Redhook Ale – The Glass Is Half Full
Posted on July 27, 2010 by mike
The third article in the Brewery Highlight Series for Redhook Ales. Click the link for more articles.
For Redhook in the mid to late 90′s things were looking fantastic. Being the trend setter for the craft beer revolution and having a distribution system setup that could not be matched by anyone, allowed Redhook Ale to expand, and expand rapidly into new markets to capture the trend as it unfolded. The first planned expansion was out to Portsmouth to capture the booming East Coast craft beer drinking market. When asked why, Doug MacNair of Redhook stated,
“So, we’re a West Coast brewery, we always have been, that’s where we always were. We wanted to grow, we wanted to go national. We were absolutely committed that…if you let the bean counters do it, the thing that would make the most sense is to build one big ass brewery in Kansas. Right in the center. The company has always been really dedicated to doing things right. So instead of building a 500 barrel brewery in the middle, we had the two breweries on the West Coast and decided to build one on the East Coast. Obviously the beer scene was there, Boston, New York, those are big markets on the East Coast.”
But, in the late 90′s, the craft beer trend hit a plateau with a ton of new flourishing breweries, Redhook was slowly being pushed out of the lime light as new trendy beers became available. The once Golden Goose of breweries, was now becoming the ugly duckling and not getting the attention it once thrived on. The unimaginable happened…layoffs, closing of one of the west coast breweries and the eventual contraction of production became evident and turned good times into something a bit more bleak.
Breaking Out Of The Rut
Competition was and still is fierce in the craft beer industry. Redhook Ale was fortunate to get in early and establish themselves as a leader. Today Redhook is brewing about 183,600 barrels of beer with plenty of room to grow as the market continues its minimal annual increase. With breweries on both coasts, Redhook is able to deliver quality, fresh beer to anyone in the lower 48 states. But how does a brewery with as much experience and capabilities as Redhook get their voice heard in the sea of beer bottles in hopes of growing their brand once again?
As I see it, when Redhook Ale delivered their banana brew some 20 years ago there was an excitement that filled the air. The idea of a local, fresh craft beer appealed to their region. In fact, living in Fargo, ND, I wish there was a local brewery/brew pub right here. That essence of something new, something different, something local, is what I personally feel Redhook started with, but is now competing against. With new breweries and selections jumping into the kettle daily how does Redhook keep their piece of the pie and eventually expand it?
Innovation and Community
When Redhook opened its doors it was bringing something new to the market and people drank it up. But the sea of choice has muted their innovation. Everyone has an IPA, a Pale Ale, a Stout and so on. But, not everyone has special or limited releases. More on my thoughts on this craft beer trend here. These beers are really allowing us craft beer drinkers something of a treat to have with our dinners and special occasions. In fact, I think Redhook’s Marketing department said it best in response to a question about this beer trend.
“Redhook’s limited release series provides a couple opportunities. It’s a way to encourage our brewer’s talent and challenge them to bring new and innovative beers to the market. It’s also a response to the beer community’s desire for big, complex beers.”
I couldn’t agree more. Competition breeds quality and this is a perfect example. With Redhook’s talent I surely expect to see some really innovative and great tasting things to come. I was talking with Greg Duehs the other day and I was really hoping to get some secret information out about any upcoming projects. Unfortunately all he said was,
“I can tell you that the fall release is going to be a beer that you would never think that Redhook would make. It is going to be a classic style of beer that I’ve tasted and it is very true to style and it will hopefully take note of Redhook.”
Beer and homebrewing is really all about community. We love beer, don’t get me wrong, but there is nothing better than sharing a cold one with a friend or brewing up another batch together. And as long as Redhook is brewing beer, community is going to be a big part of their success.
I have to hand it to Redhook for their commitment to that community. They love their tried and true fans and it must be noted that in all my conversations with Redhook, the words “We love our fans” came up more often than not. They support their local communities by having homebrewing classes, Redhook Fest and a whole sleuth of other charitable events to help build a stronger community. I think its a true testament to how important their fans and community are to them by the fact that Redhook is the first brewery to agree to do Mike’s Brew Review’s Brewery Highlight. There was no questions asked. They sent me some beer to introduce and put me on the phone with 3 of their most talented brewmasters. It is all about spreading the word and sharing in the brewing/beer community and my hat is off to Redhook Ale for their commitment to quality, community and great beer!
I hope you have enjoyed this mini-tour through Redhook’s past, present and future. Please let me know what you think and when your at the store picking up some tasty brews, just remember when you pick up a Redhook, your part of that historic revolution.