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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”
[Via DRAFT]
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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The Session #123: All along the information superhighway

Four Corners

The topic for The Session #123 is Cyberbrew – Is the Internet Helping or Hurting Craft Beer?

That’s a pretty easy question to answer. But I’ll leave it to Steve Hindy in The Craft Beer Revolution.

The internet has arguably been the greatest ally of the craft beer revolution. Daniel Bradford, the former marketing director of the Association of Brewers (AOB), and now publisher of All About Beer magazine, recalls surveying Zymurgy readers in 1986.

“I sent out a survey to try to figure out, other than homebrewing, what books did I have—how could I talk to these people, how can I find more people like them to read Zymurgy,” he said. “And other than [that the overwhelming majority were] white, middle-aged guys, twenty-five to forty-five [the sruvey showed] almost 100 percent had a personal computer. This is in the eighties . . . . The home-brew revolution was simultaneous with the personal computer revolution, and I’m convinced it continues to this day with all these bloggers and social media.”

Host Josh Weikert expects more of an answer (for instance to questions like, “How are beer reviews affecting what gets brewed and drank?”) so head to his blog to read more responses.

Or if you want to take it very seriously read this. You’ll need a beer by the time you finish get halfway through.

The internet doesn’t coddle you in a comforting information bubble. It imprisons you in an information cell and closes the walls in on you by a few microns every day. It works with your friends and the major media on the outside to make a study of your worst suspicions about the world and the society you live in. Then it finds the living embodiments of these fears and turns them into your cell mates. And good heavens it is efficient.

Myself, I’m simply going to provide a year, a “Halt and Catch Fire” moment, and let you fill in the beer blanks. As in, “1982, Bert Grant opened Yakima Brewing and Malting Company.” Now I’m going for a walk. I won’t be checking my phone.

1971 – Email
1977 – PC Modem
1978 – Bulletin Board System
1979 – Usenet
1982 – Commodore computer
1985 – Virtual communities
1991 – First web page created
1993 – Mosaic, 1st graphical browser (the photo at the top was taken in 1993)

2003 – My Space
2004 – Facebook
2006 – Twitter
2010 – Instagram
2011 – Snapchat

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Less is more: This is your brain on hops

Your brain on hops

Chatter about the increasing popularity of pilsner, maybe even pale lager, is pretty constant on Twitter, but got a little louder following a recent story in The Washington Post (“Make room, hoppy IPA. Pilsener is the buzzy new craft beer”). In it, Matt Brynildson makes it clear that Firestone Walker’s Pivo Pils is a hoptimized, Americanized version of a pale lager.

But time moves on and memories fade. After drinking fresh Pilseners on trips to Europe, Brynildson decided he wanted to bring one back to Southern California. That became Firestone’s Pivo Hoppy Pils, which uses German hops, malt and yeast, but adds dry-hopping with spicy, citrusy Saphir hops, a technique not used in the old country. “I put it under the nose of a German brewmaster, and they say, ‘This is nice, but this is not a Pilsener,'” he laughs. “Pivo is just too aromatic, too hop-aroma-forward for Europe.” It does well in hop-crazy America, though: Pivo won gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival every year from 2013 to 2015. For IPA lovers who are just moving into Pilseners, there’s something more recognizable from the level of hops, even if they don’t taste the same as the tropical hops in, say, Firestone’s Luponic Distortion IPA.

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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.

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

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