Tag Archives: business

Ramblings From The Beer Doctor


Concerning Samuel Adams

The continuing dip in sales volume at the Boston Beer Company has brought tears and lamentations amongst the stock holders on Wall St.  Jim Koch, whom many consider to be one of the founding fathers of the craft beer revolution, complained that the federal government assisted in this demise, by allowing the big boys such as: AB-I, Molson-Coors, to use their considerable economic muscle to dominate shelf space, through mergers and acquisitions and faux craft brew branding. This is a bit of a change in the position of Mr. Koch who only a few years ago said his company was ready to compete on that larger global market, where not only Bud Light, but Heineken and Dos Equis abide.

But this was before the craft brew industry shot itself in the foot, when it collectively decided that overtly hopped beer. in the form of American IPA would become the primary focus of new productions. In many cases this has become a boring set of variations on the same damn theme: double IPA, triple IPA, IPA infused with fruit juice, IPA brewed with flour to enhance a Cloudy IPA, etc. Here is where Samuel Adams fell into that marketing trap. I recall tasting their strong Rebel Rouser IPA and wondered how in the world that a company that perfected one of the world’s great Vienna ambers, Samuel Adams Lager, could now produce this brutal, vegetal monster? I can not even imagine Jim Koch drinking this.

If the Boston Beer Company wants to sell more beer, here are a few suggestion from a lowly beer drinker, who has no financial skin in the game:
First, stop believing that seasonal beers require having natural flavors added. Perhaps it is time to abandon the Saigon Cinnamon infused Winter Lager, with a straight up dunkel weizen bock. The Summer Ale should be retired, a white bier variation is just not good enough.
Second, lower the price of Samuel Adams Lager. It should compete with Yuengling Traditional Amber. It should be available in 18 pack cans. Boston Beer Company has to decide whether they make beer for a diminishing elite market or for everybody else.

The Return Of Pilsner

Pilsner or Pilsener, has been a much aligned style by beer snobs in the brewing industry. Southern Tier produced a beer called Euro-Trash to show their disdain. Stone Brewing and others have added their meaningless snark to a style of beer that changed the entire world. Fortunately, some brewers like Victory in Pennsylvania, always treated this historic style with the respect it deserves. primaPrima Pils is one of the very best pilsners available in the United States, and I recommend the can version, because it is a remarkably fresh presentation.
For those who still believe a bottle is better, Bell’s Lager of the Lakes blolfits the bill quite nicely. Bell’s, a Michigan based brewery founded in the last decades of the 20th century, has great respect for tradition. This is quite apparent in this Bohemian Pilsner, where even a hop-forward recipe version of this style is supported by a substantial malt backbone.
The same can be said of Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest 2017summerfest A very well made lager that is simply a pleasure to drink. Who in the hell decided that having a beer involves a tasting struggle? If a beer does not taste good, why bother?
Locally, I have Christian Moerlein Pils cmpilsA beautiful hometown rendition that strangely is not always available.
But it is with a heavy heart that I was completely disappointed by the ridiculously expensive Bear Republic Double Aught Pilsner doubleaughtThis 12 dollars plus tax six pack claims it is a tribute to the balanced light lagers of central Europe. Actually it is an almost lifeless manifestation of beer, where a thin all malt body is brewed with Hallertauer hops, and pours into a glass and becomes a completely flat, no foam at all, in less than 90 seconds. Funny that the price of this beer was the same as Bofferding Pils bofferdingA quite delicious, all natural pilsner from Luxembourg.  To be factual about the Double Aught, it was purchased straight out of a sealed case on the day it was delivered. The bottle said best before July 30, 2017. So there was no storage or light damage involved. It was just lousy beer. Let the truth be told.

GETTING IN BED WITH INBEV

The news announced: “an all cash takeover at $47 billion”, now that sum is reported to be $47.5 billion. I am speaking of course of the buyout of Anheuser-Busch (ticker symbol: BUD) by the Belgian based brewing conglomerate known as InBev.  According to Theresa Howard of USA Today, it just might be that InBev needs to bed A-B, more than vice versa. It is being reported that the hydra-headed brewing concern has squeezed all of the profit margins from their existing portfolio. Sales in Latin America, their biggest market, are now flat. The old adage, get bigger or get out, seems to apply here. InBev’s CEO, Carlos Brito reveals their desire by promising to keep A-B’s headquarters in Saint Louis, along with continuing operations in their 12 regional breweries.
But then, there is the whole matter of marketing, especially sports marketing. InBev known in big business circles for its cost cutting, will certainly change Budweiser’s advertising, what beverage industry analyst, Tom Pirko calls “Anheuser’s carpet-bombing approach”.
Anheuser-Busch, known for making The King Of Beers, is most certainly the king of advertising, spending $475 million in the United States, with $20 million going for TV spots on the Super Bowl. Contrast that with InBev, whose brands include Bass, Beck’s, Stella Artois, spent $58 million in the United States.
Many analysts believe that InBev will cut advertising expenditures and fight competition by cutting prices (so that’s why that 24 ounce Labatt’s costs one dollar!).
Of course there is much controversy in all of this. Objections to the purchase, on patriotic grounds seem disingenuous at best. Since 1852, Anheuser-Busch has been an American-owned and operated business. In addition to great tasting beer, the company has provided thousands of domestic jobs as well as millions of dollars in charitable donations to nonprofit organizations and disaster relief, and has a long history of environmental awareness. Anheuser-Busch is a huge supporter of our military and their families both here and abroad… so intones savebudweiser.com, a web site created to cancel the purchase. Throwing in the military line seems to imply that to be bought by the Belgium based company is somewhat an act of surrender. But what is truly suspect on savebudweiser.com, is when it declares, We don’t want another American icon turned over to a foreign company; we want the motto to remain… The Great American Lager. Funny they just happened to use the latest marketing motto to express their nationalistic fervor. Instead how about “A Bud Never Meets A Stranger” or “When You Say Budweiser, You Said It All” or “For All You Do, This Bud’s For You!”
Putting aside the emotional jingoism, consolidation has been going on in the beer industry for a long time. From a Pitt News editorial on May 24, 2006: Last Friday, Rolling Rock said goodbye to its home in Latrobe. The recipe and label of the green-bottled brew were purchased for $82 million by Anheuser-Busch. Which says nothing of Bud’s relationship with Japan’s Kirin Brewery. Throw in the marketing arrangements with Tsing Tao in China, and what we have here is an American based company with very global concerns.
And then, there are always those people who simply can not stand Buweiser, who couldn’t care less. I find their posts on beer sites: The man who drank 3 Buds at a wedding reception, which produced his first hangover in twenty years. The people who love the Bell’s Brewery, and that’s that. (Well, maybe not, Carlos Brito may one day make Larry Bell an offer he simply can not refuse.)
“Anheuser-Bush is just about as American as can be” said one construction manager, “I just don’t like them being gone and owned by a foreign company.”  I am sure the people of Latrobe, Pennsylvania felt likewise, when the 250 jobs and $300 thosand property taxes evaporated when Anheuser-Busch bought the brand and pulled up stakes… from the glass lined tanks of Newark, New Jersey?
Money does not talk, it screams. The possibility of $70 dollars a share (ticker symbol: BUD) may be impossible to resist.