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Three generations in the brewery

Three generations of the Owens family have worked at the Anheuser-Busch plant in Los Angeles.

A lot has changed. For starters, the first had a 15-minute beer break every two hours, the second free beer after a shift, the third gets two cases a month – but must wait until he gets home to drink the beer.

“Today, everything’s automated and high-speed,” said Dennis Owens, the second generation employee. “Those kind of beer privileges would make it impossible for anyone to run the equipment safely.”

[From The LA Daily News.]

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Czech brewery wins round in Bud battle

Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar claimed victory in Finland over beer giant Anheuser-Busch in the latest round of their ongoing global trademark dispute.

Finland’s brewing association, however, said the ruling had no practical significance because foreign beers make up less than 1% of total consumption.

While sales in Finland may be small, that high court upheld a previous court decision that Budvar can use the Budejovicky Budvar trademark in the country is important for the Czech brewery. Anheuser-Busch has “Bud” and “Budweiser” trademark protection in 21 of 25 European Union nations – and as the American and Czech breweries continue to fight trademark battles (about 40 are open right now) Budejovicky needs all the precedents it can point to.

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EU backs higher prices in Finland

Is this fair?

The European Union prolonged Finland’s right to curb the amount of beer travelers can bring from Russia, aiding costlier Finnish retailers, bolstering tax revenue and addressing worries about drunkenness.

Finland can limit beer carried by people arriving from non-EU countries including Russia to 16 liters until the end of 2007 under the European legislation.

The real reason to do this is that beer costs less in Russia.

[Via the Moscow Times]

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A-B, Goose Island in talks

The Chicago Tribune (free registration required) reports that Goose Island Beer Co. and brewing giant Anheuser-Busch are “in talks.”

Goose Island president and founder John Hall confirmed as much, but said discussions have been limited to “distribution issues.” He declined to comment further on the nature of the talks.

Adding a small brewer would answer demands from A-B wholesalers to add new products.

“Its wholesalers are clamoring for high-margin, growth brands,” said Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer’s Insights, told the Tribune. “Anheuser has promised to deliver them, but they can’t just create them.”

A-B reportedly is talking with other microbreweries about distribution deals or taking a stake in the companies, including Old Dominion in Virginia.

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Pin-up girls and beer

New York City’s Heartland Brewery has published a 1940s era pin-up calendar, featuring its servers and beers.

LeroyThe girls are posed in 12 vignettes to represent beers such as Matrimony Ale, Farmer Jon’s Oatmeal Stout and Not Tonight Honey Porter.

Fifty percent of all proceeds from the calendar to the Heartland Brewery Foundation, with funds earmarked for the New York chapters of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation and National Multiple Sclerosis Society and Billy Joel’s Charity Begins at Home.

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Summit employees share in success

Summit Brewing workers get plenty of benefits and free beer every month. But the perk the employees are most excited about is the partial ownership that the beermaker made available to them this year.

“I can see the efforts of my work,” said Tim Daly, an area sales manager, who has been at Summit six years. “It’s a workplace you like to come to. I had never had that before.”

[From Star-Tribune.com]

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Beer School

BusinessWeek Online interviews Steve Hindy about Beer School, a new book he wrote together with Tom Potter. Hindy and Potter quit their day jobs to launch Brooklyn Brewery in the industrial neighborhood of Williamsburg. Today, the brewery is an international brand pulling in $11 million in annual sales.

A sample question and answer:

In your original plans, did you set out to launch a microbrewery or did you intend this to end up as the international, multimillion dollar brand that it is now?

We always intended on becoming as big as we could. When we started, we felt that there were lots of small breweries, particularly on the West Coast, and New York City had a tremendous brewing history. We believed this tradition was not forgotten and somehow we could tap into that and it would be a fantastic market to build a branded beer.

We had planned on building a regional brand on the East Coast, but now we’ve begun expanding into Europe. It was kind of a surprise, but we have caught on in Britain and Japan, and we have a serious foothold in Denmark. We’re going into Sweden, Finland, and eventually, Norway.

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New beer fight erupts

Does it really seem to you like the nation’s largest brewers are likely to join in a campaign to boost beer’s image?

It seems as if they should be getting along better for that to happen. USA Today reports: “Miller Brewing, a unit of SABMiller, said Tuesday several cable networks pulled new Miller ads on complaints by rival Anheuser-Busch (BUD), the largest U.S. brewer.”

This is related to commericals we reported on yesterday that claim the recipe for Bud Light has changed.

More from USA Today:

Several cable networks have temporarily placed the Miller spots on hold and asked the company to provide substantiation for the claim, Miller said, adding that it was providing the requested substantiation.

Anheuser-Busch responded to what it felt were negative ads by Miller, an Anheuser-Busch executive said.

