Original Lite Beer Can Coming Back

These always give me a chuckle. Whenever sales are flagging, one of the strategies employed by the bigger beer companies to reverse their fortunes is to change the packaging. Earlier this month, Miller sent out a press release, “Celebrate Miller Time with the Light Beer that Started It All.” They’re bringing back the original can design for Miller Lite, their unnatural abomination of a diet beer. My thoughts on low-calorie light beer are very opinionated, and none too positive, for example read Disrespecting Low-Calorie Light Beer and No Defense For Light Beer.


Here’s the press release:

The Original Lite Can features the familiar images of hops, barley and the words “a fine pilsner beer,” which reinforce the high quality ingredients and the unique brewing process that consumers have enjoyed for generations.

“There was a time when all that existed was heavy beer that weighed you down,” said Elina Vives, marketing director for Miller Lite. “The launch of Miller Lite broke this category convention and offered beer drinkers the best of both worlds, great taste at only 96 calories and 3.2 carbs. Miller Lite is the original light beer and this limited-edition can celebrates that innovation and helps inform consumers of the rich history behind our beer.”

In addition to becoming available to consumers in January, the Original Lite Can will appear in the upcoming Paramount Pictures’ release, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues. The news team can be seen enjoying the Original Lite in the film, which will be released nationwide December 18.

The limited-edition Original Lite Can will be available nationwide January through March in 12-, 16- and 24-ounce sizes.

All well and good, but sheesh, why not just make a beer that people would want to drink, not one you have to market and advertise to death to create demand? Can people really be nostalgic for that can design? But that seems to be used a marketing tactic every few years, to change the package, the label or something along those lines. It’s indicative of a culture that’s long ago abandoned the importance of what’s inside the package and instead has been concentrating on the external. Sure, how the packaging looks is important, but it’s not more important than the beer, and for big beer companies it surely seems like marketing has trumped any other concerns for many, many years.

Calling it a “Pilsner beer,” of course, strains the notion of what a pilsner is.

U.S. Beer Consumption Increases; Rising Demand for Higher-Priced Offerings

According to a new report by the Beverage Information Group, “the beer industry saw gains in both dollar and volume in 2012 after a three-year downturn.” Their conclusion was that “well-marketed new products and slight improvements in the unemployment rate contributed to the beer industry’s overall growth.” Here’s the group’s press release with additional findings:

Super-premium, Craft, Imported and Flavored Malt Beverages out-performed the industry overall, as there is increasing demand for higher-priced beer. Super-premium and Premium increased 1.6%, and Craft increased 13.7% to reach 185.2 million 2.25-gallon cases. This is the largest increase for Craft beer in more than a decade.

Imported beer also increased for a third year, even though major brands such as Bass, Beck’s and Red Stripe were removed from the category because they are now domestically brewed. This 1% increase is largely due to consumer demand for a wider selection of products.

Innovations in the Light Beer category, such as the launch of Bud Light Platinum, were not enough to turn things around for the category. Light beer declined for the fourth year in a row. Popular and Malt Liquor also lost volume.

Although the beer industry saw positive changes in 2012, challenges still remain. According to the Beer Handbook, the beer industry will still see increases in the higher-priced categories such as Super-premium, Craft and Imported beer. It remains to be seen if these gains will help the beer industry maintain 2012’s positive direction.

“Today’s consumer no longer sees beer as their only drink option,” says Adam Rogers, senior research analyst, Beverage Information Group, Norwalk, Conn. “Spirits and wine marketers have been savvy in targeting consumers with flavored vodkas, rums and whiskies, as well as sweeter wines which have continued to take share away from the beer industry.”

For a mere $790, you can buy a copy of their annual Beer Handbook.


Whole Foods To Open California Brewery

For a number of years, Whole Foods Market has carried a decent selection of craft beer and better imports, and has been steadily increasing their commitment to good beer. They have an especially decent selection for a national chain. Last week, they announced that they were taking it one step father, and opening a “6,000-square-foot, two-story craft beer brewery and tap room,” according to a story in the Silicon Valley Business Journal. This will be their first grocery store to include a brewery. The 27,291-square-foot grocery store where the brewery will occupy the rooftop, will be located at 700 The Alameda in San Jose. The company broke ground on Wednesday, and expects to include “a wall for growing hops.” The San Jose Whole Foods & Brewery is expected to open in the summer of 2014.


American Breweries Top 2,500

Late last week, the Brewers Association announced that the number of breweries in the United States had eclipsed 2,500. As of May 31, brewery detective Erin Fay Glass put the number of breweries in America at 2,514, which is 767 more than there were on the same date two years ago.

