The Firkin for October 2022

Lego nights at breweries. Yes, it is a thing. And if you allow me to hop up onto my well-worn soapbox, why?

Let me start by acknowledging that I understand that you need to drive business to you. And if it is a logo emblazoned cornhole game or stein holding contests than go for it.

I also get that trivia nights and musical guests create a sense of community that is much better than people dully staring at phones. We probably need a hit of people after the stay at home times.

But maybe we can add a night in or thirty minutes for the old school beer fan who wants to talk about the actual beer with friends old and new instead of yelling over a pinball machine and crashing jenga blocks.

It can all be just too loud and too busy. Maybe it is the introvert in me that needs the thinking space but when I have a beer reverie interrupted by a barking dog going from table to table, I drink my beer a little faster and head home.

The Firkin for September 2022

I have been known to take a sarcastic potshot at seltzers on this blog while simultaneously extolling creativity at every opportunity.

Another dichotomy in this universe is that I cringe whenever I see a slushie machine at a brewery while also partaking of bourbon / ginger beer slushies at a distillery.

How can I do both?

It is pretty simple to me. Seltzers are not beer. They are fruited alcohol. And as much as I enjoy bourbon or gin, you are probably not going to see me having a peach or cinnamon bourbon. But I will try a historical beer based on a colonial recipe or a chili pepper IPA because those are attempts at a new flavor profile, not just an quick and easy add blue raspberry to an existing product.

Same with a slushie. Bourbon and ice is a cocktail. Beer in a slurpee cup yanks beer out of its home like putting a Blazer fan in purple and gold.

Go ahead and sell them if you can but I will treat them as the profit used to make the good stuff.

The Firkin for August 2022

This is a tough question because I have changed methodology depending not just on the quality of the beers but on many other factors.

In general, I sip a little of each beer to see first but if beer A is light and really good and the rest of the tasters are darker, I may polish off the light one to not wreck my palate. I also sometimes try to find what exactly a flawed beer has wrong with it and thus finish it, before I go back to the best beer of the bunch.

If all the beers are of equal quality, and one is not a stylistic outsider, then all will be drunk at the same pace. But if all beers selected are not good, and it has happened. I may drink the best one and drink enough of the others to obscure my dislike when I bring the glasses back.

It is not an easy question to answer because of the Choose Your Own Adventure decision tree involved.

The Firkin for May 2022

Though I always carry my trusty iPad around with me, there are more times where I prefer not to go online.

The whisky makers at Glengoyne had a similar thought, I guess, because they have hatched The Offline Edition of their whiskey that comes in a box with a mini Faraday cage inside that can block the signals of up to four phones.

That got me to thinking that brewery taprooms could have offline nights or a section of the space dedicated to those who want to enjoy their beer and not enjoy their beer whilst also glancing at their phones every minute.

You could then focus that nervous phone energy into talking to the beertender about the beers on tap, or simply savoring your beer.

I know that this culture likes to extol being connected but maybe we can discard this bit of multi-tasking and put the phones away.

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,