Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Flying Dog Gonzo

You may have already read this over at Show-Me Beer, but Flying Dog brewery is exiting the Kansas and Missouri markets. I don't think I'll miss it, I ranked it the 24th best available brewery in KC in my starting 5 power rankings a year and a half ago, just ahead of Leinenkugel's. I certainly need to revisit that list, but Flying Dog would probably fall rather than rise in that system. I haven't bought any of their beers besides Gonzo Porter for a couple of years and I only bought Gonzo once or twice.

This has been a bit of a trend as of late as Great Divide, Dogfish Head and Avery have all done similar pullbacks to serve their home markets a little better. Good for Flying Dog for deciding to serve the bureaucrats, lobbyists and politicians of the DC area the mediocre to bad beer those sorts deserve.  But, this is the first time Kansas and Missouri have been deserted.

Since this has been happening, I've been wondering who was going to be next. Hoppin' Frog has been getting closed out at Tipsy's for a couple of weeks now (great bargains to be had for some really good beers). I don't think many people buy Hoppin' Frog very often, maybe they would exit Kansas. Ballast Point always seems like an afterthought, I've never bought anything of theirs. Grand Teton or Bridgeport wouldn't make much of a dent. Or maybe it could be something big like Bell's or Founders. In any case, you should keep in mind, you need to support your favorite beer because it could very well be out of market at any given time.


  1. Always amazed that people don't buy Ballast Point (or that I didn't know Kansas had it until like 18 months ago).

    I think just about any beer geek on SoCal would tell you they prefer Ballast Point to Stone.

    Sure we don't get Victory at Sea and Sculpin, but if we bought enough Big Eye and Marlin (both outstanding) we probably would. Especially now that Sculpin is in 6 packs.

  2. Ballast Point is just one of those beers that has never broken through. I don't think whoever distributes it cares much about it because when I do see it, it's on the bottom shelf or some other out of the way place in the store. Also, their packaging is pretty bad and sometimes that's all it takes to turn someone off it.

  3. I remember when we first got Ballast Point I used to buy some of the bombers and occasionally a six pack, fresh Ballast Point is great, but as time went on the lack of date codes on them and the fact that the stock didn't seem to be turning over very frequently yielded me a few sub-par purchases. I only trade for fresh Sculpin now and haven't bought any Ballast Point around here for close to 2 years. Would love to see KC Beer Blog start a campaign for Ballast Point, similar to the Lagunitas one.

  4. Flying Dog is pretty bad. It's funny that the one and only beer that people like is unanimously the Gonzo.

    I agree with both of you on Ballast Point. It's a very good beer that few in the area know about, mostly because it's always hard to find.

    Hoppin' Frog doesn't have enough of a reputation to carry its price point. It's good stuff, but I haven't bought any since it first came out.

    I like Grand Teton's beers, and the brand is better served here than Ballast Point, but the packaging is weird for that too.

    Bridgeport strikes me as a craft brewer that's 5 years behind the curve. They haven't done anything to step up their game as dozens of breweries have entered the market, and dozens of others have risen to the challenge of making better beer. But hey - they're usually 50 cents cheaper per six pack.

  5. I almost made a throwaway joke on the Lagunitas post that retailers should use whatever space they're giving Ballast Point to Lagunitas. But, I looked up Ballast Point and found that they were very well regarded. Somehow that escaped my attention. But, I still have never bought any of their beers and hearing about a freshness issue doesn't make me want to go out and try it right away.

    Does anyone know who distributes it, because they seem to be doing a poor job. This is the exact issue I had with Central States and their distribution of Lagunitas. If I ever try their beers and like them anywhere near as much as I like Lagunitas I could very well do a little something for them. Especially since we don't get the best they have to offer.

  6. I asked the guy at Tipsy's about the Hoppin Frog because I thought they may be exiting KS too. He said they just don't sell enough and needed the space. If there was enough demand they would bring it back. I tried their BORIS the crusher and it wasn't good or bad. Couldn't come off the $16.00 for the barrel aged until the other day when it was $12.00 on clearance. Haven't tried it yet though. Hoppin Frog stuff usually rates well so I agree it must be the price point.

  7. Ballast Point will ship directly to addresses in reciprocity states (Missouri is one, KS is not) in case quantities. Obviously this will be fresh.

    When he reopens (soon I hope), South Bay Drugs will ship to Missouri (but not Kansas) as well and you can buy Ballast Point (and Russian River and lots of other stuff) singles. You have to buy bottles in multiples of 6 I think, but it doesn't all have to be one thing.

    I buy as much bottled beer from South Bay Drugs as I do locally, almost. I prefer draught (and bar atmosphere vs sitting on my couch) if I have a choice.

    Both will get you the full range and very fresh beer.

  8. By the way, I won't miss Flying Dog too much (Gonzo was my favorite too), but then I go to Delaware like 15 times a year and it is all over on tap there.

  9. Standard Beverage Company is the Ballast Point Kansas distributor, per Ballast Point. Standard Beverage Company doesn't seem to list them on their own site. They must be an okay distributor as they handle some decent brands (AVBV, Free State).

    I imagine it is like Lagunitus. If we buy it, and tell the distributor we want more, it will get better merchandising and then we can start to get some of the more sought after beers. I do not understand why they would even bother coming in so far away with the more run of the mill beers. I think Boulevard has it figured out with their West Coast strategy. Go in with the Smokestacks, that's all anyone there has heard about or cares about. Then if you get some brand loyalty eventually, you can think about coming behind it with the six packs.

  10. Checking out Standard's portfolio of beers, it's pretty impressive. But, they don't seem to do much to promote any of them. Their salesmen can take the real easy road and sell Sam Adams, Free State, Schlafly and Heineken (which includes all the Mexican lager crap other than Corona), throw in an assortment of Lakefront, Boulder, Breckenridge and Ska and consider the job done.

    Like I wrote in the post, Ballast Point seems like an afterthought. They're carrying a lot of brands and a lot of beers within those brands.

  11. Yeah. I guess I'm not sure I really care because I'm happy to order it online. I'm going to order Russian River anyway and I am usually looking to fill out the box with something.

    I just feel people are missing out both on Big Eye (which I think is fantastic) and Marlin (which is very good) and on the opportunity to entice Ballast Point to bring in the full portfolio. I'd rather have it in Missouri though just because Flying Saucer and Beer KC and iTap and 33 Wine are big enough shit to score kegs of Victory at Sea and stuff like that. No place in KS really has that pull as a draught account.

  12. Standard doesn't care about their beers...much more focused on spirits and wine. Their portfolio of beers lends itself to brands that sell themselves or poorly represented craft beers in stores.

  13. No disagreement that Flying Dog's "standard" beers leave much to be desired, but on the higher end, they have several strong offerings--Raging Bitch, Double Dog, and an IIPA whose name escapes me, as well as Gonzo.

    And Snake Dog IPA on cask is much better than in a bottle. Doggie Style Pale Ale is still useless, though.

  14. I don't think there's enough margin in beer for any local distributor to get serious about what we'd consider to be a good portfolio. Until someone can figure out the margin thing, KC's exposure to new microbeers will grow...slowly.

  15. I need to get over to the KS side to keep Hoppin Frog around here. I've had BORIS a couple of times and it was pretty good.