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 – 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 – 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.

NAGBW – Guilds

Next up in “News from the NAGBW” are my notes from last nights talk on the Inner Workings of Brewing Guilds on Diversity with Danielle D’Alessandra.

  • Will we revert back to pre-pandemic ways and forget about issues that have been brought to our attention?
  • DEI has to to start from the top and it needs to be driven by hiring more women and more people of color.
  • craft beer is new to the political process
  • How do we help diverse breweries to succeed and get past the barriers imposed on them such as ability to get loans?
  • What is the best way to bring beer to minorities in a way that educates them?

Enter the Guild


This month I joined another Beer Writer group.  The North American Guild of Beer Writers.  I was swayed by this section of their mission statement: “Sometimes we act as evangelists, advocates and celebrators. Other times we are antagonists, agitators and truth-seekers. We are authors, writers, publicists, bloggers and columnists. We tirelessly cover the brewing industry — and those who appreciate beer — across North America.”

Hopefully, I will be able to learn a thing or three and bring even better posts to this website and promote craft beer in Los Angeles even more.