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The Beer Circle » Boston Beer Co., Cigar City Brewing Co., Dogfish Head, Guinness, Harp, Newcastle, Saranac » How Much Is Too Much?

How Much Is Too Much?

What I’m talking about is the growing tendencies of established breweries either diluting their brands with inferior additional brews or brewing so many different beers that one cannot even determine what message the brewery is trying to convey with their brand. On the flip side, there are many breweries that are coming out with multiple beers and doing it very well. I will touch on that, too.

For me there are three main examples of famous brands that have jumped on the bandwagon: Guinness, Harp, and Newcastle. Guniness and Harp are both owned by Digaeo, a European conglomerate of major alcohol and beer brands. Guinness Black Lager was introduced in March, 2010. While it isn’t a bad beer it is easily eclipsed by the famous stout. Unfortunately, that is the best of the three examples. Newcastle was bought by Heineken in 2008 and, in my opinion, it has been in a slow slide. First, Heineken moved brewing to the John Smith brewery in North Yorkshire in 2010. I noticed a difference in the taste. One would hope that the quality of the ingredients didn’t change. I believe that it was the water. That aside, starting in 2010 Newcastle introduced 4 different beers ( Summer Ale, Werewolf, Winter Ale, and Founders Ale). Founders hasn’t come out yet but the others have all been average to below average. Result: Another brand starting the decline. Lastly, let’s look at Harp. They just announced what is perhaps the worst of the new beers: Harp Lemon Shandy. While it may be a great summer beer all I can say is “What the hell were they thinking.” Word to Digaeo and Heineken, don’t mess with greatness.

The second category are breweries that come out with so many beers that you cannot get a feel for what they are all about. The Saranac brand of beers from Matt Brewing is the perfect example. Saranac has come out with over 80 different beers over the years. For the past 5+ years Saranac has come out with not one but two handfuls of seasonal beers. Most have been poor to average and none have been memorable. I believe that Saranac has gotten overwhelmed and bypassed with the current craft beer revolution and don’t know how to react. On the flip side, the Boston Beer Company has recently expanded their offerings but have done so without sacrificing branding, message, or, most importantly, quality. Alan Newman, the founder of Magic Hat, has joined BBC and is in charge of the Small Batch Series in the Sam Adams line of beers. The other seasonal beers that Sam Adams comes out with have all been above average to strong. It just shows that you can do it right.

I could go on forever but I also want to touch on breweries that come out with many different beers with most being very good. Three great examples are The Bruery, Cigar City, and Dogfish Head. I could go on and on about their beers, methods, etc. But, I believe the most important thing that these breweries have in common are an unbending belief in quality ingredients, visionary leadership, and keeping their craft/art in perspective. Don’t try and control the world. You can get your share, do very well, but still not sacrifice. One word of caution, coming out with too many average or less than average beers and …KABOOM…your image would be shot.


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Written by Bob Pack

Simply put, Bob is a beer lover. He goes out of his way to try new beers whenever he can find them. The love of trying new beers had resulted in a beer label collection of over 1400. When it comes down to it, Bob is a hop head. He loves IPAs (including double and black). Stouts are a close second. His tweet reviews on @nova_beer are simple and approachable. Let him know what you think. Find Bob Pack on Google Plus

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