Grab your Kool aid kids and take a seat. Here’s the story of Calfkiller Brewing Company, and Budweiser of TN.
Once upon a time there was this little guy (Calfkiller Brewing Company). A very honest hard working little guy with a dream to make great beer that folks could enjoy. After many years of hard work this dream became reality. Slowly but surely the little guy was rubbing shoulders with the big guys in the market place. All was well…….or so they thought.
So what happened that was so outrageous? Well:
Over the years the little guy has purchased used kegs from all across the country. A few examples would be unclaimed freight auctions, breweries that have closed, or keg companies that sell new, used, and refurbished kegs. Anyone can purchase these, and Calfkiller has done it as well. Everything from website sales to store fronts in public with huge signs by the road for everyone to see. LEGIT businesses! So Calfkiller has been using kegs like these from day one.
Smooth sailing and all has seemed well…..until about a month ago! That’s when the “Budweiser keg police” began trying to strong arm the little guy. Now no one is sure really why. Maybe they simply want the entire market. Maybe they simply don’t like the little guys. Maybe they got their first quarter reports for 2012, and noticed the little guy had taken a piece of their pie. The only thing the little guy knows for sure is the truth isn’t in them so it does no good to ask questions at Budweiser in TN.
So the big monopoly Budweiser has started walking in to accounts, and simply taking the little guys kegs! FLIRTING WITH SLANDER they have told business owners that Calfkiller had stole the kegs.
There’s not much Calfkiller can do, and even less that we can do. But we can share it, spread the word, and turn this into a PR disaster for Budweiser. A major multi-national corporation is bullying a locally-owned small business because they make better beer.
Opening a brewery has been a dream for many homebrewers for decades. With the drastically shifting marketplace away from macrobrewers and toward craft brewers, many have been able to open breweries and we’ve all benefited from greater variety in the marketplace.
But as we’ve argued before, the friendliness and openness of the craft beer world is coming under more pressure as more and more people decide to open breweries. As one Chicago media outlet writes up, there are at least twelve new breweries coming to the Windy City. How can they possibly all survive?
Of course, with every business boom, some will fail for things completely unrelated to their products — mismanagement, poor planning, cost pressures. Some still will fall away for bad beer, as they should. But with such a crowded market, some may just fall away because the market isn’t big enough. Chicago is one of the largest cities in the United States, but it already has its share of breweries. Are all twelve good ideas?
Could Budweiser be making your Hopslam next year? Due to a business dispute, it’s possible. From Bell’s founder Larry Bell:
“Unfortunately with the growth and the size the company has gotten to, the alarms are going off to where we have to figure it out or do something else,” Bell said. “I don’t want to sell, but it’s a great time to sell if I had to. There are many willing buyers.”
“If it was just a family business, there would be legal maneuvers we could make that would facilitate that kind of transfer across generations. With its current structure, I’m not able to do those sorts of things. It would basically leave us in the position of selling the company upon my death.”
Bells wants to keep the brewery in the family, which is admirable. But he may have to sell, and it may have to happen as early as the fall. Could Bells end up like Goose Island, swallowed up by a big brewer? Maybe, or maybe they’ll find a way to work it out.
The Independent has a nice write-up of Sierra Nevada and the history they carry with them. From craft brewing through the early 80s to a coming east-coast expansion made possible — and in many ways necessitated by — the current craft beer renascence, Sierra Nevada is one of a small number of breweries that has a claim that few others can make, no matter how popular or trendy a given beer may be .
Fun and, given what he has witnessed over the past 40 years, pretty amazing too. The United States used to be the world’s biggest good beer desert but the revolution which Sierra Nevada helped create has swept across the country. America now has undoubtedly the most innovative and exciting beer scene in the world and Americans can drink at least as well as their British, German or Belgian counterparts. It’s quite a turnaround, admits Grossman.
“Attitudes to beer have really changed,” he says. “It has been a dramatic shift, and we’ve been a part of that. When we started it was difficult to get a distributor to take you seriously, and the retailers weren’t too interested and the public wasn’t that aware of what we were doing. That’s very different to today, when every distributor wants your beer and retailers are focusing on promoting craft brands and customers are very knowledgeable.”
But the most interesting part of this article comes at the end, where the wise-old brewery may have insight that some newcomers probably hope isn’t true.
And while Grossman predicts tough times for some craft brewers (“Some market places are already pretty saturated: up in the north-west [of the USA], price is beginning to become a driver. That’s probably not the healthiest way for the craft market to grow. Some breweries are struggling to make ends meet – I think there will be a shakeout in the future”), he has lost none of his thirst for Sierra Nevada. Retirement seems a long way off for this 57-year-old. “I’m still having fun, I love coming to work every day,” he says. “There’s a challenging few years ahead of me.” Understated to the last.
The sad thing is that he’s right. The market is growing and everyone is generally friendly right now, but it can’t last. Commodity prices are going to increase, established craft breweries are going to grow more than their smaller competitors, and international craft beer — a tiny piece of the market right now — will begin to put pressure on a lot of homebrewers-turned-business owners in the next decade.
Oskar Blues Brewery, famous beer cannery and brewer of such geniusly-named beers like “Momma’s Little Yellow Pils”, has decided to expand into other forms of alcohol. Coming soon: Oskar Blues craft liquor.
The stills have been ordered and the federal licensing agreements are in process for Lyons Soul Distilling LLC, the latest venture for Oskar Blues Brewery. Plans are for the distillery to be up and running by this summer, according to spokesman Chad Melis.
