Friday, July 31, 2009

Jamie Martin - Stupid Stuff Every Brewer Should Know

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Let's say you really like beer. I know. A stretch, right? But, let's say you like beer enough that you've decided to make a career out of brewing the stuff. Your first job is an unpaid internship polishing tanks and scrubbing tanks at a tourist-town brewpub. You labor away at this for 3 years; after a little while you get to help sanitize a mashtun and eventually, maybe, the brewmaster lets you dump some grain in, maybe add dry hops. Heck, the brewmaster even lets you devise some recipes and lets you help brew them. Then, one day, the brewmaster quits, leaving you, just 3 years removed from scrubbing floors, to run the brewery.

It might be really useful to reference Stupid Stuff All Brewers Should Know But Often Don't, written by Brewmaster Jamie Martin. You might learn such useful advice as:

- "Cleaners are great for removing tough organic soil from the surface of stainless steel, but the additional acid cycle is required to remove inorganic material that could be hiding in the pores of your stainless steel that standard cleaners are too large to penetrate."

- "Happy healthy yeast already has all the nutrients it needs, so on a brew day instead of using a commercial yeast nutrient you can pull some yeast (I use 100ml/BBL), and add it to the boil. The cell walls will break down and the nutrients will be added to your wort."

- "When barrel aging beer, changing temperature will help create depth of flavor. Warm temperatures will let the beer into the wood and colder temperatures squeeze beer back out. If you don't have the space to store a bunch of barrels you can put the barrel into the beer, wood spirals work great for this."

And much more...

These are great tips, so I caught up with Jamie and asked her a few questions to introduce herself to those of you who may not be familiar with her or Moosejaw Pizza and Dells Brewing Company:

1. Who are you, where do you work, and how long have you been there? How did you get into brewing?

Jamie Martin: My name is Jamie Martin and I happen to be the only female Brewmaster in Wisconsin; I work at Dells Brewing Company (AKA Moosjaw Pizza and Dells Brewing Company). I have worked here since 2002 and took over as Brewmaster in 2005.


2. How did you get involved with Moosejaw and how long has Moosejaw been around? When someone thinks "Moosejaw" what are you hoping they are thinking about? What kinds of cool things have you been doing up there this summer?

JM: Moosejaw opened in April 2002,I started at Moosejaw as an unpaid intern in September 2002 and worked for free for five months scrubbing floors and polishing tanks. I operate a brewery in the biggest tourist town in Wisconsin. There is a different customer base and therefor a different brewing style. I think of this brewery as a gateway to craft beer; I mainly brew to style and only about 2% of the people that walk through the door actually know what craft beer is. It is my job to slowly and gently introduce them to small batch hand crafted beer (without scaring them) so next time they run across it they will be more inclined to have another. Now, I am gearing up for the Great Taste of the Midwest, then right after that I need to ship out my Great American BeerFest entries. Beer-wise just getting my fall beers ready Oaktoberfest and Milk Stout are already in tanks and Pumpkin Spice Ale will be made soon along with Wet Hop IPA. [ed note: "Oaktoberfest"!? You are speaking my language! Yum.]

3. You wrote "Stupid Stuff All Brewers Should Know But Often Don't". What was the impetus for writing the article and who do you see as the target audience for this article?

JM: To be honest I was very unprepared to run a brewery when I took over; I find most brewpubers are unprepared because you get your job when you're like 25/26 years old and really know nothing. I was lucky all the guys in Wisconsin were really kind and took me in and helped me with everything imaginable. Now I’m the one getting calls from the new brewers and they are the same questions I had. So I figured there was a gap in education something was missing between home brewing/assistant brewing and being a Brewmaster. It’s all the small stuff no one talks about because it now seems obvious to most of us but its not to new brewers. I would really like to turn this into a book some day. This would be a good read for any home brewer (I gave this speech to the Madison Home brewers Club) and anyone who wants to go pro.

4. I love this piece of advice: "When building your brewery plan ahead - Don't just build the brewery so it is comfortable for you to work in, make sure anybody can, big or small; if you are 6'2" don't make the connections for the CIP so high that someone who's 5' 2" can't reach them. You don't want to be the only one who can physically work in your brewery or make it so uncomfortable that no one else will want to work there." Just looking at your picture there, I'm going to guess that you're, what?, about 5'2"?

JM: Yeah I’m very short.

Does that advice come from any particular experience?

JM: Well not my experience; my good friend Laura from Stone added that tip. She’s short too.

5. When are we going to see more female brewers, darn it?!

Well that’s why my friend Teri Fahrendorf started the Pink Boot Society to promote women in brewing. There are a few of use out there; Christina is at Ale House, Jean is at New Glarus and Ann at Viking.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

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Part two of this week's podcast features news in 60 seconds, with stories on Lost Coast's label controversy, a new beer magazine, and the closure of the Monroe Street Bistro. Plus, we talk about the 2009 US Open Beer Championships, where one Wisconsin brewery fared very well.



Here's the mp3

Cheers!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

You Know It's A Slow News Day When ...

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... ABCNews is wondering which beer Obama will choose for his meeting with Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr and Cambridge Police Sergeant James Crowley. It's a decent article that occasionally (intentionally?) highlights such political insight as: "Donna Brazile, an ABC News political consultant, suggested Boston-brewed Sam Adams. ... 'Honestly, I am a wine drinker and find common ground with beer could be tough,' Brazile added." (People can be both wine and beer drinkers you know).

Some possible choices:
- "This time around the president might instead choose to highlight a beer from his hometown of Chicago." (Goose Island)
- "White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, when asked by reporters at a briefing Monday about the beverage choice, noted that Obama hoisted a Budweiser at baseball's All-Star Game earlier this month." (Budweiser is owned by Belgian-Brazilian giant InBev)
- "Gibbs also noted that Crowley told the president he was more partial to Blue Moon." (Blue Moon is owned by South African subsidiary MillerCoors)
- "Gates told The Boston Globe over the weekend that he was partial to Red Stripe and Beck's."
- "Devin Dinneen, general manager of Tommy Doyle's Irish Pub in Cambridge's Kendall Square, the bar that Crowley was in Friday when the president called, ... said Sam Adams Summer Ale 'is a good seller in the warm weather' but that pub also sells a fair amount of Guinness, being an Irish bar. He also suggested Magners Irish Cider."
- "Matt Simpson, who goes by the nickname The Beer Sommelier, provides craft beer consulting for individuals and businesses and writes the 'Ask Beer' column for Beer Magazine, said his first choice would probably a Hennepin Farmhouse Saison from the Brewery Ommegang in Cooperstown, N.Y." (Ommegang is owned by Belgian brewery Duvel)

In a winning point for the article, it does note: "The White House only stocks American beers, under a tradition dating to the Johnson administration. ... [Which means that] Budweiser isn't a slam dunk either. Some could argue that the beer is no longer an American beer after being bought out by Belgian-Brazilian beer giant InBev, maker of Hoegaarden, Leffe and Stella Artois."

