PABST FINDS A PARTNER FOR SPIRITS LAUNCH

FOUR LOKO-MAKER PHUSION PROJECTS

Pabst Brewing Co., the owner of heritage beer brands such as PBR, Schlitz and Old Milwaukee, is getting into the spirits business.

The privately owned company on Tuesday said it launched a whiskey brand under its Small Town banner called Not Your Father’s Bourbon in Wisconsin and Illinois with plans to push the brand nationwide in early 2018.

The 43 percent alcohol-by-volume, contract-distilled bourbon contains a “touch of Madagascar vanilla” and carries a suggested retail price of $29.99 for a 750-ml bottle. Pabst said in a news release the spirit was “crafted for veteran and novice bourbon drinkers alike.” Adding vanilla, it said, is “an exciting spin on the centuries-old spirit for a new generation of whiskey drinkers and cocktail connoisseurs.”

The move to diversify its beer-centric portfolio comes amid a down year for Pabst and its Not Your Father’s flavored beverage franchise. Case volume company-wide is down 2.1 percent and sales dollars have slipped 1.3 percent year-to-date through Nov. 4, according to Nielsen all-outlet data. Not Your Father’s, maker of hard root beer, ginger ale and other hard sodas, has been particularly battered, off 55 percent in sales dollars on a 53.7 percent drop in volume.

Pabst’s foray into spirits also comes amid broader pressure on the beer market, which continues to shed share to wine and spirits, particularly among younger legal-age drinkers. The beer industry has lost some 35 million barrels of beer, or 11 billion servings, to wine and spirits over the last 20 years, Heineken USA President Ronald den Elzen said in an October speech. Over that period, beer’s share of the total alcohol beverage market has shrunk to 50 percent, down from 62 percent, den Elzen said.

Other brewers already are dabbling in distilled spirits, including Michigan’s New Holland, Delaware’s Dogfish Head, Oregon’s Rogue Ales & Spirits and Indiana’s Three Floyds.

Among big brewers, only Constellation Brands has a significant presence in the industry, but Anheuser-Busch InBev, through its craft acquisitions, is eyeing an entry. The company in July applied for an Oregon distillery license for its 10 Barrel Brewing craft brewery. Its Devils Backbone brewery in Virginia also has expressed interest in distilling.

Prior to being bought by InBev, Anheuser-Busch flirted with spirits, creating a unit called Long Tail Libations that tested a shooter product for bars and clubs called Jekyll & Hyde. It also struck a deal a decade ago to distribute a line of spirits in the Northeast.

Pabst contract brews its beers and plans to do the same with its spirits division, which is dubbed Small Town Craft Spirits, according to the industry publication Brewbound, which first reported the news. The whiskey is being produced by Minhas Distillery, a contract- and private label-manufacturer in Monroe, Wis.

It has also outsourced marketing, sales and distribution rights of the brown spirit to Chicago-based Innovative Wine & Spirits, Brewbound reported.

According to company filings with the Illinois Secretary of State, Innovative Wine & Spirits is owned by Phusion Projects, the maker of the high-gravity flavored malt beverage Four Loko. Phusion jumped into the spirits space this year with its “Four Loko Shots” brand, an attempt to move its brands more into on-premise accounts, the company told Crain’s Chicago Business in a July report.

A spokesman for Small Town Craft Spirits said he was not able to provide more information.

Chris Furnari, the Boston-based editor of Brewbound, said in an interview that beer companies are seeking ways to diversify their portfolios amid the current turbulence in the market. But, he said, he’s “struggling to wrap my head around this one because it doesn’t feel like they’re all-in on it.”

“I understand the rationale behind wanting to leverage the brand equity they’ve already built with Small Town,” Furnari said. But the fact that Pabst is outsourcing the production, sales, marketing and distribution of the brand “doesn’t tell me they’re dedicated or super serious about investing in the space.”

On Demand Beer Delivery

On-demand beer delivery is the type of service every drinker, staring at an empty fridge, has wished for at one point. In an age of on-demand everything else—movies, grocery delivery, ride-sharing—alcohol is one of the final frontiers. But apps, websites and, naturally, Amazon have finally brought the dream of to-your-door-in-an-hour beer to life. What it means for the existing relationship between drinkers, retail stores and breweries, though, is still shaking out.

