When I want to take the pulse of the on-premises premium beer trade, I talk to Keith Schlabs. Keith is the designated beer guy for the Flying Saucer chain of beer bars, which operate exclusively in the traditionally non-craft beer adventurous south – places like Texas, Arkansas and Tennessee.
So, I asked Keith over pints of Stone Pale Ale how things are shaping up in 2008. His response: Beyond good.
While not wanting to mention the “R” word or talk about such concepts as bullet-proof-ness, Keith still pointed to strong growth in almost all their markets, and hard times in none, while also mentioning the two new stores they opened in 2008, one in Kansas City and the other in Austin. Revenues are good, he said, sales are up double digits in many of their markets, and interest in domestic and imported craft beer – in which the Saucers deal almost exclusively – is ridiculously high.
So great is the company’s faith in beer, in fact, that they have a new concept they’re working on for a 2009 premier. Nothing has been finalized yet, so I can’t tell you the specifics, but it has to do with quality craft beer and it should serve as a breath of fresh air in the south.
So about that pulse? Well, if it’s still beating strong and sure in Nashville and Ft. Worth, then I figure it’s doing all right pretty much everywhere.