It wasn’t that long ago that the idea of contract brewing was frowned upon. But the times are changing, with contract breweries putting out award-winning beer for themselves and others. What was once a dirty little secret is now a viable option for many breweries. This week, we asked the Fervent Few how they feel about contract breweries and the beers they brew.
Caldwell Bishop: “I live in spitting distance from a contract brewery, and the brewers there do a great job—both with their brand and the others I’ve had. So I don’t have an issue with drinking contract-brewed beer from a quality perspective, and wouldn’t mind going to a taproom or establishment that is importing its product from another city/state/country. I just don’t like when breweries market themselves, especially on packaging, as being from a location, despite all the production taking place elsewhere. I tend to avoid buying beer from them as it’s disingenuous and makes me wonder what else they’ve been deceptive about.”
Mat: “I've felt for a long time that people who complain loudest about contract brewing are generally the same folks who are more than willing to turn a blind eye to the rampant sexism and lack of diversity in the business while also utilizing highly-qualified volunteers on their packaging line. It's an easy distraction and has long felt like a straw man. Besides, Brooklyn Lager started as a contract brew and that beer is basically perfect. Also, I've had like six Sierra Nevada Pale Ales so I'm a little surly.”
Tyler W. Plourd: “Overshores in New Haven, CT has become a full-blown collaborative beer space renamed The Beeracks, and I believe there are half a dozen brands operating out of this location. The best function of it all, though, and I feel like it could be something we see more of in the future, is their taproom features offerings from every brand. It's kind of like going to six breweries all at once. Of course, some brands have been growing a little quicker than others, and they plan to seek their own brick and mortar locations eventually, but if The Beeracks continues to embrace the contract brewing play this way, I'm here for it.”
Rob Steuart: “It really depends on the type of contract brewing. The ones I can't abide by is when some people have a great idea to start a brand then just tell a brewery to make something for them with no real input into the recipe, design, etc. Contract brewing where breweries are using a larger producer to make volume of core beers they have already developed is fine. Same with breweries starting up that are using another brewery’s extra capacity to brew on their equipment. In all cases, though, I think that the fact that the beer produced is done so under contract needs to be indicated on packaging and websites as transparency. In any industry, that’s a really important thing.”
Christoffer Tuominen: “I personally don't mind. Contract brewing takes a lot of time and effort from both breweries to replicate the beer as closely as possible to the original. We contract some of our beers, and I've personally overseen the brews we've done so far. Traveling to the other brewery multiple times to make sure the beer is right so that we don't disappoint our drinkers. It just a way for small breweries to get their volumes up. I personally think that if someone has the spare capacity, it's better to use it.”
Josh Mills: “I didn't know contract brewing existed until about two years ago, so I never thought of it as a bad thing. I’m for anything that lowers to barriers to entry for passionate new brewers.”
Suzanne Schalow: “Contract crewing is a good thing! It allows the shared brewery and many other important aspects (of brewing) available there. With the high cost of real estate, equipment, and ingredients, it makes sense to share the space and resources while sharing the costs. I believe what has given contract brewing an unsavory feel is when brewers aren’t transparent about what they are doing, where they are doing it, and why. Consumers deserve the truth and the details. If you’re selling/distributing your beer with the right partners, you can be sure this information will be shared appropriately! If you have space in your brewery that you are not using, and you’re not offering it up, for (even) short term contracts, it seems like something to be explored.”