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What happens when clever beer grows up?

MONDAY BEER LINKS, MUSING 05.25.15

Cult breweries go global.
There’s this question from Joe Stange: “So, is BrewDog — which has branded itself ‘punk’ from the start — becoming the ‘McDonald’s of craft beer’?” and he quotes Tim Webb thusly, “Clever beer has outgrown its infancy and is becoming an attitudinally challenged adolescent.” A nice turn of phrase and I enjoy many of the beers I’m pretty sure Webb is talking about, but I’m still trying to decide how clever I want my beers. [Via DRAFT]

‘Craft’ beer’s pandemic of quality un-control?
Tom Cizauskas apologizes for “the breathless Buzzfeedy-ness of the title” of the post, but wants you to read it. In it he revisits the concern that when Brewers Association director Paul Gatza called out some brewers about the quality of beer he drank at a particular festival that it “could easily be read as an attack by big ‘craft’ on small ‘craft.'” A BA subcommittee since created the pyramid shown here (Gatza included it during the “state of the industry” presentation at the recent Craft Brewers Conference and it appeared in New Brewer, the publication for BA members earlier this year).

The Beer quality Priority Pyramid

The pyramid reflects things that Alastair Pringle has been telling decision makers at smaller breweries concerned with quality for the last several years. Pringle worked at Anheuser-Busch for 25 years before retiring in 2009. He teaches microbiology at a small college outside of St. Louis and consults with several relatively small breweries. He advocates a practical approach to beer quality — which could be focused on process improvement and control or beer flavor and stability — telling brewers to identify the major factors they can control. They don’t need to be using the same checklist as MillerCoors if they aren’t planning to ship their beer all over the universe.

“That’s usually seven or eight things, rather than making it very, very complicated,” Pringle says. When he worked at Anheuser-Busch, then CEO August Busch III famously demanded one-page solutions, so that people in production could easily implement them. “You didn’t get anywhere at A-B giving complicated talks where you looked clever.” And there’s that word again. [Via Yours For Good Fermentables]

CAMRA and Lager: Eurofizz or Pure Beer?
In its 44 years of existence, the Campaign for Real Ale has had a more complicated relationship with lager than cries of “fizzy piss” from some members might have you believe. Complicated, indeed, and a longish read worth saving to Pocket. [Via Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog]

Twelve Years Spent A-Writing About Good Beer.
I’m stealing this from Alan McLeod for my business card: “My hobby is writing about beer. And it serves a purpose. It allows me to play out ideas related to standards touching on research, value, ethics, clarity and human weakness that I apply in my job and the rest of my life.” Except for the part about it being a hobby. Hobby and craft. Should we be talking about their relationship? [Via A Good Beer Blog}

Beer Money: How Industry Dollars Go to Work.
This is the first of eight posts from Bryan Roth (a series that is just wrapping up). He explains this goal is to “share a compilation of data sourced from public record for major beer companies and organizations who all play a role in shaping the politics of beer.” The series (links at the bottom of each post) examines both individual brewing companies and organizations. [Via This Is Why I’m Drunk]

Washington drought may threaten future of craft brewers.
Come down off the ledge. It isn’t quite that scary. In fact, “For the most part this year’s crop is okay, next year’s yet to be determined.” But down the road, less water, lower yields. [Via KOMONews]

Snake Charming and Herding Cats.
A day in the life of Tyler Nelson, who sells beer in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina for Green Flash Brewing Company. [Via Beer Connoisseur]

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Post-Meantime sale thoughts: Mind the gap

MONDAY BEER LINKS, MUSING 05.18.15

1) Global giant in grab for Meantime.
2) Why Meantime sold up to SAB Miller – the inside story
3) Why SABMiller’s acquisition of Meantime is a good thing.
4) Meantime brewery: craft or industrial?
5) What Meantime means to us.
6) Raising the bar.
The most important story of the week, although it may not have been obvious on this side of the Atlantic. The first post includes the basic news. In the second, Martyn Cornell explains why it happened, and in the third Pete Brown suggests what it means. The fourth and fifth remind us there are thousands of small pictures as well as the Big Picture. The last word goes to Meantime founder Alastair Hook gets the last word (6).

Aside from my own musing, of course. Brown writes, “I don’t think there should be a huge gulf between craft and mainstream.” On one level, this seems to be happening in the United States. Large brewing companies are expanding their portfolios, either by making a wider range of beers or acquiring breweries that do. Newer breweries that want to grow bigger are paying plenty of attention to efficiency and consistency. What’s different than much of the twentieth century is there’s room for other breweries, ones purposely less efficient. There are myriad reasons, so I will leave it there.

