Where do Mixed-Ferm Beers Fit into Sales Strategies?

Two years ago, Idle Hands Craft Ales founder Chris Tkach and his staff worked a mixed-fermentation project with Upland and barreled the beer in oak.

“​It’s sitting over in our warehouse aging and it’s been there since we did it,” he said​. ​”​The beer tastes awesome​ but I am literally afraid to actually package and release it because I don’t think it’s going to sell.​”​

​It’s a problem many producers of the type of beer are having as consumer interest has ​waned so finding solutions has been hit or miss.

​”​Do we put all this effort to kind of put it into the bottle? Because it’s hand bottling here at Idle Hands,” Tkach said. ​”​​Do we bottle it for it ​to just sit on the shelf and die and even slower death?”​

The Malden, Massachusetts brewery​ used to keep a tank called Funky Town​ ​where ​they would continuously brew into and allow ​the cultures to develop through successive beers.

​In 2019, Tkach said they made the decision to nix ​the program​.

“Anything that comes in a bottle seems to come in with glue on the bottom of it​,” he said about trying to put those bottles on retail shelves​.​ “If it’s ​not in a 16​-​ounce can it’s very hard to get the retailer to buy it.​”

Tkach said that sales are still OK at the brewery, but, even that demand is not enough to really pull through ​the beer, unfortunately.

“They sell good on draft, oddly enough​,” he said. ​”​But​ when you put it into a package, it just doesn’t seem to move. That’s incredibly frustrating because it’s beers that I love. I love drinking those beers. I love producing those beers. But in the end, it’s a business right? I can’t sink money and effort ​… ​and time ​… ​into producing a beer that I can’t sell.​”​

Idle Hands has done tastings in wine-focused liquor stores, and those beers always sell well, he said.

“That is the kind of end-consumer for those things,” he said. “But it’s [tough] trying to get in front of them.

“Generally they’re thinking wine versus beer, and then trying to shift that conversation, which is not always an easy task.”

In Oregon, which Von Ebert Head Brewer Sam Pecoraro said is Pinot Noir country, making that connection is tough as well.

“I need to have them walk into a beer bottle shop rather than a wine shop. I’m not sure how to make that jump,” he said.

Pecoraro noted that mixed-ferm beers have two big things going against it.

“One is packaging,” he said. “The other one is that it’s a tough sell.”

Consumer education is hard, and getting your taproom and sales staff to really understand and be comfortable saying words like Lactobacillus and Brettanomyces to consumers and retailers can be uncomfortable.

“At a bottle shop, it’s a lot easier to point to an IPA, at $16-20 a four-pack then a single 500 ml bottle at the same price.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *