By Ezra Johnson-Greenough
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The internet was supposed to make life easier and solve humanity’s problems, so who figured it would take an online bookstore more than two decades just to get beer deliveries to your home right? When Amazon rolled out its Prime Now service in late 2014, home beer and wine deliveries were discussed, but it wasn’t until August of 2017 that the service launched in Oregon. Amazon is famous for helping kill off local and big-box book retailers, and some are now concerned they could do the same to grocery stores and bottle shops.
Prime Now is an app for your phone or device that lets you order items you’d normally find at large grocers: food, household supplies and gadgets. To use this service, you must be an Amazon Prime member, which for $99 a year is easily worth it if you do any other online shopping or video/music streaming. Products are shipped through the company’s regional partners, and based on my zip code that would be New Seasons Market, Whole Foods Market or Amazon’s local product center.
Ordering from each incurs a separate delivery fee (typically about $5) that’s waived when the purchase amount reaches a certain threshold. Amazon then adds a suggested $5 tip for the driver, which can be edited. Users choose a two-hour arrival window and it can be scheduled days in advance. If you’re in a hurry, one-hour delivery is available for a fee ranging from $4.99-7.99. Prices are comparable, if not exactly the same, as what’s in stores. Another benefit is the option to have your package left on a safe porch without signature (though you must be present with identification if purchasing alcohol).
Amazon’s Prime Now store is the only outlet in my zip code to ship beer, cider and wine (none of the hard stuff). There is a “Cold Beer” section with subcategories for “Local and Craft Beer” along with domestics, imports and specific styles. At this point, your choices are limited to the lineup you might find at your local mini-mart, but I suspect that will change — especially if there’s demand.
Under “Local and Craft Beer,” some might quibble with listings for Not Your Father’s Root Beer, Blue Moon, Elysian, 10 Barrel and Hop Valley, but that’s neither here nor there. More important to most is the local beer selection, which includes new and classic — but safe — hits from Breakside, BridgePort, Crux, Full Sail, Deschutes, Ecliptic, Fort George, Ninkasi, Oakshire, Pyramid, Rogue, Widmer and Worthy. National/international players are even more basic, like Corona, Guinness, New Belgium, Pacifico, Stella and, interestingly, Schofferhofer Grapefruit Hefeweizen.
I have now ordered from Amazon’s Prime Now service five times, three of them specifically for beer, finding mostly good results. The delivery often arrives on the early side of the two-hour window, and they take care to put the beer in a thin, but still temperature-holding, Mylar bag along with an ice pack. I encountered one issue with my first purchase of two bottles of Breakside’s flagship IPA in 22-ounce bottles (well-priced at $4.29 each) and a six-pack of Pelican’s Beak Breaker Double IPA. Shortly after placing the order, I was notified via email that the Pelican beer wasn’t available. The rest of the items came as usual, and there was no charge for the six-pack — though it was still listed as being available more than a week later.
Polling the hive mind known as my social media connections, I came across one other interesting snag that I tested myself. When requesting a seasonal release, you may not end up with the beer you intend. For instance, one person discovered that an order placed for Fort George’s Suicide Squeeze IPA actually resulted in the brewery’s 3-Way IPA being delivered. I attempted to replicate this by ordering Suicide Squeeze along with Breakside’s Toro Red (the site actually pictured the brewery’s What Rough Beast beer). I ended up receiving the 3-Way as well and the India Golden Ale by Breakside. The lesson: beware of accuracy when it comes to ordering seasonals. On the plus-side, it’s nice to get a refund and still keep the beer by sending in a complaint. This, however, highlights areas where online beer delivery will most likely always fall short — in selection and depth of knowledge.
“Delivery works best for replenishing staples,” says Carl Singmaster, one of the proprietors of Belmont Station in Southeast Portland. “For the consumer that prefers to drink primarily one widely available brand consistently, it makes a lot of sense. But for those who are constantly exploring and learning, I think they'll prefer to shop at bricks and mortar.”
