Friday, July 29, 2011

Sam's Summit Honeymoon Saison

Photo credit: Elizabeth Flores/ Star-Tribune

I arrived in Minnesota to find a big Minneapolis Star-Tribune article on my brother Sam and his beer.  Fortunately it was written by a real beer writer and the result is a very good article on the beer from conception to completion.  Nowhere is it mentioned, but Sam used the same yeast as Upright and, not surprisingly, the end result is an exceptionally dry beer.  I think it is fantastic.  The honey is very faint, but I detect it a little on the nose and in the finish.  The honey I am sure added nothing to the color but Sam's grain bill produced a lovely honey colored beer.  It is a nice Minnesota Saison.

The article is well worth a read.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Beery Notes for Locals

For those in Portland there are some great, great beers to be had these days.  The lion's share are at Belmont Station where the Puckerfest is ongoing.  Calling it a fest might be slightly misleading as there is no tent, crowds, whoops, etc.  It is just a special set of beers on tap in the bar with meet-the-brewer events each night.  I went Wednesday and tasted the four Upright beers as well as the Flat Tail Corvaller Wisse (pictured above in a photo by Jeff Alworth).

The Uprights were, what else, great - with a few warts: one was too ginny for my taste. But the Blend Love is a real crowd pleaser and I was ... pleased.  For me the real find was the Corvaller Wisse which was phenomenal.  At 3.6% is is a real summer session beer and the lacto sourness is not as astringent as brett can be.  Citrus esters are present and after a long bike ride to make it from Sellwood to Belmont Station, it was a wonderfully refreshing beer.  I hope this becomes a summer standard at the brewpub.

The star for me was the Double Mountain Devil's Kriek. This is no surprise, it is one of my all time favorites.  Beautiful cherry notes wrapped up in a sumptuous bronze malt base - just sour enough but not too sour.  Rhapsody.  Check out the nice video at Jeff's Beervana site about making kriek at DM.  

White IPA.  Another Jeff Alworth Photo, but that's my hand dunking the fish and chips - which have improved at Deschutes, BTW.

After that it was off to Deschutes to grab some dinner prior to the Timbers game.  There they had the Armory XPA on cask.  I don't think I have had a beer that is so different on cask as on tap - in fact I asked for a taster of the tap version to confirm. There are all kinds of fruity esters present in the cask version, hints of cherry and apple that are covered up by the CO2.  It was great.  After that, I tried the Chainbreaker White IPA thinking it was the collaboration beer with Boulevard.  Apparently not.  This is an all-Deschutes version and it rocks.  To me it is a hoppy saison, with the characteristically Dechutes pitch perfect use of hops.  It is the perfect beer for a hop head who appreciates Belgian-style beers but who loves his hops. 

Finally the Black Butte XXIII is rapturous.  I had left my bike parked in front of Deschutes (conveniently) so I ducked in for a snifter of the elixir before heading home.  It was the perfect nightcap.  What I like most about it is the very, very subtle blend of 1/4 bourbon barrel aged beer with regular stuff giving it just the hint of bourbon not the overwhelming bourbon all too common in such beers.

NB: Deschutes' menu has changed (shrunk mostly) since I last visited, most notably absent now are the pizzas.  But the beer pretzel remains. 

Nice weekend to get out and experience some great rare beers.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Coopetition: When Competition is Good for All

This is something I have discussed before in these (what, pages? files? screens?), er in this blog, but is illustrated nicely in this interview Andy Crouch, the Beer Scribe conducted with Alan Pugsley of Shipyard brewing company in Portland, Maine.

AC How has [the craft beer market] changed to now?

AP It's completely changed. The bigger market for craft beer exists now, obviously. The craft beer market since those days has grown every single year.The craft brewing segment of the market is not going away. Back when Geary's started, Sam Adams was just starting. Even though it really wasn't a microbrewery as such, it was a contract brewing operation where all the money raised went into marketing. Jim Koch is a very good marketer. He did a great job in getting it out there and turned it into a multi-million dollar brewery. So that brand in itself helped pull others with it. All of his marketing money was not only making people aware of the Sam Adams brand, it was making them aware there was something outside of Budweiser. And that's really what he did. Even though we're competitors, at the end of the day, you say 'well done' and if you're honest, you say 'thank you for doing it that way'. It certainly did help.

