Smuttynose Shoals Pale Ale is being retired

Discussion in 'New England' started by jaygates, May 30, 2019.

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  1. Vicirus

    Vicirus Pundit (890) Oct 8, 2007 Massachusetts

    Robust Porter, Old Brown Dog and Finest Kind, as more of a throwback west coast style, are all still really good quality and excellent examples of the style.

    I understand the need to rebrand with new ownership, but I’m not a fan of the new labels at all. And seriously, 12oz cans? They look very similar to Wachusett Brewing, which has to be one of their primary NE competitors. I thought the move from “Short Batch” to “Smuttlabs” was a terrible idea, and that’s where they should have rebranded. Those sold extremely well, and were in 750ml cork and caged bottles. They almost always sold out within a few days at the brewery and actually felt like you were getting something special.

    Also, it’s criminal to make their Baltic Porter and Russian Imperial Stout and not do variants. Those have always been their highest rated beers, and only a few times put out BA versions. Easily could be their version of “framinghammers.”
  2. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Grand Pooh-Bah (3,076) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Pooh-Bah Society

    While they are, they're also two styles that aren't going to sell very well as year rounds.

    I could see them as a winter and fall seasonal respectively though.

    Part of their issue was not keeping up with the times. I say "part" because obviously the other major part was simply having a bad business plan.
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  3. matthewp

    matthewp Pundit (856) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    Bad business plan and absolutely no understanding of marketing. They are a better brewery IMHO than Wachusett but Wachusett are better at business and marketing. There are lots of worse breweries doing much better than Smutty.
  4. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Grand Pooh-Bah (3,076) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Pooh-Bah Society

    100% agree, and this is a great point.

    They had/have some outstanding beers in their profile that blow A LOT of local breweries out of the water.

    Finest Kind, Robust Porter, Shoals, Old Brown Dog, Oktoberfest, Vunderbar Pils, Pumpkin, Pinniped Special...the list goes on and on.
  5. Kinsman

    Kinsman Maven (1,421) Aug 26, 2009 Nevada

    I haven't really paid much attention to the craft beer scene the last year or two but this news hit home hard when I saw it on their social media a few weeks ago. I loved Shoals pale ale, and I love Cascade hopped APAs in general. I haven't had much Smutty since moving to CA 5 years ago, but I've been to the new brewery a couple of times on trips back to NH and really enjoyed it. Their recent struggles have been tough to watch from afar because they really were THE NH craft brewery for years. Part of me doesn't want to admit that they effed up, and that it was just bad luck and bad timing. Heck, I do think if they opened up the new brewery a year or two earlier, things would be a bit different. Anyone that visited the old Portsmouth location knows that they needed to get out of there because it was way too small for a brewery of their size. Unfortunately, it took them years to locate, plan, and build the new facility and in that time, the NH beer scene finally started catching up with their neighbors in MA, ME, and VT. Suddenly, they weren't the only game around, and the new breweries are in a much better position to cater to a market of beer drinkers that don't really like the taste of beer

    Shoals probably won't be the last to go. I honestly am not sure Finestkind has much life left since it's too west coasty for most people. Old Brown Dog and Robust Porter are text book examples of their styles, and these days it doesn't make as much sense to sell dark beer year-round. People get way too caught up in the dark/heavy=winter crap.
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  6. abagofit

    abagofit Initiate (0) Oct 31, 2014 Massachusetts

    You say that, but there are plenty of other breweries that have lines around the block for big stout releases year round. Or even look down to Florida at JWB, Cigar City, and Funky Buddha...they seem to have no trouble selling dark/heavy beers in a hot/humid year-round climate.
    AlcahueteJ likes this.
  7. matthewp

    matthewp Pundit (856) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    I think the special releases are easier to sell anytime during the year vs having a year round offering. Personally I can't stand the concept of these sorts of beers being a winter beer, its always stout season! I won't be shocked though if Smutty moves those beers to be seasonal.
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  8. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Grand Pooh-Bah (3,076) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Pooh-Bah Society

    While agree that you can definitely sell dark beers in the summer, we're talking about a robust porter with no adjuncts.

    That's way different than a pastry stout that's a special release.
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  9. cmoney13

    cmoney13 Initiate (0) Sep 9, 2017 Massachusetts

    yeah comparing a 10+% adjunct laden pastry stout to a 6.2% porter isn't fair. Regular ol' porters just don't sell that well, especially in the summer, and I tend to agree with that. Other than Guiness, the most refreshing beverage on earth, I rarely ever order a dark beer in the summer time.

