Interview with Lance Shaner of Omega Yeast Lab

Interview with Lance Shaner of Omega Yeast Lab By Tim Lange Beer can be made with as little as 4 ingredients including yeast, and the understanding and control of yeast and fermentation variables largely control the outcome and quality of any beer.   Yeast options and labs have grown with the rest of the craft beer industry, which means more brewers have access to a wide variety of fresh, healthy liquid yeasts from their regional suppliers.  At my brewery I worked with Omega Yeast Labs (OYL) to isolate bacteria from grains and test them to develop a new quick souring bacterium that’s been a significant element of our production, and now this bacterium is widely used across the industry today.  The open source nature of the people in craft beer allows cultures like these  to spread quickly and influence new beers.  The Midwest has especially been influenced by the work of Lance Shaner and his team at OYL, and I talked with him about their history and bright future here in Chicago. TIM: What’s the origin story for Omega? LANCE: It comes down to one discussion while I was an attorney. Before I was doing this I was a patent attorney at Marshall, Gerstein & Borun LLP here in Chicago and one of our colleagues at the firm, Andy, was one of the partners at 1090 brewing. We were at our annual associates Christmas lunch and I was chatting with Andy about his brewery and how that was coming along. They were still in planning and one of the things he mentioned was yeast and ordering from Wyeast with expensive overnight shipping. Yeast is a perishable product so it’s generally shipped next-day air. It clicked that second and I can trace all of this back to that one conversation and I thought this is something that needs to be done around here. No one else was doing it. That day I went home and told my wife I starting a yeast lab. She was skeptical for a while, but I started thinking about it and planning it. This was December 2012. One of my colleagues at the firm, Mark Schwartz ended up being my business partner. He was more entrepreneurial and business savvy than I was, so I was running everything by him at work. One day he stopped by my office and asked if I wanted a business partner. It was daunting to start something like this completely alone so it sounded good to me and we worked together from there on planning and finding a small space that ended up next to a costume warehouse and Lake Effect Brewing. I began doing small scale experiments at home, I’m a microbiologist by training and home brewed for years. We were operational by July 2013, so it came together really fast from initial conception to actually launching.   Lake Effect brewing was in the same building as us, so we had a customer there. 1090 started working with us right away. From there you know brewers are, they start talking to each other, and they did our marketing for us. T: And you were very present on social media doing Milk The Funk posts and commenting on things in front of a huge passionate group of pro and home brewers L: Sure, that came a little later and lead to good news and more notoriety that helped us grow. T: How different were the actual day to day operations and production projections for Omega compared to your business plan? Usually the business plan doesn’t play out as expected. L: Yeah, [laughing] it may sound ridiculous, but we never actually had a full written out business plan! T: You knew it was a pointless exercise? L: Yeah, ugghh, I don’t know.   I was in the right frame of mind at the time. I was actually looking to do something else, for other opportunities when I had that conversation [with Andy] so I was primed to do something else at that point. I loved the people I worked with, but I was getting bored with law work and then this happened. I ran with it. In some respects, we’re still doing things pretty similar to how we started. Without going into details, we’ve certainly tweaked things. Looking at what was out there and what was affordable at the beginning, things ended up working out very well. Our system is very flexible and if we have enough capacity we can turn around a 1bbl pitch into a 240bbl pitch from order to shipping. We could still to this day use more capacity. Now we have big tanks that can help us pool some orders, but it’s all based on the same principles of our original system just on a larger scale. The rate of growth of this industry and the fact that there’s nobody else within hundreds of miles doing what we’re doing, it was in my head that if we can do it right and execute it would just work [laughing]. That might have been wildly naïve, but like I said, I was in the right frame of mind and the right time in my life and career to take the risk. T: So going back before you were a patent attorney, what was your background as a microbiologist and how did these things come together before you started Omega? L: I was a microbiology undergrad from the University of Illinois in Champaign and while I was there they had a home brew club called BUZZ, Boneyard Union of Zymerlogical Zealots or something like that. It’s an official University sanctioned club and I was a member of that when I was 19 or 20. You can buy all the ingredients to make beer even if you aren’t 21. Grains, yeast, and hops aren’t inherently illegal on their own, so I joined and that’s when I was bitten by the home brewing bug. Looking back we did so many stupid things home brewers do; this…

