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Who brews the ‘Walmart beer’?

This was a silly headline: “Is Walmart Looking to Dethrone Budweiser as King of Beers?” The story itself does not suggest Walmart will be getting into the brewing business. Instead it is about still another foray the retailer is making into selling beer.

You’ll recall that about three years ago there was chatter about Walmart’s plan to become America’s biggest retailer. This included selling brands such as Budweiser and Coors at low, low prices and broadening their overall selection. At the time I visited Walmart to compare both prices and selection. I’m not going to run another price check, but last time I looked (granted, several months ago) the overall selection had shrunk since September of 2013.

But now there are these beers from Trouble Brewing, which is not exactly a brewery (but more on that in a moment). Details are in the “Dethrone the King” story.

We want to bring craft beer to the masses,” said Walmart senior vice president of adult beverages Al Dominguez. He spoke at an event at the company’s culinary innovation center in its home state of Arkansas. Dominguez was quick to point out that due to alcohol laws, it’s not calling the beer “private label” but rather “distinctive label” beer.

But what is this Trouble Brewing in Rochester, New York, they speak of? It must be pretty good size to produce beer for 2,200 of Walmart’s 4,600 stores. It doesn’t take much detective work to figure out it must be Genessee Brewing.

Why don’t they just put that on the label?


What are spruce, dandelions and hibiscus doing in Monday beer links?


The Reinheitsgebot – A Personal Voyage.
“Let the brewing traditions of Germany open and grow, to give the beer-drinking public what they want, and see a rejuvenation of German beer culture at a time when the trend has been away from beer.” [Via The Bitten Bullet]


A short history of spruce beer part one: the Danzig connection.
A short history of spruce beer part two: the North American connection.
[Via Zythophile]
Foraging for Fonta Flora’s Appalachian Wild Ales.
[Via Serious Eats]
9 New Floral Beers That Don’t Remind You of Your Great Aunt Esther.
[Via bon appétit]
Spot a theme?


The True Story Of Milton Glaser’s Best Client
“In the initial consultation, Steve Hindy had a couple ideas of what he wanted the brand to evoke. ‘I said Milton (Glaser), I want the Brooklyn Bridge, I want the Dodgers, I want every guy in Brooklyn to want to get this tattooed on his arm,’ Hindy says. ‘And Milton said, ‘Save something for me to do!”” [Via Fast Company]

Great Story, Shame It’s Not True.
It’s this simple: “Lots of pubs have fascinating stories attached to them but it’s a shame so few of them seem to be true.” [Via Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog]

The deal that shook craft beer five years ago is still reverberating.
The deal is the sale of Goose Island Beer Co. to Anhueser-Busch InBev and founder John Hall says, among other things: “That’s one reason why there’s the High End today. That’s really equipped to sell a specific product, tell more stories and connect on-premise rather than in an off-premise way. Also, I think the biggest portion was the PR thing. When we said, ‘Trust us, it’s all about the beer,’ it is all about the beer — and the beer is as good [as], if not better than, it’s ever been. There’s more of it, there’s more creativity, and then, if you look at the employees, they’ve done better professionally and financially, those who have stayed. Those who didn’t? That’s their choice.” [Via MarketWatch]

Blogunitas: When Big Gets BIGGAR.
Greg Nagel has lots of pictures from the newest Lagunitas brewery. Meanwhile the story he posted last week (it got squeezed out of links here because there were so many) about what might be a new brewery in LA or might be fiction kept getting stranger. [Via OCBeerBlog]

Genesee becomes local craft’s big brother.
Genesee Brewery invites local (non-Genesee) brewers to sit in on its sensory panel and also opens its laboratory for outside use. Area brewers have borrowed equipment, been trained to count yeast, for instance, and Genny has provided analysis of beers.[Via Democrat & Chronicle]


How original is latest Brewdog prank?

Because links to a story about how 200,000 cans of Brewdog Punk IPA had to be recalled is a result of an employee prank keep showing up in my Twitter feed this smorning I remembered that something similar happened at Sun King Brewing in Indianapolis last year.

