Guests visit the five Tap 42 Craft Kitchen + Bar locations in South Florida not just for the drinks but for one specific drink they can’t get anywhere else. 42 Hazy Daze—a hazy, light-bodied IPA—has been a runaway hit since it was introduced last year.
And, since it was created in a partnership between the restaurant company and a local brewery, you can only get it at Tap 42 locations or at the brewery itself.
“Having a delicious beer that people can only get here brings business for us,” says Lee Hunter, corporate craft beer director, who adds that the craft beer bars attract a lot of tourists. “We’re often asked if we have a beer; they want us to have something they can’t get anywhere else. The other thing is that we’re a local Florida restaurant group brewing a local beer with a local brewery. It adds to the craftiness of our brand.”
Tap 42 has been serving its own draft beer for more than three years. It began with a citrus pale ale, 42 Truths, in November 2015. They switched that out a year ago to move to the current New England-style pale ale, which Hunter points out is a popular style of brew at the moment. The beer has an earthy aroma that complements its bright, citrus flavor.
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The original decision to make an easy-drinking pale ale with a Florida twist—it’s made with orange peel—was a small mistake, says Hunter. “We got great feedback regarding the flavor and recipe [but] didn't really consider that a malty and caramel-y pale ale was a style that was fading out of the American craft forefront. Since we made the switch last year to the hazy New England-style pale ale with a much more hop-forward profile, we've seen an increase in movement, which is always beneficial to both the brewery and our locations.”
Once he’d decided he wanted to brew his own beer, Hunter approached Funky Buddha Brewery in nearby Oakland Park, Florida. He collaborated with the brewers to come up with the first pale ale. “We wanted something that would be delicious but cost effective,” he says. For the initial batch, he and some of his staff went in and brewed. But from then on, the brewery has brewed it for him.
“The good thing about us being a young group with access to the brewery is we can do whatever we want,” says Hunter. “We can change our style, or when winter comes around we can switch to a darker ale. It’s in our hands.”
There are benefits for both parties, Hunter says. For the brewery, it’s mostly about exposure. “Both of our companies started around the same time,” he says. “And we’re both growing.”
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Brewing its own beer was important to Tap 42. “We realized at the very beginning that, as a restaurant group, while we’re experts in hospitality, food, beverage, and the consumer business side of things, we weren't the experts in actually making the beer. We learned that finding the right partnership was extremely important, and Funky Buddha, being our neighbors and on the same business growth path as Tap 42, was the perfect partner.”
"This is a way to create returning business to our locations if we can capture an audience that really enjoys our beer." - Lee Hunter
“We've learned that keeping an open line of communication regarding the recipe, the brewing process, the marketing, and the consistency of the product is key to continued success with a brand,” Hunter says. “We've learned that even naming a beer, which is heavily regulated by the government, doesn't happen overnight. In fact, it took weeks of brainstorming, back and forth conversations, and ultimately a social media contest involving both of our fan bases, with the winner dependent on approval by the state of Florida. The whole process is very fun—and terribly frustrating.”
When Tap 42 launched each of its two beers it held launch parties that representatives from Funky Buddha attended to give away samples, talk about the beer, and answer any questions. They tied in with local events, such as a sporting event or an award presentation. During the 2016 Summer Olympics, every time the U.S. won a gold, the bar gave away a 6-oz. 42 Truths to everyone sitting at the bar. The small pilsner glasses the bar used that year resembled the shape of the Olympic torch.
The craft kitchen and bar also serves other Funky Buddha beers, including their Funky Beer Floridian, a hefeweizen.
Tap 42’s own beers are the cheapest on its menu. Hunter gets it, he says, at as low a cost as the brewery can manage, but he still has to pay his distributor. Hazy Daze costs $7 per pint ($5 at happy hour); other beers go as high as $10. Hunter has no plans to sell the beer anywhere but Tap 42 locations and at the brewery. “This is a way to create returning business to our locations if we can capture an audience that really enjoys our beer,” he points out.
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“We want to make it approachable to most of our demographic,” Hunter says. “It’s about staying contemporary, following the trends, and giving people what they want.”