A chuckle rippled through the craft beer industry a couple of weeks ago when one of three people to accept a Great American Beer Festival medal on behalf of Seattle’s Cloudburst Brewing used his 10 seconds of fame to unbutton his flannel shirt and display a salty sentiment to the crowd, both in the auditorium and those live streaming the event at home.
In red letters, below a mischievous grin and a Seattle Mariners cap, his white T-shirt read: “F**K AB-INBEV”
Josh Noel has a great interview up with Cloudburst Brewing’s founder and former Elysian Brewing employee Steve Luke on the now infamous shirt he flashed during the GABF awards. But the interview covers a whole lot more. For those wondering what people have against “big beer” and their tactics, the interview is a great introduction to the independent brewers mindset.
“Coors Field and Miller Park are our namesake stadiums in our brewery hometowns, which makes this series even more exciting,” Adam Dettman, director of brand experience for MillerCoors says. “These are two great clubs, and they’ve got a rivalry that extends all the way through to our employees. This is a great chance for us to celebrate with them and our fans in both cities.”
So then MillerCoors divisions Miller and Coors had a bet based on Miller Park team the Milwaukee Brewers playing the Coors Field team the Denver Rockies in the NLDS with the winning teams fans getting free Miller or Coors. Whew.
Well now that the Milwaukee Brewers have swept the sleeping Denver Rockies, Coors will be picking up the tab for free beer at Milwaukee bars on Friday.
Adolphus Busch V — great-great-grandson of Adolphus Busch, otherwise known as the original Busch in Anheuser-Busch — is launching ABV Cannabis, a Colorado-based startup that sells marijuana vaping pens. “I saw that cannabis is the future,” Busch told The New York Post. He’s the latest heir to an American business empire to turn to weed. In June, Ben Kovler, a descendant in line for the Jim Beam whiskey fortune, took his Chicago-based cannabis cultivator, Green Thumb Industries, public in Canada. “It’s not a coincidence,” John Kaden, chief investment officer of weed-focused hedge fund Navy Capital, told The Post. “Alcohol is the most immediately affected” as marijuana gets legalized by states. T! he U.S. cannabis industry is expected to grow to $75 billion by 2030, according to research from Cowen. By comparison, U.S. alcohol sales totaled about $180 billion in 2017.
“Every fall, we get the privilege of making our wet-hopped ale, Harvest Ale. We take wet hop cones exclusively from Michigan hop farms, they’re picked in the morning and used as soon as possible that day. That freshness really makes a difference”. – via: Founders Brewing.
Beer writer Jeff Alworth recently surveyed brewers to learn more about how they are compensated, and how they feel about that compensation. He concluded his three-part report (the link is to the third, but read them all) with a balanced overview, letting the participants do the talking. One example: “As long as I am here I know I will never get a single paid day off, livable wage, sick day, 401k or any kind of health benefit and that is insane to me but I enjoy working in the industry and I am learning fast. I just want to learn as much as I can, as fast as I can, so I can move on to a place that actually takes its employees lives seriously.”
But there are also great places to work: “You have a job, full-time, until you decide to leave. Time off and sick leave aren’t tracked too heavily unless it seems someone is taking advantage of them. In slow seasons management finds hours for all employees so there is no seasonal drift in employment. Promotion from within is the norm, management will work to progress you on whatever career path you want within the brewery.” Read all the responses.
One of the efficiencies in large brewery acquisitions that we always assumed was a factor was that large brands would start to be brewed at the acquired breweries — to make the distribution that much more efficient. In the latest example of that happening, Heineken owned Lagunitas has started brewing Newcastle Brown Ale.
Tip of the cap to them for acknowledging this brewing location right on the label. Some other large breweries could learn a lesson here.
In the future, when ordering a Newkie at a bar, feel free to complain that it shouldn’t be priced like an import since it’s brewed in the US now. But don’t expect that actually work to get a cheaper beer.
Homegrown Distribution, a new distribution company spun off from Massachusetts Beverage Alliance, will begin operations next week. The spinoff will handle distribution for brands including Brewmaster Jack, Grimm, Captain Lawrence, Slumbrew, Lone Pine, Foley Brothers, King’s Highway Fine Cider, and Vermont Craft Mead in Massachusetts. Homegrown will also distribute beers from beyond the Northeast, such as Almanac, Brauhaus Riegele, Coronado, DC Brau, and others. The new distribution company is based out of Massachusetts Beverage Alliance’s 40,000-square-foot facility in Bellingham, Mass.