“The logistics are challenging and with alcohol you have some additional regulatory restraints,” says Keith Anderson, senior vice president of insights and marketing at Profitero, a leading global ecommerce analytics firm. “There’s a massive opportunity that you already see some services pursuing because, particularly in large-scale, high-density urban centers, there is a population of technology-enabled households that want and can afford to pay for convenience.”

Riffing on the models of meal-delivery apps like GrubHub and Postmates, the past few years have seen an explosion of on-demand alcohol-delivery apps and websites including Drizly, GoPuff, Minibar Delivery and many others. Most guarantee beer (or wine or spirits) in your hands less than an hour after you place your order. Even Amazon’s in on the game, with alcohol delivery available via PrimeNow in select cities—and who knows what the company’s recent $14.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods could mean for its beer offerings. People can currently summon some cold beers with a mere “Alexa, I need a six-pack” command to Amazon’s assistant device.

There are two ways this beer gets from the brewery to your lazy, thirsty self. The first and most prevalent model is that apps or services partner with existing retail liquor stores, who supply the beer and whose staff makes the deliveries. The app is just a go-between; MiniBar Delivery co-founder and co-CEO Lara Crystal calls it a “marketing technology platform.” A liquor store pays the app company to buy in to its online platform, essentially outsourcing its ecommerce to a third party. The second, less common model is dominated by Amazon. Amazon, unlike other services, actually owns its own warehouses and inventory; it also employs its own drivers to make deliveries. Currently, Amazon PrimeNow delivery of alcohol is only available in a handful of cities including Cincinnati, Columbus and Seattle.

Many such services are based in just a few cities so that the company can closely monitor logistics and work with multiple retail stores to offer a wide selection. Profitero’s Keith Anderson says that, like ride-sharing apps, supply and demand have to synch up for these services to work. Too many liquor stores and too few customers using the app means stores will lose interest in being on the platform; too many customers and not enough selection and drinkers will become frustrated with the lame options.

 

There are also logistical challenges. To prevent underage (but, of course, tech-savvy) kids from purchasing alcohol, store staff members or Amazon employees who make the delivery must check IDs before handing over the goods at the door. Furthermore, beer is not like printer cartridges or paper towels, which is why some beer-delivery customers have found that delivery services can come up short. When he was living in Sacramento, Jon Uhruh, a 35-year old services coordinator who now lives in Cheyenne, Wyoming, noticed that Amazon PrimeNow offered beer for delivery. He and his wife wanted to order something out of curiosity. They settled on one of their standbys, a six-pack of Lagunitas IPA.

“The beers arrived warm; they were very malty. I’ve had Lagunitas many times, they were no one near where the beer should be,” Uhruh says. “I reached out to Amazon and they did give us a credit to try again, and they promised it would be fresher and colder. The second time, it actually was an older dated bottle, over six months old, but it was colder. I knew it wasn’t what I know the brewery intended it to be, though. It’s going to be hard for Amazon to get the higher-quality craft brewers to sign onto this because a lot of the smaller guys are really worried about the quality of the product getting to the consumer.”

Search most of the on-demand alcohol delivery platforms, and you’ll find predominantly nationally distributed breweries and larger regional players, the kinds that you’d find in most corner stores. This isn’t to say there aren’t options that would pique a beer nerd’s fancy; Drizly in particular offers a database of beer searchable by style and country of origin that includes a notable number of locally made beers like Grimm, Transmitter and Ommegang in New York; and Half Acre, Pipeworks and Revolution in Illinois.

Because, except in the case of Amazon, local retailers enter their merchandise to the platform, beer selection (and freshness) should theoretically match what’s in that store’s coolers. Services like Drizly and Minibar Delivery might be best known for coordinating alcohol delivery, but they’re really just matchmakers bringing drinkers and stores together. They’re acting sort of like a Priceline for beer instead of hotels: Here’s what’s available in your area, here are the prices.

“Most important is the marketplace concept, that we’re pulling from as many retailers as we can in a market. You’re not constrained by the four walls of the store; you’re able to shop across stores, across prices, across inventory depth,” says Drizly co-founder Justin Robinson. “Look at any other industry: airline, restaurants, hotels. Alcohol is sort of the last frontier for that transparency, giving the power to the customer.”

On top of the retail price, the consumer will pay a nominal delivery fee, usually around $5 for the entire delivery, no matter its size. That’s not true of Amazon PrimeNow, though, whose membership-based service charges an annual cost, making deliveries free. Yes, someone just delivered that six-pack to you for the same price you’d pay at the store.

