The Session # 107 – Let’s Be Friends

Community Beer Works, a brewery not a blogger is hosting the first session of 2016 and has a question for us….

“The topic I want you all to write about: “Are breweries your friends?”

To be in business nowadays you pretty much have to have a social media presence. This is especially true in the beer world, where some breweries have basically built themselves on their personality. And yet, at the end of the day, we’re also selling you something.

I believe this is the first Session to be hosted by a brewery rather than beer blogger. How do you feel about that? Do you want your feeds clear of businesses, or do you like when a brewery engages with people? Can you think of anyone who does it particularly well, or poorly? As the person who does our social media, which I think is very good (although not quite good enough), I struggle with this problem. I’m on both sides, and rather than come to any sort of conclusion of my own I thought I would make all of you write about it.”

The short answer is no. Much like Corporations are NOT people (looking at you Supreme Court). A brewery is just a brewery. You may be friends with everyone who works there and be greeted when you walk in the door but that is it.

To me, if I recount my Schoolhouse Rock correctly, you can be a person, place or thing. A brewery is a place. It can be a great place. A place where you had your most favorite beer. A place where you met your now best friend. A place to go after work. It can be amazing but it is still just a building with people and equipment in it.

Whatever construct that Facebook or Instagram or Twitter uses to denote friends, likes, hearts just allows you to follow a brewery at a distance. Sometimes to close and troll-y for a sane person’s liking. But it is simply a way to advertise that puts you on screens in front of people who have, at least once, pressed a button that said “Friend”.

So, no, even my mostest, favorite brewery is not my friend. But I do not think that what they post to social media is unnecessary. Quite the opposite. It is vital, in my opinion, that breweries engage on all fronts of social media.

Most do not have the time and would obviously rather pick work to do from the brewery to-do list before sitting in front of a computer to update a website or post a tap list. But a brewery needs to put itself in front of eyeballs that will eventually get up out of their seats and put down their phone and buy a beer (or two). Unfortunately, those eyeballs are not hanging out in one spot. Facebook is big but has a uncool sheen to it and “the kids” have migrated to Instagram but Twitter is still big, as is Untappd. So a brewery needs to be in each spot when it comes to the advertising aspect.

And it is a matter of playing to the strengths of each social media platform. Facebook is great for events and getting across bigger chunks of information. Twitter is great for updates on new beers being tapped and Instagram can be utilized to show off gleaming new equipment or photos of brewers brewing a new beer. Then keep your Untappd beer list current and streamlined so that fans can do your advertising work for you. If you want to Reddit, Snapchat or Vine then do that too.

What a larger customer base needs from its brewery “friend” and what I need as a beer blogger and a beer geek are different. For me, the foundation is a website that has three specific items. The hours, the current tap list and some detailed information on (at least the core) beers. The best example (that goes above and beyond) I can give is the website for Beachwood BBQ & Brewing. They have a full list of beers brewed with descriptions for each. They have a “Hopcam” that is pointed at the on tap list so you can see, in real time, what is on tap. You can see what beers are in the pipeline too! They have their upcoming events updated with plenty of information about each. I do not have to go to any other spot on the interwebs when it comes to Beachwood. That saves me bandwidth, which I appreciate.

There will always be exceptions to my “golden” rules. Breweries that don’t need a website or eschew interaction on the internet and there is the biggest exception…

… because in the final analysis, if the beer stinks, it doesn’t matter how well you communicate and how friendly you are.

Session # 98

The topic for The Session this month is: Cans or bottles? And our host, the Microbrewr is looking for empirical evidence.

I ask this same question to every guest of MicroBrewr Podcast. I think it’s an interesting study into both industry and consumer trends.

The answers give great insight. However, one thing I see lacking from the discussion is solid data.

Of course aluminum can manufacturers and glass bottle manufacturers each have an interest in showing their packaging is best. I have heard a lot of arguments on both sides, even data and statistics, but I haven’t heard many references from third-party studies. If you can offer this, that would be a great help.

In any case, I’m looking forward to reading the answers not only to see where the consumer trends are going, but also as research for the brewery I dream of opening.

Bottles or cans?

