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Diversity, local, imagination; maybe they are related


It’s Memorial Day in America, so time to crank up James McMurtry and choose you beer wisely.

Local Brewers Defy the Lily-White Craft Beer Scene.
Cultivating Black Brew Culture Through Hip-Hop.
– This, “On May 12, a diverse crowd of around 100 people gather in Goodyear Arts for an exhibit called Mood: BLACK featuring visual art, live music and free drinks. In a back corner, folks gather around a table to try cups of Dat Dere or the Stokely Stout, two beers from Black Star Line Brewing, a black-owned brewing company based in Hendersonville.
     “Cut ahead by a few hours, on the afternoon of May 13, as people pour into a block on Louise Avenue for the opening of a new Catawba Brewing Co. location in the Belmont neighborhood between Plaza Midwood and NoDa. . . . While everyone seems to be enjoying themselves at each scene, there’s one striking difference between the two: despite Catawba’s location in a historically black neighborhood, there’s not a single black person to be seen among the hundreds of people there at around 5 p.m.”
– And this, “So what can Charlotte’s current brewery owners and regular patrons do to help change these preconceived cultural notions attached to Charlotte’s brewery culture? How can they help both budding and long-time black beer enthusiasts see breweries as a space of true leisure and relaxation for all?”
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A few beers no longer lost nor forgotten

Zebulon Artison Ales Biere Blanche du Lovain The most interesting beer (not just in a freak of nature way) I’ve tasted so far this year was Biere Blanche du Louvain from Zebulon Artisan Ales outside of Asheville, N.C. It wasn’t from a full-size batch nor was it packaged, so not a commercial release. But Mike Karnowski sent a couple of bottles, because he used Brewing With Wheat as a starting point for his recipe (which was about process as much as ingredients). I took some to share at lunch during a homebrew competition, and confirmed I’m not the only one amazed how much flavor a beer with 2% alcohol by volume can have. There’s more to say about it, but that’s another time.

Friday Karnowski rolls out what he describes as Zebulon’s most ambitious release yet, which given what he’s made in the first 15 months the brewery has been open and those bottles of Biere Blance du Louvain is setting the bar pretty high. The four pack is called “RELICS! Lost and Forgotten Beer Styles” and is dedicated to the musical “relics” that Ron Pattinson saw play live in the 1970s (Ramones, The Clash, Sex Pistols, The Damned).

Ron wrote about four styles included in a booklet that comes with each of the 400 hand-numbered box sets. He’ll be at the brewery in Weaverville on Sunday to talk about, you guessed it, lost and forgotten beer styles. It may be sold out by the time you read this (and linking to Facebook can be a challenge, but here goes). The four packs will be available at the brewery Friday and Saturday. The beers are:

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Beer links, musing 05.08.17: It’s different this time

Sour beer summit in St. Louis

On the Wicked Weed Brewing Purchase.
[Via Jester King Brewery]
What it’s like to work for a brewery that “sold out”
Watch the Hands, Not the Cards — The Magic of Megabrew.
[Via Good Beer Hunting]
If you somehow missed the news last week that AB InBev acquired Wicked Weed Brewing take a moment to google a few of those words. It happened. The reaction was swift, much of it like when AB InBev bought 10 Barrel Brewing, like when AB InBev bought Elysian Brewing, like . . . you know the drill. It’s happened enough that several bars were quicker to announce they’d no longer be serving Wicked Weed beer. At the same time, drinkers across the country asked if it was OK to be excited to think about Wicked Weed’s highly rated beers showing up in their hometowns — just as 10 Barrel and Elysian already have. In addition, DRAFT magazine and Good Beer Hunting posted insider written stories that told us something new. They both come from a point of view.

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It’s not easy being big

The challenges Big Craft™ faces are not unique to beer.

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published a story headlined “Big-Name Food Brands Lose Battle of the Grocery Aisle.” Pretty straightforward premise.

America’s packaged-food giants are losing the battle for retailers’ shelf space, complicating their efforts to break out of a yearslong slump.

Instead of promoting canned soup, cereal and cookies from companies like Kraft Heinz Co., Kellogg Co. and Mondelez International Inc., grocery stores are choosing to give better play to fresh food, prepared hot meals, and items from local upstarts more in favor with increasingly health-conscious consumers.

“We’ve got to maximize return on our shelf space,” said Don Fitzgerald, vice president of merchandising at Mariano’s, a Chicago grocery chain bought by Kroger Co. in 2015. Shoppers, he said, are drawn to steamy pasta at the store’s deli counter, rather than a box of dried macaroni with powdered cheese sitting on the shelf for weeks.

This follows a report last February about how larger companies are looking to smaller ones for, as the headline (“Big Food Looks to Startups for Ideas, Innovation”) suggests, news ideas.

Food giants are starting venture-capital funds to invest in startups focused on healthier and less-processed foods, betting the younger companies can teach them to be more entrepreneurial and innovative. Slow to recognize consumers’ shift toward those products, global titans have found themselves stuck in a rut. This week, Nestlé SA, the world’s largest packaged-food company, dropped its long-running sales-growth target for the next three years, saying it needs time to adapt to these fundamental changes in the industry.

“It’s hard for consumer companies to step out of what they’ve been locked into for 60 or 80 years,” said Ryan Caldbeck, founder and chief executive of CircleUp, a business that connects private-equity firms with food startups. CircleUp says large consumer-goods companies lost $18 billion in market share to smaller competitors between 2011 and 2015.

This might belong in the mix as well: “Hard times for Whole Foods: ‘People say it’s for pretentious people. I can see why'” It seems that eventually price matters even for authentic, or great, or “exquisitely selected” products.


ENDNOTE: When using the term Big Craft™ be sure to honor the the trademark — at least as long as Big Craft™ is relevant.

Beer links, musing 05.01.17: Blue collars & beer

Vinnie Cilurzo, Sam Calagione

Beer and Blue Collar Cities.
A scholar somewhere is probably getting close to publishing a related thesis. The premise of “working cities” is tricky, because weren’t all metropolises working cities when they were born? I’m not sure I ever thought of Chicago as a glamorous city (or to lean on Carl Sandburg: Hog Butcher for the World/Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat/Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler/Stormy, husky, brawling/City of the Big Shoulders) but the yuppie/hipster and beer question question Jeff Alworth poses continues to be provocative.

In 1985, Philadelelphia Inquirer food editor Gerry Etter wrote, “Today, beer is invited everywhere. It hobnobs with vintage wines and attends formal parties, it slides effervescently into crystal glasses held by long-gowned hostesses.” This caused another writer for the Inquirer to counter, “I’ve never hobnobbed in my life (and if I did, it was only once and with a consulting adult), and I don’t intend to start now. One doesn’t hobnob while drinking beer, one shoots the bull.” Thirty years later this has not been resolved.

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