Hop Take: Why Are Craft Beer Release Calendars Still a Thing?


3 minute Read

Hop Take: Why Are Craft Beer Release Calendars Still a Thing?

Photo By Dogfish Head Craft Brewery / dogfish.com

It’s that time of year when craft breweries unveil their 2019 beer release calendars, alerting beer fans to which brands will be brewed in the coming year. Breweries such as Dogfish HeadFounders, and others recently announced these annual schedules.

I’m all for seasonal cheer around beer, but these calendars are outdated. While it’s good to know Dogfish’s World Wide Stout will be available May through August (and, sadly, Indian Brown Ale will not make an appearance), long gone are the days when beer lovers relied on these calendars to go beer shopping. Once an end-of-year gift from breweries to craft beer fans craving that special release, today the practice is mostly limited to pre-2000s-era pioneers who rely on these annual schedules to sort out their regional distribution.

In the meantime, many much smaller breweries are releasing beers every other week, and they’re telling us in real time on Instagram. Social media makes it easy for us to find out who’s releasing what, where, and when, whether we’re looking for it or not.

Listen, I love calendars, too. I hold my Panda Planner that promises to make me more productive dearly. But inside, I know the truth: It’s obsolete.

Founders Passes All Day IPA Production to Avery Brewing

On Monday, Founders Brewing announced production of its most successful brand, All Day IPA, will fly the nest to be contract-brewed at Avery Brewing in Boulder, Colo., in 2019.

Why Avery? Founders started distributing beer in Colorado this year, so there’s that. According to Founders, its “friends at Avery” will brew All Day IPA so the brand can better reach West Coast consumers. The more accurate reason? Founders and Avery are both partially owned by Spanish brewing conglomerate Mahou San Miguel. This automatically makes their partnership logical and, ideally, lucrative.

Think of San Miguel as a rich, opinionated step-parent. In its eyes, Founders is the star child. Since selling a 30 percent stake to San Miguel in 2014, Founders has had a growth spurt. In 2017, it grew 34 percent, producing close to 470,000 barrels of beer; in 2018, it expects to see growth of 24 percent, to the tune of 580,000 barrels. A majority of that production — about 350,000 barrels’ worth — is All Day IPA.

Avery’s report card is not so stellar. Its production grew 18 percent in 2016, to a little under 63,000 barrels; increased 2 percent in 2017, to a little over 63,000 barrels; and in 2018, it declined to report how much beer it produced. This all occurred after, in 2015, Avery moved to a new, $27 million brewery with a production capacity of 150,000 barrels per year, Good Beer Hunting reports.

So, Avery picking up the slack to brew a beer that sells makes sense. And this arrangement is not unique to Founders and Avery. Anheuser-Busch breweries across the nation produce a number of their craft brands; the Canarchy Craft Brewery Collective encourages its members to brew and distribute each others’ most successful labels; and Two Roads Brewing contract brews cult favorites like Evil Twin and Lawson’s Finest Liquid. Avery stays afloat, All Day IPA is fresh on the West Coast, everybody wins.

Canarchy Collected Another Craft Brewery

The Canarchy Craft Brewery Collective, a collaborative team of breweries backed by private equity firm, Fireman Capital Partners, acquired a new member last month: Lexington Avenue Brewery, otherwise known as “LAB.”

LAB, based in Asheville, N.C., will join Canarchy’s other members — Oskar Blues, Cigar City, Perrin Brewing Company, Squatters Craft Beers, Wasatch Brewery, Deep Ellum Brewing Company, and Three Weavers — as the firm’s eighth brewery acquisition.

Canarchy is completely renovating the brewery, increasing its capacity, and renaming the brewpub the Canarchy Collabatory, Beer Street Journal reports. The brewery will be helmed by Cigar City brewmaster, Wayne Wambles.

This is the part when the brewery usually says, “Nothing will change, we’re still making the same beer you love, yadda yadda.” Not so for LAB. The brewery’s former owner, Mike Healy, says he’s been doing this nine years, he just had a baby, and he’s ready for a change.

That’s real. I find it refreshing that a brewery owner is finally admitting why they’re selling: They want out. Is it that different from a brewery being bought by a bigger brewery? Not really. Indeed, this “craft brewery collective” is starting to look a little bit like one brewery with eight names. Nevertheless, if it continues proving successful, and allows its breweries to keep good beer on the shelves, I’m all for it.

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