• You’re drinking your beer too cold — and here’s why

     

    I have a drinking problem, and it makes me order two beers at a time in bars and restaurants.

    My problem is this: We drink our beer too cold, America.

    Beer typically flows from taps and your fridge at a frigid 38 degrees, an ideal temperature for the mass-produced brews designed to be refreshingly easy to drink while obscuring the cost-saving ingredients within.

    But for beers aspiring to some degree of nuance — arguably the definition of craft beer — 38 degrees is the equivalent of plastic wrap around a Kandinsky: It obscures all the beauty within. Sipped too cold, most craft beer is a shadow of what its maker intends, with layers of flavor lost to a palate-chilling cold.

    The ideal minimum temperature for most craft beer is in the low to mid-40s. For hearty yeast or hop-forward ales, a bit warmer. For even more adventurous styles, such as lambics or imperial stouts infused with flavors of oak, bourbon, chocolate, coffee or vanilla, warmer still — arguably as high as the upper 50s. When trying to meld an array of intricate flavors by pairing beer and food, proper temperature becomes even more important.

    In the best bars, I therefore often order two (or more!) beers at a time: one that doesn’t mind the cold to sip immediately and one that’s higher alcohol, more complex and best served by 20 minutes of slowly warming. A double order sometimes furrows the brow of a bartender or companion — as if my drinking problem is far more serious — but of all the factors that influence beer taste, temperature is one of the easiest for a drinker to control. And so I do.

    The idea of “cold beer” remains intact as ever, thanks mostly to the millions spent by Bud, Miller and Coors to show us slow-motion pulls of glistening bottles from teeming buckets of ice. It reaches in every direction, from the innocuous (bars proudly trumpeting their “cold beer”) to the egregious (bars serving beer in chilled or — heaven forfend — frosted glasses). Though to be fair, sometimes, cold is exactly what a beer requires.

    “If I’m drinking a High Life, I want it to be cold because I don’t want to taste it,” says Gary Valentine, a beer consultant and educator, who has worked on the beer lists at Girl and the Goat and Little Goat in Chicago, among other restaurants. “Otherwise, if you have a beer you want to taste, it should be above at least 43 degrees.”

    That means being a proactive beer drinker: dual ordering in a bar or restaurant. If served a beer in a chilled or frosted glass, requesting a room temperature glass and making a careful transfer. At home, pulling a beer from the refrigerator for 10 minutes to an hour before opening it. Or, if you’re Ray Daniels, founder of the Cicerone beer education program, sticking a beer in the microwave.

    “Ten seconds takes that frosty edge off,” Daniels says. “I used to do it pretty regularly.”

    The Cicerone program, which has certified the beer knowledge of 50,000 people worldwide, spends ample time discussing beer style, storage, tap line maintenance and glassware but relatively little time on temperature “because of the practical challenges for making that happen and because there are so many other dragons to slay,” Daniels says. But as a consumer, he is acutely aware.

    “It has a big influence on your perception of flavor,” he says. “That’s undeniable.”

    Though Daniels no longer microwaves his beer — “I’m not that impatient anymore” — he does make a habit of wrapping his hands around a fresh-from-the-tap beer to warm the glass before taking a sip.

    The issue is a beer’s volatile organic compounds; bad for smelling when it comes to paints and cleaning products, VOCs are everything to beer, releasing the aroma and flavor (which combine to create “taste”) as they warm.

    “So much of our sense of taste is in the sense of smell,” Daniels says. “In order to stimulate the olfactory nerves, you have to have volatile compounds enter the nasal passage and into the throat. If beer is too cold, it will release less aromatics.”

    Daniels suggested an experiment: In identical glasses, pour a straight-from-the-refrigerator beer alongside a bottle that spent 20 minutes warming on the counter. Drink side by side. Voila — the joys of not-too-cold beer.

    So then why don’t bars and restaurants serve beer warmer? Practical concerns, mostly. Tap systems are standardized at 38 degrees for two reasons: It’s a temperature that keeps beer fresh and allows for easy troubleshooting when tap systems go awry with foaming issues.

    “If everyone ran at a different temperature of their own choosing, then it would be really hard to ensure proper beer quality,” Daniels says.

    That doesn’t mean breweries and bars aren’t trying to do their part. Jerry’s restaurant and bar, in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood, has considered serving barrel-aged stouts at room temperature, or storing them at room temperature and chilling them when ordered to about 50 degrees.

    “But it takes less time to go from 38 to 50 than down from 70 to 50,” says Chris Coons, who recently left a job as beer buyer for Jerry’s to work for a beer distributor. “If I’m opening a barrel-aged stout at home that’s been stored at room temperature, I’ll put it in the fridge for about an hour to cool it to about 50.”

    He called it “a signature beer geek move.”

    “The general public isn’t getting into beer temperature,” says Coons at the bar one afternoon. “But they should be.”

    Jerry’s general manager, Trey Elder, who spent 10 years working at three different Chicago coffee companies, chimed in: “Any extreme temperature, cold or hot, will mask flavor. At room temperature you’ll taste everything. When coffee is really hot, you won’t be able to taste that much. Coffees that are really amazing, you taste what’s amazing as they cool.”

    Or in the case of beer, as it warms. The more complex the ingredients, the truer it is. At Moody Tongue Brewing Co., for instance, brewer and owner Jared Rouben focuses exclusively on food-driven beers — Sliced Nectarine IPA, Caramelized Chocolate Churro Baltic Porter and Dehydrated Tangerine Cacao Wheat are three recent releases.

    On more than one occasion I’ve had a Moody Tongue beer at tap temperature and thought, “Eh — this is pretty good.” Twenty minutes later, the sentiment has usually changed to full-on “wow” as the complexity of the fresh ingredients emerged.

    Rouben professed no offense when I told him as much, and agreed that his beers are best between about 42 and 55 degrees. That belief is what led him to pick a peculiar shape as the branded Moody Tongue glass used in bars — the 15 1/2-ounce Napoli grande, which, based on its design, steers a drinker toward wrapping a hand around the glass’ narrow base, which slowly warms the beer.

    “In beautiful beers, all it does is open up layers,” Rouben said. “That said, I would encourage people to drink a beer at different temperatures, and experience the changes.”

    It’s a fair point. Beer isn’t just worth sipping at a precisely “proper” temperature, but across a range of temperatures that gradually unfold the flavor and nuance. Such an approach to beer drinking takes patience, thought and what some might consider fussing over. But like wine, spirits or anything else worth drinking, the best beers reveal themselves across a journey of sorts.

    Though, if you’re in a hurry, the microwave works too.

    jbnoel@tribune.com

    Twitter @joshbnoel

    Source: http://www.baltimoresun.com/

  • 170-Year-Old Shipwreck Beer Smells Gross

    ShipWreckBeer

    When you’re picking out a beer, what flavors do you look for? If hints of soured milk and burnt rubber, or a “goaty” taste sound delightful to you, then brews that were aged for 170 years at the bottom of the Baltic Sea might just be your thing.

