By Anthony St. Clair
For the Oregon Beer Growler
Buyouts. Closures. Startups. The roller coaster of Oregon’s brewing industry has seen more twists and turns than ever lately. As we start 2018, it’s time to take a good hard look at what this year and the next few might look like for craft beer in this state. And there’s no better person to talk with than Patrick Emerson. The Oregon State University economist also produces and co-hosts the “Beervana” podcast with Jeff Alworth, and his research focuses on development, labor economics, industrial organization and applied microeconomics. He offered his thoughts on where the industry is going — and whether or not there’s cause for alarm.
What is your outlook for 2018 through 2020, especially for Oregon’s craft beer industry?
The future is still very bright, but markets are now maturing — particularly Oregon — and in these markets competition is increasing and the pressure that this creates is starting to result in exits from the market. I expect this dynamic to increase in the next few years. There are still a lot of new breweries opening up, but not all will be successful and some more established breweries will exit as well. A good example is The Commons Brewery in Portland, an established brewery with an excellent reputation recently called it quits.
Why are new Oregon craft breweries growing more than more established ones?
In most industries, smaller businesses tend to have faster growth than bigger, more established ones. In craft beer there is definitely a novelty effect where new breweries have a certain buzz, which helps propel sales and growth. What we are seeing more and more nationally is the larger legacy craft brewers like Sierra Nevada, Widmer and Boston Beer Company are finding it harder to sustain sales, let alone continue to grow as they face intense local competition from newer brewers. The old model of growing through the focus on a flagship beer is starting to fade as the industry becomes more and more fad-driven.
What is driving craft beer’s current growth?
Innovation and novelty is a big part, but the artisanal nature of craft beer plays a big role, too. Consumers want some kind of personal connection to the beer. They want to know about who makes it, are proud of local beer and are interested in new and unique experiences. Macro brewers cannot offer any of that.
What does the merger-and-acquisition trend of the past few years portend?
The hurricane has subsided as the overall growth has slowed a little and as the macro brewers have grown fairly large portfolios of regional craft breweries. There is less of an incentive for venture capital and less of a need for companies like AB InBev to find more breweries to acquire.
How much do people care about who owns a brewery?
It has less to do with ownership and more to do with beer. Yes, there is a small percentage of consumers who really care a lot (and know enough about the industry to know who owns whom), but I don’t think this is very significant. More significant is great beer at a good price. If breweries with large corporate owners can maintain quality while leveraging the scale and distribution that corporate ownership can provide to keep prices low, I think the consumers will be there.
Are we reaching a point where there will be a brewery shakeout? What factors do you think will cause craft breweries to close up shop in the next couple of years?
I would not characterize it as a shakeout, but there will be a lot more breweries going out of business simply due to the maturation of the market. The breweries that are more likely to close are those with inconsistent quality, poor business acumen, are overly leveraged and/or fail to gain traction with their brand. All pretty standard factors, but the window for really gaining traction with a brand is becoming smaller and smaller as so many brands proliferate. It is going to become more and more important that brewers do the job of telling their stories and helping consumers connect with their brands.
How is increased shelf space competition forcing breweries to rethink distribution?
When there is a distributor in the middle, many breweries are relying on these folks to tell their stories and try to get shelf space and tap handles. But distributors represent many brands now. Breweries are really going to need to do more personal outreach to retailers and pubs. Distribution is tricky, but many breweries are doing self-distribution for this reason.
Should Oregon expect to see more growth in urban markets, such as Portland or Eugene/Springfield, or are we going to see more breweries opening in rural areas and small towns?
We will see both. Smaller towns have relatively untapped markets (pun intended). Bigger cities have established markets and are exciting places for brewers to be — not to mention all of the brewers currently getting on-the-job training whose dream is to have their own brewery someday.
How much attention will Oregon craft breweries give international markets?
This will continue to be a very minor market for most craft brewers, especially as transport costs are high and local craft beer is growing in those markets as well.
Is the industry healthy, and how should breweries steer the ship?
