Friday, April 30, 2010

Mrs. MBR Goes To Poland

5 comments
I will not be accompanying her for a variety of reasons. But, Mrs. MBR will be going to Warsaw, Poland in less than two weeks. What should I demand that I bring back?

She has already done some research herself
Hmm. Apparently, you can buy Bison Grass Vodka in Poland, which is illegal here in the US. It has coumarin in it, which the FDA has said is unsafe as food. I guess drinking a precursor to rat poison isn't good for you. ... In the show [Three Sheets], they mixed it with apple juice, honey vodka, and something else.
A little side note about coumarin - the rat poison precursor. There's actually substantial use of it for beer products in Germany and Poland. Coumarin is one of the natural additives of Sweet Woodruff, a flavoring syrup used in Berliner Weisse.

I have heard some pretty dreadful things about Polish brewing and I'm not sure I've ever had anything Polish (mostly Okocim, owned by Carlsberg, and Zywiec, owned by Heineken) that hasn't been on the "bad side" of "eh".

Vodka is more prevalent in Poland. Though, I can't imagine a Zubrowka ("Buffalo Grass") and Tonic would be particularly good. And Julie Powell (yes, of Julie/Julia fame) made a dessert called Souffle Rothschild that traditionally calls for a Polish herbal liquor with gold flakes in it called Goldwasser, (note: Goldschlager, the cringe inducing college kids drink, is a cinnamon schnapps from Italy),that was not particularly good.

So, I know readers of MBR are world travelers. Any ideas and travel advice for Mrs. MBR on her trip to Poland?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Anchor Brewery Sold

2 comments
While I've been writing about weed, apparently real beer writers have been doing some real work. From Jay Brooks and his Brookston Beer Bulletin:
I heard the rumor less than an hour ago and have been working the phones, to no avail. ... Press Release ... The Griffin Group, an investment and consulting company focused on beverage alcohol brands, announced its acquisition of Anchor Brewing Company which includes its portfolio of craft beers and artisan spirits, including the award winning Anchor Steam Beer. ... In addition to the Anchor Beers, The Griffin Group will assume control of the spirits brands including Old Potrero Whiskey, Junipero Gin and Genevieve Gin through the acquisition of Anchor Brewing Company. Additional affiliated companies to be held under Anchor Brewers & Distillers include Preiss Imports, a leading US specialist spirits and beer importer, and BrewDog USA, LLC, the US division of the leading UK craft beer.
I'm not entirely sure this is anything more than a re-alignment for marketing purposes. Of course, that's where it all starts, though, right?

Monday, April 26, 2010

Ale Asylum Bedlam

8 comments
A new IPA from a brewery known for their IPAs. I'm going to keep this post short, because, really there's not much to say about it.

Call it what you want: pot, smoke, ganja, bud, chronic, cannabis, grass, dope, mary jane, dank, herb, green. What ever combination of citra hop, and trappist yeast that they use, Bedlam smells and tastes exactly like weed.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Bonus Saturday Post - Win Free Tickets To The Great Taste of the Midwest!

0 comments
No, MBR is not giving them away. You really think I have much pull? Heck, I'm lucky if they let me volunteer. Shit, to be honest, I consider myself lucky they let me in even if I PAY for the damned ticket.

Star Liquor, friends of MBR and The Great Taste, are giving away the tickets. But, to be selected you have be on the Dark Network of Facebook. So, click on over there, and sign yourself up. You might just win a couple of tickets to the premier event of what is becoming a full weekend of debauchery.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Is A Blank Ad Better Than A Standard Ad

1 comments
I gave a presentation and tasting on Monday night at a private party for the 40-under-40 group. I gave this presentation in conjunction with Nick VanCourt, one of the brewers for Milwaukee Brewing Company. It was a fun and educational event and everyone seemed to learn a lot. The event (which has provided the impetus for both posts this week, strangely enough, is not the subject of this post.

At the event, I met a gentleman who is the CEO of a mobile application development company called perBlue. As I was writing a thank-you email to him, I checked out his company site, the products they create (including a pretty badass free iPhone and Android game called ParallelKingdom), and the company blog.

I will tell you, that I completely expected to spend exactly .0001 seconds on his company blog. Most corporate blogs are crap. Marketing material and press release outlets that provide little insight into the company itself. I did not expect to find the most recent blog post to be about federal legislation affecting angel investment. I mean, I understand why perBlue is interested in it, but I did not expect them to be blogging about it. So, as loyal readers will probably guess, my interest was piqued. The previous post had been about the Google Fiber project, a public meeting I had actually attended; again, interesting.

