The Art of Beer Pt XIII – Beer-cializing (Macro vs Micro)

If you have waded thus far through my occasional epistles about the Art of Beer, then you have probably noticed my disdain… (Just looked up the synonyms for disdain and they are: scorn; contempt; derision; condescension; disparagement; etc. so yeah I think disdain is the nicest way to say it)… for the Macro Beer Companies and their strategy for trying to control the phenomenon called Craft Beer. And… No…. I am not going to discuss the “Craft” vs “Independent” label for these beers in this missive. That has been done enough on other blogs and this one as well. Besides if you are reading this then you know exactly what I am talking about. If you don’t then go back and read the Art of Beer Parts 1 – 12.

About 20 years ago, craft brewing began growing, from the hobby of homebrewing into entrepreneurs founding successful growing businesses. Then about ten years ago, that growth exploded into the phenomenon we have today. In 1979 there were only 89 breweries in existence in the US and they were owned by a handful of companies. In 2018 there were 7,450 breweries, the majority (almost 99%) of them classified by the Brewer’s Association as Craft Breweries. And their market share has increased from less than 1% to 13.6% in 2018. That translates into $27.6 Billion dollars or 20% of the available beer money out there.

Seeing those numbers (more money than the economy of some nations) you can perhaps understand why the Macro Brewers are resorting to dirty tactics to get their lost market share back. However, though we may understand it, that doesn’t mean we have to agree with them. This is America, the home of capitalism and entrepreneurship! (Not “America” the lame ass label change that Budweiser did to capitalize on election year fever.) But then the biggest Macro Brewer isn’t even an American Company anymore.

The sell-out of Anheuser-Busch to International Beverages several years ago created the largest monster the world has seen in the beer community. Now called AB-InBev, this global conglomerate has steam-rolled its way into the top spot and is using every trick in the book to keep their title. From trying to create their craft beer division and create their own new beers (which they are failing miserably at) to the outright buyout of several former founding fathers of Craft Brewing, to trying to control both the hops and barley markets and drive up operating costs of smaller brewers; to the ridiculous commercials trying to poke fun at beer drinkers they don’t understand and trying to capture the Game of Thrones fan base with a Superbowl ad, they have literally tried every tactic available to them short of tying craft beer drinkers to the railroads tracks and running them over with a wagon pulled by Clydesdales (I was originally going to say the Coors Light Express… but that’s a different global conglomerate).

But I want to be clear here. My disdain isn’t for the beer they produce. It is for their business methodology. That is also why I no longer buy beers from Lagunitas, Ballast Point, Wicked Weed, Funky Buddha and others, as all of them have sold out to either AB-InBev, Molson-Coors or Constellation. And while they have all made excellent craft beers prior to that and perhaps still do, I will not support that strategy by buying their product and enriching the Macro-brewers’ coffers. But that is my choice, everyone is certainly free to make their own.

But, as I mentioned above, we craft beer lovers are only about a fifth of the market out there. This can create a bit of schism when interacting socially (or what some of us call “Beer-cializing”) with the non-craft beer drinkers. My own social networking is an excellent example of this conundrum.

The friends I generally beer-cialize with on a regular basis are all craft beer drinkers so when we meet out it will usually be at an establishment that either carries or specializes in craft beer. Socially this is not a problem for us, and we all have an enjoyable evening.

But then I also have co-workers and relatives I will occasionally socialize with who not only do not get the craft beer mystique, but they also have a preference for one or the other of the top light beers in the country. That can be beer-cially awkward.

It the old days before Craft was booming, you were basically arguing over one American Light Lager or another. If you went to someone’s house you usually drank whatever beer they decided to stock or if you were thoughtful, you brought some with you. In the end though it was all pretty much the same as far as taste went, it was more than likely that any loyalty one had to one brand over the other was more due to the better advertising than it was over actual taste (though I have to admit that the only Anheuser-Busch product I have ever liked was Michelob, not Michelob Light or Michelob Ultra, just regular old Michelob, I just couldn’t ever get used to the taste of the rest).

Now, if you are an avid craft beer fan, the chances that you are holding some of the afore mentioned Macro light lagers in your fridge are slim to none. Refrigerator real estate is precious. Crowding out vital foods or your favorite craft product for something you a very unlikely to drink is something most of us just aren’t going to do. And because craft is considerably more expensive that macro beer, the likelihood that you will leave some leftover product sitting in a relative’s fridge isn’t realistic. Besides even before craft had its boom, whenever I left beers that I brought to someone’s house, those were usually the beers to be consumed first. Buying cheap beer has never been my style.

Does this justify the second refrigerator in the garage? Probably not, but I can certainly find more justification for the additional fridge. To be honest I have two additional ones in the garage, one for cold beer storage and the other for fermentation.

But now let’s touch on party invites. Do you bring your own or rely on a host you may or may not know to have enough decent beer on hand and of a good quality? And if you do bring your own do you risk insulting their beer tastes? Should you bring just enough for yourself and the host or do you need to bring more so that others can share in the glory that is Craft? Should you bring only canned or bottled or do you bring a growler? What is the proper etiquette here?

Let’s discuss some basic beer logic first.

  1. Craft beer is usually a bit stronger than Macro beer. Most macros run from 3-5% ABV (Alcohol by Volume). Most Craft beer runs at 5% or higher, some as high as the teens. A 12-pack of a good IPA has about as much alcohol (if not more) as a 24-pack of Macro light beer so you won’t be consuming as much craft beer and you won’t getting pitchers of it to share one after the other.
  2. Macro beers are generally lagers, so the flavors are relatively the same, though the quality may vary. Craft beer drinkers have a much more varied choice list to choose from and not every style is for everyone. From the bittersweet Pale Ales, to the roasted coffee and malty feel of a Breakfast Stout; from the bread and banana scented Wheat Beers to boozy Strong or Scotch Ales; or from the tangy sour Farmhouse Ales to the smooth and effervescent Belgian Tripels each style has its own flavor profile and not everyone can enjoy all of them. It really does take a sophisticated palette to enjoy them all. If you’re going to an invite where you don’t know the other participants, then you may want to opt to bring a good craft lager or pilsner. Then it won’t be a shock to anyone else’s system or you don’t have to drink the Macro junk.
  3. Red Plastic cups are for beer pong and Macro lagers, not craft beer. Hell, even the pint glasses that a lot of bars serve beer in aren’t proper glass ware for beer. Good beer, even a good lager, should be served in a proper glass. It should have a curved bowl or tulip shape to properly release the notes and effervescence of the beer and help to create a good head on the beer. Therefore, bringing a $30 bottle of a special release Tripel or Quad to a BBQ isn’t a great idea if you don’t also bring the appropriate glassware to serve it in.

