First Draft: Four Seasons uses yoga — yes, yoga — to spread the word
Rosslyn Kemerer thought the idea was a bit nutty.
When Christian Simmons, co-owner of Four Seasons Brewing Co. in Latrobe, pitched the idea of hosting weekly yoga classes inside his microbrewery, Kemerer didn't know what to think.
“I wanted to see the space first,” says Kemerer, a certified yoga instructor in Greensburg. “I wanted to make sure we'd have a clean area, somewhere where we could find a relaxing environment.”
So she toured the brewery. She found plenty of space to stretch out, observed how local artists' paintings hanging on the walls contributed to a calming atmosphere, and agreed that yoga at the brewery just might work.
Still, she had one more concern.
“I don't like beer,” Kemerer says. “I mean, at all. I don't drink it, I don't like the taste ... and I didn't want to offend anyone.”
Not a problem for the easygoing Simmons, who believes that people who don't like beer simply haven't found the right one yet.
So on a cold winter morning in January, Kemerer rolled out her yoga mat on the concrete floor of Four Seasons' 4,000-square-foot brewery. Seven people showed up. A few more attended the next class, and a couple more the week after.
Now Four Seasons is looking to add classes. Maybe start running and biking groups, too.
“People who drink craft beer are the type of people who are out there living,” Simmons says. “They're hiking, they're living outdoors — they're doing yoga. Craft beer lets you experience many different types of beer, and that appeals to people who do different types of things in life.”
Simmons walks the walk. Though he grew up “in the sticks” outside Latrobe, he moved to Bend, Ore., when he was 19 to snowboard for a few years.
When he returned, he took a job working in a local factory. It paid the bills, but Simmons sought a more meaningful venture.
Right on cue, his close friend Mark Pavlik — a skilled local home-brewer who for years had impressed former Rolling Rock employees with his experimental five-gallon batches — approached him with a proposal: Let's start a brewery, he said. You manage, I'll brew.
“I was like, dude, heaven's gates just opened,” Simmons says. “I'll finally get the chance to not be working for the man, just working for the beer.”
Two years after opening, Four Seasons ( www.fsbrewing.com ) produces about 1,000 barrels a year. In recent months, they launched a new beer, Bang Bang Double IPA, a surprisingly smooth beer given its 8.9 percent ABV (alcohol by volume). Their Get Down Brown ale was featured in February at the grand opening of the Independent Brewing Company ( www.independentpgh.com ) a Squirrel Hill bar that sells only local craft beers. And Pavlik is working on a session IPA with an ABV below 4 percent, making it an ideal summer beer.
Like other regional microbreweries, Four Seasons does not have the budget to launch elaborate marketing campaigns. The money, after all, is best poured back into the beer. Instead, brewers use alternative methods to spread the word.
They rely on word-of-mouth and growlers stamped with their logos. They take to social media to promote new releases and special events. And, yes, they do yoga next to their brewing tanks.
The idea seems to be taking off. Angela Merendino, owner of Red Brick Yoga ( www.redbrickyoga.com ) in Greensburg, decided to launch a “Dudes and Brews” class at her studio. Men 21 and over try yoga, then sample beers from Four Seasons. The first class is July 25.
“Persistence is key whenever you start a business, but the craft-beer movement isn't going anywhere,” Simmons says. “This is what people want. This is the way it was 100 years ago, when every neighborhood had its own brewery.”
Of course, back then, local breweries served mostly lagers, whereas Four Seasons specializes in ales. And yoga certainly was not part of that bygone blue-collar drinking scene.
But it works now, Simmons says, both as a marketing tool and a healthy way to start a Saturday.
“People hang out after and they can sample beer, they can bring their growlers,” Simmons says. “They get plenty of time to chill and talk.”
And Simmons gets time to convert nonbeer-drinkers.
“Christian got me to try one of his beers that's not bad — Dark Side of the Pint porter,” Kemerer says. “I kind of liked it. But I told him they need to start making cider, too.”
Chris Togneri's most recent homebrew — an IPA with seven ounces of Citra hops — came out with unwanted phenolic undertones. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @ChrisTogneri, but he might not respond until he finishes sterilizing his equipment.