    Scientists recently opened two bottles of beer from a shipwreck off the coast of Finland to get a profile of the 19th century brews.

    Some seawater had seeped into the bottles and decades of bacterial activity gave the beer some rather unpleasant notes. But enough compounds from the drinks survived that the researchers were able to tell that the beers’ original flavors probably would have been quite similar to those of modern beers, according to a new report. [In Photos: Baltic Sea Shipwreck Yields 200-Year-Old Seltzer Bottle]

    The bottles came from 165 feet (50 meters) below the surface of the Baltic, from the wreckage of a schooner that sank near Finland’s Aland Islands in the 1840s. In 2010, divers found 150 bottles of champagne at the wreck, as well as five beer bottles, though one did not survive the journey back to land. When that bottle broke in the divers’ boat, it started to foam, and some gastronomically adventurous divers attested that the liquid indeed tasted like beer, according to the study authors, who published their findings in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Chemistry last month.

    For a more scientific examination of the beers’ flavor, the research team, led by John Londesborough of the Technical Research Center of Finland (VTT), uncorked two of the surviving bottles. The researchers were hit with a ripe mixture of smells: yeast extract, dimethyl sulfide (think cabbage), Bakelite (a fishy smelling retro plastic), burnt rubber, over-ripe cheese, goat and sulfur. These unsavory notes were likely the result of bacteria growing inside the bottles for decades, overpowering whatever fruity, malt or hop profiles the beer originally had, the researchers wrote.

    The beers were also “bright golden yellow, with little haze,” and they may have been diluted by seawater by up to 30 percent, the researchers said. So the drinks might have been stronger than their current alcohol-by-volume levels of 2.8 to 3.2 percent.

    The scientists acknowledged that the beer had not been stored in ideal conditions, and there is little data on the chemical stability of beer over such a long time. Just from sipping the old beer, the researchers couldn’t tell what the drinks may have originally tasted like. Yet, from their chemical analyses, they could speculate a few things.

    They found that yeast-derived flavor compounds were similar to those of modern beers. They also think the two bottles contained different beers, with one being hoppier (and thus more bitter) than the other. The less hoppy beer had a higher than normal amount of a chemical called phenylethanol, which may have given it roselike notes. There were unusually low levels of 3-methylbutyl acetate (a compound that gives beer notes of banana) in both bottles, but it’s possible that the chemical’s concentration plummeted over such a long period of aging, the researchers wrote.

    Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter. Follow us @livescienceFacebook Google+. Original article on Live Science.

    Source: http://www.livescience.com/

  • Beer-Maker Anheuser-Busch Wants to Sell More Pricey Beers

    No Anheuser-Busch

    Beer-maker plans to continue to expand the market share of regional and national craft brands.

    Anheuser-Busch InBev plans to continue to expand the market share of regional and national craft brands like Shock Top and Goose Island in the United States this year, while also adding new flavors to other beer options and expand market share in the cider category.

    The maker of Budweiser and Stella Artois outlined plans for 2015 as it reported a 7.6% jump in fourth quarter revenue, with per-share earnings for the period rising to $1.54 from $1.46 a year ago. But in the U.S., the beer maker remained challenged. Beer sales to retailers slid 1.4%, while Anheuser-Busch BUD -0.18% estimated the overall industry reported flat sales. Here are some of the key points from Thursday’s earnings report.

    What you need to know: The Millennial generation, which is challenging the behavior of most major food and beverage companies, are also driving change at AB-InBev. Splashy ads through TV commercials and other traditional media channels don’t work like they used to, so the beer company said it is increasingly allocating marketing resources to digital programs. One way the brewer has aimed to address the digital crowd is a recent at-home beer delivery service that was launched in the Washington, D.C. area.

    Millennials are also changing how AB-InBev thinks about product development. A tequila-flavored beer called Oculto and a malt beverage cocktail known as MixxTail are both hitting the U.S. market early this year as a way to lure consumers that have favored more flavorful beers and spirits like whiskey and tequila. AB-InBev said to win market share in the broader alcohol beverage space, it can’t just focus on “beer occasions only.” That explains some of the moves the company has made to create hybrid beverages.

    The big number: Total volume grew 0.6% in the fourth quarter across the entire AB-InBev portfolio, as growth in northern Latin America, Asia Pacific and Mexico offset declines in the U.S. and Europe. Brazil was a notable bright spot, with AB-InBev’s volume bolstered in that market in 2014 as a result of a strong summer due to the FIFA World Cup.

    What you might have missed: Much of the beer company’s growth strategy in the U.S. and markets abroad focus on “premiumization,” a strategy in the alcohol market to more aggressively promote brands with higher price points, and also when innovation occurs, command a lofty price when new ales and spirits hit liquor stores. The spirits industry has been more effective in this strategy, but beer companies are also making a dent. Some premiumization also naturally occurs when AB-InBev scoops up craft beers, which often command higher prices than Budweiser and other national brands. Recent deals by AB-InBev have included the purchases of Washington-based Elysian Brewing Co. and Oregon-based 10 Barrel.

     

    Source: http://fortune.com/

  • Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione Squares Off Against Budweiser

    Dogfish Head

    Dogfish Head founder Sam Calagione is one of craft beer’s great evangelists. Since launching his initial Rehoboth Beach, Delaware brewpub in 1995, Calagione made waves in the brewing world for innovative hopping techniques, recreating ancient recipes, and pushing the limits of extreme beer. Outside his brewery, he travels tirelessly to spread the good word of craft brewing through food, music, and beer events.

    We spoke with Calagione about one of craft brewing’s biggest newsmakers: A-B InBev’s spate of craft brewery acquisitions, folding the award-winning Elysian and Goose Island breweries into the same company that owns Budweiser and Corona.

    What do you think about A-B InBev buying up craft breweries?
    I get it that a number of the patriarchs of craft brewing are getting to retirement and trying to figure out how to transition out of brewing. So I’d never shit on somebody’s decision to sell out.

    I do think the world’s largest breweries are disingenuous in their intentions moving into the craft beer world. They’ll buy a once-independent brewery — not naming names — and suddenly its IPA’s kegs are on the street for half as much as a true indie craft beer. It really shows they’re using these once-craft brands as pawns in their game to knock the true indie breweries off the board.

    But is a cheaper IPA bad for beer lovers?
    I can see how it’d be good for A-B InBev, but it’s not great for a consumer that loves the choice, diversity, and excitement indie craft breweries have brought back to America.

    After prohibition, the whole beer industry consolidated as a few international conglomerates sought to control market share in America. That’s something to be wary of as these large breweries are buying up small breweries, then brewing their beers in giant quantities and charging very little for them. Their end goal is to dominate every segment of the beer world. If they succeed in that, then beers will get homogenized back down again to a few simple styles again.

