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Beer Insights Extras

Extra beer business news, thoughts and insights from the publishers of Beer Marketer’s Insights, Insights Express, Craft Brew News, Beverage Business Insights and Alcohol Issues Insights.

Benj's Adventures in San Diego

What a day in La Jolla and San Diego last Friday! First I went to the California Beer and Beverage Distributors Association meeting.  There I saw a panel moderated by consultant Bump Williams that featured some great info on the wild proliferation of SKUs (stock keeping units) in California foodstores.  Over 350 new beer SKUs have been introduced there this year alone, according to IRI data.  About half are craft.  The beer business is getting more and more complex.  Anheuser Busch InBev president North America Luiz Edmond made that point about increased complexity in a speech later that morning and also pointed to California as a trendsetting state.  We featured both Bump and Luiz in this recent issue of our INSIGHTS Express.

After the meeting, I visited several notable craft brewers on the San Diego scene: local legend Tomme Arthur at the Lost Abbey/Port Brewing Co, up-and-comers Doug Constantiner and Travis Smith at Societe and  the longtime leader of the San Diego scene, Stone founder Greg Koch at the World Bistro Liberty Station.  That thriving establishment seats about 800 and it was full, one of the latest examples of the rapid evolution of the San Diego craft brewing scene.  Much more of our info/impressions on the craft beer business in San Diego in the next issue of Craft Brew News.

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Back to School for College Drinking

Every September, just as new college students are entering dorms for the first time and older students return to campus, we see an uptick in the number of media outlets looking to cover college drinking culture.  Our publication Alcohol Issues Insights has covered these stories as well as studies of that culture and its effects on student life, not to mention the various policies institutions have implemented in attempts to keep their students safe.  When I joined BMI in 2010 just 3 years out of college, my dad, Eric, long-time AII editor, gleefully started piling anything he gathered about college drinking on my desk, commenting that I was “closer” to the culture than he was.  Now I’m 6 years out of college and still eagerly flipping thru these pieces, analyzing the studies and listening out for policy changes.

This year, the Washington Post printed a long article on “The College Drinking Problem” in its magazine.  Anyone working in the beer industry (or not) who is at least as far out of college as I am might want to take a peek.  Or maybe a long stare.  As I say, it’s a deep dive, but it drops readers off at a commencement ceremony pre-game at U-Va, a registered party in Boston College and other bastions of collegiate shenanigans.  Keeping in touch with these students and how and why they’re choosing to drink the way they drink is an important early step in identifying policy possibilities.  And the college policy-makers that the Post talks to, while hopeful that they may be making progress, are clear that this “problem” likely won’t go away anytime soon.  I used the piece, and the administrator’s lack of certainty, to open an article we printed in Alcohol Issues Insights this week, before diving into various updates from schools around the country.  Of particular interest: lots of focus on education, including bringing parents into the mix.

I didn’t have room in that article for one particularly frank University of Nebraska-Lincoln junior though.  Early this month, he took the unpopular position in his school’s newspaper in support of UNL’s dry campus policy.  His reasoning?  While not perfect, he deems staying “dry” to be “the policy that best supports” what he calls the “two major overreaching [sic? overarching? maybe not...] goals” of colleges/college students:

“1. Get a degree.

2. Don’t die.”

Fair enough.  Of course, dangerous drinking “is still a problem” at UNL, he cops, and one “that no one really has a solution to.”

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Doubling Down on San Diego

Look out.  Benj and I have descended on San Diego for separate mtgs, first time in 35 yrs of travel that we’ve been in same city on different missions.  Benj will address the California Beer & Beverage Distributors, updating the association on key current business developments, brewer-distrib relations and more.  Also on the program: ABI’s North American prexy Luiz Edmond, a panel led by consultant Bump Williams and more.

