Heady times for craft beer

Plus, 'Gansett's new mashup and a whole lotta new beers
By LOU PAPINEAU  |  March 19, 2014

 0321_Beer_shandy_top.jpg
ON ITS WAY The prototype of the 'Gansett/Del's shandy can.

The Brewers Association, which reps craft brewers, released its report for 2013, and the news is no surprise: better beer is still on the rise. Craft volume grew 18%, while the total US beer market dropped 1.9%; craft brews now account for 7.8% of suds consumption, up from 6.5 in ’12 (it was 4.4 in ’09). Dollar-wise, craft rang up $14.3 billion (which is, coincidentally, 14.3% of the $100 billion beer market), a 20% boost over ’12. At year’s end there were 2768 craft breweries (and 54 non-craft): 1237 brewpubs, 1412 micros, and 119 regional craft companies (with a workforce of 110K), with 413 new businesses and only 44 closings. The BA predicts the increase will continue to surge this year. So let’s get to some new things to spend your beer money on.

COOL FUN IN THE SUMMERTIME

Last August, I had a throwaway line in this space: “Hey, local brewers, here’s your big seller for next summer: a shandy made with Del’s Lemonade. You’re welcome.” When I sent the column link to ’Gansett CEO Mark Hellendrung I typed, “Get on that Del’s collab next summer, could be HUGE.” He replied: “How did you know about that?” Me: “Just an idea that hit me the other day when I saw a Leinenkugel shandy ad on TV. You mean it’s actually in the works.” “Ssssshhhhhh…lots of work to be done on the flavor side but it would be epic…picture a tallboy of that Del’s cup…you’re the only one outside of us and Del’s who knows about it.” I zipped my lips for months. A few weeks ago, a ’Gansett rep posted a photo of a prototype of the ’Gansett/Del’s Shandy can, and the reaction to the brew news was very enthusiastic. With the lessons learned from the instant shelf-clearing that greeted the release of the Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout in December, the ’Gansett folks are gearing up to keep the shandy in stores all summer long. They just need to jump through a few bureaucratic hoops. Sez Mark: “When you add something like lemon or blueberry or coffee to a beer, the gov’t gets involved and has to approve the recipe, and with the shutdown last fall they’re a little behind. We expect approval any day now and are aiming for a May 1 release.” Pucker up!

And ’Gansett is putting its spin on March Madness with Retro Can Madness . They have a Sweet 16 array of distinctive designs, from 1911 to 1999. Daily match-ups will happen through early April at facebook.com/narragansettbeer. The finalists will face off on April 5 (the day of the NCAA’s Final Four), and the winner will be featured on the brewery’s retro cans (containing fresh beer) in 2015.

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