Monday, September 29, 2008

Rumors of a Return...

A much-mourned three-time GABF Gold medal winner from Pennsylvania may indeed be making a return. If it comes back this time, you and I are going to do everything we can to make sure it sticks...no matter how much crap I have to take from certain secret admirers.

Sorry to be so Curtinesque in my rumor-mongering, but when you have an open secret like this, you've just got to...no, wait, that doesn't make sense. Okay, what the hell: I am talking about Liebotschaner Cream Ale from The Lion. Sounds like they're seriously considering bringing it back, and I hope they put some money behind it this time. Cream ale is a traditional favorite in eastern PA, and there's no reason why it won't work again. Er...assuming it's still good. Can't wait to find out.

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Lion back in the saddle again,just wait till next week you may see a few more beers your boys will destroy.....
Back in the saddle again
Lets here it for Knights Head...

Lew Bryson said...

Wow, you really don't take long at all, do you?

Knight's Head? Are you blaming The Lion for it never getting anywhere? Once again, as I always have to ask when you post...just what the hell are you saying?

Anonymous said...

You might remember four months ago when we spoke about the economy being as bleak as it is now,traffic not as congested,people with blank expressions on their face at the gas pumps.My point only is stop being associated with all these brands with no chance at being sucessful and take some equity in the brand and make it work..
The Lion has the best beer on the market in Lionshead at $13.99,you did not know what the hell I was saying either but then you have know obligation to acknowledge the brand anyway..

Lew Bryson said...

Craft beer sales continue to grow. Gas prices are down sharply; the diesel I use is down over a dollar from four months ago. And sorry, if you really think traffic is noticeably less congested, you're nuts.

You also seem to be laboring under the misconception that I have some financial stake in The Lion. Let me make it very clear: I have none.

If you can't write anything that makes sense, I'm not going to put your comments on my blog.

Anonymous said...

Hey gas prices are down from four dollors a gallon and diesel from five dollors a gallon correct..Craft beers are on fire for now,with the next price increase goes into effect within this year God only knows.Lew I know you have no financial position in the Lion but maybe some of these small beers they should have some.Hey its 8am and work is about to begin just checked my 401K PLAN AND THE VALUE OF MY HOUSE JUST WAS WACKED ANOTHER 10% things are great,but might have to forget about the new craft on the block and trade down,maybe a cold Lionshead or even a Natty Ice..

JP said...

Yeah that is a great beer. I am down to about a case and am hoping it will last out until they put it back on. I was surpised they took it off while keeping their other two round-trip value lables. I wonder if that was becuase being a cream ale margins on Lieb were thinner. I also wonder if they bring it back, whether or not they will bottle it in round trips or one- ways. I would also like to see Matt's put U club cream ale back on. That was a legendary brew. . Maybe ICB should get on board and ressurect Robin Hood as a summer holiday seasonal. Besides Lieb the best cream ale in the state is that one up in Selins Grove. Chesterfield is not labeled as a cream ale but tastes pretty much like one and it is quite good. And I do not care what anybody says Genny cream tastes great !

Lew Bryson said...

See, now you're finally making some sense, but it's still too personal for you. My SEP took a hit too, and as for value of the house, well, we've got a low-rate 30-year fixed based on the valuation in 1991, so we're still ahead on that...so we're still buying craft and specialty every time we buy. If I can't afford that, I won't buy beer...unless I can get something like Liebotschaner or Lord Chet.

But my point is, both your position and my position are anecdotal. The market is showing something else: craft drinkers overall aren't trading down, in fact, the only way craft sales are doing so well is if more people are trading up. Overall. There will be individual differences, and regional differences -- and again, I maintain that the Philly area is doing better than others, and regional economic data support that -- but nationally, that's what obtains so far.

As far as "the new craft on the block," might as well face it: that's what the customer wants. Craft has created a monster, the customer who always wants something new, the attention-deficit beer drinker. They've got to live with it. It's going to be a brand family thing for a while.

