I recently read on Shikes blog (WestWord) that Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is denying the use of their name on craft beer labels. Yes you heard me right. The number one whiskey of Colorado is denying the use of their name on Colorado craft beer labels. While Shikes and other bloggers have reported this information I thought I would delve into it a bit because this seems very odd to me and well rubs me the wrong way.
If you make a product that is outstanding and others, like you, wish to use your product to enhance their own, however they give you credit for it on every single product they make then how is this a bad thing? That’s exactly what’s happening in this situation. Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey is denying the use of their name on every craft beer label that goes out forcing the breweries to use “whiskey barrel-aged” or “Colorado whiskey barrel-aged” on their labels instead of saying, “hey we’re using Stranahan barrels baby!”
For one it’s free advertising. A case of beer is 12 bottles and if the beer is aged in barrels typically the brewery wants more bang for the buck so they put it in 22oz bombers or 750ml bottles. Know what bottle spends more times in hands being observed and mentally recorded for later purchasing? Large format 22oz or 750ml bottles. With the use of barrel-aged beer a brewery will also do couple hundred cases meaning some where in the ballpark of 1200 individual bottles will hit shelves. That means that prior to this week 1200 bottles of just one brewery read “aged in Colorado Stranahan’s Whiskey Barrels.” With
Proximo, who now owns Stranahan’s, taking the reigns means no more advertising through the beer market. Good idea? You decide.
Proximo has also stated that they will no longer sell their barrels to out of state markets. Proximo’s vice president of marketing, Elwyn Gladstone says, “We were concerned that people from outside of Denver were using them to capitalize on our provenance and terroir.”
This can be seen in two lights. One not an overall bad thing, they are allowing their barrels to be sold in house (state) and keeping it local. Okay that’s alright with me to an extent. However certain breweries that have used their barrels, Dry Dock Brewing, are no longer allowed to purchase their barrels. Dry Dock is releasing Bligh’s Barleywine Ale which was aged in Stranahan barrels but removed the name from the label upon request and are now not being allowed to purchase more barrels. Interesting.
Second light is that it’s completely crap. “Capitalizing on our provenance and terrior” really? Out of state breweries want Stranahan’s barrels because they do produce a very high quality product. Anyone that barrel-ages will tell you that the product that was in the barrel before the beer needs to be of highest standard. Bull and Bush uses Pappy Van Winkle Whiskey barrels and Sonoma Cutrer barrels for their aging. Why? It’s a superior product making it a superior barrel. However the wine market doesn’t give a shit who uses their barrels. They know that Colorado craft breweries aren’t trying to “capitalize on California’s provenance and terrior”, the breweries just want the best barrels out there.
With the labeling of Stranahan’s Whiskey being removed from the luxury craft beer market of barre-aged beer comes the fallout of a relationship. Great Divide has been aging their beers in Stranahan barrels since 2005. While certain Colorado breweries might still try to procure Stranahan barrels I would imagine most will not. By asking to have your name removed from a local craft brewery’s label is asking them not to use your product. Why would they continue to want and use their barrels if they can’t also proclaim, “hey I use local whiskey barrels to age my beer in, here’s who I use!”
When I see a bottle that reads “aged in whiskey barrels” I don’t first think, well maybe the manufacture of the whiskey didn’t want their name on the beer. Why would they not? Instead I think the barrels weren’t from an outstanding distillery and the brewery isn’t proud of the barrels but rather they are happy they have the barrels. Guess what I’ll be thinking now when I see Colorado microbreweries showing off their “whiskey barrel-aged beers”.
For those that still want to have some Stranahan barrel-aged beers for their enjoyment and cellar Dry Dock’s Bligh’s Barleywine Ale will be released this coming week, Great Divide’s Barrel-Aged Yeti is still on some shelves (email me and I’ll tell you where), and Avery Brewing has plans for their Stranahan barrels with their barrel-aged one off’s and their annual barrel-aged series which begins with Rumpkin this coming week.