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Web Player 2.0 Beta



Here at Pocket Casts we’re a tiny team that’s passionate about all things podcasting. We want to be able to listen everywhere we go no matter what we’re doing. That’s why our app is available in your pocket on iOS and Android. It’s also available in your car through CarPlay and Android Auto (as well as standard Bluetooth integration). It’s on your TV through AirPlay and Google Cast. It’s even available on your Sonos speakers. You get the idea, we want to enable a seamless playback experience of podcasts everywhere.

Today we’d like to talk about the Web version of our app. Originally we built it as a small satellite service to see if our customers wanted podcasts on their computers as well. It turns out they did, and in far bigger ways than we ever anticipated. This forced us to rethink the original approach we had a for a really simple web version that took a back seat to the mobile apps. It was clear that for a lot of people, this was their primary listening platform for their podcasts. Long story short we took that to heart, and we’ve been hard at work for a while now on a massive update to web version. Today we’re excited to share some details about that with you, and also invite you to help us beta test it.


This new version is a ground up re-write of the old one, to enable us to do some really ambitious things going forward. This was a huge undertaking, but even in this initial beta version we have some exciting new features for you to try out:

  • You can now build Up Next lists in the web version, and play through as many podcasts as you want continuously, without needing to come back to the web app.
  • There’s a great looking dark theme for those of you that like listening at night.
  • A lot of people wanted a more fully featured experience than having the web app running in a tab, so we now have a companion Mac app.
  • You can now search for episodes in a podcast by their titles, and even their show notes.
  • While it’s always been possible to change the sort order of episodes, it’s now easier than ever and you can also sort by time remaining, a feature a lot of you have asked for.
  • The web app now supports listening stats, which will sync seamlessly with the mobile versions. Never wonder how many hours of your life you’ve spent immersed in podcasts again.
  • You can now play episodes of podcasts without needing to be subscribed to them.
  • New and improved Discovery section, including curated lists.


There’s a lot more in this version of the web app, and it has support for some features we’re not ready to announce yet as well. We’ll have more to say on those later this year, but in the meantime if you want to help us test it, here’s the details:

In terms of a release date, we’re very much taking the approach of “we’ll ship it when it’s done”. We’re not trying to rush out something that’s not finished yet and this release is still very much a work in progress. We value and want your feedback though, so if you’re keen to join us, please do!  If you want to be notified about when that is and keep up with other Pocket Casts news, you can sign up to our mailing list.

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77 days ago
This is mighty awesome. Thanks @PocketCasts for the hard work!
North Carolina USA
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77 days ago
Victoria, BC

‘Nobody’ Cares About Independence in Beer

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OK clickbait LOL headline is a J/K

Sort of.

Over on Good Beer Hunting today I’ve got a think piece that works to deconstruct the word choice beer enthusiasts have been obsessing over in recent months. “Craft” … “independent” … “good” … what does it mean? Who (actually) cares?

According to the Brewers Association, craft drinkers do. But even then, that may be a bit of a misleading assumption. For all the surveys and polls that now focus on word choice and feeling toward use of “independence,” we’re still missing evidence of how that matters to *all* drinkers, not just beer lovers who walk right by BMC beers in the grocery store.

Consider it from the perspective of volume, because while the ratio of drinkers who care about what independence means does matter, it is still mutually exclusive from the outlook of how the Brewers Association defines their success of *volume* of total market share. After all, they aren’t noting the total number of “craft” beer drinkers with their annual reports (aside from the fact that would be impossible) … they present success in terms of overall year-to-year growth, partially determined by the total amount of BA-defined “craft” beer sold.

In that case, 12.3% of volume is BA-defined “craft.” Of that number, it would be a mathematical impossibility to declare that all of that amount is sold because shoppers choose a product due to who or what is “independent,” especially when the BA points at quality (and taste, presumably) as cornerstones.