AC After outgrowing the Federal Jack's location, you opened a package operation called Shipyard Brewing Company in Portland, Maine, in 1994. What was the result of this move?

AP The odd thing is that as opposed to taking away from Geary's sales, it actually increased them. The reason being there was one little face of Maine-made beer on the shelf which was easy to miss. When you put Export Ale here and Geary's Pale Ale here, all of sudden you've got a billboard. If you look in the supermarkets today, you've got Shipyard with three or four shelves and Geary's with three or four shelves and that's how you sell beer. Ironically, our growth and establishment helped Geary's. Plus, I think it gave them a little bit of a kick in the pants and realized they had some competition. They realized they needed to do something else and that's when they came out with Hampshire Special Ale. [emphasis mine]

Normally when we talk about competition we are talking about the number of firms that serve a given market that has a fixed (static) demand curve.  In most standard models of imperfect competition, increases in competition are good for consumers (more get to purchase at a lower price) and bad for firms (they have to accept lower prices).  But things change when demand it itself a function of the number of firms.  In this case more competition does two things, it has the traditional role of adding to the competition for existing customers, but it also increases the number of customers as well.  How this tension is resolved determines how an establish firm should feel about a newcomer.

Relations between craft brewers, in my experience, is exceptional - it is a very chummy industry.  This, to me, suggests that the tension right now is being resolved in favor of new firms.  Anecdotally, this seems largely true: new craft beer companies are finding new markets and virgin territory, pushing their way into venues that have heretofore been strictly macro-brew, creating even more shelf space in supermarkets as the number of craft beer drinkers continues to increase.

I think Portland, Oregon is an interesting laboratory for this: it is hard to imagine being a beer drinker that moves to Portland and isn't moved by the omni-present craft beer scene to give craft beer a fair hearing.  Many will decide they not only like craft beer, but that craft beer transforms their beer drinking experience into a adventurous experience that provokes thought, discussion and passion.

There will come a time (and we may be quickly reaching it in Oregon) when the growth of breweries outpaces the growth of craft beer demand and competition becomes more serious among craft brewers, but for the time being, I think the attitude that all breweries are rowing the same boat in the same direction is accurate.  

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

No Government, No Beer!

Uh oh, SABMillerCoors forgot to renew its license to sell beer in Minnesota before the government shutdown and now they have been ordered to remove their products from store shelves.

From The Atlantic:

Minnesota's government shutdown--the longest in history--has some unexpected victims. Sure, people living on feeding tubes in taxpayer-funded facilities are being taken care of. Janitors are still cleaning the prisons. Police are still protecting the public. But in all this budget-cutting madness, everyone forgot to ask: What about the bros? And now that negligence has taken its toll: Because MillerCoors didn't reapply for its $30-per-brand license to sell beer, bro classics Miller Lite and Coors Lite, among others, must be pulled from the shelves.

KSTP reports that Minnesota "officials have told the company, it must come up with a plan to remove it's 39 brands of beer from shelves and in bars in a matter of days. The company failed to renew it's brand license with the state before the shutdown. ...Without the license, Miller-Coors cannot sell in the state." The company tells the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Don Walker that it's "working with the state to clear this up."

Yikes! I hope Summit is all up to date on its brand license...

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summit Honeymoon Saison Released

My brother Sam's beer is out in Minnesota - the great unveiling was yesterday.  I have to wait for the wedding to try it - but fortunately that is but a couple of weeks away.  In the meantime here is Sam and his betrothed, Camber, on Minneapolis TV.  And for those who wonder about the answers to all the mysteries: Sam is the product of my mother's second marriage and he and his twin sister were born just before my 16th birthday.  Camber is Minnesota through and through (as is evident in the TV clip), which explains why Sam now brews in the Twin Cities, but it is a homecoming of sorts: he was born in Wisconsin while I was still in high school at Madison West.  I can only hope that he stays true to his roots: you are a Badger by birth, Sammy boy, don't you forget it there in Gopher territory.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Happy Birthday Ninkasi

Ninkasi turns 5 years old today. Happy birthday to one of my very favorite breweries - a hop-head's delight. Also today marks the release of the superb Maiden the Shade. Rejoice!