People should not view brewery closings as a sign of a market in trouble, but the sign that the market has matured. This is good for consumers: it will result in higher average quality and consistency and lower prices. For breweries, however, the market is going to demand a high degree of discipline: good and consistent beer, good brand management, good business acumen and tighter margins.
Great American Beer Festival Oregon Winners 2017
The Great American Beer Festival awards are some of the most coveted in the industry and Oregon continued to perform well in 2017. There are 96 style categories and the possibility of winning gold, silver or bronze in each. The following is a list of local recipients from this year’s competition, which were announced Oct. 7 in Denver:
BRONZE American-Style India Pale Ale: Breaskide Brewery & Taproom, Breakside IPA
SILVER American- or International-Style Pilsener: Full Sail Brewing Company, Sesion Cerveza
BRONZE American- or International-Style Pilsener: Elk Horn Brewery, Lemon Pils
GOLD American-Style Sour Ale: Flat Tail Brewing, DAM Wild Hops and Lemon Verbena
BRONZE American-Style Strong Pale Ale: Breakside Brewery + Beer Hall, Breakside Stay West
GOLD American-Style Wheat Beer: GoodLife Brewing Company, Sweet As Pacific Ale
GOLD American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast: Sunriver Brewing Company, Fuzztail
SILVER Belgian-Style Fruit Beer: Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, ZuurPruim
BRONZE Brett Beer: Alesong Brewing & Blending, Touch of Brett Mosaic
SILVER Double Red Ale: ColdFire Brewing Company, St. James
BRONZE Fruited American-Style Sour Ale: Breakside Brewery & Taproom, Breakside Passionfruit Sour Ale
GOLD German-Style Pilsener: Zoiglhaus Brewing Company, Zoigl-Pils
GOLD Gluten-Free Beer: Ground Breaker Brewing, Dark Ale
GOLD Imperial Red Ale: Sunriver Brewing Company, Cinder Beast
BRONZE Rye Beer: Breakside Brewery, Breakside Rye Curious?
BRONZE Session Beer: Three Creeks Brewing Company, Stonefly Session Ale
GOLD Specialty Saison: Base Camp Brewing Company, Rye Saison
SMALL BREWING COMPANY AND SMALL BREWING COMPANY BREWER OF THE YEAR: Sunriver Brewing Company, Sunriver Brewing Team
North American Guild of Beer Writers Oregon Winners 2017
Brewers weren’t the only ones honored during the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. The North American Guild of Beer Writers recognized the best beer and brewing industry coverage in 11 categories, ranging from newspaper and magazine stories to podcasts. The following list is composed of Oregon award recipients:
FIRST PLACE Best Beer Book: Jeff Alworth, Secrets of Master Brewers
SECOND PLACE Best Beer Blog: Jeff Alworth, Beervana
THIRD PLACE Best Beer and Travel Writing: Brian Yaeger, Beer at the End of the World
SECOND PLACE Best Local Reporting: Andi Prewitt, Brewers Make Foray into New Areas of Fungi Kingdom
THIRD PLACE Best History Writing: Jeff Alworth, Bourbon County Brand Stout: The Original Bourbon-Barrel-Aged Beer
HONORABLE MENTION Best History Writing: Ezra Johnson-Greenough, An Oral History of the Horse Brass
SECOND PLACE Best Technical Writing: Brian Yaeger, Savoring Acidity: The Quest to Explain Sourness in Beer
By Patty Mamula
For the Oregon Beer Growler
The Travelin Taphouse is a unique, fully customized beer trailer that can carry 30 kegs and has 12 taps. Even more, the mobile bar is an ingenious concept that provides almost any service you might want for any occasion — including weddings. And as nuptial-planning season kicks into high gear, a taphouse that brings the party to you might be the perfect fit for the reception of a craft beer-loving couple.
“We’re your one-stop shopping for any event, large or small,” said coordinator Patricia McPherson. The Travelin Taphouse not only brings the beer — and any other drinks requested — but also ambiance, including music, lighting, seating and a fire pit.
Tyke Murdock, who lives in Dallas, designed and owns the taps-on-wheels setup. Murdock, a confirmed extrovert who could easily be the poster child for the person who never met a stranger, came up with the idea while watching his good friend open a taphouse.
