Most breweries grow and grow to meet demand and to meet at least a little economy of scale but once you get big, what then?

Go small again! At least that is the case with New Belgium which will open a 10-barrel pilot brewery this year.
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Some explanation of the plan is in order:
The brewery will be in downtown Denver on the ground floor of the not-yet opened Source Hotel.

The Source Hotel is next door to the Source Culinary Market (where you can find Crooked Stave)

New Belgium will be making primarily small batch, barrel-aged sour offerings.

50 oak barrels will be pulled up or elevator-ed up to the top of the building to a new bar called,

Then, beers, cocktails and food will be paired together.

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In the Tap Lines for August 2015

by Sean on August 1, 2015

header_attractionsWe got a bit of rain here in L.A.  Enough to tamp down one fire but boy we could use a respite from the humidity and heat so that the wider spectrum of beer can be enjoyed instead of just lawnmower beers.  But enough gloomy weather talk, a new brewery opened in San Fernando at the tail end of July and it will be reviewed this month along with….

~ e-visits to three breweries in Idaho.  No potato beers here. Just Payette, Sawtooth and Portneuf beer.
~ special reviews of beers from just outside L.A. from places like Santa Barbara, Claremont and Temecula
~ Heads-Up on Los Angeles Beer Events
~ Three suggested beers to buy this month. One light, one medium and one dark
~ Beer-centric podcast review, Strange Brews from WBEZ in Chicago, (also home to This American Life)
~ I will tap the Firkin and give my no holds barred opinion on the craft beer world
~ … and Session # 102 will converge bloggers onto a single topic, this month it is the future landscape of beer

Here are two events to get your August started in the Los Angeles craft beer world:
1) August 7th – Brew at the Zoo
2) August 19th – Phantom Carriage One Night Stand at Beer Belly

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The Firkin for July 2015

by Sean on July 31, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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For aspiring Portland breweries, the wait time isn’t usually all that long but in the case of Culmination Brewing it was a much longer (2 year) period before opening, which they finally did this year.

But the wait will be worth it, especially for those who love live music because that is a focus of this brewery with a dedicated space for their Concert in the Brewery Series.
Before I get to my picks for my initial taster tray, Culmination also has guest taps as well and have done many collaborations while in process of building their own space so you will probably find something to taste, if not more than one.

Reynard Belgium Style IPA – “Our Belgium Style IPA (made in collaboration with Brannon’s Brewery) is a hop-forward ale brewed with a Belgium yeast strain offering additional levels of complexities and a citrus nuance that plays well with the northwest hops.”

4 & 20 Imperial Black IPA – “Our signature 4 & 20 Imperial Black IPA (made in collaboration with Lucky Labrador) represents the smooth complexities of our upcoming line of fine beers. The name, 4 & 20, derives from our infusion of four hops and twenty plato.”

To round out my tasters I would add the Brett IPA, Saison II and their Black Saison.

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Nitro Pale or Nitro Stout?

by Sean on July 30, 2015

Earlier this month, I compared Left Hand Brewing’s Milk Stout to Nitro Milk Stout. Instead of repeating the trick, I am going to compare how the Nitro translates from Sawtooth Ale vs. Wake Up Dead Russian Imperial Stout.

It may seem a weird comparison at first but the question to be answered is, which style benefits most from a nitro dispense.
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First up is Sawtooth which is labeled as an “All American Ale”. Slot that descriptor into whatever category you want. The beer smells like you walked past a working brewery. Very grain-centric and very light on hops. The label claims herbal hops and I agree. I think that the nitro plays more to the strength of the malt side adding a certain something to the grain while sanding off the edge of the hops. If you like the more Britisher style, then the nitro gives it more old world appeal. I like it but wish the hops had more of an impact.

The RIS style, to some, might seem better suited to barrel-aging than nitro. But even the least robust styled can do with a gentle rounding off of roughness that nitro provides.  Wake Up Dead is nearly double the ABV of Sawtooth and might have double the nitro effects.  And indeed there is a rounder mouth feel to this beer that is a battle of wills between licorice and chocolate.  But there is a dampening of the alcohol to me as well which I think is a needed component of the style.

