Hopstories

Every bottle of craft beer you take off the shelf has a story. It’s written by individuals with the passion to start a brewery and the dedication to master the craft. We share their story, and the stories behind your favorite brews, in Hopstories.

Here’s a craft beer video documentary series I think you folks might like:

 

A Glorious Map Of Craft Beer Across The U.S.

Infographic of the Day as Seen on FastCoDesign.com

Selected as the Infographic of the Day on Fast Company’s web site, this wonderfully created info graphic shows how craft beer has continued to flourish state-by-state. Enjoy this visual map of breweries, consumers and growth across our beer-boasting country.

[button link=”http://craftbrew.cirqlemedia.com/the-invasion-of-craft-breweries-in-the-u-s/” color=”orange”] The Invasion of Craft Breweries in the U.S. – Interactive Map[/button]

Which state makes the most craft beer? California. But that’s only part of the story. Lagunitas makes more than one amazing beer, as does Stone Brewing Co. Today, both of these once-tiny California breweries have blossomed into household names that you can spot on almost any decent tap. But they’re only two of the 316 craft breweries found in the monster state of California, which can boast almost double the craft breweries of the next mightiest beer state, Washington.

It’s one of many factoids you’ll pick up in The New Yorker’s interactive infographic that we have included here Mapping the Rise of Craft Beer. It employs a relatively simple interface–a few toggles and mouseovers–to convey an incredible amount of information, a brown, tan, and yellow state of the union of frothy fuzzyheadedness.

The new craft breweries in 2012.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “I guess I’ve gotta move to California now.” Untrue! A more studied approach to consumption would be to weigh not just how many breweries are in a given state, but how many breweries are in a given state per person. In this regard, Vermont takes the crown. They may only have 25 craft breweries across the state, but with a population of only 626,201 people, that’s the best ratio of man to brewery in the U.S. Or if all-around performance is more your speed, Oregon should probably be your pick. It ranks fourth in variety, fifth in production, and second in breweries per capita.

It’s all enough to make a man wary of the sustainability of the craft beer movement. That is, until he cracks another cold one in the name of supporting the underdog.

[button link=”http://craftbrew.cirqlemedia.com/the-invasion-of-craft-breweries-in-the-u-s/” color=”orange”] The Invasion of Craft Breweries in the U.S. – Interactive Map[/button]

Craft Breweries Top a Record Milestone

U.S. Brewery Count Passes 2500.

A wonderful story from the Brewers Association this week highlights the continued growth, and consumer support of the Craft Beer industry in America.

The number of U.S. breweries continues to climb rapidly. Brewery Detective and Membership Coordinator Erin Glass reported the May 31 U.S. brewery count as 2514. This count is up 422 from the May 31, 2012 count of 2092. The count on May 31, 2011 was 1747. So we are at 767 more breweries in just two years. The annual increase in brewery count from May to May looks like:

2013–2514, an increase of 422 in the past year.

2012–2092, an increase of 345 in the year.

2011–1747, an increase of 132 in the year.

2010–1615, an increase of 93 in the year.

2009–1522, an increase of 63 in the year.

The list includes 24 breweries we code as “large” in our database for A-B, Miller-Coors and breweries named for brands of Goose Island (packaging brewery), Leinenkugel’s and Blue Moon. In addition there are 109 regional breweries, 1214 microbreweries, and 1167 brewpubs.

The number of microbreweries passed the number of brewpubs in February 2013 for the first time since 1987.

Our count of breweries-in-planning is at 1559, up from 1228 a year ago. (But we did purge a couple hundred from the roles last fall and winter.)

It makes me thirsty just to think about our current pace of openings. I wouldn’t expect the rate of opening to continue at over two new breweries per day on average, but it sure looks like I’ll be posting about passing 3000 breweries sometime in 2014. When will this trend crest?

Contributor – Paul Gatza, Brewers Association

8 of the Best Beer Towns in America, 2 Spots Remain

The history of beer in the United States is a rich one dating back to the colonies, when soldiers were paid in spruce beer and cider. From there beer weathered a Revolution, Prohibition and a right turn at Albuquerque before positively exploding with deregulation of the industry through the early 1980s.

Ever since, Americans have been sampling, celebrating and sophisticating the unofficial national beverage in ways previously unimaginable, and it seems nearly every town’s gotten into the act.

But not all cities are carbonated equal. Some have begun to take beer personally, innovating its craft and consumption and throwing festivals to honor the finest ales and lagers — creating a blueprint for the rest of the country to follow. Still others have been doing this all along.

This is the story of those towns, the top eight cities in America for beer explorers. While only 8 made our 2013 Cirqle Media list, we recognize that hundreds of cities from coast to coast and around the globe have a passion and fever for their hometown brew.  I encourage you to list your town and favorite draft or native tap – but be sure to explain why you hold a special spot in your heart for your brew.  You might just make the list to round out our final 10-best cities.

We’ve scored each out of 1-10 for history, breweries, bars and events, and would like to think every one of you will read the whole piece quietly, captions and all, nodding sagely as the indisputable truth of every line hits home. But, this is the Internet and if there’s one place where froth belongs besides the top of your pint of ale, it’s the comment box below.

1. Portland, Oregon

History: 6
Breweries: 10
Bars: 10
Events: 7

Portland boasts more breweries (52) than any city in the world. It’s also America’s largest craft brewing market, with 69 breweries in the greater metro area, owing to state sales regulations that favor consumer tastes over discounts and kickbacks, allowing small brewers to compete with mass marketers.

But the Rose City isn’t just about quantity. PDX is where you’ll find Hopworks Urban Brewery, Alameda Brewing Company, Cascade Brewing, and family-owned Hair Of The Dog, all nationally renowned for their care and creativity.