Mobile Canning or Bust

Interview with Joel McGinnis of Midwest Mobile Canning by Reuben Kincaid   The age of the bomber has seen it’s zenith. With hundreds of breweries and thousands of different skus available for sale, smaller breweries are having a harder time selling their beer in bomber format. In order to get their beer into store shelves it’s become necessary to put it in 12-16 ounce bottles or cans. Buying a canning machine can set you back between $50-250K and its not easy to invest or save that much money If yer only kicking out a few thousand barrels of beer a year.   To help growing breweries compete in the marketplace better mobile canning companies have sprouted up all around the country. I spoke to Joel McGinnis of Midwest Mobile Canning to check in on the state of the canning biz.   Tell us a little about you and the founders of the business.  What inspired you to be involved with the craft brewing industry? I spent several years in the retail industry both at the store level and corporate level. My father Terry was also in the retail industry at the corporate level. He was getting ready to retire but wanted something to keep him busy during retirement. We came across an article in a newspaper about the need for cans in the craft brewing industry. Most breweries are using their available capital on brewing equipment, tanks etc. and therefore do not have the extra resources to purchase a canning line. That’s when we decided that this is the perfect opportunity to fill that void. What was business like when you first started? What kind of barriers are there to entry and how did your business model change? Business was tough when we started approximately five years ago. We were not real familiar with the craft brewing industry, the process of brewing and of course the whole distribution process. For me, that was the biggest challenge. Running a business in an industry that you are not familiar with can be tough. We worked with some of our counterparts in different areas of the country that had a year or so under their belts. We learned a lot in the first six months. As we learned we started bringing on new accounts and shortly thereafter a second canning line was on order. Small breweries usually cannot afford a 4 head canning machine. And many of them are selling large format bottles or draft.  I am assuming those limitations helped you detect that there was a need for mobile canning in the marketplace for small brewers. What are some of the other reasons brewers call you for their services? Other than the cost of a canning line itself being an issue, breweries come to us with special requests. Whether it be fundraising events, weddings that need special cans for that special day, even ice fishing derbies here in the north need cans. Wherever there is a need for a one time run for an event they like to call on us and we can make it happen. We have a can supplier that can do one time runs on special labeled cans and breweries like that. What are the benefits of canning vs bottling beer? Cans have many benefits over bottles. Cans do not allow light in. Light is bad for beer which lessens the shelf life. Cans are 100% recyclable and they can also go places glass cannot go. Many parks, beaches, hotel pools, concert venues and sporting events do not allow glass. Distributors love cans. They are easy to stack, move, and store in their facilities. Can you describe the process of mobile canning? Give us a typical walk through on what happens before during and after your canning days. Canning a beer has to start out with a plan. We talk with the breweries and find out what their goal is and what they want in the end. We usually meet with them and do a site survey to make sure we have enough space to fit equipment. Once we decide that everything will work and we know what the brewery wants, we start the process of working on can designs and get the cans ordered. Cans are shipped to the facility approximately 2-3 days prior to the canning date. On the canning date we arrive, unload all equipment off the truck into the brewery, hook up all water, air, CO2 and eventually product. We require the brewery to have three helpers, one feed cans into the machine and two to put packteck handles on and put into cardboard flats as the cans are filled. Once all beer is canned, we clean the machine and pack up and the bewery handles all distribution to the retailers or distributors. Do you have any predictions for craft brewing in 2018? Some people see that the market is leveling off. Will this effect your business? At this point we are not seeing the market leveling off. I’m receiving calls everyday from either existing breweries that have not canned yet or startup breweries putting plans in place to put their product in cans. I do know that consumers love to buy local and being able to get their local brews in cans is a win for everyone.

