Seattle brewery scores with Seahawks beer
The Seattle Seahawks will be playing for a trip to the Super Bowl when they square off Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, but win or lose, the season is a success for one Seattle brewery.
Hilliard's Beer, a 2-year-old brewery with six full-time employees, has scored big with the release of 12th Can, a beer named in honor of Seahawks fans, who are so loud they are referred to as a "12 man" on the field.
The idea for 12th Can started when a local radio station put out the call for a Seahawks-themed beer.
"There's always a fine line between 'what's a stupid idea' and 'wait, no that's brilliant!' We try to be open to good ideas," said Hilliard's co-founder Adam Merkl. The brewer decided to answer the challenge.
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"The general theory was, when you think of the Northwest, you think of craft beer, and in Seattle, you've got the Seahawks, shouldn't there be a craft beer for the Seahawks?" added co-founder Ryan Hilliard.
Released in September, the brew has succeeded Hilliard's wildest expectations. Nearly 300,000 cans were produced, or about eight times the brewery's original plan. During one stretch, Hilliard's was brewing from 4:30 a.m. until 10 p.m. each day to crank out the beer.
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"It got really crazy for awhile. It was trial by fire for us and it was a good demonstration to our guys here that we could kick out that much beer," said Merkl. "We built the brewery on the idea we should be able to ramp up our production easily, and we did."
Merkl attributes part of the success to brewing an easily accessible style with a lower alcohol percentage (4.5 percent alcohol by volume) than is typically found in a craft beer.
"It's a Pale Ale, so it's not like you're trying something super crazy," he said. "We wanted something people could drink before, during and after a game, and have more than one."
The buzz surrounding the beer has helped Hilliard's increase distribution and win over some football fans as a result.
"It introduces people to craft beer and other craft drinkers to our brand," said Hilliard. "The number of stores that have picked it up has been far and wide. Hopefully, it opens people up to trying something new."
In keeping with its name, Hilliard's sells the beer, in what else, 12-packs of 16-ounce tallboy cans for about $22 to $23 per pack.
Hilliard's is no stranger to marketing success, having brewed a collaboration beer with Seattle-based Redhook Brewing that is made with hemp to celebrate Washington's new marijuana laws.
(Read more: New marijuana laws get brewers buzzing )
While sales of 12th Can have been steady throughout the season, Hilliard's said they've picked as the excitement over the Seahawks' playoff run increases.
But the playoffs have put the brewery in an interesting position.
"You're trying to hit the sweet spot and you don't want to run out of beer before the playoffs, but you don't want to have a bunch of beer left over at the end either," said Hilliard. "There's not really a perfect way to do it, but make some educated guesses. We're just hoping we made enough of it."
—By CNBC's Tom Rotunno. Follow him on Twitter