Marketing of Beer: Seasonal, and Fresh vs Aged

 

 

Marketing of Beer: Seasonal, and Fresh vs Aged

Do you drink different beers with the changes of the seasons?   I don't drink them to correlate with the seasons, but I know many who do drink different beers with the seasons.  My point is that if there are seasonal beers I like, I would drink them regardless of what season it is, providing that the seasonal beers are available. Since I brew my own beers, belong to a beer brewing club, and many of my friends brew beer-these beers that breweries make seasonally are available all year round.  Do the cold weather months make you want to drink a spicy Holiday beer, or is it simply tradition reinforced by Madison Avenue advertising?  My answer is maybe, but not necessarily.  Do the fall months make your mouth water for pumpkin or pumpkin spices in your beer?    Are white wheat beers or Kolsch beers better in the summer months?  I drink wheat beers and Kolsch, and lightly spiced beers any time of the year. I don't care for green colored beer on St. Patrick's Day or any beer that has pumpkin no matter the season.  It is not as though green dye in beer changes the taste, because I don't think it does, I just don't want to put that dye in my body.  I do add different combinations of pumpkin spices in my Belgian Browns, Saisons, and Irish red Ales, and it does not matter what the season.  I find that actually adding pumpkin overpowers the beer, so I am not a fan. These same spices also go well in a Rye IPA, but only use a subtle amount of spices so that the Rye flavor is not overpowered.  Spice any beer with a light touch.  A little goes a long way.

 

What was the inspiration to write about this?

 

A television commercial or advertisement from a large to medium sized east coast brewery about their seasonal beers got me thinking about this issue.  In researching old world brewing, it made sense to time brewing of certain varieties of beers to coincide with the seasons of the calendar.  Two main factors that caused this was daily average temperature and also the harvest seasons of foods and grains, as well coinciding with certain festivals.  Also the beers in Europe, traditionally must be, and are aged before becoming mature enough to drink. This aging period might be 6-12 months.  The practice of aging also brings up the topic of fresh versus aged beer, which will be discussed later in this blog. Today, due to the modern technology of refrigeration, beers can be brewed aged in virtually any month of the year.  So, does drinking of “seasonal” beers out of season also make sense?  My thinking is that beers that have a flavor profile that matches your palate, will taste good to you no matter what the month.  This is just my opinion, and my beer tastes are very diverse.  I know there are different opinions on the subject.

 

Old World Brewing

 

Lager beers and pilsners required ice caves to age after primary fermentation, so it made sense to make lagers to coincide with plentiful ice or appropriate fermentation temperatures.  Belgian “wild beers” were and are introduced to to natural air to inoculate the beer with wild natural yeasts. The Belgian monks found that making beer in the hot months, produced unsatisfactory beer with unpredictable results and flavors due to the heat.

 

In Belgium, England and Germany, and even in the early days of America- the brewing of lagers, pilsners and ales-coincided with harvest the seasons of spring or fall to optimize beer quality by using fresh grains.  Often beer beer would be consumed from a previous season.  Aging of Belgian and German farmhouse ales were accomplished by either burying in the ground or aged in root cellars to keep them cool.  I might add that in Belgium and parts of Germany that the quality of drinking water was so very poor, and beer was a good remedy for hydration in the summer months.  Alcohol by volume of farmhouse ales were also very low purportedly at around 2-3%.  Farm workers were allowed 3-5 liters per day for hydration.  In these countries, in addition to using beer as a replacement for water-beer was and still is regarded more as a food than we now regard beer in America.  The makers of beers and ales also made stronger ABV beers for their own consumption and to celebrate special occasions such as an marriage or birth of a child of their own family as well as wealthy or noble families close by who could afford the more expensive beer.  Beer in the old days did not transport very well, so beers and ales remained very local.  These beers most likely averaged 5-7% ABV or higher.  The higher the ABV the more expensive it was to produce and purchase.

