Engineer turned brewmaster, Jeff Smith spends equal time juggling chemistry and creativity, mashing, mixing and modifying carefully chosen ingredients, analyzing charts and nurturing flavors in one direction or another all while peering into vats and vessels, kits and kettles in anticipation of what’s to come. The magic happens at LUKI Brewery in Arvada, a suburb of Denver, Colorado.
LUKI BREWERY INFUSES DELIGHT, WONDER IN EVERY EXPERIENCE
In the taproom, you’ll find an eclectic mix of ales, lagers and stouts, some with uniquely local flavors. As much joy Jeff takes in brewing, his enthusiasm for promoting and selling his craft beer soars to even greater heights.
It seems fitting. Jeff’s great grandmother and grandfather were part of the Ringling Brothers Circus in the 1920s. Mademoiselle Chloe was an elephant rider and snake charmer while Richard Sr. was an advanced ticket seller. For two generations, circus life was a family affair as they performed alongside some of the most famous artists of the time.
While planning for the brewery, Jeff and his wife Cammy revisited the family’s history with the circus and thought of its sense of community, entertainment and wonder.
“When we started, we really focused on creating a taproom experience to delight our customers,” said Jeff. “We didn’t want distribution or to put our cans on shelves. We’re not even looking at getting kegs on tap at bars. It’s about people coming to our place and having a great experience, which really lends itself to the circus.
TAMING THE CIRCUS THEME
Developing the branding allowed Jeff to tap into his creative side. For starters, he didn’t want an ordinary circus theme. He favored a contemporary, more subdued approach, a combination that was challenging to find.
Then Jeff received a note from account manager Kim Jones at 88 Design Group, the in-house design team at Grandstand in Lawrence, Kansas. Grandstand supplies LUKI Brewery with glassware and commemorative retail merchandise and packaging.
“Talk about a personal touch, Kim Jones at 88 Design Group, did something that is so rare anymore. She sent me a handwritten note. That’s the kind of personal touch that I think is fantastic,” he said.
During a meeting with Kim, Jeff shared his creative vision for the brewery. From the beginning, he wanted the marketing and branding to pull through every aspect of the business, including the merchandise, labels, website and taproom.
“For me, it’s about recreating the experience over and over again. For example, in our taproom, are customers feeling comfortable, are they feeling welcome? I think carrying the design through everything helps develop brand loyalty,” Jeff explained.
88 Design Group created two simple logo designs, one of a top hat and another featuring a ticket, along with a punchy, modern color palette.
“I’m really happy with how it turned out,” said Jeff. “I think I’m spoiled with 88 Design Group. I like to use local talent whenever possible so I was trying other designers but I came back to Grandstand and 88 Design Group.”
FRESH APPEARANCES EVERY SEASON
To keep the experience fresh and customers curious and coming back for more, Jeff continuously changes up the designs on the brewery’s merch with the help of 88 Design Group.
“I had them create a special opening day crowler and a limited edition glass fully wrapped in a four-color label with a Stella Artois-style gold rim at the top to give it some pop. It’s really cool. We’ll do something special like that for our anniversary too,” said Jeff.
“People absolutely loved our first barrel glass so I decided to start releasing seasonal glasses. Lo and behold, we now have people calling us asking for the winter glass. It’s my goal to create a yearly design that pulls through collectible glassware and merch all year long. That way, a customer who’s been with us all along will recognize year one and year two t-shirts and think, I’ve been here through all of this. That’s brand loyalty.”
For Jeff, the branded merchandise isn’t necessarily about making additional profits, it’s about selling more beer.
“I try to keep my margins pretty thin on the merch because if people buy it, they’re a walking billboard for me. I look at it as an extension of my advertising. I’m not trying to make 50% on a t-shirt. I’m okay making 20% or 30 % on so I can get it out there and people can learn about us,” he said.
KNOCKING IT OUT OF THE PARK
In June, LUKI Brewery released its Summer Edition of Circus-in-a-Box. The special quarterly box features craft beer crowlers, seasonal glassware and goodies from local businesses in an artful package designed by 88 Design Group.
“When talking about the design, the original photo I sent the team was of soda and plastic cups lined up on the counter. They took that rough idea and ran with it, and knocked it out of the park,” said Jeff. “I love it. It brings the brewery’s fun, whimsical elements into the customer’s living room.”
Whether a customer is in the taproom or picking up a Circus-in-a-Box, Jeff wants to make sure that every interaction with the brewery instills the same feeling, one of whimsy and wonder. On his 64-ounce growler, he added a scannable link to a Spotify playlist with music that’s playing in the taproom.
“At the end of the day, I just want to sell beer and have fun doing it. I want to create that kid wonder-kind of feeling for everything we do,” he said. “88 Design Group has absolutely done a fantastic job for us.”
Learn more about Grandstand. Click here.