    What exactly are big breweries doing with new craft brands?
    It seems like the strategy is to let the original brick and mortar of what once was a craft brewery make their esoteric and super weird beers so it still looks like an independent brewery. Then they take two or three flagship brands and make them in the giant, fully-automatic megabreweries to sell them super cheap. This really disrupts the market, but they’d rather shine a light on esoteric stuff from a once-independent brewer.

    Would you ever sit down to talk business with them?
    We’ve had our run-ins with the world’s largest two breweries, A-B InBev and MillerCoors, so there’s zero chance Dogfish would ever sit down to talk to them about opportunities to work together.

    Finally, how ridiculous was that anti-craft beer Super Bowl commercial from Budweiser?
    It was great for craft beer. It shows how confused and conflicted the world’s biggest brewery is about how to engage an American populous whose beer tastes are changing. The more they spite us for trying beer outside of the light lager juggernaut, the more we’re going to stand for something very separate from what they’re about. Then as they buy out the companies making the beers they’re making fun of, the hypocrisy is very apparent.

    I’m sure there’s a room full of MBAs and all they care about is the Budweiser brand. That’s what they’re paid to care about. They don’t give a shit if promoting Bud means making fun of other brand in the A-B InBev network. It shows that true craft brewers are brewers first, business people second. That company is run by nothing but business people.

  • Bud Ad Sparks Beer Fight in Congress

    No Anheuser-Busch

    When Budweiser ran a snarky ad about craft beer on Super Bowl Sunday they had no idea they had picked a fight in very high places.
    Washington, DC – Budweiser may have to host the next Beer Summit in Washington, because they’ve accidentally pissed off lawmakers in both parties.

    While Budweiser thought it was just sticking a finger in the eye of, shall we say, experimental beer fans nationwide with its Super Bowl commercial mocking local craft brewing artisans and aficionados alike, they seem to have forgotten that the craft beer industry has a lot of allies in Congress.  

    The ad – “Brewed the Hard Way” – disses crafty concoctions, even calling out Pumpkin Peach Ale by name, and declares pride in macro brewing for people who don’t want to “fuss over” silly little details, like the actual taste of their beer.

    But to politicians who are falling over themselves to attract the creative energy, votes and small dollar donations sitting largely untapped at their local breweries – the ad was personal.

    “I think it’s insane,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a co-chair of the House Small Brewers Caucus. “I don’t think it’s the right approach.”

    Beer seems to be taking a note from politics (God, help us all). After Budweiser dropped its multi-million dollar attack ad, craft beer lovers started throwing their own sudsy blows at Big Beer. Lots of them. But politicians seem to be rallying around the little guy, who they say was provoked by Budweiser.

    “It’s like the first political attack ad on this thing, so like the politics of beer,” said McHenry, the craft loving congressman who represents a whopping 25 small breweries in his Asheville, N.C. district.

    Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) missed the feisty Budweiser ad because he watched the Super Bowl in a “chaotic environment,” but that didn’t mean he wasn’t willing to tear it down.

    “They know that the craft beer industry is eating their lunch,” the animated founder of the Small Brewers Caucus yelled. “More and more Americans are developing a taste for beer that isn’t insipid and has real taste, and so they’re now starting to buy them up.”

    Burn.

    DeFazio’s anger is partly due to recently watching 10 Barrel Brewing Co. of Bend, Ore. become another local operation added to the binder full of craft breweries acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev – a Belgium-based company that looks to be picking off the most successful American craft breweries one by one.

    The conglomerate boasts being the largest brewer in the world and claims to now control 25% of global beer sales. They couldn’t have reached a quarter of international beer sales without scooping up craft breweries in the U.S. though, which DeFazio said starkly contrasts with their Super Bowl message.

    “So it kind of contradicts their ad. I mean, they’re trying to say, ‘Oh, come on back and buy the schlock,’ yet on the other hand, they’re out buying up the good beer,” DeFazio said, before he added a warning. “They better not change the formula’s cause people will just stop buying it and someone else will replace them.”

    Less than 72 hours after the Budweiser ad unleashed the anger of craft beer fans, Sens. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) reintroduced their legislation aimed at propping up the craft beer industry: The Small BREW Act, which stands for The Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act.

    “It’s like the first political attack ad on this thing, so like the politics of beer,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

    The legislation seeks to foster small breweries, i.e. local jobs and votes, through dropping the tax rate per barrel from $7.00 to $3.50 for the first 60,000 barrels a brewery churns out. It would then save small breweries an additional $2.00 on every barrel until they hit the magical 2 million number. The big boys and girls aren’t invited to the dance though; any macro brewery churning out more than 6 million barrels is excluded from the new rates. Sen. Cardin said it’s a simple idea.

    “I don’t think we ever intended for small businesses to be burdened with an excise tax, such as the beer tax,” Cardin said. “When we’re talking about a craft brew industry that is generally supporting small business and encouraging a new generation of people who really appreciate the art of brewing beer.”

    A quarter of the Senate have signed onto the BREW Act, but Big Beer isn’t sitting this fight out. Within 24 hours of the introduction of the BREW Act, a pair of U.S. House members dropped The Fair BEER – Brewers Excise and Economic Relief – Act. It removes taxes for the first 7,143 barrels and then basically extends the Small BREW Act to Big Beer.

    “This comprehensive reform bill supports brewpubs, microbrewers, national craft brewers, major brewers, and importers alike and encourages their entrepreneurial spirit, which is exactly the spirit we need to get America’s economic engine going again,”  Rep. Steve Womack (R-Ark.), an original sponsor of the BEER Act, said in a statement.

    Chris Thorne, a lobbyist for Washington’s Beer Institute, called me to tout the BEER Act.

    His group boasts that it represents Big and Craft beers alike, but it draws a line in the sand on the BEER vs. BREW Acts debate. It won’t take tax relief for small brewers unless Big Beer gets a slice of the pie too.

    “It allows members of Congress to support every part of the industry. They can stand with the microbrewers, the national craft brewers and major brewers and importers,” Thorne said. “They’re not being asked to pick winners or losers in the marketplace.”

    Thorne said it’s not about the breweries themselves – it’s really about blue collar vs. white collar drinkers.

    “You’re really talking about people who pave roads, lay dry wall, wire houses, deliver washing machines, do landscaping; they’re the ones paying for the light beer and the Mexican imports and they’re the ones paying the top of the dollar,” Thorne said before brushing aside craft beer fans as wealthy elitists. “And some chucklehead who’s making $150,000 a year could put down $50 or $45 bucks for a case of beer he’s a paying a much smaller tax.”

    While the BEER Act enjoys 21 cosponsors in the House, in the last Congress the BREW Act was signed onto by 181 House members.

    The math is simple for Senator Cardin.

