Wednesday, March 18, 2009
As we have been doing for the last five or six years, to celebrate the kick off of Summer Meg and I and an assortment of friends flock to the Carolina Coast for Memorial Day weekend, in search of sun (sometimes we find it), cold beer (we always find that), and relaxation (depends on how late you stay up). For at least the past 3 trips I have brewed and bottled a batch (sometimes 5 gallons and sometimes 10 gallons) of beer just for the occasion. The first two years I brewed something I dubbed a "Strawberry Blonde Ale." Last year I brewed a American Wheat Ale in the style of Bell's Oberon. Well its getting to that time of year and the house is booked and I need to start thinking about what I am going to brew this year.
The idea is to brew a beer on the lighter side, but that is still full of flavor to complement a warm sunny afternoon.
The options this year are as follows:
I've never brewed a Hefe before, but its essentially the quinessential summertime beer. Full of flavor, but light in body. In my opinion a hefe that is low on banana flavor is preferable.
American Pale Ale
I already make a pretty damn good American pale ale, that has already received one request (thank you Swanny).
Similar to last year, but probably somewhat hoppier.
Can you say Anchor Steam?
Been there done that, but people seem to like it.
If you are not sure on the style check out the BJCP guide for a definition.
I've added a poll on the right, please chime in. Even if your not coming on the 2009 OBX trip, which of these would you prefer for an early summer beach trip?
Life's a beach,
Sunday, March 15, 2009
AHHHH Yes my favorite place for Beer Travel, Denver, the sunshine state. It had been way too long (October 2007, crazy I know) since Meg and I made the pilgrimage to the US capital of all things hoppy, malty and delicious.
We left last Friday and arrived at Denver International around noon. We promptly rented a 4 wheel drive (the only way to get around in Colorado) and headed for our hotel in Longmont. Why Longmont, you may ask? Because that is the location of Left Hand Brewing Company. On our way to the hotel, Meg and I were looking for something to eat so we made an impromptu turn on Main St. and chanced upon Pumphouse Brewpub. The third picture up above is from the Pumphouse or as the locals refer to it, just da' House. Pictured is their IPA, which was very good and I think Meg's club sandwich and you might be able to make out a little bit if the fish tacos I ordered (playing the good Catholic boy on a Friday in lent).
After dropping off our bags we hit up the Left Hand tasting room for some drankz. Different than VA, breweries can just sell their beer on site and not offer food. Now some breweries may have a small bar where visitors can taste their beers, but this place large and well decorated and it was truly more of a bar scene than a "tasting room." I was surprised at the wide variety of Coloradans that were at the tasting room for happy hour. Everyone from guys and gals with suits on (just getting off work) to blue collar guys and college kids. The first photo above is the flight of six that Meg and I went with. If memory serves I believe we tried the: pilsner, winter warmer, warrior ipa, milk stout, imperial stout (aged in brandy barrels for a year!!!) and the twin sisters (double IPA, right up my alley).
After re-hydrating at the hotel, we headed for Lyons, CO for dinner at the Oskar Blues restaurant. If the name doesn't ring a bell, then they are the guys who make Dale's Pale ale and Old Chub, really the modern day champion of canned craft beer. Meg and I were so full from pumphouse and left hand that we choked down a little food and did the best we could on a couple of beers from the bar.
The next morning after some much needed exercise, we hit up Boulder for lunch. Now, Boulder might be one of the coolest towns in all of the US. If my company had an office there, I'd be on the first flight. After a nice lunch of gyros, MEg and I asked around for a good beer store. We were heading for Vail for the next couple of days, but wanted to make sure we tried some new beer while we were hitting the slopes. We settled on a sixer of Deschutes Inversion IPA (absolutely fantastic stuff, I wish they would distribute to the east coast) and Upslope IPA (a very nice offering from Boulder, CO).
The next couple of days we spent skiing. Monday evening we found ourselves back in Denver and decided to stop by the famed Falling Rock taphouse. The Rock had 69 beers on draft, wow what a selection. Meg and I both went for Russian River offerings since we can't get them here on the east coast. I went with Damnation and Meg went with the famous Pliny the elder. Both awesome. It was a slow night and we starting chatting it up with Chris Black, the owner of The Rock. He's a great guy and he regaled with a ton of beery stories. He's actually on the Brewer's Association events committee and was getting us excited for this years Savor in DC. As always, Denver/Vail was a memorable voyage. I think I could plan every vacation there for the next ten years and be very very happy.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Good News! Craft beer is growing. That might not be a huge surprise to many people familiar with the craft beer industry, but in a recession economy, basic logic would say that consumers would spend less on beer and drink cheap mass produced swill. Not the case. You the consumer have spoken and despite plummeting 401Ks and IRAs you've decided to spend more this year on craft beer compared to 2007. Hats off to you and your sophisticated palate, well played good sirs and madams.
This is very exciting for those of us who secretly harbor the desire to open a brewery or brewpub.
The Brewers Association, which tabulates industry growth data for U.S. breweries, announced that today's small independent craft brewers are gaining alcohol market share due to a shift toward full flavor beer and increased support for local breweries. From 2007 to 2008, estimated sales by craft brewers were up 5.8 percent by volume and 10.5 percent in dollars¹. Overall share of the beer category from craft brewers was 4.0 percent of production and 6.3 percent of retail sales. More than 1 million new barrels of beer were sold in 2008, and close to half of those barrels were beer from craft brewers.
"2008 was a historic year for beer with the large brewers consolidating and imports losing share, while the top ten selling beer brands dropped in sales. At the same time, small independent craft brewers continued to gain share and attention," said Paul Gatza, Director of the Brewers Association.
With total U.S. beer being more than a $100 billion industry, the Brewers Association estimates the actual dollar sales from craft brewers in 2008 were $6.34 billion, up from $5.74 billion in 2007. Taxable barrels of the total beer category was 1,210,018 more in 2008 with craft brewers producing 473,364 of those barrels. Total craft brewer barrels for 2008 was 8,596,971, up from 8,123,607 barrels in 2007.
Beer's popularity as America's favorite fermented beverage continued in 2008 with Gallup stating "beer is back to a double-digit lead over wine." Taking into account the challenges in today's economy, BevincoNielsen released a survey showing beer was faring better than spirits, with wine lagging. The Brewers Association emphasized trading across from wine and spirits to beer continues, with some of today's wine drinkers discovering the affordable enjoyment and rewards of craft beer.
These increases in share and barrels for craft brewers come at a time when, according to the Brewers Association, the cost of operating a small brewery increased over 39 percent in the period of November 2007 to November 2008. The Brewers Association states that today's craft brewers face many challenges including:
* Access to ingredients and raw materials
* Increased pricing for materials and supplies
* Access to market (competition for shelf space at the retail level)