A recent survey reported in Business Insider makes things a bit murkier: 45% of respondents said independence didn’t matter at all. But for sake of conservative argument, let’s extrapolate these results and say that 55% of craft volume is decided by whether a business is BA-defined “independent” or not. In this instance, that means that 6.7% of beer volume – at the presumed absolute maximum – would be purchased because it comes from a business defined as “independent” by a trade organization that sets its own standards for what that word means.

In which case 93.3% of beer sold in the U.S. does not.

And that’s why we need to be more reflective when making blanket statements about America’s beer drinking public, not even considering the lack of statistical significance that comes from biased audience response, laid out in this op-ed. Lots of people are passionate about beer, but we shouldn’t assume beer is a passion of all those who consume it.

Even across New England’s five states, a recent survey showed best selling beers are dominated by macro brands, with the exception of Vermont’s fierce passion for all things local.

There is a real difference between supporting the thematic idea of “independence” and its specific relation to a particular product. In general, American consumers like independence because it imbues trust. “In advanced consumer economies, consumers are buying on the basis of their interpretation of the product and its story,” Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Glenn Carroll said of 2014 findings related to authenticity, adding an example that when craft breweries began to proliferate, they were viewed as being more authentic by consumers who felt they were reestablishing tradition and creating community.

Word choice matters, whether it’s from a business or our own mouths.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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84 days ago
Independently speaking, sometimes @BryanDRoth's words do matter. Even when they don't.
North Carolina USA
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What Does It Mean When Big Breweries Go ‘Small’?

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For years, craft breweries have played off the myth and ethos of being small, whether a single person creating one-barrel batches at a time or a national powerhouse like Sam Adams. This has become more evident in recent weeks with the creation of the Brewers Association “independent” seal, meant to convey the ideals of the trade group in a literal way.

Non-AB InBev of Molson Coors breweries are now “small and independent,” two words tied together, not necessarily “craft.” But what some of these businesses are finding is that “small” in theme doesn’t mean the same in practice.

On Aug. 10, New Belgium bought California’s Magnolia Brewing along with minority investments from Belgium’s Oud Beersel and former Elysian co-owner Dick Cantwell. The move saved the business from closure after a series of financial issues.

This was replicated in a similar fashion just a week later when San Diego’s Green Flash, which already owns Alpine Beer Co. in addition to a production facility in Virginia Beach, announced it was opening another space – in Lincoln, Nebraska.

“Up to now, we sold about 40 percent of our beer in our home state, about a third of our beer on the East Coast — and that’s actually increasing faster and might be approaching 40 percent,” Green Flash co-founder Mike Hinkley told Brewbound. “But in all of the big, wide-open spaces of the Midwest, we’ve sold very little beer at all. This will help us to compete in those areas.”

The kicker here is how they’re doing it. Like New Belgium, Green Flash is entering the market through another distressed business in Ploughshare Brewing.

Founder Matt Stinchfield, who also acts as the Brewers Association’s safety ambassador, announced in July that Ploughshare wouldn’t continue after three years in business. In describing to the Lincoln Journal-Star the challenges he faced, he noted the brewery’s construction was over budget, pushing debt deeper than anticipated from the get-go. When sales didn’t line up with expectations, it became clear the business wouldn’t be sustainable.

“We’ve known for a long time that a small percentage of our customer base is responsible for the majority of our retail sales,” Stinchfield told the paper. “In other words, we have a real following and then we have everybody else who comes in once in awhile or has just come on a visit through town or something like that.”

With Green Flash’s latest example, along with other announced entries into new markets over the past year or so, it seems that the “small” craft breweries are starting to realize the financial impact of branching out. Even as they stay within a thematic ethos of who they’re supposed to be as a small/independent/craft producer, the growing reality for the business sector of the beer industry is it makes sense to be anything but.