“I like to interact with people,” said the one-time police officer. “I’m not a big drinker, but I got interested in beer and started studying [Jeff Alworth’s book] ‘The Beer Bible.’”
Combining the convivial atmosphere with the popularity and mobility of a food truck all came together when Murdock’s wife suggested a beer cart. Murdock wanted to ensure choice for his customers, which is why there’s a dozen taps instead of two or three. Their first event was at Detroit Lake during Fourth of July celebrations. Murdock also brought his Travelin Dogs food cart.
When selling beer to the public, he submits paperwork for approval and draws up a plan that shows how the space will be arranged and staffed. For private setups like tailgate parties, he usually contains the area with attractive fencing and contacts the site involved. For couples planning a wedding, McPherson has a helpful and detailed checklist. “Most people don’t realize how many things there are to consider,” she said.
The list of services that Travelin Taphouse provides is daunting: from catering a full sit-down dinner to serving a more affordable, but no less impressive, buffet meal on China or plastic. The bar options are seemingly endless, including beer taps, wine service and even mixed drinks.
“We have all the required licenses and certificates,” said Murdock, whose experience supervising group homes probably helped him navigate all the regulatory hurdles. “Alcohol management is an important part of any package we sell,” he said. Murdock always has the appropriate number of alcohol monitors overseeing his events. “We take the stress off the wedding and assume all responsibility for alcohol consumption,” he said.
Although the Travelin Taphouse goes all over the state, many of the wedding venues they have worked at are scattered throughout Willamette Valley. Organizers can cater to any style of reception: from rustic to shabby chic to black tie with tuxedoed waiters. As an added bonus, Murdock can perform the ceremony since he is a minister. Now that’s what you call full service.
One of their favorite public events last summer was the Pendleton Round-Up. Their family-friendly space included a stage for hula hooping and food from the executive chef at The Joel Palmer House in Dayton. “The Round-Up time can get pretty wild,” Murdock said, “but we had no incidents.”
He has learned that beer tastes vary widely according to region and works to bring the styles and brands people prefer in any given area. Murdock also researches sales and always carries two ciders.
For custom events like weddings, the clients choose what they want. Murdock said the couple might decide to have a host/no-host bar, where the first three kegs are on them and after that, guests have to pay. Murdock emphasized he does not mark up his beer and charges clients exactly what he pays. There are smaller barrel options if a customer wants to have a wider assortment at a more reasonable price.
“If you want a variety, let’s look at six barrels and that way you can have more choices,” he said. “We want to work with the budget in mind.”
By Kris McDowell
For the Oregon Beer Growler
With the explosion of craft beer, so too has come an explosion in beer writers who are celebrating the industry through the publishing of books, articles and blogs. One of those beer writers is Fred Eckhardt, who started tackling the subject when the founders of the craft beer industry were still homebrewing. His "A Treatise on Lager Beers" was published in the early 1970s, followed by books on beer styles and sake. His extensive career also includes writing for The Seattle Times and The Oregonian as well as magazines like All About Beer.
Before he began his writing career, he was in the Marines and one of the impacts the Bay of Pigs invasion had on him was to make him ponder life after a nuclear holocaust. According to an interview with John Foyston, Fred said, "I realized that if you could brew alcohol you would be welcome in whatever shreds of civilization might remain after a nuclear war, so I took a good homebrew recipe and made my first batch of beer." Whether he was being entirely serious or not, his early forays in homebrewing were the beginnings of a career that would impact the craft beer world for decades.
Since those early days, beer writing has gathered steam with technical books like Fred's to ones telling the stories of the folks living their brewing dreams. The stories behind how each person came to be a beer writer are as varied the number of beer styles. Brian Yaeger, who wrote "Red, White, and Brew: An American Beer Odyssey," didn't know he was going to write a book until he announced it to a classroom during the pursuit of his master’s in professional writing. Once it was out of his mouth, he couldn't take it back. And before he knew it he'd secured a media pass to the Great American Beer Festival. From there he embarked on a six week road trip across the country. He describes the book as being "about the people, less so the beer."
