DC Beer
soccer.jpg
Uncategorized

What if Craft Beer in DC Had a Soccer-Style Transfer Window?

Header photo via Robin Drayton under a Creative Commons license. No modifications were made.

January marks the first of the calendar year’s and second of the current season’s transfer periods in football or soccer. Teams in leagues around the world, most of which are halfway through their season (or in the case of MLS, about six weeks from the start) have a one month period of free agency to buy, sell, or loan out players to achieve any number of ends.

This got us thinking – what kind of transfers would be made if the D.C. beer market were a team? What beers, breweries, or styles could be sent out or brought into D.C. and for what reasons?

Over the last couple of weeks, the DCBeer staff and members of the #DCBrews community took a shot at answering this question.

The DC Market as a Team

When thinking about transfer moves in the D.C. market, it’s helpful to think of the market as the team itself. DCBeer contributor, former DCist editor, and resident Arsenal F.C. fan Aaron Morrissey took this to heart and made the following comparison:

In terms of a footballing analogy, the D.C. beer scene is probably closest to a club like Swansea City A.F.C.: a side that flirted with the top levels of competition in the first half of the 20th century, then fell into relative obscurity — until recently, when it has been very competitive at the highest level.

While a side like Swansea will probably never find their way into the top four of the Premier League, their usage of positive tactics, a rotating cast of talent, and reasonable movement in the market means they are capable of knocking off any side in the country on their day — much like D.C., which produces some incredible beers that stand out nationally, but remains a relative newcomer that shouldn't rush its organic growth by recklessly splashing out for one massive attempt to hit the next level.

Just like with Wilfried Bony's recent huge move to Manchester City, we may have to sell our biggest star every now and then, but we can then reinvest that money into the market on several beers who collectively ensure we maintain the success we have had to date.

How This Works

During a transfer period, teams are looking to do one of three things with players – buy, sell, or loan. If D.C. were a team in Europe, we would look at league competition, current standings, and financial fair play regulations (for starters) to determine a transfer strategy. In MLS, salary caps and designated player slots would have to be considered before any move.

But really, this is beer and we decided to keep things simple. Members of the DCBeer staff and #DCBrews community were asked to make transfers into or out of the market, offer their personal rating and rationale for the move, and describe the value they think the move adds to the market.

The Moves

Aaron Morrissey

OUT: DC BrauOn The Wings of Armageddon (OTWOA)
Your Rating for the Move: High
Your Rationale for the Move: Sell high! Any number of big money markets around the country would love to get their hands on our world-class imperial IPA — and it's a move we can afford to make, what with the vaunted Brau Academy producing a ready-made replacement in Alpha Domina Mellis, which can step into the starting eleven immediately with no negative impact on the side's taste level.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: An injection of capital, which enables us to bring in…

IN: Oakshire Brewing
Your Rating for the Move: High
Your Rationale for the Move: Fortunately for us, management over at Oregon FC has been so focused on keeping Rogue happy, they weren't nosing around as we "tapped up" Oakshire at last year's SAVOR festival. With our long-anticipated loan arrangement with fellow Oregonian operation Deschutes finally in place, now is the perfect time to funnel the bags of cash received from the OTWOA toward bringing Oakshire into the fold.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: A brewery that offers a varied portfolio of incredible beers — including both sours and reserves to appeal to the hardcore supporters and well-rounded amber and pale ales for the everyday blokes — Oakshire's technical skills would get more shine in D.C., in addition to further balancing our squad, pushing the city's overall beer portfolio to the next level.

Bill DeBaun

OUT: Deschutes Brewery
Your Rating for the Move: High
Your Rationale for the Move: Speaking of breweries from Oregon FC, let’s take a look at the DC market’s newest big craft brewery arrival, Deschutes. Don’t get me wrong, Deschutes makes great beer, but a brewery of their size (6th largest US craft brewery in 2013) commands (or should command) a lot of tap handles, and DC already has a lot of large breweries contending for a lot of tap handles (e.g., Boston Beer Company, Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, Lagunitas, Bell’s). Aside from the reserve beers like Black Butte XXVI, Stoic, and of course, The Abyss, there isn’t a whole lot in the Deschutes portfolio that D.C. doesn’t already have a good example of.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: This is about the beer equivalent of playing time: shelf space and tap handles. D.C. already has a lot of breweries contending for both of these, and Deschutes coming in was, for me, extraneous. This is the equivalent of Manchester United bringing in Radamel Falcao on loan when they already had Wayne Rooney and Robin van Persie as established strikers and young players like Adnan Januzaj and James Wilson, who could use more time on the pitch to develop.