Fairs like The Oregon Brewer’s Festival, the Portland International Beer Festival, and Portland Beer Week — America’s first organic beer festival — ensure that beer spirit in the city runs high all year, while Biketobeerfest celebrates two things exalted by the region: bikes and beer. Portland is also home to five of Draft magazine’s top 100 craft bars — Saraveza Bottle Shop & Pasty Tavern, Horse Brass Pub, Apex, Bailey’s Tap Room, and Belmont Station.

Top draws: Hopworks Urban Crosstown Pale, Deschutes Hop Trip Ale

2. San Francisco, California

History: 8
Breweries: 9
Bars: 9
Events: 7

The Bay Area is bursting with micro- and nanobreweries that have been experimenting with food-inspired brews like nowhere else. Take Almanac, which uses seasonal produce in its brews, or Moonlight Brewing Company, which picks redwood twigs and cedar bark from brewer Brian Hunt’s own backyard.

There’s history here, too. The sale of Anchor Steam Brewery in the 1960s precipitated the production of several signature beers at a time when mass-marketed light beers were the trend. The following decade saw the opening of New Albion Brewing in Sonoma, the first new brewery in California since Prohibition and the first microbrewery in America.

Following suit have been 21st Amendment Brewery, Speakeasy, Drake’s, Black Diamond and Social Kitchen and Brewery. Notable bars include La Trappe Cafe and The Toronado Pub, which hosts arguably America’s preeminent barleywine festival. And finally, there’s San Francisco’s Beer Week and the San Francisco International Beer Fest.

Top draws: Moylan’s Tipperary Pale Ale, 21st Amendment Brew

3. San Diego, California

History: 5
Breweries: 10
Bars: 9
Events: 8

There are 67 breweries in San Diego and another 13 slated for opening this year. With 60-plus breweries in the county and its own IPA category, San Diego’s a beacon on any beer explorer’s map. For a pint, hit up Jay Porter’s beer-centric restaurant, the Linkery, which offers brew-paired dinners, and Toronado, which boasts an exhaustive beer list.

A trip to San Diego isn’t complete without sampling the suds at Karl Strauss, Ballast Point, Lost Abbey, Green Flash, and Stone Brewing Co., declared by BeerAdvocate magazine the “All-Time Top Brewery on Planet Earth.”

As for events, San Diego was chosen to host the 2012 World Beer Cup — the “Olympics of Beer” — and San Diego Beer Week draws crowds from all over to celebrate 10 days of tastings, pairings and live music. If you visit, don’t miss five San Diego bars mentioned in Draft mag’s top 100 American beer bars: Tiger! Tiger!, Small Bar, O’Brien’s American Pub, Blind Lady Ale House, and Hamilton’s Tavern.

Top draws: Alpine Ale, Lost Abbey Duck Duck Gooze

4. Boston, Massachusetts

History: 10
Breweries: 7
Bars: 8
Events: 7

The first brewery in Massachusetts emerged not long after the Pilgrims dropped anchor, owing to the fact that beer was safer to drink than the water. Though the Pilgrims were aiming for Virginia, they ran out of brew and stopped in Massachusetts — thus a beer town was born.

Eventually, Boston was blessed with a number of microbreweries, including the best-selling craft brewer in America, Boston Beer Co. — producer of Samuel Adams — and Harpoon Brewery. Notable hits on the bar crawl include Cambridge and Cape Ann Brewing Cos., Deep Ellum and The Publick House, alongside historic pubs like Green Dragon, The Warren Tavern (Boston’s oldest) and Sunset Grill & Tap.

With this lively scene, it’s not hard to believe that Boston consumes the most beer per capita in the United States. It’s also home to the American Craft Beer Fest, the East Coast’s largest celebration of domestic micros, featuring 600+ varieties from 125+ American brewers.

Top draws: Harpoon IPA, Beer Works Bunker Hill Blueberry Ale

5. Denver, Colorado

History: 7
Breweries: 8
Bars: 7
Events: 8

Colorado is fourth out of 50 states in breweries per capita, and while there are only a handful in Denver proper, there are loads of notable breweries outside town and in nearby Boulder.

Neighborhoods like Platte Street and the Art District on Santa Fe are peppered with breweries. Elsewhere you’ll find Avery, Renegade, New Belgium, Strange Brewing, Dry Dock and others, including Bull & Bush, which writer Steve Body declared “may well be America’s best brewpub and restaurant.”

Denver’s first craft brewery, Wynkoop, was opened in 1988 by John Hickenlooper, who went on to become mayor, then governor, extending Denver’s brewer reach to the highest levels of government. Both Wynkoop and Great Divide are a moon shot from Coors Field, and homemade beers at Blue Moon Brewing Co. are found just behind section 112 in left field.

The Mile-High City also stages what is widely regarded the largest, most prestigious beer festival in the country, the annual Great American Beer Festival, drawing sudsmeliers from all over the world to taste more than 2,200 brews.

Top Draws: Denver Graham Cracker Porter, Renegade Hammer and Sickle

6. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

History: 9
Breweries: 6
Bars: 8
Events: 7

In the city of brewery love, outfits like Victory, Sly Fox, Nodding Head, Yards and Flying Fish have been vanguards of local brewing since the city’s barley rush of the 1990s. And since 1860, McGillin’s Olde Ale House has been a beloved showcase for those and other local brews longer than any in Philly.

Three less-ancient bars made Draft mag’s top 100 — Eulogy Belgian Tavern, Grey Lodge Public House and Memphis Taproom, which enjoys a sterling reputation despite an endorsement by Guy Fieri. And no beer itinerary is complete without writer Michael Jackson’s favorite spot, Monk’s Cafe, a love letter to Belgian (and other) brews that will awe the savviest palate.

