Rio works with local brewers in unique partnership [Greeley Tribune, Colo. :: ]
(Greeley Tribune (CO) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 04--The staying power of some good Mexican food with good beer is morphing into a crafty campaign by two local businesses in a unique partnership.
Dreamed up by Rio Grande Mexican Restaurant founder Pat McGaughran, the partnership soon could put a fledgling Greeley brewery on the map and effectively transform the businesses' marketing efforts.
The restaurant, which has been in downtown Greeley since 1995, is offering a special Wiley Roots Brewing Co. draft created specifically for the restaurant's fare. Wiley Roots brewer Kyle Carbaugh has created Con Lime (Spanish for 'with lime') to be served up as a seasonal brew for the downtown Greeley restaurant. The light, citrusy beer will be on tap at the Rio and Wiley Root's downtown brewery until it's gone.
The collaboration is seen as a way not only to cross-promote, but also keeping the restaurant's offerings fresh, mixed with a healthy blend of mentorship for a young business owner.
"It's really an ideal form of advertising if you will," McGaughran said. "Fans of the brewery will say, 'Let's see what they did,' and vice versa. If Rio fans find this beer, it exposes them, and it might lead them over for other beers at Wiley Roots. It helps us because it draws interest by the beer community to come in and try us out."
The Rio has seen initial success with this approach to offering local brews, starting with Fort Collins, which has several craft brewers to choose from. But as the craft brew scene has exploded into northern Colorado in recent years, it made sense to broaden the scope, McGaughran said.
"This last year, as we expanded our bar program and started featuring more craft cocktails, we figured let's feature local craft brewers. That's when we started to find out who is doing what.
"We found that most people are pretty open to this idea, a lot of these guys establish a great name, and some are really trying to and find that collaborating with business such as ourselves opens the aperture for the influence they're having in the community and accentuates what we're doing."
Carbaugh, who has had his brewery at 625 3rd St. only since last summer, said his boost into the Rio spotlight came after his Super 77 Wheat won a bronze medal at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, a national competition. His brewery subsequently was featured in a national beer magazine as a brewery to watch.
The Rio came calling in January, with the idea of collaboration.
Carbaugh already had been working on draft accounts with several local bars. His brews are on tap at Patrick's Irish Pub, Moody's American Grill, and the Kress Cinema and Lounge downtown, as well as some other bars throughout the city. Some bars will rotate through the beers, others keep them on tap consistently.
But the notion of creating a beer specifically for a restaurant was new.
"We got together and sat down and talked about the kind of beers we thought would go well with what they're doing, and I came back to the table with a recipe ... and we brewed up a batch."
The batch is 14 kegs, and it will be served at the Rio and the brewery until it's gone. But if it's well received, there's the possibility of bringing it to Rio's other restaurants across the Front Range, Carbaugh said.
"It's not necessarily one and done, but the life span hasn't been determined yet," Carbaugh said.
For Carbaugh, the partnership is that much better than advertising. With his brewery on the outskirts of the downtown core, he has to work hard to gain customers' attention. He's done that by getting his brews into local bars and being at local events. He just did a "tap takeover" at the Moxie Theater, for example and spring-boarded Con Lime at the Rio with a tap takeover there last week. Tap takeovers are just that, filling the bar's taps with all of his brews.
"We're on the fringes of that, but doing things like the tap takeovers, and making sure people see us and we're visible, those continue to drive more about what we're doing. People start asking for us," Carbaugh said.
McGaughran said one of the appeals of such partnerships is not only celebrating other businesses in the community, but helping smaller start-ups like Wiley Roots.
"They're new to the market," McGaughran said. "It's so hard to put roots in the ground and pull yourself up. Established companies like ours collaborating with young guys is a great opportunity for us to participate in the community. Having been there some years ago myself with new business, whenever you get to be recognized by other more establish companies, it flows both ways."
McGaughran said this idea could sprout other local partnerships. Offering local spirits could be next, or even featured items from local food producers.
For now, the local brews are on tap.
"We see it as a new opportunity in every market to really make new friends in the community through these collaborations," McGaughran said. "As long as people are interested in new brews, and the fun that seems to surround them, why not keep going?"
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