The Club at Wynstone in North Barrington, Ill. partnered with a local micro-brewery, Lake Zurich Brewing Company, to create a beer that is exclusive to the property.
For The Club at Wynstone in North Barrington, Ill., calling members by name is a significant part of the overall experience. “The staff knows who will be on the property every day,” says General Manager Jason Waters. “Name recognition is important to us.”
But members’ names aren’t the only ones to gain distinction at the club. The 18-hole golf course is a Jack Nicklaus signature layout, and now another name has become synonymous with the facility: Wynstone Ale.
This past spring, The Club at Wynstone partnered with a local micro-brewery, Lake Zurich Brewing Company, to create a beer that is exclusive to the property. Originally, the property intended to serve the beer for four weeks as a summer ale. But it has been such a hit with the membership, the club has now decided to serve it year-round.
Zurich Brewing developed the beer—a smooth, cream ale and mini-IPA with a 3.5 alcohol volume—aided by input from Waters, Food and Beverage Director Jason Yuhasz and Executive Chef Andre Skula. “We wanted to keep it light and refreshing, because we thought it was going to be a summer beer,” says Waters.
The process to create the exclusive ale started with the renovation of The Club at Wynstone’s terrace grill, which included the addition of a bar and more draft beer. In the spring, Waters says, “We did a beer tasting right before the bar opened, and got a sense of the flavors our members liked.”
The tasting included six different taps from six different breweries, and 40 members rated their top beers. The samples included an IPA, a pilsner, a stout, and an ale.
With an original batch of 930 gallons, the property introduced Wynstone Ale to the membership in mid-May. Available by draft or can, the proprietary ale now accounts for two of The Club at Wynstone’s 48 beer SKUs, which include draft beers, bottles and cans. And in the initial two-and-a-half months that Wynstone Ale was available, it made up 34 percent of the property’s beer sales.
“After we saw the success rate of it, we’d be crazy not to make it permanent,” says Waters. “It’s still our number-one seller by a lot.
“It’s something our members are proud of,” he adds. “You’re always trying to create member pride. Being a private, exclusive club, you want to have something that you can only experience here.”
The beer takes four weeks to brew, and the second batch of Wynstone Ale, which was started in July, was ready in mid-August.
To help launch Wynstone Ale, Waters worked with the brewery to negotiate costs and determine the proper batch size, He ran the numbers to present to the nine member families that own The Club at Wynstone, where the membership is guaranteed no assessments and no food-and-beverage minimums.
The proprietary brew is an extension of The Club at Wynstone’s efforts to create a special experience for members and their guests, whether they are business associates or family members.
When guests come to play golf, for instance, the golf pro presents them with an engraved bag tag. “We offer a concierge experience when members bring their guests,” says Waters. Members might also ask for special golf balls or a particular shirt in their lockers for their rounds. And now they have started to make another request—for Wynstone Ale in their golf cars.
Setting Up Another Round
Building on the success of Wynstone Ale, The Club at Wynstone also launched a Wynstone Seasonal beer at a special four-course dinner and beer pairing held for 32 people at the Lake Zurich brewery in early October.
The dinner, which cost $39 per person, was held inside the working part of the brewery, and the brewmaster attended the event. “We talked about how the beers are made and what the process is,” says Waters.
The club held an open sign-up for the dinner and invited members that the staff thought would enjoy it the most. Some of the members brought friends to the dinner as well. “We wanted to expose other people, because ultimately that could be our next new member,” Waters notes.
(For details on the courses served at the dinner and the beer pairings with each course, see the online version of this article at www.clubandresortbusiness.com.)
Wynstone Seasonal is being brewed in a smaller batch than Wynstone Ale, and the property will sell it until it runs out.
Waters also hopes the dinner will help to create another experience for the membership—a Mug Club that would be similar to the property’s Wine of the Month program. Members would pay a monthly fee to join the Mug Club, for which the property would rotate drafts to highlight its various beers.
“We want to be different and unique,” says Waters. “We want to create that ‘wow’ factor from start to finish.”