“When customers need friendly interaction, real opinions, industry gossip or tips, that's where we come in. There's nothing virtual about it,” says Sarah Pederson, owner of North Portland’s Saraveza tavern and bottle shop.
With Amazon’s recent acquisition of Whole Foods, there’s a lot of concern that the massive company could push out mom-and-pop grocery and beer retailers. While most bottle shop owners I talked to think that Prime Now is more of a threat to big-box stores, they are still considering the possible consequences.
“We may lose some sales,” says Sean Campbell (aka John Beermonger), owner of The BeerMongers bottle shop and bar in Southeast Portland, “but I feel that is always a threat either from grocery stores or big liquor stores. Knowledgeable staff, good prices and good atmosphere should help keep the little guys in business.”
Sarah Pederson agrees, “I think Amazon grocery will affect grocery stores in the beer departments more than small bottle shops such as Saraveza. I can't imagine that all the time, effort, devotion and education we put into our selection on a weekly basis could be mimicked by a ginormous online store.”
In addition to the selection and expert customer support, Prime Now doesn’t offer details consumers want, like where their beer is coming from.
“I have so many customers who are very conscientious of what brands they purchase in regards to the ownership of the brewery,” says Sarah Pederson. “I don't know if these people refuse to shop at Walmart or on Amazon, but I'm curious to hear from them.”
The area where Amazon really could hurt small businesses is pricing. “The biggest concern is that a company of the scale and with the cash on hand of an Amazon can subsidize their service to undercut other retailers. The other concern would be if producers and distributors give them outsized allocations of limited-release beers,” comments Singmaster.
Beermonger is more concerned about the beer itself. “I know not all beer is stored properly. I see it in big stores, but also specialty stores. If people get inferior product that was stored and shipped under less-than-ideal conditions, they may blame the brewery for making bad beer. This is a problem that often comes up and I see this new delivery system increasing the likelihood of beer that is ‘off.’”
Overall, these craft-centric retailers were interested in following this new wave of beer delivery, but didn’t seem overly worried about competition. In some cases, they were even encouraging.
“I am all for consumers having as many options and choices available to them as possible,” says Singmaster. “For those that prefer to have their groceries delivered rather than visiting stores in person, there is no reason they shouldn't be able to put beer and wine into the mix.”
“Convenience sells. This move by Amazon and Whole Foods is a sign of the times, and we shouldn't be surprised by it. In fact, we should be prepared for more of it. People are very emotional, and often fearful, about big business and how it takes over. It's not necessarily a bad thing for the craft beer movement, but it sure is an interesting twist in this ever-changing industry.”
One thing is for sure, now that there are more ways to get beer delivered, Amazon won’t be the only one to get into the business. Additional specialty retailers are likely on the way. We already have draft growler beer subscription services in companies like Hopsy and bottle subscription through Tavour, among others.
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
It’s difficult to believe Bend’s 10 Barrel Brewing is already 10 years old.
But from its humble beginnings, the quickly growing brewery is set to celebrate its 10th anniversary, complete with another pub opening this spring in its hometown.
A lot has happened in those 10 years, including the now-famous purchase of the brewery by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2014.
The new brewpub, which is located on 10 Barrel’s east side Bend campus, is part of a larger expansion. A new building in excess of 60,000 square feet will be where all of 10 Barrel’s packaging and shipping takes place. It also includes warehouse space. 10 Barrel had easily outgrown its current facilities.
“It’s going to be great to be able to spread out in new offices, to have a little more room.” 10 Barrel brewmaster Jimmy Seifrit told Oregon Beer Growler.
But for people in Bend and fans of the beer in Oregon, the brewpub is perhaps the most exciting news.
10 Barrel’s original brewpub on the west side of Bend is a cozy affair, and often overflowing with guests during peak hours and on weekends.
The new pub will offer a similar intimate experience to that one, but will feature some of the same feel as bigger 10 Barrel pubs in Portland, Boise, Denver and San Diego (scheduled to open in April) with exposed wood, concrete and steel.