    “It’s not even a beer issue, it’s a small business issue,” he said while dismissing the BEER Act.

    As for the Budweiser ad itself? Cardin happily leaves his craft beer snobbery aside on that point. “Actually I liked the ad,” Cardin said. “Of all the ads, I thought that one was pretty clever. So I liked it.”

    For other lawmakers the Budweiser ad is more complicated.

    Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) represents Missouri – home to both Budweiser and a burgeoning craft brewing scene (think Schlafly and their Pumpkin Ale…).

    “I heard that there were problems and, you know, I don’t want to take sides,” said McCaskill who doesn’t want to take sides. “I’ve got an awful lot of breweries in my state that I support besides Anheuser-Busch, so I don’t want to get in the middle of that fight.”

    Full disclosure: this was written while sipping craft beer. To be fair to Anheuser-Busch InBev, one of them was a deliciously punchy IPA from Goose Island Beer Company – a Chicago brewery InBev scooped up in 2011. This Goose Island’s for you, Budweiser!

    Matt Laslo is a veteran congressional reporter. In his free time he hosts Bills and Brews; a craft beer and politics show. Find him on Twitter @MattLaslo.

    Source: http://www.thedailybeast.com/

  • Did Budweiser Misfire with its Anti-Craft Beer Super Bowl Commercial?

    No Anheuser-Busch

    Ad appeared to mock not only craft beer, but also the people who enjoy it — a move that proved to be both tone deaf and embarrassing for the company.

    Budweiser’s Super Bowl commercial reuniting a lost puppy with its best friend, a member of the company’s iconic Clydesdale horse squad, might have melted hearts Sunday night, but the company’s other ad choice lit a fire under fans of craft beer.

    The ad — entitled “Brewed the Hard Way” — seemingly mocked not only craft beer, but also the people who enjoy it, a move that proved to be both tone deaf and embarrassing for the company.

    The ad, which began by noting that Budweiser “is not brewed to be fussed over” ended with the tagline: “Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale. We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.”

    Except, whoops! Just over a week ago, Budweiser’s parent company bought well-known Seattle craft brewery Elysian . Among the beers that brewery made last year? The Gourdgia on my Mind Pecan Peach Pumpkin Amber.

    “Elysian’s brands are an important addition to our high-end beer portfolio, and we look forward to working together,” said Andy Goeler, CEO of Craft at Anheuser-Busch at the time.

    In fact, Budweiser’s parent company has quietly been buying craft breweries and launching its own craft-style brands for the past few years. Shock Top is a Belgian-style wheat ale produced by the company (which, it’s worth noting, also has a pumpkin seasonal). Organic craft brewery Green Valley Brewing Company doesn’t fly the Anheuser-Busch flag, but it’s owned by the company. So is Goose Island, which was purchased in 2011. And it owns stakes in Seattle’s Red Hook Brewing and Portland’s Widmer Brothers Brewery.

    The apparent attack on craft beer comes as the King of Beers has seen its crown become more tarnished. Young drinkers have been turning away from the brand for more than 25 years. In 2013, the company shipped 16 million barrels of Budweiser, while overall craft beer shipments came in at 16.1 million barrels.

    On social media, craft beer lovers, not surprisingly, took aim at Budweiser – noting the defensive nature of the ad.

    Budweiser, perhaps sensing the tempest in a beer mug it created with the ad, took a slight step back from its mocking messaging in replies on its own Twitter feed:

    That hasn’t done much to stop the anti-Bud backlash on social media — and while that likely won’t directly impact Budweiser sales, there is a larger cause for concern, which was likely the true motivation behind the ad.

    Beer Marketer’s Insights notes that Budweiser’s market share has fallen from 8.4% in 2011 to 7.6% in 2013. (Bud Light remains the country’s most consumed beer, with an 18% market share.)

    The only “craft” beer to make the top 20 is Blue Moon — a MillerCoors product.

    But craft breweries are opening at an astonishing pace around the country. Between 2010 and 2013, The Brewers Association estimates 836 new microbreweries opened their doors. All totaled, there are more than 2,800 in operation today.

    “New breweries consistently find ways to produce innovative, differentiated products,” said Brewers Association chief economist Bart Watson. “The American beer lover increasingly is demanding fuller-flavored offerings from small, independent, local producers.”

    Source: http://fortune.com/

  • A Brewery on a Cruise Ship? That’s the Plan at Carnival

    Carnival-Cruises-Logo

    The brewpub craze that has been sweeping the nation in recent years is now heading to the high seas.

    Industry giant Carnival on Thursday said its next ship, the Carnival Vista, will have a pub with a working brewery — a first for a North American line.

    The 4,000-passenger vessel’s RedFrog Pub will serve up three house-made beers that passengers can watch being made in tanks behind a wall of glass, the line’s vice president for beverage operations, Eddie Allen, tells USA TODAY.

    “Our guests love beer, and they love trying new things,” Allen says, noting that the line also has been rolling out more craft beers across its fleet.

    Allen says the Carnival Vista brewpub will feature holding tanks for the house-made beer located near its entrance that passengers will be able to touch as they walk in. The fermentation tanks where the beer is brewed will be in the back behind the glass, and the line also is building a grist mill on a lower deck to process the grains needed for the brewing process.

    “We’re milling everything on site,” Allen says. “We want to be sure we’re putting our heart into this beer and making the best product we can.”

     Allen wouldn’t say if Carnival is partnering with an existing brewer to operate the brewery. But he said the brewery will have its own dedicated brewmasters, and at least one of the house-made brews is likely to be a wheat beer.

    The freshly-made beer will be available on tap at the pub’s bar and through innovative tabletop taps that allow guests to pour their own beer, he says. The pub also will offer an array of Caribbean-inspired cocktails, beers and rums. It’ll have indoor and outdoor seating and feature live music. Brewery tours and tastings also are in the plans.

    Only Germany-based Aida Cruises, which caters to the German-speaking market, has a working brewery on a ship.

    Carnival’s brewpub announcement comes just seven months after the line announced a partnership with Tampa-based craft brewery Cigar City to serve its beers on 13 ships sailing out of Tampa and four other Florida ports. The move is part of an effort to bring more local craft beers onto ships that also has included the addition of Hawaii-made beer from the Maui Brewing Company to vessels sailing to Hawaii and Louisiana-made beer from the Abita Brewing Company to ships sailing from New Orleans.

     Allen says mass-market brands Corona and Bud Light continue to be the top sellers on Carnival ships. But the craft beer movement that has swept the nation definitely has spilled onto the line’s ships, and cruisers are asking for more variety. Indeed, the trend is for beer drinkers to jump from brand to brand during a single sitting.

    “They’re not necessarily drinking the same beer back to back to back,” he says.

    Scheduled to debut in spring 2016, the Carnival Vista will spend the summer of 2016 in Europe before sailing to New York for a series of cruises.