But it was the post of February 1, 2010 that really caught my attention. In this post, the author recaps a social experiment that perBlue performed on an unwitting public and, humorously, an unsuspecting advertising agency. I'll wait here while you read it. But here's the gist:
But what if all this arguing over increasing click through or conversion rates by a tenth of percent doesn't really matter? What if there was a bigger influence that made these click through statistics insignificant? Introducing: accidental clicks. How many ads are actually clicked in error? Being good engineers, we did a little experiment in an attempt to do a bit of error analysis. ... Yes, that is a blank ad. Our ad rep was a bit confused when we tried to start running the ad. ... That's right, our blank ad (the "mystifying and curiosity invoking" one) had a 4x higher click through rate than the real ad.
That is awesome in so many ways. The conversation with the ad rep is pure comic gold. And the result, a 4x increase in click-through rate, is completely unexpected.
how is it possible that a blank ad has a higher click through rate than a real ad? Maybe we just stumbled on a new paradigm in display advertising.
They conclude, as I would, that this is doubtful. One conclusion could be that the vast majority of the clicks were accidental. A good thought, but really a 4x increase is entirely accidental? Again, I find that rather hard to believe. The other option is curiosity surrounding what would be behind a blank ad. To isolate the "accidental" from the "curious" it might be useful to run a blank ad that is not white (although, really, what percentage of backgrounds are white?).

So, I imagine, you're wondering why the hell I'm writing about this on a beer website. Well, that would be a good question. But, breweries advertise. Some of them quite a bit. Indeed, it is hard to drive anywhere right now without seeing at least 3 billboards for Supper Club.

But, it seems that perBlue's experiment might suggest that there is ad fatigue. All but the interested are completely ignoring the ad. But, it also might be that metrics that are now technologically possible are revealing what has been the case all along. That people don't like "ads" but are willing to engage their curiosity.

I would doubt that this is much of a surprise to advertising agencies. It's why metrics like GRP exist at all. It's an unabashadly shotgun approach where "good" means that 1% of the total audience is even paying attention.

So, here's a question to craft brewers. If you had, say, $50,000 for customer acquisition, would you give it to an advertising agency to make a six-month billboard and radio ad campaign that might get you, let's say, one million eyeballs. 1% (assuming your ad agency is even "good") of 1,000,000 is 10,000, over the course of three months that are even paying attention. According to perBlue's number only 2% of those interested eventually purchase. 2% of 10,000 is 200 people. So, a $50,000 ad campaign nets you, maybe, 200 new customers? You are spending $250 per customer.

Frankly, you'd probably be better off eating $50,000 in product, and giving away 1000 cases of free beer.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Downside of Monopoly In The Distribution Tier

4 comments
A fancy phrase for "why the three-tier system sucks."

The facts.

I've been working with a small retail facility (a cafe) to make their beer selection better. They are well-situated in a bustling middle-to-high income suburb that doesn't currently have much in the way of premium beer selections. There is one liquor store (not including the grocery store) and a number of bars - none of which are particularly well-known for their beer, and none which really put a focus on quality beer. In other words, this is a great opportunity for this cafe to make a niche for themselves. Granted, this cafe does not currently sell a lot of beer - their orders are typically a case or two a month with the occassional multiple case order for special events.

Last winter, as we were beginning to upgrade the beer selection, I suggested that they place an order with a distributor (General Beer) for one case each of Three Floyd's Robert the Bruce, Great Lakes Dortmunder Gold, and Ale Asylum Ambergeddon. The Dortmunder Gold and Ambergeddon came quickly - both have plentiful year-round availability. The third, the Robert the Bruce, we were told was not available yet but would be soon; we'd have it as soon as it came in. It came in, and still we didn't get it. We were told they were out. We were told they never got it. We were told a million different things, but at the end of the day, we were never alloted our one case. Meanwhile, Barriques didn't seem have any trouble getting (multiple) cases. Star didn't seem to have any trouble getting (multiple) cases. Steve's, Riley's, etc. all received multiple cases.

Clearly, they had it, they just weren't interested in selling it to this cafe.