Philly Beer Week is the city’s most hoppening event, but the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Beer Festival, begun in 2011, is already proving a worthy companion. One caveat to all this beer-fueled euphoria: complicated state controls regulate the purchase of packaged beer. Don’t let them kill your buzz.

Top Draws: Yards Philadelphia Pale Ale, Victory Hop Devil IPA

7. Bend, Oregon

History: 5
Breweries: 8
Bars: 8
Events: 8

With one brewery for every 9,111 people, descriptors for Bend include “beervana” and “Beer City, USA.” And that number is constantly changing, with newcomers like Crux Fermentation Project and Worthy Brewing Company recently fattening Bend’s ranks.

Already cemented into Bend beer culture is Deschutes, the godfather of local craft brewing, which recently expanded its flagship location. The Ale Apothecary, like its name suggests, blends modern and old-fashioned brewing techniques for what they’re calling Bend’s only steampunk brewery.

Getting your beer passport stamped at all nine of participating breweries on the Bend Ale Trail will net you a prize, and dog lovers will appreciate Boneyard Beer, where they can try the world’s first organic, non-alcoholic brew made for dogs, Dawg Grogg.

Your itinerary’s bound to overlap at least one of Bend’s annual beer celebrations, like Central Oregon Beer Week, The Little Woody Barrel-Aged Brew & Whiskey Festival, Bend BrewFest, The Fermentation Celebration and Bend Oktoberfest.

Top Draws: Deschutes Inversion IPA, Silver Moon Hound’s Tooth Amber

8. Asheville, North Carolina

History: 5
Breweries: 7
Bars: 7
Events: 9

Yes, Asheville. It’s relatively new to the beer scene, but with 11 breweries yielding the highest per-capita total in the country, it’s already building a global rep. A day trip to Asheville offers a chance to try roughly 50 local beers, almost all of which can be tasted at The Thirsty Monk, a must-see on any Ashevillian beer pilgrimage.

But it’s less the number of breweries or bars here than it is the culture that earns Asheville its cred. There is serious pride in the local craft, and its small-town appeal means all you have to do is roll over and you’ll find yourself in one of the city’s renowned breweries, like Wedge, Green Man and Wicked Weed.

The city also pumps beer into mustards, shampoos, ice creams, cakes, dog biscuits, and soaps. And with at least five major beer events, Asheville keeps the party going all year round with its own Oktoberfest, Beer Week and Winter Warmer, Best Firkin, Beer City and Brewgrass Festivals.

Top Draws: Asheville Shiva IPA, French Broad Ryehopper

The 5 Best Beer Marketing Gimmicks

As the Craft Beer Industry continues to carve out a niche in today’s beer-lover landscape, the big beers push, pull and drag to use their heavy advertising dollars to stand out.  Is this good taste?  What I mean is – the focus on many of the more recent advertising tools have been geared towards gimmicky ad ploys with very little attention to taste, quality and product.  In a $196 billion industry that encompasses 85% of America’s alcohol market, it can be exceptionally difficult for beer brands to stand out. It appears innovation, technology of color-coded-temperature-sensitive cans have pushed aside the true root of great taste and quality inside the can.  Either way, some concepts (and commercials) have been entertaining and it’s fun to watch the top breweries battle for best-of-show ideas using scientists and engineers – not to improve their product but instead how to make it stand out in a crowded beer cooler.  Enjoy.

Below are five of the craftiest marketing ploys in the big beer industry today and how their looks, functions and overall appeal affect prospective buyers.

“My Bud Light” labels

5 of the Craftiest Marketing Ploys in the Big Beer Industry image budlightlabel1
Photo from Daily Finance

Looks: For a while Bud Light’s labels sported a special feature. The small white space below their logo resembled a dog-eared notepad and encouraged the drinker to “make your mark” by doodling with a key or coin.

A fancy splash graphic played up the side of the label, complementing the curvy aesthetic of the brand name’s border and making us wonder how the little notepad looked so dry. And when inscriptions were made, the paths left behind a metallic outline reminiscent of scratch-off lottery tickets.

Function: The obvious function behind the label is to scrawl your name onto your beer and avoid confusion with other partygoers. The makers also recommend leaving your phone number on the bottle for that good-looking someone across the bar. One commercial for the special beers even shows two guys leaving behind Buds with a suggestive “party” and their address on the side, of course followed by a successful gathering of every attractive woman in their apartment building.

Overall appeal: The “My Bud Light” labels definitely had something going for them. In a world where people use hair ties and defaced labels to keep track of their beer in the crowd, it’s smart to fashion a feature that lets them write their names on it.

But this gimmick is now a thing of the past, as it must not have drawn the response that Budweiser had hoped for in a limited run several years ago. Or perhaps the “limited time only” was meant to be a part of the appeal in itself.

Coors’ cold-activated can

5 of the Craftiest Marketing Ploys in the Big Beer Industry image coors1
Photo from buba69

Looks: These Coors cans use color to their advantage. What better hue to associate with your brand’s ice cold beer than blue? It’s a common theme in the beer industry (see Bud Light, Labatt Blue, Pabst Blue Ribbon), the color being synonymous with the super chilled temperatures we Americans love our beer served at.

Function: The purpose is evidently to show the consumer that “this beer is cold”. The cans utilize a simple chemical reaction by printing the mountains with thermochromic ink. When the liquid inside gets below a certain temperature, the exterior dye changes from transparent to blue.

And they’re reminiscent of the temperature-activated, color changing charms of days past: 70s mood rings, and those wondrous plastic spoons from the cereal boxes. It’s a nostalgic touch that brings us back to that naïve amazement of our childhood and subconsciously works in the Coors brand’s favor.

Overall appeal: But, then again…what do we have hands for? Must we forsake our sense of touch and wait for the beer to tell us when its contents are ready to sip?

Coors has even gone as far as punching out a little “window” to exhibit the effect of their cold-activation to passersby. It all seems pretty silly to me, but this novelty seems to turn casual beer drinkers on to the beverage.

