February 16, 2014

Selling Israeli beer at Bardak

In Jerusalem, Bardak is to pubs as Hamisameach is to liquor stores -- they have the widest selection of Israeli craft beers in town.  And not only that.  According to the manager, Sion Pe'er, Bardak (located at 38 Keren Hayesod Street) has taken on the mission of promoting and selling craft beers. 

Sion Pe'er behind Bardak's taps.
"Our business model is not the same as other bars and pubs," says Sion.  "We recognize that boutique beers should cost more, but we are willing to take a lower profit to sell it at a reasonable price."

For example, Sion told me that most bars are "accustomed" to earn between 300% to 400% on the drinks they sell.  In plain English, that means that they sell a drink for three to four times the cost of what they paid for it.  (If I was shocked, it's because it's the first time I've heard it -- but it's a fact of life.)

That helps to explain why Israeli boutique beers are so pricey in most pubs.

"If we were to sell craft beers at the regular mark-up, they would cost 32-38 shekels per 330 milliliter bottle," says Sion.  "But we work on a smaller mark-up so we can sell craft beers at 27-29 shekels per bottle.  This is about the same cost as our imported bottled beers.  Draft pints (410 milliliters) of Israeli boutique beers sell for 26-28 shekels."

Bardak not only keeps the price of craft beers reasonable, it also puts them front and center.  The six taps at the bar are all Israeli beers: Goldstar and five Israeli crafts which change from time to time.  When I visited, they had: Negev Porter, Negev Amber Ale, Shapiro Pale Ale, Shapiro Wheat and Alexander Blond.

"And we're going to replace the Goldstar with Shapiro's new lager beer," Sion confided.  This will be a limited edition, sold only on tap.  In addition to the drafts, Bardak stocks around 38 different bottled beers, and more than half of these are from Israeli micro-breweries.

When Bardak opened in July of last year, there were only three taps, as well as the bottled beer.  "Those bottles that sold well got their own taps," said Sion.  "That's the way it works.  We may add three more taps this summer."

The bottled beer on sale at Bardak includes beers from Alexander, Shapiro, Bazelet (Golan), Herzl, Dancing Camel, Negev and Malka.  A written menu on the blackboard offered another six bottled "winter beers," including Jack's Winter Ale by Shapiro (flavored with Jack Daniel's Tennessee whiskey), Negev Chariton, Shapiro Stout and Alexander Black.  "We are open to all the Israeli micro-breweries," says Sion.  "However, experience has taught us that it's the bigger ones who are easier to work with and more reliable.    

Free beer tastings.
Bardak also promotes Israeli craft beers by offering free tastes of all the drafts.  Almost as soon as customers sit down, they are brought a tray of shot glasses with the five craft beers.  The waiters and waitresses, who are all beer-literate, explain the characteristics and the tastes of the beers before the customer orders.  This creates a very positive feeling towards the establishment and forms a bond between the customer and Israeli craft beer.

The menu at Bardak is built around pizzas (which are named after Jerusalem neighborhoods) and salads (named after Jerusalem parks).  The cocktails are named after the city squares.  Bardak has a kosher certificate from the Jerusalem Rabbinate.

The ultra-friendly staff at Bardak.
Bardak is popular not only with locals, but with tourists who, according to Sion, are coming to get an "authentic Israeli experience."  Bardak is ranked Number One out of 455 Jerusalem restaurants on Trip Advisor, a website used by international travelers for choosing flights, accommodations, attractions and restaurants around the world.  Though I may not be from the generation which instinctively turns to the internet for such information, I understand the immense influence sites such as Trip Advisor have in driving business.

The comments I have seen on Trip Advisor heap praise on Bardak's pizza, service and . . . Israeli beer!  That keeps the tourists coming and is a powerful endorsement for Israeli craft beers.

The Bardak model shows that if you put Israeli boutique beers in the spotlight, promote them, and charge competitive prices, they can sell well and give you a thriving business.  The decision in front of Bardak's customers is not "big beer" (cheap) vs. boutique beer (expensive), but rather, "Which Israeli craft beer are we having today?"

It's a model that should be adopted by more bars and restaurants in Israel.                   

February 4, 2014

Shapiro's personal beer for Purim

Shapiro Beer of Beit Shemesh has come out with a cute marketing project for Purim, which falls this year on March 16 (and in Jerusalem on March 17).  They will print personalized labels  for their beer bottles, which you can then use at your Purim party or to give as Purim gifts (mishloach manot).  For example, the label can read:
A Happy Purim
from the Levy Family!


Brewed for Yossi's 
2014 Purim Bash!
Goldberg's Beer
Happy Purim!

Since this project has only been publicized in Hebrew, your favorite beer blog has stepped in to make it accessible to English readers as well.  Itzik Shapiro, one of the brother-owners of Shapiro Beer, told me that it should be no problem for the labels to be printed in English.
Some details: The beer is Shapiro's Pale Ale (5% ABV).  You have to place your order by February 13 for the beer to be ready by Purim.  The minimum order is a case (24 bottles of 330 millileters each), and the cost is 330 shekels.  
One very nice touch:  All the profits go to the Shekel Organization - Community Services for People witrh Special Needs.  (Read more at: SHEKEL)   
The beer with your personalized labels can be picked up at the Shekel Organization's office in Talpiot, Jerusalem (11 Yad Harutzim Street), or at Beer & Beyond in Tel Aviv (159 Yigal Alon Street).  
Purim and beer in New Orleans.
To order, go to this webpage (Shapiro Purim Labels) and follow the instructions, which are in Hebrew.  If you have any questions, you can call the Shapiro Beer office at (02) 561-2622 or e-mail purim.edition@gmail.com
What a great idea!  Purim and beer go together quite naturally.  Last year, Trudy and I attended a jazz-filled, beer and pizza Purim party in New Orleans.  The star attraction was a keg of Abita Beer, brewed in Louisiana, just north of NOLA.