I just saw this article through Flipboard and wanted to link it here so I can review it when I'm in Portland again. I was at the Craft Brewers Conference in April, 2015 and when attending a CBC you are very busy and can't explore a city the way you'd like. However, we did get to many places and I loved the town and plan on returning. Anyway, here's the link to 20 Portland Brewpubs with a map.
Our first Goose Island Bourbon County Stout Black Friday was pretty calm with only a couple of small lines that I experienced. First stop was Plaza Liquors where a small group of guys got in just before opening because they were waiting for the store to open. Got my own 4 pk of 2 bottles of the stout and 2 of the barleywine (limit).
Now it's 10:10am and headed downtown to World of Beer and the opening and release at 11am. We entered the bar at 10:30 and sat at the bar and we got the first pours while people started filling up the bar area. The video below shows that calm atmosphere.
The next stop was at 4:00 pm at Tap n Bottle for their opening and release party. We arrived about 20 minutes late and the bar was already full but they still had plenty of the black goodness. I talked to Scott and Rebecca, the owners, and they said there was a small line out front which was nice to see. Heh, so there are a few more people than what I thought in Tucson that love their exclusive craft beer releases. The distributor's Goose Island promo crew was there adding to the event and make it a success.
I think that if Goose Island and other breweries do special releases on Black Friday that we can have some major celebrations at stores and bars and a greater awakening of what is going on with craft beer during the holiday season. Currently, the supermarkets give most of their floor space to liquor gift set displays and ignore beer. Plus, the beer segment has been losing consumers to spirits and wine lately especially during the holiday season.
At this time of year the best beers are released by brewers and there is almost no fanfare except from the marketing the small brewer can come up with and usually that's not so good. If this is organized as a vehicle to promote all of our great beers then we can grow distribution in non traditional retail segments. The more on premise and independent liquor store activity caused by special releases the greater chance the grocery chain segment will open shelf space for higher priced craft beers. If the Brewer's Association could get these brewers to release on a regular basis on key holiday dates during the year they could overcome the objections they experience when trying to increase craft beer selection in grocery segment. We have almost 3,000 craft breweries that are looking for outlets for their best beers...they will brew more if the opportunity to sell is there. So, Brewers Association get moving on organizing these brewers to own specific times of the year which increases awareness and long lines for beer.
Congratulations to Rebecca and Scott, the owners of the Tap n Bottle for their 3rd place finish in the Mountain West district of the Great American Beer Bar competition. I was very happy to see that so many Tucson craft beer drinkers agreed with me and voted for Tap n Bottle. Scott and Rebecca overcame many obstacles to open their place and Tucson is grateful for their perseverance. Tucson craft beer scene needed a place that was about having a great, quality beer selection without personal bias.If you haven't met Scott and Rebecca when you are there just walk up to them and introduce yourself, they are very friendly and easy to get along with. Their place has a very good bottle selection and they are expanding beer and wine as they move forward. You can see their location and menu here, Tap n Bottle. Their tap selection changes regularly and has many exclusive limited edition releases from breweries. I know my distributor now orders those special beers with Tap n Bottle in mind and if the other distributors have half a mind they are doing the same thing. So, as a result of that you can depend upon Scott and Rebecca to have a great new limited beer on tap that you can't buy in a bottle in stores. That's the beauty of their business model; it changes its selections of draft beer to their customers on a regular basis of high quality and exclusive beers while maintaining a bottle selection of many quality beers that will be there for your return visits.
Below is my first attempt of a video using my phone camera and an app so it's not all that great but you can get an idea of the place immediately after opening on a Wednesday. Did someone say a more stable picture would be nice? Answer: I hadn't had a beer yet so excuse me.
Recently the Brewer's Association released a Craft vs. Crafty article with a list of the non-craft breweries that pass themselves off as being a craft brewery. I was surprised how the list had morphed to a level of high beer snobbery. I was happy to read August Schell Brewery response in which he reminds them of August Schell's traditional craft brewing roots and his contribution to beer. I also liked Terrapin Beer Company's response via John Cochran. He does a great job of educating readers just like Jace Marti from August Schell did.
The current leaders of the BA seem to be so intense on defending who they are that they forget why they're here and what the real goal is. Isn't the real goal here to brew great beer that the public will enjoy and return to buy more? And aren't they doing that which is evidenced by their awesome growth? And aren't there so many new small breweries and brewpubs opening that virtually every beer drinker will be exposed to "craft" beers and no doubt will sample a few in the very near future?
With a yes to all of those questions, it seems to me that they are winning a few battles and headed in the right direction but now want to veer off course by playing judge over other breweries that all started small and become large but way the hell before this revolution. These older brewers built their successful brewery at a time when there wasn't a boom in buying different beers...they did it while there was a boom in going lighter. To me that means they deserve to be held up higher in regards to their effort and longevity. So why throw stones at your pioneers? What do you accomplish with this list?