New Belgium expressed interest in buying Elysian before Anheuser-Busch deal.
I missed this one a week ago Friday (these things happens on four-brewery days), but worth your time. Pair it with the next story. [Via Denver Post]

First Beverage Founder: Flood of Craft Deals Forthcoming.
“I think there could easily be 25 more transactions in the next 12 to 15 months,” says the CEO of an investment and advisory firm. “The business of craft beer is going to radically change.” [Via Brewbound]

Enough business. Some agriculture:

Here’s how much water it takes to make California’s craft beer.
Growing the barley and hops to make just one gallon of beer requires 590 gallons of water. [Via Quartz]

Local Grains: Farm To Bakery Bread Is Hot.
“Leaps forward in decentralizing the production of staple crops don’t register as significant, not yet. But the more that bakers seek local flour, and the more that farmers seek noncommodity marketing options, the more consumers will learn to understand and appreciate the small food mountains people are moving.” [Via Zester Daily]

Postscript

Musing here previously mentioned a story about the etymology of the term “craft beer” that I wrote for All About Beer [print version]. AABM has now posted it online.

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Drinking too fast? A few trivial beer links to slow that

MONDAY BEER LINKS, MUSING 05.11.15

In their weekly Saturday roundup of beer links, Boak & Bailey write, “It seems rather trivial to be thinking, reading and writing about beer in the week of a general election …” That’s dangerous thinking, because that might be true every week.

I am so fucking bored by the beer discourse of 2015.
Rants, bar fights and strip clubs. Maybe it’s time to become a wine drinker.
Pete Brown tweeted “Here’s a post which shows why you shouldn’t read social media after a nice evening’s drinking and then blog about it” and his rant lives up to it. Sentences liked this are to be treasured: “And the fucking definition of craft beer debate lumbers on like a zombie, eating the brains of talented people who could otherwise be writing something inspirational, or at least interesting.” A bit of disclosure — I’m quoted in the second link, but Roger Baylor has always expected more out of beer and expecting more of out beer is a concept that shouldn’t be forgotten. [Via Pete Brown and The Potable Curmudgeon]

Brew Talks Chicago: Defining What it Means to Be Small and Local.
This story doesn’t, to be honest. But it gives me an excuse to quote DH Harrison of Country Boy Brewing in Lexington. I was in Kentucky last week, learning a lot about how Kentucky Common was brewed a hundred years ago. The topic of local came up again and again. OK, some of that was my fault. However, I was talking to Daniel Sinkhorn at Country Boy about the challenges of brewing with local chestnuts while Harrison was engaged in a separate conversation and I heard him say, “I want to hire a county guy.” That’s how you stay local. [Via Brewbound}

As I commented on Twitter, things were a lot simpler when Mr. Golding named his hop.

Spiking Beer: As Intended, As Brewed?
If you follow Jeremy Danner on Twitter you will occasionally feel his pain when somebody runs a Boulevard beer through some sort of device to make it “better.” I agree on one level with Danner’s thoughts and what Oliver Gray writes about adultering beer, but I also remember that “craft beer” is part of what is referred to as “maker culture.” Consumers are the paying participants in what Colin Campbell describes as “craft consumption.” [Via Literature & Libation]

Drink beer too quickly? Opt for straight glasses, not curved.
In one experiment, those who had straight glasses were 60 per cent slower to consume alcoholic beverages than those drinking from curved glasses. In another, drinkers took more time to exmpty a curved glass with measurements of a quarter, half and three quarters marked on the side. But here’s my favorite line from the story: “The speed at which beer is drunk can have a direct effect on the level of intoxication experienced.” [Via The Telegraph].

Beer-fueled fight in Fairfax prompts officials to look at state farming law.
Shouldn’t the story address if the name of the proposed business — Loudmouth Brewery — was part of the problem? In an event, farm/brewery, lovely concept, but apparently not a slam dunk. [Via The Washington Post]

‘Bourbon Empire’ Reveals The Smoke And Mirrors Of American Whiskey.
“‘The term ‘craft’ is little more than an ambiguous buzzword,’ [Reid] Mitenbuler writes in a new book, Bourbon Empire: The Past and Future of America’s Whiskey. Behind all the craft buzz, Mitenbuler says, are actually just some ‘carefully cultivated myths’ created by an industry on a roll. According to Mitenbuler, many of the newer bourbon brands are actually just spinoffs of factory brands… But you’d never know, since they’re packaged to appear different, smaller and therefore more rare.” And you thought contract brewers took a few liberties. [Via the salt]

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But, Stan, where are the feel-good beer links?

MONDAY BEER LINKS, AND SAD SHAKING OF THE HEAD, 05.04.15

Lake Louie’s Craft Beer Week event at strip club prompts brouhaha.
I suppose you could file this under “Will they ever learn?” Lake Louie owner/brewmaster Tom Porter actually said this: “If we take this all too seriously we’ll be in trouble. This is a fun, emerging new industry and I’ve seen it get to where there’s a lot of beer snobs out there.” I can only repeat what I wrote two weeks ago about this total lack of awareness when it comes to treating women as objects.