Mash Tun Issue Issue 12

  The new issue of Mash Tun Journal is currently being distributed throughout the country. If your bar or taproom wants a bundle to distribute, give us a holler. Email ed@mashtunjournal.org

Mash Tun Journal 11

We are about to release our next issue of Mash Tun Journal and thought it would be nice to allow you to download the entire  issue of our last salvo Enjoy. From the introduction of issue 011. For years, merely opening a production brewery in Chicago was a small miracle – let alone a taproom, too. For as skewed as our production brewery to taproom ratio is – relative to Portland, Denver, Asheville – we do have a second-to-none selection of beers, brewed locally and abroad. It’s a boon for drinkers, but it’s scary for breweries. For breweries, being local isn’t enough to warrant drinkers’ time, energy, and money anymore. We watched the sun set on the packaged-only model – specifically, bomber-only. Breweries adapted by launching four- and six-packs of their year-rounds. But even that turf is becoming contested. “Which brewery launched here last month? Last week?” Breweries can’t rely on the fixed tap handles or placements like they used to, and that’s a good thing. It keeps breweries honest to the tasks of brewing good liquid and laying out reasonable production goals. Now more than ever, Chicago breweries are keen on serving their beer close to home instead of entering new markets (if their volume allows). Taprooms can accomplish just that, and their on-premise sales come with healthy margins. Numbers aside, there’s no better way for a brewery to express who they really are than through their taproom – even if that means setting the mood with a few low bitrate Eiffel 65 selections played from a first-generation iPod. In that case, ASCAP and BMI goin’ find you (and fine you). For Mash Tun Issue 011, we surveyed Chicago’s taproom scene – turns out it’s damn good, and it’s getting even better. Here’s a free drinking tip from Mash Tun: Party safely. Bikes and CTA* rule! *CTA rules, except when it sucks. – Calvin Frederickson

SBA Financing Options for Brewery Expansion

I have been in commercial lending since 2005 and have closely followed the expansion of the craft beer industry for many years. Over the past several years, I had the good fortune to work with several individuals involved in various capacities within the craft beer industry. Throughout my interactions with them, I regularly found myself as interested with the business side of the industry as I was with the beers being created. Given my background as a lender, I thought about how the loan products commonly used by manufacturers could be used by breweries looking to expand. I believe expansion is the point at which a commercial bank is best positioned to work with a brewery. At expansion, the concept has been proven and implementation of a thoughtful capital structure can help fuel growth. SBA Program Overview: Many business owners are familiar with the Small Business Administration in some capacity. The larger question has to do with how the SBA and their loan programs can assist their company. In short, the SBA partners with banks and other lenders through a series of programs to provide funds to privately held businesses operating in the United States. As part of that partnership, the SBA provides those lenders with a guaranty against a loss on the loan in exchange for a fee that is paid by the borrower. That fee can be rolled into the loan request to help reduce the out-of-pocket funds needed to secure the loan. The overall underwriting process for an SBA loan is very similar to conventional commercial loans. The bank will underwrite the recent financial performance of the company in an effort to estimate their future performance. Through that review and consideration of projections, we can calculate the company’s cash flow in order to determine their