Posts Tagged ‘Business’

Here I am starting to write this minutes away from the Brewers Showcase in Sacramento, California – the grand finale of the awesomeness that is the California Craft Beer Summit. By the time I finish this, I will likely be plenty inebriated and cooked well-done thanks to this lovely Sacramento heat. The overall experience was amazing to say the least.

The first year of California’s Beer Summit included a host of talks and classes by some of the most recognized names in the brewing industry. The guest list consisted of the past, present, and future of the California and U.S. craft beer scenes. Greg Koch, Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, Tony Magee, Matt Brynildson, Dr. Charlie Bamforth, Ken Grossman, David Walker, and several others addressed craft beer industry professionals and fans alike. Many of the key points were highlighted on the California Craft Brewers twitter feed, but I will highlight a few of my own takeaways.
The main entrance to the Expo Hall

The main entrance to the Expo Hall.

Well… that lasted a whole two paragraphs… The whirlwind of a weekend didn’t stop at the end of the Summit, but instead continued through the Brewers Showcase with an outstanding showing by some of California’s finest. The hundreds of beers available and numerous cornhole games kept me preoccupied and away from the digital devices (with the exception of UnTappd checkins in the rare case you didn’t see them). But don’t worry, I’m now well rested and fully recovered!
The turnout for the Brewers' showcase.

The turnout for the Brewers’ showcase.

There was a lot going on at any given time during the summit. There were “Educational Sessions,” which took the form of a typical lecture with a powerpoint and Q&A at the end. There were also “Tap Talks” and Food & Beer demos that took place on small stages at different corners of the main expo hall – these talks gave the speaker a stool and mic with a smaller audience. I believe there was just enough information given to create a craft beer encyclopedia, so I will not do it injustice by providing summaries with potential for misinformation. Instead I will highlight each of the talk that I went to with one main idea or sentence. But enough with the talk! Beer time…
One of the entrances to the Educational Session rooms.

One of the entrances to the Educational Session rooms.

September 11th, 2015 

Moment of Silence – This was not a part of the Summit, and by the time you’re reading this it will no longer be September 11th. But in case you missed it, please share with me a moment of silence for those lives taken over 14 years ago. 

State of the Industry: Current Trends & Statistics Where the Industry is Heading – Bart Watson, Chief Economist for the Brewers Association.
  • Main takeaway:  While there are currently over 500 breweries in existence and in planning, there is still room for growth for another 200+ breweries! (I knew these crowded cities were good for something! California beer is awesome!)
  • Also, the next “IPA” will likely be…. an IPA.

Craft Beer “The New Top Shelf” How craft beer can increase your overall bottom line – David Macon, VP Sales & Marketing, Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
  • Main takeaway (although tailored for beer retailers): Be objective in beer selection; use proper glassware; utilize Brewers Association standards for draft & refrigeration systems; try beers often; and have fun!

Value of a Cicerone – Virginia Thomas, Cicerone Certificate Program
  • Main takeaway: Knowing how to taste, describe, and experience beers will allow you to help others do the same! Cicerone Certification helps this process.

From left to right: Dave Gull (New Helvetia Brewing Co.); Ryan Graham (Track 7 Brewing Co.); Glynn Philips (Rubicon Brewing Co.)

From left to right: Dave Gull (New Helvetia Brewing Co.); Ryan Graham (Track 7 Brewing Co.); Glynn Philips (Rubicon Brewing Co.)

Sacramento Brewers Panel – Glynn Philips (Rubicon Brewing Co.); Ryan Graham (Track 7 Brewing Co.); Dave Gull (New Helvetia Brewing Co.)
  • Main takeaway: Sacramento beer is awesome, and the beer scene is rapidly becoming one of the premier California beer scenes! “Drink local, go with the home team!” – Dave Gull
  • Also… Glory, glory Sacramento!
September 12th, 2015

Beer Styles: the Advanced Course – Mike “Big Mike” Moore, Beer Judge, Beer Educator & Food Specialist
  • Main takeaway: History and origin is very important to beer style and beer overall! Remember the history of what’s in your glass!