Miller Lite’s punch tab

5 of the Craftiest Marketing Ploys in the Big Beer Industry image punchtab1
Photos from shane o mac and Dirty Beer Hole

Looks: There’s not much to look at here. The punch tab is merely an opportunity for an extra hole in the top of your average Miller Lite can. They’ve added a little instructional graphic on the side to give you the right idea, in case you missed the plethora of advertising on the box you pulled it from.

Function: This product’s design is mundane but touts the special advantage of a smoother pour. The commercial invites drinkers to punch the top out with the tool of their choice, including but not limited to drumsticks, wrenches, baseball trophies and carabiners.

What could always be done with a can opener or set of keys is now made just a little bit easier by the fine folks at Miller. This must be an attempt at inspiring more tasteful shot-gunning practices for the next generation of reckless college kids… right?

Overall appeal: To be fair, I can see why this little feature works for Miller. Anyone who’s bored a makeshift can hole (for whatever purpose) knows it’s an extra bit of fun with a visceral charm of its own. So if you can give people that added amusement by etching another punch-able spot into your can and potentially boost your sales from the tactic, why not?

Miller Lite’s vortex bottle

5 of the Craftiest Marketing Ploys in the Big Beer Industry image millervortex1
Photo from Dawn Huczek

Looks: In case you couldn’t tell, Miller is big on the beer gimmicks. Here’s their vortex bottle – a subtle design integration that can be seen through the neck of the bottle in just the right light. Since it may not be immediately noticeable, they give you a reminder on the bright blue strip that reads “vortex bottle” and “specially designed grooves” close to the pouring end.

As long as the drinker isn’t sitting in a dimly-lit bar, this minor redesign may be noticeable and just enough to pique a curious patron’s interest.

Function: Miller claims that their reworked bottle “create[s] a vortex as you’re pouring the beer” and is meant to “create buzz and excitement and give consumers another reason to choose Miller”. But very little from the giant’s mouth on how the tool actually works.

And that’s because it doesn’t do much. We’d expect such a well-touted device to give us an added benefit, such as a quicker pour or better head retention. But recorded user tests and a great deal of written banter tell us that the vortex is pretty worthless when it comes to actual function.

Overall appeal: At first glance (assuming you’re in a bright room) this is a pretty alluring product design. The spiraled pattern on the inside of the beer is interesting and leaves many people curious. But it may also leave them disappointed, as after brief inspection you can tell how silly the vortex design really is.

Big beer’s faux craft beer

5 of the Craftiest Marketing Ploys in the Big Beer Industry image fauxcraftbeers1

Looks: I’ve saved the best (or most deceptive) marketing ploy for last. The big beer companies have all begun producing “craft beers” of their own under the guise of entirely different brands, and I’m clumping them together to save a mouthful.

I must say, they get an A+ for looks. These seemingly craft brews sport deliberately artisanal label designs, playing off the artsy, earthy and offbeat feel of many real craft brands.

Function: The purpose of these brands is, of course, for big beer to get their foot in the door to the now booming craft beer market. Since average consumers and longtime drinkers of domestic light beers are now flocking to the craft section of their local stores in droves, the multinational brewers don’t want to miss out on this increasingly lucrative business.

Overall appeal: The appeal with these beers is huge. For one, they taste much richer and have significantly more body than a watered-down light beer, offering an exciting new experience to people who are used to drinking crap. They’re often slightly cheaper than the real craft beers on the shelf (due to the manufacturing and shipping advantages these big brewers possess), and the bottles themselves are attractive.

But as more people are paying attention to and caring about where their beer comes from, they’re discovering that these brands aren’t quite the real deal. An important aspect of the craft brewing community is, in fact, community. Microbreweries and small owners alike stress the importance of identity, quality and mutual benefit, and many of their consumers take this to heart.

Any other crafty marketing ploys worth mentioning? Share them with us in the comments below.

The 20 Craft Breweries Taking Over America

The number of craft beer makers in America is growing at record speed. More than 400 new craft breweries opened their doors in 2012, according to the Brewer’s Association. Craft brewers still make up only 6.5% of the total beer market. But enthusiasts are confident that number will continue to grow. This past week, the Brewers Association released its list of the top craft breweries in 2012, based on sales volume. We put together some information on the top 20, which beer lovers should keep on their radar. Share some of your favorite breweries with us in the comments section below.

20. Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Location: Paso Robles, Calif.

About: The brewery was founded in 1996 by a pair of brothers-in-law. It’s now a four-time World Beer Cup champion.

Beer buzz: Firestone Walker’s Parabola Imperial Stout is coming out this month. The beer is a doozy at 13 percent alcohol by volume and is noted for its “bold bourbon, espresso and tobacco aromas.”

19. Great Lakes Brewing Company

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

About: The brewery was founded in 1998 by Daniel and Patrick Conway. It jumped from producing 1,000 barrels of beer its first year to 125,000 barrels annually today.

Beer buzz: The company’s Burning River Pale Ale has won a gold medal at the World Beer Championships eight times. The name hails from the infamous 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River.

18. Long Trail Brewing Co.

Location: Bridgewater Corners, Vt.

About: The brewery got its start in 1989 in the basement of a woolen mill. It’s focused on environmentalism and gives its used grain and hops as a feed supplement to local dairy cows.

Beer buzz: The company has an interesting story behind its 5.5 percent Pumpkin Pale Ale: “During colonial times malted barley would be in short supply so the colonial brewers would use a wide assortment of whatever organic ingredient was handy. Pumpkin was in abundance so it was one of the most common of the random ingredients.”

17. New Glarus Brewing Co.

Location: New Glarus, Wisc.

About: This small-town brewery is owned by Dan and Deborah Clarey. Deborah is noted as the first woman to found and operate a brewery in the U.S.