Now, here is where I would have led the BA instead of attacking brewers. Attacking competition is probably always a tactic that brings negative results from the public and positive sales is always a great strategy for increasing shelf space in stores. I like going positive, I like the idea of meeting with buyers of supermarket chains and showing them what they are missing out on. They have have a decent selection of low to high priced wine and liquors so why do they not offer the same for their beer customers? Why do they want to have those customers go to a different store to buy those beers? Solution selling works. You then ask for a section craved out on the warm shelf along with locations for beer racks in order to offer customers the "Limited Edition" releases, the 4 packs, and the regular extreme 750ml that is bottled by breweries.
IRI Supermarket data last year revealed that a strategy of cutting back on American premium beers and giving more cold shelf space to the craft beer segment resulted in lower overall beer category sales in those stores. Why would that be the result? Because they still didn't increase the different styles of beers they just added more 6 packs and 12 packs of the sames styles from different breweries. That would be the equivalent of expanding your wine selection by adding more mid-priced wines instead more varieties of high priced wines...makes no sense because your just dividing the same dollar into more companies. What you want are the dollars that are somewhere else.
Thus by the BA working to increase public exposure through retailers and creating success for them they become the heroes of their business and not the finger pointing judges. The public has a greater selection at more stores and thus there is more shelf space for all of those new production breweries. Ans once the warm shelf sales increase more coolers are added in order to increase profitability. If you don't believe that can happen then go in the latest store model offered by Whole Foods. Lets get retailers on that program and the public will make the choice.
Above is the video for The National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) “What’s Hot in 2013” survey of more than 1,800 professional chefs – members of the American Culinary Federation (ACF). They broke the trends down into segments and one was Alcohol trends for 2013. If you don't want to go to the article I've added the list below:
The top 10 drink menu trends for 2013 will be:
1. Onsite barrel-aged drinks
2. Food-liquor/cocktail pairings
3. Culinary cocktails (e.g. savory, fresh ingredients)
4. Micro-distilled/artisan liquor
5. Locally produced spirits
6. Locally sourced fruit/berries/produce
7. Beer sommeliers/Cicerones
8. Regional signature cocktails
9. Beer-based cocktails
10. Locally produced beer
Rounding out the top 20 hot drink menu trends for 2013 are:
11. Food beer/pairings/beer dinners
12. Salt (e.g. flavored, smoked, regional)
13. House-made lemonade/soft drinks/tonics
14. Cask beer/ale
15. Wine on tap/draft wine
16. Organic cocktails
17. Cocktails on tap
18. Craft beer
19. Signature cocktails
I'm scratching my head over these trends; after reading them it's obvious to me that Tucson, AZ is not trendy in cocktails at all. My wife and friends only eat out at the best restaurants and they're not on board with some of these drink trends; they do the salt thing though. I wonder who from the NRA will tell them (sarcasm). My area of expertise in this list is in beer and I see again that locally produced beer is on the list at number 10 but craft beer is at number 18 with Cask beer/ale at number 14. Who were these bartenders? Where are they from? Have they heard that locally produced beer is usually craft beer or did they want to include Miller when in Milwaukee; Coors when in Golden; Anheuser-Busch when in St. Louis?
My experience with cask beer has been very limited because it isn't supplied on a regular basis; expensive, doesn't travel well, not often produced...so I add those 3 points up and I don't know how you can get to trend status. I also love number seven, beer sommeliers/cicerones. When did these people become menu drink trends? I know the program is growing and that's great for the beer industry but its not a drink menu item nor is it growing all that fast. We have one certified cicerone in Tucson and he works in my department and Tucson bars and restaurants don't really care all that much that we have one; it's nice.
Number eleven, food/beer dinners are growing in Tucson, yea! We are somebody after all. And having these pairing dinners is educating the restaurants on selecting beers for their menus that actually go with their food. However, that's not happening fast enough, we have some stragglers. I was with a sales rep earlier this week sampling an Italian restaurant chef/manager some beer for possibly replacing another beer on draft. I started with an expensive saison and poured it into the proper glassware all the time discussing the beer's attributes and I had studied their menu ahead of time so I named what dishes the saison would go with and even explained about creating the experience of beer and food as a piece of art that customers would come back to enjoy. The bartender loved it but the chef/manager didn't like the flavor and even though he agreed about the dining experience it could create he didn't want the beer because he didn't like it.
