Posts Tagged ‘craft beer’

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After reading about Ballast Point being acquired for $1 BILLION, I wondered, “Does Craft beer as we know it still exist?” My second thought was, “Should anyone even care?”

My answer to whether craft beer still exists? Hell yes, craft beer still exists. But not in the way everyone thinks. Craft Beer is not defined properly. Which is why several well known brewery owners around the country have recently said the term “craft beer” is becoming meaningless. Look at the comments Saint Arnold’s Brock Wagner made last month. Similar statements are happening daily and they are spot on.

Why the confusion? Because the American beer geek considers craft to be anything that is not AB or MillerCoors. Having good beer does not seem to matter. Being truly small and local doesn’t really matter. Just don’t be associated with the largest American brewers and you are craft. Easy-peasy. But recently, as more and more craft breweries are enjoying huge successes, some are choosing to join with the larger, non-craft brewers. So breweries like Goose Island, Blue Point, Elysian, 10 Barrel, Golden Road, and St Archer were craft one day and then POOF, the next day they are not. Even though these breweries are still the same people making the same beer with the same equipment in the same location.

But wait. It gets even more complicated. There are also many international brewers that are not AB or MillerCoors. So when companies like Boulevard and Firestone-Walker sell to Duvel Moortgat, when Founders sells a portion of equity to Mahou San Miguel, when Lagunitas sells a stake to Heineken, and when Ballast Point sells to Constellation Brands, are all these brewers still craft? Even though they are not associated with Bud/Miller/Coors? Again, it is still the same people making the same beer with the same equipment in the same location.

No wonder the term “craft beer” is losing its meaning. It’s a very loose definition to begin with. So how would the gospel according to John (Cochran) define craft beer? To me it’s about volume.

The Brewers Association defines a craft brewer as being small if they produce under six million barrels per year. For perspective, six million barrels is 1.9 billion bottles of beer!  A brewery can make 7.6 million bottles of beer per day and still be called craft? Seriously?

Here is my request of the Brewers Association. Let’s quit talking about craft beer and go back to encouraging everyone to support their local microbrewery. And let’s redefine microbrewery to mean up to 50,000 barrels per year. I say if craft is defined by being small then it should refer to those who are really small. The guys and gals who are still struggling to get from 500 barrels to 5,000 barrels. Or 10,000 barrels to 25,000 barrels. The ones who are not yet getting a paycheck and have their life savings and their homes at risk if anything goes wrong. The brewers who don’t know whether they can meet payroll, pay the power bill, or even if they will be open next month. These are the true craft brewers of today. The microbrewers.

And once you grow past 50,000 barrels like Terrapin is doing this year, then what? What about DogFish Head, Bells, Sweetwater, Harpoon, Sierra Nevada etc, etc. I could list 100+ more that are no longer microbrewers. And good for us. We have the battle scars and the memories of what it’s like to be on the front line of growing a new business. We used to be those guys. And we found a way to survive. Am I saying it is easy now? No, we are still busting our asses every day. More so than we used to in lots of ways. But guess what. We are no longer in the same business as the much smaller brewers. Sure we all make beer. But we don’t have to fight to get distributor’s attention any more. Now the distributors are calling us wanting to carry our beers. The retailers are finding space to fit our beers on the shelves. We know we will be in business next year. We are succeeding.  So does it really matter whether one or the other of us is still a craft brewer?

Should we care if the term “craft beer” still exists? Maybe/maybe not. Maybe it will all become beer. But no matter what it is called, here is what matters. Everyone should like the beer they are drinking and drink the beer they like. AND everyone should support the local brewery that is contributing to worthwhile causes in their community.

Personally I don’t really care whether Constellation Brands owns Ballast Point. There is a Sculpin in my fridge now and I will still drink it because I like Sculpin. But at the same time you can be damn sure I am going to buy beer from the local guys that are producing it here in town and are helping to raise funds for the local shelter. We do good by supporting good.

Is craft beer as a term still relevant to you? Let me know what you think.

