Monthly Archives: December 2015

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/29/15

Until I started looking at the news every day to find articles to post here, I had forgotten how little news happens in the days right after Christmas. Let me change that, I had forgotten how little news gathering happens the days right after Christmas.  This is especially true this year with Christmas and New Year’s being on successive Fridays.  Many people are taking almost two weeks of vacation this year.

So, instead of reading another round of year-end lists and speculative “what will happen in the beer world for 2016” columns of varying quality, today’s Five Articles will be Five Things to expect from me and the blog this coming year.

  • I will do more reviews this year. The goal is one review per week.  There are two reasons for this.  One I will cover in a bullet a little further down, but the other is to continue to add content to the website.  Tasting is also fun.  I get to drink a beer and tell others about it.
  • I will also get back to writing, at least, one (hopefully two) Beer Counselor blog posts. Again, these are fun to write.  They are hard work, but fun work. I want to travel and do more non-work related beer stuff this year and write about them.
  • I will take the Cicerone exam. My goal is to take the August 17 exam in Asheville.  I want to study and prepare for it for a few months before I take it.  If I don’t feel I’m ready by then I will probably wait until the exam at GABF this year, but my goal is to take it and pass this year.  This is another reason I want to do more reviews.  I need to expand and exercise my palate.  The tasting portion of the exam is the one that worries me most and the one I will have to work hardest at.  Also, prepping for the exam will hopefully give me more material to write about.
  • I will go back to the GABF. As much of a shit show, Saturday night at GABF can be with (a bunch of people with no responsibilities getting drunk and stoned in a confined space) the rest of the week is great.  The first night is the beer geeks night.  We are all wondering around trying to taste beers we’ve only heard of and trying to find the next great brewery.  Also, you are in Denver for a few days.  You get to go around to all the breweries and bars that respect craft beer.  It is just a wonderful working vacation.
  • I will provide you with more chances to read things I write outside of the blog. I will active seek out more opportunities for freelance beer articles this year.   This is actually in part goes back to GABF.  If it is at all possible, I would love to go to GABF with a media pass.  I don’t think I can express how big a deal that would be for me personally.

So, there we are.  That is a lot of words to say that my two goals this year are to pass the Cicerone exam and get media credentials for GABF, but there you are.  Also, there is one other thing I want to work on to take my mind off of the exam and other beer stuff that will remain secret until I get a little farther down the line with it.  If you know me well, you can guess what kind of project it is.  Hopefully, tomorrow, I’ll be able to scrape together five news articles from the past few days to pontificate over.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/24/15

It’s Christmas Eve.  If you aren’t working and running about town trying to find a last minute gift that won’t suck, go sit and have a nice beer or two.  That’s my plan.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/23/15

I keep getting emails telling me about last minute gift ideas for Christmas.  If you haven’t completed you Christmas shopping yet, you are not going to be able to buy anything really worth a crap.  Unless your ABInbev, in which case you’ll just keep buying as many ripe for the picking breweries as possible.

  • Let’s just get it out of the way, Breckenridge Brewing has been purchased by AB which makes it 3 new purchases in 5 days. As these purchases happen I have 2 thoughts.  The first is AB is simply buying breweries that were already in a mood to sell.  They are not going out there and doing hostile takeovers or anything.  They are doing their research and finding willing partners.  The second thought is a quote from Almost Famous: “If you think Mick Jagger will be out there trying to be a rock star at age 50, you are sadly, sadly mistaken.” That quote comes from a character who still thinks of rock and roll as a calling, an artistic endeavor outside the dirty bounds of business.  He was sadly, sadly mistaken.  Rock and roll is a part of the music business.  Mick is still going up on stage because he loves it and someone pays him lots of money to do it.  Brewing and craft beer are in some ways a calling.  However, craft beer is a part of the beer business.  That means if the owners of a brewery want to sell and someone comes along and offers them twice what they invested, they are probably going to sell.  To make you feel better, think of it this way: for all the brewers that AB has bought recently, how many new breweries have started up?
  • Ah, the sexy, sexy news about excise tax reform for brewers. Read that hot stuff right here.
  • I too am one of those people who refuse to stand in line to buy a bottle of beer. When I was younger I stood and slept in line for concert tickets and UNC/Dook tickets.  I’m old now, I’m not standing line for a damn thing.  Especially a bottle of beer.  Of course, as a person who works in a bar/beer retail shop, I pull my bottles out of the box and stash them away as soon as they are delivered.
  • The more I read, the more shocked I’ve become at how many states limit beer sales in grocery stores. As backwards as NC alcohol laws are, we’ve been able to buy beer of almost any strength in grocery stores for a long time.
  • One thing I learned when I really followed politics was that if someone is ranting about a law or an agency regulation was to go read the law or regulation myself to see if their rantings were based in reality. With the new FDA nutritional information requirements for beer, I forgot to do that. Here is a good breakdown of the new regulation from Queen City Drinks (the other Queen City: Cincinnati).

