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Archive | January, 2010

Weekend reading: What do they mean by beer?

What does beer mean?I was going to write about brewers as rock stars today but will save that for Monday (something to think about over the weekend, Alan) because there are so many business related stories worth considering.

Start by wandering over to the Zythophile and check out a couple of posts about words for beer (here’s the second).

It seems to me we need to give reporters who write about the business of beer some other words to use. When said reporters throw a net over Budweiser, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Corona, Duvel and the pint you should be drinking tonight at your local brewpub and call them all beer they miss important cultural shifts.

  • For instance, the already discussed the Wall Street Journal article about decline beer sales.
  • Then you have this story headlined Americans fall out of love with imported beer. Yes, sales of imports are down. That’s Corona and Heineken, industrial lagers. What about Mikkeller, Orval, Schneider Weisse, BrewDog and all those other beers mixed in with what we generally call U.S. “craft beers” in the walk-in cooler at my local beer store?

    The decision isn’t a matter of thinking “should I drink an import or a non-import?” As Stephen Beaumont pointed out it is boire moins, boire mieux (drink less, drink better).

  • Next, Wine & Spirits Daily reports: “Last year 9% of the US population was trading off to wine. This means they were either choosing to decrease their consumption of beer or spirits while increasing consumption of wine, or choosing to drink wine on occasions when in the past they would have drunken beer or spirits. Interestingly, 32% of millennials traded over to wine, which means young people are increasingly favoring wine over beer and spirits.”

    And, “They don’t see wine as elitist or unattainable but believe it denotes maturity and sophistication not given by beer or spirits.”

    So are they “trading up” from Coors Light to Yellow Tail? Or from Samuel Adams Utopias? That’s just not clear.

    This is not a “craft beer don’t get no respect” rant. Instead I’m bothered that these business stories leave important questions unanswered. It starts with the vocabulary.

  • Elsewhere we have a bit of silliness about the A-B InBev Clydesdales and Super Bowl commercials. First came the announcement that the horses wouldn’t appear in this year’s commercials. Today the word that fans may vote on three possible Budweiser ads on the brand’s Facebook page. One of them includes the Clydesdales.

    Of course you have to sign up as a fan to see the commercials.

    Keith Levy, Anheuser-Busch’s vice president for marketing, says the company’s initial decision to not run the horse ad was not a publicity stunt.

    But don’t you wonder?



    Germany and Rate Beer 2010

    German beer sales were down again in 2009, continuing a 20-year trend.

    I think I finally figured out why. They brew shit beer.

    There you have it. Pretty simple.

    The Rate Beer Best 2010 list is out and not a German beer made only one German beer in the top 100.

    Pardon my flipness. That German beer consumption has declined 30 percent in the last 20 years is not something to laugh about, and I’ve rambled on enough about lists like Rate Beer’s. (That said, it might take some restraint to resist commenting on Beer Advocate’s Beer in Review.)

    British blogger Mark Dredge, a Rate Beer contributor, provides an excellent perspective on the Rate Beer Best:

    For me, as it’s a collective opinion, it’s largely a guide as to what geeky beer drinkers (you need to be a geek to want to rate – rating is hard work and takes real dedication!) like to find in their pint glass. It’s not a list of the best beers to drink in a pub on a Sunday afternoon, it’s a list of some of the most esoteric flavour experiences possible, dominated by imperial stouts, barrel aging, IPAs and sours.

    A couple of years ago Sylvia Kopp wrote a fine article in All About Beer magazine about the challenges German brewers face. Go read it.

    Georg Schneider, owner of the Private Weissbierbrauerei G. Schneider & Sohn in Kelheim, doesn’t mince words: “The German beer market is deadly boring,” he says. “It is all very much the same. The tendency towards sameness is encouraged, for example, by our domestic beer tests rating beer only by its typicality and flawlessness. Creativity is only acted on in the beer mix category.”

    Since then a group called Bier-Quer-Denker, selected by the brewing publication Brauwelt and the Association of Small Private Breweries, has presented beers beyond the usual in Germany at a couple of seminars. One was a “Reinheitsbegot tripel” (passing on sugar commonly used by Belgian brewers), using two hop varieties from New Zealand and yeast sourced from the Westmalle Trappist monastery brewery.

    Of course they’re probably going to have to brew an imperial stout if they want to make the Rate Beer 2011 list.



    Pabst tall boy

    Taken 01.23.10 at Durango Mountain Resort, still known to many of us as Purgatory Ski Area. These guys could have done better (the one on the left had his can of Pabst to the left of his chair). Several Durango beers on tap, including SKA’s Euphoria, an aromatic bomb.

    Euphoria’s also available in cans, 12-ouncers. Durango had 36 inches in snow in the four days before we arrived. Euphoria, indeed.



    Watching breweries grow

    Last week I mentioned that when Ken Grossman and Paul Camusi wrote the business plan for Sierra Nevada Brewing their goal was to sell 3,000 barrels of beer annually. They produced 1,500 barrels the first year (1980) and the brewery passed 3,000 in its fifth year of operation.

    The Brewers Association classifies breweries that make fewer than 15,000 barrels (31 gallons in a barrel, you’ll recall) “microbreweries” and those larger “regional breweries.” Quite honestly, 60,000 is a more important number to breweries because all barrels produced after that are taxed at a higher rate.

    Anyway, it took Sierra Nevada 10 years to grow beyond “micro,” and five years later the brewery produced 150,000 barrels. Growth isn’t always linear. But just for the heck of it here’s a look at 10 breweries you’ve likely heard of and how long it took them to grow from “micro” to “regional.”

    How are they doing now? Rather than use 2008 sales figures, which are more than a year old, I’ll update the chart in a few months, after the Brewers Association compiles the 2009 data.

    Brewery   Year   Barrels     Barrels
      (Yr of operation)   That Yr     Previous yr
    Sierra Nevada Brewing   1989 (10th)   20,884     14,000
    Widmer Brothers   1991 (7th)   27,500     12,000
    Deschutes Brewery   1994 (7th)   19,719     8,564
    New Belgium Brewing   1994 (4th)   18,951     5,837
    Harpoon Brewery   1994 (8th)   24,000     12,950
    Boulevard Brewing   1995 (7th)   21,000     14,748
    Bell’s Brewing   1996 (12th)   15,631     10,250
    Stone Brewing   2002 (7th)   18,450     12,779
    New Glarus Brewing   2003 (11th)   18,700     13,700
    Dogfish Head Brewery   2004 (10th)   20,200     13,600



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