NAGBW – Malt Night

A couple nights ago, lucky members of the North American Guild of Beer Writers talked malt with Admiral Maltings, Headlands Brewing and Crisp Maltings,

Here are my takeaways from the night and a review of the Headlands beer too!

Hops get the headlines, yeast gets some spotlight along with malt whilst water is left out altogether. But new malts like from Haná barley could bring some more shine.

Haná is a heritage barley, the second from Crisp after Chevalier. It was a key component of pilsner way back and a landrace un-heavily modified barley. It hasn’t been malted in the UK for 100 some odd years before Crisp re-started it. And the reason Admiral Maltings was involved is that they had a relationship with Crisp and because Haná has been and now is again, grown here.

Let’s jump to the end of the chain first and describe the Headlands Brewing Munich Helles. It pours a light straw yellow color. Nice bubbly look to it. Normally for me, a Helles would have a minimal aroma. But this one was bright and reminded me of spring. It had a great balance of lightness but also very full flavored. A mix of cracker and bread dough.

Back to the malt. There are precious little malt collaboration beers and even less that count two maltsters collaborating so the fact that two maltsers from two different countries floor malted this same heritage barley is a big deal. And an even bigger deal was being able to get your hands on some of this malt. A brewery had to jump at the chance when offered.

And you may see some if you are near Russian River, Firestone Walker, Alaro, Sierra Nevada or Almanac (which is next door to Admiral). Those breweries got small allotments for R&D. Or you can head to the Bay on June 29th for the It’s the Malt a craft Malt Festival that celebrates local agriculture and craft malt.

Chevalier and Haná are first steps into reviving a host of barleys that bring with them different flavors as well as making brewers adjust how they brew to maximize them. We have seen how different hops require new ways of brewing and it is exciting to see that come into play with malts. Because that will create whole new playing fields and maybe, new beer styles.

NAGBW Day – Writing Awards

This year, I had the great privilege of judging for the North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW).  I was in the Travel Writing category and I am not going to bury the lede, here are the full winners:

Best Beer and Travel Writing

Honorable Mention

Em Sauter: “Share What You Have — A Visit to John Stoner’s Richmond, Virginia,” Good Beer Hunting

Third Place

Megan Eaves: “Life Stays Close to the River — Solar Beer and Wildebeest in the Serengeti,” Good Beer Hunting

Second Place

Ryan Pachmeyer: “Where Kölsch Night is Every Night,” Craft Beer & Brewing

First Place

Sorrel Moseley-Williams: “Interpreting the Andes — Carlos Barroso in Pachar, Peru,” Good Beer Hunting

For me, Em Sauter’s piece would have ranked higher but the three winners were super interesting glimpses outside the U.S. brewing world.

Here are the other 1st place winners:

Best Commentary or Criticism

Dave Infante: “Hop Take – The Cowardly King of Beers Bends the Knee to Bigots,” VinePair

Best Short Form Writing

Ashley Joanna: “The Conservator,” Belgian Smaak

Best Beer and Food Writing

Lana Svitankova: “Sour, Salty, Umami — The Ukrainian Brewers Transforming Pickling Traditions Into Beer,” Good Beer Hunting

Best Beer Review

David Nilsen: “In the Understory: Primitive Beer’s Frosted in Moss,” Final Gravity Zine

Best Historical Writing

Kevin Kain: “Mexican Lager: History and Appropriation,” Casket Beer

Best Beer Blog or Newsletter

Beth Demmon: Prohibitchin’

Best Technical Beer Writing

Jeff Alworth: “Cold IPA is a Technique, Not a Style,” Beervana

Best Brewery Profile

Anaïs LeCoq: “The Art of Vinifying Grains — Brasserie Ammonite in Burgundy, France,” Good Beer Hunting

Best Business Writing

Aaron Goldfarb: “The Most Important Company in Craft Beer Makes Marshmallow Extract,” VinePair

