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Hurtling towards the CPG singularity, one hard seltzer at a time
Plus: Christmas bar bouncing, alternative alcoholic assets, 'Elf' beer + more!
Editor’s note: Welcome to the 8 new readers who have joined the Fingers Fam in the past week. We’re glad you’re here! If you haven’t yet, please consider purchasing a subscription to support this project! You’ll get access to bonus stories, podcasts, and more, plus my eternal gratitude.—Dave.
🧾 The Settle-Up
— Bud Light Seltzer To Release Hard Soda and Sour Variety Packs: Because time is a flat circle and flavored malt beverages are hurtling towards the CPG singularity, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced this week it’d be rolling out two new Bud Light Seltzer packs in early 2022: hard soda and “sour,” the latter of which looks more than a little bit like that Warheads Extreme Sour hard seltzer/nostalgia juice released earlier this year by Artisanal Brew Works.1 Hmm!
Hard soda, you may recall, flopped tremendously as a craft-oriented quasi-category in the back half of the past decade, with brands like Not Your Father’s and Henry’s Hard Soda failing to penetrate the malt-based mainstream. But as Good Beer Hunting Sightlines editor Bryan Roth pointed out on Twitter, despite being the butt of at least 15% of all my malt-based jokes, NYF still moves considerable weight off-premise:
So that means… ah… something, I guess? As Roth told The Fingers Podcast last month: “Successful products come from happenstance.” I guess we’ll see if ABI can make mass-market hard soda happen half a decade later. (You know they’d love to, given last week’s Cacti kibosh; see below.)
— Wine Was a Better Investment This Year Than Gold... or Even the Dow Jones: I’ve been professionally curious about the idea of alcohol as an alternative asset class ever since reading Billionaire’s Vinegar earlier this year, and have some reporting on the subject coming in early 2022. So naturally, this item from Food & Wine’s Mike Pomeranz summarizing the findings of a couple luxury indices (Knight Frank and Liv-ex) that research and deal in wine caught my eye. Expect more from me on this topic next month or two!
— Alaska, Hawaii Breweries Reeling from Particularities of Supply Chain Failures: A smart corollary to my generalist craft beer logistics report for VinePair the other week via Friend of Fingers Kate Bernot, who is out with a piece in Good Beer Hunting about how the vagaries of global trade are affecting craft breweries in the 49th and 50th states. The TL;DR: it’s even messier and pricier than trying to make beer in the Lower 48. As the director of the Hawaii Craft Brewers Guild said: “We are brewing in paradise… But there is a cost to brewing in paradise.”
— One More Thing Then I’ll Shut Up about Supply Chains: I joined the VinePair podcast for an episode unpacking and amplifying some of the reporting that went into my story. You can listen here:
—A Night With the Bouncer at New York’s Busiest Christmas Bar: This was just a really lovely little interview author/bartender Brad Thomas Parsons did for PUNCH with the doorman at Rolf’s, a Germanic, Christmas-themed New York City bar that operates year-round but gets absolutely chaotic around the holidays for obvious reasons.
— ABI Spikes Cacti as Travis Scott Scrambles:2 News broke last Friday afternoon that ABI would discontinue Cacti, the hard seltzer joint venture it launched with rapper and one-time marketing wunderkind Travis Scott less than a year ago. The rapper has been embroiled in scandal since mid-November, when 10 people were killed at his Astroworld music festival in Houston. ABI wouldn’t tell reporters whether that tragedy—for which Scott and event promoters are currently facing a class-action lawsuit—was the deciding factor in stepping back from Cacti3, or just a convenient excuse to pull the struggling brand, on which Scott didn’t seem too focused even prior to the catastrophic concert. I know this is all kind of confusing to follow; maybe this helps?
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📬 Good post alert
Elf came out in 2003, which means that a millennial who watched it for the first time in grade school is now plenty old enough to open craft a craft brewery. Perhaps relatedly:
🤝 Only for Friends of Fingers
Paying subscribers this week got full access to an original feature about multibillion-dollar driving range/sports bar chain and allegedly horrendous workplace, Top Golf:
I also published a podcast and interview with Dylan Lancaster, a tour guide and organizer at Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery in Nashville, Tennessee where 35 workers are fighting to be recognized as The United Distillery Workers of Tennessee by parent company Constellation Brands. Typically these interviews are for paying subscribers only, but I unlocked this one for everyone:
If you value the boozeletter’s work, and want to support independent journalism about drinking in America, consider purchasing a subscription! You’ll get access to these subscriber-only bonus features, and help me sustain and grow this project.
With this sale, annual subscriptions work out to less than $6/month. This project is only possible with reader backing, so if you enjoy Fingers, please consider becoming a paying Friend of Fingers today!
🔘 BrewDog EFP survey
Grad students at the London School of Economics are conducting a survey about BrewDog's Equity for Punks program. They're seeking responses from anyone with at least a "basic familiarity" with the brand. If that’s you, consider participating! It takes less than 10min and it’s totally anonymous.
I’m really curious to see the results of the study and may cover them here at Fingers, so if you have a few minutes and knowledge of the brand, by all means share your feedback.
Presumably comforted by the realization that one of the world’s richest men is still prone to terrible haircuts, the Fingers Fam double-tapped this meme more than any other posted to the boozeletter’s official Instagram in the past seven days.
If you haven’t followed Fingers on Instagram yet, you’re missing out on free daily original content about the booze business. Don’t do that! Do this instead:
Your feed will thank you. (Not really, that would be weird. But you know what I mean.)
For those keeping score at home, that’s two new brand extensions (BL Seltzer Hard Soda and Sour) on an extension (BL Seltzer, which even the marketing department seems confused about) on an extension (BL, which was introduced as Budweiser Light to meet the no-longer-ignorable Miller Lite threat in 1982.) Seems excessive, but what do I know.
Fingers published a version of this item for paying subscribers on Monday. Buy a subscription to get more timely commentary like this (plus a bunch of other subscriber benefits, too!)