20 Percent by 2020

It is no secret that Craft Beer has been making major headway the past 5 years, while overall beer sales have been falling, even with a slight improvement in the past year. But for the better part of the last year, many have been getting on the train that chugged along, by way of the Brewers Association, to see Craft Beer raise it’s market share from the unseen 11% to 20% in the next 5 years. Continuous hurdles are popping up at every glance and other unforeseen obstacles are rearing their head before Craft Beer has had a chance to answer up in the initial issues. So how is this supposed to happen?

Getting to 20/20

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A number of discussions over the past few weeks have put this all into perspective. And my personal biases are only there to support the arguments. While everyone goes into hype about “The Craft Beer Bubble“, which is honestly a discussion I wish people would get over, I feel for craft brewers to get the world where they foresee, a bubble would need to be blown. Maybe the beginning is partially what we are seeing with the current buyouts and expansions of major breweries. The current rate of growth for breweries cannot continue in order to get to the 20% market share goal, but what will is the expansion of the major breweries… as we are already seeing.

The recent announcement of Lagunitas opening a third location only helps to bring focus what actually needs to happen to fulfill this goal, not to mention the major slap in the face to the Macro brewers based on the announced location. It would be interesting to see the way distribution companies move down the line as craft climbs the ladder. Independent companies exist, but they do not have the access or even the interest to see their beers in various locations. While only a small percentage of consumers go above and beyond in finding out where their beer is coming from, I feel a smaller percentage knows who distributes the beer they go out to enjoy. It makes one wonder what arguments people would use to defend their purchases if they knew their favorite beer was distributed in the area by the Miller house. As craft grows, will BMC distribution companies take the hit on money brought in by craft breweries, or will the lines be further blurred? Granted, we are decades away from where that would be an issue but it is a matter of business, just like the Craft Beer industry.

This is news to no one, but if you look at the number 9 craft brewery as of 2014, Stone Brewing Company, the opening of 2 new breweries projected for 2016 and not to mention all of the company stores and the currently on hiatus Stone Hotel, there seems to be a major power play in the works. And, again, news to no one who follows the happening of this industry and their favorite breweries, many Craft Breweries in the top 50, by sales volume, and a ton of local breweries no matter where you are and their size, are opening multiple locations and even shifting their focus to ship beer internationally. Some feel this is an odd move but with the beer that is being produced in America, expanding their reach is what will make the difference in the end.

To accomplish the 20×20 goal, there has to be a big shift in the beer world… but how would that happen? Listen to Sam from Against The Grain Talk briefly on what would need to happen.

The Next Generation of Big Brewers. Posturing. These actions seem to be the necessary evil in the industry to push the Macro brands deeper into obscurity. Will this force the Craft brands into the world of Macro? Quite possibly, but I am not too keen on the phrase “Craft Beer” as it is. Hipster Brewfus said it best.

And this is fact. The small percentage of us are ready to break free from the tag, but the industry is not. It needs “Craft” in this time of growth and investment. When the next generation comes, maybe it will be past the time that a label is needed. Maybe it will go back to just being beer.

Cheers!

20 Percent by 2020

My Argument Against "Craft" Beer

Ok, ok. Just hear me out. It isn’t what it sounds like. If you know me, you know I’m obsessed with craft beer. If you don’t know me, that’s pretty odd that you are reading this… BUT THANK YOU!!! I hope you come back!

I recently got my BJCP tasting exam results back and I’m preparing for the written, as well as planning on taking the Certified Cicerone Exam within the next couple of months. So I’m getting deep into every aspect moreso than ever before.

Brewers Association Craft Beer Production Volume
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A few years ago, I was just one of those happy kids who was first getting into craft beer and I chased down every new release from all of my favorite breweries. I still do that with my number one favorite, but how could I not support them?

In all of my research and studying, I was taken back. I began to think about where we are today and all of the changes I’ve seen in this very short 5 year span in the grand history of beer. Things I didn’t even begin to notice until about my third year in beer. So, just think about everything I still have to learn and experience.

