Why are some brewers withholding info about their beer?

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by brureview, Oct 11, 2019 at 1:36 AM.

  1. brureview

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

    I have noticed in the past year that more breweries, mostly newer ones, are withholding info about hops, malts, IBUs, and other info about a beer on their labels.

    Craft beer is about sharing info, collaboration, and letting the beer geek know about how a beer is brewed. IBUs are rarely listed, and increasingly, I have to guess the hop profile.

    What’s this secrecy all about? Guarding proprietary info? Oh, come on. The IBUs are “classified” for new Jaegermeister collab with Stone. Makes me not want to buy this beer or bother to look for it.

    Thoughts about this?
    #1 brureview, Oct 11, 2019 at 1:36 AM
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2019 at 1:41 AM
  2. FatBoyGotSwagger

    FatBoyGotSwagger Meyvn (1,363) Apr 4, 2009 Pennsylvania

    I feel that a lot of the newer local breweries that put out a new IPA or two every week use essentially the same recipe each time. If they fully disclosed ingredients it would become redundant. Changing up a hop used or adding something like lactose or a fruit to make the pony do another trick.
  3. nc41

    nc41 Poo-Bah (1,938) Sep 25, 2008 North Carolina

    Releasing components are no big deal, the ratios aren’t a known, so telling you what they use should be of no concern. But it does point to the incredibly competitive craft market right now.
  4. Bitterbill

    Bitterbill Poo-Bah (6,833) Sep 14, 2002 Wyoming
    Society Trader

    There's no requirement to do so, so...I reckon that we just will have to live with it. Shrugs.
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  5. VitisVinifera

    VitisVinifera Initiate (124) Feb 25, 2013 California

    Right, ingredients aren't required by TTB labeling. It's the brewery's decision, and sometimes more is less, and label design and aesthetics are the focus.

    To me it seems the more localized the brewery, where freshness is key, I'll see those ingredients and particulars listed on their board.
  6. Beer_Stan

    Beer_Stan Initiate (121) Mar 15, 2014 California

    I agree with this notion in that a lot of breweries don't put things out there they feel could hurt them if you read it before trying it...like canned on dates lol
  7. rozzom

    rozzom Champion (821) Jan 22, 2011 New York

    Classified IBUs are the least of the jaegermeister x stone collab’s issues
  8. SoCal_Matt

    SoCal_Matt Disciple (331) Jul 13, 2014 California

    This definitely bothers me as well. The more info the better. With so many choices available, I rely on information to differentiate beers and make a buying decision. The days of just blindly purchasing beer are over for me, mostly because I think it is completely unnecessary. If a beer or brewery does not provide information then I usually won't even consider buying it. No brewed/canned on date? Pass (unless I know it's a recent release). No hop profile? Pass. I know which hops I generally prefer at this point and tend to gravitate towards beers with them in their profile. I don't know why anyone would want to withhold this information because I only see doing so as a disadvantage these days. I've posted this before, but Modern Times really does an excellent job with their labeling (at least on their core beers and quarterly releases). All the info is there including a description plus a date on the bottom of the can and ABV on the side. Perfect labeling IMO.

  9. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (2,487) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    I never hear about breweries taking action against other breweries for copying a recipe and releasing a new beer to enhance their profits, so breweries appear to have a code of conduct and they respect each other's successful recipes. Vinnie Cilurzo, owner and brewer at Russian River, has gone so far as to release his recipe for Pliny the Elder in a 5-gallon batch size, and to my knowledge, no other brewery has released a copied version of Pliny. So he's apparently okay with releasing info, and is not worried.
  10. SoCal_Matt

    SoCal_Matt Disciple (331) Jul 13, 2014 California

    I see your point but I think that the flip side of that is way more important. Let's say I purchase a beer that is way out of date but I don't know that because there's no code. I drink the beer and my impression is not great. Now I just think that they suck at brewing beer and will not purchase anything else from them again.

    The above scenario is way worse than if I forget to check the code, taste the beer, poor impression, BUT I find an out of date code on the bottom after the fact. In this case I would likely give them another chance and could end up liking their beer and becoming a loyal customer.
    GuyFawkes, EMH73, stevepat and 5 others like this.
  11. jasonmason

    jasonmason Initiate (179) Oct 6, 2004 California

    Hate to break this to you, but the 'classified IBUs' thing has been part of their schtick with Arrogant Bastard for as long as they're been making it...for the past 20+ years.
    Roguer, maddogruss, Ranbot and 8 others like this.
  12. dennis3951

    dennis3951 Savant (919) Mar 6, 2008 New Jersey

    There is no doubt that is what they do. 2 brewers have told me that. I don't think it's a big deal.
    FatBoyGotSwagger and PatrickCT like this.
  13. InVinoVeritas

    InVinoVeritas Devotee (430) Apr 16, 2012 Wisconsin

    False, beer making is a business and business owners are free to do as they see fit; either disclosing believing that transparency has greater business value than secrecy or not.
  14. Peach63

