Monday, February 12, 2018

Support Your Local Brewer

My beer twitter feed is all Stone Brewing this afternoon.  Stone is suing MolsonCoors over the branding of Keystone.  According to the West Coaster:

The suit alleges that multi-national “Big Beer” conglomerate MillerCoors is purposely trying to create confusion in the marketplace with a recent rebranding of the products in Keystone’s portfolio. A prime example are 12-ounce cans, which break the word “Keystone” into two words on separate lines that read “Key” and “Stone” (which appear in all capital letters). When rotated a certain way, all that is visible is the word Stone.
 Here is Stone's Greg Koch explaining the lawsuit:

I support Stone as it defends its name.  I plan to buy some Stone beer this week to contribute to Stone's legal defense fund. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Eppig's Waterfront Adventure

Eppig Brewing is opening its Point Loma tasting room tomorrow, February 9th, 2018.  Located on the waterfront, behind Point Loma Seafoods and within skipping distance to Mitch's Seafood, the tasting room offers wraparound views of the San Diego Bay and Point Loma's sport fishing boats.  Here are articles from the West Coaster, Eater, and even the OB Rag on Eppig and its new location.  The Eater article has some great pictures that highlight Eppig's waterfront location, and most importantly show that Eppig has a crowler machine. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Thoughts on Green Flash

Green Flash’s announcement earlier this month that it plans to layoff 15% of its workforce and retrench distribution, pulling out of thirty-three states to focus on areas closer to its breweries, is not a sign of a craft beer implosion.  Green Flash did not announce that it was closing either of its two breweries, or its Cellar 3 barrel-aged beer facility (although production here is being reduced), or its in development brewery /restaurant in Nebraska, or that is scraping future projects.  The layoffs were business administration positions.  Green Flash’s decision, while bad for Green Flash and the fired employees in the near-term, is a sign of craft beer’s strength.  The brewing depth in so many local markets means that not all craft breweries with national aspirations can compete in every market.  Breweries looking to expand beyond their home market not only compete against large macro breweries, but against more and more quality local breweries. 

Quick, name two Green Flash beers.  Ok, West Coast IPA and, and…  It is not that easy, and this lack of ready identification is a big obstacle in Green Flash’s effort to expand nationally.  There is Le Freak, a great beer, but I don’t know if it is a year-round beer anymore, and if it is, you don’t build a national brewery around a 9% Belgian-style beer.  Does Green Flash still brew 30TH Street Pale Ale?  An approachable beer but I can’t remember the last time I saw it.  Soul Style IPA, never tried it.  Doesn’t Green Flash, or didn’t Green Flash, have a tangerine IPA, or is or was that Soul Style?  What about that hoppy red ale Green Flash used to brew, the name of which I can’t remember?  I loved that beer, but is it still around?  A brewery can’t expand nationally if it lacks identity.  (Food & Wine has a good article here on Green Flash.)

The rise of brewery tasting rooms - and the tasting room as a legitimate branding and profit source - means craft beer is becoming hyper local.  Even the smallest breweries can forge a presence with quality beer and a solid tasting room.  When neighborhoods have one, or two, or multiple breweries or tasting rooms it is hard for out-of-town or out-of-state craft breweries to get attention, and this gets harder if the interloper only brings one well-known beer.  I want to believe this is the problem facing Green Flash, not some foreboding industry sign.  Green Flash’s strategy to re-focus and distribute near its breweries, gives my idea some credibility.  It makes sense for Green Flash to focus on its local markets and position its beers within range of its brewery facilities and tasting rooms.

The idea of just how local craft beer has become was driven home to me on a recent trip to New York City.  I wanted to go the famous Ginger Man* and looked at its tap list online.  The number of breweries I did not know shocked me.  Ten years ago I would have known of most of the craft breweries on its tap list, both big and small.  Today, looking at its craft beer list brings bewilderment, not recognition.  The Ginger Man’s current tap list is here, and while I know the big breweries - Avery, Captain Lawrence, Allagash, Bells, and Brooklyn - there are many breweries unknown to me.  Most are not that far from New York City either, including Equilibrium, Chelsea Craft Brewing, Common Roots, Flagship, Grimm, Gun Hill, LIC Brew Project, and Rockaway, to name just some on the tap list.   

Craft beer is better than it has ever been.  Breweries like Green Flash need a coherent plan to overcome all the competition they face, and not just from the big breweries but from small breweries, too.  AB InBev is not backing down and neither are the local breweries.  There is no crime if a brewery can’t expand nationally.  I believe if Green Flash focuses on brewing good beer it can solve many of its issues and become a stronger company.

