What Makes Brewfest Beverage Company So Unique?Jun 03, 2022 09:37AM ● By MARIE EDINGER
Mike and Lorraine Bailey own Brewfest Beverage. They started out in the video industry, running a small chain of rental stores for years. When that sector started dying out, they realized they needed a new business plan, “One that isn’t going to be taken over by the internet,” Mike explained.
The couple were fans of craft beer and noticed their area was in need of a good bottle shop. They decided to provide one. “We really had a game plan. We built it from scratch with all our own money, and it’s just turned into a powerhouse,” Mike says. “It’s really fantastic.”
Brewfest is a family affair. The Baileys's daughter, Kristen Mailhiot, is the administrative manager and has led the effort behind the store's recent rebranding. Their new website, designed by Four Nine Design, will be one of the first in the state to offer online ordering.
THE BEER GURU
Kristen’s husband Jared serves as “Beer Guru” and is responsible for finding, choosing, and sourcing the beer. Jared, Mike says, has an incredible palate and memory. He combines that with a true love of craft beer and his brewing knowledge to help create a completely unique store. Brewfest dedicates a large portion of its coolers (six or seven doors’ worth, typically) to beers made locally or within the state. It also provides a huge selection of hard-to- find brews from across the country and even the world.
“If there’s a brewery that’s coming out or expanding or getting press, he’s going to know about it, and he’s going to go after it,” Mike says of Jared. “We’re one of the few retailers in the southern part of the state that carries Foam. I would match our beer selection to anybody in the state.”
CARE OF THE PRODUCT
Brewfest takes great care to make sure it offers not only the best products but that it keeps them in the best condition. IPA, for instance, has to be kept cold throughout its travel and storage in order to maintain its hop-heavy character.
Careful ordering and constant product rotation allow them to provide the freshest beer possible to their customers. This has always been their goal, as reflected in their slogan, "Take Good Beer Home!"
Lorraine Bailey handles the ancillary products, like homebrewing supplies, cigars, mixers, snacks, and Brewfest merchandise. Her brother and sister work there, too. The whole family handles the liquor section together.
SUNSHINE, HOPS, AND RAINBOWS
It isn’t all sunshine, hops, and rainbows trying to keep the establishment as impressive as it is; the store does face some challenges. Vermont doesn’t allow retailers to drive to other locations to bring in alcohol that isn’t distributed, which is somewhat limiting. That hasn’t been much of a problem for them, though. “If it’s available and it’s worthy, we have it,” Mike says.
Brewfest Beverage, like so many others, has struggled with staff shortages throughout the pandemic. Mike says it's hard work making sure the shelves stay full—both in keeping track of orders and in the physical labor of hauling boxes of bottles around.
The store also faces major swings in how busy it is. During peak skiing season in the winter, Mike says that Ludlow can easily have ten times its population in tourists coming through the area on any given weekend. Things slow down majorly in transitional months like April and May, only to pick back up again in the summer.
Brewfest Beverage Company is in a fantastic location, right off of Vermont’s main east-west corridor, so it gets a lot of people stopping in. Another draw for tourists and residents alike? Brewfest is one of its kind in Ludlow. “Nobody is doing what we do in this area,” Mike says. “Not the way we do it.”
With craft beer, high-end spirits, and fine wines all part of an ever-expanding industry, the Bailey family doesn’t have to worry about an internet takeover this time around.
BREWFEST BEVERAGE COMPANY
199 Main St.