Friday, March 30, 2012

I'll Bet You're Wrong. I was.

My latest issue of the Modern Brewery Age newsletter arrived via email last Friday. It's a ridiculous subscription, but as I have been getting more into the business of breweries, it has become a surprisingly invaluable and useful resource.

In any event, one of the useful features is the statistics that Pete drops into each issue. For example, in this past newsletter he looked at the Top 50 Craft Packages, Year to Date Ending 2/19/2012.

Not surprisingly, the top of the list is dominated by three breweries: Sam Adams, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium; these three occupy all 12 of the Top 12 packages (Sam Adams Boston Lager 12pk is #1 with almost $4mil in sales on that package alone year-to-date).

There is only 1 package on the list from a Wisconsin brewery. Would you like to guess what it is? A "package" is, roughly, any bottled product available for retail sale. So, what do you think?

New Glarus Spotted Cow 6pk? Nope. That was my guess.
New Glarus Spotted Cow case? Nope. That was my second guess.
At this point, I was guessing almost anything else: Supper Club, Point, etc.

But the real answer? New Glarus Assorted 6pk. At number 50 on the list of the Top 50 nationally with a little over $419K in sales year-to-date.

The range of the Top 50 - under $500K in 2 months to over $3mil in 2 months - is pretty interesting to me. Sam Adams has 3 packages with over $3mil in sales for 2 months! Sierra Nevada is the only other craft brewery with 1. And New Belgium only has one package over $2mil in sales. This is pretty telling on not only the difference in scale from a National brand like Sam Adams, or even Sierra Nevada and New Belgium, to a local/regional craft like New Glarus. New Glarus is the only brewery on the list that is not available in multiple states. Also, there were 15 "Assorted", "Variety", or "Seasonal" packages (both 6pk and 12pk) in the Top 50.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Bet You're Wondering There's Been So Little Posting

Well, much of the MBR staff is gearing up, in one way or another, for the Second Annual Madison Craft Beer Week. To date there are over 150 events registered for the week and we still have over a month before the thing even starts.

So, check it out. Get excited - there are lots of cool things going on this year. And, if you're particularly interested in things like cask ale (and, really, who isn't?) - come on out to the Kick-Off Celebration and Cask Ale Festival.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Press Release Wednesday - Sixpoint Brewing

Read below, but lots of connections between Brooklyn NY's Sixpoint Brewing and Wisconsin.

------------START PRESS RELEASE---------------------


Brooklyn-Based Sixpoint Brewery Makes its Launch in the Home State of its Founder

March 12th, 2012, BROOKLYN, NY — Sixpoint Brewery, whose motto is “Beer Is Culture,”
will begin distribution in Wisconsin this month. The brewery was founded seven years ago
in Brooklyn, New York by Shane Welch, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison
and native of the Milwaukee area. With an increasing variety of draft beers and core flavors in
distinctive, 16 oz. cans, the brewery is excited to spread its heritage to Wisconsin.
In its short history, Sixpoint has grown to become one of the most well-received breweries in
the Northeast. Founded in a converted garage in Brooklyn, the brewery has produced more
than 200 styles of beer, with new limited-release beers circulating frequently. Sixpoint beers
are available at some of New York City’s finest restaurants, such as Gramercy Tavern, The
Spotted Pig and Momofuku restaurant group. The brewery has also spawned distinct, ongoing
beer series such as the Mad Scientists series, a bi-monthly release of innovative brews, and the
Spice of Life single hop varietal series.

Just one year ago, the brewery grew from its draft-only format to introduce 16 oz. cans of its
core flavors. Now with five year-round flavors in cans, including the 12 oz. strong ale Resin, and
four seasonal beers in cans as well as on draft, Sixpoint beers are more portable and visible
than ever. With terrific ratings for its numerous seasonal and core beer offerings on sites such
as Beer Advocate and RateBeer, the brewery has cultivated a widespread community of fans
from all over the world.

Sixpoint is ecstatic to offer its beers in the state that inspired its founder’s passion for craft beer.
Prior to founding Sixpoint, Shane Welch began homebrewing as a college student extensively,
and cut his teeth apprenticing at the Angelic Brewery (now closed) in Madison.

“All of the core Sixpoint beer recipes are extensions of my original homebrew recipes. These
are the beers I invented while brewing in my basement on Vilas Avenue in Madison,” remarked
Welch. “This literally defines grassroots. Starting with just an idea and passion in your
basement, then moving to a pressure cooker like New York and making it work, and then finally
coming home to share it with your friends and family in your native state. I can’t wait to buy
people some pints of Sixpoint!”

