Friday, December 30, 2011

My Beer Cellar...

A friend recently asked me how many beers are in my 'cellar'. Good question. It fluctuates. As any beer-geek will tell you, when an "age-able" beer comes around, you don't just buy one. How would you tell the difference between a young beer, and how well/not well it stands up to time?  Aging beer allows the beer to evolve. Beer is has creatures in it. Over time, they affect the beer and for the most part in a positive manner. It is true that some infections or damages can occur--like oxygen and bacteria. But the risk is worth it.

So, usually I buy 2 of everything (maybe more). Chad at Crooked Stave is producing such beers. Age-able. His W.W.B.Y. and W.W.B.G are on the shelves now, and I will buy 2 of each at least. One to try now, one to age 1 or 2 years (or I could just get 3 each...)  It'll be really interesting to compare these beers years apart.

So, how many beers are in my cellar? Well, at last count (2 months ago?) on my spreadsheet, there were 116 entries. I've added and drank some. So take that number and then remember that I started homebrewing. So, there's that.  It equals A LOT.

Cheers and beers!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Two Industries Coming Together

Craft Beer and Conflict Management have several similarities: For one, they are both roughly 30 years old. Sure, prior to 1980 craft beer was around, as was conflict management, but they were unrefined, didn’t have much of a following and neither made many headlines (aside from Anchor Brewing and Camp David Accords, respectively). Today, both industries offer more developed products than those available within the mass market. They both pay attention to detail and do not adhere to a cookie-cutter approach to make the final product more agreeable to the customer. They espouse a sense of community, personal connections and collaboration. And for the most part, craft brewers and conflict specialists started out in their respective industries by following their passions and not the lure of the almighty dollar.

Since these industries are relatively new, they endure growing pains. Both would benefit from an educated marketplace relative to their product. The field of conflict management needs exposure and recognition, while craft beer makes up only about 6% of overall beer sales. Craft beer needs efficient and effective means to handle its recent rapid growth while adhering to their founding ideals. Conflict management seeks to overcome its perceived sense of vagueness and widespread unawareness of its utility in the real world.

Amid these challenges, craft beer and conflict management can benefit each other. Craft beer can offer conflict management an arena to showcase its services, garner experience, establish a track record, and enjoy craft beer. In return, conflict management provides efficient and affordable services that can strengthen craft breweries’ business models, manage potentially damaging disputes and strengthen the human ingredient. Craft breweries enter the business realm of contracts negotiations, such as leases and distribution rights, while some prepare to meet expansion measures. Craft breweries and brewpubs provide unique and time-honored venues where people gather to relax, discuss various topics, and mingle with fellow citizens—something conflict management loves to see.

In these tough economic times it seems paramount that assistance should be a part of any business plan; get help from wherever and whomever. If craft beer and conflict management can help each other grow, just think of the outcome: people actually talking with each other in person, sharing perspectives, producing new ideas and having a great time-all while enjoying some fantastic craft beer!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

An explanation about Clown Shoes "debate"

A valuable insight to the intention of label art.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Racism in Brewing? Not in this case

Recently some commotion has grown over the labels from Clown Shoes brewing. The label that started it was for Brown Angel beer, a brown style from the Massachusettes micro brewery. The label reflects the name:

Some see this as stereotypical of "black women" and because of this the owner of said brewery is implied to be racist. As such, some people will not support this brewery and, taking one step or two further, vocalizing this opinion to others.

There are many things going on here that frustrate me:

- The label, to me, isn't racist or stereo-typical, but the brewery could have foreseen such claims and provisions or alterations could have been made. Although, while perceptions made by others shouldn't dictate their plans, they can be prepared for explanation of how/why they chose said label
- The perception of stereotype. It has been claimed that this label depicts an ass-shaking mama, with the stereotype being seen as black women have big butts. Looking at the label it is difficult to see a 'big butt' as the term "big" must be relative, yet there is nothing in the label to give reference. It is almost impossible to see this "mama" as shaking her tush. As such, this claim is made up in the minds of those who look for negativity in others in order to promote or validate their idealistic visioning.
- It is also difficult to conclude the intention of the image, other than representing a brown angel. The image is graphed in a profile view of the whole body of a female angel. Not focused on is the butt, nor is the butt 'engaged' with a thong bikini
- Claiming racism just because an image of a minority is presented in a "questionable" manner (and I use questionable very loosely) is a form of racism itself. IF the image were of a non-minority, then would there be contention? In this case, the answer is a clear 'no'. Therefore, the "opinionated" sees said minority in a certain light--to be treated differently based on race perceived.
- Everyone has opinions and are free to express them. The question then surrounds motivation for expression. The expressing of the opinion sends a message attached to the actual opinion. What do I mean? Well, one person may maintain the opinion that this label is sexist. Nothing wrong with having that opinion (even if it's not factual). Posting this opinion on a public website is quite another matter. Why do it? Who would care what this person's opinion is? The answer is that the "opinionated" wishes to sway others to believe the same and/or validate this opinion, perhaps to fulfill some righteous crusade against all that is oppressive. Swing and a miss.
- Targeting only subjective offense. Not much, if any, hubbub was stirred up for other labels depicting many contentious issues; religion (demons, angels, saints), dictators (see: Avery), sex, aggression, etc etc). The "opinionated" was offended. For the most part, being offended is a choice. Empowering others to harm you is not healthy. To defend against this, offensive tactics are then used: here, the "attacker's" authority is questioned and dismissed, and unflattering image is painted for others to see.