For years, the trend in size and production has been skewing small on a literal basis. By virtue of the number of startup breweries, there has to be a majority who are producing smaller quantities for (in theory) smaller and/or more niche groups of customers. It’s the whole “local” aspect of food and drink. According to figures tracked by the TTB, almost three-quarters of U.S. brewers produced under 1,000 barrels in 2016. If every single one of those businesses maxed out to a level of 1,000 barrels, they’d still only combine to make roughly the same amount of beer as Yuengling.

Both culturally and financially, it simply makes good sense to focus on ways to engage segmented markets, even if you’re creating one out of nothing. There is a quantifiable affinity for your city/town/neighborhood brewery.

For these reasons alone, Green Flash’s decision makes sense, alongside typical answers that include things like access to market and pricing, since beer is made closer and isn’t shipped as far. “We sell about a third of our beer from Miami to Boston on the East Coast right now,” Hinkley told Good Beer Hunting. “This is the beginning for us to setting up a hub [in the Midwest].”

There is, of course, much more to it than that.

As noted by the West Coaster, Green Flash will begin its brewing in Nebraska as the largest production company in the state, starting out with a capacity for 10,000 barrels. Up until this point, Zipline Brewing was the largest brewer in Lincoln, making about 8,000 barrels a year. In addition to a competitive size of production, Green Flash is also taking over a 2,000-square foot restaurant, providing a reason for people to come for more than beer.

This works in a “two birds, one stone” kind of way. In a 2016 joint survey between the Brewers Association and Nielsen, 60% of craft drinkers said they “purchased a lot/little more” of a brewer’s products after visiting a brewery. So not only is Green Flash establishing a physical presence, but it’s high level of production also provides an ability to enter the off-premise market strong, ensuring that customers will be able to find Green Flash beers wherever they might shop. This falls perfectly in line with another recent move by the company, which is entering 1,000 convenience stores across California, Texas and Virginia as a way to find new locations for its products and specifically the brewery’s GFB golden ale, an ideal brand and style to attract new drinkers.

“When we’re putting our cans in these stores, we’re not replacing another Green Flash brand to make it work,” Hinkley told me for a story that ran on the news site SevenFifty Daily. “We’re taking on brand-new shelf space.”

This kind of tactic has been picking up steam quickly, although perhaps most notably by Craft Brew Alliance, which has long relied on geographical segmentation of its partner breweries for years. While the company uses a strategy that places Kona Brewing’s beer as its “national” brand, it has shifted focus of Widmer Brothers and Redhook to their home states of Oregon and Washington, respectively, as well as found ways to quickly grow Cisco Brewers (Massachusetts) and Appalachian Mountain Brewery (North Carolina). “We really are picking our battles,” CEO Andy Thomas told Brewbound.

It’s a lesson not lost on Constellation Brands in their recent purchase of Florida’s Funky Buddha. After their historic $1 billion buy of Ballast Point in 2015, the company that had until that point primarily focused on wine realized issues related to the scalability of a national brand.

“At the time we acquired Ballast Point, we thought there would be more national brands that broke out,” Constellation executive vice president Paul Hetterich told Brewbound. “Things went more local, and it doesn’t appear that you’re going to be able to build new national brands in the space really quickly. That made us recognize – we need a lot more brands in the portfolio to build up a reasonable presence in the craft space overall.”

In Chicago alone, Jolly Pumpkin is opening an outpost. Ballast Point, too. Lagunitas has been there for four years.

If there is fear of a bubble or “shakeout,” (there shouldn’t be) instances like New Belgium, Green Flash and others like Oskar Blues/Fireman Capital show that there is some kind of safety net for those that might be impacted … and it’s the larger small/independent/craft companies that are happy to help, especially as they become more susceptible to a slowdown in sales.

The idea of growing big enough to hold a region – let alone space nationally – truly feels like a decades-old proposition. Small in scope and business is where today’s success lies, which is why we’re seeing these bigger businesses feeling more comfortable altering their course to follow the newer direction in which the industry is heading.

