Should samples be free?

New Belgium in Fort Collins, Colorado announced this week that they are going to start charging for samples. They are also adding 12 and 16 oz. servings for customer’s who want a proper beer. Previously, they gave visitors to the brewery tokens, enough to sample roughly half of their beers then they cut them off. It was a little frustrating.

Anyway, should breweries give away samples to legal drinkers or can they add a bit to their profit by charging for samples? (New Belgium isn’t profiting from this, by the way. They’re giving the proceeds from the samples to local charities.)

I kinda see both sides here. The brewery is there to brew and sell beer, right? Would you do what you do for a living for, say, 15% longer every day without getting paid just because your boss asked for it? Probably not. I know I wouldn’t. Also, I’m sure you’ve been on brewery tours and saw those shit face drunk guys who had been touring breweries and sucking down free samples all day. Charging for samples would certainly slow that down.

On the other side, I almost always end up buying beer or wine after going through the samples, provided they sell onsite. Whether I buy something that day or not, the tastings give me a feeling of connection to the brewery or winery and I always notice the bottles in the store later. Often I buy some. A few free samples almost always turns into lots of sales in the future, at least they do in the case of this customer.

So, should breweries offer free samples? Obviously it’s up to them. Some choose to, some don’t. I think I probably would if I ever opened a brewery but, it’s easy to idly speculate before you actually get into a thing, isn’t it?

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