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Archive | September, 2009

Portland Beer Price Index – way cool

“The average price of a six-pack of Oregon craft beer in Southeast Portland is $8.85. A 22-ounce bomber averages $4.90, and 16 ounces of quality draft beer will typically set you back $4.27.”

From the first Portland Beer Price Index posted by It’s Pub Night.

The plan is to do this quarterly. Wouldn’t you like to see one of these for every city, or at least every region?

I’m not sure why I added It’s Pub Night to my rss subscriptions — either via Twitter or Beervana — but it was a lucky addition indeed.

 

‘Signature’ beers versus signature character

Signature beersOne more thought roused by Mark Dredge’s “New Wave” post. If you lined up a bunch of beers, some of which you might never have tasted, and drank them “blind” could you pick out the brewery they were from?

I ask this because Dredge wrote, “each with their own authoritative stamp which makes the drinker know that they’ve just enjoyed a beer by that particular brewery.”

I’m not simply talking about if you recognize a particular beer, so it’s a little tricky. You have to be pretty familiar with a brewery’s work to play this game so naturally you’ll know some beers. Let’s say Racer 5 and Hop Rod Rye from Bear Republic. But when you try two other beers from the brewery do you think you’d say, “Ah, Bear Republic?”

Another example would be Lagunitas Brewing, known for its “C” beers (crystal malts and hops that begin with the letter “c”). Or Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales, America’s leading example of why somebody should invent a good name for what might otherwise be called beer terroir.

This is different than the notion of a signature beer. For instance, you can easily pick out New Glarus Wisconsin Belgian Red in a crowd. I’d call that a signature beer. It helped make New Glarus Brewing famous, but Spotted Cow accounts for half of sales and the new and wonderful Crack’d Wheat tastes totally different from those two.

So does New Glarus have an authoritative stamp? Bear Republic, Lost Abbey, Russian River, Rogue*, Goose Island, [fill in the name of the brewery of your choice]? Or what about the star of Dredge’s post, Dogfish Head?

* Added just for Jeff Alworth. Oh, and here’s one more, Pelican Pub & Brewery.

 

New wave brewing or natural progression?

Grundies at Firestone WalkerMark Dredge poses a question at Pencil & Spoon that’s a variation on one discussed at length in American blogs, but adds a new perspective when asking “Are we in a New Wave of brewing?”

He starts with film to make his point, specifically the French Nouvelle Vague, quickly moving on to “small groups of brewers, pushing each other forward, exciting and exuberant, articulate and literate in the language of beer, each with their own authoritative stamp which makes the drinker know that they’ve just enjoyed a beer by that particular brewery.”

Of course what’s new in the UK isn’t necessarily new to us.

Dogfish Head are at the forefront of this ‘movement’ in the US and always have been – they are the Jean-Luc Godard of beer. The beer itself, the brand, the marketing, it all points towards a New Wave. Their 60, 90 and 120 Minute IPAs use the innovative technique of continual hopping (see: Godard’s jump cuts).

OK, he’s got to work a little on his history. While continual hopping makes a good story and good beer the real innovations in hopping — embracing true bitterness, making massive late hop additions for more flavor, dry hopping, etc. — started in California before Sam Calagione opened Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in 1995.

And California brewers aren’t given up the hop crown easily. Just look at the IPA, Double IPA, Imperial Red and similar category results from the recently concluded Great American Beer Festival competition.

Beyond that many good questions posed (as well as in the comments, be sure to make it to Zak’s). Right to the end: “Are we in a New Wave of British and world brewing? Or is this whole thing just the natural progression of brewing along its own course?”

Perhaps it’s possible to answer yes to both.

 

A few things I learned at GABF

Beer revolution going onThree days at the Great American Beer Festival last week seemed to last three weeks. So much going on. I learned a ton, but mostly stuff that will influence future posts and work that appears in good old-fashioned print.

But then you don’t need me to be telling how wonderful the Pints for Prostates Rare Beer Tasting turned out or how long the lines were in front of New Glarus Brewing. There’s plenty to read on the Internet.

That’s quite different than in 1993, when Daria and I reported on the festival for All About Beer magazine. Our story appeared a couple of months after the event. Beer news traveled at a different pace. A few pieces in regional “brewspapers” (also well after GABF) and an occasional mention in online bulletin boards and Internet mailing lists were pretty much it. Now you can read dozens of blog posts every day — for instance, English writer Melissa Cole waxing romantic about a beer from a brewery in Tampa, Florida, that has been open less than a year. (Cigar City Brewing.)

However there are a few things you might not otherwise read or that I wanted to make sure you notice:

- My breweries won the GABF Fantasy Draught. I spent part of the awards ceremony talking with George Wendt (“Norm Peterson”) about his upcoming book. We went for a little walk to have a few beers. When a winner would be announced to large cheers he asked, “Are people fans of particular breweries?” Looking back over the list of breweries I picked I realized these are all ones I have a certain affection for, contest aside. Thanks again to Jonathan Surratt for the thankless job of running it.

I bumped into — the festival has gotten so big you can go three days not seeing people you are looking for — Pizza Port Carlsbad brewmaster Jeff Bagby right after the awards ceremony. When I saw him Thursday I kidded him four medals is all I expected from a second round draft choice. He was still quite a distance away on Saturday when he yelled at me, “Is this enough for you, Stan?” Seven medals, four golds. Being good at drafting (or draughting) does not compare to being good at brewing.

- Will Kemper. Two golds, two silvers and Small Brewpub of the Year. Only open a little over a year but not exactly a secret (his brewery went in our draught). If you’ve never heard the name click on the link. An early superstar? Star? Maybe not a conversation to start. The music analogy for me would be Lloyd Maines or Mark Knopfler.

- I would have bet against it, but Firestone Walker Union Jack IPA did manage to go back to back, beating out 133 other entries. As impressive, Russian River Brewing’s Blind Pig IPA medaled for the third straight year. So in each of the last two years Union Jack and Blind Pig have claimed two of the possible three medals. Meaning 132 breweries have one medal to compete for. Tough odds.

- You always hear conjecture that some breweries make batches just for judging. I find that hard to believe.

But there’s no doubt that the beer Boulevard Brewing in Kansas City won gold with this year is just like the ones consumers find on the shelf (in season). Brewmaster Steven Pauwels said that when the brewery decided to enter Zon in the Belgian white/wit category they discovered that they didn’t have any of the seasonal beer in stock. So they went out a store and bought the beer they’d enter, and win with. That’s impressive.

 

My ‘team’ and I are ready for GABF

This question isn’t too tough, since I’ve already mentioned the Great American Beer Festival Beer Mapping Fantasy Draught, but what do these breweries have in common?

The Lost Abbey
Pizza Port Carlsbad
Snake River Brewing
Flying Dog Ales
Southampton Publick House
Saint Arnold Brewing
Marble Brewery
Il Vicino Brewing

Yep, they are members of my “team.” They also happen to be breweries I’ve visited. A little tricky because I visited Frederick Brewing before before Flying Dog bought the facility. So I’ve been to what was the Flying Dog brewery in Denver and what would be the Flying Dog brewery in Frederick. Got that?

Just arrived in Denver and will now turn my attention to work and beer. The order may change throughout the day.

 

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