Is contract brewing always a bad thing?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by LCB_Hostage, May 31, 2013.

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  1. LCB_Hostage

    LCB_Hostage Zealot (635) Jan 30, 2013 Pennsylvania

    I got to thinking about this the other day when I saw a post in a recent thread that dismissed a beer by saying "well, what do you expect from a contract brewer?" or something like that.

    While I can understand the thinking that contract brewers are going to bring less passion and quality control to the end product, I'm wondering if that's always the case. For instance, do the contract breweries always manage the entire process? How much can the brewer him/herself oversee or directly participate in the brewing of his/her beer?

    It seems to me that contract brewing offers brewers with limited capital the opportunity to establish a footprint in the marketplace and build up the resources they need to establish their own brewing operation. But, there seems to be a definite risk that their product could be corrupted by a contract brewer whose primary driver is going to be cost efficiency as opposed to the quality of the final product.

    Anyone know more about this topic than I do (believe me, that's a VERY low bar to clear)? Also, can anyone out there point to contract-brewed beers that are truly exceptional?
  2. cookiequiz

    cookiequiz Initiate (0) Apr 15, 2013 California

  3. Duff27

    Duff27 Pooh-Bah (2,468) Feb 10, 2010 Illinois
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    Three Floyds. But I don't know about "exceptional".
  4. backbaybrewer

    backbaybrewer Initiate (0) Feb 26, 2010 Massachusetts

    The short answer is simply, NO.

    A somewhat longer answer is, take a look at what Two Roads Brewery in CT is doing. They are a craft brewery first, that makes very nice beers, particular their DIPA Road 2 Ruin. But, in order to finance what is an imaculate 100 barrel brewery that could be a brewing museum, they also contract brew for non-local craft brewers that want to enter the CT market. They are fantastic brewers and they pay every bit the care and attention to the contract brews that they would their own beer. They have to in fact, because if they produced a product that was somehow less than the quality of the original, the original brewer would no longer use them.
  5. mulder1010

    mulder1010 Initiate (0) Aug 29, 2008 Australia

  6. marquis

    marquis Pooh-Bah (2,301) Nov 20, 2005 England
    Pooh-Bah Society

    No. It's sometimes necessary.Matching the brew isn't easy but then it's quite likely you'll find it as good if slightly different.
    It may be the difference between being able to get the beer and not. Coniston Bluebird won the Champion Beer of Britain with their Bluebird Bitter , and as a consequence demand rocketed. But Coniston Brewery was a tiny setup in the back of a pub with a capacity of a few barrels a week.The stuff on the shelves is contract brewed and pretty good.
    IrishKevin and herrburgess like this.
  7. RichardMNixon

    RichardMNixon Initiate (0) Jun 24, 2012 Pennsylvania

    In a typical contract brew, how involved is the contracting brewer? Does the brewer just hand off the recipe or do they oversee the entire process?
  8. leedorham

    leedorham Initiate (0) Apr 27, 2006 Washington

    Looking at it from a different angle - craft brewers brewing another brand for extra cash.

    I look at the example of Full Sail brewing Henry Weinhard's and am not sure whether it's a good thing or not. It probably is a good source of income for Full Sail and perhaps allows them to make some purchases or leverage some buying power they couldn't do without the extra cabbage from the Henry's brand. However, I can't help feeling like Full Sail could be so much more if they were fully dedicated to their own brand.

    Same deal with Fish Brewing in Olympia. I wonder how much of their old glory they could recapture if they weren't busy filling the shelf with the Leavenworth brand.
  9. jesskidden

    jesskidden Grand Pooh-Bah (3,071) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Pooh-Bah Society Trader

    It varies greatly - depending on the, um, contract (:wink:) and the added legal requirements of alternating proprietorships - a form of contract-brewing, tho' the AP participants will claim otherwise, and often use the ethnically-insensitive "Gypsy brewer" term to try to distance themselves from "contract brewers". The Alternating Prop. requirements are based more on who OWNS the ingredients, packaging and finished beer, rather than whose employees brew it. The so-called "Gypsies" [in the US, obviously] would have you believe otherwise.

    Here's Boston Beer Co. contract with Stroh from the late 1990's for an example of the best known and most successful former contract brewer.
  10. gpcollen1

    gpcollen1 Initiate (0) Jul 16, 2005 Connecticut

    Two Roads contract brews not just for the CT market. They brew beer for folks and ship it where they want them to...
    Mersh likes this.
  11. LCB_Hostage

    LCB_Hostage Zealot (635) Jan 30, 2013 Pennsylvania

    Good Lord, Jess! Is there anything you don't know about this industry. You need to drink more and forget some stuff so other people can have a chance to shine. :wink:
    davemont and deadliest like this.
  12. WassailWilly

    WassailWilly Initiate (0) Sep 8, 2007 New York

    Not from what I see from 3HB all of the stuff from them is great !!!
    Osyrus likes this.
  13. JackHorzempa

    JackHorzempa Grand Pooh-Bah (3,181) Dec 15, 2005 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Below is an extract from my post on the other thread that the OP referenced:

    “ …having a beer contract brewed at another brewery does not have to be inconsistent. I have had many Southampton beers that have been contract brewed at multiple contract breweries (Sly Fox Brewery, Olde Saratoga Brewery, City Brewing (the former Rolling Rock brewery in Latrobe, PA), etc.) and all of those Southampton beers have been quality (consistent) beers.”

    So, contract brewing does not have to be a “bad thing”. Unfortunately contract brewing is a “bad thing” for some breweries/contract breweries. My ‘solution’ for those breweries that are experiencing ‘issues’ is to switch to a better contract brewery (but I should caveat that I don’t have all of the facts here).

  14. TheBrewo

    TheBrewo Initiate (0) Nov 11, 2010 New York

    Beat me to it!! I've been a huge fan of Three Heads since that initial line, and I have never not felt the "passion" or whatever you want to call it in their beer. Custom Brewcrafters does an exceptional job.
    Osyrus likes this.
  15. Ranbot

    Ranbot Pooh-Bah (2,389) Nov 27, 2006 Pennsylvania
    Pooh-Bah Society

    There's nothing wrong with contract brewing. A lot of craft brewers, more than most people realize, have contracted their brewing out, or brewed under contract for others if they have excess capacity. Contract brewing provides much needed flexibility for brewers to expand, adapt to changes in demand, and make ends meet.
  16. pghlee

    pghlee Initiate (0) Feb 24, 2006 Georgia

  17. TheMonkfish

    TheMonkfish Initiate (0) Jan 8, 2012 Chad

    If it wasn't for contract brewing I'd have never tried Imperial Biscotti Break. Contract and gypsy brewer arrangements don't bother me in the least - skin in the game or not.

    My favourite saison comes from gypsy brewers comes from the good hipsters at Pretty Things.
  18. Mersh

    Mersh Initiate (0) Mar 10, 2013 Connecticut

    Excellent point my friend. Two Roads is going to be a major player in the game in a few more years. Amazing space, excellent people and vast knowledge. There brewery definitely could be museum, it's beautiful. Love going there and enjoying great times with great people. Can't wait to see what is in store for the future.
  19. bnuno

    bnuno Initiate (0) Feb 8, 2011 California

    21st Amendment contracts brews their stuff as well. Taste fine to me! :grinning:
  20. Jacurdy60

    Jacurdy60 Initiate (0) Jan 23, 2013 Massachusetts

    No, it gives the little guy a larger market. More people are then introduced to craft which has its negs and positives however.
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