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What happens when clever beer grows up?


Cult breweries go global.
There’s this question from Joe Stange: “So, is BrewDog — which has branded itself ‘punk’ from the start — becoming the ‘McDonald’s of craft beer’?” and he quotes Tim Webb thusly, “Clever beer has outgrown its infancy and is becoming an attitudinally challenged adolescent.” A nice turn of phrase and I enjoy many of the beers I’m pretty sure Webb is talking about, but I’m still trying to decide how clever I want my beers. [Via DRAFT]

‘Craft’ beer’s pandemic of quality un-control?
Tom Cizauskas apologizes for “the breathless Buzzfeedy-ness of the title” of the post, but wants you to read it. In it he revisits the concern that when Brewers Association director Paul Gatza called out some brewers about the quality of beer he drank at a particular festival that it “could easily be read as an attack by big ‘craft’ on small ‘craft.'” A BA subcommittee since created the pyramid shown here (Gatza included it during the “state of the industry” presentation at the recent Craft Brewers Conference and it appeared in New Brewer, the publication for BA members earlier this year).

The Beer quality Priority Pyramid

The pyramid reflects things that Alastair Pringle has been telling decision makers at smaller breweries concerned with quality for the last several years. Pringle worked at Anheuser-Busch for 25 years before retiring in 2009. He teaches microbiology at a small college outside of St. Louis and consults with several relatively small breweries. He advocates a practical approach to beer quality — which could be focused on process improvement and control or beer flavor and stability — telling brewers to identify the major factors they can control. They don’t need to be using the same checklist as MillerCoors if they aren’t planning to ship their beer all over the universe.

“That’s usually seven or eight things, rather than making it very, very complicated,” Pringle says. When he worked at Anheuser-Busch, then CEO August Busch III famously demanded one-page solutions, so that people in production could easily implement them. “You didn’t get anywhere at A-B giving complicated talks where you looked clever.” And there’s that word again. [Via Yours For Good Fermentables]

CAMRA and Lager: Eurofizz or Pure Beer?
In its 44 years of existence, the Campaign for Real Ale has had a more complicated relationship with lager than cries of “fizzy piss” from some members might have you believe. Complicated, indeed, and a longish read worth saving to Pocket. [Via Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog]

Twelve Years Spent A-Writing About Good Beer.
I’m stealing this from Alan McLeod for my business card: “My hobby is writing about beer. And it serves a purpose. It allows me to play out ideas related to standards touching on research, value, ethics, clarity and human weakness that I apply in my job and the rest of my life.” Except for the part about it being a hobby. Hobby and craft. Should we be talking about their relationship? [Via A Good Beer Blog}

Beer Money: How Industry Dollars Go to Work.
This is the first of eight posts from Bryan Roth (a series that is just wrapping up). He explains this goal is to “share a compilation of data sourced from public record for major beer companies and organizations who all play a role in shaping the politics of beer.” The series (links at the bottom of each post) examines both individual brewing companies and organizations. [Via This Is Why I’m Drunk]

Washington drought may threaten future of craft brewers.
Come down off the ledge. It isn’t quite that scary. In fact, “For the most part this year’s crop is okay, next year’s yet to be determined.” But down the road, less water, lower yields. [Via KOMONews]

Snake Charming and Herding Cats.
A day in the life of Tyler Nelson, who sells beer in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina for Green Flash Brewing Company. [Via Beer Connoisseur]


Post-Meantime sale thoughts: Mind the gap


1) Global giant in grab for Meantime.
2) Why Meantime sold up to SAB Miller – the inside story
3) Why SABMiller’s acquisition of Meantime is a good thing.
4) Meantime brewery: craft or industrial?
5) What Meantime means to us.
6) Raising the bar.
The most important story of the week, although it may not have been obvious on this side of the Atlantic. The first post includes the basic news. In the second, Martyn Cornell explains why it happened, and in the third Pete Brown suggests what it means. The fourth and fifth remind us there are thousands of small pictures as well as the Big Picture. The last word goes to Meantime founder Alastair Hook gets the last word (6).

Aside from my own musing, of course. Brown writes, “I don’t think there should be a huge gulf between craft and mainstream.” On one level, this seems to be happening in the United States. Large brewing companies are expanding their portfolios, either by making a wider range of beers or acquiring breweries that do. Newer breweries that want to grow bigger are paying plenty of attention to efficiency and consistency. What’s different than much of the twentieth century is there’s room for other breweries, ones purposely less efficient. There are myriad reasons, so I will leave it there.

New Belgium expressed interest in buying Elysian before Anheuser-Busch deal.
I missed this one a week ago Friday (these things happens on four-brewery days), but worth your time. Pair it with the next story. [Via Denver Post]

First Beverage Founder: Flood of Craft Deals Forthcoming.
“I think there could easily be 25 more transactions in the next 12 to 15 months,” says the CEO of an investment and advisory firm. “The business of craft beer is going to radically change.” [Via Brewbound]

Enough business. Some agriculture:

Here’s how much water it takes to make California’s craft beer.
Growing the barley and hops to make just one gallon of beer requires 590 gallons of water. [Via Quartz]

Local Grains: Farm To Bakery Bread Is Hot.
“Leaps forward in decentralizing the production of staple crops don’t register as significant, not yet. But the more that bakers seek local flour, and the more that farmers seek noncommodity marketing options, the more consumers will learn to understand and appreciate the small food mountains people are moving.” [Via Zester Daily]


Musing here previously mentioned a story about the etymology of the term “craft beer” that I wrote for All About Beer [print version]. AABM has now posted it online.


