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.
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.
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.
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!!!
…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.
…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.
I don’t know about the rest of you but the last few months for me have been extremely busy. We in Florida had a rather worrisome lady friend, named Irma, give us one helluva visit in September! She may not have been as dangerous as we thought she was going to be, but she was plenty dangerous enough for me.
Her arrival in the wee early morning hours on September 11th, and her subsequent departure later in the day, left the utility company I work for enough to keep us busy for 8 straight days of 17 hour shifts. By the time it was over we were exhausted, but we had services back up to 100% of our customers in that time frame. A lot of other places in Florida weren’t as fortunate.
This also put a little bit of a time constraint I had on prepping a new RV trailer I purchased the week before, Labor Day weekend. When I got the trailer home I took Tucker and his new little buddy Harley (I was babysitting Rowdy’s dog while she and the Cooler were out of town.) out to see the new toy and they were plenty excited.
Later that day I began making plans for a vacation to Asheville, NC. I booked a KOA camp site, looked up a list of breweries and pubs that I haven’t been to yet and highlighted those that were pet friendly as Tucker is accompanying me, then began an itinerary that included some time at Grandfather Mountain, hiking, and just some relaxing.
Then upon returning to work on the Tuesday after Labor Day we were entered into full blown Storm Prep. Any plans I were working on were forgotten in the milieu that accompanied the approaching doom. You may think I am exaggerating, but at the time Irma was tracking on a course that would bring her right up the middle of the state, the worst possible scenario. The devastation from that trajectory would do so much harm that the recovery could take months.
At work we prepped as best we could, contacting Vendors to get as much material in ahead of time that we could, seeing what was lined up to come in and what was available after Harvey had torn up Texas. I have to give some credit here because the Vendors that we use for supplying our material needs really stepped up and made sure we were a priority for them. After that is was a matter of battening down the hatches and securing the facilities. By the end of business that Friday, except for a couple of last minute deliveries we had set-up for that Saturday and Sunday, we were about as ready as we could be for this storm.
I attended a little pre-storm beer session with my fellow Beer Bacchanalians that early Friday evening and, in between answering phone calls and emails from work on my cell phone, managed to enjoy a couple of last brews before the storm hit.
All of Saturday was spent on phone calls and emails coordinating schedules for after the storm restoration and determining who would be hunkered down at work during the storm. I spent so much time on this that I wasn’t able to get the outside of the house prepped for the storm until late Sunday morning. I was picking up deck chairs and making sure the new RV was secure while it was raining cats and dogs.
Around 10 PM my power blinked out once for about 5 minutes. I took that as a hint that it was fixing to get bad, so when the power came back on I turned everything off and went to bed to await Irma’s imminent arrival. I actually spent the next couple of hours texting back and forth with my sisters who both also live in Florida. Tucker had fits all during the evening as the sounds of the storm made him restless.
Around 1 AM I woke up to the sound of the wind howling like a banshee around the house and through the trees that surround my neighborhood. I began hearing the sound of the house creaking loudly coming from the corner that my bedroom was in. The sound of the wind and the creaking was enough to make me rethink my location so I got up and laid down a couple of sleeping bags in the hallway between my office and the guest room. That was centrally located and probably provided the best protection in case of a tree falling or the roof lifting off. Tucker followed me and while we tried to get some rest we both had little of it that night.
At 430 AM my alarm went off and while I was already awake I knew I need to grab my flashlight and begin getting ready for the early morning storm briefing. At that point Irma had passed over us but we were still experiencing tropical force winds and would until about Noon that day. I checked out the house and saw some damage to the privacy fence but near damage to the main structure so I changed clothes and went in to work.
That alone was a difficult task. Not only were trees and limbs down all over town and well as power out to most of the traffic lights, but the entrance to my neighborhood was under about three feet of water. I know that because when I drove though it, as it came up to the bottom door of my pick-up truck. Some of my neighbors were stuck there with the lower cars they had.
So we all went in at Noon and worked til 10 PM that night. Then went home and came back at 5 AM in the morning and again worked until 10 PM. This routine repeated for the next 6 days.
By Friday morning, all of us had been at this for at this for at least 61 hours, some longer because of the preparations for the storm. As I looked around the room all I saw were tired faces. Tired… but determined.
Sunday morning while we’re dragging ourselves in to try and finish restoration to the last 1.5% of the community, while most of the folks in the area are already back to their Sunday routines of church, family gatherings and NFL football. That routine is what the last 1.5% wants to get back to… and so do we. But we’re not done yet.
As the day wears on the effect of the fatigue we are feeling becomes very evident when one of my staff members is injured. Luckily, the injury is just a simple contusion, but it could have been worse and would have been easier to prevent if we weren’t all exhausted. After getting him a medical check out at the Health Center we sent him home with a lesson learned for all of us.
