Advancing Asahi

Sounding quite ominous, Asahi is looking to the North American beer market for growth.  These will include acquiring brands, working with start-up companies, and entering the NA and low ABV niches of the market.  You can read more HERE.

Does it mean that they want their Stone like Sapporo does?  And follow up question, who would that be?

Just a Thought – Part 2

The destination brewery.  Is that next for L.A. ? SoCal is seeing a lot of second, third and fourth locations for breweries but the next step might be the one where you spend the day, or night.

Back in pre-Sapporo times, Stone Brewing had the idea of a Stone Hotel next to the brewery on Citricado Parkway so that visitors could spend the night travel the Hops Highway or just drink in their room if they so wished.  Obviously, that never got past grand idea stage.

But there are options that do not involve getting into the hotel business.  Glendale and Los Angeles has what could be called a wee glut of condos with ground floor retail.  Many of which just sit there vacant or have one space leased.  Putting a brewery into a space for a residency would be a better amenity for condo owners, I think.

A farmhouse brewery would be grand.  Visiting Jester King’s acreage is on my bucket list but L.A. long ago removed orange groves but maybe a garden, an actual beer garden would be an idea.

One last idea is to merge a record store with beer.  Portland has a shop where you can pick up some vinyl while also getting a beer.  This could be transposed onto bookstores or other collectibles.

Creative ways to weave beer into life are out there.

Look Back, Today

Retro. Obviously said in a Scooby Doo voice. It is usually the domain of the big breweries or even faded regionals like….

But many craft breweries have cycled through multiple branding exercises. Some better than others.  So maybe four-packs if the same beer with different logos could be something for smaller breweries to try out.

Sierra Nevada used their Pale Ale labels in such a way and I thought the effect was great.  You could also highlight the artist or PR firm that executed the design.  Or conduct a vote as to the people’s choice of design for an informal poll.  

Another OR or two here, you could have future designs as well to see which resonates with customers. Or reach into the past and design your label using a 50’s or 70’s look.

Sales Data

First, I suggest you take a quick read of Bart Watson’s take on the first half sales numbers for 2022. You can click right HERE for that.

Now what leapt out at me wasn’t so much the numbers for on premise or OpenTable reservation data but a term that was new to me, channel shift.

Now it is just a fancy way of saying that people bought beer from different places but it is quite interesting to see how the swirling will they-won’t they of Covid restrictions and lessening thereof has thrown things out of whack.

Pivoting is good and was practically required of breweries but it does making reading the tea leaves much harder. Toss in supply chain snafus and airline flight cancellations and each year becomes an unenviable sorting task for Watson.

The Latest Salvo

Hopsteiner has added to their brand line with the new “Salvo™ is an aroma extract that delivers impactful variety-specific flavor. Bittering acids have been removed to explicitly enhance flavor and aroma with little to no added bitterness.”

This part may be too inside mash tun talk but when everything is costing more nowadays, it becomes a more salient point, “Salvo™ is best used as a late kettle/whirlpool addition to partially replace leaf or pellet hops, and since Salvo™ contains no vegetative matter, our flavor extract can help mitigate beer yield loss.”

I have seen the El Dorado hop advertised as “Salvo’d” but other fruit forward hops are sure to follow.

Acres and Acres

Just a little advance hop intel…

Acreage up significantly: Strata 30%, Eureka! 28%, Azacca 19%, Chinook 18%, Cashmere 12%, Simcoe 11.5%, Amarillo 11%.

But the big movers of Citra and Mosaic are (only) growing  at  1% each. Though they still are the two most popular hop varieties in the U.S.

Next time you glance at hops used on your next IPA, which will you see?

Interview with Brian Waters of Figueroa Mountain Brewing

Last month, big beer news hit Los Angeles with Figueroa Mountain moving into manage four locations around the city previously held by Tony Yanow’s Artisanal Brewers Collective

I emailed brewer Brian Waters some questions about himself, hops and FMB in L.A.

1. What is your brewing background and history?

Before I was brewing I was working as a video editor for an online publication/events company. The company unfortunately went out of business. I freelanced for a while, but found that video editing was no longer terribly satisfying. In the meantime, my cousin received a home brew kit as a wedding gift, so he and I and his wife made a one-gallon batch of a West Coast IPA. It actually turned out pretty nice. I continued to make beer on my own until one day I saw a job posting for an assistant general manager position at a brewpub that was opening up in Hancock Park. I sent them a resume and cover letter telling them that I wasn’t interested in the AGM position but if they needed an assistant brewer I’d love the opportunity. Two weeks later the head brewer hit me up and the rest is history. I started as a draft tech and worked my way up.