 

Fresh Beer Versus Advertizing

 

Does beer need to be fresh, or is it better aged? The answer to this question may depend on who you ask.  Mega breweries promote this idea of beer freshness by spending hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising to convince you of this notion.  They also spent fortunes on trying to convince the public that bitter beer was spoiled beer ( which I interpret as a shot across the bow on craft beer Brewers and consumers that like hoppy beers ).  This. was an ad campaign by Keystone Brewing with. The “bitter face”. This notion confused unsuspected beer consumers that the hoppy bitter flavor was an imperfection in craft beers. Now look where hops in beer are today.  But let me say this-mega breweries yellow fizzy beer, already has little to no flavor comparatively speaking, and so it will not get any better in the bottle or the keg and may be more sensitive to off favors.  If beer is stored under the proper conditions, then it should remain fresh tasting for a great deal of time.  I think this tactic was just saying that this particular brewery was fresh when the other breweries were not fresh, which was probably false.  Ask a Craft Brewer that does or does not distribute and they will tell you that beer must be as fresh as possible.  Craft beer is brewed in small enough batches that the beer is consumed rather quickly, and is replaced by a new fresh batch.  Due to small batches, Craft Beer that is consumed in a brewpub will always be very fresh.  A homebrewer has two choices.  Beer can either be consumed rather quickly and be fresh. Or beer can be stored for a long time, which I think makes most beers better .

 

These business practices involve the principles of accounts payable vs accounts receivable, which will also be discussed later in this blog.  Ask some homebrewers who make a lot of beer and they will tell you that beer gets better when aged for months, 2 to 12 months for example-depending on the brewing style. Since the motive of a homebrewer is not about making any profit it doesn't cost anything to age beer, but the goal is instead to make good beer.  I have personally noticed positive changes when aging some of my more complex beer, such as a Russian Imperial Stout.

 

Post Prohibition and Pre Craft beer brewing

 

I have always believed that after prohibition that American brewers, brewed beers with the philosophy that they would brew beer to offend the least amount of people and be refreshing to match the American climate profiles.   Also these breweries sought lower production costs by using cheaper ingredients and in particular reduced hops, added adjuncts such as corn and rice to increase profits. For this reason mega breweries have made beer and ales with little to no distinctive flavor.  In this regarded A-B Inbev uses rice in some Budweiser products while Miller-Coors uses corn or corn sugar. A reduction in the use of more expensive hops and using adjuncts that are cheaper than barely-lowered the cost of ingredients while increasing profits.  This philosophy destroyed the original origins of of lagers, pilsners, and ales recipes brought to America from Europe, and destroyed the original American pre-prohibition brewery flavors. What draws people to, and what is responsible for the craft brew movement was and is taste.   A return to the original flavors and brewing styles and flavors of the old world and getting back to pre-prohibition recipes helped explode the craft beer movement.  Many Historic brewing styles have been revived and even given a unique Style 27 of both American and European styles by the BJCP as its unique regional brewing style. For example, Kentucky Common, American Gose, Roggenbier, and many more.  Anchor Steam which fits in a sub style called California Common, reportedly has changed very little since is was first produced in 1896.  Rumor is that many more old Historic styles will be added in the next BJCP revision.  BJCP stands for Beer Judge Certification Program. Beer styles can be found on BJCP.org.  BJCP also has a new category for just for pre-prohibition beer recipes.  BJCP sets and defines parameters for flavor, color, mouthfeel, carbonation, and Alcohol by volume for each brewing style.

 

Most Craft Breweries spend very little on advertising as compared the mega breweries who spend 100s of millions to try to convince you of this or that.  Craft breweries rely on the beer to do the talking.  After all t is really all about the beer-don't be fooled by the hype or advertising.



CO2 Levels

Is your beer in bottles or kegs flat or overcarbonated?  I see questions about these problems in beer brewing magazines and beer blog sites all the time. I even know a Professional Brewer that has struggled with this problem. I have had this problem and I know other homebrewers also struggle with this problem as well. The answers from experts are somewhat complicated at times and are often difficult to understand.

Kegs

Carbonating kegs can be forgiving. If it is too flat or too carbonated the remedy is easily to correct.  By adjusting the CO2 pressure, a flat draft beer can be corrected.  An overly carbonated beer can be fixed over a period of a couple days by releasing pressure and then raising the pressure to a proper serving pressure. Specifics on procedures to correct both over and under carbonation will be discussed later in this article. However, according to Kegworks.com, an overly carbonated keg should be addressed as soon as possible because the longer the keg is over carbonated the more the taste of the beer might be affected, even after correction. In other words, a keg of beer should not be over carbonated for more than a week or so, but correcting this in a few days would be ideal. A keg that does not have any leaks should hold pressure for many months if aging for that long is desired. This does not really answer the underlying issue of proper carbonation so that approximate or  proper carbonation is achieved the first time.  I mentioned a ProBrewer having this issue for his Micro Brewery, so he consulted with one of the 2 biggest Breweries in the state of Arizona. They told him that even they didn't fully understand the carbonation process.  The theory and math follows at the end of this article, titled Messy Details.

