Lord Hobo Launches First 18-Pack, Eyes 50,000 Barrels in 2019

Lord Hobo Brewing Company is hoping the release of its first 18-pack and a vintage muscle car giveaway will help it accelerate beyond the 50,000-barrel threshold in 2019.

The Massachusetts craft brewery officially launched 18-packs of Freebird, a new year-round golden ale that clocks in at 5.5 percent ABV, last Friday at its brewery and taproom in Woburn. Freebird will be available throughout the company’s 15-state distribution footprint before the end of May.

Speaking to Brewbound, Lord Hobo director of new markets Rob Day said Freebird 18-packs — at a suggested retail price of $20 — are the company’s first foray into the “affordable, larger-package format.” He added that the brand’s logo and packaging was created to pay tribute to the Pontiac Trans Am Firebirds of the 1970s.

“They have a sort of symbiotic relationship in terms of connecting the freedom of that car, and something cool and original and a little bit vintage that we’re doing,” Day said.

In an effort to promote Freebird, Lord Hobo is giving away a 1979 Pontiac Trans Am Firebird. The “text-to-win” contest launches the week of May 26 with on- and off-premise displays, and runs through December, when the winner will be selected at random through an automated system operated by a third party.

“This is a big product for us,” Day said of Freebird. “It’s going to be huge and around for a long time, so we wanted to have something to continue to promote it.”

Day declined to share how much the company paid for the Trans Am, but Vanguard Motor Sales in Michigan listed the 4-speed muscle car, with around 21,880 miles, at around $43,000.

The launch of Freebird and the car contest are just two ways that Lord Hobo is attempting to grow and differentiate itself in 2019’s crowded and competitive craft beer segment.

Lord Hobo, which sold a minority ownership stake to private investment firm Valterra Partners in 2017, produced about 37,000 barrels in 2018, according to Day. After growing volume by triple digits in 2016 and 2017, the 6,000-barrel increase over 2017’s 32,683 barrels was much slower than previous years. However, the company is on pace for more robust growth in 2019 behind the launch of Freebird and several other new offerings, the introduction of core beer line extensions and the addition of statewide distribution in Michigan.

“I think we can break 50,000 [barrels] this year,” Day said. “We’re on pace for a really killer year.”

According to Day, Lord Hobo flagship Boomsauce double IPA will make up a large chunk of that volume. The brand currently accounts for 37 percent of the company’s sales, he said, while IPAs Glorious and Hobo Life round out the top three. However, Freebird could surpass those brands for the No. 2 spot due to its price point and volume, Day said.

Meanwhile, 2019 marks Lord Hobo’s “biggest year of product launches” as the company could release as many as 11 new beers this year, Day added.

Consumer demand led to the change in strategy from offering a limited portfolio to a broader set of offerings, Day said. Some of those new releases will come in the form of core IPA line extensions, including a pineapple version of Glorious, an orange version of Angelica and a “hazy” Boomsauce.

And after launching last month in Lord Hobo’s taproom and at Fenway Park, 617 hazy IPA will be available in broader distribution in cans starting in June. The IPA has been available at Fenway Park since opening day and has quickly become the ballpark’s second-best-selling canned beer, trailing Bud Light. Sales of 617 at the ballpark have gone so well that the beer was added to the trays of vendors roaming the stairways over the weekend.

“We’re doing a ton of business there,” Day said. “It’s easy to get excited about a beer called 617 when you’re in Boston and when it’s in Fenway Park.”

Day declined to discuss potential issues Lord Hobo has run into with the 617 name, which Connecticut’s Stony Creek Brewery trademarked in 2011 and has held since then.

“That’s ongoing,” he said, declining to offer specifics.

Nevertheless, Lord Hobo’s strategy for 2019 doesn’t include new market openings beyond March’s statewide launch in Michigan, Day said. Michigan has quickly become a top market for the company, behind Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York, he added.

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