Tag Archives: craft beer business

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 1/8/16

Beer isn’t a widget.  Beer isn’t a sprocket or any other industrial product made by factories. Big beer companies, one, in particular, doesn’t get the distinction.  They have until this point failed to understand craft beer because at the upper reaches of the company they think of beer as a product and may as well be making widgets for cars.  That is why they are buying craft brewers: to take advantage of the loyalty and creativity of craft drinkers and craft brewers.  If ABInbev was smart they would buy these regional breweries and leave them alone, but provide them with greater distribution.  However, that isn’t what is going to happen.  They are going to try to “fix” these brewers and make them more efficient and make their product more accessible to the everyday beer drinker. That is why this strategy will “fail” eventually.  I may not think these acquisitions are some kind of death knell, however, I do not like them.  I do not like them because they are assimilation that will eat at what makes craft beer special which is the individuality and creativity of each brewer.  The culture of craft beer is as important as the beer.  Primary in that is that it treats beer with respect and as the end unto itself letting the beer be what sells itself. That is why we in craft beer must be vigilant and must keep supporting our local brewers as much as we can.

The One Beer Article I Needed To Read And Why, 12/14/15-12/20/15

If you visit this blog often, especially in the last few weeks, you have seen posts about some changes to the posts and the schedule of posts I am planning for this space.  The reasons I want to make these changes are I am trying to make this site more thought-provoking and making myself do slightly different things in order to push my beer knowledge.  Also, I’m always looking to keep myself from getting bored by looking at beer and the industry that surrounds it.

As part of that, today is the first Sunday where there won’t be a Five Articles.  Instead, it will be a commentary or more in-depth look at the article that piqued my interest the most from the week.  In 500 words or so, I want to look at the story and explain why it interests me so much.

There were two articles that I was really interested in and read multiple times this week. One of which I won’t necessarily write about, but I will use the ideas expressed in it in a more conscious and mindful way as I taste beer.

The article I want to write about today is this one from The Coloradoan about New Belgium Brewing’s reported valuation and what it means.

We are in an important moment in the ongoing history of American Craft Beer.  The initial wave came and crested from the late-1970s to the mid-1990s.  From the wreckage of that initial bubble, the brewers most committed to quality and flavorful beer survived and newer brewers who learned from the mistakes of those before them, emerged.

One of those new and emerging brewers was New Belgium.  Since its founding in 1991, New Belgium has become one of the leading lights in the craft beer movement.  So much so that the Brewers Association has changed its definition of craft brewer to make sure New Belgium (and other similarly sized breweries) stay in the fold.

So, when the news New Belgium was requesting a valuation of the company’s total worth, many in the craft beer world were taken back.

Initial hot takes were that the company is looking to sell.  That may be true, but it isn’t necessarily what is happening.

The thing that interested me most about this article itself was how it framed New Belgium as a company in transition in an industry in transition.  Both the company and industry seem to be going through the same growing pains at the same time.  New Belgium is in the midst of a leadership transition and two major expansions at the same time the industry is exploding and being raided by big beer.

The other thing that interested me in the coverage of this story was the reaction to the story.   Maybe because this is only a valuation. Maybe the craft beer world is getting over its adolescent view of business.  However, the reaction was rather muted. Usually, craft beer people don’t think of craft as a business.  They think of it as some kind of calling to battle crappy beer. In his new book, The Beer Bible, Jeff Alworth describes it as pirates fighting against the evil big beer. On one hand, that romantic ideal is what makes craft beer so special.  On the other hand, it has little to do with the actual business of beer.

We will learn quickly how much the craft beer world has grown up when New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, or Boston Beer sells.  Either, social media will melt down or people will have really good discussions about what Craft Beer 3.0 will look like.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/19/15

As Christmas approaches, you would think the news would slow down, but no.  Craft beer Twitter got a big hit yesterday in the middle of the morning as some New Belgium news dropped.  Then AB continued its buying spree.

  • “Hey, our beer sucks, but look at the shiny new can!” I will say again, if this company would spend as much money on making the beer it actually owns better instead of on shiny new things that have nothing to do with the beer, they wouldn’t have to go around buying brewers that actually make good beer.
  • Cicerone.org presents its 11th Master Cicerone. At some point in the next say 5 years, this is one my goals.  First, I want to get Cicerone certified by the end of this year.  I’m not worried about the written and practical parts of the exam (I am going to start studying in earnest in 13 days) as much as I’m worried about the tasting session.  Developing my palate has been a lot of what I’ve been doing this past year. Wish me luck.
  • I was sitting and relaxing with a cup of coffee before heading into Craft for the day when on my Twitter timeline dropped a link to a Reuters report that New Belgium is looking to find a buyer after getting a valuation of $1 billion. I don’t know what that means.  Are they going to sell or are they looking for outside investors?  What it does show is that it is a brewer in a hugely transitional point in its history.
  • Meanwhile, AB continues picking off low hanging fruit. I always love when the people selling say, “This will change nothing.  We will continue to make the same high-quality beer we always have.” AB didn’t buy you for you to keep doing things the way you always have.  They bought you to bring you into the Borg Collective.  You have been assimilated.  Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but you will become part of the whole.
  • First, it’s about college football. Second, it’s about craft beer.  Third it has my alma mater sitting at #3.  There was no way this was not going to get linked in the Five Articles.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read and Why, 12/18/15