Beer buzz: The beer’s year-round Spotted Cow Ale showcases Wisconsin’s farmers with “a hint of corn.” Some of its best pairings are noted as steak, bacon and eggs and cheese curds.

16. Alaskan Brewing Co.

Location: Juneau, Alaska

About: The brewery was founded by Marcy and Geoff Larson in 1986, Juneau’s first brewery since Prohibition. The website says its beer still have many aspects of the beers brewed during the Gold Rush era.

Beer buzz: Alaskan’s seasonal Smoked Porter is known for the smoke in its bottles, which allows the beers to age much like wine. After being kept in the bottle for three or four years, it’s said to have “sherry, currant, raisin, and toffee-like nuances.”

 

15. Shipyard Brewing Co.

Location: Portland, Maine

About: The brewery was founded in the 1990s by Fred Forsley and Alan Pugsley. It’s one of New England’s largest microbreweries.

Beer buzz: Shipyard is best known for its Pumpkinhead Pale Ale. Last July, the company started brewing the ale at a second location in Memphis to help it meet the high demand. The fall brew is now packaged in cans as well.

14. Abita Brewing Co.

Location: Abita Springs, La.

About: In 1986, this brewery got its start outside of New Orleans. It now brews more than 151,000 barrels of beer and 9,100 barrels of root beer.

Beer buzz: Abita generated some attention last summer when it started packaging its beers in cans, a tactic most craft brewers don’t yet use. The company also came out with a new 4.4 percent summer brew this season, Lemon Wheat.

13. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Location: Milton, Del.

About: Dogfish Head got its start in 1995 by Sam Calagione, named after a city in Maine. The company, which also makes spirits, produces mainly “extreme” beers that often have quirky flavors and are highly alcoholic.

Beer buzz: One of Dogfish’s most notorious brews is its 90-Minute IPA. The beer is 9 percent alcohol by volume and is continuously hopped for a strong IPA flavor.

 

12. Boulevard Brewing Co.

Location: Kansas City, Mo.

About: Boulevard’s first beers were brewed in 1989 by John McDonald and delivered to a local restaurant in the back of a pickup truck. Now, the company distributes its beers in 24 states and is the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest.

Beer buzz: The company recently paired with Farmland Foods to create a new beer brat. The sausages are made using Boulevard’s Pale Ale and Unfiltered Wheat beers and will be available inside the Kansas City Royals stadium.

11. Brooklyn Brewery

Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

About: The brewery was founded by 1988 by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter. It recently doubled its capacity and is expanding even further this year.

Beer buzz: The brewery’s Brooklyn Blast! IPA uses both English and American hops. According to its website, “Minerally hop bitterness is followed by a shock wave of flavor and aroma. You won’t even know what hit you.”

10. Stone Brewing Co.

Location: Escondido, Calif.

About: Stone Brewing was founded in 1996 in Southern California. Its CEO Greg Koch and President Steve Wagner describe themselves on its website with the taglines “Fizzy yellow beer is for wussies!” and “High priest of yeast.”

Beer buzz: The company’s Arrogant Bastard Ale gets a lot of attention, and the company likes to brag about it. Its described online as an “unprecedented and uncompromising celebration of intensity.”

9. Harpoon Brewery

Location: Boston, Mass.

About: Harpoon opened its doors in 1986, run by college friends Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary. At the time, it was the first brewery to operate in Boston in more than 25 years.

Beer buzz: The company’s strongest beer is the Imperial IPA, at 10 percent alcohol by volume. Its brewed with pale and caramel malts and is said to “pack a whallop.”

8. Matt Brewing Co.

Location: Utica, N.Y.

About: This company has been in business for more than a century. It was founded by a German immigrant and is currently run by family descendants, Nick and Fred Matt. Their main label is the Saranac line of beers.

Beer buzz: The Saranac White IPA is one of the brewery’s core beers. It gives a twist on a typical IPA with hints of orange peel, wheat malt, oats and coriander.

7. Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

Location: Galesburg, Mich.

About: Larry Bell founded Bell’s in 1985. According the website, his first batches were brewed in a 15-gallon soup kettle and self-delivered by employees. Now, the company brews more than 500,000 gallons of beer each year.

Beer buzz: The company’s fruity Oberon Ale is one of its most well-known, coming out during the spring and summer. The brewery also produces an exclusive “remarkably drinkable” double IPA in the winter called Hopslam, which packs a punch at 10 percent alcohol by volume.

6. Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Location: Petaluma, Calif.

About: The company was founded by a team of brew fans from across the nation in the mid-1990s. Its owned by Tony Magee and now also operates a brewery in Chicago.

Beer buzz: Lagunitas’ brews are known for their tongue-in-cheek descriptions. The company’s Maximus IPA contains “flavor so hoppy it threatens to remove the enamel from one’s teeth.”

5. Deschutes Brewery

Location: Bend, Ore.

About: Deschutes got its start in 1988 by Gary Fish. The company encourages the public to drop by the breweries in Bend and Portland to meet the “beer-obsessed folks” behind the brews.

Beer buzz: The Mirror Pond Pale Ale earned a gold medal at this year’s International Brewing Awards. The beer is the company’s recommended starter for beer beginners and is known for being brewed “unmistakably right.”

4. The Gambrinus Co.

Location: San Antonio, Texas

About: The company started as a beer importer when it was founded in 1986 by Carlos Alvarez. It now owns craft breweries including craft breweries including Trumer Brauerei Brewery and BridgePort Brewing Company.

Beer buzz: BridgePort’s Blue Heron Pale Ale was named for Portland’s official bird. It ranks high on maltiness and low on hoppiness.

3. New Belgium Brewing Co.

Location: Fort Collins, Colo.