More from the press release:

The list includes 24 breweries we code as “large” in our database for A-B, MillerCoors and breweries named for brands of Goose Island (packaging brewery), Leinenkugel’s and Blue Moon. In addition there are 109 regional breweries, 1214 microbreweries, and 1167 brewpubs.

The number of microbreweries passed the number of brewpubs in February 2013 for the first time since 1987.

Our count of breweries-in-planning is at 1559, up from 1228 a year ago. (But we did purge a couple hundred from the roles last fall and winter.)

At the current pace, the BA expects that the number of breweries should surpass 3,000 sometime in 2014. Sheesh.


Date Announced For 2013 Brews On The Bay

The San Francisco Brewers Guild today announced the date for this year’s Brews on the Bay beer festival aboard the S.S. Jeremiah O’Brien, docked at Pier 45 in Fisherman’s Wharf. This marks the 10th anniversary of the festival, which will take place on Saturday, October 19, from Noon to 5:00 p.m. According to the press release:

Enjoy over 50 different beers made by San Francisco breweries, while soaking up the salty air, sunshine, live music, food, and spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and San Francisco.

This year’s event is shaping up to be our biggest and best yet. Although we’re still finalizing some of the details, you can expect our member breweries to serve unlimited eight ounce pours of their latest and greatest IPA, farmhouse ale, session beer, barrel-aged sour, imperial stout, and many other beer styles. The brewers will also be on hand to answer any questions about your favorite beers.

In addition to the local beer, we’re going to serve up local food and music. San Francisco’s best food trucks will line the pier to fill your mouth-watering needs. We’ve also enlisted The Brothers Comatose to play their lively roots music on the ship’s deck.

Brews on the Bay tickets will go on sale August 5th at 10:00am.


Homebrewers Pick The Best Beers In America 2013

For the 11th straight year, the readers of Zymurgy magazine were asked to send in a list of their 20 favorite commercially available beers. With a record number of votes in the poll’s eleventh year, over 1,100 different breweries were represented in the voting. The results were not exactly shocking, and most of the beers and breweries that got the most votes were what you’d expect, I think, but it’s an interesting list all the same. The results are also printed in the latest issue.
Top Rated Beers
(T indicates tie)

Seven of the top ten are California beers, with 26 making the list. This is the fifth year in a row AHA members chose Pliny the Elder as the top beer. This also the fourth consecutive year that Bell’s Two Hearted Ale came in second.

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
3. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
4. Bell’s Hopslam Ale
5. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
6. Founders Breakfast Stout
7. Arrogant Bastard Ale
8. Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA
T9. Lagunitas Sucks
T9. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
T9. Stone Ruination IPA
T12. North Coast Old Rasputin
T12. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA
T12. Stone Enjoy By IPA
15. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
16. The Alchemist Heady Topper
T17. Firestone Walker Double Jack
T17. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
19. Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
20. Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
T21. Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
T21. Three Floyds Zombie Dust
T23. Firestone Walker Union Jack
T23. Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’
25. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
26. Surly Furious
T27. Deschutes Black Butte Porter
T27. Green Flash West Coast IPA
T27. Troegs Nugget Nectar
30. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
31. Russian River Consecration
T32. Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
T32. New Belgium La Folie
T32. Russian River Supplication
35. Avery the Maharaja
36. Lagunitas IPA
37. Stone IPA
38. Odell IPA
T39. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald
T39. Left Hand Milk Stout
T39. Russian River Pliny the Younger
T42. Odell Myrcenary
T42. Russian River Blind Pig I.P.A.
T42. Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous
45. Firestone Walker Parabola
T46. Ommegang Hennepin Saison Ale
T46. Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro
T48. Ommegang Three Philosophers
T48. Deschutes the Abyss
T48. Green Flash Palate Wrecker
T48. Lagunitas Brown Shugga’

Brewery Rankings

Brewery rankings are based on total votes received by each brewery’s beers. This year’s top brewery is Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, Calif. Stone placed five beers in the top 50, including its Arrogant Bastard Ale. Best Beer in America producer, Russian River Brewing Company finished second. Seven California breweries made the list, with five from Colorado, and two apiece from Michigan and Pennsylvania.

1. Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, Calif.
2. Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, Calif.
3. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, Calif.
4. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Del.
5. Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, Mich.
6. Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, Calif.
7. Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, Mich.
8. Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, Calif.
9. New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
10. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
11. Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
12. Three Floyds Brewing Company, Munster, Ind.
13. Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, Colo.
14. Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, Colo.
15. Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, Calif.
16. The Boston Beer Company, Boston, Mass.
17. Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Mo.
18. Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago, Ill.
19. New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, Wis.
T20. Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, Colo.
T20. Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, Calif.
22. Troegs Brewing Co., Hershey, Pa.
23. Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, Ohio
24. Victory Brewing Company, Downington, Pa.
25. Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, N.Y.

Best Portfolio

They also determined which breweries got the most votes for different beers that they produce, and called that list “best portfolio.” The number following their name is how many of their beers got at least one vote.

1. The Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) (40 beers)
2. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (38 beers)
3. Avery Brewing Company (35 beers)
4. Cigar City Brewing (30 beers)
5. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (29 beers)
6. Bell’s Brewery (28 beers)
7. New Belgium Brewing (27 beers)
T8. Stone Brewing Co. (26 beers)
T8. Goose Island Beer Company (26 beers)
9. Boulevard Brewing Company (25 beers)
10. Deschutes Brewery (24 beers)
T11. Foudners Brewing Company (23 beers)
T11. New Glarus Brewing Company (23 beers)
T11. The Bruery (23 beers)
T11. The Saint Louis Brewery (23 beers)
T15. Rogue Ales (21 beers)
T15. Lagunitas Brewing Company (21 beers)
T15. Odell Brewing Company (21 beers)
T15. Great Divide Brewing Company (21 beers)
T19. Firestone Walker Brewing Company (20 beers)
T19. Three Floyds Brewing Company (20 beers)
T19. Manayunk Brewing Company (19 beers)
22. Papago Brewing Company (19 beers)
T23. Great Lakes Brewing Company (18 beers)
T23. Southern Tier Brewing Company (18 beers)
T23. Victory Brewing Company (18 beers)
T23. Russian River Brewing Company (18 beers)

Top Imports

With a lot of ties, a few imports also received votes as readers’ favorite beers. As in years past, there was a decidedly all-American bent to the voting. Of the top 50 beers in the poll, none were produced by a foreign brewery, although Orval claimed the number one spot among imports.

T1. Orval (Belgium)
T1. Saison Dupont (Belgium)
3. Guinness Draught (Ireland)
T4. Rodenbach Grand Cru (Belgium)
T4. Unibroue La Fin du Monde (Canada)
6. St. Bernardust Abt 12 (Belgium)
7. Duchesse De Bourgogne (Belgium)
T8. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout (England)
T8. Chimay Grande Reserve/Blue Label (Belgium)
T10. Duvel (Belgium)
T10. Cantillon Gueuze (Belgium)

Anchor Zymaster Series #3 Is Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout

Anchor Brewing announced today the release of the third beer in their Zymaster Series, a stout to be called Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout.

From the press release:

Named after a San Francisco sailing legend from a time when stouts were first exported to the West Coast, Zymaster® No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout will be released in selected Anchor markets in January 2013.

Our Zymaster® Series No. 3 (7.4% ABV) is a dry, Irish-style export stout akin to those brewed in the 1800s for the long voyage to San Francisco. Black as night, this high-gravity, malty brew offers intense but well-balanced flavors and aroma, with hints of dark chocolate and roasted coffee.

The arrival of a clipper ship in gold-rush San Francisco brought mail and news of “the States,” would-be miners and entrepreneurs, boots, shovels, pickaxes, butter from New York, cigars from Havana, and stout from as far away as London and Dublin.
The stouts that San Franciscans imbibed in those days were no ordinary ales. They were export stouts—dark, intense, high-gravity brews created especially to survive a long voyage like those around Cape Horn.

It took the average clipper three to four months to sail from New York to San Francisco. But not the Flying Cloud, which, in 1851, made the trip in 89 days and 21 hours anchor to anchor. With the exception of its own 89 day and 8 hour voyage three years later, its record remained unbroken until 1989. Thanks to this clipper’s “extreme” design and the savvy of its captain, Josiah Creesy, and his wife and navigator Eleanor, the Flying Cloud quickly became a San Francisco sailing legend. We celebrate it and a legendary brewing tradition with our Zymaster® No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout.

That sounds tasty, I can’t wait to give their new stout a try.


The beer will be in stores and select bars any minute now. Here’s where it will be available.

Zymaster® Series No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout will be available in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Georgia and Florida.