“We’re going to can some spirits,” he said Friday at the company’s Longmont brewery.
The barn, next to Oskar Blues Grill & Brew, is where owner Dale Katechis first started canning Dale’s Pale Ale, the brewery’s flagship beer, two cans at a time by hand, 10 years ago.
Beers like Natty Lite, Miller Lite, Bud Light, and PBR are getting a price increase to drive cheap-beer lovers toward more expensive brands. Macrobrewers expect this will mean a transition to beers like Budweiser or other brands they own, but I can’t help but think it will also drive them to craft brewers.
I’d expect breweries like Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada to be beneficiaries of the move, mostly because they’re on many of the same shelves. Also, in states where you can actually get it, Yuengling will probably also see a nice boost in sales.
As brand manager for Keystone Light, Elina Vives would seem to be in a tough spot these days. The below-premium beer made big gains in the past few years as the economy tanked. But with trends improving, MillerCoors, along with Anheuser Busch, is raising prices on budget beers in a move to get drinkers to trade up to more-expensive brews such as Miller Lite and Bud Light, which struggled in the recession.
“What they’re really trying to do, both of them, is drive business to the premium brands where they make more money,” said Benj Steinman, president of Beer Marketer’s Insights. But for Keystone, which is owned by MillerCoors, that could mean losing momentum that made it one of the fastest share gainers in all of beer. So what’s a brand manager to do?
Also, as a side note, I had no idea Bud Light was so much more popular than Miller Lite. It’s all bad, but when I’m somewhere and don’t have much of a choice, I always grab Miller Lite first.
Last summer Tröegs in Pennsylvania announced a new brewery, moving from Harrisburg, PA to Hershey, PA. Since then, construction has been moving along, and a couple of new videos are online that show how things are progressing.
Why should you be excited? For starters, they make what I think is probably the best beer I’ve ever had (though I’ve been told that this year’s batch isn’t their best). As of now, their distribution has been limited to around 3 hours driving around the brewery, but they have pushed beyond that into parts of Ohio. With a bigger brewery, you should see more of it on the shelves in your favorite beer stores.
According to Troegs, who have always offered brewery tours led by the Tröegs brothers themselves and call the expansion “T2″, you’ll still be able to experience their brewing process up-close.
At three times the size of Tröegs current location, the new 90,000 square foot facility will give guests a glimpse at the fermentation process, packaging room and oak barrel-aging room, and lab. The addition of a pilot brewing room offers insight to Tröegs experimentation—where its famous Scratch brews are dreamt-up and made.
Yesterday, brewery president Steve Hindy and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg opened a long-planned expansion of Brooklyn Brewery. The expansion is absolutely huge, going from 12,000 barrels of beer per year to 120,000.
Less newsworthy was something Bloomberg said while he cutting the ribbon — he puts ice in his beer.
Standing inside the just-expanded Brooklyn Brewery yesterday, the mayor revealed that his unorthodox approach to drinking beer requires ice.
“I actually put ice in my beer,” the mayor said. “Most people don’t.”
Hearing a gasp from the crowd, he explained: “I know. I’ve always done it. I don’t think it comes from Boston.”
Brewery President Steve Hindy was too polite to set the mayor straight on the correct way to savor his popular suds.
Word is that your favorite hoppy beers could be in for some recipe changes if their brewers didn’t plan ahead and contract for the right amount of hops this year. Rogue points to some news from Beer Business Daily warning that a 30% drop in the American hop harvest could have a negative impact.
The explosive popularity of hoppy beer has become bittersweet as the total American harvest was off 30% for the year, according to December’s USDA hop harvest report. Especially screwed now are those brewers relying on smaller-yield, aroma-centric American hops to make mainstream-barreling IPAs, since Simcoe, Citra and Amarillo are largely (if not totally) sold for the year.
IT SHOULDN’T BE A SURPRISE. Unlike 2007’s sneak-attack, this scarcity was established back in June, according to the BA’s Chris Swersey. That’s when members learned that both acreage and years were significantly down. It’s just now coming to a head, however, as brewers wonder if they’ll have enough of specific varieties.
They point out that Sierra Nevada is already looking toward whole-leaf hops to help fill the gap from a potential pellet shortage. I’m also curious as to what this means for the average homebrewer looking for something like Simcoe hops at their local hombrew shop — probably nothing too terrible, but it’s possible we could see small price increases for the average 5-gallon batch of Joe Homebrewer’s IPA.
It’s obvious that the folks at the Brewers Association have an enviable job when one of the organization’s biggest “problems” is that craft breweries are outgrowing the definition of what it means to be a craft brewer.
Last week the Association announced that it was tripling the size of breweries that were considered “small” by craft brewery standards. The previous limit, 2 million barrels per year, was sure to be eclipsed by the makers of Sam Adams and because of its ongoing success.
The industry’s largest craft brewer, The Boston Beer Company, is poised to become the first craft brewer to surpass 2 million barrels of traditional beer within the next few years. Loss of The Boston Beer Company’s production in craft brewing industry statistics would inaccurately reflect on the craft brewing industry’s market share.
In addition to Boston Beer, the current growth trajectory of other sizable BA member breweries places them on a course approaching the 2 million barrel threshold in the coming years.
Nick Matt, chair of the Brewers Association board of directors correctly summarized: “Rather than removing members due to their success, the craft brewing industry should be celebrating our growth.”
Great news, and a wonderful problem to have to solve.