The Firkin for November 2022

Both Stone Brewing and Oskar Blues have gone back to their back catalog of beers and re-released beers that had not been on tap or cans for a while.  And while the nostalgic part of me thinks that is a fun idea, I do wonder if the constant stream of new releases from breweries over the last few years will make this idea a non-starter when the hip breweries get to the same age as Stone and Oskar.

Because, you have to build a following for a beer.  You can’t really do that if there were two new beers the previous week and another on the next week.  It is the same long-term issue I have with pre-season seasonals that are off shelves before the season is over.  You disconnect the beer from the time of the year that you are celebrating.

This is not an Old Man Yelling at Clouds post, if a brewery chooses a new, new, even more new path, that is absolutely fine. But that path means that you are bound to lose some nostalgia as well as a chance to have a flagship beer. You will create a new mindset in the customer who will open the door expecting a new beer on tap or in 4-packs.

Maybe the pendulum will swing back to core beers.

Red Card

I have been slowly piling up gifts for Christmas 2022 but if you are a last minute shopper or have people to shop for across the country, you might want to consider sending a brewery gift card.

MacLeods here in LA is the most recent casualty but I have read closure posts on other beer blogs as well.

Who knows what 2023 will hold but many breweries are still struggling with post-pandemic and then inflation and are still digging out and could use a little extra. So where you can, purchase spend some Xmas money on future beer.

What Will Happen to Beer Twitter?

It has been a few weeks since the change at the top at Twitter, so I thought I would add my two-cents. I have been happily off Twitter for a good 4+ years. There wasn’t really a single incident that made that decision easy, rather an eventual understanding that the platform was a net negative to learning and having fun with craft beer.

Fast forward to the MuskTwitter where you can’t make fun of the Musk but you can buy a verification from him. But only if you are hardcore. Who knows if Mastodon will run with this chance or some other non-Musked app will take to the fore but boy does the immature part of me want to go all, I told you so.

The push/pull of free speech but heavily monitored because we can’t trust Americans with nice things is never gonna be easy. There will always be people stepping over a line or snowflake conservatives setting up lines only for themselves. No social media will be perfect.

But can a lively, opinionated Beer Twitter (or equivalent) exist? Can it better than an unruly comments section? I have my doubts but I can quickly see what proponents of Twitter say about it and I do not harshly disagree, I just have a darker tint of rose colored glasses.

What I can predict with more certainty is that breweries with limited ad money and limited time are going to look for something safer, something steadier. Most business owners would probably say that, chaos doesn’t sell. More people will lean on the ‘Gram and Facebook and wait until a new app gains critical user mass rather than be associated with that Musky smell.

TTB 23

Starting next year, The TTB (Tobacco, Tax and Trade Bureau) will be on the lookout for a pair of items that will affect breweries.

  1. Change of ownership will need to be disclosed in a timely manner or penalties will accrue. Might not be a big deal for many but needs to be watched out for.
  2. Pay your taxes or they will hold up any expansion plans to other locations that you have in mind.

Both scenarios could come into play if you do not keep up to date with everything so get your paperwork ducks in a nice row.

R.I.P. – MacLeod Ale Brewing Company

There were some troubling signs from MacLeod Ale Brewing Company in recent days but today the hammer came down as they announced the closure of both the original Van Nuys brewing operation and the just recently opened satellite pizza and bar in Highland Park.

The reasons cited for the closures:

1] We’re over budget in several categories
2] We have too much debt due to expansion
3] Sudden crash of sales [down 15% in Oct, 21% in November! Bad timing!]
4] Our 2nd location opened too late and is underperforming.

You have to be a risk taker to brew beer commercially and you also need angel investors to backstop when good bets go wrong. Hopefully a new chapter can emerge from the brewery and it employees.

Lock the Hops

Advancements in hops keep coming and Roadhouse Brewing Co. has tag teamed up with a company called RipeLocker and hop growers at Oasis Farms to put a spin on their hazy IPA, The Walrus.

