Beers in Review: Catch-up

One Asheville-based brewery that always ends up flying below my personal beer radar is Hi-Wire Brewing. Typically, they don't end up being my first choice, which was my own personal mistake until the Craft and Draft birthday event, when I led off my afternoon of drinking with Hi-Wire's Citra-Hopped Gose. The ABV falls in line with most goses and sours at 4.2%, and it pours a fairly clear golden yellow color. As would be expected by the hop varietal used in dry-hopping, along with the style, citrus fruits lead the way in the flavor profile. Lemon and lime are the primary fruits, along with perhaps a hint of grapefruit. I was also getting a decent amount of what I thought was grassy or grainy notes. This gose is separated from most others in that there is almost zero sweetness and a very slight amount of saltiness. I found it to be a decent enough gose, but I would have liked to have seen SOME flavor aspect be bolder and move to the front, whether that means an increase in citrus flavors, or more saltiness, among other options. Still, an overall mild option isn't a terrible starter for an extended drinking session.

Next up is the Lime-a-Peno Blonde Ale from local brewer Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. I got this despite my general distaste for pepper beers--there have been very few that I have legitimately liked. Still, I'm willing to give them continual chances, especially pepper beers from different breweries. Brewed with jalapenos AND lime (in case the name wasn't obvious), this 5% ABV Blonde brought a fairly clear pale yellow hue. I found plenty of green jalapeno in the aroma, and it followed into the flavor with plenty of pepper and other vegetal notes. Despite the peppers used, there was very little spiciness to the beer, which to me was surprising but not unwelcome (I find many pepper beers will overdo the spicy angle). A mild amount of citrus sweetness rounds out the flavor profile. I said I'm typically not a fan of pepper beers. I probably wouldn't call myself a fan of this one, either, but it's probably the closest I've been to legitimately enjoying such a style. So, a net win in my book for Swamp Cabbage.

Event Recap: Craft and Draft 3rd Birthday Party

The following was on-track for a Wednesday publishing, when a Tuesday night thunderstorm had other plans, knocking out my cable and internet. Things finally got up and running on Friday. I apologize for the delay, and am glad to finally be able to bring you this recap. -Justin

 

On Saturday afternoon, I took the opportunity help celebrate the 3rd birthday of one of my favorite beer stops in Columbia, SC. Craft and Draft is not a large space, by any means, but co-founders Kellan Monroe and Andrew Johnson have gone to great lengths to make C & D the premier beer bar and bottle shop in the city of Columbia. They only have a dozen taps and a couple of stand-up coolers of cold beer to go with several shelves of take-home (room temperature) options. But you will never find a Budweiser or Coors Light here, and I find that they have set themselves apart from most of the other notable craft beer spots in the city by continually having beers and breweries that can't be found anywhere else in Columbia!

 

Beyond the beer selection, Craft and Draft is not your average bar--they will be closed by 10pm at the absolute latest on any given night, so it's not a "go and get hammered" kind of a place, though that isn't your typical craft beer drinker's goal, anyway. In following with their usual hours, the party ran from noon to 7pm. By 3pm, the place was pretty packed.

 

Again, not a large place.

In addition to a quality line-up of regional drafts inside the shop,

 

there were also a good variety of beers outside the store, including breweries from Gainesville, Florida, and multiple North Carolina locales. Again, Craft and Draft brought in breweries we tend to not see too much (Bhramari & Twin Leaf from Asheville and Swamp Head in Gainesville), despite the fact that virtually everything at the party was made within 200 miles of Columbia! Also outside were a number of food trucks including the local TV stars from the 2 Fat 2 Fly stuffed chicken wing truck!

In the end, this was a seemingly successful and definitely well-attended event. Craft and Draft brought a solid beer selection to the party--it's always nice to get beers from folks we don't always see here in Columbia. THAT is Craft and Draft's hallmark, and it makes the life of a craft beer adventurer like me MUCH easier! Cheers to Andrew, Kellan, and everyone at Craft and Draft! Here's hoping for many, many more years!

Video Review: A Local Hop Bomb?