Bagby Signs Lease On New Brewery Location

This is excellent news. Jeff Bagby, who won a boatload of awards while brewmaster at Pizza Port Carlsbad and Director of Brewery Operations for the entire chain, has been searching for the ideal location to open his own brewery, to be called Bagby Beer Co. He announced earlier today that he and his wife, and business partner, Dande Bagby, have signed a lease for the property at 601 S. Coast Highway in Oceanside, California. The 11,000 square foot space used to be “the historical Continental Motors and BMW Oceanside,” and consists of three separate buildings and a small courtyard, which they hope to turn into an outdoor beer garden. They anticipate starting construction on the brewery and restaurant in early 2013. There’s still a lot of work to do before they’re up and running, and Jeff is brewing beer again, but at least they’re over the first hurdle. Join me in congratulating Jeff and Dande on finding a location for their brewery.


Beer Institute Releases Results Of New Beer Drinkers Poll

According to the Beer Institute (BI), recent economic analysis has revealed “that brewing and importing accounted for $223.8 billion in the economic output of the United States — with employees earning nearly $71.2 billion wages and benefits, and generating more than $44 billion taxes. In 2010, the last year tax statistics were available, 45 percent of what every beer drinker paid for a beer went to taxes of some kind, which “makes taxes the most expensive ingredient in your beer,” Joe McClain, president of the BI, stated.

The Beer Institute has just released a national poll of 1,000 likely voters, which found strong opposition to increasing taxes on beer. Nine out of 10 voters in the poll agreed that “raising taxes on beer will mean working class consumers will have to pay more.”

The poll also found that self-identified “beer drinkers” are a larger proportion of the electorate than self-identified supporters of either the Tea Party of Occupy Wall Street movement, and were evenly split between Republican and Democratic parties.

Beer drinkers are also more political than the average likely voter:

  • 68 percent of regular beer drinkers say they discuss what’s going on in the presidential campaign with friends or co-workers.
  • 66 percent of regular beer drinkers say they are going to be watching the presidential debates, meaning they are more likely to watch presidential debates than watch the World Series or an NFL game.
  • 25 percent say they will likely donate or contribute money to a political party, cause, or candidate running for public office.
  • 14 percent (or one out of seven) beer drinkers say they will likely volunteer for a political party, cause, or on the campaign for a candidate running this year.

Larry Sidor’s Yet To Be Named Brewery Has A Name

The last time I saw brewmaster Larry Sidor, he was still working at Deschutes Brewing, but I already knew he had a new project in the offing. Since leaving his old job at the end of last year, he’s been building a new brewery in Bend, a brewery without a name, and the progress has been chronicled at Yet To Be Named Brewery. I got the word today from brewery partner Paul Evers that they’ve finally settled on a name: Crux Fermentation Project.

The three Founders of Crux Fermentation Project on the roof of their under-construction brewery with grain silos in the background. Left to right: Larry Sidor, Dave Wilson and Paul Evers. (©2012 Photo by Brian J. Bulemore, ABACUS PHOTOGRAPHY.)

Here’s the explanation, along with a basic overview of the new brewery and their plans, from the press release:

Crux Fermentation Project — an introduction

We’re really excited about how quickly the beer world is evolving. It wasn’t that long ago when IPAs hit the scene and took everyone’s taste buds to a place many of us weren’t sure we were ready for. Today, beers like the Abyss, Pliny the Younger, the Dark Lord, and many others, are unapologetically blowing up taste profiles with their complexity and creativity. Our team will focus primarily on these beers — it’s at the heart of what we do, pursuing the next great beer. To achieve this, we’ve designed the brewery to deliver beers that take us on a journey. From decoction mashing, open fermentation, barrel aging, crazy yeast varieties, and the use of experimental hops we hope our project delivers beers that will take you on a ride!

Crux … what does it mean anyway?

crux: noun,

  1. a vital, basic, decisive, or pivotal point. “The crux of the matter.”
  2. something that torments by its puzzling nature; a perplexing difficulty.

Our name, Crux, celebrates the moment where tension and conflict meet. It’s that critical do or die moment where everything comes together— striking that perfect balance. Some people perform their best in these moments, and surely the moment inspires innovation and creativity to push through. We’re not pursuing convention — we want to face the “crux of the matter” and push through to the other side. What’s there? We can’t wait to find out.

Fermentation Project also has meaning for us. Fermentation lies at the “crux” or “the pivotal point” of the brewing process. And Project best describes the process we’ve experienced in sharing our dream with friends, families and a wide variety of beer lovers from both inside and outside the industry. With each step, more and more people have joined us and contributed to the vision. We had an ah-ha moment— we realized this will always be a “project” — experimental and collaborative at its core.

