Originally published 9. August 2016

Quartiermeister is a local beer that not only brings people together, but encourages people to do good together. It's a simple idea: drink beer and concurrently support social and cultural projects in your neighborhood. 

We recently had a conversation with Peter Eckert of Quartiermeister, and he told us about the good brought about by the company, what it takes to stay afloat in the business, and how drinking beer can effect positive social change.

Prost! Cin cin! Salud! Cheers! However you say it, next time say it while clinking glasses of Quartiermeister. We'll take another one! 

Fun Facts about Quartiermeister: 

  • Started in 2010
  • Supported over 60 projects with more than 60.000 Euros
  • Planning to fund more projects with over 30.000 Euros.

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How did the idea for Quartiermeister come about? Why beer - what was the motivation for developing a “beer for the kiez”? 

Quartiermeister started in 2010. The motivation was to show that consumption can be a good thing and that business isn’t just for the bad guys and girls. So instead of just a select few benefiting from our business, we established that the whole kiez or the whole neighbourhood benefit. That way good projects get the support they deserve. We want to give people a low-threshold opportunity to get involved.

Our tool of communication for that cause is our beer, which brings along some nice details:

Firstly, beer can be produced regionally (in contrast to e. g. mate) and has a long history in Germany. Regional economics are a huge part of our ideals. Secondly, beer is a very emotional product (in contrast to e. g. toilet paper). People talk about it, and we want them to discuss our idea, too. Thirdly, beer has a social characteristic. You drink it with friends, at any kind of party, and we give people the opportunity to enjoy a beer, while doing something beneficial for their environment.

Last but not least, we are convinced beer drinkers and want to have a tasty regional alternative to the industrial beers of multinational companies.

Can you tell us a little more about the concept and how you give back to local communities? 

Basically the neighbourhood gets a little donation for every bottle of Quartiermeister sold. All profits made by our company are given to our association Quartiermeister e.V., which redistributes those profits to social and cultural projects in the city. All our consumers can participate in the decision to choose which kiez projects get our support via an online voting process. Right now we distribute the fundings to Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and Munich proportional to each city’s respective sales. In doing this, we ascertain that our consumers actually take part in supporting their own environment.

How are the projects/organizations you support selected?

The projects we support can apply for funding on our website. This is an easy process which just takes some minutes. The applications are evaluated by our association to make sure they match our principles, meaning they need to be social or cultural, based in the city, small, etc. The selected projects are put on our website, where every visitor has two votes. By this procedure we ensure that our consumers have the final say. Our consumers should not only have the chance to drink beer for a good cause, but also determine what that cause is.

What has been your social impact to date? 

Besides making thousands of people very happy with delicious beer for six years, we have supported over 60 projects with more than 60.000 Euros so far and next year we are planning to fund 30.000 Euros worth of projects. Furthermore, we are establishing a network for the social and cultural projects, so they can get in contact and help each other. We want to inspire people as we were inspired by others, so that the movement grows and more people try to change the world or their city by establishing a social business, a social project and the like. 

Beer has quite the legacy in Germany. How has your idea been received by the brewers you work with?

The brewery we work with is located in a small economically underdeveloped region in Saxony. They were wary in the first place, but eventually we convinced them and we started to work together. Last year we decided to brew organic beer as well, which took great efforts for us and especially the brewery. However, with a lot of idealism and endurance they became the third certified organic brewery in Saxony. We are very happy to work with them because they produce good beer for us. They are (hopefully) happy to have us, too, because we opened a whole new market for them. What a great partnership!

What have been some of the greatest challenges in establishing Quartiermeister and how did you overcome them? 

In 2012 our old Brewery went bankrupt and we were close to shutting everything down. But eventually we found a new brewery, which helped us to keep on going and make Quartiermeister what it is today. So firstly, finding a suitable brewery was quite a challenge, because most breweries close to Berlin are either owned by billion-euro multinationals, or too small to fulfill our needs. I guess we were lucky to find a small family-run brewery like ours.

Secondly, the beer market is a tough playground. Big brands have a lot of cash and use it to acquire (buy) and tie (bust) customers. It was a disillusioning experience in the beginning, but we eventually got used to it. Not every apparently alternative and independent bar or club is actually what it seems to be. Nevertheless, we always stick to our principles and don’t try to copy the big players. We don’t want to buy our customers, we want to convince them and make them part of Quartiermeister- to do something good together. We don’t have the big cash, but we have ideas and ideals. We have an authentic story to tell. That must be sufficient.

Related to this, another very important fundamental learning was that if we want to sell something, we need to go out there. Once we established our concept and had the product in our hands, we realised that nothing really happened. So we began to actively approach people, start real acquisition and put in a lot of effort. That worked out pretty well for us! 

Looking back as a social entrepreneur, what do you wish you had known when you were starting out?

So many things! We didn’t know much about beer in the first place. We didn’t know much about the beer market, or about selling, or marketing and business in general. Let’s call a spade a spade. We were complete greenhorns in the beginning! 

By now we are proud to say that we learned a lot and were able to overcome most challenges. A crucial learning was that you have to believe in your idea or no one else will. And even more important: Keep on going. Be persistent. Be stubborn. It’s easier with an ingenious idea, but it’s still very hard work. It’s not necessarily only the best ideas that succeed in the end.

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What’s next for Quartiermeister? Do you plan to go global with your local brews? 

Think global, act local! One of our major principles is to distribute our beer no further than 250 km away from our brewery. At the moment we try to establish new cities in Germany and again it’s the biggest challenge to find suitable breweries on location. Our goal in the long run is to find enough breweries to be able to make Quartiermeister accessible in the whole country. So for now we don’t plan to go international.

What makes you a changer? 

With Quartiermeister we try to set an example by showing that alternative business models actually work and that you can use your business as a power to produce social benefits, rather than focusing on quick growth and profit maximization. Over the last years we have proved that our concept works. There have been several companies in the past who have sought our help to establish similar business models. If you just look at Quartiermeister, our impact is very limited, but we want to be one out of many pioneers who show people viable alternatives. We believe that by setting good examples, there will be more and more who go along, and together we can have a real impact and make this world a better place. This is what motivates us and keeps us going.