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Archive | May, 2008

Costco to pass on private brand beer?

Beer bloggers have proved adept at breaking news of upcoming beer releases by tracking label approvals. Only thing is, that not all labels turn into beers. We’re still waiting for the Faust Dubbel from Anheuser-Busch.

And perhaps we may also be waiting a while before we see the Kirkland beers from Costco.

We stayed in and RV park not far from Costco headquarters when we were in the Seattle area (a short beer report will be coming), and I heard an interesting but unsubstantiated rumor that the private label beer project currently is on hold. Not sure what that means, now it’s the weekend and we’re headed into Canada.

Sorry about the lousy job of reporting actual facts, but perhaps somebody else in the beer blogosphere will pick up on this and track down more information.

Musing: Wine top dog where hops grow

New hopyardLet’s start with good news from Yakima. Here’s one of several new hopyards we saw Sunday and Monday. You can see why farmers point out it takes more than a year to make a hop field productive. Hops are well up the strings in nearby fields.

A day and a half driving through one of the world’s premier hop-growing regions was a mixed bag. We saw plenty of hop memories — vacant buildings where hop merchants once did business, a hop kiln you can spot from the Interstate, and of course the American Hop Museum in Toppenish.

It was also evident that wine is a much stronger tourist attraction. Interstate exit signs advertise stops with wineries, and we’re talking scores of choices. The banners in downtown Yakima remind visitors this is Washington Wine Country. Many of the tasting rooms were jammed during the Memorial Day weekend, while we were the only visitors at the Hop Museum.

Daria and Sierra have both written about that experience, disappointing from the moment we walked through the door covered with plywood. It felt like the beginning of a museum when I visited in 1997, but nothing appears to have been done since. Including maintenance. It made me think I really need to take them the German Museum of Hops (Deutsches Hopfenmuseum) in Bavaria this fall so they’ll see a hop museum done right.

Quite simply, this one does not reflect the love of hops that American brewers expend in creating beers that celebrate American hops. Perhaps we need to put a tax on Simcoe and Amarillo hops to pay for some upkeep — and that way those hop varieties might merit a mention somewhere within its walls.

Former Grant's Brewpub

As appropriate as it turned out that America’s first brewpub, variously known as Grant’s Brewery Pub and Yakima Brewing and Malting, opened in hop country it should be sobering that starting in Yakima you can now visit scores of wineries before you find the first brewing operation (Snipes Mountain in Sunnyside). Grant’s, housed in the old downtown train station, still looks great from a distance. Hops are etched in the glass doors leading into the pub, along with the hours. But the only thing inside is the old wooden bar, and cobwebs hang around the windows.

Fortunately we headed from there to Moxee. Amarillo and Simcoe are grown here. Don’t you wonder what Bert Grant would have done with those hops? Here there are more hopyards than vineyards, but as across all the rolling hills of Yakima Valley more fruit trees than anything. Also plenty of sheep, goats, cattle — we later visited a cheese factory that can process a half million gallons of milk a day — and horses. (Apparently the Yakima Valley is a top pot producer as well.)

Yakima hop workers

Although it was Memorial Day, we spotted several crews at work in the hopyards, a quick reminder that hops are downright labor intensive as far as agricultural products go.

Worth appreciating.

A note from Yakima Sportsman’s Park: I plan to continue with Monday musings throughout our journey, but there are times I’ll be writing on Monday and not posting until I find the next Internet connection.

Drinking local: Terminal Gravity Brewing

Terminal Gravity Brewing

Peek behind the curtain and you’ll see Terminal Gravity Brewing in Northeast Oregon is bursting at its micro-seems, but you aren’t required to look. The pleasure here is, well, right here.

Every seat inside the pub-restaurant was taken within half an hour after it opened Saturday, although that only amounted to about two score customers. When a damp, chilling wind isn’t blowing there’s more outdoor seating at picnic tables or on the front porch than inside.

Door at Terminal Gravity BrewingSteve Carper and Dean Duquette built the place themselves – including fabricating the brewing equipment – in 1997. When it opened, they leased space to a baker and built a USDA-approved sausage kitchen. “We’re the brewer, the baker and the sausage maker,” Duquette said at the time.

The house that was the brewing operation is now surrounded in back and off to the side by a growing brewery.

Demand obviously comes from farther than the pleasant village of Enterprise (population 2020) or from tourists traveling to Lake Wallowa and the Hells Canyon recreation area. From the time the Horse Brass Pub in Portland put Terminal Gravity IPA on tap it’s been one of Oregon’s defining IPAs.

