Plenty of people were surprised at James Squire 150 Lashes’ emergence in the Top Ten of the GABS Hottest 100 Beers, but Malt Shovel head brewer Chris Sheehan wasn’t one of them.
The Lion-owned beer rocketed up the chart into sixth place, attributed by poll organisers to the broadening of the voting base to include the GABS database. Cynical observers meanwhile blamed the coup on retailer Dan Murphy’s first-time involvement as a sponsor.
But Malt Shovel’s Sheehan nominated another more obvious contributing factor: The public simply loves 150 Lashes and it continues to achieve incredible growth, year-on-year.
“It’s in most pubs, it’s in every single bottleshop. What scares me is that that beer is so big now but it’s still in 20 per cent growth,” Sheehan told Radio Brews News.
“The popularity of Lashes doesn’t really come as a great surprise, given for us just how huge it is.”
Launched in 2011, Sheehan said 150 Lashes now accounts for almost two thirds of the volume of the James Squire portfolio, which itself comprises 30 per cent of the ‘craft’ beer category.
Sheehan said the Malt Shovel team is happy if James Squire’s involvement in the Hottest 100 introduces craft beer novices to its competitors’ products.
“Those guys that voted in Lashes number six, I think they’re likely to go back and say, ‘what came in at five?’, ‘what came in at four?’ and go down the pub and try a Pirate Life or a Hop Hog,” he said.
“That’s a really good thing because they’re great beers – we accept that they are going to move on.”
However, Brooklyn Brewery founder Steve Hindy says drinkers ‘moving on’ presents the ultimate dilemma for the big brewers as they seed consumers into the world of flavoursome beers.
Sheehan suggested that this is a problem for someone else at Lion to worry about.
“What the [Malt Shovel] guys have been doing long before my time is trying to get people in that 95 per cent to try something new,” he said.
“I get a lot of brewers who come up to me and say, ‘the first beer that I tried other than what my Dad gave me was a Squire’s’, and that’s pretty cool.”
He said that when people try James Squire, “they work through the range and quite often they move on to the more pointy end stuff”.
What’s new at Malt Shovel
Also in Malt Shovel news, Sheehan told Radio Brews News:
- James Squire Hop Thief 7 doubled the sales of Hop Thief 6, and the follow-up is now in planning;
- The Swindler Summer Ale is “absolutely flying, it’s beyond expectations” ahead of its upcoming packaged launch; and
- The more experimental single batch range, Mad Brewers, is soon to be reprised.
Episode 75 of Radio Brews News is available to download here.