ability to service both existing and new debt. In order to qualify for an SBA loan, the business must pledge the assets of the company to the loan and all owners with at least 20% equity in the company must personally guaranty the debt. Given that lenders are required to check the personal credit scores of all owners, I am often asked about the role that personal credit scores play in a credit decision. The overall expectation is that the business owners need to be as credit worthy as the company itself and thus a good credit score is expected. As a result, a good credit score will not necessarily improve your chances to obtain a loan but a poor score could put that loan in jeopardy. SBA loans can be used for a variety of reasons but are most commonly used to finance equipment purchases, real estate acquisitions or to provide working capital. Additional uses for the SBA’s programs include acquisition financing or buyout loans. There are a number of resources both locally and nationally for companies interested in obtaining an SBA loan for their business. As a lender, my recommendation is that you work with your existing advisors, area banks and the SBA itself before engaging anyone to help you secure an SBA loan for a fee. Fees to loan brokers can add up and are not eligible to be financed by the loan. If you choose to work with a loan broker, be sure to find out who is paying the fee as some lenders will pay finders fees in addition to ones paid by the business. Should you decide to move forward with an SBA loan for your brewery, the next logical question is who to work with? Outside of finding a partner who you believe would be a good fit, the following are some questions to consider as part of the selection process: •    To the extent you have existing loans, is your current bank an SBA lender? •    This question is important as all SBA loans are required to be secured with a first lien on the business assets. If you have existing conventional loans that are secured with the company’s assets, your new lender may those loans to be retired or combined with the SBA loan request. •     Does my SBA lender have delegated authority? •    Delegated authority (also known as an SBA Preferred Lender or an SBA Express Lender) allows the lender to approve the SBA guaranteed loan programs in-house. While this does not change any of the SBA program requirements, it does give the bank the ability to streamline the process and reduce turnaround time since the SBA does not need to separately approve the loan request. •    Does the lender intend to sell the loan guaranty or keep it within their portfolio? •    There is a secondary market for the guaranteed portions of SBA loans that is similar to the one that exists for home mortgages. As such, some institutions decide to sell the guaranteed portion to investors on the secondary market for fee income. Whether or not the lender chooses to sell the guaranteed portion of the loan should not have an impact on your ability to obtain the loan. Rather, the sale of the guaranty can impose limitations on that lenders ability to amend the loan in the future. If your brewery is seeking a long-term partner for your business, you may want to consider a bank who plans to keep your loan in their portfolio rather than one looking to sell the guaranty. •    Does the lender offer working capital lines of credit? •    This can be important if you anticipate needing a loan to support working capital in the future. Not all SBA lenders offer working capital lines which will limit your business if you find yourself in need of one. Similar to the first point, if you work with a lender who does not support working capital lines, you may be forced to retire or refinance the term loan with another lender in order to obtain the line of credit. SBA 7(a) Loan Scenario: For the first scenario, let’s envision a brewery expanding into a larger…

