Friday, April 11, 2008

Post #100! WOOHOO!!! LET'S PARTY!

Yeah. Uh. Post #100. Big f-in deal, you say. I hear ya. But, I gotta say, when I started doing this last August, I never imagined it would get to 100 posts. Why? Well, because I'm kinda lazy (you did notice that the post didn't get posted until mid-morning today, right? Yeah. Well, after drinking 3 pints of water within 10 minutes of waking up because of those APAs last night - pretty much points out the fact that A) I was in no condition to write this post last night [remember, the whole "lazy" thing? Add to that the lesson learned "don't write about drinking beer while actually drinking beer"], and B) I wasn't in much better condition early this morning).

So, here we are, post #100. Some awesome stuff coming up in the near future. Our next Brewery Profile is in the works - and I'm really excited about it. We have an interview next week with Lucy Saunders, beer-cook extraordinaire. Wha? Beer? Cook? mmmmm.... We interviewed her about her upcoming beer and cheese tasting at Fromagination (fruit ales and mixed-milk cheese). So, that's coming up next week. Spring has sprung, so they say, and we will be putting up some reviews of those spring-time weizens and wheat ales, and pale ales.

2007 Total US BreweriesIn the meantime, the Brewers Association has released some of its statistics on the craft beer industry. Some pretty exciting stuff - assuming of course, you geek-out about statistics like I do. Did someone say r-squared? dirty to me. Ummm... yeah, hi, I'm back. Sorry. Where was I? Right. Statistics. Well, as you can see from that little pie-chart (see? beer. pie. the food connection is laid bare at last!) on the left there, pretty interesting, don't you think? The most interesting part of it that I see is that bigger-than-50% chunk labeled "brewpub." We know how the state of Wisconsin defines brewpub. But, how does "the industry" define it?
Brewpub: A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar. The beer is often dispensed directly from the brewery's storage tanks. Where allowed by law, brewpubs often sell beer "to go" and /or distribute to off site accounts. Note: BA re-categorizes a company as a microbrewery if its off-site (distributed) beer sales exceed 75 percent.
So, rather than focus on how many barrels per year a brewery produces, like the state of Wisconsin, the industry focuses instead on what percentage of beer is sold on-site versus off-site. This seems like a far better metric to define a brewpub. For instance, you could be as big as you like, but as long as your on-site sales don't exceed 25% of your total sales of beer, you are not a brewpub. This would allow breweries like Tyranena or Lakefront or Milwaukee Ale House to have small restaurant facilities without being labeled a "brewpub" and falling under the brewpub laws.

Anyway, what this pie-chart shows us is that over 50% of all of the breweries in the United States sell greater than 25% of their beer on-site. In raw numbers this is pretty astounding. That means that there is a lot of local beer out there. Breweries that are representin' their blocks, yo. Breweries where the only way to get their beer is to walk in the front door and order it from a bartender. Breweries that are literally serving their communities. In the interest of full disclosure, however, if you look at the list of all of the breweries in the United States, you will find that some brewpubs are chains where each member of the chain is considered a separate brewery.

Even despite this, the sales of beer from brewpubs represent less than 9% of the craft beer sold in the United States and less than .35% of all beer sold. In fact, all craft beer only represents 3.79% of the beer sold in the United States. Last year there were 211,489,982 barrels of beer sold. 96.21% of it was sold by 43 of the 1449 breweries in the United States. In other words, 3% of the nation's breweries account for over 95% of the nation's beer. This, to me, seems to show a huge opportunity.

2007 Growth RatesIn fact, last year the craft beer segment grew an astounding 12%. This is compared with 1.4% growth by those other 43 breweries and 1.4% growth for imports. Of course, 12% of next-to-nothing is still next-to-nothing. But, as we saw above, there's a lot of room for growth. Given the fact that the whole industry is only expanding by 1.4% (coincidentally, only .5% higher than the population growth of the United States), we can safely assume that the industry has reached its saturation point. There are approximately 211.5 million barrels of beer that can be sold in the United States most of which (96% actually) is nothing more than liquid marketing. There's no reason why all of it can't be sold by quality breweries serving their local communities.

By the way, of local note: 3 of the 50 largest breweries in the United States are in Wisconsin (Miller, Minhaas, and New Glarus) - one of which doesn't even distribute outside of the state. 2 of the 50 largest craft breweries are in Wisconsin (New Glarus and Capital). You'll notice Leinenkugel's is nowhere to be seen - you would find them represented in Miller Brewing Company's number.


  1. Jeff, thanks for the update. Isn't the Minhas brewery a foreign owned brewery? THought it was a Canadian company or family that owned it...

  2. Damn you Lucy! Now my interest is piqued. I went out to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions because my presumption was that even though Ravinder Minhas IS a Canadian (his background is in petroleum), I thought that he would have formed a US/Wisc. company for brewing purposes.

    Turns out that isn't exactly correct. Minhas is owned by Mountain Crest SRL, which appears to be a BARBADOS-based company. So, it looks like that not only does buying Minhas Brewery beers line the pockets of the Canadians, but they may be sending the money through off-shore accounts.

    And, that means, just because of your innocuous question, I'm going to have to do a lot of research and figure out what the heck is going on here.

  3. I am not sure Minhas should be classified as a "Craft" brewery, despite it's name. They really are brewing the cheapest alcohol delivery mechanism possible. I see Mountain Creek for $1.50 a can almost everywhere and a case of it is $6.99 in some places. At twenty-nine cents a can in case lots it is 1/3 the cost of bottled water.

    The Lazy Mutt is almost as execrable a brew as the orange goo that Burghoff put out in the same brewhouse and called a "Belgian Wit".

    When I hear the name Minhas, quality craft beer doesn't come to mind. What does come to mind is that they ought to sell the stuff in a wide-mouth bottle and supply a paper bag to wrap it in while drinking it sitting on the curb.

    They certainly sell a lot of the stuff, however. They get the coveted "Mickie's of the Midwest" award, with no real competition.

  4. I'm inclined to agree with Mr. Anonymous here. Assuming the word implies some sort of minimal quality threshold, Minhas is about as close to "craft" beer as Boone's Farm is to Bordeaux.

    Congratulations on the 100 posts, and thanks for all of the effort! Your site is a wonderful resource.

  5. Hate to see you folks stumbling around in the dark. Mountain Crest is owned by the Minhas family in Calgary (actually the father started the company). They originally contract brewed to Huber and eventually bought the brewery. They sell cheap discount beer in Canada, however prices have risen due to a higher tax regime (based upon production). Canadian market share is declining due to higher price, consistent lousy quality and better priced competitive entries by the major brewers. I will leave my comments on quality to your team...enough said. cheers

  6. ALL and any beer brewed by Minhas "Craft" brewery (ha ha) is disgusting. Seriously. If anyone has tried it, they ought to know. And i live right here in Monroe, Wisconsin, and I've had it right after it's been brewed. So, no chance of being "stale" (that they could blame it on). It's just outright disgusting. And Ravinder is a "hinder". That a-hole. He employs people for s**t money and sells his beer and you're 100% right - makes a ton of money and strains the dough through his (and his a-hole Dad's) offshore accounts in the Barbados. No one with any taste would even buy that disgusting putrified liquid he tries to pass off as beer.


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