Dogfish Head Unveils New Variety Pack; Founder Calls Commodity Craft a ‘Slippery Slope’

Dogfish Head is set to introduce a functional new variety pack, co-developed with packaging supplier WestRock, that will instantly transform into a leak-proof cooler with just a few scoops of ice.

Called the “Off-Center Your Summer Pack,” the new SKU, which will retail for as much as $22 in some markets, will feature four varieties of beer – 60 Minute IPA, SeaQuench Ale, Lupu-Luau IPA and Namaste White – and include a custom Dogfish Head koozie.

Consumers who buy the new variety 12-pack will also have the opportunity to win a trip to Dogfish Head’s home state of Delaware, and help the company prepare batches of its beer.

The objective, Dogfish founder and CEO Sam Calagione told Brewbound, is to add value to distributors and retailers while taking on competing “buck a bottle” craft options.

“It is a premium package compared to so many $15, 15-packs,” he said.

In a press release, the company said the new package “rallies against commodification and homogenization of craft beer.”

Speaking to Brewbound, Calagione challenged the strategy of releasing lower-priced, more approachable craft beer styles in larger pack sizes.

“True craft brewers that are engaging in this buck a bottle model run the risk of adversely affecting the whole indie craft brewing community,” he said. “It will be incredibly hard for them to sustain that pricing as an economic model.”

The concern, from Calagione’s point of view, is that retailers will begin dedicating more floor space and resources to cheaper craft beer options.

“Ultimately, all three tiers lose out because it could commodify craft into something consumers are only willing to pay a buck or two more than domestic light lager or premium beer,” he said. “It’s a slippery slope.”

Calagione, who has long advocated for a super high-end pricing strategy, said his company’s products retail for 40 percent more than the average craft beer.

According to market research firm IRI Worldwide, cases of Dogfish Head beer have sold for $52.01 compared to $37.13 for the average craft beer over the last 52 weeks.

“We are spending our time on the road the next couple weeks, talking about a shared interest in protecting margins for craft breweries, distributors and retailers alike,” he said. “There are more choices on a distributor’s totem pole that aren’t just about the stack ‘em high and let ‘em fly model.”

Calagione’s remarks come 10 days after Michigan’s Founders Brewing, one of the largest craft suppliers of 15-packs, said it would sell 24-packs of its 4.4 percent ABV Solid Gold lager for $18.99 in select markets.

“Solid Gold combines accessibility and affordability in a full-flavored premium lager, and it just makes sense to push the envelope with new packaging options that encourage trial and appeal to our consumers,” Founders CEO and co-founder Mike Stevens said via a press release.

Smaller craft breweries, such as Massachusetts’ Night Shift Brewing, are also pushing into a light lager space that is dominated by Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors.

Earlier this month, the Boston-area craft brewery said it would sell 12-packs of its 4.3 percent “Nite Lite” craft light lager at a “competitive” $14.99 price point.

“As we looked at opportunities in the market, we realized that our next big thing wasn’t in the typical craft brewery sandbox – it was in light beer,” Night Shift co-founder Rob Burns said via a press release. “If you look at existing light beer options, it becomes clear that there’s a lot of overlap: bland flavors, redundant branding, macro-brewery after macro-brewery. We think customers deserve better than this sea of sameness.”

For his part, Calagione said Dogfish has “never looked at the economics of a beer like that,” and instead pointed to the company’s 4.9 percent ABV, 140-calorie SeaQuench Ale as its play in the lighter beer space.

“It wouldn’t be authentic to the Dogfish Head brand to make a price sensitive, crisp light lager,” he said. “Instead, we’ve chosen to innovate in a way that involves our culinary and technical innovation prowess by brewing three traditional German styles – kolsch, berliner weisse and gose – and dosing in black lime, lime juice and sea salts to create a beer that is low in alcohol, and calories, but made from culinary ingredients that tell a story.”

“We only charge $11 a 6-pack, and we think it is still a great value,” he added.

SeaQuench is one of the four beers being offered in the company’s new functional multi-pack, which Calagione said Dogfish will have the exclusive rights to through the end of 2019.

A press release with additional information is below.

MILTON, Del. — Dogfish Head Craft Brewery is excited to announce the upcoming warm weather release of the Off-Center Your Summer Pack, an assortment of canned goodness all wrapped up in a variety 12-pack featuring cans of 60 Minute IPA, SeaQuench Ale, Lupu-Luau IPA and Namaste White. In addition to containing a broad selection of distinct beers, the Off-Center Your Summer Pack converts into a functional cooler (just pop it open and add ice). Each of these 12 packs, which will retail for approximately $20, includes a custom Dogfish Head KOOZIE® Can Kooler and offers consumers the chance to win a trip to coastal Delaware for a once-in-a-lifetime Dogfish Head experience. Winners get to hang out at Dogfish Head’s harbor front hotel and Rehoboth brewpub, but they will also be lending a hand at the brewery and helping prepare the pure culinary ingredients that go into these four delicious beers.

