Monday, November 19, 2007

More Bad PR From Sam Adams

According to this discussion on Beeradvocate, the Boston Beer Company (Sam Adams) will not be producing one of the winners of the Longshot competition. The Longshot competition is an (annual?) homebrewing competition in which Sam Adams picks 4 winners, commercially produces the 4 winners, and packages them in a 4 pack. One of the winners in this year's competition is (was) a double IPA, supposedly a Russian River Pliny the Elder clone. They've decided not to produce this winner in the upcoming Longshot pack citing the hop shortage as the reason. This year's hop crop has been abysmally small, driving up prices and driving down availability. The problem is expected to last for 2-3 more years.

I'm having trouble forming a strong opinion one way or the other about this announcement. Part of me wants to work myself up into a lather about it because they're reneging on a deal that they made with the public. They're citing a reason that they must have had some idea about prior to announcing this beer as a winner, though I'm admittedly not familiar with the timing involved. The other part of me is willing to cut them some slack because if Lew is correct, the hop shortage is very, very bad. I'm sure Sam Adams had hop contracts for the hops they would need in 2008 for their normal beers, but probably left the purchasing of the hops needed for the Longshot beers until closer to time. From what I've read, if you had contracts in place your hops are still in the reasonable range of prices, though still much higher than last year. In the absence of a contract, you're looking at unreasonable and prohibitive costs. This is probably where Sam Adams finds themselves. It doesn't help that a double IPA will require massive amounts of hops. People say that they wouldn't care if Sam Adams needed to increase the price of the 4 pack to offset the hop prices, but how many people would really be willing to pay $12 for the 4 beers? Not enough to make business sense.

It's an unfortunate situation that comes at a bad time for Sam Adams with all their recent publicity about the mayor in Oregon.

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