31 Aug 2009 @ 11:37 AM 

Oh, man. Is it rant time, already?

I went beer shopping this weekend; I watch a lot of tap lists in my local area. It’s clear. Fall seasonals are out, the best and worst time of the year, but also: rant time. I’m sure that at this point my friends will expect me to go on my usual Reinheitsgebot rant, but I’m not going to (no, I’m saving that for the beginning of Oktoberfest). No, this is reserved especially for fall seasonals. Why?

I think I’m the only person in the world that really -and I mean intensely – dislikes pumpkin beer. It’s an aberration. For one thing, I believe that I correctly assume that many pumpkin beers don’t actually include pumpkin, but pumpkin pie spices. In my world, pumpkin pie spices belong in one place: pumpkin pie. The flavor of solo pumpkin isn’t all that great. That’s why they load it with spices.

Not to say I don’t like pumpkin pie – I do – but I really like beer, and frankly I’d like my beer to taste like beer, not like allspice and cinnamon. The only thing I can think about is how, in the world-before-refrigeration, they used to spice the crap out of their meat so that they couldn’t taste the fact that it was rotting. Maybe it’s my over-active imagination, but you give me allspice, cinammon, and nutmeg in something that’s not pumpkin pie and I think rotting meat. So thank you, the overactive marketing machine of America, you’ve given me two months full of rotten-meat flavored beer. Awesome. That’s so great. I especially love that it’s on the shelves now, well before pumpkins are in season 90% of the country. You know that pumpkin’s got to be fresh.

Thank god there’s Oktoberfest to offset it.

Oktoberfest! That crisp, malty, lovely lager! It evokes cool fall days, the smell of fallen leaves, and chapped lederhosen! Oktoberfest! What are you doing on the shelves of my store in mid-August, a full month before Oktoberfest even begins? (Sept. 19th – Oct 4th this year. Note: it starts three days before the first day of fall, which is about when I’d expect my seasonals.) This is like how you can go into Wal-Mart on October 30th to buy Christmas decorations.

Come on, guys. Let’s not fall (a-har-har) into this trap. I know you want to be the first seasonal on the market and all, but this is a little ridiculous. When did you make this stuff? And how long is it going to sit around before being consumed by customers? How fresh can it be if it’s been sitting in my retailer for a month and a half? When did it get to the wholesaler? Yikes!

I know that seasonals, and especially fall and winter seasonals are big sellers, but bringing them out earlier and earlier really defeats the purpose of it being a seasonal. They’re working their way to being out-of-seasonals.

Here’s a challenge: Instead of pulling out the fall seasonals in the summer so that you’re the first one on the market and can have your beer sitting around on the shelves forever and ever, why not make a Late Summer Seasonal? Nobody ever said that your seasonals had to correspond exactly with The Four Seasons, but having them match the season (like a beer-food pairing) would, I think, be preferable.

Maybe I’m just a relentless advocate for small-batch brewing, but it seems to me that agility in the marketplace, to more accurately respond to consumer demand – especially when we’re talking about something like a seasonal purchase – is going to be much more important than “I got my beer there first.” It might be first out, but if I buy an Oktoberfest that’s been sitting in a retailer’s hot warehouse for 2 months and it tastes like ass, you can sure bet that I won’t be buying that one again.

Share
Tags Tags: , ,
Categories: distribution, marketing
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 31 Aug 2009 @ 11 37 AM

EmailPermalinkComments (21)
 28 Aug 2009 @ 2:15 PM 

I ran across this site today: BeerPetitions.com.

The basic idea is pretty simple: You go to this website and say My Local Bar should be carrying My Favorite Beer. This goes up on the site as a petition, and then people can go and sign it. The bar then presumably goes online, sees that people want said beer and then puts it on tap. As their copy says:

No longer will beer consumers be powerless to convince retailers to carry certain craft beers, now anyone can create a beer petition and have others sign the petition so a retailer can better understand the demand for a specific brand.

It’s an interesting idea, but I’m not sure it really stands up to reality.

