Donum Dei brewery growth, beer jelly beans, ew

Apr 18, 2018 at 10:03 am
Against the Grain

Donum Dei Brewery of New Albany was named one of the fastest growing small and independent craft breweries in America last week by the Brewers Association.

The brewery, which opened in spring 2015, was ranked No. 30 out of 50 for production growth. Co-owner Richard Otey said Donum Dei’s production increased to 300 last year from 150 barrels in 2016.

Otey said the growth from 2016 to 2017 was part of the business plan, but was also necessary due to growing demand. The 10-barrel system Donum Dei employs is scalable, but the brewery doesn’t currently distribute, which caps demand somewhat.

“We could brew 2,500 barrels if we had the fermenters,” Otey told LEO.

Donum Dei doesn’t currently distribute to retail, although Otey said he is actively looking for a distribution partner for Donum Dei’s brands, assuming the situation is the right one. Distribution, he said, “could be a game-changer.”

“We would hire more staff, buy bigger fermenters. With two 20-barrel fermenters we could increase production by another 200 percent. Also we could start bottling,” he added.

Production at Donum Dei includes the annual bottle release of Drunken Unicorn, a barrel-aged Scottish ale.

Also, near the end of 2017, the brewery added a distilling operation and began bottling distilled spirits called Dei Shine, including vodka, gin, apple brandy and whiskey. Craft cocktails are now available as well as beer at the Southern Indiana “brewstillery.”

Entering the Louisville market is absolutely a goal with both the spirits and the beers, Otey said, the growth of the latter being what propelled the brewery onto the Brewers Association growth list. But the goal going forward, he said, is to promote both equally as a single brand. Making a national growth list by the Brewers Association is a good start.

The 50 breweries on said list represent 24 states, and the median size of breweries on the list went from 284 barrels in 2016 to 984 barrels in 2017. These breweries represent 5.5 percent of craft’s growth by volume for 2017, according to the report.

Donum Dei CEO Kimberly Otey said the list of fastest-growing breweries represents “a true American success story,” adding, “This story is more than just one individual or family; it’s an entire industry.”

“With 5 percent growth overall for small and independent brewers in 2017 — and microbreweries and brewpubs delivering the majority of that — we wanted to spotlight some of the breweries driving that growth,” Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, said in a press release. “As the growth base for craft becomes more diffuse, these fast growing brewing companies illustrate that a diverse set of success stories still exist.”

The list includes only breweries that reported to the association’s annual production survey.

Vile, abomination beans

I vaguely remember the first time I tried Jelly Bellys — they proved quite a novelty after having grown up with those generic Easter jelly beans, with the inedible white and pink ones (I liked the black ones) and the weird textures and off-flavors.

But Jelly Bellys actually tasted sort of like real food, and not just in a “vaguely lemon” sort of way, either. If you ate a popcorn-flavored Jelly Belly, you wanted to squirt butter on it.

So, when a friend gifted me with a bag of Jelly Belly candies flavored as “Draft Beer,” well, I had mixed emotions. Had the Jelly Belly wizards pulled it off? Would this be a candy revelation for the ages? In short, the answer my taste buds provided was “no.” They hadn’t. It wasn’t. They tasted like flat, stale, corporate, light beer. Mixed with feet.

I let a few people try the vile, abomination beans, and one observed that the candies tasted like beer tastes when the lines haven’t been cleaned in a few weeks. Or months. I even fed one to my dog, Atticus, and he treated it as if it were a live hand grenade.

Best I can tell, Draft Beer Jelly Bellys must be a troll on the beer industry. Then again, I guess the candy does taste like what you probably imagine a beer-flavored Jelly Belly would taste like, so that is sort of a win. I guess.