For a writer--well, for me, anyway--the worst outcome is not that people will hate a book (though that's certainly not a good result), but that they won't read it at all. The death of a writer comes not at the hands of an angry public, but an indifferent one.
In two days time, most Americans will settle down before a giant feast. Turkey, football, Grandpa Joe--a tradition as old as the country. You can enhance the day immeasuruably with thoughtful libation selection. My vote: Traquair House Ale.
Another busy week in podcasting. Patrick and I offer you the latest Beervana Podcast, wherein we discuss canning with Hopworks' Trever Bass, and I appear on Experimental Brewing with Drew Beechum and OPB's The Four Top.
People don't trust their own judgment. Given an object stripped of all information and context, they rarely know what its value is. They instinctively look for clues, hoping to suss out some extrinsic guide to its intrinsic value.
I visited Belhaven in Dunbar, Scotland in 2011, at the tail end of George Howell's career there. Like all of the old-school British brewers, he was well-dressed and courtly. He had been head brewer--what the Brits call their brewmasters--for a decade and a half at that point.
Five years ago, Adam Milne established Old Town Brewing's leaping stag as a legal trademark. But for the past two years, he's been locked in a legal battle with the City of Portland, which wants to use that logo so it can license products by AB InBev. Here's the whole maddening story.
It's a surreal experience to visit one of the country's best breweries, see a gathering of their biggest fans, order glass of truly superb beer, and amid all the jollity know that it was all ending. (The Anderlecht wild ale was a revelation; Galaxy Myrtle was vibrantly fresh; and of course Urban Farmhouse and Flemish Kiss, my final two beers at the old place, were Urban Farmhouse and Flemish Kiss.) How could this be?
Breweries all have personalities. Like people, they have a particular appearance, a vein running through their interests, a way of doing things or behaving in the world. But here's the thing: very few actually know what it is.
"Gluten-free" brewing is a niche in the brewing world that our modern minds place into a special, denigrated category: beer with some essential part of the beer removed. But this really is a modern view. By sixteenth-century standards, these ingredients would have been entirely normal.
Why do politicians invoke beer in their periodic set-pieces? They think it bespeaks blue collar authenticity, the drink of the everyman. In the politician's grab bag of easy symbols, beer is like a pair of jeans, a hunting rifle, steel-toed boots, a pick-up truck.
Level Beer combines the talents of Geoff Phillips (Bailey’s Taproom) along with brewers Jason Barbee (Ex Novo), and Shane Watterson (Laurelwood). Any Portland brewery may turn into an IPA house, but for now, the focus is on sessionable, balanced, European-inspired ales and lagers.
Yesterday marked the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther's 95 Theses, the Catholic theologian's assault on the church's several abuses of the day. In homage to that event, I turn my own attention to beer and the elements about it requiring their own reform and/or settlement.
Yesterday, Boston-based Harpoon announced the purchase of contract brewery Clown Shoes. But this post isn't going to be about the acquisition. Rather, it's about how companies mature and markets sand off rough edges of any company that wants to stay around.
Base Camp, a brewery I consider new, is somehow celebrating its fifth anniversary this week. For those not up on your anniversary symbolism, let me remind you that five is the "wood" anniversary--Base Camp naturally decided to celebrate with a passel of barrel-aged beers.
Each year, poly sci professor Jeff Dense runs the economic figures for the Oregon Brewers Festival. They're interesting metrics if you're in the tourism biz, but yesterday, Justin Kendall quoted Dense on a figure I hadn't seen and that is interesting.
“I was adamantly against it. When I went over to Belgium with a few other brewers two years ago, I was like, we gotta do this, we gotta brew these beers. [But] when I got back I thought: it’s too much work, it’s too risky, it’s too risky having all those microbes in the brewery.”
In one sense, this isn't entirely surprising. Going to the archives has become a time-honored tradition, particularly in recent history. In an effort to move toward full-flavored beers without acknowledging craft beer, many venerable companies--Guinness, Carlsberg, Coors--have come out with their own throwbacks.
Local, artisanal ciders are doing very well. There's not a clear definition of "craft cider," but by one measure these cideries were up 40% last year. In key regions like the Pacific Northwest, Upper Midwest, and New England, they have taken root and seem to have emerged as a permanent player.
This follows the summer launch of a effort to enroll member breweries an independent seal program. "Take Craft Back" is the second prong in the larger campaign. It was a surprising, creative, and frankly aggressive move to engage the fight against "big beer."
I get it; names are hard. There are 5,000+ breweries in the US alone. Add to that the trademarked beer names and you're getting up there. A lot of the good and obvious ones have either been taken. But come on, breweries of America, we can do better.
We all know that California won more medals than any other state at the Great American Beer Festival. Pssh. Of course it did!--it's got a million breweries. To really find out how well a state did, you have to know how many entries they had. I've got you covered.
It's expensive to enter, winning is a crapshoot, and anyway, there are so many medals that a win is likely to get lost in the shuffle. Most consumers don't track these things, and if they learn a brewery has won an award, probably don't care. All of which raises an interesting question. Why bother?
"So we speak of a beer with a low alcohol content, high bitterness, no residual sugar, so a refreshing beer. It was what we call in Belgium biere de saison, saison beer, brewed in the winter and drunk in the summer."
The North American Guild of Beer Writers announced their annual awards this morning, and the judges saw fit to acknowledge a few things I wrote last year. It's very special about being honored by your colleagues, so this means a lot.
Like every brewery of a certain age, Hopworks once-novel IPA started to taste dated once the newer wave arrived a few years ago. In a surprising, fascinating move, Hopworks has reformulated their flagship, a makeover that changes everything (including the label) except the name.
Not that we needed further evidence, but a recent collaboration between a brewery and a national doughnut chain definitively and conclusively confirm that the term "craft beer" is meaningless.
It is the third most-brewed beer in the US and yet has no significant best-sellers. It is called "rustic" but is prized for its sophistication. It is the broadest style in the world--if you can even call it a style--and yet most of the tradition traces itself pretty directly back to a single beer.
In one of the tinier pockets of the brewing world, a heated debate rages. What should Americans call the beer made in the manner of spontaneously-fermented Belgian lambic? This wasn't remotely an issue until about 2007, when Allagash Brewing started a program that followed the practices quite closely. There may have been some efforts along the way toward traditional lambic-style beer, but Allagash built a dedicated coolship room and committed to an ongoing program making the beer. Last year, one of the small club of Americans making these beers decided to name and codify it, and thus began the debate.