCloud. The new website will include all of the educational resources of the current site but with a better, more user-friendly interface. The sight will also become more retailer-focused with a searchable database of products and an online ordering feature for our customers.
BR Where do you like to go for a beer?
DM I live in Providence, Rhode Island, so I tend to go out for beers there. When I am in Boston though, I like Meadhall in Cambridge, The Publick House in Brookline and Sunset Grill in Allston.
BR Consumers are becoming more educated these days – how has that shaped your go-to-market strategy?
DM We need to be a part of that education. Our website has a ton of information on beer styles, brewing techniques and food pairings. We, as purveyors of these products, must also be more educated. Brewers are artists who put all their energy, soul and passion in to their product and we can’t let them down.
BR What is the most interesting beer release you’ve seen lately?
DM Iron Throne from Brewery Ommegang. This is the first time that I know of that a beer has been “inspired” by a hit TV show [Game of Thrones].
BR Is the correct glassware becoming more important to bars and restaurants? How about consumers?
DM Proper glassware is essential to the beer experience. Brewers design or choose glassware with their particular beer style in mind. Distributors and retailers are entrusted by the brewers to present their beer in the way they intended – glassware is a major part of that presentation.
BR When you talk to on-premise operators, how do you argue the case for craft beer on draft over favored domestic brands?
DM I like to start with a one handle switch – something simple and easy to drink with a little more hops. Once they see how it sells – it always does! – we move on to something like a Hefeweizen. Overall, their customers want something different and craft beer offers that in addition to a higher profit for the operator.
BR What’s something you wish everyone knew about beer that they don’t?
DM The variety of tastes that are available, not just yellow fizzy stuff but a taste profile to suit any food and any occasion. Beer is also a food product and, as with any food, freshness matters.
BR Cans or bottles? What’s the big movement toward cans about?
DM I’m a bottle guy. Cans are great for the beach or the boat though, and they are easier to recycle, plus they are better at keeping beer fresher than glass . . . maybe I should reconsider?
BR Favorite beer and food pairing and why?
DM Spicy Asian food like Thai with a great effervescent Belgian Golden Strong Ale. The tight carbonation of the beer helps to lift the capsaicin – the part that makes the chili pepper hot – off of your tongue so you can enjoy all of the flavors present in the food with each bite.
BR Where do you see the craft beer industry in 5 years?
DM I see great growth ahead in terms of volume. Consumers are asking for foods and beverages with more flavor and craft beer answers that call. I do have a word of caution though: there are a lot of players in the craft market right now and in five years some of those brewers will still be here, some will not. I believe that the brewers who will be successful have to possess three things: quality beer, creative marketing and financial backing. Those who are lacking one of the three will find it hard to survive in this competitive marketplace.