2018 Indicators: Boston Beer Update
One of the indicators for the general health of large craft breweries in the U.S. for 2018 will be the ability (or lack thereof) for Boston Beer to turnaround its slowing beer sales. Overall, the company is performing decently as it relies on new brands such as a hard seltzer and Twisted Tea but the company's slowdown in beer and cider sales has investors concerned.
Following a year-long search, the second largest independently-owned craft brewer in the country appointed Boston Beer board member and the former CEO of Peet's coffee Dave Burwick to the brewery's CEO position. Burwick replaces outgoing CEO Martin Roper who led the company for 17 years.
After a series of IPA variant releases that failed to catch on nationally – Rebel, Rebel Rouser, Rebel Raw – Sam Adams is once again trying to capture the national craft IPA zeitgeist with Sam Adams New England IPA. A style meant to be consumed as fresh as possible, it will be difficult to sustain annual large-scale production of this beer. Sam Adams rose to prominence at a time when craft breweries grew and profited off of flagship brands. The brewery's New England IPA is really more a push to stay relevant in the craft world as opposed to replacing volume lost with its flagship Boston Lager.
The brewery's year-end report revealed Boston Beer shipped 200,000 barrels fewer in 2017 compared to 2016. During his time at Peet's Coffee, Burwick oversaw acquisitions of smaller roasters such as Intelligentsia. Boston Beer needs to get creative this year – and not simply with its beer styles. Through acquisition or selling, the makeup of Boston Beer will likely change significantly at some point in 2017.