Sign of the Beerpocalypse?

I was talking with Fred Colby, Owner and Brewmaster for Laughing Dog Brewery,  and he informed me that the Coeur d’Alene Brewery had shut down.  That was quick.  They made a pretty good pale ale that I reviewed about 8 months ago.  At the time I thought Hummph…Thats too bad.

Now you all know I am not a huge fan of Pete’s Wicked Ale.  I did a guest review over at Thank Heaven for beer on their Strawberry Blonde, and basically thought it tasted like crap!  However you must give a pioneer his due, and I was a little late on the craft beer scene to try Pete’s Wicked before it was bought out and watered down and is now the crap we know today as Pete’s Wicked.  Well, that business model won’t cut it anymore in this ever more cutthroat business of craft beer. Pete’s Wicked, it was announced today by the Gambrinus Company, will no longer be distributed and is being dropped from production.  I saw this story today over at The Brew Club posted by Bob the Brit…

There Bob recalls that Pete’s was one of the brews that pulled him into the craft beer scene.  Interestingly enough I also saw another post last week that said that craft breweries in the country had just topped 1700.  (I’m sorry, but I can’t remember where I saw that or I would link it for you.)  Anyway the person that posted that was very excited about the fact that craft beer and brewing were becoming so popular and all the choice etc that was available to the consumer at this time.  At the time I thought there are externalities in play that will, in a very heartless way bring the craft beer “business” into an equilibrium.  Well Pete’s is a well known casualty of that equilibrium process, and to a lesser extent so is Coeur d’Alene brewing.

Whether you liked Pete’s Wicked, or thought it was bad like I did, you can’t deny that it was a well established brand that had struggled to the point that the decision was made to cut it loose.  As more brands combine into larger companies (lookin’ at you Craft Beer Alliance) the smaller beers that you may love will fall victim to their inability to gain market share, and good brews will be lost, potentially forever.

This is the business side of the industry we all love.  There will be winners and losers, and clearly Pete’s Wicked was a very well known loser.  I think we will see more of this, and the losses will become more and more painful.  What do you think?  Does the cream always rise, or will we see good beer lost because of business?  Let us know in the comments.


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32 Comments on “Sign of the Beerpocalypse?”

  1. March 1, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    That makes me sad. And nostalgic. I wasn’t a huge fan of Pete’s Wicked but it was definitely one of the beers that helped push me into the Stellapithicus/Craftus Erectus stage my senior year of college.

    I might just have to buy one last sixer before distribution goes away. *sniff* I’ll miss you, Pete’s. *sniff*

    • Don
      March 1, 2011 at 11:17 am #

      Like I said John, I think we will see more of this not less. I wonder what is the next nationwide brand we might see dropped from production?

      • Evan
        March 1, 2011 at 11:19 am #

        Hopefully Budhook (redhook)

        • Don
          March 1, 2011 at 11:29 am #

          I like to watch myself type too Evan, makes me feel like I’m working hard! I think you are right. Like I said the CBA is prime territory for beers to be “dropped” from production because they no longer contribute enough.

      • Evan
        March 1, 2011 at 11:38 am #

        I hope so. I used to work at Budhook, and they have little to no interest in doing anything than what they’ve always done. They’re trying a few new things, but it’s too little too late I think. Plus, with them being just a few miles down the road from me, I’m tired of people asking me “OH! Have you ever been to Redhook!?” when they find out I’m in to craft beer. My answer always makes me feel like a douche.

  2. March 1, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    Pete’s was definitely a mainstay as I entered the craft beer realm back in the 90’s. I recall really enjoying it (minus the Strawberry Blonde) and thinking it flavorful and drinkable and better than Sam Adams. It has been years, though. I will have to hunt down a sizer just to pay my respects and thank them for good memories.

    • Don
      March 1, 2011 at 11:28 am #

      Well Sean, good luck, and I think what was ultimately the demise for the brand was when they were bought out in 1998. The big company (probably) cut corners to save on brewing costs, and next thing you know 13 years later you are out on your ear! Kind of like what might have happened if the employees of Harley Davidson never bought themselves back from AMF!

  3. Evan
    March 1, 2011 at 11:19 am #

    From what I understood, “Pete’s Wicked” was only “Pete’s Wicked” by name. What was inside beared little to no resemblance to the real deal. So the craft beer world probably isn’t going to miss it much.

    I never had either the original or the imitation. So I actually I have no idea what I’m talking about… I just like watching myself type.

  4. March 1, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Time to thin the herd.

    • Don
      March 1, 2011 at 11:31 am #

      I think the thinning will go on for a time, and the scary part of it is that good brews might be thinned too. We’ll just have to stand by and see.

      • March 1, 2011 at 12:25 pm #

        Well there is a proliferation of the market. As you guys posted we are at the peak of craft beer interest. Hopefully the management of my favorite beers is equal to the job. Alas poor Baderbrau we hardly knew ye…

        • Don
          March 1, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

          Lets hope the strong, you know, the ones that will survive, are also the best.

  5. Alex
    March 1, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    Wow, I didn’t know Pete’s was still around! I drank Pete’s and Redhook in college in the 90s before moving on to Sierra Nevada and Belgians and bigger, better beers. It was a sad day when I found out that Redhook and Widmer had been bought up by Bud. It was sadder still to see their more interesting beers fall out of the lineup. It’s too bad that some of these once-decent breweries fell victim to last decade’s craft beer lull and had to sell out.