So, according to the article: Sam Adams (x2), Red Stripe, Beck's, Magners Irish Cider, Guinness, Budweiser, Blue Moon, Goose Island, or Hennepin.

What'd ya think?

If I were a betting man, I'd put money on Goose Island or Sam Adams.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

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On the first part of this week's podcast, Jon and I talk about the beer on our trips to Minnesota and South Dakota, respectively, and we talk a bit about the effect of image on beer sales.



Here's the mp3

Cheers!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Getting Ready For The Great Taste

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I know we're still a few weeks away from The Great Taste of the Midwest, but the Pre-Great Taste parties are actually my favorite part of the weekend. It's a great opportunity to meet some folks from the breweries, bar crawl a little bit, and drink some great beer with people who really know their stuff.

So, we'll be updating the site as I find out about some Pre-Great Taste parties and we'll have some more information about the Great Taste as it gets closer. In the meantime, here's some of the Pre-Great Taste parties:

The Beer Spot hosts Surly & Founders @ Glass Nickel on Atwood, 7pm
Jolly Pumpkin @ Malt House, 4pm (also Cantillon on tap! Boo! Didn't make it.)
Great Lakes @ Dexters, 4pm
Dark Horse @ Dexters, 8pm
New Holland @ Local Tavern, 4pm
Two Brothers @ Alchemy, 8pm
Bells @ Maduro, 4pm
Stone, Dogfish, 3 Floyds @ Jordan's Big 10, 3-8pm (Jordans?!)
Ommegang/Duvel @ Brasserie V - Duvel Green and Multiple Ommegang ("This will be their first time offering this in Wisconsin and it has only been in select places in the US so far.")
Goose Island @ Sardine,

There's some rumors about a bus that will take people around to the different bars; I'm trying to get some confirmation on that. I have some feelers out to see if there are other parties going on.

Anyone that you would like to see?

-----UPDATE-------
I'll keep updating this post as raw data and then next week I'll republish it in a more finalized form.
------FROM DEXTERS------
Great Lakes will be about 4pm to 8pm. Dark Horse will be here after 8pm.
Great Lakes: Dortmunder, Edmund Fitz, Blackout, Grassroots, Indy Ale
Dark Horse: Fore, Perkulator, Crooked Tree, Double Crooked Tree, Boffo Brown, Rod Red, Reserve Black and Maybe Scotty Karate

These will all be on tap.

We will also be open for breakfast on Saturday at 9 and will be having a bus. [ed note: sweet!]

------FROM ALCHEMY-------
They got mixed up with a beer dinner they are holding with New Holland later this fall. Two Brothers, not New Holland, is there for the Pre-Great Taste.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Press Release Friday - Unibroue Beer Dinner

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I love Unibroue beers - yes, I know they are owned by some large entity or another (SAB maybe? eh. I'm too lazy to look it up), but it's definitely a case of tastiness taking precendence over morals (not "morels" which are also tasty). In any event, Claddagh out in Middleton is having the Unibroue folks out to put to the test whether anything of quality can be paired with Irish food. And, hey, it's only $40/person.

-------------START PRESS RELEASE---------------

Please join Claddagh Irish Pub for the Unibroue Beer Dinner, Wednesday, July 29th from 7-9 PM. This dinner includes 5 exquisite courses, featuring a Unibroue Beer to complement each course. A Unibroue Representative will be attending this festive dinner, and will share fun, mythical stories about the origin of each beer. It's going to be a one of a kind event! Only $40/person.

Coffee And Beer

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Coffee and beer always seem to go together. From coffee stouts to coffee Mexican lager to coffee porters to coffee in the morning when you're hungover.

A more recent trend is beer in coffee shops. In the area it seems that Barriques was kind of the pioneer here - starting with wine bars downtown and on Monroe Street. Bradbury's downtown now also sells beer, Firefly in Oregon sells beer, and Starbucks is experimenting with selling beer at their coffee shops.

[ed note: some disclosure is required here - I've worked with Barriques and Firefly and MBR's Beer Talk Today is associated with Bradbury's. Coincidence? well, since we love coffee and beer, it can't really be that surprising that we choose to work places that offer both, no?]

[addition: Indie Coffee on Regent here in Madison also sells beer now, I think. Other coffee shops in Wisconsin? Folks in Milwaukee?]

The Seattle Times questions whether it makes sense to sell beer at coffee shops: "it's really hard to understand there's a coffee shop that turns into a wine and beer bar at night." I don't know why this is so hard to get. People go to a coffee shop to sit and drink while chatting with friends, chatting with co-workers or family, getting some work done, studying. Why can't these things be done with beer as well as coffee? Plus, in a coffee shop, typically a place with comfortable chairs and good lighting, you don't have the loud music, dim lighting and standing-room-only discomfort. Coffee shops offer a ambiance that you simply don't get at many bars. While I may not take a chess board or book to Maduro (although I have been known to take my laptop there), I don't hesitate to do these things at Barriques.

Plus, coffee shops are seeing tough times. Coffee is a premium/luxury good that is entirely dependent on disposable income. It makes sense for coffee shops to differentiate their product lines. Wine and beer are both good fits - most coffee shops also sell small plates which pair well with wines and beer, the baristas know how to sell premium products, and the coffee shop is already a place with a good, comfortable reputation in the community. Coffee shops already have a lot of the infrastructure in-place to sell beer such as coolers and moderate temperatures and dry environments.

So, I guess when I saw the article from the Seattle Times titled Should Coffee Shops Sell Wine and Beer? My reaction was "Why shouldn't they?"

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

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On today's podcast we have Jon's least favorite new segment, Beer Talk Today Twitter Tracker, where we scour the tweet-o-sphere for tweets on beer. There's even a haiku involved.



Here's the mp3

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hey Barkeep! What is Dry Hopping?

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OK, no one actually asked me this, but based on some recent press it seems that there may be confusion about what, exactly, dry hopping is and is not. To wit, "The pale ale is commonly pale golden or light copper with a moderate to strong hop aroma that comes from dry hopping, where hops are added late to the brew kettle. ... It's made with all-Cascade hops, which are added into the post-boil of the wort, with a light amount of dry hopping to give it enough bitterness for the style ...." The second sentence actually hurts me just below my spleen.

We talked about hops before. There we talked about alpha acids (the bittering component of hops) and beta acids (the aroma component) and essential oil (the aroma characteristics). It's a good review of how hops work; certainly not comprehensive, but it gives you a good overview. Friend of MBR, Joe Walts of RePublic Brewpub, talked quite extensively about hopping a few weeks ago. Joe looks at some hop-science, engages in some science himself, and brews up an IPA that was apparently pretty darn impressive.