By Sunday night we have all but 380 customers back and we plan to start working on those at first light. That is less than 0.4% of our customers. Well over 60,000 restored within a 7 day period. By Tuesday morning we had restored all customers back to service.
Nothing enhances flavor quite like the deprivation of it. Going home for the first time in daylight that day I was finally able to do a better evaluation of my home and how it survived the storm. I talked to some of my neighbors to see how they fared. And I noticed that someone had cleaned up some of the debris in my yard and piled it for pick-up. The neighbors know I work for the utility company and knew I was at work while they could start making repairs on the damage they went through. Not only did the company I work for pull together to get everyone back up and running, but the community as a whole pulled together to help each other out.
The next weekend I began working on replacing a portion of the privacy fence. I also restarted prepping the RV for a trip I was planning in October. That was the first time I had been able to enjoy a beer since before the storm hit. I don’t know if it was deprivation or just a really good beer but nothing has tasted so good in a long time.
The following Monday the 25th I was joined by Rowdy and the Cooler for a Taps and Tapas dinner at Blackadder Brewing. An excellent 4 course meal accompanied by 5 excellent beers.
The following Saturday brought more rain back into the area but Rowdy and I decided to attend the Bacon and Brew fest in Deland Florida. They had some excellent Bacon available but the beer ran out in less than two hours. As you can see from the picture below we weren’t happy about that.
We did however decide to visit one of the breweries in town, Persimmon Brewing, which had some very good beers. And Rowdy’s Mom joined us and we went to Yola Mac and Grilled Cheese for some food. Excellent food bit the service was only so-so.
I finally finished the section of fence by this last Tuesday night and continued prepping for the vacation to Asheville NC, this Saturday. Tucker and I are both ready for a road trip and I have picked out some pet friendly places in Asheville to visit.
Today I am attending the Gator Homecoming Parade with my fellow Beer Bacchanalians and Gainesville House of Beer. Then I will finish up my preparations from the trip and leave for Ashville in the morning.
Tucker and I will report in on our visitations and provide some much needed information for this blog. It’s been too long without some wordage!
You will hear many points of view on which grains to use, which hops or spices provide the best bittering, and which yeast works the best to attain a particular flavor. But you really don’t hear often enough the importance of the largest ingredient in any brew…. Water!
Dihydrogen Monoxide (Hoax), Aqua, Aqua Pura, tears, saliva, drink, rain, H2O or Adam’s Ale… No matter what you call it, it is the most important resource on the planet, perhaps in the universe. No known form of life can exist without it. It is one of the few elements that can change it’s form into multiple shapes and densities and resume it’s previous state.
As man’s knowledge of water has increased so has our culture and civilization advanced. Most of humanities growth, until the last century or so, has been alongside a rich water source. In ancient Greece it was considered on of the 4 basic elements (air, fire, earth and water), in ancient China that was five (earth, fire, wood, metal and water). It has a basis of reverence in many modern religions (Christian Baptism as an example) as well. It is used as an example of purity and strength in these religions as well as other philosophical arenas. (Do you wish to be as rigid and unforgiving as a stone, or as flexible yet powerful as water? The stone may assert it’s place for now, but in a thousand years the water with have cut a path through the stone. – paraphrasing)
It covers 71% of the Earth’s surface and can be found throughout the solar system and the universe in various forms. It can take the fluid form as in the rain, streams, rivers, lakes, seas and oceans. It can exist in a gaseous state as in clouds, fog and steam. And it can be solid in a crystalline form as in snow and ice.
Mankind is becoming more and more reliant on finding resources or developing water cleansing technologies in order to survive. Water is our most valuable resource, no matter what some commodities brokers may want you to think. Our reliance on it as a natural resource has been demonstrated time and again throughout our history.
When Ancient Rome fell and Europe entered the Dark Ages, disease and famine were rampant throughout the continent. Some of the knowledge of importance of water for farming, and medicine disappeared with the cultures that had discovered them, at least in Europe. Eventually the importance of clean water for drinking became known and the act of boiling to get clean drinking water evolved into brewing water with grains to help ration both the water and the grains. This eventually became the beers we know today.
As a beer connoisseur and a home brewer, I understand the importance of this natural resource for a hobby/subject that is near and dear to my heart. We use water for every aspect of beer making. We use it to brew the mash, we add more when we are doing the boil and adding the hops, the yeast preparation may require water for activating the yeast, and we may add more when we are mixing the bottling sugar in with the beer for carbonation. But more importantly, we rely on water to grow the ingredients we make beer with. Everything, from all of the grains, to the hops or other bittering agents, to the yeast for fermenting to the sugars rely on water for growth.