“I do not believe that you can be anywhere in the middle in terms of size,” Ken Lewis, owner of New Riff Distilling and Ei8ht Ball Brewing, told Draft Magazine. “You have to be small, local, owner-operator with minimal distribution, or you need to be really big and able to afford the dramatic marketing efforts that are going to be necessary in the upcoming battle for shelf space.”

For all the shifting business models that must now be considered, what does “small” mean moving forward?

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

Graphs provided from presentation by Michael Uhrich, economist at the Beer Institute

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112 days ago
Glad I don't have to make this scale of business decision. But if you do, count on @BryanDRoth to give you supporting data.
North Carolina USA
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Homebrewers Vote, We Listen: Zymurgy’s “Best Beer” and National Trends

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Pliny the Elder’s reign is over. Since 2009, the beloved double IPA has sat atop the annual “best beer” poll held by Zymurgy magazine, but no longer.

Over that same period of time, Bell’s Two Hearted has been Pliny’s #2. Always a bridesmaid, never a bride? No more.

The magazine of the American Homebrewers Association released this week its new rankings as voted on by AHA members, who were able to choose up to 20 of their favorite commercial beers available for purchase in the United States through an online voting system. The flip-flop of Pliny the Elder and Two Hearted isn’t the only thing worth paying attention to, however.

Per annual tradition, let’s take a walk through the results.


The collection of styles represented for 2017’s list shows we’ve hit something of a plateau in terms of diversity. The usual suspects top the list (thanks, INSATIABLE ANIMALS) and, as I have in the past, I’ve lumped in an American Pale Ale like Zombie Dust into the IPA category because this is my blog and I’ll cry tears of lupulin if I want to.

Ho-hum. IPA rules the land. When you think about it, 11 different styles across 51 beers (thanks, ties!) is pretty incredible given drinker proclivity toward IPA everything, so I wonder if things will ever change that much from here. For example, here are 2016 and 2017 style breakdowns for comparison:

Almost identical, but REALLY different from what 2017’s styles look like compared to 2011, the first year the AHA shifted polling to only include American brands:

That’s *18* styles from 2011, and I even looped a couple of lagers rooted in Germany into one generic category just to keep things from getting out of hand.

This change interests me not just for consolidation around a specific set of styles – apparently we really know what we want – but doing so while also having the widest array of choices we have ever had. An amber or brown ale no longer show up on Zymurgy’s list, but there are also a really high number of ambers and browns being made right now with all sorts of flavor options. If voters wanted to, I imagine there may be a brand made to those styles that could get attention, but they now seem more antiquated than anything. We still turn to IPA and imperial stout. It doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but it’s still a thing all the same.

Best of all, I’d take these responses with a much higher probability of representing the public at large over a Beer Advocate or RateBeer “best of” list, as these AHA members vote highly for a wide array of beers that are commonly found and also really, really good. If this is to be believed, the narrowing of preference toward a smaller set of styles could be telling for breweries. You don’t have to go all over the map with what you make (we know how authenticity can play for one-offs) because about a dozen styles of beer are really interesting to drinkers.

Speaking of which, just because I love you INSATIABLE ANIMALS so much, it’s been clear for years what butters your bread or double-dry hops your beer or whatever:

To emphasize this point even more, half the dozen new beers included in 2017 that weren’t on 2016’s list, we have Wicked Weed’s Pernicious IPA, Alchemist’s Focal Banger IPA and DIPA’s like Fat Head’s Hop Juju and Melvin 2×4. Hope you’ve got some enamel left on your teeth.

Even if you do, you’re liver is still pissed.

Alcohol Content

Yes, we can point at the average ABV dropping by a quarter of a percent in the last three years, but the average alcohol content across 51 beers (thanks, ties!) is still a whopping 8%. People can talk about trends of lower alcohol beer all they want, but the stuff that gets people excited is still pretty high octane. A reminder that the most recent analysis to determine the average strength of Brewers Association-defined “craft” is 5.9% ABV, and 44 of 51 beers listed in 2017 were above that threshold. Only two – Founders All Day IPA (4.7%)  and New Glarus Belgian Red (4%) – were under 5%.

