600 and Counting

Between the dawn of craft beer with New Albion and Anchor way back in the day and the year 2012, California achieved the number 300 in breweries operating in the state.

Between 2012 and now (which is just 3 some odd years if my basic math is correct) another 300 were born.
You can read more about it HERE but one amazing take away is that in the year 2014. Each week in California, all 52 of them, two breweries opened.

The Firkin for July 2015

Usually, I have no shortage of rants to get me frothing at the mouth like Cujo or if I am feeling more upbeat, kudos to hand out.

But it has been a relatively quiet month. Yes, there was the Firestone Walker convergence with Duvel but as I thought would happen, the collective goodwill of those two companies pretty much doused any incipient interwebs displeasure.

That means I can take the time to dig into the numbers from the Brewer’s Association that recently arrived in my inbox.

Here are the Three Big Numbers:
1.6 million more barrels sold so far this year versus this point in 2014.
699 more breweries now than last year.
1,755 breweries in the planning stages.

Now let’s do some comparin’ and contrastin’. The 1.6 million barrel growth is impressive compared to the 2011 to 2012 and the 2012 to 2013 increases and is only .2 behind both of those jumps combined but it falls a distant second behind the 2013 to 2014 time frame which saw a huge 3.3 million bump with a gain of 502 new breweries.

That 1.6 number seems even paltrier because this was the biggest jump in the brewery count in the last five years. If the trend from last year had held, you would have expected barrels sold to go up from 3.3. Which tells us that the new 699 are/were producing at a much smaller pace. More Nano’s and garage projects in the mix? Or were there more larger facilities that came on-line last year compared to this year.

There were 1,929 breweries in planning which yielded the new 699. My simple math skills kick out a percentage of openings rate of 36% which if that holds means that at this time next year there should be another 631 breweries around putting the total well over 4K and triggering another round of bubble talk once it hits 4,000 mark. Even if the pace of new breweries is cut in half, it will still crawl over the 4,000 total by this time next year.

What does this all mean? It means more choices and more competition for tap handle space and it means that rotating taps aren’t going away soon. With that choice comes a corresponding duty to be more selective. Even my picky self has started running into not so good beer and I have to come out and say it. No more generic 2.5 star ratings on Untappd. It also means that publicans have to be honest too. If the new brewery isn’t up to snuff, they shouldn’t be on tap. If they are, it better be on discount. Which leads us to the brewers. I know it is financially horrible and damaging to the psyche to dump a bad beer. But I do not want to go to your brewery and hear that a beer was a failed experiment and won’t be brewed again. Morbid curiosity may get me to order it but it would be much better for the brewery and it’s possible long term customers to use it as an educational tool and give away tasters of it to say, compare and contrast to another beer.

Craft beer will continue to grow even if those three things do not happen. But that trajectory will not be fueled by the mediocre to bad beer makers. Nope. Remember that craft beer started as a REACTION to bland and flavorless corn water masquerading as beer. New brewers may not have to react to Bud-Miller-Coors, they may react against bad craft beer.

Can’t Keep Up with PDX

I’m start to get happy about the increasing rate of brewery openings in the greater L.A. / SoCal area and then I read an article like this ONE from the New School Blog that covers the Portland area.

Touting three new openings coming soon. (I particularly like the name Culmination for a brewery)

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Now I feel like we are back to being months and years behind Portland’s beer scene.  Aaargh!

BrewDog Fund


The BrewDogs are at it again.  But this time it isn’t a beer made with the bacon and bike power.  Not.  It is EMpowering new breweries to succeed.  Here is the lowdown from the “lowdown” section of their website…..

“Our mission has always been to make other people as passionate about great craft beer as we are. Not just BrewDog beer, but all great craft beer. More people brewing, serving and drinking craft beer from a range of killer breweries can only be a good thing, and that is what we try to achieve across our entire business from our brewery to our bars and our bottle shops.

With this overarching ambition in mind, we are delighted to announce the new BrewDog Development Fund. This fund will see us allocate up to £100,000 of our profits each year as well as loads of our time to help other new craft breweries start up and get established. It was only seven years ago that Martin and myself (James) set up BrewDog with some second hand tanks, a small bank loan and a big mission, and now we want to encourage others to do the same.

As well as providing capital to our new BrewDog Development Fund partners, we will also help them grow by:

·       Showcasing their beers in our bars both domestically and internationally

·       Providing advice and ongoing support (we know a little bit about growing a brewery)

·       Helping with the sourcing of ingredients and brewing materials

·       Assisting with equipment purchases

·       Offering access to our state of the art laboratory for beer analysis

·       Helping them grow sales by introducing them to our international sales network

As part of this initiative we are insanely excited to announce that our first two official partners in the BrewDog Development Fund are the phenomenal Brew by Numbers brewery based in London and CAP,  based in Stockholm, Sweden.”

