Meijer began carrying its first craft brew more than 20 years ago. Today, Meijer remains committed to the growing industry and the up-and-coming local breweries across the Midwest.
The Grand Rapids, Michigan-based retailer’s commitment to local craft breweries represents an annual economic impact of more than $100 million across the Midwest. Meijer expects to stay on par with its projected double-digit volume growth in craft beer sales, as the retailer has experienced over the past three years. With respect to Michigan-based craft beer alone, Meijer reports it has seen a 20 percent increase across its six-state footprint so far this year, said Rich O’Keefe, Meijer Senior Buyer, during a recent exclusive roundtable gathering of some of the best craft beer breweries in southeast Michigan.
“We attribute this growth to establishing a great dialogue with craft beer breweries throughout Michigan and cultivating their popularity across our retail foot print,” said O’Keefe at Atwater Brewery in Detroit. “The consumer response has been tremendous. It proves that the thirst for Michigan craft beer is apparent throughout our retail markets. We are proud of the great products Michigan-based breweries produce and look forward to expanding the availability and building the popularity of other great regional breweries.”
Meijer gathered together several Detroit and Michigan-based brewery owners and founders at Atwater Brewery to discuss product trends and the state of the local craft beer industry. The event kicked off local in-store tasting events with area craft “brewlebrities” on site at select Meijer stores.
Joe Short: Founder/Owner of Short’s Brewing Company
Mark Reith: Owner of Atwater Brewery
Eric Briggeman: Vice President/General Manager of Rochester Mills Brewery
Kyle VanDeventer: Sales Manager of Griffin Claw
John Leone: Owner/President of ROAK Brewing Company
Tony Grant: Owner of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, North Peak Brewing Company and Northern United Brewing Company
Chase Kushak: Co-Founder/CEO of Founders Brewing Company
Matt Moberly: Director of Business Insights of Bells Brewery
“The concept of craft beer – especially in Detroit – has grown quickly from a garage hobby to a viable economic engine for Detroit and Michigan,” said Peter Whitsett, executive vice president of merchandising and marketing for Meijer. “We are proud to celebrate the craft masters who drove this industry to where it is today in Detroit. Their commitment to quality and craftsmanship is fueling demand for craft beer in and around Detroit.”
Meijer began carrying its first craft brew – Bell’s Oberon – 20 years ago at a single Kalamazoo store, and today sells more than 550 different craft beers from 220 local breweries across the retailer’s six-state footprint. Of those, 40 are produced by Detroit or southeast Michigan breweries. Meijer continues to partner with local craft brewers to expand their distribution. In fact, Michigan craft beer sales account for 31 percent of the retailer’s craft beer sales and 10 percent of the retailer’s total beer sales.
“Being in the same room with this group of craft brewlebrities – knowing their histories and the how far they’ve come is truly amazing,” said Shannon Long, Producer and Co-host of “Pure Brews America,” who moderated the roundtable discussion. “I think what makes them great is that they are focused on their core and not the next hot thing. They don’t need to follow a trend because they are the trend. “
Coronado Brewing Company is releasing its newest seasonal beer, Berry The Hatchet. A long time favorite, Berry The Hatchet will now be available in bottles for the masses. Light, and bursting with flavor, this ale brewed with berries makes for a perfect summertime beer to enjoy on a warm day. The release also marks an exciting feature for Coronado Brewing Company, as it will be the first bottle and packaging to feature the company’s new brand refresh design.
Twenty years after carrying its first craft brew at a single Kalamazoo store, Meijer is selling more than 34 locally-brewed craft beers each minute in Michigan while continuing to add up-and-coming local breweries to an extensive selection that rivals specialty stores across the Midwest.
Meijer says it expects to continue five years of double-digit volume growth in craft beer sales and plans to sell more than $90 million in craft beer in 2016, including $30 million in local and hyper-local craft beers produced by breweries in Michigan. Building on the popularity of local breweries that account for 44 percent of all craft beer sold in Michigan, Meijer will carry IPAs, amber ales, stouts, and porters from 50 Michigan breweries and also expand the reach of six of the most popular local brands in the state at stores across its Midwestern footprint this year.
