Monthly Archives: July 2015

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/28/15

Why must mornings come so soon?  Here are the five beer articles I choose for today.  They are a business heavy bunch.

  • Here are the mid-year numbers from the Brewers Association. It is on these days that I wish I was a brewer so I could get the raw numbers.  I rarely completely trust the summaries of statistical analysis because they are usually biased in how they are presented, even if unintentionally.  Anyway, according to the press release everything is growing at a ridiculous clip, particularly for smaller brewing operations with the main growth coming in the nanobrewery segment.
  • That leads us to this from Jason Notte at MarketWatch. The opening sentence is great and frames the rest of the article perfectly. All the different beers you see in your grocery store beer aisles come from a small group of companies.  This is why brewers in Colorado are fighting so hard to keep beer out of grocery stores in their state.
  • Brewdog is an interesting story and brewery. I don’t know how I feel about the guys and or their beer.  I haven’t figured out if it is the marketing or the beer that makes them special yet.  We’ll see soon enough. Maybe that is my strained relationship with punk music and punk music attitude coming to the fore.  As exciting and wonderful as I’ve found punk music, too often it has been about the aesthetic then the music.  In his case the aesthetic and the attitude have seemed more important then the beer at times.
  • Here is the other end of the spectrum, one of those smaller operations that is fueling the number of breweries opening up around the country. It is the familiar story of a home brewer perfecting his recipes and now trying them on a slightly larger scale.
  • There is another beer festival in North Carolina coming. This one in Hendersonville.  The Mountain Brew Festival will be held on August 22 and will highlight beers made in the North Carolina mountains particularly those in and around Hendersonville.

Growler Taste Test: Railhouse Brewery KA-BAR Brown Ale

I like knives.  Other people like guns, but I like edged weapons better.  I’m never going to accidentally shoot myself in the foot with my knife.  Though I have sliced open a finger or two through carelessness with a really sharp blade.

While I am partial to folding blades the one fixed blade that I want is the old school USMC KA-BAR.  The KA-BAR is like blue jeans, specifically Levis.  Why?  They are not the flashiest or the newest product out there, but they have survived and become iconic because their simple design is timeless.  Say what you want but you put on a white dress shirt with a pair of good jeans and nice shoes and you can just about go anywhere.  Or I should say anywhere I really want to go.

The same is true of the KA-BAR.  Its simple design has not changed significantly since World War II because the design was so good and so simple as to be timeless.  Like Levis every other design by every other manufacture is based on that original.

The owners of Railhouse Brewery in Aberdeen, NC are all US military veterans so it seems fitting that they would name a beer after the KA-BAR and it is even more fitting that is of a classic English style.

20150722_183441The KA-BAR Brown Ale is an American interpretation of the southern English-style brown ale.  The Southern or London style brown is a darker, maltier, and stronger version then the Northern style whose primary exemplar was Newcastle until the classic recipe was changed.  The London style is still less hoppy and not quite as strong as its American counterparts.

The KA-BAR pours a deep dark brown color and develops a thick foamy off-white head.  The head has good lasting power and develops a malty chocolate/coffee aroma.  There is little hop aroma to be had.

There is also little hop taste evident.  The bitterness in the taste mostly comes from the bitterness of the chocolate and coffee malts.  The chocolate taste in particular has more in common with bakers chocolate then with any chocolate bar you will buy in the grocery store.  It has a quick soft feel on the palate.

The KA-BAR is a great interpretation of a London-style brown ale.  Incidentally, if you are lucky and find KA-BAR on tap, you might get to see the tap handle produced by KA-BAR Knives like this one here.  Apparently, this is one of those tap handles that manages to disappear when the wholesaler reps come to collect them.  I wonder why?

A classic knife and classic beer deserves a playlist of equally timeless and classic music.  I present The Man In Black, Johnny Cash.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/27/15

There is a lot to like about this Monday.  You are awake and alive being the primary one.  Also, there are some interesting things to read in the beer world.  Here are my five favorites from this morning.

  • Let’s start with the Evil Empire (I’m using this phrase for a reason which will be evident in the next bullet) or Anheuser-Busch Inbev as it is more commonly called. CNBC breaks down a lot of the strategy A-B has been using in its recent craft beer purchases.  From a purely business standpoint what they are doing makes a great deal of sense.  Also from a business standpoint, I think mergers of smaller regional brewers will occur at a greater rate in the next few years.
  • Speaking of A-B and its role as the Evil Empire of beer, here is a great post about A-B’s existential role in the beer world. This combines most of my favorite geekery.  First, beer.  Second, philosophy.  Third, literary theory.  Fourth, Star Wars.  One of the reasons the original Star Wars trilogy has such staying power is that it adheres so closely to Joseph Campbell’s story telling theories.  Not just how we tell stories, but why.  The things we carry with us to show others, our favorite bands, our favorite movies, our favorite beers, are used to give the world a deeper understanding of who we are. The stories we tell others about ourselves are powerful.  They are second only to the stories we tell ourselves. We craft beer people need A-B as the thing against which we define ourselves.
  • I am beginning to think the biggest impediment to craft beer growth is wholesaler and distributor resistance to change. This post from a conservative think tank in Michigan examines the current regulations in Michigan and how they can be tweaked to help craft beer grow in the state.  Almost every law being written to help craft brewers in some ways shaves off a little of the leverage distributors have historically held.  The system until now has been a beneficial partnership for the distributors as they have helped grow craft beer.  However, the partnership has in many ways been weighted too far to their side.  As brewers gain more strength they are trying to exert more influence for their own means.  Distributors are not about to give up that power easily.
  • Iowa farmers are now starting to plant hops. As we hurtle towards a hop shortage caused by drought and demand, the news that more farmers around the country are starting to experiment with planting hop bines is very welcome.  I also like the idea of hops and malt being locally sourced for brewers.  It makes the beer fresher and if the brewer is good, better tasting.
  • Now for some frippery: Beer Choir.  There isn’t much explanation I can give.  The name kind of says it all.  There are a lot of interesting and silly things popping up around craft beer that keeps pushing it towards being more than just a trend, but towards becoming a lifestyle.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/26/15

Today’s five articles are a lot about the explosion of craft beer outside places named Asheville, Portland, and Denver.