Session #100 announced: Resurrecting the beer dead

The SessionThat The Session has persisted for 100 months seems pretty astonishing to me. It apparently has outlasted Wine Blogging Wednesday. Coincidentally, the 100th edition of Beer Advocate magazine recently shipped to subscribers and beer friendly establishments where it is available. It includes a timeline with highlights from years beginning in 2007 — at that time, the Brewers Association defined as craft beer accounted for 3.8 percent of the market and Ray Daniels was just starting the Cicerone program.

Host Reuben Gray’s choice for Session #100 — Resurrecting Lost Beer Styles — leans heavily on history, so it seems like a good one for marking a milestone. He writes:

There are many of them (lost styles) that have started to come back in to fashion since in the last 10 years due to the rise of craft beer around the world.

If you have a local beer style that died out and is starting to appear again then please let the world know. Not everyone will so just write about any that you have experienced. Some of the recent style resurrections I have come across in Ireland are Kentucky Common, Grodziskie, Gose1 and some others. Perhaps it’s a beer you have only come across in homebrew circles and is not even made commercially.

I’ve probably already written too much about Gose and Grodziskie and after visiting Louisville and Lexington last week I know too much about Kentucky Common. Here’s the brewery cat at Apocolypse Brew Works sleeping on brew logs Conrad Selle brought to share, and — pro tip — I’m the guy to avoid at the party in the days right after a productive research trip. You won’t have to buy the next book; you will have already heard it.

Brewery cat snoozes at Apocolypse Brew Works in Louisville, Kentucky

But while I was talking to brewers in Kentucky a nagging thought returned. These beers disappeared, or nearly disappeared, because not enough people were buying them. So why should they be commercially viable now?


1 Gose, Grodziskie and Kentucky Common are among the beers described in Historical Beer (Category 27) in the 2015 BJCP Style Guidelines released last week.


Drinking too fast? A few trivial beer links to slow that


In their weekly Saturday roundup of beer links, Boak & Bailey write, “It seems rather trivial to be thinking, reading and writing about beer in the week of a general election …” That’s dangerous thinking, because that might be true every week.

I am so fucking bored by the beer discourse of 2015.
Rants, bar fights and strip clubs. Maybe it’s time to become a wine drinker.
Pete Brown tweeted “Here’s a post which shows why you shouldn’t read social media after a nice evening’s drinking and then blog about it” and his rant lives up to it. Sentences liked this are to be treasured: “And the fucking definition of craft beer debate lumbers on like a zombie, eating the brains of talented people who could otherwise be writing something inspirational, or at least interesting.” A bit of disclosure — I’m quoted in the second link, but Roger Baylor has always expected more out of beer and expecting more of out beer is a concept that shouldn’t be forgotten. [Via Pete Brown and The Potable Curmudgeon]

Brew Talks Chicago: Defining What it Means to Be Small and Local.
This story doesn’t, to be honest. But it gives me an excuse to quote DH Harrison of Country Boy Brewing in Lexington. I was in Kentucky last week, learning a lot about how Kentucky Common was brewed a hundred years ago. The topic of local came up again and again. OK, some of that was my fault. However, I was talking to Daniel Sinkhorn at Country Boy about the challenges of brewing with local chestnuts while Harrison was engaged in a separate conversation and I heard him say, “I want to hire a county guy.” That’s how you stay local. [Via Brewbound}

As I commented on Twitter, things were a lot simpler when Mr. Golding named his hop.

Spiking Beer: As Intended, As Brewed?
If you follow Jeremy Danner on Twitter you will occasionally feel his pain when somebody runs a Boulevard beer through some sort of device to make it “better.” I agree on one level with Danner’s thoughts and what Oliver Gray writes about adultering beer, but I also remember that “craft beer” is part of what is referred to as “maker culture.” Consumers are the paying participants in what Colin Campbell describes as “craft consumption.” [Via Literature & Libation]

Drink beer too quickly? Opt for straight glasses, not curved.
In one experiment, those who had straight glasses were 60 per cent slower to consume alcoholic beverages than those drinking from curved glasses. In another, drinkers took more time to exmpty a curved glass with measurements of a quarter, half and three quarters marked on the side. But here’s my favorite line from the story: “The speed at which beer is drunk can have a direct effect on the level of intoxication experienced.” [Via The Telegraph].

Beer-fueled fight in Fairfax prompts officials to look at state farming law.
Shouldn’t the story address if the name of the proposed business — Loudmouth Brewery — was part of the problem? In an event, farm/brewery, lovely concept, but apparently not a slam dunk. [Via The Washington Post]

‘Bourbon Empire’ Reveals The Smoke And Mirrors Of American Whiskey.
“‘The term ‘craft’ is little more than an ambiguous buzzword,’ [Reid] Mitenbuler writes in a new book, Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey. Behind all the craft buzz, Mitenbuler says, are actually just some ‘carefully cultivated myths’ created by an industry on a roll. According to Mitenbuler, many of the newer bourbon brands are actually just spinoffs of factory brands… But you’d never know, since they’re packaged to appear different, smaller and therefore more rare.” And you thought contract brewers took a few liberties. [Via the salt]


The Session #99 roundup posted

The SessionAllstair Reese has posted the roundup for The Session #99: Localising Mild.

It is reminder to find yourself a beer from a brewery participating in American Mild Month. I haven’t yet.

Also, be on the lookout for Reuben Gray’s official announcement about the topic (the preview: it “will be about lost/almost forgotten beer styles”) for the June Session. After all, it will be No. 100.


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