Before making that decision, here is my personal checklist for any future brewer who is making this tough choice for the first time or for any brewery contemplating change from one to the other:

1. Make sure your beer is good.

Yes, I purposefully did not answer the question posed, right off the bat. Not out of stubbornness but because I think that the package itself is not as important as the beer inside said package. Positive environmental impact is lessened because the beer won’t sell. Benefits of one package or another will be hidden from view beneath the brewing errors. Really any choice made after making mediocre to bad beer loses import.

2. Choose your package based on what will protect that particular beer the best during transport and shelf time and in the hands of consumers.

Our host for the month rightly cites that he has heard pros and cons for both sides. As have I. I have swung from bottles to cans and back and forth like a pendulum. Right now, after recently re-hearing Tony Yanow speak about why Golden Road Brewery chose cans, I am leaning in that direction. I think the benefits of light blocking and transport are more important in the long term for most beer styles.

But not all. Maybe you have a special anniversary ale and you want to wax the cap or cage/cork for presentation. Then, of course, you would use a bottle. If you are staking your claim on a pilsner or an amber then a can may be perfectly fine. But if you introduce a new IPA and you see people at the beach sucking it down straight from the can, you move it to a bottle so that you don’t cry for lost aroma.

3. Explain why you have chosen your packaging.

The footprint of beer making should be minimized. Heck, any business should strive to minimize their effect on the community. It is easier said than done.

But here is the crux: whichever packaging you choose, be it cans because of their high recycling rate or glass due to ruggedness and cost, that is only part of the battle. At that point, you need to tell your customers why you have chosen that route. Put it on the cans. Have it on your website and your Facebook page. Have your brand ambassadors talk about it. Basically, walk the walk. Even if that walk is the inconvenient truth that you use both. Or that the benefits of one may only be slightly better than the other.

4. Don’t base your package on the design.

Frankly, as a consumer, a beautiful can on a shelf is not going to sell any faster than a beautiful bottle. (unless the can has IPA inside and the bottle is an altbier, but that is a different story). That is why design ranks 4th for me. Well done label art will look good on either package and neither a can or bottle simply ain’t gonna overcome bad label design. Or bad beer. Or placement on a low shelf in the cooler in the corner. You catch my drift. I don’t need to layer on more reasons.

Not that my red phone (I actually have one) is ringing with breweries asking for my advice but if they did, I would tell them to get right with the beer first, second and third.

Then offer crowlers of various sizes starting at 16oz because I like the name crowler.

Session # 97 – Up & Coming

What are the up-and-coming beer locations that you see as the next major players in the beer scene? That is the topic from Our Tasty Travels.

“For this month’s session, I’m asking you all to share which locations you see as the beer destinations that everyone will be talking about in the next few years. Where are the beer scenes just emerging, or coming into their own? Some may be brand new locations. While others may be old-world destinations seeing a renaissance into the world of new craft beer styles. Some may even be locations where familiar names from around the world are planning on setting up shop to bring new styles to old palates.”

Born in Portland, so it would be easy to just be a homer and say Beervana – Munich on the Willamette. So many breweries, so many styles, beer and food pairings everywhere you turn. You could argue with me that they are a major player now or more in the past but I think they will be in the future too.

Reside in Los Angeles, so it would also be easy to nominate The City of Angels. We are growing fast but we are still catching up and though not openly hostile to breweries L.A., nonetheless, is a gauntlet of paperwork and meetings and hearings and more hearings and more paperwork with a couple more hearings tossed into the mix. It ain’t fun and it does discourage the rational from trying to open a brewery within city limits. But what that has encouraged are the cities surrounding city. That is why Torrance is home to five breweries. That is why there are another trio in Long Beach. Agoura Hills has a pair as well.

If I was a soothsayer, I could gamble and guess that if Los Angeles gets a NFL team (or two) that the cities of Carson or Inglewood might become tailgate destinations and boost the beer scene to major player status but the safe bet is that people will be heading south, but not to San Diego, my choice (after my long winded wind-up), is Orange County.

The breweries are opening fast, there is a solid tradition already there, there are gastropubs, bars and restaurants serving and you can get your whales to if your favorite day of the week is Tuesday.