Then, recently, there was an event for which a case of a special beer was desired. So, I requested a case of Ale Asylum's new Bedlam Belgian IPA. This cafe was told it would be available Thursday and that Gen Bev would be happy to sell a case. Thursday became Friday. Friday became "first thing Monday morning." Monday afternoon became "Oh, I'm sorry, but we don't have any available."

I call shenanigans. It was available. At least one case, and probably multiple cases, were sitting at Barriques on Monday. So, you can't tell me "it's not available." It is available, Gen Bev just wasn't interested in selling it to this particular cafe, for whatever reason.

Well, it turns out that this case was destined for an event that would have a number of young professionals and where premium beer would be featured. You couldn't ask for a better showcase for this beer, for Ale Asylum, and for people to become purchasers of Gen Bev's product. This one case, easily would have raised interest in their product and produced many times its own value in future sales and goodwill.

But "it's not available", I guess.

So, what does this have to do with the three-tier system and isn't this just bitter apples? (sour grapes?) To take the last part first: maybe.

But, to turn to the first part, the issue of the three-tier system. Gen Bev knows that if you want Ale Asylum's Bedlam, you have to go to Gen Bev. You can get it on-tap at Ale Asylum (which they'd prefer not be the case, to be honest), but otherwise, you have to buy it from Gen Bev. And, it's a product with relatively limited supply, and relatively "big" demand. Moreover, they know that a retailer that carries it will likely draw people to purchase this beer. Thus, places that sell other Gen Bev products (in great quantity) will get priority.

And, frankly, I don't even have a problem with that. It's their product, I can understand wanting to showcase it a little and provide incentives to retailers to carry multiple products with the "reward" of getting to carry these special releases.

But. Don't lie about it. Don't take the order, knowing full well you are never going to fill it. Ah, but consider: Wisc. Stat. 125.34(3)(b).
Within a wholesaler’s designated sales territory for any brand of fermented malt beverages, the wholesaler may not refuse to sell the brand of fermented malt beverages, or refuse to offer reasonable service related to the sale of the brand of fermented malt beverages, to any retailer.
Gen Bev can't refuse to sell it to any retailer. Gen Bev is required to take the order. And, then, Gen Bev is required to strain themselves to find a "reasonable" excuse for non-delivery.

It is an entirely actionable claim given the flimsy excuse that amounts to little other than refusal of service. But, what's the damage? One case of beer? Two cases of beer? Gen Bev counts on the fact that: a) the retailers probably don't know the law; b) probably can't afford an attorney to enforce it; c) aren't going to raise a fuss over one or two cases of beer.

Well. Consider the fuss raised.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Audience Participation - Vintage Brewing Company Summer Lineup

10 comments
I just wanted to "bump" Brewmaster Scott's request for information in our last review of Vintage Brewing Company.
Thank you all for giving us a chance and trying my beers. We ended up calling the Belgian Pale "Rochambeau", it came in about 32 IBUs, 100% Sorachi Ace hops, around 6% abv. Also recently on tap is our "Golden", really more akin to a Koelsch ... I can already hear the groans...but imminently quaffable. Can't decide to go English or Belgian with the summer "session" beers- any suggestions? English summer ale, classic mild, something like Chiswick Ale; or Witbier, Saison, ??
For some reason I suspect the saison would be a favorite, but I've had some excellent milds lately (thank you Joe/FoxRiver/RedEye), and I'm not sure I know what a "Chiswick Ale" is.

So, there you go. What do you want to drink on a summer evening at Vintage?

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ps. I love Kolsches. So there.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Reviving Walter's Beer - A Trademark Discussion

15 comments
Oh. Dear.

This article is painful. Painful in so many ways. Parts of it actually hurt to read. This one, in particular, causes me to lose sleep and makes my brain want to explode.
Northwoods was able to use the original name because the copyright had expired.
The author and editor of this article should be fired tomorrow for this one error alone. Trademark. Not copyright. Trademark. And. Trademark does not expire. So, for missing the very basics, of their own industry the newspaper editor and author should be fired.

Newspaper article = copyright.
Fox Cities Post Crescent = Trademark.
Northwoods Brewpub and Grill = Trademark.
Walter's Brewing Company = Trademark.

Sorry. That's just a really big pet peeve of mine. Copyrights, trademarks, and patents are not the same thing.

