Rich Doyle, one of the founders of Harpoon Brewery, asked his partners to bring in an investor so their brewery could buy struggling competitors. They said no. So, after 30 years, Doyle is cashing out.
Doyle believes we’re in the midst of a craft beer bubble, which like all bubbles, will pop. He told the New York Times, “you have a lot of entrants, with low barriers to entry, chasing a finite amount of growth.” he said.
But Doyle’s partners disagree. They think there’s more room for well-run breweries like Harpoon to keep growing. And many brewery owners elsewhere in the country agree with them.
Private equity groups have been investing in craft breweries. For example, Uinta Brewing, which brewed nearly 150,000 barrels last year and aims to break into craft’s top tier, took on an outside investor to fund the infrastructure it needs to get there.
Other breweries have accepted takeover offers from big breweries. The most newsworthy deals involve Anheuser-Busch, which recently bought 10 Barrel Brewing and Elysian Brewing.
And some breweries are borrowing to finance their expansion. This raises fears about unserviceable debt loads and overbuilding in general. Benj Steinman of Beer Marketing Insights told the Times, “People have built out way in front,” he said. “They’ve made bets and not all will succeed. It’s pretty likely there will be some that won’t survive. And then there might be some capacity available for cents on the dollar.”
Anheuser-Busch, whose products have steadily lost market share in recent years, aired a Super Bowl ad titled “Brewed the Hard Way, which made fun of craft beer and the people who enjoy it. The craft beer community wasted no time firing back.
One of the best critiques came from Jim Vorel, Paste magazine’s news editor. He led off by telling his readers that he’d been to the Budweiser Research Pilot Brewery and met the people who work there.
Vorel then opened fire on “Brewed the Hard Way”. A few of his comments:
- “So, what if right after we say it’s not to be fussed over, we IMMEDIATELY trumpet the fact that it’s beechwood aged, something that roughly 1% of our target demographic understands?”
- “Please, if at all possible, try not to taste our beer. If you’re able to disable your gag reflex and just pour it straight down your gullet and into your stomach in one fell swoop while bypassing the taste buds altogether, that would be ideal.”
- “Anheuser is literally mocking the consumers of the COMPANIES THEY NOW OWN. Honestly, how devastating is that for the Elysian brewing team? Your owners think your customers are pretentious hipsters. These are the people who own your business.”
Finally, Vorel notes that the “pumpkin peach beer” A-B made fun of in the ad, and which a company executive called “a fabricated, ludicrous flavor combination,” is being brewed by a company that A-B is in the process of buying. About that he says, “We’re at Irony Defcon 1, people.”
On this day in 1919, the 18th Amendment, which ushered in national Prohibition, became part of the U.S. Constitution. The 14-year-long ban on “intoxicating” beverages, which meant anything with more than 0.5 percent alcohol, had a profound effect on the United States—an effect that persists to this day.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Rhode Island—one of two states that didn’t ratify the 18th Amendment—where Narragansett Beer has launched a four-beer series honoring H.P. Lovecraft, the master of horror fiction who lived in Providence.
In the San Francisco Bay area, the latest trend is “activity bars”, which offer giant basketball Plinko games, oversize Jenga sets, and bowling alleys along with local craft beers.
According to CBS MoneyWatch’s Kim Peterson, plunging gas prices is good news for breweries. The average motorist stands to save $700 this year, some of which might be spent on beer.
Newcastle Brown Ale is back at it, sponsoring a Super Bowl “ambush ad” and inviting other non-“official” brands to join in. Last year’s ad featured an extended rant by actress Anna Kendrick.
Caveat emptor. Fortune magazine’s Brad Tuttle names five “imported” beers that are brewed in the United States: Kirin, Beck’s, Foster’s, Killian’s, and—believe it or not—Red Stripe.
Pennsylvania’s Snitz Creek Brewery is incorporating a local specialty—Lebanon bologna—into one of its beers. Snitz Creek has also brewed beers using local pretzels and opera fudge.
Finally, Anheuser-Busch offers another reason not to over-indulge. In this year’s “Up for Whatever” Super Bowl ad, a Bud Light drinker gets pulled into a life-size Pac-Man game after a night out. Imagine running from Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde while fighting a hangover.
The Most Interesting Man in the World has competition. Michel de Carvalho, the son of a Brazilian father and and a British mother, is an MBA from Harvard, a three-time Olympic competitor, and a high-ranking investment banker at Citigroup.
So why is he being mentioned on this blog? Because he married Charlene Heineken, the only child of beer baron Freddy Heineken and 25-percent owner of Heineken International. Her shares make the couple worth an estimated $11 billion.
