If you’ve ever scratched your head trying to think of a gift for someone, Dave Pearce hopes he’s got the beer for you.
Pearce has just launched Gift Horse Pilsner and Hazy Pale Ale — beers that come with labels that you can personalise for any occasion.
Pearce has strong background in beer, having worked in product development for Lion, where he was also general manager of craft before he quit to run his own businesses last year.
Since leaving Lion he has started has a marketing company, Purple Sneakers, and a beverage brand, Badass. And full disclosure: he’s a contributing writer to Pursuit of Hoppiness.
But I’m not writing about his new business just for that reason — I’m genuinely interested in the first foray into the beer market from Badass.
The idea is you buy a bottle, tick the occasion, write your name along with who the recipient is, and send a note. It’s cute for sure, but the beer’s no gimmick: the Pilsner is outstanding.
Pearce has two business partners at Badass; designer Devin Fennell and marketing specialist Lisa Harrison, They are each dedicating a day a week to the business outside their other jobs.
Despite his career at Lion, Pearce is finding it tough to launch a new brand.
“The biggest challenge is people getting to know we exist,” he says. “We probably underestimated from a sales point of view how much work it is.
“We always knew it was going to be hard but it’s but only when you start these things that you find out just how hard it is.
“It’s certainly different doing it for yourself as opposed to being part of a large company.”
Pearce isn’t worried about fighting a crowded market with Gift Horse because he believes the personalised labels will grow the craft beer category.
“The idea, more broadly, with Badass Beverages, is to do different things or that we don’t see other people doing. That might be in beer or other categories in alcohol or even in non-alcoholic drinks.
“What interested me was to find a niche, or to try things I’d seen overseas that aren’t here yet, or that work in one category but don’t exist in other categories — little pockets of opportunity.
“Having worked in product development and beverage research at Lion I came across lots of different ideas. Some of them we had a go doing with Lion but some didn’t suit a big business. The smaller, quirkier, or more niche an idea the less it suits a big business, so some of my ideas are those that didn’t suit a big company.”
The gift beer idea was one of those that didn’t previously exist in the beer category but it does fulfill a need.
“People give gifts all the time — often they are not that great. People default to a crappy box of chocolates or flowers from a petrol station or a card from a random shop. And if people were giving alcohol or beverages then they tended to default to a boring bottle of wine.”
“It didn’t feel like that kind of thing was catered for within beer so I thought it would be a fun idea to develop a beer brand based around gifting.”
He believes the relatively cheap price for a bottle of beer made it an ideal everyday gift, such as “saying thanks for letting me use your chainsaw” or as a birthday gift for a workmate.
“Our philosophy is not to do what everyone else is doing — not to compete with people who are already doing a great job,” he explains.
“From a retailer point of view, hopefully it’s something that’s a bit more interesting and it should be a way they can bring in new shoppers and grow the category, rather than everyone scrapping over the same consumers.”
Pearce also believes that from a wider industry viewpoint, it’s good to have people from different backgrounds bring ideas to market.
“The future of small beverage companies is doing different things — not competing with each. Having a variety of different people doing different things and exploring niches doesn’t cut anyone else’s grass, but expands category.”