As a group, brewers more than anyone understand the importance of maintaining this resource as clean and available to all as possible. My day job is with a local municipal utility and through my 12 plus years in association with them I have really learned not only how much we as a society rely on this resource but how difficult it is to maintain a high quality of drinking water and how much harder it will be in the future. We have some of the best drinking water, not only in Gainesville, but also the State of Florida and the United States. Our community understands how important this resource is now and will be in the future.
The picture above is what a lot of Americans think that any activity related to beer is all about. Getting rowdy with your frat brothers at parties and smelling like stale beer. Sitting around watching sports and seeing who can belch the loudest and longest, or seeing who pukes first from the results of a beer chugging game is one of the first pictures that comes to mind whenever the word “beer” is spoken aloud.
And to be fair, since the repeal of prohibition right up until the last decade or so that would not be an inaccurate depiction of most beer related activities in the U.S. Thanks mostly to marketing campaigns of a lot of the major brewing companies in America (Anheuser-Busch, Coors, Miller Brewing, Pabst, etc.) the light American Lager has become associated not only with those activities but others as well, most of which are usually pandering to the lesser qualities of mankind. These include lust, competitiveness, laziness, and a lack of propriety.
And that is the exact opposite of how a majority of the rest of the world views beer. For many other countries it is a beverage that can have as much prestige as some of the finest wines and liquors available. Especially if it is carefully and skillfully CRAFTED!
In America, thanks to industrialization, beer has had done to it what many other products have had done. Make the most economically feasible product, mass produce it and use advertising to shove it down the consumers throat. And since so few companies survived the dark years of prohibition only those that were mass producing other products were capable of coming back from the brink to begin producing beer again. And in the American business model the more you can make for a cheaper price the better your profits are.
But a little secret was revealed to many of us over the years. Some of us have had the opportunities to visit Europe or Asia or the Middle East and taste beers and other styles or the same style but in it’s original form. We were awakened to the fact that what we have had limited to by the corporate conglomerates was in fact crap! And when we came back to America from other countries and went to try out old reliable American staples we realized the truth… “My God!! This is shitty beer!!”
Luckily, in the late seventies, then President Jimmy Carter signed a bill making it legal for home brewing to begin again. Whatever else you may have thought of him as a president, this was one act that everyone can agree on was a good one.
With that act, the home brewing craze and the craft beer movement began. And for about 20 years that is exactly what it was, a fad or a craze that someone wanted to try. But eventually enough people not only stuck with it, but became very good at it and tried to do what many other American Entrepreneurs had done before them and turn a beloved hobby into a business they could make a living at. Some of these entrepreneurs are still at it today, Anchor Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Samuel Adams, and many others who have seen the rise of a revolution in taste as well as quality in process.
These companies which started out small have grown into larger companies by maintaining quality products and consistently trying to expand their skills in different styles of beer. Something the larger brewers have forgotten how to do.
With this industrious rise in Craft Brewing, there resulted the inevitable loss of market share to the big brewer’s. And how did the big brewers react? Did they rethink their brewing techniques and think about investing in higher quality products using better ingredients? Did they think about expanding the styles of beers that they brewed and trying to draw back some of the market share they lost through honest competition? I’m sure they thought about it.
But that isn’t what they did. Instead they came up with a two step approach:
Step 1 – Buy out the competition. Buy out successful craft brewers, learn how to produce their products for less money, and reproduce their beer labels under your brand. This method has been the Grim Reaper of many venues of American industry. The problem with this is that is doesn’t work well. Quite often quality suffers and the customers you hoped to win back can tell and find a new brewer to follow.
This has not helped the big brewers gain any more craft beer fans, but it has helped them to gain in other ways. Recently the founder of Sam Adams Brewing publicly stated that over 90% of the beer made in the world is owned by two companies both European Conglomerates who own not only most of the breweries on every continent but also a lot of the distribution companies. AB-InBev and Heineken N.V. own companies in Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, North and South America. Leaving only Antarctica as unclaimed territory.
Step 2 – Strangle their supply chain. If they won’t sell out to you then make it difficult or impossible for them to get the ingredients to make beer and even harder to get their beers to market.
These two conglomerates have repeatedly tried buying out hops and grain markets in efforts to stifle the supplies for others to make beers. And when that didn’t work they put a stranglehold on the distribution by buying out a lot of the distributing companies, or giving monetary incentives for their products to get top billing. These companies have been reading the robber-baron’s handbook and instead of creating new games just gave a wink-wink nudge-nudge to the concerned lawmakers who failed to stop them.
So to answer the question in the article title – the “Brew Ha Ha” over the beer companies buying the others out has nothing to do with the beers they originally made. And really not even with the beers being made buy those that have sold out to them. No matter what happens there will still be folks who like all of those beers and will want to purchase and consume them. We are after all creatures of habit.
