Big Brands Continue To Slide

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For the last several years, sales of some of the major beer brands have been slipping, and not just the sub-premiums or secondary packages but even once mighty flagships. 24/7 Wall Street has a new list of some of these brands, characterized as Beers Americans No Longer Drink. Using data from Beer Marketer’s Insights, here are seven brands that have lost significant sales, at least 20%, between 2013 and 2008. The negative number following the name is how much sales are down in that six-year period.

  • Miller High Life -21.2%
  • Budweiser -27.6%
  • Milwaukee’s Best Light -40.6%
  • Milwaukee’s Best -57.0%
  • Miller Genuine Draft -58.3%
  • Budweiser Select -61.1%

Some additional analysis and reasons for the decline, according to 24/7 Wall St:

Another key factor in the weakening sales has been price dynamics. “Beer prices were increased more aggressively over the last five years than wine and spirits,” Shepard said. Many people in the industry believe that, as a result, some customers replaced buying beer with the now relatively less expensive wines and spirits, he explained.

Several other products were also gaining at the expense of big brand-name beers, Shepard noted. While some customers have been moving to wine and spirits, others were switching to imported beer, particularly Mexican imports. Indeed, in the five years through 2013, shipments of Mexican brands Dos Equis and Modelo Especial more-than doubled. Similarly, he added, “Some [drinkers] are moving to craft [beer]. Clearly, there’s been a trade-up in the industry.”

Craft beers have largely bucked the overall downtrend in beer sales. From 2008 to 2013, shipments of craft beer rose by 80.1% to a total of more than 16 million barrels, or 7.6% of the U.S. beer market. While the craft beer category now outsells Budweiser, it remains a relatively niche market. For comparison, the nation’s top-selling brand, Bud Light, shipped 38 million barrels in 2013, accounting for 18% of all beer shipped.

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Craft: New Documentary About California Breweries

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This looks interesting. Jeff Smith and Fran Ellsworth are directing and producing a new documentary film about California breweries entitled “Craft: The California Beer Documentary.” They recently released their first trailer, which you can watch below. All I know at this point is from a short description of their project. “A road trip throughout California, learning from the master brewers of the state. It’ll also feature interviews with beer enthusiasts and home-brewers.”

Did You Hear That? Only 2 Months Until SF Beer Week

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Remember hearing the music of the ice cream truck, and running outside to meet it so you didn’t miss out on getting a popsicle, or whatever your favorite frozen treat was? Well, it’s about two months until the kickoff of SF Beer Week, and they’ve created a hilarious teaser video, reimagining the ice cream truck, or in this case beer truck, as the clarion call for beer week. Enjoy.

Craft Beer By State

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The Brewers Association released in an interactive infographic of sorts, showing State Craft Beer Sales & Production Statistics for 2013. Below is California, but there’s a similar chart for each state, with their respective numbers and rankings in a variety of categories. You can also follow links to find breweries within each state, along with specific state laws regarding beer and alcohol.

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Green Flash Buys Alpine Beer

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I don’t know many details at this point, but Craft Business Daily is reporting that “San Diego’s Green Flash has just announced their acquisition of small, local 3,000 barrel Alpine Beer Company. Financial terms were not disclosed,” adding — quite correctly, I think — “the age of craft buyers acquiring craft brewers is upon us.” I know that Green Flash had been brewing kegs for Alpine recently, while founder Pat McIllhenney was working on expansion plans for his brewery. As more details come to light, I’ll update them here.

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Alpine founder/brewmaster Pat McIllhenney with Tomme Arthur at the inaugural Firestone Walker Invitational a few years ago.

UPDATE: I have now received a press release from Green Flash with additional details on the deal:

At Alpine Beer Company this morning, Green Flash founders, Mike and Lisa Hinkley and Alpine Beer Company founders, Pat and Val McIlhenney announced that their breweries will join forces, teaming up to share resources, knowledge and experience. Both the McIlhenneys and the Hinkleys view the affiliation as mutually beneficial, and are committed to supporting each other for the success of both breweries. Each company will remain independently operated and maintain its distinct brand and culture. Pat will remain Alpine’s President and Brewmaster to oversee all operations of Alpine Beer Company while also ensuring Alpine beers continue to meet his unwavering standard of quality, whether brewed at the Alpine or Green Flash facilities. The most notable change will transpire over the next several years, as Alpine beer will become available to their legions of fans from across the country who have only experienced the greatness of Alpine beers while visiting California.

In a “handshake agreement,” Green Flash began brewing Alpine beer in November 2013 at their San Diego facility with the goal of helping longtime friends at Alpine raise capital to expand their production capacity. Green Flash has been producing three of Alpine’s brews (Nelson, Hoppy Birthday and Duet), increasing Alpine annual production from 1500 to 3000 BBLs.