To poke at this a little more, let’s separate the top and bottom-“25” of these lists, because as we see with so many “best beer” compilations, the top half rarely changes much year-to-year thanks to baked in perceptions and expectations. Most fluctuation will take place at the bottom of these lists, with some beers moving in and out. I like to pay extra attention to that half, because finding new beers is always fun, especially for quantitative purposes:

Top-25 Avg ABV Bottom-25 Avg ABV
2010 7.12 6.69
2011 7.7 8.26
2012 7.5 8.18
2013 7.89 8.28
2014 8.06 8.1
2015 8.18 8.36
2016 7.83 8.56
2017 7.5 8.55

That top-25 ABV takes a bigger fall, but mostly because a few “big” beers like Arrogant Bastard and Backwoods Bastard and others not named bastard dropped a few spots. Even still, the consistency of the bottom-25 is what gets my attention, because that’s where the most change is happening year-to-hear, and yet ABV still stays the same while 55-60% of styles stay IPA or DIPA.

If those numbers weren’t enough to get you excited, now comes the fun(?) part.

Trend Lines

In year’s past, some basic idea of trends and interests came forth from analyzing Zymurgy’s list. In 2014, it was trying to see if there was anything beyond the commitment toward “heritage” styles. In 2015, voters doubled-down on love for IPA. Last year, there seemed to be some small rebellion against classic brands that dominated a few years prior.

For 2017, there’s a clearer indication of what “new” means to people.

Dogfish Head has been a good example of this in recent years, as their “Minute” lineup of IPAs has tumbled downward:

60 Minute 90 Minute 120 Minute
2010 T17 4 N/A
2011 T16 T3 T38
2012 15 3 25
2013 30 3 N/A
2014 T34 7 27
2015 N/A 9 T28
2016 T50 15 T34
2017 N/A T19 T43

Similarly, it’s been an odd combination of rankings for Sierra Nevada’s beers, which have a strong hold on AHA members for both quality and nostalgic reasons, I’m sure. I’m including Celebration because hot damn, it’s strong. No other beer has seen the same kind of fall and rise:

Pale Ale Torpedo Celebration
2010 5 T12 T7
2011 10 T8 7
2012 4 9 7
2013 15 T12 T9
2014 12 20 T15
2015 T12 T12 T28
2016 13 32 T16
2017 T11 T27 T8

Stone IPA and Ruination have had a tough go over the years, and Dale’s Pale Ale, while still on the list, went from a high ranking of 14 in 2012 to 43 the past two years. North Coast Old Rasputin, one of the best imperial stouts in the world – and you can get it for $10! – has gone from a high of #10 in 2012 to 38 two years in a row.

So an odd collection of beers got my attention this time around, not because they were new in the sense they didn’t exist before, but they’re new in that they’re continually new to people. A first batch for example:

Boulevard Tank 7 Founders KBS Cigar City Jai Alai Founders All Day IPA
2010 N/A T25  N/A N/A
2011 N/A T3  N/A N/A
2012 N/A 37  N/A N/A
2013 T32 T17  N/A N/A
2014 25 11 42 T34
2015 T33 T17 40 27
2016 19 12 18 T16
2017 T11 T6 15 T13

KBS has its rarity and reputation to rely on, and anecdotally seems to have higher production levels the last couple years. Which, along with these other three, caught my eye. Aside from being good beers, what do they have in common? Why would they be making a jump in recent years? Is it expansion?

Boulevard, Cigar City and Founders have all been increasing their distribution footprint, which means that in addition to providing these quality beers, more people are becoming exposed to them. Outside of its hometown of Kansas City, Tank 7 is Boulevard’s best-selling beer, according to Jeremy Danner, Ambassador Brewer for Boulevard. In new markets (which continue to grow), it’s now a top beer for the company. Even in today’s diverse drinker world, an 8.5% ABV, Belgian-style farmhouse ale doesn’t scream “top seller” among new drinkers.

