As I continue to read more and gather information about brewpubs, the question of a mug club has come up. There are a million other things I am focusing on as well, but beer is always a fun side-part of the brewpub (the food part and the whole restaurant is the big piece of the cake). I have been to dozens of brewpubs in my short time of being of age and craft beer loving. In that time, I have never joined a mug club. What is a mug club exactly? Well it is a “fellowship” that you join from a local brewpub that entitles you to special beers, discounts, and other exciting offers that are not available to non mug club members.
From my personal experience as well as from my research there are a lot of options offered with mug clubs. The first option is a paid yearly memberships which gets you your own personal glass/mug, discounts on food/drink and access to special beers that are only made in limited quantities. The second is a paid membership, but no personal glass, but rather a communal (but larger) glass and the same benefits as the first option. The last one is a totally free mug club that mainly gives you discounts on everything.
The brewpub that I would call “home” is Bube’s Brewery (pronounced Boobies ) in Mt. Joy, Pa. I would visit that brewpub every Wednesday so that I could drink a beer or two and also talk with the assistant brewer Rick. It was a blast for anyone interested in beer to talk with the brewer and also discuss beer and how they made their beer and all of the other beer related geekiness that goes along with that. Bube’s also had a Mug Club, which I never joined (I’m going to pull the poor college student excuse). Their Mug Club was $65 and got you a large glass that had your name and member number etched on it. At the end of each year you were able to take your glass home and a new style of custom glass would be put in place.
The glasses are larger than your typical pint but you pay the same price and you were also entitled to a discount on food. Additionally that also had a few special events throughout the year that only Mug Club members could be a part of. One of my friends/mentors joined the club and he has been very happy since joining and with the benefits of being a member. Bube’s also has limited edition beers that are only served in very limited quantities and available to Mug Club members and whatever is left is open to non-members at the regular or elevated price.
In my brewpub I want to have a Mug Club and offer it at a price. First off it is an additional source of income and hopefully guarantees repeat business. I would also want to offer special glasses. I don’t like the “universal mug club” glass where anyone in the Mug Club has a special glass, but it isn’t theirs. If I am willing to charge people to take part in a membership, then they should be able to get a piece of ownership over it. I don’t know about replacing the glasses each year as Bube’s does. I’m sure there are people who love that, but there are significantly increased costs with that along with the worry of making sure everyone get’s their glass when the new ones come out. I would like to keep one set glass, and each member has their own.
There is then the added concern of storing all of the glasses and the best way to go about it. I have only seen two versions of storing glasses; shelves and hanging them. I am a fan of hanging the glasses and plan on putting that into my brewpub. It allows a lot of glasses to be stored without taking up any additional space. They also look pretty neat when you come into a brewpub for the first time and see tons of numbered or named glasses/mugs hanging from over the bar.
The last question comes down to the cost. As I said, Bube’s Mug Club members pay $65 a year to enjoy the privilege of being a member. I have seen prices all the way from $10 and upwards of $100. I guess the main part of the pricing comes into the type of customers you are getting and how many members you have. The more members, the more they drink, the less they are playing per ounce, so I would assume the more you need to charge. To be honest pricing for a Mug Club and how to track everything isn’t within the scope of things that I am looking at right now. I think the most important parts are the following facts; paid membership, custom/personal glass, same type of glass for everyone year after year, and the discounts/special offerings members get. Let me know if you have heard of anything different or what you are looking for in a brewpub.