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Of the many broken and outdated practices in America is tipping.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.

Choppy Waters

I am going to request that you read this POST first from the Beervana blog.

Now that you have sailed back and are pondering the state of craft beer in 2023, I would like to add my three cents about this, which is that there will always be three levels of customer, be it for phones or beer or anything else being sold.

You have the people that are firmly not into it, the vast tentative middle and then the diehards. Reductive, yes, but you see it in politics (it too is something sold) most glaringly and scarily. A battle for the undecideds.

That middle block though will NEVER be completely won over. They float with the tides of trends. Be it generational trends away from their parents drink of choice or to what is the next IT beverage. And you can invariably tell when that trend has jumped the shark when your SABInBev or MillerCoors starts heavily marketing a new product and ALSO when they discontinue a product.

Using the invest / divest model, you see a heavy influx into RTDs with Boston Beer making canned malt (not whiskey) cocktails for Jim Beam while Platform Beer and other breweries bought by SABInBev are being dismantled.

The bigger companies chase after trends that the tentative consumers are following. They will almost always be late to get on board the boat.

So what should craft beer do? They can chase as well by making hard seltzers or hard slushies or pastry stouts. They can try to look younger than their years to be cool to the undecideds. Because of the ability to quickly pivot to their customers needs they can be faster than the big conglomerates that have to focus group the heck out of a new idea.

But that is still chasing a customer that will not, in all likelihood, become a convert to the cause. I think a brewery needs to find its identity and then provide that reliably and with high quality while tossing in surprises here and there. If you make great IPA, then be the hop zone for people.

That middle group will eventually come back after they go around the horn of other drinks.

The Firkin for June 2022

Americans both love a redemption story AND quickly tire of outrage. Don’t believe me? Wander to this LINK from Paste Magazine. And don’t TL:DR it either.

Americans and craft beer fans have all the beer choices available. I could “cancel” a brewery a day for years without making a dent in the number of IPAs in my ‘fridge. Which is why Vorel’s point of having a long memory is both important, AND not that hard.

Here is what you do:

  • open the notes app on your phone
  • creat new note and label, Do NOT Buy Beer From
  • add the breweries from Women of the Bevolution’s website that are distributed in your area
  • next time you are beer shopping, check that list

Not hard. You are not tracking the full journey of the fish at a seafood counter or who made the phone you just used to make a note.

Oh and next thing to do, stay tired of Tired Hands and their shithousery. We don’t need their beer. And you can tell their Instagram lawyers that.

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.

In the Tap Lines for March 2022


Out of Birthday Month and into a mask free world?  Not quite in L.A. County but it regular life is looming, does that mean regular beer life is here, or did I miss its re-introduction?

~ e-visits to (3) breweries that you may look past because they are “old”
~ special featured reviews of classic dark beers from yesteryear
~Heads-Up on Los Angeles Beer Events
~ Three suggested beers to buy this month. One light, one medium and one dark
~ A Book & A Beer reads The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier
~ A Podcast & A Beer listens to Plain English with Derek Thompson
~ Great Beer names and Best Beers of the Month
~ I will tap the Firkin and give my no holds barred opinion on the craft beer world.

The Firkin for December 2021

It is easy to proclaim at the end of each year that the last twelve months were a crazy rollercoaster. But I think we need to look at this in three year increments instead of one year.

2020 had a different trajectory than 2021 and 2022 will (hopefully) be the last part of the trilogy of the Covid years.

I said hopefully because it may look a little bleak at the moment with Omicron and the January surge that will follow the holiday. But breweries hung in there and new ones opened. Both may have been by a hair but it did.

I think that beer life will improve this year, maybe by June we won’t be looking over our shoulders. It may not be enough for some breweries but I think it might allow for some positive churn.

But whatever happens, it will be crazy.

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,

The Firkin for July 2021

France has recently passed quite the unpopular law that bars unvaccinated people from going inside cafes. Los Angeles has many bars that are requiring proof of vaccinated to enter.

At this point, I would require it to come into my home as well. The vaccine is free, it is available and you have no excuse. You buckle up to drive to a bar. You obey street signs on the way. A jab in the arm seems an easy one and done proposition to me.

But of course, it is not. Now bars and taprooms will have to have bouncers at the door and endure negative Yelp reviews based on not being allowed in.

This may be the only way though to get our vaccination numbers up. Keep denying entry to various fun activities until enough people finally give up this weird “hesitancy”.

Plant a pop-up vaccination center next to a brewery and see if the lure of beer will get more needles in arms.

The Firkin for February 2021

Maybe I am the only one feeling this way but I get the feeling that beer world has been pretty quiet lately. Granted, I avoid beer Twitter and have a really pared down beer social media but either beer life is moving back toward normalcy with Biden in office or that we are passing through the eye of a larger economic storm.

I am really hoping it is the latter because the smaller confines of buying a 4-pack and running away from human contact has lost its luster, if it ever had it. This coming from a big introvert who has loved working from home.

Whether we get back to February 2020 in two months or six, I do believe that how we all experience beer will be weird for even longer. Some people are going to avoid gatherings for a long time. New brewery taprooms, especially in California will be designed with patios in mind. Creative packaging solutions will arise to offset 16oz can shortages.

I really hate the phrase new normal because it implies a certain stasis when life is always changing. But, it is a handy phrase in times like this.

Peel the Label – When I will drink at a brewery

Not that anyone is asking for my presence at a taproom but I bet that there are many people out there who are on the fence about sitting outside with others with masks going up and down.

I thought I would show the reasoning behind when I would return to have beer from a glass outside of my own home.

First, I will need to have gotten the vaccine. Second, I would need to see a significant percentage (over 60%) of people in Los Angeles County had gotten it as well. Or, a higher percentage (like over 75%) had received their Fauci Ouchie.

Once that baseline criteria is met, I would need to see that hospitals had bed capacity. Because if despite precautions, I did get sick after, I would want a bed available.

Then I would tentatively go out with the proviso that if a space was too crowded or too maskless, that I would bolt. I figure the people jonesing to be out are more than likely people who may have taken less precautions than me. Now, I don’t consider myself paranoid just lucky to have avoided getting sick and want to keep that streak alive.

Now let’s all get that vaccine!

Peel the Label is an infrequent series with no photos or links. Just opinion.