By Nancy Miller
Keeping up with the new and existing wineries and craft breweries hasn’t been easy. Until now. A new app, DrinkKy, makes you wonder, “Why didn’t someone do this before?”
The savvy folks at the Kentucky Grape and Wine Council, part of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture, and the Kentucky Guild of Brewers began working on the app in June 2016, launching the first phase in January of this year and expanding it in the spring.
“Before DrinkKy, the app was named Kentucky Wine Trails. It needed to be completely overhauled or scrapped and started again from scratch. We decided to build a new one that has all the bells and whistles. We realized partnering with the breweries would tap into a new audience we hadn’t been reaching before,” says Tyler Madison, the Grape, Wine and Spirits Program Manager for the Kentucky Grape & Wine Council.
The app makes it a snap to explore and experience the phenomenal evolution of the wine and craft beer industries in the state. DrinkKy features 70 wineries and 43 breweries. When a winery or brewery is selected, DrinkKy instantly provides the address, directions, hours of operations and specifics to help plan a trip for a visit. An interactive map allows the user to chart and complete an individualized wine or beer trail and to record field notes and tasting notes.
Madison, who previously worked as a wine advisor in England, says it’s an exciting time to be working with Kentucky wineries because wine is an emerging industry. “In 2000 there were maybe five or six wineries in the state. Even with 70 now, there’s substantial growth to come. We’re still at the point that the wineries are figuring out what they can do best. It’s a learning as we go process. The quality constantly improves, and more people are starting wineries,” he says.
Bringing breweries into the app took it to another level. “Microbreweries are so popular. They’re being run mainly by young, motivated guys with big, bushy beards who are all about quality and pushing boundaries,” he adds. “Derek Selznick, who’s in charge of the Kentucky Guild of Brewers, came from a background of fundraising for a nonprofit. When I first met him, he looked like a typical business guy. Now he has stubble. It’s like he had to get into it.”
Wineries and breweries have embraced the app with great enthusiasm. For the former app, passwords at the wineries and breweries became confusing when various people working in the tasting rooms or tap rooms needed to access them. Now everything is geofenced. When someone visits a tasting or tap room, the check-in button becomes live.
Madison needs to run the analytics before he can give an accurate account of the number of people who have downloaded the app, but receives an email when someone completes a wine trail. That number is averaging about ten people a week.
DrinkKy offers gifts at breweries and wineries. Gifts for people who check in at wineries are covered by the Kentucky Grape and Wine council. Gifts may change periodically. For seven check-ins, there is a Kentucky Wine Trails T-shirt. With seven more check-ins, there are four embossed leather coasters. At 21 check-ins, the big milestone, users will be rewarded with a Corkcicle. Pop it in the freezer, then place it into a bottle of wine to keep it cold for two hours. Gifts from the Kentucky Guild of Brewers include a sticker pack for 10 brewery visits, a T-shirt for 20 visits and a hat when 30 visits have been completed.
So much significant Beta testing preceded the launch that there hasn’t been much of a window to develop and implement a comprehensive marketing program. But digital campaigns are finally underway to promote the app.
“The app is a great project to work on, except for actually building it. Fortunately, we have developers who do that. They speak a different language. When someone hears what I do, it sounds as if I have the best job in the world and hang out at wineries a lot. But, there are plenty of times I sit in meetings for hours and crunch numbers. That’s the less sexy side of the job but people tell me it has to be done. I feel like I would be far more productive sitting with a laptop in a bar or tap room all day. However, it’s like bowling. You may be really good at bowling, but after two or three drinks, your results decrease quickly,” he says.