Who are the founders?

The founders are Larry Sidor, Dave Wilson and Paul Evers. Each of these three friends has a passion for extraordinary beer and a long rich history in the industry. How’d they meet? Working together and testing the boundaries of craft beer— they’ve collaborated on projects for Deschutes Brewery and 21st Amendment Brewery. Larry, a celebrated brewmaster, has an extended list of gold medal beers he created while at Deschutes Brewery with The Abyss, The Dissident, Hop Trip and Red Chair being some of his more notable creations. We can’t wait to see what’s next! Dave is a veteran in Sales and Marketing who also worked at Deschutes and most recently turned the entire country on to the red-hot 21st Amendment Brewery. Dave’s approach to distribution and his relationships will help us deliver our beer to the right folks. Paul, with his team at the creative shop tbd, has a gift for story telling through thoughtful and imaginative design. They’ve created packaging and branding for Deschutes, Odell Brewing and most recently, along with Dave, the breakthrough packaging for 21st Amendment.

How did the vision come together?

Over beer, of course. The vision for this project came out of many late night discussions between friends while enjoying some amazing beers. They tasted, first hand, beers that were pushing the conventional brewing path, and were inspired to join other brewers in that ambitious journey. Larry, Dave and Paul gained a deep appreciation for each other’s passion and skills and saw an opportunity to collaborate and embrace the talents of each other with a new brewing project. With a team made up of a celebrated brewmaster, a charismatic sales guy and a soulful creative director, we got pretty excited about the full potential of how, together, the sum could be much greater than the parts.

How did we choose the location that we’re in?

After looking at over 50 industrial properties in Bend, Paul came across an old listing for this old AAMCO Transmission shop online. We started asking around about the property, sought the advice of our real estate broker and the opinions of those we respect. Most shook their heads and gave a puzzled expression because it was isolated off the beaten path in a forgotten old mill area that few were familiar with. Some told us that we definitely didn’t want to go there. Our response? — we got psyched. We wanted something different. Turns out — it’s an amazing site. Folks in Bend know our location as both easy to see, but hard to get to. In the middle of nowhere, but right in the heart of Bend — it’s located literally at the intersection of the four quadrants that divide Bend between east and west and north and south. We love how this site sits in the balance of contradictions — at the “crux”. We aim to create beers that do the same—so it just felt right. And then, there’s the panoramic view of the Cascade Mountains, of course.

What is our capacity?

Not much. Initially, we’ll only have a few thousand hectoliters of capacity. With added fermenters and bright beer tanks, we could push that to 11k hectoliters. We’re committed to being a purely metric brewery, but if you’re looking for the conventional barrel as a measurement, we will max out a few years from now in the ballpark of 9,000 barrels. But limited capacity excites us too. With smaller batch sizes, we can experiment and push some brewing boundaries that might not be approachable with larger batch sizes.

How will our beers be offered?

Your best bet is to come to our Tasting Room and take in the brewery and a variety of beers first hand. We’re working hard to create an experience that connects beer lovers to the brewing process — when you visit us you’ll get to hang out in an actual operating brewery. You’ll take in the rich aromas of the mash, the waft of warm spent grain and, of course, the fruits of all the labor in all the exciting new brews. Beers will be served in 500ml and 300ml pours. Bring your growler (1,900ml), too.

We will also offer our beers in draft at fine craft pubs and in bottles in three sizes at bottle shops and specialty grocery stores. In the near future, you’ll be able to check our website for locations near you. Our expected initial footprint will be in Oregon and on the opposite side of the country — the Northeast. Go figure.

What will be the prices of our bottled offerings?

We’ll offer some beers at about $6 for a 500ml bottle. Other brews will be more complex and
would be priced at around $16 for a 750ml bottle of those. Our highest end we expect to sell for $13 for a 375ml—but those won’t be ready for a year or two as they’ll be barrel aged . We’re not after scale. We’re not trying to win with the masses. Our focus is on producing small batches of thoughtful high quality brews that have higher ingredient streams and more complex processes and aging.

When will you be ready to share our beer?

We’re working hard to make beer available in June. That’s what we’re chasing.

Sounds like it should be spectacular, but then given Larry’s track record, I’d expect nothing less. Personally, I can’t wait until June.

The three Founders of Crux Fermentation Project celebrate the installation of their two grain silos. From left to right: Larry Sidor, Paul Evers and Dave Wilson. (©2012 Photo by Brian J. Bulemore, ABACUS PHOTOGRAPHY.)