Given that we cannot agree on who brewed the first Double IPA — the same thought may occur thousands of miles apart at somewhat the same time — this certainly does not mean what happened at Brewdog was derivative. But it is a reminder that little in beer, no matter what modifer (in this case “craft”) in front of the word, is new.

If you missed the Brewdog story, packing manager Graeme Wallace added “Mother F***er Day” to the time stamp on the bottom of Punk IPA cans. He was not fired. Instead, a Brewdog spokesperson said: “At another company, someone responsible for a prank like this might have been given the heave ho. At BrewDog, Graeme was awarded Employee of the Month.”

And if you forgot the Sun King story, it involved 20,000 cans of Wee Mac Scottish Ale with “Tom Brady Sux” stamped on the bottom. This wasn’t too long after Brady and the New England Patriots had defeated the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL playoffs (the “DeflateGate” game). The message qualified as an obscenity for Patriots fans, and certainly wasn’t “Midwest polite.”

“It wasn’t an idea we came up with at all,” said (co-founder) Clay Robinson, referring to Sun King the company. “Every day, we change the thing on the bottom of our cans. One of the guys running the canning lines had to come up with something. Biscuit is his name. So Biscuit put ‘Tom Brady Sux.'”

Sun King is known for its quirky words next to its born-on dates. During the Indianapolis 500, for example, there will be sayings like “Turn left,” or “Go fast.”

Sometimes, there are movie quotes or one-line quips, such as “Drink and Repeat” and sometimes all the can says is “Yummy.”

Biscuit is real. Robinson didn’t reveal his real name because the brewery received numerous profanity-laced phone calls and, Robinson said, one death threat against Biscuit. A week after the first story appeared, he agreed to an interview with the Indianapolis Star that didn’t include his given name.

In addition, the brewery created this video:

Some bitterness to balance all those hops, please

All About Beer magazine - Please pass the bitternessI should probably wait to comment on Jeff Alworth’s story until our postwoman delivers the latest All About Beer magazine (John Holl tweeted this photo of the cover yesterday), but he hinted at the contents when he posted “How American IPAs Evolved” at Beervana.

At the heart of his blog post you have this: “There has been a shift from very bitter IPAs to IPAs marked by flavor and aroma, but it has happened around the country as brewers each made natural discoveries on their own.”

You’ll notice the cover also says “Trending: Fruit IPAs.”

More data points:

New Belgium Botanical Imperial IPA.

Straight from the press release (or you can watch the video): “Using the fresh aroma of the spring landscape as inspiration, New Belgium Brewing’s Botanical Imperial IPA uses a blast of essential oils from backyard botanicals. basil, sage and juniper help create the freshest IPA around, with Bravo, Cascade, Sterling, and Willamette hop varieties delivering a potent hop punch.”

“The essential oils intensify the citrusy, herbal and spicy hop flavors,” noted Ross Koenigs, New Belgium pilot brewer. “The idea for a botanical IPA came from our love of both IPAs and gin. So back in 2014, we had our hop chemist run a bunch of gin botanicals alongside different hop varieties and then we started beta testing how those different herbs and spices played with the hops. The result offers notes of citrus, pine, wood, cedar, mint, and a little spice.”

Hops Oils & Aroma: Uncharted Waters.

It seems a little weird linking to a story I wrote for Craft Beer & Brewing, but it saves me pounding out 1,200 words again to explain some of the science behind what New Belgium is up to.

YCH HOPS Hop Varieties.

If you take a look at a few varieties (I suggest HBC 291, a hop that really needs a name) you’ll see that YCH HOPS has increased the amount of information itprovides about at least some varieties. It now provides data on linalool and geraniol. This is fun. For instance, notice that New Belgium is using Bravo, a variety with above average oil content and thus more geraniol than the average bear. It’s a hop that brewers can use to create an interesting blend — rather than wasting their time moaning, “Wah wah wah, I can’t get Citra.” Just remember, as the story points out, there’s a lot hop scientists are still figuring out.