About: New Belgium got its start in Jeff Lebesch’s basement in 1989 with his Abbey and Fat Tire beers. Lebesch no longer works at the company, but the craft brewery continues to be successful.

Beer buzz: Fat Tire, an amber ale, remains one of the brewery’s most famous beers. It has sweet and caramel malts and a “flash of fresh hop bitterness.”

2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Location: Chico, Calif.

About: Ken Grossman founded Sierra Nevada in 1979 near his favorite hiking grounds. He started with the Sierra Nevada Stout, which has kept the same basic recipe since.

Beer buzz: The company releases speciality Beer Camp brews each year. The beers are developed during a literal “beer camp” by some of Sierra Nevada’s biggest fans and released as solely on-tap specialties.

1. Boston Beer Co.

Location: Boston, Mass.

About: Boston Brewing is most famous for being the creator of Samuel Adams. The beer was first released in 1985 by Jim Koch, who came from a family of five generations of brewmasters.

Beer buzz: The company’s most famous brew remains the Samuel Adams Boston Lager. But it has a fleet of more than 20 other beers, including the Grumpy Monk Belgian IPA and Blueberry Hill Lager.

Craft Brew Continues to Surge

Craft brewing continues to surge, producing 15% more beer and $1.5 billion more sales.

Craft brewing is clearly outpacing the rest of the beer market, producing 15 percent more beer in 2012 than the year before while the total U.S. beer market grew by only 1 percent, according to the annual report released today by the Brewers Association.

In total, craft brewers produced 13.2 million barrels in 2012, a 1.8 million barrel increase from 2011.

Craft breweries now make up 6.5 percent volume of the total beer market, up from 5.7 percent the year before. And craft beer also makes up 10.2 percent of the total U.S. beer market for a total of $10.2 billion in sales, up from $8.7 billion in 2011 or a 17 percent increase.

“Beer is a $99 billion industry to which craft brewers are making a significant contribution, with retail sales share hitting double digits for the first time in 2012,” said Paul Gatza, director, Brewers Association in a press release. “Small and independent brewers are consistently innovating and producing high quality, flavor-forward craft brewed beer. Americans are not only responding to greater access to these products, but also to the stories and people behind them.”

The industry defines a craft brewer as being small, independent, and traditional.

Specifically, the craft brewery’s annual production must be less than 6 million barrels and at least 75 percent of the brewery should be owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is themselves a craft brewer.

In 2012, there was an 18 percent increase in the number of U.S. operating breweries, with the total count reaching 2,403. The count includes 409 new brewery openings and only 43 closings. Small breweries created an estimated 4,857 more jobs during the year, employing 108,440 workers, compared to 103,583 the year prior.

“On average, we are seeing slightly more than one craft brewery per day opening somewhere in the U.S., and we anticipate even more in the coming year. There is clearly a thirst in the marketplace for craft brewed beer, as indicated by the continued growth year after year,” added Gatza. “These small breweries are doing great things for their local communities, the greater community of craft brewers, our food arts culture and the overall economy.”

The Brewers Association said it won’t have state-specific statistics until May.

Nine Beers Americans No Longer Drink

Craft Breweries are Taking a Bite Out of Macro-Brew Sales

After three years of declining sales, shipments of domestically sold beer are up by more than 1% in the United States this year. While sales of specialty, craft, and small-market beers have improved dramatically, many of the traditional, full-calorie beers that were once the staples of most breweries have fallen behind. In the five years ending in 2011, sales of Budweiser, which was once the top-selling beer in the country for years, have fallen by 7 million barrels. Sales of Michelob are down more than 70%. Based on data provided by Beer Marketer’s INSIGHTS, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the nine large — or once-large — beer brands with a five-year decline in sales of 30% or more.

While regular, full-calorie beer was once the mainstream, now light has become the primary beer of choice. Budweiser, once by far the most popular beer, has now fallen to third place in domestic sales, with 17.2 million barrels shipped in 2011, compared to Coors Light’s 17.4 million. The U.S. beer leader is, by a long shot, Bud Light, with 39.15 million barrels sold last year.

Budweiser did not quite make the 30% decline in sales cutoff for our list, but many other traditional brews did. Old Milwaukee, Milwaukee’s Best and Miller Genuine Draft have all lost 50% of their sales since 2006. Michelob shipped 500,000 barrels domestically in 2006, but sold just 140,000 in 2011.

While light beer has supplanted full-calorie beer in popularity, sales of most leading light brands have been flat over the past several years. In fact, many of the beers on our list with the biggest declines are light beers that either didn’t catch on or faded out of popularity. In an interview with 24/7 Wall St., Beer Marketer’s INSIGHTS executive editor Eric Shepard explained that it is specialty beers and craft beers — not light beer — that have eaten into sales of traditional full-calorie beer in the past year.

Shepard explained that like most major brand-centered industries, the beer industry has entered a period of aggressively marketing new brands and flavors. “I think that part of the reason that brewers felt we had three down years was primarily the economy… but it was also a lack of innovation, and so now you’re seeing [the beer industry] rev up these things,” he said. “The buzzword for this year was innovation.”

To combat the growing popularity of craft brews, major breweries such as Anheuser-Busch Inbev (NYSE: BUD) and MillerCoors have aggressively marketed their own specialty beer. Bud Light Platinum, which debuted during the Super Bowl, has been very successful, beating most expectations. Shock Top, also produced by Anheuser-Busch, sold 600,000 barrels last year, more than double the previous year’s sales. Another Belgian white beer, Blue Moon, which is sold by MillerCoors, was the 18th-most popular beer sold last year. Shepard expects the focus on nontraditional brews to continue at least through next year. This will likely further reduce sales of the declining brands on our list.