To me, this site falls into the trap that a lot of computer savvy people (myself included) tend toward: that a lot of people are really connected to the internet. Yes, the U.S. has incredible internet penetration. The stats that I’ve found suggest that almost 75% of our population has internet access vs. 15% of the population in the rest of the world. However, having internet access and using the internet for something other than basic e-mail and paying your bills is entirely different. People who are really connected to the ‘net tend to forget that.

It also requires buy-in from the bar and the bar’s patrons. If you read through their About page, they give a sample of how everything’s supposed to work. Let me summarize the process. Bert is their example person in the scenario.

1. Bert finds a beer he likes in a different state.

2. Bert checks all the bars local to him to find the beer. It is not there.

3. Bert goes to his local bar and asks for the beer. The owner says, “I can’t just order a beer because you like it.”

4. Bert says, “But I can show you that other people like it, too. I will start a beer petition.” For a reason that I am unclear on, the bar owner agrees to this. Presumably, he knows Bert in some way.

5. Bert gets a bunch (30, in the example) of people to sign the petition and brings it back to the bar.

6. The bar owner says, “Wow! 30 people! I’m ordering it now!”

Here are the steps that are missing, in my mind:

7. The bar owner asks Bert, “Which of the fine beers that I am currently carrying should I take off tap?” Actually, he probably doesn’t ask Bert because what does Bert know about his sales volume? Probably he takes the beer off tap that he sells fewer than 30 pints of before the keg spoils. He should probably take that keg off tap anyway.

8. The bar owner asks the distributor that he gets all of his beer from, “Hey, do you carry this fancy beer that my patrons are asking for?”

9. The distributor says, “No, but if you put a tap of Bud Light Lime up I’ll give you some sweet tickets to the Braves game.”

… okay. Maybe I’m a little jaded.

Fact is, in a lot of cases – especially when you’re talking about out-of-state beers (like in the example on the site), the retailer may not have access to beers that the customers want because of distributor limitations. Some retailers will go far out of their way to get access to a good selection of beer, but for most establishments that’s far out of the question. After all, you can get a great deal from most large distributors on Bud and it’ll outsell most of your craft beers. If you’ve got a place that cares about what kind of beer they’re serving, chances are they’ve got their ear to the ground (and the customers) or have a good mechanism for beer suggestion, anyway. Like comment cards, or a website.

So – here’s what I like about this idea: It gives people a mechanism by which they can show retailers that there is a reasonable amount of interest in good beer. If this were a site where somebody could start a petition that says, “We want good beer at our local hangout/liquor store/dive!” that would be cool… nay.. awesome!

“We the people demand a decent beer selection!”

But to bring a petition from the internet into a sports bar that says, “35 people think your bar should carry Old Rasputin!” I think a manager would be insane to respond to that. How do they know those 35 people will come in and buy one? How do they even know that those 35 people live anywhere near their bar?

Hey, look: admin, Grote961, and webber957 all think that The Cellar Wine & Spirits in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma should have Breckenridge Brewing Co’s Summerbright Ale. Ah, well.. if Grote961 says I should have it, I’ll order right away.

This is coming off as awfully negative, and I wish it wasn’t. It’s a great idea, but I’m not convinced the time is right for the specific-brand beer petition. Bombarding a bar owner with requests for a specific beer (unless they’re inviting said requests) seems like a great way to irritate a bar owner. Trying to get craft beer sold at a lot of establishments is a challenge enough in itself. Let’s fell one giant at a time.

Share
Tags Tags: , ,
Categories: distribution, industry, marketing, media
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 28 Aug 2009 @ 07 41 PM

EmailPermalinkComments (4)

I’m not a statistician, so this is a bit of a stretch for me. But I’m posting this information because the internet is smarter than I am.

Last week, in the discussion of my post about what certain numbers (Specific Gravity, IBU, etc.) mean about your beer, the idea came up to make what amounts to a simplified statistic about beer – a way to represent, more simply, what people really want to know about their beer. It goes along with the pipe dream of having breweries print statistics about their beer on the labels.

