In 2019, Boston Beer Co. and Dogfish Head united in a historic merger that shocked the beer world. Some said it marked the end of craft beer. They couldn’t have been more wrong…
It’s been two years since the Boston Beer Co. (BBC) and Dogfish Head (DFH) merger, and we are happy to announce that not only is craft beer alive and well (despite the pandemic’s best efforts), BBC and DFH remain at the top of their game, producing consistently high-quality brews far ahead of the innovation curve. In fact, BBC just posted incredible Q4 numbers, growing 53% from the fourth quarter of 2019.
Some might be surprised by their success, but they shouldn’t be. BBC and DFH have always had a knack for knowing what consumers want – even when the consumers didn’t know it themselves. From fielding a portfolio that fits every consumer’s needs, to brewing up the next big things in beer (and beyond), Jim Koch and Sam Calagione are out to give people the best versions of what they want.
A Winning Portfolio
Koch and Calagione have been at the forefront of the craft movement for decades, united by their devotion to craft long before their breweries merged. The pair come from different brewing backgrounds – traditional lagers vs. off-the-wall ales – but that’s what makes their partnership great, and as complementary as their combined portfolio.
And what a portfolio it is. Samuel Adams. Dogfish Head. Angry Orchard. Twisted Tea. Truly Hard Seltzer. All household names (especially in the Northeast) synonymous with quality and consistency. The new BBC has something for every LDA consumer to enjoy, whether they’re looking for a gluten-free option, a BFY IPA, something to get the party started or a classic craft lager – you can bet that it’s a best-in-class option.
Making so many different kinds of beverage alcohol might seem like a negative, but the team at BBC knows their broad range of products is a major plus. By establishing firm footholds in so many segments, BBC is in an almost unique position to adapt to changing consumer preferences.
Innovation vs. Consistent Core Products
Finding the sweet spot between core products and the drive to innovate isn’t easy, but BBC has that figured out too. In addition to implementing DFH’s famous “Beer Exploration Journal” (a questionnaire that lets visitors to their tasting rooms give immediate feedback on new beers), Calagione says that BBC’s structure allows everyone involved to take chances.
“Our company is actually more risk-excited than risk-averse,” he told VinePair. “I think it’s in part because we have resources and 10 different retail locations, so our big breweries can be… making the Monets and the Renoirs while our little, tiny 10-barrel systems… can be throwing s*** at the wall and Jackson Pollocking on a small stage. So, we try to embrace risk as aggressively as possible, but do it on a small scale, so it’s manageable.”
Some of those risks have paid off big, like last year’s blockbuster hit, Truly Lemonade, or DFH’s BFY, oat milk-infused Hazy-O!, which went from a Rehoboth Beach brewhouse experiment to a year-round release in record time. BBC’s CEO, Dave Burwick, explained to Beer Business Daily that the company’s innovation strategy for 2021 will follow the same pattern of line extensions that are exciting to consumers, but build the core.
“As you look at what’s happened with COVID, the number of SKUs have been reduced,” says Burwick. “People are still really gravitating toward brands they know and trust. …It’s all about taking the core equities of the brands and making them stronger through innovation.”
Luckily, BBC has their founders on their side. Koch and Calagione excel at finding the slivers of “white space” in the market and filling them with top-notch products.
“Innovation has been in the DNA of BBC since we helped launch the craft beer revolution,” Koch told the Beer Industry Summit earlier this year. “…And I happen to believe that a founder-led company can drive innovation in a more successful way.”
If BBC’s 2021 schedule is any indicator, Koch is right on the money. We’ve already seen the launch of several of the company’s big plays for the year, like Truly Iced Tea Hard Seltzer, Samuel Adams Wicked Hazy & Wicked Easy, as well as two new, long requested Angry Orchard flavors (Peach Mango and Strawberry). And a new formulation for Boston Lager is in the works. BBC also recently announced an exciting new innovation: Truly Punch Hard Seltzer, available in a variety pack of four flavors: Fruit, Tropical, Berry and Citrus. And don’t forget the two new non-alc offerings: Dogfish Head Lemon Quest and Samuel Adams Just The Haze, which are poised to take the burgeoning NA market by storm.