Display windows in the pub look into the new 10 Barrel facility. Patrons will also get views of the Cascade Mountains from the patio.
The new pub should do well as soon as the doors open, as the east side of Bend is underserved in terms of brewpubs, with only Worthy Brewing in the vicinity. (It also comes as another of Bend’s biggest breweries, Boneyard Beer, has plans to open a pub this year near downtown.)
Lovers of 10 Barrel’s beer will be happy to know that there are 22 taps on site. That gives the pub the ability to offer a variety of exclusive brews in addition to 10 Barrel’s flagship and seasonal-run beers.
Ian Larkin, formerly of Bend Brewing Company, will head up the brewing for the pub. That reunites him with Tonya Cornett, another Bend Brewing alum working at 10 Barrel. Bend Brewing has consistently produced award-winning beers before and after Cornett’s departure.
Seifrit said he plans to turn Larkin loose to make cool and unique beers, including special barrel-aged and sour beers.
“I told him I want him to come in here and go crazy, and take every idea you want to do, and do it,” Seifrit said. “My mantra is not to micromanage. My job is to give guidance and be an enabler — put the materials in their hands and do the best beer they can.”
10 Barrel tells Oregon Beer Growler that the new pub’s “estimated opening is the end of May," with an exact date still up in the air as of press time. You can find the new pub at 62970 NE 18th St. in Bend. 10 Barrel is also hosting a 10th anniversary party on campus on Saturday, May 13th, featuring a free concert headlined by hip-hop group De La Soul.
The pub is perhaps the biggest change in town. But the new facility is obviously going to change things for 10 Barrel far beyond Bend. The company and Seifrit maintain the brewery holds onto its roots, no matter how big it gets.
“Now, as we’re able to increase capacity, we’ll slowly start sharing the beer with people around the country,” Seifrit said. “But No. 1, we’re always going to focus on our core market — that will be tried and true until the day we die. As a company, we never want to forget where we came from and the people that supported us.”
By Dustin Gouker
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The craft beer scene in Central Oregon is constantly evolving, with new breweries and events every year, and changes to the existing ones. Here’s a look at what to watch for in Bend-area brewing and beyond.
The most anticipated craft beer attraction in Bend for next year is an easy one: the coming brewpub from Boneyard Beer. One of the biggest beermakers in Bend has skipped out on having its own brewpub until now, with just a tasting room for samples and growler fills. But it has plans to open a pub on Northeast Division Street in the first half of 2017, after initially hoping to launch in 2016. Co-founder Tony Lawrence says patrons can expect to see 16 beers on tap — mostly Boneyard but a few guest taps, too — along with food, outdoor seating and a specialty cocktail bar. Also in 2017: Look for bottle-conditioned sours from Boneyard sometime in the first quarter.
10 Barrel’s Expansion
The Anheuser-Busch InBev-owned craft brewer is in the midst of a major expansion — more than 60,000 square feet — on the east side of Bend that will more than double its current space. While most of that new room is dedicated to production and distribution, The (Bend) Bulletin has reported that a restaurant and outdoor patio are part of the plans, although 10 Barrel Brewing has been mum on the details.
The Hopservatory — a giant telescope run in conjunction with the Oregon Observatory at Sunriver — should be open by January. Part of a major construction project at Worthy Brewing Company, the telescope is definitely the most unique offering from a Central Oregon brewery. Both public and private tours of the facility will be available for a fee.
Bend Brewing’s Beer Garden
Bend Brewing Company is hoping to have its outdoor space open for business by summer. After years of being surrounded by empty lots, it should be a big upgrade for one of Bend’s oldest breweries. The beer garden is likely to feature a pouring station, a fire pit and an area for live music. Bend Brewing is also actively looking to increase its production and distribution, so you may be able to find its beers on more taps in the not-too-distant future.