“At Dogfish, we’re committed to creativity and innovation through our diverse variety of beers and we couldn’t be more proud of our latest breakthrough in packaging as we introduce our new summer cooler packs,” said Sam Calagione, founder and CEO of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery. “My coworkers and I strive to deliver consistency, high-quality and a portfolio of well-differentiated beers to consumers and this new packaging will be a well-timed complement to our upcoming can-focused Off-Center Your Summer program as it combines all three goals into one icy cold pack.”

For 23 years, Dogfish has been innovating on the high-end of the beer industry in terms of recipes and ingredients. They are now continuing the fight against the commodification and homogenization of craft beer by bringing additional value and distinction to their portfolio through innovative packaging. “This is certainly a tumultuous, competitive moment in the U.S. beer market as more and more craft breweries and “crafty” breweries are discounting products, introducing very-low-priced new beers, and chasing after the one dollar a bottle price point,” said Calagione. “At Dogfish Head we believe multinational beverage conglomerates and the beer brands they own and control and market as if they come from small indie craft breweries, are the only entities that could potentially sustain the buck a beer model. This might be good for them but isn’t necessarily good for the craft beer marketplace and fan base. Dogfish is continuing to explore our own path by using real culinary ingredients in well-differentiated recipes which many consumers recognize as a great value as they spend a bit more per bottle on our beer. With this new 12-pack, we are adding value to our packaging while continuing to deliver higher than average profitability to distributors and retailers. We want them to be able to take their profit to the bank and we’re proud to pioneer this noble charge for commodification obliteration.”

Dogfish Head’s beers command $52.01 per case at retail compared to the average IRI-defined craft beer case which retails for $37.13 – a 40% premium. (SOURCE: IRi Total U.S. – Multi-Outlet + Convenience last 52 weeks ending 2/25/2018).

Dogfish developed the functional cooler design in partnership with WestRock, a leading paper and packaging company. Exclusive to Dogfish, the innovative package features a tear-open top – allowing the cooler to unfold for quick ice application, along with a leak resistant construction featuring wet-strength paperboard that can hold ice/water for up to six hours and built-in handles which makes it easy to transport—even when loaded with ice. “Mad props to our pals at WestRock and our Dogfish team who quickly took this opportunity from an idea to a reality in a short period of time allowing us to bring the cooler pack to market just in time for summer,” said Calagione.

The Off-Center Your Summer Pack contains four summer favorites including:

60 Minute IPA

  • A continually-hopped super-fantastic East Coast IPA (6% ABV) brewed with a slew of great Northwest hops for a powerful, but balanced, citrusy hop character.

SeaQuench Ale

  • The 2017 and 2018 Men’s Health Best Low Calorie Beer, this session sour (4.9% ABV) is a mash-up of a crisp Kolsch, a salty Gose, and a tart Berliner Weiss brewed in sequence with black limes, sour lime juice and sea salt to make this the most thirst-quenching beer Dogfish Head has ever brewed.

Lupu-Luau IPA

  • A coconut India Pale Ale (7.3% ABV) brewed with a tropical trifecta of toasted coconut, coconut water and an experimental hop which adds coconut aromas. This beer gets its natural haze from Pils malt, flaked barley and rolled oats.

Namaste White

  • A Belgian-style witbier (4.8% ABV) brewed with dried orange flesh and peel, fresh-cut lemongrass, a bit of coriander, peppercorns and a generous dose of good karma.

Inside the box, consumers will find a code to enter for a chance to win a weekend adventure for two to Dogfish Head. The trip includes a rare opportunity to brew the Off-Center Your Summer beers with the Dogfish brewers at the production facility in Milton, a two-night stay at the Dogfish Inn, a VIP Tour of the brewery and Happy Hour in the Steampunk Treehouse with Sam Calagione, dining options at the brewpub, Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, along with the seafood-centric Chesapeake & Maine, and an off-centered prize pack.

To learn more about Dogfish Head, visit www.dogfish.com.

About Dogfish Head:

Dogfish Head has proudly been focused on brewing beers with culinary ingredients outside the Reinheitsgebot since the day it opened as the smallest American craft brewery 23 years ago. Dogfish Head has grown into a top-20 craft brewery and has won numerous awards throughout the years including Wine Enthusiast’s 2015 Brewery of the Year and the James Beard Foundation Award for 2017 Outstanding Wine, Spirits, or Beer Professional. It is a 300+ coworker company based in Delaware with Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats, an off-centered brewpub and distillery, Chesapeake & Maine, a geographically enamored seafood restaurant, Dogfish Inn, a beer-themed inn on the harbor and Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, a production brewery and distillery featuring a tasting room and food truck. Dogfish Head supports the Independent Craft Brewing Seal, the definitive icon for American craft breweries to identify themselves to be independently-owned and carries the torch of transparency, brewing innovation and the freedom of choice originally forged by brewing community pioneers. Dogfish Head currently sells beer in 41 states and Washington D.C. and will expand into additional states in 2018. For more information, visit dogfish.com, Facebook: @dogfishheadbeer, Twitter: @dogfishbeer, and Instagram: dogfishhead.

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