Best Local Reporting

Jerard Fagerberg: “Oops, Minnesota Accidentally Legalized THC-Spiked Seltzer,” Vice

Best National or International Beer Reporting

Mark LaFaro: “Tapped Out — The Problematic Culture of Overdrinking When You Work in Alcohol,” Good Beer Hunting

Best Beer Book

Clint Lanier: “Ted Mack and America’s First Black-Owned Brewery: The Rise and Fall of People’s Beer”

NAGBW Day – Beer Writing to Look For

The North American Guild of Beer Writers (NAGBW) Members, have announced the recipients of this year’s Diversity in Beer Writing Grant.  Per the Guild, “Now in its sixth year, the grant supports stories that showcase diversity and inclusion—in all its forms and challenges—within beer.”

Here is the rest of the press release with my added notes of the articles that I am looking forward to:

“The Grant receives support from Crafted For All, a professional development platform that fosters inclusive, equitable, and just spaces and experiences in the craft beverage sector; Craft x EDU, which champions inclusion, equity, and justice in the craft brewing community through education and professional development; CraftBeer.com, a website published by the Brewers Association; and Allagash Brewing Company. These partnerships have allowed the NAGBW to commission its greatest-ever number of stories through the Diversity in Beer Writing Grant.

After receiving a strong collection of applications, the grant will fund the work of the following journalists. These pieces will be published at craftbeer.com, Crafted for All, or CRAFT x EDU. Please join me in congratulating the recipients:”

Meghna Jaradi

Offering a glass of water is a sign of hospitality, but in brewery taprooms, it’s not just a simple pint of tap water. This piece explores the work and the environmental and social considerations that go into breweries’ non-alcoholic water offerings.

Elizabeth Bera 

This story will focus on how breweries welcome guests from various ethnic communities through game nights, such as hosting loteria, mahjong, dominos, etc. Games become a conduit for cultural exchange among players.

Ian Donley

This is first-person piece from the perspective of a person with autism, mixed with reporting from experts in neurodiversity, that explores how breweries can be a space for testing and practicing social interaction. What makes these brewery spaces unique as “playgrounds” for socializing? (this sounds like an intriguing piece, 1st on my list)

Anaïs Lecoq

This piece explores how women and non-binary people in France are taking matters into their own hands when it comes to festival safety. This piece briefly touches on the problems, but focuses on solutions that are coming from women and non-binary members of the French beer world. 

Jose Abonce

Despite its ownership by a Korean-Polish-American family and the diversity of its neighborhood, inclusion among Marz Brewing staffing and customer base was not always the case and had to be cultivated. This story will examine how giving an employee ownership over her role allowed her to leverage her language skills and cultural understanding in service of engaging the Latinx community.

Supon Peter Dulin

This piece will unpack the economic and business development hurdles Vine Street overcame on its way to becoming Kansas City’s first Black-owned brewery, with a particular focus on economic development and financing hurdles. (financial inclusion is a big deal, this could be a very educational piece)

Amanda Thomas 

This case study examines how the Mosaic State Brewers Collective inspires and empowers underrepresented people to build careers in the beer industry, asking whether this three-phase model could serve as a template for other such mentorship programs.

NAGBW – Packaging & Sustainability

Due to an unknown snafu, I could not watch the live stream of the discussion where the NAGBW tackled inflation and packaging and sustainability. But I did watch a couple days later. The speaker was Bourcard Nesin a beverage industry analyst and it was made clear what should be done, which is quite different from what might be done.

Here are my takeaways from the discussion…

  • most sustainability claims are bullshit
  • U.S. is exceptional in are low recycling rates
  • part of the problem is that there is no centralized recycling system in place
  • returnable and re-used glass would be the best option
  • Oregon is leading that charge
  • un-returnable glass is the worst option compared to aluminum and plastic because of cost to create, cost to re-make and weight of shipping
  • a “universal bottle” be it plastic or glass would create economies of scale.
  • no returnable bottles infrastructure
  • you will probably hear the word “lightweighting” in the future
  • lots of promises by business to endorse “extended producer responsibility” but when it arrives business does not do it

NAGBW – Sales Numbers

Back to hearing from other beer writers, this time economist and data expert Michael Ulrich of Seventh Point Analytic talks sales.