    • Don
      March 1, 2011 at 11:49 am #

      I agree Alex. But I think this is a model that is in play out there, that could be very bad for craft beer. See the American Beer palate is still into that fizzy yellow crap, so when the makers of the fizzy yellow stuff start buying up the craft breweries like Widmer and Redhook the more interesting brews will be dropped for the fizzy yellow macro crap. That is where the majority of the market share is still! We have to fight this with our palates and purchase the bigger, more challenging beers to develop a market share worth having. That is the only way it will change in a big way.

  6. March 1, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    I wouldn’t have even known of this had Bob the Brit not posted about it!

    Its still sad to see an established brand go by the wayside even though like you, I’ve personally only tried the Strawberry Blonde (yuck!). I do remember seeing Pete’s all over, and now I can’t remember the last time I noticed Pete’s on the shelves.

    It sounds to me like a brand that lost its way.

    (Tnx for the mention!)

    • Don
      March 1, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

      Not a problem Scott. I’m just glad you aren’t too upset about my blatant rip off of Bob’s post! But I think Pete’s lost shelf space to better craft beers, which is good, but I’m afraid if all beers start to be judged solely on market share we will begin to loose a lot of very good beers!

  7. March 1, 2011 at 11:50 am #

    Pete’s and Sam’s were the first two “Micros” I ever tried … As an Art Geek, I loved Pete’s pirate themed packaging [Wicked Ale and Gold Coast Lager]; I even dug the Egyptology on Wicked Red … then there were all the line extensions and the continuity went POOF!!!

    Now, when I want a pirate fix, I’ll open something from Heavy Seas

    • Don
      March 1, 2011 at 12:06 pm #

      Good replacement for your pirate fixation. I like Black Bonny from Scuttlebutt Brewery when I need a pirate beer!

      • Evan
        March 1, 2011 at 12:22 pm #

        If you ever get Jolly Roger from Maritime Pacific out at Brewforia, definitely grab one.

        • Don
          March 1, 2011 at 12:23 pm #

          I’ll look for it. Thanks Evan.

    • Alex
      March 1, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

      But don’t pirates drink grog? I wonder if any contemporary breweries have come up with an authentic version (weak beer mixed with rum).

      I tried Avery’s Rumpkin, which is a Pumpkin beer aged in rum barrels a few months ago. It had a piratey logo on the tap handle, which was kind of cool. It would be interesting to see more beers aged in rum barrels. It could mean the rebirth of grog!

      • Don
        March 1, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

        I think one of the Rogue John John expressions was aged in rum barrels. Haven’t had it, but how bad could it be? Probably a better question would be how damn good is it?

      • Alex
        March 1, 2011 at 12:43 pm #

        I’d be curious to try it. The Rumpkin was awesome.

  8. 1Time4got
    March 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm #

    Pete’s was my introduction to craft beers and the first huge step in my beer-drinking evolution from a slobbering drunk, Bud-drinking college kid, so it’s almost like a death in the family. Now that my taste buds have evolved, I realize Pete’s was mediocre at best for a craft beer, but it was an affordable step for those seeking to move up the evolutionary chain.

    I shudder at the thought of how many potential beer geeks will suffer a setback in their evolutionary processes, because Pete’s was an eye-catching easy pick that didn’t overwhelm immature beer taste buds. Please tell me there’s a suitable substitute to bring the masses to the realm of good beer.

    • Don
      March 1, 2011 at 1:19 pm #

      Well, I’ve heard that Magic Hat is kind of a new go to, and a lot of people that drank Pete’s also drank Sam adams, and they aren’t going anywhere. 🙂

  9. johnking82
    March 2, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    It was a very sad day in my life when Zima died. The day the clear beer died. I think Don Maclean wrote a song about it.

    I’m pretty sure in the Brooklyn Brewery book they mentioned how Petes Wicked was one of the early microbreweries which forged on. Congrats to them for being a staple, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles…to stay afloat (no pun intended) you have to change how you do things a bit. Be more creative (do not see Bud Lights Clamato) to get people to drink your beer.

    It’s like any new businesses, with your successes you are going to have a lot of failures too. Too many factors play into how one becomes successful and grows tremendously (see Founders growing 75% last year). So, I have no answer…just keep the good beers coming!

    • Don
      March 2, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      Well. John, I think you are correct, the good beers will keep coming. It would be good to dissect what happened to Pete’s to understand it better, so it doesn’t happen to others. But in the end, the market is ruthless and what happens, happens.

    • Don
      March 2, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      Oh, and BTW you are the only one I know that was sad to see Zima go.

      • johnking82
        March 2, 2011 at 10:32 am #

        I actually hated Zima. This winter, my buddies uncle had gotten a box of old liqours an beer. Included in it was a 5 year old Zima (it was yellow and had stuff floating) and a 1979 bottle of Hiram Walker. After a few beers, we mixed them together and took shots. The end result was not pretty.

        • Don
          March 2, 2011 at 10:34 am #

          I could have told you that was a bad idea. But without risk there is little reward.

  10. March 3, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    The 1700 breweries stat comes from this Slate article discussing the decline of the German Beer Culture.

    • Don
      March 3, 2011 at 5:59 pm #

      That’s it, thanks Tamre.

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