Things happen fast in the craft brewing world. If you missed last week’s Craft Beer Update, click here. Here’s the latest weekly Craft Brewing Update on what’s happening in our region and the craft brewing scuttlebutt and goings on around the country:
Outsourcing Bottle Releases, Practical or Problem?
A disturbing trend has surfaced at many of the biggest bottle release events across the nation. Many breweries have introduced daily bottle limits on the sales of their limited release beers in the hopes that more people will be able to try them. By limiting the sales of new release bottles, breweries can help ensure that everyone in line will hopefully get at least one bottle. That is, until the supply runs out. With limited production runs of special release beers, the one-per-person rule has been adopted as an industry standard to help the multitude of beer fans get at least a small chance at purchasing a bottle.
Seems fair, right? Unfortunately, this has had some unintended consequences in the craft beer community. As breweries have grown their fan bases, there is more and more demand for high quality beers that they produce. Often, fans of these breweries do not live locally to the breweries themselves and are either forced to travel long distances for a chance at a bottle (not usually guaranteed) or forced to solicit the help of friends, family and trading partners that live in the same area as the brewery in question. High demand and a desire to satisfy one’s friends and family has created a mentality of greed, in which fans of the brewery waiting in line are attempting to use any means at their disposal to get around the bottle limits and purchase as many as possible.
This is actually a good problem to have for the brewery as it helps ensure that all of the limited release bottles will indeed sell out quickly. This means less storage time for the breweries and more of a profit margin when the beers don’t have to go into distribution where distributors and retailers take their cuts of the profits. Many breweries actually embrace the ingenuity and guile of craft beer hoarders that will stop at no means to acquire extra bottles. For example, Cigar City Brewing, having a simultaneous love & hate relationship with the behavior of some of it’s fans, has both embraced and attempted to thwart bottle hoarding at it’s releases. On the one hand, they’ve released beers such as Grandmule that celebrate the idea of bringing friends and family to purchase limited release bottles, while at the same time condemned the same behavior at past Hunahpu releases. In fact, the owner of Cigar City, Joey Redner, had threatened to completely shut down the event. This was until the Cigar City staff took the advice of it’s fans and tightened up security at Hunahpu releases for a much more organized and tightly ordered bottle release in 2015. This schizophrenic behavior on behalf of the breweries just adds to the belief that selling out of a particular limited release beer due to demand outstripping supply is a good problem to have.
Enter Task Rabbit:
The next new trend in beating the system at limited release bottle shares has come in the form of hired hands. Small organizations of bottle traders, individual small companies and well-to-do individuals have long hired people to purchase bottles for them at limited release events. Going one step further, cyber-for-hire companies such as task rabbit have offered the services of it’s members to stand in line and purchase bottles on an hourly basis. Now, anyone with the cash can hire a line squatter to line up and purchase beers at a bottle release event. I would expect to see people taking advantage of this social media work phenomenon more and more often as bottles of rare beers become more scarce and increase in value on the secondary beer market. Outsourcing bottle releases may be here to stay.
My advice to breweries is this: When you do a limited release, pre-sell the tickets and limit them to one ticket per person. Make them physical tickets with the names and addresses of the purchasers clearly embossed on them. Add an anti-counterfeiting holographic sticker and make sure the names on the tickets match the ID’s of the customers. I am afraid that this will be the only way that you will be able to control the number of bottles per person.
Will the individual breweries do this? Some will, and some like Cigar City, Founders and others have already implemented this tactic for annual release rare beers. Will every brewery do this? Probably not, as again selling out of your limited release beers is a good problem to have. That is, until the outrage coming from their own fan base forces them to take more and more drastic control measures. Right Jester King?
Smog City Brewing bottling Cuddlebug
Torrance, CA: Smog City Brewing is now bottling it’s latest peach sour ale for bottle release. This one is called Cuddlebug and will be peach sour beer available in what looks like 375 ml. wine bottles. No information on a release date, limits or a price yet. I’ve never once had a smog city beer and I think it’s time we change that. Courtesy Smog City Brewing.
Perennial & Cigar City team up for Philly Taco:
Philadelphia, PA: Just in time for Philadelphia Beer Week, a collaboration between Perennial Artisan Ales and Cigar City Brewing will make it’s way to the general public. Philly Tacos are a drunken street food tradition in Philadelphia in which a Philly Cheese steak sandwich is wrapped inside of a pizza. Philly Taco is a Belgian style brown ale brewed with Brett for a funky flavor. This beer is clocking in at 7% abv and hopefully will be as funked out as a Philly Taco itself. Courtesy Philly.com.
5 Rabbit Cerveceria & Cigar City release El Coco:
Bedford Park, IL: Five Rabbit Cerveceria of Illinois and Cigar City Brewing of Florida have teamed up again to bring you El Coco. El Coco is an ale brewed with cinnamon, vanilla, toasted coconut and dulche de leche. This beer reportedly tastes like alcoholic flan. It has simultaneously hit both breweries tasting rooms and retails for $10 a bottle with a one case limit per person in effect. Courtesy Cigar City Brewing.
Free Will brewing and Brouwerij Hof ten Dormaal brew is Metal:
Perkasie, PA: Free Will Brewing and Belgium’s own Brouwerij Hof ten Dormaal have teamed up to produce a Belgian dark farmhouse ale called Leuven On A Prayer. This beer is a quaffable 7.2% ABV and will be available in 12 oz. bottles. This beer will also be released during Philly Beer Week, so keep your eyes open for it around Free Will’s distribution areas. I said it was Metal, but as it’s based on a Bon Jovi song, it’s probably more like late-80’s hair Metal. Rock on. Courtesy Free Will Brewing.
The Commons Brewery releases Maybelle:
Portland, OR: The Commons Brewery out of Portland, Oregon is releasing Maybelle, a farmhouse ale aged in white wine barrels and brewed with Brett. This funky white wine beer will be available this Saturday, 4/11/2015 in their tap room at $10 each. This will be Commons Brewery’s first bottle release in their new tasting room. This is an age worthy beer and will do nicely over time in your cellar. Courtesy Commons Brewery.
On Our Radar:
- Great South Bay is set to release Bourbon BA Marauder Scotch Ale this Saturday in their tap room.
- Troegs Brewing is testing their latest batch of Troegenator for maturity. Could be close to bottling time.
- Spiteful Brewing releases God Damn Chocolate Peanut Butter Porter this week. Treat Yo’ Self.
- Lawsons Finest Liquids is set to release Triple Sunshine on 4/18/2015 for their Anniversary Event. Yum!
- Side Project Brewing will be bringing Saison Du Fermier to market on 4/24/2015.