The Session: The Beer Book That Isn’t Written

It’s been a while since I’ve posted here. 2013 was a pretty good year on my blog but 2014 was a total wash. What happened? Who knows. A lot of incomplete stories I told from the experiences I lived but what became of them?

2014 was a great year in beer for me, & 2015 looks like it should shape up quite a bit better. Really, only time will tell but the story needs to start somewhere. Where is that you might ask? Within the pages of the newest book… that isn’t written.

The book doesn’t have a name. It doesn’t even have a single topic. The only common thread is beer. It’s more about what is missing from our community. But this causes a few issues. What is missing for me, may not be missing for you. How is that possible? A story about community that isn’t equal across the board? Sounds about like life.

In the pages of my chapter in this book, one thing I find that is missing is the common thread between beers.

What exactly do I mean? We all share the same love for beer; just at varying degrees. Even a beer that would be considered technically or stylistically bad is loved by someone. Beers that were once considered the best in the portfolio are looked at as overrated. What happened?

Have we forgotten what beer was like? The constant evolution of styles and ingredients have lead to the same in the beers we drink. If we can remember their roots, we will not get lost in the world as some have. Though, forgetting where these new and improved beers originated has created a gap that a certain percentage of us see, while the majority of the community doesn’t even realize that it exist. Eliminating the thread between past and present.

I feel that the major craft breweries have noticed this too; getting back to their roots. One thing I predicted for 2015, which we will see if it comes to pass in the next 12 months, seems to already be getting it’s feet off the ground.

While everyone is still trying to get their hands on rare and exotic beers or those brewed with ingredients of the same vein, a few of the more popular craft breweries are taking a step back. They are taking what some might consider a huge risk. They are adding classic, even historic, beer styles to their catalog; Porters & Pilsners.

Unnecessary risk? Basic innovation? With the stigma of lagers in our world, and the track record of lagers that were added to portfolios in the past, only those who study and understand beer styles would be likely candidates to initially flock to try these beers… while the uninitiated may pass over them because there is nothing magical about the beers. By holding onto the common beer threads, we can rediscover the passion and ingenuity that sparked the revolution we see today.

So what is this beer book that isn’t written about? What is my chapter within the text or maybe even just a single volume about? The past, present, & future of beer? The missing link in our community? Or the need to sit back, and relax, while we appreciate what simplicity can bring us…

Cheers!

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The Session: The Beer Book That Isn’t Written

Beer Camp 118: The Experience Part 1

When it comes to my time at Beer Camp… I really don’t know what to say… or maybe how to say it. I feel that no matter what I put down it will seem like I’m being that guy with the really funny story that no one laughs at. And then I would have to follow it up with, “Well, you had to be there.”, which is kind of true in this case.

When I arrived in Chico, the first thing I did… well, I checked into my hotel room. But after that! I sent over to Sierra Nevada and got a seat at the bar. The first beer I grabbed was the Christmas Jam Session Ale, which was a collaboration with someone in Asheville… but that is not what is important… It is just what kicked everything off.

After a few more beers, more members of our group showed up, plus the members of Beer Camp 117 we were told to make or way upstairs for a concert in The Big Room… I honestly don’t remember now who was playing, but they had a pretty awesome sound and they were different. Even when they were covering popular songs. Beer Camp had not even officially started yet but things just kept getting more awesome and more awesome. Did I mention that after the show, we headed out to a local bar? We may or may not have kicked every Sierra Nevada keg they had there at the time… and possibly raced around the place on Big Wheels… But not before snagging this photo… and we may or may not have ended the night with a bottle share……….. but that is enough about Day Zero.

Well… morning came. Why would they want to get started at 8am? That makes no sense but we all made it! We started the day by watching all of our videos and a little tour… and beer… But hey, I don’t care what time it is ever. QA everybody, QA. It was shortly after this, I got to taste Torpedo straight from the fermenter… I wondered if ever again Torpedo would taste this good. We just got a brief taste of the brewery at this time. The tour was, I guess an introduction to the brewery. There was far more to see than what we saw but we had to “get back” to start discussing and determining our recipe.

We had quite a bit going back and forth on the recipe. One of our first ideas, a Saison, was kicked back because of available yeast. We were considering a sour beer… but that got kicked back also, for obvious reasons. We selected a few base styles we wanted to go for but it essentially came down to IPA. Yup. A few of us tried to push for the Wheat Wine angle. We ended up using a bit of wheat in our beer and kicked the ABV up to 8%. We had a huge selection of hops to go with and we discussed what flavors from malt we wanted and even the color, etc etc etc. We even thought it would be cool to age it on Spanish Cedar. Something we were totally able to do, and give this beer it’s own flair. 