The experience of brewing together has been a successful learning experience for both breweries. Green Flash Brewmaster, Chuck Silva divulged, “It was both intriguing and challenging to meld our philosophies while we worked together to scale up Pat’s recipes to be brewed in larger quantities. We worked together to stay true to the original beer and were very happy with the ultimate results. Working with a close friend is a real treat, but for me, brewing with Pat and making Alpine beers, is yet another highlight of my brewing career in San Diego.”

The successful arrangement they have shared over the past year was the impetus that prompted the breweries to take their relationship to the next level. Each views the partnership as an organic evolution that will benefit both of their operations in many ways. “Our team was thrilled to be able to brew the awesome beer from Alpine when we began teaming up,” says Mike Hinkley of Green Flash. “The excitement of our brewers is what prompted me to think about additional ways we could work together and help each other. We perceive this solid new partnership as an incredible opportunity to continue to explore our craft while benefiting from the passion and experience of Pat McIlhenney.”

“After working with Green Flash for the past year, I have come to truly trust and deeply respect the entire Green Flash operation – Chuck and all of their brewers are meticulous, yet easygoing, and I am comfortable working with the team,” says Pat McIlhenney of Alpine Beer Co. “There are many benefits in teaming up with Green Flash as a partner. Not only are they committed to producing high-quality beer, the company culture and mom and pop roots of Green Flash are very similar to our own.”

Alpine employees 20 people, is distributed exclusively in California with the ability to produce a maximum of 1500 BBLs from their San Diego County brew-house, with most of their beer sold directly from their on-site pub. Brewing capacity limitations have made it impossible for Pat and his team to support the overwhelming demand for their exceptional products. As partners, Alpine will be able to tap into the growing Green Flash team of talented brewers, their production capacity, access to capital, and human resources in operations and administration. Mike added that “I am hopeful that the culmination of the next few years will be that, together, we build a new production facility in Alpine. Maybe we will even brew some Green Flash ale in Alpine.”

“I know there is strength in unity, which will allow both of our breweries to secure even higher quality ingredients – we will be a great force as a team,” exclaims Pat. “However, the most important advantage is how this partnership will help improve the quality of life for my employees. For the first time, Alpine will be able to offer our team an excellent company benefits package including affordable health care, 401K plans and other perks made possible by this exciting partnership.”

In 2015, Green Flash will begin bottling select Alpine brews in 22oz bottles adding to the three current draft offerings. Collaborative brews are already in Chuck and Pat’s top-secret conversations, so consumers can expect these to appear in their tasting rooms and at the best craft beer bars in Southern California. The two Brewmasters are already talking about how they can work together at Green Flash’s Cellar 3, a special barrel-aged beer packaging facility that is currently under construction in Poway, and will include a cork-finish bottling line.

Chuck said, “I consulted Pat and borrowed some of his ideas when I made our tenth anniversary Flanders-style ale, which was a great success and will be recreated at Cellar 3. I am always on the look-out for ideas. With Pat and me on the same team, you can count on us to push the envelope even further.”

Mike summarizes, “This partnership is win-win-win. Green Flash wins because we are teaming up with a truly iconic brewery. Alpine wins because they get to see their beers enjoyed by so many more of their adoring fans. But most of all, beer geeks everywhere win, because Chuck and Pat will be working together to create beers that will blow their minds.”

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Green Flash Brewmaster Chuck Silva, Alpine Beer Company President and Brewmaster Pat McIlhenney and Green Flash Co-Founder and CEO Mike Hinkley.

Dust Bowl Brewing To Build New Brewery

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Today Dust Bowl Brewing of Turlock announced plans to build a new $10 million, 30,000 sq. ft. brewery in their hometown. The new facility is expected to be completed in November 2015, and will be located west of Highway 99, on the corner of Fulkerth Road and Dianne Drive, across from the Turlock Auto Plaza. According to the press release, “the new facility will have initial capacity of 17,000 barrels per year. Dust Bowl Brewing Co. projects sales of 10,000 barrels in the first 12 months, more than doubling current annual sales. The master plan allows room for expansion up to 100,000 barrels per year.”

“We bought the open land in 2013 and have been in the planning stages ever since,” shares Brett Tate, founder of Dust Bowl Brewing Company. “We’ve outgrown our current facility and are poised for expanded production and distribution. The craft industry is on the rise and we’re excited to be part of the upward movement.”

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Founders Brett Honore and Brett Tate, with brewmaster Don Oliver in the middle.

