What Toast Ale and Brewgooder can learn from Kickstarter, Brewing Business Models and Left Hand Brewing Co
Kickstarter: this week saw Kickstarter, the creativity focused crowdfunding platform, release its first Benefit Statement since becoming a Public Benefit Corporation. In 2015 Kickstarter changed its corporate entity from a for-profits, incorporated company to a public benefit corporation. According to their statement at the time, this means “positive impact on society becomes part of a Benefit Corporation’s legally defined goals.”. You can read their charter here and their first benefit statement here. While they remain a for-profit organisation, they have some very specific goals, including their approach to diversity, executive pay and taxation. In addition, Kickstarter will annually donate 5% of its after-tax profit towards arts and music education, and to organizations fighting to end systemic inequality and in their statement have outlined the projects that have received the funding. This got me thinking about both Toast Ale and Brewgooder, both breweries founded on a similar mission to benefit the public. Both Toast Ale and Brewgooder are focused on totally admirable causes and both are garnering no shortage of publicity and that should be applauded and appreciated. Toast Ale is focused on the problem of food waste, to help turn food, and more specifically bread waste into a product that can be used and sold. Brewgooder focused on bringing fresh water to people that need it most. Both have a stated goal to donate 100% of profits. This is where I have questions. Firstly, how profitable are a start up brewery? If Cloudwater’s results after 2 years of trading are anything to go by, it’s a challenge. Stella Artois have this week announced a similar water campaign, with a donation based on units sold, rather than profits. Kew Brewery also provides a charitable donation on units sold. This is more guaranteed, and punters who support the beer know their contribution is based on the fact they have bought the beer, rather than the breweries ability to turn a profit. But even if they are turning a profit and donating that to their admirable causes, why haven’t they announced it? I know there is a huge difference between Kickstarter, a company with an 8 year track record and a multi-million dollar revenue line, and start ups like Toast Ale and Brewgooder, however when marketing is based solely on this messaging, a little more transparency regarding their philanthropic pursuits, would be appreciated.
Business models: unless you didn’t read last week’s post, by now you will have noticed that Wild Beer Co is crowdfunding in a bid to raise £1m (which at the time of writing they had raised £993,080). They are on track to smash their target and rightly so as they appear to have done their homework, with a very well prepared campaign and business case. You would expect no less however when one of your non-executive directors is the COO/CFO of Crowdcube. What stood out for me in the financials was how much having two pubs, Jessop House in Cheltenham and Wapping Wharf in Bristol, strengthened their financial position. It got me thinking about the different business models of craft breweries. There is the opposite of the Wild Beer Co approach where pubs have started breweries, such as Long Arm Brewing started by the ETM Group, or the plans for the new brewery on the site of The Prince, N22, sister pub of the Dukes Head. Both Camden and Beavertown started in the basement of pubs. Or the traditional craft brewery in a railway arch / industrial lot with a makeshift taproom, or even Yeastie Boys, who design recipes, packaging, undertake the marketing and sales and partner with a brewery to brew the beers to their exacting standards. I’m sure there is advantages and disadvantages to every business model, but its up to the founders to really decide where they want to begin and what they want from their brewery. Do the drinkers really care?
Left Hand Brewing Company: I attended a fantastic event at Brew by Numbers last week, who hosted Left Hand Brewing Company, from Longmont Colorado for a special event of big beers. Chris Hall was delighted to start the night with their 55|04, an 8.5%ABV Double IPA. Chris Lennert, the effervescent COO of Left Hand was also there, the final stop of a whirlwind visit to Britain and Ireland, championing independence and appreciating good beer. I had met Chris at an event Left Hand did with Camden and Beavertown around 2 years ago. What really stood out for me that night was how Chris was the only one from the three breweries there who made the effort to go and speak with everyone in the room – It certainly made an impression. What I remembered this time was their beer – St Vrain, a 3 year old Belgian Tripel, Widdershins, a 3 year old oak aged Barley Wine, and Wake Up Dead, a 2 year old oak aged Imperial Stout. (You can find some picture of the event on my instagram @bushcraftbeer) All were exquisitely made and aged, especially when compared with some of the younger, but no less accomplished beers Brew by Numbers were serving. While you may know Left Hand Brewing from their Nitro Stout, and having a flagship beer certainly helps (think Brooklyn Lager, Goose IPA), there is always more to a good American Craft Brewery, especially one that is 24 years old, than a flagship beer. And usually some really great people too.
SIBAs craft mark, Lost and Grounded and what glassware tells us about the state of beer
SIBAs craft mark: it’s been just under 6 months since the Society for Independent Brewers (SIBA) announced a definition for a craft brewer and a stamp to accompany the title. The ‘Assured Independent British Craft Breweries’ (AIBCB) initiative was designed to provide greater clarity to consumers looking to purchase beer from genuinely independent1 breweries. While SIBA has over 850 members, all of which are eligible for the stamp2, only 150 pledged their support for the scheme and committed to use the logo at the time of launch. Today that number has increased to 350 which, given that it is still early days for the initiative, is a result I am sure SIBA considers a success. The next steps for the initiative will be unveiled further at the BeerX in March (SIBAs annual conference-cum festival), but will likely include engaging both on and off trade points of sale. Personally I have yet to see any of the craft beer I drink with the AIBCB mark although if it goes some way to achieving its goal of provide clarity to consumers on what they are drinking that surely is a good thing. However, there remain consenting views – without consensus on a definition and without complete take up, will it achieve this goal? Time will be the judge.
