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The many sides of the Budweiser story


Perhaps I may have missed something that would totally change my life during 8 mostly Internet-free days before Saturday. But it’s one thing to wade through hundreds of Feedly headlines; it would another to consider reaching that far back in Twitter (is “in” even the right preposition?) to feel really caught up. Instead, I found a series of links that somehow seem related.

Lagers Enjoy a Renaissance.
Remember when The New York Times reviewed a ranked a bunch of beers in a particular “style” that a bunch of commentary followed in the online beer space? (“Craft beer in the New York Times! Craft beer in the New York Times! They’ve noticed!”) Perhaps this happened a week-and-plus back and I just missed it because I was packing and then, in fact, gone, but it barely registered in the places I was looking as I was playing catch up. Granted, the premise was a bit confusing; “sunshine, baseball, beer” – lagers, but not pilsners, and not beers made with cereal adjuncts. [Via The New York Times}

Don’t call it a Renaissance; we’ve been here for years.
I might have missed the Times article were it not for email from Anheuser-Busch about Peter Wolfe’s post in what it calls its “newsroom.” This is an A-B blog and Wolfe works for A-B. But once in a while it is refreshing to read the straight up A-B side of the story, not sugar-coated by some pretense of balance. Speaking of balance, consider something Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting said in an interview last week: “I’m also someone who believes that bias exists in every expression, including the most objective pieces of journalism.” Anyway, what follows will make more sense if you take the time to read what Wolfe writes. [Via Anheuser-Busch]

Why Macro Beers Suck So Much.
This is the other side of the story. Quite frankly, not told as well. For instance, these two statements seem to be in conflict:

– “(AB InBev equips) these folks with the most expensive equipment and technology, and they probably have the best quality control of any food manufacturer in the world.”
– “Generally, high gravity brewing makes a weaker tasting and smelling beer with more off-flavors, and has a high potential for quality problems.”

I am not a fan of high gravity brewing, but not because I think the result is more fusel alcohols and excessive ester production (see statement #1). I’m also not a fan of several other blankets statements here, but the 1,400 or so words illustrate how a lot of people who take the time to think about Budweiser think about the beer. [Via KC Beer Blog]

Beer Flavors Are Not That Subtle.
Both the email I received from A-B and Wolfe’s blog post included a link to Budweiser’s Blind Taste Test video. Jeff Alworth has a different view of what was basically a commercial (that part, that it was a commercial, we agree on) than I. He writes, “The ad is structured to suggest that these are sophisticated drinkers who would normally be ordering Dogfish Head, Sixpoint, or Brooklyn Brewery’s beers, and that merely recontectualizing Bud is enough to put it in their camp.” I didn’t get any feel for what these people usually drink. The video pretty obviously was not shot with my senses in mind and I’m simply not prepared to watch it a third time to get to know these people better. I am prepared to believe that if you tell people you are giving them a special beer and don’t tell them the name they might like Budweiser. Particularly if their previous pale lager experience is based on Bud Light or Miller Lite or Coors Light (and it increasingly is — don’t forget, 44 percent of 21- to 27-year-old drinkers today have never tried Bud). It has more flavor. Not as much as anything from Dogfish Head or even as much as Budweiser not long ago. But there are subtle aromas and flavors. Telling a drinker a beer is special provides an invitation to go looking for those. [Via Beervana]

The lager picture.
This map of the world showing each country’s favorite beer does not paint a pretty picture. And it leads in nicely to the question in the next link.[Via The Economist]

What should our national beer be?
Here “our” is Britain. But I think somebody — not me — should organize a poll to determine the U.S. National Beer. [Via The Beer Cast]


More hops, because, maybe, more West Coast IPAs


Procedural note. We are on holiday. This was written last week (so pardon any overlaps with Boak & Bailey) and appears today through the wonders of technology. I have turned comments off because although I trust that everybody would remain civil in my absence maybe I don’t, really.

Heaps more hops.
Hops Products Australia is going to spend about $10 million US to expand production by 50 percent over the next three years. Every hop helps, but some perspective: Australian farmers harvested just north of 1,000 acres last year, so if all of Australian production were to grow 50 percent that would be 500 more acres. Farmers in the American Northwest are adding more than 5,000 acres in 2015, and it will cost a lot more than $10 million. No flag waving here, just noting how fast demand for “aroma” hops has exploded. This is HPA’s “first significant capital investment in land, plant and equipment in 20 years” simply because demand didn’t warrant it before. Australians grow some lovely hops. I’ve only had the newest, Enigma, in a couple of beers, but it seems to have a bright future. [Via The Crafty Pint]

Young and Old – How We’ve Grown: The Darwin Link pt II.
The Pub: Where Grown-Ups Make Friends.
New York: Last Bar Seat, Allen Street Pub, Albany.
Snugs. Taprooms. Dark milds. Sitting among houses on a side street. Friends made. These things all still exist. [Via Beer Compurgation, Boak & Bailey, A Good Beer Blog]