The problem is that if the trend keeps going as it is, eventually new craft breweries will no longer be built. The ability to choose from over 5000 breweries and tens of thousands of different beers will disappear. Craft beer is going to be changing, whether we like it or not. Craft breweries will have get even more inventive with their “Think outside the box” strategy to continue to exist.
The good news is this:
Thinking outside the box is what craft brewers do best.
The Genie is already out of the bottle. Home brewing is alive and well and will continue to be so. Larger Craft production breweries may not continue any growth, but the little guys who just want to brew and share with the locals will always find a way to do so.
84 years ago on April 7th, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, legalizing the purchase, sale and consumption of beer, for the first time since the start of Prohibition.
Since that dark and ominous day in January of 1920 when alcohol consumption in the U.S. was banned nationally, this day marks the first glimpse of sunlight for a nation that not only saw one of it’s favorite guilty pleasures being forcibly banned, but also saw the rise of organized crime and an uptick in unemployment as hundreds of distilleries, breweries and wineries were closed forcing thousands to be sent home jobless.
The only breweries that survived those tumultuous times were those could turn their breweries into producers of some other types of products. Very few were capable of doing that.
Before Prohibition there were over 4,000 breweries in the U.S. and after prohibition that number dwindled down to a few hundred, most of them being own by the large corporate giants, Anheuser-Busch, Miller, Coors and Pabst Brewing. The entry of America into WWII helped to increase the production of beer because it was a morale booster for the troops as well as those at home.
The rise of commercialism in the 50s and 60s made sure that the big producers could keep their foothold on the beer market. And the introduction of light beer in the 70s was an obvious grab for the women of America’s purse strings, as more and more of them were entering the work force. America had an all time low of 42 breweries in operation by 1978 pushing out the watered down, low taste that American Lager had become. Then a little miracle happened.
On October 14, 1978, H.R. 1337 was signed into law, legalizing the home production of a small amount of beer or wine for personal consumption. With a pen stroke, then President Jimmy Carter, began the movement that has become known as Craft Beer today.
As of March 28, 2017 the official number of breweries in the US has now reached 5,301 and continues to grow. Even if each of these breweries only produced five different styles of beer, that would be over 26,000 different beers in the US to choose from, not including the imports. And I guarantee the number of styles produced is far greater. These breweries have employed well over a hundred thousand people and this number should continue to grow. Craft brewers alone were responsible for producing over 23.5 billion dollars of income in the US in 2016.
So in honor of National Beer Day why don’t you and your fellow beer guzzlers drop on down to the local brewery, or micro brewery or pub and hoist a cold one. You certainly have enough to choose from.
It’s that time of year again. It’s Spring and the flowers are blooming, the weather is warmer and festivals are popping up all over the place. There are festivals featuring locally grown produce, like the Blueberry festival a few weeks ago. There are festivals for charities and movements, like the Tree Fest, an annual event to be hosted at the Swamp Head brewery around Earth Day and Arbor Day each year, being held later today. And then there are the Beer Fests, which is what this blog, and this writer are more concerned with.
It truth, in Florida, there are Beer festivals pretty much year round because of the mild weather we enjoy. But for me it starts anew every year with Florida Craft Beer Week which also coincides with the Annual Hogtown Craft Beer Festival here in Gainesville. This year the festival was held on April 16th, again at the Town of Tioga Shopping Center west of Gainesville.
Last year when I attended, the main complaint I had was the line to get in was long and took forever to move through the entrance. This year, while the line wasn’t any shorter (in fact the attendance this year was much larger), the speed that they processed everyone to get in was much faster. Last year took me an hour to get in, this year it was maybe 15 minutes.
With over 110 different breweries and 300 hundred different beers, meads and ciders to choose from there was something to please everyone. I really liked the layout of the different pods for the breweries. They grouped them together by region or type of brewer. For instance, all of the old world breweries were in Pod 1. Pod 2 had all of the breweries that specialized in Meads or Ciders and the home brewers who were displaying their skills. And Pod 3 had the local breweries, pubs and craft beer vendors. Pods 4-9 had the rest of the Florida breweries by Region (Panhandle, East Coast, Space Coast, Jacksonville, Tamps-St. Pete, and the Glades). And Pod 10 had the out of State Breweries that attended.
I believe I sampled over 30 different beers/meads/ciders/hard sodas and decided I had had enough. There were many great examples of many different styles of beer, but if there was one I would want to single out it would be one by a newcomer.
