Friendly Commercial Brewers vs. Not-So-Friendly

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wittmania

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I've had opportunities to tour both Odell in Ft. Collins, CO and Boulevard in Kansas City in the past couple of months and really enjoyed both of them. My brother, who is not a huge beer drinker, came on the Odell's tour and really liked their Levity Amber Ale. I figured I would try to clone it and see if I could also get him into brewing with me.

I emailed Odell asking for help with the recipe and they took 3 weeks to get back to me, and then told me that it has "Caramalt, Honey and Pale malt. And some of the hops we use are: Centennial and Mt. Hood." They said they couldn't give me the full recipe for "obvious reasons." Their website isn't much help, either.

Compare that to Boulevard. They have a beer that I'm trying to clone where they've given me the grain bill with percentages, varieties, times and quantities for the hops, the yeast strain, OG and FG targets, and fermentation temps and schedule. I bet I've emailed one of their brewers 6-7 times and he's always written me back within the same day, and with a detailed answer to my question.

So, which of these breweries do you think I'm more likely to support with my commercial beer dollars? The one that treats me like I'm some kind of competitor (for "obvious reasons"), or the one that treats me like us brewers are all on the same team? I will say that I think Odell's beers are generally more interesting than Boulevard's mainline offerings, but I'm willing to pay more for Boulevard's Smokestack Series beers instead of Odell's now that I know which brewery is more supportive of brewers like me.

Has anyone else been snubbed by a brewery like this before? Seems like it would turn people off to their beers more than anything.

/rant
 

WesleyS

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A guy I worked with years ago was from another state and he shared a Stoudt's Scotch Ale with me. It was something I really enjoyed but couldn't get here. So I emailed the brewery praising the beer, saying I can't get it where I live and wanting any tips for brewing something similar. I didn't even flat out ask for a recipe, just advice. I never heard anything back.
 

chalmer9

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So you want a brewery to give you the exact recipe of their beer, and you're angry if they don't?

I'd probably send you about the same email if I was them. That's silly to just expect the recipe from them, what kind of entitlement do you feel you deserve?

I'm a huge 3 Floyd's fan, if I emailed them and they acted like Odell, I'd be like..well I tried...but why would they give away their recipe?

Hell, they gave you some of the details, do you want full blown step by step instructions?

Sorry, used to work in retail, and self entitled customers are the most annoying thing in the world.
 

Xpertskir

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Im 10 days out from asking a large west coast brewery for details on a recipe, they are not distributed in my state or many of the bordering states. I was very polite, and even included "I respect your right to refuse this request", and no BS I do, intellectual property is something I respect. I did not ask them for a specific recipe, just an idea as to how to get close. If after a month they don't give me any response, I'll poo poo their name on the internet and really restrict my purchasing of their beer. Although I love the beer in question so much, I cant cut them off completely.
 

Xpertskir

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So you want a brewery to give you the exact recipe of their beer, and you're angry if they don't?

I'd probably send you about the same email if I was them. That's silly to just expect the recipe from them, what kind of entitlement do you feel you deserve?

I'm a huge 3 Floyd's fan, if I emailed them and they acted like Odell, I'd be like..well I tried...but why would they give away their recipe?

Hell, they gave you some of the details, do you want full blown step by step instructions?

Sorry, used to work in retail, and self entitled customers are the most annoying thing in the world.

3Floyds is my favorite brewery(if I was forced to pick one) and I cannot imagine how that email would be received. They are easily the most snobby and self entitled brewery I have ever experienced, and Ive been to a bunch. I could see them banning you for even suggesting they share information with you. :D The only reason I have spent 1000's of dollars buying their beer is because it's so damn good.
 
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chalmer9 said:
what kind of entitlement do you feel you deserve?.
There's a difference between a-hole entitled customers and good customers that send polite requests. Replying is up to the brewery, but supporting home brewers tend to get better results. It's also unlikely that anyone will "steal" the recipe or the business.

They don't have to give out that info - especially if they feel their beer is a unique snowflake. However, I'd rather give my money to the breweries who are friendly and responsive like Fullers, wychwood, lagunitas, Firestone walker, etc. who support the home brewing community.
 