Mash Tun Journal #11 Release: A Reuben Party

On Saturday, April 29 from 5-9pm, join the producers of Mash Tun Journal at Maria’s/Kimski as they celebrate the release of issue #11. Enjoy some brews by a sweet lineup of breweries featured in the issue and try one of our favorite sandwiches: the reuben. Longtime Mash Tun contributors and sandwich enthusiasts Reuben Kincaid and Reuben Bratwurst Inc. will be on hand sampling out a few brews on the patio and celebrating the return of Chef Won Kim’s Reuben Sando. Featuring special sections by: Forbidden Root, Cruz Blanca, Hopewell, Revolution, Half Acre, Baderbrau, Whiner, Dovetail, Begyle, Marz, Corridor, and Goose Island.

Know Thyself: An Essay on Lazy Beer Marketing.

  Know Thyself: An Essay on Lazy Beer Marketing. Matt Tanaka   There’s a lot of lazy marketing in the beer world, and it’s holding good breweries back. It’s not really anyone’s fault, it’s the result of a bad idea that’s been repeated for years: all a brewery needs to do to survive is make great beer, and that if the marketing is “good” and polished, then the beer must be bad. Unfortunately, in today’s new-brewery-every-day marketplace, that simply isn’t true.   That recurring notion stems from the misconception that marketing is just the act of making something shiny when it shouldn’t be. That it’s the swindler’s art of making stuff up to sell a product. That’s bad marketing. The truth is, real marketing — good marketing — is something much deeper than that. It’s the well-communicated story of the culture and identity of a brewery. And, whether it’s packaging design, social media content, the words on the website, or the way the reps present their story at an event, every part of what a brewery does should be focused on communicating that identity.   The following “case studies” feature breweries with marketing problems, all of which stem from the fact they aren’t doing a great job of communicating who they are to beer drinkers. Because I’m not a masochist, none of these breweries are real, but as the honorable Julia Louis-Dreyfus once said in an interview about her documentary series, Veep: “Everyone loves the show because they all think it’s about the other guy.” So, before you get mad at me: these are all about the other guy. You’re doing great.   Case Study #1: Super Brad Brewery   The Problem Super Brad Brewery is a brewpub in a small southern town known for its constant experimentation. After a recent shift to a wider distribution, they’ve found themselves needing to act more like the packaging brewery they’ve become, without abandoning their tiny-batch, change-on-a-dime brewpub origins. While waiting for a solution to magically fall into place, their social media accounts continue to treat the brewery like a bar in a small town.   The Fix A simple change in the way they approach social media would help to shift their image from being a bar that brews beer to that of an established brewery. To put it simply, these guys really suck at social media. If I see them post one more photo of the shitty band that’s playing at their taproom that week, or a poorly lit shot of a greasy looking burger on BOGO night, I’m going to lose my marbles. These things are uninspiring, unoriginal, and kind of miss the point of social media in the first place. It’s not about throwing tiny advertisements and announcements at people; it’s about providing a window into the culture of your brewery, then inviting people to join you in that culture. It’s a way for someone who has never visited your brewery to get a taste of the personality of the people that make that beer. It’s about extending the experience beyond your taproom.   The folks at Super Brad are super goofy, with a weird sense of humor and a penchant for pranks. This is reflected in the beer they brew — it’s weird and experimental and is really hard to pigeonhole into any one style, or region. Their social media should reflect this by documenting the actual scenes of life at the brewery. That time John bought a Nerf gun and that escalated into a weeklong, all-brewery dart war? Instagram that. That time Sarah wanted to see if she could brew a peanut butter porter using peanuts that she grew at home? Take some photos of the experiments and post them in an album on Facebook with a story about the process. Show off the culture of your brewery instead of trying to pull people into the brewpub.     Case Study #2: Heelflip Brewing Company   The Problem Heelflip Brewing Company is a production brewery and taproom in San Diego with a strong skateboarding theme. They have beers with names like, Double Kickflip IIPA, Boardslide Bitter and Frontside Fakie Narflip 360 BaitHook to Fakie Benihana Stout. Whenever they talk about the brewery, this is what they focus on. So much so that the beer is always treated as secondary. As a result, they’re not known for the beer they brew, even though they keep winning awards for it. It’s all summed up in their tagline: “Heelflip Brewing: Beer For Skateboarders.”   The Fix  “Beer For Skateboarders” is really only half of the story. They like skateboarding, yes, but what they’re really good at is making killer beer. There’s a much stronger tie to the theme that they’ve devoted themselves to under the surface, and it’s one that shifts the focus to what’s important: the beer. Most of what they brew is low in alcohol, a decision they made because they wanted to drink sessionable beers that let them extend their skate… sessions. To let that idea speak a little louder, they could use a tagline closer to this: “Heelflip Brewing: Session Beers For Longer Sessions.” The change is subtle but important. It shifts the focus of the brand from the skateboarding to the beer. Instead of saying “We started our brewery because we like skating,” the tagline could read: “We started our brewery to make great beer, and we like to make the kind of beer that we can drink while skateboarding.”   Case Study #3: Melange Brewing Company   The Problem Their IPA, Shondorf’s Second Staff has phenomenal graphics — a bad ass illustration of a wizard hovering above a cave where a troll wearing a “Shondorf” name tag pours hops into a steamy cauldron. Awesome. But when it sits on a shelf next to their Space Dust Oyster Stout with its classic video game-inspired graphics, or their The DM Is Always Right DIPA with what appears to be the artwork of the brewmaster’s five-year-old scribbled on a bar napkin… I get confused. And then…

