A-B sees good demand; will raise prices

Anheuser-Busch will continue raising prices to counter a rise in the cost of ingredients, Chief Financial Officer W. Randolph Baker told a group of stock analysts at a conference in New York.

Baker hit several optimistic notes in his presentation, including an apparent increase in consumer interest for domestic beers. He said beer industry growth in 2007 has continued to exceed expectations, up 1.8% to date.

“We see the resurgence in interest in beer. With the momentum there, it’s likely you’re going to have strong demand for beer,” Baker said.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has in depth analysis of A-B’s standing the market and plans for the future. Some highlights:

– The top priority is boosting Bud Light, the company’s best-selling brew. The beer has “under­performed” this year.

– Bud Light and Budweiser will get an extra $70 million in television ad support next year.

– A new Michelob campaign will account for another $30 million.

– Fewer brands will be advertised on television.

– The average A-B distributor now handles 147 brands, more than double from five years ago.

– Analysts said the nearly-flat sales volumes for A-B’s main brands — even as the overall industry is growing at a strong clip — is a cause for worry. Bud Light, for one, is losing market share to Coors Light and its “cold” marketing message, said analyst Mark Swartzberg of Stifel, Nicolaus & Co.


Goodness, that’s a lot of Guinness (and Bud)

What do you do with 450 kegs of beer?

Post them on eBay? Host a giant kegger?

Well, someone broke into the Guinness brewery in Dublin and stole 450 kegs of beer. Well, 180 kegs of Guinness stout, 180 kegs of Budweiser and 90 kegs of Danish beer Carlsberg. Recalling an old joke, but that’s another subject.

From the Times Online:

It couldn’t have happened at a worse moment: just as Operation Freeflow was getting under way, putting more police on Dublin’s streets as a pre-Christmas warning to drink-drivers, an opportunistic thief drove out of the Guinness brewery with 40,000 pints.

About 450 kegs of beer and stout were lifted from under the noses of security guards in what is believed to be the first raid on the historic St James’s Gate Brewery at Victoria Quay along the River Liffey.

It took place as the police announced their Christmas traffic blitz, giving warning that 160 officers would be on patrol over the coming weeks and urging motorists in the traffic-choked city to leave their vehicles at home.

The blitz would target drink-driving, speeding, offences involving HGVs, dangerous driving and people not wearing seat-belts, a senior officer said.

Meanwhile, the lone raider, who has already been nicknamed “the Beer Hunter” by Dublin wags, was driving his own HGV through the Guinness security gates, attaching it to a well-provisioned trailer and taking off with the makings of a very merry Christmas.

Police said it would be difficult for the thief to sell the stolen beer without attracting attention, unless he has criminal associates who own a network of pubs.


Wall Street Journal profiles Westvleteren

In the Wall Street Journal today: Trappist Command: Thou Shalt Not Buy Too Much of Our Beer:

The Trappist monks at St. Sixtus monastery have taken vows against riches, sex and eating red meat. They speak only when necessary. But you can call them on their beer phone.

The popularity of Westvleteren beers is hardly news in the beer community, but still interesting to see how a mainstream business publication treats the subject. Be sure to watch the video &#151 just geeky enough to make you smile.

It brings us back to an interesting question. How rare can Westvleteren 12 be given that it has been rated 1090 times (at this moment) at Rate Beer? Meanwhile Firestone Pale Ale, called the best pale ale in the world by Men’s Journal and produced at a brewery more than 10 times the size, has been rated 175 times.

Look here for another perspective and trip inside the Saint Sixtus monastery.

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Orkney’s Dark Island Champion Winter Beer of Scotland

Orkney Brewery’s Dark Island ale has been named Champion Winter Beer of Scotland.

The ale won the accolade at the 21st Aberdeen and North East Beer Festival, organized by the Aberdeen, Grampian and Northern Isles branch of the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA).

The 4.6% abv ale has twice won CAMRA’s Champion Beer of Scotland award, while the brewery’s Skullsplitter ale took runner-up spot in the Champion Winter Beer category last year. Orkney Brewery is operated by Sinclair Breweries.

Norman Sinclair, managing director of Sinclair Breweries, said: “We’re absolutely over the moon to win such a prestigious award. Dark Island has always been extremely popular with customers, but it’s a boost to have it judged independently and see it come out on top like this, beating off some really stiff competition.”


Gene Muller of Flying Fish profiled

Why is Flying Fish Brewing in New Jersey called that?

“I have lived in New Jersey all of my life, but ‘South Jersey beer’ wasn’t going be a big seller. All of the good animal names were taken. We just thought it would stand out,” said brewery founder Gene Muller.

Muller “tells all” in an interview at

“Please get my title correct,” Muller said at the outset. “It’s president and chief janitor.”


Oskar Blues celebrates 5th canniversary

Dale's can and mini-kegWhat better way to celebrate five years of microcanning than by releasing really big cans?

That’s not exactly what the folks at Oskar Blues in Lyons, Colo., are doing, but it sort of looks like that doesn’t it?

