The Year in Beer: the Top 5 Stories of 2011

goose island fulton stacks

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Here is the conclusion of the top 30 stories of the year. If you are just catching up, here is 26-30, 21-25, 16-20, 11-15 and 6-10.

Without further ado, your top five stories of the year in beer. Agree or disagree with the list?

anthony bourdain pic

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5. Anthony Bourdain claims that Discovery Channel pulled the plug on Brew Masters due to “Big Beer”

In March, No Reservations (television show) host, Anthony Bourdain, lit a match and dropped it into a pool of gasoline.


The Discovery Channel released a statement saying that the company did not cancel the show but only chose not to renew it. Those will turn out to be empty words until the sixth episode, which was filmed in New York and Italy, airs here in the United States. It aired in Italy last month.

From discussions I’ve had with a couple parties and the few ratings I recall at the time, there wasn’t enough national interest in the program to bring it back for another season. It is quite likely that we won’t see another craft beer series on national television anytime soon.

The Dogfish Head crew is said to be investigating the possibility of an online video series now. Keep an eye on that in 2012.

dogfish head pearl jam faithfull ale

4. Dogfish Head brews two more music collaboration beers for Pearl Jam, Robert Johnson

First, in March, Dogfish Head announced its collaboration on a beer for Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson may not exactly be a household name like Miles Davis, the subject of Sony Legacy and Dogfish Head‘s Bitches Brew collaboration beer, but he influenced a number of musicians who grew to stardom.

Then in October, the Pearl Jam beer

Faithfull Ale is a celebration of Pearl Jam’s 20th anniversary and their seminal album Ten – In recognition of these milestones this Belgian-style golden ale is delicately hopped to 20 IBUs and fruit-forward from 10 incremental additions of black currants over the course of the one hour boil. 7% ABV.

News of the Pearl Jam beer, especially, made beer and music enthusiasts swoon.

Will Dogfish Head do more music collabs in 2012? Considering how often Sam Calagione is seen in that Pogues t-shirt, it wouldn’t be a surprise.

Canadian Breakfast Stout

3. Founders Brewing releases Canadian Breakfast Stout in bottles, all-out frenzy ensues

Founders Brewing Co. Vice President/Director of Marketing Dave Engbers announced today that the highly anticipated Canadian Breakfast Stout (CBS) will be the second release in the company’s 750mL “Backstage Series”. It will be released to the market on October 3, 2011, with a taproom release party on October 1.

There has been a great deal of anticipation and speculation regarding the upcoming release after the success of Blushing Monk, the series’ debut, earlier this year. Canadian Breakfast Stout is the epitome of why Founders launched the Backstage Series: it brings some of the brewery’s most sought-after beers, which have been available primarily at the taproom or at a few select events, to a much larger audience.

You may be wondering how the release of a barrel-aged stout lands at #3 on the list but this story had it all.

One look at the Canadian Breakfast Stout page reveals everything you would expect and then some from an epic beer retail release. It put everything that people love and hate about craft beer ubergeekery under a microscope: fan fervor, mules, website crashes, massive eBay sales, retailer scandals, and drawbacks of distribution for such a limited product

And to think it may happen all over again this spring when Westvleteren XII is released. Wow.

breckenridge brewery pic 575

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2. Breckenridge Brewery mocks “Big Beer” in ad campaign

In May, Breckenridge came out with what may have been the most viral video campaign ever for a craft brewery. The Breckenridge Brewery’s TV campaign in which it mocked traditional marketing jargon used by large beer manufacturers got over half a million hits on Youtube by my count. Later, I blogged about how it managed to be successful despite Breckenridge’s ad agency dropping the ball on distribution of the videos.

In any case, here is a sample of what you missed.

The original story got over 3,000 shares (all four videos there too), second only to the top story of the year which got 6,000 shares…

goose island glass 575

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1. Anheuser-Busch purchases Goose Island for $39 million

On March 27, 2011, Anheuser-Busch, Incorporated (“ABI”), a subsidiary of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc., and Craft Brewers Alliance, Inc. (“CBA”) entered into a binding term sheet by which ABI will purchase the 42% interest in Fulton Street Brewery, LLC (“FSB”) owned by CBA (the “CBA Interest”) for a purchase price of $16,300,000 in cash, reductions in the distribution fees to be paid by CBA to ABI under the existing distribution arrangements between the parties, amendments to the minority rights held by ABI and additional commercial considerations described below. FSB is a Chicago-based brewer of malt beverage products under the “Goose Island” brand.

This story was as big as it was because of one thing and one thing only. Anheuser-Busch. The largest beermaker in the country bought the Chicago icon back in the first half of the year. Longtime readers may remember that day which was filled with updates and server crashes from the traffic. The news made Twitter’s trending topics list on a national level though I don’t recall whether it ever trended worldwide.

Symphony IRI data from earlier in the year revealed that the sale had had no effect on Goose Island sales in the aggregate despite a vocal minority of people that boycotted the company due to the new AB affiliation.

The story is still being written. Anheuser-Busch is now producing 312 Urban Wheat at a facility in New York and has TTB clearance to begin canning the beer for the first time this year. AB has also trademarked a number of area codes which some believe may be a spinoff of the 312 Urban Wheat idea if not 312 Urban Wheat released under new locally-themed packaging branded under the various area codes.

Stay tuned for more thoughts as we settle into 2012.

Oh, and sound off in the comments on the list of 30 stories. What did I miss?

13 thoughts on “The Year in Beer: the Top 5 Stories of 2011

  1. Mike- Hellhound was basically 90-Minute IPA with a hint of lemon.
    Good, but IMO it was a little over-hyped.

  2. Now that I’ve been battered on Twitter, I realize I should have first asked more about the guidelines used to compile the list. At least, I think that’s what you volunteered in 140 characters (less the space for the @s).

  3. Haha, bludgeoned you were!

    I actually think this speaks to a larger question of the changing face of publishing. Journalism vs. sharing vs. blogging. I blend all three approaches here. I’ll probably pen something on it for in the next 7-10 days but have to form my thoughts around it.


  4. Oh, and as to your question, per the first post:

    What a crazy year it has been for the beer industry. What follows is a list of stories that either resonated with readers or got coverage in the mainstream media. Because of the site’s foundation as a craft beer site first and a beer site second, the list is heavily slanted toward stories relating to the craft beer category.

    Big Flats and private label beers, for example, may not have resonated with readership as much as it got play at a national level.

  5. I’m glad to see Breckenridge made it onto the list. Their beervertising videos were one of the more memorable social media beer campaigns I came across in 2011. The gravity activated pouring video is my favourite, but “If you touch it and it’s cold, it’s cold” comes in a close second.


    Zoe Geddes-Soltess
    Community Engagement, Radian6

  6. I kinda figured Adam it was getting into that kind of big topic conversation the way things were going. As for the Big Flats story, funny for the “big news” of the release I haven’t seen it in my Walgreens in a while, can’t say that is a pity as I think about it.

  7. Pingback: Appellation Beer: Beer From a Good Home » Blog Archive » What’s news to me might not be news to you

  8. Pingback: Top 5 beer news stories of 2011 « Beerafide

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