So, with that rant out of the way. Copyright expires. Trademarks do not. You can stop using a trademark, which could, but not necessarily, make it available for use. This is called "abandonment", there is a specific set of requirements that a later user must prove to show that a mark has been abandoned. But the trademark itself has not expired. If you use a word to designate the source of origin of a product, that word will always and forever designate a source of origin. The public may no longer make the connection, the company may no longer be actively marketing the connection, but the trademark hasn't expired. The Federal registration may have expired, but the trademark itself hasn't expired.

For those of you who didn't read the article, let's recap. Walter's Brewing Company brewed beer sometime around the turn-of-the-century in Eau Claire, Appleton, Menasha, and West Bend in Wisconsin, and also in Colorado. Probably because of Prohibition and consolidation, the beer was no longer manufactured by the 1980s. It remains very well-loved and everyone in the area knows what "Walter's Beer" was. In 2009, Northwoods Brewing Company, they of Floppin' Crappie fame, without permission from any of the surviving Walters, releases "Walter's Beer".

Let's look at some of the details of this release:
- it does not use the original recipe
- the beer was re-crafted through experimentation
- taste-testers were used to validate the flavor

So, let me get this right, Mr. Tim Kelly and Mr. Jerry Bechard of Northwoods Brewing Company. You have "experimented" in your brewhouse to mimic a beer that no one has had since, at least, the 1980s; you had no recipe to go off of; you used tasters, presumably from your brewpub that "remembered" what "Walter's" tasted like, to "validate" the flavor of this concoction. You did not consult anyone from the Walter's Brewery; you did not consult any of the living Walters. And, yet, you call your beer "Walter's"?

Ok, let's be fair. Mr. Bechard did, in fact, contact someone who is working with the Walter family to license the original recipe; a Mr. Sanchez of Pueblo, Colorado. Mr. Sanchez has been given the original recipe and is working with the family to recreate Walter's Beer. And, Mr. Bechard, contacted him about working together on the beer. But the negotiations broke down, so Mr. Bechard just did it himself anyway.

This is called "bad faith infringement." And it is a very good way to destroy your entire company in a trademark lawsuit if you lose. Penalties include such wonderful, company destroying activity like: destruction of infringing goods; restitution of profits, damages, and costs; heightened penalties (up to a 3x multiplier); and recovery of attorneys fees. Just to name a few off the top of my head.
Bechard has the legal rights to the Walter's Beer label and trademark, he said.
Well, that's easy enough to check. ... Turns out Serial Number for application (not registration) 77766783 for "WALTER'S BEER" is, in fact, owned by Mr. Bechard. But, it was filed in June of 2009 (not acquired/assigned from the Walter family as the article might imply). Unfortunately, the opposition period has ended (ended April 2nd, 2010, which makes this article rather timely, eh?) making an opposition difficult, but not a cancellation.
Now it's [Walter's] contending with "Floppin' Crappie Ale" as the Northwoods microbrewery's top seller. ... "We just wanted to have a beer in town that people remember as being great."
As opposed to Floppin' Crappie, presumably.

------------------------
To be fair to Mr. Bechard and Mr. Kelly. Admittedly, the mark hasn't been used since the 1980s. They probably thought they were doing the right thing and they might have an argument for abandonment. But, Wisconsin is small world. And, when it comes to reviving dead brands, you are, in all honesty, better off letting sleeping dogs lie. At best you create a beer that probably wasn't very good to begin with. At worst, it's trademark infringement and pandering of the worst kind. In other words, nothing good comes from using the "Walter's" name.

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Almost forgot. This is not legal advice. If you have any questions regarding trademark law, please see an attorney.

Monday, April 12, 2010

If This Is Light Beer ...

0 comments
Yeah, yeah. Lame. But it is funny. And, it comes courtesy of email shenanigans from Brewmaster Kirby Nelson of Capital. A point that I find instructive given the recent release, and media onslaught, of Supper Club.

The media onslaught includes not only a Facebook account for Supper Club, but a Twitter feed for Capital Brewery, a YouTube page [ed note: the YouTube page will cause a video to immediately start playing - a big pet peeve of mine - please do not cause my computer to do things if you ever want me to return to your page!], and billboards plastered all over the city.

Social Media is a crazy thing. And, it is, admittedly, in a young stage. But, what I love even more is that it causes such an amazing juxtaposition of old and new. To wit: Capital Brewery. One of the oldest-school breweries in the state, it was founded in 1984 and started brewing in its current location in 1986. In the state, only Sprecher, started in 1985, is an (arguably) older craft brewery.*

Capital is most well-known for its stodgy-German lager beers. Yet, it is probably one of the most innovative in marketing. You can chalk it up to their marketing company [ed note: more annoying auto-play] if you like. But, really, anything that turns Kirby Nelson into a blogger is A-OK in my book.

