For its second quarter-century, Cisco Brewers is debuting a new look and two new beers.
The Nantucket, Massachusetts-based brand, which was acquired by Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) in 2018, has refreshed its branding and packaging with the launch of a new summer seasonal offering, Summer Rays golden ale, and a new year-round New England-style IPA, Wandering Haze.
Summer Rays launched in April, and Wandering Haze will roll out in June.
“We come with an authenticity, being from Nantucket,” senior director of marketing Marimé Riancho told Brewbound. “We wanted to be a proponent for refreshing beers that reflect that New England coastal summer lifestyle.”
Cisco was founded in 1995 on Nantucket, an island off the coast of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod. Since CBA’s acquisition of the brand, the Portland, Oregon-headquartered craft beer manufacturer has expanded Cisco’s presence in mainland New England with a seasonal pop-up beer garden in Boston’s Seaport District and the rebranding of the Red Hook taproom in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, as a Cisco location. The future of the seasonal beer garden remains uncertain, as social distancing measures to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus remain in place in the city, a CBA spokesperson said.
Cisco’s new logo features its iconic “C” with ocean waves replacing the previous graphic sun design. Similar nautical imagery will be included on the rest of the brand’s packaging, and the conversion to new art is expected to be completed by the fall.
“Each brand in the portfolio will feature a unique color scheme and bold iconography – such as the whale’s tail on best-seller Whale’s Tale Pale Ale – set against an ocean horizon with a lighthouse-studded Nantucket Island in the background,” Cisco wrote in a press release.
The COVID-19 pandemic and its shutdown of on-premise accounts across the country forced Cisco to alter plans for the Summer Rays release. The company had planned to launch Summer Rays on draft in April, followed by packaged product in May, but the pandemic rendered those plans impossible. Riancho and her team consulted with the brand’s wholesaler partners on the launch, who urged the company to forge ahead with the release of Summer Rays in cans.
“One of the decisions right after we decided to keep going was ‘Let’s just package draft — let’s get out to market with package even earlier,’” she said.
Summer Rays will be available in 12-packs of 12 oz. cans and 4-packs of 16 oz. cans, but not bottles. The departure from glass is new for Cisco, but necessary, as consumers’ preference for cans has continued to grow stronger each year.
“We weren’t doing well in bottles, and our portfolio was dependent on bottles,” Riancho said. “The newer ones, we’re launching in cans, and we added a 16 oz. can format to the portfolio.”
Summer Rays checks in at 4.4% and uses Galaxy, Azacca, Saaz and Citra hops. Wandering Haze checks in at 6.8% ABV.
“A strong New England brand should have a proper New England IPA,” Riancho said.
The brand refresh follows a 2019 in which Cisco’s volumes declined 16%, to 18,000 barrels. Cisco’s volumes have declined each year since the brand’s 2015 peak of 30,000 barrels, according to the May/June issue of the Brewers Association’s New Brewer magazine.
However, CBA is betting on a rebound for the brand. Cisco’s off-premise-weighted portfolio, new releases and wholesaler relationships positions the brand for growth in the coming months, Riancho said.
“Right now, we are actually feeling well-prepared for growth,” she said. “The biggest part of the driver of the brand is our package versus our pubs, so the fact that we’re launching [new products], we’re creating new news, our wholesalers are supporting us, continues to prepare us well, even through COVID-19.”
Cisco’s parent company, CBA, is in the process of merging with Anheuser-Busch InBev, pending regulatory approval.