Blackadder Brewing is a new brew pub coming to Gainesville which will feature 40 taps of different beers including some from their microbrewery. I had their Giggling Imbecile which is a Belgian Tripel. And in my honest opinion it is the best Belgian Tripel I can ever remember having! I can see why they won an award for it. Check out their website below:
The only thing I didn’t like is the same thing I don’t like about a lot of beer festivals is that the food vendor’s are all located in one spot. If it were up to me there would be some strategically located throughout the festival so folks wouldn’t have to walk from one end to the other to get food.
Backstreet Blues and Chophouse had a food truck there and since I hadn’t sampled their wares before I decided to try their Pancetta Bites and fries. The fries came out with seasoning and a melted cheese mixture covering them and were delicious. I had to wait a bit for the Pancetta bites. They were good but not great. It may have been the texture but they didn’t really do it for me.
I was glad to see Sweetberries was there with their frozen custard again. I got a treat as this time they served me a float using their fresh made vanilla custard with a hard ginger ale from one of the beer vendors. The combination was awesome! They also have a website you need to visit.
I believe I said last year that if you didn’t make it to the fest you really missed out on some beers and food treats. I see no reason to alter that statement this year. Except to add… “SHAME ON YOU FOR NOT GOING AFTER I TOLD YOU HOW GREAT IT WAS!”
Now… if you’ll excuse, I’m going to the Tree Fest to help plant trees by drinking craft beer. Enjoy your weekend!
December 5th, 1933, the date the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was enacted, which repealed the 18th Amendment, (also known as Prohibition); and October 14, 1978, when then President Jimmy Carter signed H.R 1337 into law, which eventually led to the newest advent of Home Brewing in the US; both of these dates are probably the most important dates in the 20th Century in relation to beer.
The truth of the matter is that beer and brewing have been around much longer than any known laws (beer was developed as far back as 7000 years ago and the earliest recorded laws date back less than 5000 years.) Samples of beers, meads and wines can be found from many ancient cultures from many different parts of the world. To say that the Prohibition Act was not only one of worst ideas ever would be an understatement. It not only forced hundreds of thousands to become law breakers but it was one of biggest reasons for the rise of organized crime. And up until that point in American history brewing your own beer at home was not only an everyday occurrence it was a large portion of the source of beer consumed at that time. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution in the mid-1800s that production beer brewing started really growing.
So I am going to describe and compare the three main types of beer brewing, where they have similarities and differences and the pros and cons of each type. I have broken them down by the main factor of what currently defines them and that is by amount of beer brewed.
Home Brewing is exactly what it sounds like, beer being brewed at home. Before America existed as a nation and for about 150 years after it was born, home brewing was the original method of brewing. And because it was done in the kitchen it was considered cooking, so most brewers in those days were women, not men. But then looking back through the history of many ancient cultures, brewing has always been primarily associated with women.
In fact most of the ancient deities associated with beer brewing were goddesses:
Siduri – Babylonian goddess of wine and beer
Siris – Mesopotamian goddess of beer
Ninkasi – Sumerian goddess of beer
Hathor – Egyptian goddess of brewing and enjoyment
Nepththys – Egyptian goddess of beer
Tenenet – Egyptian goddess of childbirth and beer
Dea Letis – Celtic goddess of waiter and beer
Nokhubulwane – Zulu goddess of rainbow, agriculture, rain and beer
These goddesses were also associated with agriculture, bread, water or childbirth depending on the culture, which means that the ancient world closely associated beer with life and good living.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “Beer is proof that God loves us!”
Today many people are getting back into home brewing as a hobby, including yours truly. Brewing beer at home means that batch sizes range anywhere from a gallon to 10 gallons being brewed at a time. And the 10 gallon size batch can be very difficult for some folks because now you’re having to handle liquids in containers weighing at least 100 pounds. Once you get out of the 10 gallon range then you need to invest in more commercial like equipment and you’re really stepping into the Craft Brewing category.
If you enjoy cooking then Home Brewing may be an option for you to try. You need the same discipline that cooking requires; measuring ingredients, prepping both your kitchen and your equipment, and a good sense of timing for when the product is ready’ and the patience to wait for the product to be ready for consuming. If you don’t have those skills then you may be better off finding a friend who does and drink their homebrew instead.
While Home Brewing has been around for centuries, Craft brewing is a much more recent phenomenon and is really the next stage of evolution in the beer making industry after you graduate from being a hobbyist. A Craft Brewery is a business where much more experimentation is done on different varieties of beers, the goal being not to only create a good tasting product but to also create something unique using traditional ingredients and methods, something that the larger Production Breweries can’t or won’t do.
While most Craft Brewers started out as Home Brewers, they have now graduated from a hobbyist to an entrepreneur and need to keep in mind that they are running a business. They have to run a good business model and still maintain the higher quality of product than the large Production Breweries have. But if they do run the business well, they can often experiment more with varying styles of beer and ingredients.