“What’s happening here in Michigan is a microcosm of what’s happening throughout the Midwest and across the country – the state of craft beer is thriving,” said Peter Whitsett, Executive Vice President of Merchandising and Marketing for Meijer, who notes that since 2010 the number of craft breweries Meijer carries and the space it provides for its selection has more than doubled. “Since carrying our first six packs of Bell’s Oberon in 1995, the culture of exploration in the craft beer community has continued to seek new tastes and flavors from locally-made brands. The craft partnerships we’ve forged over the last two decades are indicative of what is considered some of the best beers available in the country.”
The six breweries that will be featured in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kentucky and Wisconsin in 2016 include Bell’s Brewery, Founders Brewing Company, Short’s Brewing Company, New Holland Brewing Company, Atwater Brewery and Arcadia Brewing Company.
“It used to be that craft beer was only sold at small, independent stores,” said Dave Engbers, Co-founder of Founder’s Brewery, which started its partnership with Meijer in 2006 and sold more than 200,000 cases of its beer at Meijer stores this year. “Meijer took the opportunity to welcome craft beer enthusiasts and has done a great job engaging customers and listening to what they are demanding.”
“I remember coming to Meijer to start talking about distribution beyond our Bellaire brewery in 2006, and not yet having a production and packaging facility,” said Joe Short, Founder of Short’s Brewing Company. “The only way we could bring a sample was in a growler. They took a chance on us based on our experimental brews and that relationship not only helped build anticipation for our brand, but was pivotal in laying the foundation for our continued growth.”
Whitsett said Meijer customers can expect to see craft ciders, hard soda-flavored beers and distilled craft spirits to increase in popularity this year and that brewers will be aggressive with new innovations in barrel-aged brewing and techniques to improve consistency in each bottle or can of their brews. Whitsett also believes the popularity of hyper-localized breweries will continue to gain traction, and Michigan breweries like Perrin Brewing Company, Brewery Vivant, Dark Horse Brewery and Griffin Claw Brewing Company will continue attracting craft beer enthusiasts.
“One of the most exciting things about the craft beer world is its constant evolution, and we’re seeing more enthusiasts and casual beer drinkers shopping our aisles in their quest to find new brews and tastes from Michigan and beyond,” Whitsett said. “Being a retailer that calls Beer City U.S.A. home, it’s always been about community for us, and we’re thrilled we can help breweries expand beyond their local boundaries while providing customers across the Midwest with the craft beers they are most excited about.”
Anheuser-Busch has announced a deal in which it will acquire Colorado-based Breckenridge Brewery. With this agreement, Breckenridge Brewery is the seventh craft brewery to join The High End, Anheuser-Busch’s business unit of craft and import brands.
“We’re excited about the partnership and have been encouraged to continue on our path and become more innovative moving forward,” said Todd Usry, President of Breckenridge Brewery. “I’m a believer in what The High End is focused on accomplishing, and we are flattered that our team was chosen to help guide that journey. We’re looking forward to utilizing resources like decades of research and brewing expertise as we continue to create new beers.”
Available in 35 states, Breckenridge Brewery will sell approximately 70,000 barrels of beer in 2015. The new brewery and Farm House restaurant in Littleton have positioned the brewery for future growth. The brewery will continue to make its unique portfolio of beers – ranging from its Vanilla Porter, to Agave Wheat, to its core brands, seasonal specialties and barrel-aged beers.
“Breckenridge Brewery has a long history of innovation and they continue to brew new and exciting beers, from their specialty brews like the Mountain Series that celebrates the brewery’s origin as a ski town brewpub, to their planned nitro can series,” said Andy Goeler, CEO, Craft, The High End. “They are innovative and have built an amazing business that’s enabled them to get their great beers to fans across the country. We look forward to even more growth together.”
Breckenridge Brewery will join Goose Island Beer Company, Blue Point Beer Company, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing Company, Golden Road Brewing and Four Peaks Brewing Company as part of The High End’s craft beer portfolio.
The partnership includes the company’s new production brewery and Farm House restaurant in Littleton, and original brewpub and current innovation center in the mountain town of Breckenridge.