Except it does! And it’s doing so in places where people use it as their first exposure to Boulevard!

This is complementary of an assumption I’ve continually made about why Pliny the Elder conquered Zymurgy’s list:

Due to Pliny the Elder’s very limited distribution (CA, CO, OR and Philadelphia) the number of people who have access to this beer is very limited. It may be a popular choice on beer trading forums, but I can’t help but wonder how much its reputation, historical place with beer drinkers and overall hype keeps it at No. 1, especially when hundreds of thousands of words have been written about how it’s really not as good as you think.

Could other beers be moving up the list because more people are actually getting to try them? Or try them consistently? Rather than relying on hype, these beers could be getting their due through experience, too. While not outlandish in their move up the lists, I also thought about these four beers, which have appeared since 2015:

Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA Fat Head’s Head Hunter New Belgium La Folie Tree House Julius
2015 11 T45 T41 N/A
2016 10 T34 T50 33
2017 T8 T27 T27 T22

New Belgium has been around for a long time on a national basis, but they’re finally fully national and also getting their flagship sour beer in front of people for the first time. Deschutes has carefully expanded and has already stretched into Virginia and North Carolina. Head Hunter gets a boost because of Fat Head’s growing brewpub footprint – now with four locations – and Hop Juju made its first appearance on the list in 2017. Tree House is, well, hyped. A New England IPA on a Zymurgy list says a lot about the transition of “old” to “new” guard.

Which brings us back to the flip-flop of Pliny the Elder giving up this year’s top spot to Bell’s Two Hearted. It’s not a big deal for news as much as a symbolic one. Bell’s has itself been expanding rapidly, led by its flagship IPA, which accounts for a little over 50% of sales, per latest data made available last year. Maybe this is a sign of people finally getting tired of voting for a rare double IPA to the top spot. Maybe it’s an indication that more people have tasted Two Hearted and, like others, determined it to be a worthy rival to Pliny.

But most important, these changes suggest that on a national level, getting good beer in front of more people can change minds. Seems pretty straight forward, right?

While it may not to be a hit with AHA/Brewers Association crowds who prefer not to buy AB InBev, this all makes me wonder about reception for something like Elysian’s Space Dust IPA, which AB InBev is using as Elysian’s lead brand to enter markets. Objectively (on a crowdsourced level) it’s a great beer. Goose Island IPA does well, too. Also, Golden Road’s Wolf Pup.

Discussing the merits of these beers and their place as “craft” is a whole other conversation, but reach matters, and separately of these Zymurgy results, all this does make me wonder a little more about how those kind of beers will be able to attract audiences as they move across the country.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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173 days ago
Insights, beer talk, more insights, witty comments - it's all @BryanDRoth. Read, enjoy, be enlightened.
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Malt Liquor’s One-Off Return to ‘High Class’ Status

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This week, Founders announced the arrival of a new beer in their barrel-aged series, DKML. A rather innocuous announcement, as these things happen all the time. There are entire websites dedicated to beer releases, after all. But from a historical perspective, it was a little different. DKML stands for – if internet circles are to be believed – Dick Kicker Malt Liquor.

For $12 a 750 mL bottle or $15 a four-pack, this latest offering provides an on-the-nose joke to its buyers not originating from the first half of its name, but its second.

When we reference malt liquor, there’s a clear connotation to what we’re supposed to be thinking about. We only need to look at Dogfish Head’s 2009 release of Liquor De Malt to get an idea:

Plastic bottle with a plastic screw top that comes in a paper bag. It’s the cliche of malt liquor and 40-ounce bottles which have long been used as a big part of defining “black beer culture.” And while this is decidedly not some kind of social justice post, I did think about these connections in terms of the historical reference pertaining to Founders’ latest offering and the history of a beverage that has come full circle.