1: SIBA defines independent as ‘independent of any larger controlling interests
2: to be eligible, breweries should be independent and above by SIBAs Manual of Good Brewing Practice
Have you seen any beer with the AIBCB mark? Tag me in your picture
Lost and Grounded:Lost and Grounded was arguably the biggest brewery launch of 2016. They came with brewing pedigree, financial backing and an open and humble approach and then they got around to brewing some beer. Like most, I waited with anticipation to try their beer to see if my sky-high expectations would be met. While I had perhaps a pint or two at the Dukes Head Highgate one evening, it wasn’t until they released their bottled range I really got to sit down, enjoy and assess their creations. Having purchased two of each of their available range from Beer Merchants, I was both surprised and delighted when they arrived just two days later (kudos to Beer Merchants for their impeccable service). Beer is best shared and I bought these beers to share with my father-in-law over the weekend. They were characterised by smoothness of mouth feel, subtle but distinct flavours and above all else an approachable drinkability. You can find a more detailed review of the beers on my Instagram feed, although what I would say is that they were all very good (my highlight was their No Rest for Dancers, a hoppy red ale). If you haven’t seen them in a pub or bar near you, get on to Beer Merchants and make an order.
Glassware: ‘You don’t seem to have any beer glasses’ I observed recently at my Dad’s house. He seemed to take some offence to the suggestion as he pulled a tumbler from the glass cupboard. While he had a variety of glasses for different styles of wine, he failed to have anything I would consider suitable for by Pilsner. So I helped myself to a wine glass, which was subject to much eyebrow raising on his behalf. It got me thinking of my own glassware collection. When I got married, glassware took its pride of place alongside crockery on our wedding registry. At the time this was what I viewed as a suitable if not slightly flashy beer glass.
Over time, and almost by osmosis I have started to gather a range of more specialist beer glasses – visits to festivals and breweries largely to blame. I have my favourites; my 1/3 pint tulip from Hop Burns and Black, my Teku from BeerBods and my Craft Master from Weird Beard. I understand that drinking beer and appreciating beer are two different things, but until I can walk into my Dads house and he has more suitable beer glasses there is still more to do to educate people about appreciating good beer.
Share a picture of your glassware collection – tag me in a photo
Cask confessions, Meantime and Finding comfort in the UK craft scene
Cask confessions: Now that Pete Brown has made cask confessions de riguer, I have one of my own. I’m a caskophobe. Ok, maybe that’s a little strong – it’s not that I hate cask beer but as a preference it sits below keg, bottle, can…I guess it’s at the bottom of the list. Let me try and defend that stance. I didn’t grow up in the UK but rather the warmer climes of the anitpodes. Growing up in Australia, cold, carbonated keg beer is king and rightly so given the hot and humid conditions. Unlike in other parts of the world, it would be hard to argue that cask is revered by the Australian beer drinker – it’s perhaps seen as a British eccentricity and even derided as warm, flat beer. I’ve enjoyed reading the tsunami of content is response to Cloudwater’s announcement; in some corners reinforcing my own views and in others places educating me on what cask beer is all about. One irony I see in all this, at least in my own perception, is that as a (non-cask) craft beer drinker you tolerate the occasional bad beer from a small producer yet we frown at the poor quality of cask beer. But questions remain for me, so rather than remain ignorant, I am keen to learn more about cask beer to help me understand why it is held in such esteem by some – any ‘cask guides’ welcome!
Meantime: the Greenwich-based brewery took time out of being handed around by corporate owners to announce it was teaming up with well-funded, well-connected Silicon Valley start-up 23andMe.com to produce Meantime Bespoke, a new service that offers beer matching your DNA to our taste preferences. In an online post on their website this is explained as ‘assess hereditary variations in your oral taste receptors to reveal genetic variants that could explain personal preferences to ward specific flavour profiles’. Or in other terms, use science to tell you what you probably already know – your taste preference. All for the princely sum of £25,000 for an easily transportable 2,000 pints. The proclaimed benefit of all this? ‘Unprecedented bragging rights with your mates’. Good luck to them. But this is taking the concept of using your body parts as ingredients one step further than before. Australian brewery 7 cent made headlines with a beer brewed with yeast captured from belly button fluff for the 2016 GABS festival. Oregon’s Rogue Ale’s who brewed a beer using yeast cultivated from the beard of Brewmaster John Maier. I did try one of these beers not that long along, and while it was a decent enough beer, it was a little funkier than you would want from a beer of this nature. I would hate to spend my spare £25k to find out my DNA is farmhouse funk.
Finding comfort in the UK craft scene: anyone who follows my twitter feed (@bushcraftbeer) would have seen that I was in Australia recently on holiday. The weather was great as was spending time with friends and family. Some of the beer was great too. My highlight was the Moo Brewery Pilsner. While it was great to try some new drops, the prevalence of 4-5% ABV Summer Ales, Pacific Ales and Pale Ales, many of which are brewed by ‘craft brands’ of larger breweries, left me wanting more. What I didn’t expect is that it left me really appreciating what we have here in the UK all the more.
I sat down with Mark and Steve from the Beer O’Clock show – the UKs leading beer podcast. The Beer O’Clock show podcast started just under 4 years ago – It’s rise in popularity seemingly mirroring its subject matter.
In that time Mark and Steve have a built and large and loyal audience and an even bigger following on social media. They have used this to great effect – driving conversation about beer and the industry in general with their Hop Topic feature – plus the occasional charitable drive too.
You could argue they have become opinion leaders or trend setters when it comes to beers and breweries. As Steve says on the show “where we lead others follow”.
As you would expect we caught up over a few pints of IPA no less. Hope you enjoy my conversation with Mark and Steve from the Beer O’Clock show.