#5QuestionsWith – PorchDrinking.com
It is still the biggest news to come out of the craft beer industry this year: Boston Beer Company purchased Dogfish Head Brewery for a reported sum of $300 million. The move merges the two brands under the collective roof of Boston Beer Company bringing together the 2nd (Boston Beer Co.) and 13th (Dogfish Head) biggest producers of craft beer in the U.S. It’s a massive move that caused shockwaves throughout the craft beer industry and beyond. Craft beer is no longer in its startup phase: It is big business, which sometimes warrants massive moves that can shift the entire trajectory of the market with it.
Of course, Boston Beer Company bringing the Dogfish Head brand onboard also comes with the totemic leadership of its founder, Sam Calagione, who will sit on Boston Beer Company’s Board of Directors. Calagione has always been an outspoken and vibrant voice in the craft beer community who frequently zigs where others zags and takes pride in the innovative spirit on which Dogfish Head has built its market share. With the new merger comes a new role for Sam and a new path for Dogfish. In the days following, beer drinkers have voiced valid concerns that the Dogfish brand might get diluted or complacent post-acquisition. True to form, Calagione thinks otherwise and is rather bullish on what the merger can do for his brewery.
I asked Sam five questions about what life looks like for Dogfish Head in a post-merger world, what beer fans can expect from the brewery, the collaboration opportunities that are now available with Boston Beer Company and more. Here’s what he said.
A brewer’s influence can expand well beyond the beer you buy in a taproom or the cans you see on shelves. Craft brewers today realize that their presence in their local communities can inspire positive change and network effects that help their neighbors and taproom regulars alike. Athens, GA-based Creature Comforts Brewing Co. is one of the breweries defining what it means for a brewer to be authentically connected to their community. In early 2018, Creature Comforts hired Matt Stevens to be their Community and Culture Director; his job description includes running their Get Comfortable and Get Artistic charity initiatives.
Consistency is hard to replicate in any industry; it’s especially difficult in the craft beer market. Churning out a consistently excellent product that resonates with consumers and drives a positive bottom line is no small feat; even for the most established brewers, like Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery.
Amidst the sustained success of their hallmark IPA, Fresh Squeezed, Deschutes has brought new beers and new branding into the fold to better compete with a slew of newcomers and new beer styles. Amidst all of this market churn, it’s important to have a consistent element; which is where Veronica Vega, Deschutes’ Director of Product Development comes in.
Brewing beer is hard. Starting a brewery is even harder. Along with making the beer that keeps the lights on, there’s logistics, staff, space and marketing workflows that need to be addressed and accounted for. It’s a big undertaking that takes a certain sense of passion and entrepreneurship; many brewers often say it’s a calling. This was the case for Peter Bouckaert when he decided to open up Purpose Brewing & Cellars last year.
Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company has been around for a long time (more than 25 years) and its beer portfolio has changed and adapted as the craft beer market grew up. While their excellent sour beer program and iconic Fat Tire Amber Ale remain staples of their lineup, New Belgium has made some interesting shifts in their IPA portfolio over the past few years to appeal to a younger, more adventurous and IPA-crazed beer drinking demographic. New Belgium retired their Ranger IPA in 2017 but the ethos of that brand now lives on in their popular Voodoo Ranger IPA lineup.