Sixpoint will be distributed throughout Wisconsin by Beechwood Distributors, based in New

“We are very much looking forward to representing Sixpoint beers in Wisconsin! They have
obviously been very successful in NYC and the east coast, and that success has created a pent
up demand and anticipation here,” said Dave Cartwright of Beechwood. “[The beers] are all
extremely drinkable while also being very flavorful and interesting. I am personally really looking
forward to trying some of the amazing limited edition beers they produce and hear so much

“I am thrilled to have Sixpoint’s great lineup of beers join the wide selection of craft beers
available in Wisconsin,” added Jayme Nawrocki, Vice President of Beer Barons Milwaukee

New and old friends of the brewery can join in the excitement at numerous launch events
throughout the state. Seasonal varieties such as Harbinger Saison will be featured at upcoming
events for Milwaukee Beer Week in late April and Madison Beer Week in early May.
About Sixpoint Brewery:

Sixpoint Brewery was born out of an 800 square foot garage in Brooklyn, New York City in 2004
by homebrewer Shane Welch, who had amassed over 1000 individual homebrew recipes. The
brewery’s name is derived from the ancient six-pointed brewers’ star, which had symbolically
adorned the walls and equipment of ancient breweries since at least the Medieval period.
Sixpoint’s motto is “Beer is Culture” to highlight the human trajectory — the earliest human
civilizations were founded upon the cultivation of cereal grains for making beer. Sixpoint aims to
perpetually inspire the art, creativity, and community generated through beer by acknowledging
the history of the craft, while forging ahead to inspire culture in a modern setting.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Five Gallons At A Time: Cheap Calcium Carbonate

The content of this page was updated on 8/19/2012.

I've mentioned that I like to reduce the total alkalinity of my brewing water to 1 mEq/L, and then adjust my pre-treated mash water to its target residual alkalinity. The benefits of doing so, instead of separating my mash and sparge water treatments or simply treating all of my water to the target residual alkalinity of the mash water, are threefold:

-It reduces measurement errors because the weights and volumes are larger.
-It reduces the likelihood of excessive tannin extraction during sparging.
-It's more applicable to commercial brewing because most breweries lack the equipment to treat mash and sparge water independently or change the water treatment for each batch.

Removing alkalinity just to add some back in seemed wasteful at first, but I eventually realized that my kitchen faucet is an abundant source of cheap calcium carbonate.

To collect the CaCO3, I poured the dregs of some lime-treated brewing water into a coffee filter and let it dry over the course of a day. My coffee maker did a good job of removing the standing water, and the filter full of calcium carbonate dried nicely on a plate afterward.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I'm Corporate Governance Nerd

On Tuesday the Brewers Association announced its newest Board of Directors. The BA 2012 Board of Directors includes: Vice Chair Gary Fish, Deschutes Brewery (OR); Secretary/Treasurer Mark Edelson, Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant (DE); Past Chair, At-large Member Nick Matt, F.X. Matt Brewing Co. (NY); Steve Bradt, Free State Brewing Co. (KS); Dick Cantwell, Elysian Brewing Co. (WA); Chris P. Frey, AHA Representative; Chris Graham, AHA Representative, Beer, Beer & More Beer (CA); Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. (CA); Steve Hindy, Brooklyn Brewery (NY); Kim Jordan, New Belgium Brewing Co. (CO); John Mallett, Bell's Brewery (MI); John Pinkerton, Moon River Brewing Co. (GA); Rob Tod, At-large Member, Allagash Brewing Co. (ME) and Eric Wallace, Left Hand Brewing Co. (CO).

Your new Board Chairman: Sam Calagione (DE).

West Coast Directors: 4
Midwest Directors: 2
East Coast Directors: 5
South Directors: 1
Colorado Directors: 2

A bunch of big names in brewing, to be sure. I think it's interesting 4 states, including the brewing Mecca of Delaware (?!) have multiple representatives while breweries from entire swaths of the country are completely absent, most notably Texas and the South-West and any Mountain state other than Colorado.

I'm not implying that every state needs a brewery represented on the Board, that's absurd; but I would argue that craft breweries in the South-West face vastly different challenges than breweries in New York. The interests of breweries in Wisconsin seem to have little voice except to the extent that our interests overlap with the interests of breweries in Michigan.

I'd further assert that perhaps some parts of the country are better-represented at Brewers Association events such as Great American Beer Fest, Savor, etc. because the BA has buy-in from those areas of the country which is directly related to the fact that prominent, influential breweries in that region are the Board. It's a bit of a chicken and egg problem, however, I think: they get buy-in because they have members in those regions that are in powerful positions, but the members are in powerful positions precisely because they have buy-in from that region.

From my own empirical observations, it doesn't appear that Wisconsin breweries are particularly interested in the Brewers Association. Heck, they're barely interested in their own Brewer's [sic] Guild. Indeed most Wisconsin breweries seem to have very little interest in anything other than Wisconsin. A mistake in my opinion; but, for some reason, we have a very myopic group.

What can we learn from this? Probably not much, other than that it is going to be business-as-usual in 2012 for the Brewers Association.