Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Too much work, not enough blog

I've been missing, largely due to family stuff, but now I'm going to be missing largely due to work. We just had a huge project blow up at Malt Advocate that I'm ramrodding (more on that later, probably), and I've got another possible big project I'm discussing with an editor today, and there's all the usual small stuff, so...I'll be checking in here when I can. I'm going to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival this weekend, and I've got three events the following week, and the week after that I'm judging at GABF, and the week after that is San Francisco WhiskyFest...so while I should have some cool stuff to write about, jeez, where to find the time?

Just wanted to warn you. In the meantime, check out these numbers and tell me if it doesn't look like the craft beer revolution is going right over the top. The guys in St. Louis (and Brussels) and London must be crapping their pantaloons. (Though they keep raising their prices, so profits stay up...but that inevitably erodes the price divide between the categories, making crafts even more attractive...)

See you, gotta go write a piece on why the shaker pint is not a sign of the End Times.

38 comments:

Gary Gillman said...

Lew, try to come down to the SB gatherings, I'll be there this Thursday and Friday nights.

Gary

Lew Bryson said...

Might make it Friday night; I don't get in till Friday morning this time.

Gary Gillman said...

Okay great, hopefully see you then. There are always some interesting or rare things to try there.

Gary

Al Luccioni said...

wow if this keeps up for another 5 or 6 years craft will grow from 5 to 6 or even 7% of beer consumed in north america! 10% by 2050 we can do it!

Lew Bryson said...

Take a look at the acceleration on craft growth, Al, and take a look at how fast imports grew in the 1990s. I think you'll see 10% within 10 years.

Gary Gillman said...

On those numbers. I'd think full-calorie, industrial (domestic) beers have been replaced to a good degree by Corona and other widely distributed imports - e.g. Heineken, Becks, Stella Artois, Molson, etc. The part of that market that didn't go must have gone mostly to wine or wine products and spirits.

It is for this reason that craft beers are still at about 5% of total volume although in dollar value (what really counts) it's a few points higher.

But also, what about quality? I had both a MGD and Budweiser recently and was surprised how little taste they had - and what there was I didn't like. How could the producers have allowed this to happen? They must have thought people want beer that way, but that can't be right. I remember Budweiser in the 1970's as having a distinctive flavour, so did Coors, so did Miller High Life. Michelob was quite tasty and had again a particular signature, a brioche-like taste (a beer scribe then called it "eggy" and truer words were never spoken). The current version albeit all-malt doesn't taste at all like the 1970's Michelob IMO. I would argue that Corona is a better beer than all these, it has a good taste when very fresh and any German or Dutch import even more so.

I cannot understand how the taste of mass-market American lager got changed so much. It didn't all taste the same in the 70's! We still needed the craft revolution, but that doesn't mean many of these beers weren't solid and pleased many. Matt's Premium. Erlanger. Augsburger. Prior Double Dark. Schlitz when they brought back the original spec. Draft (especially) Michelob. Pabst Blue Ribbon, which at the time had a distinctive, winy taste. (I remember). And so on.

What happened? Even given that light beer's dominance was inevitable, why lose this massive other part of the pie?

Gary

Anonymous said...

Gary, are you sure part of it is not your tastes have changed, given the proliferation of craft styles? I realize budweiser has constantly dumbed down their beer (it was always on the lighter side) and others may have as well, but I would suspect these beers taste even a little more light given what's been on our palates lately.

WHy dont you check into yuengling premium or chesterfield ale? Given Yuengling's tradition (and stubborness) you can be fairly certain these beers are a close replica of what was brewed in the 60's, 70's, 80's, and see if you still feel the same.

I think Al might be right. And I cant imagine what i'll be paying for a draught of craught at my local in 5 or 6 years. It's almost prohibitive now. Thankfully there are still regionals. hello genny cream cases.

Louis F. Neuweiler said...

Lest you forget, local "craft" erstwhile brewers like my own in Allentown (producing an IPA, stout, porter, cream ale, and more) once controlled a significant percentage of the market. But numerous variables, including the fickle public and the incessant younger-generation looking for something new and national (and succumbing to the impact of madison avenue) reduced that number to a scant fraction.

Do not be surprise, Herr Bryson, to see similar circumstances conspire against this "new" movement. Have we not yet impressed upon you that "everything old becomes new again?"

Al Luccioni said...

10% in ten years? Would be great but sounds like wishful thinking to me. How do you get there? Using the 90s as a comparison is not very useful as they were a unique time in our history, with a tech bubble fuelling capital gains not seen before or since allowing people to "feel" richer than they had over the last 50 years combined with relative stable prices. Flash forward to 20 years later, real wages stagnating if not declining relative to increasing prices (food and energy), a completely overleveraged consumer and an aging population with the only growing segments of out population being immigrants(not exactly your target market) I would not hold my breath on that one. Premiumization as a large market trend is dead in the water in the states

Gary Gillman said...