But what's at issue with the dry hopping is how hops are used. Hops can be added throughout the beer-making process, from the lautering all the way up until it hits a bottle. We'll talk about some of those now (see, John Palmer, How to Brew):

First Wort Hopping: low alpha-acid hops are added pre-boil to the kettle as the wort moves from the lauter/mash tun to the kettle; "one study among professional brewers determined that the use of FWH [ed note: First Wort Hopping] resulted in a more refined hop aroma, a more uniform bitterness (i.e. no harsh tones), and a more harmonious beer overall compared to an identical beer produced without FWH" Because the hops being added are typical low in alpha acid to begin with, this addition does not add a significant amount of bittering and really just helps to add complexity to the hop profile.

Bittering: hops are boiled for usually 45-60 minutes, although many breweries (for example Dogfish Head) may boil for as long as 90 or even 120 minutes. During a bittering addition, the alpha acids of the hop are isomerized and the oils are boiled away leaving very little hop aroma.
    You might be wondering why the essential oils of the hops added during the first wort hopping wouldn't also boil away. Well, according to Mr. Palmer: "by letting the hops steep in the wort prior to the boil, the oils have more time to oxidize to more soluble compounds and a greater percentage are retained during the boil."

Flavoring: the general trade-off with hops in the boil is that the longer the hops boil the more bittering they provide, while the shorter the time that the hops boil the more aroma is taken; flavoring additions occur mid-way through the boil and provide a good balance between aroma and bittering.

Aroma/Finishing: this includes hops added in the last 15 minutes of the boil and hops that are steeped post-boil; in this addition of hops, the essential oils are not lost to evaporation but the alpha-acids are not isomerized resulting in a very aromatic, but non-bitter hoppiness; in some cases a "hop back" is used where the wort is filtered through a bed of hops on its way to the chiller/filter/fermenter; in the case of hop backs and steepings, you can sometimes get tannin-y flavors from the leafy and stem materials from hops which are usually neutralized immediately in a boil

Dry Hopping: here, hops are added to the beer after the beer has been through a primary fermentation and it is sitting for a secondary or conditioning period. "If the hops are added to the fermenter while it is still actively bubbling, then a lot of the hop aroma will be carried away by the carbon dioxide." This imparts even more aroma and gives an opportunity to introduce greater complexity, no bitterness is imparted during this phase.

So "dry hopping" does not occur in the brew kettle post-boil and cannot give a beer "just enough bitterness for the style." It does provide awesome aromas though and probably does, in fact, account for some of the Cascade aroma of the US Pale Ale.

One last thing because it is a huge pet peeve of mine. A quote from Kirby Nelson, head brewer at Capital Brewery, regarding the US Pale Ale: "What I want to achieve with this beer is a nice example of the style." Which, perhaps explains why the Pale Ale is relatively unimpressive - a middle-of-the-road, style-guideline version of a pale ale is a really boring beer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Press Release Tuesday - BeerMenus.Com Launches in Milwaukee

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So, no Beer Talk Today this week - the guys were on vacation last week. Hopefully it'll be back next week. In the meantime, a cool new project is getting started in Milwaukee and Chicago is on the way. The basic idea is that people and bars can go out to this website or Twitter feed and keep taplists up-to-date. That way when you're wondering what beer is at what bar you can check it out before you head out (or, I presume, check it out on your Blackberry/iPhone/etc.) I haven't had a chance to play with the site much, so I can't vouch for it's awesomeness yet - but I can say that it seems like a good idea - particularly in large cities.

--------------START PRESS RELEASE----------------------

Milwaukee, WI – The craft beer industry and its followers in Milwaukee now have a new ally online, http://beermenus.com. The website allows users a chance to search Milwaukee’s beer menus by beer, neighborhood, establishment, and soon to be, style. Search results produce a map of the locations that have beer menus in their location, or a specific beer, or even beer events. Upon clicking the location, a user can find the establishments hours, location and everything they on tap, in bottles, in casks, prices, and other beer information. Other functionalities of the site include user created lists, events calendar, and much more.

“Beer geeks are very tech savvy. They love Twitter. They love to rate beer. They love to talk online about great beer and bash bad beer. The first list created in Milwaukee was, ‘Best Beers to Drink While Watching a Brewers Game’. Genius list, I wish I would have thought of that. But finding beer events, or places serving our favorite beers in Milwaukee was pretty much impossible before this site.” Said Tom Story, a local web designer who helped bring BeerMenus.com to Milwaukee. “I knew it had to be here next.”
First established in New York in 2008, and just recently launched in Philadelphia, BeerMenus started with two brothers asking the question, “Where can we find our good beer in New York?”

“We knew there were many places out there serving great beer, but they were difficult to find and we wanted to know exactly what beers they had so we could find our favorites.” Said Will Stephens Co-Founder of BeerMenus.com.
“To solve this problem, we created BeerMenus.com, which allows places that sell great beer to update, manage, and publicize their beer menus in a central location online to connect with thirsty craft beer lovers.”

Currently New York has 568 bars, beer stores, and brewpubs online, Philadelphia has 76, and Milwaukee has started its first day with 25. But Milwaukee boasts many beers that even the other large cities out east do not carry.
“Milwaukee is the original Beer Capital and has needed a site like this for awhile. As I play with the site, there is definitely a sense of pride, as I can search for excellent Wisconsin beers and see that New York and Philadelphia do not have them. I can appreciate a bar that serves Furthermore, Central Waters, Tyranena, New Glarus and Lakefront. And now I know where those places are at,” concluded Tom.

Future expansion ideas for BeerMenus.com includes search by Style and Premium memberships for both users and bar owners, and as of now the site free for all. Users can also follow new additions to Milwaukee from their updates on Twitter @BeerMenusMilw.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Monroe Street Bistro Closed

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From 77Square: That didn't take long.

Unfortunately problems with ownership created a bad situation for Clayton (co-owner and chef). Interestingly, the article notes: "Mergen [ed note: the restaurant manager] said changes in store at the new restaurant include dropping price points to the $8 to $17 range and making sandwiches available all day." For those of you that had been MSB, you know that this statement is kind of odd for two reasons: 1) almost all of the food was already IN the $8 to $17 range (with the odd Rack of Lamb or something coming in a little higher) and 2) the sandwiches were great and always available anyway. So, it seems like a rather odd statement to say that these represent positive changes. It doesn't sound good for the beer and liquor selection, though we'll keep you updated on that.


In the meantime, good luck to Clayton his food will be greatly missed.

Would You Know Me If You Saw Me?

7 comments
When I saw this article about Starbucks creating new coffeeshops that would not be branded in any manner that would associate it with the controversial chain coffee stores, I immediately thought of Leinenkugels. Why did I think of Leinenkugel's? Well, in both cases we have a large, national brand attempting to take advantage of a movement in localization and at least some public fervor that holds its national brands in disregard. I'm sure in both cases there are numerous marketing studies to show that when unbranded people "love" Starbucks coffee, but by merely putting a Starbucks logo on the cup causes instant negative reactions.

I'm the sure the same is true of "Miller" - put Stone IPA into a Miller bottle and people who love Stone will hate it. Put Miller Lite into a Leinenkugel's bottle and the negative reaction goes away. It's just one way that large companies make money off of people that hate large corporations. See also: Chipotle vis-a-vis McDonald's.