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So you want a brewery to give you the exact recipe of their beer, and you're angry if they don't?
A list of ingredients doesn't mean much.

Water profile, yeast management, fermentation temperature, filtering, etc. are all more important than x% 2-row, y% crystal, etc.

Vinnie from Russian River sends out his Pliny recipe to anyone who asks, and I've not had a homebrewed version that tastes like the commercial.
 
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wittmania

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So you want a brewery to give you the exact recipe of their beer, and you're angry if they don't?
Nope. Not my point at all. The guys at Blvd were friendly and approachable, so I'll buy their beer because I feel more good will toward them.

The guys at Odell were unresponsive and then not at all interested in helping me to make something similar to their beer. As we all know, there are hundreds of variables that go into any beer, so it's not like I would have made the exact beer anyway.

All I know is that they could have been cool about it and I would have been thrilled to be a loyal customer of theirs. Instead, they were not at all interested in helping me out as a member of the brewing community and that makes me feel like it will be a long time before I buy any of their products.
 

ArcaneXor

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My two cents...

I don't have any problem sharing my recipes, homebrewed or pro-am, with anyone. I am happy to. But I don't ever expect a commercial brewery to open up the kimono and share the details of their recipes with me. They have in the past, and I've also been ignored. That doesn't diminish my respect for the brewery.

We're talking about their livelihoods there, and with more than 2000 breweries in the United States alone and somewhere around 1300 in the planning stages, competition for shelf space and tap handles is going to increase massively. If I, as a hypothetical pro brewer, come up with some unique ingredient combination or process to distinguish my beer from others in the marketplace, and we're literally talking about the survival and growth of the business that I have invested everything in and that my employees depend on being successful for their continued employment, I would never divulge the details of that process. I also think it is a lot more educational for homebrewers to try their hand at cloning the beer first without having access to the actual recipe, and see how close you can get.

The difference between having the actual recipe and flying blind is obvious. Look at the Can You Brew It show. When they don't have the recipe, they virtually never succeed in cloning a beer. When they do have it, they are successful on the first try more often than not, and usually always on the second attempt.
 

xmacro

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Nope. Not my point at all. The guys at Blvd were friendly and approachable, so I'll buy their beer because I feel more good will toward them.

The guys at Odell were unresponsive and then not at all interested in helping me to make something similar to their beer. As we all know, there are hundreds of variables that go into any beer, so it's not like I would have made the exact beer anyway.

All I know is that they could have been cool about it and I would have been thrilled to be a loyal customer of theirs. Instead, they were not at all interested in helping me out as a member of the brewing community and that makes me feel like it will be a long time before I buy any of their products.
You still sound incredibly entitled.

They can do what they want with their own product; they don't owe you anything and they don't need to kiss your ass when they say "no" - a simple "obvious reasons" is fine - trade secrets, duh.
 
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We've had this discussion before with the Founder's thread, so I won't I won't try to convince anyone one way or another. But my personal opinion is that I can see both sides of the coin for a brewery giving away their recipe for a certain beer. On the one hand, they need to protect their interests. They don't know you from Adam, so if they give away their recipe to a supposed "homebrewer" they could actually be giving their recipe away to a competing brewery. OTOH, if they're a half way decent brewery, they already lay claim to doing it first so anyone who comes along with the same beer just seems like an imitator. The trouble comes when the competing brewery is able to improve upon the recipe.

The short version is if I were a craft brewery, I wouldn't give away my recipes. If my beer became really popular and got instant credibility based on the fact that my brewery brewed it, then I would probably start giving my recipes to homebrewers because I'm already established as the brewer of those beers.
 

brett1341

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AZ_IPA said:
Vinnie from Russian River sends out his Pliny recipe to anyone who asks, and I've not had a homebrewed version that tastes like the commercial.
Younger or elder? If you have either I'd love to get it.
 

