20 October 2010

"So whadaya think about this new beer coming here?"

Someone just rang me with a query about a press release (which, as far as I can tell, is reprinted verbatim here), asking for my opinions.

The answer I gave pretty much could be applied to any brewery whose products come onto this market from somewhere else, so I might as well rehash them here:

The caution I would apply is that Beer-Geek Chatter® is often inversely important to actual economic importance.  Most of the hype for a "new-to-the-market" brewery's stuff is for stuff that won Great American Beer Festival medals or other accolades such as a high BeerRater.com scores, but are limited distribution and limited production (typically "extreme" beers).  The geeks will pounce on the stuff, wax esoteric, and two months later move right back to pining for New Belgium Fat Tire, Russian River Pliny the Elder, or New Glarus Belgian Red--whatever they can't get easily here.  A "new" brewery will most likely ship out their flagship standards while keeping the more esoteric products back in their home turf to satiate their most loyal enthusiasts, and the standard pale ales, IPAs, stouts, and lagers, good as they may be, will simply get lost in the cluster of mania at better beer bars and stores and be competing with the likes of Boulder, Leininkugel, Pyramid, and even the locals like Flying Dog, Evolution, and Dogfish Head for shelf and tap space--often losing in the process (just try to part a DFH loyalist from his 60-Minute Ale).

I love the open market and the relative ability to find most of the stuff I want, and even a diversity of stuff I didn't know I wanted until I tried it.  It's still an embarrassment of riches.  But I'm content with what I can find here.  I long ago lost the desire to keep notching the bedpost, as it were.  I wish 'em luck, I'm certainly going to sample them when I get the chance, but likely to change my world view of beer?  Hardly.


Brad said...

"I'm content with what I can find here."

Does that include goods like Double Bastard, Hop Stoopid, Monk's Blood, Cereal Killer, Ted Fidy, Little Sumpin' Sumpin', Old Rasputin, etc..?

West Coast. MidWest beers..

See where I'm going?

It's like the west coasters claiming they've had all the good saisons they could possibly have. They don't need no stinkin' Stillwater.

Variety is the spice of... something.

If you always want what you've had, you're always going to get where you've been...

Now I'm just making stuff up.

But you get it.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

When I said "I'm content with what I can get here," what I meant was that we already have a rich abundance on our shelves from all over the globe.

Harviestoun. Fraoch. Hitachino. Sam Smith. Schlenkerla. Warsteiner. A boatload of Belgians. Hitachino. Coopers. Stone. Lagunitas. North Coast. Old Schoolhouse. Abita. Dogfish Head. Southern Tier. Goose Island. Unibroue. Schneider. Brooklyn. Boulder.

But no. Walk into Max's, or Wells, or Wine Source, or Perfect Pour, or Brickskeller, and in spite of the fact that they something on the order of 1,000 beers or more on hand, someone is ALWAYS asking for one of the beers they can't get yet.

New Belgium Fat Tire. Russian River. Deschutes Abyss. Founders Breakfast Stout. Bell's HopSlam or Expedition.

Scratch the surface of any of these folks asking, and more likely than not you'll find a Beer Advocate or RateBeer membership.

The beer I have is very highly regarded/rated at the moment. But I know that if someone started distributing it here, beer geeks would be clamoring all over themselves to get it, moan contentedly like the famous scene in "When Harry Met Sally," and then toss the empties over their shoulder in search of the next "beer they can't get that's highly rated." And, most likely, we'd lose the presence of a different brewery or brand in that genre as a trade-off.

We. Can't. Drink. It. All.

JohnM. said...

To no great surprise, I'm with Brad on this one... for the most part.

Yes, the current selection in Baltimore is truly amazing and I thank my lucky stars every time I walk into Max's, State Line or the Perfect Pour. However...

That being said, count me in the group that can never get enough, and just be damn glad there are (apparently) so many of us. For you know Alex, it's people like us that make it possible for you to (now) sample such a wealth of great beers from all over the country and planet. If we had always been satisfied with the current status quo then more than likely you wouldn't have access to things like hop stoopid, Racer X, Oak aged ten fidy, etc. If 10 or 15 years ago all of Baltimore was completely satisfied with the current beer selection, then none of those beers would be around today. No distributor would want to carry a beer that no one has any interest in. I'm sure I'd still survive on the likes of SN pale ale, anchor steam, Clipper City Gold, Baltimore Brewing's marzen, Yards ESA, etc., but count me very happy (estatic even) that the current beer landscape is so diverse and plentiful.

Alas, I've got some bad news for you Alex... there continue to be more of us than there are of you, so it's likely you're going to continue to be confronted my more and more choices and selections. By the end of the year Bells Brewing products should be available, and the same distributor that handles their beers, I believe also handles New Holland and Founders. Yes, before you know it the local market will likely include two hearted ale, double trouble and Dragons Milk stout.

On the bright side though, if your still happy and content with the current status quo, no worries... I promise you that no is going to make you drink those new beers. Cheers!

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

Fine. But when I say "the status quo," I acknowledge the ironclad fact that there are a finite number of dollars, taps, and shelf space chasing a much less finite bunch of beers. We have grown the market for craft beer over time, but we're STILL the exception rather than the rule, AND we're in an economic doldrums of uncertain length.