It also presents an interesting dilemma. What's the difference between Leinie's owned by Miller and Leinie's NOT owned by Miller? Do these corporate associations really make a difference? If Starbucks makes good coffee, hires local people to run their coffee shops, and generally act as good citizens in their communities, why do we care if there are over a million stores and the coffee comes in a white cup from a green be-smocked barista?

On the other hand, we have to recognize that at such a grand, corporeal, corporate level the business is not about the customer, except to the extent that it helps to separate said customer from customer's dollar bills or add a tally on the minus side of said customer's bank account. The feeling is that Starbucks doesn't care about creating good coffee or even a good coffee experience; rather Starbucks is an expert at making the customer THINK they are getting good coffee and a good coffee experience while providing that thought for as little money as humanly possible. Miller wants you to THINK that you are getting handcrafted, artisan beer from Dick and Jake Leinenkugel even while making much of the product at a faceless facility in Milwaukee by people who probably don't even know that the product going through the tubes will end up in a Leinie's bottle.

But, if it's good beer ("good" being defined as: "you like it") who cares where or by whom it is made? How deceived do you feel knowing that the vast majority of Guinness, owned by spirits giant Diageo, is not made in Ireland - and to qualify as "imported" it's simply made in Canada and crosses our Northern border? Does it bother you to know that Blue Moon, a slice of orange heaven to many people, is owned by Coors? Would you continue drink and exalt Matilda if you knew that Goose Island and Anheuser-Busch have been in bed together for years?

And how is any of this different from Sam Adams? Sam Adams is the largest "independent" brewery in the United States. Not a single drop A tiny fraction of beer is made at a plant owned by Sam Adams; Sam Adams owns no breweries. In fact, at least as of a few years ago, much of the Sam Adams enjoyed here in the Midwest was made at the same facility that pukes out Mike's Hard Lemonade and LaCrosse Lager, City Brewery in LaCrosse, WI.

Of course, all of these make a mockery of the "local" product that many claim to be. Sam Adams is about as "Bostonian" as cream pie. Guinness is about as Irish as most of the revelers packing Claddagh on St. Patrick's Day. Leinenkugel's has as much to do with the Northwoods as the Chicago tourists who lord over the servant class there.

At the end of the day, to me at least, the question is: what do you like about drinking beer?

Are you merely looking for beer that you like? If so, then who cares where it's made? But, if you are looking for a producer that cares about their product, if you are looking for an artisan that wants their consumers to be enlightened, if you care about your dollars being spent on local products, if you value transparency and artistry over quantity and status, then a heavy weight is put against these marketing companies merely passing off the same old industrial lite beer as something new and exciting simply because they put lemon-syrup in it and call it "Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mikkeller Nelson Sauvin Single-Hop IPA

2 comments
I will admit to being a fan of just about anything Mikkeller puts in a bottle. Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, headbrewer of Mikkeller, is uniquely his own. He doesn't so much as follow as trends as break them down to their basic components, reconfigure them, and put them back together to create something at once modern and current and also challenging and fresh. Indeed, just last week, the intrepid souls of Hoosier Beer Geek interviewed Mikkel and he explained his mission thusly: "I think it is sad that so many people don't know what possibilities beer has. I want to show them what hops, malts, and yeast taste like."

Take for example, his recent collaboration with 3 Floyds Brewing Company, called Oatgoop. Released this past winter it combines recent trends in the brewing industry such as high-alcohol, wine-style beer and using non-traditional grains. In that case, he paired with a high-profile American brewery to create his own take and came up with a high-alcohol, wine-style beer that uses a non-traditional grain. It was a big, complex, playful approach to the barleywine. On the other side, is something like the Jackie Brown, a surprisingly straightforward, even if somewhat hoppy, take on a traditional brown ale. The Jackie Brown not only demonstrates his superb skill in brewing to style, it posts his own imprimatur and provides a pointed counter-point to something like this Nelson Sauvin Single-Hop IPA

Where the Jackie Brown is relatively traditional, this Single-Hop IPA is anything but traditional. Mikkeller has rent the hop and IPA trends into pieces, brought it down to its components and dissects each one under a microscope. A series of five beers that focus on a single hop each: Nugget, Simcoe, Cascade, Warrior, and Nelson Sauvin. It is a singular focus on the hop, exposing not just the positive qualities, but the negatives as well. The Jackie Brown is a benign take on a traditional style, each of the five Single-Hop IPAs are a non-traditional, over-the-top, under-the-microscope look at not just the hop, but the style itself, and even our own perceptions on what an IPA is. Thought you like cascade hops? Try a Cascade Single-Hop and see what you think. No idea what the Nelson Sauvin is? Try this one:

Appearance: big creamy, foamy whipped cream head; opaque burnished copper; a soft-dusky cloud
Aroma: crazy fruity and musty; on the grapish side of citrusy - can definitely see why people call this hoppy wine-like; a slight biscuit maltiness hides behind
Flavor: sharp and hoppy, with a slight pine-sol (but not in a bad way) brightness, not super-bitter, but very flavorful in a grassy-hoppy kind of way; the hops are very definitely up-front but a solid maltiness lies beneath that implies that this beer could age interestingly
Body: soft and oily with a medium-lean body; dries out in the finish to clean everything up, though leaves a lingering off-grape flavor
Drinkability: something a little different; surprisingly, I think, I could drink a lot of these and at 6.9% it's not overly alcoholic
Summary: some of the descriptions of this seem strange ("pine-sol", "off-grape") but only because, I think, it is so unlike very many beers; it is actually similar flavor-wise to Dogfish's Midas Touch with it's non-traditional, grape-like, beer flavors; it's very nice, but approach and presentation are everything with this - if you were to pour this into a shaker pint and hand it to someone to drink as a beer they might be put-off; but with a white wine glass and paired with a dinner (sautéed whitefish with capers?) it is very approachable

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Michigan, A Recap, Part 2 - Founders, New Holland, Bells

2 comments
s I mentioned in Part 1, I didn't make it to Dark Horse, though I've been told by those who went that the location has a country "hole in the wall" feel to it.

So, first up was Founders where co-founder Dave Engbers gave us a behind-the-scenes look at the shiny new stainless there. Then, for the next two hours Mr. Engbers chatted with us about everything Founders and beer.

Breweries can be expensive operations. To run even a small brewery requires a capital investment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment. Of course, you can make the money back, but when you first get going, it can be hard to know where that next sale is going to come from. Founders was no different. Shortly after it had begun, the bank came calling on some past due bills and basically gave the brewery one week to pay or it was going to foreclose on its collateral (fancy bank speak for: shut you down and sell your equipment). It was at this point, after a scramble to investors to help out, that a beer started to get some awards. This beer would save the brewery, allow for growth, and see the brewery to its newest flagship beer set to takeover later this year.

