What's the difference between contract and tenant brewer?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by brureview, Oct 16, 2014.

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  1. brureview

    brureview Poo-Bah (1,712) Jan 20, 2012 Massachusetts

    I understand that Pretty Things and Evil Twin are "Gypsy" or "tenant" Brewers and rent time in other breweries to brew their beer, and they are the master brewers.

    In contract brewing, is the brewing supervised only by a master brewer from the contract brewery?
    For Notch and Slumbrew, how much input would they give to the contract brewery, such as the recipe, ingredients, labels, etc.?
  2. drtth

    drtth Poo-Bah (4,006) Nov 25, 2007 Pennsylvania

    This article will be helpful in answering most of your questions.

  3. bulletrain76

    bulletrain76 Defender (613) Nov 6, 2007 California

    They are all contract brewers. Those other terms are made up my the brewers themselves to try and set themselves apart and have no legal distinction. In the case of Pretty Things, I thinck it is accurate because they operate the brewery themselves but don't own it, much like a tenant. That being said, there is still a degree of control over the beer that is lost when you to not have direct control over the brewery from the time you receive raw materials to the time the packaged beer is shipped out. If you do not own the brewery, you will never have full responsibility for the quality of the product.

    As far as Evil Twin goes, I always got the impression that he works out recipes with the breweries he works with and then they either make the beer without him or he just comes and helps out a bit on brew day. Jeppe sure posts a lot of pictures of their brewing so I think he is more involved than most contract brewers, but I don't think he is ever in for a solo brew day.

    The opposite end of contracting is what Firestone Walker does for Trader Joes or Nectar Ales, where the beer is ordered and then completely conceived and brewed by the brewery on their own with no recipe or physical input from the other companies.
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  4. nickfl

    nickfl Poo-Bah (3,613) Mar 7, 2006 Florida

    Yeah, I seen Jeppe quoted as saying he doesn't actually like to brew beer and thats why he's a contract brewer, so he can have other people do the dirty work.
  5. Todd

    Todd Founder (5,979) Aug 23, 1996 California
    Staff Moderator Fest Crew Society

  6. brureview

    brureview Poo-Bah (1,712) Jan 20, 2012 Massachusetts

  7. BottleCaps80

    BottleCaps80 Defender (620) Jan 12, 2013 Iowa

    Firestone Walker doesn't contract for Trader Joes or Nectar Ales any longer. Trader Joes beer is now contracted with Golden Road Brewery and Nectar Ales was the name Firestone Walker gave to Humboldt Brewing after they bought them out in 2005. In 2013, Humboldt Brewing bought back the "Nectar Ales" line and are now brewing the beers under their own name of Humboldt Brewing. Firestone doesn't contract brew any longer as far as I'm aware.
  8. brureview

    brureview Poo-Bah (1,712) Jan 20, 2012 Massachusetts

    If Unibroue still brews for Trader Joes, are they also a contract brewery?
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  9. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,849) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    The more common terminology would just be that Unibroue brews a "private label" beer for Trader Joe's - Trader Joe's (like many other retail chains and bars) does not pretend to be a "brewery", even when they use a dba brewery name different than the actual name of the brewing company.
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  10. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,849) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    The importer, Total Beverage Solutions, bought the "Nectar Ales" line from Firestone-Walker and reverted to the original "Humboldt Brewing Co." name as their dba, but according to their website, the beers are still contract-brewed by Firestone-Walker:
  11. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,849) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    The brewers working under "Alternating Proprietorships" and using the ethnically-insensitive "Gypsy" terminology like to suggest that the legal difference between them and "contract brewers" is in who brews the beer. But, as the linked TTB memo notes, it is more a matter of who owns the ingredients, packaging, the finished beer, pays the taxes, etc., not who the brewmaster is, who pays his salary or whose employees brew the beer.
    The two largest US contract brewers in the US, Pabst and (formerly) Boston Beer Co., both employed "brewmasters" and other employees who they claimed were onsite at their contractor's breweries.
  12. mschofield

    mschofield Meyvn (1,356) Oct 16, 2002 Massachusetts

    So from those links - Legally a 'tenant' brewer is part of an alternating proprietorship. Whether all of the people calling themselves 'tenants' are truly qualified for that term - who knows.
  13. HuskyHawk

