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Beer links and questions: Are smaller breweries winning or losing?


Can Big Beer Really Make Great Beer?
[Via Punch]
Meet The Brewer Who Could Create the Next Bud Light.
[Via Wall Street Journal]
Bud Sour Ale Must Be Stopped.
[Via Gizmodo]
Lisa Derus, who does PR for Anheuser-Busch, had a really good week. Both Punch and The Wall Street Journal profiled Research Pilot Brewery brewmaster Rob Naylor. So I guess he had a pretty good week as well. On the other hand, Adam Clark Estes, who wrote the opinion piece for Gizmodo, seemed to be in genuine pain.

In the Punch article, Aaron Goldfarb asks the bar stool topic question that’s been around forever. It requires defining “great” and it seems he and I would not agree. He writes, “Great beer is bold, it’s risky, and it’s usually challenging. It takes drinkers places they’ve never been before—it’s not just a facsimile of something that has already been proven ‘great.'” Arguably this is just me choosing a beer that is not “great,” but I don’t always wants a beer that is bold, risky or challenging. More important, though, part of what makes a beer great is not that it takes me some place I’ve never been before but that is comes from a place (where I may well have been).

However, not just a facsimile of something that has already been proven “great” rings true for me. By chance, Thursday (the day both articles popped up online) the monthly meeting of the St. Louis chapter of the Master Brewers Association of the Americas was at Anheuser-Busch. As the stories note, the Biergarten at the brewery now has a single tap for one of the Underground Beers. We were in a separate room where Naylor, who is the outgoing president of the chapter, had six Underground Beers on tap along with Shock Top, Bud, Bud Light and other familiar choices. One was an IPA, and chances are pretty good there won’t be an A-B IPA soon — they own plenty of breweries already selling lots of IPA. None of the other five tasted like a gimmick. And, back to important, none of them was derivative. I’m lousy at predictions, so I will leave it at that observation.

America now has more breweries than ever. And that might be a problem.
Also last week, Jeff Alworth pointed out that in 2005 breweries that produced 15,000 barrels or more made 64% of what’s classified as craft beer and in 2014 they made 79%. That doesn’t look all that great for smaller breweries, does it? But Alan McLeod offered an ugly diagram (his words, but I don’t disagree) and concluded, “Craft as they describe it might well be over. It’s certainly not rising. The small and confident are. The macro industrial buyers of big craft are.” [Via The Washington Post]

Golden Road Brewery founder on why the brand was sold and what’s next.
“We didn’t have a single conversation about selling the brewery before August [2015],” said founding partner Tony Yanow. “There was not a thought about selling until then.” [Via Los Angeles Times]


Inside the world of beer league hockey.
Beer league hockey is a real thing. And it turns out St. Louis is getting a hockey-themed brewery, Center Ice Brewing Co. [Via DRAFT]

Humulone for the Soul — Cloudwater Brew Co. in Manchester, UK.
“This semi-large startup brewery model that’s fairly common in the U.S. is practically unheard of in the UK. And the trouble with us Brits is that as soon as we see one poppy growing taller than the rest of the crop, we want to cut it down to size.” [Via Good Beer Hunting]

The Bermondsey Beer Mile.
“With lots more beer to come I decided not to finish this one, which did lead to the idea of using a scientific system for scoring the breweries. As with pubs, it would be a binary system, with 1 for if the beer was finished, and 0 if it wasn’t.” [Via Ed’s Beer Site]


Twitter has also told me Jeff Alworth has an article in the current All About Beer magazine about the Reinheitsgebot, which you’ll hear lots more about in 2016 because its 500th anniversary is a big deal. But the mailman hasn’t delivered by copy. (Click on the time stamp to read more of the thread.)


Trends, naked ambition and other weekly beer links


Why Farm-to-Keg Brewing is the Next Big Beer Trend.
I have a rooting interest here — one chapter in “Brewing Local” is about breweries on farms and the connection they make with drinkers. But some perspective is needed. Lickinghole Creek Brewing, which makes some terrific beers, may have sold about 3,000 barrels last year, but grew enough hops to use in a single batch. [Via Eater]

The Bare Minimum Number of Pubs.
“Thesis: any settlement — a village, estate or neighbourhood — needs, at the very least, two pubs.” [Via Boak & Bailey’s Beer Blog]

Professionalism, or The Role of the Blogger-The Comment
Geez, Louise, I hope this isn’t too complicated, but my favorite bit of reading this week was in a comment. So this link will take you directly to the comment. It’s worth your time to scroll back to the top for context.[Via Seeing the Lizards]

Did Wine Blogs Die Without a Funeral?
[Via Fermentation]
Pffft! That’s the sound of the wine blog bubble bursting.
[Via Steve Heimoff]
And while we’re on the topic of blogging, I’m not sure that searching for the term “beer blogs” is the best way to measure the interest in them, but here is a beer-wine comparison.

