Since opening its doors in November 2015, the accolades have rolled in for still-young Marker 48 Brewing in Weeki Wachee, Florida, about 45 minutes north of Tampa.
In its January 2016 issue, Beer Advocate Magazine named the craft brewery among its “Class of 2015” list of “exceptional breweries that opened in 2015” in the United States. Only 33 breweries made the list.
Red, Right, Return, one of Marker 48’s flagship beers, won a bronze medal in the Irish-style Red Ale category of the 2016 Best Florida Beer Championships, the first time the brewery had entered the competition.
Though it barely missed the Final Four in Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2016 “Battle of the Brews”’ Sweet 16-style online voting competition, the overwhelming support shown by its fans garnered the brewery Rookie of the Year honors, an unexpected surprise for owners Maurice and Tina Ryman. And Marker 48 was one of only two Florida craft breweries chosen to participate in this year’s prestigious SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience, recognized as the nation’s premier craft beer and food pairing event.
That’s a lot of recognition for a brewery open for less than a year.
People who visit the brewery housed in a former auto-repair shop on busy Cortez Boulevard (State Road 50) almost universally praise the place, as evidenced by a flood of five-star reviews on Facebook, Yelp and other such social media sites.
“Almost” universally praise … .
As with any business, the occasional disgruntled consumer prompts not-so-pleasant interactions. But Marker 48 has a knack for turning potential negatives into positives.
Example 1: Take the case of Mick Spik, which at least is the name he goes by on Facebook.
THE NEGATIVE: Mr. S. visited the brewery’s taproom one Saturday afternoon a few weeks after the grand opening and settled in at the bar. The gentleman ordered one of the brewed-on-premise beers, and started interacting with the staff and customers.
Unfortunately, it soon became evident that Mr. S. had started his drinking earlier that day, and seemed to be quite inebriated by the time he arrived (fortunately in a cab).
Once his level of inebriation – and belligerence – became apparent, Marker 48 general manager Cindy Halley gently suggested he switch to water, and perhaps take advantage of the on-premise food truck BarbieCue before he ordered more beer.
Mr. S. declined the offer, and loudly voiced his opinion of the beer, the service, the atmosphere, and any other deficiencies he thought he had noticed during his time at the brewery. He threw his tip money at Ms. Halley, literally – coins, not bills — and stomped off the premises, fortunately calling a cab to pick him up.
He wasted no time posting his opinion on social media, composing a FaceBook review that read thusly:
Snobbery at its finest. And in a beer joint? So what, … You brew your own beer. Great.
I visited the establishment for a taste.
Your staff member ‘Nurse Ratchet’ was quick to make me feel unwanted. I was not worthy of the higher standard that this BEER BAR (and that’s what it is – look at the sign) expected from a customer. For those that enjoy average craft brew at above average prices, serviced by snobs, then this is the place to be, a promising failure.
The brewery owners responded appropriately online, but the key point to take from this is the reference to “Nurse Ratchet (sp),” which was Mr. S.’s nickname for the above-mentioned, good-natured Ms. Halley. (“Nurse Ratched” being the name of the grim and sometimes sadistic character in the classic flick “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).
MAKING IT A POSITIVE: Rather than let this unintentionally hilarious reference fall to the wayside, two limited edition beers – sours of course – debuted a couple of months later: Nurse Ratchet – Orange (a yogurt-sour aged with blood orange, 5% ABV) and Nurse Ratchet – Cherry (aged on cherries, 5% ABV). Both were well-received and are expected to return sometime soon, perhaps for a special “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” movie night in the beer garden.
THE NEGATIVE: Shortly after Marker 48 published a print ad in a local magazine, the brewery received a call from a resident who took umbrage at the use of the word “delicious” to describe beer. “Beer is not delicious. Food is delicious,” the caller said. Many times, along with a few disparaging remarks about the relative intelligence of the staff and their command of the English language.
Fortunately, no one answered the call and it was captured on the answering machine. The owners took a video of the machine playing the message, and posted it to Facebook. At first, they were angry, but soon realized the potential promotional value of the content of the call.
MAKING IT A POSITIVE: Almost immediately, customers of the brewery who viewed the video started using the hashtag #DeliciousBeer on social media channels. Brewmaster John Myers named a new imperial brown ale (8% ABV) “Molicious,” (co-owner Maurice’s nickname is “Mo”) and local artisan Ted Petree created a wooden sign for the bar: “It IS Delicious Beer!”
There were a few other cases in which someone posted a critical remark about Marker 48, but it’s usually handled much more quietly by inviting the customer back to discuss the issue or if it’s a legitimate complaint, fixing the issue.
But in the wide world of craft beer, a brewery sometimes will receive criticism from a customer or blogger and the reaction will be just as critical, often escalating to an online pissing match that makes both parties look bad.
Take a lesson from Marker 48 Brewing, and find a way to turn the negatives into positives.
Marker 48 is a Premier Sponsor of the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference and will be pouring samples and answering any questions you might have at the Beer Expo on Friday night. BBWC veteran and advisory board member Gerard Walen leads tours of Marker 48 on most Saturdays, and if you see him around the convention, he might just have some swag for you if you know the magic phrase. Which may or may not be “Delicious Beer!”
Marker 48 Brewing is a 7-barrel craft brewery with a 32-tap tasting room in Weeki Wachee, Florida, founded by Hernando County natives Maurice and Tina Ryman. John Myers is the award-winning head brewer. Regular hours are Wed-Thurs., noon to 10 p.m.; Fri., noon to midnight; Sat., noon to 11 p.m. and Sun. noon to 8:30 p.m.