Here is probably the most important rule, part of which I have said before. It’s your tastes that drives what you should drink. Drink what you want to. And let the other guy or gal drink what they want to. You can always offer them a sample of what you bring but don’t force it n them. And don’t let them make you feel bad about turning down what they offer, just be gracious and toast each other with whatever your mutual selections are.

Happy Beer-cializing!

Papabear

The Art of Beer Pt XII – Big Alcohol, Small Glass

Coppertail Cryptid 12% ABV

If you’re new to the craft beer scene then you may have noticed that some of the selections out there are served in smaller glasses than others. No this isn’t the bar owner trying to rip you off. If you still have any senses when this happens or any taste buds or nasal senses at all then you should have detected a boozier atmosphere with this draft.

Untitled Art, New England Double IPA, 8% ABV

Once beers start getting past the 8% ABV (alcohol by volume) content level then it’s incumbent upon the bar server to make sure you’re not consuming too much alcohol so industry wide it is usually served in a 10 oz. glass instead of a pint. And if the ABV really climbs up there it may only come in a 5 oz taster.

In the American beer scene for years the alcohol level in beers has been between 3-5%. And that depends on where you live and whether or not the beer in questions is a Light beer or a regular beer, though I don’t know if anyone still has any regular beers as the lights have dominated the Macro market.

You will also usually notice that these higher ABV beers will come in a snifter or goblet. There are a couple of reasons for that. One, the snifter or goblet both have a sense of elegance to them that the standard pint glass doesn’t have. But then let’s be honest the pint glass really has no elegance. Pretty much every other beer glass out there has a sense of style and elegance to it. But the pint glass just looks conical and stackable… two adjectives which aptly describe both the look and function of these glasses.

Blackadder Brewing Survival of the Brettest, Belgian Tripel, 10.5% ABV

The curved bottom of the more elegant snifter or goblet, however, has another purpose all together. As the liquid is poured into the glass, the eddies and swirling motions created help to create the head of the beer and release aromatics so the drinker can enjoy not just the taste but the scent as well.

Big Top Brewing Okefenokee Backwater Imperial Stout, 10.6% ABV

This is necessary because a lot of higher alcohol beers have flavors and aromas than can be masked by the alcohol. They are much more complex than their lower ABV brethren. The same is true of wines and brandies as well. That is why their respective glasses have that distinctive bowl shape to them.

First Magnitude Brewing, Prairie Sunset, New England IPA, 6.3% ABV

That same shape can also be applied to the lower ABV beers and help to release hidden flavors in them. But very few bars serve those in a non-conical glass as they fall into the same ABV category as Macro lights, and in the average beer bar owners mind that doesn’t warrant a special glass.

Now while you may be disappointed with the smaller glass at the bar, remember that the bar owners are looking out for you. Cutting back on the stronger drinks helps you to manage your control for the evening. It also doesn’t hurt that they can use that reason to stretch out their inventory. Some disreputable bars water down their whiskey bottles to stretch out their inventory and improve profits. At least craft beer bars aren’t doing that.

Stone Xocoveza, Imperial Milk Stout, 8.1% ABV

But then the craft beer drinker with a trained pallet and nose would pick up on that in a heartbeat. If you can’t do that then you need to work on your skills a bit.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?… Practice, practice, practice.

Enjoy!

Papabear

The Art of Beer Pt XI: The Varieties of Beer

What makes a beer a Lager, or a Pale Ale, or a Pilsner, or Porter or a Stout? Why do some beer styles taste similar but have different classifications? What’s a seasonal ale? Why are some released only in a limited number? And who makes all these decisions?


The answer is not as simple as you might think. Who makes all of the decisions is the person brewing the beer, but even then circumstances beyond their control can change everything.


To answer the other questions, lets start with another… What is beer?
Answer: Approximately 95% water, the other 5% consisting of alcohol derived from boiled grains whose sugars have been converted by yeast and flavored with another agent, usually hops.

Water
Grains
Yeast
Flavoring

Those four simple ingredients and the varied multitudes they come in create the thousands of varieties of beers available.


Now, I know what you’re saying, water is water. Wrong! The water in Belgium that is used to make farmhouse ales and the oh so delicious Belgian style ales has a different mineral content than the water from Bavaria, which is obviously influenced by the nearby Alps. The varied topography of America makes it’s a really rich variety just based on water alone.

Assorted grains

Grains are usually barley based, but can contain adjuncts like corn and rice, particularly if it is a lager. Wheat, Wit, Hefeweizen, all are wheat grain-based beers. Roasted barley gives you the darker colors associated with Porters and Stouts, and some Stouts use oats as well for the smooth milky texture. Rye used for Reds and other darker colors. And in Barley alone there are different varieties available, Two-row, Six-row and others. Rice that is brewed and fermented is usually Sake, which is a whole other topic (and coincidently a post). These same grains when distilled will give you whiskies (bourbon, scotch, whiskey, etc.).


