We're actually starting to see that the sessional beers that we try in the spring or summer have a year-round demand. Just for fun we did a Belgian table beer and that was 3.2% alcohol-by-volume. We did it at a Belgian beer fest where everyone used the same yeast and typically the beers were really big, and we thought we would go to the other end of the spectrum. It worked really well because in between those really strong beers, people really appreciated having a glass or two of the table beer we made. I think the pendulum has swung so far toward the super alcoholic, super exaggerated beers and it's kind of swung back.
You've taken one of the more unique approaches to the beer market after merging with Red Hook. What brought that decision about and how much input did you and Kurt have?
It really ended up being about distribution, and it was a long path.
We had a relationship with Anheuser-Busch and we gained access to their very excellent logistics system through that and we'd always been friends with the folks at Red Hook. We started around the same time, they're right here in our backyard and we did some common brewing. We used their brewery in Portsmouth, N.H. One thing led to another, it just started a friendship and I guess you could say we dated and finally got married.
What kind of impact did the distribution deal with Anheuser-Busch have on the Widmer brand and its reach?
We started using distributors not quite immediately, but before our alliance with A-B.
We used wholesalers and back in the day they used to be aligned with Coors or Miller or A-B or that kind of thing. What we saw over time was that the A-B guys were the most professional and when it came to taking care of the beer and beer freshness, everybody talked about it but nobody did it quite like the guys in the A-B system.
It sounds like a simple thing, picking up beer from a brewery and getting it to a dealer, but the wholesalers are kind of the unsung heroes. The A-B guys gave it tender, loving care and they have a nationwide network so communication was very easy. Being aligned with them has been awesome for the quality of our beer.