Sierra Nevada

Trendy Beers: A Bad Business Decision?

Boston Beer Company’s slumping sales have been a topic of conversation in the craft beer community. Author Jeff Alworth blames the company’s propensity to chase trends. Alworth explains:

Boston Beer has made a series of decisions that may have resulted in short-term profits–spinning off alcoholic apple juice, tea, and seltzer divisions–but they enhanced the sense that this was a big company as bland and personality-free as Kellogg’s or Proctor and Gamble. No one could ever fault Sam Adams for failing to release new beers, but the ever-multiplying new lines of random beer types (IPAs, barrel-aged beers, nitro cans) has created a brewery with no there there.

Trend-chasing isn’t limited to Boston Beer. Breweries across the country are scrambling to bring out their versions of grapefruit IPAs, golden ales, and New England IPAs. If the past is any indication—remember the wheat beers of the 1990s?—today’s fad beers stay trendy very long.

According to Alworth, breweries that specialize in trendy beers fail to establish a connection with their customers. That connection is more important with beer than with other consumer products. He cites four examples—Sierra Nevada, Hill Farmstead, Schlenkerla, and Genesee—each of which has a distinct “personality”. Those personalities are built in collaboration with their drinkers, who expect the beer will embody that personality.

The Friday Mash (Miami Dolphins Edition)

On this day in 1930, Don Shula was born. Shula coached the Miami Dolphins to two consecutive Super Bowl victories. The first, in Super Bowl VII, completed the first and only undefeated season in the history of the National Football League.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Ostbevern, Germany, where a hotel has created a room with a two-person bed made from a beer barrel. The barrel, which dates back to the 19th century, was used as recently as 1995.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery has enlisted surviving members of The Gratetful Dead to help make its American Beauty pale ale. It’s also asking Deadheads to suggest ingredients for the beer.

Last spring’s freakishly warm weather wiped out the cherry crop in the Great Lakes region. Which explains why cherry beer has been so hard to find lately.

Iraq and Afghanistan vet Jake Voelker has launched a beer tour business. Pennsylvania Brewery Tours will run trips to breweries that are “slightly out of reach,” with Voelker providing history and color en route.

Russia begins 2013 with a new law that classifies beer as alcohol rather than food. It also puts an end to beer sales at street kiosks and 24-hour convenience stores.

With the help of the folks at Sierra Nevada, the monks of the Abbey of New Clairvaux have raised $7 million to restore a Trappist monastery that William Randolph Hearst shipped from Spain in the 1930s.

Finally, journalist Evan Benn sat down with Dan Kopman, the CEO of Schlafly Bottleworks, who talked about expansion, festivals, and Schlafly in cans.

The Making of Jack and Ken’s Ale

“Jack,” of course, is Jack McAuliffe, and “Ken” is Ken Grossman. Take a trip down Memory Lane with these two craft brew pioneers.

Don’t forget: the video is free, but you’ll have to provide your own popcorn.

The Friday Mash (Green Jacket Edition)

Unwrap that pimiento sandwich, grab a chair, and pour yourself a beverage. If you’re open to suggestions, Adam Tokarz, this week’s guest-blogger at Draft magazine, has compiled a Masters-themed beer list.

And now…The Mash!

Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin has video from the Sierra Nevada 30th Anniversary Beer Dinner at San Francisco’s Anchor Brewery.

Session Number 38 at Brewed for Thought is about cult beers. The discussion kicks off with a description of February’s Pliny the Younger release party which will make you wish you had been there.

What U.S. state ranks first in per capita beer consumption? If you answer was Montana, go to the head of the class.

Jack Curtin hails the unsung heroes and heroines of the craft beer movement: everyone from beer-savvy servers to the people who package and deliver your beer.

Pete Brown says that British regulators have decided to ban the use of pixies, elves, sprites, and other mythical creatures in marketing alcohol. We hope he’s pulling our leg.

Finally, another macrobrewery craft beer offering has hit the shelves: Colorado Native Ale, by MillerCoors. Its slogan is “born, brewed and shared local”; and it’s currently available only in Colorado.

Is Collaboration the Beer Trend of 2010?

Greg Kitsock’s latest entry on the Washington Post food blog, All We Can Eat, is about collaboration ales by the nation’s top brewmasters.

Already this year, we’ve seen the release of the first beer in Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s 30th anniversary series, along with a saison brewed by Stone Brewing Company in collaboration with Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Victory Brewing Company.

There’s more to come. Boston Beer Company is working with Bavaria’s Weihenstephan brewery on a wheat beer that will be “high in alcohol yet Champagne-like and light on the palate.” It will, of course, comply with the German Reinheitsgebot.

And you might remember “Masters III,” a collaboration by Coors, Molson, and Germany’s Kaltenberg that made a brief appearance during the mid-1980s. Greg certainly does. He describes it as “a Michelob/Beck’s/Heineken clone, not far enough outside the mainstream to justify the hype or extra price.” Masters III disappeared from the market after less than a year. Or, as Ludwig would say, “it wasn’t a roaring success.”

The Friday Mash (Conversation Hearts Edition)

Ludwig wishes you a happy Ballantine’s Valentine’s Day weekend.

Rick Blankemeier, the Denver Beer Examiner, has written a series of posts on the best places to drink beer in Denver. Talk about a target-rich environment.

The British government has appointed a minister for pubs, who will draw up a strategy to stem the tide of pub closures. Each week, about 40 pubs close for good.

Chuck Cook spent years trying to arrange a visit to Belgium’s De Proefbrouwerij. His efforts finally paid off in the form of the first interview with brewmaster/owner Dirk Naudts that has ever been published in America. You can find it in the February/March issue of Celebrator Beer News.

Lew Bryson, who’s working on the fourth edition of Pennsylvania Breweries, serves up bits and pieces about what’s brewing in the Keystone State.

A craft beer sitcom? Fox Television has ordered a pilot of “Strange Brew,” a comedy about a family-owned brewery. Readers of this blog probably have plenty of story ideas.

Sierra Nevada’s 30th anniversary website has gone live. The first beer in the anniversary series, Fritz and Ken’s Ale, will be available in March. It’s an imperial stout.

Finally, from the “you’ve got to see it to believe it” department, Three Floyds has an amusing video of a Dark Lord Day attendee.

Sierra Nevada: Celebrate & Collaborate

2010 is Sierra Nevada’s 30th anniversary and founder Ken Grossman has big plans that are sure to make a big splash. He’s announced four collaboration brews involving the founders of Americas current craft brew movement.

March of 2010 will see the first of four beers in a series of collaborative projects with America’s craft-brewing pioneers: Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing; Jack McAuliffe, founder of New Albion Brewery; and authors, homebrewers, and beer advocates Fred Eckhardt, and Charlie Papazian. Together, this group is credited as ‘the men who launched a thousand breweries;’ and without them, our current day craft-beer-renaissance might never have happened.

Proceeds from the project will be donated to charities selected by the four pioneers. And, when can we look forward to what’s sure to be the best in earthly delight?

The beers will be released periodically throughout the year, starting with the first release in March, and continuing until Sierra Nevada’s 30th Anniversary on November 15. These limited-release 750ml cage-and-cork bottles will be available at select retailers and beer-centric bars.

We hope they make their way out to the Midwest.

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