Notch came about for a simple reason – I like beers of flavor and complexity that do not require a tulip glass or sipping. Give me a small beer in a large glass and I’m a happy man. However, these beer were increasingly hard to find around 2010, because the craft beer industry was focused on the opposite. But was there truly a market for small beer? Notch was created to discover the answer, and hopefully break the myth that flavor and complexity can only be found in higher ABV beers.
So two years ago I headed up to Maine where I apprenticed as a brewer in the early 90′s, Kennebunkport Brewing, to create draft only batches. After 6 months of test marketing these beers in Boston, I confirmed that lower ABV flavorful beers had relevance with the consumer, and that on-premise accounts certainly valued consumers staying longer, spending more money, and walking a straight line out the door. “One and done” was not something that grew their bar business.
The roadmap for Notch was built – showcasing lower strength beers that have rarely (or never) been offered to the US consumer. Czech lagers such as Cerne Pivo and Vycepni Pivo, or Belgian ales such as Courante Saison and Table Beer. It wasn’t necessary for Notch to make a standard craft beer style lower in alcohol, as there were already dozens and dozens of styles that have been brewed for centuries that we could explore. So the results of the draft only test prompted a call to old friend Rob Martin at Mercury Brewing, where I am allowed a hands on approach in brewing a wide variety of styles. I’m also proud to be brewing in Massachusetts again after a short hiatus.
Brewing lower strength beer has required thick skin when the trend has been the opposite. But the one driving force in craft beer has been the consumer’s desire for variety and choice, and as I discovered, variety and choice includes ABV. Believe in Session Beer!