    Source: http://www.usatoday.com/

  • Beer from Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District Wastewater

    Activated Sludge Wheat Ale

    Photo: Michael Sears – Theera Ratarasarn shows off his home brew, Activated Sludge Wheat Ale beer — brewed using purified Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District wastewater plant effluent.

    There are disturbing aspects to Theera Ratarasarn’s home brew.

    The name: Activated Sludge. The label: That is a radiation symbol. The ingredients: It’s brewed with purified Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District wastewater plant effluent.

    But it tastes great.

    To Ratarasarn, making beer with water that hasn’t gone through the final cleaning process was a mission.

    “I wanted to get people talking,” he said “There’s a potential use for what we discharge into lakes and streams.”

    A wastewater engineer with the state Department of Natural Resources by day, Ratarasarn, 39, has been home-brewing beer for nearly two years, usually at night after his two young sons are in bed.

    It’s a simple enough process — mash, boil, add hops, cool, add yeast and ferment. Unless the water is suspect. Then add a half-dozen more steps.

    Ratarasarn chlorinated, dechlorinated, filtered, distilled, tested and added nutrients to the water before beginning to make 5 gallons of Activated Sludge, a wheat ale with 5.15% alcohol by volume.

    After all those steps, Ratarasarn wasn’t worried about the beer’s safety. Neither was a taste panel at Lakefront Brewery, where Activated Sludge went head-to-head with Lakefront Wheat Monkey.

    Panel members smelled their sip of beer. They cracked wise.

    “It looks like a good urine sample,” said John Rinson.

    Then they tasted.

    “No pathogen known to man that can grow in beer,” said brewery president Russ Klisch, who praised Ratarasarn’s Activated Sludge for its golden color. His down note was the beer’s carbonation and lack of body.

    Another taster, Mitchel De Santis, graded the beer a 7 on a 10-point scale, giving Ratarasarn two points for creativity. “It’s one of the better home brews I’ve ever had.”

    Ratarasarn wanted to prove a point by using the water.

    “I wanted to raise awareness of the quality of plant effluent,” he said.

    Think Bill Gates and the steam-powered sewage processor he’s touting. Gates’ processor burns solid waste for water and electricity. The water Ratarasarn worked with was clean water, just not clean enough for drinking, said Bill Graffin, MMSD public information officer.

    Activated Sludge wheat ale is a similar concept but on a smaller scale.

    Arid communities struggle for clean drinking water. Ratarasarn wanted to see what he could do based on the “knowledge that I have.”

    He also has a sense of humor about it. A PowerPoint presentation Ratarasarn made illustrating the steps he took is themed “A little bit of me, a little bit of you.”

    Ratarasarn chose to brew a wheat beer because he likes them and he’s made them before. He said he steered clear of darker beers such as porters or stouts “so people wouldn’t associate the beer with wastewater.”

    The hard part, he said, is getting the water profile correct for each beer he brews. This one, with the substandard water, proved to be the most difficult. Ratarasarn wanted to send the treated MMSD water out for testing and requested the $200 test as a Christmas present.

    “My wife asked me what I wanted, and I said a water test,” Ratarasarn said. “She just rolled her eyes and said ‘yes.'”

    The tests came back nearly perfect, with less than a trace of silica, likely from the final filter in the distillation unit.

    Don’t run to the liquor store just yet. Ratarasarn made Activated Sludge wheat beer for his own consumption. Based on the curiosity factor, Ratarasarn won’t be able to keep his home inventory for long.

    “Everybody I talk to wants one,” he said.

    Source: http://www.jsonline.com/

  • Icelandic Seasonal Beer from Whales’ Testicles

    fin whale
    BY Haraldur Gudmundsson

    Brewery Steðja introduces a Thorri beer, Hvalur 2, the replacement of Hvalur Thorri beer of Steðji in the year of 2014. Due to the great popularity last year, the brewers of Steðji decided to introduce a new whale beer. There was a lot of preparation for Hvalur 2 and according to the producers it will be evident in its quality.

    “We want to create a true Thorri atmosphere and therefore we decided to use smoked testicles from fin whales for flavoring the beer,” Dagbjartur Arilíusson says, one of the owners of the brewery Steðji in Borgarfjörður, about the Thorri beer Hvalur 2 that the company has produced.

    “The testicles are cured according to an old, Icelandic tradition, lightly salted and then smoked. We put a lot of effort into this and it’s a long process,” Dagbjartur says, adding that each brewing had contained one testicle.

    Sold out a week last year

    According to Dagbjartur, the Beer will be introduced as a special replacement of the Thorri beer that Steðji sold in January last year, containing whale flour.
    Vesturland Public Health Safety prohibited the sale of the beer, but the flour contained among other things the viscera and intestines of whales.

    A few days later, Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson, the minister of Fisheries and Agriculture, decided to allow the sale of the product. A week later, it was sold out when five thousand liters had gone through the liquor stores of  the State Alcohol and Tobacco Company of Iceland.

    “The beer was sold out almost immediately and therefore we decided to produce a similar product for Thorri,” Dagbjartur says.

    A great number of challenges, asking for whale beer

    The decision of Vesturland Public Health Safety was confirmed in last October by the Ministry of Industries and Innovation. Therefore, the sale of beer from whale meal is not authorised.

    “However, we had a great number of challenges where we were asked to have the whale beer available again. This was decided, but we have got all necessary licenses for manufacturing and selling of the beer, ” Dagbjartur says.

    Helgi Helgason, the director of Vesturland Public Health Safety, confirms that the company is authorised to sell beer containing whale testicles.

    “Whale testicles and blubber are removed by the relevant control authority on behalf of the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority. However, the content intended for whale flour is a by-product not meant for human nutrition and has not been certified as such.”

    The sales start January 23rd

    The beer is 5.1% in alc., with a true, Icelandic smoke taste. A whole testicle is used in every brewing and then the beer is filtered and pasteurized.

    “Everyone will be happy with the quality and the pertaining Þorri atmosphere.”

    This is a limited quantity as the raw material is limited, making this beer unique in the world. The liquor stores start selling Hvalur 2 from the Husband’s Day, January 23rd.

     

    Source: http://www.visir.is/

  • How the Craft-Beer Movement Abandoned Jim Koch (and His Beloved Sam Adams)

    Samuel Adams LogoMake sure to read this great response after reading the main article:
    https://antiherobrewing.wordpress.com/2015/01/05/sam-adams-and-why-we-need-to-stop-listening-to-hipsters/

    By:

    Jim Koch was pissed off.

    The most recognizable man in American beer, who sold us all on the idea of craft brew three decades ago on his way to a billion-dollar fortune, was having dinner last October with a group of brewers inside Row 34, one of Boston’s top-rated beer bars. The drink list was filled with esoteric options from hot new breweries throughout the country, as well as palate-pleasing offerings from abroad. But Koch had a problem: Though this mecca for beer nerds carries two dozen beers on draft and another 38 in bottles and cans, it doesn’t serve his beloved Sam Adams.

