September 16, 2011

Bomb Lager Builds a Brand with Art, Cans, and Affordability

One of the business models becoming more prevalent in the craft beer community is the once-derided contract brewing, where a beer company with a recipe essentially hires a production brewery to produce their beer so that they can focus more on getting the beer to market and navigate distribution channels. Many breweries have used contract brewing as an initial step to build brand equity, but especially in difficult real estate markets (like, say, New York City), contract brewing is now a staple of many well-known breweries.

One of the most recent entrants to craft beer is Bomb Lager, which is currently distributed in New York, brewed at Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and has attracted some attention with their unorthodox can design.

From the release:
“We are excited to offer consumers a craft beer for the masses. Bomb Lager is a beer with a subtle complexity that is inviting, rewarding and a perfect fit for everyone’s table,” said Pat Carney, partner, Bomb Beer Company. “Along with creating a quality product, Bomb Lager is about artistic expression, so we wanted a package that people would want to see and be seen drinking. In fact we placed our recently updated recipe in Billy’s “Black Can” design which is as refined and exciting as the beer within it."... Bomb Beer Company chose to launch their beer in aluminum cans because they offer the best canvas to display the artwork that is a key part of its brand.
The Billy to whom that refers is New York artist Billy Miller, who sort of combines Matt Groening with Keith Haring.  

A craft beer company that launches with an emphasis on art? If their goal was to interest this blog (it probably wasn't), mission accomplished. So I contacted them, and Bomb partner Michael Raymond was kind enough to answer my emailed questions.
How did the partnership with Billy Miller arise?
We were initially drawn to his work when we saw a couple murals he did in our neighborhood. His name kept popping up, and then as fate would have it, we were introduced to him by a local bar owner on West 3rd St. - a place that both us and Billy frequented. Go figure that in one of the biggest cities in the world, our artist was right under our nose. From there, his work spoke for itself.

Will Billy remain the artist for future BOMB packaging, or will other artists be used?

In the interest of promoting art we plan on utilizing the talents of many artists. We're constantly looking for new artists to collaborate with on future packaging. Send inquiries to

Bomb is working on a contract brew model, but craft beer drinkers are generally skeptical of contract brews in quirky packaging. Is BOMB a true craft beer?

There are many craft beers that use the services of a contract brewery. There are three others in New York I can immediately think of. Would we like to have our own brewery? Of course, in fact we plan on it, but all the financial and geographical aspects need to be aligned for us to move in that direction. Our definition of craft beer is the passion and ingredients that go into to the product. Our Brewmaster, our ingredients, our process would be in line with any of the American micro-brew’s that are currently classified as a craft brew.

A traditional Bavarian Helles that conforms to the Reinheitsgebot sounds good, but how is that different from many American light lagers? 

A lot of well known American lagers include adjunct ingredients such as corn and rice in their recipes. They include these ingredients because they're less expensive and easier to manipulate than a 100% barley recipe. There are no adjuncts in our beer.

Another difference is most American lagers are classified as a pilsners. Although the difference between a pilsner and a helles is fairly marginal, a pilsner will usually have a sharper hop bite to it while a helles will offer more of a malty character. One interesting fact is during Munich’s Oktoberfest, those one liter mugs you see filled with the foamy golden beer is often a helles lager verses a true Oktoberfest Marzen beer which is darker and stronger.

What are the expansion plans as far as...
  • Markets:We would like our beer to be found around the world. We're starting here in New York and will be moving across the US over the next few years. 
  • Brands or products- We do plan on expanding our product line in the future to offer our consumers different styles of ales and lagers. 
  • Facilities: As we grow we will be looking to build our own brewery. We would love to have our own brewery, but for us, offering a great product right now is our priority. 
  • Priorities (e.g., which of those is the most important to grow first?): Good beer, supporting art, music and having fun. We want people to associate our beer with quality and fun; that's our goal. 
A big focus seems to be on price. What will the price point for BOMB be?

We're offering a craft beer with out the craft price. We want drinkers to be able to experience a well made beer without breaking the bank. Our suggested retail price is under $21 per case. We are working hard to build a brand that people love and can afford.

Are there any brands or companies out there making beer like yours, or according to a model you admire?
There are certainly beers and brewers out there that we respect and admire, but we feel that our vision is a truly unique one. Bomb is all about self-expression, having fun, and enjoying a quality craft beer in a cool new package. That's exactly what we do here on a daily basis.

Now, as with all email interviews, it's important to take things with a grain of salt. But it seems clear to me that Raymond and the people involved here at least understand and respect beer. The answers about adjuncts and the difference between Helles and pils both show - to me, at least - that this is more than just a marketing scheme.

Some of the questions, particularly the ones  I took from answers sales manager Doug Clark gave in a quick piece on Brewbound. Specifically:
Clark says Bomb Lager is intended for starving artists, gamers and hipsters and will feature a lower price point than most craft beers.
“We want an approach where a guy can go and pick up a six pack and still have money to eat,” says Clark. “Most of the younger crowd doesn’t have the money to enjoy a seven dollar pint... American brewers have been creating such complex beers that are all fantastic but are just massive in flavor profile. The price point — it doesn’t necessarily have to be where it is.”
As far as contract brewing is concerned... Raymond is right. Lots of breweries do it, and I believe Lion is one of the better options for contract brewing in the region. The key is to make sure the recipes are easy to standardize and quality control, which a beer like this really should be. Would I contract out a 12% exotic IPA? No. But arguably, a Helles lager of this type is actually better brewed in a massive industrial facility than it is in a small company-owned one.

In any case, I'm interested to see how this effort goes. The brand seems strong and clear, the people seem to appreciate what they're doing, and there's always a place in the market for a quality product competing on cost.

In case you haven't clicked through to his site yet, here's more of Billy's art:

A light installation in Venice


  1. imma drink 45 of em tonight

  2. This beer really is the new direction of beer in america, ive already heard a bunch of people in their 20's say they wish more stores and bars carries it. Love the cans love the taste! It's what beers of tomorrow are gonna look like, it just got there today.