Bars, stop with the "House Beers". It's not 1998 anymore.

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Andwoo, Feb 5, 2013.

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  1. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,305) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    It would be difficult if not impossible (and probably illegal) to do it without the knowledge of brewer's local distributor, who, after all, is delivering the kegs, in some cases maintaining the lines, and (often) supplying the custom tap handle, as well.

    One would assume a distributor would not participate in such a "house beer" arrangement without the agreement and permission of the brewery.
  2. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,972) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Do you guys have solid proof on this? I've read other writers (not BA posters) who say the Mission Street is the same beer as Firestone. And if they do "change" the recipe, how much do they change it?

    It really seems cost prohibitive to brew a separate Maibock for Trader Joe's when you're already brewing a Maibock for your own label. And I've had the TJ's Vienna alongside the Gordon Biersch Märzen -- if they're different recipes it's a very small difference.

    Not sure if this really proves a separate recipe since all the beers are judged blind. A friend and I brewed a Märzen together and entered separately in the same competition. I took first, he took second -- he's still living that down! :wink:
    Andwoo and dachshunddude86 like this.
  3. Hanzo

    Hanzo Initiate (0) Feb 27, 2012 Virginia

    Ah, well I didn't realize the distributor would be the one policing that, oh well then, as long as the brewery signed off on it I have nothing against this practice.
  4. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,972) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    But that's not what he reported, we'll probably need some confirmation from the OP, but what he wrote was:
    I read they as the brewery and them as the bar. This is how most contract brewing works.
  5. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,316) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    I can't prove that it is a different recipe. Trader Joe's is big enough that they could order a batch every now and then.

    On your Maerzen, if it was all fermented, lagered and packaged the same ways at he same time it was the same. If you did part of the process seperate, then the beer can have differences.
  6. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,972) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    I don't know, and still charge the prices they do for their beers?

    Another I forgot was Goose Island brewing their Oatmeal Stout for TJ's (not anymore, but in the past) -- another beer that was as near to identical as anything.
    All the same. Made us laugh. :grinning:
  7. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,316) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    Then it is what the judges did to decide on the first and second. Congrats - you have bragging rights.
  8. billandsuz

    billandsuz Disciple (311) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Hold on. Where was it ever written that the brewery gets to decide what gets sold at a bar? That is what the bar gets to decide.
    "What the brewery wanted?" The brewer gets to make good beer and I get to drink it. If you are upset with a distributor, that's your problem. Yeah, the tiered system has been around forever and it's not like you are somehow special or unique. The bar owner is not required to support a brewery. They are required to meet their business objective. Are brewers required to support bar owners? Didn't think so. Do bar owners expect a good deal from you, just because?

    It's just beer. Really. Heaven forbid someone makes money in this transaction wihout having a glamorous and historic story approved by the beer police. Only drink beer you know if that makes you happy.
    teal likes this.
  9. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,972) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    I just chalk it up to the judges flipping a coin -- we never did ask them why they picked one over the other (or if we did, I don't remember), but it's a good lesson on how judging of anything is so objective. A week later or different judges, maybe the rolls would reverse.
  10. iwantmorehops

    iwantmorehops Aspirant (232) Sep 25, 2010 Vermont
    Beer Trader

    This is super standard in vt, a lot of restaurants and bars will have a house beer that is simply a renamed longtrail or otter creek beer. It's pretty annoying to get excited about a beer you've never heard of only to realize its the same crap sitting on the shelves in every gas station in the state. The problem is made worse by uneducated servers who explain it as a special beer brewed for them, but can't explain the style, or menus that just call it an ale.
  11. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,305) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Last time I looked (when I had 3 or 4 sixes of different Mission St. beers) there were no obvious "equivalent" beers from F-W basing it only on ABV as listed on the labels and FW website (NJ only gets a limited number of Firestone Walker's standard line-up, so no "side by side" tasting involved).

