Too Many Ships On The Sea

A flagship was commonly known as the lead ship in a fleet of vessels, typically the first, largest, fastest, most heavily armed, or best known.

As with many other naval terms, flagship has crossed over into common parlance. It is now commonly used as an adjective to describe the most prominent or highly touted product, brand, location, or service among those offered by a company.

And now that I’m done paraphrasing Wikipedia, you’re probably wondering why I’m even bringing this up – we’ve already spoken at length about our five flagship beers, so what more is there to discuss? Well, we’re making a few changes here at the brewery, so it’s EXPLANATORY BLOG POST TIME.

We’re going to bring you a wider variety of beer, starting tomorrow.

Our portfolio was one of the topics that Asa and I deliberated ad nauseam during the whiteboard-our-brains-out planning phase of the company. I’d say we’ve done a pretty solid job of following our original vision, even though the last time I looked at this picture was probably two years ago. Isn’t that crazy?

This past April, after attending the Craft Brewers Conference in Portland, I found myself at a crossroads. One of the highlights of my trip was a panel of employees from three highly respected breweries (Sierra Nevada, Deschutes, and Solemn Oath). The topic of discussion: Maintaining flagship brands. Without boring you, here’s where each brewery stands on the matter:

Sierra Nevada: Their flagship, somewhat obviously, is the ubiquitous Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. It’s iconic, it’s high quality, and it’s available nearly anywhere in the country. All beers released on a national scale receive tons of support from marketing – you’ll damn well know when they come out with a new beer.

Deschutes: They initially struggled with being erroneously referred to as “Mirror Pond Brewery” or “Black Butte Brewery”, the names of their two flagships. After years of producing those two leading brands, they rolled out Fresh Squeezed IPA, which is now their top seller in 20 out of 28 states.

Solemn Oath: They’re around three years old, and have no permanent flagships. They continuously make new beers and figure out what works best.

Upon hearing them go back and forth and defend their respective strategies with extremely solid points, it began to shake up what I previously thought was the “right way” to approach flagships. Each one was making their situation work, and each had their gripes. The funniest part was that all three wished they had a little bit more of what the other two had. I sat there wondering how we could be in the middle of all three.

Back in Braddock, all of our flagships were still selling out, so we never took the needed step back to see how it was affecting us. When it came time to reflect on the first half of the year and develop our goals moving forward, our entire team agreed – handling five flagships was burning / boring us out. We felt stagnant, especially when our draft list really thinned out as capacity became strained. We all agreed that it was time to shake things up, and here’s what we decided:

  1. White Sky and General Braddock’s IPA continue to be our two main flagship beers. We love these beers. They’re part of our company’s DNA. They’re also our best sellers, and often crowd favorites.
  2. The other familiar faces, Business Casual, Table Beer, and Build & Destroy, will transition to being brewed on a sporadic basis, dictated largely by scheduling and ingredient availability. They won’t be disappearing altogether, but they will no longer be offered year-round.
  3. We will continue to have our seasonal rotations available. Akamai, Garden Party, Overgrowth, Loose Seal, Mexican Coffee, etc. will always be available in season.
  4. The rest of our efforts will be put towards creating new, high-quality beers. We enjoy working on new things, you enjoy drinking new things. And every once in awhile, we’ll bring back an old favorite.

Someone has to play the main stage at a festival. We want to give White Sky and General Braddock’s IPA that opportunity, attention, and support. We also want to make sure that new undiscovered acts can show off in the taproom, build a fanbase, go on tour, and maybe one day return as a star (I’m looking at you, CPA).

Our goal is to keep improving the experience of visiting us in Braddock. As our situation changes, there come times when we have to deviate from our original plan. But I believe we’ve found a happy medium that helps us achieve that goal, while also allowing us broader creative freedom. It’s going to require some adjusting on our end, but it will make for a more exciting and educational experience with every visit.

We’ll kick things off with the release of MOMO Mosaic Pale Ale in the taproom this Thursday July 23rd. Worry not, for we have a good amount of Business Casual, Table Beer, and Build & Destroy on hand still. You can always find our most up to date draft list here

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