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My take on “Craft vs. Crafty”

It’s been a busy week but I’ve finally had a chance to take a look at the American Brewers Association article titled Craft vs. Crafty. It looks to be a pretty well planned attack on the big brewers (who are members of the BA). There are plenty of articles from blogs and major news sources with reaction.

While I agree with the premise of the article I do have some concerns. It is clear that macro breweries are trying to make products that impersonate craft beer. Two of the examples cited are Blue Moon and Shock Top. Both successful products from the macros. The large breweries have followed the “if you can’t beat em’, join em'” mentality. While this may put an end to some small breweries I think it is an overall good thing. If more people are exposed to beer with actual flavor, they might be enticed to branch out more, in effect actually helping the craft beer industry. Why is more competition in the space a bad thing?

There are more breweries in the U.S. now than there ever has been. To be fair, some of the craft breweries leave a lot to be desired. I’ve had some excellent beers and some terrible ones from various different craft breweries. Craft doesn’t always equate to quality. The process for making beer is the same, large or small. My 5 gallon batches have a lot in common with the 100 barrel batches that are brewed at the macros.

I think it is a bit short cited of the BA to slam the door on the big guys, when they are living proof that the craft beer movement isn’t going way. The macros are scrambling to find a solution to their shrinking market share. We know that they cannot match the quality of the excellent craft brewers who put everything ahead of costs. If you are confident in your product and produce a high quality one, the macros pose no threat.

I don’t like the David vs. Goliath scenarios that pop up all of the time. It’s fine for one company to go against another, but when you are talking about an entire industry, the argument loses a little luster. Maybe I’m way off here, but I don’t think this press release from the BA did anything to promote craft beer.

Magic Hat Sampling

Magic Hat Brewing Company’s promotional/marking guy recently sent me an email asking if I wanted a few samples of their new spring beers. While I’m trying to not purposefully get seasonal beers, I’m not going to deny myself some free beer. Within three days of the initial email, I came home to a box sitting on my front step.

I wasn’t sure what the box was but upon closer inspection, the Magic Hat name was clearly written on the shipping label. I went inside and carefully (way too quickly) opened up the box and was greeted with three tubes, one of which had a Magic Hat sticker, and some bubble wrap. I wrestled wit the tubes and I was pleasantly greeted with a sample of each of their spring beers.

Under the bottle tubes was a promotional information packet about the beers. I also received a bottle opener which I must say is a high quality bottle opener. It’s not made of cheap, light metal; this one has substance.

My next three beer reviews will be of these samples. If the people at Magic Hat are nice enough to send me samples, the least that I can do is get reviews of the beers up as quickly as possible. I will make sure to review these beers fairly and put a disclaimer that they were sent to me but I do want to thank the people at Magic Hat for including me.

Victory… Victory Dark Intrigue

It’s not often that a beer comes along that demands lines out of the front of the brewery, but ¬†Victory Dark Intrigue is one of those beers. Victory released their bourbon barrel aged version of Storm King Stout today for only the second time. If you believe their posts, this will be the last time this beer is ever made. Call me a skeptic, but I think we will see it return in a few years once they have some more room at the brewery.

Victory started selling cases and individual bottles of the beer at 11:30 AM but they mentioned that you could start lining up at 9:00 AM. I heard a few say there people were there at 7:00 AM. I had to work, so that wasn’t in my plan, but I did have a half day, and I work 15 minutes from the brewery, so I headed over as soon as I got out of work. When I got there a line went from the entrance all the way to the second loading dock, no small distance. A worker was handing out brackets and numbering them. I was number 340. Just for reference they were only giving out 300 cases of the beer so my chances we no good to terrible.

As the first hour passed a few behind me gave up hope as case after case entered different cars and drove away. One person behind me was keeping tally of every case that went out of the front doors. In hour one, about 100 cases had been sold.

Hour two saw some light rain and worsening spirits. Anyone past the magic number of 300 was given a Victory sticker. For reference they cost 50 cents in the gift store. I was beginning to lose hope, but the line was slowly drudging on.

Hour three had some moments of worry and excitement. Because not everyone bought full cases (at $180 a pop!) the magic number for a guaranteed chance at beer was at 320. That number quickly went above my number and I knew I was in good shape. After three full hours I paid for my beer and had it in my hands. It comes in 750 ml caged and corked bottles, each bottle costing 15 bucks. I overheard one of the works saying that they took some of their distributor cases out of the shipping area to ensure that everyone had a chance to get some beer. I only purchased three bottles which drew some strange looks from those who purchased full cases.

I have no plans on hoarding this beer. Even if it is the last time they ever make it, beer is meant to be enjoyed, not worshiped. It wasn’t that fun of an experience and I’m not sure if I would do it again.¬† I also haven’t tasted the beer yet, so my opinion of the whole thing could change. I have a few other thoughts about the day that I will share in a later post, but I got a bottle (and two for a friend) and I accomplished my mission of the day.

Beer Review #84 Santa’s Private Reserve

I really like Rouge Ales and their beers. I visited them when I was in Portland, Oregon and I had a great time. I was also treated to a wonderful variety of quality beers. Santa’s Private Reserve is a beer that I’ve been wanting to try for awhile but I’ve only ever seen it in Lubbock, and I saw it there in July. Something told me not to get it because it was sitting in the fridge for a bit too long.

When I happened upon it at my new favorite beer store, I grabbed it up. This ale is an American amber style beer. Which means that it should be a bit malty and have a nice finish. Because it was brewed by Rouge and Rouge is based in the west coast, hops are going to be stronger than an east coast American amber. Redish, amber is the color that the beer pours, which fits in well with style. It is crystal clear and has a light, slightly off-white head that sits on top of the tasty treat.

The nose has lots of floral hops. I really couldn’t get much else other than hops. That’s not always a bad thing, because these hops smelled very nice. On the first taste I got some lightly roasted malt followed by some piney, spicy hops. The hopss very not harsh at all, but very smooth and balanced. I found this beer to be very enjoyable. The malt flows right into the hops and then the aftertaste. I love it when beers have their components flow right into each other. Rouge did a great job with this beer and I would love to have some more again very soon. (more…)

Shiner 100 Bottle Salute

The Spoetzel Brewery. the people who make Shiner Bock, recently celebrated it’s 100 year anniversary. Congrats to them for being around so long, there are not many American breweries that can claim a record like that. To celebrate they did a 100 bottle rocket salute, launching the rockets out of Shiner Bock bottles. They filmed the whole event at a number an angles and the results are amusing at the least.

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