March 2016

Why Some Breweries Avoid Distributors

For a start-up brewery, Denver is a challenging market. The area is not only awash in breweries, but demand has driven up the price of cans. This has caused some small breweries to adopt a different business model: bypass packaging altogether, and sell fresh beer only to the immediate neighborhood. Breweries that adopt this model avoid the expense of buying a canning or bottling line, hiring sales personnel, and hiring a distributor. And they have the option to package if market conditions change.

Breweries that sell directly to customers enjoy a greater return on investment. They have more freedom to experiment with beer styles, and brewery owners contend that their product is fresher than the packaged variety. Many have won a devoted following in their neighborhoods. Small breweries have even created their own beer festival, called Festivaus. It attracts more than 60 Denver breweries, and a crowd of over 2,000 attendees.

In two decades, Denver’s craft brewing industry has come full circle. In 1994, when Great Divide Brewing Company opened, it faced stiff competition from four nearby brewpubs; and, at the time, a brewery that opened a taproom was expected to operate it as a restaurant. Instead, Great Divide packaged its beer and didn’t open a taproom for 13 years.

British Winery Can Call Its Beverage “Champale”

Roger Barber, the owner of a British winery, can market his sparkling wine as “Champale”. Barber persuaded British trademark authorities that his product’s name wasn’t confusingly similar to French Champagne. French Champagne growers argued that “champ” was the common familiar term for their product, but Barber countered that in England, “champ” was short for champion.

You might be asking yourself, what is a story about wine doing on a beer blog? Because in America, “Champale” doesn’t mean what Barber thinks it means. The American version is a malt liquor that debuted in 1939. Readers of a certain age might remember getting a quick buzz—and an awful hangover—from drinking it. Champale, which has had a succession of owners, is still available, and now comes in four flavors.

The Friday Mash (New Moon Edition)

On this day in 1655, scientist Christiaan Huygens discovered Saturn’s largest moon, Titan. Huygens didn’t stop with astronomy, either. He also invented the pendulum clock, and published a pioneering work on games of chance.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Bavaria, where the Röhrl brewery has come under fire for allegedly placing pro-Nazi labels on one of its beers. The beer’s name in English is “Border Fence Half”, a reference to Europe’s refugee crisis.

Caught on video: A woman sitting behind the Chicago Bulls’ bench tried to find her seat. She took a tumble and hit the floor, but managed to save her beer.

The Scottish brewery BrewDog has released a beer called Clean Water Lager. All profits from that beer will go toward bring clean water to the 650 million people who currently have none.

Jay Brooks of the San Jose Mercury News has an update on Hawaii’s craft brewing industry. The Aloha State now has 15 breweries, with another eight expected to open their doors.

Indonesian entrepreneurs are capitalizing on a recent ban on convenience store beer sales by purchasing beer from distributors and delivering it to customers by motorcycle.

Global warming is affecting the brewing industry: last year’s drought took its toll on Northwest hops production. Drought also forces farmers to use groundwater, which affects the taste of beer.

Finally, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex, Samuel Adams has the highest “buzz score”. That’s not a measure of the beer’s potency; it’s the percentage of adults who’ve heard something about the brand

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Craft beer production in 2015: 24.5 million barrels.
  • Increase over 2014: 13 percent.
  • Craft beer’s share of the market, as measured by production: 12 percent.
  • Its market share, as measured by dollar value: 21 percent ($22.3 billion).
  • Percentage of under-30 adults who said beer was their favorite beverage in 1992-93: 70.
  • Percentage of under-30 adults who said beer was their favorite beverage 20 years later: 40.
  • “Pay-for-play” fine imposed on distributor Craft Brewers Guild by Massachusetts liquor regulators: $2.6 million.
  • Craft Brewers Guild’s payoffs to bars and other businesses: At least $120,000.
  • Dollar value of Heineken’s U.S. sales during the 52 weeks ending January 24, 2016: $730.7 million.
  • Increase over the previous year: 1.9 percent.
  • Heineken’s share of the imported beer market: 13.1 percent (down 1.2 percent from the year before).
  • Years since Guinness opened its brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin: 257.
  • Years remaining on Guinness’s lease for the St James’s Gate brewery: 8,743.
  • Flavored beers’ share of new beer releases in 2010: 15 percent.
  • Flavored beers’ share in 2015: 27 percent.
  • Meet the “Bud-E Fridge”

    Emily Price, the assistant drinks editor at Paste magazine, shelled out $299 for a Bud-E-Fridge. The fridge is intended to store Bud Light, but Price discovered it also holds the many craft beers she buys (“an occupational hazard”, she calls it).

    The Bud-E-Fridge holds 78 bottles or cans. It isn’t equipped to store bombers but other than that, its functionality is “insane”. The fridge’s outside displays the number of beers inside, and a smartphone app allows Price to access that information on the go. If she adds warm beers to the fridge, she gets a push notification on the phone when the beers are cold. It also has an alarm that goes off if someone removes a bottle with permission—and allows her to e-scold the culprit. (The app also notifies her when “the beer fairy” drops by and adds bottles to the fridge.) And if the fridge is low on beer, Price can order more with the Saucy app.