    Staring at the beer menu, Koch began to criticize the selection. More than half of it, he said, wasn’t worthy of being served—inadvertently insulting the establishment’s owner, who unbeknownst to Koch was sitting next to him. Then Koch interrogated the beer manager about the offerings. Unsatisfied with the answers, Koch complained about the beers so intensely that an employee at the bar teared up. Koch rose from his seat and walked into the keg room, where he started checking freshness dates on his competitors’ kegs.

    Unfortunately for Koch, the simple truth is that more and more beer drinkers don’t want Sam Adams, and in turn, an increasing number of bars won’t sell the famous amber lager. Koch’s Boston Beer Company may have built the craft-beer business as we know it, but local beer geeks—the industry’s connoisseurs—think he’s lost his edge. “Their beers are kind of middle of the road,” says Max Toste, co-owner of Deep Ellum, in Allston. Citing what he considers the brand’s questionable quality, he doesn’t carry any of the Sam Adams line. “I think what they are trying to do is make beer that is more flavorful than the fizzy yellow lager that was [once] popular everywhere. [But] they just don’t fit into what I am doing. For me, serving something that is mediocre is just really not what I do.” Daniel Lanigan, owner of the beer bar Lord Hobo, in Cambridge, agrees. “I just never considered their beers to be world class,” he says, “and I decided not to sell them.”

    To be clear, it’s not like you can’t find a pint of Sam Adams in this town. In fact, its ubiquity is one of the reasons that finicky barkeeps such as Toste and Lanigan choose not to serve it. As anyone who’s been to Faneuil Hall can tell you, Sam Adams’s Boston Lager is a fixture at the city’s faux Irish pubs, sports bars, and hotel lounges. After all, Koch’s company is America’s number one craft brewery—by a pretty large margin. But lately, here in the birthplace of Sam, hipster-friendly draft houses are turning their backs on the brew that started it all. And, as the staff at Row 34 found out that fateful night, it’s driving the owner a little nuts.

    There’s no disputing that America is experiencing a craft-beer revolution—and that Koch’s Boston Beer Company birthed it. Once foundering with fewer than 50 breweries in the late 1970s, the United States now boasts more than 3,000, with several thousand more in development. The market’s coveted demographic of 21- to 27-year-olds—the ones driving growth in this trend—are spoiled: They’ve never known a world in which Sam Adams did not exist. This is the first generation to regard Sam as their father’s (or, God forbid, their grandfather’s) beer. Today’s beer lover also engages in an unprecedented display of beer promiscuity—a lack of inhibition that places little value on loyalty to any single brand. This new breed of millennial craves beer that is organic, local, small-batch, authentic, cool, and new. And perhaps most troublingly, the species has developed an insatiable lust for bold-flavored American hops and India pale ales—not the sorts of beers for which Sam Adams is known.

    All of this is tough for Koch to swallow, as the undisputed king of the craft-beer industry suddenly finds himself presiding over shifting and unsteady ground. Koch has spent the past three decades battling the corporate giants—Budweiser, Miller, and Coors—but now he faces what may prove his toughest fight yet: a multiple-front war with the brewers and the consumers who worship at the altar of craft beer’s next generation. As drinkers increasingly look beyond Sam Adams for their craft-beer fix, it’s hard not to wonder whether Koch—the friendly man wearing khakis on TV who’s had more success selling ales and lagers than just about anyone alive—is about to get left behind.

     

    Walk into the Sam Adams Brewery, just off Amory Street in the Egleston Square section of Jamaica Plain, and you’ll hear Koch’s well-worn creation tale—often told by Koch himself, who loves to regale visitors by digging his hands into barrels of dry malt and barley, shoving his nose into the grain, and evangelizing about the cosmic powers of beer. The story of Sam Adams’s creation has been so often repeated that it has become legend, a tale so good it almost seems plucked from the pages of a Hollywood script: In 1984, Koch—a sixth-generation beer maker whose father, Charles Koch, was a brewmaster for a local Cincinnati brewery—stumbled upon a lager recipe developed by his great-great-grandfather Louis Koch, a Missouri brewer during the 1800s. That recipe, the story goes, had not been made since Prohibition, until Koch whipped up a batch on his kitchen stove, fell in love with the flavor, and decided to leap into the beer business, selling his wares bar to bar in Boston on his way to making a brewing fortune.

    That’s not far from the truth, though some of the less-advertised details are worth noting. Koch didn’t step straight from a humble upbringing into the family business. He earned three degrees at Harvard University, including an MBA and a JD, and first chose to enter the world of high finance. He went to work for the Boston Consulting Group, a global management firm, where he advised manufacturers on business strategies alongside fellow Harvard alum Mitt Romney, who later left to join Bain & Company. By his own telling, Koch did well for himself but never embraced the corporate environment, and he decided to go back to his family’s roots in the beer business. “I thought my dad would be full of heartwarming joy when I told him that I was going to go back into what my family had done for 140 years,” Koch recently told an audience. Instead, “He said, ‘Jim, that’s the dumbest fucking thing you’ve ever done.’”

    Though he wasn’t dissuaded, Koch understood his father’s point. By 1983, a handful of domestic heavyweights—Anheuser-Busch, Miller, and Coors, along with Heileman, Stroh, and Pabst—had used superior distribution and marketing resources to stamp out independent, midsize brewers. Charles Koch had seen the big boys buy out and beat into oblivion regional brewers such as Ballantine, Rheingold, and Schaefer. Together, the top six beer companies controlled a whopping 92 percent of U.S. production. With only 51 companies operating a total of 80 breweries in America, 1983 was a low point for beer making in the 20th century. And yet for a clever operator like Koch, the climate was ripe for disruption.

     

    With his Harvard MBA and business background, Koch knew he didn’t want to go head-to-head with the mega-breweries. Instead, he set his sights on the higher-priced imported beers that were slowly gaining customers and market share. To compete with the likes of Heineken, Bass, and Corona, however, Koch knew he needed name recognition. So he stole a page from the corporate giants and devised a brilliant advertising plan—one that would soon place him in the pantheon of all-time marketing geniuses.

    He called his beer Samuel Adams—not that Koch, an Ohioan, had any special connection to the founding father. He picked the name from a list of nearly 800 possibilities, deciding to swaddle his brand in the nostalgia and history of Boston by capitalizing on the name of a revolutionary who fought for American independence. (He settled on Sam Adams only when he was cornered by Boston magazine for a 1985 interview—he nearly called it New World Boston Lager.) Tying his beer to a historical figure created an immediate sense of heritage, giving the brand instant authenticity and gravitas. Koch also claimed that Adams was a brewer, adding extra sizzle to his company’s already compelling story. The phrase “Brewer. Patriot.” was stamped on some of his earliest labels.

