In Florida, as I type this, folks are preparing for Hurricane Dorian to strike. The good news is that it may not be as bad as we first feared it would. It was first projected to cut across south Florida into the state similar to what Andrew did many years ago. Then it was it projected to come in a little closer to Okeechobee and turn up through the middle of the state. Now the projections show it turning north before coming ashore and riding up the coast to Georgia or South Carolina. But it could still be close enough for parts of Florida to get Tropical Storm force winds including Gainesville, where I live.
Only time will tell if these projections will come true or something completely different and unprecedented occurs. But whatever the outcome many Floridians are stocking up on supplies. Some of us already stock up heavily on craft beer storm or not. But if you were preparing to hunker down and ride something out what would you need to have in your fridge/cooler?
And don’t give me a style like IPA or Gose. I want specifics, brewery name, style and version name, year, barrel aged… all of the particulars. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled brewskies yearning to be freed! (pardon me my patriotism slip is showing).
My current supply is below. At least, one of the fridges.
Some I purchased and some are gifts from traveling friends waiting to be discovered. Will they be discovered during this storm? Not likely. At least not all of them because it is quite possible I will have to go in to work after the storm passes. But when that is done the sampling will commence in earnest.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
Half the battle of really getting the flavor out of your beer, no matter the style or brand, is serving it in the proper glass. Using a glass specifically designed for the liquid you are consuming has been a standard for wines, liquors and cocktails for almost a century.
It took the craft beer revolution for Americans to be awakened to the idea of proper glassware for beer. The reason for this, of course, is the inferior flavor of the current (and if I may add, waning) reigning American Light Lagers. That and the co-opting of American bars by the U.S. Beer Distributors.
For many years now, the Big Beer brewers have been pushing the beer logo -emblazoned pint glasses on to bars so that they can get their names out in front of the customers. The problem is that the glass they decided to use is, of course, the least expensive to produce. But it’s not even a proper beer glass. The pint glass (in America often called the “Shaker” and in the UK the “Nonic”) does nothing for any of the beers styles served in it. It often causes the beer to lose flavor and carbonation sooner than it should. The Shaker was originally a bar glass used for mixing cocktails (thus the name “Shaker”) and was repurposed for serving beers by many bars for the cost efficiency as well as the ability it has for easy stacking.
In the ‘70s and prior, most bars would serve beer in mugs, chalices or pilsner style glasses. But thanks to the commercialism of Big Beer and their associated Distributors, we now have an entire generation that is ignorant of proper beer serving techniques.
So, let us review the Do’s and Don’ts, the rules of proper beer serving and the correct glassware for your favorite craft beers. We’ll start with the Don’ts!
Don’t drink it from the can or bottle whenever possible!
a) Always try to serve in a glass, even if you have to use a plastic Dixie cup. Drinking from the bottle or can doesn’t give you two essential benefits of drinking good beer:
i. If you don’t pour the beer you don’t create the head of the beer and therefore are missing out on the aromas that enhance a good beer.
ii. If you don’t pour the beer the carbonation is still trapped in the liquid. This means you are swallowing carbon dioxide, which can lead to indigestion and affect the aftertaste of the beer.
Don’t pour beer into a pitcher!!
a) Pouring beer into a pitcher starts the process of it losing its effervescence and flavor. So, by the time you reach the bottom of the picture you have stale, flat beer. Then we abuse this poor liquid even further by adding a bag of ice or some other artificial cooling apparatus to it in hopes of keeping it cold. Which in turn adds the condensation of the cooling object into the beer further diluting it. In reality, this should be unnecessary as Good beer not only can stand a little warming but will even release other characteristics as it warms. This leads me to the next topic…
No. No! NO chilled glasses!! Ever!!
a) How many reasons can I point out why we shouldn’t chill a beer glass? Let’s count shall we…
i. Chilling any liquid changes the flavor. More bitter and unpleasant notes and flavors become clearer as the liquid begins to warm. This is true of wines, liquors and beers. That is why brandy drinkers will swirl the brandy around in their snifter while letting the bowl rest in their palm. The heat from the hand warms the liquid releasing additional flavors and scents they can enjoy. If you prefer the beer to be just above freezing in order to drink it then you are likely masking unpleasant ingredients. Wouldn’t it be better just to start with a better beer?