This is a logical extension of what craft breweries are already doing.   Whether it is giving free advice, helping out with supplies or letting people brew with their equipment and it is one of the reasons why I am still jazzed about this business after 5+ years of writing about it.

Pac City + 8one8 + MacLeod

The L.A. Beer Bloggers headed deep into the valley to visit two breweries. (And was given tastings from three in total!)

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One recently opened and one about to. Our first stop was Robert Cortez’s Pac City Brewing. The developing 8one8 Brewing was also in attendance.  Then we headed over to the soon to open MacLeod Ale Brewing.

You will find the summary on Food GPS today.  To whet the whistle, some photographs from the day….

Robert Cortez donning the Pac City shirt
Robert Cortez donning the Pac City shirt
The "backstage" pass
The “backstage” pass
No bagpipes were harmed to make this tap handle
No bagpipes were harmed to make this tap handle


The first four beers that are on the way.
The first four beers that are on the way.
Spent grain crackers and biscuits
Spent grain crackers and biscuits
Little Spree
Little Spree



20 NEW breweries to Open in Denver!

If you have any doubt that the City of Los Angeles and all the cities surrounding said metropolis could use more breweries, then read THIS.

Denver is obviously a big beer town but one could say they have plenty of beer to go around.  But possibly doubling (almost) their brewery count in the span of a year?  That is crazy.

Next Great American Beer Festival that I go to, I will probably not even set foot into the convention center.  Too many other places to go to!





Petaluma is Brewing

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When you take beer-cations, despite all sorts of planning, you end up missing spots that have to be saved for the next trip to that region and such is the case for my Thanksgiving trip from last year to north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

But one way to pack in more bang for your buck (if you are not going to San Francisco Beer Week next month) is to try out the local beer festivals.  And this fall, you should put the Petaluma River Craft Beer Festival on your radar.  You might see locals like 101 North, Three Uncles Brewing Company, HenHouse Brewing or Dempsey’s Brewpub that you just won’t see outside Marin County.


The Firkin for July 2012

Brewery financing isn’t a sexy topic that generates page views and re-tweets but it is something that really needs to be talked about more and I think with as much creativity as the recipes for our beloved beers.

This past month, I have spoken to many home brewers who are itching to turn pro but are stuck at the financial hurdle. Now getting financing in 2012 is not easy especially for a capital and ingredient laden venture like brewing and especially when you factor in the fact that opening a brewery takes the patience of a saint to work through layers of forms and different arms of the alcohol and tax enforcement bureaus.

But I have to believe there is an easier way to do this. Current brewers always seems helpful to the next generation (in my experiences) and there is always Kickstarter. (though managing a successful campaign is almost a full time job)

And I think the easier way has to come via the city government. There needs to be a business friendly person(s) that can help navigate the the obstacle course with a brewer or baker or a candlestick maker. An artisanal guide to business as it were.

A small office that can set-up a timeline and a check list of things that need to be done but would also liaison with the city, state and federal parties like the alcohol boards and state tax departments to make sure that permits are moving through the system and not delaying opening. Someone who can finesse the system (legally) more efficiently. And while I am pie in the skying here, someone who also contact banks to get loans pushed through that might otherwise be on the cusp of being approved.

It is in the city’s best interest to have more start up business to pay tax and fill vacant properties. The banks best interest is to have loans being paid back with interest.

And if we can’t get city hall to buy into a program like this why won’t the banks. Shouldn’t they have reams of data on each type of business that needs loans. Don’t they see the explosive growth in the craft beer segment. Can’t they actually help someone out rather than gouging people for having the temerity to do business with an actual teller or use a debit card?

I have seen breweries and bars be catalysts for urban renewal just by serving great beer. How about someone make the financing side easier so that the brewers can keep making new and great tasting beers.

L.A. is brewing

For those of you playing at home, here is the current brewery list for LA. My list expands to include a larger slice of the Los Angeles area.

Up and Running
Eagle Rock
Nibble Bit Tabby
Angel City
El Segundo

in the mash tun (so to speak)
Pipe Dream
Pilot Brewhouse

And check out this L.A. Times article about the up and comers.

When the newbies come on line, LA will be in double digits.

More craft beer on the horizon

One way to gauge the health of the craft beer industry is to check the stats on breweries in the planning stages. Here are some states to pique your interest…

Connecticut – 6
Alabama – 6
Iowa – 9
Tennessee – 11
New York – 26
Colorado – 29

I delved into the California numbers and came up with 23 in the planning stages. Berryessa and Aztec were two with names attached. And LA had it’s fair share.

I also perused my home state of Oregon, twelve breweries are in the planning stages. Among them Charlatan Brewing, Dexter Brewing, Dragon’s Gate, Noble Brewing, Occidental Brewing, Sasquatch Brewery, Workshop Brewpub.

Thanks to the Brewers Association for keeping up this massive list.