The bottom line for me is this: the objector(s) have every right to hold opinion. And based on that opinion they can abstain from purchasing said product. But, just b/c they have an opinion does NOT mean their perception is correct. Those who post opinion must be open to criticism and amendment. Stating opinions as facts, with no motivation or will to learn more about the situation, is a step toward libeling. In this case, the sexism, racism and stereotyping displayed is by the "opinionated", and not the brewery.

Understanding and Dismantling Racism: The Twenty-First Century Challenge to White America (Facets)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Breweries: from HUGE to Tiny

This weekend a friend offered to be designated driver and take us up to Ft. Collins to tour some breweries. She loves horses, so our first stop was Anheuser-Busch.

Massive. This big brewery is one of a dozen or so across the country that brews AB products (note: AB was bought by InBev recently). The sheer amount of beer brewed is amazing. This brewery alone pumps out 30 Million barrels per year (60 million kegs). The vessels used in brewing all this beer are massive themselves. The bottling line rips through cases of bottles or cans at an astonishing rate. This is a well run business that just happens to be a brewery. For me, their beers do not cut it. They are adjunct lagers and have no real taste to them. For some, this satisfies them. That's fine, but for me it's on to the next tour...

Odell's Brewing Company is the next step down on the size scale. And it's waaayyy down. If I remember correctly, Odell produces 25,000 barrels a year. AB does that in a week, if not faster. Amazing. But the products are different. While AB produces mostly lagers, Odell produces mostly ales. The former takes longer to produce (about a month) that is double the time most ales need. So, AB puts out more beer that takes longer to produce, than Odell. Again, amazing. Yet, the ales at Odells are more my style. Full of flavor, diverse, prone to mistakes, and innovating. Their production line was impressive, and it's growing. While Odell's is drastically smaller than the ONE AB brewing facility, it's still bigger than...

Fort Collins Brewery, just down the street. This is more like a small bar with a brewery attached. Quaint and cozy. They are about 1/2 the size of Odell's and not at all a threat to AB. It's interesting to see the differences in these breweries. We have the colossal giant, the big-guy micro-brewery, and the small micro-brewery. Then we have...

Funkwerks Brewery, just down the street from FC and Odell's. This is very small and very new. They specialize in "funky" beers, or beers that are made with certain yeast strains that give off distinctive aromas and flavors. Basically, now we're in someone's house (a big house) that is converted to a brewery and tasting room (note: I don't think it's actually someone's house). They have a small but nice selection of beers, and some cheese dishes to pair with these Belgian-y beers. A more personal experience.

It was quite a trip. To see that AB's brewery is so large that it utterly dwarfs a nice sized micro-brewery is impressive as is...but throw in the fact that this AB brewery is just one of a dozen across the country and the picture becomes much more clear: AB is in no danger of being contested by the micros. Wow.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Beer Buyers and Beer Customers

A recent discussion on BeerAdvocate centers on rare beer at liquor stores and how some customers miss out on purchasing said beer. I just wanted to post a little blurp about this.

First, rare beers are just that; rare. There's simply just not enough to go around. Some people will get these, most will not. Still others will have no idea about the beers' existence.

Second, if you spend a lot of money at a store, you will get extra attention. If you have a nice personality and attitude along with this spending, the extra attention will be completely positive. No matter how much you spend, if you're sporting a bad attitude, you won't be looked at favorably.

Third, liquor store people are people. They have lives outside the store, and they have emotions within the store. They have bad days, bad customers, and make mistakes. They are also not rich and do not get perks as most people do at their jobs. The only perk is *maybe* having first dibs on rare beer when/if it comes in.

Fourth, being a good customer (see: #2) will gain you trust. With this trust, the store will more willingly order special products for you. When it comes to rare beer, that order will be at the whim of the supplier.

Fifth, NO customer is entitled to one product over another customer (unless it's a special order).

Sixth, the "customer is always right" routine does NOT work if it is used to threaten an employee or manipulate a store's policy. Another tactic that doesn't work is chatting up the beer buyer with the sole purpose of trying to win his/her favor to secure a certain product.

