The Firkin for August 2023

Of the many broken and outdated practices in America is tipping. And it drops into the news whenever the economy stalls or the Republican Party tries to screw over the little people.

I run into it when I run in and out to get a 4-pack and am pressed into tipping since most transactions are now by chipcard or phone. Smartly, the POS system makes it harder or very noticeable when no tip is picked. And it is increasingly harder to find 15% as even an option.

But there will be a major breaking point, at some point, much like the hidden fees with Airline tickets. Enough of a groundswell will make a hard reset necessary.

There are proponents for eliminating tips altogether. I lean towards that camp. I can hear howls of protest as I type this about how people will buy less while employers will have to pay more. I think that is overblown, unless there are some facts to disprove me, because most people, including myself now factor in tips and are already buying less accordingly.

I am a single can buyer and there have been countless times where I have put a can back because of the tip. But if each beer was 50 cents more, I probably would buy that can.

Add in that I don’t know if that money is going to just the person who helped me or put into a pool and I am less inclined to pick a higher tip.

Maybe, beer stores and breweries should see me coming and just tally up a higher price and get rid of the fees.

The Firkin for July 2023

I mentioned in a post earlier this month that I went to a brewery that was open per their website, per Facebook and per the sign on the window but when I opened the door to Gorges Beer Co. in Cascade Lock, it was indeed locked.

An employee hastily brought out a sign saying closed for the day and quickly explained that an employee had chosen to spend another day in Las Vegas. Either a streak at roulette was underway or they were trying to win back losses.

Now I get it. Keeping staff is hard while trying to keep costs in line but Gorges is a large space and for the life of me, I can’t see how one missing employee was the make it or break it piece.

Was the brewery closed the other days this person was in Sin City too? I joke that I can make or break a brewery or joke even further that they should know who I am but any traveler beer or otherwise would be let down by a shut taproom.

You need to find a way to open for to-go only or open just for a small amount of guests for limited hours because the show must go on.

The Firkin for June 2023

The 16oz can is the de rigeur format and has been for a few years now taking the packaging crown from the 22oz bomber and the six-pack with it’s 12 ounces. Though the 19.2oz stovepipe can is pushing for the throne currently.

This article in Punch talks briefly about why it is as well as the good and bad about it..

…but I firmly believe (and have expressed on this blog many times) that more sizes should be in the packaging arsenal.  I would like to see more big ABV beers in 10 ounce bottles or heck, 12 ounce cans.  I love the extra large format of some Belgian beers with the corks and one of these days, I will buy one of those jereboams that you sometimes see.

The packaging format should be as creative and unrestricted as the crazy beers that are inside them.

The Firkin for April 2023

At first, I thought that I should probably not comment on the whole Bud Light controversy. Primarily because it is just so emblematic of America to get offended so easily by showing the colors of the rainbow. A bit too “been there, done that”.

But I do have my two-cents to add, because beer, especially craft beer, should be more about community. And that is coming from an introvert who prefers to drink his beer in peace.

And all people should be allowed to drink their beer in peace. I am not going to tell someone with a can of Bud Light that they have horrible taste. I think they probably already know it. If asked, I will suggest better options. Something local perhaps. But overall, I keep my mouth fucking shut. Except on this blog, but Bud Fans ain’t here so I feel OK expressing myself.

But if a Bud Light hater is here and you feel the need to make a Tik-Tok showing you destroying a can of Bud Light, stop. Just stop. Buy another brand of beer and move on. Let others drink their beer in peace.

Here is the simple truth. Bud Light will go on. Those protesting will probably buy it and drink it this year. The Transgender community will still be here. No matter how much you deny them or demean them. So live your life and let others live theirs. The liquid inside the can is the same.

..and now this…

The Firkin for March 2023

Is it more wither sour and wild ale or whither?

At the recent California Craft Beer Summit, it seemed this style was more a past thought than a future one. Russian River Brewing is transitioning their sour space to hold more lager and pilsner production. Sierra Nevada is in the kombucha space and now also energy drinks. New Belgium is going hard into the VooDoo.

More local, Cellador Ales has moved into a space at Smog City while looking at their own taproom but are currently bottles and cans and before that move they had released one (or two) more seltzer-y items.

Personally, I think that the American palate that leans into nearly diabetic sugar territory is primarily to blame. There was never going to be a big market for Wild/Sour to start. Second, the cost is amongst the highest in craft even with the proliferation of $20+ 4-packs.