Homebrewing – Gary Glass, American Homebrewers Association
  • Main takeaway: Homebrewing is easy, fun, and better with friends…. Join the AHA!

The hop wall and  the history on hops.

The hop wall and the history on hops.

Reverence for Beer – Dr. Charlie Bamforth, UC Davis
  • Main takeaway:Use the proper glass, and treat the beer with the respect and reverence it deserves!
  • On “yellow, fizzy” beer: “Its up to you – what you like, and have reverence for it.” – Dr. Charlie Bamforth

Beers You Can Age & How to Store Them at Home – Matt Brynildson (Firestone Walker Brewing)
  • Main takeaway: 97% of the beers produced are not made to age – if the brewers wanted it aged, they would age it themselves. The 3% produced that can be aged should be stored properly and in a controlled environment.

Keynote – Greg Koch (Stone Brewing Co.)
  • Main takeaway: The craft beer industry is booming in the U.S., and there is potential for growth on the international level.
  • Stone Brewing will remain strong and independent in its own brand! “My answer is no or hell no” – Greg Koch
During the Keynote with Greg Koch. "My answer is no or hell no" - Greg Koch on Stone Brewing being sold.

During the Keynote with Greg Koch. “My answer is no or hell no” – Greg Koch on Stone Brewing being sold.

 

If you couldn’t tell, the first ever California Craft Beer Summit was worth every penny, and I enjoyed every second of it. The education alone was worth the cost.. not to mention the special releases and tastings available all weekend!

The one that got away...

The one that got away…

 

As I’ve said before, California’s Craft Beer Summit included some of the most iconic figures in today’s American craft brewing scene. While being within arms reach of many of these guys and girls, it’s easy to see that they are all still just regular people whose passion and drive led them to great success in the craft beer world. I mean, after the Summit Greg Koch threw on his backpack and sunglasses and walked a few blocks over to the brewers’ showcase! If I saw him in passing in Downtown Sacramento, I would have never looked twice. The same was the case with the Cilurzos, with Mitch Steele, and the rest of craft beer community. Unfortunately, I turned into a 13 year-old boy around Taylor Swift anytime one of these people sat or stood around me, which is why I have no pictures with them. Nevertheless, being in the same room with some of the same interests as these folks was truly an amazing experience. Time to start the countdown to next years’ summit!

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[This post is in response to the August 2015 topic: The Landscape of Beer. You can find more information about The Session on host Allen H.’s website, or at the Brookston Beer Bulletin. ]

 

More information at: brookstonbeerbulletin.com/the-sessions/

 

Many of us have read about the history of beer in America. We can read article after article, book after book about the rise of the beer, wine, and spirits in the pre- and post- prohibition days of the United States. We know of the conglomerates that have grown from regional breweries into the massive, large-scale industrial operations they are today. More recently, we as a [craft] beer community have cherished and idolized the histories of those community brewers turned national icons – Boston Beer, Stone Brewing, Russian River, Bells Beer, and Dogfish Head are just a few that come to mind. We know the stories, and if we don’t, we can depend on the great story tellers of our time to allow us to catch up on the history of our craft beer forefathers. There are websites, blogs, and books dedicated to these topics. While this post will not explore these histories in depth, I do encourage you to take a gander at your favorite brewery’s story on how they got to where they are. This might just open your eyes to the greatness beyond the local pint glass, and knowing where beer has been can help one understanding where beer might be headed.

 

In one of my previous posts, I noted a few numbers concerning the growth of the craft beer industry.  You can find that post here. I also encourage you to visit the Brewers Association website to view more information and statistics on the craft beer industry in America. There is a multitude of information available on the current landscape of beer in America. There are also a great number of industry experts and economists providing their take on what the future holds for craft beer.