In today's video review, I check out a Red IPA from the local Swamp Cabbage Brewing Company. Check out my thoughts:

 

Also, stay tuned to www.twitter.com/pourlyreviewed THIS SATURDAY AFTERNOON for live updates from the Craft and Draft 3rd Birthday Party! The fun starts at noon, Eastern time! I'll have a full video recap after the event! (Also, come find me if you actually are in Columbia!)

Commentary: ABI Not Doing Anyone Any Favors With Their BA Response

In last week’s news roundup, I noted the latest volleys fired in the conflict between craft beer and Big Beer. The non-profit craft beer trade group The Brewers Association unveiled a "Brewers Association Certified Independent Craft" logo that can be displayed on packaging, websites, in taprooms, and elsewhere. Craft beer DOES have a specific definition from the Brewers Association, mostly centered around ownership stakes, and this logo can help better-inform customers about who is making the beer they choose to drink. A-B InBev’s High End, the group of former craft brewers now under the ABI umbrella, responded to the new logo by releasing a video featuring the head of the High End as well as the founders of Wicked Weed, Elysian, 10 Barrel, and others. In this video, these gentlemen spend more than 4 minutes trying convince us, the consumers of craft beer, how they continue to be JUST LIKE the little guy brewing in a small warehouse space in YOUR VERY OWN hometown. Walt Dickinson of Wicked Weed, the latest brewery to “sell out to the Evil Empire”, even dares to STILL unironically refer to Wicked Weed as a “smaller independent”.

Indeed, of everyone in this video (in which they seemingly dragged all of these guys to their “crafty wall” at ABI HQ to do their talking heads), Dickinson seems to be the most clueless--perhaps he’s just still in that star-eyed honeymoon phase. He advocates growing the beer industry as a whole, which will mean that “everybody’s got a great space in the market”. Of course, this sounds like a great idea! But use of the phrase “space in the market” is an unfortunate one, as it amplifies one of ABI’s biggest bullying tactics. ABI will use bribes—I’m sorry, “incentives”—to occupy as much shelf SPACE as possible in superMARKETS, beer distributors, and other shops. The amount of ABI-dedicated shelf space grows all the time, forcing true independent craft beer off of the shelves of those same retailers. Now, if this is all being done legally, and there is some question to that, then so be it—the laws should be changed, usually in state legislatures. But that's another commentary for another day. And Walt Dickinson and ABI should not be talking about how hard they are working for EVERYBODY, because this is a straight-up lie.

Dickinson’s (and others’) next fallacy is that beer is dying because of the ongoing beer “civil war”, and that market share is continually being lost to wine and liquor, whom Dickinson equates to a massive armada poised to wipe out all the entire beer industry while the various beer factions all also work to destroy each other with ole' timey muskets. Now, ABI’s market share absolutely is dwindling, and wine and liquor MAY BE picking up some of that, and perhaps those two are gaining ground overall. But craft beer is also growing, and despite ABI’s continual attempts to warm up to craft beer enthusiasts (this video isn’t their first “Kum-Ba-Ya” attempt), craft beer IS the biggest threat to ABI. If it weren't they wouldn't be buying up so many craft breweries.

Elsewhere, Garrett Wales of 10 Barrel claims that the Brewers Association is limiting customer choice by putting a label on a bottle. Going back to the bullying/bribery for space issue, there is no doubt that ABI are the ones limiting choice by putting more and more of their own brands on retail shelf space. Supporting independent craft brewers IS a factor many beer drinkers use in decided which beer to drink next—it may not be a critical or deciding factor, but it DOES influence people’s decisions, no matter what Felipe Szpigel, ABI’s High End head, says. This isn’t limited to beer—you see “buy local” initiatives for all kinds of products. In the spirit of Walt Dickinson earlier in the video, Szpigel later again tries to refer to the High End members as “small business[es]”, which is laughable.

Finally, like many others, I don’t quite understand why ABI continually tries to equate themselves to the small, independent craft breweries. I would imagine that a great deal of the demographic they are targeting, craft beer drinkers, are more educated about what they are drinking. And they can see right through ABI's ruse when they see their favorite brewery get swallowed up by Big Beer, which leads to some sort of production problem (see High End original Goose Island’s BCBS contamination problems in 2015), or they can no longer get their favorite craft beer at the supermarket because that market got paid to give ABI more space to hold Golden Road and Wicked Weed. We all can easily see through this level of falsity. ABI insists on being the “Evil Empire”—they are buying up these former craft breweries to try to hold on to market share. They need to stop trying to kowtow to the little guys and their fans.