Prineville’s Second Brewery
Crooked River Brewing won’t be offering up its own beers when it opens in January, joining Ochoco Brewing Company as the second brewpub in the town. But it will have more than a dozen craft brews on tap in its expansive space on North Main Street, according to owner Jesse Toomey. Visitors will also be able to play a variety of games, like cornhole, pool and foosball. Crooked River’s own beer should come sometime in the second half of 2017, once the proper permits and licenses are acquired.
Terrebonne’s First Brewery
Another brewery on tap for 2017 is Terrebonne’s Good Earth Brewing. On the site of Smith Rock Hop Farm, the brewery will use any hops the farm doesn’t sell in its own beers. Good Earth hopes to specialize in styles one wouldn’t normally see in the region: from barrel-aged saisons to kriek lambics.
By Sam Wheeler
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Is there a better setting to drink Oregon craft beer than at a live college football game? There’s certainly an argument for it, and The Terrace at Reser Stadium in Corvallis is making a pretty good case.
Built as a part of an ongoing expansion and renovation of the Valley Football Center at Oregon State University, The Terrace offers fans a taste of Oregon’s vibrant craft beer, wine and culinary scenes.
The 13,000-square-foot space is about 50 feet behind and above the north end zone, making it the optimal location to watch OSU running back Ryan Nall ripping off a 54-yard touchdown against the Ducks at the end of November. Just don’t spill that $9 IPA.
“It’s authentic Oregon,” said Zack Lassiter, deputy athletic director for external operations at OSU. “We think it’s a fun way for people to experience Oregon State football. The vibe in the space is so different than anything you’ve ever seen before, but it’s such a huge part of who we are. People are really, really digging it.”
While you can buy membership and single-game VIP tickets for The Terrace, of which there are 600 available, about 1,000 Orange Passes are handed out — for free — to each game. An Orange Pass along with a game ticket allows patrons access to The Terrace. In addition to distributing the Passes at games, they’re going to be given away in the summer leading up to the season through social media channels and at the Corvallis Farmers’ Market.
“A lot of times in sports stadiums it’s all about maximizing revenue and other pieces, but we never really try to create an experience that’s unique to our community,” Lassiter said. “We’ve really wrapped ourselves around this whole authentic Oregon story, and the craft beer scene is a huge part of that. It’s one of those things that makes this state so cool.”
Nineteen breweries and 13 vintners are registered vendors at The Terrace, Lassiter said, and the list is growing.
“You need to be based in Oregon, you need to have ties to Oregon State, and then you also have to be good, because you can’t sacrifice quality of product,” Lassiter rattled off as guidelines for interested vendors.
A few of the businesses you’ll find on tap at The Terrace include: 10 Barrel Brewing Co., BridgePort Brewing Company, Deschutes Brewing, Hop Valley Brewing Co., Rogue Ales, Widmer Brothers Brewing and Worthy Brewing Co. There are several Corvallis staples in the lineup as well: 2 Towns Ciderhouse, Block 15 Brewing Co., Flat Tail Brewing and Sky High Brewing.
“We really allow each vendor to showcase what’s great for them,” Lassiter said. “A lot of them (vendors) went to school at Oregon State, or grew up going to games, and now they’ve graduated, went on to create their own business. Now they’re getting a chance to not only enjoy an Oregon State football game, but they’re able to showcase their business.”
Tickets in the VIP section of the The Terrace include in-seat food and merchandise service and complimentary tastings during the game.
The September grand opening of The Terrace coincided with the Beavers drubbing Idaho State 37-7, and I foresee a lot of happy Beav fans dancing above the north end zone come Nov. 26. It’d be the first Civil War win for the orange men since a double-overtime 38-31 victory in 2007 at Autzen Stadium.
How sweet that sounds.
By Ezra Johnson-Greenough
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Who’s afraid of the seasonal creep? It sneaks up when you least expect it with autumn pumpkin-spiced beers in August and malty, strong winter ales in September. The seasonal creep lures you in with your favorite summer seasonal when spring rain is still falling, but mysteriously disappears by August.