OUT: Brooklyn Brewery and Harpoon Brewery
Your Rating for the Move: Low
Your Rationale for the Move: Speaking of large breweries who require a lot of tap and shelf space, consider Brooklyn Brewery (9th largest craft brewery in 2013) and Harpoon Brewery (12th). This transaction isn’t as likely to happen because both of these breweries have been in the D.C. market for some time (hence the low rating I give this transacation), but I’m proposing it anyway. Garrett Oliver’s product is as reliable and tasty as it has always been, but with D.C.’s local breweries, we don’t need to carry around another city’s signature product left and right anymore. Young professionals of the world, put down the Brooklyn Lager and Pennant Ale 55 and pick up the Port City Downright Pils and DC Brau Tradition or Atlas District Common! Harpoon, I’m sorry. You have been a reliable performer for years, but your performance in terms of flagship competitiveness and excitement level around your seasonals and rarities aren’t what they used to be. It’s time to find the beer equivalent of moving to the MLS.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: See above for Deschutes. This frees up shelf space and tap handles. No, not all of this new space will go to smaller, developing breweries, but this new space will likely be filled in predominantly by the other big breweries in the D.C. market, which means their sales will go up, which means we’ll see more exciting rarities, one-offs, events, and attention from those breweries in our market.

OUT: Ithaca Beer Company
Your Rating for the Move: Medium
Your Rationale for the Move: Name me a beer from Ithaca that makes you excited except for Flower Power. Go ahead. I’ll wait. If you said Cascazilla, you get a bonus point redeemable for absolutely nothing. Flower Power is a wonderful IPA…in a city already filled with them.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: Transferring Ithaca to another city, perhaps one lacking a top tier IPA, would be useful for that city and also send the messages to other breweries planning on transferring into D.C. that they need to have a complete portfolio to compete in this market.

OUT: Evil Twin Brewing
Your Rating for the Move: Low
Your Rationale for the Move: You know, this is just kind of a manager’s decision, and I’m admittedly being a little spiteful. There’s no doubt that Evil Twin is brewing some really creative beers. And by “some,” I mean dozens. It never stops. Evil Twin is like the craft beer version of the Duggar family. Although their IPAs, stouts, etc. all have a twist, you are definitely paying for a premium for that twist. These beers tend to be sold on-premise by the nine ounce glass, generally for $8-10, and they ain’t cheap on off-premise shelves either. Sure, it is an easy way for a bar or restaurant to carry something quirky, but with so much else in the market, how long is it taking for these kegs to turn over? It’s also really hard for consumers to get to know the portfolio when it is so enormous and ever-changing and occasionally available.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: This has a neutral to negative value for the market because Twelve Percent Imports (purveyors of other craft breweries like Stillwater, Omnipollo, Gueuze Tilquin, etc.) is unlikely to take too kindly to one of its major brands getting less play in a major market. However, this move would open up a niche in the market for another brewery or breweries with oddball offerings.

IN: Odell Brewing Company’s seasonals and Cellar Series
Your Rating for the Move: Medium
Your Rationale for the Move: This is delusional. No brewery in their right mind will send just their most sought after beers to a new market. And yet, you have to try! (Haven’t you ever seen The Big Green?). Odell is on my wishlist, but I can’t very well transfer out large craft breweries and then transfer another one in. That would be capricious. Take a look at their seasonals: Runoff (a red IPA), St. Lupulin (extra pale ale), and Isolation (amber ale). These aren’t the sexiest styles, but they are among the best examples I’ve had of each. The Cellar Series is where Odell really shines though: Trellis (brewed with local herbs and spices), Jaunt (beer with wine grapes on oak), Fernet Aged Porter (every bit as good as it sounds, according to Chris Van Orden), Tree Shaker (imperial peach IPA), and Friek (wild ale on cherries and oak). These would instantly become some of the most sought after rarities in D.C.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: Did you see the list above? It speaks for itself in terms of value. All of those beers have great value to our tastebuds. But honestly it would put some great beers on the shelf, maybe entice Odell to come to D.C.’s market, but not take up the shelf space of all of the flagship beers.

