Since its inception in 2011, Battle Born Beer, located in Reno, NV, has made a specific decision not to focus on specialty brewing, but rather an easy-to-drink lifestyle lager. Lifestyle beer is characterized by being a reference beer for daily consumption. “We saw a white space opportunity to create a brand that resonates with Nevada’s fiercely independent spirit and to create a flavor profile that appeals to the broad-based consumer without trying to ‘outcompete’ the market like so many other craft beers try.” to do,” management said at a roundtable discussion at the brewery.
What is Battle Born? It is the motto of the state of Nevada. The term acknowledges that Nevada became the 36th state during the Civil War and was an integral force in the passage of the 13th Amendment to free slaves. The Kit Carson, Comstock Lode, Mark Twain, Hoover Dam estate is known for being an unconventional, rebellious, and unfettered town. Nevadans who, regardless of their location, have proven to be proud and fiercely loyal to their heritage.
Craft beer is all about marketing. David Ogilvy, of advertising fame in the 1970s, repeatedly said on this subject: “It’s not the ink, it’s the idea.” “Ogilvy put a heavy emphasis on data-driven, research-driven marketing that defined what the market wanted. Everything with Ogilvy hinged on planning and strategy,” says Brian Visaggio.
Battle Born Beer is a company intensely focused on knowing the market and staying focused on developing a beer for that market: Nevada. They’re run by a guy who’s spent his career working on brand strategy and innovation for major consumer brands. It often makes sense for a craft beer entrepreneur to use research to identify and fill a new niche in a specific geographic market.
“I made up my mind and wanted to make beer for Nevada and people who identified with that core belief of an independent, unassuming spirit that is present in our state,” says Jeff Pickett, founder of Battle Born Beer.
“I had the unique experience of experiencing Northern Nevada as an external transfer student when I attended the University of Nevada in the late 1980s. When I returned in 2005, I was reminded of that unassuming, independent spirit of Nevada that was ripe for me. 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 doesn’t want to be a disciple of craft beer per se, but rather understand the market first, and then give the market exactly what it wants. “I have been helped immensely by craft beer entrepreneurs in Europe and the US and have learned a lot about craft beer, industry trends and use this research daily to build a world class brewing company in Reno and Nevada.”
“Building a successful brand in the craft beer industry is about 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 put in a can or a keg and expect people to break down your door. It must give the consumer a reason to believe and feel that the product and the brand represent those beliefs.
Here’s his recipe for beer success:
- Develop a brand that aligns with your purpose, your “raison d’être”.
- Develop a formulation/recipe that is aligned with that brand and its target consumer.
- Strategically align your distributor and distribution network with your consumer and market.
- Understand your key metrics for ON Premise and OFF Premise channels.
- Hire people who believe what you believe.
- Ensure adequate capitalization to implement strategy and tactics.
I looked at some market data on craft beer on the web and talked to some advertisers. Much of my conversations, including with the TTB and other US brewers, indicate:
- Every brewer and style of beer has a market. Some discover information by trial and error.
- Scale is important.
- A strategic plan will dictate the location of the brewery, the equipment, the styles to be brewed, and the equipment.
- A marketing plan includes details of a strategy to sell, distribute and promote the beer.
- The Action Plan is the details.
So here are some things about craft beer in Nevada that led up to Battle Born Beer.
The craft beer market on a macro level is saturated. Brewers Association reports that the majority of the population lives within 10 miles of a craft brewery. With approximately 9,000 craft brewers, it’s easy to see how that’s possible. In 2021, craft breweries are projected to close at roughly the same rate as startups.
The Brewers Association states that craft brewers are known as innovators. Also, craft beer is sometimes made with non-traditional ingredients that are often added to distinguish them. There are a lot of brewers out there who feel you should be producing IPAs, Sours, Stouts and in your tap/tasting room you need at least 12 tap handles to show consumers that you are a force.
So is there a place for craft brewers of quality everyday beers aimed at the casual consumer? “Yes, and some people are beginning to understand the niche that we think exists in Nevada,” says Pickett. Note that the best-selling beers in the United States are Bud Light and Coors Light, which accounted for more than 30 million barrels and 15 million barrels respectively in 2019. “Someone in America likes a clean, fresh lager and flavorful, and we want to indulge them — with a fresh Western Nevada brand beer.”
After working with 5 breweries in Nevada and, reluctantly, even one in California to produce the beer’s recipe, Battle Born Beer decided it needed more control of its supply chain. In 2018, they acquired a location and spent over $1 million on infrastructure alone to bring it up to the standards of a high-quality craft beer producer.
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 growers, to opt for stainless steel equipment only from North America and not from China. “We just didn’t want to fight the problems with the brewing equipment from China,” Pickett said. The Battle Born facility is based on a projected volume of 36,000 barrels of beer in 5 years, facilitated by significant new momentum in the Eastern Nevada and Las Vegas markets.
Speaking of start-up costs. “The rule of thumb of getting a budget and doubling it really holds. A small operation, with no plans for significant expansion, can be done for $300,000,” says Pickett. But there will be limitations. Battle Born Beer continues to use outside consultation for legal, real estate, and construction needs.
Will the Nevada market support a great craft-style beer? “Good beer doesn’t always mean loaded with hops and exotic yeasts, classic Pilsners are still great centuries later,” says Pickett.
Are there opportunities in Nevada for a Nevada-style beer? Here is a comparative look against some other states. These data could indicate some opportunities in Nevada.
Let’s look at some comparative data. Nevada has a population of 3.1 million. By contrast, Vermont has a population of 637 million and California has 39.8 million. In population alone, Nevada is almost the size of Arkansas. To keep things relative, we can assume that Nevada is 5 times larger than Vermont.
We already know that California is a powerhouse in craft beer with 907 craft brewers, this makes them the #1 craft brewing industry in the US with a production of 3,664,080 barrels. Nevada has 45 craft breweries producing 87,469 barrels compared to Vermont with 68 craft breweries producing 345,540 barrels. Remember, Nevada has 5 times the population of Vermont and only produces 25% of Vermont’s barrel production.
To keep things relative. Nevada ranks 43rd (out of 50 states and Washington DC) in the number of breweries per 100,000 adults age 21 and older. Vermont ranks #1 with 14.2 breweries per 100,000 adults age 21 and older. This is achieved with a ranking of number 33 with the largest number of breweries in the state. Nevada ranks 38th.
California has the most breweries, but only ranks 28th for breweries per capita per 100,000 people over the age of 21. The state with the highest number of breweries per capita is Vermont at 14.2.
If the folks at Battle Born Beer have discovered an underserved market that isn’t saturated, Nevada seems to offer a growth opportunity. It was recently reported that Nevada is experiencing the fourth fastest population growth in the nation with most of the growth coming from Californians moving to Nevada.