Best Looking Brands in Beer – Part 2: Evil Twin and Half Acre

In  issue 10 of Mash Tun Journal, we celebrate one of the reasons we love craft beer so much: the art and design of beer. Whether you know it or not, your local bottle shop or liquor store is hosting an exhibition of contemporary art on its shelves and in its coolers right now. Beer packaging design and labels are canvases that express the essence of their contents. Like any group art show, some work is pedestrian; some work is extraordinary. See Part 1 of the  Best Looking Brands in Beer for the full introduction. Evil Twin If you don’t know Evil Twin Brewing by now, you have been living under a rock. Evil Twin is a Copenhagen-based gypsy brewery that was formed in 2010 by Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø. Jeppe’s foray into beer started in the mid 2000s with a beer club and beer store in Copenhagen. Jeppe also happens to be the twin brother of Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, who runs the Danish brewery Mikkeller, whose brand is also featured in our Best Looking Beers in the Business piece.   Evil Twin started a few years after Mikkel opened Mikkeller in Denmark. As the Danish beer scene blew up and went global, Jeppe made the move to Brooklyn in 2012 to direct his empire. After moving to Brooklyn, he opened an awesome beer bar, Tørst, which features Evil Twin beers alongside other weird and delicious beers from around the world.     With beers being made on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, Evil Twin has grown into a global craft beer company. He is the living incarnation of the brewer-as-rockstar, jet-setting around the world collaborating, brewing, and innovating for the craft beer world in terms of formula, design, marketing, and distribution.   Evil Twin is known for their elegant label design and clever beer names, such as: Beer Geek Breakfast, Christmas Eve at a New York City Hotel Room, Imperial Biscotti Break, and Hipster Ale. Jeppe often collaborates with his wife, Maria, who has a hand in guiding the brand through the beer naming and label copy writing processes. Creative Director Martin Justesen initiated the Evil Twin graphic design style with a simple triangle. This triangle is the DNA Martin instilled in the Evil Twin brand, and is a point of reference in the art development for each beer. Martin’s process begins with a beer name. He then creates ideas and sketches from scratch. His work is eye-catching and detail-oriented. www.martinjustesen.com http://mikkeller.dk/   ////// Half Acre Beer Co   Here in Chicago, we love the design of the liquid and labels of Half Acre Brewing. They were part of the second wave of breweries in Chicago that started breaking the mold of what a brewery could be.   Half Acre began ten years ago as a contract brewer, and over the last decade they have grown into becoming a Chicago powerhouse. Their first brewery was built in 2008 at 4257 N. Lincoln Ave, which now houses a retail shop, a taproom and full-service kitchen, and a 25-barrel brewhouse.   Last year, they built their Balmoral Ave. brewery, and it’s about to be unleashed to the public. The larger brewing facility will be complemented by an awesome patio and tasting room—and more food, we hope.   Well crafted, creative, and classic, Half Acre’s beers are batting 1.000. You will taste magic in their iconic Daisy Cutter Pale Ale, seasonals Akari Shogun American Wheat Ale and GoneAway IPA, freak-out-and-line-up-for-it Big Hugs Imperial Stout with coffee, and other tasty taproom exclusives. Half Acre embraces the creative process with the design of their labels. President Gabriel Magliaro works with artist and graphic designer, Phineas X. Jones, in marketing and branding their beers. At Half Acre, Magliaro can be considered the creative director, giving Phineas a wide range of material and inspiration to create a label. Sometimes, the idea is only a name; other times, the ideas are specific. But most times, the ideas percolate in the back in the brewery. By the time it reaches Phineas, Magliaro has a fully formed concept in his mind. Phineas filters and interprets these concepts and brings their art to life.   Phineas works from a blank canvas. That fact alone differentiates Half Acre from other breweries following templates and the usual boring conventions of beer labeling. This approach is what makes Half Acre’s marketing and branding refreshing and fun. And their wide range of artwork, styles, and concepts are what separate Half Acre from the pack.

