Industry News

Who’s Getting Hurt by Flat Sales?

Data compiled by the Brewers Association show that the bigger craft breweries bore the brunt of last year’s slump.

Twenty-five of the top 50 craft breweries, as defined by the BA, didn’t grow in 2016; and more then one-third of BA-defined regional breweries had either flat or declining sales. The damage was heaviest at the top of the standings: four of the five biggest crafts—D.G. Yuengling & Sons, Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, and Gambrinus Company—suffered a sales decline. The top five’s only gainer was New Belgium Brewing Company.

According to the BA’s Bart Watson, the regionals are getting squeezed by both ends of the industry. Anheuser-Busch Companies, whose acquisition of craft brands has stirred up controversy, is snapping up retail space at the expense of the regionals. Meanwhile, many retailers are focused on getting the products of small local breweries on their shelves, again to the regionals’ detriment.

There were some bright spots, however. Regionals that upped production in 2016 include Bell’s Brewery, Firestone Walker Brewing Company, and Rheingeist Brewery. Several others that no longer meet the BA’s definition of “craft”, such as Founders Brewing Company and Lagunitas Brewing Company, also posted gains for the year.

The Friday Mash (Old School Edition)

On this day in 1364, Jagiellonian University was established in Krakow, Poland; and on this day in 1551, the National University of San Marcos, the oldest in the Americas, was established in Lima, Peru.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Rochester, New York, where Genesee Brewing Company, which is undergoing a $49 million expansion, plans to transport 12 fermentation tanks via the Erie Canal. The tanks are too big to transport by highway or by rail.

It’s baseball season, and CraftBeer.com would like to introduce you to seven beers brewed especially for minor-league teams. Enjoy them with your peanuts and Cracker Jack.

Think you can’t sing? Organizers of the Twin Cities Beer Choir want to convince you otherwise. You buy the beer, and the Choir provide you with sheet music and plenty of friends.

An Indiana gas station owner found a clever loophole to the state’s ban on selling cold beer at convenience stores. He instal

Craft Pilsner Comes of Age

From the beginning of the craft beer movement, pilsener has been a pariah style because of its association with light lager beer that dominated the American market. Brewers reacted to pilsener by making ales, the hoppier the better.

Today, pilsener accounts for a lowly 1 percent of the craft beer market. That, however, is about to change. In the past year, top-tier breweries such as Founders Brewing Company and regional players such as Captain Lawrence Brewing Company have added the style to their lineup.

The new pilseners are inspired by European classics, but many have a distinct American accent. For example, Founders’ PC Pils is brewed with Centennial, Cascade, and Chinook hops rather than floral European varieties. For American drinkers accustomed to hoppy beers, that eases the transition to pilsener.

Pilsener also responds to increased demand for beers that carry a lighter alcoholic punch than American IPAs. There are times—such as on the beach or while golfing—that call for an alternative. And Pilseners are low-maintenance; their appeal is to those who simply want to enjoy a beer, not analyze and review it in depth.

Are Grocery Stores Abandoning Craft?

Portland, Oregon-based writer Jeff Alworth reports on a disturbing trend in beer retailing. Fred Meyer, his state’s dominant grocery store chain, is scaling back the craft beer selection and giving more shelf space to macro brews and “crafty” beers, the latter being craft labels acquired by big breweries.

On the surface, Fred Meyer’s decision doesn’t make sense. The chain stands to lose business to competing stores that offer a wide selection of local craft products. However, there are fewer alternatives outside Oregon’s larger cities. Alworth adds that Fred Meyer’s parent, Kroger Company, can improve its profit margin by using its buying power to negotiate low prices and cutting costs by paring its beer inventory.

Alworth warns that in localities where the big grocery chains dominate and the public isn’t as attuned to craft beer, “crafty” beers such as Goose Island—or even the big national brands—will become customers’ default choice. That’s bad news for small breweries, especially the newer ones.

Meet the Barrel Brokers

Not so long ago, breweries that barrel-aged their beers sent employees down to Kentucky’s bourbon country to buy used barrels from distillers. Under federal regulations bourbon whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak containers. Those used barrels had to find a new home.

Since then, the popularity of barrel-aged beers has caused a spike in demand for bourbon barrels. And brewers are experimenting with wine, rum, and even tobacco and hot sauce barrels.

Enter the barrel brokers. Breweries rely on brokers because they vouch for the barrels’ provenance of the barrels, inspect them for leaks and other flaws, and handle the logistics of transporting them from distant parts of the country—even from overseas. Small breweries are especially reliant on brokers, who can fill their orders for small quantities and hard-to-find barrels.

Barrel brokering is as much an art as a science. The biggest challenge is coordinating the empty dates of the barrels with the breweries’ fill dates. Changing tastes are another challenge. Brokers are not only looking for the barrels breweries want now, but also try to anticipate what barrel-aging trends are on the horizon.

Celis Beer to Return

Christine Celis, the daughter of the late Pierre Celis, can finally brew beer under her family name. In 1992, Pierre opened a brewery in Austin, Texas, which produced his eponymous Belgian white ale. Three years later, he sold an ownership stake to the Miller Brewing Company. The rights to the Celis name and beer recipes changed hands several times over the years, and most recently were owned by South Carolina-based Total Beverage Solution and Craftbev International Amalgamated, Inc.

