Recently, I came across a six pack of Edison, a new brand of light beer. My fiance and I tried it and we were amazed. It was packed with flavor yet only 109 calories? I needed the full story.
Rhonda Kallman is the person behind Edison and Moonshot, two very unique beers made by her parent company, New Century Brewing. Kallman, a life-long Bostonian, has never lived more than twenty miles away from the city. She loves beer and after leaving the Boston Beer Company in search of a break, she was tempted back into the business by legendary brewmaster Dr. Joseph Owades. She named Edison in his honor because she believes it is an “invention of taste,” and a “light” on so many levels.
Q: What was your first “beer-oriented” job?
A: I was a bartender and waitress for years before co-founding The Boston Beer Company, the creators of Sam Adams.
Q: You’ve launched a nationwide light beer brand. What are the challenges involved?
A: There are so many but I’ll point out just a few. The first challenge is making a great tasting light beer: Luckily, my brew master was the late Dr. Joseph Owades, the man who invented light beer in 1967. As light beer accounts for less than 50% of all consumption in the US, I decided to challenge Dr. Owades to “reinvent” light beer.
Edison is our answer. It is a light beer with a satisfying flavor and finish. Edison has a unique fresh, aroma and an unexpected flavor derived from our patented formula. The undertones are spicy floral and citrus.
Differentiation is another big challenge. When I started working in the beer industry in 1984, there were 35 breweries in the U.S. Today, there are 1,535! Figuring out where to stand out and how to add more creativity to an industry chock full of creative entrepreneurs is daunting!
Q: What made you want to take on the challenge of selling a “new” light beer? Wouldn’t an IPA have been easier?
A: I love challenges; I like to raise the bar. There is a price that comes with that. In the past, it’s always worked out really well. This case is no different but, frankly this project is a really big idea. Light beer drinkers are not the easiest people to convince; they have the tendency to stay in their comfort zone because they are afraid a beer is going to taste too big or too hoppy. The key is getting Edison into the right places where people want to try something new, a light beer of higher quality.
Q: Tell me about being a woman in the beer industry. What is it like?
A: As a woman, it is easier to stand out at an industry convention, that’s for sure! I hold two awards from the Brewer’s Association of America. I have these awards because I’ve been a trail blazer in the industry for 25 years. I will admit that a “boys club” mentality still exists, though much less than it did 25 years ago.
I have won people over with my wit, intellect, perseverance, honesty, pride and hard work–not my golf swing!
Even so, the boys club continues to grow. My gut tells me that given my experience, my reputation, and my commitment to the beer business, I would’ve found financial partners or some type of investor if I had a guy sitting with me on my side of the table.
Q: This is a foodie blog so I am very interested in your answer to this question. If you could match Edison with any foods, what would they be?
A: I think Edison is excellent with lighter foods like fresh fish. During the 18-month creation-process, I also knew I wanted a beer that would work well with Asian and Asian fusion cuisine. There is nothing better than a cold Edison with an order of california rolls. Other great flavor pairings are foods that include cilantro, ginger, mango. Edison is also a great beer to drink when you are bellying up to the raw bar; it never, ever overpowers.