Brian knew he'd write a second book but it wasn't until his publisher proposed "Oregon Breweries" that he knew what it would be. As luck would have it, he had already created the outline for it during the road trip that brought him and his wife from California to their new home in Portland. After retrieving the handwritten journal, he began two years of work during which the number of breweries in Oregon was growing exponentially. In the end, he had gathered the details on 190 breweries and brewpubs and was even more qualified to show visitors around, one of the things he loves most about being a beer writer.
Pete Dunlop, author of the 2013 book "Portland Beer: Crafting the Road to Beervana" started writing for the daily paper at Washington State University during graduate school. He went on to teach high school journalism and then had a career in marketing communications before going freelance. As opposed to Brian's books that are more contemporary, Pete's book is primarily historical in nature, no doubt influenced by his master’s in history.
When asked about his favorite part of being a beer writer, he replied that, "Beer people are easy to talk to," noting as well that he enjoys being able to write about the good in the industry (and sometimes bashing AB InBev). On the flip side, he noted that making money as a beer writer can be challenging. For him, publishing articles and authoring a beer blog were steps that led up to the realization that getting a book published was an important next move to make progress in this career. He's found magazine work easier to come by after publishing his book and is looking forward to writing a second historically based book.
Newer to the craft beer world is Steven Shomler, author of the just-released "Portland Beer Stories." Before 2007 he was not a beer drinker, having tasted the "crap beer" his dad drank and hating it. It wasn't until he was filming a hop harvest that he experienced what he described as "a life-changing experience." Smelling the hops in the field, during processing and in the drying room, opened his eyes and "stupid palate" to a world he didn't know existed. Later that day, he tried his first triple IPA and a whole new world opened to him, a world that he was able to write with a newcomer's perspective. However, he was new only to craft beer, as this would be his second book, following one about Portland's food cart scene. The realization that he was not going to be able to do a comprehensive piece was his biggest challenge so instead he focused on a mix of the old (McMenamins and Widmer) and the new (PINTS and Culmination). Finding stories to write about was easy as the brewers made themselves accessible, a sharp contrast to his experience with the wine industry.
The forthcoming "The Beer Bible" by Jeff Alworth is a product of his travels during two years visiting an array of amazing breweries overseas. It wasn't something that he had planned on writing; instead it was at the request of Workman Publishing, who had turned down his pitch for another book. They were looking for a follow up to "The Wine Bible" and sent him a copy, requesting he submit a table of contents as his "pitch." It was perhaps an unconventional way of finding the right author, but Jeff "didn't have anything to lose." After all, they were approaching him instead of the other way around and so he didn't stress about it.
Workman was happy with the table of contents Jeff submitted and after more than a year in contract negotiations, Jeff began the task of researching and writing his book that is broadly divided by beer styles. Since beginning work on the book in 2011 he has accumulated countless hours of stories about brewers all over the world, facilitated largely by making contacts with importers. Some countries he could have navigated on his own, the ones where English is commonly spoken, but it was destinations like Italy where he would have struggled without help arranging visits and translating.
Unlike Steven, Jeff had been a huge beer fan for years, having downed plenty of Henry Weinhard’s back when it was big, attending graduate school in Wisconsin when New Glarus Brewing opened and producing his own beers. That background, and having written ever since he was a kid, was the perfect combination that helped him begin his writing career, which started when he took over the beer column at Willamette Week following William Abernathy's departure. He went from there to write countless pieces for other publications.
Whether you prefer shorter pieces or books, historical or contemporary topics, there's something for everyone when it comes to beer writing. The best part is that they celebrate the day in and day out work that brewers do to fill our glasses. Cheers to the pioneering writers who first took it up and those who have followed in their steps!
Beervana Buzz http://www.beervanabuzz.com/
Portland Beer Stories https://www.facebook.com/PortlandBeerStories/
Jeff Alworth, Beervana
I have had a fairy Data-mother for the past nine months who has been sending me an Excel spreadsheet with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission's beer sales numbers. It is pretty darn interesting. Before we delve into the details, let's get a global picture of what we're dealing with.
