For decades, some craft brewers have waged an “arms race,” competing to brew the beer with the most IBUs, the most unusual ingredients, and especially, the highest alcohol content.
As Nick Panchamé, head brewer at Right Brain Brewery in Traverse City, Michigan, put it, ”When craft beer started, people didn’t want anything that looked like macro brews.”
More recently, however, Right Brain has released two successful session-strength beers.
Right Brain follows in the footsteps of another Michigan brewery, Founders Brewing Company, whose All Day IPA has become its largest-selling beer. Founders’ CEO Mike Stevens said, “We never intended to fill a void. By accident we seemed to time it right.” Stevens said that the beer was in development three years, and that he had no intention of “dumbing down” his products.
Another Michigan brewmaster, Tony Hansen of Short’s Brewing Company, said his company came to the realization that “big and bold beers aren’t perfect for every occasion.” Hansen added that session beers “will be kind of a gateway beer” for those looking to break away from national-brand beers.
As the craft beer industry grows more crowded, it becomes increasingly important for breweries to distinguish themselves from the competition. One way of doing so, aside from the beer itself, is the look and feel of the beer’s packaging. Chris Wright of GearPatrol.com sought out a number of leading figures in the craft community, and asked them about the design of their beer labels.
Wright’s panel of experts includes Brooklyn Brewery’s Milton Glazer, who founded New York magazine and designed the iconic “I (Heart) NY” logo in the 1970s; Flying Dog Ales’ Erin Weston, who works closely with Hunter S. Thompson’s illustrator Ralph Steadman; and Dogfish Head Brewery’s Sam Calagione, who really needs no introduction. Ten other designers, representing such well-known brands as Founders, Ommegang, and Sly Fox, also contributed to this fascinating oral history.
The designers come from various walks of life; and, as expected, many of them are home brewers. They explained to Wright what they wanted their labels to convey, such as psychedelia or fond memories of the beach. Perhaps the best comment came from Calagione, who told Wright that label design has become a challenge. He said, “It’s getting harder to find fun, provocative on-brand names these days with 1.5 new breweries opening every day and only half a million words in the English language.”
The craft beer community was abuzz this week with news that Founders Brewing Company sold a 30-percent stake to Spain’s Mahou San Miguel Group.
Why did Founders do this? The answer came in a story in Wednesday’s MLive.com. Founders’ CEO Mike Stevens told the publication that there were two reasons for the deal. First, by providing an international distribution chain, it ensures that Founders will be around for years to come.
More importantly, Stevens said, the deal was far better than the alternatives: getting acquired by one of the world’s brewing giants or falling into the hands of private-equity investors.
Stevens offered the best Worts of Wisdom of the entire year with this comment:
“We were looking for someone who truly understood the soul this brand,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll find that among a bunch of bankers and in the private equity world. Priority No. 1 for people like that is a return — profits.
On this day in 1968, Intel Corporation—Intel is short for “Integrated Electronics”—was founded in Mountain View, California. Today, it is one of the world’s largest and emiconductor chip manufacturers. Chances are, your personal computer has “Intel inside.”
And now….The Mash!
Appropriately, we begin in California’s Silicon Valley. Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, will offer fans a wide selection of local micros to choose from.
Cigar City Brewing Company has signed an agreement to pour its beers aboard Carnival Cruise Lines’ ships. Carnival also offers its own private label draft beer, ThirstyFrog Red.
This was bound to happen. Oregon’s Full Sail Brewery has sued Atlanta-based Sessions Law Firm, alleging that the law firm copied its trademark for Session Premium Lager.
Kirin, once the undisputed number-one brand in Japan, has dropped to second place behind Asahi. The chief reason for Kirin’s downfall was not entering the fast-growing premium beer market.
Grand Rapids’ Founders Brewing Company made BrandInnovators.com’s list of Top 10 American-Made Brands to Watch. Founders is joined on that list by Sonoma Cider Company.
Rumor has it that Anheuser-Busch InBev will merge with SABMiller. The combined company would own 80 percent of the world’s leading brands and control 30 percent of the world’s beer market.
Finally, Brasserie Cantillon is aging its beers inside a bomb shelter. No, the brewery isn’t expecting another invasion. It simply ran out of space; and fortunately, the city of Brussels found them a new subterranean location.
On this day in 1953, Francis Crick and James D. Watson published a paper in the British journal Nature that described the double helix structure of DNA. The ability to sequence and manipulate DNA is a key to the biotechnology industry, and modern medicine in general.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in the Willamette Valley, where the nation’s first hop and brewing archive was recently at Oregon State University. The valley, on the 45th parallel, has ideal hop-growing conditions.
Jay Brooks dusted off a 1947 issue of Look magazine, in which writer Don Wharton asks readers “What Kind of Drinker Are You?”. He describes 11 categories, and most of us fall into at least one.
