Sunday, April 26, 2015

In Praise of Contract Brewing

Most Saturday mornings I do the weekly shop, often while Mrs V is running more miles than I care to imagine. It's become something of a semi-regular routine, she runs, I go to Trader Joe's in Charlottesville. I like Trader Joe's in general, and not just because they have good Nurmburger bratwurst actually from Germany, or because they have a pretty good cheese selection, there's just something nice about shopping there, especially right at opening time when it is quiet. Our local branch also has a reasonable beer selection.

Thus it was I decided I should try all Josephsbrau beers they had a available and got single bottles of their hefeweizen, dunkelweizen, Bohemian lager, Vienna lager, and Spring Prost maibock. Over the past week I have drunk them all and found them all to my liking, and in that I am really not surprised. As I understand it the beers I bought are brewed under contract by Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, and in my experience Gordon Biersch brewers are well trained and reliable, Jason Oliver at Devils Backbone being a prime example.

With the price of independent beer seemingly climbing ever upwards, with scant regard sometimes for the beer actually being worth drinking, it is good to know that I can get a six pack of well made, quality beer for $6.50 rather than $10.

This all got me thinking about contract brewing and that it is actually a good for consumers when stores are contracting good 'craft' breweries like Gordon Biersch for Central European styles, Firestone Walker for the Mission St series, and Unibroue for their Vintage Ale. It is good because it means that well made beer doesn't have to become the preserve of those who can afford it. It's also something of a challenge to craft beer in my opinion, in that breweries need to justify the price of a six pack in quality terms to make me willing to spend the extra 42%.

So let's have more stores taking a leaf out of Trader Joe's book and having their own brands of beer, made by reputable breweries with a focus on quality and reasonable price. Oh and while they're at it, perhaps Traders could sign up a brewery to make a best bitter for them? Timothy Taylor for example....


  1. Unfortunately, Firestone Walker has quit (or is about to) brewing beer for TJs. I agree that Mission Street Pale (which won medals in World Beer Cup and at GABF) was one of the great beer bargains anywhere - if you got it fresh. TJs did not want to pay for the expense of shipping it cool and was lousy at rotation It wasn't unusual to find bottles 6 months old.

  2. If the store needs an ambient product with 6mo shelf life, then that's what the brewery should be giving them. "Drink Fresh" is all very well, but It's a get-out for unstable beer really, isn't it?


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