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Variants: A new marketing strategy in craft beer?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by Sparty1224, Feb 28, 2016.

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  1. Sparty1224

    Sparty1224 Disciple (375) Jun 18, 2014 Michigan

    Saw the latest Stone announcement for Enjoy By Tangerine IPA today, and it dawned on me... is producing multiple variants of a much-loved beer the new strategy to stay competitive in the crowded craft beer market? Stone's done Enjoy By Unfiltered, Black IPA, Tangerine, etc. Ballast Point has thrown every fruit you can think of into Sculpin in the last year. New Holland has Dragon's Milk varietals planned for days on end. People haven't been this interested in Abyss in forever since they made the new BA variants. Do breweries see these base beers sitting on shelves and think they can re-ignite interest by continually releasing varieties which people will buy, and thus make more money? Is everything from now on just gonna be a special variant released once every few months?
  2. UrbanCaveman

    UrbanCaveman Zealot (557) Sep 30, 2014 Illinois

    It's a response to the demand for innovation, where a vocal segment of the craft beer market wants something new, in some cases with literally every beer they have - gotta tick em all. This is also the segment that slams breweries like GLBC for always churning out the same lineup of beers regardless of the quality level of said lineup, and tends to ignore German and/or Belgian breweries that similarly crank out only a handful of beers done well.

    I'd guess it's way easier to tinker with an existing recipe to add an adjunct or two than to come up with a brand new one. Extending that hypothesis, I'd also guess that producing an array of IPAs and little else works off a similar model, where the only revisions to the recipe involve the varietals, amounts, and timing of hop additions, and the results can be evaluated (and further tweaked if needed) much quicker than with something barreled or lagered.

    I could be very wrong there, in which case any corrections are welcomed!
  3. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Savant (905) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Hasn't Blue Moon been doing this for years?
  4. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Initiate (0) Dec 9, 2011 Colorado

    And adding to this lucid explanation, this is the U.S.A. - where it's real easy to fool some of the people some of the time.
    ONovoMexicano, UrbanCaveman and ebin6 like this.
  5. ebin6

    ebin6 Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2009 California

    I wouldn't call it new, but it's definitely getting out of hand. I would be interested to see the numbers. For instance, did Deschutes brew more Abyss in total, or did they just siphon off a portion for the whiskey and cognac? If it's the former, that means less brewing capacity for an existing beer or a new one. Deschutes is by no means out of hand though.

    Prairie though is starting to bug me. I love their beers overall, but not Bomb! so much. How much overall capacity does the 36 variants of Bomb! account for? It serves to make their other beer more expensive (I would imagine, due to lower quantity) and inhibits their range. Off the top of my head, it seems like Bomb! has become more available and other stuff less so. But they're just following demand, so what can you do?
    Robtobfest likes this.
  6. Sparty1224

    Sparty1224 Disciple (375) Jun 18, 2014 Michigan

    Agree. Prairie is just as bad. So many Okie variants starting to pop up now, not to mention the usual Funky Gold ______.
    lateralusbeer and ebin6 like this.
  7. TongoRad

    TongoRad Poo-Bah (2,548) Jun 3, 2004 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Ya think? Yeah, I'd say they have this group figured out pretty well by now :wink:.
  8. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian Zealot (524) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    As I sip on a two week old Citrusinensis, I can only think adding fruit to beer is done because it tastes good. Hop flavors have been migrating in the direction of these fruit that are getting used in beers such as the aforementioned Pale Ale, so why not go to the source when it is in season and use it? It's their house yeast in something related to Little Something but is called an Ale brewed with natural blood orange juice. 7.9% of Delicious.
    Is it a gimmick? You try working with this extra stuff in a brewery setting and impress upon me what is gimmicky about the amount of extra work that goes into the finished beer.
    jzlyo likes this.
  9. ebin6

    ebin6 Initiate (0) Jun 11, 2009 California

    It makes sense from the brewer's standpoint though. How easy is it to just change the type of hop or barrel it sits in?

    Gives me that much more respect for Julian Shrago is doing at Beachwood. Dude churns out high quality beers from such a diverse range of styles.
  10. bbtkd

    bbtkd Poo-Bah (2,278) Sep 20, 2015 South Dakota
    Society Trader

    Yes, good business decision; take a popular beer and come up with minor variations. Saves them the time and cost of coming up with a totally new base beer. Car companies have been doing this for years.
    surfcaster likes this.
  11. AlcahueteJ

    AlcahueteJ Savant (905) Dec 4, 2004 Massachusetts

    Oh, I forgot Leinenkugel as well.
    bubseymour and UrbanCaveman like this.
  12. RogelioRodriguez

    RogelioRodriguez Initiate (0) Nov 7, 2015 California

    Yeah it's called passing the buck on to consumers. I really don't mind paying for premium beer, but it better be premium. Adding a dash or this or that to an already existing base beer bores me to death.