“We addressed this directly in a way that was most appropriate,” Douglas Muhleman, group vice president at Anheuser-Busch, said in a faxed response. “We saw negative advertising that included our product, and we were in the best position to explain that to the networks that these claims are not true.”

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Pyramid Q&A

The News Tribune in Tacoma, Wash., visits Pyramid Alehouse in Seattle for a Q&A with with Mark House, head of brewery operations and a company veteran, and marketing director Paul Curhan. Not surprisingly, answers about Pyramid focusing on wheat-based beers dominates the conversion.

For Curhan on competition with Widmer:

Over the years we’ve done more traditional consumer research, qualitative and quantitative. We have been preferred 2-to-1 or greater to (Portland’s) Widmer, which is probably our biggest competitor. An excellent beer, but a very different taste profile.

Ours is more of a citrusy, aromatic, smoother hefe. Widmer is a little more bitter.

From House on innovation:

We have a lot of things on the docket. One thing is the whole fruit category. I think we’re going to have fun with that. We have R&D sit-downs with our brewers, coming up with new ideas. Our Oktober Weizen is the first ever, we think, wheat Oktoberfest beer in the U.S. There is innovation.

We have restaurants up and down the West Coast, and one huge advantage is I can make one keg of (experimental) beer in the Seattle alehouse. We’ve got thousands of people here who can try (new beers).

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A hoppier Bud Light?

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required, sorry) reports that Miller “is expected to claim in new cable-TV ads this weekend that Bud Light has ‘changed,’ and that Miller Lite still tastes better than the new version, according to Miller executives and a memo the brewer sent out to its distributors late Friday.”

Peter Marino, a Miller spokesman, said that through its continuing testing of Bud Light, Miller had noticed “a statistically significant increase in bitterness units and carbonation.”

More hops? That’s OK with Realbeer.com.

However, Anheuser-Busch, which brews Bud Light as well as Budweiser, is quite specific in denying any changes:

“Like all brewers, our brewmasters are constantly making small adjustments in the brewing process to account for seasonal changes in raw materials in order to ensure that the taste of our beers are consistent year in and year out,” said Douglas J. Muhleman, group vice president of brewing operations at Anheuser. “To suggest that we have made a formulation change in the way we brew our beers is a marketing ploy and is simply false. The recipes for Budweiser and Bud Light have not changed. We too analyze our competitors’ beers and note changes in their products all the time.”

Editor’s addition: Brandweek has details about the memo and advertising campaign.

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Business Week likes Saint Arnold

The special report from Business Week for small business about using “using the web to boost sales” features Saint Arnold Brewing in Houston.

The “front” of the section features a picture of founder Brock Wagner and the headline: “A Houston microbrewery has converted web site visitors into loyal customers with invites to free beer bashes.”

The story quotes Wagner:

“Companies have a personality. The newsletter is an incredible mechanism for conveying that personality to people. It makes them much more loyal.”

It also makes the benefits clear:

Wagner credits the newsletter with bringing in at least $150,000 in sales last year, mostly through increased attendance at the brewery’s special events. Revenues at the 15-employee brewery were $1.8 million in 2004, up from $1.5 million the previous year.

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New brewery in the heart of a winery

An Australian winery starts brewing beer:

Moorilla Estate winery staff call the place Moo. So when it came to naming their new beer, Moo Brew was their obvious choice.

The three new microbeers from one of the state’s oldest wineries were unleashed on the public at a crowded launch at the Berridale estate last night.

Moorilla chief executive Tim Goddard said there was no contradiction in a winery turning its hand at brewing.

“After a long day of wine tasting, the first thing you want is a beer,” he said.

[Reported in The Mercury]

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Got Beer?

The Wall Street Journal reports that beer industry leaders are considering working together to improve beer’s image.

The Journal writes:

In an unprecedented effort to reverse the industry’s decline, Anheuser-Busch, which controls roughly half of the U.S. beer market and has dominated it for decades, is trying to drum up support in the industry for the equivalent of the dairy industry’s popular “Got Milk?” campaign.

We’re all for anything that improves beer’s image, but it is troubling to read a quote from Tom Long, Miller’s chief marketing officer:

“We’ve marketed our way into this problem, and we can market ourselves out of it.”

This isn’t just a matter of marketing. What’s in the bottle, or your glass, makes a difference. That’s why craft beer sales were up 7% last year and will likely increase by a similar amount this year.

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Still magical at Lost Coast Brewery

The Times-Standard in Eureka, Calif., profiles Lost Coast Brewery and founder Barbara Groom.

The brewery has been around for 15 years, but business is still growing.

”We keep thinking it’s going to slow down, because the larger you get the harder it is to make that percentage of growth,” Groom said.

Brewery and Sales Manager Briar Bush added the brewery does best in what are politically referred to as “the blue states.” Groom then said, jokingly: “That’s where all the educated people are.”