“In a store, a friendly staff member’s going to be able to say ‘Try this beer’ or ‘This is a new wine we found.’ We need to replicate that experience online.”

But what customers gain by not going to the liquor store (convenience), they lose by not going to the liquor store (advice from friendly sales staff). If you have a favorite liquor store, the staff there might recognize you as a longtime customer, know your preferences or be able to answer questions about what’s new and what’s tasty.

“In a store, a friendly staff member’s going to be able to say ‘Try this beer’ or ‘This is a new wine we found.’ We need to replicate that experience online,” says Robinson. “Some of the editorial is created in-house, but also we have retail partners with phenomenal wine or beer buyers and we leverage those relationships to get that content online. If you’re in Boston, you’re going to see a different piece from the local beer buyer than you might see in Phoenix. We want to work hand-in-hand so that their local expertise shows through.”

Are these delivery and online services a challenge to traditional liquor stores? Not necessarily, says David Christman, senior vice president of state affairs for the National Beer Wholesalers Association, which represents beer distributors. He is also the chief of staff for NBWA’s Beer Industry Electronic Commerce Coalition.

“Big picture, we like that [services] come into this not using the buzzword ‘disruptor’ but as an enhancer to the system that’s in place, working with locally licensed retailers,” he says. “It’s adding to consumer convenience but it’s not tipping over the apple cart in the meantime.”

But this relative harmony doesn’t mean there aren’t a few sticking points where online delivery and ecommerce services put traditional distributors or retailers on edge.

“If they’re not holding a retail license, but they are interfacing with the consumer, we’re pretty much of the belief that they should be subject to the same trade practice rules as a retailer,” Christman says. For example, a liquor store isn’t allowed to give certain alcohol brands more prominent shelf space or exclude that brand’s competitors in exchange for money; Christman says the same should apply to websites or apps. Theoretically, the liquor store could lose its liquor license, while there’s no such recourse for the website or app. “These laws are a big reason why we have so much variety in the beer aisle, so even if the aisle is a virtual one, the rules should not change.”

Christman says that a few years’ time will tell whether these services are a net gain for retailers, wholesales and breweries.

“Everybody wants to be online and be as convenient as possible. Structured right, there’s a lot of opportunity,” he says. “I’m anxious to see in a year or so if this is resulting in new beer sales.”

That’s the million-dollar question for breweries, retailers and for these delivery services: Is a customer more likely to buy more beer (or wine or spirits) because of an app or delivery website? If you’re the type of beer drinker who’s already hunting down the newest release at your favorite bottle shop or buying growlers from breweries directly, these services might not change the way you discover and buy beer. That is, of course, until you find yourself with an empty fridge and a car that’s at the mechanic’s shop.


Courtesy of Craft Alley

Craft Alley: Denver’s crowler delivery service

A few years ago, Bryce Forester was drinking with a friend at a brewery, remarking on how good fresh-from-the-tank beer tastes. He wondered if there was a way to legally deliver brewery-fresh crowlers to customers who don’t have time to visit the brewery. Turns out, it was legal, and he and his brother Bret built a business on the idea: Craft Alley. Craft Alley, less than a year old, also operates a small retail store in Denver, thus it carries a retail license. Customers can come in and purchase just-filled crowlers, or they can order as many as they’d like from different Denver-area breweries online. The customer selects a delivery time window, and Craft Alley staff delivers the crowlers for a $5 fee (it’s waived if the customer orders three or more crowlers). The business only works with small, self-distributing breweries who consider Craft Alley just another retail account. Forester estimates he orders about a barrel per week in crowlers from each brewery partner, and an Alley Pass program also offers crowler buyers discounts and incentives to actual visit the taprooms. “Convenience is a big part of it, and then we also do a lot of education for people that don’t necessarily know about the breweries. Not everybody has that beer friend who can guide them through everything. We do a lot of upgrading as far as people’s beer experiences, getting them out of some of the bigger national brands and get them into something local and fresh.”

Suspend Whiskey in Mid-Air Just Through Sound

Master Scottish whisky distillers, Glenfiddich, have gone and done the near-impossible: They suspended their new award-winning rum-infused 21-Year-Old whisky in mid-air, just through the power of sound. Deep inside a London warehouse, Glenfiddich’s suitably named “Maverick Whisky Makers of Dufftown” put together a crack team of music artists from Scotland and the Caribbean with scientists specialising in cymatics – the study of visible sound waves – to explore the effects of live music on single malt.