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/22/15

The news gets lighter and lighter as Christmas gets closer and closer.  Today or tomorrow will be the last day most people have to work, so expect me to get experimental tomorrow and Thursday.  Friday may not see a Five Articles, but it will see something I’ve been working on for a few weeks.  Also, expect a new beer review tomorrow morning.

  • At least once a week, someone at some newspaper or local television station in this country runs an article about pints are not really pints and how consumers are getting screwed out of 3 ounces every time they get a beer. Almost every time at the heart of this complaint is a retired litigator who has a lot of money and time to worry about the 2 ounces he loses every time he gets a beer.  Here is that story from Asheville this week.
  • A Beer Institute economist says the beer industry is doing just fine. Of course, he does.  Even if the beer industry was cratering, an economist at the largest beer industry lobbying group would not say it was doing badly.
  • I’m always interested in where chefs like to eat and what beers brewers like to drink. Those are usually the best places to for a good meal and the best beers to drink. Here is a year-end brewers’ best of list.
  • Bon Appetit, five months late on reporting on the hard root beer fad. Good job, good effort.
  • I honestly don’t know why this didn’t happen sooner. Abita has been producing a good root beer for ages. As soon as they heard about the Not Your Father’s Root Beer, I expected them to start producing their own.  The advantage they will have is they make more than just a hard root beer.  That way when that market segment finishes its collapse, they can just move on back to what they do best. Here is their press release on their hard soda series.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/21/15

Here is the Five Article on Monday before Christmas.  It is also the first day of winter and it feels like it.  It’s coming out a bit earlier than normal because I am going to see a movie this morning.  There is only one movie out right now that anyone in their right mind would preorder tickets to for a 10:30 show.  So, I’m going to do that and then at some point this afternoon, I will post a new beer review.  On to the Five Articles.

  • I don’t understand what the purpose of this is nor do I understand how you rank beer styles. That is stupid.  Ranking individual beers is hard enough to justify because the taste of beer is subjective.  Ranking beer styles seems absolutely asinine.  Somehow over time, Americans have developed this need for everything to have a narrative in order to explain things.  If something bad happens we search for the narrative that explains why it happens and who is at fault.  The rankings and listicles are an extension of that.  You can’t just say I like tripels more than IPAs.  You have to rank them and tell a story as to why.  If not for the idiotic ranking, this is a good breakdown of some of the most popular beer styles.
  • There was a worry that this year’s hop crop would be adversely affected by extreme heat and potential drought conditions. Not so much. I’m happy for all my hop loving friends.
  •  In many areas, the idea of combining alcohol and worship is literally sacrilegious.  However, there is a large segment of people for whom craft beer holds the same place wine does in parts of southern Europe.  It is just part of the culture.  You don’t drink it to get drunk, you drink it to enjoy.  Making beer a part of your praise and worship isn’t a silly conception for those people. Beer & Hymns is part of craft beer becoming more than just a fad. It is a part of the slow food and artisanal movement in many parts of this country.
  • This is a story that could be written about any number of US states, but it is about the Ontario beer laws. Large beer makers and large distributors are some of the biggest contributors to politicians in Canada and in the US.  There are even states (like NC) where some of the most powerful politicians in the state are major distributors.   Another good point about this article is how it points out that restricting alcohol doesn’t discourage binge drinking, It, in fact, has the opposite effect.  Restricting alcohol gives it an allure of forbidden danger that is like a magnet to kids.  Modeling responsible alcohol use for children has to be better than hiding it from them in hopes they will figure it out on their own.
  • Here is a good breakdown of the news of the year out of Asheville. I had forgotten about the Innovation and Bell slap fight.

