The two breweries could hardly have taken more different approaches for entering the craft beer scene. One, entered with t-shirts, emails and a pale lager. The other slipped onto the scene with a cheeky location and a Honey Roasted Spiced Pumpkin Ale. But which one will taste the greater success?
Thunder Road boldly announced itself over a year ago at the Beer Expo, bearing free branded t-shirts and a promise of things to come. Since then there has been talk of tasting paddles, 40 taps, growlers and more. Thus far though we’ve seen a Thunder Road painted truck, and limited releases of a pale lager and a pale ale.
On the other hand, Moon Dog have let their beer do the talking for them with a variety of experimental beers on very limited release. They have taken a pointed decision not to work their way onto the scene with a fruity pale ale and wheat beer like most breweries but hit drinkers smack in the mouth with something completely new and different.
Different business approaches
Moon Dog is catering to a niche producing low-volume audacious brews for the serious beer drinker, relying on low cost PR for marketing and high desirability for its products. Thunder Road is starting more ambitiously (in a business sense), starting with easy-drinking beers to appeal to the masses, and adopting a more corporate-style marketing approach, as it tries to build a broad audience first, and then, presumably, progress to more challenging beers and bigger things
As for the beer…
While Thunder Road’s pale lager may not set the beer drinker’s pulse racing, it is a good interpretation of the style with a slight malty sweetness that makes it more tasty than your average lager.
As for Moon Dog, I have only tasted The Black Lung, and it blew me away. There is a nicely weighted bourbon taste from aging in bourbon-soaked oak barrels, a smoky taste from the peated malt, and to top it off, it is actually quite easy to drink, amazing! Other styles they have produced so far include a chipotle stout and a coconut and pineapple brown ale, I’m suitably intrigued.
I imagine Thunder Road is going to start with a ‘local first’ approach, working closely within the Brunswick area to build up its following. If there is a blueprint that they are/should be following, it’s probably Mountain Goat, who have moved beyond just craft beer drinkers with their Hightail Ale and Steam Ale, while also producing excellent one-offs at their brewery in Richmond and releasing the Rare Breed bottles, which have made them what I believe to be one of the best breweries out there.
I hope that Thunder Road is successful, as they could be a brewery that really helps craft beer crossover into the mainstream. I’d love to see them open up for a Friday night drink, become widely available locally, and start producing smaller batches of more interesting beer.
Moon Dog meanwhile has a niche ripe for the picking. If they can continue to produce the high quality products catering to the most enthusiastic beer drinkers out there, while expanding their volume, they will soon have a dedicated group of followers to help spread the word of their adventurous beers.
While taking different approaches and aiming for very different audiences at this point, I’m excited by the potential of both breweries and think they both signal exciting times ahead for craft beer.