You want a listicle?
Well, here you go, Orange County has:
The two-time L.A. IPA Festival winner in Noble Ale Works.
Golden Road is building a whole new brewery near the Honda Center under the esteemed Victor Novak.
The Bruery will soon split into two when Terreux opens and probably be twice as full in both tasting rooms.
Bottle Logic has barely been open and already has struck gold at the Great American Beer Festival.
One of the few cask festivals in SoCal, FirkFest calls Anaheim home. (Coming March 21st, be there)

Two other additional benefits position Orange County at a beer destination tipping point. There is a certain theme park in the area that means tourists are already heading this way and there will be hotels to stay at when you arrive. Secondly, you can get a representative sampling of both San Diego and Los Angeles beers while you are there, killing three beer birds with one proverbial stone.
Oh and you have the ace in the hole. The blue skies and warm weather of Southern California. That is quite a draw for people who have to endure snow and ice or grey and gloom.

If I may torture an analogy, San Diego may be the big beer brother and L.A. the youngest but Orange County is that quirky middle child. And I believe that more people will be drawn to the beer scenes that are dotting Anaheim, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa and Fullerton.

The Session # 96 – Beer Festivals

Here is the writing prompt for beer bloggers for February, courtesy of Birraire.

So, here we are. It was 4 months ago that I wrote Jay and Stan suggesting a topic for a future call. I was reflecting on the role played by Beer Festivals (or “Beer Fairs”, as we locally call the ones with the brewers serving their own beer) here in Barcelona and thought it would be interesting to know other people’s point of view on the matter. Time’s flown since then, and now I find myself happily hosting my first Session. But let’s get to it.

The discussion at hand is “Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?”. I guess it is pretty much clear, but apart from exposing whether the answer is A, B or C (the latter being “it depends”) I expect participants to give us some insight into their local beer panorama to better understand the importance or irrelevance of Festivals in each area. My guess is that it can be quite different depending on the popularity of beer in different countries and cultures.

Southern California is either blessed or too blessed with sunny days that are ideal for gathering outside and drinking beer. But most events are pretty cookie-cutter. Twenty to thirty breweries pouring and passing out swag from beneath logo’d pop tents.

What elevates a beer festival from the mere cup to tap and back exchange into an actual communal experience starts with the curation by the festival organizers. When thought is put into it from the start, you will draw more curious and passionate fans.

Not to denigrate the other festivals because I firmly believe that they occupy a space on the craft beer food chain that is critical to gaining new fans and creating actual converts but when I think of festivals, the following three are the ones that leap to mind and bring a smile to my face.

The ne plus ultra of festivals out west is the Firestone Walker Invitational. Even when the weather tops triple digits, it is still a dazzling place to be. Yes, there are beer snob lines. But those lines are for once a year in California beers. The concept of the festival is simple Firestone Walker invites the breweries they want there, and then they ask them to bring at least one flagship type beer and one specialty (of course, more than two beers usually show up).

There are multiple other reasons why this is a must go (at least once) event. Food. There is lots of it and it ain’t from Food Trucks and it is really good. I stood next to Moonlight Brewing gobbling beer accented cupcakes and drinking Death and Taxes. Could have done that all day.

The grounds are spacious and they don’t oversell it. Imagine that! They could probably sell more, but they don’t.

Closer to my home. The Los Angeles Beer Week Festival is another that is more a gathering or experience. L.A. Brewers Guild members are the focus with a few others on the side. It is a chance to see everyone together. That makes it the ultimate gas and traffic saver!

And it is not only the brewers that are communal. Bloggers, home brewers and social media types abound and if you are a L.A. beer fan, you will probably run into folks you have seen around town.

Eagle Rock Brewery and their Session Fest is the last festival that is part my of beer trinity. Surprise, it is another limited affair. Usually 10+ taps of wide ranging beers with low alcohol content. IPA’s, Gose, smoke beers and the like presented with drinkability in mind. It is one of the few festivals where you can try all the beers if you wanted and not feel like a drunken fool.

There are other great ones out there. Firkfest in Anaheim has one year under the belt and was really strong with a great location and imaginative beers. Sierra Nevada and their hop festival is on my list to try, one day as are events held during San Diego and San Francisco Beer Weeks.

In the end, whether it is a gathering or simply dissemination, as long as craft beer is the focus, you can’t go too wrong.

Session # 93 – Beer Travel

session_logo_all_text_300-246x300This month we tackle the “Why?” of beer travel courtesy of host of the month, The Roaming Pint.

Since travel is such an important part of our lives I wanted our topic to focus on beer travel. In Session #29, Beer by Bart asked writers to tell him about their favorite beer trips to which he got some great responses of personal favorites and general tips for certain cities.