Per the press release, “RipeLocker has designed specialty containers for storing and shipping freshly harvested whole cone hops. Thanks to revolutionary CO2 technology, the atmosphere inside the containers can be regulated ensuring that the contents remain as fresh as possible. With these containers, craft brewers can extend the season for fresh hopped beers. Additionally, craft brewers located greater distances from hop growers will now have access to harvest fresh hops despite the additional transport time.”

“The Walrus has always utilized some of our favorite hops – Mosaic, Eldorado, Calypso and Amarillo, but for this wet hopped version, we utilized Mosaic and Idaho 7. The Idaho 7 certainly added a new level of tropical fruit and dankness to the beer that we usually don’t see when using pellets and other advanced hop products,” says Roadhouse Brewmaster Max Shafer.

If this technology passes more tests like this and is in the right price range, then it would really expand the definition of fresh hops.

Novak & Fig

Figueroa Mountain Brewing has added some firepower to their brewing team  Victor Novak of Taps fame has returned to the craft beer conference to be the Innovation Director/Head Brewer for their three Los Angeles outposts at UCLA, Ventura Boulevard Lagerhaus and the Pico Boulevard Agua Sante Cerveceria.

That means some high quality tasty and small batch beer is coming.

Give and Get

I am a day late but you can be not a dollar short if you do a simple thing from now through December 15th.

In the spirit of giving, this holiday season, the American Homebrewers Association is launching a Give Back program where the organization will donate $5 to one of three nonprofits for every one- or three-year AHA membership purchased. This applies to all new and renewing memberships.

The three nonprofit organizations to choose from this giving season are:

  • Beers 4 Boobs: Beers 4 Boobs collaborates on unique beers and events to further generate awareness and funding for breast cancer and cancer patients. 
  • Soldiers’ Angels Hops for Heroes: Soldiers’ Angels Hops for Heroes™ is an annual campaign that rallies the support of craft breweries to support U.S. service members, veterans, and their families. 
  • Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling: Michael James Jackson Foundation for Brewing & Distilling funds scholarship awards for technical education in beer and spirits production for people of color in the brewing and distilling industries.

Keep Talking About All Styles, even IPA

Ok, so first, read this article HERE.

Now that you are back, was I the only one that thought this piece was all over the topic map?

You had IPA history, you had cultural appropriation, you had HazeBro shade, you had Queues and Whales to name a few. But the overall arc seems to be yet another premature Twain death knell for IPA’s. Which was followed by the inevitable pilsners and lagers will be a thing really soon everyone.  Two statements that have been made for years without coming remotely close to true.

The article reads more as an anti IPA buyer rant than against the actual IPA style, which is fine, I mean it is obvious that in any niche culture be it sneakers or comics that there will be people who are not cool enjoying it in their own weird social media way or too commercial a way.

What really got me though was the end line, “The IPA might still be cringe, but for a different reason now: It’s kind of embarrassing to even care that much about it.”  Who is walking into a taproom and cringing at an IPA?  The cashier where I bought beer yesterday did not publicly shame me for getting a crowler of IPA, the beertender that poured an IPA for me the previous week didn’t look down at me for my choice.

My end line is this, where are you going that IPA is considered that way?

Beer Podcast Day – New Glarus Brewing Co. Podcast with Dan Carey

The CIA recently launched a podcast and an even better brewing institution has one too, New Glarus Brewing is streaming.

I listened to the Oktoberfest and wheat beer episodes and found them to be a good dip into Dan Carey’s mind and the mindset at New Glarus.  I am glad that the podcast tackles one style per show and secondly that the shows are thirty minutes.

I am not a huge fan of the questions.  They ramble a bit and bounce around a bit much but Carey like his brewing can make magic even with not the best questions. It ends up being a good mix of beer talk and stories about the brewery.

The best thing I can say is that I really want a Spotted Cow right now.