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From deep in the belly of craft beer

MONDAY BEER LINKS, MUSING 04.20.15

During the opening session of the Craft Brewers Conference last week Brewers Assocation board chair Gary Fish said that, at least for the week, Portland, Oregon, was the “epicenter of craft beer.” I can neither confirm nor deny that. I spent my week among the trees, specific trees as a matter of fact, because I was in information collecting mode. And, I figured out over the weekend as I tried to catch up with Twitter and Feedly, pretty disconnected from the rest of the beer world.

Amidst all the high-fiving about how terrific beer in Portland is and what a fine job the city did hosting the convention there was this:

Trying to provide context via Twitter can be maddening. My suggestion is to visit Carla Jean Lauter’s Twitter feed (@beerbabe) read through her tweets and also the replies that followed. Here’s an essential one:

And in the midst of this Heather Vandenengal added more context with “A quick note on sexism and the beer industry.”

Twenty years ago, when Daria and I first visited the Oregon Brewers Festival, that a group of brewers assembled after a day’s work to head off together to a local strip club that had scores of beers on tap was pointed to with a sense of pride. It was another sign how far ahead of the beer curve Portland was — even the strip clubs have better beer. Maybe it is because strip clubs are as much a part of the Portland culture as beer variety, but nobody seemed to be bothered that not all of us are comfortable with treating women as objects.

To be clear, this isn’t a discussion primarily about strip clubs in Portland. All About Beer provided a guide to spots to look for before CBC began. And in the midst of the conversation Lauter started there was this from @SamuraiArtist:

This is a discussion about awareness. There’s been an ongoing conversation about sexism in beer and it needs to continue. In the midst of all those tweets somebody suggested “someone will still find a reason to be upset” and that is true. But some things should be obvious. “I sell beer. I want more women to buy it. I’d like more women to feel comfortable working in my industry.” The next thought should not be “Benjamin Braddock got the girl in the end, so I’ll ask these women to join me at a strip club.”

What do these exchanges on Twitter, and in actual one-on-one conversations, tell us about this entity broadly labeled craft beer? That it is as flawed as society itself? Or that we expect to it be somehow special, less flawed?

Vandenengal wrote, “The reality is that dealing with casually and overtly sexist men who don’t respect women is something that all women of all industries and backgrounds deal with all the time, in both their personal and professional lives. It’s no different in craft beer.”

Not a cheery thought to begin Monday with, but a fact. [Via Twitter, Heather Vandenengal]

Returning to our regularly scheduled program . . .

Critical Drinking — The Craft Brewers Conference + Getting Weird — Good Beer Hunting.
Later this weeks I’ll post some thoughts from the view from 20 feet (in other words, all about hops), but if you’d like more big picture thinking (the view from 20,000 feet) start here. [Via Good Beer Hunting]

Popularity, personal tastes and beer culture.
Is it possible that “local beer cultures do not exist, that they’re only a myth; something artificially preserved for tourists and romantics?”
[Via Pivní Filosof – Beer Philosopher]

What do you really think of that wine? Ask your brain.
If you are going to call somebody a hophead, or hop head, then an MRI kind of makes senses, doesn’t it? [Via Palate Press]

Science Has Not Really Spoken (On The Study Of Big Flavor Wines).
A discussion about wine that is just as relevant to beer. [Via 1 Wine Dude]

And to finish off with a smile, back to Twitter.

So do winemakers ever become soms?

Ray Daniels announced this morning that Patrick Rue and James Watt passed two rigorous days of testing to become Master Cicerones. They are both brewers by trade — Rue is founder of The Bruery in California and Watt co-founder of Brew Dog in Scotland.

This led to to wonder if winemakers seek similar certification — either as a Master Sommelier or a Master of Wine.

And what does it reveal about beer and/or wine whether they do or they do not?

*****

Not necessarily related but almost seems like it since this discussion was just last week: What do beer writers think of beer certifications?

IF beer were the new wine

I prefer discussion about beer and wine, as opposed to beer versus wine. (And there is the matter of New Beer Rule #7: Beer is not the new wine.)

But “Why beer is the new wine, and wine the new fur coat” is so nicely written you should take the next six minutes (it is posted at Medium, that’s why I know long) to read it. Three sentences that might motivate you . . .