Malt liquor was originally meant for affluent white drinkers. One of the malt liquor’s biggest brands, Country Club, was advertised to be ideal for its namesake. As Dave Infante pointed out for Thrillist:

Malt liquor was intended to provide the boost the industry needed in the face of falling per-capita beer consumption and increasing competition from spirits and wine, and malt liquor marketers bent over backward to ingratiate themselves with the white middle class. There were Champagne-inspired offerings like Champale (one of the first malt liquors, introduced in 1952), Champetite, and Sparkling Stite (which billed itself “Pale & Dry as Champagne”). There were enough WASPy references to fill a white-privilege bingo card: Country Club, of course, but also University Club, Olde English, and Town & Country V.V.S. There was even a reference to a founding father: Patrick Henry.

Hit that Thrillist link for a full history, but in a general sense, we know what actually happened from there. Malt liquor didn’t perform well with its intended audience, but it did sell in urban areas to black customers.

Which all presents an interesting situation, from a historical and cultural perspective, of where we are now, with a $15 barrel-aged malt liquor hitting shelves billed as “the first malt liquor worthy of a glass” with the tongue-in-cheek “warning” that “this one’s a pry-off, not a twist-off.” There’s a wink and a nod here, of which I’m sure is not meant to be malicious or mean or with anything less than a playful gesture that assumes a beer enthusiast buying this beer has an idea – stereotypical, cliche or otherwise – of what malt liquor is supposed to be about, but this time, it’s made for them.

And who “they” are now is very different from who “they” were 40 years ago.

But even still, there are broader issues at play related to issues of masculinity (especially black masculinity) and cultural heritage within the realm of beer. Issues of diversity and equality are topics raised numerous times on this blog, and the reappearance of malt liquor – even as a specialty one-off – could be seen as a good thing as much as a callback to an antiquated time of more segmented marketing.

America’s social values have shifted dramatically in the last half century, especially in the ways we consider strength, gender and their place within our culture. While 40s of malt liquor may still have a place among all the other options of alcohol available to us, wine, beer and spirits have become more free flowing in their acceptance in price point, accessibility and varieties. Malt liquor, once a defining feature of something like rap, doesn’t have the same cache it once did.

Which piques my curiosity of Founders’ latest entry. Yes, it’s clear they’re having a little fun, and it’s subjective whether that fun is good, bad, somewhere in between or nothing to consider at all, but it still offers up an opportunity for contemplation. For what it’s worth, the conversation within this Reddit forum is concerned about DKML’s quality, especially in relation to Founders’ other highly-regarded barrel-aged brews. There are many complexities connected to the history of malt liquor, so a prominent American craft brewery jumping on board may be simple fun or it may come off as questionable. It’s all up to you.

No matter what the answer is, there’s no denying the discussion to be had around it could be an interesting one.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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181 days ago
Until Barrel Aged Mickey's comes along, there's this article from @BryanDRoth to keep you informed.
North Carolina USA
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Beer is Suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder

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Since 2009, Oregon’s Ninkasi Brewing has been producing Maiden the Shade, a “summer IPA” created to help celebrate an annual fair.

It recently received a new look, bringing it to my attention for the first time, thanks to East Coast selection bias and that peskiness of distribution. I can say nothing for the beer, having never had it, but the forethought of that brand sure caught my attention. In recent years, the prescience of the Pacific Northwest in regard to beer and love of all things hop seems like a future that had long been planned, but perhaps America’s love affair with IPA wasn’t always a guaranteed thing.

Either way, the idea of a “summer IPA” sounds pretty damned smart right about now.

In the most recent issue of Beer Advocate magazine, I have a story that had long caught my attention: consideration of the “death” of seasonal beers. It’s safe to assume that unique brands made solely for winter, spring, summer and fall will never go away, but the place and purpose of these kinds of beers is certainly changing. As noted in the Beer Advocate piece, a recent way to combat declining sales of seasonal brands has been to simply diversify IPA offerings. California’s Coronado Brewing was one example, this year introducing a New England-style IPA as one of its four seasonal products.