So as not to tread over old ground my question is going to focus on the “why” more than the “what”. So I ask you fellow bloggers and beer lovers, why is it important for us to visit the place the where our beers are made? Why does drinking from source always seem like a better and more valuable experience? Is it simply a matter of getting the beer at it’s freshest or is it more akin to pilgrimage to pay respect and understand the circumstances of the beer better?

“Journeys are the midwives of thought. Few places are more conducive to internal conversations than a moving plane, ship or train. There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. The mind may be reluctant to think properly when thinking is all it is supposed to do.”

That long-ish quote from Alain de Botton from his Art of Travel book encapsulates a major reason why one should travel in general and also why we all, as beer bloggers, should travel outside of our local brewery comfort zone.

I have been inside many of the breweries in Los Angeles and each one has its charm. Most are small and tucked into industrial and often unseen neighborhoods. It is easy to settle into the familiar ebb & flow and/or favorite barstool and idle an hour or two away.

But upon entering a new brewery, your eyes dart around, you scan the beer list, you check out the drinkers inside all within minutes of opening the door.

For me, I start judging the design and layout of the place and a mental list is begun of what aspects are appealing. It could be the bar made out of a recycled bowling lane. Maybe the art on the walls draws my eye. Or the brewery logo is particularly well drawn.

When a place is new, your brain just lights up like a Christmas tree. Taking in all sorts of new stimuli. And that is only when you are at your travel destination. Simply planning your trip leads to interweb rabbit holes that spark the imagination. This brewery specializes in this and their flagship beer is made with that. This part of town has a great brewery scene to check out, so mapping a beer crawl route is hastily done.

Once in your assigned seat in your plane, train or automobile the anticipation builds. And isn’t it fun to be excited just thinking about beer you will order next. Traveling in your home city to your local just doesn’t have that kick. It’s more like a commute.

Yes, delays and turbulence and lost luggage can damper any vacation but standing on top of the Empire State Building then later that day sitting at Brooklyn Brewery with a beer are “Wow” moments.

That is why your family would force their friends to sit through interminable slide shows of your trip to Yellowstone in the past and why now, we post photos to our social media outlet of choice until our friends start un-liking us. We want to share those “Wow” moments.

And for craft beer fans those moments can be found with the first sip of a brand new beer that forces us to pay attention to the new.

Session # 92 – I Made This


Jeremy Short of Pintwell is the host for the October beer blogging session and here’s the topic to write about, “I Made This!”

As I scanned through the list of the past 91 sessions I found only one about homebrewing. Only one? Well, we are here to rectify that with Session #92. I know that many beer bloggers don’t homebrew, so don’t worry I am going to keep this simple and straightforward.

The idea of this session is how making something changes your relationship with it. For example, when I first started homebrewing I wasn’t a big fan of lagers. After learning to brew I realized how complex and particular lagers were and I came to love them because of that.

It may seem mercenary and/or lazy to say it, but I have come to realize that I find it better to be a “friend” of home brewing than to do it. Once you cultivate friends who home brew, it seems rather redundant to do it yourself when you can show up and get a pint glass or a growler to go when it is ready.

I am not advocating befriending home brewers just to keep your refrigerator stocked with free beer. What I think is more important is being the drinker who isn’t secretly reverse engineering a beer while drinking it. The person who you can watch the game with instead of discussing the versatility of one yeast over the other.

Let’s face it, today’s home brew clubs offer a lot of good advice on what equipment works best, which techniques improve beer and recipe notes. You also have a wealth of information and programs on the interwebs to draw from. What neither offer is that consumer feedback that many will need to learn to decode if they decide to go pro and want to sell a beer to the masses. And even if they don’t want to brew at the next level, and brewing in the basement is just a hobby, someone has to drink the beer that is made so the brewer can fill up the carboy with the next beer.

Sure you can enter brewing competitions. You can bring your beer to the home brew club for review. You can foist the tolerable batches on family and friends but the person that can taste the beer and give constructive criticism that is different from the advice offered by fellow home brewers is important to improving the beer that a home brewer creates. Especially if they already possess a knowledge of craft beer and have the vocabulary to explain the aromas and flavors they encounter when drinking the beer.