Cheers, John

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Since the potential merger between AB-Inbev and SABMiller was announced, several pundits have given their opinion on how this is going to affect craft beer in the US.  There is a lot of doom and gloom so I figured it’s time I add my voice to the mix. Here goes: I don’t believe the demand for craft beer in the US will be affected. At all. In a weird twist, the merger could even be a good thing by increasing demand for craft beer. More on that strange reasoning in a moment.

Big Beer

The true definition of “Big Beer”.

First, here is how the merger is expected to play out. Stats show that AB-Inbev controls around 45% of the total US beer market. Since there is no conceivable way the Department of Justice will allow the US business of SABMiller to be added to that 45% due to anti-trust laws, AB-Inbev will likely be forced to sell off the US portion of their new acquisition.

Currently all SABMiller products in the US are sold through MillerCoors, a joint venture that exists only in the US between SABMiller and Molsen Coors. Since they are already invested heavily in this joint venture, many assume Molsen Coors will be the likely purchaser of all SABMiller products in the US. Which effectively means that it will be business as usual for MillerCoors. They will simply become 100% owned by Molsen Coors instead of half owned by Molsen Coors. They will sell the same products to the same distributors through the same retailers to the same consumers. Nothing changes on that front.

Except for one thing. And this is where the strange reasoning about the merger being good for craft beer comes in. “People take beer very personally,” Brewers Association director Paul Gatza told Melissa Stanger of Business Insider. “When something happens to their favorite beer or their ability to get it, or something helps or hurts a brewer they care about, they internalize it and want to do something about it. People may see [the merger] as a time to rally around their local brewery.”

Here’s the thing. There are now over 4,000 craft breweries in the US with another 1,800 or so planning to open in the next year. Craft beer is growing at 16% per year and is expected to continue to increase market share for at least another decade. Maybe two. So the genie is already out of the bottle. People are moving in droves toward supporting their local brewery. A change in who owns half of Miller Brewing in the US is not going to stop that trend.

What do you think? Will the merger actually drive more demand for craft beer?


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This is the suitcase I packed for my last trip of 2014. Where was I headed?

All packed and ready to travel!


That’s right. It was my turn to do a collaboration brew!

On the last Monday of 2014 I had the privilege of joining Andy Sistrunk and Robbie Carrelli at Persimmon Hollow in Deland FL. Man was it fun!

Ironically I began my brewing career in early 1995 so this collaboration which will be released in early 2015 was a great opportunity for me to get back to my brewing roots and celebrate my 20 year anniversary in this crazy business. It’s weird being an old-timer.

Terrapin/ Persimmon Hollow Collaboration Day!

Terrapin/ Persimmon Hollow Collaboration Day!

So what is the connection between Terrapin and Persimmon Hollow?

It all started a couple of years ago when Andy and Robbie were serving their homebrew at the Deland Beer Fest. Kate Lloyd, our cask supervisor who was working the fest for Terrapin, tried their beer and told the two they should consider opening their own brewery.

Fast forward a year to February 2014 when I attend the fest. Andy tells me the story of how Terrapin’s encouragement was the impetus they needed to get Persimmon Hollow going. We spent some time chatting and really hit it off.

Barley time.

Barley time!

After hanging out together for the weekend, we decided we should do a collaboration someday. And coming up with a beer that we can premiere at the 2015 Deland Beer Fest and Volusia Beer Week seemed to make the most sense.

The collaboration beer is called “Holler Hopper”. The idea is that Persimmon Hollow is making a lot of Belgian style beers while Terrapin is known for the use of hops and for IPA’s so Andy and I decided to combine the two.

Wort going into the kettle.

Wort going into the kettle.

We brewed a Belgian Golden Ale but threw a ton of American hops into the mix. It’s been a long time since I have played around with all the new hops so Spike helped out with the recipe. The end result will be a higher alcohol, high IBU Belgian Golden Ale.

The release for this beer will be during Volusia Beer Week.  We will likely have Kate do a special cask of the beer and do a joint tap takeover. Stay tuned for more details.

Just a very small portion of the amount of hops we added to this beer!