Late hopping preserves these oils — about 50% of essentials oil evaporate during just 10 minutes of boiling. Although, as Alworth points out, brewers don’t necessarily need to boil hops as long as previously thought to extract bitterness (technically, they aren’t really extracting bitterness, they are orchestrating a conversion) too often they are creating beers that I find not bitter enough. Part of the reason is those big, juicy, tropical aromas and flavors create an impression of sweetness.

I’m no more interested in fruit bombs than I am bitter bombs.

So I was delightfully surprised last Friday when we dropped by the Virginia Beer Company in Williamsburg after the first session of Ales Through the Ages. I think their grand opening is this Saturday, but they’ve been throwing open their doors for a series of soft openinngs.

Brewer Jonathan Newman’s beers are ready. I didn’t love every one of them. For me, Nelson Sauvin hops and saison yeast may never work together (I am probably in the minority). But the rye saison with Amarillo hops was sublime. Every one of the beers, even the one with Nelson Sauvin, was balanced and nuanced. And, for those of you keeping score at home, even though they are unfiltered every one of them poured bright.

But my favorite moment was after I’d tasted the IPA, Newman asked me if I thought it is bitter enough. It has all the flavor and aroma you expect in a 2016 IPA, but, yes, it is bitter enough.

Because foeders & indigenous

First foeders at New Belgium Brewing, 2000All About Beer posted a story yesterday about foeders (or foudres should you prefer the French spelling to the Dutch) and the Foeder for Thought Festival today in Florida.

I point to this primarily, to be honest, so I have an excuse to use this photo. I think I have posted it here before, but I like it. It was taken at New Belgium Brewing in June 2000. The brewery had recently taken delivery of its first four 60-barrel foeders (it now has 64, many of them larger). The tanks were outside because they were being swelled (filled with water) to make them beertight before they were filled.

This tank didn’t take to swelling all that well, and my back got soaked while I captured this image. Not long before New Belgium had put its first 2,000 hectoliter tanks (about 1,700 barrels, or twice what the average brewpub produces in a year) into place. They are in the background.

The AAB story features Foeder Crafters of America prominently. They are local*, and I wrote about them for Beer Advocate magazine last July. Their business has really taken off since Nathan Zeender of Right Proper Brewing and I visited them last April. That’s Nathan on the right in the photo below and Matt Walters of Foeder Crafters on the left.

Nathan and Phil Wymore from Perennial Ales* will be talking about foeders in one of the Salons at SAVOR in June. Here’s the whole skinny about Foeder Beer: A Search for Delicious, “Perennial Artisan Ales of St. Louis and Right Proper Brewing Co. of Washington, DC both use large oak foeders as a conduit for the expression of their house mixed-fermentation cultures. The goal is characterful beers with layers of complexity and charm. For the vast majority of the human endeavor of fermentation, wood vessels were the medium—these current-day foeder beers are really more revivalist than innovative. Taste the results of their experimentation with four unique beers.”

You can catch that and still have time for Indigenous American Beers – Past & Present at 9:30. Again, the description, “What did the first beers brewed in America taste like? Join Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and ‘Brewing Local’ author Stan Hieronymus as they provide insight into the beers Native Americans had been making for hundreds of years before Columbus arrived. Sample beers recreated from ancient recipes—once you try all three, Stan and Sam are sure you will agree that militant beer laws like the ‘Reinheitsgebot’ and pants are equally cumbersome and unnecessary. They invite you to wear a loincloth or one of those sweet brewer’s kilts to this seminar in a show of solidarity.”

Matt Walters, Foeder Crafters of American, Nathan Zeender Right Proper Brewing

* Perennial Ales is also local, meaning St. Louis, Missouri. I point this out because yesterday I was talking to a college student who noticed my cell has a New Mexico area code. I explained I live in St. Louis and he asked where St. Louis is located.

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