Yeast is a funny little creature… Yes, I said creature. They are single cell organisms which are used to convert the sugars from steeped grains into alcohol. There are various strains and they are used in the making of Wine, Whiskies, Beers, Kombuchas, Sakes, probably some others that you my not have heard of. Basically they are a fungus. But don’t think about that. This about the lovely work they do creating some of our favorite beverages. And when converting those sugars into alcohol they create carbon dioxide and they leave a signature flavor behind when they do. There are two main types: Top Fermenting yeast which is used to makes Ales, and Bottom Fermenting Yeast which is used to make lagers. And within these two types there are many different varieties. There are also a yeast type called Spontaneous Fermentation, which occurs when vats of prepared wort are left open to the surrounding environment to allow naturally occurring yeast strains to work on the sugars and convert them.


And this brings us to the hops. This funny little green budding plant (not too dissimilar to Mary Jane both in appearance and genetic structure) emits specific types of oils on their bud leaves when in bloom. There are three categories of hops consumed for making most beers (Bittering Hops, Aroma Hops, and Dual-Purpose Hops), and within those categories there are over 80 varieties currently being harvested for production. Hops not only brings bitterness and flavoring to counterbalance the sweetness of beer, but it also adds a preservative value.


So let’s say we only have 10 different varieties of water, not true as there are many more, but let’s just say that. Multiply that by the 10 grain varieties. Then multiply that by let’s just say 20 strains of yeast. Then we will multiply that by the 80 varieties of hops currently available. That’s 160,000 varieties of beer available. And this doesn’t include all of the water combinations, yeast strains and unknown hop varieties. Then let’s throw in the mix of the brewer’s preference of how long he let’s the grains seep, how long of a boil he uses and how many varieties of hops he adds, and then just for fun let’s and blending into the mix. The amount of different varieties of beer that have yet to be discovered is staggering. If you drank ten different beers a day from the age of 21 to 91 and never repeated a beer, that would be over 250,000 different beers. I still don’t think you could sample them all.

The opportunities are endless. Why? To paraphrase an old movie, “Because Allah (or Yahweh, or God) in His infinite wisdom loves wonderous variety.”


Papabear

The Art of Beer Pt X: Navigating the Modern Beer Landscape

Macro vs. Micro; Craft vs. Big Beer; Local vs. National; Independent vs. Investor owned… How can anyone find their way through this maze of us vs. them? How do we know which beers we can enjoy and which to avoid? And why should we avoid any?

To understand this terrain, we need to look back through beer history to see where we were and then we can follow the paths that were taken to get where we are today. Don’t worry it won’t be that long of a trip.

Before America was even discovered by European explorers, the beer landscape was much simpler. There was no beer in America and in Europe it was dominated by Ales, not Lagers. Lager beers were still in their infancy stage and wouldn’t explode until the mid 19th century.

When European settlers came to America in the 1600’s they brought with them the more common style of beer at the time, which were Ales, specifically Pale Ales and Porters. The first President of the United States, George Washington, brewed his own beer and was found of a Porter brewed with Molasses.

http://beerhistory.com/library/holdings/washingtonrecipe.shtml

During the mid 1800’s and later, specifically after Lagers had begun spreading in Europe, they came with the German immigrants who came to the America’s. And while they were slowing spreading across the European landscape, they transformed a bit and blossomed in the Americas. The different barleys used, the addition of adjuncts like rice and corn, which was plentiful in America, and the lower hop levels made this lager a style all it’s own. And it began to spread pretty well, though traditional ales and lager styles were still in existence.

It wasn’t until the dark days of prohibition in the early 1920s, when all beer brewing ceased, that lager got it’s chance to take over the American landscape. During the three years that prohibition was enacted most breweries were unable to keep their businesses going. The only ones that did were the larger ones who could adapt their businesses into producing other products. These same breweries came back into service when prohibition ended and the dominance of Pale American Lager began.

For almost 100 years, the American Beer scene has been dominated by Pale Lagers. Whole generations of Americans lived and died not knowing that other beers had ever existed in America. And the large brewing companies not only specialized in brewing lagers, they also began specializing in marketing their products. So much so that other American industries started using their marketing tactics to push their products onto the public.

In 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed a law allowing homebrewing to expand, which opened the door for a whole new generation of entrepreneurs. Before then there were only 89 breweries in the US. Now, there are over 7,450 breweries in the U.S. The majority of that growth has been in the last ten years.

The growth of Craft or Independent Breweries has not been without consequences. While craft has been growing by leaps and bounds, and capturing more of the market. The larger Macro breweries that took over the American beer market have been losing ground. They have not only seen no growth but are losing customers. This had led to various clumsy attempts at creating their own craft styles beers which has generally failed. When that didn’t work they began investing in or buying out whole smaller craft breweries to try and recapture the market. That has had some small success with the craft drinking public who were unaware or didn’t care so much.

But those in the know have raised a voice ringing throughout the beer landscape. Craft brewing doesn’t work as well under the Macro Beer business structure. Craft brewing isn’t about profits maximizing profits with lower quality ingredients. It’s about maximizing quality with by experimenting with ingredients and processes and being agile enough to change with the customer demand. Macro cannot handle that.

Now that you have had the layout of the landscape explained to you, perhaps your navigation through the quagmire that is Craft Beer will be easier. Perhaps you are concerned about who makes your beer.

Or perhaps not… If you aren’t and you are more than satisfied with the fallacy of beer that has been pawned off on the American public for the last 90 plus years then I hope you enjoy what you are drinking.

If, however, you are like me, and your mind and your taste buds have been exposed to wonderful array of aromas and flavors that make up the products of Independent brewing, then please join me in support your locals brewers. Stop by the local tap room/ tasting room, walk past the cheap section of the beer aisle in your local store and continue to support the newest American entrepreneurs in their efforts to give us back what we lost.


Papabear

Craft Beer Life

How’s that for a title with a double entendre? Am I talking about the shelf life of any craft beer or am I referring to the lifestyle of a Craft Beer Afficiando?

My response is… Can’t we do both?!

Let’s discuss the former first and get it out of the way. If you don’t know what Pasteurization is the go here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pasteurization .