Which beer was this saving grace? The Dirty Bastard scotch ale, a rich, malty, slightly hoppy scotch ale that weighs in at a respectable 8.3% ABV. The Dirty Bastard was the flagship for Founders, bringing it the money to make it to its reputation-makers: Breakfast Stout, Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and Canadian Breakfast Stout. Surprisingly, these are not based on the same underlying Breakfast Stout recipe as the barrel aging imparts flavors that require adjusting the flavor profile of the base beer. This was something that we saw at Jolly Pumpkin and bears repeating here: beer is a living product - it changes shape over time and the beer that goes into the barrel or bottle very often is different from the beer that comes out of the barrel or bottle; thus, the brewer needs to predict what the beer will taste like after this aging and but a product in that will become what the brewer intends that you, the customer, will drink. This requires more than mere science, it requires art and craftsmanship to apply expertise and experience in predicting these flavor changes given the materials, the temperatures, the times, and a variety of other factors that impact the final product.

Which beer is poised to become the new flagship for Founders? The Centennial IPA, a classic American IPA in the hoppy, West Coast style that has become the calling-card of Founders' non-stout beers.

More importantly, the success of the Dirty Bastard allowed Founders to build its taproom. The taproom now serves not just as a place for locals and pilgrims to quaff a tasty beverage, but it provides cheap marketing research about what works and what doesn't. While not surprisingly few beers fail at the taproom, some have never made it out. For example, we were told the story of a blueberry lager that was positively reviewed by sycophant revelers, brewery staff nixed anyway as entirely unrepresentative of anything Founders wanted to portray about itself. On the other hand, was the undisputed champion of the entire weekend: a Maple Porter. This Maple Porter has not been brewed with maple syrup. It is a big-bodied, hoppy-ish porter that is aged in whiskey (or was it bourbon?) barrels that were used to age maple syrup at a local syrup producer. The barrels are now used to age this porter and create a wonderfully rich, complex beer that is sweet without overdoing it, a bright whiskey undertone, and roasted malts at a monster 10% ABV. It is a great, great beer and will hopefully make it into bottles for all the world to enjoy.

Also on tap was a Bourbon Barrel Red's Rye that impressed. The Red's Rye series of beers present an interesting challenge for Founders. As a grain rye can be harsh and husky and can turn off quite a few people; yet, many people like this flavor a lot. So, there's a balance that has to be struck between making beer that people can respect and appreciate, but also making beer that people will buy. It is for this reason that the Black Rye has been discontinued. Personally, I find this disappointing, as it was a great, great beer. I mentioned my love for this beer to Mr. Engbers and, while he commisserated and agreed that it was a good beer, it simply wasn't being bought on retail shelves. The bartender, Kim, had a better solution: mix about 1/3 Porter to 2/3 Red's Rye and voila(!) Black Rye.

I ordered the faux-Black Rye much to the disgust of Mr. Engbers. A cohort ordered the concoction you see there to your left: a mix of the Oatmeal Stout (on top) and Cerise (on the bottom); a nice, full-bodied, roasty, sweet, cherry-fruit bomb that has an absolutely beautiful presentation. It was at this point that we got into a rather heated argument that seems to be spilling into the beer geek universe: to mix, or not to mix. I am, as a general rule, anti-mixing. I think it corrupts both beers to result in a generally inferior product. But, having said that, the faux-Black Rye was surprisingly close to the actual Black Rye and, honestly, anything that results in a drink as pretty as the Oatmeal Stout/Cerise mix cannot possibly be all bad. As a brewer, of course, Mr. Engbers' point is well taken: the mix is not the intended product and to the extent it results in an inferior product, or really to the extent it results in a different product, it is not the product of the brewery. It's that simple. Kim, our wonderful bartender, made the point that her job is to serve what the customer wants - and if the customer wants a Black Rye, but one isn't on tap, she can get really close by mixing them and it makes the customer happy. A fair point. I'm not sure I can reasonably explicate a difference between this faux-Black Rye and, say, Granite City's horrible practice of putting together two of its beers to come up with something that isn't as good as its components (which is saying a lot!), so I'll chalk it up to hypocrisy and move on, I guess.

One last tidbit about Founders: their annual production is around 22,000 bbls, making it about the size of Capital Brewery here in Wisconsin. I was amazed to hear that brewery that seems so ubiquitous is, in fact, quite small.

Next on to New Holland, where the Existential hopwine is king and some derivative of The Mad Hatter represents close to 50% of the available taps. New Holland's Holland, Michigan brewpub is not where the beer is produced (the actual brewery is a few miles down the road) but is where we stopped to have a bite to eat and check out the wares. Personally, I don't really get excited by much of what New Holland makes; the Mad Hatter is OK, but there are many other IPAs that I would rather drink and that seems to hold true for much of their product line - it's all fine, but none of it makes me want to grab it over something else of a similar style. Most of us on the trip feel the same way, so we tried experimenting a little with New Holland's other line: spirits.

New Holland, in addition to being a brewery, is a distillery. They make whiskey, gin, and a few types of flavored vodkas. I had a faux-Tom Collins (one of my favorite drinks, by the way - I say "faux" because it was made with lemonade not lemon and simple syrup) with the gin that was pretty decent. Another of our group ordered a drink that turned out to be absolutely brilliant: a gin and tonic with the New Holland gin that had been soaking with cucumbers. The cucumber taste came through and the gin really shined; hands down this drink was the highlight of New Holland. The whiskey was expensive, $15 for what looked like a generous, not quite double, pour, but pretty good. Unlike many "craft" whiskey's this didn't overdo it with a heavy body and flavor; instead, it showcased some nice vanilla overtones with background flavors of cherry and oak on a light to medium body. Very nice, and not too much of a burn - easily drinkable without water to cut it.

Finally, on to Bell's. Bell's, as a pioneer and leader in the Midwest Craft Beer Industry hardly needs to justify itself and its decisions to anyone. It provides good, if not awe-inspiring, beer to just about every bar, restaurant, hotel, liquor store, grocery store and tavern in the entire Midwest. But, to say we were disappointed with the Eccentric Cafe, the downtown Kalamazoo bar/restuarant/taphouse/tied house would approximate, if understate, our feelings. The $6 cover did not start things right and we knew we should have just gone elsewhere when we saw that the cover charge could be modified by wearing a toga. Allowing some, apparently regulars, to slip by without charge only resulted in more frustration. Closing the kitchen at 9pm sealed the deal and we left without hearing a note of the "funky" cover band playing to a grass lawn covered with pot-smoking frat-boys and girls in togas and fake-fro wigs.


We did manage to grab some beers before we decided to high-tail it out of there, and the golden rye ale was rye overload - which even for an avowed rye-lover proved too much. The sour rye and sour fruit beers were a little better if not overly impressive; though, to be fair, compared with Jolly Pumpkin, it would be hard to impress. So, with that, hope you've enjoyed this trip to Michigan. All said and done, including bottles that came home with me, gas and my share of hotel rooms, the trip cost about $300. It took us 3 days and I put about 1000 miles on my car, albeit most of it just getting to and from Michigan itself from Wisconsin.