Keg charging pressure for serving is also very important.  According to Kegworks and other published experts-a keg CO2 pressure of 10-12 psi is ideal for most beers and ales and a pressure of 25-30 psi for stouts and other nitrogen reliant beers and ales. Kegerator.com recommends 12-14 psi for serving most beers and ales. I would use 12 psi as it seems to be the the sweet spot to start out as a best known practices (BKM) for serving.

Here are recommended procedures and charts for carbonating at different temperature and pressures for all styles of beer.    

High Alcohol by Volume beers such as Imperial Stouts, Imperial and double Imperial IPA, Barley and Wheat Wine are more resistant to carbonation. Carbonating these beers requires higher CO2 pressure for carbonation in the 20 psi range and 12 psi or higher for serving.

Many beer brewers I have interviewed also stress that a ¼” delivery line be a minimum of 4 feet to reduce foaming is necessary, 6 feet may work better. A line of this inside diameter and length acts as a resistor in an electronic circuit to slow the flow gradually of beer without greatly affecting the line pressure. In a kegerator (a converted refrigerator or freezer) with a horizontal faucet -the line stays cold and the faucet stays somewhat cold which reduces foaming. Using a dispensing tower or a length of line that does not stay cold in the tower will generate foaming if the line and tower will not stay cold.  Also the beer that comes out first will be considerably warmer than beer that which dispenses seconds later. This will create more foam.  A tower can be cooled by using an old recycled computer microprocessor fan to blow cold air up from a small refrigerator or chest freezer through a length of ½” or so tubing. Long runs  in a bar or brewpub utilize cooling glycol lines and use insulation to keep the long lines and tower cooled.

BKM for less than high ABV beers

First and foremost exercise patience. Don't expect to be able to start serving a keg immediately after filling a keg. It takes time to diffuse CO2 into your beer. Some recommendations are to:

Charge your keg to 12 psi and purge by manually operating depressing the gas quick disconnect fitting  to a low pressure, but not zero. Do this three times to reduce as much unwanted oxygen as possible.

Recharge the keg to 12 psi and ideally wait a month before fully activating the keg. Periodically recheck the keg to maintain 12 psi.  Sample anytime you feel curious but for the most part no adjustment will be needed for the month, but keep the keg at 12 psi. This method works successfully for many brewers most of the time.  

Use a 4 foot or longer dispense line kept cool for sampling or keg activation.  The long ¼” line should reduce foaming.

After a month determine whether the beer is flat or too foamy. If flat-raise the pressure to 20 psi ½ a day, then reduce keg pressure to the 12 psi delivery pressure, and test, repeat as necessary.  It should take roughly about 7 seconds in a standard ale pint glass to fill and leave about an inch of foam. Any fill time much faster or much slower than 7 seconds is either too fast or too slow. Increase or decrease the delivery pressure to achieve satisfactory results.  Some pressure may have to be manually relieved if filling is too fast, either manually or using the relief valve on the regulator after lowering the regulator setting.  If there is a little more or less foam than 1 inch, be patient and observe over a few pints or so for consistency.

BKM for high alcohol beers

Follow steps 1-3 for general beers except in step 2 use 25-30 psi for about 1-2 days and test. Repeat if still flat.

For serving pressure start at 20 psi and draw a pint. You may find that 25-30 psi will be necessary but try to use the 7 second rule to judge carbonation.

Bottles

Improper carbonation in bottles is unforgiving.  Most breweries that sell bottles do not have a carbonating problem in bottles because they fill from a pressurized tank and fill their bottles under pressure in an automated machine.  However the fill tank, like  a keg must be carbonated properly.  The homebrewer carbonates with a process that is referred to as bottle conditioning. Homebrewed beer, and some breweries like Moylans and Sierra Nevada beers, as well as some Belgian beers, when added to a bottle still contains yeast that could process more sugar into alcohol.  Due to health of the yeast or environmental conditions and fermentation issues-that fermentation prematurely halts. The recipe will usually specify the amount of sugar needed and will suggest the type of sugar needed for priming-usually corn sugar.  I bring this up because any type of sugar will work, but because each type of sugar ( dextrose, glucose, and sucrose ) has different molecular weights, a different gram weight of that sugar will be needed for priming.  Dry glucose or dextrose is corn sugar, dry sucrose is table sugar. Glucose is made from starches like corn or ripe fruit. We do not discuss liquid sugars as the amount of moisture ( percentage of water ) muddies up the equation.   The amount of moisture or liquid versus wort ( sugar ) can vary greatly and does not fit the formulae.