The Friday before Christmas means many, many Christmas parties.  We had 4 at once last night.  If you’ve been to Craft, you know it’s not that big.  Anyway on to the Five Articles.  It is the end of year and writers are looking back at the year in beer.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/17/15

Today’s Five Articles coming at you like a 1980s mobster in New York shaking you down for protection money.  That may seem like a forced analogy until you read two of the articles and realize that is exactly what they talk about from a corporate sense.

  • We start in Charlotte where a local restaurant chain, Queen City Q, has pulled all AB products from its 4 locations. Why? Because AB is running pay for play at bars and restaurants across the country. They call it “marketing” but really it’s just, “We’ll give you an extra $10000 if you let us keep 5 taps all year.”  Normally, I try to be more circumspect in my accusations like this, but I know this stuff is true and it happens.  Here is my whole problem with AB: It is a large multinational company that may as well make widgets.  They ultimately don’t care about the quality of their beer product they just care if people buy it.  That is the difference between them and almost every craft brewer.  The craft brewer wants people to buy his/her product but wants to win that market share through quality beer and not marketing.
  • This is tangentially about beer but stay with me. Most breweries and craft beer bars have live music at least once a week.  They also play music over their speaker systems during the day. Recently, shakedown artists from music publishers have been going around to breweries and bars demanding money if they have live music.  This is literally a shakedown.  It is, “give us an exorbitant amount of money or we will sue you.”  I am a person who never used Napster and has paid for every bit of music he owns, so I think artists should get paid for their work. However, these thick-necked jerks don’t work for the artists, they work for the publishers, groups who have historically been the ones screwing artists.
  • Here is an article about some cool and overpriced gadgets that will improve your beer enjoyment about 2%. Except for the Pico.  The Pico is awesome and I want one.
  • Here is a good list of beer books you can get for Christmas presents or to complete your own library. The list comes from craft beer people in and around Richmond.  I can say I own most of these books already.
  • The only time I am ever really annoyed at customers is when they come in and ask me which beer has the highest ABV. They are looking to get drunk and that is it.  If you want to do that, there are many more efficient and cheaper ways to go about it.  I am of the pub culture. I want to sit and drink and ponder over a balanced highly flavored beer.  I want to actually taste the beer.  I want to notice the color, the head, the clarity, the aroma, the mouthfeel, and all the other things that go into actually tasting a beer.  That is even if I’m just sitting in a bar.  In those situations, I still take the time to look, smell, and taste the entirety of the beer.  This is one of the many areas of life in which I think I was born in the wrong time and in the wrong place.

Five Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/11/15

One of the things it took me a long time as a writer to get comfortable with was planning and outlining.  I grew up reading about Kerouac and the stream of conscious writers and thought that meant to just sit in front of a computer and let the muse loose.  At some point, I realized that that wasn’t what these writers were doing at all.  They always had a destination in mind and a path to get there.  However, they allowed the muse and their characters interrupt and take them down a different path that still lead to where they wanted to be.  I think it is the same in business and any endeavor.  You should have a path and a plan to get you to your final destination, but you have to allow the things to play out and change as the world sometimes dictates.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/10/15

It’s Thursday and I have a nice Earl Grey in my cup and just finished my bagel.  Let’s get into the Five Articles.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/8/15

It’s Tuesday, and I’m a little late today because I stayed up to watch the worst football game I’ve ever seen that didn’t involve playing in a monsoon or a blizzard.  It was like watching a slow motion train wreck.  I couldn’t look away.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/7/15

Happy Monday morning folks.  No soliloquies on creativity this morning. I’m putting it in a separate blog post.  Today’s Five Articles slog through the latest information on the merger and takes a trip to Canada for a couple of stories.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/6/15

Customers will eventually smell bullshit.  They may not know it consciously, but people will always figure out if what you are selling is true to you and what you want to do.  When I was in college a spate of small authentic “soul” food restaurants opened up in my hometown.  During the summers at home, I would work for my father doing appliance repair and electrical contracting and we would eat at these places for lunch often.  One day, we were in the kitchen of one doing some electrical work.  I just happened to notice that the corn they were using came from a can.  It wasn’t fresh and it wasn’t homemade soul food.  It was the same stuff I bought at the grocery store in college.  Even then, not knowing anything about business, I knew that was bad.  This restaurant and almost all the others that popped up around town weren’t giving you an authentic experience past what you could get at home.  People may not have consciously thought about that as they stopped going to these places, but they knew on some level.  That is one reason all of these restaurants shut down within two years.  I think about that a lot as I watch new breweries open up every day.