    Yeah, well, that's always the question in such cases. I do recall a brewer of one of the TJ "discount" beers saying it was one of their standard adjunct light lagers. OTOH, pretty sure all involved with the TJ Anniversary beer from Unibroue said it was a unique recipe.
  12. BigGene

    BigGene Initiate (0) Oct 30, 2010 Florida

    What I think the OP is getting at is this---- Here in Orlando we have Sonnys BBQ, really big chain in the south. They have a Sonnys Red Ale supposedly brewed for them. I spoke with the area franchise manager one day, it comes from the Bud distributor in all of there locations. Its not contract brewed, it was a marketing gimmick BUD came up with to help them sell more beer.

    I have also seen a "house red" at a few other restaurants here, when I question the bartender or manager I get oh we dont know what it really is we just know it comes from BUD.

    Just a cleaver way for the BUD reps to get more tap space while making the bar owner think they are giving the customer a craft (crafty) option.
  13. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,972) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    The Mission St, Pale and Firestone's Pale 31 are different (according to BA) by .2% -- I always get skeptical over such minimal differences.
  14. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,305) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Yeah, the Feds allow "a tolerance of 0.3 percent... either above or below the stated percentage of alcohol" but apparently don't check. It's particularly suspect in the case of breweries that high gravity brew, and it would be just a matter of a little more/less water added before bottling.
  15. jmmy3

    jmmy3 Aspirant (292) Nov 30, 2010 Massachusetts

    I read it the opposite way. The rest of the post seems to suggest that to be correct at least.
  16. Kinsman

    Kinsman Champion (873) Aug 26, 2009 California

    A lot of breweries up here, and I'm guessing out west too, have beers like Single Chair named/brewed specifically for different ski areas. Single Chair is a bit different because it's made available outside of Mad River Glen, but many of them are only available on tap at the ski areas bar(s). Sounds like MH in this case took a very location-specific beer and let it get rebranded a thousand times over because to anyone who's not a skier or doesn't ski in VT, the name Single Chair means nothing to you.

    I've seen Long Tail do ski area house beers at several different resorts as well, and to the best of my knowledge it's usually a rebranded version of "Hit the Trail" Ale. Jay Peaks "Tram" Ale would be one example. Woodstock Inn and Station in No. Woodstock, NH also rebrands some of their beer for Cannon Mtn (best skiing on the east coast in my heavily biased opinion) including their Pemi Pale Ale which is served on tap at their as Cannon Ale. I don't think either of these breweries are hurting from this partnership but I do love the look on peoples faces when I explain to them that it's the same beer they can get elsewhere.
  17. rousee

    rousee Meyvn (1,032) Aug 13, 2004 Massachusetts

    Some of the places around here do it as a way to justify charging more for some mass produced stuff without taking any flack for it.So if we charge $5.75 for a pint of Miller high life, we might get a bunch of complaints but if we call it our own house brew--no complaints.
  18. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,972) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Then we'll have to get confirmation on the OP's pronoun usage, but most contract brewers will provide a custom tap-handle for their customers.
  19. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Defender (637) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Do you think all of the "house" brands at supermarkets and drug stores are nothing other than the same stuff with different labels? Possible, but not likely, IMHO. A Manufacturer will make a house brand for a large account and label it with anything the large account wants. However, the formula might be a little different or the quality might be a little less than the manufacturer's own brand. This is what I have suspicion about house beers. I don't believe for a minute that a brewer is simply relabeling a flagship beer with another label for a large account; I believe a brewer is going to brew up a batch of different beer for several "house" accounts unless the "house" account is extremely large. It's entirely possible then, that the "house beer" for a bar in CA is the same as the "house beer" for an account in NY. And again, IMHO, it would behoove a brewer to make this "house beer" somewhat inferior to what they produce for their own labeling purposes.
  20. NHcraftbeer

    NHcraftbeer Initiate (0) Mar 15, 2011 New Hampshire

    Anytime you are in a bar with limited craft selection that focuses on sam adams and imports and they run sam, sam seasonal, and a "house ale" you can be sure that house ale is boston ale. Happens everywhere up here in the northeast. Thankfully, I think its a better beer than boston lager or any of the seasonals, but yeah, I agree Lame
  21. BedetheVenerable