BKM

Calibrate the carboy or priming bucket by placing a piece of tape on the side, adding 1 liter at a time so that you can place volume marks on the tape.  Liters work best in calculations.  24 or more liters may be necessary for a 5 gallon batch.  After 16 liters it would be helpful to have graduations in 1/10 liters. Calibrate and mark your vessels for at least 4 liters greater than the expected batch volume if using larger batch sizes such as 10 and 14 gal.( 37.85 -52.99 liters ).

Knowing your beer volume and the amount of sugar required, coupled with an accurate weight of your priming sugar, will yield more predictable results. If you have the exact quantity, in liters specified in the recipe, then use the quantity of priming sugar specified. If the beer volume is higher or lower the adjust the priming sugar accordingly. But be as precise as possible. Sugar weghts should resolve down to a 1/10 of a gram, especially if individual bottles are being primed.

Yeast viability is important. If an extended secondary fermentation has been used, then a small pinch of live working yeast added to the bucket may be considered or necessary.Home brewers who bottle their beers suffer with the problem of over or under carbonation all the time. Before getting into great technical issues, the one recurring theme from experts is that proper carbonation starts with the very careful weighting of sugars and measure of volume of liquid in liters for adding the proper amount of priming sugar.  Carbonation is expressed in volumes.  A volume is equal to 2 grams per liter of CO2. his will be discussed in the following section.  Note that quite often many home brewed Belgian beers are over carbonated according to Randy Masher in his book Radical Brewing regarding Belgian brewing.  Open the bottle, pour the beer, and let I settle down. I don’t know the reason but I suspect it is the sugars and or yeast.

The Messy Details

If you are creating your own recipe you will have to determine, on you own, how much priming sugar to use. If you are not going to guess and are interested in the messy formulas, then here is some of it. The following is an example from Brew Your Own Magazine in December 2015.

Example: A beer containing 5.3 gal. or 20 liters.  Here is the mysterious part. It is assumed that there is 3.2 grams of CO2 per liter. I don't know where this number comes from so I did some research and found that this number comes from a chart that gives a different number depending on fermentation temperature. Here's a chart of CO2 volume versus fermentation temperatures.  The higher the fermentation temperature the lower the CO2 volume.  Given: 2 gr. CO2/liter =1 volume therefore 3.2 gr./liter divided by 2 gr./liter=1.6 volumes.  Recipes usually suggest between 2.6-3.3 volumes for the finished beer.  In this example 5.2gr./l or 2.6 volumes will be the target. since 3.2 gr./l was the initial CO2 level and 5.2 gr./l is the target, then 2 gr./l must be dissolved into each liter of finished beer. Which means 20liters x 2 gr./l =40gr. CO2 are needed. From the data in the charts for Glucose ( Corn Sugar ) 2.05 gr. of Glucose yields 1 gr. CO2.  40 gr. CO2 X 2.05 gr. Glucose/gr. CO2=77.6 gr. Glucose needed to properly carbonate your beer.


W(gr./mole)/W(gr.CO2 yield for specific sugar)=yield of sugar in gr.

W(gr./mole Glucose or Dextrose)= 180 gr./mole      

W(gr./mole Sucrose)=384 gr./mole

Glucose C6H12O6  has a molecular weight of 180 gr. per mole. When fermented yields 2 molecules of CO2 and 2 molecules of methanol.   This yields 88 gr. CO2.

180/88=2.05gr. glucose. So 2.05 gr. Glucose or Dextrose yields 1 gr. CO2.

Sucrose C12H22O11 has a molecular weight of 384 gr.per mole. When fermented yields 4 molecules of CO2 and 4 molecules of alcohol.

Conclusion

Weigh and measure carefully. Be precise and be accurate. Modify priming sugar based on actual volume of beer. You will need a scale that resolves to a ½ gram.

