NC Brewers Cup

This past weekend was the North Carolina Brewers Cup. It is an amazing sight seeing a number of NC breweries post the results of their beers that were entered into the competition. It was also very nice to taste a good number of them; some for the first time ever. Drinking these beers blind gave a real nice perspective of the work being done to further brewing in one of the fastest growing states. View All The Winners Here.

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The first day of the competition was all of the homebrew entries. The NC Brewers Guild hosted this competition in conjunction/for? The NC State Fair which is taking place in Raleigh really soon. I was hoping to get off easy, but I opened the day judging IPA’s. Not that there is anything wrong with that, and the homebrewers did a really great job with them but I believe my judging partner and I went through approximately 13 IPA’s before I moved on to do the Mini-Best Of Show with the other group helping out with this category… which was a total of 6 beers competing for the top 3 spots. I guess I was rewarded for my efforts, though. The next flight I did, which was relatively small, was Light Lagers. What some would call the complete opposite of an IPA.

During the afternoon session of, Belgian and French Ales. Another relatively large flight but another great showing. The category was mostly Saisons but there was also a Biere de Garde. You just don’t see that often and it got me really excited. When it was all said and done, the winner went on to sit at the Best Of Show table, where I would soon be reunited with it.

As one would expect, when it came down to judging Best Of Show, it was relatively hard. There were a few that had to be knocked out over the most trivial things. Only the best beers made it this far and homebrewers have gotten far better over the past few years so you couldn’t just kick out something that had a major flaw but happened to be best in the category. When it was all said and done, a Belgian Dark Strong Ale, a Schwarz Bier, and an American Pale Ale were the best to style, top brewed beers at the table. Though all of the entrants who made it to that table should be proud of the beer they produced.

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After day 1 came to a close, we all left to get ourselves in the right mindset to judge the entries of the commercial contest the next day. I met up with Bryan and we decided to stop into FullSteam to check out their anniversary shenanigans.

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The next morning I crawled out of bed not knowing which way is up. I guess checking out Miley Cyrus on SNL when I had to be up around 7am may not have been the best choice… oh, and the stout to keep me up during her performance. I grabbed a quick breakfast with MUCH COFFEE INCLUDED and headed back to Mystery Brewing, who was our host both days of the competition. I was really excited when I saw the morning table assignments; Pilsners. Which sadly, I do not remember very many NC brewed Pilsners I have had before this day.

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While judging through the entries, I realized how big of a mistake this was. There were many great Pilsners that after it was all said and done, I realized were available year round from some of the best breweries in the state. I guess I have some catching up to do. The quality and accuracy to style some of these beers had was indescribable. A very eye opening experience. What was next to follow, though… I thought I was already free from this pleasure.

The afternoon session was IPA’s… just like the start of my day hardly just 24 hours ago. And there were 48 entries from breweries around the state. The homebrew numbers were barely half of that. There were a few extra sets of judges, but that didn’t help much at all coming down to the Mini-Best Of Show.

Looking at the 9 beers in front of us, they all seemed identical in appearance. Several of the beers seemed to use nearly identical recipes. I mean, I don’t know what was in them but the flavor and aroma were so similar that I thought my palate and nose were just broken. The top 3, again, were very difficult to come across. They were the best of the best… and again… we go into Best Of Show.

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I thought judging Best Of Show for homebrew was difficult. I’ve done it a few times since I received my BJCP rank. But nothing could have prepared me for this. This was not only my very first time judging commercial beer in a competition. But my first time doing Best Of Show in one as well…  Talk about trying to find the best diamond in a sea of them… It came down to the smallest details about each beer. 23 set down in front of us and 3 selected as the best in NC. The pressure was really on.

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The results are linked above but these 3 beers, from 3rd to 1st, are the ones who went above and beyond this year. Also, that Pilsner that I was really embarrassed I never drank… and is available year round, from one of my favorite NC breweries… umm… yeah… I should probably head to the store. Take a look at the list and drink some of the greatest beers NC has to offer.

