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No news here: Craft beer sales strong

Here are some headlines from past years:

2001: Craft beer sales up 4.2%
2002: Craft beer sales top $3.3 billion
2003: Craft beer sales surge
2005: Craft beer sales soar
2006: Craft beer sales soar

Do you see a trend here? At some point this doesn’t look like news. Craft beer is not a novelty. (That doesn’t mean we should be complacent, or quit beating the drum to make the beers we like even more readily available.) That’s a good thing.

The Brewers Association, having already announced that craft beer volume sales were up 11.7% in 2006 yesterday issued a press release stating that scan data from Information Resources Inc. shows craft beer with a 17.8% increase in supermarket sales for 2006.

Those are dollar sales, not volume sales. Dollar sales now account for 6% in stores that IRI tracks, and predictions are that number will reach 7% this year. Next week at the Craft Brewers Conference in Austin the topic of one panel discussion is: “Funding and Developing Capital to Get to 10% Share.” Just a few years ago the discussion was if craft beer could get to 10%.

And with craft brewers headed to Texas, this news arrived today: First quarter sales for Houston-based Saint Arnold Brewing were up approximately 35% from a year ago.

“The Texas beer market used to consider craft beers a novelty, but in recent years beer drinkers throughout the state have been trying and adopting more flavorful beers,” said brewery founder Brock Wagner. “We are gratified in seeing how many Texans are embracing both the local and craft aspects of our brews.”


SABMiller may bid for Scottish & Newcastle

Brewer SABMiller is considering a bid to acquire rival Scottish & Newcastle in a $12.8 billion deal, Britain’s Sunday Express reports.

Quoting unnamed sources it said were close to SABMiller, the paper said a bid could be made for the rival brewer within days.

The newspaper reported that, if it succeeded in acquiring the rival company, SABMiller planned to sell Scottish & Newcastle’s British interests — including the country’s best-selling lager Foster’s — and the firm’s French business interests to spirits giant Diageo. also reports that India’s United Breweries has the first right of refusal when it comes to an S&N deal.


Lewes Arms loyalists win

It looks like the locals at the Lewes Arms in Sussex have won.

The Publican reports that Greene King is expected to bow to consumer pressure and reinstate Harvey’s Best Bitter. The brewing giant had dumped the local beer to sell only its own brands.

Adam Collett, marketing director for Greene King’s managed pubs, acknowledged his company had “underestimated the strength of feeling which led to many locals boycotting what was once a great British pub. As a result, it has lost some of its character and greatness.”

The decision to remove the beer is still subject to internal review, but there’s little doubt how it will turn out.

A local campaign to get the ale back in the pub, which included a boycott of the pub itself, attracted national newspaper headlines and airtime on radio and TV.


Boston Beer buys into Latrobe brewery

From Rolling Rock to Samuel Adams beer?

The Boston Beer Co., brewer of Samuel Adams beers, has signed an agreement with a wholly-owned subsidiary of City Brewing Co. to brew some of its beer in Latrobe, Pa.

According to a company press release, Boston Beer and City Brewing will upgrade the brewery by purchasing equipment to allow for Samuel Adams’ traditional brewing process, use of proprietary yeasts and extended aging time, and beer bottling and kegging. Brewing of Boston Beer products is expected to begin during the second quarter.

“This agreement gives us increased flexibility,” said Martin Roper, President & CEO of Boston Beer.

The agreement with City Brewing is not expected to have an impact on brewing operations at the Boston Beer’s breweries in Boston and Cincinnati.

Boston Beer continues to investigate building a new brewery near Boston. The company originally sold beer brewed under contract at other breweries, but now produces the majority of its beer at its own Cincinnati brewery.

Boston Beer’s investment at Latrobe is expected to be between $3 million and $7 million and commensurate with Boston Beer’s commitment to the brewery, the parties are discussing the potential of Boston Beer having an ownership interest in the brewing facility.

City Brewery acquired the Latrobe facility last year after owner InBev sold the Rolling Rock brand to Anheuser-Busch and announced it would close or sell the brewery where Rolling Rock had been brewed since 1939. City is headquartered in LaCrosse, Wis., where it has also brewed products for Boston Beer.


A-B wins a round in Bud battle

Another round in the centurylong dispute between Anheuser-Busch Cos. and Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar is settled, with the win going this time to the American beer-maker.

Anheuser-Busch said Wednesday an Italian appeals court ruled in its favor, ordering cancellation of three registered trademarks held by Budejovicky Budvar, including two for Budweiser Budbrau and one for Budweiser Budvar.

The whole story.


Texas won’t run out of Shiner

Were Texas beer drinkers ever worried that an announcement the Spoetzl Brewery would begin selling beer in Chicago meant there might be a shortage in their home state?

“I can assure you that we will always make sure that Victoria and the state of Texas will have plenty of beer,” marketing director Charlie Paulette said at a gathering in Victoria. “We are fully staffed and have plenty of capacity, so there won’t be a shortage of Shiner beer in Texas.”