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Where we sit now is the greatest time that has ever existed for Craft Beer. Thinking about that, was it not common to hear Microbrew when referred to “our” beers not that long ago? To my understanding “craft beer” first began it’s usage in the 1980’s. And it wasn’t even a commonality at that time. “Craft Brewing” was how it was referred. It was about the movement that was happening in America. The way our beer was hand crafted vs the industrial methods that were sadly sweeping the country. Recently it has been used to describe the new generation of beer around the world but it’s origins seem to be with the early pioneers that were tired of what they were tasting, and for that, we praise today.

Now I understand that we want to differentiate ourselves. Make the market distinction obvious to those casual consumers, especially the ones that don’t know any better. But as one who is well versed in our community, and flipping back through a little history, why can’t we simply call it beer?

Do you see what I mean, now? I don’t go around telling people I drink craft beer. Or that I’m going out for a few craft beers. I just use “Beer”. I’m going to “X Brewery”, “X Bar”. I feel at a point, the thing speaks for itself.  It becomes quite obvious. I make sure to know who, to the best of my ability, makes a profit off of each pour I purchase. This is something the majority of consumers don’t think about… but then again, maybe it’s the appeal of the word craft, that people love.

Before the time of the microbrew, was it not just a pint of Ale or Lager? In 1516, do you think they had fancy names for the beers being created at that time? In today’s beer world, the distinction between craft and not so is being blurred. Crafty is a thing. Big business tactics are happening in the wake of the little guys. Certain aspects are still about the joy and community, but others quickly pull you back in to realize beer is a business. First & foremost. So where is the point where you quit acting like a little guy and accept that you are in fact in another league?

craft-vs-crafty
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I don’t mean like the big three. That is a whole different ball game. But the way a business operates and sells across the country. The number of barrels that are produce and sold each year. There is a difference between those just scraping by and those who can essentially rely on their consumers for years to come. This isn’t a bad thing. It’s just the way things are.

To me, craft isn’t about a definition. It’s about the way you treat your product and care about your community. While a company may try to separate themselves from corporate beer, does the scale of your brewery not introduce you into that world? The number of breweries or specific off shoot locations you own, do they not paint that picture?

Even with the Brewers Association defining craft beer and then adjusting the definition to keep the biggest brewers from losing the distinction, I wonder, why does it matter? Even if my favorite brewery went above that line, their beers, again, speak for themselves. No if, ands, or butts about it. Everything they do for the beer community as well as the charitable events and support they offer, really goes to show their passion. A side of their character you wouldn’t see from those that we do not label with the craft name. And surprisingly enough, at the end of the day, they still need to worry about their profit margin.

These breweries are machines, filled with passionate people. Creating experiences that we all share. Ones we look far into the future for. While I’m not saying they don’t deserve to use the title craft, I just feel we are at a point in time where it is not necessary.

Cheers!

My Argument Against "Craft" Beer

Draught Beer Problems

Whenever I go out to a bar, or growler filling station, I always give the brewer the benefit of the doubt that their beer is well made. Even if I don’t particularly have a good track record with a specific brewery, I feel that the beer-unknown or an old favorite-is one that will meet certain standards from the production to my glass.

I would assume that we have all experienced that pint that was just not right. I know the enjoyment of a beer is a combination of many factors; mood, environment, and service to name a few. But there are times when everything you get makes you wonder… “Is this really how it’s supposed to taste?” Maybe, but there are other avenues to consider before you just write off a particular beer or brewery forever.

Depending on the flavors you sense, you could possibly find issues with old and dirty beer lines.

A lot of these issues are avoidable if the company knows what to look for or if they conduct regular maintenance of their equipment. While some states have laws stating the lines are to be cleaned every two weeks, others don’t. In some states, it’s the bars responsibility to assure the lines are clean. In others, the distributors. But even with regular cleaning, improper service can cause issues in the flavor of your beer.