EDIT: Information from the press release.
We had a record number of entries in both homebrewer (191) and commercial (362) categories. We couldn’t have done it without your hard work and support!
You can find all the results here: www.ncbeer.org/brewerscup/ and a press release is attached. The top winners will be on display October 15-25 at the State Fair in the Education Building.

Cheers!

NC Brewers Cup

The Session 104: I Am Awake Now

After a late night rambling session and passing out moments within hitting the submit button, I came into realization that I may have started going somewhere, but did not finish what I started. Or really even have recollection of where I was going. But one thing still stands.TheSession

But with open eyes, ones thirsts for knowledge; with knowledge one seeks experience; and with experience, one realizes how little they really know… and to some, that is a problem that they must reconcile. – Me

During my time in Los Angeles, actually when I was leaving the city, is when I started my blog. It was something I did to learn more about beer and share my adventures. All of my post still sit over at the old url but the images that I think made them special all went away one day. It kind of broke my heart. Not that they were great post or great pictures but a piece of what connected me to the beer world was forever taken away.

When I first heard about the session, I was honestly really excited about it. It introduced me to a lot of new writers and friends. It showed me there was a lot more out there that I had to learn. It is kind of what grounded me from the never-ending spiral of badge and whale hunting. Many others that have come after me had similar experiences in both participating and reading. Would it do those of the future a disservice to discontinue The Session? Quite possibly.

There are many new groups of writers out there. I wonder if they have noticed The Session or if they thought it was an exclusive club on a quick glance just based on the names involved. I know some do not realize but if you know a name or two of the beer world; writers, brewers, drinkers, enthusiast. Not going to lie, I knew about The Session a few months before I first contributed. It was kind of that feeling that kept me from posting earlier. Not that the club seemed intimidating, it was always very welcoming, but trying to find out how I could fit into it. Or maybe they just aren’t interested.

There is no way to really tell. If it were to end, would another group pick up where it left off? Is it a matter of the topics becoming too deep? Do we just need a break? A lot of people went on without posting for a long time and picked up where they left off like nothing happened… I guess that is the freedom of not being paid to do something.

So what should happen? I feel we should keep it going. It was a while before I last contributed when I saw there was no host just a few months ago and made something up on the fly. This last month, the host was not even sure she was capable of hosting until she got some annoying little bug in her ear, and this month. Well, it could not die just yet. A lot of people look to blogs for entertainment, news, ideas, learning, and various other reasons. Let us all breathe life back into this project.

Cheers!

The Session 104: I Am Awake Now

The Session 104: Goodbye American Beer

No, this is not my suicide letter. It is also not me swearing off of beer. That would just be stupid. What this is, is a reflection of myself over the past 6 years; when I started drinking beer.

I do not remember the exact date but sometime within the next 21 days, 6 years ago, is when a friend I had in college took me into his home and opened up my eyes to a world that exist outside of the cheap spirits that my college self was drinking… as well as the PBR. It wasn’t too long after that when I received a Mr. Beer kit and my life was changed forevTheSessioner. Though, Mr. Beer did not last long in my life. On Thanksgiving-morrow 2009, I brewed my first all grain batch of homebrew… and the next day I brewed another.

This may open up your eyes to more of the person I am today. Explain my views of the beer world and where I see myself. I once was the person that I hate today. But with open eyes, ones thirsts for knowledge; with knowledge one seeks experience; and with experience, one realizes how little they really know… and to some, that is a problem that they must reconcile.

When I started homebrewing I may have only tasted 20 different beers at a maximum. I went to Fred Meyer and looked at the selection. It was a great one, and it has only gotten better. But I was completely overwhelmed by the selection. My way of combating that was to buy variety packs of beer… and there weren’t many. The first pack I bought was a New Belgium Folly Pack, and for anyone who pays attention to me online, this should be a red flag to the origins of my Passionate and dedicated self.

