PHILADELPHIA, January 24, 2012 — With all of the 2011 retrospectives and top ten lists behind us, let us turn now to the outlook in the craft segment of the beer industry for the year 2012. Instead of my prognostications and insights, we will turn to some of the good folks that are out in the market playing a significant role in representing their company’s brews.
Following are perspectives of representatives from eight different breweries or distributors with beers available in at least one state of the mid-Atlantic region. They were all asked to weigh in with comments about their brewery, the brands, their market/territory, their customers (bars, consumers, e.g.), industry outlook, and for those in the Pennsylvania market, the promise of impending law changes.
Dock Street Brewing Company, Marilyn Candeloro- Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
We have expanded our barreling program with many exciting beers on the horizon — Flemish Red Sour Ale, collaborative beers with The Four Seasons hotel, and other funky interesting brews. There is a special vibe and cohesiveness going on at Dock Street. It’s in the beers, the staff, our customers. It’s the shared desire to bring things back into our own hands. It could be that the vibe is having an affect on the beers we’re brewing or the creativity and variety of the beers is creating an awesome atmosphere. Either way, I am curious and excited to see where all of this energy will take us in the new year.
What most intrigues me about the industry? It’s the same reason I got into it. The people. The passion to create something that makes the space around us a little better. Local Philadelphia breweries like Forest & Main, Tired Hands, Earth Bread + Brewery, Dock Street, and other similar ones shine a light on the different forms that the passion is taking. It’s a very special thing: moving into a community and providing a place to build around, a place that reflects our values.
Harpoon Brewery, Sean Hamel- Boston, Massachusetts
One of the things that I am most excited about for the craft segment in 2012 is cans. This will be Harpoon’s third year doing a run of our IPA and Summer in cans and it has been a huge success. I think that the consumers are starting to realize that a can is not an inferior container for beer.
We can all thank breweries like Oskar Blues and Sly Fox, who have been canning for a long time and leading the way and now with Sierra Nevada set to add cans to their lineup, craft beer in cans is no longer something that can be ignored.
I am intrigued about the amount of different beer in the Philly market yet the demand for our beer remains constant. That is a good sign. Oversaturation of craft beer is a potential problem. There are a lot of options out there, but best beers basically win out. By limiting our flow of beer (whether by choice or means of production), the demand remains constant. I am curious how many of the other brands that are constantly available will continue a constant return on investment through the importers. Interesting stuff to ponder.
In the Philly market, we are trying to keep up with the demand and I have opportunities to either open new accounts or concentrate on the loyal group that have been with us since the beginning. In addition, we are going live in Boston, so whatever we get in Philly will be a nice treat. I get so many requests at this point, I cannot fulfill the demand. We will have new beers and if all goes as planned, possibly bottles before the end of 2012.
None of the law changes in Pennsylvania will affect us small guys with the exception of the PLCB going to a system of 20 registered brands for a singular price. This is kind to the smaller breweries who do not have a stake in profiting from massive amounts of keg/bottle sales. This allows us to import several different brands while remaining competitive in the ne’er market. We are looking forward to getting some more of the Hill Farmstead line into the market through this friendlier system. There are still opportunities for improvement in some areas but this was a nice perk that we will benefit from.
Shangy’s Wholesaler & Retail, Cameron Saunders- Emmaus, Pennsylvania
It is the same story as the past few years. Obviously craft beer is booming and working for a craft-only wholesaler, the sky is the limit for us. We have so much potential for growth it is scary. The big three — Bud, Miller, and Coors — are in a very precarious position. They keep focusing on marketing for growth, or to stop the bleeding in their case, while making the same boring beer. Maybe they should notice the trends towards craft beer instead of fizzy lagers and focus on making better beer, not who can make the funniest commercials.
I personally find it odd that there are a handful of “rare” beers out there that people go nuts over and will do anything for them. In almost every instance of these freakishly sought after beers, there are at least two to three other beers that are as good, if not better, and readily available, than those beers that people hunt down. There are always feelings hurt because an account might feel left out because they didn’t get a certain beer. Rare beers are the thing that makes this industry fun as a drinker, but a nightmare for a craft beer salesman.
Coming from a company that is both a wholesaler and a retailer, we very much welcome the impending changes in Pennsylvania laws. The ability for all of our accounts, and our retail store, to sell six packs and singles will be great for the craft beer industry as a whole. That makes it easier for people to try different brands. The old archaic laws we have in PA make it easier for the big three to keep market share. The less brands people are trying, the more likely they will keep drinking the same old beers. That has always been benefited the “Big Three” by having to buy an entire case of beer. If you can buy a six pack of a brand out Utah you haven’t tried before, then that’s a sale that got stolen from a bigger brewery. The smaller breweries will really benefit from this change.
