Shape of Hops to Come Release Update

We’re only two days away from our first can release of The Shape of Hops to Come for 2016 and right about now is a good time to discuss one difference with this year’s canning over past releases.

No, we didn’t change the recipe for this year’s release. The first release of SHC this year has been done with sticker labeled blank cans instead of the regular printed cans we’ve used in the past. This is because of some issues we’ve been running into with our previous can manufacturer and their new required pallet minimums, and we hope this is the only release of SHC in 2016 with labeled, stickered cans.

Shape Stickered Cans

When we started canning our beer just over two years ago our can manufacturer only required an eight pallet minimum for each brand. That’s roughly 70,000 cans per brand, which made it possible for us to make all our core brands and select seasonal beers like The Shape of Hops to Come available in cans. Earlier this year our can manufacturer upped that minimum to 25 pallets per order, which is roughly 205,000 cans per brand. At this amount it makes it pretty impossible for us to continue offering all our core brands in printed cans because the amount of stock we’d be required to produce, pay for, and store isn’t financially feasible. For example, we’d sit on nearly a year’s worth of Croydon Cream Ale can inventory each time we ordered the minimum. Yeah, that really sucks.

One of the reasons you’ve seen craft breweries get into canning over the past few years was because can companies like Crown, Ball, and Rexam started making it feasible and financially possible for craft brewer’s to can their beer through reduced minimums. Unfortunately, Crown in particular, has gone in reverse with that and it’s effecting not only Neshaminy Creek, but a lot of breweries our size nationwide. Luckily for us, storage space isn’t an issue now that we’ve expanded into an additional 41,000 square feet at our location in Croydon, but that still doesn’t help us out when it comes to cash flow and paying for a whole lot of cans we just can go through quickly enough.

So, where does that leave us?

Well, for starters we’ve begun moving the production of our cans over to a new manufacturer and partner that has lower minimums and is willing to work and partner with craft customers big and small. We’re excited to make this switch as we’re looking forward to working in more of our seasonal releases into cans as early this fall. How does Leon Russian Imperial Stout 16 ounce cans sound?

During this switch there are some Neshaminy Creek brands that will be canned using blank cans and full color labels similar to those we use on our 22 ounce and 750 ml bottles. This isn’t the perfect solution, especially considering it actually costs us more to use the labels than printed cans, but the cans are no different than our printed cans outside of the lack of graphics. Realistically we’re hoping this only effects a few brands like the previously labeled blank cans of Tribute Tripel, the first release of The Shape of Hops to Come this year, and some upcoming canning runs of Highwater Hefeweizen and Croydon Cream Ale.

So, long story short, you’ll notice some labeled Neshaminy Creek cans in the market over the coming months, and we hope to keep that to a minimum as we’re moving to a new can manufacturer at the moment. While using labeled blank cans actually costs us more, we hope that this switch doesn’t take long and we don’t plan on up charging our products even though the use of blank cans and labels costs as more to produce. We appreciate your understanding during this transition, and appreciate your support as always.

Hopefully you’ve gotten this far, and I apologize for the long winded SHC update. Now let’s move onto the really important stuff.

How much are we releasing this year?

As announced in May, we’re releasing The Shape of Hops to Come differently this year. Why? Simply put, SHC really disrupts our production schedule and we’ve been unable to ship as much as our wholesalers have wanted in the past. Because of that, we’re concentrating the bulk of our SHC production this year on two release dates, July 1st, and October 3rd. Our two largest distributors, Hunterdon in New Jersey, and Bella Vista in SEPA are both receiving larger, bulk drops scheduled twice a year. Yes, you will be able to find this beer in distribution. We’re hoping the larger amounts in two drops will make the beer more widely available, albeit, at two more focused dates. Where exactly? The best we can tell you is places that know and sell better beer.

For the record, we have shipped 600 cases to Hunterdon in New Jersey and 1,000 cases to Bella Vista in SEPA. Better beer accounts throughout the SEPA area and New Jersey should have this beer on or after July 1st.

We’ll be sending a very limited amount of The Shape of Hops to Come to our other Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York distributors over the next six months. We don’t know how much quite yet, but it won’t be a lot, and it’ll go very quickly once it’s in market.

At the brewery we plan to release cases once a month, usually the second or third week of each month, from July through December. We will announce each release on our website and through social media, and we’ll be sticking to a one case maximum per customer for each release. Pricing will be $13 a four-pack, and $62 a case. No reserves, first come, first serve. When it’s gone, it’s gone until the next brewery release or distribution release October 3rd.

Because we’ve shipped so much beer for the initial release to our New Jersey and SEPA wholesalers we will only have 100 cases available at the brewery on Friday, July 1st. Don’t fret, the next brewery Shape of Hops to Come case release will be Friday, July 15th and one a month each and every month until December.

Lastly, pricing…

There’s a good chance there are going to be many places selling four-packs and cases of The Shape of Hops to Come for less than $13 a four-pack and $62 a case. There’s a good chance there are going to be places selling cases of The Shape of Hops to Come for more than $62 a case. Without getting into a huge, longer winded post about the basics of retail supply, demand, and microeconomics, please keep in mind that whenever possible we try to price our beer at the brewery slightly higher, on average, than our retail accounts. You may think this is wrong or weird, but the simple fact of the matter is that if we’re undercutting our retailers there’s a good chance they’ll stop selling our beer. What’s the incentive for an account that has supported our brand continually over the last four years to continue to sell our beer if we consistently undercut their pricing and drive more people to the brewery? Since making our retail accounts upset isn’t our goal, nor is it to understand or know each and every retailer that sells our beer’s expenses to do business, we price our beer accordingly the best we can. The pure economics of location preclude that from the start (and why you see beer 10% higher in Philadelphia county than the rest of the state of Pennsylvania as well as 28% lower in New Jersey just because of taxes). We don’t control that, so we try to be somewhere in the middle. We can’t satisfy everyone, so before you get on your entitled craft beer soapbox and start complaining about how you got ripped off at the brewery, keep in mind there are plenty of places selling the beer for more as well as less than what we charge, and without restricting sales completely to the brewery only, we have no control over this.

Alright, time for a beer.  See you Friday!

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