The One Beer Article I Needed To Read And Why, 12/14/15-12/20/15

If you visit this blog often, especially in the last few weeks, you have seen posts about some changes to the posts and the schedule of posts I am planning for this space.  The reasons I want to make these changes are I am trying to make this site more thought-provoking and making myself do slightly different things in order to push my beer knowledge.  Also, I’m always looking to keep myself from getting bored by looking at beer and the industry that surrounds it.

As part of that, today is the first Sunday where there won’t be a Five Articles.  Instead, it will be a commentary or more in-depth look at the article that piqued my interest the most from the week.  In 500 words or so, I want to look at the story and explain why it interests me so much.

There were two articles that I was really interested in and read multiple times this week. One of which I won’t necessarily write about, but I will use the ideas expressed in it in a more conscious and mindful way as I taste beer.

The article I want to write about today is this one from The Coloradoan about New Belgium Brewing’s reported valuation and what it means.

We are in an important moment in the ongoing history of American Craft Beer.  The initial wave came and crested from the late-1970s to the mid-1990s.  From the wreckage of that initial bubble, the brewers most committed to quality and flavorful beer survived and newer brewers who learned from the mistakes of those before them, emerged.

One of those new and emerging brewers was New Belgium.  Since its founding in 1991, New Belgium has become one of the leading lights in the craft beer movement.  So much so that the Brewers Association has changed its definition of craft brewer to make sure New Belgium (and other similarly sized breweries) stay in the fold.

So, when the news New Belgium was requesting a valuation of the company’s total worth, many in the craft beer world were taken back.

Initial hot takes were that the company is looking to sell.  That may be true, but it isn’t necessarily what is happening.

The thing that interested me most about this article itself was how it framed New Belgium as a company in transition in an industry in transition.  Both the company and industry seem to be going through the same growing pains at the same time.  New Belgium is in the midst of a leadership transition and two major expansions at the same time the industry is exploding and being raided by big beer.

The other thing that interested me in the coverage of this story was the reaction to the story.   Maybe because this is only a valuation. Maybe the craft beer world is getting over its adolescent view of business.  However, the reaction was rather muted. Usually, craft beer people don’t think of craft as a business.  They think of it as some kind of calling to battle crappy beer. In his new book, The Beer Bible, Jeff Alworth describes it as pirates fighting against the evil big beer. On one hand, that romantic ideal is what makes craft beer so special.  On the other hand, it has little to do with the actual business of beer.

We will learn quickly how much the craft beer world has grown up when New Belgium, Sierra Nevada, or Boston Beer sells.  Either, social media will melt down or people will have really good discussions about what Craft Beer 3.0 will look like.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/19/15

As Christmas approaches, you would think the news would slow down, but no.  Craft beer Twitter got a big hit yesterday in the middle of the morning as some New Belgium news dropped.  Then AB continued its buying spree.

  • “Hey, our beer sucks, but look at the shiny new can!” I will say again, if this company would spend as much money on making the beer it actually owns better instead of on shiny new things that have nothing to do with the beer, they wouldn’t have to go around buying brewers that actually make good beer.
  • presents its 11th Master Cicerone. At some point in the next say 5 years, this is one my goals.  First, I want to get Cicerone certified by the end of this year.  I’m not worried about the written and practical parts of the exam (I am going to start studying in earnest in 13 days) as much as I’m worried about the tasting session.  Developing my palate has been a lot of what I’ve been doing this past year. Wish me luck.
  • I was sitting and relaxing with a cup of coffee before heading into Craft for the day when on my Twitter timeline dropped a link to a Reuters report that New Belgium is looking to find a buyer after getting a valuation of $1 billion. I don’t know what that means.  Are they going to sell or are they looking for outside investors?  What it does show is that it is a brewer in a hugely transitional point in its history.
  • Meanwhile, AB continues picking off low hanging fruit. I always love when the people selling say, “This will change nothing.  We will continue to make the same high-quality beer we always have.” AB didn’t buy you for you to keep doing things the way you always have.  They bought you to bring you into the Borg Collective.  You have been assimilated.  Maybe not today and maybe not tomorrow, but you will become part of the whole.
  • First, it’s about college football. Second, it’s about craft beer.  Third it has my alma mater sitting at #3.  There was no way this was not going to get linked in the Five Articles.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read and Why, 12/18/15

