Saturday, February 6, 2010

Is This Unique?

Full Pint Brewing is getting closer to opening -- being allowed to open -- by going over the local zoning board's heads to get the zoning interpretation changed, rather than getting an individual variance. So I'm going to go ahead and put them in PA Breweries 4...the only non-open brewery that's going in. Not an easy decision, but these guys have the money, the brewery, the building, and most importantly, four experienced brewers who have also run successful businesses (and they were still smart enough to bring in an experienced business partner, Mark Kegg -- and if you can't see the Sign From God in that name, give it up).

Full Pint is, I believe, unique. You have four brewers who are currently brewing beers at two different brewpubs (40 miles apart) that are also two completely separate businesses, joining together to form a production brewery -- a third independent business -- that will keg and bottle 8 beers: four new ones and two from each of the the two brewpubs (with the full cooperation of the owners of the two brewpubs, of course). The brewers who made -- and still make! -- the beers at the brewpubs will be brewing them at Full Pint.

So...here's my question. Is that unique? I mean, this takes collaboration to a new level. This isn't contract brewing, per se. Do you know of any breweries where the partners are brewers at other breweries, and the beers they're making are beers from those other breweries? I can barely parse it! The closest thing I can think of is Port/Lost Abbey, but that's one brewery and one (brand of) brewpub. Anyone know of anything like this?

14 comments:

Saul said...

It's fairly common in the wine industry. Winemakers will often work with someone else either at a shared facility or at their 'home' winery to produce a second (or third) label. I've never heard of something like this in beer before.

Lew Bryson said...

Is that the same thing? Maybe you could explain how that works in wine a bit more...would you mind?

Anonymous said...

I think this is becoming a trend. The craft brewing buissness has grown to the point where there is an everready pool of talent that is cheper to buy than develop. This is particullarly true of the west coast where there is a large talent pool. Some examples are Triple Rock/Green Flash colaboration during beer week 2009, and Stone brewing/Mikkeller. I think the brewers at Sam Adams joined forces with someone in Geramny to make a beer too. Green Flash also made a gruit beer with the brewer from Magnolia Brewing. Thease are the only ones I can think of.

Lew Bryson said...

I'm aware of the collaborations: we've got the "Brett Pack" that's evenly split between east and west coasts, and local brewers here in the Philly area do brews together a lot, often the really odd stuff. But Full Pint isn't a one-off: it's a whole brewery built on this kind of thing, and I don't know if that's been done before.

Jeff Bearer said...

I think you first need to split it into two discrete parts. then when you put them back together is doesn't sound like such a weird business model.

First you have The Partner (formerly contract) Brewing. North Country or Rivertown making beer at Full Pint, is no different than 21st Amendment brewing at Cold Springs. Pretty Things Brewing where ever he can. Or Odonata partner brewing at their partner brewery.

Then there is the brewers moonlighting at / owning a different brewery. This is more like Tomme at Port Brewing / The Lost Abbey. Where one place he has ownership stake and the other he is just an employee. Don't quote me on Tomme's arrangement, I could be a little off.

It's not that big of a stretch to combine the two. But it does take a leap of faith by the owners of the brewpubs that they are getting the most out of their brewers.

As far as I know it is a unique arrangement. But probably not for long. I think we are going to be seeing partner or gypsy brewing take off over the next couple of years, and there is going to be odd variations that will emerge.

Lew Bryson said...

I'd disagree, Jeff: the combination is what makes this unique, and to split it is to miss it. The brewers are the owners at Full Pint; they don't have a piece, they are the pieces. Port/Lost Abbey is close to being the same company. There's no business relationship between North Country and Rivertowne, yet their beers will be packaged together with beers from a third company: Full Pint. The four brewers will be collaborating not on a few special beers, but every day. I think that does make an essential difference.

I actually don't believe Sean M. is an employee at North Country; I think he contracts his services. Could be wrong, but that's how I understand it. Which either complicates it or simplifies it, I dunno.

Will there be new business models? Sure. Look at Custom Brewcrafters, Bayhawk Ales, hell, look at City Brewing. But this one is, I believe, unique.

bill mc said...

Didn't a couple of brewpubs in Albany, NY try this a few years ago? I think it was Big House and Browns Brewing?? Or was that something else???

Lew Bryson said...

Pretty sure what happened there, Bill, was a more straight-up contract situation, that happened as Brown was building their new facility.

So...is Van Dyke finally done and gone as a brewpub? Did I hear that right?

bill mc said...

No, they are actually advertising it as a restaurant and jazz club, . I've heard yes and no to the brewing. I need to take a trip there this week, so I will check it out and let you know about the brewing situation. BTW, there is a potential new brewpub in Athens, NY called Crossroads Brewing. Slated to open this year, looks promising according to the economic development folks.

Russ said...

When I first visited Square One Brewery in St. Louis, I was amazed that a rather small brewpub could routinely have twelve or so beers on tap. I talked to one of the brewers there and learned that half the beers are from Augusta Brewing Co., a brewpub in nearby Augusta, MO. Apparently Square One sends half of their beer to Augusta and Augusta sends half of theirs to Square One. I can't speak for Augusta since I've never been there, but Square One does not distinguish between its own beers and Augusta's. That being said, the Augusta webpage suggests the two pubs may be under the same ownership, though I believe each has a different brewmaster.

Anonymous said...

Is this unique? Yes, I would say this is unique for a company to package a so called "collaboration beer" as a year round offering. I would also say that it is very unique to package two different brands in the same package. Does this kind of thing not happen at many craft breweries on a daily basis and simply just not get communicated to the public adequately? Yes. At any brewery you have multiple "brewers" who wear a range of hats in their day to day activities, which can range from "brewer" to "floor scrubber." Regardless, all these brewers have their own varying views on how beer should be produced/filtered/packaged/handled at any point in of the brewing process. So to think that at any given brewery there is always one brewer who is some kind of omnipotent master of the brewery is sort of naive. The fact is that there are almost always at least two brewers at most breweries, who both hold conflicting ideas on brewing and it is these conflicts that create "collaborations" on a day to day basis. Im sure even the great Budweiser has a few brewers that go back an forth on certain ways to produce their beers and in the end come up with some "collaboration" bud light. In the end, yes this certain business model is unique, but the way I seem to see it is that Full Pint is violating the golden rule of writing- "Show, don't tell." Craft Brewers like their kind and enjoy working with each other-that's no secret- no reason to beat the consumer over the head with this idea (unless the beers good).

Lew Bryson said...

Does this kind of thing not happen at many craft breweries on a daily basis and simply just not get communicated to the public adequately? Yes.

Well, no. This is about brewers from different companies continuing to work for those companies, but forming a third company by themselves, where they brew their own beers plus the beers of the two companies they work for, plan to package all three brands together, and everyone's okay with that. They aren't really collaboration beers per se. Collaboration beers are when brewers from two companies get together to create a one-off beer that is nothing the two of them don't already do. It's not about more than one brewer at one company having input on a beer; I think everyone who cares knows about that. At least, I would hope they do.

And Full Pint isn't really beating anyone over the head with anything. They're just going to make good beer (I'm sure they will: they're all excellent brewers and they have good equipment) and sell it.

I really was just asking about the business model.

Marc said...

I wish more would "team-up" to do things like this. All I can see are positives...improving their purchasing power, increasing their distribution area, and all us benefiting to a greater selection of beer!

Anonymous said...

Despite it's uniqueness... Isn't the battle to open a brewery tragic. #1 federal brewer's notice, #2 PLCB license, #3 local zoning ordances that prohibit a brewery but would probably permit a brew pub that produced the same amount of beer per year. The insanity gives me a headache.