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Monday, January 9, 2012

The Return of Workhorse

A lot of local hopheads will surely be happy to learn that Workhorse has returned. The popular IPA is now available on draft at Laurelwood's pubs, and draft is the only way you'll find it. More on that in a minute.

Workhorse had been out of production for several months. The official reason for the hiatus was a shortage of the hops required to make the beer, particularly Simcoe. My previous post on what happened with Workhorse is here. The story, as well as my view of what they're doing, has changed somewhat.

Yep, Workhorse is back in the pubs

As Laurelwood eased Workhorse out of the daily mix in late September, they launched Gearhead, a lighter IPA at 6.5% ABV (vs 7.5% for Workhorse). Gearhead has effectively replaced Workhorse as the brewery's flagship IPA. You can find it on draft and in 22 oz. bottles around town.

Coinciding with the release of Gearhead, Laurelwood also launched an A-Z IPA program. They were supposedly going to produce a series of IPAs with names A-Z in the absence of Workhorse. The first three entries were Aftershock, Best Best and C-Biscuit. That program was soon abandoned.

A picture began to emerge as I bounced emails back and forth with Laurelwood owner, Mike De Kalb. He told me they intended to bring Workhorse back as soon as the necessary hops were available in a few months. He said they might reposition the beer as an imperial IPA due to the relatively high ABV. Later, he told me Workhorse would only be available on draft in his pubs.

When I heard it was back on draft, I stopped by the Sandy Blvd. location (a hop and a skip from home) to check it out. Sure enough, this was the beer many of us had been missing for several months. The specs and taste are the same. Hmmm, I thought. I wonder what happened to the idea of repositioning Workhorse as an imperial IPA?

Gearhead: the only readily available Laurelwood IPA for now

Well, De Kalb now tells me they decided not to tweak the recipe and reposition Workhorse. For now, at least. However, they will introduce an imperial version that will be available on draft and in bottles later in the year. No word on whether Imperial Workhorse will be a seasonal or standard beer. My guess is the latter.

I have long-believed the strategy behind taking Workhorse out of production was to expand Laurelwood's IPA line. Workhorse had to be removed from the picture to open the door for Gearhead, a beer that doesn't turn heads in the same way. Now that Gearhead is established, they'll bring in Imperial Workhorse over the top.

As I said in my earlier post, I think it's smart marketing for Laurelwood to have two IPAs out there. It's the most popular style around here, for better or worse, and having two versions available in pubs and bottles is good business...regardless of the zigzags in the official version of how they arrived here.

Unfortunately, they have succeeded in pissing a lot of people off in the process of doing what they're doing. Many people I've talked to have expressed frustration with the changes surrounding Workhorse and say they can no longer support Laurelwood. I suspect those feelings will pass, but negative PR is never a good thing, even when it's related to a change that seems to make good business sense. We'll see what the long-term fallout is.

Getting back to the tease at the top, Workhorse is only available at Laurelwood pubs at the moment. Officially. I believe it has been spotted at other places around town, but it's possible those pubs are finally tapping stashed kegs. You can't get it in a bottle anywhere, but growler fills are available.

1 comment:

  1. I'm just glad they brought a pale back--and a great one at that. It was long missing in their line.


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