Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Topic of the Week: Mug Clubs, Who Benefits?

We haven't done one of these in a while, so let's jump right in... What is it about Mug Clubs at many brewpubs across the country? They don't particularly fit my pub-hopping persona, but I can certainly understand how they can be appealing for many others. The questions I pose here this week are: how much should the business be allowed to benefit without appearing greedy? does the consumer ever really "make out" in a Mug Club deal? Certainly, there are some Mug Club deals where it seems apparent that both sides win. Locally, the membership at Iron Hill's club (General Information; Loyalty Program) appears to be a win/win for both sides. But, then I look at ones like Schooners in Antioch, CA ($100 entry fee) and Bethlehem Brew Works in Bethlehem, PA (rules upon rules, high-priced auctions, unreasonable thresholds) and I wonder how many patrons really truly benefit over the course of the year. Are there really customers that will frequent the brewpub often enough in one year to recoup their initial outlay? Or isn't that what it's about? Perhaps I'm missing the point here. Is it more about supporting your local craft brew? Can it really be boiled down to that kind of charitable drinking? Is it about being part of something? Or are customers really looking to come out ahead on their per beer average cost? I really have no answers, just guesses (not necessarily educated). The topic has come up lately as I began looking into why so many over at BeerAdvocate have their knickers in a bunch over the club at BBW here in Pennsylvania. After reading the voluminous rules, disclaimers, and exceptions not only was I a bit confused and had to re-read the documentation, but I can understand the furor. Add that on top of what these same folks are claiming is a deteriorating product and you can make the case for an overly aggressive reach for more revenue. That's enough on my part. What do you think? Do you have a Mug Club membership anywhere? Do you have one at any of those that I've mentioned? What are your feelings? Do you keep track of what you've drank and whether your investment has paid off? Do you care? Is it more about being part of the community there at "your" particular brewpub? Should be interesting to get your position on this subject. Here's a few more: General Lafayette Legend Brewing Appalachian Brewing Rock Bottom


Adam said...

I don't belong to any, but, I could see people liking the service side of it. You get, "your own mug".

I can also see the community side of it. I think you're kinda committing to that brewpub.

That being said, I don't really get into it. Just gimmee some good brew for my money.

Maybe we should have one here at The Brew Lounge. Oh...right we'd have to have a license for something like that!

Anonymous said...

I do belong to the Iron Hill club and find it was quite a good deal last year at $25 for the year... you almost got a $25 gift certificate for just signing up! Then you get an extra 8 oz. for each fill up (or more depending on the normal glass its served in.) You also get to keep the nice mug at the end, but thats not why I joined.

I can't say I feel a sense of community when drinking out of my mug, but I just felt it was a good deal. Now this year they upped it to $35 and I was hesitant to re-up my membership, but did it anyway. That was however after a hopilicious and a belgian triple, so my judgement might have been a bit hampered :)

Jeremy said...

I too am a member of the Iron Hill Brewery Mug Club and have been for about 2.5 years. I would agree with everything Matt had to say. The mugs are pretty nice and you do get some more beer for your money. We usually get several gift certificates a year, since we frequent Iron Hill so often. For us, it is worth it.

I think the sense of community would be greater if they hosted more exclusive Mug Club member parties during the year.