Since its inception in 2011, Battle Born Beer located in Reno, NV has made a specific decision not to focus on brewing specialty beers but rather on an easy drinking lifestyle lager. Lifestyle beer is characterized as being a go-to beer for everyday consumption. “We saw a white space opportunity to create a brand that identifies with the fiercely independent spirit of Nevada and to create a taste profile that appeals to the broad-based consumer without trying to ‘out-premium’ the market as so many other craft beers try to do,” management said in a roundtable meeting at the brewery.
What is Battle Born? It is the Nevada state slogan. The term recognizes that Nevada became the 36th state during the Civil War and was an integral force in passing the 13th Amendment-freeing the slaves. The state of Kit Carson, Comstock Lode, Mark Twain, Hoover Dam is known as being an unconventional, rebellious, and unencumbered people. Nevadans who, regardless of their location, have proven themselves proud and fiercely loyal to their heritage.
Craft beer is about marketing. David Ogilvy of advertising fame in the 70’s repeatedly said about this subject, “It’s not the ink, it’s the think.” “Ogilvy placed a great emphasis on data-driven, research-oriented marketing that defined what the market wanted. Everything with Ogilvy depended on planning and strategy,” says Brian Visaggio.
Battle Born Beer is a company focused intently on knowing the market and staying focused on developing a beer for that market-Nevada. They are led by a guy who has spent his career working on brand strategy and innovation for major consumer brands. It tends to make sense for an entrepreneurial craft beer person to use research to identify and fill a new niche in a specific geographic market.
“I made a decision and wanted to make beer for Nevada, and for people who identified with that core belief of an independent and unpretentious spirit that is pervasive in our state,” says Jeff Pickett-founder of Battle Born Beer.
“I had the unique experience to experience Northern Nevada as an outsider transfer student when I attended the University of Nevada back in the late 80’s. When I returned in 2005, I was reminded of that unpretentious and independent spirit of Nevada that to me was ripe for a beer brand to capture a growing market.” There are a few craft beer companies in Reno whose owners also came out of the University of Nevada-Pigeon Head and Revision.
Pickett says he is not wanting to be a disciple per se of craft beer, but rather to understand the market first then give the market exactly what they want. “I have been immensely helped by craft beer entrepreneurs in Europe and the U.S. and I have learned a lot about craft beer, industry trends and I am daily using this research to create a world class beer company in Reno and Nevada.”
“Successful branding in the craft beer industry is about a creating a platform of core beliefs that are genuine and align with you and your consumer,” says Jeff Pickett. Beer or any product, is not something you make put in a can or keg and expect people to beat down your door. You must give the consumer a reason to believe and feel the product and brand represents those beliefs.
Here is his recipe for beer success:
- Develop a brand that aligns with your purpose, your “reason for being”.
- Develop a formulation/recipe that is in alignment with that brand and your target consumer.
- Strategically align your distributor and distribution network with your consumer and market.
- Understand your key metrics for ON Premise & OFF Premise channels.
- Hire people who believe what you believe.
- Ensure adequate capitalization to implement strategy & tactics.
I looked at some market data about craft beer on the web and talked with some advertisers. Much of my conversations, including with the TTB and other brewers around the U.S., indicates:
- Every brewer and beer style has a market. Some discover the information by trial and error.
- Scale is important.
- A strategic plan will dictate brewery location, equipment, styles to brew, and team.
- A marketing plan comprises details of a strategy to get the beer sold, distributed, and promoted.
- The Plan of Action are the details.
So here are some things about craft beer in Nevada that led up to Battle Born Beer.
The craft beer marketplace at a macro level is saturated. Brewers Association reports a majority of the population lives within 10 miles of a craft beer brewer. With approximately 9,000 craft brewers it is easy to see how that is possible. In 2021 it is projected that craft brewers will close at about the same rate as there are start-ups.
The Brewers Association states, craft beer brewers are known as innovators. Further, Craft beer is sometimes made with non-traditional ingredients that are often added for distinctiveness. There are many brewers that feel you must product IPA, Sours, Stouts and in your tasting/tap room you need at least 12 tap handles to show consumers you are a force.
So, is there room for craft brewers of quality everyday beers targeting the casual consumer? “Yes, and some people are starting to understand the niche we think exist in Nevada,” says Pickett. Be aware, the largest selling beer in America is Bud Light and Coors Light that represents more than 30 million barrels and 15 million barrels respectively in 2019. “Somebody in America likes a clean, crisp, tasty, lager beer and we want to accommodate them with a fresh western Nevada branded beer.”
After working with 5 breweries in Nevada and reluctantly even one in California to produce the beer recipe, Battle Born Beer decided they needed to be in more control of their supply chain. In 2018 they acquired a location and spent over $1 million in infrastructure alone to bring it up to the standards of a high-quality producer of craft beer.
Another thing they learned was that equipment is the tools of the trade. Quality craftsmen buy and use quality tools and we decided, through experiences with contract producers, to go with stainless steel equipment form North America only and not China. “We just did not want to battle issues with brewing equipment from China,” said Pickett. Battle Born facilities are based upon a projected volume of 36,000 barrels of beer in 5 years, facilitated by a new significant push into the Eastern Nevada and Las Vegas markets.
Speaking to start-up costs. “The rule of thumb of getting an estimate and doubling it really holds true. A small operation, with no plans for significant expansion can be accomplished for $300,000,” says Pickett. But there will be limitations. Battle Born Beer continues to utilize outside consults for legal, real estate and construction needs.
Will the Nevada market support a great beer in the craft style? “Good beer does not always mean loaded with hops and exotic yeast, the classic Pilsner’s are still great centuries later,” states Pickett.
Are there opportunities in Nevada for a Nevada style beer? Here is a comparative look versus some other states. This data might indicate some opportunities in Nevada.
Let’s look at some comparative data. Nevada has a population of 3.1 million. Conversely, Vermont has a population of.637 million and California has 39.8 million. On population alone, Nevada is near the size of Arkansas. To keep things relative, we can assume Nevada is 5 times the size of Vermont.
We already know California is a powerhouse in craft beer with 907 craft brewers, this makes them the #1 craft brewer industry in the U.S. producing 3,664,080 barrels. Nevada has 45 craft breweries and produce 87,469 barrels compared to Vermont with 68 craft breweries producing 345,540 barrels. Remember, Nevada is 5 times the population of Vermont and only produce 25% of Vermont’s barrel production.
To keep things relative. Nevada is ranked #43rd (of 50 states and Washington D. C.) in the number of breweries per 100,000 adults over the age of 21. Vermont is ranked #1 with 14.2 breweries per 100,000 adult population over 21 years of age. This is accomplished with a ranking of #33rd largest number of breweries in the state. Nevada is ranked as 38th.
California has the most breweries but only ranks #28th of per capita breweries per 100,000 population over 21 years of age. The state with the largest per capita number of breweries is Vermont with 14.2.
If the people at Battle Born Beer have discovered an underserved market that is not saturated, Nevada seems to offer opportunity for growth. It was recently reported that Nevada is experiencing the 4th fastest population growth in the nation with most of the growth coming from California residents moving to Nevada.