One of the more difficult aspects of a small craft brewery’s growth plan is making sure the beers are being well represented in new markets as its distribution footprint grows.

It’s a bit of a Catch-22: The prospect of more money coming in is a great motivator to expand into new cities or states, but without a representative on the ground it can be tough to create buzz around a new brand amid an ever-expanding selection of craft beers. Hiring an employee to represent the beer isn’t in many breweries’ budgets, hence that desire for more money in new markets.

Some breweries hire one rep for an entire state, sometimes even multiple states, whose job it is to constantly traverse their sales area, pushing for more shelf space or taps in bars. This works to some extent, but visits to far-off markets can be few and far between, and without regular face-to-face interactions between the rep and the people who sell and drink their beer, it can be easy to lose a tap to another brewery.

Gadsden, Alabama’s, Back Forty Beer Co. recently introduced an innovative solution, calling on their legions of fans to join their “Farm Team,” a selection of ambassadors for the brewery who host tastings at local craft beer spots.

The concept is simple: Back Forty will give you some swag and pay you $50 to talk up their beer at your favorite watering hole for a couple of hours.

“Our goal is to empower the fans of our beer,” said Brad Wilson, director of marketing at Back Forty. “People are always asking, ‘How can I be a part?’ Everyone wants to work at a brewery, so this is a way to offer that opportunity” while spreading the word about Back Forty’s beers. “We didn’t invent it, but we’re going to reinvent it our way,” Wilson added.

The folks at Back Forty didn’t want to recruit just any old beer nerds; they wanted the geekiest among us, so they turned to the website Reddit and a forum dedicated to Alabama beer (reddit.com/r/bamabeer). Within days, the response has been overwhelming, according to Wilson, who expressed amazement at the dedication he found among the subreddit’s followers.

If you’d like to host a tasting, simply contact Wilson at brad@backfortybeer.com and he’ll guide you through the whole process.

Other happenings at Back Forty
The Farm Team isn’t the only exciting news coming out of Gadsden. A new offering, Cart Barn Pilsner, is set for release later this month and will be the official beer of the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail. The beer, which Wilson describes as a “Southern boys’ interpretation of a Czech classic,” will be available year-round at each of the Golf Trail’s 11 courses, as well as everywhere Back Forty is sold, so you won’t have to hit the links to enjoy this highly quaffable style.

Visitors to the North Alabama brewery will have even more reasons to stick around now that taproom hours have expanded and an onsite “test kitchen” offers lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. Taproom hours are Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-9 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-2 p.m.

Finally, Back Forty recently became the first Alabama brewery to ship its beer overseas, filling two shipping containers with beer destined for Shanghai and Beijing. According to Wilson, the Shanghai shipment is currently clearing customs and should hit the China market within the week, while Beijing’s taste of Alabama will have to wait until the “slow boat” makes its way to harbor.

Dan Murphy is a Certified Cicerone® and the founding brewer at Fairhope Brewing Co. Follow him on Instagram @Grand_Krewe and on Twitter @Beer_Man_Dan.