Brewery of the future: Less tied to place?

MONDAY BEER LINKS, MUSING 05.26.14

Considering BridgePort at 30. Jeff Alworth “rattles on” — near the end he basically asks for a show of hands from those who might still be reading — but it is worth the time. And it makes a lot more sense if you don’t jump right to the conclusion: “I’ll wrap it up by saying that I think the odd place BridgePort occupies in the beer world will eventually look a lot less odd. It’s a brewery of the future, more corporate and generic, less tied to place.”

If this is true what does it mean for eight or so breweries that will open somewhere in the United States this week?

[Via Beervana]

Understanding the ‘craft beer revolution’ through science. This might be the only link your read from Neuroanthropology this month, so put on your thinking cap. Reading it I reminded me that we need a new Beer Flavor Wheel, because one in current use was designed for brewers to use, and more specifically to identify unwanted flavors and aromas.

[Via Neuroanthropology]

Doing my bit for the Surrey hop-growing industry. Hogs Back brewery recently invited journalists and other interested parties to witness, and participate in, the first planting of the Farnham White Bine hop variety in Farnham soil in about 85 years. Martyn Cornell reports from the field. Ed Wray was also there, as was Roger Protz (he’s pictured in Cornell’s post). Last week Protz included a bit from Ali Capper of the British Hop Association urging British brewers to
use more British hops. She refers to the ongoing story about how the popularity of hop-forward beers has led to higher prices for some hop varieties, and in some cases shortages. I could post 10 links to such stories each week, but will wait until there is something with more information than was available in February. It’s shouldn’t be long before we know how many acres farmers planted this year in Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

[Via Zythophile]

10 ways craft beer is outmaneuvering wine. This comes from Charles Gill, a “30-year wine industry veteran who has worked at every level of the industry.” Seems like some apples and oranges here, beyond the obvious differences between beer and wine, like local versus national/global brands. He mentions “the preponderance of local brewers” and community as an advantage for beer. But in Missouri, where I live, has more than 100 wineries, so twice the number of breweries. Overall, there are more than 8,000 wineries in the United States, way more than twice the breweries.

Nonethless interesting. Particularly the notion of “gatekeepers” (in No. 4 as well as No. 10).

[Via Wine Lists USA]

Shandy-monium: The sequel. Summer Shandy now accounts for 50 percent of Leinenkugel’s total business. The company sold the equivalent of 5.5 million cases in 2013 — easily more than twice the amount of Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA, the nation’s best selling IPA —. And Jake Leinenkugel says maybe half of beer drinkers still don’t know what it is. Seems like the “don’t know” estimate might be low.

Traveler Beer, which is part of Burlington, Vermont-based Alchemy & Science, a unit of Boston Beer, is also betting big on shandy. Founded in 2012, as the House of Shandy, the company’s stated mission is to “combine the European Shandy tradition with American ingenuity.” Alan Newman, its president and founder of Magic Hat Brewing, acknowledges there is still plenty of work to be done in introducing the shandy to the American consumer.

“We recently hired an online survey company to ask Americans ‘What is a shandy?’,” he said. “Eighty-nine percent missed it completely. I think, maybe 7 percent figured it was a beer. So the understanding of the category still has a way to go.”

[Via CNBC]

10 Responses to Brewery of the future: Less tied to place?

  1. Alan May 26, 2014 at 7:28 am #

    The rise of big, corporate craft mirrors the effect of railways after the US Civil War as well as the introduction of British investment funding from 1890-1910 or so. Consolidations and expansions are here and will continuing with increasing pace. The “craft community” stuff will end up understood as a quaint and fairly false notion by the time it is all done.

    • Stan Hieronymus May 26, 2014 at 8:39 am #

      This chart indicates the United State has already gone through longterm consolidation. It can’t keep going up at the rate it is, but how completely must history repeat itself?

  2. Alan May 26, 2014 at 10:04 am #

    I think it is fairly natural with wealth generating low entry businesses like brewing. The third generation is the killer. Grand kids don’t give a rats ass about grandpa’s passion.

  3. Jeff Alworth May 27, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I think Alan puts it in better words than I did. It’s exactly what has happened in mature markets in Europe. Price we pay for having a cultural fixture rather than a fad.

  4. Gary Gillman May 27, 2014 at 11:38 am #

    Stan, I think you can be tied to place and growing: Anchor Brewing, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Brooklyn Brewing, all known and loved in their local markets and hinterlands, yet also be fairly well-known elsewhere in the country or large parts. In the wider market, the local association is simply larger scale craft brewery with no particular image except the products and quality. And, you can have people that grew well and despite their best intentions, never really hit it as a local outfit: Boston Beer Company. Finally, there is the case you mentioned, a once well-rooted company that became acquired by people from another part of the country and started to lose identification with the local area (partly also due to tremendous growth in the Portland and Oregon brewing scene since it started). So it really varies I think, and doesn’t necessarily spell consolidation. Sierra Nevada never bought out anyone on the way up I believe, did Sam Adams (I think it bought one outfit)? Certainly there will be some consolidation in time but it is hard to predict what the industry will look like in 10 years. Maybe there will be just a ton more small breweries. That chart posted above is interesting with the wave-tops more than a century apart looking quite similar. But the U.S. population at the earliest high point was much lower than today. We can still return to the days when beer and whiskey (bourbon has grown greatly too) have hegemony in American drinking customs. Probably unlikely 100% but there seems a decided turn back to more traditional drinks. Who knows if wine will hold on to its current numbers: it isn’t a traditional American drink and I’m not sure average quality dictates the kind of share its enjoyed in the last 10-20 years.

    Gary

  5. Nate O. May 28, 2014 at 5:13 am #

    I think it’s interesting that (AFAIK) big breweries haven’t tried the re-branding marketing approach of automakers.

  6. Nate O. May 28, 2014 at 5:20 am #

    Re: Bridgeport becoming detached from their “place,” Flying Dog was one of my favorite breweries in CO, until they moved to MD. Their distribution fell off, and the quality of the beer suffered, I assume due to transport, but maybe they changed the recipes too.

    I also think it’s really weird Oskar Blues is opening an east coast brewery. I’m not sure if they’ll be able to establish their own “localness” there, or if that even matters.

  7. Stan Hieronymus May 28, 2014 at 8:49 am #

    I just reread Jeff’s original post. Most of the breweries in Portland are going to remain small, right? Maybe they don’t last longer than one generation – we won’t know until we know.

    Then we’ll find out if something different is in place.

    Nate – I think it will be even more interesting to watch the evolution of Sierra Nevada (then New Belgium as they bring their NC brewery online). They’ve made a big deal out of flavor matching – which on the surface looks like the same as “our beer tastes the same no matter which of 38 breweries it is made at” approach of industrial-size breweries, but must it be?

    • Jeff Alworth May 28, 2014 at 3:48 pm #

      Stan, definitely. And Portland’s an odd place because so few of the breweries sell much beyond Washington and Oregon. We’re hyper local–the Franconia of the US. But BridgePort’s situation will, I think, be typical among mid-sized national craft breweries.

      • Stan Hieronymus May 28, 2014 at 4:23 pm #

        We’ll have to see what happens in the space between hyper-local and mid-sized regional (let alone national). When BridgePort, and Widmer and then a lot of others, opened 30 years ago there were next to no local breweries. I’ll get that list posted “soon” (meaning in another week).