If you are familiar with Pasteurization then you may or may not know that most bottled and canned beers, at least those brewed by the big Macro Beer companies, go through a pasteurization process. This is done so that the beers can sit on a shelf in a stores somewhere longer than they normally could without the process, and can shipped over greater distances. Beers stored in kegs are intended to be consumed faster and therefore are not pasteurized.

Most craft brewers do not pasteurize their beers as the equipment needed to do so is expensive, though some of the larger ones do. For a list of some of those who don’t go here: https://clubalthea.com/2015/05/22/non-pasteurized-beers-have-more-health-benefits/

Another reason that a lot of craft brewers do not pasteurize is that many of their beers in bottles are bottle conditioned. The beers go through a secondary fermentation process in the bottle. Pasteurization would kill that process. Also, craft brewers don’t make a lot of excess beer and their market share is more local and smaller. Their product is consumed faster so the need for pasteurization is not as great as it is for Macro brewers whose product can sit on a store shelf for much longer periods of time.

Non-pasteurized beer will also retain a lot more healthy pro-biotics and nutrients that Mr. Pasteur’s process will kill off. So be an informed supper of suds and choose the beer that best fits your needs.
Which leads me to the second part of this epistle… the Craft Beer Life… as in lifestyle.

Just for clarity’s sake this is not a reference to the Facebook page of the same name. Which from what I can tell has had no activity on it in a couple of years. This means are you living a lifestyle that revolves around Craft Beer? Is it just a passing fancy for you or is Craft Beer your go to beverage of choice? Do you shun Macro Manufactured beers whenever you see them?

Example: I recently visited San Antonio, Texas, for a work-related conference. The first night included a reception where you could mingle with others and network. The beverages beings served were soft drinks, wines and beers. The beers being offered were Bud Light, Miller Light, Coors Light, Corona Light, Michelob Ultra and Shiner Bock. If you are living the Craft Beer Life then really the only beer there was Shiner Bock. Coincidently, a little later one of the beverage bars brought out a locally brewed IPA which I switched to after the Shiner.

So how do you know if you are living the Craft Beer Life? Maybe if you answer “Yes” to any of the following questions you are:

1. Do the employees at the local craft beer establishments know your name?
2. Do you attend more than one Craft Beer Festival in any given year?
3. Do you plan vacations or weekend trips around craft breweries or craft beer bars?
4. Do you have an App on your phone for tracking your beers?
5. Do you buy or get free craft beer swag on-line, at bars, breweries or craft beer festivals?
6. Do you work at a Craft Brewery?
7. Do you subscribe to any Craft Beer related magazine (ex. – Craft Beer & Brewing)?
8. Do you own multiple styles of beer glasses so that you can drink any beer in it’s proper serving container to get the best taste profile from it?
9. Does your social life revolve around local brewery events (i.e. – Fund raisers, trivia games, food pairings, etc.)
10. Can you tell the difference between a Pilsner, a Pale Ale and a Lager just by taste?
11. Do you brew your own craft beer?
12. When someone uses the words Brettanomyces, Wort, Spurge, or Barrel-Aged do your ears perk up?
13. Do you and your friends swap craft beers that you pick up on trips?
14. Do you write a blog based on Craft Beer?

To be honest, the first two could apply and you may still not be living the Craft Beer Life… you may be just a college kid or an alcoholic. And number six is not a prerequisite. But to be honest if you are working at a craft beer brewery and your not living the craft beer life then what the hell are you doing there??!!

Just an FYI – Except for number six I answered yes to all of them. But I do have plans to cross that one off the list someday.


Papabear

Gainesville Craft Beer Week 2019 – Local Craft Beer Sites to Visit While You’re Here

For all of you out-of-towners who may not have been to Gainesville before, the following is a listing of Gainesville locations for Craft Beer. I will break it down by breweries, craft beer businesses with food, and craft beer bars. FYI – The order that I am listing them in is not indicative of any preference. Besides as with all things craft… your taste vary.

Breweries

If you’ve never been to Gainesville before then you’re in for a treat. While we may not have a lot of breweries, the ones we do have been bringing home medals from state and national events for a few years. So while the quantity of breweries may be low the quality is way above the normal.

Swamp Head Brewing – This is the Big Daddy in this town. They were the first production brewery in Gainesville and have brought home both national and state medals for their ales.  Located of off south 34th Street this place is the largest brewer in Gainesville. They started as as the only large scale brewer which was an innovation in Gainesville. Then they kinda of tapered off on the innovation until the last year or so. Now they are putting out really good experimental styles. As well as their flagship ales.

First Magnitude Brewing – Two local couples started this brewery with the idea that the springs in north central Florida were of the First Magnitude in quality water. They carried that idea of quality into their recipes for beer.  They have also been bringing home medals at both the state and national levels for a few years.  Where Swamp Head started out as hop heavy  and varied on that, First Mag came at it from the style of the beer they were making and focused on making it the best of that style that they could.

Blackadder Brewing – Unlike the first two listed, Blackadder is not a production brewery, they don’t do canning and only bottle limited releases. Their primary business is as a microbrewery/pub. But they do that very well. The pub has been modeled after some olde style English pubs, certainly an influence from Chris and Cissy’s adventures to beer breweries and pubs in Europe. They brew they own ales, usually having 8 on tap and many of them in a Belgian or German beer style, and also feature over twenty other taps of guest beers which are always from a very good quality brewer.

Cypress & Grove – The newest homegrown brewery in Gainesville has actually moved into an old abandoned ice house where large blocks of ice were shipped to back before refrigeration came into being. They started out slow with a half dozen flagship brews, of which I thought their Porter stood out. They have since had some very good examples added to their line-up.

All of these are great examples of homegrown craft beer. Warning: none of them have kitchens for food preparation but there is almost always a food truck or two on sight.

Big Top Brewing – This company started in Sarasota and have now expanded to Pensacola and right here in downtown Gainesville. When they first opened they were limited to the beers brewed at their Sarasota location and shipped to them but they have recently gotten all the papers approved for brewing to commence in Gainesville. So some of the beers at the local location will only be available there. This brewery also serves food. And their are unique spin on some old bar food classics are worth sampling.