The current management group, Breckenridge-Wynkoop, will continue to own and operate its remaining businesses including: Ale House at Amato’s in Denver; Breckenridge Ale House in Grand Junction; Breckenridge Colorado Craft in Denver; The Cherry Cricket in Denver; Mainline in Fort Collins; Phantom Canyon Brewing Co. in Colorado Springs; and Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver.
Anheuser-Busch’s partnership with Breckenridge Brewery is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016, subject to customary closing conditions. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.
By Richard Thompson
Breweries like Sky River Meadery and Moonlight Meadery are offering new delicious flavors – such as raspberry, blackberry, and even strawberry rhubarb – along with traditional honeyed staples in their dry, sweet and semi-sweet mead lines.
“It’s coming back as a beverage of choice,” says Michael Fairbrother, Founder and Head Mead Maker at Moonlight Meadery and President of American Mead Maker Association.
Moonlight Meadery, which opened in 2010 and is based in Londonderry, New Hampshire, offers a line of 70 different products and has seen interest in mead explode over the last year. “Production in the first two years was about 24,000 bottles (2000 cases), but we have done close to seven times as much in the last year alone,” says Fairbrother.
Kurt’s ApplePie, the meadery’s top seller, won the gold metal at the 2013 Mazer Cup International and is made with Sunny Crest Farm apple cider with Madagascar-bourbon vanilla and Vietnamese cinnamon. Its sweetness is balanced by the tartness from the added cinnamon, and the vanilla lightens it up, says Fairbrother.
Desire, a sweet mead made with blueberries, black cherries and blackcurrants, is the company’s flagship mead and won first place in the New England Regional Homebrew Competition back in 2009. Fling is made with strawberry rhubarb and orange blossom honey and has a light tartness that balances the sweet with strawberry notes. “I suggest to customers to try it with a goat cheese salad,” says Fairbrother.
Coffee in Bed, a dessert-style mead with a rich, robust honey-note, was another award winner at the International Mazer Competition that goes well with dark chocolates, tiramisu and German Chocolate cake.
Sky River Meadery, a Washington-based meadery found in the Woodinville Winery District, has been open since 1997 and specializes in traditional meads and honey wines. “We only make mead,” says Denice Ingalls, President and Wine Maker at Sky River, “We keep it simple and approachable.”
SOLAS, the meadery’s flagship mead, is a tribute to Old World meads, says Ingalls. Using saturated, smokey whiskey barrels from Dry Fly[TM] Distillery, SOLAS is a very sweet mead that combines honey and wheat whiskey flavors and is definitely an indulgence that should be sipped.
The company’s 10 different meads – with nine currently available – range from a traditional Brochet mead that has a darker, richer quality – due to the honey being caramelized before fermentation – to the Ginger mead that has a sassy ginger note with a spicy finish. “Our Rose mead is the ‘boudoir’ wine, luscious and indulgent, and pairs beautifully with meals where there are a lot of pistachios, like Persian and Middle Eastern foods,” says Ingalls.
The brewers at Samuel Adams have announced the limited release of highly-coveted Samuel Adams Utopias, a beer unlike any other. Only the ninth batch brewed since the first release in 2002, this year’s Utopias, like previous vintages, was brewed in small batches using traditional methods, blended with previous vintages going as far back as 1992, then finished in the Barrel Room at the Samuel Adams Boston Brewery.
“Sam Adams Utopias is the lunatic fringe of extreme beer. The recipe stretches the limits of the brewing process, flavor complexity, and as a by-product, alcohol content. While barrel aging is now a mainstay of a thriving craft beer community, we have been experimenting with barrel aging for nearly 25 years and this year’s batch is made from a library of barrels, some of which go as far back as 1992. This is an other-worldly beer that’s just as radical today as it was in 1992 and I am excited for drinkers to sip and savor it,” said Founder and Brewer Jim Koch.
About Samuel Adams Utopias
For beer fanatics, Samuel Adams Utopias has become one of the most sought-after beers on earth. Meant to be savored like a fine cognac or port, Utopias is a rich, uncarbonated extreme beer known for its extraordinary flavor profile. Utopias has aromas of wood, toffee, cocoa, raisin and maple, which hint at its distinctive flavors, which range from hints of molasses, earthy wood, dates, and light smoke to nuts and toffee.