 

It was once said that there will never be competition for the “big” breweries. Yet, here we are in 2015 with over 3,000 breweries and more opening each day. The market share for “craft” beer has jumped to over 10%, which was previously looked upon as next to impossible. And the mere fact that we can blog about a “landscape” of beer is testament to the types of growth we are seeing develop in the United States.

 Photo from: Allaboutbeer.com

 

As for my take on the future landscape of beer in America, I believe the answer is not in the stories of the beers created, but instead within the stories of the creators behind the beers themselves. The landscape of beer in America will not only showcase the many accounts of professional brewers’ across the nation, but will also consist of the stories and experiences by those who enjoy it. Beer is no longer just the ice-cold, refreshing television commercial pushing product at the grocery store. Beer isn’t just the inexpensive alcohol that takes the buzz off of a busy Monday, or gets the party started on a long-awaited Friday.

 

[Craft] beer is now the story of Tom along with his family and friends sacrificing long, excruciating days to start and operate your community brewery. It’s about Greg’s ability to create a quality product and combine it with a great business acumen that allows a regional brewery to become a national icon. Beer is about the experiences shared, the conversations started, and the relationships created over a glass of fresh, local IPA or porter. People are the landscape of beer in America.

 

So what does the future of the landscape of beer in America look like? The stories and experiences will continue. Growth in the craft beer industry will be stimulated by the stories of the professionals and the consumers, alike. How will craft beer increase to 20+ percent of market share? People will continue to share their stories and experiences through social media. Newcomers will learn more about their favorite alcoholic beverage. They will experiment, sample, taste-test, converse, and name favorites among several different styles and brands of beer. In turn, demand will increase and brewers will continue to seek growth in their production to match these demands.

Photo from: Craftbeer.com

 

Will the craft beer bubble burst? I don’t believe it will. I believe that the craft beer market will continue to grow – maybe not as fast, but there is still plenty of opportunity for brewers across the nation. After all, not every state is as populated as the California beer scene appears to be.

 

I do believe that those not making a high-quality product will cease to exist. Those breweries and brewpubs that began as a money-making operation without passion for its product or its people will not last long in a very competitive craft beer market. Those breweries will lack the passion that also drives the innovation behind their beers, and by the looks of the current beer shelves, variety and innovation seem to be prominent factors in the marketplace.

 

I believe the other sets of breweries and brewpubs that may be affected by a changing beer landscape will be those passionate home brewers recently turned professional brewers/owner-operators. Perhaps they looked to pro brewing for a career change. Maybe they were told they made great homebrew, so they looked to the pro world for an opportunity. Regardless of the reason, I sincerely hope they succeed; however, it is reasonable to believe that if they are serving beer with a lot of flaws, or if they are serving unspectacular beer, then they may not see long-term success. Aside from the beer, if they lack the business acumen to keep their organization afloat and successful, then these too may not live to be the next craft beer success story.

 

I would love to say the Landscape of Beer in America will be positive with limitless opportunity and growth for all breweries and brewpubs. Do I believe the growth will continue? Absolutely! But with the significant growth will come growing pains. The Landscape of Beer in America will continue to provide an amazing variety of beer in every region in the U.S. The quality will continue to improve, and the average consumers knowledge will also improve. There will be some breweries and brewpubs that may not make it to the future. But until that future comes, you can find me basking in the thousands of beers and breweries in today’s American landscape. Go us! Go America!

 

Photo from: usasocialcondition.com

Not too long ago, I saw a “web coupon deal” for a tour with tastings for two at a local brewery for a fairly reasonable price. I told my wife and friends about the deal in an attempt to get a small group to go with – new beer with friends is always a better experience. Local brewery tour and tastings? Check. Reasonable price? Got it. Friends to drink with? Done. It was only natural that I purchase this coupon.

Photo courtesy: Smosh.com

So my friends and I make the trip, and upon entry to the tasting room I was quite impressed. Great looking decor, friendly and knowledgeable staff, great beer selection, and board games along with the giant Jenga set that seems to be a must have in every brewery around town.

