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The beer wit and wisdom of the Gourdians

Gourdians T-shirtMorning came way too early Friday at the Craft Brewers Conference, but I was committed to put on a Gourdians T-shirt and make it to the 8:30 presentation titled, “Marketing Outside the Pumpkin.”

Marty Jones (Oskar Blues), David Buhler (Elysian Brewing) and Greg Koch (Stone Brewing) simply did a masterful job of gonzo marketing their guerilla marketing presentation. They played to a standing-room-only crowd. Not only was Marty putting T-shirts in people’s hands on Thursday but they also created posters and backstage VIP passes (Dave Thibodeau of Ska Brewing was sitting next to me and had one of the VIP tags on).

I won’t bore you with a bunch of marketing chatter, but this was 60 minutes of proof that beer is about fun, beginning with a foot stomping song. Marty brought his guitar and Dave wasn’t shy (Greg was pretty quiet).

It’s better with the music, but still might make you smile.

TASTY BEER
© 2008 The Gourdians, All Rights Reserved

OH GOURD WONT YOU FILL ME WITH YOUR TASTY BEER
BEEN A LITTLE QUIET NEED SOME PEOPLE HERE
I’M DIGGING MY BRAIN FOR ONE OR TWO IDEAR
OH GOURD WONT YOU FILL ME WITH YOUR TASTY BEER

OH GOURD DO I HAVE TO BE TOMMY, VINNIE OR SAM
THAT PRESS RELEASE I SENT YOU I’M SURE WAS MARKED AS SPAM
I DON’T HAVE BRETTANOMYCES A BOOK DEAL OR BAND
OH GOURD DO I HAVE TO BE TOMMY, VINNIE OR SAM

OH GOURD WON’T YOU WEAR MY GOURDIAN SHIRT
MR. OLIVER WOULDN’T AND NOW MY FEELINGS HURT
I’VE BEEN TRYING TO BOOST SALES GOTTA SPREAD MY WORT
OH GOURD WON’T YOU WEAR MY GOURDIAN SHIRT

OH GOURD WON’T YOU SEND ME A LARGE OAKEN CASK
I NEED AN AGED BEER AND I NEED IT FAST
IT’S GOOTA BE EXTREME FOR THOSE BEER ADVOCATS
OH GOURD WON’T YOU SEND ME A LARGE OAKEN CASK

OH GOURD WONT YOU FILL ME WITH YOUR TASTY BEER
BEEN A LITTLE QUIET NEED SOME PEOPLE HERE
I’M DIGGING IN MY BRAIN FOR ONE OR TWO IDEAR
OH GOURD WONT YOU FILL ME WITH YOUR TASTY BEER

Stone six-pack prices going up today

Stone BrewingNow this is getting personal.

Stone XII will not be a hop bomb.

Kind of takes your breath away, doesn’t it? It gets worse. Ballast Point has quit bottling Dorado, one of the style-defining Double (some say Imperial) IPAs. A beer that a beer brewing chemist once described this way: “‘Savage’ flavor but not taste. Hoppy. Hoppy. Hop. Hop.”

Pete Rowe of the San Diego Union-Tribune (who consistently offers some of the best daily newspaper reporting on beer) gets down and dirty with what the hop shortage means in San Diego.

We knew higher beer prices were coming (and in some cases had already arrived). Rowe reports six-packs from Stone Brewing, most of which cost $7.99, will be marked up an additional $1 to $1.50 as of today.

The choice would be to change recipes, and to abandon Stone’s bold hop signature. Co-founder Greg Koch said that won’t be happening.

Koch insisted that the brewery’s regular lineup of beers, including Arrogant Bastard Ale, will remain as aggressively hopped as ever. But the Escondido brewery has been forced to make some changes.

Every summer, Stone issues an anniversary ale (the year marked by Roman numerals), a brew that typically reflects the company’s belief that hops are bitter and more hops are better.

Not this year. “That decision has been made for us,” Koch said. “It won’t be über-hoppy, as anniversary ales have been in the past.”

Rowe’s got more news from San Diego — hmmm . . . Pure Hoppiness — but also asks the elephant-in-the-room-question.

Will drinkers abandon Sierra Nevada, Green Flash, et al. for cheaper, mass-marketed beer?

Koch answers that question with a question.

“Or will they buy less? There are a lot of question marks out there.”

Who cares if beer has a tail?

Geez, take a few days to go drink beer with homebrewers (the National Homebrew Conference) and all kinds of interesting discussions break out related to our access to better beer.

First there was this: The long tail of the alcohol distribution curve in a business innovation blog.

That lead to this interesting post: Did the Long Tail just become a hit, or did it jump the shark, or is it just mainstream now?

And this one from the Long Tail itself, which might help you understand more about the “long tail” concept. (Daniel Bradford also wrote about this in his editorial in the May issue of All About Beer Magazine.)

If you’ve got this far and not clicked yet then much of this is summarized by Jay Brooks before he adds lots of thoughts of his own. It’s hard to comment on Jay’s post – other than to note he obviously has too much time on his hands – because he touches on many subjects I’d like to agree, and sometimes disagree, with him on.

So to stick with one: When he writes “we must act as a cohesive group” you may not be sure how that might include you.

Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch put the responsibility for keeping great beer available for all of us – and making it available to still more – on all of us. If his keynote address gets posted online somewhere I’ll add a link. For now, a quick summary from memory (disclaimer: I was drinking Stone IPA at the time, having judged beers all morning).

If you go into a restaurant, bar or beer store that isn’t offering the beer you want then demand that they do – or at least some other great beer. Remember you are the one who gets to define what a great beer is – not a fast-talking distributor.

Don’t serve your friends “stepping stone” beers because they are have more flavor than mainstream but not as much as those you like because you fear your friends (and relatives) can’t handle that much. Koch used the example of ordering a keg of beer for a wedding. Serve them great beer and they’ll thank you for it.

The access to market issues that Jay concludes his post with are real – in fact, I heard some other scary tales over the weekend – but there’s still a grass roots element to the Great Beer Movement (notice how we’ve moved up from better beer to great beer?).

That’s our part.

Blurring the line between beer and wine

My first thought on seeing the headline “Craft Beer Steps Into Wine Country” was that wine country (Northern California) was one of the early beachheads for craft beer.

In fact, the story in Advertising Age (warning, sometimes you can link here and later the story will be listed as paid content) the story notes that small-batch brewers are “increasingly cribbing vintners’ marketing techniques in an effort to keep volume and prices buzzing.”

Methods long synonymous with high-end wine marketing, such as reserve bottlings, vintage dating, future-allocation programs and even vertical tastings (in which drinkers compare multiple vintages of the same beverage) are becoming increasingly commonplace among craft brewers.

The story looks into pricing, reporting how Grand Teton in Wyoming is able to charge twice as much for a single one-liter “reserve” bottle than it does for a regular six-pack Of course there is the success of Stone Brewing’s Vertical Epic Ales.

Stone Brewing CEO Greg Koch says the brewery’s emphasis on vintages has created a demand for older bottles. A 2002 bottle, which cost $4.99 upon release, fetched $400 on eBay last November. Mr. Koch says that degree of consumer enthusiasm has driven production from 300 bottles in 2002, the inaugural bottling, to 7,500 bottles this year, which is on pace to sell out.

“It really is a lot like selling fine wine, very boutique-ish,” Fred Rosen of Sam’s Wine and Spirits in Chicago told the reporter. “The beer and wine sections are looking more alike all the time.”

Wine should be so lucky.

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