Friday, June 08, 2007

Back to Warbird: The OGC and his brewing concept.

Recently I tasted four beers brewed by Warbird Brewing Company (Ft. Wayne, Indiana) and commented on what I considered an odd juxtaposition between “most drinkable” sloganeering and warplane label imagery. I was relieved to note that the beers are brewed to style and worthy in their own right, with the possible exception of a very light bodied Mustang Gold that (as noted below) wasn't intended for beer drinkers like me in the first place.

Warbird: Fortunately, not "wet air" superiority.

Thanks to intermediary Todd Antz of Keg Liquors in Clarksville, here’s a note in response, written by Warbird's owner, Dave Holmes. It's a fine statement of his business plan, and worthy of your consideration. I'm hoping to meet Dave and chat during the forthcoming Brewers of Indiana Guild fest in Indianapolis on July 21.


Hi Roger:

Todd Antz at Keg Liquors sent me the link to your blog. I read it with interest. Thanks for taking the time to feature us. We just started selling beer through Cavalier down in Southern Indiana and we hope to be able to build some fans there.

You seem like a man of clear ideas, so I won’t try to change your mind on your objections. However, I would like to at least offer some explanations. That way, when we have a beer together some day, there are no hard feelings or misunderstandings.

The Warbird brand is often mis-perceived as male and militaristic. Closer scrutiny will show that the brand honors the men and women who have served our country flying these airplanes. As far as fascism goes, Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo were pretty good examples. The airplanes depicted on our label and package were flown by men and women who dropped what they were doing in the late 1930’s and early ‘40s, beat hell out of those guys, and then went back their normal lives. We are not trying at all to market militarism to you. We are reminding people of the history that allows you and I to be free to pick and choose what we want to drink. Adolf wouldn’t have given us a choice.

Secondly, I know “beer guys” like yourself don’t find joy in Gold Ales. No, the Mustang Gold isn’t even a Kolsch. The only thing great about this beer is that it is made with 100% varietal Metcalf malt. No blended malts from multiple sources. No rice, no corn, just beautiful special pale malt. One hop, California Ale yeast, and charcoal filtered water. This beer is the most minimalist beer one can make. The basic 4 ingredients. Nothing fancy. Just great quality in a bottle. Why would a microbrewery make a beer like this? Because 99% of the other micros out there are already bombarding the market with specialty malts, immense IBUs, fruit and other adjuncts. Our position within the craft sector is drinkability. We want people to be able to enter the category of craft beers, get their feet wet, enjoy a hand-made beer, and be able to work in to bigger, more complex beers. Mustang Gold Ale is a perfect entry point. I think the T-6 Red Ale does pretty well with that too.

My wife is our index customer. 4 years ago, she did not enjoy beer. She was not beer averse, but she would drink Bud Light. I made the Red Ale for her and she said we could sell it “because it didn’t have any aftertaste.” When we made the Thunderbolt, she had enough confidence to try it and found that she really enjoyed a traditional hefeweizen. Last Christmas, when we bottled Warhawk Pale Ale for the first time, she had one and said, “that’s actually pretty good.” Two weeks later, she was asking me to bring her a six of the Warhawk so she could have one “when she was in the mood for a little more flavor.” That’s a 45 IBU 7.3% alcohol beer. She is now a craft beer drinker and she wasn’t before.

My favorite sale is to a woman who says she doesn’t like beer, tries our Red or Gold and then buys a six pack or two. That is category growth. Long term, we all need that.

So, I hope you can appreciate that there is some thought and plan behind this. We don’t aspire to be the next Stone or Dogfish. I am happy with our position. I just hope we can build the sales enough to stay in business. You know the beer business is not flush with cash. Still, I’m in for the long haul, as long as the cash holds out.

I hope to meet you in person some day. In the mean time, thanks for doing what you do.



Dave Holmes
Operations Group Commander
194th Brewing Wing, 1st Brew Force
Warbird Brewing Company

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