We took the tour of the 7 bbl. brewery,  shared laughs and kettle-envy, then sat down to enjoy our double-digit tastings. We started with the lighter, cleaner ales and made our way through to the stouts and porters. We talked about the ones we like, and the ones we didn’t. The words “buttery,” “astringent,” and “apple flavors” may or may not have been said at our table. In the end, many of the 5 oz tasters were still over halfway filled, and my friends and I opted to go to our typical go-to taphouse.

Now, this is not a criticism of the brewers or the brewery. Are my friends and I Master BJCP judges or even award winning home brewers? No. But we can tell you what we like, and what doesn’t taste right to us in a given beer. Perhaps these were off flavors. Or, perhaps some of these flavors were on purpose as part of the brewery’s style. I believe it’s up to us as the consumer to determine that.

The unpopular opinion here may be that it is acceptable for a brewery patron to not like a brewery’s beer. It is also okay to not see through a beer’s flaws simply because it was made locally. I don’t necessarily think there is a craft beer bubble in front of us, but I do believe the breweries that are making flawed or less than stellar beer may not survive as a business.

Photo courtesy: ETFTrends

According to the Brewers Association, a little more than 20 years ago there were less than 600 breweries in the United States. In 2014, the number of total U.S. “craft” breweries topped 3,418 with the number growing every day. The number is sky rocketing with little sign of slowing down. With this tremendous growth, occasionally a beer with “flaws” may be produced and sold to you.

I have listed some of these “flaws” or off-flavors (from BJCP.org) that you may find in a beer, commercial or homebrew. If you find them in a beer from a local brewery, should you throw the taster in their face and write a 2 page, 1/2 star review on every craft beer platform and forum?  I would venture to say that it would be more beneficial if you didn’t, and instead, you should probably have a discussion with someone at the brewery. Maybe they will thank you for the feedback. Or maybe you will learn something about the beers produced or the beer styles.

Off-Flavors and Brief Description
  • Acetaldehyde – Green apples, grassy (not from hops), vinegar or cider-like
  • Astringent – Tannic or tart, unpleasant
  • Diacetyl – Buttery, nutty, reminiscent of butterscotch, oily
  • DMS (Dimethyl Sulfide) – Cooked corn, vegetables
  • Lightstruck – Skunky, mercaptan
  • Oxidation – Cardboard, wet-paper, stale, sherry or leathery; musty or earthy
  • Phenolic – Band-aid, cloves, bananas, smoky, plastic, medicinal
  • Solvent – Pungent, harsh, acetone or turpentine
  • Sulfury – Rotten eggs, meaty, struck match, burn rubber

Photo courtesy: AskMen.com

This list is obviously a brief summary and is not all inclusive; it is only intended to serve as another quick reference. There is at least 2000 lbs of information out there on these off-flavors, their causes, and how to troubleshoot them if you run into issues in your own brewing. You can also check out the Beer Judge Certification Program or the How To Brew websites, which also have a ton of information on beer styles and/or off-flavors.

Did I make a mistake somewhere? Do you disagree with anything written? I’d love to learn and have a respectful conversation with you! Feel free to reach out to me on the Twitter, or you can email me at inbituinthebrew@gmail.com.
Don’t forget to find me on Sommbeer.com!

 

Let me start off by saying this is The Internets – everyone has an opinion. And I am no different. The beautiful thing about these United States is that everyone is entitled to their opinion. That’s the freedom that we all enjoy as Americans. With different experiences and perspectives comes different opinions on various topics.

Sometimes groups as a whole can have an opinion about certain topics that many people can relate to. For example, one popular opinion may be that beer is a great water substitute. While many reading this may agree (even if only half-heartedly), there are still those who would like to say otherwise.