The Great American Beer Festival just keeps getting bigger. More than 800 breweries poured more than 4,000 beers for approximately 62,000 people attending the festival last week in Denver. The enormous convention center setting took on an atmosphere of part circus, part beer-geek Disneyland and part over-sized carnival. Even the pretzel necklaces took it to a new level; instead of wearing a string of pretzels around their neck many participants had a large BAG of pretzels clipped to their necklaces.
For many brewers, particularly the winners, the highlight was Saturday when 280 breweries collected 306 medals in 102 categories. There were 8,496 entries from 2,404 breweries. View the 2018 winners or download a PDF list of the winners.
During a week in which it closed two brewing facilities, Green Flash brewery has been purchased by a new investor group. The company’s principal lender foreclosed on the San Diego brewery, then sold it to a group of investors called WC IPA LLC.
The announcement of the sale comes just a week after Green Flash closed its Virginia Beach brewery 16 months after opening the East Coast operation. Only a few days later it closed it Poway barrel-aging facility, Cellar 3.
Former Green Flash Brewing Company CEO Mike Hinkley will continue to be part of the leadership team of the new company.
“After a general slowdown in the craft beer industry, coupled with intense competition and a slowdown of our business, we could not service the debt that we took on to build the Virginia Beach brewery, and in early 2018, the Company defaulted on its loans with Comerica Bank,” Hinkley wrote in a note to Green Flash shareholders. “While we took substantial efforts to recapitalize the Company over the past several months, both before and after the bank default, we were ultimately unable to close a transaction.”
A press release stated the Green Flash and Alpine breweries will continue to operate in San Diego and Alpine, respectively. But Green Flash Brewing Company and Alpine Beer, which Green Flash purchased in 2014, will be dissolved.
The number of operating breweries in the United States grew 16% in 2017 and smaller breweries generally fared better than large ones. Total beer sales declined 1% for the year, while craft (as defined by the Brewers Association) beer sales grew 5%. Microbreweries, meaning ones that made 15,000 barrels or less, and brewpubs delivered 76% of craft growth.
“Growth for the craft brewing industry is adapting to the new realities of a mature market landscape,” Brewers Association economist Bart Watson said in a press release announcing the 2017 statistics. “Beer lovers are trending toward supporting their local small and independent community craft breweries. At the same time, as distribution channels experience increased competition and challenges, craft brewer performance was more mixed than in recent years, with those relying on the broadest distribution facing the most pressure.”
Small and independent breweries account for 98% of the breweries in operation. They exemplify what has become known as “the long tail.” In fact, the smallest 75% of breweries make less than 1% of the beer.
“Beer lovers want to support businesses that align with their values and are having a positive impact on their local communities and our larger society,” added Watson. “That’s what small and independent craft brewers are all about. The ability to seek beers from small and independent producers matters.”
Craft breweries produced 25.4 million barrels in 2017 and the value of retail sales grew 8% to and estimated $26.0 billion, representing 23.4% market share.
Breweries continue to open at a faster rate than the market is growing, with 997 new one operating in 2017. About 2.6%, or 165, of breweries closed, but Watson warned that number may increase along with growing competition. “It’s hard to know what a long term rate may be,” he said in a conference call.
Fuller Smith & Turner — the oldest brewery in London and operator of an international brand — has purchased Dark Star Brewing in Sussex. Terms of the sale were not revealed.
“The deal means we will continue to do what we do, but gives us huge opportunities to brew more one-off small batch beers hand-in-hand with exploring the export market and expanded bottle and can formats,” said Dark Star managing director James Cuthbertson.
This follows Fuller’s acquisition of cider makers Cornish Orchards in 2013 and George Gale & Co. in November 2005. Fuller’s managing director Simon Dodd said the acquisition was part of the same strategy.
He said the company had “been looking at similar opportunities to invest in and work with young, exciting companies that have a similar ethos and commitment to quality as Fuller’s.”
The city of Portland has abandoned an effort to take away a local brewery’s right to using an iconic logo. Old Town Brewing secured the exclusive rights to use the leaping deer logo found on the city-owned Portland, Oregon, sign in 2012.
The city hired a private trademark attorney and spent four years contesting Old Town Brewing’s exclusive rights. The Oregonian reports city officials announced Portland will no longer seek to secure the trademark for use of the logo on beer, wine and liquor products.
In exchange, the Old Town brewery will allow the city to license the image for certain local alcohol-related uses such as festivals, events and advertising for local trade organizations. Old Town Brewing will not allow use of the logo on any alcohol-related products or packaging.