In the end, I think “nitro” is more effective in the Sawtooth.  It is due to what I perceive is most lost from the beer.  In Sawtooth the hops are diminished but the hops aren’t the main player whereas in the Wake Up Dead the alcohol is a major player and it seems reduced to me.  Both beers, to me, would be better minus the effects.

 

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Event Review – Flip-Flop Fest

by Sean on July 29, 2015

Not only does Blue Palms have a BIG anniversary party coming up, but they also found time to do their Flip-Flop fest of Port Brewing beers, named after the iconic logo that double as footwear.

Following BSP procedure, I arrived near opening time to best find a stool and have a full slate of choices. Such as…..
Once You Go Blackberry Saison w/ Blackberries – Gnomercy Belgian IPA – Flyin Hawaiian Hef – Trashkannon Brown Ale – California Honey Blonde Ale – Kung Fu Elvis Strong Ale – Way Heavy Scotch Ale – La Flama Dorado Belgian Triple – May the Port be With You Imperial Stout – Rocky Top American Stout – Dust til’ Dawn Imperial Coffee Porter – Red Leader Imperial Red Ale – Beer Monkey IPA – New Break Pale Ale – Chronic Amber Ale – Ponto Session IPA – Kook Double IPA – Pick Six Hoppy Pilsner

(That list are the ones that I didn’t try off the tiki themed tap handles)

Here is the report:
Saison Persuasion was my first choice, I was beguiled by the Yuzu and peppercorns and I was let down, the beer was a little harsh on the palate and there was barely any peppercorn or yuzu or even ginger to be found.

So I went with a taster flight of (4) fruit IPA’s
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Well three at least, the One Love was a Mandarina Hop and it was the weakest of the quartet. Coming in at number 1 was the Haole passion fruit IPA which had a big and bold aroma that was almost too much but the beer itself was super well balanced bitter and fruit in equal amounts then at # 2 was Grapefruit Puncher which also had an excellent aroma and really brought the citrus. The Lono Mango was only third because the other two were so great.

I finished up with County Line Pub Ale on Nitro which was quite solid. Super smooth. Nice malt texture to it and a perfect hop antidote. Plus, it looked super cool in the glass.
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Go over the Chart, before you Go

by Sean on July 29, 2015

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File this under extremely helpful for the growler set and then cross reference, things Sean should have posted about much earlier than this.

Not only do the Maltose Falcons know home brew, they also have an online repository of who fills – what growlers with an introduction as to why California brewers do what they do, that is so completely spot on, that I wish I had written it.

So bookmark this site and check it before you randomly grab a growler for your next beer trip. It will save you from coming home empty handed or ending up with even more containers to store.

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People are starting to see that L.A. is a destination for beer lovers as well as people who enjoy driving in traffic.

Now that will be even more evident when you read this piece on L.A.’s noteworthy beer bars and gastropubs that is online at the main craft beer website hub CraftBeer.Com.

It is an excellent primer for those new to our beer and also a reminder for those old hands of places that you should probably re-visit.

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Poetry is not my gig. I have never gotten into it. For me, it is juvenile “Once was a Man from Nantucket” on side and twee hippy shit on the other. (Let the poetry hate mail commence!)

So when Sarah Bennett wrote about Sam Wagner’s book of poetry, The Poetry of Beer, I thought, in a nutshell, M’eh.
But then I read that Wagner got a grant to write about craft beer and esoteric poetry styles which must have been a convincing grant proposal. To further pique my interest one of the pieces is a rant about IPA’s.

So now I am on the fence about buying it. Which is saying something considering how much I don’t like sonnets and their ilk. Check out Wagner’s website HERE.

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This is my second bottled MacLeod Ale and boy does it hold up just fine away from its normal cask environment.
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Jackie Tar the Brown Stout is supremely roasty. It pours an inky dark brown and it delivers a slightly smoked malt bomb to your taste buds. It is light with some watery-mess at the far back but that strong flavor just keeps your attention.  It is not a complex beer but it works.

I only wish I could return the bottle to the brewery directly for them to re-use. I almost feel bad recycling.

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