    Price adds that the Bud-E-Fridge costs “roughly what you would for a standard fridge that won’t hold nearly as many beers.”

    Allagash Founder Narrowly Avoids Brussels Attacks

    Rob Tod, the founder of Allagash Brewing Company, and five other employees of the brewery, arrived at Brussels Airport minutes after terrorists attacked. The employees, who were in Belgium as a reward for five years’ service at the brewery, were able to travel to Paris to catch a flight home.

    The Friday Mash (Stanley Cup Edition)

    On this day in 1892, Lord Stanley, Canada’s former Governor-General, pledged to donate a silver challenge cup to the best hockey team in Canada. The Montreal Canadiens have won 24 Stanley Cups, nine more than the second-place Toronto Maple Leafs.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Silver Bay, Minnesota, where the city council banned a local microbrewery’s products from the municipal liquor store after the brewery opposed against taconite mining in the area.

    Hops have been used in folk medicine for centuries. Today’s scientists have been working on harnessing hops’ anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties.

    Releases draw big crowds of beer geeks. Unfortunately, some of them behave badly, pushing and shoving, cutting in line, and abusing breweries on social media when the beer runs out.

    The pace of mergers and acquisitions in the brewing industry is picking up, and now craft breweries are taking one another over. Recently, Oskar Blues Brewery has bought Cigar City Brewing.

    Tom Osborne and Mike Robb appeared on the television show Shark Tank to pitch The Beer Blizzard, a freezable product that fits on the bottom of a beer can, keeping it colder longer.

    A craft brewery in London is attacking the problem of food waste by salvaging heels from bread loaves. The heels—which normally go to waste—are made into a beer called Toast Ale.

    Finally, Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Sam Calagione says he got his first taste of the beer business waiting tables at a Manhattan bar. That inspired Calagione to buy a homebrewing kit. On a whim, he added overly ripe cherries…and the rest is history.

    Craft Beer at the Ballpark 2016

    BallparkDigest.com keeps track of promotions scheduled at minor league ballparks, and many of this season’s promotions involve beer.

    A growing number of teams are offering their own beers in conjunction with local breweries. The Durham Bulls went one step further, opening the Bull Durham Beer Company in their ballpark.

    Teams are adding craft beer nights to their promotions calendar. For example, the Wilmington Blue Rocks, in Delaware, will host Beer:30 Thursdays in conjunction with Delaware-based Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; and the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will sell beers and bratwurst for $2 apiece on Thursdays.

    Other teams, including the Fort Myers Miracle and the Reno Aces, are hosting beer festivals. Many take place during the off-season, but the Toledo Mud Hens’ fest is part of the team’s Opening Day celebration. The price of admission includes tickets to both the festival and ballgame, as well the post-game block party in the stadium’s entertainment district.

    Marketing Tips for Small Breweries

    It’s March, which means it’s time for Madness. CNBC’s “Beer Label Madness”, of course. Last year’s competition was won by Newburgh Brewing Company of New York State, whose labels feature a purple cow.

    Newburgh’s president, Paul Halayko, recently sat down with CNBC and offered some tips for small breweries hoping to break into beer’s big leagues:

    • If you’re small, you have time to concentrate on marketing.
    • Stay fresh on social media.
    • Use your “network’s network”; in other words, persuade people in your social network to spread the word to their social networks.
    • Cultivate your in-person following. Newburgh turned its taproom into a campaign headquarters for its label.
    • Build on your relationships with local media.
    • Rally your community behind your campaign.

    The Friday Mash (Stormy Weather Edition)

    On this day in 1888, one of the worst blizzards on record struck the northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada. The storm crippled railroads and downed telegraph lines, leading citis and utilities to move their infrastructure below ground.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Cleveland, where delegates to this year’s Republican National Convention will be able to enjoy UnconventionAle, an American pale ale from the aptly named Platform Brewing Company.

    And, by virtue of Ludwig’s Equal Time Rule, here’s a Democratic story. Last week, Zero Gravity Brewing Company released Bernie Weisse to celebrate Bernie Sanders’s presidential run.

    Austin Beerworks has created a series of beers for Richard Linklater’s upcoming film, Everybody Wants Some. It’s the “spiritual sequel” to his 1993 coming-of-age classic, Dazed and Confused.

    MuscleFood.com, U.K.-based online supplement shop, has created “Barbell Brew”. It contains as much protein as a cut of steak, and has 40 percent fewer calories than a regular beer.

    In Singapore, craft breweries are opening in spite of high rents and stiff excise taxes. The city-state has about a dozen micros, four of which opened last year.

    When astronaut Scott Kelly arrived in the U.S. after a year in space, Second Lady Jill Biden was there to welcome him. She presented Kelly with apple pie—and beer from the White House.

    Finally, documents in Union Beer Distributors’ lawsuit against a competitor shed light on “pay-to-play” tactics in the New York area. Union, which admitted to paying bars to handle its brands, is owned by the same family that owns the distributor which was fined $2.6 million by Massachusetts liquor regulators.

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