Tapping the market: Why this bank helped brew a craft beer

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Donning safety glasses, closed-toe shoes and rubber gloves, three bankers recently received a lesson in brewing beer.

Exhibit ‘A’ Brewing in Framingham, Mass., hosted two marketing managers and a summer intern from Avidia Bank in Hudson, Mass., as part of a collaboration between the companies.

The result of last month's brew session is Demo Tape 19: Liquid Tender, an India pale ale that will debut at the brewery on July 21 during an event sponsored by the mutual.

While not many banks have brewed and cultivated their own beer brands, the partnership is an example of a community bank embracing its local roots and standing out in a crowded marketplace. Similarly, a handful of banks have hosted or sponsored events at local breweries to appeal to younger generations.

NewDominion Bank in Charlotte, N.C., which was recently sold to Park National in Newark, Ohio, has hosted seminars for first-time homebuyers at a local brewery, for example. CEO Blaine Jackson said in an interview earlier this year that the sessions attracted young couples interested in improving their credit scores and learning about topics such as down payments.

Iberiabank in Lafeyette, La., this month sponsored the second-anniversary party for Joymongers Brewing in Greensboro, N.C. Iberia, which is relatively new to central North Carolina, had its logo on scores of koozies that were given out at the all-day event.

A call to Iberia was not immediately returned.

There are commonalities between community banks and breweries, industry experts said. Philanthropy is important to both groups, said Pat Tuley, a tax partner with Porter Keadle Moore in Atlanta who works with both industries.

“Breweries have tight ties with the communities in which they are located,” Tuley said. “It’s a natural fit and a good way for a banker to come into a community and leverage the existing relationships and ties that the brewery has with the community.”

Bank partnerships with breweries likely appeal to entrepreneurs who appreciate creative thinking and collaborations, said David O’Connell, a senior analyst at Aite Group. Innovative partnerships with local businesses also separate community banks from larger peers, he added.

“This is a terrific and fun extension of their capability to be embedded in the community,” O’Connell said. “It’s a great move that the large banks can’t replicate. It builds upon a strength community banks already have and one that matters in small-business lending.”

Avidia Bank and Exhibit ‘A’ are relatively new to the Framingham area. Avidia kept bumping into Exhibit ‘A’ at different charitable and community events, and each quickly realized that they shared common values, said CarrieAnne Cormier, the bank's vice president of retail operations and strategy.

“We're really proud of our charitable giving, but we want to do more of that through volunteering, collaborations and cross-promoting, because when businesses and people around us grow, that’s what makes all of us successful,” Cormier said.

When the brewery approached the $1.5 billion-asset Avidia about sponsoring a summer event featuring new beers and local bands, Cormier and her colleague Katlin Cwieka were intrigued. They proposed taking the sponsorship a step further by brewing an Avidia-branded beer.

“We did bring a four-pack of beer to our CEO’s office at 7 a.m., the day we were announcing,” Cwieka said. “He said, ‘What are you doing?’ We put it on his table and said, ‘Well, we're making our own beer.’ He said, ‘OK, it’s a little early,’ but he was excited.”

It’s not the first time Avidia has taken a unique approach to marketing. The bank collaborated with a local ice cream shop a few years ago on a “back to school bash” that included a school supplies drive. The bank made the event an internal contest for employees to choose and name a new ice cream flavor.

In addition to sponsoring the brewery event, which will feature nine local bands and three new beers, Avidia paid for some of the Liquid Tender ingredients, said Kelsey Roth, general manager of Exhibit ‘A’. The companies will also donate a portion of the proceeds from each four-pack of Liquid Tender to the Rise Above Foundation, a local organization that supports foster children.

“We have causes that we care about and when you look at brands that you want to align yourself with, it’s ones that care about the things you do,” Cormier said.

Roth, who designed the logo and promotional materials for the new beer, said Avidia weighed in on the beer’s flavor, branding and name. They decided to brew an IPA, a best-selling variety, Roth said, adding that he expects the 20-barrel batch of Liquid Tender to sell out within three weeks.

Cwieka and Cormier, who have shared the upcoming event and the partnership with Exhibit ‘A’ on social media channels, said they are pleased with the feedback so far.

“People say, ‘What? Banking and breweries?’ ” Cwieka said.

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