It’s a sad day indeed. It came to my attention earlier this week via social media that New Belgium Brewing has discontinued Mothership Wit, their organic Belgian-style wit that was available in six-packs. While further research reveals that this news has actually been out there for a while, I was pretty taken aback by the move.
Mothership was the go-to summertime six-pack for my wife and I, as well as a few of our friends. When heading to a friend’s house for a BBQ we’d often stop off for a couple six-packs to bring with. It was almost a guarantee that Mothership would be one of those. This light 4.8% ABV wit balanced spice and citrus flavors with subtle wheat malt, all while remaining perfectly crisp, refreshing, and sessionable. It didn’t knock you out with flavor, but it didn’t skimp on it either. In other words, for us it was the perfect beer to sip on during those beautiful summer days in Seattle.
New Belgium confirmed the move on Twitter this week, saying “Unfortunately, it’s true. Based on declining sales, and making room in the portfolio for new beer, Mothership Wit is getting shelved.” I could see that Mothership might not sell well during the colder months, but I’d be surprised to hear that it doesn’t sell well during warmer months.
A larger contributing factor to the move may be that Mothership was New Belgium’s only certified-organic beer. That means that for this single beer, which wasn’t keeping up with sales expectations, they had to source all organic ingredients, including hops, malt, orange peel, coriander, and lemon peel, all of which had to be stored separately from non-organic ingredients for other beers. Certified organic brewing also requires that the brew system must be shut down and sterilized of all non-organic ingredients prior to brewing, therefore slowing down their overall brew schedule anytime they want to make a batch of Mothership. With their Fort Collins brewery running close to capacity, at least until they open a new East Coast facility in 2015, eliminating the Mothership clears up a lot of capacity and time for brewing other beers.
That doesn’t mean New Belgium will just be making more Fat Tire instead of the Mothership. They have aggressively released new seasonal beers and Lips of Faith beers over the past couple of years, and they want that trend to continue and even expand. In the first half of 2012, they’ll be releasing a collaboration beer brewed with Tomme Arthur of Lost Abbey, as well as some of their fantastic Tart Lychee. Later this year, look for another collaboration, this time for an Imperial IPA with Alpine Brewing of San Diego.
The new beers they have planned definitely help to soften the blow, but I’ll hold out hope that someday New Belgium will be calling out “The Return of the Mothership” for a seasonal six-pack brew, with or without the certified organic label. Until then, any suggestions on what we should pick up for a non-hoppy, refreshing BBQ six-pack this summer?