Why Small-Batch Beer Releases Are Such a Big Deal for Brewers
The phrase “beer event” tends to conjure up images of giant festivals with dozens or more brews flowing liberally at every turn. But for at least the past 13 years, some of the largest beer events have actually been based around just one beer. In 2005, Munster, Indiana’s Three Floyds Brewing held the first “Dark Lord Day,” what became an annual event dedicated to the special limited-release of the brewery’s Dark Lord Russian Imperial Stout. Dark Lord Day popularized the idea of holding release parties not just for a brand’s hopeful new flagship, but, quite the opposite, for extremely limited release beers that might sell out very quickly.
What’s the point of making a huge deal about something that’s going to sell out regardless? (What is this? Ticketmaster?!) Turns out plenty of benefits exist, both short and long-term.
The short-term pros are clear: The excitement of a release party can drive additional revenue by upping the price of the beer being released, bringing people to the brewery to buy other products, or even through event ticket sales. Parties are also fun which can build goodwill towards a brewery in general. This also creates a key long-term benefit: A major annual release event is a great way to bring your brewery back to the forefront of drinkers’ attention on a yearly basis, something that’s especially important in a crowded industry that now features at least 6,372 breweries.
But beyond promoting the brewery, special release events can even bring a specific beer back to the limelight. For example, take Daisy Cutter, the flagship pale ale from Chicago-based Half Acre Beer. The well-hopped brew has earned praise dating back to its first release in 2009. But as Half Acre and its distribution network have grown, Daisy Cutter, like plenty of solid beers before it, has lost some of its trendy appeal.
Enter Galactic Double Daisy Cutter—billed as a “double pale ale” that adds Galaxy variety hops and ratchets up the ABV to eight percent. Though Half Acre has been brewing this bulked up version of Daisy Cutter since 2011, in recent years, the brewery has been holding release parties for the beer’s annual return. One is happening tonight in Romeoville, Illinois.
As data from BeerMenus.com demonstrates, this coordinated release of Galactic Double Daisy Cutter creates a huge spike in the number of bars stocking the beer. It’s the kind of momentum that would be impossible for a year-round offering like Daisy Cutter to get on its own, but as long as Half Acre is able to drive annual excitement surrounding the Galactic Double version of Daisy Cutter, the original beer can benefit from that renewed interest as well.
Of course, timed annual releases only work if you have a beer worth waiting for—which is why, despite all the benefits to a brewery, drinkers get something out of these events too: a beer they love that only comes around once a year. Sure, these beers are a bit of a carrot on a stick, but in a crowded craft beer scene, it’s not like there aren’t plenty of other carrots lying round to tide you over.