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Ground zero for beer?

Beer giantWhere is the center of the beer universe?

I ask that question because tomorrow I’m headed to Austin, Texas, for the Craft Brewers Conference. Hundreds of brewers will be there, the folks responsible for beers that are getting written about in the Wall Street Journal, Food & Wine magazine, Condè Nast’s new and stylish Portfolio and all sorts of surprising publications.

So will Austin be the center of the beer universe (or should that be Beer Universe?) the next few days?

Every other year judging for the World Beer Cup is held in conjunction with the Craft Brewers Conference. Then you’ve got more than 2,000 beers, plenty from outside the United States, and also brewers from around the world who’ve come to judge (and perhaps pick up medals at the awards ceremony). Those years it’s even easier to argue that CBC is at the center of the beer universe.

For instance, next year the CBC/World Cup combo will dance in San Diego. Some folks in San Diego would argue the region might already be some sort of beer epicenter, so they have no doubt about April of 2008.

This is probably a rhetorical question, although you are welcome to suggest an answer.

20 Responses to Ground zero for beer?

  1. Anonymous April 17, 2007 at 11:13 am #

    Get serious. Belgium is the center of anybody’s Beer Universe.

  2. SteveH April 17, 2007 at 12:09 pm #

    Speak for your nameless self, my center wavers between Madison, WI and Munich, Bavaria — with many side-slips in-between!

  3. Stan Hieronymus April 17, 2007 at 2:13 pm #

    Steve – As you may know Google maps is delivering funky directions for travel to Europe this days.

    In this case, go to Google, then maps, then type get directions and put in Madison, WI and Munich, Germany. Scroll down to No. 19.

    Let me know what you beer you’ll need to restore your spirits after that swim.

  4. Stonch April 18, 2007 at 2:57 am #

    There is no centre of the beer universe – beer is the world’s favourite alcoholic drink, and good beer is almost everywhere!

    And anyway, we don’t even spell the word the same way (center/centre, that is)!

  5. Steve Beaumont April 18, 2007 at 5:18 am #

    Stan, this strikes as just a wee bit jingoistic, doesn’t it? I mean, the centre of the beer universe? (Yes, we Canadians spell it the same way as does Stonch and pretty much the rest of the English-speaking world.) Even during the World Beer Cup — and I can write whole articles about that exercise, oh, wait, I already have — the international representation at the CBC doesn’t even begin to equal what one would see at, say, VinItaly or VinExpo.

    No one would deny that great things are happening in beer in the United States, but that’s also true of New Zealand, the U.K., Belgium, Japan and numerous other places. Having many of the brewers — not even the majority of them, not even close, in fact — converge in one place, even a place in the United States, does not make it the centre of the beer universe. Not by a long shot.

  6. SteveH April 18, 2007 at 5:19 am #

    Stan, after 3,462 miles, I’m thinking a nice Schneiderweiß with a Munchner Frustuck would hit the spot — but there’s that whole trek across Spain and France to contend with first…

    Stonch, let’s not even get into the aluminum debate! 😉


  7. Stonch April 19, 2007 at 3:03 am #

    Isn’t aluminum one of those (mercifully rare) cases where the American-English spelling and pronounciaton actually predates the standard English version? As for missing out your “u”s and using “z” (pronounced “zed” by the way) in the wrong place, that’s just you lot being deliberately contrary.

    There’s no way the World Beer Cup is taken seriously outside of the US. Having said that, there doesn’t seem to be a truly international beer contest, nor is there ever likely to be. That doesn’t mean it won’t be a lot of fun at the CBC though – have a great time Stan.

  8. Stan Hieronymus April 19, 2007 at 5:22 am #

    I’m going with Stonch’s answer there is no universe. Straightforward.

    I think I was asking a question, not arguing for Austin or the CBC.

    If there is no centre (Bavaria, Belgium?) then I don’t have to ask if it could shift from one city to another.

    I will say, though, that the World Beer Cup is the best of the attempts at an international competition. And the years it is held CBC has a very international flavor – with a lot of brewers outside the US (but not many from the UK) taking it seriously.

  9. Loren April 19, 2007 at 10:11 am #

    Y’all are all wrong. It’s Santa Rosa, CA…duh.


  10. SteveH April 19, 2007 at 10:16 am #

    Zed? Zed’s dead hon, Zed’s dead. 😉

    *We’re* being deliberately contrary? Braces go on your teeth and suspenders on your pants Stonch, and we won’t even argue napkins on a public site! 😀


    Santa Rosa? They say y’all there?