Last week the attention turned to boneheaded marketing for Bud Light. It’s astonishing how many people signed off on “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” before it made it onto Bud Light labels. And stories that followed generated these tweetable facts:

– On the current management team, as listed on the company’s Web site, 13 of 14 members are men. Overall at the company, 17 percent of full-time, salaried Anheuser-Busch employees are women, a 2014 company report shows. That’s down from 29 percent in 2011.
– The slogan was among 140 different sayings printed on bottles as part of the brand’s “Up For Whatever” campaign. Most of them are trivial, like “the perfect beer for when you’re eating breakfast meats outside of breakfast hours.”
– Bud Light’s “buzz” score fell from 6 on Monday to zero as of Thursday morning, according to the YouGov BrandIndex, which measures daily brand consumer perception. The average score for domestic beers is currently 4. Among women, Bud Light fell from a 5 to -3.
– There were 45,600 tweets about Bud Light from 12 a.m. on April 28 through 12 p.m. on April 30, compared with 3,900 tweets during the same period the previous week.
– At last year’s “Whatever USA” event held in Crested Butte, Colo., about 37,000 pieces of content were created, including thousands of pieces of user-generated content shared over social media, reaching 15 million consumers.

Live by the social media sword, die by the social media sword. [Via The Cap Times & other outlets]

Over a Barrel: The Rising Cost for a Specialty Beer.
Reporter’s Notebook: Why I Wanted to Write About Barrels.
As Oliver Gray put it on Twitter, “Answering a ton of questions I’ve had about barrel-aging beer (some I didn’t even know I had).” And that was before the second of Bryan Roth’s two posts. I will only add a bit of math. A typical wine barrel holds 59 gallons, or about 629 12-ounce servings, while a typical bourbon barrel has a 53-gallon (565 12-ounce servings) capacity. Consider those numbers when you calculate what a $50 or $80 or $225 increase in barrel prices means for the single bottle you are buying. [Via This Is Why I’m Drunk]

So this tweet seems appropriate

Trouble brewing between Great Dane and Madison Craft Beer Week organizers.
Yikes, Lake Louie wasn’t the only one ruffling feathers during Madison Beer Week. In a story before the event organizer Jay Glazer said, “(Madison) has gone from being a fairly standard beer oriented market to a very adventurous beer market. When I first got here it was Great Dane and Capital and that was about it.” He went on to praise new, very small breweries for “doing such strange and creative things with beer that simply didn’t exist in 2006.” In a statement on its Facebook page, Great Dane wrote that this speaks “to the same unsettling trend in America’s craft beer movement, where breweries whose ‘raison d’être’ is to only make extreme beers, are shown more appreciation than those who take a more even-keeled approach.” [Via The Cap Times]

1) MillerCoors Slapped with Class Action Suit.
2) A Flood of Lawsuits, and Too Much Blue Moon Beer.
3) How Blue Moon made ‘craft beer’ meaningless.
4) Being Keith Villa.
5) Column: Blue Moon class action suit confuses the issues.
6) Blue Moon: Peter, Paul & Mary or Trini Lopez?

The first two links include the basic information about the class action suit that led to giggling in some quarters, astonishment in others, and that assures we will once again be drowning in the “what is craft?” discussion that will not die. In fact, in #5 Joe Stange writes, “Do we really need to have this conversation again?” … but dashes off a quick 1,197 words. I posted #6 almost eight years ago, and the topic was not at all new then. In addition, there is a missing link, a story that appeared in the March issue of All About Beer magazine that examines the origins and use of the term “craft beer” as it has evolved during the last 30 years in the United States. There were avenues I started down in researching the story — such as what elements of the Arts and Craft movement relate to “craft beer” — that could grenerate endless bar arguments. I understand how that works. I don’t know how many thousands words have been spilled here, but I suspect that none of them are new any more.

Put another way, I don’t have anything to add except a whimsical thought. Three years ago, when I visited Colorado for the interviews that resulted in #4, Villa said, “We don’t pay attention to those (craft) definitions.” But Pete Coors, chairman of MillerCoors, was not at all shy about talking about how angry the Brewers Association definition made him because he considered Blue Moon a craft beer. In #3, an interview conducted before the class action suited was filed but amazingly timely, Villa said, “I’ve always considered us a craft brewery from the day I started Blue Moon to even now and in the future.”

So what happens if this class action suit moves along? Could there come a time that MillerCoors and Blue Moon turn to an “absolute defence” (explaining they call Blue Moon a “craft beer” because think it is)? In which case it could be up to the court to decide what is “craft beer.” Like that would settle anything. [Via multiple sources]

Finally, another tweet that seems relevant

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Russian River Brewing funk, then & now

OCTOBER 2006

Russian River, funky carboys (2006)

APRIL 2015 (Photo via The Verge)

Russian River Brewing, funky kegs

“Spoiled rotten: how breweries are trying to spot bad beer through DNA” is about a testing kit called the BrewPal that is designed to quickly identify specific types of Pediococcus and Lactobacillus bacteria that can quickly destroy a batch of beer. The story is full of science, but explained in a way that even I can understand.

One of the photos with the story, of a worker dosing beers with Russian River Brewing’s blend of funk that turns beers like Temptation and Supplication into what they are, made me think of the one at the top. It was taken at the Russian River brewpub in Santa Rosa in 2006, before the production brewery was built. Russian River co-founder Vinnie Cilurzo stashed his carboys full of funk in a corner of the tiny barrel room at the brewpub.

Notice the boombox on the left. Cilurzo said his father used to play Frank Sinatra in the winery where he, Vinnie, literally grew up. The son continued the music tradition, but his funk travels to the beat of a different drum.

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