Since the microbrew revolution back in its infancy in the early 1990’s there have been various “beer of the month” clubs. Now there’s a new monthly brewery shirt club known as Shirts On Tap. Based in San Diego, California, Shirts On Tap has been featuring a new brewery shirt each month for the past 3 years. Focusing on a specific metropolitan area this venture began in San Diego in November 2013. Since this time the company founded by Dave Gostenhofer has grown to include Denver and most recently Portland along with its first featured brewery, Back Pedal Brewing.
Shirts On Tap is an affordable way to grow your craft beer wardrobe. For a low price of $15.00 per month, one can secure a craft brewery t-shirt from Shirts On Tap roster of breweries. There are programs to also offer Shirts On Tap as a recurring or set amount of months that can make for an excellent gift option. Plus you can add a second member for an additional $10.00 per month. You can even select a rotating membership where you’ll receive shirts from all marketed cities.
Beyond the craft brewery t-shirt, the nicely packaged shirt box also comes with a few bonuses. This includes coupons to the brewery, a sticker from the brewery, and an invite to a member’s happy hour at the brewery on the last Tuesday of the month.
We recently reached out to Alec Johnson, co-owner of Shirts On Tap to learn more about the company’s history and on where it intends to be in the near future.
How long has Shirts On Tap been in business?
Alec: We sent out our first Box in November of 2013. Since then, we have done a total of 46 breweries (38 in San Diego, 7 in Denver, and 1 in Portland) with plans to be in every major beer city in the very near future.
Who founded the company?
Alec: Like many breweries, Shirts on Tap was started in a garage with some old screen-printing equipment by my high school buddy and co-owner, Dave Gostenhofer, back in 2013. Dave was fresh out of the Marines and looking for something entrepreneurial to do and screen-printing seemed like a great outlet. After all, nothing goes better with good beer than good beer shirts. Dave found in niche in craft breweries and started making shirts for many of the local San Diego breweries and the idea of the Box Club was born- get the same shirts they sell in the breweries into the hands of craft beer fans for the half the price. The program grew to a point that was way too much for 1 person to handle, so I quit my job and joined Shirts on Tap full time. We now have 5 employees, expanded our shop 3 times, and continue to do all of the printing, packing, labeling, and shipping in-house from our Headquarters in San Diego.
What was the reason for starting Shirts On Tap?
Alec: Our motto from the beginning has been “Connecting Beer Makers with Beer Drinkers.” Like the rest of the country, craft beer has exploded in San Diego and at times, it feels impossible to keep up with all of the new great breweries popping up around the county. We realized early on that these new breweries could use all the help they could find to get their names out and get people into their tasting rooms and more established breweries are always creating new and exciting beer they want people to try. So we collaborate with each brewery to make an awesome custom shirt that is in line with their story and send it out to local beer fans. We include coupons to the tasting room, stickers for the kegerator, and an invite to our monthly event at the brewery called Tap-it-Tuesday where our members get a special happy hour for a few hours. At the end of the day, it’s just a really fun program to be a part of and the day the Shirts on Tap box arrives at your door will be the best day of your month, guaranteed.
Since you’re based in San Diego its a natural that this metropolitan breweries were the first city featured to have its breweries as part of the monthly club. How long have Denver area breweries been part of Shirts On Tap?
Alec: We have always thought that what makes Shirts on Tap special is that fact that we support local breweries with local beer fans with multiple Boxes done by city/region, rather than a single national program. We had enjoyed lots of growth here in the San Diego program and decided it was time to launch a program in another great beer city and Denver was an easy choice, which was lunched June of 2016 with Joyride Brewing Co. We learned quickly that Denver craft beer drinkers loved their brewery shirts just as much as our San Diego members, and it grew explosively with the help of our Denver Guy, Josh Mers, going to beer fests and breweries to get people signed up for the club.
For December you launched breweries from Portland as part of Shirts On Tap. Any other new cities on the horizon?
Alec: Absolutely! 2017 will be the year of expansion for Shirts on Tap – starting with a Seattle Program set to launch in March of 2017. Up next will be Dallas and Austin in May of 2017 and then on to the East Coast with a New England Box. We have plans to get a Chicago Box, a Carolina Box, a New York Box, a Wisconsin Box, A Michigan Box, and a Maine Box in the lineup, as well. We only feature 12 breweries a year per city and we do all of the printing in-house, so if enough people request a new city, we can launch pretty quickly.
When signing a new brewery each month, how do you convince them to become part of Shirts On Tap?
Alec: It’s really a win-win-win for everyone involved. The breweries get a few thousand walking billboards with members who are eager for an excuse to try new beer, our members get an awesome shirt, coupons, invites to events, and discounts on beer fests for the price of 2 pints a month ($15), and we get to have a blast doing it. The program is free for breweries to participate in, so it’s a pretty simple decision for most breweries. It can be a little tough to launch a new city simply because nobody has heard of us, but after a month or two, breweries start to approach us about doing a month and our lineup fills up pretty quickly.
Your service is only $15 per month and includes a few perks at the local brewery. Is it easy to work with each brewery to get them fully committed and on board?
Alec: Every brewery is different- Most of the breweries understand what we’re doing for them and appreciate the promotional value of Shirts on Tap, and are a dream to work with. The only place where we can have an issue is with the shirt design- we have members ranging from 21 to 85 years old so mass appeal is key to make sure the shirts look good on whoever wears them. Sometimes a brewery will have a super abstract idea for a shirt that simply can’t be screen-printed and we will have to come up with some new ideas, but most breweries are open to whatever we can come up with. We’ve started working with local graphic designers to spice up the designs a bit and would love to feature a new artist each month, as well.
Which Portland brewery will be the featured brewery for the month of January?
Alec: Following Back Pedal Brewing (December 2016), we will be featuring Ex Novo Brewing Co in January and then StormBreaker Brewing in February. We also have Gigantic Brewing and Ecliptic Brewing on the 2017 lineup!
D.J. is a Portland, Oregon based writer that spent his formative years in the Midwest. With over 25 years under his belt of drinking beer at festivals across America and the world, he has developed a strong appreciation and understanding of craft beer and the industry that surrounds it. He can be found in any of the great breweries or beer bars that make Portland the best beer city in the world. His writing can also be found in the archives of Northwest Brewing News and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram at @hopapalooza.