ii. Dipping a glass in water then sticking it in the freezer means you are coating the glass with water. When you pour the beer into the glass you are actually watering it down.
iii. Chilling the beer not hampers the flavor but the scents of the beer, which in turn affects the overall tasting experience.
iv. It only delays the inevitable. And if you have to have your beer ice cold then you need to drink it fast in order to avoid drinking it warm.
v. It’s a trick! Bars and breweries that practice this do so to hide the real flavor of bad beer.
b) If you read my last article then you read that while in Austin at the hotel bar I asked for a non-chilled glass so I could properly drink a breakfast stout. The look of shock on the bartender’s face was such that you would have thought I asked her to remove her clothes! Another victim of the Big Beer and Beer Distribution campaign against proper beer serving!
That’s enough for the “Don’ts”… Let’s talk about some “Do’s”!
Make sure any glass you serve in has been properly cleaned. And when I say clean I also mean properly rinsed. Soap on the glass can be just as detrimental, maybe more so than any previous liquid contaminants. Unfortunately, sometimes the only way to tell how clean a glass may be is to look at how the suds slide down the glass. If you have a fairly even recline in the way they slide down the glass wall then the glass is clean. But if you see suds clinging more so to one area than another, it is likely there is at the least some residue, whether it is soap or something else.
When pouring a beer, whether out of a can, bottle or keg, tilt the glass slightly so the beer pours down the side of the glass until the glass is about half full. Then straighten the glass and let the beer pour into the center. This will begin releasing some carbonation and help to form a good foamy head without it being too big.
And lastly, please select the glass that best fits the beer style you are serving. Below is a list of the some of those glass types and the beer styles that are best served in them. We have already discussed and discredited the pint glass and though it is the most utilized glass style we will not include that in the discussion.
a. Flute – This glass, similar to a champagne glass, helps to show off and retain carbonation but also help to release aromatics which lambics and fruit beers are known for, which is what you would ideally serve it this. You can serve the beer styles listed below:
• American Wild Ale
• Bière de Champagne / Bière Brut
• Czech Pilsener
• Dortmunder / Export Lager
• Euro Strong Lager
• Flanders Oud Bruin
• Flanders Red Ale
• German Pilsener
• Lambic – Fruit
• Lambic – Unblended
• Maibock / Helles Bock
• Munich Dunkel Lager
• Munich Helles Lager
• Vienna Lager
b. Goblet or Chalice – This style allows for head retention and allows for big sips. It is intended for beers with a higher ABV.
• Belgian IPA
• Belgian Strong Dark Ale
• Berliner Weisse
c. Mug – This came to live in German to replace the Stein. It featured thick glassware for both durability and assistance in keeping a beer cool. Serve with mostly lagers and other German style beers:
• American Ales
• American Lagers
• German Ales
• German Lagers
d. Stein – Originally made of glass, clay or wood. During the middle ages they began to feature a lid to help keep pests out of the beer.
• American Ales
• American Lagers
• German Ales
• German Lagers
e. Pilsner Glass – Intended for use with it’s namesake this glass feature a conical shape with no curvature to the sides. It is intended to showcase the color of the beer and help to retain the head.
• American Pilsner
• Baltic Pilsner
• Czech Pilsner
• German Pilsner
• Light Lagers
f. Snifter – This wide bowl shaped glass allows aromatics and volatiles to be released and like it’s cousin used for brandy will allow the heat from the users hand to warm the beer. This is primarily intended for beers with a higher ABV.
• Belgian Triples
• Belgian Quads
• Double Bocks
• Imperial Ales
• Imperial Stouts
• Strong Ales
• Scotch Ales (substitute for thistle glass)
• Most beers with over 7% abv.
g. Stange – German meaning “Rod”this cylindrical glass shape is meant for lower capacity and lighter beers.
• German Kolsch
h. Tulip – Bowl shaped at the bottom with a mouth that flares out this glass is great for strong aromatic beers with a lot of hops.
