Lost Abbey co-founder and chief operating officer Tomme Arthur announced plans to launch a new line of canned sour beers called Tiny Bubbles, which he called his company’s “authentic alternative,” in his opening address during Brewbound Live.
Tiny Bubbles is scheduled to launch in 2020, via self-distribution, in 4-packs of slim 12 oz. cans with two flavors, original brut and rosé.
“We’ll take all of the equity and knowledge we have learned making Lost Abbey beers, and we’ll bring to life a living Gose-style beer finished with Brettanomyces, all the while having fun promoting our new friend Brutus,” Arthur said, referring to the brand’s mascot Brutus T. Bubbles.
Arthur’s company purchased the Tiny Bubbles brand earlier this year from Goleta, California-based Hollister Brewing Company, which was brewing the line annually as a small batch series.
Tiny Bubbles’ goal is to target drinkers currently out of reach of Arthur’s other brands — The Lost Abbey, The Hop Concept and Port Brewing — by offering an in-demand product — a canned sour beer — that’s independent of his 13-year-old, upscale Belgian-inspired brand.
Tiny Bubbles’ bright branding and whimsical mascot are distinct from Lost Abbey’s dark gothic imagery.
“The hope is we can have fun,” Arthur said. “The Abbey brand has a lot different look and feel.”
Arthur believes craft beer’s sustainability will come from recruiting new consumers to the category, rather than creating new products for the same consumers.
“We cannot for a moment think there’s enough white space to innovate our way out of this funk,” he said. “If we’re going to turn the proverbial corner, we’re going to need new consumers. I’m doubtful that this is news to any of you.”
In his address, Arthur likened the craft beer industry’s 40-year journey to the waves of change rock music made in the latter half of the 20th century. Using a slide presentation, Arthur started with The Beatles’ Abbey Road, then drew a line to the louder, rowdier stylings of KISS, which he likened to craft beer, calling them both “loud and moderately tolerated.” KISS’ outrageous stage makeup opened the door for the glammed-up, teased-out hair bands of the 1980s.
“Recently, I feel craft has entered a seriously awkward phase,” he said, as a picture of the band Poison appeared on screen. “We’re swimming in a sea of Spandex, trying to tread water, all the while worried that our hair might need more Aqua Net.”
Grunge rock came along in the 1990s as a market correction, but Arthur said a similarly disruptive force has yet to hit the beer industry.
One looming concern is that the newest generation of legal-drinking age consumers seems uninterested in brand histories or the intricacies or brewing compared to the craft beer drinkers who came before them, Arthur said.
“They don’t seem to have that appetite for self-education,” Arthur said of the newest generation.
He explained that process, ingredients and quality weighed heavily in the marketing messaging breweries were producing years ago, but those messages rarely reached beyond already-converted craft drinkers.
“When we were doing this and we were doing it well, we were preaching to the choir,” Arthur said, adding that he graded current industry education efforts a C or C+.
In addition to championing consumer education, Arthur cautioned fellow brewers not to judge those who sell their companies or shift focus to non-beer products. He harkened back to fellow San Diego-based brewery Stone Brewing’s “I Am A Craft Brewer” video produced in 2009 and pointed out how drastically the landscape has changed in the decade since.
“Thirteen years after starting our brewery, I stand before you very much a craft brewer. I know this because I am small and equally as independent as the day we opened our doors. That being said, some of the largest brewing companies who appeared in the video have shifted their focus and some even sold,” he said. “I don’t begrudge and of them. And I won’t. I’ve never walked a mile in their shoes.”
Arthur urged fellow brewers to employ authenticity as a path to weather storms and to beware of making rash, reactive moves.
“Everybody has to figure it out on their own, and that’s where we’re all headed,” he said. “If you make bad decisions now because you’re doing it out of fear, you’re going to have to deal with that later.”