I wish I remembered all 4 of the beers that were in that pack but 3 of the 4 were Fat Tire, 1554, & Hoptober. Fat Tire was my first look into the world that we call malt. I loved it. It touched me in a way that a spirit never had before. On my fist sip of 1554, I could not contain myself; it was the best beer I have ever had… Ok, at this point I have not had many, but today it is still my favorite beer. I will drink it anywhere, anytime, anyplace. When it came to Hoptober… I hated it. Honestly, I hated all hoppy beers that I had. I would tell everyone about how horrible IPAs were and that they never should have been made… this is quite funny looking forward in my life. One thing I am actually happy about, this year New Belgium re-released Hoptober and I was able to actually assess it with a more mature palate.

Sometime around the AHA Learn To Homebrew Day 2009, I received a Mr. Beer kit. I had a lot of fun with that process but it was by far the worst beer I have ever tasted… to that point. *Now, I highly endorse Mr. Beer. You just need to know what you are doing in order to use it. There are a few out there that can give great tips.* Something made me want to continue to make beer, but I decided if I was going to do it, I was going to do it the way it was meant to be done. I did some pretty crappy research and bought a Coleman cooler-red-, a turkey fryer, and a couple of kits that I thought would fit my taste; World Wide Lager – Heineken Clone- & an American Wheat Beer. And catch this, I was not sure what the difference between “milled” and “un-milled” was, so I bought one kit one way and the other, well, the other.20141010_153004

One thing I was happy about is that I found out the grain had to be milled before I brewed with it… great, right? Well… I had a rolling pin and a gallon zip lock bag… for over 10 pounds of grain! That was the worst ever… but the beer didn’t turn out all bad… even though I knew nothing about lagering or using lager yeast. Pretty sure it fermented in the mid-60’s under my kitchen sink. The American Wheat Beer came out horrible. I had no idea what happened with that kit. Probably everything. But it did not discourage me. I bought two more kits and brewed those just over a week later. I hardly had the results back from my first beers… which, well… I would never try to turn around beers that fast today.

As time went on, I bragged to everyone that I made beer and shaved the 13 hairs on my face with a straight razor. A co-worker wanted to come over and see me brew. I showed him what I knew, playing it up like I was some kind of expert, and eventually went on to teach him how to make beer. My first year I probably brewed around 40 batches… Let’s not talk about how many of them were good. I stopped using kits about 6 beers in and decided I would write my own recipes because I knew all that there was to know about beer. Looking at old log books… I have no idea why I am telling anyone about this.

The next year I graduated from college and moved down to Los Angeles. I met a lot of cool people and this is where I lost complete control of myself. There was this cool new app called Untappd. I saw a lot of people using it and I created an account. If we were to talk about the capabilities of it back then vs now, your head would spin. Most users today have no idea how hard life was. I thought I was cooler than I was, so my account went unused for several months. But once I did start using it, I met so many more people and so many more venues. I would travel across and outside of the city to go to specific places to drink as many beers as I could and earn as many badges as possible. Multiple events, rare beers for the sake of saying I had them, and places just because my Untappd “friends” were going to be there. This was a chapter in my life that I am glad that happened, but looking back… I am glad something snapped me out of that path.

Remember how I hated all hoppy beers and verbally destroyed all IPA’s, etc? Well… in this time, there was also a period where I drank nothing but IPA’s for 2-3 months. And I mean A LOT of IPA’s. The IPA that set me down this course? Dogfish Head 120. I was given this beer on a set of a film I was working on and it opened my eyes to what an IPA could be. Not all IPA’s were the initial spitfire and palate wrecking bitterness that gave me the bitter beer face in all of those Keystone Light commercials.2014-05-12 20.38.54

I snapped out of this phase right before the Inaugural IPA Day. I realized that a majority of the IPA’s I guzzled didn’t stand out at all. There was no deciding factor between them all. I talked about how much I loved them, but if it wasn’t for Untappd, I would not have known what I had. Very few stuck out and to this day they are still classics and renowned by drinkers everywhere. Because of my hatred of what this style had done to me, I opposed everything IPA day was about. It was not the style that got me into beer and the fact that they were using it to try to convert the masses, which I was so about back then, I thought it was unfair to force their ideals on potential new beer drinkers. Drink What You Damn Well Please Day was born… Though, I probably wasn’t the first to use that phrase… and I still checked into Untappd to make sure I got the badge. I could not pass that up.

A few more years past and I was still fighting the good fight converting macro lager drinkers into craft beer drinkers of all kinds, when I realized I knew quite a bit but I did not know a lot. This is when I started looking into the Beer Judge Certification Program. Not seriously at this point but a few of my friends became judges so I partly looked to them to learn and did a lot of my own research. This is also when my homebrewing took a turn for the better. I was making some good beers before this but after the number of batches I have done, if I didn’t improve, that would have been ridiculous. At this time I was learning about other styles. What made them, defined them, the characteristics of each. That is what changed my brewing. I made subtle changes or focused in beers that I liked, and were good before, in order to make them moreso fit into a guideline.

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That quickly led into me doing some serious studying for the exam and with a little forceful encouragement from a friend, I took the online entrance exam and the Cicerone Certified Beer Server exam. The Cicerone program was not something I intended on doing but somehow I passed that on my first attempt. Even the BJCP online entrance exam I knocked out the first time. Kind of made me regret paying the extra money for three attempts at the exam. A major jump in studying and judging competitions took place. Almost as much so as my crazy LA drinking adventures. I traveled city to city, state to state to judge. Though, this seemed way different from before. I was able to experience every cities beers and also their local homebrew scene. I guess it paid off due to my decent score on both the BJCP Tasting Exam and the Certified Cicerone Exam… though, I messed up a bit too much on the Tasting portion, so that is coming up for me again.

I am not sure when the urge to not take beer so seriously hit me. I don’t mean beer as a whole, because that is very important. But maybe it was in the craze of all the selling and buying I realized business is business and those decisions do not affect me or the quality of the beer I drink and brew. At this time, there were only a couple that have broken the hearts of the nation. Others would follow after me. Some never cared to begin with. But everyone had to make the journey they made on their own.

With everything above, we haven’t even started getting into my purchasing and trading history… I could spare you the details because I am sure you have an idea, but I went from buying cases of $20 a piece bombers and trading for beers that are nearly unattainable to now focusing on the enjoyment of beer and those you are with. There are many great beers that beer geeks/nerds/snobs/whatever pass over due to their accessibility, lack of sex appeal, and probably their low, low price. It is unfortunate that these beers are not purchased and drank more by segments of our community but I think it is a good thing I hit this point before I open the next chapter of my beer life. Which kind of brings this rambling back to why I started.

I am greatly looking forward to the beers of Germany and all of Europe. Living/working over there will give me an opportunity to take my knowledge to another level. For a lot of styles, I only really know what was written in a book or a set of guidelines. I will finally be able to taste them for myself. One thing I was going back and forth on was my brewing. Do I focus on perfecting styles while I have such great examples of them? Or do I brew what I get homesick for and want to drink. I am sure it will be a combination of both but I hope that when I return to the US in 3 years, I can be more of the expert that I thought I was when I really knew nothing. Actual experience drinking these beers around the world, the ability to talk about, describe and give a rough recipe without looking back over notes. You know, for real be that guy… but we will see. There is still a long journey to go and besides these generalities, I honestly have no idea where I am going.

Cheers!

The Session 104: Goodbye American Beer

The Session: The Landscape Of Beer

A few weeks ago I asked a question to the followers of The Session. A question that I could not fully answer myself; not because I didn’t know the answer or because the TheSessionanswer was as simple as the question implied, but because the question left many possible inferences and I was not sure where I would take it.

So what does The Landscape Of Beer look like? If you ask me, I’ll tell you to just take a look around. We are both the face and the landscape of beer.

While the beer world is huge, there are only a small percentage of consumers actually using social media, blogs, applications, and similar avenues to appreciate and share the love of the craft and their hobby. The faces we see online, at festivals, or just hanging out in breweries are what the landscape of beer is all about.

Writers make the news and break the stories, pub goers experience ounces of love one glass at a time and share it with their compatriots. Social media connects individuals that are worlds apart around a similar interest. Without that connection, what would the industry be?