The theory, in my mind, is that nobody wants to pick up a beer and think, “1.056 and 1.010 with 60 IBUs.. hrm… that’s pretty bitter.” Some beer geeks can do that in their heads, but a lot of people can’t, or don’t want to. On the other hand, if you could pick a beer and say, “A hoppiness rating of 92? Good heavens! That’s big!” it would be pretty cool.

So, I’ve been playing with numbers a wee bit. Mostly collecting them. I started with the BJCP Style Guidelines. I recorded the maximum and minimum stats for OG, FG, and IBUs and calculated what the average beer would look like in each style category.

For example, for English IPA the style range shows:

OG: 1.050 – 1.075
FG: 1.010 – 1.018
IBU: 40 – 60

Thus, the average English IPA would be:

OG: 1.063
FG: 1.014
IBU: 50

This is just to give a basic sample range of beers to work with that should be fairly representative of all the styles involved, though I’ve considered removing sour styles from this exercise, since Lactic Acid kind of fouls everything up on the whole, “This is what flavor you should expect” front.

I also calculated apparent attenuation for each style – finding out how much sugar has been fermented out from each on average.

(GU – FU)/GU

The Average English IPA listed above has an Apparent Attenuation of 77.60%. In other words, 77.6% of the sugar in the solution has been converted to alcohol. In reality, that’s not quite right, since alcohol is lighter than water and this is being calculated by the density of the liquid. You can ferment down to a final gravity lower than 1.000. However, for this purpose, this calculation should be good enough.

Then, I made what I’m (currently) referring to as a “hoppiness score.” It’s on the same line as a GU:BU ratio, but instead what I did is divide IBU by GU, then multiply it by 100 to give us a nice round number that we can related to instead of a decimal. The theory is that the more hops there are in comparison to original gravity, the higher this number would be. It should correspond with how hoppy the beer is. It works fairly well.

The English IPA up there would have a hoppiness score of 80. Is it an arbitrary number? Sure. Work in progress. Bear with me.

Then I applied apparent attenuation. It was noted in the discussion that the more dry a beer is, the more bitterness would be apparent to the drinker. I agree. To account for this, I multiplied the hoppiness score by the apparent attenuation. I called this “Apparent Bitterness.” I figured that the drier a beer was, the higher the apparent attenuation would be and so the closer the “Apparent Bitterness” would be to the Hoppiness Score. In the full list of styles, it does what I was hoping for and tends to give styles in which you would expect more bitterness a higher score.

Here’s the list I was working from sorted by Hoppiness Score:

Style # Style Name Hoppiness Apparent Bitterness
14C Imperial IPA 113 91
13E American Stout 88 65
13A Dry Stout 87 69
07C Dusseldorf Alt 85 64
14B American IPA 84 66
08A Ordinary Bitter 83 63
19C American Barleywine 81 63
14A English IPA 80 62
02B Bohemian Pilsner 80 56
13D Foreign Extra Stout 76 60
02A German Pilsner 74 58
08C Extra Special Bitter 74 56
08B Special Bitter 74 57
13F Russian Imperial Stout 74 55
07B California Common 74 56
10A American Pale Ale 71 54
12B Robust Porter 66 50
07A North German Alt 65 49
02C Classic American Pilsner 63 47
10B American Amber Ale 62 47
19A Old Ale 60 45
13B Sweet Stout 58 38
12A Brown Porter 58 44
13C Oatmeal Stout 58 43
10C American Brown Ale 57 43
04C Schwarzbier 55 40
11C Northern English Brown 54 42
06C Kolsch 53 43
19B English Barleywine 53 40
11A Mild 51 36
01E Dortmunder Export 51 39
16B Belgian Pale Ale 49 37
03A Vienna Lager 49 37
16C Saison 49 43
09C Scottish Export 90/- 48 35
06D American Wheat 47 37
06B Blond Ale 47 36
09B Scottish Heavy 70/- 47 31
09A Scottish Light 60/- 46 30
03B Oktoberfest 45 33
04B Munich Dunkel 44 33
09D Irish Red 43 33
11B Southern English Brown 43 28
05A Maibock/Helles Bock 43 34
12C Baltic Porter 40 29
01D Munich Helles 40 31
17C Flanders Brown 39 33
01C Premium American Lager 39 32
18C Belgian Trippel 38 32
06A Cream Ale 36 29
05B Traditional Bock 35 26
18D Belgian Golden Strong Ale 35 30
17B Flanders Red 33 29
16D Biere de Garde 33 27
18A Belgian Blond Ale 33 27
16A Witbier 31 25
05D Eisbock 30 22
18E Belgian Dark Strong Ale 30 24
01A Lite Lager 29 27
15D Roggenbier 29 22
15C Weizenbock 29 22
18B Belgian Dubbel 29 24
04A Dark American Lager 28 22
15B Dunkelweizen 28 21
09E Strong Scotch Ale 26 16
01B Standard American Lager 26 22
15A Weissbier 24 18
05C Doppelbock 23 18
17A Berliner Weisse 18 16
17D Lambic 11 9
17E Guezue 10 9

