Don’t be Caught Making ‘Pseudo Beer’

​Preaching ‘Drink​ Local’ has made Eric Meyer think a bit. The Head Brewer for Cahaba Brewing noted that the brewery’s product still doesn’t leave about a 120-mile radius, which means that there is room for growth.

But is that growth impactful for the Birmingham, Alabama brewery?

Montgomery, the state capitol, is an hour south of and Meyer said the brewery just began distributing to the city in December.

“For us, it’s just trying to really trying to stay true, trying to focus on quality and taking care of employees and making sure that we can keep the local market happy,” he said. But he also noted that going a bit farther to somewhere like Atlanta, the “Drink Local” mantra would ring hollow.

Being in a small market with a tight distribution range has been a double-edged sword though. Being local and preaching local is one thing. Having quality and integrity is another. As craft consumers continue to become more savvy, that means Cahaba has to make sure that its quality is up to par.

“One of my old head brewers used to always talk about when the big guys finally come to town, don’t be caught making pseudo beer,” Meyer said. “If big guys are making the real version of it, local customers are going to see straight through that. They could see that we were not authentic at the beginning and they’re going to leave us behind.

“​The market keeps growing and consumers are getting smarter and if we ​are staying true ​to​ ​you ​want to do​, hopefully the market will love you.​”​

For Cahaba, that means having pitch-perfect Session IPAs, fruited Sours, Brut IPAs and Lagers. He did note, though​, that what sells inside a taproom won’t translate to sales outside the brewery’s walls.

Meyer spoke to Brewer during the 2019 Craft Brewers Conference. It’s always been a time for growth when Meyer comes to a CBC. In the past few years, trips to CBCs have ended with purchasing brewery management software; a canning line; and last year, a centrifuge. This year he brought his team along to help explore and find new ideas and learn from other breweries.

“That’s been a new learning experience for us, trying to increase turn over time with product as well as getting higher volumes out of the product,” he said. “But again it’s introducing another step in our process and is that really helping us out? We’re still in that phase of getting more volume, but is it really helping us in speed? I don’t know that we’re seeing that yet. But that’s also something we need to learn.”

The creation of products Cahaba doesn’t do is also a fight. Explaining to consumers that a Hard Seltzer isn’t a health option is something Meyer focused on.​

“I had a woman tell me ​she drink​s​ these because they’re healthier​ because they have​ more water​,” he said,. “I’m like​,​ look above the skew it says B-E-E-R on it. Look at ​the calories​, then look at a Miller Lite. These are the same things. All you’re doing is running Miller Lite through a charcoal filter​ and putting some essence in there.

​Meyer pointed out that finding out how ​to stay diverse while also being authentic is key. Consumers need to be educated to understand what they are drinking.

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