Non-Brewery Craft Beer Bars

I will break this out by those who do and do not serve food. And I will also only include those that I have been to as I can’t honestly recommend a place I haven’t visited on my own. And while there a quite a few restaurants in Gainesville that have some of our local breweries on at least one or two taps, I will focus more on those that have multiple taps of CRAFT beer. So for all of you Bud Light/Miller Light/Coors Light drinkers… You’re on your own.

Serving Food

The Top – It isn’t the name that puts them at the top of the list (pun intended) that is purely coincidental. They are one of the oldest existing businesses in Gainesville that have a really great selection of Craft Beer and they have some of the best food menu items available. Not to mention the uniquely Floridian décor and the great service this place is one I always enjoy visiting.

Public & General – A little hidden gem in the northeast part of Gainesville, and probably the closest to the Hoggetown Beerfest location, is a little pub called Public & General. I like to frequent this place at least once a week for lunch but I also occasionally make an early evening visit there. While the among of taps is not as vast as some others the ones they have on tap contain really good beers. And they have a great bottle selection to choose from as wellas some great wines. The menu is limited but the selections on it are great and flavorful.

Crafty Bastards – This establishment is only a few years old but features a great selection of craft beers both on tap and in bottles. Their food selection is pretty good and you will find some original recipes from the area. They rotate the tap selections frequently and I can honestly say I haven’t had a food dish there yet I haven’t liked though I haven’t had them all.

Curia on the Drag – This little Curious collection of unique bric-a-brac, coffee shop, diner, and craft beer is something that needs to be seen. Especially if you like kitschy décor and flavors. I haven’t been there in a while but I keep hearing goods things and think I need to go back soon.

World of Beer Gainesville – They have a wide selection of craft beers though I do see some influences from the ABInBev distributor. The last time I went it didn’t seem like the tap rotation was that frequent. But it has been a while since I have been there. The food selection is fairly good and it’s the only place in town (that I know of) where I can get Schnitzel. It isn’t the greatest Schnitzel I have ever had but it will do until I can perfect my own recipe or find someone better.

The next three are local Pizza places I have included because not only do they carry craft beers on their taps they also have great food menus.

Satchel’s Pizza – A fire wiped Satchel’s out for a brief period a couple years ago, but they have come back better than ever. They served fresh made pizzas with Satchel’s own tomato sauce which I love because it has just a slight hint of spice in it. I also am a big fan of their house salad. If you get  the chance try both. I can also recommend the Calzone and they have a great wine selection as well. Oops!!… I almost forgot to mention the back part of Satchel’s – Lightning Salvage where you can find many paraphernalia that will remind you of your childhood. And they have local talent playing on the back bandstand. Satchel’s is the only place I have ever been  where the dessert menu is brought out to you on a ViewMaster 3D viewer for you to choose from. If you have to ask what a ViewMaster is then you can move along now. Great section of craft beer featuring Florida beers, but be forewarned that the draft beer selection inside the restaurant and in the Lightning Salvage area are sometimes different.

Big Lou’s NY Style Pizzeria – The name says it all, NY style pizza with a classic marinara sauce and your choice of toppings. They also have other Italian dishes, excellent salads and garlic rolls. Great wings and sandwiches and a centrally located venue in downtown. One of my favorite places if I am working downtown at lunch time. And at night they carry a good selection of beer both on tap and in bottles.

V Pizza – Another option for downtown they have stone fired pizza as well as a good salad selection and great wings, but they also have a lot of other selections on the menu which I haven’t tried yet. Nice crispy crust and a good selectin for toppings for both their pizzas and calzones.

Now I will includes some other really good restaurants that also serve craft beer.

Dragonfly Sushi – So you should guess that this is a Sushi place and they have some really great food. They also have a decent craft beer selection but more importantly they have a wide variety of Sakes, which in my mind is a craft product that deserves much more attention. This place definitely deserves a visit if your in a Sushi frame of mind.

Ker’s Winghouse – Located on Archer Rd, this is what some would consider a Hooters clone, though I think the food is better. This location currently runs 15 beer taps and about 8 are holding craft beer, and four of those are local.The craft beer selections are actually pretty good. If you’re looking good wings and sandwiches, a decent beer list and a wait staff dressed to please then this is your place.

Hogan’s Great Sandwiches – If your in the mood for a great sub, then you have to stop at Hogan’s on NW 13th Street. Great deli meats and cheeses and of the best add ons loaded into great bread. This place has the best subs in town, in my opinion and they have a little bar at the back called the Fallout Shelter (the original name of the business was “Hogan’s Heros” which of course was a play on the 60s TV show about WW2 POW commandos – thus the name of the bar) that serves along with some Macro brews and good selection of craft beers.

Miller’s Ale House – I list this one reluctantly because it is a popular spot. But my reluctance is due to the fact that several of their beers they have identified as “Craft” may have started out that way but now they have been bought out by ABInBev. They do have some independents who have bigger brewing power, like Sierra Nevada and Sam Adams, but in my opinion it’s not a craft beer restaurant. However, depending on the dish the food can be pretty good. Your mileage may vary.

Now I will give you a short list of bars that specialize in Craft Beer but do not serve food. However, they are okay with your bringing your own food in if you desire. But then you could just go there for a good drink.

Gainesville House of Beer – If you have been reading this blog at all then you know that I frequent this location a lot. They keep a good rotating tap going and the downtown location for me is really convenient. The staff are very knowledgeable and if you visit frequently they learn what your likes and dislikes are over time. They also have their own line of craft beers brewed at their original location in Dunedin, which is then shipped to Gainesville. They usually have a pretty good showing of Florida beers.

Hop Top – This place is one of those little hidden gems that locals know about but may not get a lot of business if it weren’t for word of mouth. Not a grandiose location but what they do have that is great and keeps getting better is a great selection of craft beers both on tap and bottled and the taps rotate fairly frequently. The staff that I have encountered know the product pretty good nd have been fairly helpful it guiding me to a good tasting craft beer.

