Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Your Turkey Day Pick 6: Beers to Drink With Your Leftovers

Everyone and their Dogfish came out with a list of beers to drink with your Thanksgiving meal this year. So I've decided to switch it up  a bit and create a 6-pack mixer that best pairs with your weekend following turkey day, and those mass leftovers.

1. Day old bean casserole, likely microwaved, let's be honest, and could definitely use a pick me up. Casseroles and November evenings both pair perfectly with porters. An exceptional one, that has, as of earlier this year, spread to a lot more markets around the country, is Breckenridge's Vanilla Porter. I'll take this bottle over any porter you can find in a grocery store sans maybe those lucky North-Westerners that have Deschutes Blackbutte Porter in their isles.

2. Leftover biscuits turned into a breakfast sandwich is a win we often forget most other times of the year. What's better with breakfast than coffee? Obliviously a coffee stout. Ale Smith's Speedway Stout is an American Imperial in a league of its own. If you have a sweet-tooth like me, its a little harder to find, but the Vietnamese coffee version of Speedway Stout is killer as well.

3. You've ran out of cranberry sauce and your turkey sammy is dry. No fear Ommegang Rosetta is here. Its very cherry, but it isn't strawberry-rita or anything like that sugary crap marketed towards sororities. *Disclaimer if there are any sororities out there that value craft beer I sincerely apologize. Unless you are on-board with mocking all of your rivals with me, then lets do this!

4. Pie? There's always room for pie.  On turkey day my favorite has always been pecan. When pairing with sweet nuts, yeah I'm talking to you sweet nuts, I like to go boozy. Weyerbacher's 11% abv English barley wine Blithering Idiot cuts pecan pie as well as that metal triangle thingy you use to dish yourself out a slice.

5. Stuffed on stuffing? You'll need something light and refreshing to wash down all that bread. Jazz it up with an unique flavored gose. Breweries at Two Roads and Evil Twin teamed up to make an excellent brew called Geyser Gose. It uses adventurous ingredients like Icelandic moss that really pop.

6. Sunday sporty Sunday. By the Sunday after Thanksgiving arrives you've likely already had a long stretch of binging and drinking. And you should probably stop, but there's a game on, actually there is a whole day of games on. At this point I'm thinking light on the snacks, maybe even some carrot sticks. For something to session that actually packs flavor, put Firestore Walker's Easy Jack in this weekends lineup.

On a closing note, I chose all of the above beers because they were easily accessible to me, in multiple grocery stores. Obviously it depends on what region you live in. But I'll take a guess that I'm not the only one slightly annoyed by beer pairing lists that recommend rare or hard to find brews. You know what else goes well with Pliny The Younger? A flight to California and a ride on an actual whale! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Saturday, November 21, 2015

It Hurts, But Needs to Be Done: The Beers We Must Give Up List...

Earlier this month A-B InBev Beers merged with SABMiller (Budwiser & Miller). Together this new powerhouse is monopolizing the industry, owning over 400 beers, and roughly 1/3 of all beer produced on the planet, 71% of the U.S.
Then, more recently, Constellation, who owns Corona & Modelo, bought Ballast Point, one of the most popular craft breweries in the country, for one billion dollars. Sculpin down! Sculpin down!

This is a problem.  In a world where craft beer is growing daily and gulping up sections of the market at chugging speeds, somebody's losing, and those losers are the big boys.  Now, what do the rich do when they start to lose to the poor? They buy out the poor and reclaim their crowns of course.

What can we do as citizens of hops kingdom and protectors of the craft? What must we do?  We have to fight back with our wallets.  It won't be easy.  They will hit us where it hurts most, buy out the best of the best small craft breweries, one by one, everyone willing to sell, in order to try and gain back control of the market. Their top priority is to make money, obviously. To the little guys making craft brews, its not about the dough, its about making the best beer. If they do sell out, then we know where their priorities lay, and who to no longer trust with our palates.

Hell, lets be honest, if I was a brewer I'd sell out. Then I'd use the money to start a new brewery, continue to make great beer under a new name, and laugh all the way to the bank...So I'm not passing judgement, I'm just stating what we the craft beer enthusiasts must do in order to preserve this amazing counter-culture that's been built one keg at a time.

Some of our very favorite breweries have already been captured (Elysian, 10 Barrel). We must stay strong. There are hundreds of excellent craft breweries out there for us to choose from, that are now more readily available than ever. I mean, I recently bough KBS at a mini mart (bodega) in Brooklyn. We can't lose site of this, as more of our comrades fall to the evil macro marauders.