    It's what all the brewers are doing in the industry...buying more of the same ingredients gets bulk pricing...yet many of these so called new beers are getting 2-5$ more per bomber.

    I think the problem with craft beer today is that the industry is more concerned with innovative ways to make a buck, than to simply make exceptionally good beer. The early days of craft beer, there was no really accepted style, now we have standardized expectations of beers and this leads to a growing seasonal market.

    Most of the specialty beers are all utilizing the same ingredients from the big suppliers which explains why one brand tastes strikingly similar to the others despite being geographically quite far away.
  13. zid

    zid Savant (969) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    It's a version of brand loyalty for folks who think that having the same beer twice is a waste of their beer calorie budget.

    It's an arms race between brewers fighting for attention.

    It's a way for something like Goose Island to create varying levels of scarcity.

    It's a game that makes some drinkers happy but generally doesn't appeal to me personally... unless we're talking about a cask version without anything extra added to it... or a lower ABV draught version.

    I recently had Perennial's "Base Beer" on tap... which I thought could be an unsettling/refreshing inversion of the norm... but it turns out Perennial actually uses this beer in live blending events with coffee etc.
  14. bubseymour

    bubseymour Poo-Bah (2,364) Oct 30, 2010 Maryland

    Unless its an actual fruit/wild/funky ale style that calls for tart cherries etc., I prefer my fruit flavors to come organically from the brewing process of the usual 4 ingredients and not have artificial or even natural fruit juice added. Just doesn't feel right to me and I'm getting bored with all of these IPA and Pale Ale fruit variants.

    I'm waiting for the Starburst collaboration 12 pack sampler from some brewer to be released anytime now the way things are going.
    Irishize75 and TongoRad like this.
  15. 1eyed_jack

    1eyed_jack Initiate (0) Dec 19, 2012 Illinois

    By it's nature craft beer is about trying what's next. To specific individual beers there is very little loyalty. People that drink Bud, usually drink Bud, but people who drink Three Floyds, probably also drink 50 other breweries as well.

    With apps like untappd and such it's always about the next beer not finding one and sticking to it. So yeah, from a marketing standpoint, this is a home run for the breweries. They don't need to add a whole new beer every couple weeks, they can just take an existing beer and slightly tweak it repeatedly without having to reinvent the wheel.

    From a personal standpoint though, I find more often than not it comes across as gimmicky and it's not often I feel it actually improves the beer, but rather just makes it a little different.

    That being said, watermelon dorado might be the worst beer I've ever tried!
  16. Tommo

    Tommo Champion (818) Sep 25, 2014 Texas

    I think Prairies case is slightly different. Single dry hopped versions of the same beer fall short of what i feel this thread means, imho.

    What im seeing as being crazy is the 20 different fruited varieties of ballast point now available. This is madness
    babaracas likes this.
  17. champ103

    champ103 Poo-Bah (4,385) Sep 3, 2007 Texas

    Yeah, I am not a fan of the same base beer, with new fruit juice added to an IPA or whatever. That being said, I have really enjoyed when breweries do SMASH beers with different hops. In Texas, 512 and of coarse Lone Pint do a really good job with that (Drinking 512 Smash with Simcoe as I type and it is damn good). They are typically fairly simple IPA's, with the individual hop characteristics coming through load and clear.

    Though, there is a brewery in Houston that does a single base Wit with countless variations with fruits and vegetables. The base Wit isn't that great to begin with, and it gets really tiering. I have basically stopped buying anything from them.
  18. zid

    zid Savant (969) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    Too late to edit but I meant Perennial "Base Stout."
  19. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Champion (869) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    I think that is exactly what the OP is talking about. How is changing the fruit any different than changing the hop?
    Sparty1224 likes this.
  20. jesskidden

    jesskidden Meyvn (1,410) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Coors begin the "Blue Moon" brand as a line of beers, not just one specific beer.
    teromous likes this.
  21. champ103

    champ103 Poo-Bah (4,385) Sep 3, 2007 Texas

    I see your point, I just think changing up the hop variety melds better with beer, especially IPA's. For me, Grapefruit Sculpin just tasted like overly bitter Ruby Red Grapefruit juice, and haven't cared to try any of the others. Single hop variants, at least the ones I have had, meld better with what I would expect from an IPA. Just my opinion of coarse :wink:

    Edit: Also, for me it is easier to tell if a single hopped beer is well made, versus something with fruit added to the base. It is hard for me to tell with that, what is the base and if it is well made, or if it is just the fruit covering up flaws.
    SammyJaxxxx likes this.
  22. Wasatch

    Wasatch Poo-Bah (5,966) Jun 8, 2005 Colorado

    Stone has been doing something like this for years, also AleSmith.

  23. David_Deas

    David_Deas Initiate (0) Jan 26, 2016 North Carolina

    The craft beer industry is like that anyways.

