The Firkin for April 2022

Every year April heralds Easter and then 4/20. And boy, am I not on the CBD or THC or TLC bandwagon. All the Snoop Dog memes, the warmed over munchies craving jokes make April 20th a day to avoid social media.

To me cannabis and beer is like stuffing cheese into the crust of the pizza, overkill. What actual flavor does cannabis add? I do not know. I have read about chocolate with marijuana, candy with marijuana, water with marijuana and yes, even pizza with marijuana and I have not seen what it adds to the experience.

This is no anti-weed screed, just a reminder that if you are adding an ingredient to a beer, that ingredient better add something to the overall drinking experience. I had a saison that included lemon and vanilla recently. The creaminess imparted by the vanilla played extremely well with the citric acidity, bringing out the best aspects of both while also taking the edges off of both.

And that is what any CBD/THC addition should do in a perfect world.

The Firkin for March 2022

Fungibility, metaverse, virtual. Words that have morphed in recent years and to me sound almost as bad as the overused, ‘unpack’.

So of course big beer has to enter this make believe land like Heineken has HERE. But what is a innovative way to create a community around your beers when literally, you want people from the community to visit and try your beers?

I am no Luddite wailing against social media nor do I inherently disagree with the idea of virtual currency or virtual art. But beer is meant to be enjoyed in the one real world that we know of.

That does not mean I will buy a token (or is it Tolkien?) in a restaurant or brewery start-up. That seems a step removed from not getting anything on a Kickstarter or Indie-Go-Go.

But there can be a fun way to get, say, a virtual brew day tour. Or get a VR canning day followed by a special 4-pack later. There are creative ways to use an NFT that also includes beer.

The Firkin for February 2022

First it was food trucks. Then it was trivia nights. Then big TVs for sporting events.

Brewery taprooms had been filling every nook and cranny of the calendar up to when the 2020 hit. And now that calendar is filling again as we move from pandemic to endemic.

That leads me to two “attractions” that seem to be gaining traction. Maker’s Markets and Reality Show nights. Neither sound particularly tied to beer in my view.

You can point that say, craft soap and craft beer share that descriptor but if I want to buy a bar of locally made soap, I can do that without a brewery. Why do I need a few Etsy-ized tables in front of a brewery? This coming from someone who loves going to little shops. Wine + Eggs in Atwater Village is cool. Hi-Lo Markets are grand.

Then there are the Bachelor or Bachelorette nights. Maybe my hatred meets lack of interest in phony love not reality is showing and I understand that a weekly event might bring in regulars but it’s just icky. Like a footballer jersey sporting a Russian company sponsor. I do not have a replacement idea that would draw a drinking crowd but you are not going to see me watching a couple in a windmill or some bro hightailing it over a fence.

The Firkin for January 2022

As of today, signs are pointing (encouragingly) to a cresting of the Omicron wave. Granted we have been in this false ending scenario a few times but maybe this virus has finally found its sweet spot of communicable but not deadly that will lead to an end to this strange time.

I have been proven wrong about Covid more times than I can count especially with my beer predictions. I thought it would lead to a rash of closures. I thought the amount of sick and dead would put a screeching halt to buying better and more expensive beer. I did not see the can becoming, for all intents and purposes the only container option.

So, don’t come to this blog for predictions. Though I do have a few.

– festivals will start being a thing again. I think there will be a burst of activity and then festivals will slow to a slower pace than in the 2010 to 2015 range when every summer weekend practically had one scheduled…

….there will be a new hype style of IPA. But I don’t think it will last very long. I think we are in a Brut IPA type of year…

…closures will ramp up and smaller actual nano breweries might become the route of choice for opening a brewery. There are too many places that are stuck in the middle ground with too much debt or not enough growth. The solution will be to keep it small and affordable.

That is it and let’s not speak of them when proven wrong.

The Firkin for November 2021

For this Firkin opinion piece, with the turkey merely a leftover memory and Christmas fast approaching, I want to get a little grumpy.

Just a little. Then I can get back to my cheerful but wary self. Here is a short list of beer items that I am NOT thankful for…

  • the lactose-isation of beer from pastry stouts to milkshake IPA’s
  • the slowed but still going IP theft labels
  • anyone not feeling welcome in a taproom
  • Whole Foods not being able to scan a single can, only 4-packs
  • lack of half pint pours in many places
  • the font size on labels growing ever smaller
  • idiots not wearing masks

That feels better. Now onto the final month 2021.

The Firkin for September 2021

There are words in the English language that make people squirm. Including squirm or the leader in the category, moist.

There are beer descriptors that turn me off. I am wary of specific terms like sweet. But what really boils my blood is the term “crushable”. You can read a take on it from The Punch, HERE.

