Bryan Dallman worked quickly, greeting customers with a smile and asking them what flavor they’d like to try.
Many of the people waiting in a 30-foot-long line at the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival wanted to try Grand Teton Brewing’s new Grapefruit Rose, an ale brewed with the tart fruit. They tasted and talked to the strains of Otis Taylor’s Psychedelic Banjo Posse on the main stage, sound echoing off the Colorado box canyon walls.
A significant fraction of the festival’s 9,000 attendees lined up to taste three beers by the regional brewery now headquartered in Victor, Idaho. The brewery has Jackson Hole roots, founded in 1988 in Wilson as Wyoming’s first brewpub and operated here for a decade before moving to the west slope of the Tetons.
In addition to the grapefruit beer, they tasted four-ounce glasses of Bitch Creek Brown Ale and Sweetgrass American Pale Ale.
The summer festival circuit is an important marketing tool for Grand Teton Brewing and similar businesses. They get exposure to current and future customers.
“It’s a great high-impact event,” said Bryan Dallman, director of finance for Grand Teton Brewing. “Besides, if you’re not in Jackson, Telluride’s a pretty cool place to be.”
The brewing company has about five members of a sales team based throughout Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. Each of them travels to eight to 10 festivals or events each summer. Dallman lives in Leadville, Colorado, and covers the festivals in the Rockies.
The Idaho and Wyoming reps pour beer in the Jackson area at Old West Brewfest on Memorial Day weekend, the Bikes, Brews and Baskets event in late August at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and at each of the Music on Main summer outdoor concerts in Victor.
It’s a key part of the brewery’s marketing strategy, Dallman said, exposing the brews to people in its six-state core market.
“Typically we’re donating beer and our time, the travel expense,” Dallman said. “It’s a pretty big commitment ’cause it’s every weekend in the summertime. It’s the exposure and meeting new customers.”
With Grand Teton’s revamping of its products in 2019, this was an important year to connect with beer fans, Dallman said, “to announce our new branding, celebrate with our customers and hopefully introduce ourselves to new customers.”
Twenty-nine-year-old Ben Packard, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, tasted beers with a dozen friends and relatives. Pushing aside his feather boa, he nibbled on pretzels strung around his neck to clear his palate between different brews.
“Like seaweed is to sushi, the pretzel is to beer tasting,” Packard said.
Nom Nom Doughnuts has been on the festival circuit as well, visiting places like Telluride, the Fire in the Mountains metal fest in Moran and the Gold Rush Fest in Chandler, Arizona.
Over at the Melvin Brewing Company tent in Telluride, Sales Ninja and Field Hoperative Travis Cook poured Hop Shocker and Melvin India pale ales and Hey Zeus Mexican-style lager.
“These festivals bring people from all over the country,” Cook said. “Jackson Hole is like Telluride; people come from all over the world to experience the power of the place. It’s just a good excuse to come to Telluride and pour beer.”
Although Melvin is fast expanding in the western U.S., the festivals attract “a lot of people who live in markets that don’t get our beer,” Cook said. “It’s good exposure.”
The festival circuit is part of Melvin’s “out of the box marketing” for its hops-heavy recipes. It’s not uncommon for Melvin’s to see people line up for a second pour.
“Anyone who likes hops is always going to come back,” Cook said.