With each new batch of Utopias, the brewers at Sam Adams push for a complex flavor profile, and during this process have created brews with alcohol levels reaching over 30 percent ABV; this year’s beer is 28 percent ABV and is best enjoyed as a two ounce pour in a snifter glass at room temperature. While some of the barrels have reached over 30 percent alcohol, the brewers blend down because the goal is to craft complex flavors, not an extreme alcohol percentage.
About the Barrel-Aging Process
For the 2015 Utopias, the Sam Adams brewers used a variety of malts for the brewing process and during fermentation used several strains of yeast, including one traditionally reserved for champagne. The beer was then blended with Utopias vintages from previous years including some that have been aging for more than 20 years in the Barrel Room. Aging the beer over a longer period of time accentuates the beer’s distinct vanilla notes and creates aromas of ginger and cinnamon. Some of this aged beer is over 20 years old, old enough to drink itself.
About the Brewing Process
Utopias is brewed using traditional methods. The brewers begin with a blend of two-row Caramel and Munich malts that imparts a rich, deep amber color. Noble hops – Hallertau Mittelfrueh, Spalt Spalter and Tettnang Tettnanger – are also added to lend complexity and balance. During fermentation, several yeast strains are used, including one normally reserved for champagne which the brewers call a “ninja yeast.” This fresh beer is then blended with a variety of different barrel-aged beers and “finished” in a variety of barrels to impart additional complexity and flavor.
About the Finishing Barrel Process
This release of Samuel Adams Utopias also uses a blend of beer finished in a variety of barrels. “Finishing” is a creative way for the brewers to impart additional flavor from a variety of barrels before the beer is bottled. This final step of finishing the beer lasts several months before the beer is bottled and imparts flavors ranging from fruit like cherry and raisin to chocolate, leather and oak. The multi-step and lengthy process results in flavors reminiscent of a rich vintage Port, fine Cognac, or aged Sherry, while feeling surprisingly light on the palate.
New this year, the brewers used White Carcavelos wine barrels to finish the beer, in addition to barrels that once housed cognac, Armagnac, ruby port, sweet Madeira, and Buffalo Trace Bourbon. White Carcavelos wine barrels help to amplify the dried fruit and oak flavors of this year’s Utopias. Carcavelos wines are blended and fortified like a port, are off dry and topaz colored with nutty aromas and flavors. Carcavelos comes from a small region of Portugal and the barrels are very rare, which made the Sam Adams brewers all the more excited to experiment with them as finishing barrels.
Where to find Utopias:
The first batch of Utopias bottles can be found in the hands of Samuel Adams employees. Since Utopias was first released, each bottle number corresponds with when each employee was hired, making Founder and Brewer Jim Koch number 1 and Brewer Dean Gianocostas number 2. For all other beer lovers, fewer than approximately 10,000 bottles of Samuel Adams Utopias can be found at select specialty beer and liquor stores for a suggested retail price of $199 per bottle. Price varies by market.
Wild Ginger Brewing Company unveils Wild Ginger™ Alcoholic Ginger Beer. “Alcoholic ginger beer has been around as long as the art of brewing. It was only during Prohibition that it turned to soda,” said Wild Ginger Founder Jamey Grosser. “I’ve always loved ginger beer, but could never find an alcoholic version, so I decided to make one myself. With Wild Ginger, we’ve nailed the right combination of ginger spice and fresh citrus that is great on its own or is a mixologist’s dream in cocktails.”
Grosser learned the art of brewing from legendary Moonshiner Popcorn Sutton and with this current venture is expanding his repertoire through a wide range of adult beverages.
At first impression, Wild Ginger entices with a subtle sweetness that climaxes in a spicy finish – with no beer aftertaste. Wild Ginger is right at home on the rocks with a lemon or lime, sipped straight out of a cold can or enjoyed in a classic cocktail such as the Moscow Mule.