That is who I am. I have dipped my toe into home brewing with success (if you are a fan of vinegar) and I know more than a smidgen of information about the brewing process. Enough to talk about it before the discussion gets too deep. I have also watched home brewing in action a few times as well. But I have just not been bitten by the brewing bug. I probably could gain an aptitude and make decent beer but I think my place is with the empty glass held out in anticipation of the next home brewed beer.

Session # 89


This month the Pittsburgh Beer Snob is leading the Session and here is the topic for July….

“I love history. There’s just something about it. It’s fun. It’s interesting. It even gives me goosebumps. So, I only saw it to be fitting that I choose the topic of Beer in History.

Even better is the fact that the summer time is the main period of the calendar year that I absolutely delve into history. We just passed the 70th anniversary of the Invasion of Normandy (Many of you know it as D-Day or Operation Overlord). The latter portions of June mark the beginning of the Gettysburg campaign which culminates on July 3. The following date is obviously the Fourth of July here in the states.

At many points in history you can look back and find alcohol intertwined. A lot of times that form of alcohol is beer. Beer is something that connects us with the past, our forefathers as well as some of our ancestors. I want this topic to be a really open-ended one. So, it should be fairly easy to come up with something and participate.”

Beer is embedded into history of all kinds, science with Pasteur, technology with modern behemoth breweries, women in the workforce with ale wives.  Monks aplenty as well.  And now as craft beer reaches 25 and 30 years of age in some breweries, there is a spate of books about how craft came to be.  Recent history, as it were.

But I want to talk about metal.  Not the music. More specifically aluminum.  It is why the industrial water lagers became so ubiquitous and it is also powering a growing trend in craft brewers who put most of their beer in cans. It has bridged two competing interests in history.

This metal was first identified in the 1780’s and took awhile to become used commonly because getting it out of the ground proved hard to do and too costly to do until advancements in the 19th century made aluminum cheaper to be made and easier as well.  Thus the price for it fell and more people could use it.

Even with that change, it wasn’t the metal of choice until after World War II (I know that World War I is chic right now but let’s talk WW2). Steel cans were sometimes used but bottles were the first choice for price and because that is what was used.   A plucky little brewery (Well, it might have been considered that then, but Coors certainly isn’t now)  in 1958, filled little 7oz cans.  The Hawaii Brewing Company used an all-aluminum can  that year as well. The innovation still wasn’t super popular but as the cone-top cans became less popular those who stuck with aluminum through the development process were justified in sticking with it.

R&D wise you then had the steel can with aluminum top.  Then the addition of the pull tab that involved a certain amount of digital dexterity which was better than the church key method of popping open a jagged opening for the beer to come out of.  (Precursor to WIDE mouth openings).  A man with the stylin’ name of Ermal Fraze created the first “zip top” can.  Then Schlitz proudly introduced the first “pop top” can in the year 1963.  Ancient for some beer fans.  But if you remember a world without remote controls or answering machines, you probably remember some cans without that simple and elegant design.

The next step was to create a tab that stayed with the can to avoid a littering of tear off tabs on the ground.  That finally happened in 1975.

And now nearly 100% of all beer and soda cans here in the U.S. are made fully of aluminum. Looking at that summation of hundreds of years it is really amazing to think that a metal found in the ground would become such a monopoly for holding fizzy drinks.  And it is even more amazing that it took craft brewers so long to wrest control of cans back to quality beer.

Makes me want to pop open a Wolf Among Weeds from Golden Road.

Kudos to for providing the research material.


Session # 86


The session for April is hosted by the Beer Hobo.  And it might be one of those that stirs up the pot a bit…..

“What role do beer writers play in the culture and growth of craft beer? Are we advocates, critics, or storytellers? What stories are not getting told and what ones would you like to never hear about again? What’s your beer media diet? i.e. what publications/blogs/sites do you read to learn about industry? Are all beer journalists subhumans? Is beer journalism a tepid affair and/or a moribund endeavor? And if so, what can be done about it?

In the spirit of tipping the hat when someone gets it right, please also share a piece of beer writing or media you love–it doesn’t have to be recent, and it could be an article, podcast, video, book or ebook–and explain a bit about what makes it great. I’ll include links to those articles as well in my roundup for easy access reading.”

You are such a brown-noser, homer, cheerleader.