Okay, bring in Founders, New Holland, New Belgium, and/or Bell's. What gets pushed off the market or shelves locally to make room for them? North Coast? Shipyard? Allagash? Goose Island? Stoudt's? Boulder? Southern Tier? Erie? Pyramid? Mikkeller? Cantillon? Williams Brothers? Hitachino? Any of those beers also have their supporters as well, you know.....

And for the record:
Sam: Ya got me. Fat Tire has somehow (and I have no idea how or why) become the Eastern craft equivalent of Coors in "Smokey and the Bandit."

JohnM: I was GIVEN the bottle by one of the out-of-town beer writers that came to town for Baltimore Beer Week, in thanks for driving him around to places he wouldn't find or get to on foot or bus. It was a surprise; I didn't ask for it; and it just happens to be one of those "can't get it here" beers that everyone asks for a lot at Max's, etc.

Alexander D. Mitchell IV said...

And an ego check:

"For you know Alex, it's people like us that make it possible for you to (now) sample such a wealth of great beers from all over the country and planet."

No. It's the brewers that MAKE the beers, and the importers and distributors and sellers that take the substantial financial gamble of selling these beers. Beer geeks get the credit for buying them. Once, in many cases. Do they find enough business to keep going? In some cases, yes; in others, no. BrewDog, for example, took a substantial financial hit entering the American market originally, because they were selling Scottish craft beer that didn't stand out amongst the West Coast hop bombs, extreme imperials, etc. for the price. Most beer geeks only started paying attention (and dollars) to them when they went maverick with extreme, extreme publicity stunts packaged as beers.

". . .there continue to be more of us than there are of you, so it's likely you're going to continue to be confronted my more and more choices and selections."

And we are BOTH vastly outnumbered by frat boys, "Wooo girls," and sports fans downing Bud Light, Stella, Jim Beam, margaritas, and Natty Boh all over the area. Your point?

JohnM. said...

"A rising tide raises all boats."

Jeeze Loueeze, I can't believe we're even having this discussion. Your first statement is completely inaccurate (the ironclad fact), as you of all people should know.

Finite number of taps? Excuse me, but didn't Max's just increase their number of tap lines to 102 a few months back? That doesn't sound very finite to me. Likewise, didn't Alewife open up a month or so back? Sounds to me as if 40 more tap handles just opened up in this market.

Over the past year (or so) Muggsys, burger bistro and T'bonz have all opened up or expanded their craft beer selection. Everything I see and read indicates that craft beer is the one area of the beer market is still showing any significant growth, so apparently folks are still finding money to buy good beer.

You talk to Casey as much as I do, so you have to know the reason he expanded the tap line at Max's is because of a perceived increasing demand for high end craft beer and imports. Even in a down market, people seem to be willing to spend their discretionary income (what they have of it) on good beer.

That being said, of course we live in a capitalistic society, and I'm sure some products will fall by the wayside over time (what a shame if we no longer have bud select 55, miller chill, mich tangerine ultra light, or MGD 64 around). It's unfortunate, but I can live with it... especially if the end result is a superior, more diverse product line.

I don't know Alex... I really don't understand why you're so intransigent on this subject. I know you like good craft beer at least as much as I do, and I would think you'd embrace the opportunity to drink beers like hopslam, breakfast stout and two hearted in the local market. You have to know that the term "sufficent current selection" is completely subjective; for many consumers having a steady supply of pabst and natty boh probably represents a sufficient selection (I have to wonder at what point it became sufficient for you - yesterday; last month; two years ago... the current selection of craft beer improves all the time). Why this attitude when it comes to the continued intrduction of new craft beer products into this market?

JohnM. said...

"And we are BOTH vastly outnumbered by frat boys, "Wooo girls," and sports fans downing Bud Light, Stella, Jim Beam, margaritas, and Natty Boh all over the area."

A better question is what's yours (point)?

MY point is that it's only the continued demand for an increasing selection of craft beer that makes it happen. If no one cared, then there would be no expansion into this market. You'd get your wish.

Otherwise, who cares if the majority of the drinking population continue to swill bud lite, coors lite, etc.? What does that prove? Talk about a pretty lame arguement. I'm sure you've seen the cartoon that suggests the following: "eat shit! One trillion flies can't be wrong."

The fact that a majority of folks continue to drink macro swill does not make it any less swill.

JohnM. said...

"No. It's the brewers that MAKE the beers, and the importers and distributors and sellers that take the substantial financial gamble of selling these beers."

That's true too, but I'm talking strictly about the selection in our market. Obviously, but for those brewers, importers and distributors, there would be no craft beer industry per se... but what I said was accurate as well. The craft beer industry could be making the best beer on the planet, and giving it away for a song through the best import and distributorship network in the world. If there was no interest, and everyone was content drinking light lagers, it would all come to an end in a big hurry. Likewise, if most folks were completely content with the current status quo, breweries like Full Sail, Bells and New Holland would have no interest expanding into this market. The fact they clearly do, I think, supports my arguement.

Brandon Miller - Milhouse44 said...

There is a lot of words in these comments....When I get home I'm drinking a Two Hearted I bought in VA.