And the same chart sorted by Apparent Bitterness:

Style # Style Name Hoppiness Apparent Bitterness
14C Imperial IPA 113 91
13A Dry Stout 87 69
14B American IPA 84 66
13E American Stout 88 65
07C Dusseldorf Alt 85 64
19C American Barleywine 81 63
08A Ordinary Bitter 83 63
14A English IPA 80 62
13D Foreign Extra Stout 76 60
02A German Pilsner 74 58
08B Special Bitter 74 57
08C Extra Special Bitter 74 56
02B Bohemian Pilsner 80 56
07B California Common 74 56
13F Russian Imperial Stout 74 55
10A American Pale Ale 71 54
12B Robust Porter 66 50
07A North German Alt 65 49
02C Classic American Pilsner 63 47
10B American Amber Ale 62 47
19A Old Ale 60 45
12A Brown Porter 58 44
13C Oatmeal Stout 58 43
06C Kolsch 53 43
10C American Brown Ale 57 43
16C Saison 49 43
11C Northern English Brown 54 42
04C Schwarzbier 55 40
19B English Barleywine 53 40
01E Dortmunder Export 51 39
13B Sweet Stout 58 38
16B Belgian Pale Ale 49 37
03A Vienna Lager 49 37
06D American Wheat 47 37
06B Blond Ale 47 36
11A Mild 51 36
09C Scottish Export 90/- 48 35
05A Maibock/Helles Bock 43 34
09D Irish Red 43 33
04B Munich Dunkel 44 33
03B Oktoberfest 45 33
17C Flanders Brown 39 33
18C Belgian Trippel 38 32
01C Premium American Lager 39 32
01D Munich Helles 40 31
09B Scottish Heavy 70/- 47 31
18D Belgian Golden Strong Ale 35 30
09A Scottish Light 60/- 46 30
06A Cream Ale 36 29
12C Baltic Porter 40 29
17B Flanders Red 33 29
11B Southern English Brown 43 28
16D Biere de Garde 33 27
01A Lite Lager 29 27
18A Belgian Blond Ale 33 27
05B Traditional Bock 35 26
16A Witbier 31 25
18E Belgian Dark Strong Ale 30 24
18B Belgian Dubbel 29 24
15D Roggenbier 29 22
04A Dark American Lager 28 22
15C Weizenbock 29 22
05D Eisbock 30 22
01B Standard American Lager 26 22
15B Dunkelweizen 28 21
15A Weissbier 24 18
05C Doppelbock 23 18
09E Strong Scotch Ale 26 16
17A Berliner Weisse 18 16
17E Guezue 10 9
17D Lambic 11 9

It’s not quite right, but it’s definitely headed in the right direction. I would love to hear from anybody who has different ideas on how to represent these numbers, and you can damn well bet that I’ll be posting more as I fiddle around with math.

Maltiness coming soon, it’s a lot more challenging.

[Head on over to Part 2]

Share
Tags Tags: , , ,
Categories: appreciation, industry, marketing, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 08 Oct 2009 @ 07 32 AM

EmailPermalinkComments (6)
 24 Aug 2009 @ 9:50 AM 

One of the most bizarre parts of starting a brewery is planning that’s far away from buildings, business plans, or venture capital, and it’s probably one of the most important decisions that you can possibly make: What kind of beer do you make first?