Sly Fox Brewing Company, Corey Reid- Phoenixville, Pennsylvania
Looking into 2012, we are all very excited about the new production brewery being installed (in Pottstown, Pa.). It has been a challenge keeping up with the demand, so we are all excited for the added capacity.
The overall acceptances of cans has grown every year so I anticipate the same, if not better, growth in that segment of the industry as well. I also welcome all the other craft breweries starting to can as well. It will just add more creditability to a package we already have a great affection for.
What I find intriguing is the market expanding into more rural areas. There are too many to name but I love how there are many pubs that have an incredible food program to compliment the awesome beer programs. This has been happening in the major urban areas in the New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey markets but now we have plenty to choose from in the rural areas as well.
There are a handful of new local breweries opening and expanding this and next year. It’s great to see many of our friends and fellow brewers having the same successful growth.
Personally, I am stoked about the opportunity to work with Patrick Mullin, new Director of Sales. He has been a personal friend of mine for some time. Having the knowledge he gained at Sierra Nevada will help him to contribute tremendously to our company.
I am also very excited about opening some official Kan Jam courts at the new brewery in Pottstown to continue exposing people to this amazing, fun game I so thoroughly enjoy.
Stone Brewing Company, Lee Marren- Escondido, California
This year marked yet another year of steady consistent double digit growth and it seems to be picking up even more now. I love how it is really starting to hit home with people who three years ago didn’t even know what craft beer was.
Stone Brewing Company is in the midst of doing so many new things that it’s hard to not be excited as an employee. As far as our beers go, just knowing that the brewers are constantly pushing the envelope and coming up with cool new beers what seems to be every month. Between the collaboration beers we are doing with other brewers and homebrewers and the special releases we put out every year, it’s never boring at Stone.
I’m fortunate to work in what I consider the best beer market in the country. I cover PA, DE, MD, DC, & VA and have some of the best beer cities and accounts in the world. Not only has my territory been leading the charge in craft beer, but it seems as if there’s a dozen new great beer destinations opening every month. It definitely makes the job interesting and keeps it fresh.
Victory Brewing Company, Steve Gates- Downingtown, Pennsylvania
I am extremely excited about the future for Victory Brewing Company. We have just announced our Victory Beer Hall at Xfinity Live (in the future South Philadelphia Sports Complex), which will be huge! We have had several years of amazing growth with no signs of stopping anytime soon. The next few years will be no different. We will be growing as fast as we can manage, hiring more people, and expanding our brewing capacity. I am stoked to work on growing our two new brands, Headwaters Pale Ale and Summer Love Ale, in 2012. The Philly market continues to thrive, with more craft-focused bars, restaurants, and stores opening every day.
I am simply amazed by the explosion of craft beer and new breweries. A few years ago, I would pick up a copy of Beer Advocate Magazine, flip to the reviews section ton find that I had tried, or at the very least heard of, every beer listed there. Today, there are new craft breweries popping up everywhere, constantly! I think it is really interesting to imagine a generation that grows up with local or national craft breweries being readily available rather than the mass-marketed swill that my generation was raised on. I like the fact that more breweries are making session-strength beers with a lot of flavor. I also am constantly wowed by the creativity of some craft brewers out there and their dedication to pushing the envelopes of beer styles.
Weyerbacher Brewing Company, Natalie DeChico- Easton, Pennsylvania
2012 will be big for Weyerbacher. We are in the process of rebranding and should be releasing our new packaging for our six year-round brands during early summer 2012. We will have a new logo and font. Most of the witty names will stay the same. With the release of the new packaging will be the introduction of our new IPA which is replacing our Hops Infusion IPA. We had an ongoing IPA Project to try out some new recipes and we are leaning towards a West Coast Style IPA.
In New Jersey, I’m most excited about the large amount of beer dinners I already have planned. In 2011, I hosted/attended over 130 liquor store tastings, bar events, tap takeovers, beerfests, and beer dinners. This year I am going to try and focus on bar and restaurant events a bit more, to try and get more of our beers on tap at bars. I got to know a lot of people in New Jersey so it will be fun seeing them around at future beer festivals, beer dinners, bar events, and liquor stores.
I am most intrigued by what brewers and breweries will bring to the table this year. We are already seeing so many hybrid styles, barrel-aging, sours, old ales; what is going to be the next big brew? I think there will be a lot of true-to-style, old school, or European recipes being recreated with the demand for more sessionable beers.
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