Time for the year end blog (with pics at the end)! We won’t be listing all this year’s accomplishments, there were many, because only one really counts: we made it to another year. This could not have happened without tremendous support from our fans and from everyone who believed in session beer. So a big thank you for allowing us to brew in 2013, because we have some fun things planned.
In 2012, our second year of full production, we increased volume by over 50%, with one full time employee and a marketing budget of nil. So, something is clearly resonating. Whenever someone approaches me with a big smile and thanks for brewing session beer, I don’t take it lightly. I take the time to tell them how much it means to me, because it is proof that options are important to the beer consumer, and the option of flavor at low ABV is something many value. Notch is proof!
I still get feedback that ranges from indifference, blank stares of bewilderment, suggestions to increase the ABV, and outright anger that a brewer would make lower ABV beer “on purpose” – that was one of the funnier responses this year. I would argue this high ABV loving tribe doesn’t like beer at all. But every day we gain beer drinkers who are just that, drinkers not tasters. More on this here.
When I started this session beer road show, it was for one reason, to bring session beer back into the conversation. “Back” was a confusing concept for many, because many thought I was making something out of nothing. The truth is session beer has been around as long as beer itself, and filled with beer styles long in history and diversity (Cerne Pivo, Polotmavy, Tafelbier, Worker’s Saison and dozens more). Along the way, others have taken note, and session beer is clearly back in the conversation, especially in Massachusetts. It’s amazing what can happen when brewers offer options and education – people respond. It would have been easy to cast off session beer as not viable; it’s much harder to prove otherwise.
And as far as Notch has come, we have a long way to go. We need to grow significantly this year to be viable and withstand the ever increasing competition for shelf and tap space – not an easy task for one full time employee. But that is not the complete picture. Notch is fortunate to have the Mass Beverage Alliance selling and distributing our beers throughout the state, and without their dedication and commitment, we’d be lost. We also get a lot of part-time help, without which, we’d have been DOA. The ever smiling Mary Ellen Leahy has poured more beers this year at festivals than she cares to remember, Doug Labb has been a rock steady force behind the scenes hawking Notch to retailers when not too busy with his ten other businesses, and new part-time promo rep Chris Poles has brought some much needed youth, facial hair and tattoos to the company. And our list of volunteers is LONG, and we hope it stays that way.
It’s exciting and scary times in craft beer. Volume continues to grow, new brands are introduced daily, and distribution channels (shelf and tap space) are getting clogged. I try not to let history cloud the opportunities ahead, but we all know that quote about ignoring history. It’s one reason I have done many things different this time around. Tremont, as successful as it was, was also filled with more learning experiences than I ever expected in a lifetime. I just need to recognize which ones are relevant.
So onward to 2013! Notch has a bunch of new “things” happening this year. You’ll see new beer styles, new packages, new cask beer offerings, and maybe, just maybe, a second full time employee. I’ll continue to brew beers at breweries that let me in the door, and Ipswich Brewery’s door will get bigger this year when they move to a new facility with a 60 bbl brew house (very excited to brew on the new system). I’ll also fire up the brew kettle at Kennebunkport Brewing for a few one-offs, and maybe spread to a third brewery for another project on the horizon. I’ll admit, being an independent brewer can be frustrating, but it’s also a lot of fun working in a number of different breweries as there is never a dull day.
We are excited for a fun 2013 – everything we do this year is for Notch fans old and new, based on your requests and everything you’ve come to love about Notch. It only seems fitting; session beer is for the proletariat, the people. We’ll let others brew for royalty!
And here’s some of our year in pics: