Dogfish Head Founder Sam Calagione Discusses New Oat Milk IPA and Craft Beer Innovation
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder Sam Calagione has been selling some pretty weird beers for the past 26 years.
So, by comparison, Calagione last concoction – a hazy IPA made with oat milk from New York-based plant-based milk producer Elmhurst 1925 – is rather tame.
The inclusion of oat milk, according to Calagione, makes it easier for drinkers to drink beer that reaches 7.1% blood alcohol content.
“We think you have to try it to believe it,” he said.
In addition to oat milk, Hazy-O! includes malted oats, rolled oats, and naked oats, and it was designed to take advantage of two emerging trends: hazy IPAs and plant-based milks.
“It really makes such a big difference in a sea of hazy IPAs,” Calagione said.
According to Dogfish Head, who cited data from market research firm IRI, hazy IPAs are the fastest growing style of craft beer in America. In a 13-week period ending October 25, 2020, category-wide Foggy IPA sales increased by over 80%.
Mark With their cloudy appearance, high hop aroma, lower perceived bitterness, and overall sweeter flavor, Misty IPAs have become one of the most popular craft styles among beer drinkers.
Born in New England and loved by beer geeks who have sometimes stood in line for hours to buy liquid that can cost over $ 5 a can, Misty IPAs have undoubtedly entered the mainstream.
Almost all of the major craft beer makers have a fuzzy lineup – including Brooklyn Brewery, the most recent player to get into the game – and retailers are inundated with four-packs.
Sierra Nevada finally won the battle – his Hazy Little Thing is currently the fifth largest craft beer in the country and last year it racked up $ 94 million in sales at off-premises retailers.
For its part, Boston Beer has since reformulated and rebranded what is now called Samuel Adams Wicked Hazy IPA, and it has even airtime purchased during this year’s Super Bowl for the purpose of selling juice.
And then there is the dogfish, class like the 13e largest craft brewing company in America by the Brewers Association.
With almost all of their closest competitors betting on fuzzy IPAs, they were essentially forced to create their own offering that could compete on both taste and price.
According to Calagione, Hazy-O! will sell for $ 9.99 a six-pack, alongside three of its other nationally-distributed staple beers (60-Minute IPA, SeaQuench, and Slightly Mighty), while still boasting the “off-center” attributes its customers enjoy. the most faithful expect. the Delaware Craft Brewery.
“We believe it’s not just about finding the right cylinders for innovation and style, but also for price, which was never really part of the Dogfish equation in our early years.” , Calagione said.
I recently sat down with Calagione to discuss Hazy-O !, the company’s new pricing strategy, the state of craft brewing innovation, and other creative projects underway at Dogfish Head.
The following conversation has been condensed and edited slightly for clarity.
Chris Furnari (CF): Generally speaking, where do you see innovation in craft beer right now?
Sam Calagione (SC): When you think of craft beer in the context of the Top 50 IRI-defined brands – call it 90% of the volume of what is commercially perceived to be craft beer – I think there aren’t as many innovations in this world that there were certainly 10 years ago or maybe even five years ago. But when you factor in the innovation that’s going on in tasting rooms, regardless of that COVID moment, I think it’s still happening at a very high level. And I think distributors and retailers are now focusing more on the ‘beyond beer’ segment, where it was limited to the beer category, and that places tighter restrictions on the number of new ones. SKU craft brewers can successfully introduce into the three tier system. So, you find that many of the Top 50 Craft Brewers are smarter about “one in, one out” innovations, instead of trying to add more to their portfolio of beers. In addition, many craft beer companies defined by IRI in the top 20 are trying to introduce beyond beer innovations this same group of distributors. They seem to use their dry powder more beyond beer than craft beer innovations. And I think that’s just the reality of the competitive moment we’re in. It doesn’t mean we’re less creative, we just spend more time and energy thinking about innovations beyond beer.
CF: And how does Dogfish stay creative in the tasting room?
SC: We took out a beer called “Bryan, these bones are bananas”, Where we learned our lessons from the oat milk process on Hazy-O! and we made a misty oat milk stout brewed with mashed bananas and beef bone broth. This is an example of where we’ve been having fun in this better-for-you space since Namaste a decade ago, then SeaQuench and Slightly Mighty half a decade ago, and now with an oat milk infused IPA we’re going so keep playing with these notions. Maybe they stay in our tasting room. Maybe they go in packs of four. But if people fall in love with them, it could see national distribution.
CF: How do you distinguish between genuine innovation and what might seem like more of a novelty or a gimmick?
SC: We are trying to find white space. There are two business models for companies that rely on introducing new products for their travel. One is a pioneer model and the other is the quick follow model. We have always been a pioneer brewery and have tried to take risks and create unique things. And I hope the white space is sustainable, but in your opinion some of these beers just belong to our tasting room. We don’t present something unless we believe it for its taste or the uniqueness of the story. It’s true that it’s Hazy-O! or Bryan, those bones are bananas. We use our tasting rooms as a proving ground, and then let the enthusiasm of the consumers tell us if we can bring something to national distribution the following year.
CF: How Hazy-O! fit into the rest of the Dogfish Head portfolio? Before launching this beer, you seemed very focused on low calorie, low ABV beers – including a future non-alcoholic beer – and it’s a big bet on a higher, higher calorie supply.
SC: We are very attentive to the ways in which our main national brands play. We consider Slightly Mighty to be our low calorie, hoppy proposition. SeaQuench Ale is the most refreshing beer the fruit bat has ever produced at the molecular level. Namaste is our yoga-inspired wheat beer. Mist-O! is our oat milk infused IPA. In this sense, each beer has a “best for you” attribute that is unique and different.
CF: Who is Hazy-O’s target drinker !?
SC: I think the innovation sweet spot is also the demographics sweet spot we’re looking for. He is the craft beer drinker, but also the person who leads an active lifestyle. And we think the crossover is great.
CF: Why are you optimistic about Hazy-O! ?
SC: Not only Hazy-O! a national beer that sits halfway between the oat milk growth trend and hazy IPAs, but I think it has the opportunity to be one of the fastest growing beers in the world. the story of Dogfish Head, because it is literally the best for the male consumer. We have never had such a unique beer, at this ABV, which reaches this kind of price. And in this larger Boston Beer Company universe, Nationwide Dogfish is really focusing on the two price points: the base price of $ 9.99 – which is Hazy-O !, 60-Minute, SeaQuench and Slightly Mighty – and priced at $ 14.99 which are things like 90-Minute and the Art Series.
CF: This new pricing strategy seems like a pretty big change for Dogfish. I know for years you have talked about maintaining a higher price on all of your products.
SC: Our mixed price is still significantly higher than that of our competitors. But yes, at this time of competition where we want to expand in all parts of the country and not just in our backyard, we think it is the right time to bring these basic beers at a more competitive price.
CF: Apart from Hazy-O !, what are your other highlights for 2021?
SC: Each of our national brands is expected to grow in 2021, and we’re really excited about that. I think we have the right products, programs and prices to achieve the growth we expect for each of our brands. We have a few more innovation announcements planned for this year, including canned cocktails which will be out next month, but right now we’re really focused on Hazy-O! Our Dogfish Brewery in Miami will also open in the spring.