In 2012, Caitlin Landesberg was shopping for a beer that kept her health-conscious priorities in mind, but she came up empty.
“As a picky consumer, I didn’t see a beer in the market that gave me everything I wanted,” says Landesberg. “Something with intentionally-chosen, beneficial ingredients that could complement my lifestyle.”
Instead of giving up, this athlete and entrepreneur went to work. “I set out to develop the beer I wanted to see in the world: low-cal, but still rich in flavor and complexity. Gluten-removed, but still great-tasting. Unconventional ingredients, but never gimmicky.”
And so, Sufferfest Beer Company was born. The brewery’s name is slang for an activity requiring great endurance, like a marathon. Landesberg and her Sufferfest team create “functional” beverages that feature natural ingredients with nutrients that assist athletes in their active lifestyles. Now, having joined forces with national craft brand Sierra Nevada, Sufferfest is available to more consumers across the country.
Draught Lines sat down with Landesberg to find out more about Sufferfest, their beers and how they’re creating more and more “Sufferfans”.
Draught Lines (D.L.) What was the first spark in your journey to create Sufferfest?
Caitlin Landesberg (C.L.) I started homebrewing in 2012, and I was immediately hooked. I dug into the science behind the process and the ingredients, and it all started to make sense to me.
D.L. What were those first few homebrews like?
C.L. I’ll admit that my first batches of beer were selfish: I wanted to make the perfect finish line beer for me and my friends. Then, I found myself stumbling upon more people, a movement if you will, of people, who like me, want more from their beer. My mindset shifted and the goal got bigger: I wanted to create the go-to finish line beer for active and healthy consumers. Today, I’m proud to say that we’re well on our way to achieving that goal.
D.L. What makes a beer “functional?”
C.L. At Sufferfest, we’re trying to find out what the Gatorade of beer looks like. While our beers won’t help you run faster, we create products that keep the needs of athletes in mind. We’re pushing to create beers that provide extra vitamins and micronutrients that aid the body to recover after extreme exertion. Active ingredients such as bee pollen and black currant do that. And we’ve perfected a process which removes gluten from our beers.
D.L. How has Sufferfest garnered so much brand loyalty – specifically from millennial beer drinkers – in such a short time?
C.L. Millennials thrive on innovation and choice. What truly drives loyalty with this picky consumer is alignment of values; brands with strong POVs around sustainability and social issues are the ones earning long-term consumer loyalty.
D.L. Sufferfest is also one of the only B Corporation breweries in the country. Can you tell us more about what it means to be B Corp. certified and why it’s important to Sufferfest’s mission?
C.L. Being a B Corp. means that we are dedicated to certain principles, not only making good beer. We hold ourselves to the practice of balancing greater purpose with profit. We elect to be audited so that we remain accountable for operating with the highest standards across the board – sustainability, community, governance – it’s certainly not the easy way to do business, but it’s the right way.
D.L. How did your recent partnership with Sierra Nevada come about?
C.L. I met Sierra Nevada CEO Jeff White at a conference by chance, and we got to chatting. He believes in the movement I described, a growing segment of active & healthy consumers looking for something “more” from their food and drink. I have always admired Sierra Nevada – not only for their world-class beers – but also for their approach to doing business. They operate a zero-waste facility and were composting before it was cool!
D.L. Why was joining forces with Sierra Nevada such a good fit?
C.L. Right now, Sufferfest operates more like an outdoor gear brand. Sierra Nevada quite obviously brings both beer and business experience, so we’re very grateful to be in their capable hands, as we hit more markets nationwide.
D.L. How is Sufferfest changing the way breweries reach out to consumers?
C.L. [We’re] building upon this movement of hardcore Sufferfans and meeting them where they sweat: at the finish line of their mud runs, at their favorite bar after a workout or simply at their local grocery store when they’re looking for something a little different.
D.L. What’s in store for next year?
C.L. We rolled out our variety 6-pack in order to give consumers a chance to try us out and find their new favorite beer. Additionally, many new markets will carry our gold medal-winning Repeat Kolsch: low-carb, low-cal and brewed with bee pollen (an ingredient you’re more likely to see on top of an acai bowl). Next year, we’ll FINALLY give our community the beer they’ve been demanding for a while: a low-cal IPA, done the Sufferfest way. Stay tuned for the latest news and follow us on Instagram @sufferfestbeer!
Repeat is only 95 calories and is made with bee pollen, which is packed with protein, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – a treasure trove for any athlete looking to get more out of their beer.
Rich in flavor, but light in calories at only 135 per 12 oz. (practically unheard of for a stout), Head Start is brewed with Equator coffee and coconut water.
Brewed with salt and black currant, FKT (Fastest Known Time) gives athletes the flavor and richness they deserve, with an edge.