There are other restaurants and bars in town but their beer selections are often one or two craft beers and some high end Macro Beers so they can charge more. They will have delicious food and then serve it with ordinary beers. That can be a crime in my book. And the wait staff’s knowledge of these beers is hit and miss. If you’re lucky you get a waitperson that has knowledge of craft beer because they like it themselves. If you find something you like I haven’t mentioned in here then let me know so I can investigate.

A little bit of sad news. If any of you are looking for either Tall Paul’s Brewhouse/Alligator Brewing or Brass Tap, I’m afraid both those businesses have closed. The reasons why have been speculated on but all I will say for certain is that we lost two great resources of craft beer. Hopefully others can fill their place.

One last thing….

Cheers!!

Papabear

A Visit to Twin Peaks, San Antonio TX

While on a recent business related trip to a conference in San Antonio, Texas, I was able to find this little gem on the internet and new I had to give a try. No – as far as I know Twin Peaks does not refer to the TV show, either the original series or the reboot. Instead, from while I can tell, it’s a double entendre (similar to Hooters), which is supported by the outfits the waitresses wear, see the examples of short khaki shorts and lumberjack style short tops.

Where Twin Peaks differs from Hooters and Winghouse and any other contenders out there is in the food offerings and the alcoholic selections. For one, they have their own line of beer selections, which are not bad from my tastings. I had a Dirty Blonde Ale and a Dropdead Redhead, both slightly different from the more common examples but good examples of the style they represented. And while they serve them a little colder than I prefer they still are pretty tasty. They also offer beer selections for the Macro beer consumers so they don’t alienate any customers.

They also have a decent selection of wines (though to be honest I did not sample any) and a wide variety of cocktails. But what really piqued my interest is they listing of whiskeys, They have Bourbons, Ryes, Irish Whiskey, American Whiskey, Rum, Vodkas and Tequilas. And their selections varied in quality and price in every category. I certainly enjoyed the Makers Mark I had after dinner.

Their food selection is a lot more extensive that the other competitors I already mentioned and my Avocado Smash Burger, which was slightly augmented with bacon by a suggestion from my waitress Janna was really delicious, juicy and flavorful. The fries that accompanied were pretty good too, being light and crispy like I like them.

The environment was loud but I’m okay with that and kind of expected as this is also a sports bar.  The décor is focused on lodge style with faux log cabin panels on the indoors, open rafters in the ceiling, rams and deer heads, animal skins and fish on plagues decorating the walls, and antlers for the chandlers.

I like this place, and look forward to the next time I can visit one. The staff were friendly and helpful, the food, beer and alcohol selection is pretty good and varied and the atmosphere for me was great for working on this blog and another.

I will recommend this to anyone who asks and suggest it to friends who travel to San Antonio.

Papabear

OMG!! GoT & ABInBev??? WTF??!!

So, if you’re reading this you’re obviously a Craft Beer fan. Coincidently, I have noticed a high correlation between craft beer fans and Game of Thrones fans. One of my favorite and more commented on favorite beerfest tees is the one that quotes Tyrion Lannister when he says, “That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.”

Am I the only one who is a member of both categories that isn’t a little more than pissed about the Bud Light/GoT commercial that aired during the Superbowl. I was already more than bored with the whole “Dilly Dilly” thing and while I don’t drink and could never stand Bud Light, I was hoping for an entertaining commercial.

I was actually very encouraged to see the Mountain walk into the scene and start tearing apart the Bud Knight. And loved it when the Dragon flew down from the sky and started burning everything. But then nothing else.

Where the hell was the plug for Ommegang??!!

In case anybody has missed it, Ommegang Brewing has been putting out a line of GoT inspired ales over the last several years that have been some of the best ales out there. Each ale was inspired by a different GoT aspect or theme and the flavor was an attempt to reflect that. The result has been some very tasty limited releases. And if you missed out on them, it really was your loss. Out of the 13 available I have only been able to sample 9. The 14th will be available soon and I can only hope it will find its way to a local store or bar.

I think what ticked me off about the commercial was the lack of acknowledgement by HBO producers to pull in their fan base with an even better version of the commercial. After all, they already have an agreement with Ommegang to produce these ales with the GoT theme. Why not tie in those ales with this commercial? I’m sure ABInBev would have objected. But of course, HBO went with the beer producer who has a bigger budget. Sell-outs!!

It my version of the commercial, I would have continued a little bit more with someone running around screaming “The King is dead! The King is dead!” then cut to the Mountain swigging back a bottle of Ommegang then bring up the “#FORTHETHRONE” which would advertise both the last season of the series and put in a plug for Ommegang’s next release of the Game of Thrones series.

That would have been a much more satisfying commercial. And while they would still tick off some of the Bud Light fan base who are already ticked about killing off their favorite mascot, it would bolster both the GoT fans and craft beer fans who wouldn’t touch Bud Light if they were on fire. And how do I know that?

Because… That’s what I do. I drink and I know things.

Papabear

The Art of Beer Pt 9 – Beer Fests (Un-written Rules and Etiquette)

I have been attending festivals (both beer and otherwise) in both Europe and the US since 1982. In the 35 plus years of doing so I have garnered some DOs and DON’Ts for selecting and attending these gatherings which I will share with you shortly.

Traben-Trabach boat races in Germany features many wine and beer vendors along the banks.

First, however, a brief history on how these events came to be. Fests (or Festivals) generally came about as a communal way to celebrate an event or regional product or religion. Different regions in the world have Harvest Festivals to celebrate a good growing season and highlight the products grown in the area.

In Europe, wine festivals begin in mid to late summer and regional wineries will bring out fare from their previous vintages to make room for new as well as sampling newer vintages. Beer festivals also started the same, local breweries featuring their products for the citizenry.