Video Review: Revisiting a Favorite

In today's video review, I check out the 2017 version of Founders Brewing Company's Sumatra Mountain Brown. I absolutely loved the 2016 version, and wrote about it here. What were my thoughts on the 2017? Find out in this video:

I will be back Monday with some thoughts on the latest ongoing skirmish between the Brewers Association and A-B InBev. See you then!

Six-Pack of News, Volume 28: Strike and Counterstrike

Today's Six-Pack is spurred by the big news from earlier this week. The non-profit craft beer trade group The Brewers Association struck at Big Beer corporations posing as craft breweries (such as A-B InBev's High End) by unveiling a "Brewers Association Certified Independent Craft" logo that can be displayed on packaging, websites, in taprooms, and elsewhere. Craft beer DOES have a specific definition from the Brewers Association, mostly centered around ownership stakes, and this logo will help better-inform customers about who is making the beer they choose. (Brewbound)

ABI's High End responded to the new logo by releasing a video featuring the head of the High End as well as the founders of Wicked Weed, 10 Barrel, and others. I will have much more on this in a commentary later this weekend. (Draft Magazine)

Sometime ago, I mentioned how Stone Brewing made a beer using recycled wastewater from the San Diego area. Now, Ballast Point has taken another innovative and environmentally conscious step in creating beers using water produced via condensation, or pulling moisture out of the humidity in the air. (www.craftbrewingbusiness.com)

In the Six-Pack's obligatory list posting, Draft Magazine recently revealed their Top 50 IPAs in America, out of nearly 400 tasted. Obviously, there are a lot of hyper-local/-regional breweries on this list, so just try to seek out the ones that might be fairly close to you.

It's not news, per se, but I just did a video review of the Sierra Nevada/Garage Project collaboration, and I just found this Good Beer Hunting interview with one of the founders of the Wellington, New Zealand brewery.

Finally, my favorite bottle shop here in Columbia, Craft and Draft, is turning 3 years old soon! And they're having a birthday party!

Video Review: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, Part 2

Today, I bring you two more beers from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Beer Camp Across the World collaboration pack! Check out my reviews of collaborations with Massachusetts's Tree House Brewing Company and Garage Project from Wellington, New Zealand!

Beers in Review: Dangerous Wits

I'm starting off today's BiR with a ramped-up version of the Wildflower Wit from Natty Greene's Brewing Company in Greensboro, NC. Wilderflower Imperial Wit checks in at a powerful 9+% ABV. It pours a hazy peach-to-orange color. There are plenty of spices coming through the flavor profile. That profile also features plenty of fruit notes, including some citrus specifically. There is a mild level of sweet booziness present as well--not a shock at the ABV level. But a really enjoyable beer, and perhaps a bit dangerous, as it is quite drinkable at over 9%!

Next up is a sessionable Blonde Ale from North Charleston, SC's Freehouse Brewery. Folly's Pride is designed to be drinkable in any situation, most notably the long, hot summers so present in the Carolinas. Pouring a crystal clear pale yellow, this Blonde is brewed with grapefruit, and that serves up the primary flavor notes in multiple ways. While there is a general citrus note, as well as the meaty grapefruit flesh, I found the bitter grapefruit rind to be the most-forward flavor note, with a fair amount of bitterness accompanying it. Personally, I could have used with a hair less of that bitterness, but otherwise, this is a light, crisp, low-ABV (4.8%) ale that serves as a solid summer option.

Six-Pack of News, Volume 27: A New Best Beer in America

In the last Six-Pack earlier this month, I reported that ABI's October acquisition of a minority stake in RateBeer finally came to light. In the period since, some independent craft breweries have asked to have their beers removed from RateBeer. Good Beer Hunting recently hosted a roundtable discussing this backlash.

Related: Check out Six-Pack of News, Volume 26 for more on the RateBeer news!