In 2012, Oregon brewers produced 1.3 million barrels of beer. (Every brewery in Oregon is what we would call by a regular definition a "craft" brewery--the eldest of which is 30-year-old BridgePort.) Of that, they sold 483,400 barrels, or 37.3%, of it in Oregon. The OLCC numbers just cover the portion that Oregon breweries sell at home. The two largest breweries account for a third of all Oregon's sales, the four largest make half the beer, and the ten largest account for nearly 70% of the sales. So while Oregon had around 150 breweries making beer last year, over two-thirds of all the beer sold in Oregon was made by just 10 breweries. In all, consumers bought 13.4% more Oregon beer in 2013 than they did a year earlier.
(For whatever reason, the Oregon Brewers Guild has slightly different numbers than the OLCC is currently reporting out, so if you're reaching for your calculators, know that the Guild’s 483,400 figure is higher than the figure quoted by the OLCC.)
All right, you ready to see some numbers? Let's start with the top ten:
Brewery - total barrels (% of all Oregon sales) (Position in 2012)
1. Deschutes - 90,242 (18%) (1)
2. CBA (Redhook/Widmer/Kona) - 80,032 (16%) (2)
3. Ninkasi - 46,070 (9.2%) (3)
4. Portland - 28,944 (5.8%) (4)
5. Full Sail - 24,342 (4.9%) (6)
6. Bridgeport - 23,721 (4.7%) (5)
7. 10 Barrel - 16,101 (3.2%) (8)
8. Rogue Ales - 14,492 (2.9%) (7)
9. Boneyard Beer - 12,685 (2.5%) (10)
10. Oakshire - 7,952 1.6%) (12)
If you compare the current top ten with last year’s, the names and places look fairly similar. But rankings can sometimes deceive. Not all breweries on the list were headed in the same direction. For example, 10 Barrel (86.2%), Boneyard (69.6%) and Oakshire (36%) had astronomical growth while Widmer (-9.4%) and BridgePort (-4.1%) sold less beer in Oregon in 2013. Where’s the growth happening? Here are the top ten movers, based on actual increase in barrels sold, not just percentage growth:
1. 10 Barrel Brewing, 7453 more barrels in 2013 than 2012
2. Boneyard Beer, 5207
3. Ninkasi Brewing, 4229
4. Portland Brewing, 3630
5. Breakside Brewery, 2507
6. Oakshire Brewing, 2104
7. Pfriem Brewing, 1593
8. Crux, 1319
9. Base Camp Brewing, 1285
10. Gigantic Brewing, 827
Oregon has one of the healthiest craft beer markets in the country, so most breweries saw positive growth. Not everyone, though. Here are the breweries that saw sales decline the most in the past year—again, measured in actual barrels, not percentages.
1. CBA (Redhook/Widmer/Kona) -8298
2. Bridgeport Brewing -1023
3. Deschutes Brewery/Mountain Room -899
4. Hop Valley Brewing -817
5. Silver Moon Brewery -574
6. Deschutes Brewery -384 (Bend brewpub)
7. Hillsdale Brewery -348
8. Terminal Gravity Brewing -340
9. Phat Matt's Brewing -279
10. Crystal Ballroom & Brewery -110
The final numbers I'll leave you with are from some of the breweries that attract the most beer geek chatter (guilty). You can go ahead and compare them to those on the top list--you'll see that the overlap is inexact. In other words, setting BeerAdvocate on fire is not the same as selling a ton of beer.
12. Double Mountain Brewery, 7570
15. Ft. George Brewery, 5922
21. Breakside Brewery, 3178
26. Burnside Brewing Co., 2398
29. Pfriem Brewing, 2077
33. Crux, 1701
41. Gigantic Brewing, 1404
46. Block 15, 1201
47. Flat Tail Brewing, 1199
60. Upright Brewing, 924
69. The Commons Brewery, 771
90. Hair of the Dog Brewing, 496
122. Logsdon Farmhouse Ales, 166
145. The Ale Apothecary, 60.4
Oregon Beer Sales 2013
OBG Blog Archives
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