You can never be certain of taste memory, it's true. But I still enjoy Yuengling's porter and Lord Chesterfield Ale. Still enjoy Ballantine XXX, which is much like it was back then IMO (possibly better based on recent cans sampled). I really like Saranac's Black Forest lager, which I understand is based on the old Prior Double Dark.

Some beers back then - a small minority to be sure - were top of the brewing art IMO.

Gary

Anonymous said...

Thanks Gary. that is really interesting hearing your taste pedigree. Interesting also what you say about ballantine because I know for a fact that our resident expert on ballantine, Jess Kidden, would strongly disagree with you.

I agree on yuengling porter and chesterfield, btw.

From what I read about some of Schmidt's brewing techniques they were pretty remarkable and not really duplicatable today.

Al Luccioni said...

10% in ten years? Would be great but sounds like wishful thinking to me. How do you get there? Using the 90s as a comparison is not very useful as they were a unique time in our history, with a tech bubble fuelling capital gains not seen before or since allowing people to "feel" richer than they had over the last 50 years combined with relative stable prices. Flash forward to 20 years later, real wages stagnating if not declining relative to increasing prices (food and energy), a completely overleveraged consumer and an aging population with the only growing segments of out population being immigrants(not exactly your target market) I would not hold my breath on that one. Premiumization as a large market trend is dead in the water in the states

Lew Bryson said...

Al, just look at the numbers. 8% growth on a much bigger base makes a lot of gain when the overall market isn't moving. And as for premiumization being dead...take a look at the other post I made today. I'm afraid you're dead wrong on that. It's odd, but it's definitely happening, and across categories. We definitely see it in Scotch and bourbon.

Al Luccioni said...

I saw it lew in the top 5 sigle malt growing from 6.2% to 7% and change over a 5 year period is not a a market trend , it is noise.

Lew Bryson said...

Single malt's growing like mad, Al, and the premium blends (JW Black, Blue, etc.) are growing faster than the standards. Knob Creek's growing so fast they can barely keep up, Gentleman Jack and JD Single Barrel are growing faster than JD. Craft has grown about 8% over the past 7 years, while "premium" and light have been flat or dropping...

How much more do you need, Al? I look at the sales stats across beer and spirits all the time, and premiumization is far from dead, at least in those categories. Even vodka isn't completely off; freakin' Crystal Skull continues to sell like mad at $50 a bottle.

But hey, whatever.

sam k said...

I* agree with Gary on the individuality of specialty beers from the majors a couple of decades ago.

National Premium, Special Export (Heileman), Andeker (Pabst), Signature (Stroh)...all very different from the mothership.

Corona? I'm not a big fan of any Mexican beer I 've ever had, and especially at $30 or so...they're losing share in my local market for sure, especially at more than most micros, including some show-stoppers from Weyerbacher, Victory, and Bell's.

There's yet another price increase coming from the bigs, leveling the playing field even more, and giving craft more foothold in the market.

I don't think 10% in ten years is out of reach.

Gary Gillman said...

Thanks for mentioning those excelent names from the past, Sam. And Schmidt's was mentioned earlier: do the PA guys remember Tiger Head Ale? I believe Schmidt made that.

Regarding Corona, I just meant that it stands up well in a comparison with the national full-calorie beers that have been (partly) displaced. Indeed it trumps them from a taste standpoint, in my opinion. Had Budweiser been restored to its profile in, say, 1933 I believe it would do much better today than it has. Ditto Coors and others.

I have read that big U.S. and international brewers starting in the 1970's went over to bittering as opposed to both those and aromatic hops, leaving Cascade and the other other new varieties being developed largely for the emerging craft segment. This meant the major's beers did not have the same flowery scent and taste as before. And of course they don't use large amounts of hops in each beer anyway now, but the point being the aroma and flavor part of the equation has been deemphasized.

It is no wonder to me people have started to move away from these beers in favor of craft beers, wines, and other options except to be sure for those wedded to light beer as a taste or lifestyle choice. But again that will always be just a part of the market.

Gary

Al Luccioni said...

using your own logic here (drawing conclusions about growth in one channel from a completely different channel, but hey I will play along) The fastest growing segment for obth spirts and wine sales over the last two years are not premiums but rather private lables(read value propositions) but Hey you are the expert here not me.

Louis Penza said...

Oh sure, Al, NOW private labels are growing! Where the H*ll was that when my own Eastern Brewing Corporation was hammering out label after label of "crafted" supermarket brands???? Hmmmm? Little too late for us I'd be cashing in right about now.

L.F. Neuweiler (sans son) said...

Lest you forget, local "craft" erstwhile brewers like my own in Allentown (producing an IPA, stout, porter, cream ale, and more) once controlled a significant percentage of the market. But numerous variables, including the fickle public and the incessant younger-generation looking for something new and national (and succumbing to the impact of madison avenue) reduced that number to a scant fraction.