IN: More one-offs, brewpub offerings, and limited releases from breweries like Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, and Bell’s.
Your Rating for the Move: Medium
Your Rationale for the Move: Now that I have cleared out some competition by shipping out breweries like Deschutes, Brooklyn, and Harpoon, the remaining large craft breweries should see their market share increase. The breweries I’m bringing in produce a lot of one-offs that appear only in their home markets or at their attached brewpubs. I want them. I want them because I like to see large breweries with chops stretch their creativity. If their D.C. area sales go up, it will be easier for local beer reps to talk home base into sending some specialty kegs out.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: Specialty and one-off beers like these, from breweries with good reputations and brand affinities, are perfect centerpieces for beer events. My hope is that with more of these kegs coming in, craft bars will be able to make even more attractive beer events than they do now, which increases the reputation and quality of the D.C. beer market overall.

IN: FATE Brewing
Your Rating for the Move: High
Your Rationale for the Move: Brewpubs in the D.C. area seem to do really well. We already have a great assortment of them, from the District Chophouse to Rock Bottom to Gordon Biersch to Capitol City to Mad Fox to Bluejacket (technically production scale but a brewpub in practice for the moment) to Right Proper, you can find great beer brewed on-premise with food as well. The thing is that the great assortment and the reliability of these places is such that when I want to go to them during peak hours, it’s very full. There’s obviously an appetite (or a thirst?) for these kinds of establishments, and I think that Boulder, Colorado’s FATE Brewing Company would help to slake it.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: We were introduced to FATE at SAVOR last year, and their coffee IPA and barrel-aged gose showed some great creativity. The rest of their portfolio is equally creative and could inspire some local breweries to push their own offerings. Plus with another brewpub maybe we could get seats at one of them on a Friday or Saturday night.

Jake Bishop-Green

OUT: Dogfish Head
Your Rating for the Move: Medium
Your Rationale for the Move: I can remember the last five times I bought a Dogfish Head beer at a store or a bar. This isn’t because I’ve made recent buys, but because each purchase is usually separated by a few years, and I always think to myself “when’s the last time I had a Dogfish beer?” when picking it out. 60 Minute isn’t nearly as noticeable of a market contender as it once was, and more often than not, when seeing a Dogfish beer it’s another experimental beer or offering in the Ancient Ales lineup than a new offering for the market at large. There’s quality in the portfolio for sure, but maybe not enough to justify Dogfish’s continued preeminence in some parts of D.C.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: Just as with the Deschutes move noted above by Bill, this is less about the portfolio of Dogfish Head and more about playing time. Whereas Bill justifies the Deschutes transfer by noting that its presence is extraneous to the market, Dogfish’s legs instead seem tired – a player who has competed at the top levels of the game for over twenty years and needs a breather. Think Steven Gerrard (and as a Liverpool fan this is a difficult comparison to make): much like the soon departed team captain, Dogfish Head can offer more with a few games off or coming off the bench rather than as a regular starter. Getting out of the D.C. market doesn’t mean Dogfish is going anywhere, as they remain a national presence, but it does mean that local shelf space and taps become available for offerings from other breweries, either currently in the market or any that are transferred in.
Author’s note: My girlfriend loves Dogfish’s Festina Peche and threatened to break-up with me over this transfer. Oops.

IN: New Glarus Brewing
Your Rating for the Move: High
Your Rationale for the Move: There are some established breweries who don’t distribute far from their local markets but that you can still find in D.C. on occasion – 3 Floyds, Russian River, and Surly to name a few. Then there’s New Glarus – an operation that is exclusive to Wisconsin, and I really wish it wasn’t. Buried deep in Packer nation, New Glarus puts out beers that’d be commonplace in bars around the area or in stores as large format bottles. These are beer styles that are not common for D.C. brewers, especially the sour program. This is a high quality brewery that will bring a new dimension to the market.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: This is a move that can either be an immediate big value splash (see: Gareth Bale to Real Madrid) or a sleeper waiting to explode on the scene (see: Luis Suarez to Liverpool, biting incidents aside). This is a brewery that has proven products that do well in a market and are sought out by those outside of that market. If they stay true to form, the brewery will focus on being a solid player in a local market, a trait shared and celebrated by the D.C. brewing community. Landing this brewery will take a lot of capital, but the move immediately adds value through a combination of accessible (Spotted Cow) and more nuanced (Raspberry Tart) offerings.

