The year of the coronavirus, out of necessity, morphed into the year of packaged craft beer sales. With no signs that this new normal is changing any time soon (and even if it does) we wanted to highlight some of the more innovative / creative ways craft breweries have configured their packaged offerings to appeal to diehard fans and shelf grazers alike. Thanks to the Colorado Brewers Guild for helping assemble this showcase.
Leaders past the pack
High Hops Brewery out of Windsor, Colo., zoomed right past the 6- or 12-pack to a 30-pack option of their The Cold One Craft Lager priced at an incredible $30.
“We choose to do a 30 pack for nostalgic reasons really,” says Zach Weakland, head brewer and production manager. “Who doesn’t remember grabbing a 30 rack in college? Why not a 30 rack of craft beer from a craft brewery that you feel great about supporting? We hand fill all the boxes and then hand glue them. We worked with DeLine in Denver to develop a box that would fit the 30 cans and they were very helpful.”
Why the lager? “Because we think that when given the choice people will choose a craft lager over a domestic lager. Plus, we think our lager stacks up against any lager on the market and we will try many different packages just to try to get it in more people’s hands to show that craft beers aren’t all just hops and stouts.”
Meanwhile, 14er Brewing Co. makes and distributes a super on-brand mixed 14-pack that features four of their flagship beers: Mt Massive IPA, Double Mt Massive IPA, Maroon Bells Tropical Ale, Rocky Mountain Saison and one or two mystery beers.
“14 packs started as a crazy idea—we are 14er Brewing lets do a mixed 14 pack,” says Andrew Kaczmarek, co-founder at 14er Brewing Co. “We worked with our cardboard supplier to make a custom die for the 14 pack, and being a small craft brewery we had stuff the mix packs. It has been a fantastic talking point for our sales team and helps get more placements.”
Why this mix? “We saw a lot of the larger craft breweries shifting variety packs to 15, both for competitive pricing and ability to autopack off a line, and at 14er brewing we are always looking to push our distribution presence. This mixed pack was a large part of that decision. The pack also has 4 flagship 14er brands and two mystery beers that gives us the option to have 5 or 6 different types of beer in the mix to showcase the breadth of beer styles and flavors we brew at 14er Brewing.”
A variety of variety
Variety packs have almost become the standard packaging format for craft beer, catering to customers who like to sample or have a tough time committing to one brand with so many to choose from. Bootstrap Brewing took this concept to its natural next stop.
“We wanted to do something different than everyone else and hadn’t heard that anyone was doing a beer and seltzer combination,” said Leslie Kaczeus, chief of stuff and co-owner of Bootstrap Brewing. “We love that this pack exposes people to everything we package and there’s something for everyone in the mix.
Each party pack has two 12-ounce cans of six of the following Bootstrap offerings: Insane Rush IPA, Lush Puppy Juicy IPA, Chillax Pineapple Gold, Stick’s Pale Ale, Wreak Havoc Imperial Pale Ale and Sparkalicious Hard Seltzer. All of these offerings are gluten-reduced.
Leaning into your niche
Bruz Beers provides a Single, Dubbel, Tripel or Quadrupel in one swoop with this 4-pack offering available at the Bruz taprooms and in liquor stores in the Denver area. Not a lot of breweries carry a Single, Dubbel, Tripel and Quadruple all at once, but at Bruz Beers, with its hyper focus on Belgian-style beers, that’s commonplace.
“We take customers over to Belgium yearly for beer tours, and we learn a lot about what customers like and are drawn to, so having an Abbey series 4-pack seemed like common sense to us,” says Ryan Evans, Co-Founder at Bruz Beers. “It gives you a chance to sit down and try a flight of beers at home while learning about the historic styles.
“Our customers have certainly connected with the concept, and so have liquor stores in the area. We even have interest in shipping the packaging out of state – that’s exciting. It introduces those that are new to Belgian styles while also satisfying those that are well versed in the styles.”
Similarly, Left Hand Brewing leaned into its brand identity with the Mixed 8-pack for Nitro beer lovers. Left Hand is obviously a pioneer on this front, having debuted the first ever Nitro bottles for American craft beer with Milk Stout Nitro in 2011 and even partnered with Ball to can with widgets for the first time in 2016. This is the first pack of its kind and showcases three year round Nitro offering, plus a current seasonal Nitro beer.
“Our advancement in the style has really grown in the last few years as we’ve leaned into our strength as the leader in Nitro and have been brewing some unique and unexpected styles with our signature super smooth mouthfeel.,” says Kristina Hernández Schostak, communications manager at Left Hand. “Since this is first of its kind and we are known and recognized by fans for Nitro, this pack has quickly become one of our top five selling products. Also, with COVID realities and more people look for more options on the shelf with restaurants closed, this is a great way to bring a flight of beer home with you safely.”
Left Hand also has a new mixed pack hitting the market in a couple of weeks — an all Milk Stout variety featuring their most popular beer.
But also, double down on what works
Oskar Blues isn’t messing around with its Pack-O-Bliss, the brand’s ultimate IPA showcase. This collection of IPAs contains three distinctive beers from the Can-O-Bliss lineup of IPAs, including a brand new Can-O-Bliss Resinous variant and the return of Pinner Session IPA.
“We pour a massive amount of research and innovation into each version of these hopped up beers to deliver new and bold flavors,” says Aaron Baker, Sr. Marketing Manager at Oskar Blues. “Beer drinkers are also looking for variety and choice, so cramming four of our best IPAs into Pack-O-Bliss IPA Mixed Pack made all the sense in the world. This pack is all about listening to the beer drinker. Through the dollars they spend on specific beers and the messages they send to us on social media (BRING BACK PINNER!!!), they demand variety, choice, and quality IPAs.”
The total package? Fanny packs
In a way, Telluride Brewing’s 12-pack of its best selling beers plus a rotating brewery’s choice option — that also converts into a fanny pack (the packaging has holes you can cut out to make your own belt loop) — is all of the above ideas distilled into one perfectly goofy package.
“It would be nice to say we foresaw the cultural swing back to fanny packs being cool and were being super trendy, but the real story is Fish, our brewmaster, remembered a time Tommy, our president, had too much fun at a particular Bluegrass Festival,” says Alex Hoskin, Head Fishing Guide at Telluride Brewing Co., of this origin story. “As you can see from the picture below Tommy seems to have lost the actual fanny pack he was wearing, but the overall attitude still screams, “I love fanny packs!” Or at least, “Where’d I put my fanny pack?” And, “Where’d all this glitter come from?” Naming beers/packages is usually tough, but pretty much everyone agreed that was “on brand” for us.”
From the get go, they wanted the box to be used as an actual fanny pack, and after doing some R&D, they did it. Are customers into it?
“It’s fun and new, so yes, we’ve seen some new accounts, but mostly increased sales in existing accounts,” Hoskin says. “The most measurable response has been Fanny Packs becoming our fastest moving SKU over the past year, so it seems people like the idea. We’d like to think it hits our core customer base (people who always thought fanny packs were cool), but maybe with a cultural resurgence we’re seeing new customers too. … If you can’t tell from these answers, we’re pretty much making stuff we think is fun and hoping other people like it too.”
Why this mix? “PAs and yellow beers will always be crowd pleasers, and the Brewer’s Choice leaves some wiggle room for innovation and seasonality. Basically, if someone grabbed you a random beer out of a box they’d tied around their waist, we wanted you to enjoy it without having to personally dig around in there.”