Survey Says: Help a VCU student help Legend Brewery be even better

Posted at 9:50 PM, Mar 25, 2014
and last updated 2014-03-26 11:25:27-04

Photo via Flickr/Tess_Marie

Do you have thoughts on beer, Richmond and Legend Brewing Company?

Perfect. Jeff Tolefson, a Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter graduate student, would like your input on a survey he designed about Legend Brewery. Tolefson, who’s on the Creative Brand Management track, is getting ready to graduate in May and this is his final project.

“My goal is to gain insights on why millennials prefer other local craft beers over Legend and how Legend can gain traction and become more relevant again in RVA,” Tolefson wrote via email.

He wants to use the survey to create a marketing plan to make Legend appealing to millenials while not losing their main target audience.

He said that research shows millennials are rebelling against the classic beers their fathers drank. The research he referenced came from 200 ethnographies with millennials in breweries in and outside of Richmond.

Additionally, Tolefson conducted focus groups with millennials talking about everything from “brewery locations, company branding, packaging, and promotion.”

“Legend is considered the granddaddy of RVA breweries, they have been here for over 20 years and have always produced great beer,” Tolefson said, “Yet they seem to have lost their connection with the younger audience.”

“If it gives up more information, then great,” said Kevin Timme, Legend Sales and Marketing. “Any information is good information to keep our brand going.”

Timme said that Tolefson approached the brewery about his project, and that the 17 questions were constructed by Tolefson.

Legend Brewery is coming up on a robust two decades of making craft beer.

“It’s a completely different demographic,” Timme said when asked what changes he’s seen, and he pointed out that there weren’t a lot of people pushing the envelope 20 years ago.

As was the standard, “We named our beers for what they were,” he said, and referenced the classic line-up: Legend Brown, Pilsner, Porter, Pale Ale, Chocolate Porter, Golden IPA.

The times didn’t really foster a “Dogfish Head Snowblower Ale,” or “Fiddler’s Elbow,” or “Seriously Bad Elf,” though the brewery has recently dove into the world of fun nomenclature with its Urban Legend series.

The 2013 series bubbled with hometown history and hilarity, and produced Guardian Dog Doppelbock, Lost City Saison, Locomotive 231 Double Lager, and Imperial Vampire Red Ale (read about each one here).

The 2014 series will feature collaboration with other seasoned breweries like Aleworks (Williamsburg), Starr Hill (Charlottesville) Lost Rhino (NoVA) and St. George Brewing (Hampton) who will also pick legends from their brewery’s hometown.

That explains Teach’s Oyster Stout, liquid booty from the coastal region in honor of Edward Teach, also known and feared as Blackbeard the pirate.

That’s certainly all up to speed with millenials, but Timme also points to the mainstream shift of people getting in to the understanding of the culture of craft beer and embracing it. That’s likely a parallel of the DIY and locally-sourced foods movements.

And Legend Brewery certainly keeps local beer aficionados happy with the Firkin Friday traditions of tapping a cask-conditioned beer, in a firkin or a pin.

So yea, the transformation from a little tasting room off the gravel road known as West 6th Street into a 380-seat restaurant and brew pub boasting one of the best views in town indicates a living — Legend.

Timme said they’ve seen an increase in year-round traffic, whereas it used to be seasonal, thanks in part to the exploding popularity of craft beer, as well as the referral traffic from the Virginia Tourism website.

The Virginia Tourism folks are focused on doing for craft beer in the state what they did for wine.

I asked Tolefson what is his favorite Legend flavor, and he went with the flagship Brown Ale.

“To me it’s a very uniquely good brown ale,” he wrote. “I can have a few Browns with dinner and not be full. With other craft beers I can never drink them while I eat a meal, they are filling enough on their own.”

I also asked Timme to answer the first question from the survey (which keeps all responses anonymous).

“Which words—pick three –would you use to describe the culture of Richmond, Virginia?” I asked Timmes, and read off the choices; dull, open-minded, contemporary, simple, progressive, conservative, closed-minded, diverse, conforming, creative, old-fashioned, or complex.

He chose diverse, complex, and old-fashioned, noting the diverse balance of creative, experimental energy mixed with historic traditions.

Tolefson riffed on that, and chose “diversity, creativity and individuality.”

“RVA has so many sub-cultures its amazing, we are all so different yet we are all brought together because of this amazing city.”

Yes, if Richmond was a beer, I think its finish would linger –just like Legend.

Now go take that survey:

Tolefson plans to close the survey at the end of the month, but may extend it because of press.