Longtime readers of this blog may have noticed a change in the content over the last year: now, my posts contain little-to-no information on recipes or brewing technique. This, unfortunately, is the consequence of an ever-evolving beer market, increased competition, and time invested in R&D.
At this point, no one should have to tell you that adjunct-laden beers and hazy IPAs are dominating the hyper-local market. If you want to move cans, you need to know how to brew good versions of these styles. While pilsner and other regular beers will still sell great in taproom pint sales and distro, they do not generate the excitement that a can release of a more hyped-up style does.
Back in 2016, we started pivoting towards this trend, albeit without the canning line. While our beers still need some work in my opinion, we are getting better at brewing some of these styles, and I’ve come up with some creative stuff in the pipeline soon. In the meantime, we keep tweaking our beers to hopefully lock on to some good stuff. Little changes here or there can eventually add up to something great, and mastering your production schedule to offer the right balance of beers and really optimize output is the other half of the equation. Hopefully, this pays off and you see double can releases of some creative-yet-polished beers in the coming months.
Consequently, I am not going to reveal the techniques we’ve learned. People will figure these things out eventually. Ten years from now I think some breweries in the 10-15 BBL range will have expanded and begin offering distro, as larger breweries with multi-state distro and regional breweries that are either slow to adapt or make sub-par beer begin to close. The most successful breweries right now are all the early adopters of these styles. More people will start figuring them out, but until then good producers have a large competitive advantage.
One critical thing I will talk about is to reiterate the importance of scheduling and marketing. Beer releases need to be consistent, i.e. 1-4 beers per week, appropriately marketed, i.e. good labels and social media leading up to it, and appropriately sized. The last one is a bit trickier. You need to make sure you don’t overproduce anything. If you don’t sell out of the beer, people stop caring as much about it.
This last part can be really tricky for a brewery without an established demand for cans. The issue you have is that some of these beers are so expensive to make that you can’t really distribute the cans and make much money, and there isn’t enough market for draught. That last one really aggravates me. I remember last summer sampling various buyers our Berliner with blackberries, vanilla, and milk sugar. The reaction I got ranged from “this is weird” to “I like it, but I don’t think customers will.” I happen to make my living off knowing what customers like, and I’m looking forward to a time when bar managers are caught up with today’s trends. Fortunately, we have good bars like Meridian Pint, Churchkey, and others that we can sell some kegs to, but there aren’t enough folks running great beer programs to handle much volume unless you go outside your local market (not a bad idea, by the way, which I’ll discuss in my next blog post).
However trends change, whatever you do, I think you need to be true to who you are. I am somebody who enjoys nearly all styles, so I get excited about brewing practically anything. There is one style I don’t care for and won’t brew (and it’s super-popular) but otherwise I feel good about brewing anything. Beer fans, I believe, can really sense in-authenticity. Brew beer you believe in. It’s important.