The American Homebrewers Association and Zymurgy magazine released the 2017 list of the best beers in America, as voted on by Zymurgy readers. This year, Bell's Brewery's Two-Hearted Ale took top honors, dethroning Russian River's Pliny the Elder for the first time in 8 years. SFGATE has more, including some reasons for the new top beer, as well as comments from Bell's.

Beerpulse.com (likely among others) reported the Press Release from Boulevard Brewing Company announcing a $10 million expansion of their brewery in Kansas City, Missouri.

The number of breweries in America now numbers over 5000, and Virginia is doing its fair share by recently passing the 200 licensed brewery milestone, according to Brewbound. Virginia's 206 breweries make it 13th-ranked state in the U.S. for number of breweries. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe points to the passing of a 2012 law that allowed breweries to sell beer for on-site consumption, not just purchasing for off-site. In addition to Virginia's 200+ breweries, Governor McAuliffe has worked hard to push several high-profile craft brewers to open up East Coast operations in the state of Virginia.

Finally, with green power efforts ever increasing worldwide, craftbeer.com reports on two domestic craft breweries that are now able to provide up to 100% of their electricity via solar power.

Video Review: Sierra Nevada Beer Camp, Part 1

Today, I bring you the first part of six video reviews featuring beers from Sierra Nevada Brewing Company's Beer Camp Across the World Series. In this video, I check out their collaborations with Ayinger Brewery and Avery Brewing Company. Check 'em out!

Beers in Review: A Sessionably (?) Fruity Pair

We start off today's BiR with a Session IPA from North Carolina's D9 Brewing Company. Swell Rider is officially listed as a Tangerine Session IPA (the ABV lines up at 5.1%) that is a year-round D9 offering, but it seems to get a bigger push in the summer (as evidenced by the addition of 16oz cans to the year-round bottle and keg offerings). It pours a slightly hazy light yellow, looking almost like a hazy white wine. The citrus aromas came through in a big way, and they carried into the flavor profile, as I got tangerine and orange, along with tangerine rind (which was also utilized in the bittering process of this IPA). The rind ramps up as it warms, serving to cancel out some of the more pure fruit notes. Despite the power of the rind, the general bitterness is more on the mild side, especially at the back of the throat towards the end of the drinking experience. This all serves well for a sessionable IPA, though. Very nice, overall.

Next up is a Salt Lake City-based brewery that I had only previously seen when travelling to the West Coast. A local bottle shop had Uinta Brewing Company's Birthday Suit Sour Cherry Blonde. Now, I can't be 100% certain, but a little bit of research leads me to think that this is Birthday Suit 19, with each edition of Birthday Suit numbered to reflect the brewery's anniversary each year. Uinta have entered their twenties, so this is likely either a rebrew or some other beer that I'm missing. This Blonde brought a lot of sessionable qualities, though the ABV is a little too high for a session beer (6.2%). The beer pours a nice hazy peach color, and is mildly sour and brings a whole lot of fruity cherry notes. There is also a mild funkiness in the beer, both in flavor and mouthfeel. To me, it was reminiscent of the gunky mouthfeeling of drinking cranberry juice or perhaps a lemonade from concentrate. I appreciated the relatively low sour level in this Blonde. It made the beer more drinkable, and ALMOST turned this into a legit session beer (held back only by that slightly-too-high ABV).

Video Review: Yards Brawler

Today, I check out a session ale from Yards Brewing Company in Philadelphia, PA. Check out Brawler!

 

Starting next week, I'll be checking out the new Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Across the World series. It's 12 beers, so I'll do 2 per video. That will book up my video reviews for the next month. That will probably start next weekend.

Beers in Review: A Local Duo

In today's BiR, I check out a couple more beers from right here in Columbia, including a collaboration with one of my favorite bottle shops.