Brewing carries a “white men with beards” stereotype, but Los Angeles is home to a growing Latino brewing community. LA Weekly profiles several craft cerveza breweries in the area.
Summer is coming, and that means session IPAs. The trend started last year with Founders Brewing Company’s All Day IPA, and other breweries have jumped in with their own versions.
And when those hot days of summer arrive, you might want one of these: The Beer Glass Froster by from Hammacher Schlemmer, which will frost your glass in ten seconds.
Flying Dog Ales is celebrating the 75th anniversary of Old Bay seasoning with a spicy summer ale called Dead Rise. It’s named after the boats used by Chesapeake Bay crabbers.
Finally, Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile, asks whether micropubs–establishments with Real Ale and no electronic distractions–are a passing fad or the future of British watering holes.
- Visitors who toured Founders Brewing Company in 2013: 2,518.
- Price of a Founders tour: $10 (includes a pint glass).
- Barrels of craft beer sold in 2011: 11,467,337.
- Barrels of craft beer sold in 2012: 13,235,917 (up 9 percent from 2011).
- Cost of a bottle of domestic beer in Hanoi, Vietnam: U.S.$0.44.
- Cost of a bottle of non-alcoholic domestic beer in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: U.S.$0.59.
- Cost of a bottle of black-market domestic beer in Tripoli, Libya: U.S.$5.49.
- Change in Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s sales from 2011 to 2012: Up 13 percent.
- 60 Minute IPA’s share of Dogfish Head’s production: 48 percent.
- What Anheuser-Busch InBev paid to re-acquire Korea-based Oriental Brewery: $5.8 billion.
- What A-B InBev sold Oriental Brewery for in 2009: $1.8 billion.
- Sales of number-one selling beer Bud Light in 2013: $5.95 billion.
- Average price of a case of Bud Light: $20.18.
- Percent of Americans who call Budweiser their favorite beer: 51.
- Percent who call Budweiser their least favorite beer: 46.
No, “chili and frosty” isn’t today’s weather report. Those were once the signature items of Wendy’s restaurants, the first of which opened on this day in 1969. Founder Dave Thomas named after it after his daughter Melinda Lou Thomas, known to her family as Wendy.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Germany, where an official of the national health system infuriated psychotherapists by suggesting that a bottle of beer might be more effective than a trip to the couch.
A store in Louisville sells hand-rolled cigars seasoned with Samuel Adams beer. They combine the beer’s sweetness and maple and vanilla flavors with a spicy flavor from the tobacco blend.
In many U.S. states, anti-drunk driving groups have put an end to drive-through beer stores, but they’re still common in Mexico. Some are operated by the Modelo brewery’s parent company.
Last week, the carrier U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford was launched. Founders Brewing Company, located in Ford’s hometown of Grand Rapids, released a special ale to celebrate.
Next February, the University of Kentucky will host a one-day seminar on the importance of beer writing to the craft beer industry. Garrett Oliver is the headline speaker.
Alan Newman, the founder of the Magic Hat Brewing Company, has gone back to basics. His Just Beer Project is a brewery that focuses on traditional beers. His first offering is a session-strength IPA.
Finally, some gift ideas for the beer lover who has everything. Paste Magazine’s ten best items made out of beer cans include a Christmas tree, a corset, and a World War I biplane.
In 2005, Maryanne and Paul traveled throughout Michigan for their book, Michigan Breweries. At the time, there were 78 breweries in the state. The brewery count remained flat for several years, increased to the low 90s, in 2009-10, and then…
Scott Graham, the executive director of the Michigan Brewers Guild, had an unusual confession to make to Bridge magazine correspondent Rick Haglund: “I have no idea how many breweries are under construction. I used to know about everyone.” The Guild estimates that there are 140 craft breweries in Michigan, and a spokeswoman from the state’s Liquor Control Commission says that there 48 license applications are pending.
Bell’s Brewing, which opened for business years before Michigan issued microbrewer licenses, is seventh in production among U.S. craft breweries; and Founders Brewing Company, which had maxed out its capacity at 5,000 barrels at its original location in 2005, now ranks 30th.
Currently, Michigan ranks fifth in the nation in the number of breweries, and is the only state east of the Rockies in the top five.
Amber Stout’s parents had no idea that craft beer would become popular when they named her in 1990. Amber, who worked in this hospitality industry in college, began getting comments about her name tag while serving drinks. She told an MLive.com reporter, “I walked into Founders once and the guy checking IDs said ‘well, it looks like you’re in the right spot,’” she said. The staff must have liked her: she’s pictured holding a pint of Breakfast Stout in one hand, and a pint of Red’s Rye Ale in the other.