Take a look to the past; before it seemed like only a few breweries owned the marketplace, back when there were only a few brands obtainable far and wide, most neighborhoods supplied their patrons with their beverage of choice. Each neighborhood or region had beer that was uniquely their own. This is far from the case now where familiar styles are readily available, but local consumption is undoubtedly on the rise with craft brewers popping up in many local communities.

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This growth would not be possible without people like you and I. We are shaping The Landscape of Beer. The world of Macro and Micro beer is quickly vanishing. While there are breweries that focus only on their immediate area, a good number of them are looking into international distribution, expanding into new states, and further reaching in their current areas. This expansion is only possible because we are demanding their products. When we share them with our friends or talk and write about the love we have for any producer, our voices are being heard and echoed across the world. Everyone wants to savor a mouthful of the beer that makes our hearts sing.

What does this mean for the future? We are currently in a world of expansion and “predicted” buyouts. Will we return to a time that was similar to the pre-prohibition era, with a few minor changes? Will greater things be in store? Will we see no real change to the growth and quality of beer that is available now?

One vision of the future holds a handful of national breweries. This could be a possibility within the next 5 years. If the number of smaller, local brewpubs and breweries continues to keep pace, many neighborhoods will be able to have a constant supply of beer available to them without travel or worrying about breweries from outside the area, much like before prohibition.

I have been on the scene for about 6 years now and have learned a substantial amount. When I dove into the world of beer, I knew nothing. My eyes were open to an endless abyss of flavor and new friends. Some were fresh faced and over enthusiastic, just like myself. Others were slightly more experienced, and beyond that I even ran into a multitude of enthusiasts who knew what beer was even before I was born. I looked to them for guidance and I am now at a point where others are looking to me and my peers.

We can create educated, well informed consumers, or monsters who take after the likes of those INSATIABLE ANIMALS! While both are needed to keep the industry afloat, the quality of beer that flows depends upon the ones who pay attention and filter flaws from the system.

Take a look around and consider where you want beer to go. The shape of the landscape is up to us. When it is time to hand over the reins, let’s do it in a manner that shows we welcome the change; and not like an old curmudgeon who wants the kids to GET OFF OUR LAWN!

Cheers!

The Session: The Landscape Of Beer

Caloric Breakdown Of Beer

Not too long ago Julia, of CraftBeer.com and the Brewers Association, posted an article pointing out the FACT that The Beer Belly Is a Myth. She gave a lot of good information and even pointed out that you need to have a balance in your life, along with some moderation when it comes to drinking. So, while the Active in Active Brewer once meant something else, it is kind of a shift to another aspect of my life and reading the “Beer Belly” article made me want to add onto it.

Apparently I am not the only one thinking about health when it comes to craft beer. I do not work in the industry now, but am hoping to make the move in a few short years. There are many things to think about in order to have a healthy life while still enjoying your favorite beverages. I would give this article by Oliver of Literature and Libation, a read that focuses on Consumer Health if you would like a different insight into this topic.

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When it all comes down to it, nutrition labels on food products are a lie. A whole lot of useless information that doesn’t always add up. While there are a few things you should pay attention to, there are only three that really matter, The Macronutrients; Protein, Carbohydrates, and Fats.

Fat

Julia pointed out that beer has no fat. So when it comes to beer, you can throw that information out the window. The only concern I would look for here is with adjuncts. Looking at the way they interact with the beer and what moves into the finished product. When it comes to calorie counts, 1 gram of fat will equate to 9 calories. This will be important later… or when looking at nutrition labels at home.

Protein

There is a small amount of protein in you beer. It comes along from the raw material in the malting and mashing process. Depending on the filtration and clarification process, the majority of it may be removed, so it may not be of a concern here, either. 1 gram of protein will come out to 4 calories in this case.

