At late May’s California Small Brewers Association meeting, the “crystal ball” panel fielded a question on private label beers. It’s interesting that would even be on the radar of craft suppliers – after all, private label is less than one percent of the entire beer category, and less than that for craft, according to Nielsen’s Nick Lake. It has no on-premise opportunities. And, as big brother publication Beer Business Daily reported last week, private label had been declining for years before the Summer 2010…

Your editor was among the sampling and Savor-ing at the National Building Museum Friday. Perhaps the event offers some lessons for craft brew positioning – how often and where else do many non-core craft consumers dress up to taste expertly made food and beer together? The special salons were packed with all the erudite knowledge – with perhaps a fraction of the snobbery – that often characterizes the wine world. Such “table theater” should continue to help elevate craft’s image as multi-occasional and sophisticated to the mainstream drinker…

In St. Louis, “the number of consumers that think about ‘craft’ beer, you can count on one hand,” says Dan Kopman, who runs Schlafly, the oldest craft game in town. So what about them? “That’s different. That’s local beer … the small or local brewery.”…

Yesterday, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed SB 754 into law. So now, in a state where self-distribution was the taken-for-granted norm, there’s a 7,500-barrel cap. We probably don’t have to tell you how that strikes fear into the hearts of many a watchful small supplier around the nation….

In another sign that craft has made the big leagues, former Heineken USA chief Andy Thomas has landed at Craft Brewers Alliance. Andy is now president of commercial operations, accountable for all sales and marketing activities at CBA and will report directly to CEO Terry Michaelson. Thomas recently served as a consultant for CBA…

If you live in Oregon or Washington, you know McMenamins. According to InsideView, the 1,500-employee-strong brewpub, brewery and hotel chain does around $60 million in revenue a year (the non-public company doesn’t share exact numbers) from operations, which also include apparel, wine-and-spiritsmaking, coffee roasting, and who knows what else. Brewery manager Rob Vallance says the latest count of full-time operating breweries in the system is 20 (their homepage reads 24 pubs total, so not all of them brew), which put out around 24,000 barrels last year. It’s a singular model…

Here we go again. On the heels of new self-distribution legislation in Illinois set in motion by A-B’s proactiveness in the distribution space, Wisconsin distribs and MillerCoors are being proactive themselves…

Eugene, Oregon’s Ninkasi is in the top handful of fastest-growing breweries in the nation. It’s also one of the most calculating, from their design standards to what they brew. Here, our first brewery profile in our regional profiling series, Pac Northwest edition. (See May 13 for Pac Northwest scan data.)…

You want crystal ball stuff? We got crystal ball stuff. Yesterday’s California Small Brewers Association meeting in sunny San Diego finished with a panel on “what’s next” for the industry with Lagunitas’ Ron Lindenbusch, Brewers Association pres. Paul Gatza, and your editor. Here, the highlights from our hot air session – and we welcome yours…

We’re in a “golden age of brewing and drinking here in the U.S.,” a rambunctious Jim Koch told a room full of restaurant owner/operators at yesterday’s IWSB show, right after pouring himself a cold one (declaring, “I told the NRA I’d do this speech; I didn’t tell them I’d do it sober”). Our stellar-ness lies at the apex of quality beers “in more styles” and “with more innovation” than has “ever been available anywhere in the world.” But the message was mixed: though Jim stressed the “long tail” of craft beer, wherein 100-plus brands make up less than 10% of total volume in a given market, he seemed to advocate to operators that the best way to manage the proliferation of brands was largely to ignore them until they earned their salt…

One quick route to grow craft share is on-premise, particularly through the heart of bev-centric casual restaurant chains. Their crafty momentum is an eagle on the horizon, if yesterday’s International Wine, Spirits and Beer portion of the National Restaurant Association Show paints a true picture. Beverage directors from TGI Friday’s, California Pizza Kitchen and Applebee’s talked about what they’re doing with craft, and their tone was cautiously bullish…

The Texas-based Ginger Man Pub system was started by Bob Precious in 1985 with the opening of a Houston location. The then-novel import-based beer bar flourished, and Austin and Dallas soon followed. But a decade later, Bob and his family moved to Manhattan, where they started another version of the bar. Now there are GMans in Greenwich and Norwalk, Conn., too.

A-B region vp Mark Bordas wrote a letter indicating they are “unified in opposition” with  small brewers against Illinois bill SB 754, which yesterday passed a House Committee, and whose complete passage could be immiment, despite a large investment by A-B lobbying against the bill…

If you thought Stone was huge, just wait. A San Diego news outlet broke the series of announcements that Stone will make today at a private press junket in and around their Escondido digs. Among the most stunning: The No. 14 craft brewer’s veritable Disneyland of Breweries is going to “double its footprint” and brewing capacity to roughly 500,000 barrels…

Craft Brewers Alliance reported strong first quarter shipments, up 12%, and STRs were up 7%.  Contract brewing shipments were up 73%, reflecting strong Goose Island sales.  Net revenues increased $4.8 million, or 18%, to $32.3 million compared with the first quarter of 2010.  But increased costs pushed them to a slight operating loss…