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Pennsylvania Breweries launch party at Victory

I’ve been following Lew Bryson’s blog Seen Through a Glass for a year or two now. A week or two a post popped-up about a launch party for the 4th Edition of Pennsylvania Breweries. My wife gave me the 3rd Edition when we were in college as a Christmas present and I have been waiting for an updated edition. It was a ticketed event that costs $35. For the money I received a signed copy of the new book, two beers, some delicious food, and a chance to hear some of my idols talk about the beer industry. I think it was  a hell of a deal.

Before the talk with the brewers ever began, Lew actually came over and talked with my friend Mike and myself. I’ve never met him before but I think we could be drinking buddies. Lew seems like a genuine guy with a big hearty laugh. I just enjoyed talking beer with him and being around him. He did the same thing with everyone who came out, about 40-50 people in total. Very cool.

The brewers that were represented came from the southeastern to central PA region. Victory Brewing Company was obviously there, as was Troegs Brewing Company, Stoudt’s Brewing Company, Sly Fox Brewing Company, and a Philadelphia brewpub, Nodding Head Brewery.  Lew served as the MC for the event and asked some interesting questions. Below you can see the brewers in order from left to right:

(Lew Bryson, Ron Barchet of Victory, the Trogners, Stoudt’s representative (I forget his name), Brian O’Reilly of Sly Fox, and Curt Decker of Nodding Head)

To start off the Q&A Lew asked about Pennsylvania’s impact on the brewing community, most notably in the lager market. Pennsylvania is really a home for full bodied lagers. Out west ales then to dominate the scene, but Pennsylvania brewers have mastered the craft of the lager and have made it something to be proud of. They made some damn good ales as well, but lagers are PA’s calling card.

Another topic of discussion was Yuengling and how it has helped and also hurt craft brewers in PA. Some of the things I took away were that it helped because Pennsylvanians acquire a taste for something other than light lagers. They have also harmed craft brewers because they have limited the markets that they can expand into. When a brewer is trying to sell to a new retailer and they say they already have a craft beer, Yuengling, on tap, it immediately limits the scope of what they can do.

Lew brought up an interesting note about lower ABV beers and if they have a place in the market. They discussed the fact the the highest rated beers are not sessionable and that the prices are much higher than what the materials actually cost. Curt Deck of Nodding Head, the only brewpub represented, said that in a brewpub setting they want you to drink 2-3 beers at a sitting and that with super high ABV beers that is just not possible. I think they all recognized the need for some lower ABV beers in the marketplace.

Ron of Victory even shared some experiences with beer bars who do not have lower ABV beers and how they try to work with them to get an offering of lower alcohol beers in their bar. The thinking is that you might offer a wide selection of styles, but not of alcohol percentages.  Honestly it is something that I never thought of but think is important.

We then moved into local verses national brands and how the market is wanting things from local producers. During the discussion it was also brought up that Pennsylvania brewers have influences from both west coast and European beers. The malts and hops available to east coast brewers is much different than west coast brewers.

One of the final things we talked about was how Yuengling and Sam Adams, the two largest America owned beer makers, have their major breweries in PA. Sam Adams has a brewery outside of Allentown and Yuengling has two breweries in Pottsville. It was an a great discussion on the new and old guard and how PA is the only state to really have a healthy mix of both.

I want to thank the brewers who came out along with Lew for writing this wonderful book and hold such a great even.

I hate beer snobs!

Out in Texas I ran into a few beer snobs at the local homebrew club, but overall, they didn’t bother me all that bad. They knew what they liked and what they didn’t. No problem with that. Now that I live in Delaware, I have run into more beer snobs than I have ever met. I think this is do to a larger number of educated beer people, but it is getting annoying.

I was at my new favorite beer place yesterday trying to grab a bottle of Dogfish Head’s Bitches Brew and I ran into the worst beer snobs I have ever met. It started with my wife and I looking around the store trying to see if they had it. We could not find it in any of the coolers or on the shelves so we asked one of the guys who works there if they had it. Limit two per customer, cool. As the worker descended into the back room, a couple who overheard the conversation came over to us and said, “we had a bottle of that this morning, it was alright, not really that great.” What! The rules of being in public say that you don’t listen in on other peoples conversations and make comments on them.

You also do not give your opinion on a beer that someone else specifically asked for unless they ask you for one. We were in the store for about a half hour getting what we wanted and the couple did not move from one shelf the entire time. They were in the way, and were on their iPhones looking up each and every beer on the shelf. If it didn’t have an “A” rating, it did not go in the cart. I hate that. Get something that you like, don’t depend on other people’s tastes. I love the craft beer world and love the community surrounding it, but those kinds of people drive me up the wall.

What’s with Imperial Stouts?

If you haven’t noticed, I am a bit of a beer geek. Watching me shop for beer, writing/running this site, and a number of other things make this “news” very apparent. Because of my geekiness I tend to look at the two largest beer rating sites from time to time; Rate Beer and Beer Advocate. On these sites I don’t really tend to read the reviews because people tend to be really harsh on beers for no apparent reason or taste things that I can’t. Needless to say they are not helpful in that respect.

Even though I don’t read the reviews, I do look at the top beer lists. Rate Beer’s is simply titled the “Top 50 Beers” while Beer Advocates goes as far as to call it the “Top Beers on Planet Earth.” The two sites do largely agree on the good beers. What I find interesting is that most of the beers at Imperial Stouts. I don’t know why, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot of love for other styles. Sure you get the Belgian beers in there and the occasional Double IPA, but Imperial Stouts take the cake.

While they are wonderful, why is it that “experienced” craft beer drinkers gravitate to the big beers? I must be missing a good segment of website traffic because I tend to stay away from the big beers. It is not becasue I don’t like them but I like so many different styles that I rarely grab the big guys. I am just wondering why the Imperial Stouts have become the beer style of the beer rating sites. Anyone have any ideas?

Rare does not always equal better

One of my friends from back home is as big of a beer freak on me. He is signal and does well for himself so he has a lot more of his disposable income being thrown at beer. I am truly jealous of his collection as I wish I had access to some of the same beers. Somehow he finds some really rare beers that I didn’t even know were possible to find in the Philadelphia market. He will routinely send me text messages on what beer he is drinking and what special beer he was able to find.

Lately his text messages have been about how overrated some of the rare or limited production beers have been. He contends that because the beer is rare, people treat it like it is something more special and rate it higher. In general I would have to agree with him. I think some of the most sought after beers build up such a reputation and a are so hard to find that they get killer ratings that might not be all that well deserved. I generally stick to the more available mass produced craft beers, but when I find a rare one I do get it. I have found about a 50/50 split between beers that lived up to the hype and ones that have not. Does anyone else notice that rare beers might not always have the most accurate ratings based on their rarity?