So, thanks to all of the breweries that hosted us. Thanks to all of the guys that were with us. Congratulations to my step-brother. And, I hope this review has inspired you to take a beer trip.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Press Release Tuesday - WomenEnjoyingBeer.com

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Sorry for the lack of a podcast this morning and I'm still working on the second half of the Michigan summary - we spent a lot of time at Founders and have a lot of info (new, awesome beers!!). In the meantime, girls in the craft beer industry don't get nearly enough recognition as it is a dude-centric industry, hobby, and beverage. So, I'm always glad to bring more women into the fold. Thought this might interest some of the ladies out there.

--------------START PRESS RELEASE FROM JUSTBEERNEWS.COM-----------

Hello, Beer Writers and Enjoyers!!

I am in a partnership with Ginger Johnson, "Women Enjoying Beer" - please check out the web-site if you have time www.WomenEnjoyingBeer.com


We are working with Brewers/Breweries to provide our research on marketing to women the other 50% of their market of which they do little marketing to, or in some cases mis-market to. We are also working with food/beer establishments to make sure that there is proper staff education which leads to consumer education which leads to more sales, interest and better business for all. Another main focus is simply to provide education to women about the beer industry as it is uncharted waters for some and for the others who are more seasoned there is always more to learn or something new.

That being said I just wanted to invite anyone who is intrested it exchanging dialog or doing a story we would love to talk. Additionally, we are holding a number of events - Kansas City is the next venue for July 16, 17 & 18 if there is anyone in the immediate area interested. We are also looking into the St. Louis area potentially for August. Please contact us if you are interested in learning more, have questions, etc. We believe we have a news worth cause in helping the beer industry as a whole have continued growth especially in the Women's market.

Ginger Johnson ginger at WomenEnjoyingBeer.com or Deidre Vodehnal dlbrady1013 at gmail.com

Thank you for your time and consideration!

Deidre Vodehnal - A Women who Enjoys Beer!!

www.WomenEnjoyingBeer.com

Monday, July 13, 2009

Michigan, A Recap

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Much thanks to all of the breweries who hosted us, but most of all to Ron Jeffries at Jolly Pumpkin and Dave Engbers at Founders Brewing Company who really went out of their way to make this trip educational and enjoyable.

This trip covered 8 (or 9 depending on which group you were with) breweries in three days: Arbor Brewing Company, Jolly Pumpkin, Kuhnhenn, Dragonmead, Founders, New Holland, Bells, Olde Peninsula, and Dark Horse. Unfortunately, MBR wasn't able to make it to Dark Horse, but we look forward to catching them when they are in town for the Great Taste of the Midwest.

First up was Arbor Brewing Company for lunch. This particular day Ann Arbor was a bear to get around. There was an Antique Car Rally going on at the same time we were trying to get there and many of the streets were blocked off which made parking anywhere near the brewery near impossible. Once we got there we enjoyed a fine lunch with the smoked lager and the stein beer. I applaud the server for checking to make sure I knew what I was getting into when I ordered the smoked lager - smoked beers aren't for everyone and if you don't enjoy drinking bacon, you may want to order the taster first. But I love smoked beers. And this one wasn't quite as smoky as she had let on - or at least compared to something like the Aecht Schlenkerla Rauch Marzen or Ur-Bock. Nonetheless it was quite enjoyable, as was the stein beer which was more like a simple, sweet oktoberfest than a true, complex, caramelized steinbier like that brewed at The Grumpy Troll.

Then on to Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, Michigan. Ron Jeffries, owner and brewmaster, was on-hand to show us around the modest warehouse facility.
There were three things that stuck out about the operation at Jolly Pumpkin. First, you can't see them in these pictures, but the mashtuns are square stainless converted dairy equipment. The mashtuns have sliding doors on top like a dairy case and don't look anything like the usual mashtun that you see in breweries. From the get-go you realize the crafted nature of an operation like Jolly Pumpkin - the craft of brewing is fundamental to the very way that they do business.

The second interesting thing were the open fermenters and wood barrels that give Jolly Pumpkin beers their unique funky, sour characteristics. The open fermentation doesn't have to result in a sour beer - in fact, a number of breweries, including some European light lager breweries, use open fermenters. Open fermentation can be tricky, and these in particular are flat-bottomed vessels, not the usual conical fermenters that have become ubiquitous in the brewing industry, which makes cleaning even more difficult. Also, Jolly Pumpkin does not innoculate their barrels with purchased wild yeasts and bacteria strains; only strains already found in the brewery and the barrels are used. This results in more complex interactions - lab-produced strains are isolated and have known interactions, but true "wild" beers have dozens if not hundreds of strains that all act on the beer in different ways.

Third, the sheer amount of manual labor - from blending to hand bottling to rotating the stock for carbonation - is amazing. In fact, if you listen to how much work goes into producing a bottle of, say, La Roja you'd be amazed that Ron has any time at all to be giving yahoos like us a tour around the place. Small operations almost always have some sort of hand-bottling facility. But, Jolly Pumpkin's labor starts even before beer gets into the bright tank with tasting from each wooden barrel in consideration for a given batch. Even the storage and tracking of the barrels is manual. Then each proposed barrel is tasted and considered for the current batch and blends. Then bottling is a time-consuming, largely manual process. Finally, Jolly Pumpkin beers are bottle-conditioned. This means that each bottle is primed with additional yeast and sugar and set aside to carbonate. Where cases are stacked, temperature variances from the top of the stack to the bottom of the stack require the stack itself to be manually re-ordered in order to ensure consistent carbonation throughout (bottle carbonate faster at higher temperatures).

After Jolly Pumpkin, it was off to Kuhnhenn (with stops at Ashley's in Ann Arbor and Slows in Detroit). The picture to your left there is the taster of Kuhnhenn's slobber-inducing Raspberry Eisbock. The Eisbock is a big, burly, complex, high-alcohol, high-priced sort of thing that seems almost engineered for beer geeks around the globe. And, it's really, really good.

Unfortunately, Kuhnhenn's was out of some of their other taps and the remainder of what we had - porters, oktoberfests, stouts, IPAs - weren't really inspiring enough to make us stick around through bad piano covers of "Jane Says." So, taking the advice of some beer people much smarter that me, we went to Dragonmead, also in Warren, Michigan. Which begs the question: what's up with Warren, Michigan? It's an industrial hole of a suburb with shuttered car factories and other industrial warehousing, but home to two good breweries. Strange.

Dragonmead was unbelievably good. While it's been open for 11 years, it has surprisingly little hype (especially considering Kuhnhenn up the street) and seems to fly under-the-radar. But the true beer geeks know what's up, I guess and the recommendation to stop here was spot on. The tap-list of house-brewed beers went on for 5 or 6 pages - styles of every type and variety. Smoked beers, pepper beers, scotch ales, kolschs, doppelbocks, dubbels, blondes, wits. The Kolsch, an under-brewed style, was really one of the best I've ever had. The mild, another oft-looked-over style, was on a nitrogen tap and was phenomenally good; the roastiness and assertiveness peeked above the creaminess of the nitro carbonation to provide a flavorful, low-alcohol, highly sessionable beer. And the music, with acoustic Steve Earle and Hank Williams Sr covers, was much more accomplished.