Paulette did go into surprising details about marketing plans for the Windy City. A few highlights:

– He said the natural reaction of distributors in the past has been to place Shiner in country-western bars and steakhouses with a “Texas” name. “And then they think they’ve done the job,” he said. “Actually, the places that originally made Shiner popular were those real, authentic music clubs, like in Austin, and the neat, eclectic places around the state. University of Texas grads really helped us establish the brand originally.”

– He said Paulette said the company would be concentrating on its lead product, Shiner Bock. The consumers are people who have experience with the beer – graduates of the University of Texas, North Texas State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech who live in the Chicago area. He said contact would be made through offers of beer donations to alumni group functions and e-mail “blasts” to members of those groups.

– Chicago was selected quite a while ago, Paulette said, and will be the only market expansion for Shiner beer this year. “We tried to move into Atlanta in 1995 and into San Francisco about six years ago and weren’t very successful,” he said. “You would now be hard pressed to find Shiner Bock in either of those cities. But Chicago is the third largest market in the country and the third largest market for craft beers, so it can be a place where we are successful. And we’re always getting asked by people from that area when they were going to start getting Shiner beer.”


St. Peter’s plans new brewery

A UK brewing company that recently considered selling the business instead plans to build a new £3 million brewery. Construction may not start for two years.

St Peter’s Brewery at South Elmham, near Bungay, has reached full capacity on its 13th century rural site as the firm’s beers are sold across 22 countries.

“We’re delighted that St Peter’s beers are proving so phenomenally popular, not just across the UK but worldwide,” said managing director Colin Cordy. “Our big challenge though is to keep meeting that demand and the next natural step is to build a completely new brewery. The construction process would take up to a year and our aim is to start production at the new site about two-and-a-half to three years from now.”

St Peter’s was put up for sale with a £20 million price tag in summer 2005 but taken off the market a few months later when directors decided to continue running the business independently.

Founded in 1996 by John Murphy, the award-winning company is based in St Peter’s Hall, a half-moated manor house surrounded by converted outbuildings.


Banned in Utah

You have to think there is a homebrewer or beer lover in Utah who is cringing to see the attention a vanity license plate with “merlot” on it received this weekend.

Glenn Eurick’s 1996 Mercedes has had the license plate reading “merlot” for 10 years. He says the plate never got a lot of notice until the Utah Tax Commission told him last week that he had to remove it because the state doesn’t allow words of intoxicant to be used on vanity plates.

Eurick was fine until an anonymous caller told the state that merlot was an alcoholic beverage.

Will somebody driving around with plates that read zymurgy or porter be next?


From the beer business wires

– A strong fourth quarter wraps up an excellent year for Boston Beer, producer of Samuel Adams beer.

Bud.TV got off to a slow start. Part of the problem is the registration process. “The first week after Super Bowl, the site got an average of 20,000 visits a day, but only about 800 to 1,000 a day were registering–we think because of the registration process,” reported A-B vice president Tony Ponturo.

– Miller Brewing is giving a national push to Miller High Life’s “Take Back the High Life” campaign. The company reports “Midwestern customers are swapping trendiness for value, so the brewer is taking its promotion of the lower-priced beer nationwide.” Kinda like this headline: Miller: Midwesterners Appreciate Lower-Priced Beer.


Oregon beer production up 16.5%

Oregon brewers made 16.5% more beer in 2006 than 2005. That’s all craft beer because since the Blitz-Weinhard Brewery closed in 1999 the only breweries in Oregon are craft producers.

Total beer production for the state was approximately 796,000 barrels, according to figures released today by the Oregon Brewers Guild. That is an increase of more than 113,000 barrels, up from 683,000 barrels in 2005.

From the press release from the Oregon Brewers Guild:

Portland, Oregon has 28 microbreweries within its city limits which is more than any other city in the world. The Guild anticipates four more breweries opening within the city limits in 2007, bringing the total to 32.

The Portland metro area is the largest craft brewing market in the United States (U.S.). It is the only area to sell more than 1,000,000 cases of micro brewed beer according to Information Resources Inc. Seattle and San Francisco are the second and third largest markets respectively.

“Portland has more breweries than any other city in the world. Portland is the largest craft beer market in the U.S. Oregon is the second largest producer of craft beer in the U.S. and Oregon is the second largest craft beer market in the U.S. No wonder Oregon is known as Beervana and is a destination for craft beer lovers from all over the U.S. and the world” said Brian Butenschoen, Executive Director of the Oregon Brewers Guild.

“Our healthy brewing industry is good for not only beer drinkers, but the state as a whole, because it provides almost 4300 family wage jobs, a lure for tourism and an outlet for local products such as hops, malted barley, yeast and glass” he added.

He also cited the fact that almost 11% of all beer consumed in Oregon is Oregon-brewed craft beer. The national market share for all craft beer is 3.5%, according to the Brewers Association.