That's why I'm not impressed when the NRA releases these so called trends, somebody forgot to tell the owners/managers of restaurants about how these trends make money. This chef was more concerned that the beer be local or from a neighboring state then the dining experience the beer would create with his food, ugghhh! Local beers have been on the trends list before and so a restaurant asks only to sample local beers for a draft beer selection without understanding what local beer styles would work with their menu or that there isn't a local beer that will work with his menu. This chef liked IPA's so something without that flavor didn't really appeal to him. I ask him, do the beer drinkers consume more at the bar or during a dinner at the table and the answer was during dinner and he goes on that two of his selections aren't selling well right now. Hello McFly! That's because they don't go with his food.
Anyways, back to the trends list, the list is fun to read and I'm sure to compile however the depth of the trends is lacking because their needs to be more on the how, why, and $$$$$. I think putting a continued emphasis on beer/food pairing dinners, beer/cheese pairing vs. wine, and beer with just desserts as a special event is where the NRA should point it's members if they really want to help them create more loyal patrons that spend more than what they planned to spend when there. My experience is that the chefs learn more when they do these types of events rather then reading about it in NRA published materials.
When I left off in the post below, I was complaining about the lack of extreme beers in non-traditional independent liquor stores and convenience stores and that I usually have to drive out of my way to Total Wine and More to find the beer that I want. Now, I will address the strategy that I believe regional and and national craft brewers should employ to counter losing draft beer placements and store shelf space to local breweries and instead expand the amount of shelf space.
As this great expansion of breweries continues we notice a lot of local brewery beers showing up at even our traditional watering holes that had not embraced craft beer until recently. And the beer styles we see at those places are the traditional styles such as Pale, IPA, Amber Ale, Wheat, and Porter. All good styles that each brewer has in his arsenal of beers. The big guys sell them and the small guys sell them. However, the local brewers are now getting more and more draft beer placements with their traditional beer styles over the regional craft breweries. What does that leave the larger brewer?
Not too much unless they large brewer has a line of limited edition and extreme beers then they can get some rotator draft beer placements. The rotation draft handles are fine for these beers because the brewers are changing from one to another so this strategy can actually be more profitable than trying to battle head to head with local brewers using traditional craft beer styles as evidenced by this video from BeerCam: Beer Bar Dreams Made Real at Mission Dolores
That is on-premise not off-premise but the craft beer sales trends of on-premise gravitate to the off-premise over a period of time depending on the area of the country that you live in. Some regions have a faster growing craft beer segment and in those areas the trends developed in on-premise move quickly to the off-premise segment...if they didn't then why do we have large box liquor stores with huge selections of all beer styles?
Therefore, because I live in a region where draft beer is rotated at many bars and the beers are usually extreme beers, I believe the regional craft brewers need to make a bigger push with limited edition and extreme beers to counter losing draft beer handles and shelf space to local brewers. The sooner they begin using the "solution selling method" to independent stores by referring to on-premise trends and successes of big box liquor stores the better growth those regional craft brewers will have of their traditional beers by getting more shelf space at new off-premise stores.
Which then solves my problem of having to drive out of my way to find the beers that I want. Hell, last week I rode with a sales rep and made a placement of Odell Pondhopper at a non-traditional store and then came back and bought some just to make the point to the store owner. Once the store sells through the Pondhopper, I will have the sales rep place another limited or extreme beer in the store and the sales will give the store owner the confidence to continue building his assortment of beers. As customers we can sometimes be quick to boycott a store if we don't like something they do so lets turn it around start asking for our favorite beers to be carried in the stores in order to get what we want.
Friday afternoon after busting butt and enduring corporate culture for a week at work, its now time for some of my favorite beers. Where are my choices for buying those flavorful creations culminating from the intercourse of science and art? Not anywhere near me. The 64 million dollar question is why? Isn't this category improving double digits every year?
However, either more retail stores and bars haven't embraced the idea or they aren't aware of the great success that's going on with the craft beers plus the extreme craft beers and the increased customer traffic and sales from having a larger beer selection. Again, why? I happen to have some inside knowledge on this phenomenon. You see working in the industry at a large wholesaler and talking to many craft brewers and craft brewery market reps places me in a position to see some holes in sales strategy.
The first point of this and why this is part one of a series is my greatest pet peeve, under-trained brewery market reps. Having worked with brewer reps in my work history I was always struck by their lack of actual sales knowledge and today I sometimes sit in on sales rep interviews at work and I interview sales reps from corporations that were effected by the recession and were laid off that know much more about selling than any craft brewery rep. Professional sales/market people really need to have a complete knowledge of solution selling and the consultative selling process but if you talk about it to a craft brewery rep today they either tell you it doesn't work or that what they're doing is just fine.
And that comment from them and their view isn't that far off because of where they go fishing is always at the best and favorite fishing holes so you don't need to explain what is going on in the craft beer industry. In that type of fishing they have to compete head to head with competitive craft brewery reps and win the retailer over to their brand. Their focus is more on branding than solution selling which limits their ability to fish outside of their favorite fishing holes, they don't have the right lures in their tackle box.