But the business of beer wasn’t a thought for three generations of a family occupying what feels like a living room upstairs — they sat in two couches, two easy chairs and the patriarch on the coffee table. They were talking about hiking and other outdoor activities.

We ate beside the foosball game (Sierra reigned there), on a wooden table built for card games. Sierra had macaroni and cheese, Daria ate a salmon sandwich and I enjoyed the pesto pasta. All were excellent. The beers share a certain similarity — like the grapefruity IPA they are generally a bit chewy. That didn’t serve the seasonal tripel as well as it did the breakfast porter (roasted nuts, coffee and cream, wonderful texture).

The beers are good enough to drive all the expansion going on in back, but they aren’t going to taste as good anywhere else as they do here.

Beer: The drink that launches great conversations

Andy Crouch offers a excellent warts-included report from SAVOR: An American Craft Beer and Food Experience, expressing concern about “the growing snobbery of beer” and using the occasion to post his “Does Beer Really Want To Become Like Wine?” column from Beer Advocate magazine.

I’m already on record with New Beer Rule #7 — “beer is not the new wine” or “beer is still beer,” take your choice — so obviously I agree we must remain cautious, and I won’t rehash why.

But call me a cockeyed optimist. I’m of the opinion that beer can show up some places that are expensive, that some beers can cost more, and beer can still be an every man’s drink.

Just look at the diversity of posts on the beer blogosphere.

You’ll even see that “Papa Stonch” (David Bell, father of Jeff Bell, known for Stonch’s Beer Blog is blogging. “His perspective – as a 60-something as opposed to a 20-something – is very different to mine, as is his stomping ground: he’ll be writing about the North East of England, where he lives,” son Jeff writes.

Finally, reading Andy’s SAVOR recap had me searching through the archives at Shut up about Barclay Perkins to find this paragraph:

“Honest beer is what I want. Beer that can look me straight in the eye and not flinch. Beer with heart. Beer that’s like an old friend. Beer you can sit and drink by the pint in a pub with your mates.”

Beer can go a lot of places and still remain honest.

Is Beck’s looking for a beer blogger?

The job doesn’t look exactly like blogging, and you can be pretty sure that when Beck’s owner InBev suggests its digital columnist should be offbeat that means topics only broadly related to beer may be prominent, but here’s the press release and you can decide:

Greener pastures await avid writers! Beck’s, one of InBev’s Global brands and the number one German beer in the world, present in over 100 countries, has just launched a global search to find the ultimate, offbeat columnist with an uncompromising point of view who can connect and interact with consumers in the digital world. Potential candidates can find their dream job at

Fuelled by discovering and adding their personal spin on news, people, and ideas that encompass the Beck’s brand philosophy “Different by Choice,” the ideal candidate will bring their personal charisma, authenticity, and excitement to our consumers online. “Beck’s is a brand that has always refused to compromise and what we’re doing online is no different,” says Jorge Inda Meza, Global Marketing Manager for Beck’s. “Our consumers actively seek out links to new trends and genuine material from around the globe. They have a desire to learn about people who share the same values as they do. The Beck’s new columnist will help uncover and highlight relevant and exciting topics for our consumers, enabling us to better connect with them.”

The ideal candidate must be:
* A Beck’s beer lover (of course)
* Charismatic, spirited and people-loving with a great sense of humour
* Investigative with awe-inspiring writing skills
* A web-savvy individual with work published online e.g. blogs, sites, etc.
* Proficient in English (other languages are a plus)
* Quick-thinking and an independent self-starter
* Able to commit to a 6-month contract
* Authorised to work in the E.U. for any employer
* Willing to relocate to Amsterdam, Netherlands
* Above the Legal Drinking Age in their country

The new recruit will be responsible for finding and communicating their views on examples of people and trends from around the globe that are “Different by Choice” on the Beck’s website. They will talk to and engage consumers in also sharing their point of views. As part of the Beck’s creative team, the new recruit will also help with conducting web research, performing brand-tasks, do a little bit of travelling and most importantly, maintaining an authentic and open dialogue with the Beck’s consumers.

“This is the perfect position for an adventurous writer with an open mind whose column will be seen around the world. Our new online columnist should have a knack for giving their personal flavour on authentic and exciting things that are out there,” explains Frederic Landtmeters, Global Brand Director for Beck’s. “Anyone who is web-savvy and has excellent writing skills can apply at We’re really looking forward to reviewing the submissions.”

I expect this will get plenty of attention.

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