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Craft Beer Boom Propels New Belgium To New Heights

June 23, 2011

With sales volume of more than 9.1 million (2.25-gallon) cases last year, New Belgium Brewing is the third largest craft brewer in the United States, despite distribution in only half of the country. The brewer of Fat Tire Amber Ale, the Fort Collins, Colorado brewery celebrates its 20th anniversary this month, and expects to enter Maryland, Virginia and Washington, DC this summer. Shanken News Daily recently spoke with Kim Jordan, co-founder and CEO, about New Belgium’s plans to further expand distribution.

SND: What’s the latest on New Belgium’s eastward expansion?

Jordan: We’re proceeding nicely on our plans to expand into Virginia, Maryland and Washington. We’re expecting to have product in those markets in August. With the new markets, we’ll be in 28 states, so we still have a fair amount to do in key regions like the Northeast. Our production capacity is somewhat constrained so we need to make expansion decisions slowly and methodically.

SND: Have you given thought to having your beer produced outside of Fort Collins?

Jordan: We have, but we don’t anticipate that is something we will do with another brewery. We are looking at a second brewery location somewhere on the East Coast.

SND: Ranger IPA is off to early success following its introduction last year. Has there been any cannibalization of Fat Tire or other New Belgium labels from Ranger IPA?

Jordan: It’s always hard to definitively nail down the impact of a new brand. We suspect there’s been a little bit of cannibalization, particularly with Fat Tire, but it hasn’t been a significant amount, and we’re still growing in overall market share.

SND: Are there any other new products from New Belgium?

Jordan: In May, we released a new seasonal called Somersault that has been a wild success so far. It contains ginger and dried lemon peel. I am also making a beer with Dick Cantwell from Elysian Brewing in Seattle, called Kick, a sour cranberry pumpkin ale under our Lips of Faith series, that will be released in September. It’s pretty important to come up with new ideas. Many new products are one-offs, but some turn into longer range parts of our portfolio. We find that particularly satisfying.

SND: New Belgium is somewhat unique in the beer business in that several of its top executives are female, including, obviously, yourself. Are you finding that women are playing an increasingly bigger role in craft brewing than when you first entered the business?

Jordan: When I first entered the business, there weren’t that many of us. There are a lot more women now, particularly women who are brewers. So fortunately, we’re growing in numbers.

SND: Looking ahead, where do you see the most opportunity for craft brewers?

Jordan: I think we will continue to gain market share collectively. There is still a lot of blue sky. But one of the things that limits us is the need for capital as we tend to be privately and often family-held. In terms of beer, while full-bodied beers have been a part of the new product offerings of the last few years, I suspect we will also see beers that are more sessionable and lower in alcohol, although not necessarily light beers. When a trend swings one way, it will often right itself by swinging the other way. And I think beer drinkers will enjoy a little bit more subtlety and finesse in a balanced beer.

New Belgium Brewing Co – Leading Brands
(thousands of 2.25-gallon cases)
Percent Change3
Brand 2008 2009 2010 2008-2009 2009-2010
Fat Tire Amber Ale 4,781 5,404 5,507 13% 2%
Seasonal 665 900 993 35% 10%
Ranger 758 +
Folly Pack1 177 226 365 27% 62%
Trippel 93 110 150 18% 37%
Others 1,080 1,389 1,337 29% -4%
Total New Belgium2 6,796 8,029 9,110 18% 13%
1 Includes some Fat Tire Amber Ale, Ranger and Seasonal.
2 Addition of columns maybe not agree due to rounding.
3 Based on unrounded data. 

Source: IMPACT DATABANK

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