    BedetheVenerable Meyvn (1,023) Sep 5, 2008 Missouri

    One of our (very good) locals (a pizza/burger place with 20-25-odd taps), has a 'house' Pils, Dry Stout, and Belgian Dubbel. They're all from breweries within our state, and this particular establishment says 'brewed by ______' underneath each of the offerings. Granted, these are brews that are regularly brewed (although one is tap-only and rarely available in our area), but I think the fact that these are 'house' beers (i.e. always on tap, well-priced, and fresh) is just fine, AS LONG AS they acknowledge where they're coming from. Just my .02
  22. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    No it isnt. In "true" contract brewing, the label on the keg would be the contract name: "Wicked Awesome Ale brewed by John's Wicked Awesome Brewery [Wilkes-Barre, PA]"

    In this case, the label says Local Pale Ale, but the tap handle says "Wicked Awesome".
  23. MinorThreat

    MinorThreat Devotee (488) Apr 7, 2008 Nebraska
    Beer Trader

    Not true at all. I run many handles of house beer and was approached by a prominent microbrewery in Denver about doing so. It is a former seasonal, now one off, only available to us and is branded with their logo acknowledging they brewed it. Speaking for every brewery and bar, now that is a selfish act that is rooted in a swollen ego.

    Also, I have never had a brewery rep let themselves into one of my coolers; there is no reason to. Your beer is distributed by Coors. Coors has sales reps to sale Coors portfolio which your beers are in. Coors has draft techs and contracted line cleaners to service the hardware your beer is poured from. I have had reps from your brewery stop by my Pubs and never, and I mean NEVER did they walk behind the bar or in the cooler.
    teal likes this.
  24. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    It would have been more amusing if you had finished 1st and unranked.

    I did a blind tasting of four beers for some friends, only it was really only 3, two of the samples being the same thing. In most cases, they scored similarly, but one person actually ranked it 1st and 4th.
  25. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    A place near me does something similar, except they dont have the brewed by, but instead the city its from. But as they are all local, its easy to figure out whose beer it is (for some people).
  26. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,972) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Not sure what you're addressing, but I was talking about the OP's communication of whether or not the brewery knew the bar was re-labelling the beer with a "custom" tap-handle. My guess is, since they were contracting they knew full well.

    As has been pointed out, it would not be terribly legal to add your own tap handle without previous "consent."

    As to what is on the keg opposed to the tap handle, I imagine that can run all over -- I also wonder just how the OP was allowed into the cooler?
    MinorThreat likes this.

    RBCORCORAN Aspirant (239) May 18, 2009 Massachusetts
    Beer Trader

    michelob used to do that with their amber. I don't see it as much now but for a while every local bar had their 'own' beer on tap and when asked they would tell you michelob brewed it just for them. Just another sales gimmick from AB.
  28. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    [quote="steveh, post: 923697, member: 3211"

    As to what is on the keg opposed to the tap handle, I imagine that can run all over[/quote]

    Not really, the TTB controls that pretty tightly.

    Keg labels require approval just like bottle labels. So a contract brewed keg label will identify the beer in the same way that a contract bottle does. In other words, unless you look at fine details, it will look like just another brewery/brand label. Usually that detail is the location, which in some cases will clue you in as to what brewery made the beer.
  29. MinorThreat

    MinorThreat Devotee (488) Apr 7, 2008 Nebraska
    Beer Trader

    For the keg to come in "private branded" the brewery has to submit the label artwork and name for approval to the feds. The distributor then has to set up a SKU in the warehouse for said product and sell it only as the private brand. So even if the beer is being sold as A & B (private) and the distributor runs out of A, they cannot sell B as A despite being the same beer. So basically it might be the same recipe but the brewer/distributor/retailer handles it as its own entity. This is costly, time consuming and a nuisance to the distributor (additional SKU/space in warehouse where space is at a premium) so most breweries consent to brand X being re-branded and sold as brand Y at bar Z.

    As far as the reason the OP was in the cooler? I have the same question/doubt.
  30. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,972) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    Understood -- what about the tap handle?

