BEERNET

Don’t be scared when you open the latest SymphonyIRI data to April 17. The trends look dire: Beer case sales down 5% overall for the last 4 weeks, all channels! Top craft companies slightly down or soft, and the colonial slap of Sam Adams lager case sales down 7% for the current 4 weeks, and the seasonal down 20%! Craft up only 9%! Has the world gone mad – or worse, sober?…

CBD has learned that Chief Branding Officer, Greg Owsley, will leave the company after 15 years as the brewery’s top branding and marketing executive.Owsley has been the chief architect on many of the company’s most successful campaigns including the philanthropic bike festival Tour de Fat, sustainable branding advocacy, brainstorming 20-plus beer brands, the Tinkerer TV spots and the highly successful rollout of Ranger IPA…

Cider is everywhere and growing. Distributors are making an effort to push it in more accounts. More regional brands are cropping up on tap handles. And the beady-eyed, bucktoothed leader is still growing up at the front…

How does the fourth largest beer wholesaler in the nation maintain its cred with craft suppliers? Start with food, I guess. Ben E. Keith has been in business for over 100 years, founded by the namesake and stewarded later by Gaston Hallam, whose family still runs the company. Food has been its “horse” since the beginning. The multi-state institutional foodservice division does double its beverage operations; the company got into beer after Prohibition, when AB approached the corp. because of their refrigerated trucks…

It’s been about a year since Ken Allen sold Boonville, California’s 24-year-old Anderson Valley Brewing Company to UBS veteran and retiree Trey White. Later that year, former general manager Fal Allen returned as brewmaster. Though behind the Sierra Nevada level of name recognition, Anderson Valley has inspired California brewers and beyond, with solid titles like Boont Amber Ale and Barney Flats Oatmeal Stout. Its 15-year-old beer fest is also one of the oldest in the country, precursor to the signature brewery events we see today. Fal caught us up with operations since the acquisition. Says Fal: “We’re excited to be ‘crafty’ again.” …

YTD Symphony IRI numbers show craft’s lower top echelon brewers aiming to close the gap with pinnacle brands Boston Beer and Sierra Nevada: These include New Belgium, Shiner, Deschutes and some NAB brands, which are posting major growth and gains in seasonal and variety packs, with plenty of room to grow distribution…

We were tipped off to a particularly heinous discount yesterday: Vons selling Stone sixers for $6.99 (with club card-reg. $11.49) until June 28. The brewer, of course, doesn’t discount like that, and we’re told the distributor was floored. It’s a prime example of craft increasingly becoming a “loss leader,” taking the hit on pricing as retailers seek to generate traffic into the beer category, or just bring people in the store. Typically this tactic is reserved for big premium light beer brands, but apparently craft beer’s appeal is starting to make it more common in that space. I guess craft has truly arrived when chains are selling below cost…

As BBD wrote yesterday, Reyes Holdings closed the sale on Schenck earlier this week, but not all craft brands were a part of the deal, leaving some brands free agents. The pieces have not all fallen into place yet, but we know that Bell’s is now with red distributor Brown Distributing Co., and some have speculated that Avery is on the move, though their marketing chief couldn’t yet comment on the situation…

For many emerging craft brewers, there’s an important question to consider: To go with wine and spirits wholesalers or beer wholesalers?…

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant is the mid-Atlantic region’s fastest-growing restaurant group. Started when the craft bubble started to “burst” in ’96, the group is slated to open their 9th location in Philly’s Chestnut Hill later this year, and likely open another unit every year for the next five. The concept brews their own beer, but director of brewing Mark Edelson has some interesting observations about system trends that apply to all on-premise beer sales…

Not that we’re already jumping to the East Coast in our regional craft profiling series, but there’s a timely and topical microbrewery called Three Heads based in Rochester. Why is it timely? Well, like the larger craft industry, they’ve been growing almost threefold in the first few months of the year. But unlike the majority of the larger industry, they just started in January…

After they acquired IBU (Pyramid/Magic Hat) last year, North American Breweries started delving into craft trends, demos and observations from a swath of sources. This has driven some in-house, empirical conclusions that will continue to inform their strategy to “speak to the craft consumer and bring thought leadership” to the category, as insights and category chief Mary Jo Hardy and sales VP James Pendegraft mentioned at NAB headquarters in Buffalo last week. CBD was privy to their findings…

Most of our pieces in the “on-premise intel” series we started over at BBD have focused on regional or national chains, but there is a lot to be said for destination beer bars like San Diego’s Hamiltons Tavern. Like other regional satellites — San Francisco’s Toronado, Portland’s Horse Brass or Denver’s Falling Rock – it attracts the most dedicated craft aficionados, and helps set and show the trends first…

After last week’s dissertation on mounting tension between brewers and distributors, some of you wrote in wondering what brewers with small distributorships, like Stone, might think. Here’s your answer…

The West Coast knew how hot IPAs would be nation-wide long before the rest of it did. Or it should have. Case in point: Green Flash never planned to go national, but after it launched West Coast IPA March 1 of 2005, that became the brewery’s bestseller within six months – and sent palates afire. They didn’t distribute outside of SD before that, and hadn’t planned to, at least according to brewmaster Chuck Silva…