Production brewing exploded after the start of the industrial revolution. With the invention of new machines that could do the work of many men the production of beer became much cheaper. Before Prohibition there were over 4000 breweries in America. During prohinition that number became zero. And only a handful of those breweries were able to survive Prohibition by changing their products produced to something legal, like near beer, malts, syrups, or other non-alcoholic related products. After prohibition ended, those that survived started up brewing again but with a much more homogenized version of beer due to new laws governing beer. And in order for these breweries to start making profits quickly, they changed a lot of their ingredients from the traditional barley and malt, to a much cheaper ingredient list that now also included corn and rice starches.
Another reason for the rise of these mass-production beer companies was due to the abject consumerism of the 1950s, ‘60s. ‘70s, ‘80s & ‘90s in the United States. The rise of radio and then television brought commercialism to new highs. Marketing alone sold the American public on the need for a particular kind of beer. Miller “High Life” used the ideal of living the high life to appeal to its customers. Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer subliminally associated the blue ribbon with being a prize winning beer, where in reality the name came from the original packaging of the beer which had a silk blue ribbon tied around the neck of the bottle. The Schlitz Malt Liquor Bull, Coors Silver Bullet, and Miller Lite “tastes great vs less filling” commercials all used various forms of comedy and flashy props to sell their products.
Which brings us to the “King” of commercialism, Anheuser-Busch. Adolphus Busch and Carl Conrad developed their lager style after a Bohemian Beer from the town of Budweis in Bohemia. The beer they copied was founded by the then King Ottokar II. So they used a “Beer of Kings” and named it after the town and called it the “King of Beers”, a marketing scheme that has lasted for over 100 years. Then of course there are the other marketing ploys, like the Budweiser Clydesdales and the sponsorship of sports, which all of the big beer companies have participated in.
The production beer makers are all about the business. It is much more profitable to make an inferior beer, mass produce it and sell it to the masses with marketing schemes than it is to make a good product. And that is what big business has become in the world today.
Thank goodness for Home and Craft Brewing’s rise in the 80s. Without them, a lot of Americans would never have learned what good beer is actually supposed to taste like.
How many of you remember back in the “Good Ole Days” when you had your “Go-to-beer”. I’m talking back when craft beer was the crazy uncle trying to brew something in his garage and it ended up tasting like someone cleaned their socks in the water first. My dad was a PBR man so that was what I had for my first sips of beer as a young lad. Back then American Beer Drinkers were pretty much at the mercy of the big breweries advertising departments. Miller Brewing, Anheuser-Busch, Coors and Pabst were the big guys and they battled it out with each other using sports figures, sex appeal and comedy in their commercials, vying for our dollars anyway they could.
That was how “Light Beer” came about by the way. Two factors helped the rise of the vile drink: America and beer drinkers as a whole were becoming a wee bit more health “aware”; and more and more women started becoming income generators. These two groups fell victim to the myth that light beer is better for you. While truthfully is does have less calories per serving, if you’re drinking a six pack at a time it’s still putting the calories on you…. And you give up so much flavor!
This segues back to my original thought, which is that for years Americans were subjected to American Style lagers and a few Pilsners to sustain our beer needs. Ever since the repeal of Prohibition we have been subjected to the whims of government sticking their fingers in the beer barrel and limiting the alcohol and flavor of beer. It was only after Jimmy Carter signed H.R. 1337, which went into effect on February 1st, 1979, and legalizing home brewing at a Federal level that we began to see higher alcohol content and more flavors in our beers. But this was a very slow moving growth at first.
In 1981, an 18 year old version of me, left the US for the first time and traveled to his first military station in what was then West Germany. Up to that date my limited exposure to beer had been the more commonly known American brands. On Christmas Eve of 1981, I arrived at Hahn AB and after recovering from jet lag, I was invited to a small Christmas dinner with my sponsor, Waldo, his then girlfriend and his roommate, Ray. I have to admit I don’t remember the girlfriend’s name because Waldo didn’t date her for much longer after I had arrived. But I do remember that night. It was at the girlfriend’s apartment in the little town of Lautzenhausen outside the base. Waldo, Ray and I walked there. And I was introduced to both German wines (a topic for another day) and German beer. I can’t tell you what I had for dinner but I do remember enjoying the evening and when dinner was over Ray and I walked back through the town toward the base… But not without stopping at a Gasthaus or two… or three on the way. I became immersed in the German beer drinking culture that evening and spent the next two years learning more about German beers as well as those of other European countries.