    The point is, the bar didn't just order a keg of Bubba's Pale Ale and slap their own handle on it, as some allude. It was all set up between the bar and the brewery ahead of time.
  31. steveh

    steveh Poo-Bah (1,972) Oct 8, 2003 Illinois

    I understand this, I'm a graphic artist who has set such labels up for a brew-pub that was having their beers contracted for bottling at a local micro. But as I've been trying to make clear, the bar in question (more than likely) did not take some home-made tap handle and throw it on the line for a known brand of beer -- that would be illegal.
  32. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (6,451) Dec 25, 2006 Ontario (Canada)
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Sorry - that wasn't totally clear. Rather than saying 'renting space' I probably should have used 'renting fermenter time', as you are correct to note that often the contractor is not present. You're also correct to note that the contractor may have complete creative control (i.e. Clown Shoes) or may relinquish control to the contractee beyond basic stylistic parameters (as Trader Joe's does with Unibroue); however, in either case the contractor is a licensed 'brewery', which is not the case with house beers.

    The main point was that contract brewing produces discrete (albeit often very similar) new beers, while house beers are often identical to already existing products and often have both the recipe creator and brewing location obfuscated for marketing purposes.
  33. MinorThreat

    MinorThreat Devotee (488) Apr 7, 2008 Nebraska
    Beer Trader

    and I'm agreeing with everything you've said... I didn't "like" your post to disagree with you. Not sure where the disconnect was.
  34. MarcatGSB

    MarcatGSB Initiate (0) Jan 8, 2011 Michigan

    Capital does this often in this area. We've been offered it many times, and I've always said no. However if another local brewer approached me, asked me to write a recipe, come to their brewhouse, brew the beer with them, I'd have no problem doing a "collaborwtion" with said brewer. And call it such.
  35. Providence

    Providence Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2010 Rhode Island

    This reminds me of a conversation I had with a bartender at Captain Seaweed's in Providence years ago. If you're a beer geek don't go. It's a dive bar. It's not a fake dive bar, that just looks crappy but has $9 bourbons. It's an actual dive bar with people who work for a living that gamble, do drugs and frequent prostitutes. And I love it. Anyway, here was the conversation:

    Me: Hey man, what's the "Captain Seaweed's Lager."
    Bartender: "It's $1."
    Me: "But what beer is it?"
    Bartender: "It's Captain Seaweed's Lager."
    Me: "Yeah, but what is it?"
    Bartender: "Natty Light."
    Me: "I'll take one."

    Oh and no "custom handle." It was just a piece of paper wrapped (poorly) around the top handle with "Captain Seaweed's Lager" written in sharpie.
  36. imbrue001

    imbrue001 Aspirant (216) Aug 6, 2010 Pennsylvania

    I dunno, seems to me that its pretty obvious when a place is brewing their own beer on site. I mean, if there is no equipment and they sell house beers.. just don't buy it. It's like when something is on the menu with no price. Your just taking a gamble and more times than not, you'll lose.
  37. rlcoffey

    rlcoffey Initiate (0) Apr 20, 2004 Kentucky

    Of course. And I dont agree with the OP either. Im not sure I entirely disagree either, there is a lot of "it depends" on this one for me.

    Im trying to distinguish between house brand and contract brewed. That is my point, some seem to be using the terms wrong, just like you are correcting those that are alluding to the bar doing it alone.
  38. Jparkanzky

    Jparkanzky Initiate (0) Apr 5, 2011 Ohio

    Seems like more people will order a pub's "house beer" than not, hence why they do this practice. For me, I would be more likely to order a Fat Head's, Head Hunter IPA off of the menu, than a "Smitty's Ale-House IPA" but it seems like Smitty's Ale House thinks they can sell more Head Hunter by calling it their house beer, so that's what they do (in this hypothetical scenario)

    In addition, it probably gives the pub a little more prestige, if people think they offer some sort of unique product.
  39. crossovert

    crossovert Initiate (0) Mar 29, 2009 Illinois

    MarcatGSB likes this.
  40. jwheeler87

    jwheeler87 Aspirant (226) Oct 27, 2011 Massachusetts

    There's a pizza place near me called Emma's that has a house beer called Ron's special brew or Ron's whacky brew (the theme of the place is how whacky and crazy the owner Ron Emma is), but it is only PBR with their handle. The waitress I had was nice enough to tells us that before I ordered it.
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