Beer Makers Who Used Other Breweries Are Opening Their Own – New York Times


Chris Lohring surveyed America’s beer scene in 2010 and decided to play the contrarian. Rather than mimic the popular and potent stouts and India pale ales, he would specialize in low-alcohol, high-taste “session beers,” as he called them.

To lenders, though, the business plan held as much appeal as flat beer. So Mr. Lohring kept costs low by using established breweries in Maine, Massachusetts and Connecticut to produce and package crisp pilsners and rustic farmhouse ales under his Notch Brewing label.

Contract brewing, as it is known, was perfect for a start-up like his, requiring no expensive infrastructure. “There’s nothing riskier than building a plant before the brand and the beers have been proven,” said Mr. Lohring, who in 1993 helped found Tremont Brewery in Boston.

Craft brewing’s decade-long global surge has been partly fueled by contract, or “gypsy,” brewers, rootless beer makers whose recipes are realized on other breweries’ equipment. Early trend setters like Evil Twin Brewing and Mikkeller of Copenhagen and Stillwater Artisanal of Baltimore built themselves into international brands through sales in bars, supermarkets and beer stores.

But now, consumers are increasingly seeking beer at the source: Since 2010, sales at breweries and brew pubs have risen more than 500 percent, according to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. Beer lovers routinely troop to breweries for releases of cans and bottles, and a sense of belonging to a particular place has become as important as the beer itself.

That places contract brewers in a pickle. “If you don’t have a brewery, you’re kind of homeless,” said Mikkel Borg Bjergso, Mikkeller’s founder and chief executive. “You don’t have anything to show people.”

As a result, many itinerant beer makers are dropping anchor, opening breweries with tasting rooms for thirsty patrons.

Evil Twin, in Queens, and Grimm Artisanal Ales, in Brooklyn, are

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