The Effort Urban Artifact is Making to Bridge the Sweet & Sour Fruit Beer Gap

Opening as a brewery in 2015 with the intention of being a sour beer producer and using the term Midwest Fruit Tart as its base, Cincinnati’s Urban Artifact has staked a claim on the sour beer market and has found growth in the segment.

Growing into 22 states for distribution and a solid fan following, COO Scotty Hunter is more than happy to say he’s amazed at the climb the brewery has made over the years.

“It’s strange to me that there’s more and more acceptance of the tart and sour category,” he said. “Even just sour as a baseline term now … that’s something I never really thought I would see. We fought against it so much at the start of people saying, I don’t like sour things. There are still people pretty set in this way. So I don’t think that terminology is the best. But we’re able to garner distribution, not just because of our quality. It’s where we fit strategically within a portfolio, we have a ton of value to a distribution partner.”

The UA staff has told Brewer many times over the year that they live off the mantra “Get Rich in Your Niche” and they won’t be putting out anything too outside their walls of fruit-forward beers. But at the same time, they don’t want to just be a sour brewery as well. Some new additions to technology this year are propelling goals for 2024, one being a tunnel pasteurizer. This will help the brand expand into non-alcoholic sours from the brand — a unique addition in its own right. But Hunter said they are exploring “sweeter” beers as well. But just like the tart side of things, expect balance from the brand.

“We’ve already kind of dabbled there,” Hunter said. “What we see is that for a lot of drinkers, let’s say they’ve only had Leinenkugel before. In terms of some fruit-forward offerings in beer, that doesn’t really have any acidity, it’s not balanced, it’s a little more one-note.

“They then try Gadget for the first time, and it’s a little bit too much of a shock, right? It’s a leap instead of a step for a lot of those folks. So that’s why I think that a sweeter item can be a little bit of a bridge.”

The brewery is looking at adding some lactose to new brands for 2024, starting with small-scale releases in February.

“We knew where we were missing in terms of customer base and where our limitations have been in the market and where it’s at,” Hunter said. “Instead of just trying to put our foot down and tell people that they’ve got to make the leap over to our side, we’re going to try to come to them a little bit more, which I think is just smart business.”

Hunter said that there’s a lot of opportunity for Urban Artifact to have something that is lower-ABV but fruit-forward with real fruit at an affordable price point.

“Normally our things that are most commercially successful are seven-plus percent alcohol content items, but the majority of alcoholic beverage strength is not going to be that potent,” Hunter said, saying that there has been a great response from distributors.

“We’re in a very aggressive price point on draft,” he said, indicating that half barrels could be 25% less for a retailer to purchase.

“We are going to be in the $155-160 range, depending on the market that we’re in,” he said. “Right now in craft beer, that’s pretty unheard of. That’ll really also set us up well with some accounts that have been hesitant in the past because we haven’t had a keg under $200 for years now, I think.

“It’s just something that I think is sorely needed?”

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