    Peach63 Aspirant (208) Jul 17, 2019 New York

    I believe I've seen the Pliny recipe somewhere but I've yet to brew it. I'll have to find it a again and give it a go.:beer:
  15. beergoot

    beergoot Poo-Bah (5,087) Oct 11, 2010 Colorado
    Society Trader

  16. PapaGoose03

    PapaGoose03 Poo-Bah (2,487) May 30, 2005 Michigan

    I've brewed it once, and it is a very accurate version of the real Pliny. It has been posted a few times in the Homebrewing forum here if you want to do a search there. There is also a Pliny the Younger recipe floating around the web. I don't recall if it is available here in the Homebrewing forum, but I got a copy of it from somewhere. I have yet to brew it.
    Peach63 likes this.
  17. Peach63

    Peach63 Aspirant (208) Jul 17, 2019 New York

    I found it. It's in my Best of Brew Your Own 150 Classic Clone Recipes magazine. No Younger recipe tho.
    PapaGoose03 likes this.
  18. Peach63

    Peach63 Aspirant (208) Jul 17, 2019 New York

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  19. brureview

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

    Excellent feedback. I find that my favorite breweries usually let craft beer drinkers know about the brewing ingredients and process. This is true for a number of Boston area brewers, and in New England. It’s bad enough a number of newer brewers don’t list the brewing date, but the craft beer movement is all about sharing brewing concepts- so far.

    Back in the 80’s, Boston and the Bay Area in California had the best coffee, until big money bought out the smaller companies. Coffee styles are not individualized like they used to be. Coffee Connection in the Boston area was bought out by Charbucks, and Peets was also bought out.

    Hopefully, craft beer won’t go in this direction.
    NeroFiddled likes this.
  20. Squire

    Squire Poo-Bah (2,306) Jul 16, 2015 Mississippi
    Society Trader

    The more information they release the greater chance I'll buy it.
  21. pat61

    pat61 Poo-Bah (5,608) Dec 29, 2010 Minnesota

    I can't agree more with Squire.
    I would at least like to know the package date and the abv. Any other info is welcome and might encourage me to buy the beer. Some of the lack of info may be due to packaging. There may be variations, however slight, between batches that might require reprinting the can.
    Barettes, bmugan and Squire like this.
  22. billandsuz

    billandsuz Devotee (408) Sep 1, 2004 New York

    Speaking about IBUs, I am certain many brewers that are seriously trying to make a presentable beer resent being judged based on a printed number. More is better, right? So how could this 55 IBU beer be worth my money? The 80 IBU beer next to it is better. Or conversely for those who habitually say things like "I don't like bitter beer, do you have any IPA's that aren't bitter?" Those people.

    That and despite the knowledge and confidence in these parts the overwhelming majority of buyers, even of craft, have next to no idea what C-60 is or the difference between Vienna Malt and Continental Pilsner Malt. Or care. For that matter the vast majority of BA doesn't know either.

    So if you like it and want to know, ask the brewer. They'll tell you.
    Detailed ingredient lists are not much more than brewer sleight of hand.

  23. TheIPAHunter

    TheIPAHunter Poo-Bah (2,097) Aug 12, 2007 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    I don't mind guessing the hop profile. What I seriously mind is not listing the abv or the canning date. To me, that is reprehensible. Cheers.
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  24. MaltheadWeirdo

    MaltheadWeirdo Aspirant (224) Nov 18, 2015 Pennsylvania

    Exactly, there are way too many new beers out there to just try everything, no matter how tempting that may be.

    There's a brewery near me that seems to literally put out a new IPA every month, if not more often. I don't think I've had more than one or two of them.
    Squire likes this.
  25. thesherrybomber

    thesherrybomber Initiate (140) Jun 13, 2017 California

    Is that legal? Not listing ABV, I mean
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  26. TheIPAHunter

    TheIPAHunter Poo-Bah (2,097) Aug 12, 2007 Pennsylvania
    Society Trader

    Ask @jesskidden; I have no clue. All I know is that New Trail is brewing a new hazy IPA like every week, it seems, and they never list the abv or canning date. It enrages me. The only reason I know they're fresh is because my gf sends me the info from IG. Cheers!
  27. drtth

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

    Not required at the Federal level. May, or may not be required by the State.
  28. halfliter

    halfliter Initiate (16) Jun 26, 2019 Connecticut

    Maybe you only need ABV for distro?

    There's a place semi-local to me that came out with a green beer and wouldn't respond to social media questions about what makes it green.
  29. jesskidden

    jesskidden Poo-Bah (1,850) Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey
    Society Trader

    Someone already did :grin:
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  30. stevepat

    stevepat Crusader (772) Mar 12, 2013 California

    I thin more of this comes down to aesthetic choices for branding, like @VitisVinifera noted, then any desire to conceal. To me, I want a style descriptor including any unusual flavoring ingredients, abv, and packaged date and I'm happy to make my own choices.
    I personally do like more involved ingredient lists and like MTs design. Another one info fiends will appreciate is BareBottle from SF, they put a 5 gallon batch recipe on every bottle label I've seen
  31. ryan1788a5

    ryan1788a5 Poo-Bah (1,962) Nov 27, 2009 Massachusetts

    I wouldn't accuse a brewery of "witholding info" because they aren't listing all the specs you're looking for on the label. As others have mentioned, it could just be an aesthetic choice. I could see it as a valid complaint if you went to their website and they didn't list anything further there either. I do sympathize with frustrations as to breweries not providing a code date or something simple and rather important like abv, though.