This post is already too long, so I'll summarize day two of the trip - Founders, New Holland and Bells - tomorrow.

Friday, July 10, 2009

When Is Beer Like Music?

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When you realize that both are being produced in ever-crowded markets. With growth of craft breweries in the double digits, and the penetration of craft breweries approaching 10% of beer sales, the market is quickly getting crowded. So, how do you break through that noise to get at consumers and get them to buy your product?

Well, we talked about branding a few weeks ago. Hand-in-hand with branding is the idea of connecting with your fans. This is an area that musicians are really struggling with. In an age where files containing minutes worth of music are essentially free, how do you get someone to actually pay for your content?

Mike Masnick over at Techdirt suggests this super-handy formula: "Connect with Fans (CwF) + Reason to Buy (RtB) = The Business Model". In support of his "mathematical" model he references Trent Reznor who proposes some great steps for bands to make sure they have the support necessary to promote their b(r)and. Most of it is music-centric - although my favorite is not:
Have your MySpace page, but get a site outside MySpace - it's dying and reads as cheap / generic. Remove all Flash from your website. Remove all stupid intros and load-times. MAKE IT SIMPLE TO NAVIGATE AND EASY TO FIND AND HEAR MUSIC (but don't autoplay). Constantly update your site with content - pictures, blogs, whatever. Give people a reason to return to your site all the time.
This hits just about every one of my biggest online pet-peeves: Myspace (seriously? does anyone use Myspace anymore?); flash (try to visit a flash-based site like, say, this one, on a Blackberry - how's that working for ya? If you can't be seen on an iPhone/Blackberry, you are not relevant. period.); intros/load-time/autoplay (if your customers have to wait, they're going to leave - and for the love of GOD WHERE IS THAT GODDAMN MUSIC COMING FROM?! MAKE IT STOP!!); navigation (keep it simple and drop the cutesy references - seriously, a disco ball?! WTF? A disco ball is NOT a navigation item); out of date content (there's no excuse for it - I'm looking at you practically every brewery in Wisconsin).

But I like Masnick's formula: CwF +  RtB = Business Model.  The advantage with the beer industry is that the primary good doesn't have a marginal cost of $0; as of yet, it still costs money to transfer a unit of beer. But still ...

Connect with Fans: Who are your fans? And I don't mean in a general "beer drinker" kind of way. I mean specifics. Not "who do you think your fans are", but who ARE your fans. What age groups? What gender? What do they do for a living? Where do they live? What, specifically, are their interests? Not just "music", but what kind of music? Not just "sports", which sports? What do they do with their expendable income? How does this differ for you than for other breweries? Are you in front of them or with them when they are doing these things? Why not? Think outside the box - beer sales are not just made at grocery stores, liquor stores and restaurants.

Reason To Buy: There needs to be a reason to buy your beer over a different brewery's. What is that reason? "Ours tastes better" is not a reason. Sense of community (not just local community, but a more global "common interest" community, as well), luxury, experimentation, relaxation, and, yes, partying, are all reasons.

This formula is not the same for everyone. What works for Tyranena won't necessarily work for Pearl Street or Rush River or Lakefront or New Glarus. Moreover, your product isn't just your beer - it is your brand. Do your fans like country music? Why aren't you having country music at your brewery? Do your fans golf? Why aren't you sponsoring golf outings? Are your fans environmentally conscious? Why aren't you selling them (or giving them) re-usable shopping bags? Are your fans homebrewers? Why aren't you holding homebrewing competitions (ps. mad props to The Grumpy Troll for this***)?


*** "'Ten Lords a Leaping' this is the first beer from the Madison Homebrewers and Taster Guild contest we held in March. Four top beers were selected and the one that sells out the fastest will be the grand prize winner. The first beer on tap is a very hoppy beer. If you like Liberty Pole and Freedom, you will love this beer. Check it out! Cheers, Doug"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

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On part two of this weeks podcast, Kyle has a bone to pick with Budweiser, and tries to pronounce "de-alcoholize."



Here's the mp3

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Mr. MBR Goes To Michigan

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When we talk about beer in the Midwest, I humbly submit, there are two states that stand above all others: Wisconsin and Michigan. Each contains about 20% of the breweries in the Midwest; Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri share the remaining 60%, with Ohio being the next closest with more than 20 fewer breweries than Wisconsin (42 to 66, respectively) despite a population almost twice the size. Michigan, with a population slightly smaller than Ohio has 70 breweries.

Wisconsin has New Glarus, Central Waters, Tyranena, Lakefront and Capital leading the pack (not to mention an incomparable brewpub culture that has almost twice as many brewpubs as breweries). Michigan has such amazing breweries as Bells, Founders, New Holland, Dark Horse, Atwater and Jolly Pumpkin.


So earlier this year a trip was planned for this coming weekend. MBR's step-brother is getting married and to celebrate the occasion, a beer trip through Michigan is being executed. First up is Jolly Pumpkin in Dexter, MI. Brewmaster Ron Jeffries will show us the magic kettles and even magic-er wooden barrels where the golden sour elixers known as La Roja and Bam are created. From there on to the converted hardware store, brew-your-own shop, and generally badass brewery Kuhnhenn Brewing Company in Warren, MI.

Next, we run the gauntlet starting at Founders Brewing in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founders creates some of the most original and tasty beers out there - from the Kentucky Breakfast Stout to Red's Rye IPA to Centennial IPA to the Ambrosia Tart. From Founders, on to Holland and the home of New Holland Brewing Company. While New Holland is oft over-looked they are well-loved and they create the ever-solid Mad Hatter IPA, and not only a schwarzbier, but also a kolsch, rye doppelbock, and Belgian dark, among countless others.

I'm not sure I need to tell you about our next stop, Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Ubiquitous, omnipresent, unerring, and the undisputed king of Midwest craft beer; we'll be stopping in at the brewpub in downtown Kalamazoo to see what crazy libations can be had on tap direct from the source that can't be found anywhere else. I'm betting dollars to donuts that a growler or two will be filled.

Finally, we end our trip in Marshall at Dark Horse where we will attempt to drink all five stouts in succession and then chase them down with a Double Crooked Tree IPA.

For this reason, posting on Friday may or may not happen. I will try to get up some pictures as I have internet access throughout the weekend. Stay tuned here, or at our Facebook page our at MBR Twitter where you'll be updated on our progress through Michigan.

As you can see, a great trip can be done in a long-ish weekend with minimal expenditure and maximum beer. The only downside is driving, so make sure at least one of you is a designated driver for an appropriate period of time. Hope to see you on the road!!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Impromptu MBR Meet-Up

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I know it's late notice, but MBR and The Business Forum are having a joint get-together at The Malt House tonight. We'll be there starting at 5:30 and who knows how long we'll be there.

I hope you'll come out and join us.

