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Archive | April, 2008

‘Extreme beers’ still sell newspapers

And now we step outside the beer blogosphere — where it might seem there is nothing new to say about “extreme beers” — to recognize that to normal people they are still a topic of discussion.

Peter Rowe, whose work in the San Diego Union-Tribune I’ve pointed to many times, used the occasion of the Craft Brewers Conference to revisit the subject: The art of crafts: Extreme or balanced? The great beer debate continues.

Much from the the usual suspects, such as Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery saying, “If a chef tells you this is the saltiest stew you’ve ever tasted, that’s not what I want to hear. Anybody can put more hops in a brew kettle. That’s not a skill.”

And Greg Koch of Stone Brewing countering: “There may be a brewer somewhere that is just shoving more hops in. But the ones that really shine are the big beers that are artfully made.”

Certainly worth your time.

Rowe also has a six-pack of beer trends.

Could Magic Hat be a local beer on the West Coast?

You don’t have to come here to read that Magic Hat is acquiring Pyramid.

It’s here, there and everywhere. Including the possibility that Pyramid will brew Magic Hat beers for the West Coast and perhaps vice versa.

So some stuff you may not have seen, mostly about the business of beer but bound to affect what ends up happening with the beers themselves.

Magic Hat CEO Martin Kelly previously worked for Pyramid (one of many stops on his resume). He left Pyramid in 2004 and shortly thereafter began at Magic Hat. Vermont Business Magazine provided details in a 2006 profile of Magic Hat founder Alan Newman.

Kelly, a self-described “a corporate gypsy,” served time at Coca Cola, Miller Brewing Co, Borden Foods, and was CEO of Pyramid Brewery, a craft beer company on the West Coast, before he came to Magic Hat to develop a five-year plan.

“I had the explicit intention of not being here more than three months,” Kelly said. “But in working through, I became excited about the potential for Magic Hat: the brand, the company Alan had created, and the opportunity for organic growth and expanding. Alan said, ‘Now, don’t you want to stay on and execute the plan?’ And I said yes.”

According to Kelly, who runs Magic Hat under the whimsical title of Potentate, Pilot & Primary Prestidigitator (P4), he has three major areas of focus: “Build the relevance of our existing brands in existing markets and grow market share; continuously evolve our portfolio of beers to keep it fresh, interesting and relevant to our community of consumers; and maintain our methodical expansion into new markets.”

Shortly before he left Pyramid, Kelly closed a deal to take over Portland Brewing, providing perspective by comparing it to agreements such as Anheuser-Busch taking a stake in Widmer and Redhook.

“The craft brewing business is very competitive and changes daily. To stay ahead, breweries must keep moving forward,” he said. “Some breweries have chosen to go the route of aligning themselves with large, multinational, industrial brewers. We believe that approach can stifle creativity and lead to less choice for consumers. Our approach aligns two independent Northwest breweries and retains the creativity and integrity craft brewers are known for.”

But Portland wasn’t particularly independent after Kelly left Pyramid. The Portland brand essentially disappeared, although MacTarnahan’s seems to be thriving.

That’s good enough reason for me to pass on making predictions. Instead I’ve posted a rather long interview with Kelly from 2002. Lots about distribution, but that’s part of the business of beer.

And he also talked the importance of “where.”

“We are local, we are in Seattle. An import can’t be from Seattle, they can’t,” he said.

So if Magic Hat is brewed in Berkeley and sold in Berkeley is it a local beer or a Vermont beer? And which will Californians want?

I don’t know.

Monday morning musing: Grading on a curve?

To jump start your brain this morning: Two beer posts and a wine link that provoked one of the posts.

Stephen Beaumont on Great Beer vs. Popular Beer.

The number one beer in the United States, for example, is Bud Light, a pale lager with, frankly, some complexity of character, but a flavour profile so that thin it’s almost unnoticeable. This is the choice of the general public, and the general public is well served by it. I am not. I prefer more flavour, more aroma, greater depths and complexities of character and a more notable and lingering aftertaste, and I prefer those general traits in any beer I drink, under any set of circumstances.

Jeff Holt at Wort’s Going on Here? wonders why not a single American macro can get a decent score at the beer rating sites.

So, Corona versus Landshark? On both sites, both beers are rated as “To be Avoided.” Say you are stuck in a resort in Mexico that doesn’t have a beer above 8% ABV, as the top 12 beers on the Beer Advocate list of the top beers. So you can only choose between ten or twelve “D-” beers?

There’s something fundamentally flawed about these beer ratings. Are you telling me that sitting under a Live Oak Tree on a hot, Texas July day a Trappist Westvleteren 12 is better than a cold Budweiser?

And from Eric Asimov of the New York Times, whose notes about the upcoming book “The Wine Trials” provide Beaumont with a starting point. (You’ll want to click over for the entertaining comments &#151 wine people get snippy in such an amusing way.)

In the end, the book seems to divide wine consumers into the casual buyers who are pushed this way and that by forces they don’t understand, and the wealthy conspicuous status seekers who also are not quite aware of capitalism and marketing. Unacknowledged are the serious wine lovers who are knowledgeable, experimental and passionate, and who, yes, are in control of their own destinies.

Perhaps we should be happy beer doesn’t “merit” such serious academic study.

Bud Light Lime: Can you dance to it?

If you remember American Bandstand, or perhaps have seen clips, you recall the popular segment where host Dick Clark would take two teens from the audience. He’d have them listen to a couple of brand new songs, then rate them.

When asked for an explanation about the number they assigned it many would say, “You can dance to it.” Or that you couldn’t.

With that context, consider the news about Anheuser-Busch beginning its national push for Bud Light Lime (click if you want; right now the ask you to confirm your age, then show you the single, static page behind it — go figure) tomorrow.

While Bud Light Lime takes its cue from Mexican culture, much of its $35 million launch will be directed at fans of indie rock, electronica and dance music.

The national campaign will feature the music of Santogold. A remix of her song “Lights Out,” as well as the ringtone, will be released online next week at addition, a CD sampler, with up to 18 tracks, will be released in June to tastemakers and music blogs.

Meanwhile, Miller Chill has already started a campaign using the music of Brazilian singer Curumin.

So maybe Rate Beer and Beer Advocate need to add another category to the way they calculate ratings: aroma/smell 8, appearance/look 4, can/can’t dance to it 8.

Dark Lord Day: Passion on display

The Hoosier Beer Geek has pictures. Check out the line. Let’s just say showing up as late at 1:30 was not such a good idea.

Passion on display. Mostly. Unfortunately a little cold-hearted greediness. From a thread at Beer Advocate:

I drove from Minneapolis with a trunk full of Surly to enjoy and trade. Instead, I stood next to frat boys from Chicago who couldn’t stop talking about selling their Dark Lord on Ebay. I waited 5 hours in a line. The Dark Lord sold out 50 people in front of me. My girlfriend was upset because of the cold and I am leaving empty handed

Later in the thread: “It was frat boy hell. There goes the neighborhood…”

Also read the discussion at The Beer Mapping Project.

And at Rate Beer.

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