• Belgian Ales
• Biere de Garde
• India Pale Ales (IPAs)
• Pale Ales
• Scotch Ale AKA Wee Heavy (substitute for thistle glass)
• Strong Ales
i. Thistle – a Scottish cousin to the tulip is intended for
• Scotch Ale AKA Wee Heavy
j. Weizen – sometimes confused as a pilsner glass this glass is actually much larger and has a curved shape to the upper glass that helps with head retention. Its a tapered glass with the narrow bottom that helps to trap yeast. It is intended strictly for wheat beer.
• All Wheat Beers
• White Ales
• Belgian Wit (substitution for tumbler)
• Pilsner (substitution for pilsner glass or pokal glass)
k. Over-sized Wine Glass – It is a wine glass that is used for serving stronger flavored and higher ABV beers.
• Double IPA
• Belgian Doubles
• Triples and Quads
• Strong Ales
• Most high gravity (ABV) or big beers
Boots – Called so for their familiar shape, this glass is more of a novelty because air can become trapped in the toe of the boot and when the air pocket releases it can cause a splash on the drinker. Thought to be of German origin and German style beers are typically served in it.
Yard – Another novelty glass, it is thought to have originated in England where stage coach drivers were not allowed to leave the carriage while their passengers patronized a road house. This long glass was invented so that the driver could refresh himself while the patrons were busy inside
And that brings to close the proper etiquette associated with beer glasses…
It’s been a few months since my last post and to be honest I’ve been so busy at work that taking the time write an epistle was not a priority. Ironically, it took a work-related event in the form of a conference to cause me to stop… take a breath… and realize how much time has passed since I had flexed my blogging muscles.
I will not go into conference details as, unless you using SAP as your ERP system, then you are not likely to find any interest in that aspect of the story. But I will highlight some of my exposure to Austin’s food and craft beer cultures.
My arrival on Monday the 26th included an afternoon session, after which I met up with colleagues from other companies as well as a my coworkers who also attended including a former colleague who was working in a related but different industry and was there for the conference. The meet-n-greet included free alcoholic beverages so I took the opportunity to begin sampling some of Austin’s craft beer. My intro was a Pilsner from Austin Beerworks.
It had a good Pils flavor though it was slightly stronger in the hops arena. My only complaint was that they did not include a glass to serve it in. I would like to have seen how the beer clung to a clean glass and what kind of head it produced.
After the meet-n-greet my colleagues and I took a stroll across the Congress Avenue Bridge and headed north toward the Capitol, until we got to 6th Street, then we turned right and went another block and entered BD Riley’s Pub just on the left.
BD Riley’s is an Irish Pub to be clear but it’s an Irish Pub in Texas. So the Blues music cultural is definitely alive and well there (see link below).
While there I started with a really good Pecan Porter from (512) Brewing Company. It has a really great flavor and look to it. And it went well with the Appetizer Sampler platter we ordered. The wings had good heat the fried dill pickle slices were tasty and the chicken planks weren’t bad. I didn’t have any stuffed potato skins but I was told there were delicious.
For my main course I ordered the Chicken Newton. Which contains pulled chicken breast, crisp bacon and tangy green apples chopped and topped with a four-cheese blend then skewered on Texas Toast quarters. I paired that with an Axis IPA from Real Ale Brewing. Both were very good and satisfying.
We headed back to our hotel after dinner and awaited the next day’s sessions of conference presentations.
After all of the speaking and mingling of the day, we met up with a mix of other utility companies at a social dinner sponsored by one of the Vendors at the conference. It was a good mix of discussions about our day to day activities as well as comparisons of how each company handles their own tasks. We also ventured off into other avenues of interest which included travel, foods and craft beers (for some of us). It was good to meet people from other areas who shared my interest in Craft. The dinner was held at Zax Restaurant & Bar, a short walking distance from the Hyatt Regency.
They had us segmented away in a corner of the restaurant and rightfully so as there were about 30 or more of us. I walked back toward the bar to view the display of beer taps and see what the fare was. I was surprised to find that most of the taps were local brands, and only a few were more well known (Lone Star, Shiner).
I started out with a Kolsch named All Call from Lakewood Brewing. Very nice Kolsch flavor and it re-enforced the reputation that a lot of breweries in Texas are specializing in Lagers, Pilsners and other German based brews.
