Goose Island Beer Co.’s new Bourbon County offering will be released on Friday, and it’s one of the most striking innovations to date in the brewery’s long history of aging beer in whiskey casks. .
Don’t try to drink it.
To celebrate what may (or may not be) the 30th anniversary of Goose Island’s iconic Bourbon County Stout, the brewery will put on sale Friday more than 2,000 “Barrel House Collection NFTs” that it values more than one. million bucks.
Relatively few breweries have entered the burgeoning world of NFTs, but Goose Island parent company Anheuser-Busch was an aggressive early adopter. In recent months, the nation’s largest beer company, which bought Goose Island in 2011, has sold NFTs for brands including Stella Artois and Budweiser, and for its launch of carb-free Bud Light Next over the weekend. of the Super Bowl.
Friday’s release will be a first for Goose Island, reflecting an ambitious and potentially lucrative new direction for Chicago’s oldest brewery and its most renowned brand, a family of alcoholic, high-priced, barrel-aged beers released annually. the day after Thanksgiving.
NFTs are unique digital assets – kinds of digital baseball cards – that are collected online, stored in digital wallets with the potential to be resold. While the long-term value of NFTs remains uncertain and their prices have already fluctuated wildly, breweries have often associated NFTs with tangible benefits that add real value.
Goose Island’s NFT Barrel House, for example, offers perks ranging from Bourbon County beer to access to special events and autographed Bourbon County tap handles.. They cost $499 each, plus tax.
In a statement, Goose Island President Todd Ahsmann said selling NFT “is certainly new to us” and likened it to the innovation of aging stout in bourbon barrels in the 1990s.
“We wouldn’t be celebrating 30 years of Bourbon County Stout if our brewers hadn’t tried something different, and we strive to bring something new and exciting to every BCS season,” Ahsmann said.
At least two small breweries have tried their hand at NFTs. Sudwerk Brewing, of Davis, Calif., billed itself as the “first brewery in the world to create NFTs” last summer when it sold one to promote the release of a fruity smoothie-style hard seltzer called Next F’ing Trend.
This NFT, a digital image from the Next F’ing Trend label, sold for $300. It came with a case of seltzer, a signed print of the label art, and a t-shirt.
Sudwerk co-owner Trenton Yackzan says minting and selling NFT requires a steep learning curve. But he sees an opportunity to build community and raise awareness for small breweries by pairing NFTs with real-world products.
“There’s definitely a market for it if you understand how to play the game,” Yackzan said.
Denver Beer Co. went one step further with its NFT last summer, which had benefits far beyond the digital image: four beers a day, every day, for the owner. This NFT, a digital coin spinner of the Denver Beer Co. logo, sold for 4.33 ethereum cryptocurrency, worth around $9,200 at the time. The cryptocurrency market is however very volatile; that value, at around $10,000 on Monday, was approaching $12,500 last week.
Charlie Berger, co-founder of Denver Beer Co., said the experiment was a marketing stunt, both grabbing attention and a new way to engage customers.
The person who bought the NFT is a longtime Denver Beer Co. customer, Berger said, who “we’ve been seeing very regularly for years and years and still seeing, obviously.”
“It works in everyone’s favor,” he said.
Because the NFT is proprietary, this customer, whom Berger declined to name, can resell the NFT for a potential profit. This would grant the new owner all four beers a day. Denver Beer Co. would also receive 10% of the sale price, which is a common way to continue monetizing NFTs for their creators. (Goose Island will not take a cut of future sales of its Bourbon County NFTs, a brewery spokesperson said.)
As long as NFTs are rare in beer, Berger said, this provides a unique marketing opportunity as the number of breweries has grown from around 2,000 in 2011 to more than 9,000 in 2021, according to the Brewers Association. This growth has been accompanied by recent struggles for the industry; Sales of craft beer in grocery stores, mass merchandisers, convenience stores and drugstores fell 4.6% in 2021 and more than 8% in 2022, according to Chicago-based market research firm IRI.
“All the boats in the craft beer world have risen with the tide, but if the tide doesn’t rise that much, then to grow, we’ll have to market a little differently,” Berger said. “Everyone is going to have to get a little creative.”
Even though NFTs are becoming commonplace in beer, they can still be useful marketing tools, Berger said. Denver Beer Co.’s upcoming NFT will be a much more affordable, lower-stakes venture used to release a series of beers. Each beer in the series will only be available by purchasing NFTs which cost around the same price as the standard four-packs. When customers collect a certain number of NFTs in the series, they will be able to access beers, merchandise or special events, Berger said.
“There is still a lot of room to explore,” he said. “It’s just fun marketing and another way to get our customers to have fun with our brand.”
Goose Island’s NFT adventure is much more ambitious and mirrors its parent company’s approach. Goose Island will release 2,022 NFTs that feature “designs inspired by the brewing process of coveted Bourbon County Stout beers,” the brewery said. Images include spinning and floating barrels of whiskey in swinging frames and a bottle of Bourbon County surrounded by its ingredients.
Anheuser-Busch has partnered with Gary Vaynerchuk, an entrepreneur and internet personality who started an NFT business last year. In November, Budweiser sold 1,936 tokens — including 1,900 priced at $499 and 36 priced at $999 — in less than an hour, Beer Business Daily reported. A follow-up collection of 11,000 tokens, for which Budweiser partnered with 22 musicians, was also sold. The Bud Light Next NFTs went on sale Feb. 6 for $399 each and sold out within an hour, generating around $4.5 million in revenue, Beer Business Daily reported.
The Goose Island NFT sale will consist of three tiers with increasing value.
The most common will be a select level of 1,992 NFTs representing eight chapters of Bourbon County history (249 of each) – History, White Oak, Cooper, Brewing, Distilling, Bourbon, Aging, and Variants. Obtaining all eight chapters in a digital wallet before Bourbon County releases in November unlocks a ninth chapter, Bourbon County Rare.
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There are tangible perks, too: a barrel stave used to age Bourbon County, a limited-edition shot glass, and a Bourbon County tap handle autographed by longtime Goose Island brewmaster Greg Hall. who created Bourbon County Stout.
A reserve tier, consisting of 29 NFTs, enjoys more exclusive benefits, which include items from the selected tier, as well as entry to Goose Island events, the ability to purchase rare Bourbon County beers, and a Bourbon County tasting at the barrel warehouse. The most exclusive level, called 24K Gold Edition, will have only one owner and offers all the advantages of the select and reserve levels, as well as, among other things, bottles of Bourbon County beer and an individual tasting with a Brewer of Goose Island.
Like a pack of baseball cards, it’s unclear exactly what a buyer is getting – NFTs are assigned randomly. And like baseball cards, it’s meant to create a secondary market for trade and resale.
Yackzan, co-owner of Sudwerk Brewing in California, said he was in no rush to hit another NFT for his brewery. It was a fun experience, he says, but it “doesn’t seem to be part of the culture” he wants to nurture.
Whether NFTs are here to stay in the beer industry, “it all depends on how many people are buying into the metaverse,” he said.
“It made sense during the pandemic,” he said. “Now people prefer to be face to face and have experiences. Me, I’d rather be outside than buy an NFT.