 

The experiment was created to celebrate the whisky, with the unusual artist collaboration providing the perfect metaphor for the 21 Year Old that is raised in Scotland and then given a vibrant twist by finishing for four months in Glenfiddich’s own Caribbean rum casks.

Caribbean vocalist Calma Carmona joined the Co-Operative Orchestra Scotland to perform Scottish indie band Franz Ferdinand’s track, Love Illumination, through a series of bespoke, precision-crafted cymatics machines, developed by creative laboratory, TenHertz.

The result was at least four different types of devices, each of which was specifically attuned to react and respond to different note ranges and sound frequencies, isolated through a speaker via specially programmed software. While the “Double Helix” and the “Zig Zag” machines were impressive, a fourth managed to suspend a drop of the whisky in mid-air, purely through the sound of Carmona and the orchestra – the first time this has been achieved outside of a laboratory.

Watch the film above and be sure to check out their making of video below. For more info on Glenfiddich’s 21 Year Old single malt, see their site here.

https://youtu.be/9J_ziyz69Aw

Amazing!

Why is Vodka Cheaper Than Whiskey?

Contrary to some of the other answers here, vodka is actually harder to distill than whisk(e)y.

Vodka must be distilled to around 95% ethanol, this is very close to the ethanol/water azeotrope. Whisk(e)y is distilled to no more than 80% ethanol so that the flavors of the malt or grains can be tasted in the final product.

This is the McCabe-Thiele diagram for ethanol/water distillation. The x-axis represents the ethanol fraction of the liquid and the y-axis is the ethanol fraction of the vapor. Each of the “steps” represents a single vaporization and condensation. That is, a “step” is a single distillation. This isn’t to say that a “step” requires one to collect the distillate and put it in the still again, instead these steps are redistillations that happen during one pass through a still and are known as “theoretical stages”. The stages are a function of the height of the still, the packing material (or plates) in the still, the rate of distillation (and how much distillate “refluxes”), and how much distillate is collected versus recycled back into the still.

Imagine that you wanted to make whisk(e)y and you had a fermented wash of 12% alcohol content. If you look at the diagram you can see that there is a “step” that starts at x=0.12 and y=0.19. When you vaporize the wash you can see that the vapor alcohol content moves up to almost 0.48 or 48% ethanol. When you condense it back to a liquid you can see that the liquid ends up at 0.38 (38%). Thus, in an inefficient pot still you are only achieving 38% alcohol from your work. But you wanted to age your spirit at 80%! As you can see, your product needs to be vaporized/condensed through five more stages before you achieve your target.

Now imagine that you wanted to make vodka. It’s clear that each stage becomes smaller and smaller as your alcohol content increases. If you tried to draw the additional “steps” into the diagram it becomes clear that you need many more stages before you get anywhere close to 95%! (Actually, this diagram seems to converge at 90%, it might not be ethanol/water after all…)

So, why is vodka cheaper?

Well, good whiskey is generally made in a batch process in a still like this:

Notice the four viewing windows? Each of those represents a single stage.

Sometimes Whisky (without the ‘e’) is made in stills like these:

Where a few stages are achieved by the reflux in the tall still head.

Vodka, on the other hand, is often made in a continuous process using a still like this:

(Absolut Vodka distillery)

These stills can achieve over a hundred stages and be run 24/7.

Also contributing to cost is the fact that the relatively small batches of whisk(e)y must be aged, usually for years, in oak barrels, while vodka can be immediately cut to drinking strength and bottled.

Additionally, Whisk(e)y is made from malted barley and just a few other grains which must be of fairly good quality since their flavor carries over to the finished spirit. Vodka can be distilled from anything fermentable and it is distilled to such strength (and often then filtered) that the original ingredients make little difference. In fact, there is no difference between 95% ethanol produced for vodka and 95% ethanol made to be added to gasoline! Many ethanol plants that make fuel ethanol even sell a portion of their product to vodka “producers” who simply filter it, bottle it, and slap a “hand-crafted” label on it before sending it to market!

This all leads to another interesting point. If you ever visit a small distillery and they only have a still like one of the whiskey stills above but they sell a vodka, there is almost no way that they have the capability to actually produce vodka and it was most likely bought in 55 gallon drums from industrial distillers before being bottled and labelled.

Anyway, sorry for the long answer. I hope I didn’t ruin it for anyone!

