Sell Global, Sip Local
Since he was 15, Lou Henry has worked at Coney Island, been an ammunition specialist in the United States Army, served in Afghanistan, been a bartender, a beer salesman, a pizzeria owner and now, the director of sales for Hop River Brewing Company. However, he’s most proud of being a husband and father to five boys and one toddler-aged girl.
In a city with a rich beer brewing heritage, Henry enjoys the challenge – and the success – of selling a small, locally owned product against behemoths.
On the reality of his title: My business card says sales. I am the entire sales department, including marketing, delivery, promotions, basically everything on the outside is kind of underneath my umbrella.
On how he got to know Hop River: I was with AALCO Distributing for 10 years, left to start Sweet Lou’s Pizza in 2018. I decided to do a local tap takeover and reached out to Hop Rover. The Pilsner was the fastest one to sell out, so I kept them on.
When I closed Sweet Lou’s at the end of the year, they hired me in 2019. I felt like their trajectory was moving up. I had 10 years of sales experience and connections in the industry, whether it was package stores, bars, restaurants. And I like the product.
On the “typical” day: I get my five boys off to school. They go from eighth grade to kindergarten at St. Jude’s. I get them up and they’re all cold lunch eaters, so I make all their lunches. Well, 2020 kind of changed everything. My wife started working half days at home, so we have lunch together. I would go out, but a lot of people aren’t necessarily comfortable with face-to-face selling right now, so it’s a lot of texts and emails as we’ve been trying to expand our brand out to other markets like Indianapolis and South Bend.
On pitching a local brand to local restaurants and stores: The local package stores – Belmont Beverage and Cap n’ Cork – they’ve been very supportive in promoting local breweries. We’ve got a great relationship with The Clyde. From a seller to a buyer, they’ve been just incredible.
A lot has changed over the last 10 years. For years, it was Mad Anthony’s. They were the only ones doing craft beers. Them and Warbird. (Dave Holmes) was ahead of his time. But it was a crazy idea for people who had been brought up on macro-breweries (Budweiser, Miller, Coors). But with the newer restaurant owners are “think global, buy local.” It’s a much easier selling point.
On the Trader’s Joe’s Relationship: We’re having success with the expansion into Trader Joe’s, and we’re in Indianapolis. They’ve picked up Kolsch (light German ale) and Lasers in the Jungle (IPA). We’ve seen a good spike in numbers.
On craft beers finding their way: In the Midwest, we’ve been fortunate to have Bells, Uplands and Founders. But I remember working as a bartender at Columbia Street (the mid-2000s) and imports were the fancy. No one liked the taste of Heineken but they wanted to be seen with the green bottle. Our only craft beer was Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and it was also sort of a status thing – you’re bucking the trend drinking a $3.50 12-ounce beer from the West Coast.
The hop revolution, at least in our market, had to be somewhere in 2010. The time when you started to see more and more hop-forward, more IPAs available in the market.
On relationships with other craft brewers: Coming out of the macro-brew business, you didn’t drink the competition’s beer. Well, on the local scene, we all drink each other’s beers. It’s a lifestyle versus a job. We’ve all spent time together. The Northern Indiana Brewers Association has the [Northern IN] Beer Trail. It puts on festivals and events. It’s been great through the pandemic as we’ve been able to touch base. And people have come through. On Monday we needed extra lids and we were able to quickly contact Chapman’s. It’s much more of a community.
On volunteers helping to can beer: I’m surprised at the number of people that volunteer – we have to turn people away. It’s almost a feeling of ownership, connecting with the brand, helping with a product that means something to them. It also helps that you can have a beer while you’re working. (Food afterward, too.) 1515 N. Harrison Street, 260.739.3931, hopriverbrewing.com