One of my biggest peeves while out drinking, (when I can see the beer poured), is watching the faucet touch the glass and then proceeding to be dipped into the beer. While there may not be issues immediately that’s an unhygenic practice and promotes the growth of bacteria; namely Pediococcus and Lactobacillus.

Pediococcus is typically the bacteria that is associated with a buttery or butterscotch flavor in draught beer, known as diacetyl. Lactobacillus, on the other hand, typically produces sour & acidic flavors in your beer.

There is another source of bacteria that can sour draught beer, Acetobactor. The difference in life cycle between acetobactor  and the two above mentioned bacteria, is that acetobactor is an aerobic bacteria. While Lactobacillus & Pediococcus are both anaerobic.

Acetobactor grows in disgusting conditions to begin with. So other than the effects it has on the beer, it’s not something a company would want in their draught lines. The main places that acetobactor is found are dirty drains, spill trays, bar tops, & used bar rags… which then make their way onto faucets… and into your beer, through a number of methods.

I’ve had people ask me before, I’ve even contemplated this myself; Should we tell someone that their beers lines are possibly dirty? Should we send the beer back?

Before, I was not sure. Maybe I was scared of something… I don’t know, but you should never be afraid to send a beer back and tell them about the issue you are experiencing. It can help prevent the problem in the future and some may be excited to hear about it. It could be an issue they had no idea about… But that brings up a whole different set of issues. Though, that more than likely falls on the establishment’s policies.

There are other things that can go wrong with beer and not everything comes from the point of consumption. These are just a few of the common issues you might, (hopefully not), experience. But if you do, you might want to ask how often the beer lines, faucets, & couplers are disassembled and cleaned.

Cheers!

Draught Beer Problems

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!

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

Tour de Fat Durham

This past weekend, Hop Man, made an Appearance at New Belgium’s Tour de Fat. For those of you who don’t know, Tour de Fat is essentially a Beer Carnival showcasing New Belgium, sustainability, and their lifestyle and culture when it comes to fun and bikes.

A celebration of bikes, beer and community in 12 U.S. cities spreading the good word about the radness of the mighty bicycle and a simple, honest way of living.

If you need a recap of why I would be interested in something like this… You have not been paying attention, but here you go. As soon as I got there I started scoping out the park trying to figure out my game plan for the day… Not that I really needed one. It was to only be about excitement and going with the flow and then I ran into this sign.

I guess this set the stage for what I was drinking anyway. I may or may not have been able to score my way into the VIP tent, Thank You Again! So it was cool just being around everyone that was there. I even left with some swag that will be going on many of rides with me.

Tour de Fat kicked off with a fashion show, (actually, it kicked off with a Bicycle Parade that lead to the opening but still…), showcasing the best of the best at the park. I shot a clip of the catwalk as it was shutting down. Take a look here.

//player.vimeo.com/video/99412874 Fashion Show.mp4 from L Allen Huerta on Vimeo.

Of course I came dressed for the occasion, not that it should come as a surprise to you. But after the show, IT WAS TIME TO GET BEER!!!

Over the course of the day I tried everything that was available at the Lips of Faith tent. I didn’t bother heading over to the other but they had Summer Helles over there. I highly recommend finding that on and trying it. Especially those of you who say you don’t like lagers. This is one of the best beers I have had in a while and it even falls into the Light Lager category for those of you who always trash it. Just saying.

There are a few shows, and bands, I wish I would have caught but there were a lot of good people to talk and hangout with. Of course enjoy your company, but if you have the chance to show up to an event make sure you check out as much as possible. They put on a great show. I should have taken photos of the puppeteer. He did some pretty… interesting things that I did not even know were possible. Including a stripping puppet and Homer Simpson on the drums! Pretty epic.

There are a few more stops this year, so if you have the chance to get out to them, I suggest you do!

