Sobering stuff, ironically, at the Lagunitas portion of the pre CBC journalist retreat today. First, Tony Magee talked about the $9.5 million brewhouse expansion that we reported on in BBD last week, likening the 7-month process of the normally two-year augmentation to an “open heart transplant on an awake patient … on the back of a galloping horse.” Classic Tony…

The Brewers Association today issued a new position statement on the “Importance of an Independent Three-Tier Beer Distribution System.” While it hasn’t changed too much, one issue that the BA membership has been more vocal about lately — particularly as it has come up in legislation in several states — is the importance of the right of small brewers to be able to self-distribute, up to a certain barrelage at least. The BA says in the new statement that…

The Brewers Association just announced that indie craft brewers achieved 11% growth and retail sales dollars increase 12% in 2010….

Plus, some thoughts on access to market…

New publication to focus on the fatest growing segment of the alcohol business.

You can’t keep a good man down. Or you can’t keep a down man good. Or something. Anyway, Jim Koch’s Boston Beer posted another rocking quarter, with core shipments and depletions up around 12%. But orders-in-hand are quite slower (against tough comps), with expected shipments through April only up 6%, and BBC doesn’t see a lot of pricing or mix improvement in 2011, with revenue per barrel only expected to be around 1%. Meh, I don’t buy it. Revs per hecto, as the cool beer industry call it now, will be more that that trust me. That lower estimate

The Supreme Court has decided that they will not hear the Texas case of Wine Country Gift Baskets.com v. Steen, giving a sigh of relief to distributors. After postponing its order for two weeks, the US Supreme Court has denied cert for out-of-state retailers seeking to ship directly to Texas residents. You’ll recall that the Fifth Circuit Court ruled that Texas does not violate the Commerce Clause by allowing in-state retailers to ship direct to consumers

It’s a 28-year-old, 14 outlet chain of taverns in Ohio, but don’t let its tight distribution fool you. Winking Lizard Tavern (WLT) is tied to be Dogfish Head’s No. 1 on-premise chain account in the nation, and in the top 3 for Labatt Blue (WLT operations veep John Lane says the beer and his chain grew up together). It’s the biggest chain customer, period, for local Great Lakes Brewing, and Merchant Du Vin’s largest account for Orval in the states. There are some 900 employees in the WLT system. So far, there are no plans to break out of the area.

Based in San Antonio, Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling is, as far as the proprietors know, the only bourbon “brewstillery” anywhere. Other breweries might use their wort to make whiskey, but making bourbon along with beer has stipulations that make sharing operations harder.

Dan Wandel of Symphony IRI barely drew a breath as he went over the pertinent beer numbers for 2010 for over an hour yesterday for the Brewers Association’s bi-annual Power Hour conference call. Major themes included the fact that, of course, craft is still growing gangbusters, wine is really cutting into beer growth, the big brewers are having somewhat of a innovation drought, volumes are down but dollar sales are positive, drug stores are growing (thanks Walgreens) while c-stores suffer, PABs are still hot, craft cans are hot, as are IPAs, and much more…

Not much mention of Heineken USA in yesterday’s analyst conference call, though their new Femsa business got plenty of play. Overall, the parent company’s revenues also grew 9.7% to over $16 billion, and organic profits were up nearly 9%…

That is the question vexing international analysts this week. On the one hand, as Foster’s has formally committed to spinning off its wine business, leaving the Carlton & United Breweries division (Fosters) ripe for an acquisition, SABMiller would be the natural suitor. On the other hand, CUB operates in a mature or declining market and perhaps SABMiller isn’t keen to put up capital for a soft business. Plus you’ve got Asahi and Coca-Cola Amatil waiting in the wings…

Kirin Holdings Company Limited is planning to sell its 25% stake in Dalian Daxue Brewery Co., Ltd., a China-based beer producer, to Anheuser-Busch InBev. The move comes as part of Kirin’s efforts to reorganize its Chinese beer operations, but the company will keep holding two other beer production companies in China, Kirin Brewery (Zhuhai) Co. and Hangzhou Qiandaohu Brewery Co., says the WSJ. With annual capacity of 280,000 kiloliters of beer, the Chinese brewer operates in Liaoning Province in the northeast, one of the regions with the highest beer consumption in China…

It’s been a tough road for imported beer the last few years. Dominated by Corona and Heineken, imports were up about 5.8% in December, lead by Mexican shipments up a huge 37%, even though the Netherlands (Heineken) were down 16%. So for the year, imported beers were up 4.9%, the first increase in two years. That total total US beer shipments down around 0.9%, which is a little better than most people anticipated…

Let’s talk about culture. Most consumers don’t, but the industry knows Tenth and Blake’s Blue Moon as MillerCoors. But to understand the way this segment of the global brewer will evolve, one must realize that this division is in fact different, and on its one-year birthday, it’s evolving. Big time…