Is it the brewery reps fault? Not entirely, I've been at craft beer conferences and heard two different presentations on training your craft brewery rep and I left both shaking my head. The first one said just give their sales reps a small amount of basic sales training and focus on product knowledge and the ability to discuss their beers. Great, they should be able to talk about beers as well as they can discuss the great encounter with a customer they met the night before, however there is a reason why they need to be able to discuss their beers and that's to be able to explain to the retailer why those beers are a solution for the retailer. Old fashioned solution selling works with all customers!
The second presentation on training craft brewery reps was more inclusive of all of the duties and procedures but still didn't dive into the proper sales training. Plus, he made the comment that it takes a year for a new brewery rep to be running at full speed. OMG! I can only imagine the yelling and screaming if we told our suppliers that the reason your sales are down is that we have a new sales rep in the area and it'll take a year to get him running at full speed, ridiculous. I never see a trainer with these new people after the first two weeks. They do what they think is best to try and increase sales without further direction from the craft brewer. If you're a craft brewer with regional or national sales, you need a trainer that travels to the markets to train on-the-job.
As you can see there is a basic problem in increasing the number of retail sales outlets that sell craft beer. You have a bad habit of blaming the big brewers on why that's happening but the truth is the craft brewers are not in tune with selling beer just brewing it. There's a reason A-B can produce a Brewmaster's Project 12 variety 12pk. and get vast distribution in chain convenience stores and supermarkets; solution selling from an expert with a distribution network that is trained in solution selling.
So the challenge is having brewer/owners understand that they aren't fishing everywhere they can because they don't train their people in being able to do that. If you get a chance to see an ad from a craft brewer for a sales/market rep in a territory notice the job duties or expectations and they don't include anything like what I'm describing, and that is expanding distribution to non-traditional craft beer accounts which is why I have to drive so far to buy them. As a result. I love Total Wine and More and local independent liquor stores but I have to drive too far.
Next, regional and national craft breweries trying to increase distribution without being pushed out of the market by local craft breweries.
The headline from R & D Mag on line leads one to believe that scientists will be able to extend the shelf life of all beer through new material which would probably send all of the purists running to their shrinks because they keep wetting their pants over this new technology. However, what the article is about is new material used in the making of plastic bottles for beer by CRANN in partnership with SAB Miller.
Many of you might remember all of the purist uproar on the quality of beer in cans not too long ago and how according to Ray Daniels and Jim Koch there is a taste difference with cans. Can you imagine what would happen if one craft brewer were to use plastic? I think plastic is not the proper container for beer no matter what they do with it, I don't like it for any liquid because of the chemicals that might leak into the liquid. I am astounded that SAB Miller is trying to improve a poor package instead of improving their brewing methods so they don't have to advertise the size of the bottle or can opening to pour from.
What about cans and beer quality? After Jim Koch and Ray Daniels did their little twitter act about can quality I was suspicious that Ray was coming out as a favor to Jim in order to help Jim convince his stockholders there is a reason that he's not going to can his beer.
So, I contacted George Reisch, Masterbrewer at A-B, on can quality because I've talked to brewery people during A-B tours in the past about the canning process and what I was told and saw led me to believe that the quality is even better in a can. George confirmed my thoughts and we discussed oxygen levels as probably being the only problem and he said that the levels are only very slightly higher than in a bottle and will not make a difference in the taste of the beer. And because the can keeps out ALL light it is actually a better package than bottles and you can point to kegs as an example of quality in a dark environment. He also mentioned that people could argue that kegs aren't a great package because of some of the plastic or rubber parts that come in contact with the beer even though the effect is nothing.
The key to cans is how you consume it. He told me to pour filtered water halfway to the top in two large mason jars. Seal one of the jars and then place a can of beer in the other jar and seal it. Leave them on a counter overnight and see the difference the next day. The jar with just water will look the same but the jar with the can of beer in it will have dark water which is all of the dirt, dust, and bacteria coming off the outside of the can.
There is nothing written that bottles won't do the same thing so might want to try that test with a bottle and place it so the crown is underwater. Bottles allow more air into them after time than cans and try an import that's been on the shelf for a while and notice that wonderful flavor. The best way to enjoy beer is to pour into the proper glass with the correct amount of foam so as to consume it the way the brewer intended it to be enjoyed. You can see a video on it here, http://craftbeerplaces.ning.com/page/resources
Barleybomber: an apologetic for those that derive the heavenly sweetness of malt from barley and a BOMBER of those that speak out against this good in any form. Homebrewer, former bar owner, beverage sales trainer at a wholesaler. My opinions are not the opinions of my employer. Follow on twitter @barleybomber and facebook: Burt Nehmer.