Octoberfest, the most famous of Beer Fests, actually started as a wedding celebration for a German crown prince. And the anniversary of that event carried on to the evolve into the international extravaganza it is today.

That tradition of fests came to the US with the influx of European immigrants at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. However, during the dark days of Prohibition in the 1920s festivals died out. Even when prohibition was repealed, festivals in the US never had the same pinache that those in Europe did. In the 80s and 90s the Big Beer companies tried to bring out their version of Beer Fests featuring scantily clad women serving ice cold watered-down lagers and serving pizza, wings and maybe pretzels. These fests were usually attended by frat boys looking for a cheap drunk and willing to drink anything.

The Beer Fests in the 80s and 90s all had the same beer makers (the Big Five) and the local beer distributors ran the show. Since the local distributors controlled who attended you never really had a great variety to choose from. Well…. You may have had a lot of labels but they all flew under the Big Beer banners and they were basically different variations of bad Lagers or Pilsners. The price of admission was relatively cheap and the beer was served in plastic dixie cups. The theme, in general, was cheap bad and food that varied from ok to bad.

Thank Ninkasi!! (Sumerian Beer Goddess) for the rise of Craft Beer and the resurgence of the traditional Beer festival…. Or at least something resembling a traditional beer festival. With the surge of Brewery growth in the US (now around 6000) and the fact that many of them are regional, Traditional Beer fests are a natural fit for the current environment. Local breweries as well as local food and other types of vendors have the opportunity to showcase their products. And the masses are more than willing to attend these.

Stubbies & Steins Sausages

L&J Pretzels

Ticket prices for beer fests now range anywhere from $30 to $60 depending on the location and size of the fests. But you usually have anywhere from 30 to 100 different breweries and as many as a 1000 different beers to sample. Often these beers are seasonal and may not be available at other times of the year. For a real beer snob (such as yours truly) there is no other venue where you can enjoy so much with such a wide variety in one location that you can walk from one vendor to the next within such a short distance. And these are usually organized by locals groups from the region you are in, not the Big Beer conglomerates or distributors.

If you can’t tell that I am a fan of Beer Fests (today’s version) then you haven’t read any of my previous posts. But what really gets me excited about them is the atmosphere around today’s beer fests versus those of 20-30 years ago. The rampant commercialism that existed in those controlled by the distributors is not anywhere near as evident as it used to be. The focus now is on getting the local breweries out for some recognition and exposure. The events now are usually organized by local home-brewer groups or guilds and brewer attendance is by invite only. You may still see the Big Beer brewers in attendance but they never have the amount of visitors that the craft breweries have.

Having said all of this, I will now bring forth the Dos and DON’Ts I have been able to acquire over the years. For those of you who have never ventured forth into the modern Beer Fest atmosphere… TAKE NOTES!!!

 

DOs

…some research. With the availability of the Web today getting feedback from the previous attendees to an event can be very helpful. You may get feedback about parking, food vendors, how the event is run and of course the dreaded Port-a-Potty situation. If you have a pet you want to bring with you then check on the rules first. Some do… some don’t.

…bring a few things with you. If you like to buy trinkets, t-shirts, glasses, etc. then make sure you have something to carry it in. I also bring water to hydrate myself and rinse my glass between samples. Some brewers do that for you and some don’t.

…pace yourself. Most Fests last for 3-4 hours. Usually there is no way you will sample every beer available and drinking solidly, even sample sizes, for 3-4 hours can lead to consequences… the kind where you have to be carried to your ride.

…bring a designated driver, or at least someone who is responsible enough to know when to quit drinking so they can drive later. If it is in your home town then Uber or Lyft your way there and back. Don’t let the enjoyment of one afternoon of Beer Bliss ruin your life.

…eat some of the local food. A lot of Beer Fests make use of Vendors who operate food trucks. And some of the food available to you is the best you will sample anywhere. And it is usually made from locally grown ingredients or products.

…support your local breweries and beer bars who have tents. Stop by and say hi with the folks you know best. Make their efforts that day worth their time. A lot them enjoy seeing a familiar face.

…try beers you wouldn’t normally try. I know folks who don’t like sours or saisons or stouts but will try them at a Beer Fest. Maybe your local brewer isn’t good with a certain style. Maybe you’ve never had a really good example of a style that you think you don’t like. Beer Fests are the perfect opportunity to try something new and different.

…talk with other beer snobs. (And if you’re not a beer snob what are doing reading this blog?) Seriously, how often are you around that many people in one place who share the same love of beer that you do. You may find out new local beer news or hear about a hidden gem in another nearby town, or just meet people from other beer towns who share the same passion you do.

… feel free to dump beer you don’t like. There are many around you who will like it so the brewer has no concern.

…remember to rinse out your tasting glass between each sample. You do the next beer a disservice by tainting the flavor of it with the sample before.

 

DON’Ts

…drink beer you don’t like the taste of. After that first sip, you might try another, but if you don’t like it, you don’t like it. Feel free to pour it out and find another you do like.

…stick with the commercial beers. I don’t care if you’re a life-long Bud Light fan, or some other main stream beer, if you’ve gone to the trouble of purchasing a ticket and driving to the festival, why would you waste your time with the same old beer that’s probably wasting space in your refrigerator right now. Explore the unknown, start with something similar but at least different from your normal brew. Then expand your flavor. You may find that once you go Craft you never go back.

…forget your sunscreen, water, or other preparatory items. In most areas of the world fests coincide with Spring, Summer and Fall, the times of the year when the sun is out most and at its strongest.

…forget to buy your fest tickets in advance. Most fests with good organization will sell their tickets in advance via Ticketleap or Eventbrite or some other on-line venue. Buying them in advance will often get you a discount and can get you access to the VIP options they may have. It also lets them know how many people will be attending in advance to help them prepare for parking, restrooms etc. Also quite often a fest will sell-out their tickets on-line and any chances you had of attending are gone.

That’s enough for now. You will pick-up your own helpful hints as you sally forth into the Beer Fest realm. Some of you may be asking yourselves, “Why is he talking about Beer fests now? Summer is almost over… fest season is drawing to a close.”