The brewers, Abraham and his team, came up with the full recipe based on what we discussed. It came out looking like this. I cannot wait to taste it. My party is coming up very soon!

This is just part 1 of this epic experience… this was just the morning, and I can’t even do that justice here. I don’t know a way to help you experience it other than being there. I will try, though. 

Cheers!
Beer Camp 118: The Experience Part 1

Craft Beer Growth?

Right now is a time where all in the beer world is golden. Some even say its recession proof. Your neighbor, who used to only drink American made lagers or fancy imported beers whose names you cannot pronounce, is jumping into the game; opening a brewery simply because it is a great investment. There is even a chance that your favorite brewery has reached capacity and now has to make the ultimate decision; Stop where we are and let our product and fans speak volumes for our business. Or take route number two and expand, increase production, or even move to a secondary location.

Several breweries are at that point now and both decisions have been made. Both Russian River and Hill Farmstead took the ‘stop where we are at’ route. Some are disappointed by this decision, but others respect it and understand what it will do for their local market or the quality of their beer in the future. On the other hand, there are the breweries, such as Sierra Nevada, New Belgium, and even potentially Deschutes that are expanding and bringing their beers into new markets as they do. Some people complain about what this is doing to the local beer scene, even though New Belgium stated they did not want to interfere, and others are excited to finally get their hands on beers that were nothing but a rumor… Then there’s me.

I have gone across many places in this country for work, enjoyment, and as you suspected, craft beer. I travel not only for the love, but for the fact that I cannot find what I want where I live. Sure, you think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not. What makes this even sadder is the fact that I live in North Carolina; home to a number of great breweries and the new location of some of the big shots.

As you know, Oskar Blues is already in town, Sierra Nevada is months away from completion and New Belgium has plans to be open and in production next year. With all the beer these guys are known for, and the big shots from North Carolina, you’d think I’d be set… WRONG!

Okay, sure. I get Fat Tire, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and similar beers from other major breweries. But nothing beyond that and a few seasonals. A funny thing, I went into a local store to see if I could find Celebration Ale. You know what I found? Summerfest… IN NOVEMBER! I really don’t remember seeing Summerfest during the summer. Maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough but there’s no excuse. I have contacted other breweries about similar incidents in the past. Is there some reason this is happening?

While there is great choice and variety in the United States, it only goes as far as consumers will allow it. In this case, I am not even sure it is the consumers fault. On one of my beer-scapades, I drove up to a favorite bottle shop of mine, Bottle Revolution, and asked them about their distributors and beer availability. I was informed that where I live is kind of a grey area for beer in the state. Distributors don’t even consider ordering or sending much craft beer to the area. This is shocking to me being there are two well established homebrew clubs and over 350,000 people living in this “small” area.

Granted, not all of them are known craft beer drinkers, or even of age but part of this population is a military base. With people from all over the country, some of whom, have a certain expectation for the beer that they drink. One of the two homebrew clubs was actually set up and ran by service members who cannot get the beer they want. The members come and go as they enter and leave the area. But the passion and love for craft beer stays. So there IS a market.

I really don’t know how to explain it but I’ve lived in similar areas before. There are always one or two local craft breweries within a few miles and they make a name for themselves. But for the everyday consumer, i.e. not the obsessed craft beer nerd, unless you were going there for dinner, why do you care? You aren’t buying their beer when you go to the grocery store and you aren’t sharing it with your friends.

I hear about all this growth and I’m truly excited to see the companies grow… but what does it mean for my town? Nothing? Is it going to be just the same as it was before? Even when it comes to “local” options, I can only get a select few because even those breweries are looking for more lively and thriving markets. No one wants to try an untapped market; they stick to pre-established ones. That doesn’t make sense to me, but what can I do? I make decisions based on what beers or breweries I feel are worth it. Nearly 2500 breweries across the country and the selection, not to mention rotation, in my local stores would not make any enthusiast happy.


Only 18 months old and outdated

I know there is interest, but what is it going to take? Who do I have to talk to in order to bring awareness and better products into my area? I am not even talking about the major, regional brewers right now. What’s it going to take to get a brewer from Charlotte, approximately 120 miles away, to sell their beer where I live? They ship further East than me, as well as further North. Why not here?

Cheers!

Craft Beer Growth?