It's been a while since I've been on the blogosphere. I got tired of locals criticizing me on my local newspapers site for talking too much about beer. Let's see how things go here.
I was hoping for a monumental return to blogging, but instead I'm going to be talking about about a local story, and how it reflects the broader beer industry. Hopefully though, my posts in the future won't be as beer-centric, but will broaden to being a foodie in rural America. Now, onto the beer.
Yesterday I got a phone call from a local newspaper reporter seeking comment from the local beer expert (me?) on Cold Spring Brewing stopping production of the Gluek brand. After I got over being a little surprised that they called me, I got on to thinking about the departure of this well known local brand. The rights and recipe for Gluek were purchased by Cold Spring Brewing in the mid 1990's, and shortly after the brewery changed it's name to Gluek Brewing (They changed back a few years ago, perhaps a foreshadowing, though many people never stopped calling them Cold Spring). Gluek was your average American regional adjunct lager, cutting quality to be able to cut costs low enough to compete with the big producers like Bud and Miller.
In college, we drank a fare amount of Gluek being as it was 10 minutes away and generally under $10 a case. But even then, as underagers just looking for anything, we quickly graduated to other beers, Gluek products just weren't that good. And now, as their main market ages and they are unable to compete with the advertising of AB-InBev and MillerCoors, they're cutting their losses. Smart move from an economics point of view. They can transition brewing capacity to more profitable brews like John Henry III Lick Spiker Ale and contract brewing for companies like 21st Amendment, All American and for the time being, Liftbridge. I've also heard that one of the brewers is working on a pre-prohibition pilsner.
And then there's the energy drinks and malternatives.In addition to brewing beer, Cold Spring also produces a huge amount of energy drinks and things like Cold Spring Cran Razz, Hard Lemonade Hard Sweet Tea and "Hard Sparkling Pomegranate Acai Berry". Whatever that is.
So in reality, Cold Spring is just taking the path that most of us craft beer geeks associate with the rising popularity of Craft beer. But they're taking it from a different angle. The way they see it, people don't want more craft beer, they just want less crap beer. And Cold Spring is realizing that may come in the form of Craft Beer (so they have one brand of their own and are contracting for others) or it may come in the form of malternativs/progressive adult beverages/energy drinks, whatever. You can see this happening in other brands as well. Look at Budweiser. Bud Light Lime is in now way an attempt to be a craft beer. It's halfway to a malternative instead. Bud Light Wheat, on the other hand is trying to dip into craft sales.
I'll be interested to see how other brewers in the area react to this. But for the grace of the god of beer this could have been August Schell's, a similarly aged and venerable brewery in the area. Sales of their Premium should get a little bump as those looking to buy local have one less choice.