Last Call: Brewers Association Shares 2018 Packaging Trends; High Country Beverage to Acquire Share of Kansas Wholesaler

BA: Can Growth Comes at Expense of Bottles in 2018

The increase in the use of can packaging by craft brewers is now coming at the expense of bottles, Brewers Association (BA) chief economist Bart Watson wrote in a recent analysis shared with the trade group’s members.

That trend marks a shift from previous years, Watson wrote. Citing scan data from market research firm IRI, he found that between 2014 and 2016, the “absolute volume” of bottles was growing despite declining as a percentage. However, the use of bottles began to decline in 2017 and “accelerated” in 2018, which Watson attributed to the “slowdown in distributed craft growth” and the growing transition to can packaging.

For comparison, the mix of bottles and cans in 2014 was split 84 percent and 16 percent, respectively. In 2018, the gap closed to about 59 percent bottles and 41 percent cans.

In his report, Watson also analyzed the share shift from 12-packs to 6 packs, the increased use of 18 and 19 oz. cans, the dominance of 12 oz. bottles and more. Read the column here.

Allagash to Begin Offering Cans of Flagship White, River Trip

Speaking of cans, Allagash Brewing Company announced it will begin offering its flagship Allagash White in 4-packs of 16 oz. cans starting in February. Last August, the Portland, Maine-headquartered craft brewery announced it would start packaging its beer in cans for the first time.

“If there’s one beer that defines us as a brewery, it’s Allagash White,” founder Rob Tod said in a press release. “The idea of enjoying this beer in a new way — on a boat, on the trail, even on the couch at home — has everyone at the brewery super excited.”

Allagash will also release a new year-round offering in cans: River Trip, a Belgian-style session ale. The company said cans will begin showing up at retailers in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Western/Upstate New York.

High Country Beverage to Acquire Stake in Kansas Distributor

Colorado beer wholesaler High Country Beverage has reached an agreement to acquire a 50 percent share of Lawrence, Kansas-based Crown Distributors, according to an email sent to its beer suppliers.

As part of the transaction, which is expected to close March 1, Kelly and Gail Frakes will sell their ownership stake in Crown to the Nichols family of High Country, which sells beer in Northern Colorado and the Western Slope.

Crown Distributors president Mark Ritter will maintain his 50 percent stake in the company and will remain as operating manager and president, the email said.

In the email, Crown said it will retain its staff as well as the Crown name. The company added that it expects the deal to “have little to no disruption in the market.”

Crown distributes more than 2.7 million cases of beverages to 38 counties in central, north central and eastern Kansas, according to its website. Its portfolio includes offerings from MillerCoors, Mark Anthony Brands, Heineken, Pabst Brewing, Ballast Point, Boulevard, Dogfish Head, Firestone Walker, Founders, Lagunitas and Stone Brewing.

R&D Brewing Acquires Bull Durham Beer. Co.

Raleigh, North Carolina-based R&D Brewing Company has reached an agreement to acquire Bull Durham Beer Co. from the Capitol Broadcasting Company, according to a press release.

A sale price was not disclosed.

“We see a tremendous opportunity to take this iconic brand and combine it with our brewing industry expertise to make Bull Durham Beer a household name for craft brew,” R&D Brewing CEO John Glover said, in the release. Bull Durham Beer Co. is located inside the home ballpark of the Durham Bulls minor league baseball team. R&D said Bull Durham’s operations would remain unchanged and head brewer Tate Little would continue brewing a majority of the beer.

Beer Purchaser’s Index Contracts Again in December

The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) Beer Purchasers’ Index — which helps explain U.S. beer distributors’ monthly buying behavior — contracted in December for the fourth consecutive month. December 2018’s 47 reading indicated wholesalers were placing fewer beer orders in December, and down 8 points from December 2017 levels.

Lower or comparable year-over-year readings for premium lights, premium regulars and below premiums drove down the December index reading. Those segments continued to show no signs of recovery, the NBWA said.

Wholesalers also reported an increase in “at risk” inventory, marking the third time in the last six months that distributors reported inventory close to going out of code within the next 30 days.

However, the trend of consumers trading up to “higher-end segments” is showing “no sign of letting up” in 2019, according to the NBWA. In December, the craft (57 index), imports (61), FMB/PAB (57) and cider (53) segments each expanded.

Texas’ Noble Rey Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

Dallas-based Noble Rey Brewing Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 19, with more than $1 million in liabilities, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Noble Rey co-founder Chris Rigoulot told the outlet that the filing was not an indication of a forthcoming closure of the company, which opened in July 2015.

“We are in no way closing or going out of business,” he told the Morning News. “In fact our taprooms are open to the public and we are still manufacturing and selling beer.”

Almanac to Close San Francisco Taproom; Golden Road to Open Huntington Beach Spot

After two years in operation, San Francisco’s Almanac Beer Co. will close its Mission District taproom on January 19, according to San Francisco Eater. Almanac co-founder Damian Fagan told the outlet that the company’s lease at the location was expiring, and the company was shifting its focus to a new project coming online this spring at its production facility and taproom in Alameda, which opened last year.

Last year, Almanac co-founder Jesse Friedman announced he was exiting the company but would remain a board member and serve in an advisory role.

Meanwhile, Eater Los Angeles reported Anheuser-Busch-owned Golden Road Brewing Company plans to open a small-batch brewery and restaurant in Huntington Beach.

Golden Road currently operates taprooms in Anaheim, Los Angeles and Sacramento as well as a location at Los Angeles International Airport

Ballast Point Sets Opening Date for Downtown Disney Taproom

A year after announcing plans to open a taproom in Anaheim’s downtown Disney district at the Disneyland Resort, San Diego’s Ballast Point’s brewpub has set an opening date of Wednesday, January 16.

The Constellation Brands-owned craft brewery said the new taproom will feature a 3-barrel brewing system and offer more than 50 styles of Ballast Point beer across 100 tap lines.

“This new location also gives our passionate brewing and culinary teams the perfect place to test new and inventive offerings, as we welcome longtime Ballast Point fans and introduce new guests to our brand,” Constellation Brands craft and specialty president Ben Dollard said, via a press release.

The Disney taproom is Ballast Point’s ninth in the U.S.

San Diego Brewers Guild, Lyft Share Most Requested Brewery Destinations

The San Diego Brewers Guild and Lyft shared their list of most traveled craft brewery destinations of 2018. Those destinations include Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens at Liberty Station, Half Door Brewing Co., Fall Brewing Company, Mike Hess Brewing in North Park, Border X Brewing, Hillcrest Brewing Company, Ocean Beach Brewery, Mission Brewery, Viewpoint Brewing Company and Coronado Brewing Company/Coronado Brewpub.

The Brewers Guild and Lyft also shared the most requested brewery destinations during the 2018 San Diego Beer Week, which included Stone Brewing World Bistro at Liberty Station, Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Half Door Brewing Co., AleSmith Brewing Company and Bay City Brewing Co.

Lyft will continue to serve as the official rideshare partner of the San Diego Brewers Guild in 2019.

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