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I never heard of Avery until I saw a recipe posted here somewhere. That was so impressive we asked a couple of people living in the Boulder area if they had heard of the brewery, thereby passing the name forward from people who can't get their beer to people who can. Regardless of what else it is, it is great marketing. There are ample indicators that a poor beer with good marketing will out sell a good beer with poor marketing. That's what puts the big trucks on the road and sports on television. I would think home brewers will continue to brew with or without Avery's recipes while small commercial brewers with talent and a future will be able to sell comparable brew without outsourcing inspiration. It appears the folks at Avery trust their talent, their passion and their creativity to always be able to make better beer than yet another me-too beer corporation.

Writing to companies and asking questions is one way to know if they have a marketing plan built for a great product or a product built for a great marketing plan.
 

hercher

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Frankly, I wouldn't read too much into either response. It could be the guy at Odell just doesn't check his e-mail that often; it could be he isn't particularly articulate; or it could be he's just a bit of a jerk. Sure, it would have been nice if he had couched his answer in nicer language, such as, "Regrettably it is our policy not to share specific details on our recipes, but we appreciate your interest in our beer." But the fact he failed to do so doesn't strike me as a reason to turn me against the brewery.
 
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wittmania

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jwwbrennan said:
Regardless of what else it is, it is great marketing. There are ample indicators that a poor beer with good marketing will out sell a good beer with poor marketing.
Exactly. There are a zillion IPA and Pale Ale recipes out there. You think the brewery that makes the "best" one is the one that will make the most money? Doubtful. Instead, it is the BRAND at will win out in any market. Odell makes some decent beer, but I'm less likely to buy it now. Do I feel entitled? Not really. Are they entitled to my beer money? Nope.

My point is that it costs them more in the long run to treat home brewers like "competitors" and that's bad business. Of course they can do that if they want, and I can share my experience and opinion on HBT if I want. And if my post makes people less likely to be loyal drinkers of Odell and more likely to drink Blvd beer, then the way they treat their home brewer customers is actually hurting their bottom line, not helping it.
 

AnOldUR

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You still sound incredibly entitled.

They can do what they want with their own product; they don't owe you anything and they don't need to kiss your ass when they say "no" - a simple "obvious reasons" is fine - trade secrets, duh.
Sorry, used to work in retail, and self entitled customers are the most annoying thing in the world.
From an outside observation, I can see why you no longer work in retail. Expecting a prompt, courteous response is not being self entitled. It's called customer service. What ever happened to, "The customer is always right?" A business that can say no to a customer request and leave them feeling like they did you a favor is one that will succeed.

But I agree. Boycotting a business because they don't have a person with that talent responding to your emails is silly.
 

2BeerSpeer

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I've had several brewers give me full recipes and really expected them to laugh at me when I asked so I completely understand if they decline...I've been asked for my bbq sauce recipe that I sell and have to respectfully decline as it is easier to copy than a beer.
 

BradleyBrew

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Yeah, I wouldnt hate on a brewery for not giving you the information you requested. They told you the main ingredients. Why did you not just invite them over for a brew session and have'em brew it up for you. I'm gonna email Gordon Ramsey for a recipe on beef wellington.
 

ajlee

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wittmania said:
Are they entitled to my beer money? Nope.
Yes, that's the beauty of a free market.


wittmania said:
My point is that it costs them more in the long run to treat home brewers like "competitors" and that's bad business.
Not likely. I think home brewers make up a small percentage of the overall beer drinking population, and the percentage of home brewers who would let something like this influence their buying is even less. It's their recipe, they are not obligated to give it to you because you like it. From a response time issue they are not in the business of helping people brew their beer, so I'm ok if those emails go to the bottom of the pile, or are not answered at all.
 

kombat

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Coke's been guarding their recipe for over 100 years. KFC's "11 herbs and spices" are also a trade secret (although I'm pretty sure one of them is "salt"). I don't think it's at all unreasonable for a brewery to guard its recipes. After all, if they gave it to you, you'd probably be able to brew something very close, and would stop buying their beer. Worse, you'd probably share it with others, resulting in others buying less beer, too.