Follow the recipe. Ensure whether or not that there is the proper volume in liters. Adjust the suggested sugar weight or volume up or down to match the actual number of liters in the bottling vessel.

Follow Best Known Methods.

Be patient.

Beer Camaraderie Starts With Brew Clubs

Alcohol is meant to be shared.  That is a mantra that St. Germain Cellars adopted from the beginning of starting this company in 2014. I recall back in the 80s, meeting a man sitting on a stool, chatting with the proprietor of a hole in the wall brewing supply store. He was long haired and hippie looking, and he asked me if I wanted to taste an all-grain, home-brewed Porter. I had brewed my own Porter before but not an all-grain Porter. I remember him being so proud of his brew so I said yes, I would like try his beer. That turned out to be the best Porter I had ever tried to this day. He soon became the brewmaster of one of the first craft breweries in California's Santa Clara Valley. 

Why am I relating this story to you? It illustrates my first premise that alcohol, good alcohol, is meant to be shared, especially with people you like, that share the same passion for drinking something made by hand. A pro brewer or a homebrewer is so proud of his handcrafted brewing creation that he gives it away. A brewing club brings together the pro and the home brewer alike, allowing them to share their beer with one another and learn from each other.

Craft breweries also help other craft breweries. This statement is repeated time and time again by brewers and entrepreneurs that talk about how they got their brewery started. If a brewery is short on supplies another brewery is ready to step right in and help that brewery. If help is needed to fix a flavor problem with a batch of beer, just call another brewery and they will be right there to help out. If  there is an equipment problem-call another brewery and they will be glad to help out. They are in competition but not with each other as you would think, but instead with non craft breweries.

The practice of breweries helping out other breweries also starts down at a much lower level.

This happens with the homebrewer and his brewing buddies and with a brew club. The same circumstances of helping and sharing, start with a homebrewer and other home brewers just as craft breweries help other craft breweries. This is especially true with a brew club. This is works because many people can be helped at the same time during a presentation or club demonstration, or a club member steps up to become a mentor. Many brewers, club members or not enjoy and benefit from brewing with another brewer. Nearly every time brewing is shared-something new is learned about brewing beer no matter how many years of experience a brewer may have.

Brewing clubs generally have brewing competitions. Some competitions are one-on-one brewing of the same style while other competitions feature many beers of all styles among as many members that enter beer. Remember that beer brewers are very proud of their creation so getting entries is not usually a problem. If a batch of beer is not completely successful he generally will not share the beer. The biggest values to take away from beer competition is learning to take criticism about your beer, and learning to judge beers by specific BJCP guidelines. BJCP stands for Beer Judge Certification Program. BJCP defines and outlines the properties of the different beer brewing styles. A portion of beer judging requires tasting and identifying off flavors in beers. Participating in the judging portion of a beer competition can be quite daunting at first but the benefit and knowledge is value added to brewing experience. BJCP is quite complex so I won't get into the details but I would liken it to skills of a Wine Sommelier. Both certifications have many levels of certification and require extensive education.

Judging beer at a brew club merely gives an introduction into BJCP.  Each brew club may have members that have taken tests and are Beer Judge Certified. Certification consists of both a written and tasting test.

The club usually gets discounts on supplies and equipment, and sometimes discounts at breweries and brewpubs. Anything that is needed can be obtained in a pinch from another home brewer who is most likely a member of the club. Many clubs also pool equipment or have club equipment that has larger brew capacities than the average homebrewer. Some brew clubs have a shared common area for brewing and have taps available on a pay as you drink basis. Clubs have both public and private brew days. Brew clubs have members who work for or are associated with one of the local breweries. Knowing and meeting with all the pro brewers in town offer an access for incite and knowledge of different aspects of beer brewing.  In some cases a brewery may be the sponsor of the brew club. Brew clubs sometimes have libraries of books that can be checked out and recipes are shared, many recipes. Books on the art of brewing are also shared among other members.

A successful brew club breeds potential beer businesses. One logical outcome might be a brewing supply store, started by one or more club members or the club. Of course the most obvious of course would be to start a brewery. This could be a traditional brewing business or it could be a cooperative-initially started by the investment of some club members or or investment members who like to drink good beer and be a part of a brewery. An interesting variation on the brewing supply store is a brew on premises. A brew on premises consists of a brewing supply store combined an actual brewery portion.  This would allow a brewer that doesn't quite have the space or equipment -to brew their own beer, for a fee.