Carbohydrates

So this is where some say the real issue is with beer and the caloric intake… but this is not entirely true. While there is a considerable amount of sugar in unfermented beer-wort, when the yeast get through with their job, it converts the majority of carbohydrates into alcohol and CO2. A typical carbohydrate will come out to 4 calories per 1 gram, as the case is with protein. But alcohol, is in a class of it’s own.

Alcohol

Alcohol is often considered the 4th Macronutrient and the final piece of the puzzle to coming up with full calorie counts. For 1 gram of alcohol, you will get 7 calories.

What it comes down to is the ability of your body to process the alcohol. When you are drinking your body wants to burn up the alcohol and use it as it’s first source of fuel. It also processes it and begins the elimination process from your body, in real short order. While your body is burning through the alcohol, it will not use other energy sources, as it would normally do while you are not drinking; burning fats or carbohydrate sources.

As Julia mentioned in her article, not having a balance from input to output is a major culprit of the beer belly. Many people eat while they are drinking, to counter balance the effects of the alcohol. This leads to the ingestion of extra calories; it is not uncommon to have a mini-binge eating session while drinking, and not even notice.

So, how can you figure out the calorie count of your favorite beer? Start with the grams of alcohol in your beer and go from there. In order to determine the grams of alcohol in a beer, you can use a simple equation. While there are a few out there, this one has led me to the most consistent results compared to what is posted by breweries or other sources online.

density of ethanol x volume in ml x ABV

As an example we will use New Belgium Fat Tire. With the known information plugged in, it looks like this.

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0.789 x 355ml (approximately 12oz) x .052 (Fat Tire is 5.2% ABV)

With these numbers in the equation, it comes out to 14.56 grams of alcohol in 12oz of Fat Tire. When you multiply that by the 7 calories per gram of alcohol, you come up to 101.92 calories. But that is only part of the story.

You still need to account for the residual carbohydrates in your beer. Though, that gets a bit difficult without knowing the intimate details of the beer.

For the ease of estimation, it is safe to say that you would attain half of the total number of calories of alcohol from carbohydrates. So, in our situation 101.92/2+101.92=152.88 calories in a single bottle of Fat Tire. According to the website, Fat Tire has 160 calories per serving. Not that far off.

Here is another example of the calculation at work, New Belgium Ranger IPA which clocks in at 6.5% ABV.

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.789 x 355ml x .065

This comes out to 18.21 grams of alcohol. We then multiply this by 7 to account for the calories contributed from the alcohol, and that comes to 127.47 calories. Divide that in half and add the calories from alcohol and we get 127.47/2+127.47=191.21 calories. According to the website, New Belgium Ranger IPA is 187 calories per serving.

Remember, these are just estimates and you would need a lot more information to get a more accurate count. Also, don’t forget to adjust accordingly for your serving size. Google can fill in any blanks in conversion of ounces to milliliters or figuring out the ABV of a beer if it is not posted, but the density of ethanol will not change.

Other factors to consider would be how sweet vs how dry the beer is. Though, you should be in the ballpark with these estimates. Give it a try for a few known calorie beers and see what you notice.

Cheers

Caloric Breakdown Of Beer

The Session 102 Announcement: The Landscape Of Beer

The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. You can find more information on The Session on Brookston Beer Bulletin.

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SURPRISE, SURPRISE! The Landscape of Beer in America is changing. It has even begun influencing beer in countries all around the world. Everyone has their opinion on Local vs Global, Craft vs Macro, and Love vs Business. Those who were at the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference in Asheville this past weekend had a brief talk about how “Small and Independent Matters”. Something that quite a few people say matters to them, but where is the upper limit? Does a purchase of another brewery still allow a brewery to fall into the Small and Independent camp?

Our topic this month is, “The Landscape of Beer“. How do you see that landscape now? What about in 5, 10, or even 20 years? A current goal in the American Craft Beer Industry is 20% market share by the year 2020. How can we get there? Can we get there?

Whether your view is realistic or whimsical, what do you see in our future? Is it something you want or something that is happening? Let us know and maybe we can help paint the future together.

Please post your response here on or before August 7th with the round-up to follow.

Cheers!

The Session 102 Announcement: The Landscape Of Beer

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