I had lagers and pilsners that were better tasting and much stronger than I had ever had in the US. I drank from a glass boot (after learning the proper way to do so) and a Yard glass. I had Hefeweizens and Bocks and Dunkels. I discovered Belgians and Eise beers and that the French aren’t just good at making wines. I sampled beers from Denmark, Holland (the home grown Heineken is much better than what we get here), Sweden, Switzerland, and Italy. I found out that there many more beers to try than I could find and some beers could only be had at certain times of the year or in certain restaurants because they made their own. I discovered the best pretzels ever (as well as the chicken dance) and that ladies carrying several liters of beer in each hand was commonplace in the Hofbrauhaus in Munich. And that beer was an excellent ingredient in cooking and not just in beer-batter fish. I didn’t know it then but those two years laid the groundwork for my Craft Beer Enthusiasm many years later.
When I came back to the States beer was never the same. All the guys I was serving with at the base in North Carolina were drinking Budweiser, Busch, Miller or their light versions. I settled for Michelob as it was the only popular brew I could tolerate. Whenever I ran into other servicemen who had served overseas we would invariably talk to each other about the beers we could get overseas. One of my friends served in England and talked about the ales, porters and stouts he had. Another served in the Philippines and talked about a lot of different Asian beers. The one thing we agreed on was that most American beers left us wanting something else.
The truth is what we wanted was variety. Sometimes we would talk about local beers, beers that you could only get where you grew up. Little known breweries to the rest of the U.S. were local legends to us. One weekend two friends and I drove up to Maryland so we could by 2 cases each of Genessee Cream Ale and 12 Horse Ale. Why…. because we couldn’t get it where we were. And if we couldn’t get it then some of us tried to make it. My generation was the first to be able to do home-brewing since before prohibition.
That same desire is what drove home brewing to become the Craft Beer “Phenomena” of today. Variety is the spice of life. That isn’t just an old saying to get kids to eat all of the food on their plates instead of the just the one item they like. It is a veritable truth.
Most beer drinkers are creatures of habit. They want their “Go-to-beer” and nothing else. That’s what they like and that’s all they want. And you know what… there’s nothing wrong with. If you like a particular beer, then drink that beer. Sometimes the certainty and comfort we get from little things like a favorite beer or food or tv show can help us get through the difficult things that life throws at us.
Most craft beer drinkers are also creatures of habit. But it’s not the “Go-to-beer” they gain comfort from… it’s the experience of a new flavor or style of beer. If you polled craft beer enthusiasts I’m sure you would find they share some of the following traits:
They don’t repeat a craft beer if one that they haven’t had is available, unless it’s a style they don’t care for.
They like to travel. It may be to different fests, or breweries, or bier-gardens or simply a different place to try craft beer, but it still gets them out of the house.
They do have their “Go-to-tap-locations”, places with rotating tap lists and other craft beer enthusiasts who share their zest for flavorful beer.
There may be other traits shared among them but I think these three are the biggies. But those three are also why Craft Beer is not a fad or “Phenomena” but is here to stay. If you closed all the craft breweries down, we would still make our own. So find a beer you haven’t had and enjoy the change of taste. Even if you have to have it out your favorite glass at home it’s still better than settling for the same ol’ same ol’!
First off, let me apologize for not blogging in a while. It wasn’t that we haven’t been sampling any of the local Gainesville pubs, breweries and eateries… we have. 🙂
And it wasn’t that I have started several documents intending to post them here… I did.
But if you have ever done any writing then you know that there is a creative process to it. And this process can be mentally draining. If you’re already occupied with other matters then it can drain some of that energy out of the process, making it very difficult to finish a line of thought. Suffice it to say that there will be several postings in the near future that have been in the process for a while. Ok, apologies out of the way let’s use the lousy weather today to do some catching up.
I learned about the Bad A** Beer Fest about a month ago via Facebook. This was the 2nd Annual so I apparently missed last year’s. I began talking it up to my local craft beer crew, who were very reluctant to go to a beer fest. They seemed to have a bias against beer fests, where these biases came from I don’t know. But we have all wanted to do a road trip together to some different breweries so this seemed like a good opportunity to explore multiple breweries from around Tampa at one stop… which is one of the best advantages of any beer fest.
It was kind of back and forth for a while. Rowdy wanted to go but getting anyone else to go was iffy at best. The day before, I found out that the Maestro was coming and Rowdy told me that she and the Cooler were coming as well. I offered to drive because I was going to go whether anyone else went or not, and I have a vehicle that accommodates four people well for a road trip. Maestro suggested a different route that taking the interstate down to Tampa, which I was in favor of. If you have ever driven around Tampa in the last couple of years then you know that the I-75 traffic is terrible because of all the construction that is going on. We opted instead to head down along the west coast of Florida and come into the Beer Fest site from the north instead of trying to come into Tampa from the east. A choice which proved better as we went because the rain on the way down was much like the rain we’re having today. And trying to drive through down pours on the interstate is much more dangerous than on the less traveled highway.
