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Meeting of the Malts Craft Highlights: Finding Your “Brewery Religion” on Innovation, Expansion (excerpt)

Perhaps now more than ever, in this age of constant innovation and intense competition, brewers have to find their “brewery religion” in order to determine “what you’re going to do and what you’re not going to do….Our religion as brewers is going to be challenged by all sorts of things” and it’s “different” for everyone, stated Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver on panel of craft brewers for Brewers of PA’s annual Meeting of the Malts event.  As BA’s Bart Watson called upon craft brewers to seek new consumers, Garrett, along with Yuengling chief admin officer and 6th gen family member Wendy Yuengling, 21st Amendment brewmaster/co-founder Shaun O’Sullivan, Troegs brewmaster/co-founder John Trogner, and Rhinegeist co-founder/vp of sales & marketing Bryant Goulding each expressed different ways their breweries are experimenting and expanding within this context.

Brooklyn Bel Air Sour Could Be Brooklyn’s #2 Brand by Year-End; 51% of Brooklyn Sold Outside US  Brooklyn Brewery’s Bel Air sour ale has quickly become #2 sour beer sold in the country and on track to become #2 best-selling beer for co, possibly by this year, Garrett shared. Recall, co launched Bel Air year round just last yr. Bel Air can be more suited for cocktail and wine drinkers, Garrett thought.  But “I make beer,” he plainly stated. Then too, Brooklyn now sells 51% of its beer outside of US. Recall, Brooklyn shipments declined 3.5% to 282K bbls (tho depletions up 3%), suggesting roughly 144K bbls sold outside US. Brooklyn’s US biz down mid-singles while international sales grew low teens, CEO Eric Ottaway shared earlier this yr.  Yet Brooklyn biz model entirely “by design,” Garrett noted, citing both geographic advantages to being in NYC for European biz and challenges of “no hometown advantage” in NYC. Brooklyn’s expansion out west to CA saw “beautiful reception” and co plans to “grow there as we have overseas…organically” and “hopefully through people liking the beer.”

Rhinegeist Truth IPA is 45% of Mix, ~45K Bbls in 2018; “Fruited Ales” are 15% and Growing  Impressively, Rhinegeist Truth IPA makes up 45% of co’s sales and continues to drive growth for co, Bryant shared. Recall, Rhinegeist grew 17% to just over 100K bbls in 2018, just its 5th year in biz. So Truth IPA alone was roughly 45K bbls last yr! Truth was top-50 craft brand in natl scan data as well, with volume up 41.5%.  Yet Bubbles and other “fruited ales” quickly became an important aspect of its growth in recent yrs. Bubbles rosé ale and Wowie fruited ale grew to become 15% of mix. And this yr co launched new Little Bubs, lower ABV sessionable variant of Bubbles. These brands came from testing in the taproom, and experimenting with cider/beer hybrid, Bryant explained. “Hops are not for everyone” and these are “unmistakably not hoppy.” Fruited ales are testament to Rhinegeist’s willingness to experiment and be “passionate” while pushing beer’s boundaries, yet “our passion stops us before entering markets like” hard seltzer or other similar segments, he noted. While some craft drinkers may be drinking hard seltzer, “craft drinkers drink for different reasons” and are primarily on “flavor journey,” he added. Seltzer doesn’t provide much variety in flavor in his view. Tho Bryant has “ton of respect” for their growth and acknowledges they’ve hit the nail on the head for drinkers lookin’ for healthier options while “getting a buzz on.” ... 

Publishing Info

  • Year: 2019
  • Volume: 10
  • Issue #: 40
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 2019 Beer Marketer's Insights Seminar

The 2019 Beer Insights Seminar will be held in New York City, on Sunday evening, November 17th to Monday, November 18th at Convene.