    HuskyHawk Disciple (396) Jun 5, 2014 Massachusetts

    So Two Roads is the contract brewer for Sip of Sunshine, even if Lawson's participates. It seems that Pretty Things is a tenant brewer, leasing, but not owning the brewery, but conducting all aspects of creation of the beer.
  14. mschofield

    mschofield Meyvn (1,356) Oct 16, 2002 Massachusetts

    I don't think Pretty Things ever claimed to be a Tenant brewer, they say they're not a brewery they're an idea or a project. Their labels are licensed under Buzzard's Bay's brewing permit BR-MA-BUZ-1
    for example the approval for Bocky https://www.ttbonline.gov/colasonli...publicDisplaySearchBasic&ttbid=14233001000029

    In contrast Heretic operates under an AP with E.J. Phair, the Heretic labels are licensed under BR-CA-HER-15003

    while E.J. Phair is BR-CA-PHA-1
  15. ChrisLohring

    ChrisLohring Initiate (100) Jan 25, 2010 Massachusetts

    The license you hold, or the license you brew under, has nothing to do with your level of involvement. I (Notch) brew the beer at one facility, because I was a brewer there at one point, but hold no license there (royalty arrangement). I only supervise at another facility, because the brew house is fully automated, yet I have a Fed TTB AP license (tenant).

    I can only speak for Notch and what I do, but understanding who has what license, or what they call themselves, has zero to do with the level of involvement. And what is a brewer? It's far more than creating wort.
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  16. UCLABrewN84

    UCLABrewN84 Poo-Bah (13,523) Mar 18, 2010 California

    They will be in the future for Russian River Pliny.
  17. bulletrain76

    bulletrain76 Defender (613) Nov 6, 2007 California

    Firestone Walker still contracts with Trader Joes, though it will end soon. I'm nor really sure where the idea that it has already ended has come from. Go to Trader Joes and see for yourself. The Nectar/Humboldt situation has already been explained above. Total Beverage Solution bought the brands from Firestone Walker with the agreement that the beers would continue to be brewed under contract for a period of time before a replacement brewer could be secured. After that sale, they decided to bring back the Humboldt Brewing name for the beers, but it remains a brand name used by one company to sell beer made by another.
  18. BottleCaps80

    BottleCaps80 Defender (620) Jan 12, 2013 Iowa

  19. bulletrain76

    bulletrain76 Defender (613) Nov 6, 2007 California

  20. beergrrl

    beergrrl Initiate (168) Dec 9, 2003 New Hampshire

    Contract brewers have someone else make beer, generally to some specification, but under another's brewers federal and state permits. These are colloquially known as beer marketing companies.

    Tenant brewers lease or co-own facilities with one or more other brewers, each holding their own fed and state permits. Comingling of raw materials and taxable beer is forbidden by ttb although sharing of labor can be done under strict terms. Think ... Shared commercial kitchen.

    A big difference is the state level licensing. A tenant brewer should enjoy all the privileges of a standalone brewery.
  21. patto1ro

    patto1ro Zealot (535) Apr 26, 2004 Netherlands

    Pretty sure Pretty Things operates under an alternating proprietorship.
  22. mschofield

    mschofield Meyvn (1,356) Oct 16, 2002 Massachusetts

    They certainly do all of the work, kind of illustrates whatever regulatory definition a brewer falls into doesn't necessarily matter
  23. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Meyvn (1,464) Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    One friend had an alternating propietership, he had the brewery 2 days a week, owned the fermenters for his beer and his bottling line. The brewery was his 2 days a week, he wasn't on site the other 3, and the other brewer was not on site when he had it.

    I understand that Heretic now has their own brewery in Fairfield CA. The AP got them started.
  24. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,849) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    It should also be noted that within the industry at least (i.e., beyond the legal technicalities noted by the TTB) Alternating Proprietorships are considered a form of contract brewing. Note this section of the "Contract Brewing" entry in The Oxford Companion on Beer, written by Brooklyn brewer and editor Garrett Oliver:

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