Big Eddy, small price (Or: nips, snobs, and schnitts)

Schnitts of Leinies (Photo: B. Yaeger)

Back when I met with Jake Leinenkugel (and his wife, Peggy, and his father, Bill, R.I.P.) at his brewery in Chippewa Falls, WI, we discussed issues like brewing big beers as well as selling them at big prices. As the second oldest brewery in the country (behind family-owned Yuengling), despite being owned by MillerCoors and shoehorned into its subsidiary Tenth & Blake, Jake is still the main man in the main office in Chippewa. As one of MillerCoors’s primary entrees in the craft beer segment (alongside Terrapin Brewing, which is now owns a minority share of), Leinies ventures away from its core German-style beers like lagers, Weisses, and bocks (heck, even its popular Summer Shandy is practically the same as the Radlers popular in Germany) and into stuff like one of the beer-geekiest styles, Russian Imperial Stout.

In certain markets you can find 4-packs of Big Eddy RIS at a very reasonable price point of about $11. Compare this to, say, Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, which retails for around $17 per 4-pack. Awesomer still, Tenth & Black/Leinie’s kindly sent us a couple whiskey-aged iterations bottled in bona fide NIPS.

Let’s look back at that aforementioned discussion, as an excerpt from my book:

Peg raised the issue that “beer is for the common person. It crosses all economic boundaries…”

“At the same time,” I countered, “one of the things that you see are some crazy styles and very expensive beer out there. Thirty or more dollars a bottle. Would it be safe to guess that you would not put out a beer for that niche?”

 “Personally, I would love to brew a beer that good and worthy of that amount of money,” said Jake surprisingly. “I don’t think we would really do it because it’s not something that would fit in with our consumer profile, or our brand positioning. Some of those brews aren’t very drinkable for the masses. Some microbreweries are making something very eclectic and pricing it at what I call ‘the snob range.’”

Just then, Bill re-entered saying, “Let me interject something. I just went out and had just a schnitt of Sunset Wheat and this was about the fourth time that I’ve tried it.”

There ya have it. The folks in (or near) Milwaukee find a way to put some Leinie’s beer “that good” on the shelves and avoid “the snob range.” And Bill, who had been the fourth generation to captain the brewery, championed responsible portions of beer such as schnitts. Here’s to you, Bill.

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About Brian
Author of beer books "Red, White, & Brew" & "Oregon Breweries." Championing responsible packages for responsible beer lovers. #Nips!

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