From time to time, I look at the earnings report for Dogfish Head owner Boston Beer.
The story is usually the same, Dogfish Head and Sam Adams sales appear to be down (exact numbers are not released) while the beverage of the summer takes up the slack. This time around, Boston Beer reported an increase in Dogfish sales.
As Dogfish Head co-founder Sam Calagione noted in and around the time of the sale, the Milton brewery has been squeezed by national and hyperlocal competition. Delaware alone has more than two-dozen craft breweries, most with loyal followings. It’s a similar story in other states, with the local brewpub sometimes leading to the turnaround of small downtowns and suburban strip centers.
To its credit, Dogfish continues to act like a hyperlocal brewer with its small batch “off-centered brews” and mainstays like 60 Minute IPA. It has not resorted to deep discounting, although its popular brands sometimes carry a price tag that compares favorably to hot sellers like Modelo.
Boston Beer also faces the challenge of Sam Adams being “your dad’s beer” for the 20-something crowd. Giant brewers have also moved into craft brewing by acquiring companies like Chicago’s Goose Island and California’s Lagunitas.
Boston Beer has responded by rolling out an array of ciders, seltzers, and other options, Craft Brewing Business recently noted in its look at the earnings statement. This summer, Boston Beer has a hit on its hands with Twisted Tea, with Dogfish also making a positive contribution.
Still, drinkers of specialty beverages are fickle. In 2021 Boston Beer had to literally dump a lot of Truly hard seltzer after sales lost their fizz. The company had shaken off the blunder a year later, although seltzer sales remain a challenge.
The better-than-expected earnings report also shows that Dogish owners Sam and Mariah Calagione took Boston Beer stock rather than cashing out in the $300 million deal. The sale did result in beefed-up charitable contributions in Delaware by the Calagiones.
Boston Beer remains a minnow-sized brewer when compared to giants like Anheuser-Busch InBev, Molson Coors, etc. But as long as management is more right than wrong about specialty beverages and mainstay beer sales do not crash and burn, the Calagiones made a shrewd decision.
Brew Fest returns on Aug. 12
After a three-year hiatus, the Delaware Cadillac Downtown Brew Fest takes place Saturday from noon to 7 p.m. along the 800 block of North Market Street.
Patrons of the fourth annual event can sample a variety of beverages from more than 40 craft companies – many of them from Delaware.The outdoor block party includes a cornhole tournament, music, and homebrew competition. Food can be purchased from food trucks and participating restaurants in the area.
Tickets and other information are available online at www.BrewFestWilm.com.
Proceeds from the event benefit Restore the King, the effort to repair Delaware’s King Gambrinus statue and return it to public display. The 140-year-old sculpture was mounted on Wilmington’s Diamond State Brewery from 1888 until 1962 and has been in storage since it was broken in 1978. Details are available at www.RestoreTheKing.com.