Matt Brewing Company

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Matt Brewing Company
TypePrivate
IndustryAlcoholic beverage, Brewery
PredecessorsCharles Bierbauer Brewery
Founded1888
FoundersFrancis Xavier Matt I
Headquarters830 Varick Street, Utica, New York, USA
ProductsBeer, soft drinks
SubsidiariesFlying Bison Brewing Company
Websitehttp://www.saranac.com/
 
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Matt Brewing Company
TypePrivate
IndustryAlcoholic beverage, Brewery
PredecessorsCharles Bierbauer Brewery
Founded1888
FoundersFrancis Xavier Matt I
Headquarters830 Varick Street, Utica, New York, USA
ProductsBeer, soft drinks
SubsidiariesFlying Bison Brewing Company
Websitehttp://www.saranac.com/
Matt Brewery in west Utica.

F.X. Matt Brewing Company is an American family-owned brewery at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains in Utica, New York. It is the second oldest family-owned brewery in the United States, as it has been brewing beer since 1853. Its most popular product is the Saranac line of beers, although soft drinks such as root beer and ginger beer are also produced by the company.

Matt Brewing Co. ranked as the 11th largest craft brewing company in the US based upon 2013[1] beer sales volume. They were ranked as the 18th largest overall brewing company in the US based upon 2013 beer sales volume.[2] Matt Brewing Co. currently produces a line of beers under the Kirkland brand for distribution at Costco stores in the Eastern United States.

History[edit]

After working at the Duke of Baden Brewery of the Black Forest region in Baden, Germany, Francis Xavier Matt I immigrated to the United States in 1880. Matt worked at the Charles Bierbauer Brewery as lead salesman and brewmaster in Utica for a few years before reorganizing it into The West End Brewing Company in 1888.

During Prohibition, the company stayed afloat by producing soft drinks under the label Utica Club. After the end of Prohibition, Utica Club became the name of the brewery's flagship beer, promoted during the 1950s and 1960s by two puppet characters, Schultz and Dooley, voiced by Jonathan Winters.

The brewery, later renamed Matt Brewing Company, became popular throughout the Northeast based on Utica Club and its current flagship beer, Saranac. The company is in its fourth generation of family ownership and is led by Nick Matt (chairman and CEO) and Fred Matt (president). The brewery is served by the New York, Susquehanna and Western Railway (NYS&W) from their line next to the brewery which runs down the middle of Schuyler Street. The NYS&W delivers covered hoppers carrying the grain products needed for brewing. Insulated boxcars carrying the finished product out of the brewery are also brought out daily by NYS&W. Gondolas carrying glass for recycling are also seen in the consist of NYS&W locals serving the brewery.

2008 fire[edit]

On May 29, 2008, a fire broke out in the packaging section of the F.X. Matt Brewery.[3][4] Brewing and kegging of Utica Club resumed the following week, but canning and bottling was disrupted for over a year.[4] On June 30, 2008, the bottling operation returned at the brewery.[4] However, as of June 23, 2008, canning operations have temporarily been moved to the High Falls Brewing Company (makers of Genesee beer) in Rochester, NY, until the damaged equipment can be replaced.[5]

Since the fire, brewery officials have focused on a rebuilding effort that essentially enhances their brewing operations. As current brewery chairman Nick Matt told the Utica Observer Dispatch in May 2009:

We have had an opportunity to upgrade equipment. We are going to end up with a canning facility that is more flexible, faster and more efficient. It will be a facility that is better than before. We lost 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) of warehousing space, and now we are building 23,000 square feet (2,100 m2) of warehousing space. And as a result of changing and moving operations, we are going to be able to streamline some of our operations.[6]

Family leadership[edit]

Francis Xavier Matt acquired his brewing expertise as a student of the Duke of Baden, and was considered a proficient brewer upon his arrival in the city of Utica in 1880. His grandson, F.X. Matt II, remarked that, under the duke's tutelage, F.X. Matt I gained brewing experience "as an art, not a science; as a way of life, not a way of making a living."[7] Combining his talents with Charles Bierbauer, who was additionally skillful in old world brewing techniques, Matt nurtured a reputation in Utica's westside that resulted in his role as brewmaster, superintendent, and treasurer of a newly organized West End Brewing Company in 1888.[8] F.X. Matt led the brewery until 1951.

Though F.X. Matt I stayed on to serve as brewery chairman until his death in 1958, his son Walter Matt began his tenure as president of the West End Brewery in 1951, serving in that role until 1980. Walter Matt modernized brewing operations. He also assisted in efforts to attract new businesses to the Utica area as the region entered its post-industrial period.