24/7 Wall St. identified the nine beers Americans no longer drink based on INSIGHTS top 50 beer brands with at least 500,000 barrels in sales in either 2006 or 2011 with sales declines of 30% or more over the same period. Sales for flavored malt beverages and craft beers were excluded from the analysis.

These are the nine beers Americans no longer drink.

9. Milwaukee’s Best Light
> Sales loss (2006-2011): 35.5%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels sold (2011): 1.2 million

Milwaukee’s Best Light, according to SABMiller, one half of MillerCoors, is a “leading low-calorie beer in the near-premium segment.” Although the brand has been on shelves since 1986, in recent years customers have abandoned the beer. Sales volume dropped by more than a third between 2006 and 2011, versus a decline of just 4% for all top brands. Last year, Milwaukee’s Best Light sold 750,000 barrels, 5.8% less than in 2010. Meanwhile, sales for the top brands fell by just 1.7% during that time.

8. Miller High Life Light
> Sales loss (2006-2011): 37.6%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels sold (2011): 390,000

Miller High Life Light was first sold in 1994 as the low-calorie version of Miller High Life, often referred to as “the champagne of beers.” But while customers have continued buying the original Miller High Life — sales declined just 3.6% between 2006 and 2011 — they have deserted the light version — which saw sales decline by more than ten times that number. In 2011, sales fell by 80,000 barrels, or 17%, from 2010.

7. Amstel Light
> Sales loss (2006-2011): 47.7%
> Brewer: Heineken
> Barrels sold (2011): 340,000

Debuting in 1980, Amstel Light claims to have been the first imported light beer available in the U.S. The brand, brewed by Heineken, is the only imported beer, as well as the only beer not brewed by Anheuser-Busch InBev or MillerCoors, on this list. Neither of these brewers experienced a sales decline as large as that of Heineken between 2010 and 2011, when U.S. sales volume fell by 3.9%. One cause was Amstel Light sales, which fell by 13.9% — more than any other major Heineken brand.

6. Miller Genuine Draft
> Sales loss (2006-2011): 52.3%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels sold (2011): 1.6 million

Miller Genuine Draft, marketed as having “the fresh taste of draft beer in a bottle,” has lost consumers’ attention in recent years. It was one of just six beers that had sales volume fall by half between 2006 and 2011. During this time, the total number of Miller Genuine Draft barrels sold fell by 1.7 million, more than any other beer on this list. Only one other brand bottled by MillerCoors — Miller Lite — had a larger decline in barrels sold over this time span.

[More from 24/7 Wall St.: Best and Worst Run States in America]

5. Old Milwaukee
> Sales loss (2006-2011): 52.8%
> Brewer: Pabst Brewing Company
> Barrels sold (2011): 460,000

Old Milwaukee is brewed by the Pabst Brewing Company, which sold itself to C. Dean Metropoulos — described by The New York Times as “a veteran food executive known for corporate turnarounds” — in 2010. Last year, the Chicago Tribune reported that employees felt Metropoulos’ marketing plans were moving the company away from the philosophies and practices that made it successful. From 2010 to 2011 alone, sales decreased by 12.4% — worse than 80% of top brands.

4. Milwaukee’s Best
> Sales loss (2006-2011): 57.1%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels sold (2011): 750,000

MillerCoors claims that Milwaukee’s Best is “brewed for a man’s taste,” and is “highly drinkable [and] highly affordable.” However customers have stopped buying — and drinking — the brand. Between 2006 and 2011, no major brand made by MillerCoors had a larger percentage decrease in sales. The beer is one of the worst-ranked brews on BeerAdvocate.com.

3. Budweiser Select
> Sales loss (2006-2011): 60.8%
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels sold (2011): 775,000

Budweiser Select, introduced in 2005, claims to offer a “distinctively full flavor,” with just 99 calories per 12-ounces — roughly the same as Michelob Ultra. The brand has not sold well since its introduction, with sales declining by 1.2 million barrels between 2006 and 2011 — more than all but a few top brands. In 2009, Anheuser-Busch InBev also introduced Budweiser Select 55, which the company describes as “the lightest beer in the world with fewer calories than any other beer option currently available.”

2. Michelob Light
> Sales loss (2006-2011): 66.3%
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels sold (2011): 425,000

From 2006 to 2011 shipments of Michelob Light fell by 66.3%, more than any other major light beer in the U.S. While sales of Michelob Light declined, sales of Michelob Ultra — introduced in 2002, with just 95 calories per 12 ounces — rose by 10.3% from 2006 to 2011. Anheuser-Busch InBev no longer prominently markets the beers on its websites alongside the better-selling Michelob Ultra. Between 2010-2011, sales of Michelob light fell by 19%, more than all but two of the top brands we reviewed.

1. Michelob
> Sales loss (2006-2011): 72.0%
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels sold (2011): 140,000

American consumers have abandoned Michelob — a lager brewed since 1896 — at a faster rate than any other beer. From 2006 to 2011, sales declined from 500,000 barrels to 140,000, with a 20% drop between 2010 and 2011 alone. No other beer on this list sold less than Michelob. The next-lowest selling beer, Amstel Light, still sold 200,000 barrels more than Michelob last year. The brand has not always struggled. According to Beer Marketer’s INSIGHTS’ Eric Shepard, “the superpremium category — basically between Budweiser and the imports — Michelob pretty much had that to itself for many years.”

Contributing Writers: Michael B. Sauter and Alexander E.M. Hess | 24/7 Wall St

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3 Ways to Boost Social Media Engagement

#1: Crowdsource

It’s a term credited to Jeff Howe, who wrote about the phenomenon for Wired magazine back in 2006. He defined the concept as a “new pool of cheap labor: everyday people using their spare cycles to create content, solve problems, even do corporate R & D.”