China Embraces Craft Beers, and Brewing Giants Take Notice.
“Other advertisements featured Budweiser Supreme being poured in a restaurant by a waiter wearing white gloves. In the summer, women in their 20s, wearing dresses with Corona or Budweiser logos and sometimes long white boots, were often seen milling around the bars and chatting with customers in the upscale Sanlitun area of Beijing.” [Via New York Times]

A Basel Brewery and its Beeronomics
Are craft beer and mass-produced beer complements or substitutes? And here’s why small Swiss breweries won’t be exporting their beer to Germany soon: “Our living standard in Switzerland is very high. We [Swiss] earn a lot so we can pay these prices. But when you go to Germany and offer a price like [you do] in Switzerland, they say that you’re stupid and it’s not possible.” [Via Huffington Post]

Here’s a crash course in craft beer marketing.
And one more about the business of beer. [Via MarketWatch]

Via Twitter

Click on the date to read the responses.


Lew’s back, and so are the Monday beer links


Craft Beer: Big Enough To Fail.
Lew Bryson has resumed blogging and manages to add some fresh thoughts to a topic that had my eyes glazing over. Not sure I agree, but he suggests that small brewers are now big enough to fail. But I do agree with this: “What should you do? Decide what’s important to you. Decide what you want your local market to look like. Decide if you’d rather have a steady, fresh supply of a few brands, or a dicey choice of small local guys who may or may not make what you want, which is going to depend on what your local guys are like. It’s your call.”
[Via See Through a Glass]

Announcing Typology Tuesday: A Session About Styles.
Jay does not do things half way. He’s laid out a plan, announced the first topic and date (barley wine, Jan. 26), and posted a style guide that is really much more than a style guide. More like a biography.
[Via Brookston Beer Bulletin]

Diamonds, dollars and digging for victory in Enfield: The story of AB Inbev’s takeover of Camden Town.
[Via Craft Beer London]
Has Camden Town Brewery ruined craft beer for everyone?
[Via The Guardian]
Highways to a ‘post craft’ world.
[Via Stuff]
For this: “With its buzzing brewery bar, excellent merchandise and astute link-ups with other fashionable breweries …, it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Camden is selling a lifestyle as much as a brewery. And historically drinkers are very attached to their local brewery, in the way they are to a local football team. It’s a stronger emotional attachment than you get with a supermarket or a bank.”
And this: “But, why? Why does CTB need to be ubiquitous in Britain, much less internationally? In any serious expansion of a brewery’s capacity, growth is talked about as if it is a self-justifying rationale. But – and this goes to the nub of the ethics around craft beer – beyond a certain point, growth is all about profit, not exciting beer.”
And this: “No matter how big you are, no matter who owns you, when the brewer decides what beer is to be made (and the rest of the company supports that sale, distribution and marketing of that) you’re on the right path whether I want to drink your beer or not.”

Bopping Around Friedrichshain. Or, Berlin-Style Surrealism.
A bit of Berlin’s indie beer scene.
[Via Thirsty Pilgrim]

The Worst Trade Ever.
So this is what it is like to be a beer trader?
[Via Make Mine Potato]

Can Homebrewers Predict the Future in Beer?
So how come they didn’t see Not Your Father’s Root Beer coming?
[Via American Homebrewers Association]

A ‘Definitive’ Guide to the Best Beer of 2015: The Breweries.
A ‘Definitive’ Guide to the Best Beer of 2015: The Beer.
[This Is Why I’m Drunk]
Blame me. I challenged Brian Roth to do this last year, and now he’d done it again.

Number of breweries in Europe 2009 – 2014.
Number of breweries in Europe 1956 – 2014.
[Via Shut Up About Barclay Perkins]
Schrödinger’s Brewery, or The Existential Difficulties of Counting Breweries.
[Via All About Beer]
New Brewery Numbers Do Not Tell the Whole Story.
A Long-Winded Way of Saying: Quit Counting Breweries.
[Via Beervana]
A lot of numbers. And be sure to read Martyn Cornell’s comment. There will be a quiz.

And speaking of numbers

Arguably the country’s premier beer event of January, or at least of the weekend just past, was the 16th Big Beers, Belgians and Barleywines Festival
in Vail, Colorado. No surprise that many members of the Brewers Association staff (the HQ is in Boulder) head to Vail (see below). But not economist Bart Watson. He went to work at the BA in mid-year of 2013, shortly after the numbers had been compiled for 2,347 breweries operating at the end of 2012. He probably didn’t know there’d be 4,144 by the end of 2015, and that they’d all be holding him hostage.

BIPS stands for Brewery Industry Production Survey. The results of the survey are published each year in the May/June issue of The New Brewer. Because most years I write a recap for one of the segments — this year it will be microbreweries — I’ve seen how hard it is to get brewers to report their numbers. There were probably more of them in Vail on Friday than there were at their desks completing the survey.

Session #107 recap posted

The SessionDan Conley has posted the recap for The Session No. 107: Are breweries your friends?

A lot of discussion about social media, which made me wonder what the answer would have been before social media. Of course, that also would mean before blogging . . .

But seriously, when breweries are part of communities isn’t there every chance that a brewer — granted, we’ve gone from talking about a business to talking about a person — and a drinker might be friends? Perhaps, even, that the drinker fixed the brewer’s refrigerator?

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