    As for IBUs, many brewers deliberately do not list it because it is so arbitrary. It just doesn't matter. Listing IBUs actually does nothing to tell you how bitter or hoppy a beer will taste. It's all relative to whatever else goes into the recipe. A 40 IBU pale ale can taste far more hoppy than a 90 IBU imperial stout that's chock full of malt, for instance.
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  32. ryan1788a5

    ryan1788a5 Poo-Bah (1,962) Nov 27, 2009 Massachusetts

    As far as I know, there's actually no way to take legal action, as there's no legal way to protect a beer recipe. Only brands, names, logos, and such can be trademarked and legally protected. If someone knows a recipe, there's nothing to stop them from reproducing and selling it, as long as they do it under a different name.
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  33. MostlyNorwegian

    MostlyNorwegian Zealot (528) Feb 5, 2013 Illinois

    This predicament of buying taste blind which you describe is nothing new, and it isn't about guarding anything in particular for the breweries I presume you are talking about here.
    There also really isn't much to guard when you are still buying your hops on the spot market, and are hitting up the local breweries forums every other week because your grain order got screwed up, (again).
    That's two different sets of issues you are actively describing, actually.
    The end consumer, and the breweries themselves.
    drtth likes this.
  34. HouseofWortship

    HouseofWortship Defender (665) May 3, 2016 Illinois

    If Stone was guarding proprietary information about ABVs they probably wouldn't have them pop up when you hover over the beers on their web-site. I would agree with the other posters- if there aren't requirements to force you to put it on it's probably an aesthetics thing...unless they determined leaving off 4 characters on a painted beer bottle leads to significant cost savings....
  35. honkey

    honkey Zealot (569) Aug 28, 2010 Arizona
    Society Industry

    For the most part, IBU’s are like points on Whose Line Is It Anyways... they’re made up and they don’t really matter. For hop varieties, I list them on almost all of my beers, but still flavor descriptors of the hop profile is more telling than the variety used. Especially with how much more variance there is among varieties as acreage has increased, not a whole lot is learned from just having the variety listed.
  36. stevepat

    stevepat Crusader (772) Mar 12, 2013 California

    For Hop varieties it definitely seems like a double edged sword. Real hop nerds have their favorite varieties and combos and often their favorites for each of their regular breweries. But for your average beer consumer that info is beyond meaningless and might be actively intimidating/confusing, for most people flavor profiles are going to be a better sales pitch.
    It definitely just comes down to aesthetic choices about your brand
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  37. mambossa

    mambossa Disciple (388) Jun 30, 2015 Ohio

    the IBUs on Arrogant Bastard have always been “classified”. I once emailed Stone about their recipe for Ripper and they wouldn’t tell me anything other than they use some form of Carafa in the grist.
  38. marquis

    marquis Crusader (774) Nov 20, 2005 United Kingdom (England)

    A few years ago a man called Dave Line published a book called "Brewing beers like those you buy"
    He went from brewery to brewery and received a surprising level of help and support while compiling recipes.
    The problem lay in going from very large scale to just a few gallons : simply scaling down the quantities just didn't work. Eventually recipes were created which matched the beers pretty well, but often included ingredients not used in the brewery yet left out some that were.

    Amateur small scale brewing can produce strange results, once a neighbour and I brewed a 10 gallon batch in his large copper. I took half home, we each fermented and casked our 5 gallons. The beers turned out significantly different from each other.
  39. Beer_Stan

    Beer_Stan Initiate (121) Mar 15, 2014 California

    I agree with you but if these smaller guys can generate enough hype they tend not to care and can generate a solid cash flow making the same beer over and over, maybe changing a hop every now and then under several different labels. So they hide the ingredients from those who would otherwise care and leave off the dates because these beers aren't for those who tend to check, these beers are made as a commodity "for the 'gram" lol. As for the larger breweries that presumably partake in such behavior, I haven't a clue what their excuses are.
    jasonmason likes this.
  40. Steins_68

    Steins_68 Initiate (50) Mar 24, 2012 Illinois

    For me the fun in replicating a recipe is taking imperfect information from a variety of sources (i.e., the brewery’s website, home brewing forums, etc.) and then developing a recipe that I think makes sense. Then through multiple iterations I enjoy figuring out what needs to be adjusted to get to a final product that resembles the beer I am trying to replicate. If I am given the recipe it takes the challenge out of the process. And from a business perspective, all commercial brewers (including craft brewers) are trying to make a profit by brewing beer. With that said, why would any of them want to give anyone the exact recipe?
    StubFaceJoe likes this.