Not long after the brewery started selling Dale’s Pale Ale in cans, founder Dale Katechis said:

“People see the can and think they need to drink right from it. You’d never drink a full-flavored beer from a bottle. This is a better, safer package than a bottle. It’s draft beer in a mini-keg, and you don’t drink draft beer right from a full-size keg.”

Now the mini-kegs are getting a little bigger. The brewery is rolling out 5-liter/1.3 gallon mini kegs. Keg cans (with built-in taps) Dale’s Pale Ale will reach select stores along the Front Range starting Dec. 3. They will retail for around $24.

Visitors to the Oskar Blues pub in Lyons can buy these cans filled with Dale’s Pale Ale, as well as Old Chub Scottish Style Ale, Gordon, Ten FIDY and the brewpub’s other-in-house beers. These cans have replaced the traditional glass growler at Oskar Blues.

The brewery has also added its Ten FIDY Imperial Stout (the name is an allusion to motor oil and the dark luscious color of the 9.4% abv beer) to its can lineup. The suggested price for a four-pack is $12.99.

Since selling its first can of Dales Pale Ale in November of 2002, and being followed by scores of other craft breweries selling beer in cans, Oskar Blues has grown twenty-fold.

The brewery sold 700 barrels the year before installing its first table-top, two-cans-at-once filler, and this year will ship 14,000 barrels.

“It’s been an incredible run for us,” Katechis said. “We launched our Canned Beer Apocalypse as something of a joke, and a way to draw attention to our brewpub. Some of our peers thought we were nuts at the time. But we heard from many retailers and consumers back then who loved the irreverence and practicality of the idea.”


New from Lost Abbey, Left Hand and Alaskan

Post Brewing/Lost Abbey in Southern California will put three new beers on sale this weekend, which based upon the recent release of its highly sought after Angel’s Share will mean long lines at the brewery door. Thus Lost Abbey has set limits on how much of each beer a customer may buy.

Older Viscosity: The barrel-aged version of Old Viscosity. A dark, strong ale aged over a year in American oak bourbon barrels. Release: 120 cases; 375ml cork-finished bottles. Maximum 6 bottles per person. 12% abv; $10 per bottle.

Amazing Grace: A barrel-aged issue of Lost & Found Abbey Dubbel. Aged 6 months in French Oak Red Wine barrels. Release: 80 cases; 750ml cork-finished bottles. Maximum 4 bottles per person. 8.5% abv; $12 per bottle.

Gift of the Maji: A deep golden caramel-colored Bière de Garde, 9% abv and bottle conditioned with Brettanomyces. Release: 170 cases; 750ml cork-finished bottles. Maximum 2 bottles per person. 9% abv; $12 per bottle.

Beers go on sale at 11 a.m. Saturday. Details are at the Lost Abbey website.

Left Hand GoosinatorLeft Hand Brewing in Colorado has shipped Smoked Goosinator Doppelbock. From its press release: “The ‘Goose’ pours deep amber in color, with an alluring butter-cream colored head. Smokiness dominates the nose up front, with hints of caramel malt and spiciness on the backside. Malt sweetness hits the palate immediately, followed by the intense smokiness that appears to dominate throughout, with the exception of a splash of spiciness from the German Hersbrucker hops that shine through. At 7.7% alcohol by volume and 27 IBU’s, Smoked Goosinator Doppelbock will change your perceptions about what 2nd hand smoke can do for you.”

Alaskan Brewing Co. will offer a limited release of its award-winning Alaskan Barley Wine in 22-ounce bottles for the first time ever in January. Alaskan Barley Wine is produced in small batches each year. Typically this higher alcohol beverage is brewed in the spring, cellared in the tunnels of the Alaska-Juneau Gold Mine for the summer and retrieved in time for its release at the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival in January.

“The release of Alaskan Barley Wine has been highly anticipated every year since this recipe was introduced on draft at the Great Alaska Beer and Barley Wine Festival in 2003,” said co-founder Geoff Larson. “People from all over have been asking us to bottle it, so we decided to try a limited-edition bottle run this year.”


Beer sales in British pubs hit 70-year low

The British Beer and Pub Association reports beer sales in pubs have slumped to their lowest level since the 1930s.

The facts:

– Total beer sales – in pubs, off licences and supermarkets – have fallen from 12 billion pints a year in 1979 to 9.5 billion in 2007, according to BBPA figures.

– Pubs have been particularly affected. Some 29 million pints were sold each day in pubs 28 years ago, compared with 15 million pints a day this year.

– Tax on beer has increased by 27% since 1997 – compared to 16% for wine, 3% for spirits and 11% for cider.

– The BBPA also said the smoking ban had had an effect, with a 7% drop in pub beer sales this year alone.

The BBPA has called for a freeze on beer taxes, and the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) offers its support.

A spokesman said: “It is no coincidence that Britain has the highest level of excise duty in the EU and sales in the on-trade are falling, and yet binge-drinking is on the increase as supermarkets cynically exploit the consumer by offering cut-price booze to drink at home. A pub is the proper place to enjoy a drink in a responsible and regulated atmosphere.”


SABMiller set to acquire Grolsch

SABMiller plans to buy Royal Grolsch for $1.2 billion, with plans to expand sales of the 392-year-old Dutch beer brand in Latin America and South Africa.