    I still really like Finestkind. I hope that never goes away.
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  10. matthewp

    matthewp Pundit (856) Feb 27, 2015 Massachusetts

    Agree 100%, there needs to be something special about the beer and it needs to be a limited release. Clown Shoes could teach Smutty a thing or two about how to sell stouts and porters. I get roped in by them all the time because they release something slightly different than the beer I've had from them before. I've had the option of buying l'etalon from Smutty and Snow on the Maple Tree from Clown Shoes and I came away with the Clown Shoes. I think the Smutty might even have been cheaper but Clown Shoes somehow keeps top of mind for me. I've had them at tastings whereas I've never seen Smutty at a beer store for a tasting.
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  11. LukieBL

    LukieBL Initiate (0) Jun 10, 2015 Massachusetts

    For good reason. The average beer drinker doesn’t want a porter or brown ale when it’s 90 and humid. Sorry, but the folks that do (no shame at all) aren’t in the majority even by a long shot

    The thinking that “dark beer is year round appropriate” is for hardcore beer heads and not really anybody else. A place like smutty is reliant on the majority, not a tiny subset
  12. Kinsman

    Kinsman Maven (1,421) Aug 26, 2009 Nevada

    The average beer drinker doesn't drink porter or brown ale, even in winter. For craft beer drinkers though, the light to dark variety used to be the backbone of a breweries year-round lineup. I never paid much attention to the season when I bought my robust porter and OBD 6 packs. I'm just hoping breweries like Smutty keep this tradition alive. Where I live now, I can always get Black Butte porter but I can't think of any widely available year-round brown, and it's never 90 and humid here. 41 degrees last night.
    LukieBL likes this.
  13. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Grand Pooh-Bah (3,076) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Pooh-Bah Society

    Yeah there’s a reason you’ll never see the likes of Negra Modelo in beach commercials in the summer...but you’ll see Modelo Especial.

    Although I thoroughly enjoyed Negra Modelo in Mexico, it was the best beer available at the resort.
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  14. smutty33

    smutty33 Pooh-Bah (2,038) Jun 12, 2009 Connecticut
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    Shoals was the brew that got me hooked when buying the Smutty variety packs way back. Then I found Finestkind. RIP Shoals PA., haven't seen it here in years though.

    The rebranding is absolutely terrible. Looks like something Sam Adams came up with when they were starting out and scrapped it. Old brown dog is the first to show up here with the new labels and looks silly imo.

    I was on their website and emailed them about bringing back Imperial Stout a few weeks ago and was told that there are no plans to brew it.

    I miss Baltic Porter.

    The head scratching continues.......
  15. FrankLloydMike

    FrankLloydMike Maven (1,272) Aug 16, 2006 Massachusetts

    Totally agree.

    I'll really miss Shoals Pale Ale. I'd actually come back to it recently, as a nice alternative to hoppier pale ales and IPA's. It's a great beer--still hoppy, but with a biscuity maltiness.

    The rebranding is atrocious. I get them wanting to update the branding, but I don't at all get throwing away something as iconic as the old brown dog or the Cy and Paul. I could see sprucing things up, revamping, but these labels are terrible. They look like a bad version of Founder's All Day IPA or something. And they just turned the Finestkind trailer into a bar for their biergarten, which seems like a great idea. But then, they're getting rid of any reference to the trailer or the geezers in their branding? It just seems dumb.

    I had high hopes when I saw that a local group had bought it and was bringing in some people with experience in the industry. The first moves all seemed smart. But lately, I've really been questioning it. Are they not going to brew Baltic Porter anymore? That would be a travesty. Same with Imperial Stout and Really Old Brown Dog.

    I get wanting to get in on the hazy IPA game, and some of the new IPA's have been pretty good. But to me, Smutty's biggest strengths (in addition to Finestkind) were the big, dark beers (tell me they're going to make Wheat Wine again!!) and the lagers of late--Vundebar and especially Pinniped Special. I thought smart ownership would focus on those things, especially with the growing interest in lagers, in addition to canning and hazy IPA's.

    But I really don't get what the new ownership team is doing.
  16. meefmoff

    meefmoff Pooh-Bah (1,798) Jul 6, 2014 Massachusetts
    Pooh-Bah Trader

    I don't have any sales figures to back things up but just based on shelf presence there seem to be plenty of older breweries (and a couple newer) still getting decent mileage out of their west coast IPAs: Ipswich 101, Green Monsta, Larry, Be Hoppy, Greenhead, Riverwalk, etc.

    I would think this is yet another example of Smuttynose's business savvy lagging behind their brewing skill.
    matthewp and AlcahueteJ like this.
  17. SunDevilBeer

    SunDevilBeer Pooh-Bah (1,945) May 9, 2003 Massachusetts

    Unfortunately FK is not good now. Bought a 12 pack 3 weeks ago, ordered on draft last week & both occasions was underwhelmed. Not the same beer I drank for years previous.
  18. OffTrail

    OffTrail Devotee (387) Aug 12, 2012 Washington

    Alesmith Nut Brown is available year round.
  19. EnronCFO

    EnronCFO Pooh-Bah (1,897) Mar 29, 2007 Massachusetts

    I keep telling myself that it's my tastes that have changed, but I'm pretty sure the beer has too. Used to be grapefruit bomb, but it's just not the same.
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  20. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Grand Pooh-Bah (3,076) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts
    Pooh-Bah Society

    I remember my first Finest Kind back in 2004. It might have been my first IPA ever too.

    It was an absolute grapefruit bomb like you said, and I instantly fell in love with IPAs.
    smutty33, meefmoff, Kozaka and 2 others like this.
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