 

Today, crowdsourcing has become one of the most influential tools in the social media landscape to attract and capture the attention of unique or specific-reach consumers, those that have similar interests and or behaviors. It begins as a community based question, designed to answer or advise on an issue, challenge or just to garner feedback. Crowdsource has enormous potential in today’s craft brew market. Breweries are consistently playing with new seasonal flavors, trying to understand flavor behaviors, by region or demographic – and one of the best ways to appeal to your fan base is to enlist their advice and thoughts.  You can do voting polls, inquire about favorite beers at specific seasons, even dig a little into what other brands and crafts your customer is enjoying.  Knowing where your fans cheat a little gives you valuable insight.  Crowdsourcing can add value to your brewery and it can be a great forum of ideas and shared interests for all your fans.

Crowdsourcing can be a great engagement tactic. Image source: iStockPhoto.

Crowdsourcing has been adopted by many multinational companies and organizations, such as the mining company Goldcorp and NASA. And with the popularity of social media, crowdsourcing quickly spread to Facebook. Social networks have made it easy for businesses to reach out to their community of friends and fans, and recruit new ones. It’s a way for companies to get relevant information from users and target audiences. One reason crowdsourcing is effective is that it gives a business’s audience a voice and an opportunity for recognition. Of course you don’t have to be a huge organization to use the concept. A few years ago, vitaminwater invited its Facebook fans to choose a new flavor via an app called “FlavorCreator.” It was wildly successful and the company ultimately called the winning flavor vitaminwater connect. Vitaminwater’s FlavorCreator app allowed fans to contribute to the first vitaminwater made by the fans for the fans.

vitamin water app

Another example is the t-shirt company Threadless, which depends entirely on crowdsourcing. They asked graphic designers to submit designs for the community to vote on. Threadless uses a basic poll to crowdsource. Threadless invites its users to vote on their favorite designs. The shirts with the most votes go into production and are sold on the website. The designs with the most votes win, and limited runs of the t-shirts are sold online.

The bottom line is that your customers have great ideas and chances are good that they’d love the opportunity to share them with you. So why not take advantage of the wisdom of your crowd? Invite them into the conversation and you should increase engagement.

#2: Introduce/Highlight Your Employees on Facebook

 

Brand likeability is more than product favorability. Publicly acknowledging the people behind your brand—your employees—on Facebook and beyond is a great way to bring them, and your business, recognition. People like to do business with companies that they feel they “know,” and there’s no better way for them to get to know you than by introducing them to your employees. Plus, when your employees get a nod, your brand may have greater exposure to their friends and friends of friends. Adding this human element can also boost EdgeRank if your posts get more posts and comments than usual. Last week, one of my employees put a funny photo on Facebook of me eating a donut that was nearly as big as my face. It got 66 likes and 18 comments… pretty good for a random status update.

jim eating donut

Our fans like to see that we have real employees and that they do human things, like eat huge donuts.

There are other easy ways to give your employees shout outs* on Facebook. Since Facebook is one of the most personal social networks, and the place where your employees’ friends and family are most likely to be, it’s a great public place to highlight employees’ accomplishments. This inspires a sort of positive cycle because they, of course, want to share their kudos with their friends, and in turn it shines a light on your business. You can highlight an employee every week or every month, making it a regular feature of your Page.

In the image below, ToolSelect shows it’s not a one-man operation but a tight-knit group of professionals. Now you can know exactly who is bringing the website to you.

toolselect-employee

ToolSelect highlights all of their employees on a Meet Your ToolSelect Team app.

Use a Q&A as a low-maintenance way to get the information you can use to share on Facebook and bring focus to individual employees. Create a simple questionnaire—What’s your proudest accomplishment? What’s your favorite non-work pastime? The best book you’ve read lately?—and ask every employee to fill it out. Get a spontaneous photo of the featured employee or a photo of him/her receiving an award, and give a shout-out to different employees on a regular basis. In the image below, Moment Skis posted a photo of their Production Prep Pro in their factory.

moment skis

This simple concept brought them a large amount of engagement. One word of caution: Not everyone likes to have a light shined on them, so just be sure that your employee is comfortable with public kudos. Highlighting your employees’ accomplishments is a great way to boost likeability and engagement in your Facebook community.

#3: Reveal New Products and Features

 

Fans of your brand always want to know what they can expect next from you. Whether you own a bakery or a car parts manufacturing company, people who use your products want to know what you’re working on and Facebook is a great way to inform them. You can design a Facebook app that reveals a new product, service or special offer every day for a month. This gives your business the chance to show off the products or services that are not as well-known to your fans and customers.

Earlier this year, Nescafé in Greece did a campaign that involved the unveiling of some new packaging. They filled an aquarium with coffee beans, buried the new package in it and then told fans with each like, they’d reveal a little bit of the package. Within 22 hours, the company had received more than 3000 new likes and fans got to see the whole package. Many people would say “Who cares?”, but obviously people who were curious played along. The aquarium became the brand’s cover photo, at least for a day.

Check out the time-lapse video.

nescafe

Medal of Honor

In July, the folks behind the super-popular Medal of Honor franchise invited fans to like poll questions on Facebook in exchange for the early unveiling of a new multi-player gameplay trailer featuring an all-new map. To encourage sharing with a campaign like this, you could say something such as “The more likes we get, the more we’ll show you.” This won’t violate Facebook’s terms of service. Anyone who knows a gamer knows all about the anticipation for a new game. The Medal of Honor app is another example of putting the release of a product in the hands of the fans.

medal of honor app

Iron Man 3

Films have also been promoted this way. Iron Man 3 gave fans a glimpse of what to expect once they had liked a relevant Page.

iron man trailer

Iron Man 3 used the simple act of liking to reveal a trailer, making it easy and fun for fans to get involved. You don’t have to be a huge brand to use some of these innovative ideas. What they’re doing can inspire your own “reveals” on a much smaller scale ideas.

Contributing story: Social Media Examiner