When you talk to the Two Beers Brewing Company team members Maura Hardman and Eric Willard, the conversation quickly turns from challenges to opportunities.
“Living in Washington State is a blessing because we have access to the most incredible hops and malts in the Yakima Valley,” observes Maura, Two Beers’ Marketing and Public Relations Manager. “But it also means a lot of competition.”
Eric, who is the team’s Supply Chain Manager, adds: “It’s healthy competition; everyone is trying to come up with the next best thing and I personally find that very exciting.”
Two Beers, which started out as the passion project of a handful of people in a co-work garage space in 2007, is now a celebrated company. As producers of the award-winning Two Beers Pilsner and Fresh Hop India Pale Ale, they regularly collect accolades and craft fans.
But in Seattle, a city with 60 craft breweries—in a state with 400 craft breweries—they don’t take those fans for granted.
“Beer has obviously been around forever—they brewed it in ancient Egypt,” says Eric. “But you still have to constantly push the envelope on what your flavour profile can be. You have to stay relevant while not alienating your existing customer base.”
Part of remaining relevant, according to the Two Beers team, is accommodating for new tastes and sensibilities as that customer base grows.
“I think you feel it every decade,” says Eric. “If you’re a brewery that’s fortunate enough to last more than a decade, you’ll get an influx of new palettes, and it’s up to you to accommodate them.”
Of course, in 2021, regardless of how established your brewery is, or who your customer base happens to be, the need to innovate is especially acute. And the Two Beers team attributes that to the lockdowns of COVID-19.
“During the last few years, all the breweries who have been able to ship a lot of beer have been hunkering down and researching and experimenting,” explains Eric. “Also, as people have been emerging from their COVID caves, they’ve been craving new things, new experiences. This has meant a wave of innovation in our industry.
“For us, it means running water chemistry experiments and brewing new small batch beers for the tasting room. But we keep some traditions like our annual Fresh Hop harvest. We pull our own hop bines in Yakima, pick the hops at the brewery and brew our Fresh Hop IPA within 24 hours of pulling the bines. I view this as a Renaissance for beer.”
With the emphasis so firmly on innovation, agility in packaging is key. This is where, as a packaging partner, Great Little Box Company/Ideon Packaging (GLBC) can be especially supportive.
Maura explains that “with GLBC manufacturing our folding carton beer boxes, we can change them frequently. That allows us to change the way we tell the story of a beer, as we continue to tweak its recipe. Their team doesn’t force us to sit on a lot of inventory we won’t use as a smaller brewery.”
Eric adds: “We also really appreciate that their team helps us to take the attention-getting design elements that we come up with and make them make sense—which ultimately translates into dollars and cents. I really value the transparency and open communication of this partnership. We even talk about the paper index market and how that’s going to impact our bottom line. With COVID a lot went sideways with suppliers, but never with GLBC.”
In this “big bang of new beers”, as Eric puts it, Two Beers is looking forward to unveiling their new seasonal Tipsy Toboggan, complete with fresh branding. Seeing those boxes roll out will remind both of our teams of how good it feels to innovate. We’re confident that is exactly what Two Beers will keep on doing.