What is brew on premises?  So far I have heard recently of a brew supply store in New York City called Bitters and Esters, providing this service. I do remember first hearing of this novel idea 20 years ago in San Jose, California but I don't know if it is still in business today. A simple Google search finds 2 in New Jersey and 1 in Baltimore, Maryland, and one in Portland, Oregon, but there are many more. The service provides 100% of all the supplies and equipment and includes advice and instructions if requested or needed. Costs are roughly $150-$250 for a 5 gallon batch. The brew-on-premises service provides the cleaning up. It is expensive but this is a good way to get into brewing if you don't have any space, like someone living in New York or San Francisco.

A brewing cooperative is an interesting concept. It starts out by selling shares to members. Each member has one share and one vote to elect a board of directors. Members get a credit based on what is spent in the co-op. The Board makes the decisions on how the brewery is run, what and how much to brew. Investing members must be a resident of that state that the co-op is located. Details of this San Jose Cooperative Brewery and Pub can be found on the Microbrwr Podcast. Black Star Co Operative in Austin, Texas may have been one of the first brewing co operatives in America.


Buy & Drink Local Beers

Drinking locally starts for me, with drinking home brew, both mine and my fellow homebrewers. I support my four local brewpubs. When I am out of town I visit breweries and brewpubs in those cities. I support taprooms that carry the better craft beers for the particular state's brewing industry, but I tend to prefer the smaller breweries over even the nationwide craft breweries.

When I first joined a brew club I encountered prolific brewers that seldom purchased commercial beer. I thought about this for a while- even though I was a home brewer, why did I buy beer? Well, I like beer a lot and I didn't have enough of my own beer on hand. And in the time just prior to joining a club, I’d only produced three batches of beer: two IPAs and an Irish Red Ale. The first was totally undrinkable due to an extremely unpleasant chemical taste and smell. I dumped it down the drain. In the brew log book I found a major mistake in the mashing process, and the "almost Iodine" smell and flavor was similar to that of my sanitizing solution (I do not use that sanitizer any more). The second IPA was just barely drinkable but it may have acquired some wild yeast. The third batch of Irish Red was actually good-not great but, myself, friends and family consumed all of it rather quickly. So, I bought beer both at the stores and at my local brew pubs.  

Next, for research purposes I brewed a successful batch of Very Dry Mead. Then I brewed a batch of Russian Imperial Stout of which I was very proud. It was so good that after about two weeks, 4 out of 5 gallons were gone. I had to stop drinking it because I committed to entering it into a head to head competition with another brew club member.

It also occurred to me that club members that did not buy very much beer, besides brewing often, also brewed larger batches than me. I increased the next batch to 10 gallons of IPA (it was also very good). I can brew as much as 13 gallons so I will do that and not buy as much beer. I will also brew more often and keep 6 kegs cold at one time after buying an 18 cu. ft. chest freezer.

As of this writing Heineken has bought a 50% share in Lagunitas, Belgian brewer Duvel bought a 50% share of Firestone Walker. Lagunitas has big breweries in Northern California and Chicago. Rumor is that the Lagunitas buyout will build another brewery in Azusa, California. Firestone Walker will now have distribution on the east coast and in Europe. Now today I learn that the corporation that owns Budweiser is in talks to acquire Miller-Coors. Yikes!

Supporting local beer is becoming even more important. Local brewing with local consumers will also become more important in the future, as the consumer will determine their favorite styles. Also the practice of mega breweries interfering or interrupting craft brewing supplies such as hops and grain will continue to be a factor. The Brewing Association forecasts that hops production will need to expand from 70 million pounds in 2014 to 504 million pounds by 2020 assuming a linear increase. Obtaining the correct hops will become a challenge. Breweries will need to encourage more local production of grains and hops to keep up with national demand for these raw ingredients. I hope there is a trend similar to members of my brew club to grow their own hops. A new local farm has also started to produce hops and created a trade with one our local breweries. The beer brewing industries will need many more new farms growing hops to meet the growing demand.

There are a lot of ways to drink locally. Support your local brewpubs and taprooms, and when you buy beer from the store, try to keep it local. Or, get involved in a local brew club, try what your fellow homebrewers are making, and make your own.


