Every tippler has faced the dilemma of not having a suitable company while sipping on their favorite spirit, cider, beer, or wine. And every craft alcohol maker has struggled with how to get in front of more enthusiasts who would love their products if they just knew about them. Especially lately. The recent COVID-19 pandemic has forced the craft alcohol and hospitality industries as well as their drinking fans to reinvent themselves and the camaraderie normally shared by at local tasting rooms, bars, or restaurants. Welcome to virtual tastings!
More and more we’ve seen virtual tastings, cocktail classes, and other craft alcohol experiences organized via zoom and other virtual meeting platforms. Including our very own weekly Tippler Nation Virtual Tasting Experiences! With more and more brands, even many small craft brands, now selling their alcohol direct to consumers online it’s become incredibly easy and enjoyable to relax at home and safely observe social distancing while enjoying a drink with other like-minded enthusiasts.
The Virtual Tasting Experience
If you haven’t joined in on any virtual tastings just yet, the process can differ based on the host and format but typically they’re simple, affordable, educational, and fun. While not always required, for the most immersive experience all you need to do is order the featured tipple and maybe gather some cocktail ingredients if it’s a cocktail making class. Then you simply log on via video call at the required time, follow along with the narrative, ask your questions, and chat along with the other participants, hosts and the maker. Your host (or hosts in our case!) will most likely take you on a visual virtual tour, help you choose the right kind of glasses, and teach you how to taste like a pro all while providing stories and information related to the featured products.
If you’ve been on virtual tastings that feel more like presentations or sales pitches keep looking. There are highly immersive, engaging, and educational events to be found…here at The Crafty Cask and beyond. I’d suggest looking for virtual tastings that feature multiple brands centered around a style or region for the best experience, although there are plenty of great brand-hosted ones out there as well.
As our world begins to move back towards some state of normalcy, however, will virtual tastings become a thing of the past? We don’t think so. And, in fact, we hope they become even more popular in the future. Here are our top 5 reasons why we believe virtual tastings are, and should be, here to stay…
1. Meeting the Maker is Almost Guaranteed
Evan has been giving bespoke wine tours for almost 10 years now. And one of the only complaints he ever hears, is that his guests wish the winemaker was around for them to meet. Particularly when it’s a brand they’ve known and loved for a while. With most virtual tastings (and all of ours!) you are guaranteed to meet the maker virtually. And if you’re at the right kind of events, ahem not huge, mass branded sales pitches that are one directional and in webinar format, you even have time and space to talk to them directly and get your questions answered.
I don’t know about you, but meeting the people responsible for the products I enjoy, getting to know them, and hearing their story is one of the reasons I support craft alcohol in the first place! So having an opportunity to get to meet the makers and be a part of that community feels really special. Especially when I can do it from the comfort of home while sipping on their delicious products.
2. Virtual Tastings Build Community
Communities developed from ongoing virtual tastings are springing up across the globe. Friendships are forged, and distances are bridged over a glass of wine, dram of whiskey, or other shared experience and passion. It has become common for wine connoisseurs to bond over deep discussions or debates about the wine they’re sipping. More and more people have attended reoccurring virtual experiences where they enjoy the selected tipple, settle down for a conversation about the style, and explore that particular expression.
It’s good to see people who care, it’s good to see community. In a digital age in a world where we have so much connection, so much communication, local is plus or minus the circumference of the planet. It’s fantastic to see people from disparate locations come together for this sort of a thing…and just having a good time. It makes craft not feel so local! ~Jonathan Norgrove, Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Beyond making new friends who share your interests, virtual tastings are also a great way to keep your own existing community engaged and strong. We’ve hosted surprise virtual birthday party mixology classes, Father’s Day virtual whiskey tastings for the extended family, virtual happy hours & cocktail classes for distillery club members, and more. We’ve also had couples and groups of friends simply join in our weekly public virtual tastings as a fun thing to do together beyond the now ubiquitous zoom hang out.
