Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Celebrate 20 Years with Lompoc

Bryan Keilty (L) & Jerry Fechter (R)
Zwanzig Fest, a four-day celebration to mark Lompoc Brewing's 20th anniversary, begins today. Zwanzig means "20" in German and along with being the name of the celebration, it's the name of the bitter Märzen ale that is a nod to Lompoc's very first brew, Erst Ale. The beer, brewed with the help of local beer writers, has a malty body with eight hop additions and was designed to bring back memories of enjoying pints on the New Old Lompoc patio.

During the brewing there was plenty of chatting, including a look back at the last 20 years, with owner Jerry Fechter and head brewer Bryan Keilty. Jerry acknowledged that they can't rest on their laurels and must find ways to stay "cool, hip and exciting." That's a tall order for any brewery but especially in a craft beer-rich market like Oregon. The smaller, younger breweries have to maintain the balancing act of brewing enough beer to be profitable while not over extending themselves with the purchase of new equipment should sales decrease. "Old guard" brewpubs like Lompoc face competition from new bars and growler fill locations, making it harder and harder to draw people in. Competition also comes from other brewpubs serving great food although in hiring head brewer Bryan, Lompoc also gained a CIA (Culinary Institute of America) trained chef.

Therefore answer to the question of how to stay relevant is far from a straightforward one. Jerry made it clear that expanding sales geographically isn't something they're interested in and there has been a shift in the sale-ability of bottled beer. Lompoc started out with 22-ounce bottles and has moved toward 12-ounce bottles as the larger format bottles have seen flat, and even declining, sales. There's also been a shift in the beer that sells the best; it used to be their flagship C-Note but these days it's Proletariat Red. The preferences of the consumer are a moving target but the answer to relevancy may lie in beers that don't readily fit into a traditional style.

Zwanzig, while dubbed a bitter Märzen ale, is such a beer and the next four days offer plenty of opportunities for you to try it. Swing into one of the Lompoc pubs, grab a pint (or featured taster tray) to receive a raffle ticket for a drawing of Lompoc swag and perhaps chat with Jerry and Bryan who will be at all of the 4pm tappings.

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