Goodbye Beer, and Hello Wine Coolers (again)!

This is an article from the Monterey County Weekly. I should add that Alvarado Street are (or were) a highly regarded craft brewery on the west coast. We didn't get their beers that often down here, but it was a sellout when they did appear and there was always a line a mile long to seek out their beers at beer festivals.

Their rationale in switching to wine coolers totally baffles me. While it's true that Kombuchas and Seltzers have made a negative impact on beer sales (even Stone Brewing eventually conceded to turning out a Seltzer), to totally give up on brewing is bizarre. As my wife said, "I thought Wine Coolers died out in the 80's" The term "...more sugary product... " sounds revolting too!

"The team at Alvarado Street Brewery believe that craft brewing has run its course.

In a surprise move on April 1, sources learned that J.C. Hill and his talented crew will halt production of beer in order to focus on a line of wine coolers. The changeover could come as soon as May 10.

The announcement came shortly after Chris Lombardo, a senior analyst for the New York-based market research firm IBISWorld, stated that the beer industry was in a state of flux.

“Wine coolers are fresh, exciting,” says a brewing hand at Alvarado Street who wished to remain anonymous. “We can go red, white, pink, fruit—there are possibilities you don’t have with just malt and hops.”

Wine coolers took off in the 1980s as America experienced an economic boom, but sales faltered and popular labels like Bartles & Jaymes soon disappeared. Sources close to Alvarado Street believe bottlings at the time were too dry and nuanced, intended for a narrow, monied market with a sophisticated palate.

“Making a more sugary product with plenty of fruit to make it pop from the glass—that will be huge,” the source explains.

Already, several Monterey County vineyards are switching production from Pinot Noir and other grape varieties to supply Alvarado Street with White Zinfandel, Concord, Catawba and other wines preferred for coolers. According to a source with connections to the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association, an additional 10,000 acres of winegrape vineyards will be needed.

The county Board of Supervisors may consider taking affordable farmworker housing measures off the table to allow for this growth.

Sources say that Hill anticipates Alvarado Street wine coolers to double the market Bartles & Jaymes held in the 1980s. Word is that the brewery has hired David Hasselhoff as a spokesperson for the wine cooler brand.

For over a decade, Alvarado Street Brewery has been the signature of craft beer in Monterey County, with popular staples like Monterey Beer. But faced with limits on the versatility of malt and hops, as well as the rising popularity of seltzers, hard ciders and wine, the decision was inevitable.

“It’s just sound business sense,” said a person with close ties to ASB management, who asked to remain anonymous. “They see where demand is going.”

Two decades ago, the popularity of wine exceeded beer in the U.S. for the first time. In 2013, America toppled France from its perch as the leader in wine consumption by volume. But the U.S. lags in beer consumption per capita, ranked just 14th—far behind smaller nations like the Czech Republic.

Other local brewers are expected to follow Alvarado Street’s lead, or to venture into the flavored malt beverage market".
Oh my goodness - Andrew, you win the "You can't fool me on April Fool's Day" Gold Medal! None of my colleagues or friends picked up on that. Perhaps because the beer scene over here is taking a shift for the worse, thus, this story seemed possible.

I've just called them and was told the story created a "huge fuss" and fooled a lot of people...yours truly included!

Next time we get to visit NoCal, we'll make sure to visit Alvarado Street Brewing and I will toast a brew in your honour. Cheers!