Whether joining in on virtual tastings on your own or with others they are a surefire way to meet and engage with likeminded people from all across the globe. And I think we’re all feeling that community matters now more than ever.
3. Virtual Tastings Are Accessible To All
The beautiful thing about virtual tastings and experiences is that travel cost is no longer a deterrent to people who have always wanted to visit region or specific maker. Whether it’s budget, or time, or even fear of flying holding you back, virtual tastings now make the world of craft alcohol accessible to everyone. Further, they can help you essentially “preview” a place that you’re considering visiting when we’re all ready to start traveling again!
Wine aficionados across geographical borders are empowered to taste and enjoy the best wines from the world's most famous regions. The world of craft alcohol just became smaller and more tightly knit. You need not spend on airfare and hotels and drivers. The best of craft alcohol have suddenly become affordable and available, along with the tasting experience in totality.
This is particularly true of virtual tastings like the ones we host each week, where pre-ordering the tipple we’ll be sipping on is highly encouraged for a more immersive experience, but not required to join. To be honest, there are so many great virtual tastings and experiences out there you don’t have to spend big bucks on anything other than the booze (which let’s be honest, you were likely going to buy eventually anyway!). This is exactly how it should be to ensure your precious dollars are going directly to the makers you want to support. It’s precisely the reason we keep our virtual tastings free for all consumers to attend…we’d rather you spend your money on that delicious booze than pay to attend!
4. The Options Are Endless
The art of pairing food is just one style of virtual tastings that have become a little more mainstream. Previously, this space was treated as a precious one, with only knowledgeable food critics, chefs, and sommeliers holding command over the subject. Opening the topic more broadly via the internet has made expertise like food pairing or proper tasting techniques more approachable and accessible.
Similarly, cocktail making classes are one of our most popular private virtual events, for small groups and companies alike. While we all certainly miss going to bars for the amazing cocktails, atmosphere, and people, the virtues of becoming a great home mixologist have become apparent. Learning about families of cocktails, cocktail making techniques, and more can be a fun way to engage employees, woo clients from afar, hang out with friends and then learn to impress future friends from the comfort of home.
The variety of virtual tastings, lessons, topics, and experiences is vast…and they cut across wine, cider, beer, spirits, and more. Better yet, they just got more accessible and frequent, which is good news for craft alcohol enthusiasts.
5. Support Favorite Makers More Often & Easily
How many times have you traveled to a tasting room, met some great people, and discovered an amazing local beer or whiskey or wine? You get a bit to bring home…yet before you know it you’ve run out. Sad face. But when you bought it, it was about more than just the product. It was the whole experience that made you fall in love and want to support the brand by buying a few bottles.
It’s not just about becoming a club member or buying product online anymore. It’s about connection and experiences. Virtual tastings allow you to keep those connections strong, have new experiences, visit with makers on location virtually, and truly become a part of their community. Supporting them and nourishing your soul…and keeping your bar well stocked with brands you truly know and love. Why only go to your favorite winery once a year when you can hang out with them monthly?! Then when you do make it in person, bam – you’re already a regular! It’s a great way to support small business and really get something valuable in return beyond delicious booze alone.
Yes! Virtual Tastings Are Here To Stay
The ability of incredible, small, craft makers to reach the masses has never been better as it is today with the explosion of virtual tastings. Which is great for craft makers competing against big booze brands with deep pockets, but it’s also great for us craft enthusiasts. Virtual tastings allow us to drink the world from the comfort of our own home. And keep our home bar stocked with unique, delicious tipples that just a few months ago would have been not only hard for us to discover, but also hard for us to acquire without being in the same city.
When shared with like-minded enthusiasts, the joy of swirling an aromatic beverage and appreciating the complex smells and tastes all while hearing thoughts directly from the maker have become experiences not to be missed. Great for easy date nites, birthday celebrations, guys and girls nights out, corporate events, or even just something fun to do solo. Virtual tastings are here to stay and we’re thrilled that they will be one of the positive outcomes of an otherwise challenging time.