Earlier this month, Celis reached agreement with Total Beverage to buy back the Celis name. Now that all the pieces are in place, she plans to reopen the Austin brewery this spring. She plans to use the same recipes and proprietary yeast strains her father used, and is recruiting members of her father’s brewing team. Celis’ 22-year-old daughter, Daytona Camps coming on board as a brewer.

Celis expects to produce 10,000 barrels in the first year of production. For now, distribution will be limited to Austin, Dallas, and San Antonio.

The Friday Mash (Red Cross Edition)

On this day in 1863, a group of citizens of Geneva, Switzerland, founded an organization called the International Committee for Relief to the Wounded–now known as the International Committee of the Red Cross.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in England, where festival organizers in two of the country’s most famous beer cities, Norwich and Sheffield, are joining forces to promote their local products and attract beer tourists.

The Norwegian supermarket chain Rema 1000 is feeling the backlash after it took several local breweries’ products off the shelves. Some Rema customers switched to competitors’ stores.

Are you a DIYer who loves craft beer? You might like the Kinkajou Bottle Cutting and Candle Making Kit. You can give the candles to friends—and show off your collection to them.

“Pepper”, a robot from Japan’s SoftBank, has his first job: greeter at the Pyramid Taproom in Oakland International Airport. When not posing for selfies, he’s working on his speech-recognition skills.

A faith ministry in Nebraska has started a fund-raising campaign to buy out four stores that sell millions of cans of beer in a tiny village next to the alcoholism-plagued Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.

Heroica, a brewery in Brazil, is flavoring its Kuromatsu Kamikaze IPA with branches of bonsai trees, brought over by a Japanese family more than a century ago. Some bonsai trees are worth $20,000.

Finally, Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist, told a gathering of brewing professionals that it’s still possible for a microbrewery to grow to regional status, but very few will succeed in doing so.

The Friday Mash (Gold Record Edition)

Seventy-five years ago, the first-ever gold record was presented to Glenn Miller for “Chattanooga Choo Choo”. The song was originally featured in the film Sun Valley Serenade (1941).

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Cincinnati, where Urban Artifact is brewing a beer made with yeasts from the historic Union Terminal, which is now a museum complex. The brewery added sour cherries to add tart fruitiness to the beer, a 7% ABV bock.

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, Brewery Ommegang has you covered. It will release three beers whose labels bear the sigils of the Houses of Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen.

Alex P. Davis, who runs the Library Alehouse in Santa Monica, doesn’t think beer lovers should stand in line to taste rare beers such as Pliny the Elder IPA because so many world-class beers are available without the wait.

Despite being the capital of one of Mexico’s poorest states, Oaxaca City has become destination of hipster tourists—many of from other Mexican states. And it’s developed a lively craft beer culture.

TheMotleyFool.com explains how Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors are exploiting the three-tier system to keep craft products out of bars and stores. Rather than fight A-B, Craft Brew Alliance entered into in a production and distribution deal with the brewing giant.

Rochester, New York, is the nation’s unofficial Tater Tots capital. Local journalist Will Cleveland has a few pointers on pairing beer with the tots—and yes, any beer from the Genesee family is a good choice.

Finally, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has appointed Theresa McCulla as historian to oversee its American Brewing History Initiative. McCulla, who will receive a Ph.D in American Studies from Harvard, also holds a culinary arts diploma.

The Friday Mash (Income Tax Edition)

On this day in 1913, the Sixteenth Amendment, which authorized a federal income tax, was ratified by the states. That’s the bad news. The good news is that you’ll have an extra three days to file your federal return this year.

And now….The Mash!

We begin on the Moon, where beer might be brewed someday. Wort and beer yeast will be placed aboard a lunar lander to find out whether the yeasts stay viable under lunar conditions.

The latest must-have accessory is the Drink Tanks growler. It looks like a piece of industrial camping equipment, and can keep up to two gallons of beer fresh for 24 hours.

Now that on-demand streaming has replaced records, classic rock bands—along with a few newcomers—are turning to branded beer as a way of monetizing their intellectual property.

Boulevard Brewing Company has added American Kolsch to its core lineup, which also includes Unfiltered Wheat, Pale Ale, and KC Pils. It debuted this week at Kansas City-area establishments.

Scientists are exploring sensation transference, the phenomenon that explains why listening to a pleasant soundtrack causes you to perceive the beer you’re drinking as sweeter.

Richmond, Virginia-based Veil Brewing Company has released Hornswoggler with Oreos, a chocolate milk stout conditioned with hundreds of pounds of the famous cookies.

Finally, Guinness really might be good for you. Researchers have linked iron deficiency anemia and hearing loss, and Guinness is rich in iron. In addition, Guinness supposedly contains antioxidants and suppresses the accumulation of “bad” cholesterol.

Guinness to Open Brewery in U.S.

After a 63-year hiatus, Guinness beer will once again be brewed in the United States.

Diageo PLC, which owns the Guinness brand, will expand the historic Calvert Distillery in Baltimore County, Maryland to include a mid-sized brewery as well as a visitors’ center and taproom. Diageo, which calls the facility an American version of the Guinness Open Gate Brewery in Dublin, hopes to capitalize on the popularity of beer tourism.

The new brewery will focus on new Guinness beers created for the American market. The iconic Guinness Draught, Guinness Foreign Extra, and Guinness Extra Stouts will still be brewed in Dublin and exported to the United States.

Diageo is hoping to open the brewery this fall to coincide with the 200th anniversary of Guinness exports to the U.S.

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