The Skinny on Boston’s New Better-For-You Brews

Dear Client:

Boston Beer has shared more details with CBD on their 2019 innovations, all playing into popular CPG “wellness” trends, if you will, that pre-exist outside of beer.

The biggest play? The national rollout of 26.2, the beer Boston has brewed for the Boston Marathon since 2012. It’s a 4%(ish) ABV gose, traditionally a low-alcohol, tart German beer.

It’s the perfect beer for a marathon, Jim says: “It has sea salt in it; some carbs; and it’s all-grain, so it has amino acids. It’s slightly sour from the lactic acid, which makes it very refreshing.” Jim once described it as ‘Gatorade for grownups,’ but Gatorade, also a Boston Marathon sponsor, “did not see the humor in that.”

INTRODUCING MARATHON BREWING COMPANY. The beer will hit right before the Boston Marathon on Patriots Day (in April), so likely late Q1. Bottles are the primary format, and there will be a draft play, too. But it’s not a Sam Adams brand: Rather, it will debut as Marathon Brewing Company, which Boston Beer has trademarked.

“The Boston Marathon has allowed us to use their Boston Athletic Association logo for the Boston Marathon,” said Jim. “So one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathons will be a part of the brand.”

What’s the market? Running is the No. 1 sport in the United States in terms of participants, says Jim. “Something like 60 million people consider themselves runners.” But they’re “looking at the more dedicated slice of that group, the slice that aspires to run a marathon.”

And of course the Boston Marathon is THE marathon. But as part of the marketing, the brand will sponsor other marathons and runners as well.

NEXT: WILD LEAF: A BOUGIE, BETTER-FOR-YOU HARD TEA. Their second big bet for 2019? A 5% ABV artisanal hard tea dubbed “Wild Leaf.” This one will hit in 6-pack bottles and 12-pack slim cans, also late in Q1.

The lead flavor will be black tea with lemon and honeysuckle; they’ll also release a green tea with apple and honey.

It’s a very different proposition from Twisted Tea. For starters, it’s 130 calories, so significantly less sugar than the brand Boston build into the largest hard tea on the market.

It took awhile for Jim to realize there’s still a lot of white space in this realm.

“Think of what’s out there, on a 2X2 matrix: One axis is flavor; the other axis is sugar, a little or a lot,” he says. “The FMBs are in the ‘lot of flavor, lot of sugar’ (quadrant); and seltzers have shown there’s a big category of ‘low sugar, low flavor.’ And the third quadrant is a null set of ‘high sugar, no flavor’: who would drink that? But the white space is something that has a lot of flavor and a lot less sugar.”

That sounds tough to make. But it resonates well with tea’s flavor profile.

“What’s interesting to us about tea is that people regularly drink unsweetened tea. Tea itself delivers a lot of flavor, but doesn’t need a lot of sugar.” In fact “for high end non alc teas like Gold Peak and Pure Leaf, unsweetened tea is one of their better selling SKUs.” Besides that, tea has something of a health halo because of the natural polyphenols and antioxidants.

Wild Leaf will be built around three key attributes: First, artisanal ingredients and quality: the tea leaves hail from a 200-year-old purveyor in London. The provenance is key for quality. This is a very premium play, priced at craft levels, so it will be a trade up opportunity within FMBs.

The second key attribute is the aforementioned health and wellness cues, and lower calorie (130) and sugar content; likely between 8-10 grams of sugar but still at a full 5% abv.

Lastly, it is a more sophisticated drinking occasion; a leisurely, all-day, white collar proposition. “It’s actually, in a lot of ways, closer to Truly than it is to Twisted Tea, Smirnoff Ice or Mike’s Hard,” Jim said.

FINALLY: MEET TURA, THE HARD KOMBUCHA, IN LIMITED RELEASE. Boston’s final big bet for next year is a hard kombucha, to be released in about 10 markets where non-alc kombucha does best.

Dubbed “Tura,” the internal part of the word “naTURAl,” this proposition would be about 4% ABV. The lead style will be blueberry ginger.

Why hard kombucha? Non-alc kombucha is becoming mainstream in many markets, so demand for the hard stuff should follow.

“Our belief is that kombucha is starting to emerge from being a peculiar and niche product,” says Jim. He points out that in the last two years, a kombucha section in most grocery stores has become something of a given.

There are still many unknowns for the brand, such as where Boston will make it. Exposing their brewery to the bacterial and yeast culture, used to make this product isn’t ideal, much in the same way brewers of beers with “wild” yeast like to keep that quarantined.

Could they acquire a small kombucha maker? It’s not out of the question. But there are many potential options.

The brand would likely lead with draft, but will also go in bottles. And yes, for those familiar with kombucha, it will still have the real sort of gooey “scoby,”” AKA Symbiotic Culture of Bacteria and Yeast” that ferments the beer and gives it its probiotic (though the TTB might not allow such parlance) benefits.

But unlike many kombuchas, this one will actually taste good, not like vinegary taste of many non-alc kombuchas.

“We feel that there is real potential for a delicious kombucha that you don’t have to tell yourself is good for you,” says Jim.

More in BBD.

Until Monday,

Jenn, Jordan, and Harry

“The length of a film should be directly related to the endurance of the human bladder.” – Alfred Hitchcock

BEER SUMMIT 2019 REGISTRATION OPEN. Join us for the 16th Annual Beer Industry Summit, January 27 – 28, 2019 at The Hotel del Coronado in San Diego, CA. Speakers TBA.

Register here:

Or give Jessica a ring at 210-805-8006. Looking forward to seeing you there.

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