Now of course, in the grand scheme of things, the loss of a couple cases of beer every few months wouldn't even show up on their radar. But if they shared their recipe with EVERY brewer who asked (not just you), it would eventually add up, wouldn't it?
 

ktblunden

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Coke's been guarding their recipe for over 100 years. KFC's "11 herbs and spices" are also a trade secret (although I'm pretty sure one of them is "salt"). I don't think it's at all unreasonable for a brewery to guard its recipes. After all, if they gave it to you, you'd probably be able to brew something very close, and would stop buying their beer. Worse, you'd probably share it with others, resulting in others buying less beer, too.

Now of course, in the grand scheme of things, the loss of a couple cases of beer every few months wouldn't even show up on their radar. But if they shared their recipe with EVERY brewer who asked (not just you), it would eventually add up, wouldn't it?
Vinnie freely shares the Pliny the Elder recipe with anyone who asks. The PDF he created for the recipe can be found all over the internet. Pliny continues to sell out as soon as it's stocked on shelves.
 

HerbieHowells

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I have met both Doug Odell and Adam Avery. Both of them are really nice guys, or at least they seemed that way to me. Odell is quite a bit more old-school than Avery. He is a jeans and tee shirt guy, he isn't as smooth of a talker as Avery, and if you look at his brewery, the bulk of their sales are American interpretations of English ales, rather than envelope pushing big beers. It might be that the brewery's attitude towards sharing recipes is just part of their old-school style. He came up in a different era of home brewing. Yes, you really should try to reply to phone calls and e-mails as soon as possible. But I think you just deal with a slightly different culture at Odell, and you might want to take it easy on them.
 

kombat

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Vinnie freely shares the Pliny the Elder recipe with anyone who asks. The PDF he created for the recipe can be found all over the internet. Pliny continues to sell out as soon as it's stocked on shelves.
Right, but Coke and KFC are massive, wildly successful, global corporations, whereas Russian River is a tiny, local microbrewery.

I'm not saying there's a concrete link between secrecy and success, but there is certainly empirical evidence to suggest that may be the case. The longstanding big guys guard their recipes, while the upstarts share in an attempt to build recognition.

This applies to other industries, too. Linux source code is freely available, while Windows is not. Yet Microsoft is obviously massively more successful than RedHat. OpenOffice vs. Microsoft Office. GIMP vs. Photoshop. Openly sharing information may be a nice gesture, and appreciated by niche afictionados, but it seems to be counter-productive to achieving mass-market success.
 

danielbt

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You still sound incredibly entitled.

They can do what they want with their own product; they don't owe you anything and they don't need to kiss your ass when they say "no" - a simple "obvious reasons" is fine - trade secrets, duh.
You sound like you don't have a clue what the word "entitled" means.

Him saying that he's not going to spend his own money on the product of a company that didn't act in a way for which he cared is not entitlement.
 

Darwin18

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O'Dell gave you a list of the malts and hops that they use. As a homebrewer you should be able to glean a recipe from that information and the style guidelines that should get you very close to their recipe. It will probably take some work on your end, and likely several attempts, but you can get there on your own. It is their recipe and they can choose to share it with you or not, but they don't owe you anything as a customer besides the quality beer they sell to you. A lot of breweries will also list their IBUs, OG, SB, and alcohol percentage on their bottles - the information is out there, you just need to gather it together.
 

kombat

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You sound like you don't have a clue what the word "entitled" means.

Him saying that he's not going to spend his own money on the product of a company that didn't act in a way for which he cared is not entitlement.
Sure it is. Buying a company's products doesn't obligate the company to forge a personal relationship with you. All it means is they owe you a product that lives up to their promises, for the price advertised. I think expecting anything beyond that certainly qualifies as "entitlement."
 

brycelarson

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I'm a bit confused by this conversation. I assume that most of us have been in and around small breweries around the country. My brewer friends often work double brew days - meaning that they're already knocking out 16 hours a day just trying to get beer out the door to make their rent and utility bills. They certainly don't owe me (or anyone else) those few minutes from 1am to 1:05 am to respond to my email.

Hey, if they choose to do it - awesome, but to be have a problem with them not doing it, that seems a bit silly.