I too have heard the jabs against beer bloggers in particular and pointedly and beer journalists in general though less frequently. That “everything” being written is too positive. There isn’t enough hard-nosed journalism out there. Examples being that there is not criticism to be read or investigative reporting or honest reviews of beers or beer culture.  Some of the “old school” go so far as to claim that actual discourse is gone and all we hear is PR twaddle.

Do you have to tear down a beer, brewer or brewery to be considered legit?

But my question is, what is wrong with positive? If you were on the sports beat covering the Miami Heat during their long winning streak last season, would you focus exclusively on the shots that were not made? I didn’t hear about anyone getting their press pass revoked for calling LeBron James MVP / as good as Jordan. But yet it seems that if a blogger writes a positive review of beer A, it makes you a mindless zombie in the eyes of some who seem to be suspicious of good news. Or you are in the pocket of the brewer because they gave you a hat and keychain.  It can’t possibly be that you like that particular beer.  Nope.  You are now cast as the reporter who does the puff piece about the water skiing squirrel and not the well-respected journalist who covers war and politics.

Does every fifth beer need to have a negative review to maintain your credentials?

All you have to do is tune in to any media outlet nowadays and there is enough palpable anger and car chases to provide inspiration for twenty more Fast & Furious movies. So how about making room for something that doesn’t involve negativity and sarcasm. A healthy distrust, be it of TV News, advertising or PR is useful but if you tar every marketing department as liars and by extension anyone who talks about that brewery as a panderer or hypnotized then you are just as bad as those who don’t question at all.  Just because Fox misuses the term “Fair and Balanced” doesn’t preclude one from writing something that has a little uplift under it. Why should I be restricted to focus on the beers that I don’t like at the expense of the ones that I do to give myself “cred”.  I think that I am allowed to write a glowing review or recommend a bar if that is my humble opinion.

Why is positive immediately equated with loss of journalistic integrity?

And a story can be both probingly honest as well as positive. Just as well as being funny and critical can be contained in a paragraph or a single word. But in 2014, it appears that we as beer writing consumers either want articles to verify our already made conclusions or to provide us with the opportunity to rant in the comments section. If you look (and not all that hard), you can find well-rounded pieces out there. I find gems from local writers like Sarah Bennett, Tomm Carroll and Randy Clemens quite frequently in brewspapers and online.

Instead of bemoaning the state of beer writing, promote the good ones.

And those articles shed light on a person, place or thing in or around the craft beer industry without resorting to hardball. Now I am not calling for a moratorium on criticism. There is certainly more that can be done instead of cut and paste regurgitation of PR releases and fawning over the latest brewing superstar but on the flip side, I can certainly do without more anonymous snarky reviews and/or people who roll their eyes if I so much as deign to take a beer seriously. Much like any leisure/food/fun category, craft beer needs all sorts of writers, editors, photographers and magazines, papers and forums. But I can’t help seeing the wisdom in the following words from Michael Jackson which applies equally to both sides of this debate,

“Please relax. Can’t you see we are drinking beer and telling stories here?”

And here is my choice for why I don’t subscribe to the “positive is bad” message that others talk of, from the aforementioned Randy Clemens about some cellar spelunking.

Session # 83


The Session #83 – Against the Grain from the Bake and Brew

Well I want to hear what you think about the following:

How much is our taste or opinion of a craft beer affected by what friends and the craft beer community at large thinks? What beer do you love that no one else seems to get? Or what beer do you say “no thanks” to that everyone can’t get enough of?

I can find myself wondering sometimes when I’ve had an extremely popular beer, but haven’t been all that “wowed”…is it me? Am I missing something here? Was there too much hype? Could there be such a thing as taste inflation? If we really want to dive further into this, is it really only “good” if a large portion of the craft beer community says it is or is our own opinion and taste enough?

I do not hesitate to voice my opinion on a beer.  And it doesn’t matter if the rest of the crowd is absolutely digging the beer. But as much as I try to enjoy a beer with a truly open mind and palate, there are times when the expectations (real or imagined) weigh me down.  And it unleashes my inner curmudgeon both for and against.

On the benefit of the doubt side, pilsners and lagers because they are ignored or slandered get a much higher regard when I review them for RateBeer or on my blog.  Part of this is due to seeing 500 too many stupidly low reviews of the style while a so-so IPA or Imperial Stout gets a pass (or bonus points).  It’s a flawed reaction on my part but I feel pressure to right the wrong or balance the books as it were.  My justification of standing up for the little guy puts my heart in the right place but I fear that too much of my action is caused just to be contradictory.  (A trait that I have in many other aspects of my life as well.)