Oh! The sweet, sweet revenge that life sometimes exacts on us.



* You can yell at the Brewer's Association for this one. Stevens Point Brewery and Gray's (and others for that matter), because of the significant use of adjuncts in the flagship brands, are not considered a "craft" breweries, although they do make some craft brands.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Vintage Brewing Company - An Update

5 comments
A few weeks back, I was sitting at home on Thursday night. In fact, I had really just walked in the door and was sitting down to check emails when I get a text message: "done with poker, want to get a drink"

It's 8:45 on a Thursday night. I have work the next morning. I, literally, just walked in the door from a long night. I hadn't seen Mrs. MBR since waking up early that morning. F-it. Sure. What the hell. So, I call my buddy who had texted me to find where he was. "Vintage." Damn you. Damn you straight to hell.

I figure, after my little outburst a few months back, that I'd be thrown out of the place before I even walked in. Of course, in my own mind I have a vastly overrated sense of people caring about what I write. Nonetheless, it was reasonable to suspect that I would be persona non grata round those parts.

But, what the heck? I hadn't had their own beer yet. They'd been brewing for a few weeks at this point. I figured, I'll give it a shot. And, perhaps the Beer Talk guys had smoothed things over a little for me.

So, I agree. I went up and met my friend who was talking with a friend of his who happens to be an employee there. Turns out it an employee night for drinking. So, I ask if Scott Manning, the brewmaster is around. Better to just introduce myself, say hello, talk to him a bit, and see where he is. For the better part of the next 3 hours I sat and talked, and drank, with Brewmaster Scott and some of his Vintage cohorts. I have since been back once to have a beer.

And, I've got to say, the beer is pretty damned good. The star, in my opinion, is the Better Off Red, a West Coast Amber/Red Ale that, if you like hops, will blow your socks off. Hops come at you from all directions, but with a good, solid flavor and not just bitterness for the sake of bitterness. For 6.9%, it is dangerously drinkable.

I really enjoyed the Dedication as well. Similar to a Belgian Dubbel, it warms up well and has the typical sort of plum, raisin and fig flavors that I love in big, complex dubbels. The Dedication also has a noticeable (but not overwhelming or even off-style) hop presence.

I was less impressed with the Trepidation Tripel; I thought the alcohol was too strong of presence and that as it warmed up it got a little syrupy. As Scott pointed out, being in a brewpub prevents the kind of aging that make these styles really shine. Which, I believe is a fair point and given such a limitation makes it a relatively impressive offering, provided you drink it relatively quickly.

When I spoke with Scott he mentioned a new beer that he had in the fermenter that was more of a blonde-style but brewed with this crazy, Japanese hop (can someone help me out on this, the name of the hop is escaping me). When I was at Vintage earlier this week, it was finally on-tap and the beer is awesome. The hops give it an off-kilter, but fun and interesting flavor for a moderately hoppy Belgian Blonde-ish sort of thing.

I won't comment about the food because I haven't eaten out there since my original post. But, the beer itself is quite good, if a bit pricey ($4.50 per pint), but I think they have a beer special on Thursdays for $3. So, go on Thursday.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Big Beer In Review

4 comments
The past few weeks I've been drinking "big beer" - Imperialized versions of India Pale Ales, Dopplebocks and Stouts:

Sprecher Russian Imperial
Capital Imperial Doppelbock
Pearl Street Dankenstein
Capital US Pale v.2.0
Ale Asylum Satisfaction Jacksin

And, what have I learned? Good question. I've learned that "Imperial" basically means whatever you want it to mean. I've also learned that these are really good beers, but you can't sustain a brewery on them. Of course, Stone, Surly, Dogfish Head, and Three Floyds would probably disagree. But, I would argue, these breweries are the exception, not the rule.

Even in today's American craft brewing scene a brewery simply cannot sustain itself on these kinds of beers. As we have seen, a brewery can make a reputation on these beers. I think Founders, even Central Waters and Tyranena, and to some extent Pearl Street, have certainly put their hats in the "big beer" ring. But, none of these breweries, and you can include Stone, Surly, et al, in this, make the majority of their money on any one of these big beers.

