CHARLOTTE – Social media influencers usually have a target audience, from fashionistas to foodies. In the Charlotte region, influencers have a different audience: craft beer lovers.
Lindsay Hayes, who runs @hoppyhayes on Instagram, has loved beer since she was in college.
Hayes started her beer journey doing sample promotions for Coors. When Hayes graduated with a degree in healthcare administration, she started working at a pharmaceutical company, but that career ended quickly. After not knowing what to do, she took a job doing events for a brewery.
She said her parents wanted her to work in the field she got a degree in, so she moved to Nashville, Tenn., to pursue a career in healthcare. Her supervisor noticed she had a talent for social media and encouraged her in January 2019 to see if she could gain more of a following.
“If someone gives me a goal, I love a good challenge,” Hayes said. “I was like, ‘screw it, let’s do it.’”
As of December 2019, @hoppyhayes has more than 12,000 followers on Instagram.
Hayes “broke free from the corporate world” by moving to Charlotte and getting involved in the beer community. She works two part-time jobs as a “beertender” at Catawba Brewing and Divine Barrel Brewing in the Plaza Midwood area.
She posts photos of the beers where she works, as well as her favorite beers from breweries around the region. Hayes said she reached out to as many people as she could so she could quickly collaborate with breweries and beer lovers.
“I love opportunity and taking it and talking to people and seeing people for humans and who they are,” Hayes said.
Catawba Brewing, where the fourth episode of “The Beer Baby” was filmed, has 32 beers on tap. Hayes encourages people trying to get into the Charlotte beer scene to try as many beers as possible to really understand their preferences.
She usually asks visitors what beer they usually drink, what beers they want to try and what their comfort level is. From there, she picks which beers she thinks they will enjoy.
Hayes said beertenders are always willing to answer questions, so people should not be afraid to ask. She is happy to explain all the beer terms, from how a sour differs from a stout to what an IPA is, or what ABV means.
As people get into the brewery scene, they will see that many breweries are known for their IPAs (India pale ales). Hayes said IPAs are not for everyone, but if people really want to get into them, she will usually give them a blind tasting to see which ones they like. She said it is a process of trial and error.
“It doesn’t break my heart if people don’t get into them,” Hayes said. “Luckily, there’s so many to try, especially with having 32 beers [at Catawba Brewing]. There’s something here for everyone…Even for me, I’m definitely a seasonal person. Right now, I love the dark ones. I love the heavier ones. IPAs usually come around for me in the spring.”
Since she moved here, Hayes has been to many of the breweries in Charlotte. She usually knows at least one person who works at each brewery.
Because of the growing brewery scene in the Charlotte region, there is some competition. However, Hayes said she has noticed collaboration among the community as well.
“We have people from different breweries come in here and say hey, so I definitely think it’s super collaborative and a family community atmosphere,” Hayes said. “But because there’s so many… there definitely is a competitive nature because as a consumer, you have so many to choose from and you definitely want the one you’re working at to stand out a little bit more. You want to support each other and grow and make sure beer is doing great, but also you want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself.”
She said Catawba Brewing stands out by having different food trucks every night, hosting trivia nights and music bingo, hosting weddings and corporate events in their barrel room and putting on live music events and flea markets in the warmer months.
Hayes said those interested in growing a following on social media, whether they are beer influencers or not, should be themselves and be authentic when posting and when reaching out to others.
“Just be nice to people,” Hayes said. “Reach out to people. Be honest and be genuine. Nobody wants to see you come up with a script. Just say, ‘hey, I’m struggling with this, this is my life,’ fun facts, that’s it. Be real.”
Hayes hopes to continue being a positive influence on the beer community in Charlotte.
“Because this city has already been so awesome and gracious to me, I just want to give back as much as I can,” Hayes said.