As the evening went on and discussions carried forward we began placing our orders for dinner. When I did I also put in an order for what they called their “Austin Flight” which was an all Austin based sampling of beers.
This included a Pilsner, an IPA, a Vienna Lager and an Amber Ale. I wish I could tell you the breweries but I wasn’t fast enough to write them down, much less hear them correctly with the background chatter surrounding me. I can say they were all good examples of each style and very tasty. They also complemented the dinner of Tilapia served with capers on linguine and mixed veggies.
And I have to give a mention to the delicious Blackberry Ginger Cheesecake that was made on site. A very tasty dessert.
That evening drew to a close and we went into the last day of the conference with all of the associated sessions. By 5 PM the conference was ended and many folks had gone on their way to their respective destinations. My colleagues and I weren’t returning until the next day, so we spent Wednesday evening with one last journey into the Austin air. We decided to follow a recommendation (from several sources) for local BBQ, Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, located on Congress Avenue between 2nd and 3rd Streets. Being a short walking distance from the hotel didn’t hurt.
We arrived just before the customary line out the door started. In fact, it started forming behind us as there was a small line to get in to put your order inside. While waiting on the inside line I ordered another local beer, National Park Hefeweizen from Big Bend Brewing.
This was a very tasty Hefe and paired well with the BBQ Pork Ribs and Brisket I ordered for my meal. It also went well with the cole slaw, grilled corn on the cob, and the jalapeno-bacon-mac & cheese that I had for the sides.
That was some of the best BBQ I have had at a restaurant ever! I highly recommend this place if you find yourself in Austin. Not only is the BBQ very good but the beer selection is great as well. There are two levels of seating as well as outdoor seating and they were filling up by the time we left.
We decided to take a stroll and found ourselves heading north for the Capitol building. Unknown to me until informed by the Supershuttle driver who brought me from the Airport, the Capitol in Austin is the largest Capitol in the US. And after having seen it in person I believe her (see pics below).
After walking to the Capitol and making our way back to the hotel, I decided one final draft was in order, so I went to the hotel bar and ordered a perfect dessert beer to top off the evening, the Convict Hill Oatmeal Stout from Independence Brewing.
This smooth coffee/chocolate/oatmeal flavored stout was the perfect cap to an evening
In the morning, I arose and showered then began to pack and decided to get breakfast at the hotel. The view was cloudy but pretty and the breakfast was a tex/mex fave of mine, Huevos Rancheros.
The layer of beans covered with sausage and a couple over easy eggs, topped with avocado and a grilled jalapeno was a perfect “I’m going to be traveling all day and don’t know when I will eat.” type of breakfast. A good final meal to say goodbye to Texas with.
My only complaint about the trip would be how beer is served in Austin, and this may be true throughout Texas. I don’t like drinking from a can. No matter how good the packaging technology may be, psychologically I still taste metal. And I don’t like that they serve their beers in frosted glasses. In fact, when I asked for a non-frosted glass the bar person looked at me like I was crazy. They obviously haven’t been taught in Texas that frosting the beer glass masks the flavor of the beer. And while the beers I had tasted good, I really didn’t get their true flavor because they were all masked. That is a bit disappointing in a town that pride’s itself on craft beer.
I would like to add that I have been to Texas many times in the past, (San Antonio, Dallas, Houston and parts in between) and none of those visits has been as rewarding as this one. I would readily take a trip to Austin again, whether on business or as a vacation destination. I cannot say that of the other parts of Texas I have been to.
A no-show of a co-pilot delayed my connecting flight in Atlanta by about a hour and half so I didn’t get back into Gainesville until after 8 PM that Thursday. So I was unable to pick-up Tucker from the Doctor’s house until the next day. Luckily for me, the Doctor was able to keep Tucker entertained while I was away.
So much so that he slept well while he was there.
So now I am home and spending my Easter with my little beer hound. I hope all of you are getting to spend Easter with your loved ones and enjoying the day.
Maybe you’re hunting for eggs or for a new tradition that seems to catching on beers.
Most of all I hope you’re enjoying the holiday meals that have been prepared, both the traditional and non-traditional.
However you are spending the day, whether based in faith, or in spending time with family and/or friends, or both I hope you enjoy the colors and flavors of the day and match them up well with your favorite ale!