Who Really Makes That Beer
by Sheryl Grady- Albertson
I was recently reminded of the old controversy surrounding Sam
Adams when some people were shocked, shocked, to learn that Sam
beers, for the most part, were contract brewed. In response I recall
Jim Kock, Boston Brewing (Sam Adams) founder asking if chef Julia
Childs cooked dinner in your kitchen how could you say she didn't
prepare your meal? That quickly convinced me.
That issue is continuing today as more and more craft brewers don't
actually own their own brick and mortar brewery. Instead, they
employ the resources, equipment and often the labor of other
breweries to make beer just as Sam Adams did.
The contract brewing company is sometimes responsible for recipe
development (that meet what you want the beer to taste like) and
handles the marketing, sales and distribution of the beer. On the other
hand, the contract brewery might be hired by another brewery to
simply produce additional beer they may not have room for at their
As craft beer sales continue to soar demand often exceeds the supply
of many smaller brewers so it's only logical that they contract the
equipment and labor, leaving the responsibility for the recipe and
ingredient sourcing to themselves. It's the easiest way to grow a
brewing business without a huge investment of money.
It all makes economic sense. Although contract brewing has a higher
cost of goods due to the overhead and profit owed to the host
brewer, the bulk of the business is a variable cost with very little
overhead. Rather than having the usual revenue expenses associated
with owning a business—rent, lease on forklift, loans on brewing
machinery, payroll for a large staff—contract brewers use their capital
for additional brand building and marketing activities to yield a higher
return on investment.
So how does one find out if a brewery is contract or not? By law, all
labels must cite the exact town or city where the beer is brewed—
however, they aren’t required to mention the name of the host
brewery. As a result, many consumers aren’t able to discern a contact
brewing company based on a label alone. Some brewers choose to
broadcast it as a part of their brand message, while many brewers only
address the topic when asked.
While it makes perfect sense, one word of warning before you take
your best home brew recipe to someone like contract brewer F.X. Matt
to enter the beer biz. While most contract brewing relationships are
based on mutual benefit, you are actually at the mercy of the host
brewery. The contract brewer has full control over the brewery so
your brew will only be as good as the performance of the host
I can hear you asking me now about your favorite beer - is it contact
brewed? It's not that easy to know. By law, all labels must cite the
exact town or city where the beer is brewed—however, they are not
required to mention the name of the host brewery. As a result, many
consumers aren’t able to discern a contact brewing company based
on a label alone.
But does it matter? If the beer is good does it really make a difference
how and where it's made? To me, good beer is good beer no matter
how it is produced.
Hey Bob, I owe you a pint for letting me take over your column this
month - I hope you let me do it again sometime.
|BeerNexus proudly presents
"the ombudsman of beer"
Bob and Friends Speak of Beer......
|Many thanks to Sheryl for a most
interesting article. Great job!
See you next time to
"speak about beer".
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