  • Will Gordon does a side by side comparison of the two main craft lagers sold in the US: Brooklyn Lager and Sam Adams Boston Lager.  They are both fine beers that will do in a pinch when you are at one of those chain restaurants or sports bars whose craft selection includes Shocktop and Blue Moon.  Gordon’s verdict:  They are essential the same quality, but Brooklyn Lager gets the slight edge in taste.
  • Quick name the place in North Carolina with great craft beer. OK, now name another one besides Asheville.  Let me save you the time:  Charlotte.   Fortune Magazine takes a look at Charlotte and its craft brewing scene.  I will say this Charlotte-centric pride can make Charlotte a bit of a closed shop when it comes to other beers from North Carolina.  I run into too many customers who can name their 4 favorite Charlotte beers and 3 favorite Asheville beers, but have not heard of Mystery Brewing or Fullsteam Brewing.
  • Richmond, VA is having its own brewing renaissance. Breweries are gaining national recognition and growing in size and distribution.
  • Here is the other side of some of that growth Richmond. This is an interesting question:  how much should states pay individual companies to stay in the state?  We in North Carolina are having this discussion now in the state legislature with many of the incentives ending.  What North Carolina found in many cases was that the amount of money given away in incentives was greater than the ancillary tax revenues created (jobs, other additional industries spurred, etc.).  Of course, many of the people who say that are the same ones who will tell you building a sports stadium will spur the economy when every economist will tell you that is at best a case by case argument.
  • We’ve come a long way. Now a public library in the South is holding home brewing classes.  The changing attitudes towards alcohol in the Bible Belt South is the part of the reason the region has some of the fastest growing craft beer areas in the country.  It is also why some of the biggest fights over changing alcohol laws related to craft beer are some of the fiercest as older elements fight to hold on to a quickly changing code.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/25/15

Saturdays are the days when news organizations unleash their B-teams on the news world and you get a lot of fluff pieces and no real news.  So, if you’re trying to create a list of the best news stories to read on Saturday morning you work with you get, and today I got a pretty good group of stories to work with.  Here are the five.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/24/15

The news for a July Friday is here.  Good stories abound today.  Here are the five I liked the most.

  • Sweetwater is apparently making plans to go public. This is not really news as they have been making moves in this direction for the last few years.  I am not a huge fan of their beers.  I find nothing really interesting in what they make.  It will be fascinating to see how this is received both from and investment perspective and from a craft beer drinkers perspective.
  • Good article in this month’s Carolina Alumni Review on North Carolina craft beer by interviewing brewers and others in the industry who graduated from UNC. The thing that interests me is the sheer number of varying degree programs represented by those interviewed.  At least the MBAs get to use some of the things they actually paid money to learn in their jobs.  Of course, I’m the one with the history and sociology degrees (class of 1996) who slings beer and writes a blog that actually pays no money.
  • One of the best things about being into craft beer right now is the growing appreciation of what beer provides to the culinary experience that wine doesn’t. Beer being more complex with more varieties has the ability to match up with pretty much any food made.  Its carbonation also helps cleanse the palate making enjoying the food easier.  One of my favorite things to do is go get a nice sharp and/or aged cheddar and a big imperial IPA and enjoy the pairing.  Here are 10 spots that will let you do that.
  • The funny thing is, there are similar laws to one being challenged in Canada in the US that are routinely ignored. I can understand having laws like this governing bringing alcohol across the borders of a country, but it seems a law that restricts how much alcohol you bring across province or state lines has only one function:  to protect the tax monopolies of each province/state.  In the end the provinces and states don’t care that you are buying alcohol, they care that you are providing tax revenue to a bordering province/state.  That is a bad reason to create a law.
  • Watching beer laws evolve in real time throughout the South is fast becoming a real past time for me. Georgia, like most of the states in the South, is making progress in a piecemeal fashion.  The same can be said of North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, etc.  All the laws are going to change eventually.  It is just a matter of time because, as I keep reiterating, in these tight economic times, states need as much tax revenue as they can get, and more and more lawmakers see the revenue potential of craft beer and breweries in their communities.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/23/15

Here are today’s links. Or the one that will be known for me going on a rant against the ALE.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/22/15

There were a lot of good articles today.  Even the ones that tell you what the next big thing in beer is were good.  Though I can’t tell if the next big thing is cellaring and storing beer or root beer or low ABV beers.  I’m glad I have a lot of newspapers and news-sites looking for clicks to tell me these things though.  Here are my picks.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/21/15

Its Tuesday, you’ve made it through Monday and the rest of the week should be a breeze. Here are a few things about beer to read.  As craft beer goes forward, the two major areas that will affect the next phase of growth are changes in alcohol laws in all the states and the combination of consolidation and encroachment from large beer producers.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 7/20/15

The news desert that is Sunday has given way to a nice Monday morning thanks in part to international news.  The fog has burned off and we are ready to roll.  Here is to the first day of the week.  Only four more until the weekend.