The Friday before Christmas means many, many Christmas parties.  We had 4 at once last night.  If you’ve been to Craft, you know it’s not that big.  Anyway on to the Five Articles.  It is the end of year and writers are looking back at the year in beer.

Five Beer Articles You Need To Read And Why, 12/17/15

Today’s Five Articles coming at you like a 1980s mobster in New York shaking you down for protection money.  That may seem like a forced analogy until you read two of the articles and realize that is exactly what they talk about from a corporate sense.

  • We start in Charlotte where a local restaurant chain, Queen City Q, has pulled all AB products from its 4 locations. Why? Because AB is running pay for play at bars and restaurants across the country. They call it “marketing” but really it’s just, “We’ll give you an extra $10000 if you let us keep 5 taps all year.”  Normally, I try to be more circumspect in my accusations like this, but I know this stuff is true and it happens.  Here is my whole problem with AB: It is a large multinational company that may as well make widgets.  They ultimately don’t care about the quality of their beer product they just care if people buy it.  That is the difference between them and almost every craft brewer.  The craft brewer wants people to buy his/her product but wants to win that market share through quality beer and not marketing.
  • This is tangentially about beer but stay with me. Most breweries and craft beer bars have live music at least once a week.  They also play music over their speaker systems during the day. Recently, shakedown artists from music publishers have been going around to breweries and bars demanding money if they have live music.  This is literally a shakedown.  It is, “give us an exorbitant amount of money or we will sue you.”  I am a person who never used Napster and has paid for every bit of music he owns, so I think artists should get paid for their work. However, these thick-necked jerks don’t work for the artists, they work for the publishers, groups who have historically been the ones screwing artists.
  • Here is an article about some cool and overpriced gadgets that will improve your beer enjoyment about 2%. Except for the Pico.  The Pico is awesome and I want one.
  • Here is a good list of beer books you can get for Christmas presents or to complete your own library. The list comes from craft beer people in and around Richmond.  I can say I own most of these books already.
  • The only time I am ever really annoyed at customers is when they come in and ask me which beer has the highest ABV. They are looking to get drunk and that is it.  If you want to do that, there are many more efficient and cheaper ways to go about it.  I am of the pub culture. I want to sit and drink and ponder over a balanced highly flavored beer.  I want to actually taste the beer.  I want to notice the color, the head, the clarity, the aroma, the mouthfeel, and all the other things that go into actually tasting a beer.  That is even if I’m just sitting in a bar.  In those situations, I still take the time to look, smell, and taste the entirety of the beer.  This is one of the many areas of life in which I think I was born in the wrong time and in the wrong place.

A Quick Update

I know a couple of weeks ago I said changes were coming to the amount and types of posts I will be doing going forward.  Those changes are coming.  It’s just taken longer to implement than I had thought at the time.  Partly, that is because I want to do this right and I’m planning out a lot of what will happen in the first couple of months of the year. It is also partly because there is only so much time in the day and other things have to be taken care of.

I can say, next week expect two new review posts. If all goes well, they will be two side by side posts comparing a beer to its barrel aged partner.  There will also be a special post coming on Christmas Day.  This is the one I’ve been working on for over a week.  It is a refocusing document.

Part of what I’ve been doing the last few weeks is trying to remember why I write and why I write about beer.  I think this document is a good touchstone and guide going forward through the next year and beyond.