Understanding farmhouse ale.
I was already thinking Lars should write the “Indigenous Beer: Brittany to the lower Volga, from the Alps to the Arctic Circle” book. “Beer in the farmhouse context was a lot more than just an alcoholic drink, in that it played a number of deeply important roles in social and religious life.” Video above a fascinating look at farmhouse brewing in Russia. [Via Larsblog]

You’re drinking your beer too cold – and here’s why.
Long time ago, like before Miller Lite was available nationally, when I worked nights about once a week we’d leave the office for our mid-shift meal. When we went to a place that served beer, which was likely Pabst, one member of our group would immediately order two beers after he was seated. He did not do this so the second beer would be at a proper temperature — an approach suggested in this story — but because in his experience it always took too long for the second beer to arrive. In fact, I’m pretty sure his second never had time to reach the “proper” drinking temperature. [Via Chicago Tribune]

A Disruptive Influence?
Ah, yes. The elephant in the room. Cue Jason Isbell.
[Via Boak & Bailey]

How the West Coast-Style IPA Conquered the World.
Stories like this always make me wonder where Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale, first brewed in 1992, fits in the converstation. And reminds me that Bell’s brewed a beer it called Big Head for the 2008 Craft Brewers Conference in San Diego and called it a “San Diego Ale.” [Via First We Feast]

German Craft Beer at the Crossroads? Beer Observations 2015.
If Germany really is at a crossroads, then it all happened much faster than here in the US. My guess is the conversation has just started. Oh, yeah, and I found this thought particularly interesting, “Hamburg is steadily approaching equal footing with Berlin quantitatively, and in qualitative terms may even have already nosed ahead.” [Via Mixology]

Full Sail Sells to Private Equity Firm — What Does it Mean?
A bit of logistics I hadn’t considered: the fact that a private equity firm bought Full Sail meant there was no brewery (as there would be if a large entity like Anheuser-Busch had come knocking) “means that they need all our employees.” There are multiple big pictures to consider, including the future of good size brewing companies (like Full Sail). But one picture should be clear. Local breweries are not in danger. One hundred and fifty-nine brewpubs opened nationwide last year, the most since 1997. Private equity firms are not going to be taking them over. They are often small, and some will go out of business because local businesses do. Kind of like hamburger joints (threw that one in for Joe Stange). But others will open. [Via All About Beer]

How Lagunitas dodged a drug bust to become a craft beer powerhouse.
A lovely long read, and just in time for St. Patrick’s Day. [Via Mashable]

Session #98 announced: Cans or bottles?

The SessionHost Nathan Pierce has posted the topic for The Sessions #98: Cans or Bottles? It is pretty simply:

What’s your perspective?

Will you write from the consumer point of view? From which kind of packaging do you prefer to drink beer? Why do you prefer that packaging?

Will you write from a manufacturer perspective? How do you want your brand portrayed? Which packaging suits your beer best?

Will you write from a distributors perspective? Which packaging do you prefer to transport and stock at retail locations?

Hope to read what you have to say on April 3.


The ‘sweetening’ of American IPA


Last week I promised to find links related to actually drinking beer. Plenty to choose from if you pay a bit of attention.

No Man Loves Life Like Him That’s Growing Old.
“The back room and bar were heaving when we arrived and squeezed into the hatched snug on the right as you enter. It gives you a kind of railway tunnel view of proceedings. There was a geriatric karaoke in full swing. At the far end an oldish guy on an electronic music box was squeezing out old time tunes accompanied by even older types giving it laldy on the microphone.” [Via Tandleman’s Beer Blog]

Changing tastes of IPA.
“But after sinking my first half pint of Beavertown’s uber-fresh Bloody ‘Ell on its launch day, something crystallised in my mind immediately. US IPAs are very sweet.” And, “The more I reflect on the beers I had in DC last month, the more I realised that the majority of them had so much of that sickly barley sugar flavour in the background, in some cases it was almost overwhelming the hops despite the beers being fresh.”

I’m not sure everybody would describe such beers as sweet, but myself I share the anti-crystal bias. And I think back to 2006 and Vinnie Cilurzo talking about when the Russian River Brewing production facility would come on line. He said that anybody who worked for him must “understand the beers are defined and have our signature. They must be bone dry – that can’t change. The new brewer suggests adding crystal, ‘You’re fired!'” That was before fruit-forward hops such as Citra, Mosaic and El Dorado hops were available. Alone they don’t have to make a beer sweet, but couple them with a bit too much crystal and a lack of firm bitterness and you get sweet. However, that’s only some American IPAs. Not La Cumbre Brewing Elevated IPA, Fat Heads Head Hunter, Firestone Walker Union Jack, Russian River Blind Pig, Schlafly AIPA, Half Acre Senit. The list of firmly bitter beers is pretty long. [Via Crema’s Beer Odyssey, h/T Boak & Bailey]