OUT (on loan): Bluejacket's Travlr’s 11K/12K
Your Rating for the Move: Medium
Your Rationale for the Move: Since their introduction to the market at the end of 2013, Bluejacket has poured dozens of unique beers through their taps. But with such a deep roster, much like this year’s Chelsea or Manchester City squads, Bluejacket has quality beers that can’t get regular playing time. Sending out two of their strong, but not regular, offerings in Travlr’s 11K and 12K on loan gives these beers the opportunity for growth and refinement.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: These are young beers, and just like young players, playing time and and age can bring refinement. If playing time isn’t available at the local club or tap lines aren’t available at the local pub, a loan move to a different market can provide this opportunity. As two of the only real sours produced in the D.C. market, getting some regular tap time can allow these beers to grow, to see how they handle aged in kegs and possibly bottled. Loan moves can showcase how versatile a beer or player is, and both Travlr’s 11K and 12K deserve the chance to stretch their legs. Hell, even David Beckham went out on loan in his early days.

Jake Berg (the regular Jake you see on DCBeer)

OUT: Yuengling
Your Rating for the Move: Medium
Your Rationale for the Move: This beer, which tastes mostly of malt syrup, is unjustly adored in the mid-Atlantic, and lusted after by PA ex-pats everywhere, the Corinthians-era Ronaldo of adjunct brewing. I get that people love Yuengling, but drinking it is an exercise in forced nostalgia. Move on. Sure, it moves a lot of kegs, bottles, and cans in D.C., but it can easily be replaced by better (craftier?) beers like Atlas’ District Common and Devils Backbone’s Gold Leaf.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: Shipping out Yuengling and the thousands of barrels it sells in this town opens up the door for more playing time for younger, and frankly better, beers, two of which are named above. Yuengling gets a ton of playing time right now, but it really shouldn't. It would be better in a less competitive league or market…say one that closely resembles the aesthetic of Springsteen's “Darkness on the Edge of Town.” You, too, can drink too many of these in the last bar in Americaville, but it's time to drink something else in D.C.

OUT: Green Flash
Your Rating for the Move: Medium
Your Rationale for the Move: Sure, they’re going to open a brewery in nearby Virginia Beach, but this brewery specializes in hops, and in a market like D.C., well, that’s kind of like bringing sand to the beach. There’s no point in carrying this extra striker. And yes, if they flooded this market with beers like Little Freak, I probably wouldn’t write this.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: Green Flash doesn’t occupy a lot of taps in this town, but it occupies enough. Drink one of the other hundreds of hoppy beers we have around here. Moving them out frees up room for…

IN: Funkwerks
Your Rating for the Move: Medium
Your Rationale for the Move: Adored at past Scion tap takeovers, but slept on by the general public, think of this as the brewery version of 2010/2011 Gareth Bale. All this brewery is waiting on is some extra TV time afforded to it by a Champions League berth. It’s time to shine!
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: Funkwerks goes well with food, makes barrel-aged beers as good as anyone’s, and wouldn’t it be nice for them to be properly appreciated in the nation’s capital, on bottle lists of finer bars and restaurants?

IN: Russian River
Your Rating for the Move: High
Your Rationale for the Move: This will shut Philly up, since the only thing that really separates D.C. and Philly as beer cities is that they have Russian River, and we don’t.
Value You Think is Added to Market by Move: Shutting Philly up is its own value. Also, this will allow us to start up a DCTapFinder account that blasts out Pliny locations, which is more or less what the Philly one does all day. Also, also, #whalezbro.

So, we’ve laid out our managerial decisions. Agree with them? Disagree? What are yours? Let us know in the comments.

Related posts

Souring Beer with Homebrewer Andrei Henry

Chris Samoray

Tasting the Ocelot/Meridian Pint Collab: “Talking Backwards”

Paul Josuns

The Blog Crawl – October 27

Bill DeBaun

Leave a Comment

Sign up now for the Weekly Pour!

Get the latest news, events, and info about what's happening in craft beer in the DMV delivered directly to you every week!