Lastly, if you love beer, then the last thing you want to do is piss off the beer buyer at a store. Chances are (very good) that this one buyer is friends with others in the same city. Pretty soon, the one you pissed off will be in other stores. Your beer supply can dwindle. Don't piss and moan about a RARE beer you didn't get. And certainly don't blame the beer buyer at your local store.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Brewer vs. Reviewers

Recently on and a copy of a blog was posted on these websites' forums. The blog was written by an irritated brewer from California. The message was simple: those who review beers on the aforementioned websites, and who do not brew large quantities of beer, have no business reviewing as they are ignorant about beer and to know what they are reviewing. While this claim is an opinion--about others' opinions--the reasoning and logic behind it were equally misguided. As it happens, the users/reviewers on Rate and BA tore this small brewery a new A-hole. Not only did they disagree with the premise, but they also shredded the thinking behind it.

The blog also attacked retailers who use these websites' rankings as "shelf talkers" in the stores. The lack of knowledge presented here is astounding. Yet, I will assume no offense was intended, so I will take none. For now....

Too bad for Mother Earth Brew Co. They've lost a ton of present and future business. Clearly the impact of their blog post was not weighed against its intent. And the 'apology' that followed made little sense and seemed insincere. The damage had been done. It can be repaired with huge doses of humility, apology, possibly humor and changes at the brewery.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Retail mazes

"Why are you out of....?"

The 3-tier system in America provides benefits, but it also can be a headache for customers and beer managers at retail outlets. This system separates the Brewers (and importers) from the Distributors from the retailers (restaurants). I won't get into the reasons behind this, but just some effects at the retail level. Within any bureaucracy or complex system, communication becomes difficult, if it exists at all. Brewers sell their product to distributors (or importers) and then the distributors sell the product to the retailers...who then sells it to customers. When customers' complaints, suggestions, trends, etc. are voiced to the retailer it rarely gets passed on up to the brewer. Likewise, any news, releases, ideas, etc. that a brewer may have rarely gets to the retailer. Thus, distributors are the gatekeepers of many things...and they have their own systems to deal with: mainly sales personnel, who are pressured to make sales. Consequently, beer (and other beverages) receive little attention as a creative product, and are treated as means to ends.

Now, for the most part that's fine. It's a business, we all understand that. In the world of craft beer, though, it can be harmful. For one, when the big distributors get a hold of craft beer (e.g. Coors Distributing Co. has New Belgium) things can get messy. CDC can now withhold case specials hostage and "persuade" retailers to buy in bulk...which puts the many cases of craft beer in storage conditions that may not be optimal. It could also persuade retailers to order really heavy, not put beer on the shelf, and return out-dated beer out of spite. This can have damaging consequences. Another factor could be the 'pushing out' of place other craft beers to accommodate these heavy orders. Or retailers could drop SKUs from the big distributor as a boycott. Yet, whatever happens, the customer does not understand and they then become at the mercy of large companies who don't know, care, or pay attention to customers' concerns.

Another common problem is the availability of products from smaller brewers. Once a retailer stocks a certain product, it essentially claims that shelf spot. If a retailer's orders are not filled, and the shelf spot becomes vacant, it looks bad for the retailer. As a result, that product may get dropped in favor of something that's more reliable to obtain. The original product then loses its spot, perhaps permanently. In effect, the brewer has over-extended it's supply line (lessons from Napoleon).

With some distributors maintaining a 'minimum order' (retailers must order a certain minimum number of cases to secure shipment, or face additional fees...passed on then to the customer), the sporadic availability becomes a harmful nuisance. Many times I have ordered 18 cases (min. being 10) only to have the distributor say 12 cases are out, resulting in no order placed for that week in addition to lack of products on the shelf. After a while, those spots will be filled with something else. The loser is the brewer and the customer.

There are many things that happen which are unknown to the customers. Still other problems and issues are unknown to the brewers, and vice versa. In the age of instant communication and the Internet, perhaps something can help this. Several beer-oriented websites have helped, but it's not enough.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Pliny the Younger

One of the "white whales" of the beer world is a beer called Pliny the Younger, from Russian River Brewing CO. in California. This brew is released once a year, not bottled, and can only be found in select places. Denver has seen it in a couple of beer bars in the past, and this year seems no different. It's arriving in Colorado today and should be tapped later this week.

So, what is it? Well, RR also brews a beer called Pliny the Elder that is widely enjoyed and released sporadically--for lack of a better term. It's a double/Imperial American IPA, which means it's loaded with American hops, and that means it's flavors are more focused on citrus and tropical fruits. And it has a bite, a nice, lovely dry bite to it. Pliny the Elder currently ranks as #2 on BeerAdvocate's top 100. Pliny the Younger is #3 on the same list w/ about a 1/4 of the number of reviews. While the Elder is a double IPA, the Younger is billed as a triple IPA. More hops, more bite, more alcohol due to more malt, as well. It's quite good.

Falling Rock Tap House is the only place I know for sure will tap it. Last year I saw it at Vine Street Pub, too, but no word from them yet this year.