If you’re one of those people surprised to find 10 Barrel Brewing’s Jamaican Me Pumpkin available in the dog days of summer or Deschutes Jubelale before the first leaf hits the ground in fall, then you’ve been smacked by seasonal creep. Pumpkin beers are a controversial new seasonal hit, but usually debut in stores before pumpkins. As I write this, it’s a clear blue sunny day and there’s a bottle of 2016 Deschutes Jubelale on my desk. Ironically, this year’s Jubelale art is called “First Snow,” while winter still seems nowhere in sight.
Understanding why seasonal creep strikes is to understand consumer buying habits and the supermarket strategy. In many ways, craft beer has blossomed on the back of seasonal beer releases. Where bars and taprooms would once carry the same beers year-round, drinkers began craving diversity. Seasonals were the first rotating, specialty offerings before limited-edition one-offs were a thing. We grew accustomed to looking forward to our favorite seasonal all year. No doubt there is value in hanging a beer release on a holiday, but it’s a double-edged sword.
The quickest way to grow a brewery is by getting beer into bottles and onto supermarket shelves.
A store will grant a brewery a certain number of stock keeping units (SKUs) or how many varieties they’ll carry. These slots must remain filled because an empty row is lost revenue. It’s difficult to capture more than a few SKUs if you’re a small brewer, and if you can’t keep them filled, you’re out. As Jason Randles, digital marketing director for Deschutes Brewery explains it, “You can’t have empty shelves at retail, so you have to be ready to backfill with the next seasonal because they share the same SKU.”
Seasonals are often intrinsically connected to holidays. Breakside Brewery’s head brewer and former Oregon Brewers Guild president Ben Edmunds says, “We've found that brewing and rolling out a beer attached to a very specific season or holiday really shifts people's attention away from the beer and onto the season in question. And, unfortunately, this means that if you release beers "late" in a marketing season — say releasing a "winter beer" on Jan. 15 or a pumpkin beer on Oct. 20 — the beers don't sell as well as they would if they were released earlier.”
“Summer seasonals stop moving towards the end of August. Holiday beers like Jubelale stop moving on December 31st,” adds Jason Randles. “Another interesting point about seasonals is that the trends are very soft. In the past, consumers would go to seasonals for variety and change, but now change is everywhere. “
The McMenamins locations throughout the Pacific Northwest regularly tie their beer releases to holidays. Black Widow Porter is a rare McMenamins bottle that only makes an appearance around Halloween. McMenamins hopes that supply will be gone by Nov. 11 when the Christmas-themed Kris Kringle Traditional Yuletide Ale comes out.
“When should a winter seasonal be released? I'm not sure, but I do think that if you're putting a beer out marketed with snowcapped mountains, Santa Claus or winter landscapes on the label before Oct. 1, you're letting marketing drive a lot of your beer-making decisions” says Ben Edmunds.
Deschutes Brewery is the largest independent brewery in the state, the eighth largest in the country. Their winter seasonal Jubelale is one of the region’s most famous, now in its 29th year. But even a classic like Jubelale can struggle in the market. Jason Randles admits Jubelale has hit as early as late August to ensure sellout by the holidays. However, Deschutes is making attempts to release seasonals more in line with the actual seasons.
“We did our best to address this seasonal creep this year by introducing a fourth seasonal, Hopzeit, but it didn’t work out as well as we had planned,” Randles says. “Hopzeit was supposed to be available for about six-to-eight weeks in late August through early October, but Hop Slice went long and is still on the shelf in Oregon. Hopzeit was supposed to push the Jubelale release to its intended early October release date.” Still, October ain’t bad when compared to an August release.
At Breakside Brewery, they have found their own way to stay out of reach of the seasonal creep.
“Our solution has been to avoid attaching our bottled, rotating beers to a particular season. You won't see any of the seasons or holidays specifically mentioned in the marketing or imagery for our rotating beers. The exception to this is some draft beers” said Ben Edmunds.
So if you’re as afraid of seasonal creep as I am, do your best to support year-round beers and drink your seasonals fresh and in high quantity!
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