“We bought the open land in 2013 and have been in the planning stages ever since,” shares Brett Tate, founder of Dust Bowl Brewing Company. “We’ve outgrown our current facility and are poised for expanded production and distribution. The craft industry is on the rise and we’re excited to be part of the upward movement.”

The new brewery brings significant growth to the young company. Brewmaster Don Oliver notes, “The nearly fully automated brewhouse will allow us to brew 64 barrel brews on our smaller beers in the 5% ABV range and 50 barrel batches on our bigger beers.” CFT Packaging, based in Parma, Italy, will be providing the majority of the brewery equipment, including the malt silos and handling, brewhouse, fermentation, brite tanks and a 125 bottle-per-minute bottling line. “The level of automation will allow us to improve our consistency on all products,” Oliver continues. “The new facility will also have a Quality Assurance lab, which will allow us greater control of the quality of the increased volume of beer.”

The initial product mix will focus on producing more of the company’s established styles. “Our flagship “Hops of Wrath” IPA will drive sales into new markets, so it’s essential to increase production. This particular beer showcases the Dust Bowl Brewing Co. branding and experience…a great IPA inspired by the Dust Bowl era,” comments Tate. “Differentiating and building a craft brand goes beyond quality; you have to provide an overall lasting experience with the consumer.” The company will expand its overall portfolio to include several year-round styles in bottles as well as increase its seasonal and specialty offerings. “The expanded capacity gives us room to be creative, and keep our Tap Room and other draft accounts well stocked with a nice variety of beers,” adds Tate.

The new facility is located off of Highway 99, where over 100,000 cars travel daily. The close proximity will offer easy freight access, provide excellent brand exposure as well as attract visitors. Owner Brett Honoré sheds some light on the brewery’s future plans. “We envision the new facility to evolve into a local destination and full-service venue. It’s going to be a very cool place for day-trippers and locals alike. Plans include a tasting room with a clear view of the brewing operation and packaging, outdoor patio and lounge seating, tours, and retail space to sell our beers and logo items. We eventually want to create an outdoor venue for special events.

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An architect’s drawing of the what the new brewery will look like.

ABI Buys 10 Barrel

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This caught me by surprise. Anheuser-Busch InBev announced today that it is buying 10 Barrel Brewing, the award-winning brewpub located in Bend, Oregon. 10 Barrel is the brewery that Tonya Cornett, formerly of Bend Brewing, moved to a couple of years ago.

From the press release:

“For the past eight years, we’ve been brewing beer, drinking beer and having fun doing it.” said co-founder Jeremy Cox, who will continue to lead 10 Barrel along with his partners, co-founder and brother Chris Cox, and Garrett Wales. “We are excited to stay focused on brewing cool beers, get our beers in more hands, and make the most of the operational and distribution expertise of Anheuser-Busch,” said Cox.

10 Barrel expects to sell approximately 40,000 barrels of beer in 2014. Apocalypse IPA, the brewer’s most popular beer, accounts for nearly half of the company’s total volume.

“10 Barrel, its brewers, and their high-quality beers are an exciting addition to our high-end portfolio,” said Andy Goeler, CEO, Craft, Anheuser-Busch. “The brewery is a major contender in the Northwest, an area with a large number of craft breweries. We see tremendous value in the brewery’s unique offerings and differentiated style, which 10 Barrel fans know and love.”

In addition to the Bend brewery, the acquisition will include the company’s existing brewpubs in Bend and Boise, Idaho; and a Portland brewpub scheduled to open in early 2015.

The deal should close by the end of the year, though the terms or price have not been disclosed.

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The founders of 10 Barrel also posted a short video explaining their decision and, perhaps more importantly, asking people to give them the benefit of the doubt before rushing to judgment and “let the beer do the talking.”

CCBA Celebrates 25 Years

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This year the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) celebrates its 25th anniversary, and they just concluded a two-day conference in Santa Rosa. I missed the first day (traveling home from Belgium) but gave a talk yesterday morning on the history of craft beer in California. But the highlight of day two was a panel discussion with three craft beer pioneers, John Martin (Triple Rock), Ken Grossman (Sierra Nevada) and Fritz Maytag (Anchor), moderated by Vinnie Cilurzo (Russian River).

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The trio spoke for around an hour, then the audience asked a few questions. I captured the main part of the talk (not the Q&A) in two parts (due to limitations of my camera) which you can watch below. There’s a short gap in between the two videos, only a few seconds. It’s a fun and fascinating talk. Enjoy.

And here’s Pt. 2.

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After the talk, John Martin, CCBA executive director Tom McCormick, Vinnie Cilurzo, Fritz Maytag and Ken Grossman.