* The Ginger Man has a literacy reference.  It was mentioned several times in Jean Stein’s Edie: American Girl, which is an oral history of ‘60’s personality Edie Sedgwick, and as part of that encompasses New York City’s art culture and night clubs.  This book is not for the squeamish, but at the same time it is hard to stop reading the selfishness and personal destruction.

Monday, January 22, 2018

This Is A Public Service Announcement

Know your rights; all three of them.

Number one:  You have the right to great beer.

Number two:  You have the right to clear beer.

Number three:  You have the right to a big double IPA, as long as you're smart enough to actually try it.

I am making a public service announcement (PSA) for the special release collaboration between Pizza Port and Ventura's MadeWest Brewing.  Queen of the Coast is one heck of a double IPA.  It is brewed with honey, but don't let that turn you off (it almost did me); you can barely taste it.  A good double IPA is sweet, and Queen is sweet, but it is far from cloying.  Queen does not have an overwhelming hop bitterness, either.  The interplay between bitter and sweet is smooth and complex, resulting in a level of drinkability you rarely find in a double IPA.  That is the scary part, because at 9.8% abv, Queen's alcohol is nearly hidden behind all its other flavors.

Queen's mountain stream clarity is striking, yet it seems almost out of place in the era of hazy beer.  So many beers I have tried recently, and not just the on-purpose hazy New England IPAs, have some level of opacity.  Not Queen.  Its clear filter gives the beer a brightness and crispness that seemed to bounce around on the palate, not the lugubrious mouthful of a hazy IPA.  (The picture above does not clearly show the clarity of Queen due to condensation on the glass.)

I am familiar with MadeWest Brewery from trips to Ventura.  I have been to its brewey / tasting room twice. It is big, inviting, and located in a light industrial area not far from the 101   The MadeWest beers I have tried have been good, too, and it is now distributing select canned beers in San Diego.  When I saw a flyer at the Ocean Beach Pizza Port for a special collaboration can release with MadeWest I went to buy it, thinking (or assuming) it a pale ale.  When I saw it was a 9.8% double IPA I passed on buying the six-pack.  Now days I try to avoid beers much above 8.0%, and Queen of the Coast exceeded my threshold.  I did compromise with a taster, and immediately realized Queen's exceptional quality.  Not buying the six-pack of Queen gnawed on me the rest of the evening.  Despite its abv, a few hours later I broke down and returned to Pizza Port to buy a six-pack, for fear Queen had already sold out.

The Beer Rovette does share my affinity for most IPAs, but when she tasted Queen, she wanted her own glass of it, not just a taster.  That in itself is some kind of benchmark for IPA greatness. I recommend trying this beer while it is available.  The craft beer boom has produced plenty of good beers, but great beers are still rare and finding one is still a treat.  Queen is a great beer.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

A Legal Brew - Oceanside Ale Works

The West Coaster had an article last week on Oceanside Ale Works closure and the plan to re-open it, possibly under a different name.  I hope it's as easy as Oceanside Ale Works' co-owner Mark Pruciel makes it sound:  essentially, close for a few months, and then use the equipment Pruciel owns to open a new brewery.  I am a little wary at the nonchalance because in my business experience whenever there is money, co-partners, and lawsuits involved, nothing is easy or timely.  I have more than once seen partners undermine healthy, or at least viable businesses on purpose just to hurt or spite the other partners.  The part of the story that is head shaking in its silliness is that Pruciel's co-partner backed away from the business in 2013, due to Pruciel's decision to put his face on Oceanside's Dude double IPA label, in design that mimicked an Obama campaign-style poster (image below from the West Coaster).  You never know the things that push people over the edge.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Waterfront Mystery

I hear on podcasts and read online that Eppig Brewing is making great beers.  Its planned Point Loma tasting room would make it convenient for me to taste some of these beers.  But I do not know what is happening with Eppig Brewing's tasting room on the docks in Point Loma.  Several articles describe the new waterfront space, including this one from the West Coaster from late October.  I have seen and walked around the building.  The windows are covered so you can not see the extent of any interior finishes.  The North Park-based brewer expected to open the satellite location in November or early December.  It has not opened yet and I have not read any updates on Eppig's Facebook or Twitter feed that gives a new opening timeline.  Let's hope that the ABC and the San Diego police are not playing games with Eppig like they did the Little Miss at its thwarted Ocean Beach location. 