Madison Beer Review Presents Beer Talk Today

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In part one of this week's podcast, we review our lost interview with Lake Louie's Tommy Porter. Plus in News in 60 Seconds we cover Oregon Beer Week, drinking on the job, Kirin's new Yebisu Stout Creamy Top, and Stone's hoppiest beer ever. Plus, a confused caller.



Here's
the mp3

Cheers!

Monday, July 6, 2009

Audience Participation: Cheap Beer

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NPR ran a story on the Washington Post's blind tasting of cheap beers (had to be less than $6 for a six-pack). This is something that we have in the works and will be bringing you ... well ... as soon as we can get schedules coordinated to do it.

In the meantime, I was thinking about this over the holiday weekend as I found myself suffering with Miller High Life and Coors Light at Summerfest (though both Lakefront and Milwaukee Ale House both have facilities there - unfortunately I didn't see them before I had bought my beer - it was the first time I had been to Summerfest).

We had New Glarus' Naked with fireworks which I enjoy considerably more than Spotted Cow. Furthermore's Oscura made it into the mix for Concerts on the Square last week. Of course, neither of those meet the sub-$6 requirement. Unfortunately ingredients and general economies of scale issues prevent the good stuff for selling less than $6 for a six-pack. This is why I find myself buying 22s and 750s, many of which can be found for less than $6.

We've already talked about my latest obsession with Coors Banquet. So, what do you grab for less than $6 a six-pack?

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Fond du Lac Area Tavern Holds Fundraiser After Patron Kills Passenger In DUI Crash

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The kicker. The fundraiser is to raise legal defense funds and hospital bills for the jackass who was driving the motorcycle (without a motorcycle license) and is now sitting in jail facing charges for DUI and vehicular homicide, not to mention operating a vehicle without a license. You can read the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's article here.

You want to hear the good news? Free beer at the fundraiser.

Seriously. You can't make this stuff up.

Mad props to Midwest Microbrews for pointing this out.

Malt House Liquor License Suspended [Update: Malt House is Open]

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-----------UPDATE----------

THE MALT HOUSE IS OPEN. They didn't miss a beat and are still serving great beer, scotch, whiskey, bourbon and rye. Apparently there was a slip-up that has been remedied. So, no worries, the Malt House is, in fact, open.

-----------END UPDATE----------

Looks like they forgot to pay city hall to keep the lights on. It looks like it's been suspended for failure to pay a license fee. Should be a pretty simple fix.

The memo was released today by city hall.

Anyone know the score and want to comment?

Thanks to @in_tent_city and Kristin Czubkowski of The Capital Times for the heads up.

Press Release Thursday - New Glarus Organic Revolution Re-Certified

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Sorry for the slow posting this week. It's the lazy days of summer when everyone is entirely too busy doing nothing at all to get anything done. Next week will probably be equally sporadic, but we'll have some good stuff. Promise.

In the meantime, a press release from New Glarus about the re-certification of the underrated Organic Revolution. In fact both BeerAdvocate and RateBeer put the Organic Revolution squarely in the middle of the pack: B and 50, respectively. When we reviewed it, we noted its dual personality as both an American and Belgian-ish pale ale.

ps. If it's any consolation, we agree with Deb that the USDA seal is kinda corporate looking. Necessary evils and all that jazz.

-------------START PRESS RELEASE-----------------

New Glarus Brewing Company's 'Organic Revolution' Supports the Organic Movement
New Glarus, WI
June 16, 2009:

All of the beers at New Glarus Brewing Company are brewed to be pure and natural, but 'Organic Revolution' goes a step further. Those looking for a refreshing way to support the Organic Farming Movement will delight in this complex and assertively hoppy golden ale. But now 'Organic Revolution' will have a little something extra.

'Organic Revolution Ale', one of New Glarus Brewing Company's eight year-round offerings, is as pure as beer can get. Made with organic Pilsner and Caramel malt, organic German Hallertau Hops, and absolutely nothing else. 'Organic Revolution' is even 100% naturally carbonated in the bottle, which is an uncommon practice. The barley is grown organically, then is malted organically in Wisconsin at Briess Malting of Chilton. Another unusual aspect of this beer is the use of 100% organic hops as this is, surprisingly, not required by the USDA. New Glarus Brewing Company believes the inclusion of all natural organic ingredients is the best way to support the Organic Farming Movement. "This is important to us", Dan says, "This is the best way to protect our food chain, and a great way to support small, local farmers".

On May 14, 2009 Robert Caldwell, the Midwest inspector for Oregon Tilth, re-certified 'Organic Revolution Ale' after a complete brewery inspection. Oregon Tilth works for the USDA to certify both producers and brewers. 'Organic Revolution Ale' has been certified wholly organic since 2008, and the 'Oregon Tilth' name appears on newer bottles. Perhaps some wonder why the USDA stamp has not appeared on the label. "We have the option to write it out or use the seal" Deborah Carey says, "We thought wrongly that the USDA seal was rather corporate looking and not keeping with our message. This omission has confused some people, so we will start utilizing both the USDA and Oregon Tilth stamps on our future labels".

So you can look forward to the same great flavor celebration in 'Organic Revolution' that you have come to know and love, with the small addition of a USDA stamp on the label from now on. Dan and Deb Carey have always believed that the only way for the Organic Movement to succeed is for all of us to support it. So raise your glass and toast to Wisconsin's common sense Revolution!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Same Old Song And Dance

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It looks like AB-InBev is taking another running shot at "consolidating" it's distributors. What does this mean? This means that Anheuser-Busch will make certain of its distributors, but not all of its distributors an offer it can't refuse. Why can't the distributor refuse the offer? Because then it won't be able to distribute Budweiser (or Stella Artois) and someone else in the territory will.

What will that offer look like? Well, if AB InBev is anything like MillerCoors, it won't be pretty. We talked a few weeks back about MillerCoors' most recent "consolidation." Distributors ended up with such awesome contract clauses as: MillerCoors gets to control who you sell your business to; MillerCoors gets to control which brands you sell; MillerCoors might be able to set up another distributor in your "exclusive" territory; and, MillerCoors gets to go through your accounting books with a fine-toothed comb. All kinds of fun stuff.

And don't forget that awesome extended payment window that AB-InBev has been pushing out to 120 days.

This news is actually pretty good for craft brewers. Distributors don't like these games that the big breweries play. So to mitigate the loss and increase the distributor's ability to say "no" to AB or MillerCoors when these deals get too onerous, the distributors take on more profitable and more rapidly growing craft brands. In fact, this consolidation is one of the biggest reasons for the increase for craft growth - the distributors are finally on board.

The only catch for distributors is that they have to be more knowledgeable about the brands and the craft breweries need to work with the distributors. When the distributor's account is deciding between Craft A and Craft B, the distributor needs to be able to tell the retailer the difference - not only so the retailer can make an informed decision, but so the distributor can educate its consumers. So, the breweries that work with distributors rather than just hand over kegs at the dock, will be the ones that get the most shelf space.