    Historically, that wasn’t exactly true. Adams was actually a maltster, not a brewer—a fact embraced by biographers of Adams and beer geeks alike. Koch, however, maintains Adams may have done some brewing on the side. Likewise, Koch’s story of basing his flagship lager on his great-great-grandfather’s old recipe has also been challenged as exaggeration. A biochemist named Joe Owades, who engineered the first “light” beer and once worked for Anheuser-Busch, was hired as a consultant by Koch to fine-tune the recipe for Sam Adams’s Boston Lager.

    And it turns out that may not even be a picture of Sam Adams on the logo, which bears far more resemblance to the famous 1768 John Singleton Copley portrait that hangs at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts—of Paul Revere.

    In bars around the world, Boston and Boston Lager are inextricably linked. But Koch did not initially plan to brew any of his beer here in Adams’s hometown. When Koch started the company, Boston had been without a brewery for 20 years. To make the economics work, he planned to produce his beer at existing breweries in cities such as Pittsburgh and Portland, Oregon, a strategy known as contract brewing. It wasn’t until 1997 that Koch bought his own facility—in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio, where the Boston Beer Company continues to make much of its beer. “In no way have I ever thought of Sam Adams as a local product,” says Lanigan, of Lord Hobo. “It’s been contracted elsewhere for the majority of its history. I don’t even know where Jim Koch’s from. If you told me he was from Boston, I wouldn’t know.”

    Since 1987, Koch has leased a brewery in Jamaica Plain—a small facility where he tests out new beers in limited quantity, which helps keep his brand’s “small batch” claim alive. Before Koch moved in, the brewery—owned by the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation—had gone unoccupied since Haffenreffer beer abandoned it in 1964. Though the J.P. location makes only a small fraction of the company’s beer, it’s become a craft-beer Disneyland, featured in Sam Adams TV ads, full of burly brewers with thick beards and even thicker Boston accents. More than 250,000 tourists visit every year.

    Koch’s bag of tricks—a mix of prescient brew craft, shrewd marketing, and corporate hustle—worked. He immersed himself in the beer community, attending festivals and allowing customers to dunk him in beer tanks. He was also one of the first so-called microbrewers to advertise in magazines, on the radio, and, of course, on TV, where Koch—in his trademark blue denim button-down shirt—emerged as the ambassador and face of craft beer. Like many profitable companies before his—Häagen-Dazs, made in the Bronx but marketed to consumers as an upscale Scandinavian treat, comes to mind—Koch slyly turned a niche into an empire, while expertly casting himself as an eternal underdog. Even Lanigan, who won’t stock Boston Lager, is in awe of it. “I think he’s a genius marketer,” he says. “I think he is smarter at marketing and developing a brand and recognizing what the consumer and average American wants to drink. He’s the best at it there ever has been.”

    Koch released his flagship beer, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, in April 1985 in two dozen bars and restaurants. (The company, Boston reported the previous month, was “now headquartered in his briefcase.”) He intended to start small, hoping to produce 5,000 barrels in five years. Within three years, however, Koch was making 36,000 barrels of beer, available from Massachusetts to California. Even then, he couldn’t have imagined how quickly Sam Adams would scale: In 2014, the company brewed some 2 million barrels of beer, employed 1,200 workers, and distributed beer to all 50 states and to more than 20 foreign countries. Once a small-batch brewery, Boston Beer Company is now the fifth-largest brewery in the nation. With his company valued at more than $3 billion and Koch himself worth more than $1 billion, the sixth generation of Koch brewers is firmly established.

    So why does Koch get so upset when upscale bars such as Row 34 don’t serve his beer? It might be because he’s worried that those establishments could be the canary in the craft-beer coal mine. The tastes of today’s drinkers and brewers are changing—and, unexpectedly, Boston Beer Company has been forced to play catch-up in the industry it helped to create.

     

    It’s 10:05 on a weekday morning, and Koch and I are drinking beer in Koch’s tasting room at the J.P. brewery, where we can hear laughter and shouts coming through the wall from the early-morning tour group. I skipped breakfast, a serious mistake when you’re trying to keep up with a guy who’s been downing weekday pints for a living over the past three decades. Koch bounds up from the table to pour himself a pull from two of the company’s newest beers, Rebel IPA and its big brother, Rebel Rouser Double IPA. He gently slides the two glasses of hoppy ale over to me and begins his process: First, he reaches for the Rebel IPA, leans in, and takes a long, considered draw of the aroma. Next, he takes a solid tug from the glass, chews thoroughly, and then kicks his head back to finish the beer. His eyes remain closed the whole time.

    Until recently, the idea of Koch downing a hop-heavy Sam Adams IPA would have been unthinkable. For more than a generation, Koch steered clear of craft-beer trends—particularly West Coast IPA, a widely popular style defined by the use of pungently fragrant and bitter American hops. Its flavors and aromas range from grapefruit, orange, and passion fruit to notes so dank and earthy that, if blindfolded, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled into a Denver head shop. That is to say, they’re nothing like the IPAs that the Boston Beer Company has made—like Latitude 48 IPA and Whitewater IPA, which follow a decidedly European model, with little interest in or emphasis on the aggressive West Coast flavors that now dominate the market.

    The American beer palate is experiencing a tectonic shift. Once opposed to bitterness, domestic drinkers now embrace it. Big, bold, and brash IPAs are what consumers want, but Koch has been loath to make them. That could be a problem for Sam Adams’s business model, since hop-heavy IPAs, the most popular style of craft beer, account for a quarter of all craft-beer sales—and those sales are expected to grow by 40 percent this year.

    “I don’t want to make something if everyone else is doing it,” Koch says. It’s not just business: He personally doesn’t enjoy many of the flavors in IPAs that today’s consumers celebrate, dismissing them as “catty” in nature. “I am probably outside the mainstream on that. We don’t release a beer unless I like it.”

    When Koch talks about IPAs, including his own Rebel and the new Rebel Rouser, his energy level visibly flags. For a man possessed of such demonstrable passion for beer, it’s telling that he appears to view these beers as necessary evils. They are, in essence, a Hail Mary attempt to bounce back into the craft scene, where drinkers’ interest in his flagship Boston Lager is waning.

    Today’s craft-beer industry is highly balkanized and new breweries are much smaller, eclectic, and artisanal, with brands such as Sexual Chocolate Imperial Stout, Duck-Duck-Gooze, and Blind Pig IPA. In addition to hops, today’s beer nerds crave pedigree and a good story. They want to know what farmer grew which type of hop on what farm, and whether the brewery can be trusted. “Authenticity is extremely important to millennials, more so than any other generation that we’ve seen before,” says Michelle Snodgrass of Vizeum, a strategic marketing agency that works with global brands such as Anheuser-Busch. “Millennials can see right through insincerity, and they’re actually looking for it.”

