As most craft beer lovers are fully aware, Oregon is one of the best states in the nation for finding great craft beers and its small, independent brewing operations can be found throughout the state. Portland, the state’s largest city, claims a large percentage of these craft breweries but there is no shortage of great craft beer elsewhere in the state. One craft brewing operation that many outside of Oregon have likely not heard about but may know better in the coming years is Caldera Brewing, in Ashland, Oregon. I had the chance to converse recently with Ray Cato, Brand Manager at Cato. He was kind enough to answer some questions about Caldera and craft brewing in general. Here are my questions and his honest responses to each:
1. The craft brewing industry has made great gains in the past few years and there are over 2,000 breweries and brewpubs in the United States. Do you see the growth continuing or
is the industry reaching a saturation point?
Growth is usually dictated through marketing and good beer. If the beer is good then it will sell. If the beer is not tasty then you are not going to be in business for very long. Good marketing helps sell lack-luster beers but, after a point in time people will move on to a tastier brew.
2. Large brewers like Anheuser- Busch, Miller, Coors, and others continue to dominate the market, even though their total share has fallen. How will their size and influence affect the craft beer industry in the coming years?
The Big breweries will always have dominance in the market because they continue to buy micro breweries and smaller domestic brands. They use these breweries names like they are still a small hand- made product. Some of these newly purchased breweries get moved and the beer tastes different. They buy the beer for the shelf space. If a Bud or Coors wanted to make great micro beer they could. They get the best prices on grains and ingredients to make beer and could undercut any small breweries on price.
3. With so many different craft breweries and so much beer from which to choose, how does a craft brewer distinguish itself from its competition?
A craft brewery must be different by the style of beer and the type of beer they produce. Does your brewery make Lagers or Sours or do they make only Ale’s? Do you enter blind competitions to see what unbiased opinion thinks? Beer sells because people like it and most breweries have one fantastic beer in the line- up with a few average ones. One travels to different breweries to taste the difference in porters and pales…from the beers they drink all the time. They want to taste the difference.
4. What, specifically, has Caldera done to make its products stand out in the craft beer crowd?
We are the first micro cannery in the state to produce canned beer in house. We use whole flower hops in every beer. Most breweries don’t use whole flower hops they use the cheaper pellet hop.
5. What was the inspiration behind the founding of Caldera Brewing? What do you like best about the art of brewing craft beer?
Good beer that will always be crafted the right way without short cuts or poor ingredients. Caldera is never rushed and we always concentrate on good beer. We love the art of craft beer and we love drinking good beer.
6. Some states have unusual and often bizarre laws on the books restricting beer and craft breweries. Does your state have any such restrictions, or do the regulators generally stay out of the way.
7. In what U.S. states are Caldera Brewing products currently sold? Is there a plan in place to expand to more states?
Caldera Beer is in 11 states and three countries. We will be in most states by the next two years.
8. Caldera Brewing packages its products in cans. Do you foresee bottling at any point in the future or will cans remain the sole means for packaging?
Caldera has had bottles for almost three years. We have nine different flavors in bottles. We are switching lawnmower Lager into a can and out of a bottle by January 2013.
9. Caldera Brewing has a nice, diverse lineup of products. Are there any plans to expand the products further and venture into extreme beer or some other market niche?
Caldera has 25 beers currently. We are coming out with soda pop and liqueur in the future.
10. Winning awards is always rewarding for a brewer. Which Caldera Brewing products have received awards and/or achieved some significant level of recognition?
We have too many awards to count. The I.P.A. is the most decorated beer we have. Go to www.calderabrewing.com to find out more on the awards.
Caldera is certainly a brewery with big plans and as Ray Cato has alluded, it is definitely a brewery on the move. Its products are already sold in eleven U.S. states and the business plans to press for even more states and greater market exposure in the near future.
Oregon is one of the leading American states for craft beer and with breweries like Caldera, it isn’t difficult to see why the state has been so dominant in this industry for so long. A commitment to quality and distinction has guided Caldera for some time and will continue to move the brewery forward well into the 21st century. Look for Caldera beer in your area soon, and tell them Great Beer Now sent you.