Earlier this year, the brewery contacted Patricia Sellers of Fortune magazine, and proposed that she interview the de Carvalhos. Even though Charlene has been publicity-shy, she saw Heineken’s 150th birthday as an opportunity to talk about her life and her family business.
One interesting story involves Anheuser-Busch. After Freddy Heineken died, August Busch III–the Busches and de Carvalhos were friendly rivals—suggested that the two companies help one other expand their distribution. A Heineken-Busch joint venture is one of the industry’s more intriguing historical “what-ifs.”
In September, Charlene rejected an unsolicited bid by SABMiller. Meanwhile, Michel is trying to grow Heineken in a rapidly-consolidating industry. Michel feels the heavy responsibility that goes with being part of a family business. He said to Sellers, “One of the things that drives me is the thought that one guy [Freddy] is constantly looking down and wondering whether we’re going to **** it up.”
Fifty-five years ago today, the first episode of the television show Bonanza premiered on NBC. The show, which starred Lorne Greene and Michael Landon, ran for 14 seasons and 430 episodes, second only to Gunsmoke as the longest-running western of all time.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Crested Butte, Colorado, where residents are hopping mad over a clandestine deal to let Anheuser-Busch turn their ski town into a living Bud Light commercial.
John Holl asked some of his fellow beer writers, “if beer were invented today, what would it look like?” The answers may surprise you.
Heavy late-summer rains in Montana and Idaho have ruined much of the barley crop. A disappointing barley harvest could translate into higher beer prices next year.
Are you ready for some football? The folks at Thrillist are, and they’ve picked a local beer for each of the National Football League’s 32 teams.
Add chili pepper-infused beers to the list of craft brewing trends. USA Today’s Mike Snider reviews some popular chili beers, including one made with extra-potent ghost peppers.
Raise a glass to Jake Leinenkugel, who is retiring as the brewery’s CEO. According to a hometown journalist, Leinenkugel has earned a place in craft brewing history.
Finally, Marc Confessore of Staten Island showed us how not to pair food and beer. He got caught trying to sneak four cases of Heineken and 48 packages of bacon out of a grocery store.
On this day in 1040, King Duncan I of Scotland was killed in battle against his first cousin and rival Macbeth. Seventeen years later, King Macbeth was killed at the Battle of Lumphanan. The Three Weird Sisters entered the picture 500 years later, courtesy of William Shakespeare.
“Double, double, time and trouble, fire burn”..and now The Mash!
We begin in Dodger Stadium, where Anheuser-Busch InBev will unveil a new beer aimed at Latino beer drinkers. Montejo, from A-B’s Mexican subsidiary, will be released throughout the Southwest.
Beer-fueled violence in college towns is nothing new. In 1884, a beer riot took place in Iowa City after local authorities put two men on trial for violating Iowa’s new prohibition law.
Pete Brown reports that underage drinking has fallen off sharply in Britain. His explanation: parents downing a few at home have made drinking less appealing to their children.
It’s Shark Week, a perfect time for a Narragansett, which has been called “the Forrest Gump of Beers” because of its association with celebrities, artists, sports teams, and politicians.
Blonde ales have acquired a “training-wheels beer” reputation, but Jay Brooks thinks they’re underappreciated. He calls them “light and refreshing” and perfect for a hot August day.
Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post ranked the beer selection at major-league ballparks. Seattle’s Safeco Field has the best selection, while Yankee Stadium has the worst.
Finally, brewpubs aren’t dead after all. An All About Beer story by Brandon Hernandez profiles restaurants that reinvented themselves as brewpubs and experienced an uptick in business afterward.
A century ago today, George Herman “Babe” Ruth made his major-league debut. Starting on the mound for the Boston Red Sox, he defeated Cleveland, 4-3. By 1919, Ruth was moved to the outfield so he—and his potent bat—could be in the lineup every day. And the rest, as they say, is history.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Lewes, Delaware, where Dogfish Head Artisan Ales has opened a beer-themed motel. The Dogfish Inn offers beer-infused soaps, logo glassware, and pickles for snacking.
Fans attending next Tuesday’s All-Star Game in Minneapolis can buy self-serve beer. New Draft-Serv machines will offer a choice not only of brands but also the number of ounces in a pour.
Moody Tongue Brewing, a brand-new micro in Chicago, offers a beer made with rare black truffles. A 22-ounce bottle of the 5-percent lager carries a hefty retail price of $120.