  11. Stonch April 20, 2007 at 3:33 am #

    Now then fellas.

    I’ve said there’s no centre of the beer universe, something I sincerely believe to be true.

    Nonetheless, in the spirit of free and easy discussion, I want to ask why Bavaria is being suggested as one of the places one might consider a centre?

    As far as I can see it, Bohemia has as much claim as Bavaria, and in any event these days neither can compete with Belgium, England or indeed certain parts of the US for the richness of the beer scene…

  12. SteveH April 20, 2007 at 5:53 am #

    In word, Gemutlichkeit. 🙂

    Honestly though, I just threw Bavaria in there because it’s my favorite — there certainly are too many good places with good beer to focus any sort of center.

    You’ll notice my center covers close to 4,000 miles! Anywhere from New Glarus, WI to Salzburg, Austria.

    As far as beer scene competitions, and having experienced both London and Munich scenes, I think the Bavarians have a bigger culture around beer than the Brits. Sure, they both like their beers and the argument of whose is better will never die, but when a whole city population holds its beverage of choice and the amosphere around it (Bierhalls and Gartens and Fests) to near religious proportions, well — there’s no question who wins.

    Bohemia and Belgium may be as enthusiatic, but until I get the opportunity to visit I can’t comment.

  13. Stan Hieronymus April 20, 2007 at 5:49 am #

    Loren, Santa Rosa is getting a new brewery. Same brewer, though ;>)

    The Cilurzos have bought the old Dogfish Head 50-barrel system. Monday they sign a lease on a building. No six packs. Pliney and Blind Pig in some sort of bigger package (maybe not 22-ounce bottles).

    Yes, it is worth a story rather than a blog comment, so a story soon.

  14. Stan Hieronymus April 20, 2007 at 5:56 am #

    Stonch, I’m not voting for Bavaria but I think the argument would start with the history, the number of styles that originated there, Oktoberfest, the hop going regions, and other reasons I should know. In the 1880s they produced, and drank much of, something like 180 gallons for every man, woman and child.

    If we started with the premise there could be a centre, then we could track its historic movement. Pete Brown recently had a story in All About Beer magazine about Burton-On-Trent. Until then I don’t think I appreciated the size/volume of Burton at its height.

  15. Loren April 20, 2007 at 7:14 am #

    Russian River’s expansion was due to come…glad to see it’s finally public news.

    Bring on the bottled Blind Pig!

    BTW…do you happen to have video/audio of Vinnie’s recent speech RE: Jack McAuliffe @ the Conference in Austin?

  16. Stonch April 21, 2007 at 4:45 am #

    My problem with Bavaria is that, alhough there’s lots of enthusiasm for beer culture, the variety of the beer being produced can’t match England or Belgium.

    And I find it difficult to believe that beer is bigger news in Bavaria than it is in Bohemia … they drink beer anytime, anywhere!

  17. SteveH April 23, 2007 at 5:34 am #

    Oh, they do the same in Bavaria — seen it, done it.

    Hefeweizen, Helles, Dunkel, Pils, Keller, Maibock, Weizenbock, Doppelbock, Dunkelweizen, Oktoberfest, Rauchbier, Swarzbier… I think there’s variety enough to satisfy the tenacious beer hunter.

  18. Stonch April 23, 2007 at 6:38 am #

    Some of those styles – while indisputably different – are remarkably similar to one another, and some are used interchangeably for the same beers (dunkel/schwarzbier). Nonetheless, I take your point.

    I certainly need a trip to Bavaria very soon.

    I tried my first kellerbier last night – see here for my review –
    St Georgen Brau

  19. SteveH April 23, 2007 at 7:04 am #

    Dunkel and Schwarzbier are far from the same beer! Schwarzbier has more roasted malt bitterness in character, while Dunkel is smooth and sweet without being cloying.

    As far as any of the others I listed being “remarkably” similar, it’s all a matter of training your palate. Set a pils and helles in front of me in the same glass and I’ll pick each style with one sip — maybe even one sniff.

    And yes – St. Georgen is wonderful stuff, but I’m amazed to see you’ve never tried it before. You have a lot of catching up to do my friend! 😉


  20. SteveH April 23, 2007 at 7:40 am #

    Uh, that is same *type* of glass…

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