– Unlike wine, beer is subversive and lewd and witty.

– You know what the wine section looks like after you’ve strolled through the beer section? Like black-and-white TV after watching hi-res color video.

Go enjoy it. One reservation: I don’t consider wine an anachronism. Because the essay celebrates advances (I agree advance are good, just so you know) it would be easy to see some readers mentally substituting in “pale lager” for “wine” in the second excerpt. Pale lager is not an anachronism. So make that two reservations. Still a fun six minutes.

Making economics interesting: Beer in the wine aisle

I’ve steered clear of the recent “wine-ification” of beer kerfuffle because I don’t have anything to say I haven’t already (New Beer Rule #7: Beer is not the new wine was written back in December of 2007, thus predating about half the breweries in the United States).

But today Mike Veseth, who I’ve mentioned here many times (including about his fine book, Wine Wars, and that he has another, Extreme Wine, on the way) asks the question: Is Craft Beer the Next Big Thing in Wine?

Remember the context and that the discussion revolves around economics. And it pretty much starts with an answer to the question he asks in the headline.

(Yes) — if you are thinking about things in terms of market spaces. The wine market space and that of craft beer are increasingly overlapping as craft beers infringe on wine’s turf (and low alcohol wines threaten to do the same for beer). And if the common battlefield isn’t huge at this point, it is certainly growing and warrants attention.

Much of it won’t appear new if you’ve been reading the beer compared to wine discussion for the past several years. But, you know, not everyone has. So it’s worth taking the time to move from Point A to Point B and so on with him. Words like innovation (“Innovation is a hot topic in the beverage business these days and craft beer presents more opportunities for innovation and product development than most wines if you are aiming at that market segment.”) and complexity are used. It’s interesting to read what somebody who does not live in the beer aisle has to write about beer.

So craft beer has a lot in common with wine and maybe a couple of advantages. With these products more widely available and a growing customer base that is ready and willing to experiment, I think it is plausible and wine and craft beer will increasingly share market space and must take that competition into account.

Something to think about.

And one quick side note:

At the end he suggests that some wineries might start to brew beer. Of course, that’s already happened. There are several wineries across the country who already do brew beer. Notably, in 1997 Korbel Champagne Cellars started Russian River Brewing in northern California and hired Vinnie Cilurzo as brewmaster. Six years later, Korbel decided to get out of the brewing business. Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo bought the brand and started a brewpub, then a production brewery, in Santa Rosa. Do you think Korbel wishes it could take that decision back?

About those guys with cans, & a few Monday links

Bill Graham, Ska Brewing, Brian Lutz, Oskar BluesLast week’s “Where in the Beer World?” seems to have been a real stumper. My apologies. The facts behind the picture would make a rather long comment, so instead I’ll post the details here.

As a reader pointed out, that’s Bill Graham (Ska Brewing co-founder) on the left. Brian Lutz, the brewer at Oskar Blues when the then-brewpub began packaging Dale’s Pale Ale in cans, is on the right. The picture was taken in July of 2003 at the annual Colorado Brewers Rendezvous in Salida, Colorado.

Oskar Blues started canning on premise late in 2002 and Ska early in 2003. The brewers will release a collaboration beer in November. “It’s been a long time coming, doing something with those guys,” Ska co-founder Dave Thibodeau told Denver Westword. “We do a lot of outdoor activities with them, and we have been thinking we would brew something with them forever.”

Lutz left Oskar Blues a few years later, but recently returned to brewing in Boulder. He’s in charge of the kettles at West Flanders Brewing.

MORE READING

The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer. That headline for the cover story in the Bloomberg Businessweek gives you a good sense of where it is coming from. Not exactly pro AB InBev.

Time To Start Thinking About The Xmas Photo Contest. Alan McLeod writes, “I have to get my brain around the categories this year so that is an announcement for later.” While you wait, browsing at the Faces of Brewing should put you in the mood for more photos.

Craft beer is overtaking wine: SF mag. First notice I spotted about SanFrancisco magazine’s large spread on beer was in Dr. Vino’s wine blog, with the headline that sure gets some attention. Set aside a little time for all the stories (and, yes, the url is moderluxury.com), but start with with Dr. Vino to check out the comments about quality and price (both wine and beer).

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