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Craft Brewers: You’ve been warned

Greg Koch tweeted about this article, and I couldn’t resist jumping in.

The article shares that Constellation Brands is starting to distribute Corona Light on tap following its purchase from Groupo Modelo after the Anheuser-Busch InBev takeover. This is news because, until now, Corona was only available in those clear, iconic bottles.

So who cares, right? Well, here’s the thing about the beer industry, there are two things that really matter when it comes to growing your brand: shelf space and taps. They’re finite and that’s where the battles rage on.

In order for Corona Light to get a tap at a bar, it needs to displace another beer. And here’s where it gets interesting.

From Constellation’s CEO Robert Sands:
“Think about the craft business, okay? You’re talking about tiny little brands that nobody’s ever heard of outside their city… so yes, that requires a strategy to get people to put taps in on brands… in a crowded and fragmented category.”

He goes on to say that his objective is to get draft sales to 10% from the 2%-3% today. Where will this growth come from? Yup, you guessed it.

His justification: “Corona Extra… turns much better than craft beers, it also grows like craft beers, right? Another reason to give it more space. And it has a higher ring and more profitability to the retailer like craft beers.”

So bottom line: for anyone who thinks that craft beer has won the war, think again. The big boys aren’t just going to stand by and let you win. The fight continues every day in every bar and store in America.

It’s up to consumers to push for what they want. So if your favorite beer isn’t available, ask for it. Demand it. Remember to vote with your wallet.

Comments Off on Is there a craft beer bubble?

Is there a craft beer bubble?

Craft beer has exploded. When Beer Wars was released in 2009 there were 1,400 breweries in America. Today there are over 2,500. When I was trying to promote the film on TV, producers looked down at a film about beer. Now, craft beer is hot. Trendy even. It’s discussed in the same breath as the overall local, sustainable, artisanal, slow food movements.

Business Insider looked into this incredible boom in a piece entitled: The Craft Beer Market Has Exploded, And Now Brewers Are Worried About A Collapse.

For perspective here are some stats:

Every year now, craft beer chips away at the market share of the macro-brewers — Big Suds? — as consumers turn away from the Budweisers and Coors Lights of the world in search of more full-flavored beer. In 2012, 13 million barrels of craft beer were produced, up more than 71% from 2006.

In dollar terms, craft beer now represents 10.2% of the domestic beer market, and a report from IBIS World predicts spending on craft brews will grow to $3.9 billion this year.

For those who’ve suggested that Beer Wars is no longer relevant because craft beer is here to stay, I agree whole-heartedly with the sentiments presented in the article:

Just how those new breweries will survive, given the challenges of distribution and limitations of shelf-space and taps, is an open question, especially when even the craft beer market is dominated by a few big players, like Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada, and New Belgium. (Boston Beer, which makes Sam Adams, is now so large that the Brewers Association keeps changing the definition of craft beer to keep it in the fold.) Meanwhile, Big Suds has responded with its own versions of craft-like brews such as Blue Moon and Shock Top, made by MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev respectively, which have quickly come to dominate the market for specialty beers.

So the war rages on. There’s no doubt that craft beer is here to stay. But the current growth is not sustainable IMHO. And as I’ve told those who asked about a sequel, if I were to make a Beer Wars II (big IF), the story would pit the smallest craft brewers against the big ones. Remember, there are only so many taps and so much shelf space; there just isn’t room for everybody. Stay tuned for one a hell of a roller coaster ride.


The Future of Moonshot?

Nothing has divided Beer Wars viewers more than Rhonda and Moonshot. Reactions are very black and white. Some see Moonshot as a “gimmick” and a “marketing ploy” and others see Rhonda as a trailblazer who has a right to see her beer succeed.

Unfortunately, Moonshot’s future has been cut short by the FDA who lumped it together with Four Loko and others and forced it off the market.

Rhonda has put out an appeal to get Americans to “lobby” for her right to sell Moonshot. Whether Moonshot appeals to you or not, the bigger question is whether Moonshot was caught up in the wrong net.

Here is the appeal in Rhonda’s own words:

Moonshot ’69
January 31, 2011
Dear Friend,
As you may already know, New Century Brewing Company has ceased production of Moonshot ’69 per order of the federal Food and Drug Administration. Please help me bring it back by signing the on-line petition at www.moonshotbeer.com. Additionally, you can stay up to date by visiting the Facebook page or following on Twitter.

On November 17, 2010, the FDA sent warning letters to four brewers that produced caffeinated malt beverages. By that time, three of the companies were notorious for their high-caffeine, high-alcohol, high-sugar, fruit flavored “energy drinks” which were sold in oversized cans and marketed to minors. The fourth company was New Century Brewing.

