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Commentary: Brewing, business and beer

BY HBSDEALER Staff

This editorial is 16 ounces of cold, refreshing, liquid gold.

I’m talking about beer. The beautiful blending of barley, hops and water, and of course yeast. More specifically, I’m talking about homebrewing, the craft beer industry, ancient Sumerians and a hardware store owner.

Allow me to explain.

Recently, I had a chance to interview , owner of Karp’s Hardware and Homebrew store in Northport, N.Y., out on New York’s Long Island. You can see that article, and a detailed description of how the homebrew supply shop he runs in his store and online has helped him boost sales in our June 7 edition of Home Channel News — or you can read it here.

What you won’t see is about 95% of what Alan and I talked about that day, in his office, and more importantly over a few pints at the local watering hole.

Alan and I share a love of home beer making, and beer in general. Our discussion turned to the beverage as one of those uniquely American passions that echo to the core of our country’s foundation. After all, the pilgrims would have never made it to the new world without beer, the one liquid that could survive the journey without spoiling. Drafter of the Declaration of Independence Thomas Jefferson was a brewer, as were fellow signers of the document Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Adams. George Washington was fond of Porter, and brewed it for his troops at Valley Forge.

Beer and the home channel may not seem too similar, but for one key event. In 1965, Frederick (Fritz) Louis Maytag III (yes, that Maytag) bought a struggling brewery in San Francisco, Anchor Brewing Co., and breathed life into it by developing a new flagship beer, Anchor Steam, a California Common or steam beer. That single action by the appliance giant was the beginning of the Craft beer revolution, which really took stride in the late 1980s to the present.

We talked about the growth of the homebrew industry as being a key component to the Craft Beer industry.

Alan and I also discussed the history of beer, which coincides with the history of civilization. We spoke of ancient Sumer, modern day Iraq, the birthplace of civilization, beer and the common held belief in the beer world that agriculture for the purpose of beer making was the true reason for the development of civilization.

We spoke about local breweries in New York, like Blue Point and Brooklyn Brewery, and how they got their start. One brewery, Keegan Ales, started as a homebrewer and as a customer of Alan’s.

We talked about photography, marriage, his children and the Northport community. As a matter of fact, the bar we visited, aside from being the only bar in town with multiple hard-to-find craft beers on tap, was struggling with town ordinances about a new back patio area, and Alan was helping them fight it.

We sat over a few pints of such rarities as Delirium Tremens and its delightfully large pink elephant logo and discussed business and life. Then we packed it in and headed back to his store. I purchased a few homebrewing supplies, and we said our goodbyes as I ran for the train, which I missed, by about half a second.

But it was totally worth it. I headed back to the bar, had dinner and drank another Delirium.

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Strong Q1 sales for kitchen electrics

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Sales of small kitchen appliances are on the rebound, with gains of 10% in the first quarter of 2010 compared with last year, according to the NPD Group. Unit sales were up by nearly 6%, continuing an upward trend in the category that began in the last quarter of 2009.

Products like electric grills and griddles, food processors, coffee/espresso makers, deep fryers, electric skillets and slow cookers generated double-digit dollar and unit growth in the 12 months ending March 2010, compared with the same time in 2009, the market research group reported.

“Consumers are continuing their cost-cutting ways by spending more time at home and cooking more,” said Peter Goldman, president of NPD’s home division. “Alternatively, there is an increased demand for more premium-priced products such as single-serve coffeemakers, stand mixers and juice extractors.”

Housewares are also showing signs of recovery, but have been less resilient to the consumer pullback than the kitchen electrics category, according to the NPD Group. While sales are not back to the levels where they were two years ago, the trend is beginning to stabilize. In the first quarter of this year, total kitchen housewares grew 5% in dollars spent, versus the first quarter of 2009. Categories such as bakeware, cookware and cutlery all generated strong dollar growth in this quarter. Tabletop sales such as casual dinnerware and beverageware also began to move in a positive direction.

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John Deere to relocate Charlotte employees

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Approximately 90 employees from the John Deere Southeast engineering center in Charlotte, N.C., will relocate to Cary in October, according to the Charlotte Business Journal.

An unspecified number of positions will be eliminated, and the facility is due to be closed some time in 2011, according to the article.

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