JP, no one's gonna jump on the bandwagon till one cream ale is a success. Although I do agree with you about Selin's Grove and Genny!
I remember Neuweiler fondly, too, the resurrected Neuweiler, that is, too young for the original. Nix besser, baby!

JP said...

I wonder what prompted them to reconsider their decision and what the plan would be?( if this rumor is indeed true) I mean Liebs target market is for the most part is pushing up daisies or sitting in nursing homes. At the very least they are not drinking that much cream ale or any kind of beer. Younger craft beer aficionados buy it, but not in any kind of real volume. I have never really seen it pushed in any tavern or bar (with one exception) The marketing budget for that label literally at the time of its demise had to be under $100 a year. I wonder if they are going to launch a whole new campaign? It should be interesting to watch. Sort of ties in with your proposition on economic cycle vs trading down and up. At its last price point before it came off, Lieb was very competitively priced (as are all of Lion's value brands) for the overall quality of the product. I think the margins were probably pretty decent given that dedicated advertising and POS marketing were essentially zero,. It was sort of in a weird space, in that, it did not do a lot of volume but essentially ran itself. If you brewed 30k hectoliters of Lieb you sold 30k at this price and made this margin every year. Therefore they jut let it run as a cash cow of sorts never attempting to increase margins via substitution of inputs. So, you got a great beer at what was a great price. Curious to see if they are going to manage it more actively (I hope not)

Lew Bryson said...

I wanna know the same thing, JP. I think cream ale, and especially Liebotschaner, could go a long way in the market with the right selling.

herman the german said...

I love Liebotschaner and hope it comes back. To weigh in, I think they DID try to market lieb a while back, at least in a small way, after they won so many gold medals. From what i remember there are a few issues. One is younger people who dont remember the CA boom of the 70's dont really know what a cream ale is and therefore it is a hard sell. Secondly, I remember old man SMulowitz who owned the lion from the 30's tot he 80's say that Lieb was not a real money maker... because it cost a lot to make but they couldnt sell it for too much.

I know a LOT of people including myself that want to see it back and I agree with Lew that if it does come back it is the one beer we should all have in our home at all times, given the price and quality and endangered status. On the other hand, hopefully they wont double the price like they did with steg porter and REALLY HOPEFULLY they wont change the formula at all (or too much). It tasted great as a retro light cream ale, no need to craft or imperial it up.

HTG said...

JP-- I believe their reconsideration was due, in some part, to customer complaints. I dont know this for a fact but I do know many lieb fans who let them know about it.

Also like Lew said I think there's a real untapped market for Cream Ale, with craft and macro drinkers alike. Everything old becomes new again.

sam k said...

If you recall, Lieb was available for a while in both 12 NRs and 16 returnables, with the NRs being at a much higher price point. Given current conditions, I can't see them putting it back in the 16s and selling it cheap. They'll strive for the craft image and sell only in NRs for more money.

Unfortunately, the returnable bottle is a dinosaur, and is only being supported in any long-term strategy by Straub, which has invested heavily in their continuation. They had a bottle mold custom-built and had 50,000 cases run earlier this year, enough to last them a loooong time. No other brewery has ordered a new returnable bottle in the last decade. If you've noticed the bottles being used by the Lion, you'll note that they're pretty much on their last legs. I appreciate their holding on to them this long. Pretty soon my recycling bin will be stuffed full every week!

Lew Bryson said...

Go returnable, green's real big right now, and The Lion has that kickass bottlewasher...

Or maybe not. NR's the way the market's going. But I'd hope they could bring it in under $22 a case...and sell it in sixtels. Gawd, I'd drink me some of that.

JP said...

Right on herr herman, the margins on lieb had to be pretty thin and with the increase of the inputs, maybe they just yanked it. It looks like inputs should be coming off a bit along with the rest of the deleveraging going on in the economy that with some modest increase in price should get them back I am thinking. Also right on the recipe, I would not try to add any of that "extreme-ness" to this beer it is balanced perfectly the way it is. Question for me is do they discontinue their round trip line. See as a beer enthusiast/environmentalist I really appreciate the 2 way bottles.

