If Austin Beerworks has 99 problems, a massive multi-pack certainly isn’t one.
In an effort to help re-launch its sessionable year-round offering Peacemaker Extra Pale as “Peacemaker Anytime Ale,” the Texas-based craft brewery today rolled out an enormous, Texas-sized 99-pack of the 5 percent ABV golden ale.
Packaged in cardboard, the multi-pack is seven feet long, weighs 82 lbs., and sells for $99 at Austin package stores.
“Peacemaker is a beer that we have always thought deserved more attention,” said Austin Beerworks co-founder Michael Graham. “We wanted to do something big to help reset people’s impression of it.”
The brewery originally described Peacemaker as “extra pale” because of its color, but consumers were confusing the beer for a more hop-forward pale ale, which prompted the company to make a change and charge up the marketing behind it.
Austin Beerworks turned to creative firm Helms Workshop, an Austin-based company that has also worked with Modern Times Beer and Fullsteam Brewery. The idea, Graham said, was born over a round of beers during the two companies’ weekly meeting.
“Most of the ideas we end up executing are our ideas, but they [Helms Workshop] make them more polished and prettier than we ever could,” he said. “It’s been really helpful to have an outside perspective on things. We get so caught up in our little craft beer world and we lose sight of things sometimes.”
With the wheels in motion, Austin Beerworks then turned to one of its packaging suppliers, Pollock Paper, to help engineer a box that would not only grab people’s attention but also bear the load of 99 beers. The result? An elongated multi-pack that takes at least two people to carry.
“They jumped at the chance to work on a special one-off project,” said Graham. “We could have created a much simpler box, but what makes this stand out is the awkward shape of it.”
And that’s exactly what the company was aiming for.
“I think we have become known, in Austin anyways, as a silly brewery that likes to have a good time,” he said. “We don’t take anything seriously other than the beer itself and this project reinforces that.”
Austin Beerworks purchased 1,500 of the specialty boxes but doesn’t plan to release all of them at once.Instead, the 99-packs will only be available for a couple of months and then could roll out again as special promotional item next year, Graham said.
“This is the fun part of working in the beer industry,” he said. “We are going to write it off as an advertising expense.”
Austin Beerworks, which sold its first keg in May of 2011, has grown steadily over the last three years. The company brewed 5,200 barrels of beer in 2012 and expects to produce about 14,000 this year.
Austin Beerworks also self-distributes all of the beer it makes throughout a 20-mile radius of the brewery, which helped to make the 99-pack a reality, Graham said.
“Right now, we feel like distributing in Austin is pretty easy for us and it also allows us to do these creative projects,” he said. “If we did this and approached a distributor with these ridiculous, cumbersome boxes, they wouldn’t go for it. Being independent and self-distributing has really allowed us to run the brewery the way we want to.”
Maybe not, but the clever stunt has certainly caught the attention of both consumers and wholesalers alike. Just this week the company has fielded over 100 requests from distributors, retailers and consumers asking how they can purchase the package, Graham said.
“We’ve received a lot more exposure than we expected,” he said. “ No matter how many times we say it is a real thing, people still don’t believe us. It is such a silly, impractical, cumbersome thing and I would probably doubt it myself.”
But rest assured, the 99-pack does actually exist, though Graham may be having second thoughts.
“It would probably be better if it wasn’t real, but its too late now,” he said. “This project doesn’t make economic sense. The more we sell, the more we lose.”