business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week, we noted that there were reports that some brewers are trying to improve the beer category’s flat performance by “refining and updating a wide array of traditional European beer styles and working on the cutting edge to develop genre-busting ‘extreme brews.’”

Now, BrandWeek reports on just such an offering: “Jim Koch, founder of brewer Samuel Adams, has made a bottle of beer that consumers will age in their wine racks. At least, that's the plan. Sam Adams Utopias 2005, which boasts 25% alcohol content by volume versus the usual 4% or 5%.”

Koch explains his thinking:

  • ”The craft beer revolution has largely been about reviving and bringing to the United States classic styles of beer, most of which were developed elsewhere. As an American brewer I felt it was my turn to step up and create wonderful styles of beer here in the United States.”

  • “I wanted to prove that beer had all the quality and dignity and wonderfulness of any alcoholic beverage. That I could make a beer that would compare favorably to any alcoholic beverage ever made.”

  • “I would say that craft beers share many traits with wine and spirits such as more flavor, more variety, more perceived quality and image, higher price, authenticity and a heritage. Sam Adams is small; we're a half a percent market share. I don't think Sam Adams can be the salvation of the beer category but the values and image that we can add to the overall beer category can make a difference. Our volume won't. But the statements we can make about the quality and excitement about beer can help the whole category.”
  • KC's View:
    This last statement most interested us, because you have the CEO of a company with a relatively miniscule market share who, rather than playing defense and whining about the shape and the tilt of the playing field, is instead trying to define the game his own way.

    Can you imagine if a retailer said, “The statements we can make about the quality and excitement about food shopping can help the whole category…”?

    Some have, and some do. Wegmans. Ukrops. HEB. And others.

    But not enough, which is why so many have trouble competing in an unforgiving marketplace.