Small market and high price seems fine economically. But add in tough times and slow to no growth and you have a style that you move away from in search for profit, and I don’t mean profit in a bad way. Just that a labor intensive, ingredient intensive, time intensive beers are a luxury.

California Craft Beer Summit – Final Thoughts

The theme for this year’s Summit was “unsteady”. My flight from BUR to SMF didn’t even toss peanuts to us due to the bumps. With crazy bank shenanigans and big competition from Bourbon and RTD’s, it seemed that everyone was a bit on edge. The future just seems wobbly.

While on the floor I saw little activity around a lot of the equipment booths and others seemed a bit heavy on banking and finance institutions.

Their was also some placement stategery going on. In the past, regions of California would pour their beers from one spot and you would see the hop folks clustered and the equipment booths together. This time around there was no clustering at all. You could have a malt seller next to a sanitation booth and one or both may have poured beers. And there was no signs as to what was pouring. So, as an LA person, I could not easily scope out the beers of the Bay Area or San Diego.

My guess being that in an effort to get all attendees to all booths, they mixed it all up to draw people in to give booths more exposure and chances to interact with people. It seemed, to me, the changes were exhibitor impact based and away from ease for attendees. Because if you were in the market for fruit puree, you were gonna walk.

The festival also was the same length as I remember but Monday was a political day of action with a Welcome event so you didn’t really go to the Convention Center until Tuesday and Wednesday was a half-day. That gave the Summit both breathing room and condensed the activity.

The education was still top notch. Lots of great information to be had. The events were excellent outside of the Summit and, as usual, the ship was run well and on-time. Imagine trying to pour Pliny to a huge crowd. Hard to do.

So, what did I take from the event? Loads of info that I will read about, a small understanding of the breweries in Sacramento that I could visit and a feeling that though there may be turbulence ahead, there may also be smooth pockets of air as well.

The Firkin for February 2023

Am I the only one who feels that the big thing seems slow to arrive. Is the big craft beer trend caught in an airport somewhere?

No new IPA variant is on the horizon. A slight uptick, to my mind, in Triple IPAs but we seem stuck in Cold (IPL or IPA) weather when it comes to the dominant style.

Pastry stouts seem to be reaching an expiration date as you can reliably find then on shelves. We get the yearly pilsner spiel but them and lagers have a low ceiling.

Maybe some adjunct will become the de rigeur ingredient for brewers, I had an excellent blue corn pilsner recently and I could see any number of heirloom agricultural products touching a beer fans nerve.

But as we saunter into the last month of Q1, it seems no change in direction for the good ship craft.

The 1st Firkin of 2023

Speak for 11 seconds otherwise Skynet will know that you are inebriated. Confused? Read THIS, then come back.

Now, my first inclination is to think that the creators of this speech recognition software are tooting their horn a little bit too much. I am thinking of early lie detector tests where foolproof claims were made that just could not be backed up. Primarily because body reactions may not be about what you are being asked but what someone is afraid will be learned.

A person could have just gotten a yes to a date proposal, for example, and be really giddy. Maybe as giddy as I get when tipsy. Or they could have been told no and start mumbling. Would that trigger as an alcohol caused speech pattern.

And going back to my happier mood, how does the AI know my baseline? And what if I am particularly happy because my birthday month starts tomorrow? How does that factor in?

As with the lie detector, this inebriation sensor might be good as part of an overall set of proofs, not as a sole one.

The Final Firkin of 2022

Before I dive into my quick thoughts for the end of the month, I would like to give a quick R.I.P. to Mumford Brewing in DTLA as they close after 7+ years. I visited when they first opened and thought the beers were only OK, but then a subsequent visit showed a fast growth. It taught me that some places need time to gel. From there on out Mumford was a solid winner especially with their hazy IPAs. Buy those few cans out in the wild still if you can.


Bourbon Pursuit and Breaking Bourbon have noticed that bourbon and spirits tend to run the opposite of craft beer. Big brands dominate. Making it hard for craft distilleries to get air where in beer bigger seems to default to worse or boooring.

As we head to a new year, both good beer and good bourbon will need to learn from the other. Heritage breweries will need to figure out how ubiquitous brands like Jim Beam or Maker’s Mark can remain popular even though they are much larger than little distilleries.

Craft distilleries need to ponder how chasing new trends works for small breweries and how they harness that energy to stay on the tips of tongues and front of minds.

And what I think might be more important is how do bourbon and beer combine past the simple fill a bourbon barrel with an imperial stout.

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.