The key to "big beer" brewing, then, is diversity. You can't just make a badass Russian Imperial Stout. You have to make a badass Russian Imperial Stout, Double IPA, Imperial Belgian Blonde, Imperial Pilsner, Imperial Old Ale, Imperial Porter, and on, and on, and on. Breweries that make a living on "big" beer have, literally, dozens of brands. It's why if you look at the numbers, you'll see that over the past 10 years the percentage of brands with an ABV over 5.5% has risen from barely 40%, to well over 70%. A brewery is never going to sell 50K barrels every year of a 12% Russian Imperial Stout. So, a brewery needs to release 10 brands that it can sell 5K barrels of. That's fine, if your brewery can sustain that kind of pace. But if the brewery stumbles even once, it can kill any momentum that a dozen brands have built up.

As a consumer, it can be hard to keep up at all.

So, the reality is that most breweries can make a reputation on these big beers but will need to look elsewhere to make money. And, frankly, I think this is where Wisconsin breweries have a natural edge.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Big Beer Week(s) - Sprecher Russian Imperial Stout

4 comments
OK, Big Beer Week (more like Big Beer Month) is finally drawing to a close. We finish with a Russian Imperial Stout - a style that doesn't really get a whole lot of love here in Wisconsin, but is ridiculously popular in the entire rest of the universe where oat stouts and milk stouts are relatively rare.

Why not Russian Imperial Stouts in Wisconsin? Good question. We have a few, but really not that many. Maybe because we don't have a huge Russian population? Eh. Doubtful. Frankly, I don't have that many good ideas for why? Care to venture a guess? I'll make a few guesses, but I wouldn't put a lot of stock in them:

Guess #1: There are already a lot of really good Russian Imperial Stouts in the universe; they are expensive and time-consuming to make and consumer demand here doesn't justify an entire batch run for most of the small breweries in this state.

Guess #1.5: Almost every brewery already makes at least one full-bodied stout and in some cases two and/or a Baltic Porter; adding a third (or fourth), Russian Imperial, would clutter the brewery's brands.

Guess #2: The Russian Imperial Stout fad is over. While they were popular a few years ago (Leinie's made one for christ's sake!), the fad is mostly over.

Although as a quick diversion, I know brewers in the state have experimented with cardamom or other spices in stouts and it seems like a brewery like Furthermore, whose regular stout is lighter-bodied, might be able to play with the style a little to produce a spiced Russian Imperial Stout that might be really interesting and compliment their lineup.

Having said all of that, let's taste one of the few Russian Imperial Stouts that this state does have to offer, eh?
Sprecher Russian Imperial Stout
BeerAdvocate (B). RateBeer (88).
Appearance: A bubbly, creamy brown head; dark, dark brown body with hints of Merlot around the edges
Aroma: big aroma that you can smell across the room; caramel and sweet malts; a lot of caramel, some chocolate, some earthy fruit of figs, plums and musty grapes; I really like the aroma
Flavor: the flavor is more muted than the aroma but is heavy on the fruity aspects with some cherry and dark chocolate coming through in the finish; this was served at about 60 degrees, so the temp on this perfect; some hop bitterness up front, with a roasty quality in the middle
Body: thinner than I expected, with a relatively astringent aftertaste and some alcohol burn in the gut
Drinkability: I'd drink one and be happy with it (I am!), but wouldn't exactly rush out to buy another 4-pack; I could see myself going a few years between 4-packs actually, but enjoying it when I get around to buying it.
Summary: I like it, but I like other RIS better (e.g., Big Bear, Ten Fidy, Darkness, Yeti, BORIS); but, frankly, I don't expect much from Wisconsin breweries for Russian Imperial Stouts - this isn't exactly our forte, so that Sprecher even makes the attempt and doesn't completely botch it is A-OK in my book, that it's pretty decent is even better; Overall impression is positive, but this is a category that features a number of world-class examples that are fairly easy to come by (3 of the 5 I've mentioned above are all widely available here in Madison and I'm assuming in the rest of the state) making drinking a poor one inexcusable and drinking even a decent one a fairly infrequent affair. Admittedly, I'm not a big RIS fan, though, so I tend not to drink a lot of the middle-of-the-road stuff in this style like I do with IPAs and even Dopplebocks or Porters. If you are a fan of RIS, I'm sure this one will be in rotation more often than it is in mine personally, but kudos to Sprecher for actually brewing it and doing right by the style.