General Admission for the fest started at 7 PM, and VIP entry started at 6. None of us opted for the VIP entry because the only advantages we could see were that you got a tour of the Tampa Bay Brewing Company’s new brewery in Westchase (where the event was held) and an hour head start on the beer sampling. Considering that the event was scheduled to last til 11 PM, the idea of paying for an additional hour of sampling seemed a little ridiculous. And while touring the brewery might be interesting if you haven’t toured a brewery before, it did not interest any of us. However, there were folks coming in for the VIP access even as late as 10 minutes before General Admission began.
TBBC’s entrance is on the Northeast corner of Race Track Road and the entrance to Monroe Business Park, which is located in the Westchase area of the greater Tampa area. The brewery is the only building on the site and is centrally located on the northern edge of the site. If you come into the entrance, which is on the south of the brewery, there is parking spots all along the west between the brewery and race Track road and along the south along Monroe Business Park entrance. On the east of the brewery is the loading dock area.
For the Beer Fest, all of the parking spots were occupied by brewery tents and merchandise vendors, except for the Southwest corner of the parking lot where a bandstand was erected. The loading dock area on the east side was where the food vendors and the port-a-potties were located (see map above).
Once we entered the fest, we turned to the immediate left and had samples from the host brewery. I had their Full Moon Madness (a Subtropical Porter) which was a special 20th Anniversary release by TBBC, which I thought was a pretty tasty porter. I don’t recall what the rest of the crew had but they all seemed to like their selection.
And so we began wandering around the fest, sampling the various beers, chatting with our fellow beer lovers and just generally enjoying ourselves. I couldn’t tell you the name of the band but they were doing a great job at covering various songs.
Most of the beer vendors were local Tampa breweries or at least near the Tampa area. And it was a good mix of different types of beer. Though I did notice there were a lot of fruit beers and a lot of spicy beers. I must have had at least three samples of sour beer and another three of beers brewed with peppers. All of them I liked but I do have to give a shout out to Three Palms Brewing with their “The Rooster Says”. This was a really tasty Gose, flavored with Tomato juice and Siracha. To me it tasted like a combination of a Bloody Mary and what we called a “Red Dog” when I was younger, which was tomato juice and beer, an old hangover cure. I just thought it was great.
There were also a great number of IPAs, Porters, Stouts, APAs, Hefeweizens, etc. Most of what I sampled tasted great. I want to mention two other beers that really stood out for me personally. Paw Paw Brewing had three beers to choose from and I selected their Schwarzhound, which is a Chocolate Orange Black Beer. It was really tasty and smelled great. I could smell the hints of orange in the foam and the combination or chocolate and orange had slight coffee undertones. It was just a really good stout.
The last one I want to mention was not a professional brewery, but a home brew club. Being a home brewer myself I like to taste someothers whenever possible. I asked for their Single Hopped APA which was named “Trekkie”. This was a really good Pale Ale, well balanced and smooth. I really liked it and thought about going back for another.
After a couple hours of beer sampling I had decided I had pretty much had enough beer, so I began drinking water while the others continued a little while longer. While we were walking around during the evening we also looked at some of the wares on display at various booths for sale. There were hats, t-shirts, glassware and the regular stickers and coasters available. I ended buying a really cool looking glass and a t-shirt that my friends suggested matched my style of beer drinking.
It seemed to be a really good turnout for the Beer Fest. Beer drinkers from all walks of life were in attendance. I believe I read they were expecting about 3500 people, which I can neither confirm nor deny… I just know there was a whole lotta people.
Which brings about a couple of critiques I have about the fest:
Only 4 food vendors for that many people is no where near enough. There were lines with about a 20 minute wait just to order your food at most of the trucks. The good point about this was that the shortest line for food was at the Jersey Mike’s truck. So I got a really good Philly Cheesesteak. But anyone else who waited at the other trucks had a much longer wait.
The number for port-a-potties for that size a crowd was also very inadequate. Again there was at least a twenty minute wait just to get up to be the next in line. I think the key point that the organizers missed here was this… IT’S A BEER FEST!! What did you not get about making sure there are enough facilities at an event where the featured product is a liquid that makes a large percentage of people have to use a bathroom?! And this leads to…
Why would you have the port-a-potties located so close to the food vendors??!! Enuff said about that.
Overall, my friends and I enjoyed ourselves a lot. I think I have dispelled their concerns about beer fests and will be able to bring them along to future ones I attend. And I think the event organizers did a very good job and other than the three points I mentioned above I wouldn’t have changed anything else. I will definitely be going back again next year. I think my friends will too. Hopefully we can convince some more to join us.