Just a very small portion of the amount of hops we added to this beer!

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I had the recent privilege of speaking on a panel titled “Inspiring Local Careers: Sustainable Athens”. This was hosted by the University of Georgia Office of Sustainability.

Getting Ready to Speak about Sustainable Careers

Getting Ready to Speak about Sustainable Careers

It was great to see so many students interested in finding a career in the Sustainability field. Lots of great people on the panel as evidenced by the sign above.

During our section we talked about many of the ways the craft beer industry as a whole is paying more attention to sustainability issues. We discussed some things Terrapin is doing currently and projects that we hope to do as Terrapin grows larger. The presentation I gave was split into 4 parts. Terrapin as a toddler, teenager, young adult and responsible grownup.





Terrapin as a toddler.

Terrapin begins! Classic City Brewfest in Athens, GA April 2002.

Terrapin begins! Classic City Brewfest in Athens, GA April 2002.

Terrapin as a toddler. Our focus was on staying in business from week to week. We contract brewed so we were able to do little on the Sustainability front.






early teen

Terrapin as an early teenager. (Look, our body is changing!)


2008 Employee Picture. Most of the people here are interns. And no, we did not use child labor.


First tanks coming to Athens in 2007.

Terrapin as an early teenager. We were still focused on surviving long term but at least we knew we would be around for the next year or two. We finally started brewing in our facility in Athens, GA. Concrete slabs from brewery construction were retrofitted into a stage rather than hauling it off to the landfill. Old shipping office in warehouse was turned into a bar in our new tour area. Spent grains went to local farmers, cardboard/glass/plastic were recycled. Money was continually raised for local charities and causes.





young adult

Terrapin as a young adult.

young adult2

2013 Terrapin Team Picture.


Bigger tanks in place. The building is filling up.

Terrapin as a young adult. This is us now. Wide-eyed with wonder at the possibilities. Defined mission statement and values. Focus on Contributing to the Community, Being Friendly to the Environment, and Providing a Great Work Environment. Instituted 401k matching and profit sharing for employees. Many more events and fundraisers for charitable causes; $28k in Athens in 2013, even more when considering other communities. Reduced water usage on bottling line by 65%. Cut energy usage and raw ingredient consumption by 15+% through set up of new brewhouse. Goal of becoming 100k bbl brewery AND Great Place to Work by 2018.







responsible grownup

Terrapin as a responsible grownup. We are starting to think about our long term future. And Sustainability is a big part of that.

Terrapin as a Responsible GrownUp. Not completely there yet but we see it coming. Looking into improving wastewater and solid waste treatment. Conversations about solar and CO2 recapture are starting to happen. Getting ready to have chats with local government about preserving water resources.






sierra nevada

Sierra Nevada in Chico, CA.

So who is our role model for when we grow up? Recognize this place? (Hint: Chico.)

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So you want to open a brewery? That’s awesome! Craft beer is growing every day. There are now over 2,700 breweries in the US and another 1,700 in planning. And yes, there is room for you too.

What is your first step? Ask questions of and learn from the professionals. Whenever you see an opportunity to get a gang of pro brewers in one room talking freely about our craft, it’s a DO NOT MISS opporutnity. So if you are a homebrewer looking to up your game, or if you have dreams of going pro, the Southeastern Craft Brewer’s Symposium is for you.

This one day conference is being held at the Mariott in downtown Decatur on Saturday April 19th, from 9am to 5pm. There will be seminars on brewing and the business of beer from leaders in the craft brewing industry in Georgia. Below is a current list of seminars. The massive amount of information being passed on at this conference will be huge in your efforts to join the ranks of professional brewers. Don’t miss this awesome opportunity to learn from some of the best!


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While I was out of the office all of last week with Spike, Dustin and Steve launching Terrapin in New Orleans and Baton Rouge (yeah that was a tough trip), Erin Appel wrote up a press release recapping 2013 and previewing 2014. Since I had actually already listed that as my next topic, this just became  a really easy blog post to complete.

So with no further adieu, here is what Terrapin did recently and where we are going next.



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