Feel free to vote with your $$$ - that's your right, certainly. Just like it's their right to respond to you or not and to share their recipe or not.
 

jwwbrennan

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This applies to other industries, too. Linux source code is freely available, while Windows is not. Yet Microsoft is obviously massively more successful than RedHat. OpenOffice vs. Microsoft Office. GIMP vs. Photoshop. Openly sharing information may be a nice gesture, and appreciated by niche afictionados, but it seems to be counter-productive to achieving mass-market success.
The popularity of Windows is based on the software available for it, which was based on the success of Windows, which was based on... and it all goes back to the IBM name and very limited early competition. Linux entered well after Microsoft had the market. Had Linux had the running start and IBM association, Windows may have had the door slammed. OpenOffice also competes with enormous brand loyalty based on media attention (as Apple has now) and the advertising dollars that drove the attention. Being familiar with both GIMP and Photoshop I find GIMP very limited. If it was even in the running I would bolt from anything Adobe. I stopped upgrading Adobe products a few years ago but use the core elements with help from Qimage and Vuescan. For me it is not the secrecy of products (although I would love to know the secret to KFC's success with that chicken) it is established market position. Microsoft products may still have much of the market but Borland and later Linux, OO and many others really forced their pricing down.
 

Sir Humpsalot

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Darwin18 said:
O'Dell gave you a list of the malts and hops that they use. As a homebrewer you should be able to glean a recipe from that information and the style guidelines that should get you very close to their recipe. It will probably take some work on your end, and likely several attempts, but you can get there on your own. It is their recipe and they can choose to share it with you or not, but they don't owe you anything as a customer besides the quality beer they sell to you. A lot of breweries will also list their IBUs, OG, SB, and alcohol percentage on their bottles - the information is out there, you just need to gather it together.
This.

I recently spent a solid 2 days tinkering around with beersmith and scouring the internet for information on Goose Island's Bourbon County Stout. Eventually I came up with a theory about how the beer must be put together. This was based on my brewing knowledge and a few logic games that I used, for example: why is Munich malt listed second after pale malt? Why are they using it at all in such a huge beer? Why not just use more crystal malt instead? If it were just a small amount, who would even notice in a beer that big?

After thinking about it for several days, I decided that the challenge is to use as much Munich as possible while still converting the specialty grains. And with that aim in mind, I took the IBU info and the SRM info and starting putting numbers into Beersmith until I had a solid recipe that reached all the numbers. (And then I modified the recipe due to my MLT being unable to handle that much grain).

I agree that if they gave you the malt used (and probably listed them in a logical format... Malts listed from most to least, and hops either listed by proportion or maybe based on the order in which they are added into the boil), then you just need to do a little detective work now.

And if you don't feel experienced enough to do that, then start a thread here, post ALL the information you have, no matter how insignificant it seems, and get people to help you figure it out.

Here. I did some of the work for you. I have determined that they probably listed the ingredients in reverse order to throw you off the scent. This is pretty obvious since 2 row should almost always be the first thing listed, not the last and Mt Hood is more of an aroma hop whereas Centennial is used more for bittering. However, having used Honey malt before, I would be surprised if there is more of it than the cara amber... Equal proportions, perhaps? If you can find the SRM and IBU's, give me an idea as to how it tastes, and provide OG/FG info and whatever else you can dig up, I bet someone could narrow it down even farther.
 

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I wouldn't blame or purposefully shun a brewery for not wanting to give out a recipe or significant help, but I would definitely be more inclined throw extra support in the direction of a brewery that does.
 
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Boulevard is just great guys all around. Started in 5 gallon batches in his basement, When he got the building and all the licencing he carried a keg down the street to the closest Mexican restaurant and asked them to sell his beer. They told him no, he offered it for free to the customers to get a response. Guys in there love homebrewers.

I toured Spoetzl Brewery last year, while it used to be one of my favorite beers the tour guides really made me mad and I haven't bought much since. I asked what hops they use for their Shiner Bock and they told me they couldn't tell me. They had cups of hops they were passing around for people to smell but wouldn't tell anyone what each type of hop was or what they were used for, just "Used in the brewing process." I was a fairly knew brewer so I couldn't really identify the hops. Sad.
 
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