One year ago two beer-focused businesses opened on the South Shore with an emphasis on revitalizing community connections — and it seems that both have found success.
While Lake Tahoe AleWorX and South Lake Brewing Company have different business models (the former a part taproom, part restaurant with a self-serve tap wall that boasts 30 options and the latter a beer garden-style brewery featuring over 10 of its own concoctions on tap), the establishments both have collaboration-focused goals.
For AleWorX, these partnerships come in the form of working alongside other businesses located in The Crossing at Tahoe Valley (which also houses AleWorX), as well as craft breweries.
"From the get-go I wanted AleWorX to serve as a catalyst to reignite the shopping center, and then the shopping center to reignite the Y. You can't do it in a year, but we've made serious progress as far as thinking in other ways," said Luca Genasci, CEO of Lake Tahoe AleWorX.
"We try to leverage that patio, the fire pits and stage to our advantage as much as we can, and by making it a spot the community wants to gather and hang out."
Apart from weekly Tap Takeovers (where one brewery is highlighted along multiple handles of the tap wall), AleWorX is known for hosting family-friendly get-togethers like the upcoming Cinco de Mayo celebration it will produce in partnership with Verde Mexican Rotisserie.
Events of this caliber are hosted on the patio adjacent to AleWorX and feature live music, local vendors and multiple contests, along with beer and AleWorX's wood-fired pizza.
SLBC's events, while also family-friendly, have two focuses: To unite the community in weekly, laid-back events like Trivia Night and to gather supporters of local nonprofits.
"[Trivia nights] create a really fun, free activity that people can do together. We constantly see the same teams week after week — they've created these clubs, almost. It's a fun thing to do on a Monday night," said Nicole Smith, owner of SLBC.
While trivia nights draw in good business (according to Smith, SLBC sees approximately 15 teams of up to six people each week), the craft brewery's large-scale gatherings tend to be fundraisers for local nonprofits.
"We can support the community, and that's ultimately what we want to achieve in terms of the tasting room. We have one of the largest indoor spaces available for people to put on these events," Smith said.
The taproom — which can hold over 150 people — provides enough space for nonprofits to set up informational booths on fundraising nights to "showcase what they're all about," according to Smith. She noted SLBC's recent hosting of Tahoe Chamber's latest Connect for a Cause mixer as an example.
"There were eight nonprofits that were focused on serving children and families in the community and each of those eight had a table with information where customers could come up and learn about that nonprofit."
To Smith and the SLBC staff, these nonprofit nights not only raise funds for local organizations, but also get people through the doors who haven't visited the business before — that way they'll "try the beer, come back and become a regular," she said.
Aside from events, SLBC has connected with the community by means of its three "benefit beers," which attribute a portion of proceeds to various South Shore-based nonprofits. Identified as the Trail Builder Pale Ale, Forecaster Dark Ale and Fog Nozzle IPA, the benefit beers raise funds for Tahoe Area Mountain Biking Association, Sierra Avalanche Center and Lake Tahoe Basin Fire Academy, respectively. These organizations receive 10 percent of sales from their respective beers.
Despite the distinctive tactics, both AleWorX and SLBC have filled a niche in the community.
"Community collaboration is a win-win. The community gets a great opportunity to socialize, connect with one another, and we get the opportunity to thrive as a business," Genasci noted. "[AleWorX] tries to fill collaborative efforts into the actual infrastructure of our operation, and I hope we've shown that we're planning to carry that forward in the types of events we put on."
SLBC has hosted 15 events since it broke onto the scene about one year ago, and according to Smith the brewery's March numbers rivaled that of last July — typically the busiest month of the year for Tahoe-based restaurants and bars.
"Our tasting room has become a community hub," she said.