The effectiveness of our partner Stoak Technologies’ all-natural, flavor-neutral liquid beer stabilizer, BrewShield, is now becoming well-established among some highly respected figures across the craft beer industry. When the likes of Steve Gonzalez of Stone Brewing, among others, says he incorporates the product “into nearly every whirlpool treatment” and that it “gives me peace of mind that the beer will stay just a little fresher a little longer”, others tend to sit up and take notice.
Brewers, and craft brewers especially, need to keep a close eye on the cost of their inputs and can understandably be resistant to the idea of an extra product – and therefore an extra cost – going into their beer. We would argue that adding BrewShield at a cost that works out at $0.015 per 355ml can (out of a total of – Stoak estimates – $1.69) is a sound investment when it doubles the period of the beer’s stabilization from the traditional 90 days to six months. But for many brewers the cost to them of their beer losing its best taste characteristics – or even going off completely – when out in the world is a hidden one and hard to quantify.
The cost of specialized hops, grains, yeast, packaging and other inputs mean that the higher retail price of craft beer is the inevitable price to be paid for a great tasting and unique product. Consumers completely get this – which is why craft beer sales continue to thrive – but just as they are willing to spend more for a brew offering something unique, their flavor expectations rise. If their first sup doesn’t taste right, they’re not likely to give the brand a second chance. BrewShield locks in the flavor benefits from using high-quality aromatic hops for twice as long, particularly worth it when – Stoak calculate – IPAs and premium craft beers require four times as much specialty/premium hopping per can than standard beers, quadrupling the hop input cost. Why spend as much as $0.16/can on specialty hops, only for the flavors that give your beer its unique selling point to be the first thing to disappear as the beer ages?
For peace of mind brewers often pay an extra 15-plus cents per can for premium guaranteed cold chain distribution, but this can ultimately be a wasted expense if the beer ends up safe and sound on retail shelves only to encounter inadequate inventory management. A six-month instead of a three-month shelf life significantly reduces the risk of beer being on sale when past its best and the need to incur self-enforced removal/recovery costs (estimated to reach 2.46 cents per can). Retailers prefer brands stable enough that they require little if any removal and will naturally view these as being higher-quality products than those that do – important to bear in mind in an always-competitive retail sector. While some brewers operate self-recovery, others do not, hoping their product never declines to the point of impacting loyalty and brand. Which explains why, for some, BrewShield can seem like an unnecessary added cost – unrealized profits are easy not to miss.
For brewers ambitious to impress and expand into territories further afield, it would be easier and most cost-effective if their brand was better protected from travel and shelf-life stress. In addition, as craft beer is a highly seasonal product, there are peak and low volume production periods: a doubled shelf-life better allows for the stockpiling of production in low sales periods, reducing the need to pay overtime premiums in the peak summer months. (Stoak calculates overtime can add an extra 8-10 cents to the cost of producing a can of craft beer.)
So that‘s why we – and figures like Steve at Stone Brewing – see BrewShield not as a cost but as an added insurance against incurring future costs, and an investment in harnessing a beer’s full growth potential. If you’d like to know more, get in touch. You can also come see us alongside Stoak at the Masters Brewers Association of America’s Northern California Conference in Sonoma County (February 27-28), the national Craft Brewers Conference in San Antonio, Texas (April 20-22), and the California Craft Brewers Association’s spring conference in San Diego (May 11-13).
Key Takeaways: John Fearless can provide: aroma and bittering hops from the US, South Africa and New Zealand; Humuflor hop essences; Stoak’s all-natural liquid beer stabilizer BrewShield and its WLT-150 liquid oak aroma extract for spirits; Milne MicroDried fruit fragments and powders; and used wine, bourbon, whiskey and rum barrels. Fearless is also the exclusive distributor for Muntons malt in California.