Dear loyal fans (and folks who currently dislike us),
Todd Steven Boera here, brewer and co-founder of Fonta Flora Brewery. As y’all obviously know, we recently announced plans for and unveiled our Appalachian Wild Ale Society (AWAS). We had been working on the logistics and execution of this membership program for quite some time and were very anxious and excited to officially announce the specifics. It became very clear however, that after our announcement, some folks were very displeased with what we came up with. Please allow me to explain some of our thoughts going into the program and our actions while dealing with some of the backlash.
1.) THE INCENTIVES.
After researching other programs from breweries around the country, we decided to pull from different aspects of ones we thought worked well in an attempt to create something unique of our own. We liked the idea of creating specific blends for AWAS members to which the general public would not have access. We decided on two 750ml bottles due to our small production of Appalachian Wild Ale brands. After hosting a variety of different bottle release methods, we thought that members would place great value on having the first chance at purchasing six different hard-to-get brands. For instance, over 1,000 bottles of Rhythm Rug sold out on the internet in under two minutes. As a member, you would not have to deal with that hassle of clicking and refreshing, just hoping that your attempt would be fruitful. Instead, a member would simply receive an email with instructions on how to purchase an increased allotment from the general public, avoiding all of the headache associated with not actually being fast enough to reserve bottles. Based on feedback from previous releases, which included every method we could think of doing, we honestly believed that our loyal customers really wanted a guaranteed and hassle-free way of obtaining our most sought after bottles. From that, we clearly overestimated the worth of that incentive and we truly apologize for that.
This is a topic that we obviously went back and forth on for a very long time. Once again, we looked to other bottle societies for inspiration and we found that the overwhelming majority of different bottle societies allowed their members at least one proxy to obtain beer in their absence. We decided that allowing each member to have one proxy would be a nice perk in the situation where an extenuating circumstance was preventing an AWAS member from picking up their bottles. We can understand that this also appears to cater to folks who arent “local” however I hope y’all can understand that we would have taken heat for either decision on the topic of proxies. In the end, we simply decided that allowing one proxy was the best method for our program.
Many folks have recently accused us of not caring about our local customers. That idea hurts us down to the very core of who we are and how we operate as a business. From day one, we have always strived to give perks to our local customers. We have held many secret bottle releases to allow our locals the very first chance to hurry to the pub and obtain them before anyone else could drive from Florida, South Carolina or Georgia. One of those recent silent releases was Carolina Custard, one of our favorite Appalachian Wild Ale brands. From that, even after we sold out of Rhythm Rug on our internet pre-sale, we reserved secret bottles and later released them at the pub, all to cater to our local customers who may have been unhappy that they were unable to secure bottles on the internet. From that, when we employ the numbered wristband method for our bottle releases, we always start handing out wristbands beginning at least three days before the day of the release to allow as many locals to obtain an early wristband for guaranteed bottles. For those reasons, it has been deeply offensive to us that anyone would even accuse us of not taking care of our local customers.
4.) ACCUSATIONS AND SHADE
Since our announcement on Friday, we have been called a number of very mean things and accused of some pretty nasty stuff. One of those accusations was stating that this was nothing but a quick “money grab”. Once again, we found ourselves a little bit floored by the accusation. Although I can honestly understand folks genuinely being upset by our incentives, saying that this is nothing but a money grab is quite hurtful. As we have already mentioned, we are a very small staff, consisting of only two full time employees and a few part timers. Some days I look around and find it simply miraculous what we are able to accomplish. We have put so much work into hammering out the details for our AWAS membership program. From the countless hours spent on developing the program, working with our wonderful artists to create one-of-a-kind art, purchasing new software and spending countless hours learning the fine details of that program, all to ensure that AWAS members have the best possible experience.
From that, If we were so concerned about making money, we wouldn’t purchase local and fresh ingredients for all of our beers. It is much cheaper purchasing malt from large malt houses and fruit purees. We spend an insane amount of money on our ingredients and simultaneously attempt to keep the cost down as much as we can for our customers. Just this summer alone, we spent over $30,000 on local fruits and vegetables. If we were that concerned about money, we wouldn’t be purchasing such high cost items.
Moving on, it has also been said that some folks will no longer support us and that our beers aren’t really all that great and with so many good breweries coming on in North Carolina, who needs us anyhow? I really don’t understand why people have to say such hateful things because they disagree with a decision we made that nobody was even forced into being part of. We make mistakes and certainly do our best owning up to them and always do our best to make things right with our customers.
5.) SOCIAL MEDIA
Many folks are also upset with how we decided to handle our social media outlets. We fully believe that everyone is entitled to their own opinion and appreciate and love the diversity of comments that we receive. In fact, it actually helps us make informed decisions on topics as we move forward planning events and bottle releases. That being said, we do not condone hate and bullying on our social media outlets. We decided to start limiting the activity of some folks and deleting certain comments because nothing was getting accomplished with their comments, which were only being used to create fights. We would love to hear from anyone who has a legitimate concern with AWAS however using facebook and instagram to publicly shame us or other people is simply not acceptable. Lastly, we would love to hear anyones comments, questions or concerns and we ask that you email firstname.lastname@example.org to express your thoughts.
6.) ADDITIONAL INCENTIVES
After reading some of the constructive criticism we received and reviewing some of the other bottle societies, we do agree that our original incentives were a little bit sparse. From that, we are going to include two more 750ml bottles of an additional special blend, not available outside the AWAS membership program. From that, we will also include one 500ml single barrel blend. That makes it a total of four 750ml bottles and one 500ml bottle. These bottles are part of your membership and do not require additional payment. In addition, we are including a secret bottle menu of our beer, available for purchase, which will be for in house consumption only. This menu will not always be available and is subject to change based on bottle availability. We will alert out AWAS members when we have added new bottles to the menu and will be available on a first come, first serve basis.
7.) THE LOTTERY
Although our society seemed to make some folks really mad, the number of lottery entries we received has been overwhelming. Thank you to the folks who were going to invest in our brand, even when some were bashing the entire thing. As this statement has been released after the lottery has ended, the additional incentives were not used as motivation for other folks to enter the lottery. The additional incentives are our way of saying thank you and we truly do want to make our loyal customers very happy.