Monday, August 12, 2013

Breweries promoting wineries.

One of the big stories in the alcoholic beverage industry this week has been the results of a Gallup poll that suggest wine is increasing in popularity amongst American consumers at the expense of beer. Wine, beer and spirits will always be competing for consumer preference ratings. But this post is not about competition. It is about collaboration.

Collaboration is a big buzz word in the beer industry. It is not uncommon to see beers on a retail shelf with two breweries' names on it. Perhaps the most prominent collaboration is when Avery Brewing and Russian River Brewing teamed up to create Collaboration Not Litigation Ale. For a good read on breweries working together, read this Imbibe article. Wineries collaborate in a different way. Winemakers sometimes work at more than one winery and wineries share facilities and equipment at custom crushpads or alternating proprietor licensed premises.

However, there is much less cross-industry collaboration. Sure, distillers, and more frequently brewers, use old wine barrels, but for the most part there is a fierce competition for market share amongst the three segments. I stopped in to the Breckenridge Brewery Tasting Room a few weeks ago to pick up some growlers and I noticed something interesting. They of course had their beer everywhere, but their top shelf of liquor was all Colorado brands. The wines on the bar? There were four bottles of Penfolds. I talked to Stuart Close, the general manager. I asked him why they had Colorado spirits but no Colorado wine. He said that no winery had ever approached him. He told me if I knew of any local wineries that could sell him a few (they don't go through much wine in the tap room) cases of wine for less than $10 per bottle he'd be happy to replace the Penfolds with Colorado Wine. So, Colorado wineries: go talk to Stuart if you want to collaborate with Breckenridge Brewery.

Last week, I was in Wisconsin. Now, Wisconsin is not a hot bed for wine production (though the largest winery, Wollersheim, produces more wine than the entire state of Colorado). However, Wisconsin is known for its beer. It may not have as many craft brewers as Colorado, but the beers are just as good. Just ask anyone who has been to the Great American Beer Fest and seen the line for New Glarus Brewing Co. Another of Wisconsin's "cult" breweries is Ale Asylum, and during my trip I went to their new $8 million brewery with a childhood friend and our wives. We had a couple of beers, but during the second round my friend's wife ordered a Prairie Fumé from Wollersheim instead of a beer.

I was surprised that someone would order a wine at a brewery, but I was even more shocked that it was a local wine. But when you think about, a small craft brewery has invested itself in the localpour movement, so why not support other local producers? It is a bit hypocritical to tout your own local product and then try to sell corporate giant non-local products. It was also refreshing to see local Wisconsin wines prominently displayed at the one grocery store, one liquor store and one restaurant I went to during my week in Cheeseheadland. Only if Colorado restaurants and breweries were equally as willing to support and collaborate with Colorado wineries...

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