Better Drinking Culture Launching Universal Mug Club


A new mug club membership is rolling out later this month in a handful of Grand Rapids bars with a unique goal, to promote a “life free of hangovers, harm, pain and regret.”

The Universal Mug Club is part of Better Drinking Culture (BDC), a grassroots movement that launched in 2015 under the direction of Camden Brieden, a Hope College graduate.

BDC is Brieden’s response to the numerous stories friends shared with him about the negative consequences they’d experienced due to over consumption.

“He realized the stories shared a common theme. Nearly every negative consequence was the result of drinking way too much,” said Jason Ley, BDC CEO and former beer program manager at Grand Rapids Brewing Company.

Brieden’s solution: teach people to drink better and live healthier.

BDC created a certification program for drinking establishments that it piloted in 2016. The program distinguishes breweries, distilleries, bars and restaurants that go “above and beyond” in contributing to a better drinking culture in their community by putting the health and safety of their customers first.

To become BDC-certified, an establishment must meet four criteria: institute a drink maximum policy, train a minimum of one BDC ambassador, participate in BDC’s Universal Mug Club and pass a marketing and social media audit.

“The Universal Mug Club is a component of our certification program,” Ley said. “It creates an enhanced experience for members of BDC.”

Similar to other mug club programs offered at area bars, the Universal Mug Club offers its members different perks at each BDC-certified establishment.

“When someone subscribes to BDC, they pay a modest annual subscription fee (these funds are used to develop and distribute resources and tools like BDC’s forthcoming book, “The Drinker’s Manifesto,” to help educate people how to have a healthier relationship with alcohol by empowering them to drink better) and download our membership app, which unlocks access to the Universal Mug Club,” Ley said.

BDC-certified partners stash BDC branded glasses behind the bar for Universal Mug Club members. Members flash their membership card via their phone to access their glass.

“Then they can drink out of our custom mug with the same perks and benefits the establishment would offer their mug club or loyalty program members,” Ley said.

Seven establishments have become BDC certified members: New Holland Brewing, Brewery Vivant, Vander Mill, Craft Beer Seller, Grand Armory in Grand Haven, Bier Distillery in Comstock Park and Chelsea Ale House in Chelsea.

Ley said BDC plans to continue certifying establishments in Michigan, with plans of launching the program nationwide.

“We have pretty big plans for BDC,” he said. “The certification is just part of the long term vision of BDC. No one has ever been able to grade or measure the drinking culture in the United States, so by creating a benchmark of where our drinking culture currently is with quantitative metrics, we’ll be able to show the impact of drinking better across the country.”

BDC also plans to focus on college communities, where it says a lot of unhealthy relationships with alcohol begin.

“We are building a similar certification program for colleges and universities,” Ley said. “We intend to grade their drinking culture, as well. We hope to influence the decision of where people choose to go to school and where parents choose to send and pay for kids to go to school — Places where kids can get an education in a safe and healthy environment.”

He said using public data related to alcohol offenses, BDC can determine which communities need to improve their drinking cultures the most.

BDC plans to launch the Universal Mug Club by the end of the month. To become a member you can sign up on the waiting list now.

*Photo courtesy of Better Drinking Culture

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