JP said...

I think gibbons/Bartels in the 16oz returns is still coming in way under 22 incl deposit. Lion btw brews Stoneys 16oz returns under contract because ICB(which brews 12NRs and cans) discontinued their round trip line(how crazy is that). Pottsville still puts Premium into round trips as well. High Falls still has a roundtrip line

Lew Bryson said...

Yeah, as Sam says, the real problem with the returnables is that no one's making them any more but Straub. The heavier glass is real pricey up front.

herman the german said...

Lew is right about returnable bottles. PLus the culture has changed in that young people do not even know often that they are returnable and, as such, put them in a recycling bin rather than return them. So there is a least a small net loss of bottles at all times. Seems to me though if yuengling the lion and straub pulled resources they could order a bunch of bottles. May be cost ineffective though.

JP is right about price. I bought a case of bartels recently in returnables (they dont make old german in returns anymore) and it was about 14 a case.

---Guy said...

Good to see the Lieb getting some love. I was only vaguely aware that they had discontinued it, glad to hear popular demand is bringing it back.

Sorry, but I have to chuckle a bit at the 30k hectoliter comment. I can state with a high degree of certainty that the volume was way way WAY less than 30k hl. If it gets to that volume on its return you'll never see it go away again.

alex bombinski said...

If I remember correctly they were brewing lieb twice a year about the time it was yanked, about the same amount we were brewing sunshine deluxe back in the 60's.

Lew Bryson said...

Guy,
I made the chuckling noise about the 30 hecto too. That's a lotta beer, JP: and I'm sure you just picked a number out of the air for an example, so no sweat.

Alex, I was told three times, but yeah, it's kind of like rye whiskey, which most bourbon makers mash about four days out of the year. I was shocked to learn that little Liebotschaner was being made. First job: get it to Lehigh Valley and Philly, so when we tell folks about it they can go buy it (and buy enough of it so that there's always some there for us!).

Alex Bombinski said...

I was just going by the code dates on the bottles, so it may have been three.

The other thing with Lieb is the name as I dont believe the Miller-Lite young crowd who is so label conscious will drink a beer they cant pronounce, or sounds goofy. They didnt drink bartels or gibbons (this might have been the returnable factor) but you take that same beer and put it in a bottle with a roaring lion on the label and call it somethign else, and it sells. Oh well, at least they are buying that and not something madison avenue is shoving down their throats.

And I'm not suggesting the lion give lieb a hip name like "blonde babe ale" or "orgasminator" either. Lieb works for me and ensures those of us who really appreciate it will return to it.

On another thought maybe this was a planned "hiatus" for the lion, with the intent to bring it back in non-returns only at an increased price. as was stated earlier, it kind of contradicted itself when it sold as cheaper returns and more expensive non-returns. Kill it off until old stock is depleted, then bring it back with new price tag and packaging. Kind of a weird way of doing it but possible I guess.

Lew Bryson said...

Good thinking, Alex. Not sure I'd want to see it with any name but Liebotschaner, but if that's what it takes to get it regularly, I'll take it. Hell, I'll even drink it if they call it Lionshead Cream Ale!

That hiatus theory...might not be far from the truth. I wonder. Time and price will tell.

alex bombinski said...

Agreed. Liebotschaner has tradition, going back to when it was a brand (not a cream ale though) under the original Stegmaier brewery.

Now I'm not certain, I'll defer to those on line that speak german but I think liebotschaner translates to either "love of beauty" or "beats the german pilsners on their home turf."

sam k said...

Straub contacted every brewery that still did returnables a couple of years ago; Genny, Lion, Iron City, Yuengling, and were turned down by all of them. Breweries don't want them anymore, for whatever reason, except Straub. Open a case of Straub 16 returnables, and the difference in glass quality betweem them and the returnable competition (such as it is) is astounding.

