Friday, May 15, 2015

Big, Blind Put Down

SABMiller is buying London craft brewery Meantime.  This quote from a Financial Times' article on the transaction quotes SABMiller executive Susan Clark:

She said SABMiller had a record in nurturing local beer companies and added that the craft label was becoming less relevant.
 “The whole craft definition is one that over time we will see disappear. Craft for us is more about style, authenticity, than it is about the kind of label,” she said. “At SABMiller we love local variety and carefully nurture our 200 local and heritage beers.”

I cannot remember reading a more condescending comment on craft beer.   There are now more than 70 brewers operating in London alone, up from just 14 in January 2014, and buying one of them does not make SABMiller hip.  SABMiller can go ahead and believe the craft definition will disappear, but something is obviously happening in beer drinkers' behavior with that kind of growth.  Here in the US, from a statistic in the latest BeerAdvocate magazine (Issue #100), craft beer represented 11% sales of beer in 2014, up from 5% of sales in 2010.  I enjoy the myopic hubris of the big brewers.  They have already lost the consumer battle in many parts of the United States and appear to not even know it.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Incomplete Saison Ranking

Here is another ranking of beers from the website Paste.  This time it is thirty-five American saisons.  The results are linked to above for you to read, but it is an incomplete list of saisons.  Paste included saisions from brewery heavyweights The Lost Abbey, Crooked Stave, Prairie Artisan Ales,and Boulevard Brewing, but noticeably missing were master American saison brewers The Bruery, Hill Farmstead*, Jolly Pumpkin, Logsdon, Upright, Telegraph, and probably more, but those were the breweries I thought of while reading the article. 

Saisons are no longer exotic or niche beers, and the next time Paste tackles this style it needs to expand its review pool.  Paste states that possible reasons for the glaring exclusions were that some breweries would not ship beer, or did not want to participate in its survey (or, maybe, certain breweries did not want to give away free beer).  Any list of American saisons that does not have Logsdon's Seizoen Bretta, or Jolly Pumpkin's Baudelaire iO Saison, or The Bruery's Saison de Lente is a list short on depth and credibility.

I like Paste's blind tasting approach to ranking beers, which is why I have linked to its two lists.  The article does not state the methodology Paste used to judge its blind tasting but I am assuming it is the same as it used last month to rank 116 IPAs. 

Taste is subjective, especially in such an expansive style like saisons.   Prairie Artisan Ales' Prairie Ale was rated the number two saison but when I had it I thought it mediocre, not outstanding, while I found The Lost Abbey's Red Barn fantastic but it did not even crack the top twenty.   The top ranked beer was Side Project Brewing's Saison Du Blu (and Side Project came in at number three, too, with its Saison Du Fermier).  Another group of tasters would likely have had a completely different ranking of the same beers, which is what makes saisons such compelling beers, but this same quality also makes any kind of saison ranking hard to take too serious, especially when the ranking is missing some big name beers.

*The only beer I have tried from Hill Farmstead was a collaboration beer with a Belgian brewery, but Kaedrin Beer Blog has been raving about Hill Farmstead's saisons and other beers for years.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

IPA Blind Tasting

Last month, a website called Paste presented a list of 116 American IPAs, ranked based on a blind tasting of all the beers.  I liked the fairness of the methodology but do not fully agree with all the results, but since I have not tasted most of the listed IPAs, my opinion could be wrong.  Paste only ranked the top fifty beers, and chose to list beers 51 to 116 in random order, but we all know Redhook's Longhammer IPA must have anchored the bottom at 116.  The top beer was White Rajah IPA, from Ohio's The Brew Kettle (yeah, I had never heard of The Brew Kettle either).  Coming in at third was Ballast Point's Grapefruit Sculpin, the highest rated San Diego beer.  I like this distinctive beer but prefer regular Sculpin, which placed 20th.   Other San Diego beers in the top fifty include Stone's new Delicious IPA (6), Alesmith IPA (23), and Port Brewing's Wipeout IPA (48).  Stone IPA and Coronado's Islander IPA were the only other San Diego beers on the list and they did not make the top fifty.    In a blind tasting of IPAs, I hope I would have had the ability to place Stone IPA and Russian River's Blind Pig in the top fifty.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Ocean Beach: Habitus in the Solis

Mike Hess Brewing is opening a tasting room in Ocean Beach (I am not sure when it is scheduled to open, but the space is being built).   It will operate from the corner of Voltaire Street and Cable Street, a good location because it is nearly kitty-corner from the beer-centric, original OB Noodle House.  When Mike Hess Brewing's tasting room opens, Ocean Beach will have outposts for three breweries, with a Pizza Port restaurant on Bacon Street, and North County's Culture Brewing pouring beers and filling growlers on Newport Avenue.   Ocean Beach has become one of San Diego's beer destination neighborhoods.  In addition to the three breweries, there are a number of restaurants with outstanding draft lists, including two OB Noodle Houses, Raglan Public House, and The Joint.