F.X. Matt II, upon becoming president of the family business in 1980, soon thereafter renamed the brewery the F.X. Matt Brewing Co. in recognition of his grandfather. Under his leadership, the brewery kept up with national trends, including the introduction of the Saranac brand in 1985.[7] Upon the unveiling of Matt's Premium Light Beer in 1982, F.X. Matt II brought a poetic flair to the brewery's marketing:

Look out Bud! Look out Miller!
New Matt's Light is a giant killer
With taste that's great and body surprising
Look out you guys--a new sun is arising.

We're not very big compared to you
But we love our beer and know how to brew--
A great light beer--with malt and hops
Shove over guys--your monopoly stops[9]

Competition with larger brewers, within the context of staying afloat in a Rust Belt city such as Utica, was a continual theme for the Matt Brewery throughout the 1980s. For example, in 1985, F.X. Matt II sponsored an open letter to then Utica Mayor Louis LaPolla which criticized the mayor for not featuring Matt products at a fundraiser hosted by LaPolla. Matt II admitted that not seeing local beverage products at the event "was a real blow to our pride," arguing that such oversights eliminated "the thought that its in the community’s self interest to be a booster of those products which it makes itself.” Matt II had identified that the Matt Brewing Company was "in a war for [its] very survival," given that so many smaller breweries during that era were annexed or consolidated by larger brewing interests.[10]

LaPolla and Matt II moved on to build a more positive relationship,[11] and Matt Brewing Company continued to be a business anchor in the city, spurred particularly by the popularity of its Saranac line of beers among the growing market of microbrew or 'craft beer' enthusiasts.

In order to maintain its market presence amidst the larger ongoing beer pricing war, F.X. Matt II developed a two-pronged strategy. First, Matt II initiated the new Saranac line of beers with the advice of notable brewmaster Joseph Owades (originator of the 'Light Beer' formula). Second, teaming with families members, including his brother Nick, Matt II purchased the brewery from a family trust, subsequently reconfiguring the breweries corporate strategy with the ultimate goal of augmenting the Saranac brand. The Saranac brand eventually gained the brewery new esteem in the 'microbrew' category of brewers, and a company that had seen sales of its beers plummet during the 1980s witnessed a doubling of sales during the early to mid-1990s.[12]

F.X. Matt II served as brewery chairman until his death in 2001. Currently, the brewery is overseen by Nick Matt, chairman and CEO, with his nephew Fred Matt serving as president. The brewery continues to host, as it has for the past eleven years, Saranac Thursday Night, a weekly social event during the summer featuring beer, food, and live music, drawing thousands of people to Utica's Varick Street. As a result the surrounding confines of the brewery has been marketed as the city's "Brewery District," which has witnessed a renaissance of local night spots and the addition of restaurants and live music venues.

The brewery also offers paid tours during tourist season. A tour lasts for about one hour.[13]

Award winning beers[edit]

The Matt Brewery has produced thirty different beers in its Saranac line over the past two decades, which include Adirondack Lager (German amber lager), Black & Tan (stout/amber lager blend), Pale Ale (English pale ale), Black Forest (Bavarian Schwarzbier), India Pale Ale, Lager (traditional American lager), and a seasonal Belgian White (white beer).

The Saranac line of beers have been awarded several distinguished honors since its inception. In 1991, Saranac Amber Lager (today known as Adirondack Lager) was named the top premium lager at the Great American Beer Festival. At the 2007 Australian International Beer Awards, both the Pale Ale and Imperial Stout beers won recognition.[4] Saranac Pale Ale was also awarded the Silver Medal in the "Classic English Style Pale Ale" Division at the 2008 World Beer Cup.[14]

In addition to beers sold in traditional packaging, Saranac sells assorted beers in twelve packs as its Adirondack Trail Mix and seasonally as the Twelve Beers of Winter (called the Twelve Beers of Christmas until the 2006-2007 season). A number of family brands such as Kaltenberg, Black Cola, Two Dogs, and X.O. Premium Blend are all recognized products of the brewery.

In the late 1970s, Matt Brewery was one of the four breweries that produced Billy Beer. At the dawn of the craft-brewing movement in the mid-1980s, Matt began contract-brewing many of the East Coast's most successful brands: New Amsterdam Amber Beer, Pete's Wicked, Brooklyn Lager, Newman's Albany Amber, Dock Street Amber and Olde Heurich.

Matt Brewery brews beer for other brands on contract. While Matt's connection with Brooklyn Brewery and Pete's Brewing Company are well known, the company will not disclose any of its clients or how much beer it brews for competitors.[15]

In addition to beer, Matt Brewery also distributes popular soft drinks, notably the Saranac Root Beer. Other drinks include diet Root Beer, Shirley Temple, Orange Cream, Ginger Beer, and Sparkling Lemonade.