UPDATE:  Yesterday evening I saw that the Eppig Point Loma location had a big fence around it and a build-out is underway.  I did not see any signage.  This looks like a positive development.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Beer In Literature

I love finding beer references in good books.  I always mean to note them here when I read them, but usually don't get to it.  Well, it's a new year and a new effort to try and highlight quality beer appearances in books I read.  I can tell when an author appreciates beer, and these are the passages I plan to post.  Here is one from J.L. Carr's sublime 1980 A Month in the Country

I  didn't work to set meal-times and came down the ladder when I was hungry. And, in the middle of those hot August days, I usually cut two rough rounds of loaf and a wedge of Wensleydale and took it outside to eat.  On Saturdays and Sundays, I had a bottle of pale ale; week-days water.
This passage is short, simple and captures the weekend reward of a beer after hard work, and as a bonus, has a nice nod to cheese.  Carr could have said "beer" or "ale", but the specific "pale ale" made this passage standout to me.  The novel is set in the early 1920s, so pale ale has been a beer of choice for nearly a hundred years.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Not Bar Wannabes

I wrote in October about the San Diego police rejecting licenses for tasting room in its Western Division and the ABC choosing to not decide against the police.  New Year's Eve is an example of why this is a bonehead move by the police and ABC.  New Year's Eve is one of the biggest drinking days of the year, a bonanza for bars.  But all the craft beer tasting rooms that I know of closed early, skipping the late night party.  Closing early on a surefire drinking day is not a move of bar wannabes.  I agree with police efforts to curb drunkenness and the crimes related to it, but punishing brewery tasting rooms is misguided.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Demise of the Bomber

The craft beer industry constantly evolves, which is necessary for its growth and survival.  The decline of craft beers being produced in 22 oz bombers is one trend that makes me sad.  I get that their heavy shipping weight and awkward size gives distributors headaches, and that cans are lighter and more effective, but bombers opened many beers to me.  I like cans, but I always pause before I buy a four- or six-pack of a beer I have not previously tried, afraid of being stuck with beers I don't want to drink.  With a bomber, it is just a one beer commitment, and if the beer stinks you only have to struggle through one and are not left wondering what to do with the remaining three or five crap beers.  Plus, the financial commitment is usually smaller with a bomber.  It is ironic that while more beer than ever is being brewed, I seem to try fewer and fewer beers.  I know the abundance of tasting rooms that have opened near my house over the past few years has lead me to try less beer, but having fewer choices in bombers has also curtailed beer experimentation. 

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Prepare For San Diego Beer Week

The two weekend long San Diego Beer Week starts this Friday, November 3rd, and runs until November 12th.  It is an event filled ten days so plan accordingly.  Here are four resources to help set your daily beer drinking itinerary:

The official San Diego Beer Week website's list of events.

The San Diego Brewer's Guild's website list of events.  It looks similar to the San Diego Beer Week list of events, in part because the Brew's Guild sponsors beer week.

The West Coaster's master list of events.

The West Coaster's list of highlights from Beer week.

There are so many events it's hard to know what is worthwhile and what is just a Beer Week excuse.  The spotlight events at the Bottlecraft locations look interesting, as do some of the spotlight nights at O'Briens including Melvin Brewing (11/6), Kern River (11/7) and Fieldwork Brewing (11/8), as well as events at Stone Brewing locations, Societe Brewing, and the sour and rare beer night (11/10) at Pizza Port Ocean Beach

Beer Bars v. Tasting Rooms - Part II

Here is a Good Beer Hunting interview with the owner of Fort Collins, Colorado's The Mayor of Old Town beer bar.  I am posting this article because it addresses the competitive relationship between beer bars and brewery taprooms, which is becoming contentious.  The Mayor of Old Town is carrying fewer local beers due to the increased number of local brewery taprooms that the bar's owner believes are hurting his business.  This is unfortunate, but not unique to Colorado.  I noted last month the complaints about this beer bar v. taproom dynamic here in San Diego.  Expect this story to grow in the future, as many breweries are seeing taprooms as an important point of distribution and profit.  The beer bars and breweries need creative thinking so they can both coexist.  Cannibalizing each other makes both weaker.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Give This Man A Raise

This Good Beer Hunting podcast is worth a listen.  The podcast is a recording of a panel discussion from London's Beavertown Brewing's recent Extravaganza beer festival.  The panel was on New England IPAs and the panelists were, in general, negative on new hazy style.  A man in the audience, only identified as Andrew from Modern Times, breaks up a pedantic discussion and gives a robust defense of hazy IPAs and adherence to consumer preference (this happens about the fourteen minute mark). Andrew also defends the shelf life of Modern Times' hazy IPAs, which he says should be good for three or four months after canning, not several weeks as stated by panelists.  I can confirm that Andrew's statement is correct as it relates to the three- to four-month life of Modern Times' New England-style IPAs.

Andrew is an employee to keep and validates Modern Times' decision to become employee-owned.  It is awesome that a guy goes to a London beer festival and not only defends a style that Modern Times crushes, but at the same time articulates Modern Times' ethos to making beers.