After Saint Archer Ballast point is the second large San Diego craft brewery who is “selling out” to the “big money”. What are people think about it - “sell out” or something which will happen more and more as craft breweries are becoming too big and have to expand with external money
There’s clearly a problem with semantics here. The tiniest of breweries, which used to be called “nano-breweries”, might be considered “craft” efforts, but when they get bigger, they’re really “microbreweries”, a term that’s hardly ever used anymore. When microbreweries get to be big, they’re no longer “nano”, “micro”, or “craft”. They’re just breweries, and that’s what’s been happening. Even a company like Ballast is still called a “craft” brewery. Hardly so. Just because a brewery makes beers other than light lagers doesn’t make it a “craft” anything.
I think it’s inevitable - distribution is too big of an egg to crack otherwise. The only way around it is to willingly stay at a certain size.
Some might argue that Alpine being bought out by Green Flash was the first example of this happening, though I think now that a lot of people have Green Flash, Alesmith, or Coronado as their “next to be bought” choice.
I saw once a classification of craft brewery based on the production size of a brewery - I think it was 6 million barrels of beer or less to be called craft brewery. Couldn’t find any numbers for Ballast
Ballast started as a nano-brewery, a small pilot setup in the back room of Home Brew Mart. I used to buy supplies from them (specialty malts and hops, mostly), and since they knew me, they let me sample the test brews. They were trying to make a beer that was as good as some of those being produced by homebrewers, including themselves, of course. At some point they decided to sell their beer, a pale ale, but it was still at the nano-brewery level. They grew from there to a microbrewery. Somewhere along the way, in that same timeframe, the term “craft brewery” first emerged, not coined by them. Ballast grew well out of the “microbrewery” category, I’d say. I don’t know what the numbers are either, in terms of barrels of beer per year. And I have no idea what the term “craft” is supposed to mean now, but it’s used excessively and widely. Whatever the “official” cutoff is in terms of volume, the larger breweries do seem to be consolidating of late.
Here’s me, not saying anything.
Which is to say, you are, in fact, “saying” something.
I’m actually curious what you do have to say, because I wonder what you think of a “fetish beer” company (Ballast Point certainly matched your description of that) being bought for a BILLION dollars.
I am thrilled to see this happen. Right now, there are tons of smaller breweries ready to take the space in the market that has been vacated by Ballast Point, Alpine, etc.
Meanwhile, I can go to more stores and expect to find a Ballast Point or Green Flash, etc. where my previous choice would have been between Sam Adams or Sierra Nevada or maybe some expired Stone IPA.
Of course this all breaks down if the variety and quality I expect from a Ballast Point gets neutered.
I think it’s great…
Hard to turn down a billion dollars…in a friggin’ nano second.
I don’t know specific barrel output, but last year Ballast Point was ranked #31 of the top 50 craft breweries by sales volume. For comparison, Stone was #9, and Sierra Nevada #3, #2 was Sam Adams, and #1 Yeungling.
FWIW, the Brewers Association moved the craft brewery definition goalpost every year to allow Sam Adams to continue to be called a craft brewery, since Sam was their largest supporter. Last year (i think), they allowed Yeungling to be defined as a craft brewer since it is still independently owned. By the industry definition, Ballast Point will no longer be called a craft brewery regardless of how or where their beer is made, because of who owns them now.
Semantics really, it doesn’t matter what it is called unless the quality changes or you don’t want to buy beer based on ownership.
The initial press releases pretty much hinted that Ballast Point would be left alone in their local operations, and that this pretty much was a distribution deal.
OK! Remember, you asked…
The one BILLION dollar sale does not put any clothes on this emperor. In fact, it serves to reinforce my position that the craft beer fad is mostly about percieved, not actual value. Kudos to those making money on it- I think the same of diamonds. Not rare, but marketed well enough that people have an emotional response. Oooo. Orange rind, banana and rosehips!
Craft beers are nothing really very special. Most of the IPAs bro are nearly undrinkably bitter and ill refined. But that’s what people want, and it’s their right to buy it wherever they’d like.
But come on- very little product differential other than the names (which should be the first clue that this is a marketing game, not a quality product).
Wine is the same way- it’s a marketing game. Look at the so-called wine “point” system- as arbitrary and the lottery. Robert Parker! The wine contests where a wine will win a Gold Medallion at one event, and not even place at another. Blind taste tests of even somewhat refined palates cannot discern the differences between cheap and expensive labels. Only trained sommeliers are able to *demonstrate a consistant ability *to pick better wines from others. Same with beer- take away the funny and clever name, and most people can’t tell the difference in similar beers. IPA v. Pilsner? Sure, that’s easy. But Joes Hogwaller IPA v. Janes IPA Skyscraper? Nah.
Hey, I understand people enjoy this, and I’m not trying to take it away from anyone- knock themselves out. I appreciate these are folks that enjoy their pastime- either making it or drinking it. That’s good. I certainly enjoy good beer, and have been to the Crafty Palaces myself and was served by apron-wearing bearded pierced and tattooed hipsters- nice folks. All part of the Disneyland effect of Craft Beer.
But I maintain this remains a naked emperor.
Yes, some news reports said Ballast Point will continue to operate as an independent company with independent operations.
“Initial reports suggest the brewery will continue to operate as a stand-alone company with its existing management team and employees running day-to-day operations.”
I agree on many points with you especially about ranking systems etc for beer and wine. The only think I am curious about is your comment about most IPA as nearly undrinkable bitter - is this a typical FN exaggeration or do you really dislike them so much ? I have yet to find an IPA which is too bitter and find them refreshing (sours sometimes can be challeging to drink)
I’m sure it is going to start that way but if they are not getting good return on their billion…
Had a great gose with guava and passion fruit at Modern Times Point Loma yesterday. Refreshing and delicious. Saison with hibiscus on hand pump was OK, wouldn’t order it again. What a great cheap friendly place in the middle of nowhere.
Despite corporate ownership, a Thai Chili [sic] Wahoo at Ballast Point Little Italy was fantastic. Nice herbal note from the chiles, bright ginger and lime peel, very refreshing with enough capsicum to slow my pacing way down.
It’s kind of a joke but the Brewers Association last year raised the maximum production for a ‘craft’ brewery from TWO MILLION barrels to SIX MILLION barrels. That pretty much rendered the term ‘craft’ useless if it wasn’t already.
“Though it may not be a big deal to consumers, the Brewers Association saved itself some headaches with a recent decision to modify its bylaws. The association announced today that it has increased the production ceiling in which a brewery may produce beer and still qualify as a “craft brewery.” The number, set to two million barrels annually for the past three decades, has been increased to six million barrels.”
The terns “nano” and “micro” seem to be more in line with what the public wants to think of as a small, ‘hand’-crafting brewery that makes small batches. Usually, though, they are local or regional only because they don’t make enough beer to distribute very widely. But isn’t that part of the charm?
Isn’t ultimately the quality of the beers what matters ? Yes, Ballast Point sold out and is now part of the evil side and most likely produce enourmous amounts if their beer but for example a Sculpin or a Victory at Sea is still a great beer as when they were one of the “good” guys and made “craft” beer.