Best Looking Brands in Beer – Part 1

by Ed Marszewski For years, Mash Tun organized and produced “Art of Beer” events around Chicago, showcases for the work of the artists and designers who communicate a brand’s personality and vision through labels, posters, and other packaging. We hosted these events to help craft beer enthusiasts understand and enjoy the parallel activities that make bring a craft beer brewery to life. These parallel art forms of making beer and making a beer brand are an obsession of ours. They have made us pursue drinking the world’s best beer while investigating the work of some of the best illustrators, artists, and designers on the planet.   In this issue of Mash Tun Journal, we celebrate one of the reasons we love craft beer so much: the art and design of beer. Whether you know it or not, your local bottle shop or liquor store is hosting an exhibition of contemporary art on its shelves and in its coolers right now. Beer packaging design and labels are canvases that express the essence of their contents. Like any group art show, some work is pedestrian; some work is extraordinary.   Some craft beer labels can be shitty and poorly designed, featuring amateur illustrations with little attention to detail. At their worst, they be downright offensive. Other times, beer labels are works of art that can entice you to try the beer—and that’s the point.   In recent years, the growth of the craft beer segment has increased competition among breweries in a few ways: for shelf space at retail outlets, for beer drinkers’ attention, and, ultimately, for beer drinkers’ business. Given the decline of “brewery loyalty” among consumers, breweries must now differentiate themselves from their friends and competitors in the industry. Breweries looking to set themselves apart pour thought and money into producing the right look and feel for their packaging and marketing, instead of focusing on the liquid alone. We love it when a brewery makes the packaging and design as exciting and bespoke as the liquid in the bottle.   When we picked the candidates of the Best Looking Brands in the Beer Business, we turned to some of our longtime favorites and a few cult-status breweries whose work we find to be experimental and progressive.   Enjoy.   Our first featured brewery is Mikkeller: Mikkeller was started in 2006 by Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, a Danish physics teacher-turned-brewer, and friend Kristian Keller. After making kitchen experiments for two and a half years, Bjergsø and Keller started brewing beer at a larger scale at Danish microbrewery Ørbæk and just dropped the mike.   Mikkeller broke all the molds for what a craft brewery could be. Practically inventing the idea off gypsy brewing, which is essentially contract brewing, Mikkeller beers also ushered in the notion of making a bottle or can of beer a work of culinary and visual art. Since its auspicious homebrewing roots, Mikkeller has become the face for gypsy breweries globally—both in terms of brewing and branding.   For Mikkeller, gypsy brewing means bouncing around from brewery to brewery, using excess tank capacity to create many different beers each year. Because of that, they need a lot of artwork to communicate the stories of their beers. That job went to Keith Shore. He first started working freelance for Mikkel—for many years now, Shore has made the beautiful aesthetic of his Mikkeller characters and illustrations into ubiquitous works of art.     The design process is pretty simple. Usually, Mikkel explains a beer’s ingredients and flavor profile and Shore is given complete freedom in developing the imagery, sometimes coming up with the crazy names as well. Shore is usually working on 10-20 designs at a time, using gouache and watercolors to flesh out what is in his sketchbook. His labels are usually color bombs with cartoonish figures that make a nod to the works of Henri Matisse and David Hockney.   To date, Mikkeller has made over 650 beers, distributed to over 40 countries. Mikkeller has opened bars in Copenhagen, San Francisco, and Bangkok. Shores’ work is featured in the design of those spaces as well.   If there is anyone that has ushered in a new age of branding a beer to help it stand out in a crowded marketplace, Mikkel and Shore could take the blame.   ////////////////////// ////////////// //////// ////// //// // / Omnipollo Karl Grandin is part of the dynamic duo that comprises Omnipollo, a Swedish-based gypsy beer brand that Grandin and pal Henok Fentie created in 2011. Karl directs the marketing and branding side while Henok leads on brewing side. Omnipollo beers are being made all over Europe and the U.S. Omnipollo beers are unique in their packaging, and the liquid tastes delicious.   Conceptually and aesthetically, the bottle labels leap from the shelves and beckon you to pick them up. Representing a mixture of psychedelic abstractions and pop religious culture icons, Omnipollo artwork is unique, almost mind-blowing, really.     Karl says that the Omnipollo images are based on his own dreams, and that he tries to bring that psychedelic and enigmatic sort of logic into the artwork. In Karl’s words, the Omnipollo world is “an open-ended cosmos, and although the imagery is often allegorical,” Karl encourages people to explore their own interpretations rather than explaining his intentions.   Rather than trying to make artwork that would somehow describe or portray the style or taste of a beer, Karl looks for what is going on around Omnipollo to try to capture something less obvious. There is always a synergy between the beer, the artwork, and the name, sometimes straightforward and obvious. Sometimes it is more cryptic.     Karl says, “We want Omnipollo to be about more than the beer and the artwork. Presentation and stories are important parts of what we create. The shape of Omnipollo will keep developing and shifting. We have made handmade glass cups, garments, jewelry, and a book on homebrewing, and through all the people we meet, the collaborations…

Using Bankruptcy to Kill the Narrative of the “Craft Beer Bubble.”