Destination: 27th Annual Great Arizona Beer Festival

In April of 2015 we traveled to Mesa, AZ for the Great Arizona Beer Festival. To ensure we didn’t drink on an empty stomach, we had lunch at Rehab Burger Therapy in Old Town Scottsdale. I paired my burger with Four Peaks Hop Knot, even though I would soon be attending a four hour beer festival.

The festival started at 5pm which is much later than most beer festivals I’ve been to-usually they start at around midday. Food opportunities were advertised to be "A Taste of Chicago," appropriate, since the event was at the Chicago Cubs Spring Training Stadium. The Chicago Cubs concession stand was the only food available, so I am glad I had a good burger a few hours earlier.

Ticket prices were a little steep, at $44, but we had a groupon discount for $39. This was still more than I have ever paid for a beer festival. There were a couple of hundred people ahead of us when we got into line at about a quarter after 5, and 200-300 people already on the field as we entered the stadium.

From the top of the stadium approximately 30 pop up canopies representing both breweries and distributors sat in two rows. We were given a 3 oz plastic beer mug and 24 tickets, 1 ticket per 3 oz of beer. This seemed kind of weird, having such a small glass and so many tickets. I think there was a concern that with a larger glass that people would feel the effects of the beer much faster. But with 24 3 oz tickets that's 72 oz of beer! You can still get pretty impaired on much less than 72 oz. I probably had almost 10 tickets leftover at the end, and I used the dump bucket often.

Besides beers and ales, there were hard ciders and "shandys.” I highly recommend that even if you are not usually a fan of any particular style to at least try anything you've never tried before because you never know when you'll be surprised. Don't be afraid to use the dump bucket. Using the dump bucket when tasting wine or beer, unknown to most beer festival tastings or winery tastings is an expected procedure, not a rude activity. You go to a beer fest or winery to taste and sometimes even 3 oz is too big a taste. A tip we learned the hard way is to save the high ABV and "overly hopped" brews for last. After tasting too many strong IPAs or imperials, even 3 oz samples, turned your tongue numb.

I was disappointed to find that 95% of the booths were manned by volunteers supplied by the distributors, sponsors, and the charity or charities receiving the proceeds. I am more used to the reverse where only 5% were either volunteers or hired by the distributor because that particular brewery was just too far away. It is important to meet and speak to the brewers and employees that make that particular beer. With volunteers if you ask a question-they don't, for the most part, know the answer.

I was very satisfied with the number of breweries that were represented at the brew festival. I tried many beers that I have never tried before. We earned A LOT of badges and points on Untapped that night, and we can all go back to recall every beer we consumed and remember if we liked it or not.

Stay tuned for Destination Pacific Northwest blog coming up soon.

Beer Brewing in Arizona

Ever since I wrote the first blog for St. Germain Cellars about Thumb Butte Distillery, I became curious about the history of beer brewing, distilleries, and wineries in Arizona. This will be the first of three blogs in the series, where I’ll cover beer brewing. I will cover the history of Arizona Distilleries and wine production in separate posts.

In the 1860s local beer became a more important staple for miners and settlers. Beer did not travel well due to carbonation and was very easily prone to spoilage. Refrigerated transportation was either not invented yet or not practical yet, and thus beer did not travel distances well. Technology of metal pressure kegs were not yet in use, only wooden barrels. In comparison, wine and distilled spirits were not carbonated and contained higher alcohol by volume (ABV), so there was less possibility of spoilage during transportation. In terms of beer quality, Prescott, Arizona was considered to make the best beer, most likely due to a climate of lower temperatures and less chalky water.

As it turns out, the early history of beer production and selection of the Arizona territorial capital paralleled each other. Prescott and Tucson both vied for the designation of the new capital of the Arizona Territory. Abraham Lincoln and the government of the United States eventually chose Prescott (named after historian William Prescott) because Tucson had sympathies for the Confederacy and Prescott was sympathetic with the Union. The original temporary capital was selected as Fort Whipple, about 5 miles away from what is now Prescott, Arizona.

Eventually Phoenix, the vast area between Prescott and Tucson, would develop in importance of beer production, population growth, and become the State Capital of Arizona.

Breweries Listed by Chronology, Location, and Importance

Tucson

  • Pioneer Brewery (1864-1872)   

Pioneer Brewery may have possibly been the first brewery in Arizona Territory and was set up to supply miners and mining camps.  