I’m in town for “Wine, Beer and Spirits Law” legal seminar sponsored by CLE Intl.Looking forward to atty Marc Sorini’s analysis of “Towards Liquor Control,” 1930s tome touted by NBWA that helped transition US out of Prohibition.Distribution panel with Stone’s Greg Koch, DISCUS and WSWA reps should be another highlight.Lots more on tap too.Look for reports in our publications as soon as Friday.

Speaking of legal, gotta note the evisceration by US District Court Judge Maxine Chesney of antitrust charges brought by consumers/activist atty Joe Alioto Sr. against ABI-Modelo deal.As we noted in yesterday’s Express, she ripped ‘em up and down the line and totally tossed all claims under fed antitrust statutes but left door open a crack to amend lawsuit via state law claims if they file ‘em by Oct 11.  Read her decision here.


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Brooklyn Distrib Meeting

Earlier this week Beer Marketer’s INSIGHTS attended Brooklyn Brewery’s annual distrib meeting.  Sunday night, we hopped around from a rooftop bar and restaurant with plenty of Brooklyn brews to choose from, to a boat ride on the Hudson, sight-seeing the NYC skyscrapers, Ellis Island and Statue of Liberty, and back to land, roof and beer.

The following day everyone congregated at Brooklyn Bowl for multiple presentations on beer industry trends, including consultant, Joe Thompson, dubbed “sage” of the industry by Brooklyn co-founder Steve Hindy, talking about distrib systems of the future, plus a lively panel including Steve, Joe and our own Benj Steinman, moderated by Brooklyn’s Robin Ottaway.  Lunch at the brewery was just around the corner from the Brooklyn Bowl.  A handful of us were able to get a quick tour of the brewhouse to see some of the recent additions: new tanks, new bottling line (yet to be installed), new barrel aged stations for Garrett Oliver and team to experiment.  Currently they have a cognac barrel aged brew in the works.

Brooklyn had plenty of good news to announce.  Up 25% ytd thru Aug, likely to enter BA’s top 10 Craft in 2013.  Should end the year up 22-23%, which will put Brooklyn around 210-215k bbls, said sales veep Robin Ottaway.  Another 2 yrs of 18% growth and they’ll already be at 300k bbls, Robin noted.  Brooklyn announced entry into Vegas mkt in 2014, enticed, among other reasons, by #1 on-premise account, Brooklyn Bowl, opening a new Vegas facility.  Then too, impressive MASH program is bringing “an adventurous mixof the best cultural happenings from our neighborhood and yours; dinner parties, concerts, comedy, readings and humanity's favorite beverage,” to 11 different cities in 2013. Check out the promotional video, made by local Brooklyn filmmakers:

See pictures below.







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The Future of Crown: Especial, Draft, Piedras Negras

Insights Express vol 15, no 115 just went out to subscribers.  In it we examine two very different outlooks on the US beer industry: AdAge’s take on the “grim, but not irreversible” situation for big brewers and Santander’s big expectations for AB Inbev earnings in 2014.

Readers will also find notes on Crown Imports’ “Past, Present and Future,” based on Tom Wyness’ presentation at the Supply Chain and Operations Leadership Conference last week, held by Tamarron Consulting.  During the presentation, Tom reminded the audience of a number of factors impacting Crown’s future that we’ve written up in our various beer business publications before.  Among them:

- Modelo Especial: “Next year could be a big, big year” for the brand, Tom said, as he expects it to hit 50 mil cases “very, very shortly” and believes it’s on its way to being the 2nd-largest import brand in the US.

- Draft: a “wonderful tool for sampling,” Crown plans to pay more attention to its draft business, still just a tiny segment of its overall volume.

- Piedras Negras: over the next 3 years (as the supply-agreement with AB Inbev runs out for US shipments of Modelo brands) Crown will spend $500-600 mil to expand the already-enormous brewery on the Mexico-US border from being able to produce 10 mil hl to 20 mil hl (over 17 mil bbls) every year.  The brewery was originally constructed as easily-expandable up to 30 mil hl.