Grolsch accepted a bid – subject to shareholder approval in January – of 48.25 euros a share in cash, London-based SABMiller said. That’s a premium of 79% over its previous closing price.

“The deal is expensive,”‘ said Marcel Hooijmaijers, an analyst at Landsbanki Kepler in Amsterdam. Buying Grolsch is “smart”‘ because SABMiller “completes its premium brand portfolio with a northern European brand,” he said.

“We see significant potential for the brand across Africa and Latin America where the premium sector is still in its infancy,”‘ Malcolm Wyman, SABMiller’s chief financial officer, said on a conference call.

Last month Miller agreed to combine its U.S. operations with Molson Coors Brewing Co.


Samuel Adams, Deschutes shine in Germany

Boston Beer Co.’s Samuel Adams beers won eight medals at the European Beer Star Awards.

Judging was conducted Monday and awards were handed out Thursday at BRAU Beviale in Germany, a giant trade show primarily for the European beverage industry.

Fifty-four judges from 28 countries judged 575 beers for the Beer Star Awards. The competition, which “assesses beers purely on sensory criteria and enjoyment,” was initiated four years ago.

Samuel Adams and Deschutes Brewery both won three gold medals. Deschutes captured four overall.

The Harpoon Brewery in Boston grabbed two golds, besting the Germans on their home turf to win the Märzen category as well as the highly competition India Pale Ale competition (where American breweries were second and third).

Great Divide Brewing from Colorado and Victory Brewing from Pennsylvania also won two medals apiece.

Brewery Ommegang, BridgePort Brewing, Rogue Ales, Left Hand Brewing, Pete’s Brewing and Alaskan Brewing all won one medal.

The complete results (pdf).


Australian claims record for hauling beer steins

An Australian born in Germany has set a world record for carrying beer steins, hauling 20 of them 40 meters.

Reinhard Wurtz, a burly and well known restaurant manager in Sydney, broke the mark of 16 set by Munich barmaid Anita Schwartz. He set the record at the Lowenbrau Keller, the German-style beer hall he manages. He started with 21 steins, each holding one liter and weighing 2.3 kilograms (or pounds) but dropped one weaving through an obstacle course of tables and chairs.

“I don’t think the people of Germany will be offended that the record has gone to Australia,” Wurtz said. “I’m happy for them to try and claim it back.”


S&N rejects another Heineken offer

Heineken and Carlsberg boost their offer for Scottish & Newcastle.

S&N says no.

“The board, having consulted its advisers, has no hesitation in rejecting this wholly inadequate proposal as it substantially undervalues the unique strengths and market position of S&N,” the UK brewer, led by chairman Sir Brian Stewart, said in a statement.

Danish firm Carlsberg and Dutch brewer Heineken plan to carve up S&N if they come up with a successful bid.


Brewers worldwide predicting higher beer prices

No surprise that American brewers aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch of price spikes for hops and malt.

Gerhard Ilgenfritz, president of Germany’s private brewer’s federation, said the brewery-gate price of a 24-bottle crate was likely to rise 1.00 to 1.10 euros ($1.46 to $1.60) at the start of 2008.

He said the world price of aromatic hops had doubled in the past two years and the price of brewers’ barley had tripled.

– In the U.K., the Society of Independent Brewers warned the price of a pint might increase 10p to 15p (which amounts to 20 to 30 cents). British brewers are looking at increases of nearly 40% for barley compared to last year and 100% for some hop varieties.

“After wages, raw materials represent the biggest single expenditure by small brewers who now face the dilemma of whether to put up their prices and lose trade or absorb the higher costs and take the risk of their businesses becoming economically unsound,” said Peter Amor, SIBA chairman.


Redhook, Widmer agree to merger

Widmer Brothers Brewing and Redhook Ale Brewery will merge, creating a new company to be called the Craft Brewers Alliance.

Logistically it’s a buyout, with Redhook issuing 8 million new shares and paying about $50 million in stock to Widmer Brothers, which is privately held. Anheuser-Busch owns about a third of each company and will continue to own that much of the new corporation. The combined company will continue to be publicly traded on NASDAQ under the symbol HOOK.

Kurt Widmer, who with his brother founded the namesake brewer in 1984, will be chairman of the combined companies, while Redhook founder Paul Shipman will be chairman emeritus.

“I believe that the merger will allow us even greater opportunity to deliver unique and great-tasting beers for our customers,” Widmer said. “The two companies have a common goal — we both strive to brew the best possible beer for our customers.”

Shipman, 54, will effectively retire when the deal closes, receiving a severance package. He co-founded Redhook with Starbucks co-founder Gordon Bowker in 1981.

“I don’t plan to stop working, but I don’t plan to work in the beer business,” Shipman said. “I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do, but I have a penchant for alcoholic beverages.”

Both companies will keep their existing breweries, including Widmer’s breweries &#151 the company recently completed a major expansion &#151 in Portland and Redhook’s in Woodinville and Portsmouth, N.H. They also plan to continue making their existing beers.

Widmer owns a minority stakes in two other breweries, Kona Brewing in Hawaii and Goose Island Beer in Illinois.