By Jack O’Connor   Last December, San Francisco-based Magnolia Brewing filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Being a corporate bankruptcy attorney (and an optimistic beer geek), I view this positively.   You should, too. Why? Because it’s good evidence that the craft beer industry is ready to move past the tired narrative of the dreaded “Craft Beer Bubble.”   First, let’s talk about the bubble, and how it’s been speculatively applied to the current craft beer boom, for better or worse.   Then we can talk about why a bankruptcy filing in Northern California may be important to ending this narrative.   How the “Bubble” Concept is Applied to the Current Craft Beer Boom   What exactly does it mean when we talk about a “bubble,” in the craft beer industry? Why is it relevant? Should I be concerned about bubbles? What about bubbles in my bath? Are you going to keep asking rhetorical questions? BUBBLES!   The term “bubble,” seems ubiquitous these days when discussing the growth of the craft beer industry. But it’s rarely defined in a clear way. Most often, people seem to use the term “bubble,” to refer to the very broad economic concept of an economic cycle, characterized by rapid expansion in a market, which is followed by severe contraction.   The most commonly cited example of a past “bubble,” in the craft beer industry was the rise and fall of microbreweries in the late 90s and early 2000s. According to data from the Brewers Association, the total number of breweries in the U.S. grew by over 500% between 1990 and 2000, ultimately stalling out and slightly declining between 2001 and 2006. Since 2006, however, the total number of breweries in the U.S. has grown again by almost 300%, from 1,511 total breweries in 2007 to current estimates exceeding 4,300 total breweries; more than have ever existed in the country’s history.[1]   Along with the growth in number of breweries, the marketshare of craft beer has also grown significantly over this time, both in terms of total sales, and production volume relative to the overall beer market.   This rapid growth of craft beer in such a short time is constantly narrative fodder for journalists, bloggers, and forum commenters (Trolls!), speculating that we’re in the midst of another “bubble,” that’s ready to burst any day. The argument usually employs the following logic:   New breweries are opening, and current breweries are expanding, at an unsustainable rate. Since the rate of growth is unsustainable, the growth of the craft beer industry will suddenly halt, or reverse just like it did 20 years ago.   While we are certainly in the midst of a booming period of growth in craft beer, this argument ignores a number of factors in making the case that we’re in the midst of a bubble. Namely, it misses the idea that craft beer is in the midst of entering a maturity. Calling it a bubble is misleading and ultimately harmful for a couple of reasons.   First, the term “bubble,” itself is probably not the right term to describe what happened in the 90s and what people are speculating will happen now. When used by financial professionals, the concept of a bubble focuses on trade pricing for assets in a specific market that strongly deviates from the actual value of those assets (think stock prices, home values, etc.). For example, the dotcom bubble in the late 90s and early 2000s (which happens to coincide with craft beer’s last boom & bust period), was characterized by investors buying tech stocks at artificially high prices, in the belief that they could sell them at even higher prices in the future. This speculation proved untrue, causing the bubble to burst when the value of tech stocks took a nose dive.   What we saw in the 90s was probably better described as a boom-and-bust period within the craft beer industry. The number of breweries expanded rapidly, and very suddenly stopped, resulting in a shrinking of the industry generally. This distinction is important to note, because regardless of the rate of industry growth, the industry has never completely fallen off a cliff. The trend, over time has continued upward. Thus, the use of the term “bubble,” can be detrimental to the industry. It assumes a cataclysmic event in which the industry as a whole goes belly-up.   Rather than focusing on the bubble narrative, our attention should be focused on how the industry is maturing in the midst of a boom period. Expansion, financing, and acquisition rates are high right now, and likely to slow over time, meaning at the very least fewer new breweries will open on such a rapid basis. And when coupled with increased competition between existing breweries who’ve undergone significant expansions and need to sell more and more beer to stay in business, some breweries will inevitably be forced out of the marketplace.   Some won’t be able to compete on quality, others won’t be able to compete from an operational efficiency standpoint. More than a few experienced craft players have adopted this view, including Sam Calgione (Dogfish Head), Bill Covaleski (Victory), Greg Koch (Stone),[2] and Mike Stevens (Founders).[3] When recently asked, all four have indicated that they think that the industry is heading toward a “shakeout,” or “fallout,” where breweries will have to close, and the number of new brewery openings will inevitably slow. But none of them seem to think that the craft beer industry is about to experience a complete bust.   I think Van Havig of Gigantic said it best back in 2014, when interviewed for the Strange Brews podcast on NPR. “If you think that every brewery out there is going to make it . . . No,” because every industry has “bad operators,” who’ll go out of business.[4]   So even during a boom, industry turnover is natural and expected. It doesn’t mean that a magical pin is about to fall from the sky and pop…

Calendar

November 2018
M T W T F S S
« Oct    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Contact

Need help with your subscription? subscriptions@mashtunjournal.org

What to contribute to the magazine? ed@mashtunjournal.org

Subscribe to our Newsletter