  • Tucson Brewery (1870-1870)
  • Park Brewery (!870-1886)
  • French Brewery
  • Southwestern Brewing
  • Gentle Ben's/Firehouse (1992-1995)
  • Gentle Ben's/Barrio (1995-present)

The brewery portion of Gentle Ben's was removed from the University Ave. location and reinstalled in Barrio Brewery in 2007 while the pub portion remains open today near the University of Arizona.

  • Nimbus (1997-present)
  • Borderlands (2015-present)

Prescott 

  • Arizona Brewery (1867-1886)
  • Pacific Brewery (1867-1897)
  • Prescott Brewing Company (1898-1899)
  • City Brewery (1876-1899)
  • Arizona Brewing Company (1903-1915)
  • Prescott Brewing Co. Brewpub (1994-present)
  • Prescott Brewing Co. Microbrewery (2012-present)
  • Granite Mountain Brewing Co. Nanobrewery (2012-present)
  • Black Hole Brewing Co. (2014-present)
  • Oak Creek Brewing (1995-present)
  • Superstition Meadery (2014-present)

Prescott was considered to have the best beer, in the late 1880s, over breweries in Phoenix and Tucson, possibly due to cooler weather and better water than the the heat and chalky water of the deserts of Phoenix or Tucson. The Prescott area also had better access to ice-a necessity to produce lagers and pilsners. This was before electric refrigeration.  

I found it interesting and although I did not chronicle all the times that breweries were sold or changed management, but quite frequently ownership or management changed every 6 months to 2 years. Also what jumped out at me was the large number of these men that had German names who frequently went from one brewery to another. I have said before that German immigrants were extremely influential to the beer brewing production in America.

Phoenix Metro Area and Maricopa County

  • Arizona Brewery (1933-1964)

Arizona Brewery became Carling in 1964 and also National Brewing 1966-1975 and G.Heilman/Carling National  (1975-1985).

This version of Arizona Brewery even though now closed-produced more beer than any brewery ever has even to this day. It was famous for A-1 Pilsner. Antique signage and memorabilia for A-1 can still be seen today outside Arizona bars and saloons across the state of Arizona. Arizona Brewing also produced Carling Black Label and Colt 45 Malt Liquor, to name a few.

  • Phoenix Brewing Company (1900-1901)
  • Sonoran Brewing Co. (1996-2004)
  • Four Peaks  (2004-present)
  • BJ's (2001-present)
  • Phoenix Ale Brewery (2011-present)
  • OHSO (2012-present)
  • Santan  (2007-present)
  • Papago (2001-present)

There are many more breweries in the Phoenix Metro that are too numerous to mention, therefore only the historic or most notable have been listed here.

Flagstaff

  • Flagstaff Brewery (1882-1892)
  • Beaver Street Brewery Whistle Stop Cafe (1994-present)
  • Flagstaff Brewing Company (1994-present)
  • Mother Road Brewing Company (2013-present)
  • Sterling Springs Brewing Company (2011-2012)
  • Wanderlust Brewing Company (2012-present)

Williams

  • Williams Brewing (1895-1911)
  • Grand Canyon Brewing (2007-present)

Stay tuned for more about the wineries and distilleries in Arizona.

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Elixr: The Social Drinking App for the Cocktail Enthusiast

Elixr: The Social Drinking App for the Cocktail Enthusiast

Elixr is honestly very similar to Swig. We won’t be making any judgements because we don’t know which was first to market, and the order in which I am reviewing them bears no weight on my opinion. That being said, their theme is also white and orange. Instead of a penguin, they have a little minimalist martini olive. I have to say, I prefer the olive to the penguin. While it’s not cuter, I don’t need cute when I’m logging my drinks, you know?

Untappd: The Social Drinking App Every Beer Drinker Needs

Untappd: The Social Drinking App Every Beer Drinker Needs

If you’re a craft beer drinker, you’re probably an Untappd user. If you aren’t familiar, Untappd is an app that allows you to “check-in” to your beers and share what you’re drinking with your friends. You can rate your beers and see how others have rated it. Best of all, you earn badges based on your beer prowess. There are a ton of badges and some of them can be very challenging (and exciting) to win. It gamifies beer drinking, probably the last thing on earth that needed more gamification.