That’s likely where my next series of posts will land – in the “unpopular opinion” category, thus the birth of the “UnPop Op” series. My next few posts may contain some elements of devils advocate thinking, but most of the time the posts will be of my own thoughts and beliefs based on the information I’ve found. Some ideas may not be on the extreme side of unpopular, and some others you might even agree with. Still, with the articles, interviews, and conversations that I’ve found, the next few posts will be contrary to popular opinion.

Photo courtesy: dreamcast-talk.com

My first example(s) are my opinions on those money hungry craft brewers and brewery owners/founders selling out to Big Beer. It seems like we see a new “acquisition” of a craft brewery every day – Goose Island Beer Co, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Meantime, and the list can go on and on. What happened to bringing down “The Man?” Craft breweries should be sticking it to him (or her), and they should be wildly successful in stealing market share from the Big Three, or two, or however many there are now. These craft breweries should be the shining example of quality beer that’s not mass produced on the global scale, and they should be owned by their original owners/founders. I mean, that’s what makes them true craft and not sellouts, right?

Okay, so here comes the unpopular to the opinion – selling the brewery to the larger beer corporations is okay. I know, crazy right? [Enter controversy, online arguments, and web trolls.]

So why do I say it’s perfectly fine to “sellout” to the big beer companies? Let’s take a look at a few different elements in play: the dream, the business, and the product.

Now I am no professional brewer, nor do I own a brewery, but I do have some type of general business know-how. And I know that most entrepreneurs (in this case the brewers or brewery owners) start with an idea or dream they would like to see through to success. In today’s world, the stories are few and far between of a person entering the workforce as a business owner. In case you didn’t know, most owners of breweries, brewpubs, and other craft beer establishments are real people. These real people had a real job to pay their real bills to support their real families, and yet they still had the dream to leave that job behind to start their own brewery. See what didn’t change? Their idea or concept came to fruition, but that did not change the fact that they still had real bills and real families.

Which leads me to the business element in play. If you remove the ogre-like layers of your favorite nano, micro, or macro brewery, there remains a business.People still purchase that brewery’s product and experience that brewery’s service. A quick Google of “define: business” provides many definitions of the word, two of which are included below:

  1. a person’s regular occupation, profession, or trade.
  1. the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce.

Behind the passion, the art, and the science of your favorite beer destination, there is a well-developed, carefully calculated, highly detailed business plan. The brewery’s business plan has everything from the company’s (yes, company) marketing plan, financial and investment plan, production plan, and risk management plan. And at the very bottom of all their financial reports? Yep, that’s their net profit.

So where does all this business stuff come from, and how does it add any weight to the argument that selling a brewery to big beer does not mean being a sellout? For that we will go to the product: Craft Beer.

Yes, there is passion. Yes, there is innovation. There is both art and science in brewing. From creating the recipe, to ensuring all the measurements are where they are supposed to be. For many, it truly is a dream come true. The difference is that this dream gets turned into a tangible, inventoried product that has to be sold to consumers and other businesses. It costs to make the beer and it costs to sell the beer. There are fees, taxes, municipalities, distributors, retailers, bottling and canning companies, and many other organizations taking a bite out of that $12 – 22 oz. bottle you purchased at your local bottle shop. That means that although there is a rush of breweries opening every day, the profit following those openings is a mere trickle. Speaking of money hungry brewers, the Huffington Post attributes just 8% of the final cost to “Brewers Margin” (more information can be found in their article here).

Photo courtesy: Huffingtonpost.com

Remember when you worked at that job where you worked significantly harder than what you were being paid to work? Remember when it was celebrated that a person who started from nothing worked their way up to something? What about those times when small companies were celebrated for their tremendous growth thanks to their strong leadership and quality product? Does that sound familiar? Maybe it’s time we celebrate those brewers and brewery owners that are tasting success and seeing their hard work pay off. If you still consider them a sellout, it’s not too late to vote with your wallet and support another hard-working brewer and brewery owner in your town. And don’t forget to thank them for that amazing experience in the glass in front of you.