If you haven’t noticed, the world is starting to think about the role that craft beer plays in a healthy lifestyle. Is this a reaction to the Pastry Stouts and high ABVs of contemporary craft beer? Or is it part of a larger trend where drinkers want to know more about what’s going into their bodies and how it impacts their lives?
Anyone in the business of selling beer right now is talking about an emerging category known as “better for you,” which covers everything from low-calorie craft beer and kombucha to hard seltzers and gluten-free or gluten-reduced beer.
You’ve probably seen GBH reporting on Michelob Ultra, the low-calorie, low-carb front-runner, which is the fastest growing brand in beer history. Mich Ultra is sort of the tip of the spear for the category, giving corporate and craft brewers alike the confidence they need to explore some of these new directions for beer.
But while most brands are focused on the functional components of these beers—touting low-calorie, low-ABV, and other benefits—very few of them have tried to build a community around their brands and lifestyles the way today’s guest has. Caitlin Landesberg is the founder and CEO of Sufferfest, based in San Francisco.
Her brand was born out of, and still lives in, athlete culture. As a former marketing executive in the fitness tech start-up world, Caitlin had a front-row seat to athletes’ needs and motivations. And she was one herself.
As a result of these interests, her homebrewing hobby took a radically different approach to beer making. She brewed for flavor, and fitness, and for a reduced-gluten profile. She used healthful ingredients and considered athletic occasions as prime beer-drinking moments. She should know—she loves to celebrate a win with a beer. A moment that she has dubbed “sufferfest”—hence the company name.
This year, Caitlin and her team are making a massive transition, as they recently earned the attention of Sierra Nevada, who will now brew their beers. Sierra is also working to expand the distribution footprint of Sufferfest as a major new portfolio play.
I’ve been working in and thinking about this “better-for-you” space for the last year on our studio side, helping our clients pivot and expand to new audiences interested in these beers. That plays into this conversation, and one way it shows up is that you’ll mistakingly hear me refer to Sufferfest as part of the non-alcoholic, or NA, trend. It’s not, though—Sufferfest’s beers definitely have alcohol, and that mistake is just part of my brain blurring a few conversations I was having that day. So for clarity, Sufferfest beers are gluten-reduced, and offer a host of other benefits.
This is Caitlin Landesberg of Sufferfest—listen in.