Moonshot, my all malt, craft-brewed pilsner, bears absolutely no resemblance to the products that brought about the FDA’s demand to reformulate. I stand by my product’s formula which includes a standard 5% alcohol by volume and 69 milligrams of caffeine (which equals about a half a cup of coffee). I also stand behind my marketing strategy and take pride in the responsibility of my loyal customers.

The practice of enjoying alcohol and caffeine together is nothing new (Irish coffee, rum and Coke, Red Bull and Vodka, coffee stout…), but the abuse of the law by some brewers is a legitimate concern. It is imperative, therefore, to find an acceptable level of caffeine that all beer producers can adhere to.

If you want to read more, here are recent articles from the Boston Globe and the Washington Examiner.


What’s in a name?

As we get ready for Memorial Day weekend, the first beer drinking holiday of summer, some food for thought for craft beer brewers and drinkers.

On Tuesday, an article in The Atlantic entitled “When Is A Craft Brewery Just a Brewery?” asked some interesting questions. The one that piqued my interest was about big brewers cashing in on the craft beer “movement” and its continued growth.
Read the rest of this entry »

Comments Off on Food for Thought

Food for Thought

2 threads I’ve been following this week:

The first is Less is More? Are There Too Many Beers? which was started by World Class Beverage in Indiana following an insider discussion at a recent beer industry summit. The comments are fascinating. I’m thrilled that this discussion is going on although I wish it would expand beyond talk into action, especially as it pertains to franchise laws and self distribution. I’m not for dismantling the three tier system, just updating it for today’s environment. Online shipping anyone?

The other thread is on a Beer Advocate Forum entitled The realities of small guys vs. big guys. This thread also highlights the ongoing issues inherent in the present distribution system. Again, great cross section of opinions. Nice that distributors are jumping into the conversation.

Oh, and if you’re interested in the politics of beer, you may want to read Beer Business Daily’s Complete Coverage of Congressional Hearing on Alcohol.

Please feel free to continue the discussion here by adding your comments.


Let’s not forget the imports…

You asked for it. Who imports the rest of the better known imported beer brands into the U.S.? Here’s the list:

Constellation Brands

Corona Extra
Corona Light
Modelo Especial
Negra Modelo
St. Pauli Girl Lager, Special Dark

Heineken USA

Heineken Lager
Amstel Light, a leading imported light beer brand
Heineken Premium Light
Dos Equis
Carta Blanca
Newcastle Brown Ale
Buckler (non-alcoholic)


Who Owns What? Part II

The first list included the top selling beers for the Big Two. As promised, here is the brand list for Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors. These come off their websites and include only beer brands sold in the U.S.

In the interest of being thorough, the following are missing from the list:

  • Anheuser-Busch has a 50% equity stake in Grupo Modelo (Corona, Modelo, Pacifico)
  • Anheuser-Busch is a 49% shareholder in Coastal Brewing Company which in turn owns Old Dominion and Fordham
  • The Craft Brewers Alliance (Redhook and Widmer and partially owned by Anheuser-Busch) holds a minority interest in Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Co. and Kona Brewing Co. of Hawaii.

So there you have it. The question to address is, why does this matter? I made a film about it. Why do you care? Read the rest of this entry »


Who owns what?

I’ve received hundreds of emails and tweets since the film came out asking for a list of the beer brands owned by the 2 big brewers. I’ve been meaning to pull one together and when I received today’s issue of Modern Brewery Age, I decided to go with their partial list (for now). The list includes the top brands sold by Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors (based on sales for the 4 week period ending 11/1/09 from IRI Data Total US Food, Drug & Convenience). Read the rest of this entry »

Oenophiles have SIDEWAYS and BOTTLE SHOCK; now their beer-loving counterparts can claim a film as their own.
- Rotten Tomatoes
A David and Goliath story pitting the country's smallest brewers against the largest.
Beer Wars: Brewed in America, is an eye-opening, funny and righteously infuriating documentary by first-time filmmaker Anat Baron. Her film (think of it as Suds: A Love Story) is also a pretty damning indictment of not just the beer industry but contemporary unfettered unregulated capitalism's disturbing excesses.
- Box Office Magazine
In Beer Wars, entrepreneurialism and opportunity go awry when tainted by greed and a thirst for power.
- Los Angeles Times
Beer Wars certainly raises some interesting questions, the most potent of which is, is this what capitalism is meant to be?
- New Times
For those who are keeping the American dream alive, this spirited documentary raises a toast.
- St Louis Post-Dispatch
A trenchant analysis unapologetic in its rebuke of Big Beer, Beer Wars is heartily recommended for patrons already inclined to opt for the local brew at every tap. It will also appeal to patrons interested in craft foods as well as homebrewed beer and wine and others particular about quality.
- Library Journal