On the hype side is my reaction to Pliny the Younger from Russian River.  I have had a small amount of one year’s version and it was good but being in the presence of a large and cooing crowd did color my reaction.  And again it was to the contrary.  For the amount of time that I waited, for the crowd that I had to wade through, it was not the Hosanna that I had expected.  Though everyone else around didn’t seem to care.

Of the two poles, “taste inflation” is bad but I think will eventually course correct due to the fact that today’s hot topic is tomorrow’s old news.  The arrival of Citra from Kern River Brewing did tamp down the ardor for PtY as did the new hip IPA, Heady Topper from the Alchemist.  And the lack of supply also puts the beer out of the spotlight for extended periods.  Not to mention that Russian River has a stable of great IPA’s.

“Taste Deflation” is more pernicious.  And there seems to be no way to reverse the deflation.  Amber ales were all the rage as micro-brews swept the nation but now you don’t see too many on tap.  Unless they are hopped up or imperialized.  And poor pils gets lumped in with “Industrial” beers.  Even the venerable Firestone Walker promotes it’s Pivo Pils by talking more about the hops. In an effort to not be seen as “the enemies beer style”.

But this is where anyone with a cantankerous streak and a love for all beer styles can come in handy.  They can pierce the bubble of the latest epic IPA by simply asking how is this better than the thousand other IPA’s out there?  They can promote Vienna lagers or Gratzers or other “invisible” styles to anyone who will listen. It isn’t about winning debates.  It is about bringing more than one opinion to the table.  Because that will bring more than one style of beer to the table.

The craft beer industry needs people who are more black sheep style and won’t run with the herd after every last craze.  This will keep the industry honest and will eventually make ratings more in line with where they should be and where they will be most helpful.  As opposed to now where some breweries and beer styles seem to have protected nation status when it comes to reviews.

So all those who are contrary, cranky, sarcastic or snarky.  Keep on going against the grain.




Session # 81


“Women and Beer: Scary Beer Feminists or a Healthy Growing Demographic?”

Tasting Nitch has come up with a great topic for healthy debate in this month’s session:

In a nutshell, “As the saintly Mr. M. Jackson created ‘beer culture’ by focusing on the people behind brewing, let us too take one blog post to contemplate the cultural shift that gender is taking in the beer world.”

The first two words that I thought of when I read the topic, “carrots and sticks.”  It is a quaint way to start an economic or political conversation on how to change the behavior of a group of people.  But I think it is valid here as well.

Because it is obvious that women and minorities are under represented in craft brewing in both the brewing and drinking parts of the equation.  So, how do we go about shifting the balance?

Bear in mind, this is coming from a male perspective, so you may want to weigh more heavily the female voices who respond to this session.  But I think change begins with more women in the brewing community.  The world of craft beer is predicated on choice but in the case of what women want, that choice may be constrained because some styles are not brewed in enough quantity by people who can truly empathize with that under served market.

I don’t believe that men and women are drastically different in taste perceptions but I think we do pick up different aromas and flavors.  Then how do you deliver to that market? And no knock on male brewers, but they simply may not be able to bridge that particular divide with their recipes.  Whereas, someone of the other gender may be able to.

With that thesis in mind, how do we get more women brewing? I don’t think a still fairly young industry needs the “Stick”, but some “carrots” would make sense.  I think brewers guilds on the state and national level should be allied with the Pink Boots Society to create a superfund that pays a portion of the salary of female brewers hired by breweries.  To induce breweries into hiring more women, as not only brewers but as cellarpeople, QC and in scientific positions too.

Then once that happens, it us up to all of us in the craft beer fan community to at the very least sample what comes out of those taps.  If we continue to drink a duo-culture of IPA’s and Imperial Stouts, then we will narrow our options by sheer force of economics.

Then bloggers like us need to write about the beer and the brewers behind them to create some momentum going forward so that more women will see brewing as a viable career path.

I hope that the ratios of men to women in this industry get closer so that more and different beer can hit the market.  Without that first step of getting more women mashing in, the last two (easier and more fun) steps will just be so much spinning of wheels because if the female brewed beer can’t be found, then people will become frustrated and stop looking for it.

Or you could just follow this depressing link.