Do not be surprise, Herr Bryson, to see similar circumstances conspire against this "new" movement. Have we not yet impressed upon you that "everything old becomes new again?"

sam k said...

Who the hell does private labels to any quantity anymore? I don't mean contract beers, I mean taking someone else's name and putting it on your house beer. That's what I think of when I hear the term, much like F&S (and Mr. Penza's Eastern) did for everyone and their cousin at one time.

I guess the Lion does a smidge.

Lew Bryson said...

Costco sells house brand booze and beer; Walgreen's recently launched a house brand of beer (Big Flats).

F.X. Matt said...

Our firm provides many brews for many fine and reputable outlets, Mr. Sam K.

Lew Bryson said...

I believe what Sam is talking about is wrapping a different label on, for instance, Utica Club. Not something your fine brewery does, I believe.

Which brings up a point: we're getting into a murky, ill-defined area here. Not to say it's shady; just ill-defined. We should be careful that we're all talking about the same thing. To the best of my knowledge, the Kirkland and Big Flats brands are made to order, not rebranded.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, well, beer is beer who cares if it is made to order or rebranded, if the price is right and the beer is good.

I used to work at a pretzel place and the bags were filled with pretzels and stuck with $2.59 for the name brand (company i worked for)then the machine was stopped and a supermarket bag with a $.99 sticker was put on the machine and the same pretzels went into them.

Made me think of all the refined suckers buying that name brand.

Lew Bryson said...

True, happens all the time. And if it doesn't happen with vodka...I'm a monkey.

Anonymous said...

Those eastern brewing company beers were QUALITY beverages no matter if they were supermarket brands, contracts or purchased labels. yum. and at a great price too.

jp said...

this was a big focus last year but sort of seems to have fallen off in 2011 but with the economic date coming out about the US consumer (highest poverty rates in 50 years) I would not expect this to see this go away.

http://www.privatelabelmag.com/news-read-na.cfm?article=922
http://www.mediapost.com/publications/?art_aid=122044&fa=Articles.showArticle
http://www.nacsonline.com/NACS/News/Daily/Pages%20Archive/ND0210104.aspx

Lew Bryson said...

Hey, Al "Premium is dead because I saw store brands are growing" Luccioni, check the latest from IRI on spirits sales:

"Growth in the 52 weeks to September 4 was even faster on a dollar basis (+2.9%). Irish whiskey (+24.1%), imported vodka (+14.9%), single malt Scotch (+10.6%) and Cognac (+9.3%) made solid progress in the period, while the downturns for blended Scotch (-5.9%) and non-Cognac brandy (-3.3%) continued. Spirits in the super-premium-and-above tier (at least $15 a bottle in food/drug stores), surged 7.2% by volume in the latest 52-week period, outperforming spirits priced below $15 (+1.4% by volume)."

And we've already seen that craft beer continues to outperform the general beer niche. 'Kay?

AL Luccioni said...

alright lew run with that lets re-vist in three years of 10+ unemplyment and rising rates and prices.

Lew Bryson said...

Didn't we just have that, Al? You ought to try watching the news, man.

Anonymous said...

Bud,Miller,Coors and to a greater extent Bud did not become the worlds most famous beer based on quality of its products.Many of the craft beer know it alls disregard these brands as bland and piss in a can.Must have taken 100 years to turn run of the mill Budweiser into the King of Beers.
Bud,Millecoors spend large amounts of money on there wholesalers to make them feel special.If you are the favored ones you will be able to pick and choose what craft you want to sell or not,and if that does not work buy the whole company and bring them into wholesalers list of beers. F.X.Matt and who can ever not mention the Great Lion brewery who never met a new Beer they could brew for many of the finest outlets in the area.Craft Beer 10% of 2% of what these guys throw away each year or give out for samples very good chance this will happen.

Lew Bryson said...

Ummm...yeah.

Bill said...

So, where's the shaker pint story going to be published?

Lew Bryson said...

It's my next Ale Street News column.

Bill said...

Looking forward to it -- don't know why it intrigues me. Guess I've always liked the heft and feel of shakers. Then again, i like stoneware, and those old dimpled mugs and goblets.

Lew Bryson said...

I really like simple glasses: willibeckers, smooth stoneware mugs. The dimple glasses look good, but I find them awkward to lift and hold (I have big hands). The handles are usually too small for more than two fingers, and the bowl is too wide for a stein grip.

Justin said...

Indeed, it appears that craft beer is undergoing a revolution. I saw this article a little while back:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-04-02/news/ct-biz-0403-craft-beers-20110402_1_brewers-association-craft-beer-beer-sales

Also, mega-breweries recognize the explosion of craft and are doing their best to capitalize on it:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-07-12/business/ct-biz-0712-bf-millercoors-20110712_1_eyes-growth-beer-marketer-s-insights-beer-distributors