Just like the old days, they're clean, new-looking, and beautiful, not all scarred up from thirty years of running through a bottling line. They actually donate the old glass to the local monastery for recycling cash, or at least they used to.

High Falls may still have the line, but they got rid of all their returnable glass. They gave it to the Lion for free after they discontinued them about a year and a half ago. I bought a lot of King Gennys over the years!

I'm surprised about Yuengling, too, as they're the only ones running 12 returnables exclusively, no 16s. Stoney's does come from the Lion in 16 returnables.

The only two 16 returnables available in my market are Steg at $14.99 plus, and Straub at 17.99 plus.

Big Ben said...

Thanks for the insight Sam K. I'll have to check but I thought there were more returnables in my market here in eastern/central PA. I know last time i was out they had Stegmaier, Gibbons, Bartels, Straub. I think there were some others though, I"ll have to check next time I am out.

I found it perplexing that Yuengling did away with the 16's in favor of the 12's. but then again i also didnt understand why they stopped racking lord chesterfield ale a while back, with all their capacity.

I think breweries want to get rid of returnables because they *say* they dont make money on them and they are a pain... people dont return them, cant buy them, transportation and cleaning, etc, for a diminishing market share.

If you are ever up in Central PA check out catawissa bottling line, they do big bens *SODA* in 7oz and 12 oz returnables, using long defunct bottles from bottlers. They love doing the returnables (for whatever reason) but are quickly running out of bottle stock, especially as a certain bar in Pittsburgh buys them up and is real slow on returning them (franks, it is).

Lew Bryson said...

I'm down on the Big Ben sodas. There are a couple places you can get them in Berwick when you drop by One Guy Brewing next time (and Guy's also got some vintage returnable bottles he's planning on using...one of these days).

alex bombinski said...

Oh Lew if you are going to posture yourself as the "hip young beer writer" you have to know the vernacular. It's "'down with' big ben's soda", assuming you are a fan of and not unhappy with which would be "down on!!"

I used to be able to get ben's here in HBG but glenn miller stopped selling them, the nearest place I've found is selin's grove.

Garasons pub in HBG uses ben's ginger beer in their moscow mules. Mcgraths uses Troegs, made exclusively for their place.


Anyway those guys are pretty cool up there, worth a trip over next time you are in berwick or selins to check out what a soda bottling operation looked like in the 50's.

sam k said...

Yeah, The Lion makes Gibbons and Bartels in 16s, too, but I can't get 'em here (State College). Wanna bet it's the same beer with different labels?

A-Treat in Reading ran those big painted label quart returnables until a few years ago, too. Sorry to see them all go away.

Lew Bryson said...

Ha! I definitely don't mean to posture as a hip young anything; "clueless dad" is about my speed.

Had Tröegs ginger beer at McGrath's, that is some good shit indeed.

Anonymous said...

I wasnt aware this was no longer being made. I used to see it in Berks Cty and have been looking for it recently. It must have been out of production for the last 3-4 years I suppose. I hope it will be back in those wonderful 16 oz returnables!

alex bombinski said...

Sam K-- Big Bens bought the entire stock of A-treat returnables including the quarts. So, they've not really "gone away," just northwest to catawissa. It's cool to see the old A-treat painted label bottles w/a big bens paper label stuck over them.

Yeah, no doubt gibbons and bartels are the same beer (as was esslinger when they made it), probably the same as lionshead too. Although the gold medal always tasted a little different too me, but that's probably just me.

JP said...

Big Ben's private stock ginger beer is top shelf. Plus any bottling co that has 4 different types of birch beer a root beer and sasprilla is a state teasure thant need sot be supported. I would humbly add Natrona Bottling Works Ginger beer as well

mybeerbuzz said...

Lew....Leo Orlandini was just nice enough to add an update on mybeerbuzz about the future of Lieb...good news! Check it out...