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"Water, water, every where"

I left Fort Collins, CO unexpectedly-early this morning: Tamarron Consulting’s Supply Chain and Operations Leadership Conference was cut short due to the flooding along Colorado’s Front Range.  I was looking forward to today’s forward-looking programming: what might the beer industry look like 2025.  Instead I’m left remembering yesterday’s presentations, including Tom Wyness’ look at the “Past, Present and Future” of Crown Imports, the company he’s been with for 25 years.  Tamarron’s Greg Hopkins asked Tom about the continuity of the management team at Crown, one of the most stable leadership teams among top beer suppliers over the past decade or two.  As a relative newbie to the beer industry (3 years and counting), I enjoy history lessons such as these every once in awhile.  As for its future, Crown has a big (and we saw the video, it’s BIG) new responsibility in the form of a 10 mil-hectoliter (8.5 mil-bbl) brewery, Piedras Negras.  And that’s for now - it’s scalable up to 3x that size.


Before Tom spoke, MillerCoors’ David Ryder gave quite the provocative presentation about quality and innovation in the beer industry, which I wrote up for Insights Express this morning.  I was particularly struck by watching a suited executive from a major brewing company talking about the importance of having “happy, happy yeast” - it was a reminder of the common denominators that unite brewers, regardless of size.


Just after I wrote that article, I learned of the cancelling of today’s program at the conference.  The flooding along the Front Range here is truly devastating.  As news outlets around the country have shared, homes have been destroyed, roads washed away and entire communities inundated by water.  And it's supposed to continue to rain through the weekend. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of beer industry professionals have been affected.


Doug Odell, co-founder of Odell Brewing in Fort Collins, reminded me just Wednesday when I visited the brewery that “local beer” goes far beyond just small craft brewers in Colorado’s Front Range.  With brewing plants of hugely varying sizes in the area, not to mention distribution centers, raw materials suppliers, and countless bars and liquor stores at risk, it could be days or weeks before the effects of this flooding on the brewing industry are fully assessed.  Of course, top of mind for me, as I sit looking Northwest out my window of my hotel near the Denver airport, are the people who have built their lives, their livelihoods on turning water into the beverage we all love, water that has now so thoroughly altered their lives again.  I’m safe here and expect to be able to return safely to NY tomorrow, but my thoughts will remain here for many days to come.

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Introducing Our Contributors

While everything here is still new and shiny, some introductions are in order.  Posts here will generally come from one of 6 experienced staff writers that all contribute to our beer publications.

Publisher Benj Steinman and exec editor Eric Shepard are each into their 4th decade as beer journalists.  Benj of course is the son of BMI founder Jerry Steinman, now runs the family business and has the best contacts in the beer industry.  Eric came in to the business back in 1977 and has covered most of the major beer biz legal scuffles and regulatory shifts in the time since.

Another veteran biz journalist, Gerry Khermouch focuses mostly on our non-alc bev letter, Beverage Business INSIGHTS, but contributes in-depth features to Craft Brew News from time to time.  Jim Sullivan is a 20-yr vet with BMI and works on all of our pubs, runs the state stats and keeps one eye on the wires at all times.

Newbie Christopher Shepard is Eric’s son, adding a new dimension to this family biz.  He came on when we launched Craft Brew News in 2010 and brings with him a healthy dose of beer geekery and home brewing chops to our shop.  Also expect to see Benj’s son David Steinman posting here.  After spending a couple years working in marketing for a craft brewer, he’s joined the BMI Team and made us a 3rd generation family business.


And if you’re just getting to know us, we’ve got some other friendly folks for you to meet too.

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 Beer and Beyond At The Half 2020

Mid-Year Review Webinar from Beer Marketer’s Insights
US Beer Industry Review at the Half presented by Benj Steinman with special guest
Gerry Khermouch 

on Non-Alc Opportunities for the Beer Industry
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
1pm Eastern Time
90-minutes including Q&A

Click Here to Register