The Nashville, Tenn. club held its first “Beer at the Deer” event in the summer of 2017 after the property’s casual family dining room, the Deer Park Grill, was renovated. As part of the renovation, the number of draft lines in the restaurant increased from six to eight.
About the only thing that rivals the multitude of draft beers now available to connoisseurs might be the number of opinions they have about all the various brews. And most beer aficionados aren’t shy about expressing their thoughts.
At Belle Meade Country Club in Nashville, Tenn., where two of the club’s restaurants have 14 draft beer lines between them, the staff has tried to keep its clientele happy by rotating the draft beers it serves. But then staff members had an idea that could incorporate the beer-loving members’ opinions into the property’s Food & Beverage services.
“We came up with a way for the members to be a part of that selection process,” says Wes Hardin, CCM, Director of Clubhouse Operations.
Belle Meade held its first “Beer at the Deer” event in the summer of 2017 after the property’s casual family dining room, the Deer Park Grill, was renovated. As part of the renovation, the number of draft lines in the restaurant increased from six to eight. And even though the property has a Beer Committee to help make draft-line decisions, it was becoming harder and harder to rotate the drafts satisfactorily.
So the property invited two local breweries to serve at Beer at the Deer. The Belle Meade staff gave them an outline of beers to bring—such as an IPA, pale ale, lager, nitro, and seasonal option—and members chose their favorite for each variety from among the two competing offerings.
“The two opposing breweries came at the same time, and we set it up like a friendly competition,” Hardin says.
Members were invited to the tasting, which cost $20 and includes appetizers and hors d’oeuvres, and given scorecards to choose their favorites.
The winning beers, as selected by the members, become part of the draft lines. And while this selection process has remained a constant feature of Beer at the Deer as the original point of the event, the tasting has evolved in other ways since its launch two years ago.
Originally, Beer at the Deer, which is held on a Tuesday night when the restaurant is closed, was held monthly. Now, however, it has become a quarterly event. In another tweak, Belle Meade started inviting local distributors instead of breweries to the competition.
“Every quarter, two new distributors come and offer a wide breadth of options,” says Hardin. “The distributors are set up across the room from each other, so it’s like a face-off. They love it. It guarantees them placement on the draft line for the whole quarter.”
Beer at the Deer is held from 5:30–7:30 p.m., so members can stop by on their way home from work. Some people even make an evening out of it and stay for dinner in one of the property’s other restaurants.
In addition to the Deer Park Grill’s eight draft lines, the property’s casual adult restaurant, The Grill, has six draft lines. Some of the members’ favorites are always available on draft. That leaves 10 to 12 lines that are “up for grabs” each quarter, says Hardin—“so that’s how many beers we ask for from each distributor.”
The distributors also send a representative to answer questions that the beer aficionados ask about the brews. “It adds some level of expertise to the event,” Hardin says.
Members pick up scorecards when they enter the restaurant. “It’s totally casual. They can start [sampling] anywhere they want,” says Hardin.
The members write their names on their scorecards and at the end of the event, turn them in for a drawing to win “vendor swag” such as T-shirts, duffel bags, or even a golf bag.
To vote for their favorite beer between the two competing types, the members merely need to put a checkmark beside their selection. Some, however, also make notes about the beers and rank them in order of preference, Hardin says.
“Regardless of the scoring, we make sure that each distributor is equally represented on our draft lines for the next three months,” Hardin says. “It’s a fair and equitable way to deal with it.”
Typically, he says, 20 to 50 people attend the event, and a handful of the same people come each quarter. Otherwise, the diverse group of attendees includes men, women, young, and older members.
“We want to develop a great beer program at the club,” Hardin says. “We want a great experience for our members.”
In addition to developing a beer program, creating a popular event, and giving members ownership in the draft line decision-making process, another benefit has resulted from Beer at the Deer as well.
“Now, we have a beer that is being brewed just for us—the Belle Meade 1901 Ale,” Hardin says.
The Goal: Design an event that allows Belle Meade Country Club members to be part of the decision-making process for selecting the beer offerings for the draft lines in two of the property’s restaurants.
The Plan: Each quarter, two local distributors are invited to participate in a friendly beer-tasting competition so members can sample various offerings. Members fill out scorecards to vote for their favorite between the competing types of beers, and the winners are added to Belle Meade’s draft lines in two of its restaurants for the next three months. In the interest of fairness, the property makes sure that beers from each distributor are always included in the final lineup.
The Payoff: Beer sales have improved significantly as a result of members’ investment in the selection process, and the event has turned into a popular social outing for members.