That would be true in a more northern climate. But I reside in Florida. Summer time is the worst time for a Beer Festival down here. You have a tendency to sweat out the beer faster than you can consume it in the summer. But our more tolerable temps are just around the corner, meaning for us the season will be beginning soon.

Oktoberfest, which normally marks the end of Beer Fest season for most folks, for us is just the opening ceremonies. If for some reason during the cold winter months when the snow is three feet high and the temps below freezing and your beer stays ice cold at room temperature, you suddenly have a hankering for the touch of sun on your face, a warm breeze across your toes, and a cool beer fest to warm your heart, come on down.

Papabear

The Art of Beer Pt 8 – Brewery Strategies

Back when the Craft Beer movement was in its infancy and the possibilities endless, there were many folks who dreamed of making their love of beer into a business. Luckily, for us, a lot of them succeeded.

There are currently more breweries in the United States then there have ever been. That is actually no small feat. Almost 100 years ago evil-doers succeeded in banning beer production (along with all other alcoholic beverages) in the United States. For 3 long sober years, legal brewing was banned. Eventually the consequences of the mistake made became evident and Prohibition was repealed in 1923. But by then the damage had been done and where we had once over 4000 breweries only a handful were able to recover and start producing again.

Those breweries survived by changing their production to something that was legal. They adapted to their environment by changing their business strategy.

When Craft Beer started booming around the beginning of the 21st Century, the business strategies that were employed were as varied as the number of breweries. A lot of Craft Brewers started out as Home Brewers. They learned the basics of brewing in their garages and sheds and tried perfecting their recipes there. As their skills improved they would get feedback from folks, usually friends that their creations were good enough to put on the market. So they ventured out and began breweries.

Some started small at the microbrewery/brew pub level, some started in the mid-range at a small production level (kegs only), and others started at a more robust level (bottling along with kegs). Not all of them succeeded. A common factor for all of those who failed was using a bad business strategy, or having no strategy at all.

So the need for a business strategy for any brewery, no matter the size, is evident. But as you can see from what happened with Prohibition, the need to be able to adapt that strategy to changing circumstances is also necessary. While it is unlikely that Prohibition will come again, at least in our life-time, it is quite possible that some other event that is capable of disrupting the business could occur. And you need to be able to adjust any business strategy to account for growth and expansion. Any strategy you develop needs to be able to address or adapt to changes that can and likely will occur.

The following are simple points that need to be addressed with any brewery business, as well as many other businesses, in order to be successful.

1. Capital – No matter what level of brewing you are going to start out at you are going to need funding. You’re not making five gallon batches in your garage anymore. And your friends are no longer your only patrons. You need to be able to produce enough product to serve to patrons. You will need equipment to make that product as well as staffing to not only produce and package it, but also to serve it depending on your business plan. You will need a new location, whether you purchase the property or lease it and that will definitely require some renovation if not brand new construction. You need to establish a supply chain with Vendors who can guarantee a reliable supply of the grains, yeasts, and hops you need to make your product. All of that is going to require funding to purchase. And you need to be able to sustain your business through at least the first year. Until you can garner a regular customer base and have a steady income from that.

2. Location – Since you aren’t in your garage anymore, you need to think about what kind of plan you are going to establish and use that to determine a location. Do you want to stay small or do you plan to expand in the future? If you are a production brewery you need to think about truck access. You also need to take into account the water supply to your new facility. Beer is approximately 95% water. You need to have a clean reliable source of water to make your product. Will it be piped in from a municipality or utility or will you dig your own well? And if you have a serving room or are going the microbrewery/pub route what is a good location for your business? Will it have good exposure in a high traffic setting? Do you have enough parking for your patrons?

3. Economies of Scale – As I said earlier, you are no longer making five gallon batches in your garage. You are going to be making larger batches which will require increasing the quantities of your ingredients. But changing the size of your batches can affect the flavor. You should allow for some initial test batches once you have equipment in place. Then you can tweak it as needed to achieve the flavor profile you are expecting. And while I mentioned water above, another aspect to take into account is the quality of water you are receiving. The pipes or well that you are receiving the water from now will be different. Do you have the water processing equipment in place to treat the water to achieve the formula you need for the style you are brewing?

4. Market – So you can brew good beer. So what? So can a lot of other people who may already be established in your area. What will differentiate your brand from theirs? Is the area you want to establish your business in already saturated? Are you going to specialize in certain types of beers or have flagships ales with specialty beers based on the season? Will you have guest taps for selling other breweries offerings? If you establish a pub or tasting room, will you serve food as well? What will the menu be? Who will cook it? What will be your hours of operation? All of this needs to be thought of and prepared for before you begin building/renovating.

The breweries I mentioned previously that failed, didn’t take these and/or other factors into account when they tried to start. They leapt full force into making the beer because that is the part of the business they thought they knew, and forgot that at the end of the day, it still has to be a business that can sustain itself. And like a lot of American businesses that don’t have a good business strategy they failed to adapt.

A good business strategy will begin with knowing how much operating capital you will have. Then as your business becomes more established and you have your business practices in place, you need to evaluate how those will work if you expand. Will they work on a larger scale? Or do you need to change them so that you can adapt to growth?

Some breweries, even more now than before, start as simple microbreweries or brew pubs with no intentions of expanding. They are targeting a specific market or a niche in a market. Doing this will eliminate headaches that a larger brewery will encounter. They don’t have to deal with the stranglehold that the Big Beer makers have over the distribution system. They also are only worried about local competition, not Regional or National competitors.

The onslaught of new brewery openings has slowed over the last couple of years. While there is still growth, it has slowed to less than 5%, whereas only a few years ago the growth rate was into the 70 percentile range. And the number of production breweries has slowed even more. A larger number of the newer openings are microbreweries or brew pubs.

But the one thing that any craft brewery needs to succeed is true no matter the size…

Good quality product!

Enjoy!!

Papabear