Redhook’s New Look + Q&A with Robert Rentsch

by Kevin @

Redhook and I have always had an interesting bond. Perhaps this is due to the brewery’s conception coinciding with my own, or its ESB being an early and frequent participant in my foray into craft beer. No matter the reason, we have both arrived at the precipice of 30. And while it appears I have regressed a bit as of late, once again letting my hair grow long and spending all too much time toiling away in the latest Pokemon game, Redhook is all eyes forward. 30 years is a huge achievement for a modern craft brewery and Redhook is using its pearl anniversary as an opportunity to do some major brand re-imaging.

New bottles, new packaging, cans and new beer. I had an opportunity to pass along some questions to Robert Rentsch, Redhook’s Brand Manager, about the brewery’s 30th Anniversary and its recent changes.

Q: 30 years in craft brewing is a huge milestone. Does Redhook have any parties or events planned to celebrate the special occasion?

A: We’ll be celebrating all year long! But more specifically we are planning BIG birthday parties at both of our brewery locations (Woodinville, WA and Portsmouth, NH) for later this summer. Stay tuned for details.

Q: Redhook’s press release mentions that the new packaging makes the beer easy to spot on the aisle. Is the high-contrast packaging and labels a response to customer concern that products did not stick out enough on store shelves?

A: This change is more about doing what feels right for Redhook, and going back to our core values and roots of making great beer and having fun doing it. Part of this is packaging that is more straightforward and simple with no pretensions.

(I wouldn’t be surprised to see more breweries make the change to highly visible, minimalistic, “Ninkasi-style” packaging as the battle for shelf space intensifies.)

Q: “Floral notes and mouthfeel?? Hey, we’re just drinking beer here.” While I completely agree with this statement, I’m sure it will cause a beer geek or two to wince. Can you explain or elaborate on this idea?

A: There seems to be a movement within the craft beer community where a lot of breweries are trying to ‘out craft’ each other. Redhook isn’t about that. Of course we’re brewing great beer, but we’re just as interested in having a great time. Redhook is about pure and simple enjoyment and lack of pretense.

(Bill’s Beer Review Generator does a great job illustrating my pet peeve with the way people describe beer. I feel it makes the culture appear elitist and inaccessible. And while I enjoy the practice of dissecting a beer with like company, I have come to the understanding that most of my friends would prefer I just quiet myself by drinking it.

As an aside, I wonder if this attitude is the beginning of the craft beer equivalent of Nouvelle cuisine. Barrel-aging, exotic ingredients and multiple strains of yeast and bacteria have become the norm. Maybe we are on the cusp of a shift back to stripped-down beers, brewed to showcase a flavorful hop or malt. Nouvelle Biere.)

Q: Redhook Pilsner is being released next week (Mar. 21st.). Is this a return of last summer’s Rope Swing, or an entirely new lager? And will Redhook Pilsner be a seasonal release, or an addition to the year-round line-up?

A: Pilsner is a return of Rope Swing and will be a part of Redhook’s year-round line-up.

Q: Speaking of lagers, last year’s Rope Swing was a first for the brewery. Is there a reason it took Redhook nearly 29 years to release a bottom-fermented beer? Will we see more lagers in the future?

A: Redhook has actually experimented with Lagers in the past and many years ago produced a small run of Pilsner that was sold in our pubs and in draught.

Q: Next month, Copperhook is being released in cans. What was the reasoning for choosing Copperhook over the flagship ESB as the Redhook’s first canned beer? If a success, can we expect other Redhook beers to follow?

A: Copperhook is real crowd–pleaser. It’s the perfect balance of smooth, rich, malty flavor you’d expect from a craft brew with a lighter body and hop profile that make it a perfect “session” beer for all the outdoor pursuits and occasions where it will be enjoyed.

(We may need the fact checkers for this one, but as far as I know, Redhook is the first craft brewery to go can with something other than their flagship beer. It will be interesting to see how this is received.)

Q: While other craft breweries have been consolidating their core offerings, Redhook is expanding its line-up. What has allowed for this to happen and can we expect further changes to Redhook’s line-up in 2011? And any information you care to share about Redhook’s 2011 Limited Releases?

A: We’ll still have 4 core year round offerings. ESB, Long Hammer IPA, Copperhook, and Pilsner. We will continue to release Seasonals, as well as an upcoming series of exciting limited run beers.

(I was under the impression that Redhook added both Blonde and Big Ballard to its year-round line-up last year.)

Press Release:

Redhook Unveils New Look for 30th Birthday

Craft beer pioneer goes back to its roots to ring in new decade

Woodinville, Wash. – March 14, 2011. This month, Redhook Brewery ( , one of the nation’s founding domestic craft brewers, is celebrating its 30th birthday by unveiling a new look, including bottles, labels, bottle caps and packaging.

The new look is all part of Redhook’s effort to get back to its roots. “There seems to be a movement within the craft beer community where a lot of breweries are trying to ‘out craft’ each other,” said Robert Rentsch, brand manager of Redhook Brewery. “Redhook isn’t about that. Of course we’re brewing great beer, but we’re just as interested in having a great time. We think our new look reflects our personality well.”

The Beginning

Just like other pioneering brands such as Starbucks and Microsoft, Redhook was born out of the energy and spirit of the 80’s. In 1981, founders Paul Shipman and Gordon Bowker (who happened to be a co-founder of Starbucks) thought the people of Seattle deserved their own beer; one that offered more flavor than the lighter tasting domestics and imports that were available at the time.

Redhook started brewing beer out of a converted transmission shop in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood. After achieving local success with Ballard Bitter (known today as Long Hammer IPA) and ESB, Redhook became the first nationally distributed craft beer brand. Then came the identity crisis. “We realized we weren’t celebrating the big personality that Redhook is in the way it deserved to be celebrated,” said Rentsch.

The Evolution

After some soul-searching over a few beers, Redhook decided it needed its exterior to match its personality. The new look includes:

· Packaging/Labels: Easy-to-spot labels and packaging across all Redhook beers helps consumers quickly grab and go in the beer aisle. Every beer style is identified by a unique color scheme and Redhook’s simple beer-o-meter on the side helps pick between refreshing, smooth, bold, or dark.

· Bottle/Bottle Caps: To go back to basics, Redhook created a no-frills bottle, while the bottle caps all depict iconic images and phrases of Redhook’s colorful 30-year history, so you can drink while you reminisce. Genius.

Cheers to 30 years!


Redhook’s New Look + Q&A with Robert Rentsch « Beer and Coding in Eugene.