2. Which brewer or brewery is your brewing role model?

That’s a question that has too many answers! We are spoiled for choice just here in LA alone. For now I’ll go with a few SoCal locals: Green Cheek, Highland Park, Enegren, Societe, and Burgeon make outstanding stuff. But there are so, so many others home and abroad that I love and whose beers I look to for inspiration. 

3. Will the Los Angeles breweries have a different guiding principle than the main brewery in Buellton? Will it be clear that beer is an L.A. brewed one vs a Buellton one?

The goal for the beer brewed in LA is the same — to brew outstanding, high-quality beer. Each of the spots will have its own flair, and will focus on producing consistent, exceptional brews. All of our bartenders will know which beers are brewed on site and which are brewed at the mothership in Buellton. 

4. How much freedom will you have to pursue seldom done styles at the Broxton R&D brewing system?

We are lucky to have the freedom to pursue whichever styles we like. However, it will always be a balance of brewing fun, experimental beer, but also brews that people are interested in drinking. We probably won’t make any grodziskie or chicha. But who knows, we may get a little out there and do something like a Kentucky Common. 

5. Is there a new hop varietal or new malt has you excited to try?

There are a few hops that I’ve had my eye on. They aren’t necessarily new, but I’ve yet to try them. HBC 586, Vista, Eclipse, and a couple of French varietals. Can’t wait to get my hands on them! 

6. Is there a beer style that to you is quintessentially L.A.?

If I had to choose only one I think I’d go with a hoppy lager. I think some of the best producers of the style are right here in town, and it’s exciting to see more and more breweries put their best versions forward. 

7. Will there be experimentation with new old world lager trends like side pours, slow pours and milky pours? And what is your take on these trends?

We are definitely going to have a couple of side pour handles at the Lagerhaus! We are super excited to take a deep dive into a style that we love. Each of those trends has their own value, and while I consider myself more of a Hladinka kind of guy, I do also really love a slow pour. 

Past Breaking News (Part 2) – West, East and Far East

How’s this for beer business water cooler talk…

Sapporo U.S.A., maker of the number one selling Asian beer brand in the United States, and Stone Brewing, one of America’s largest and most innovative craft beer brands, have reached an agreement for Sapporo U.S.A. to acquire Stone Brewing. Supporting both business’ long-term growth strategies in the U.S. market, the transaction is expected to close in August 2022. “

Could this work? Sapporo already controls Anchor and aside from can label designs that are a little plain, seem to be in the same craft brewing pecking order as they were before. But though Stone has slipped into seltzers and brand extending Buenaveza lagers, it is still primarily a hop house something Sapporo is decidedly not.

Sapporo does seem to have a California heritage brewery soft spot. Stone is a world brand despite the pullback from Berlin and having both a West Coast and East Coast brewing operation has benefits. Though if I signed on to brew at Stone and I was suddenly making Sapporo for a living, it might be stunting creatively.

For some, the past bold statements from Greg Koch and initiatives to keep craft independent will be “flip flop” fodder for semi-humorous tweets but to me…

The big question that I fall back to is that despite the relative security of a stable parent company, what happens if Stone doesn’t generate money at the clip required. What happens then? Or what if Sapporo decides five years down the road that they want out of a hyper competitive California and U.S. beer market?

As with Anchor Brewing, only time will tell if the two can work together. Maybe Sapporo, Stone and Anchor can do a Hoppy Holiday lager for Christmas.

Thoroughly Modern Maui?

The uncertainty swirling around Modern Times. Closing locations. Receivership sale rumors. All that caffeine from the roaster have led to this point where a potential buyer comes from the island.

Since this is a San Diego story, I direct you to SD Beer News for the full lowdown HERE. With any sale, you hope the new owner will be good stewards going forward. I get to see how that goes with my two favorite sports teams as Chelsea has just been sold and the Trailblazers are in the owner courting phase.

But Modern Times has hit the jackpot with Maui Brewing who are big in the industry and well respected. Now we wait again for news.

No Trappists in America

Sad brewery closing news…

Business is hard. Business mixed with religious tradition is hard. Transplanting the Trappist model into the U.S. is really hard too. Adding to the sadness is thar their beer was good, maybe leaning to American, but good. Maybe the recipes can live on with some part of the revenue going to the Abbey.