I guess, for me, it just conjures up people drinking just to drink. Not drinking to enjoy whichever beverage it is. Not drinking with a group of friends, not drinking and enjoying football or soccer. But it is just drinking. Like inhaling a bag of chips for no reason other than being on the couch.

I am not going to sermonize that every beer is meant to be analyzed with every sip. Far from it. Sometimes the best experiences are the ones we let wash over us. But “crushable” isn’t anywhere near experience. It is neanderthal, violent and best left at Animal House.

Brewers can put the word on their labels but they should know that many people do not have the same definition of the word,

The Firkin for May 2021

I ever so wrongly predicted that hard seltzers would be a “Here today, gone tomorrow” fad. They are now part of the beverage landscape and being added to brewery tap lists practically daily.

But I am going to double down – die on this hill proclaim that I do not think FMB’s (flavored malt beverages) are long for this world.

Oh, they will still be around but you won’t see the land rush from every brewery to make them. And when they lose interest or too much market share, then the pullback will begin. The major problem will be that the little breweries will be fighting over a pie that the big players can easily add themselves into and dominate.

Right now, your SABInBev’s, your Coors and Miller do not want to spend money on ingredients and time to make beer that competes with craft breweries. They steadfastly refuse entry into the world of IPAs, dopplebocks and Saisons, so craft has the run of that playground. Not so with hard seltzer where they can brand extend and create hundreds of flavors that are not far off from artisanal products.

I have tried many hard seltzers. Sone way too candy like for me and others that are subtle but none yet have struck me as un-replicable.

The Firkin for August 2020

A little bit of funny in the beer world. Maybe funny is too strong but in these times of delivered beer, I find it amusing that all the beer websites big font declare that someone over the age of 21 must sign for the alcoholic beverage.

In the past, it has been so stringent that only the recipient could sign for the package in some cases. But it seems that the delivery companies either due to increased load or fear of Covid have let rules slide.

I have yet to sign for the few delivered packages that I have received. I have yet to show my drivers license to get a package. The most common delivery method has been: ring the doorbell, drop the box, hightail it out of there. I have yelled, “thanks” to the backs of more delivery folks.

Even when picking up pre-ordered beers, I haven’t had to provide anything other than my name even though lengthy instructions say otherwise.

This disconnect between the legalese that online shopping has to add and the actual practice makes me giggle at all the rules hat everyone says you have to follow until it becomes clear that no one is following them.

I ordered some beer just a couple days ago and will be waiting to see if I will glimpse the more evasive than Sasquatch, deliver person.

The Firkin for July 2020

The State of Oregon is mulling over the possibility of allowing beer delivery (other alcohol too) after this pandemic is over. I think the Golden State should put this on the table too.

One of the few bright spots in this virus hiatus has been the Alcohol and Beverage Commission (ABC) stepping up to the plate and changing regulations to help the producers in the state. Granted the must buy food rule is off base, but overall they have made a difference and done so quickly.

The financial pain will not end when a vaccine is found though. Red ink will still be on the books for breweries and constricting sales options again will not help. And it certainly will not get more employees back on the job.

My vote is to run a temporary year-long test and see if shipping and delivery has any adverse longer term effects. Maybe the economy will roar back to life and it won’t be needed but it would be great to have delivery as an ace in the hole if needed to help these small brewery business owners.

The Firkin for June 2020

I have never been able to work a yo-yo but governors of states these days seem to be masters of it.

California Governor Gavin Newsom took away the bar opening rule practically minutes after giving it the OK. I will frame this by saying that I am totally down with the lockdown. We should totally be following the New Zealand model and we could be in stadiums watching sports by now. But we are in full yo-yo mode. Opening for Memorial Day, then reeling it back in after cases spike three weeks later.

I will also add that I am in no damn hurry to go back and sit in a bar or taproom but I do feel that I am being yanked around when I can go into a bottle shoppe for the first time in months and buy (after being temperature gunned) local beers. But the very next day, they had to shut.

If I, the customer felt yanked around, imagine the person who runs the store. They redesigned their store. Bought sanitizer. Stressed. Bought the damn temp guns to abide by the law. Now, they are shut again despite following all the rules. They spent time and money and it is now earning them nada.

Now, these places could just keep operating in the hope that enforcement is as up and down as the open and close orders, but why are we punishing the good actors, the ones who are serious about this process? Or I guess just go back into restaurant mode which is apparently A-OK because we all know forcing a food order makes the same space safer.

Here is what needs to happen. Pay people. Help people. We need masks on and social distancing but it can be done without destroying the entire economy or dicking small business owners. That means that the government has to not expect ANY taxes from all of the businesses that they are shutting down, then expecting to open after spending their own money, then shutting again.

We need clear rules and we need to hear sorry from the government for the screw ups. Otherwise, the dumb people are going to freak out. More on that in a day or two.