It’s vital. It’s the beer that first defines your brand to customers; it’s the beer that will most likely, but not necessarily, be with you for the entirety of your existence.
The ubiquitous sampler.

So, how do you decide? Do you want a session beer that people can drink a lot of? Something big and memorable that people won’t drink a lot of? Do you want to make an incredibly popular style and subject yourself to a ton of competition? Or make a hard-to-get style and hope that people will go out of their way to try it? What’s more – is there a way to balance all of these considerations?

A few years ago, when I took Siebel Insitute’s inaugural Start Your Own Brewery course, one of the largest things I took away from it was Jason Ebel of Two Brothers Brewing Company and Windy City Distribution saying something like, “If you’re trying to sell a porter, for the love of god, don’t even bother calling me. Everybody’s got a friggin’ porter.”

When I was shopping at Whole Foods this weekend, I took a stroll through the beer section and noticed that 75% or more of the beers that they had in there were IPAs or APAs.

In one panel at the Craft Brewers Conference this year, I remember a slide (wish I had a reference for you, but I don’t) noting specifically that most customers expected and wanted to see a stout on tap at their brewpub, but that it was continually the lowest-selling beer on tap.

A study by the BA in 2002 (which I can no longer find, so you’ll have to trust my AWESOME memory) suggested that craft beer drinkers who said they had a favorite beer drank that beer, on average, once per month. So on some level, all of this is subject to whim, no matter what.

It all seems like crazy conflicting information? So how do you deal with it?

For me, it’s been a weird process of elimination. I started by looking at the beers that I like. It is my personal feeling that a flagship should be with a brewery as long as possible, as a strong part of their brand definition. With that in mind, it had better damn well be a beer that I enjoy since I’m going to be the one around it most.

I cut it down to beers for which I had already made recipes that I enjoyed, so that I could then work on perfecting those recipes over the next few years as I work on the nuts and bolts of the rest of the startup … you better believe I have a beer in my hand every time I work on my business plan.

That left me with a half dozen beers to choose from. I eliminated the really high gravity stuff with the thought that I would prefer if people bought a lot of my first product, and the best way to get people to buy a consumable product is to make sure they consume it.

That left me with three. One of which I eliminated because it involved an herb that I thought would be a tough sell out of the gate.

That leaves me with an IPA and a Porter.

Tough sell.

Of course, I’m still early on in the process – it all may change in time, especially as I develop new recipes that I – and others – like.

But what about others?

Beer drinkers: What are you most likely to try from a new brewery?

Breweries: How did you arrive at your final decision for your flagship?

Other startups: How are you approaching this process?

Share
Tags Tags: , , , ,
Categories: distribution, industry, marketing, startup
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 24 Aug 2009 @ 09 58 AM

EmailPermalinkComments (20)

Short and sweet today. I’ve had a few requests for the recipes I’ve made up recently, so I’m taking a step outside my normal crank rambling about beer, internet, and industry to talk homebrew.
Basil, my good man! What what?
I give you two recipes: Basil Wheat and Lavender-Pepper Saison. I brew all-grain, so that’s what you get for recipes.

I have no claims about them. They haven’t won any prestigious prizes or anything crazy like that (though feel free to enter them in whatever competition – I don’t do that stuff), they were purely experimental on my end and have turned out great.

You can use these recipes with the following stipulations:

  • If you make it, let me know how you like it (or let me try some of yours!).
  • If you make any changes that improve the recipe, please let me know so that I can try it.
  • If you happen to win a prize, you owe me a beer.

Cheers!

Share
Tags Tags: ,
Categories: homebrew
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 21 Aug 2009 @ 07 00 AM

EmailPermalinkComments (38)
\/ More Options ...
Change Theme...
  • Users » 130203
  • Posts/Pages » 204
  • Comments » 2,674
Change Theme...
  • HopsHops « Default
  • BarleyBarley

About



    No Child Pages.

Shirts



    No Child Pages.

Tour



    No Child Pages.