Fast Company magazine caught up with Jill Vaughn, head brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch’s Research Pilot Brewery. She’s experimented with offbeat ingredients ranging from pretzels to ghost peppers.
Entrepreneur Steve Young has developed beer’s answer to Keurig. His Synek draft system uses cartridges of concentrated beer which, when refrigerated, keep for 30 days.
Brewbound magazine caught up with Russian River Brewing Company’s owner Vinnie Cilurzo, who talked about Pliny the Elder, quality control, and possible future expansion of the brewery.
Finally, cue up the “final gravity” puns. Amateur rocketeers in Portland, Oregon, will launch a full keg of beer to an altitude of 20,000 feet. Their beer of choice? A pale ale from Portland’s Burnside Brewery.
Today is the 800th anniversary of the granting of a royal charter to the University of Oxford. Alumni include 26 British Prime Ministers, including current PM David Cameron; many foreign heads of state, including President Bill Clinton, a Rhodes Scholar; and 27 Nobel laureates.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Kalamazoo where, for $19, you can take part in a craft beer walking tour. Participants will meet brewery staff; learn about the city’s brewing history; and, of course, sample some beer.
Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors will post their beers’ ingredients online. This comes after a blogger called “the Food Babe” claimed that some beers contained high-fructose corn syrup and other additives.
Brian Dunn, the founder of Great Divide Brewing Company, sat down with Eater magazine and talked about his 20 years in Denver, what urban brewing is like, and the whereabouts of the Yeti.
Move over, bacon beer. The latest food-in-your-beer trend is peanut butter and jelly. Florida’s Funky Buddha Brewery offers a PB&J beer called “No Crusts.”
Purists think beer has no place in a yogic lifestyle, but yoga classes are popping up in breweries. Post-practice beer makes made yoga more social, and persuades men to take it up.
When you travel abroad, what do you get when you ask for “one beer, please”? Not only will the brand and style depend on the country you’re in, but so will the size of your serving.
Finally, any in the beer community maintain that brewing is an art form. Don Tse, writing in All About Beer magazine, agrees. His article explores the close relationship between fine beer and fine art.
When Prohibition ended in 1933, only a handful of breweries in the United States were still operating. Nick Green of MentalFloss.com explains how these breweries survived a 13-year period during which their main line of business was illegal.
To begin with, brewery owners knew well in advance that Prohibition was coming, and thus had time to think of alternatives. The most common was “near beer,” which the Volstead Act defined as having less than 0.5 percent alcohol. Brewers had experience with low-alcohol beer, thanks to a World War I emergency measure that outlawed beer with an alcohol content higher than 2.75 percent.
Breweries got into numerous other lines of business. Ice cream was one. Anheuser-Busch owned a fleet of refrigerated trucks, and put them to work carrying a different product. Adolph Coors mass-produced ceramic tubes and rods for the military, along with lines of dinnerware. Many of the big breweries sold malt extract “as a cooking product” which was in fact used for homebrewing, then prohibited by the Volstead Act. Other breweries converted their equipment to dye-making: the transition was easy, and a shortage of imports created a postwar “dye famine.”
Today is Friday the 13th, a day dreaded by the superstitious. However, Ludwig and his staff at the Mash agree with baseball (and beer-drinking) legend Babe Ruth, who said, “I have only one superstition. I make sure to touch all the bases when I hit a home run.”
And now…the Mash!
We begin in Chicago, where Old Style beer will end its 63-year run at Wrigley Field at the end of this season. Next year, Anheuser-Busch will become the Cubs’ exclusive beer sponsor.
Shares of Boston Beer Company (ticker symbol: SAM) have appreciated by 1,000 percent in the past ten years, which means the company’s CEO, Jim Koch, is now a billionaire.
Since 1935, Wyoming’s beer tax has been two cents a gallon. State lawmakers are considering raising the tax to help fund substance-abuse programs. The nation’s median beer tax is 19 cents.
East Asian beer lovers can now buy Hello Kitty beer in six tropical fruit flavors. The brewer points out that the beer is aimed at adults who grew up with the cartoon cat, who turns 40 next year.
Good beer in Vegas? You bet! (Sorry, Ludwig couldn’t resist.) Renee LiButti of Blog.Vegas.com offers her list of the five best places in town to get a craft brew.
A feral pig in Australia had a fight with a cow after guzzling three six-packs of beer left out by campers. The pig was later found sleeping under a tree, presumably nursing a hangover.
Finally, three friends have invented the Case Coolie, a lightweight carrier that keeps a 30-pack of beer cold without ice. Just in time for football tailgating.