Brew Hub’s First Brewery Partners Look Forward
Brew Hub, a St. Louis-based company that aims to partner with small breweries to help them grow and reach new markets, has signed its first three clients: Cigar City Brewing, Orange Blossom Brewing Co. and BJ’s Restaurants. The beers will be produced and packaged at Brew Hub’s first location, in Lakeland, Fla.
“The opportunity to grow without borrowing millions of dollars was attractive,” says Joey Redner, owner of Cigar City in Tampa, on why he decided to partner with the new company (which was profiled in BA issue #78). “Brew Hub will have the kind of equipment I’d buy if I were building a 100-barrel brewhouse, so the chance to have our guys working on a state-of-the-art brewhouse was also part of why I ultimately made the decision.”
Redner says that the partnership will allow Cigar City to distribute to four new states, starting with the Southeast and expanding into the East Coast. “We will pull out most lager production (Helles and seasonals) and likely Maduro, and our lower-gravity seasonals,” he says in an email. “This will allow us to focus on Jai Alai (and its variants), Invasion and our higher-gravity seasonals at the original brewery. The idea is to make the full lineup available in all states. … I’d love to see Good Gourd, Marshal Zhukov’s, Cucumber Saison and our other once-a-year releases make it out of Florida. Tocobaga Red Ale will stay ‘Florida only’ and Hunahpu will stay ‘brewery only,’ but the goal is to make everything else available in all the markets we are in.”
Tom Moench, owner of Orange Blossom Brewing Co., says the partnership will allow his brewery to be local again by moving production back to its home state (they’re currently contract-brewing with Thomas Creek Brewery in South Carolina). They’ll triple production, save on shipping and expand their portfolio. “Being an hour drive from my home, I will be much more involved in the brews,” says Moench.
Moench says he’s excited to have a PhD-holding brewer, Paul Farnsworth, at the helm of production. Farnswoth, Brew Hub’s chief brewer, also happened to set up the quality-control lab at Cigar City. “Ultimately, the major deciding factor was my comfort level with Paul Farnsworth,” Redner says. “While I suspect he thinks we are insane, he does get where we are coming from as far as our approach to brewing.”
Brew Hub’s production brewery and taproom—the first of five planned locations across the country—are slated to open next spring, and these three clients put them at capacity, a combined 40,000 barrels, which will soon expand to 75,000 barrels. “We see this collaboration in real-time,” Brew Hub CEO Tim Schoen says. “We are not a contract brewer. Everything we do adheres to a stake-holding partner methodology. Everything—the beer, packaging, the way it’s presented … it’s going to be produced like it’s our beer we’re serving to you. It might sound grandiose, but it’s our mantra.”
New York City’s Beer Industry Angered Over Suggested Beer Tax Increase
New York City’s Independent Budget Office has suggested a substantial increase of the city’s beer tax among a list of options for raising revenue. The tax, which has remained at 12 cents per gallon since 1980, would nearly triple to 34 cents per gallon.
“Up until about a year ago, small brewers in New York paid no New York City beer excise tax,” says Brooklyn Brewery president Steve Hindy, citing a lawsuit that ended breweries’ exemption to that tax. “The idea of tripling it adds insult to injury for small brewers.”
New York state currently has the 39th-lowest beer tax in the country, with Tennessee topping the list at $1.17 per gallon (a figure that combines excise and wholesale tax), and Wyoming ringing in as the lowest at 2 cents, according to the Tax Foundation.
Andrew Rigie, executive director of the New York City Hospitality Alliance, says that taxing an industry that draws visitors to the city is the wrong move. “New York City restaurant and nightlife establishments are already overtaxed—for example, our NYC businesses pay $4,442 versus $1,900 for the same liquor license outside the city.”
“[This] basically taxes beer drinkers, and beer drinkers are, you know, ‘everyman,’” Hindy says. However, he’s not without hope: “Given [Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio] has made a big point of a progressive agenda and trying to lessen income disparity, I think there’s a chance we can stop it.”
Two Massachusetts Nanobrewers Join Forces
Massachusetts nanobrewery Idle Hands Brewing Company is acquiring fellow Massachusetts nanobrewery Enlightenment Ales. Enlightenment owner and brewer Ben Howe will brew beers for both brands full time at Idle Hands’ facility in Everett, and Chris Tkach (who co-owns Idle Hands with his wife, Grace) will concentrate on day-to-day business operations.
The arrangement was born last spring during a discussion over a couple beers, Howe says, when he told Tkach, “I loved brewing beer, but I hated running the business and didn’t want to do it anymore. Then he got this look on his face and said, ‘Hmm … well, I’m not so sure I really want to brew anymore.’”
That discussion planted a seed that took root over the next several months, and which Howe alluded to in a September interview with BA (issue #81, From the Source). Howe continues, “We met again and came up with the terms of ‘why don’t I brew all the beer for both brands, and [Tkach sells] it all? We just looked at each other and agreed it made perfect sense.”
“It’s not a matter of taking out a competitor, but rather a combination of forces to create something more than the sum of its parts,” Tkach says. “It’s a great fit that allows us both to do what we want in the industry—Ben can concentrate on being the creative force, and I can concentrate more on building and growing the business itself.”
Hindu Advocate Criticizes Asheville Brewing Over Shiva IPA
Asheville Brewing Company’s Shiva IPA has been made the object of complaint by Rajan Zed, president of a Hindu organization in Reno, Nev. “Lord Shiva was highly revered in Hinduism and he was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be used in selling beer for mercantile greed,” Zed says in a public statement (requests by BA for further comment were declined).
“We feel awful about this,” says Asheville Brewing president Mike Rangel, adding that Zed never contacted the brewery directly. He continues, “Our brewer [wanted] a strong name for his strong India Pale—he went with Shiva because it signified power and strength.”
Rangel says that when the brewery got their first complaint about the name last year, they met with the person and with leaders of the local Hindu temple to discuss the matter. “They were very understanding as to why we couldn’t change the name after 15 years of our company putting 75 percent of all its marketing and branding efforts into the name ‘Shiva IPA,’” Rangel says. “They advised to never use ‘Lord Shiva’ as that would be considered much, much more controversial, and asked that we use any images respectfully. All of which we have done.”
Maine Breweries Join Brewers for Clean Water
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has announced new alliances with six Maine craft breweries—Allagash, Baxter, Boothbay, Maine Beer Company, Rising Tide and Shipyard—which have all pledged their support to the NRDC’s national Brewers for Clean Water initiative. NRDC campaign director Melissa Waage explains to BA, “If we can’t keep those source waters clean, then more treatment such as filtration or addition of chemicals will be required to make the water potable. And that’s not good for beer.”
Rising Tide co-owner Heather Sanborn says, “For us, it was a no-brainer to join the campaign. Water is the most important ingredient in our beer by far, and the fantastic quality of Portland’s municipal water is a key reason why our brewery is located where it is.”
“Craft brewers are creating local jobs all over the country,” says Waage. “These are voices that should matter to members of Congress and even the president.”
Brewers for Clean Water began cultivating brewery partnerships in 2011, and has since garnered support from 30 breweries in nine states. In early December, the group sent a letter to President Obama urging him to protect headwater streams and wetlands by closing one particularly threatening regulatory loophole. ■