MONDAY BEER LINKS, MUSING 09.14.15
Maybe one day soon we can have a day where we all just sit back and enjoy a great beer without some kind of major industry news?
— John Kleinchester (@beertography) September 12, 2015
It was a very noisy week, on Twitter and via my rss feed. Noise that wasn’t about things that interest me at this moment and that was so loud you couldn’t hear the other stuff. But it seems it was an Important Week, so here are a bunch of links you may or may not think belong together — followed by some “sit back and enjoy a great beer” ones.
Craft beer brewers just got downgraded to ‘sell’
Lagunitas’ Magee speaks on Heineken deal and craft beer’s ‘next phase‘
[Via Chicago Tribune]
That Lagunitas-Heineken deal.
[Via Steve Heimoff]
Shakeup at craft beer giant Stone Brewing.
‘Craft beer’ crumbling.
[Via I might have a glass of beer]
[Via Hard Knot Dave]
Welcome to Starbeers.
The Curse of Craft strikes again.
[Via Ed’s Beer Site]
Craft Beer Sales Are At An All-Time High (Part I)
Craft Beer Sales Are At An All Time High-and why this could be scary.
[Both via The Hop Tripper]
We need to dial it back a notch.
[Via All About Beer]
And in Every Town.
[Via St. John’s Wort]
OK, a lot of words, and I am leaving most of the heavy lifting to you. My thoughts are mostly related to the last three links. Many of the “things that concern (Mitch Steele) about the future” are related to brewing and selling beer on a larger scale. Nothing wrong with that, and certainly keeping with the theme in Jason Notte’s story (first link). You can decide how it meshes with this from Greg Koch (fourth link): “There are two ways of operating a business – commodity or artisan. We operate as an artisan. We make decisions based on our passions. … Anybody that thinks commodity can operate as an artesan is ignoring the basic facts about how businesses operate.”
But as regular readers know, I cannot buy into the notion that breweries must always be growing. There is another way. Jeff Alworth’s commentary for All About Beer includes many amen sentences, words to drink by, and most importantly this: “Going forward, I’m planning to focus less on the specific products and breweries of the commercial sphere—they will come and go, inevitably—and more on the act of sharing a beer with someone I enjoy.”
And I certainly agree with this:
But beer companies? They are organs of commerce, however wonderful the brewers and publicans they employ may be. We feel good about beer, so we place that good feeling on the institution of private businesses. And in many cases, that feeling is well-placed. Breweries are collections of humans, after all. When they make good beer and create a wonderful space to enjoy it, they rightly earn our loyalty. But they’re also businesses, and sometimes their owners decide to sell to different owners—and then we have to make new judgments all over again.
But not with this:
Magee’s announcement is a spectacular Trump-like masterpiece of overstatement, and for me it was the moment Craft jumped the shark into over-seriousness.
No, Lagunitas is not a proxy for “craft.” No brewery is. And most drinkers don’t give a hoot what Tony Magee has to say. (Pausing for a moment of introspection: a lot more care than wonder about what I am thinking, so perhaps I should quit typing now).
Daria and I spent much of a week ago Saturday afternoon on the deck at Piney River Brewing, which is located on a farm 26 miles south of Plato, Missouri, a town that will remain the official “population center” of the United States until the 2020 census. Inside, the superintendent of a nearby school system was playing guitar and singing. Outside, volunteers were selling hot dogs and brats (Piney River does not serve food) to raise money for the Houston Education Foundation. Beer was the part of some conversations, not included in others. I don’t expect much changed this week. More concerned discussion about the St. Louis Cardinals’ recent slump, some comparing of notes about the kids’ new teachers, idle talk about the sudden and welcome arrival of cooler weather.
To be clear, Piney River also is not a proxy for “craft.” And it is a business. The brewery recently expanded, adding capacity that would allow it to produce 10,000 barrels a year. Founders Brian and Jolene Durham want to brew beer “in and about the Ozarks for the Ozarks.” When they first opened the tasting room one day a week (now it is open three) they expected a few friends would show up. Turns out they must have more friends than they realized, Brian said. It’s places like this that capture my attention these days, and beers that reflect where they are brewed, the where not necessarily being the brewery itself.
So there’s a reason that what Jordan St. John wrote (the final link) seems so brilliant to me.
. . . there’s the craft model. It’s not specific to craft beer. It’s a 19th century manufacturing model. It’s generational, driven possibly by the lifespan of the founder and the interest of his partners or progeny and it’s on a vastly more human scale. The smaller production level means that the owner is answerable to a community. The wealth that it generates will end up flowing back through the community in which it operates.
I’ll try to include the spirit of that thought in “Brewing Local.”
Meanwhile, those other links I promised . . .
Researcher recreates Viking beer.
The story this week I most want to read more about. [Via Knut Albert’s Beer Blog]
Young wine writers: don’t be too smart.
“Generally, in life, I reckon that less smart people are often happier. If you are too smart, I suspect that you’d find popular culture so inane as to be depressing, you’d be frustrated by the general low level of most journalism, and you’d spend a lot of the time quite bored. And as a writer you’d find that anything you wrote would only really appeal to small segment of the population.” [Via jamie goode’s wine blog]
Behind the new Abbey: How we changed the malts.
There have been several stories recently about breweries retooling their IPA recipes (for instance, this one from Bryan Roth). Tweaking recipes is hardly new — recall Ed mentioning Rochefort had begun using Aramis hops. But talking about it seems to be. I’m looking forward to this week’s discussion about choosing a new yeast. New Belgium co-founder Jeff Lebesch talked about that yeast candidly in “Brew Like a Monk.” He cultured from a Chimay bottle. “What I learned later is that Chimay could get kind of wild, so who knows how reflective what I got out of that bottle was of Chimay? I was doing all my culturing from bottles then, keeping them on plates in the house. Somewhere in the early 1990s I did a major cleanup of our yeast. It really changed the character of the beer.” [Via New Belgium Brewing]
Hype for hops helps farmers break into beer business.
This story overlooks most of the obstacles those who would grow hops outside of the Northwest face. Those challenges were at the top of my mind last week because I writing a story about it for New Brewer magazine. Perhaps that’s why when I saw the news of the Lagunitas-Heineken deal I thought immediately about the implications for hops, and in terms of real estate (because brewing is always about time and space). If Lagunitas is going to be selling two million more barrels per year, for instance, that means they could need more than three million more pounds of hops per year. That’s about 1,500 more acres of hops. Growing 1,500 more acres of corn in Iowa is not a big deal. But 1,500 more acres of hops just about anywhere, that’s a chunk. [Via CBS News]