Depending on which market research company you choose, 2016 was either a bad or slightly worse for seasonals. IRI’s channels had seasonal beer down around 8% through nearly all of 2016 vs. 2015. Nielsen tracked seasonal decline at 11.6%. A fun note: IRI, which has a category of “Specialty Release,” had that segment up 18.2% 2016 vs. 2015.

Comparatively, here’s how IRI tracked 20 beer styles and dollar growth through the first 11 months of 2016:

IRI-Tracked Style % of $ Sales Growth ’16 vs. ’15
Golden Ale 48.2
Saison 44.1
Rye 30.3
IPA 27.1
Stout 26.9
Scottish 21.2
Pilsner 19.3
Porter 15.4
Fruit/Veggie/Spiced 15
Belgian Ales 5.8
Brown 4.6
Bock 4.3
Belgian Wit 2.7
Pale Ale 1.9
Amber Ale 0.6
Wheat Beer -4.3
Red -4.6
Strong Ales -4.9
ESB -17.2
Barleywine -39.3

Of this bunch, the declines came from styles that have a distinct seasonal feel (barleywine, strong ale), a root in tastes not popular in America right now (ESB) and one that often gets extra hopping because it’s easier to explain that than what its name means (red). Wheat beer, with a decline of 4.3% year-to-year, likely suffered from a dip in sales for Blue Moon. Otherwise, 15 of 20 styles all saw an increase, with some larger growth likely attributed to the sheer fact that many styles simply got a boost in volume from breweries making the beers for the first time and/or new breweries making beer, period. Hundreds of breweries are opening every year, and in a pure, quantitative sense, they’re the most successful.

According to data from the Brewers Association and reported by Brewbound, microbreweries (less than 15,000 barrels per year) saw sales increase by 27% and were responsible for 78% of total craft beer growth in 2016. For all breweries larger than that under the BA’s “craft” umbrella, a little more than a third saw flat or declining sales – including regional and national names like Yuengling, Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada, Gambrinus and Left Hand.

How might this seemingly random sales outcome be tied to seasonal beer sales? The business model is different. The smallest, most nimble breweries are thriving off the variety they can create on a daily basis. They can make what they want, when they want. A larger brewery like Sierra Nevada takes about nine months to create the final version of some beers, like Otra Vez. Meanwhile, a brewer like Jason Alexander at Charlotte, North Carolina’s Free Range Brewing, pumps out batches that would be test size for larger breweries as his normal releases.

Ultimately, the decline of the seasonal category isn’t about seasons themselves, it’s about variety and how often and easily that’s available to us. Seasons and food choices, for example, have a strong correlation. But perishable food isn’t an option year-round, like styles of beer, which can be made anytime, anywhere – and often is. Variety in beer is constantly churning alongside all its static options, which are already plentiful. One-offs and specialty releases sit next to core beers that span all kinds of flavors. When we have this level of choice, it no longer becomes about how we feel on a quarterly seasonal basis. It’s about what we want to drink in that moment.

Or, to put it plainly, what’s new and niche is popular. And that says nothing of the value drinkers place on rare and specialty beers that are available, which also take up mindshare from the space in which seasonal beers used to sit.

In a recent issue of Craft Beer & Brewing magazine, Melvin Brewing co-founder and brewer Jeremy Tofte noted that seasonal IPA releases hit on all of the above:

“They’re just as good as 2×4 [‘the best damn DIPA in the world’], and they’ll rotate every three months so beer lovers will have a new beer to try, and then they won’t see it again for nine months.”

The evolution of this category is something of an epitome of the industry itself. So many breweries, so many options. For every action, a reaction. What means “new” now has taken from what was “new” of old.

Read more about seasonal beer in this story from Beer Advocate.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

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201 days ago
Seasonality-what is it good for? @BryanDRoth tries to answer that. #AbsolutelyNothin'
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