Saranac Pale Ale[edit]

During the spring of 2007, the Washington Post provided a unique perspective on both the Saranac Pale Ale and on the Matt Brewery itself. Saranac Pale Ale was named a finalist in the newspaper's "Beer Madness" tasting, a competition that playfully mimics the NCAA Men's College Basketball Tournament. Though Saranac Pale Ale lost in the final round to Brooklyn Lager, Matt's Brewery inevitably walked away a victor, given that the brewery is a contract brewer for the Brooklyn Beer Company.[16] Subsequently, authorities such as the Washington Post have dubbed the Pale Ale (first introduced in 1994) as the brewery's "flagship brand."[17]

Utica Club[edit]

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Utica Club is a 5.0% abv pale lager and has 137 calories per 12 US fl oz (355 mL) serving (1,620 kJ/L); introduced in 1933 at the West End Brewing Company (today the Matt Brewing Company). It was the first beer officially sold after Prohibition.[4] It is a minor brand in comparison to the brewery's primary line of Saranac beers. Some affectionately refer to Utica Club as "Uncle Charlie." Accordingly, Utica Club Light (UCL) has been referred to as "Uncle Charlie Lewis."

"Schultz and Dooley"

Utica Club's most famous campaign icons were a pair of talking beer steins, "Schultz and Dooley", who appeared in several popular television commercials that ran from 1959 to 1964. DDB (Doyle Dane Bernbach) copywriter David Reider created the characters and comedian Jonathan Winters supplied the voices of Schultz, Dooley, and the other beer steins that appeared in the commercials. Many Utica Club commercials depicted two characters ending the argument abruptly on ordering a Utica Club beer, leading to the jingle "It's tough to argue over an Utica Club, 'cause they put too much love into it!"

Utica Club sales have seen a 9% sales increase from 2004 to 2005. USA Today reported in 2005 that sales increases of beers such as Utica Club and Pabst Blue Ribbon are part of a 'retro' beer trend among younger beer drinkers during the past several years.[18]

Subsidiaries[edit]

In 2010, Matt Brewing Company purchased Flying Bison Brewing Company of Buffalo, New York, rescuing the brewery from financial hardship.[19]

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/media/press-releases/show?title=brewers-association-lists-top-50-breweries-of-2013
  2. ^ http://www.brewersassociation.org/pages/media/press-releases/show?title=brewers-association-lists-top-50-breweries-of-2013
  3. ^ F.X. Matt Brewery - Utica, NY 13501 - The Observer-Dispatch
  4. ^ a b c d e "From humble beginnings the brewery takes shape". The Observer-Dispatch (Utica). 2008-07-08. Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  5. ^ Murphy, Montanette (2008-06-24). "Rochester brewery fills in for F.X. Matt". The Observer-Dispatch (Utica). Retrieved 2008-08-20. 
  6. ^ At brewery, devastation spurs creation.
  7. ^ a b "Matt generations brew Utica History". The Observer-Dispatch (Utica). 2007-04-02. p. 1 (Special Edition). 
  8. ^ "Story of Brewing in Utica," from The Upstate, Lucy Clark, ed, Dec./Jan. 1942-43, pp. 12-13, 20-21.
  9. ^ "Matt poetic over brew". Utica Daily News. 1982-03-17. 
  10. ^ Utica Observer-Dispatch, 1985-07-17, p. 3 (advertisement).
  11. ^ Utica Observer-Dispatch, 2001-01-16, p. 6a.
  12. ^ Ogle, Maureen (2007). Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. Orlando: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 327–328. ISBN 0-15-603359-3. Retrieved 2011-11-24. 
  13. ^ "Saranac - Matt Brewing Company - Tours and Info". Retrieved 2010-07-22. 
  14. ^ http://www.beertown.org/events/wbc/winners_list/winners_2008.html
  15. ^ http://drinks.seriouseats.com/2012/11/behind-the-scenes-brewery-tour-fx-matt-utica-saranac-beer.html.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  16. ^ Kitsock, Greg; Heim, Joe (2007-04-02). "Beer Madness". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-11-24. 
  17. ^ Kitsock, Greg (2008-12-17). "In Utica, N.Y., a Prohibition Survivor Is Still Running Strong". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2011-11-24. 
  18. ^ "Marketers use word of mouth to pop the top on retro beer". USA Today. 2005-06-12. Retrieved 2010-05-12. 
  19. ^ Christmann, Samantha Maziarz (February 23, 2010). "Brewery aims for production next week". The BuffaloNews. Retrieved 2011-11-24. 

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