“We have seen the explosion of ciders over the last two years, and ginger beer is a natural progression,” said Steve Economos, CEO of Eagle Rock Distributing Company in Atlanta, Georgia. “Craft sodas have been hot for many years now, and Moscow Mules are on fire in the on-premise. Fusing those two flavors into a beer is a homerun. I think Wild Ginger has nailed it from a taste profile, and I am excited to see what our team can do with it in the market.”
Wild Ginger Alcoholic Ginger Beer (4 percent ABV) is initially available in 12-ounce cans in Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi and North Florida, with national availability expected by year-end. A six-pack will retail for approximately $8.99-$9.99. Additional products are planned for release in the fall.
The American beer industry welcomed bipartisan legislation introduced today to comprehensively reform the federal beer tax imposed on brewers and beer importers. The bill would remove barriers to growth in the industry, encouraging capital and workforce investment through simple, fair and broad reform.
Introduced by Reps. Steve Womack, R-Ark., and Ron Kind, D-Wis., the Fair Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2015 (Fair BEER Act) creates a graduated federal excise tax structure while maintaining a level playing field.
Under the Fair BEER Act, all brewers and beer importers would pay a rising scale of federal excise tax:
By imposing this “laddered” approach to all brewers and beer importers, the legislation reforms the overall tax structure to provide the greatest relief to the very smallest brewers. More than 90 percent of permitted brewers produce 7,143 barrels or less and would see their excise tax rates reduced from $7/barrel to zero. The 7,143 barrel threshold was designed to meet the definition of a “small brewer” set forth by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), the agency which regulates the alcohol industry.
By applying comprehensive reform across brewers, the legislation removes barriers to growth. Under current law, small brewers are defined as those which produce up to 2 million barrels, and are taxed at $7/barrel on the first 60,000 barrels and $18 on every barrel thereafter. Current law imposes an $18/barrel federal beer tax on all suppliers of more than 2 million barrels annually.
“Our tax policies shouldn’t discourage the growth and continued success of an industry that supports jobs for more than two million Americans, and it shouldn’t pick the winners and losers in the market,” said Congressman Womack. “This comprehensive reform bill supports brewpubs, microbrewers, national craft brewers, major brewers, and importers alike and encourages their entrepreneurial spirit, which is exactly the spirit we need to get America’s economic engine going again.”
“The beer industry has shaped our heritage and history in Wisconsin, and plays a crucial role in our state’s economy,” said Congressman Kind. “Here in Wisconsin and across the nation, brewers are employing our workers and creating new jobs, and this pro-growth, bipartisan bill will help them continue to expand and produce high-quality products.”
“This bill is important for reforming a hidden tax that most beer drinkers don’t even know they pay, and because it removes barriers to industry growth,” said Jim McGreevy, President and CEO of the Beer Institute, the nation’s leading trade association representing brewers, beer importers and industry suppliers. “The Fair BEER Act deserves support, because it offers fair reform of the federal beer tax, but it reaches that reform without completely changing the industry structure.”
Other original Fair BEER Act co-sponsors include Mark Amodei, R-Nev.; Mike Bost, R-Ill.; Ken Buck, R-Colo.; Tony Cardenas, D-Calif.;Doug Collins, R-Ga.; Rick Crawford, R-Ark.; Danny Davis, D-Ill.; Sam Graves, R-Mo.; Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz.; Alcee Hastings, D-Fla.;David Jolly, R-Fla.; Blaine Luetkemeyer, R-Mo.; Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo.; Tom Marino, R-Pa.; Gwen Moore, D-Wis.; Grace Napolitano, D-Calif.; Jason Smith, R-Mo.; Todd Young, R-Ind.; Peter Welch, D-Vt.; Bruce Westerman, R-Ark.; and Ryan Zinke, R-Mont.
By offering tax reform across the category, from pennies on the barrel for major suppliers to an $18/barrel tax break for the smallest brewers, the Fair BEER Act offers Members of Congress an opportunity to support all brewers, from the smallest brewpubs to the biggest job creators. The Fair BEER Act also serves to fix a significant policy issue around trade by protecting small brewers from potentially losing their tax relief.
Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the U.S. Senate shortly.