Here are my bullet points:

  • Don’t place bets on 2022 sales but if you had to bet on down
  • seeing more tweets on breweries for sale
  • cider generally filed with wine and seltzer under beer
  • the bigger – small brewers losing more share
  • 15-30k barrels the current sweet spot
  • prices are increasing compared to costs
  • wine and spirits have stockpiles compared to beer but the pandemic drew down the reserve which may cause prices to rise
  • 9 months from ingredient price rise to beer price rise

NAGBW – Distribution

A week or more back, the NAGBW broached the three-tiered topic of distribution. The speakers were Kimberly Clements of Pints LLC and Lester Jones of the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Here are my nuggets of wisdom from the Q&A…

  • California is a whole market on its own
  • lots of merger and acquisitions, but the consolidation game isn’t over and despite barriers to entry, smaller, boutique outfits are not to be written off
  • the role of the distributor is essentially the same though the world around is different
  • where beer is being distributed has grown
  • coverage of distributors seems more negative, though most days it works just fine in the background
  • you have to take what the market gives you, if cans get too expensive, then draft may grow
  • on premise and off premise lines are blurring when you can drink a beer at a grocery store

NAGBW – A Women’s Place is in the Brewhouse

Thankfully, I just finished the beer history book by Tara Nurin (A Woman’s Place is in the Brewhouse) that this talk revolved around. Lets see what this latest session hosted by the North American Guild of Beer Writers brought to my attention.

  • the term archival silence will probably start being used more
  • research during Covid was both harder and easier in different respects
  • who “hasn’t” been talked to for a story? usually a minority
  • you just have to turn your head slightly to see someone who was just as instrumental in a brewery’s success
  • the same silencing of women happens over and over as men take over, over and over
  • Tiah Edmunson-Morton is writing a book on the women married to Oregon brewers

NAGBW – Opening a Brewery During a Pandemic

This month the Guild has two back to back weeks of info. Here are my takeaways from Opening a Brewery During a Pandemic with guests Mario Cortes and Dave Riddille of the excellently named Here Today which is still yet to open in Seattle.

  • How do you create a beer list that attracts beer nerds, beer newbies and then how do you split that between local and tourists
  • You don’t know what will be important day-to-day nor predict what may be important in the long term
  • You need to be able to have honest discussions about which distribution route you want to take. Is selling focused on your location the best?
  • Can you still produce quality beer but with less state of the art equipment?
  • And a question from me for other new breweries, do you have to design a space that can be transformable in case of future pandemic restrictions as yet unknown?

Beer Podcast – Good Beer Matters

Now I have to admit upfront that I have yet to listen to an episode of this podcast, Good Beer Matters. I have downloaded a couple episodes though and plan on listening.

That said, there are three reasons why I am pre-listen posting.

  1. Level of Guests – Charlie Papazian and Jeff Alworth are recent guests. That is strong.
  2. The Host is Certified Cicerone®, a BJCP judge, an IBD Certified Brewer, a homebrewer, a beer educator, and a beer writer.
  3. A member of NAGBW, the North American Guild of Beer Writers.

NAGBW – Cerveceros

Next up in “News from the NAGBW” are my takeaways from a night talking about the SoCal Cerveceros.

First you should read the article that prompted the J-School discussion, HERE.

The most interesting point was brought up by Ricky Ray Rivera, founding member of the home brew club, now at Norwalk Brew House. Press and attention is good but too focused on the Latino aspect and not enough on the hone brewing can seem patronizing.

The six year old (around there) club started with seven members and is now over 250 with many having started breweries.

The networking is now important it seems. People have joined whose interests lie in food or other businesses.