But first up is a Dunkel, or dark lager, from traditional German-style brewer Bierkeller Columbia. Their Fastenbier is what they call a "Franconian Dunkel", referring to a Dunkel style from a specific region in central Germany (as opposed to the more common, at least in America, Munich Dunkel, named after the city in southern Germany). In their preparation of this Franconian Dunkel, Bierkeller uses smoked malts, and I'm not sure if this contributed to what I interpreted as a bit of an odd flavor note. The Fastenbier pours a cola brown, comes in at 5.1% ABV, and I found it to be quite roasty, almost to the point of char, but not crossing the line. Presumably, that is the first indication of these smoked malts. I got a little bit of chocolate maltiness and perhaps a hint of cola, but the beer is not very sweet at all. There are also some roasted grain notes, but the flavor note that surprised me was green olives, which I found throughout the drinking experience. I'm not sure if my palate was interpreting some combination in an odd way, or the smoked malts influenced me in this flavor direction, but it was a distracting note that I found it very difficult to overlook. I have always found Bierkeller's beers to be well-executed, even if they aren't to my particular liking (mostly, I'm looking at the Rauchbier on this one), but this odd olive note seemed out of place to me. Otherwise, I found it to be fairly light and sessionable beer that didn't hang around too long, which made it easy to move on to the next beer.

Next up is a collaboration between River Rat Brewery and Craft and Draft bottle shop. I found Nah Mean? Peaches and Cream to be a very well-executed Cream Ale. Clocking in at 5% ABV, and pouring a hazy yellow-gold color, this Cream Ale brings a whole bunch of corn and grain notes with a perfectly mild amount of sweetness and a slight bitterness. Add a medium-light body and a fairly refreshing finish, and this adds up to a very nice, if simple, Cream Ale.

Video Review: Space, the Final Frontier

The beer in today's review comes from Shmaltz Brewing Company, and is a continuation of their Star Trek series of beers that began last year. Check out my thoughts on a rather different Imperial Porter.

 

Also, apologies on the rather hot mic. My computer apparently chose to draw audio from the webcam instead of the Meteor Mic. I will fix that for next time!

A Very Brief Wicked Weed Update...

I have no intention of continuing to beat a dead horse, here, but I found it very interesting that Wicked Weed, which had never sniffed the Columbia, SC market before, will magically be having a launch event at the local art museum sponsored by KW Beverage, the local Budweiser distributor! It only took a month! What were the odds???

 

If you will permit me a brief moment of straight-up opinion, I'm fairly disappointed in local dive bar The Whig and the Columbia Museum of Art for supporting this, and pouring salt on such a fresh wound to the craft beer community.

Six-Pack of News, Volume 26: Acquisition Heavy

My first group of stories all have to do with mergers and acquisitions of various types. Unfortunately, A-B InBev IS involved, but at least not with a brewery. Let's get started.

Fort Collins Brewery, a craft beer staple in Colorado since 1992, and working under its current name since 2003, has been acquired by Vancouver, BC, Canada's Red Truck Beer Company. FCB will cease operations in July, though Red Truck will produce some of their own beers AND is pursuing the possibility of contract brewing through the facility. Red Truck also intends to create a restaurant/brewpub in the soon-to-be-former FCB space. (Originally reported by Porch Drinker, additional details from Brewbound)

Additionally, Cismontane Brewing Company recently acquired the assets of its struggling southern California neighbor Lightning Brewery.  According to Brewbound, the deal does not include rights to the Lightning Brewery name or use of their tasting room. Cismontane will look to sell off the equipment piece-meal or sell the entire facility as a turn-key brewing operation. They may also keep some of the equipment as they look to equip their own new production facility.

In our obligatory ABI story of the week, it was recently announced that ABI's venture capital group ZX Ventures purchased a minority stake in RateBeer, a top beer rating and reviewing website. One little detail: THIS HAPPENED IN OCTOBER! Like all such ABI acquisitions, RateBeer founder Joe Tucker maintained that the site will be allowed to maintain its "value as an unbiased beer authority". Bud Light remains in RateBeer's 50 Worst-Rated Beers list, so so far, so good. (h/t Porch Drinking)

In a story that I am very happy to see: while craft beer growth may be slowing nationwide, Vinepair calls the South a "slumbering craft beer giant" as Prohibition-era laws are finally being modernized across the region. As examples, Alabama and Florida registered the most growth in barrels of beer produced nationwide between 2011 and 2016, with a few other Southern states amongst the Top 10.

Finally, craftbeer.com recaps a recent craft beer-based category on "Jeopardy!", and even allows you to play the category at home! Just remember to answer in the form of a question!