In a land not so far away, Germany's Oktoberfest has given millions of visitors something to celebrate in spite of the recession. At the biggest beer festival in the world, brewers can be a passionate group who tout their creations as craftsmen's blends of art, science, and taste. Even closer to home, the beer business is booming, despite the tough economic times. Here we raise a mug to two microbreweries that have transformed their passion for brewing into booming businesses.
The Magic of Magic Hat
Known for its uniquely delicious beers and what might be called quirky branding, Magic Hat began in 1994 in Burlington, Vermont. Since its launch, the little brewpub that could has grown into one of the top craft beer producers in the country.
Co-founder and "Conductor of Cosmic Symphonies" Alan Newman calls Magic Hat's success a real Cinderella story. "We've gone from making kegs for a few Burlington bars to being the number 10 craft brand in the country. People have really flocked to our beer, and they become really devoted to it when they do. It just goes to prove that if you put out a quality product, have fun doing it, and respect your customers as you go, the universe will deliver the rest."
The company's reputation for good beer is well known and the numbers show it: its flagship ale, simply know as "#9" is the third best-selling pale ale in the country-even with a deliberately limited distribution strategy. For lucky fans, Magic Hat is available in many locations across 28 states.
Magic Hat's beer naming and packaging reinforces their brand and popularity. Some ale names include Lucky Kat, Circus Boy, Wacko-a summer seasonal ale, Roxy Rolles-a fall offering, and a soon-to-be-released winter seasonal called "Howl in the Winter," a black-as-night winter lager. A special bonus is included on the underside of each bottle cap with conversation-inspiring phrases that include "Beware of Ducks in Raincoats," "The Urge to Create is Always Great," and "Those who share are free of care."
In Magic Hat's Vision and Values Statement, the company stresses its focus on innovation, stating that "…ideas cannot be limited by current perception." In 2008, Magic Hat further grew its business by acquiring Seattle-based Pyramid Breweries. Most recently, the brewery has expanded distribution to Texas, Florida, and Southern California, yet 73 percent of its year-to-date growth occurred within existing territories.
Newman explains, "We're growing in new places but also in long-term markets. That's a testament to the strength of our Brand and its increasing popularity in an industry that is itself doing very well."
BridgePort Brewing: A Pearl of a Brew
Coming off its 25th anniversary which included a community celebration in its their Portland neighborhood known as "The Pearl District," BridgePort Brewery is known for great beer and great causes. In support of local efforts to protect the great blue heron by naming it Portland's official city bird, BridgePort Brewery launched Blue Heron Pale Ale in 1987. The beer continues to this date and yes, the great blue heron has officially earned its throne as Portland's official bird.
Along the way, BridgePort Brewing Company has gone from producing 600 barrels of beer a year to more than 45,000 barrels annually. As one of the top specialty brewers in Oregon with distribution in 18 states, the brewery has won various awards including the Gold Medal at the 2005 Brewing Industry International Awards.
The brewery has managed to combine a love of beer and good causes while it continues to grow. Beyond the recent community block party that included Audubon Society fundraising, there was a live bird demonstration and Audubon Society of Portland Membership drive. Ranked number 33 in the Brewers Association's Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies, BridgePort's brews will likely keep growing and giving.