The beer that changed my life.
“The golden liquid was strangely bitter to my inexperienced palate, but there was a rich sweetness to it as well. The taste grew on me, litre by litre, until by the end of the trip I was a lager drinker. I remember carrying ten bottles home in my luggage.” [Via I might have a glass of beer]

Up and coming beer destinations?
Lars Marius Garshol picks Vilnius. “To most people, farmhouse ale is the same as saison and biere de garde. Two hours in Vilnius is enough to destroy that illusion for ever. Uniquely in the world, apart from Belgium, Lithuania has not just preserved its ancient farmhouse brewing culture, but managed to commercialize it. There are at least 15 breweries in Lithuania brewing beers that are either real farmhouse ale in the Lithuanian tradition, or to some degree commercialized versions of farmhouse ale.” [Via larsblog]

The Craft Beer Series.
“I’m stuck in two beer series right now: Bell’s Planetary series and Victory’s Moving Parts. When a new component of either series pops up on the shelf, I buy it. Neither series is wowing me in the way Lilyhammer did in the beginning of season 2 with its pop cultural references (Animal House, Godfather). Neither series has me wondering how it will all wrap up in the end as we debated Breaking Bad’s conclusion (we knew, though, that Walter White would go down in a glorious manner; we just didn’t know how). Still, I can’t quit the series. I’ve started it. I’m a part of it. I have to see it through.” [Make Mine Potato]

An Overflowing River Of New York Beer.
“I had 15 beers across 12 breweries in three different NY beer bars and one bottle shop. I had beers from big breweries, small breweries, new breweries and old(er) breweries.” {Via BeerGraphs]

Luck of the draw.
“Definitely a mixed bag, then. Proof that raffles are not the ideal way to source new beers.” [Via The Beer Nut]


Session #97: Farms and farmhouse beers

The SessionHost Brett Domue of Our Tasty Travels has asked contributors to write about “Up-and-Coming Beer Locations” for The Session 97. The challenge here is that so many destinations seem like they recently up and came. After all, Beer Advocate magazine is coming up on its 100th issue and it features a different beer destination, presumably one that has arrived, each month. Pretty soon I expect they’ll be focusing on neighborhoods instead of entire cities.

So instead of a single destination I’m going to suggest that rural breweries are “up and coming.” They might be in farmhouses or barns, but not necessarily. They might brew what are called farmhouse ales and they might not. They might be the sort of place you could get lost trying to find after you hear the dreaded “GPS signal lost” message. And they definitely reflect their environment.

A few days ago Food Republic tackled the notion of “Deciphering Craft Beer Terminology: Farmhouse Vs. Farm Brewing.” I guess that matters if you are standing in a store looking at a bottle and wondering what to expect the beer inside to taste like based on a bit of information on the label. Visiting these places eliminates the guesswork. And makes the beer taste better, because it isn’t always a matter of what’s in the glass.

I’d like to think that I’ll visit lots more of these in the coming months, because many are using local ingredients that will be part of “Indigenous Beer: American Grown.” Realistically, I’ll get to some, and I already know the next one. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about here are five of interest.

Tap handle at Jester King Brewing

Jester King Brewery is featured in the Food Republic story. Almost two million people live in the Austin area, so this it not exactly out of the way compared to the next two breweries, but it far enough from town to shift gears.

Patio at Scratch Brewing

Scratch Brewing in southern Illinois — it is as cool as it looks in this video. Stick around for the discussion of Paw Paws. The brewery is located on the edge of several acres of woods, the beers made with both foraged and cultivated ingredients, many of the latter grown beside the brewery.

Piney River Brewing - inside the barn

When you get to the sign that says something about a gravel road two miles ahead you know you are getting close to Piney River Brewing, about an hour south of Rolla, Mo. The brewery is located in a refurbished barn (I posted a picture of the outside a few weeks ago). “Farmhouse ales” are not part of the regular lineup, but some beers are made with local ingredients. They are celebrating their fourth anniversary tomorrow, should you be in a mood to drive on a few gravel roads.

Dave Logsdon, Logsdon Farmhouse Ales

Dave Logsdon (above) and Charles Porter brew Logsdon Farmhouse Ales in the barn on Logsdon’s 10-acre Oregon farm where he started Wyeast (which he sold in 2009). The farm is about a 20-minute drive south of Hood River, where Logsdon will open a tasting room in May. There are cherry trees, friendly animals and a splendid view of Mount Hood.

Dave's BrewFarm, the brewery system

Dave’s BrewFarm in Wisconsin, about an hour east of the Twin Cities, is still for sale. For a half million dollars you get this seven-barrel brewing system, a 10-gallon pilot system, a house to live in, a 35-acre farm (most of it to be rented to local farmers), a half-acre vegetable garden that could be expanded, a 20kW wind generator (as well as geothermal for heating and cooling), a pole barn and greenhouse. And very nice views. Dave Anderson and wife open the tasting room, basically inside the brewery and below the living area, about twice a month. His beers include some with ingredients from the garden and some with yeast sourced from Belgium. “(It) expands what beer can be and maybe (is about) what it was,” Anderson said.


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