It will hurt, but it must be done.  Here is a list of beers I'm lobbying that we give up in order to preserve the integrity of the craft.

Goose Island: Yes, this hurts, Bourbon County especially, but I think it's worth it, big picture.

Kirin: I know, its nice with Japanese food but there is almost always another option or two, and if you're eating at home I recommend Hitachi Nest Red Rice Ale or Rogue Soba Buckwheat Ale.

Ballast Point: DAMN IT. The Sculpin and its delicious variants, Calm before the storm, and so many others, this will be tough. Personally I'm going to pick up some Sculpin now for one last goodbye.

10 Barrel: Bend, Bend, Bend. If anyone was going to resist a sellout I thought it'd be the boys from eastern Oregon. Its okay though, breath. We still have Deschutes, Goodlife, Bend Brewing, Crux, and more. Like the soundtrack to every coffee shop in Bend sings, "every little thing, is gonna be alright."

Golden Road: West-coasters have been mourning this loss for a while now, but I think it's important to keep them on this list, they were one of the snowballs that started this avalanche.

Saint Archer: I never got to try, but if you loved them, sorry for your loss. 

Lagunitas: Now the Heineken of IPAs. Can't wait until they start putting them in green bottles (joke).

Elysian: Probably the toughest loss for me. For a while Elysian was my very favorite brewery, but I've moved on, and you can too.

All this said, drink what you like, choose your own battles. This is just one that I decided was important enough for me.

For now I'm banning the above list of sellouts, and doing my best to drink locally wherever possible. Still, if Double Mountain or Other Half sells out any time soon, I might just loose all hope.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Heady Topper's My Porn Name: How Important is a Beer's Title?

There are more craft beers out now than ever. We as consumers aka beer geeks have options. Like back-up-of-a-back-up-to-a-back-up plan kind of options. Beer shops, heck, even some grocery stores now, have beer sections that put kids cereal isles to shame.  So how do we choose? What is making some beers sell and others go flat on the shelves? Is it taste? Well you have to buy it  at least once before you can taste it. Is it reputation? Definitely but that doesn't build over night. Is it ratings and reviews? Sure but not all of us do a beer ratings search before every purchase. definitely all of these factors come into play but when you strip all of them away. For all the times you're buying beer and just browsing the cans and bottles for something new; how important is the name on the bottle?  

A good beer name is apparently important enough that The Great American Beer Festival created a category in their highly regarded beer awards for it. 2015's gold medal beer names included: Champion Brewing's Shower Beer and Bottle Logic's Lagerithm. 

It's definitely become a "thing" to name beers funny names, punny names, or dark and powerful names. Some of my favorites include: Citra Ass Down, Cherry Busey, Mustache Rye'd, Even More Jesus, and Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right BA Select. Don't get me wrong I'm not mocking the trend, I definitely get a kick out of the quirky names. Currently I'm home-brewing a Chestnut ale and we decided to call it Suck-a-Nut Brown. 

So, let's market research the shit out of this question. How important is a beer's name? Perhaps the answer is in the competing influences?  Here are a few relate-able stats from Mintel: 

  • Discovery of new beers is popular with 84% of craft beer consumers.
  • 1/3 of craft beer consumers ask sales associates for advice/info when buying beer.
  • 73% of craft beer consumers say they usually know which brand of beer they are buying before they arrive at the store.
  • 84% of craft beer consumers like to choose their beer depending on the season. 
We'll assume these statistics have a lot of cross over, if 73% of us know what we are getting before we get to the store but 84% are interested in discovering new beers to try, I'll take an educated guess that we're coming home with something old, something new, something barrel aged, and something triple hops brewed. Translation most beer enthusiasts can't leave the store with only one beer. 

If 1/3 of us are asking for advice, that leaves over 66% that are free ballin' it, and although I have been guilty of in-store phone research, I haven't noticed a ton of others staring at their screens. Most often I see my beer-compadres staring at the cans and bottles. 

When we come face to face with a bottle-time decision, and we choose not to use our phones or customer service as a crutch, what are the main factors that come into play? Art, name, style, ingredients; typically in that order. So if you're a beer maker, you may want to consider hiring a creative writing specialist to help name your beers. If you're a craft beer drinking enthusiast like myself, you may want to consider heading to the store with more of a game plan, so you don't end up suckered into bringing home some trash water with a hilarious name on the bottle. No matter who you are, I think its safe to say that if someone tries to tell you a beer's name doesn't matter, just use a beer title from Black Lotus and reply, "I'm Rick James Beach", and put them in their place.