History of the Federal Excise Tax on Beer
Existing federal excise taxes on beer are set at a rate of $18/barrel for brewers of more than 2 million barrels (62 million gallons, or the equivalent of 110 million six-packs) and all beer importers. Since the late 70s, growth in the small brewing sector has been encouraged by tax credits offered to brewers which produce less than 2 million barrels, cutting their excise tax rate to $7/barrel on the first 60,000 barrels and allowing them a far lower overall effective tax rate on all barrels up to 2 million.
Today there are more than 3,300 breweries in the United States. More than 90 percent of those brewers produce fewer than 7,143 barrels annually, meeting the definition of a small brewer set by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Many of those small brewers are brewpubs, which are restaurants with brewing operations designed to sell locally.
While the reduced tax rate for brewers has been a success in introducing new entrants to the market, the eligibility definition of “small” at 2 million barrels unintentionally created a barrier to further growth. By removing the production cap to allow all brewers and beer importers relief, and graduating the relief in such a manner that the deepest reductions in rates are reserved for the newest entrants to the market, the Fair BEER Act reforms the beer tax without altering the industry structure, or picking winners and losers in the marketplace.
Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC) launched its refreshed logo to the public in January and is now releasing new packaging artwork for the company’s five year-round brands.
The new label artwork was handcrafted by artist Darren Booth, who is known for creating detailed paintings with collage elements. GLBC provided Booth with archival materials relevant to each brand, that were incorporated into his paintings. These discoverable elements bring additional storytelling opportunities to each package.
Booth visited GLBC in the summer of 2014 to learn the history behind the existing labels. GLBC owners and team members briefed him on narratives for each brand and supplied unique collage pieces for Booth to include in his artwork. Throughout 2014, what began as sketched concepts evolved into colorful, detailed paintings, all of which incorporate textures and mementos from GLBC’s 27 years in the craft beer industry.
“Our customers may be familiar with Eliot Ness as a historical figure, but they may not know that our mother was his stenographer, or that he used to frequent our historic taproom. Darren’s beautiful paintings include so many layers that allow us to share these kinds of details. They’re more than just labels. They’re conversation pieces,” says GLBC co-owner Pat Conway, who, with brother and co-owner Dan Conway, is actively involved in the brand refresh process. On the bottom of GLBC’s new packages, customers will find similar stories that reveal the history behind each brew.
Booth was commissioned to create label artwork for GLBC’s five year-round beers and nine seasonals. The year-round packages will hit shelves beginning in May. In June, GLBC will release its first seasonal with refreshed packaging: Sharpshooter Session Wheat IPA. Brewed with orange peel and Jarrylo hops, Sharpshooter is a hoppy wheat beer named for Ohio-born exhibition shooter Annie Oakley.
Along with refreshed packaging, GLBC will release redesigned taphandles, signage, and merchandise around Memorial Day. A new company website will launch in May, along with the new Great Lakes Brewing Company Beer Symposium – a visitor’s center and event space.
Great Lakes® Brewing Company, which is comprised of a brewery and brewpub, was founded in 1988 by brothers Patrick and Daniel Conway as the first microbrewery in the state of Ohio and today remains Ohio’s most celebrated and award-winning brewer of lagers and ales.
For more information, visit greatlakesbrewing.com.
Mirella Amato’s tome Beerology is a must-buy gift for anyone who enjoys the pleasure of a pint. It bills itself as the ultimate unpretentious guide to understanding and enjoying the world of beer. There is truly a beer for every food, mood and occasion, and with the growing number of beer festivals and microbreweries popping up worldwide, beer is finally getting the attention and appreciation it deserves. For fans of this complex beverage, the overwhelming choices, brewing styles and traditions can be confusing to say the least. Enter Amato, one of only seven Certified Master Cicerones in the world. With an advanced brewing certificate to her name, readers are in expert hands as they navigate the multifaceted world of beer, guided by Amato’s refreshingly accessible style. The book is broken down into fun, easy-to-read chapters starting with an introduction to beer and progressing into a complete guide to properly tasting the beverage, as well as tips for throwing beer parties, making beer cocktails and pairing beer with food.
For more information on Mirella Amato’s Beerology, visit http://beerology.ca.