    Micro-breweries know that, unlike with macro-breweries, their customer base has no brand loyalty. Once a craft beer geek has had a particular beer they become unlikely to ever come back to it, even if it was a good beer, just because of the "been there done that" attitude. On to the next one. So in order to keep the fickle customer base coming back, craft breweries have to continually offer new products or else become old news.

    The other way to combat that is scarcity or limited releases.
  24. zid

    zid Savant (969) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    Really? How do you figure? The "craft" segment of the industry certainly exhibits a tendency to create new product, but people still buy lots of Fat Tire. I could imagine a "craft beer" marketplace of just a few beers even if it isn't like that.
    #24 zid, Feb 28, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2016
    lateralusbeer likes this.
  25. zid

    zid Savant (969) Feb 15, 2010 New York

    As a drinker, does it matter if there is a flaw that you can't detect?
  26. champ103

    champ103 Poo-Bah (4,385) Sep 3, 2007 Texas

    Maybe flaw is the wrong word, but covering up anything that I would look for in an IPA. I am usually not looking for Ruby Red Grapefruit juice, like Grapefruit Sculpin.
  27. --Dom--

    --Dom-- Initiate (0) Dec 22, 2012 Missouri

    I feel equally meh but also somewhat reserved in condemning variants... as I have actually enjoyed a few. Most recently Modus Mandarina.
  28. Tommo

    Tommo Champion (818) Sep 25, 2014 Texas

    Hops seem more intrinsic to beer, therefore changing it as a rotating series seems very natural to me. Adding random fruit juices to Every beer you make, less so
  29. zeff80

    zeff80 Poo-Bah (9,240) Feb 6, 2006 Missouri

    Duff, Duff Light and Duff Dry. Wait, that's not quite the same thing.
    lateralusbeer likes this.
  30. jmasher85

    jmasher85 Zealot (571) Mar 27, 2015 Maryland

    Just like Pokemon, multicolored iMac models in the 90's, and Marvel movies, it's just good marketing practice to take something popular and create as many different reasons for consumers to buy it as you can get away with.
    zid likes this.
  31. surfcaster

    surfcaster Crusader (755) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Seems like a bit of animosity/negativity in the responses--I don't get.

    A variant on a well liked beer--ok what's wrong with that? Might be really good.

    If they just called it a different name-would that be deceitful?

    Seems smart on their part to try something that seems to be going well-- they are in business to make $$$$$.

    And the Enjoy by Unfiltered-- quite a wonderful variant that to me was better than the original.
  32. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,705) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    Well it's easier and more cost effective to throw in the fruit vs blending hops to delicately achieve something along those same lines.
    hopnado likes this.
  33. AlienSwineFlu

    AlienSwineFlu Initiate (0) Dec 14, 2012 Ohio

    Because a lot of variants are good? Seems like an obvious answer.
    nc41 and surfcaster like this.
  34. raynmoon

    raynmoon Crusader (784) Aug 13, 2011 Colorado

    It's not variants are the game changer in market strategy, but constantly putting out new beer.

    People will always want to try new stuff. I think we're going to see less and less "year round" offerings from breweries.
    breadwinner likes this.
  35. MasterSki

    MasterSki Site Editor (6,669) Dec 25, 2006 Ontario (Canada)

    I'm more into Raspberry Duff, Lady Duff, and Tartar Control Duff
  36. AugustusRex

    AugustusRex Disciple (336) Apr 12, 2013 Ontario (Canada)

    He's right, the craft beer scene has ADHD. He didn't say its a good thing.
  37. PrestigeWorldwide

    PrestigeWorldwide Defender (616) Sep 22, 2015 Michigan

    Isn't this just a trend in general?

    How many different versions of poptarts are there now? Cheetos? Oreos? M&Ms? Gatorade? Coco-Cola?

    I think a lot of people tend to like variety/choices; it piques curiosity.
    Sparty1224 likes this.
  38. surfcaster

    surfcaster Crusader (755) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    The increase in "year rounds" is the appeal to the many in the disloyal beer geek crowd but for the majority of the really successful breweries, a few "year rounds" pay the bills for the ability to make the many seasonals/one offs/super specialties--sure there are exceptions.

    National examples-
    Bells Two Hearted
    Lag IPA
    Fat Tire
    Founders All Day and Centennial

    Locally (NC)
    Highland Gaelic
    NoDa HDR
    Wicked Weed Pernicious/Freak
    Foothills Jade/Hoppyum
    dennis3951 likes this.
  39. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,705) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    I'd add even though it's a rotating canning, Burials Scythe.
    surfcaster likes this.
  40. surfcaster

    surfcaster Crusader (755) Apr 20, 2013 North Carolina
    Society Trader

    Really impressed with those guys and that one in particular. Glad we can find it regularly here now.
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