Washington, District of Columbia Yards Park 5/31/2014
Durham, North Carolina Diamond View Park 6/21/2014
Chicago, Illinois Palmer Square 7/12/2014
Twin Cities, Minnesota Loring Park 7/26/2014
Boise, Idaho Ann Morrison Park 8/16/2014
Fort Collins, Colorado Civic Center Park 8/30/2014
Denver, Colorado City Park 9/6/2014
San Francisco, California Golden Gate Park 9/13/2014
San Diego, California Golden Hill Park 9/27/2014
Tempe, Arizona Tempe Town Lake 10/4/2014

Now, I could not let you go without showing you what I wore, so you better show me up at the event that you go to!

Cheers!

Tour de Fat Durham

BJCP Tasting Exam

After such a long wait, the time has finally come and passed. It has been about a month and a half now and I still have a lot to cover when it comes to learning the history of the styles, etc. but the BJCP Tasting Exam is finally OVER!!! I was stressing a lot about it the first few days to a week or so after the exam but now I am just over it and want my results. Before I wanted an 80 or better, now I just hope I got a 60 so I don’t have to test with the updated guidelines… JK!!! I still hope I did great but this waiting period is killing me and seriously all I want is a pass at this point.

The main advice I have for anyone taking this is exam is to make sure you learn the styles. I know that may sound kind of obvious, but maybe I should phrase it this way. Make sure you know the differences between the styles. You are there to judge each beer presented to you based on what you sense. Not what the guideline says. Write down everything you notice and then afterward, consider what you tasted. The proctor told you this was a Sweet Stout. Was it really? or was it an under-carbonated Oatmeal Stout? There are differences but if you can’t pull out what they are, you are stuck taking their word for gold.

Overall I think I feel pretty good about it but we will see when the results come back. One more thing when it comes to taking the test. Or even when it comes to life: NEVER SECOND GUESS YOURSELF!

I showed up on test day not knowing what to expect. I signed in, sat down, filled out preliminary paperwork and just waited… I don’t know why I showed up so early. About an hour but I stayed in my car. I got in the testing room about 30 minutes before the start of the exam… Just waiting… I guess it is better than being late.

I was relieved when the first beer showed up. I feel it set the pace for the whole exam. The category was 1A: Lite American Lager. A pretty good one, too. At least I thought it was. Drinking it was honestly just like reading the guidelines. The only thing I knocked that one for was the fact that it was hazy. This is not a style I ever really drink but I would drink several of them no questions asked. People just get so stuck on the BMC is bad kick, that they cannot relate to a good beer in those styles. Just about every beer has its time and place. Lite American Lager included.

I thought I got pretty lucky with the choice of beers. The remaining styles went as follows; 5B: Traditional Bock, 10A: American Pale Ale, 13B: Sweet Stout, 19A: Old Ale, and 18C: Tripel. Each of those beers had their own strengths and weaknesses and there was only one I found nearly undrinkable. I felt everything was good until the very end of the exam where I finished up Beer Number 6 and had about 10 minutes remaining… That second guessing yourself thing comes into play here.

The Tripel that I thought was pretty awesome, started to taste funky… like really odd. Like odd enough for me to lower my score from a 34 to a 29! I should have left it because it seems I was right in line with everyone that I talked to after the exam before I went back. I guess one beer won’t really hurt me when it comes to grading but I was hoping to have all 6 be good. Just to hopefully score fairly well. And who knows what else I may have slipped up on. I thought the Old Ale might have been infected and then I go back to taste it after the exam and it was not as “bad” as I thought it was.

I did not adjust that score because I had given it a 19. It was a bad example of an Old Ale, regardless. Other examinees I talked to scored it right in line with me or in the low 20’s, so I am not too worried about that… unless it was not infected and I get knocked for that. But it is still only 2 beers out of 6… I feel I nailed the other exam beers and I was not too far off here, even with my changes or perceptions.

I will send out an update as I get my results back, but don’t expect to see that for another two or three months… or so I hear. Twitter or Google Plus will probably have the first look at that, but that is like breaking news. Until then,

Cheers!

BJCP Tasting Exam