Jayson Van Chelf, Beverage Science and Technology at MSU

Montelobos Mezcal

Founded by one of the world’s foremost agave experts, Iván Saldaña, Montelobos Mezcal is artisanal mezcal made using 100% organically certified agave spray. The Joven expression is made with espadin agave and using traditional production methods and is a well-balanced mezcal with plenty of agave and smoke that blends well in cocktails as you celebrate the end of the summer.

Brewery Shipping Water Instead of Beer for Harvey Relief

An Anheuser-Busch brewery in Georgia is shipping canned drinking water to the American Red Cross to help Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Texas and Louisiana.

The St. Louis-based beer giant says a truckload of water from its Cartersville, Georgia, brewery arrived in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Monday. More truckloads are scheduled to arrive in Arlington, Texas. More than 155,000 cans of water are being sent in total.

Anheuser-Busch says it periodically stops beer production at times throughout the year in order to can drinking water at the Georgia facility so it can be ready to go in times of need. The company says it has provided more than 76 million cans of drinking water for disaster relief since 1988.

Conor McGregor Announces He’ll ‘Take Over Irish Whiskey Market’ with Own Brand

Conor McGregor’s next business venture will pack a pretty powerful punch.

Following his much anticipated professional boxing debut on Saturday night, the Irish mixed martial artist announced the upcoming release of his very own brand of “Notorious” Irish whiskey.

During Sunday morning’s post-fight press conference — and directly after Floyd Mayweather brought him up to the podium — McGregor sauntered out onto the stage with a glass of whiskey in one hand and a bottle in the other.

After shaking hands with Mayweather, his victorious opponent at Saturday’s fight, McGregor greeted the press and then immediately brandished the bottle for all to see.

“[Let me] put my whiskey down — Notorious Irish Whiskey — coming soon,” he said.

McGregor then began recounting the fight (or “rattle[d] on,” as he described it), all the while raising his glass of whiskey to Mayweather, whom he described as a “true champion” and “a hell of a competitor.”

At one point, McGregor even stopped to take a sip of his Notorious whiskey, remarking to himself, “Boy, that whiskey tastes so good. Oh s—. Notorious Irish Whiskey, coming soon.”

McGregor made sure to mention his whiskey venture when discussing his post-fight plans, as well. Though he admitted he’s “not quite sure” what he plans to do after the Mayweather fight — whether it be more boxing or straight UFC — McGregor made it clear he has high hopes for Notorious.

“I’m going to take over the Irish whiskey market,” said McGregor, The Sun reports. “And this is delicious, so keep an eye out for it.”

McGregor did not specify when or where Notorious-branded whiskey will be available, but it’s not the first time the MMA fighter has ventured out of the ring to supplement his paycheck. In July, he announced plans to launch a clothing line with California-based designer David August, to be called August McGregor.

“I love fashion and I get to design clothes. It’s like fighting, it’s all about the small details,” he said, reports Business Insider.

Conker Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur

There’s no shortage of Coffee liqueurs on the market, but there aren’t many that aren’t super sweet or come close to resembling espresso. Conker Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur is a new release from the gin distiller that is the result of testing more than 90 recipes. They use some of the best Brazilian and Ethiopian coffee beans and brew the liqueur cold so none of the acidic, bitter elements of the coffee bean are extracted. The final product has no flavorings, additives, or thickeners, just four simple ingredients and a more than complicated process to achieve this smooth, rich liqueurs.

Parker’s Heritage Single Barrel Bourbon

The life and legacy of the late Parker Beam continue to impact others through his long history of distilling achievements. The Parker’s Heritage series of annual releases is a great example, with $10 of the proceeds going to the ALS Association. But this is way more than a charity, as the juice itself is once again nothing short of phenomenal. The 11th release in the Parker’s Heritage series is an 11-year-old single barrel bourbon that would certainly make the sixth-generation Master Distiller proud. It’s non-chill filtered and bottled at 122 proof with heavy spice and oak and a long, dry finish.

Almanac Brewing’s Tropical Galaxy Is A Sour Ale Brewed with Mangoes, Lime and Coconut

As we count down the days left of summer, it’s important to remember there are plenty of undiscovered summer brews just waiting to be discovered. Almanac Brewing’s Tropical Galaxy is a sour ale brewed with mangoes, lime, and coconut that sits in oak foedres with Almanac’s farmhouse-brett base beer. It’s then finished by dry-hopping using Australian Galaxy Hops to add passion fruit and citrus aromas and flavors. It’s a fruit forward wild ale that’s a natural fit for warmer temps but promises to pack a flavorful punch no matter when you drink it.