Blackwell closes and we’re pissed off

As of 1 May, Blackwell announced that it will close down its brewery. As customers, friends and collab-partners we hate that. Here’s why.

Now it is getting personal.

It is the 1st of May 2023 and Blackwell announces that they will stop operations. One of the best breweries just called it quits. Two brothers who had the courage to go all in and create a professional brewery. So first and foremost this news is tragic on a human level, because Tobias and Samuel Aeschlimann have to move on from all their work and all their investment in time and capital.

Yes, it is also tragic for all the friends and fans of Blackwell – we count ourselves to the group of friends. They will no longer get to be excited about the Tannenbaum beer, appreciate the subtleties of their Pale Ale or wonder what crazy concoction they might come up with next. We here at Bierversuche lose a brewery who we have collaborated with twice and who have been a popular staple at our Wortspiele events.

So, to put it frankly: We are as sad as we are pissed off.

It is unfair to put all blame on fickle tickers and uneducated drinkers. Some of the blame can also be heaped on suppliers that saw an opportunity to raise prices, even if it was not necessary. Blame can be heaped on the dictator asshole in Russia, who tries to solve his domestic problems with unlawfully attacking a sovereign nation. But as the dictator and suppliers will not listen to us, let’s have a heart to heart among us beer drinkers.

Beer is a low margin and therefore volume business or to put it even more simply: The more you can produce the more money you can make. There’s basically two strategies to go about this:

  • Produce a lot of the same product
  • Produce smaller volumes of a lot of different products

But here’s the open secret: Every manufacturing industry has about 20 percent of products that create about 80 percent of income. So, how the heck are you supposed to survive on the second strategy?

Beer fans aren’t good for business

And this is where we need to have a really good look at ourselves: As beer fans we find breweries that follow the second strategy much more interesting. We hype them to our friends, create a buzz, and line up at their booths at festivals. But how the fuck should this brewery survive, unless there’s enough bars, restaurants and stores that are willing to take constantly new products?

Or how the fuck is this brewery supposed to survive, unless there are enough – thousands! – drinkers, who purchase every one-off batch? Just do the maths: 1’000 litres are roughly 3’300 bottles. Considering we often share bottles, let’s say there needs to be 4’000 people who reliably purchase your beers to just sell a single batch.

But one batch is not enough to survive. As said, brewing is a low margin business and therefore a volume business.

Now let’s add that we all or often only playing lip-service to #drinklocal and we beer fans are basically doing the most in order to make it impossible for small breweries to survive.

Blaming ourselves

Yes, us too. We are trying a lot of different beers. We drink a lot of foreign beers. We also need to do more to make it possible for great breweries like Blackwell to survive. 

Unfortunately it’s too late for Blackwell. Thank you guys for all the great moments we got to share with you and all the great beers you graced us with. All the best for whatever comes next. Looking forward to seeing you guys again soon.

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