When The Food Babe Talks, No Questions

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This would almost be funny, if I didn’t consider her misinformation so dangerous. Oh, and a h/t to Maureen Ogle for this one. Dr. Kevin M. Folta, who is the chairman of the Horticultural Sciences Department at the University of Florida, writes on his blog, Illumination, about a recent visit by Vani Hari, as the Food Babe Visits My University.

As an actual living, breathing scientist, Folta understandably stood at odds with Hari “spreading her corrupt message of bogus science and abject food terrorism” at his school. Here’s how he really felt. “There’s something that dies inside when you are a faculty member that works hard to teach about food, farming and science, and your own university brings in a crackpot to unravel all of the information you have brought to students.” And she apparently was paid $15,000 by the University to add insult to injury, as well.

She found that a popular social media site was more powerful than science itself, more powerful than reason, more powerful than actually knowing what you’re talking about. Her discussion was a narcissistic, self-appointed attack on food science and human nutrition. It was one of the rare times when I laughed and puked at the same time.

So “who do you trust for real scientific information? This is why scientists go nutso.” Here’s a breakdown of the relative experience and knowledge between the Food Babe, Vani Hari, and Dr. Folta.

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Here’s a few more random thoughts from his post about the talk she gave, although I encourage you to read the entire post.

Hari then went on to talk about her successes in strong-arming Chick-fil-A, Budweiser and Subway into reformulating their foods and beverages. She’s proud that she was invited to the table, that a know-nothing with a following can affect change simply by propagating false information via the internet.

That’s not healthy activism or change based on science. That’s coercion, fear mongering and terrorism to achieve short-sighted non-victories in the name of profit and self-promotion, ironically the same thing she accuses the companies of.

On the plus side, reasonably educated college students weren’t going for her nonsense, he noted. “Throughout her presentation that was about Hari in the spotlight and ‘me-me-me’, students got up and left. She left gaping pregnant pauses where previous performances got applause — only to hear nothing. Not even crickets. This audience was not buying it, at least was not excited by it.”

Overall, he understandably found it disappointing, noting. “If this is a charismatic leader of a new food movement it is quite a disaster. She’s uninformed, uneducated, trite and illogical. She’s afraid of science and intellectual engagement.”

What stood out for me, though not a surprise in the least, is that although microphones had been set out at the sides of the stage for questions (something you see at virtually any academic talk like this) she left the stage immediately, apparently refusing to take any questions from the students. It was as if she finished talking, dropped the mic and walked out, “whisked by limo to her next fear rally,” as Folta opined. Unfortunately, that sounds about right given that numerous people tell me she deletes any questions or contrary evidence from comments on her website or Facebook page. She’s selling a product — herself — pure and simple, and she can’t let facts get in her way. In a sense, she doesn’t even need to engage anyone, as she has untold numbers of unpaid minions slavishly doing her bidding for her — the Food Babe Army — attacking any critics or criticisms, as I discovered for myself when I took issue with her nonsense about the ingredients in beer. I’m almost amazed she’s still peddling her brand of crazy to ready buyers, and yet not surprised at the same time. After all, there are still people who insist the world is flat and that climate change isn’t happening, so truly people will believe all sorts of kooky things if they don’t think too much about it. And in some ways, not thinking about stuff but believing it anyway with all your might may be well be the new American way. More’s the pity.

Derp of the Day
Don’t eat food with kemicles.

Keep Moving For The Next Session

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For our 93rd Session, our host is Brian Devine, who writes The Roaming Pint, along with Maria Scarpello, and the pair “have been traveling around in their 29-foot RV, named Stanley, since August 2010 seeking out all kinds of great beer destinations.” For their topic, they’ve understandably chosen Beer Travel.

Since travel is such an important part of our lives I wanted our topic to focus on beer travel. In Session #29, Beer by Bart asked writers to tell them about their favorite beer trips to which they got some great responses of personal favorites and general tips for certain cities.

So as not to tread over old ground my question is going to focus on the “why” more than the “what”. So I ask you fellow bloggers and beer lovers, why is it important for us to visit the place the where our beers are made? Why does drinking from source always seem like a better and more valuable experience? Is it simply a matter of getting the beer at it’s freshest or is it more akin to pilgrimage to pay respect and understand the circumstances of the beer better?

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Not “Stanley,” but certainly a worthy steed for beer travel.

So put on your walking shoes or those boots that are made for walking, whichever you prefer with your beer. According to Brian, participation in November’s Session simply requires that you “write a response to one or more of the questions above and then post a link to the article” in the Roaming Pints’ comments section by November 6th.

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