    Which makes it harder for a big, corporate brand—even one, like Koch’s, with indie roots—to capture the kind of grassroots buzz that’s driving today’s beer industry. “Right now, it’s about what is shiny and new,” says Jamie Walsh, bar manager of Stoddard’s Fine Food and Ale, a brewpub near Boston Common. Dann Paquette, a veteran brewer and cofounder of Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project, agrees, telling me there’s now an “annoying young hipster attitude toward beer. It’s the same sort of attitude that you find in music. ‘Oh, that brewery was so last year.’ People want to try new stuff all the time, [and] there are two sides to the coin on that for Boston Beer. They’re so big nationally, but I’m sure they’d love to be back on the scene in these beer bars.”

    In other words, Sam Adams has a coolness problem. And the company knows it.

    Change, however, comes slow at the Boston Beer Company. It’s publicly traded but Koch owns all of the voting shares, and the company follows his interests. “If I didn’t have all of the voting stock,” Koch jokes, “I’d probably have been fired a few times.”

    That corporate leverage has allowed Koch to retain control of the company despite rocky sales of his flagship Boston Lager. But the brand’s reluctance to move with the times means that Boston Lager “has a challenging future,” says Benj Steinman, president of Beer Marketer’s Insights, a trade publication covering the brewing industry. “It started to dip a couple years back, and it was impressive that they were able to reinvigorate it, but now in the more recent months, it’s back to decline in the scan data. There’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done for a brand that has been around for 30 years and tastes change.”

    Koch’s attitude is clear: He doesn’t give a damn. “You can’t meet the needs of every hipster bar,” he tells me from inside the tasting room at his J.P. brewery.

     

    The craft-beer community has long been a generous, if not convivial group, and over the years Koch has remained at the forefront of it. He’s mentored scores of promising young brewers and provided financing to entrepreneurs through his Brewing the American Dream loan fund. “There’s been a three-decades-long sense of friendly competition,” says Will Meyers, a former home brewer and longtime brewmaster at the Cambridge Brewing Company. “That’s one of the things that makes our industry different from others. We may go head-to-head over shelf space and distributors and draft lines, but at the end of the day, a lot of us still enjoy hanging out together and having a beer and sharing ideas as opposed to being secretive and combative.”

    But all of that is changing. With so many new breweries—often run by men and women young enough to be Koch’s grandchildren—the marketplace is packed with more competitors than ever, and that sense of camaraderie is starting to fray. As the largest player in the craft-beer industry and one of the last ones into the IPA race, Boston Beer has been throwing some sharp elbows of late, and making enemies.

    If Koch represents the corporate side of craft beer, Tony Magee is his foil. The founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company of California, one of America’s fastest-growing breweries, he views himself as a revolutionary—not unlike Sam Adams—fighting against corporate beer and, at times, the Boston Beer Company. Magee is openly marijuana-friendly, often discussing his daily use with reporters and his Twitter followers. When the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control received a tip that his employees were selling pot in the brewery’s taproom, they sent two undercover agents to try and buy some. As Magee later told a reporter, the officers had no luck because the employees kept trying to give away the marijuana for free.

    Despite being the fifth-largest craft brewery in the country, Lagunitas has no public relations firm representing it. Instead, Magee does his own marketing, guerilla-style. An avid user of social media, Magee blasts entertaining, lyrical, and sometimes disjointed tweets to his more than 20,000 followers on topics ranging from writing music with singer James McMurtry to business ethics. Days before Christmas in 2013, however, Magee’s rants turned serious when he focused his attention squarely on Boston Beer and its recent release of Rebel IPA—the company’s most successful launch ever. “Sam Adams/Boston Beer is powerful, but what is it about power that so inevitably corrupts,” Magee tweeted, accusing Koch’s company of specifically targeting Lagunitas’s IPA in its marketing strategy. “Fuck them. We’re ready.”

    Magee’s tweets sparked a wildfire in craft- beer circles. Ultimately, Koch responded on the popular BeerAdvocate website, writing, “We don’t target other craft brewers.” When asked about his lively competitor, Koch leans back in his chair, shakes his head, and takes a long sip of lager. He starts slowly, searching for the right words, which is not his usual style. Finally he says, “You know, to me, one of the fun things of being a craft brewer is that people are more colorful, and we don’t have to be corporate. I can be who I am. That’s Boston Beer. And Tony gets to do that, too.”

    Magee goes one step further by accusing Boston Beer of engaging in the illegal practice of paying bars for draft lines. It is a charge that Koch flatly denies. While common in other food and beverage industries, so-called pay-to-play arrangements—where a brewer or distributor pays a bar owner money, gives them a secret discount, or installs equipment for them in return for serving their beer—is illegal in most states, including Massachusetts. In Boston, the issue recently became headline news when Pretty Things founder Dann Paquette tweeted accusations that the bar Bukowski’s, owned by the Wilcox Hospitality Group, which also owns Lower Depths, was asking for pay-to-play. Wilcox has denied Paquette’s allegations, responding that the bars don’t stock his kegs because they’re too expensive. The Massachusetts Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, however, began investigating the allegations along with other cases of the long-overlooked practice. (There is no evidence that it is investigating the Boston Beer Company.)

    Speaking about the issue of pay-to-play, Koch says, “It’s pretty straightforward. It’s against our company policies to break the law. We’ve done fine with a policy of sticking to the law, and we’ve been very successful. If you really needed pay-to-play, we wouldn’t be where we are.”

    Be that as it may, the craft-beer world as Koch knew it—the one that brought him to billionaire status—is fading away. In its place is something that he finds far less rewarding. Since 2011, in response to slowing beer sales, Koch’s company has been selling other beverages on the sly, namely alcoholic cider and flavored malt beverages under the brand names Angry Orchard and Twisted Tea. These products have been so successful—Angry Orchard now controls more than 50 percent of the American cider market—and make up such a large portion of Boston Beer’s business that some joke it should be renamed the Boston Cider Company.

    Back in his tasting room, Koch admits he has little love for his company’s new ventures, and is not a fan of cider or tea. He won’t drink it in bars or when meeting with customers, and refuses to appear in the ads or put the Boston Beer Company name on any of the cider or tea labels. In his heart, he’s a beer guy, and he seems dispirited, almost melancholic, that his beloved beer company is moving away from his core values and into new territory that does not interest him at all.

    But that hasn’t sapped his passion for the company that made him a fortune and helped shape the modern beer market. Koch may be disheartened, but he’s far from done. He has no plans for retirement and has no intention to sell. His only plan, he says, is “to not die.” Whether Koch will be able to market his way back into the hearts and mouths of today’s craft-beer elite is up for grabs, but he’s clearly pissed off, and anything is possible.

     

    Source: http://www.bostonmagazine.com/

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