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Enough bourbon and barrel aging

A little under two years ago I wrote about some trends in craft beer that I was noticing. You can read the full thing here, but the skinny of it is that oak aged and sour beers were making a mark in the craft beer world. I still think that the trend that I talked about then is true now, but there seems to be a bigger emphasis on “big” beers and frankly, I’m tired of it.

I do dig the occasional bourbon aged imperial stout, but they are becoming a dime a dozen. They aren’t special anymore and they ones that I have had range from decent to poor. Consumers seem to be getting caught up in these “special” release beers and I’m not sure that it is having a positive effect on the craft beer industry. I’ve fallen victim to this type of ploy as well, but I’m learning to shy away from it.

How many 10% bourbon aged imperial stouts can one drink and how different can they all really be? I’m getting tired of big and bold, I would prefer smaller beers with more delicate flavors. There is something to be said for a solid 5% beer. I think it shows a level of skill in brewing that a 10% stout just doesn’t showcase. As any homebrewer which style of beer is easiest to make consistently. I bet stout would be the number one answer.

Hopefully this trend starts to calm down and we can return to more “normal” beers. There is still plenty of room for experimentation, but the bourbon and barrel aging has run its course. Am I alone in this?

Beer Wars: Review

Last week I posted my initial impressions on the movie Beer Wars. My overall impression was that I liked it. I have since watched it another time just to make sure everything I was remembering was correct. The movie is essentially made up of three parts that are mostly woven together, but also don’t entirely have anything to do with each other. The first part is talking about prohibition and the rise again of craft beer. It tells us how we got to the point that we are now and also how the big boys made their moves.

There are a number of random interviews from craft beer industry giants along with some from the homebrewers group. The interviews are nice sound clips, but they really don’t add a ton to the story. I am sure they had a lot more to say than what was placed in the movie and I would of liked to hear a bit more from them.

The second focus of the movie was centered about two breweries/brands; Dogfish Head and Moonshot. I am partial to Dogfish Head as I love the story associated with that brewery. Basically Sam talks about the struggles of getting a distribution system setup and also how much personal risk there is in owning a brewery. He also mentions how easily the big guys could crush him if they wanted to. One of the biggest points that he makes is what he calls “identity theft” of beer. He makes the comparison how an Bud pumpkin beer vs. his DFH one stacks up. His beer is more expensive, comes in less bottles, and, while it may have more taste, a newcomer to the beer scene is going to go with the Bud product. I get the concern, but that is how business goes. Competition is going to happen and ideas are going to get used by other companies. It is just like TV’s, there are the bargain brands and the ones that are quality. It really depends on what you are willing to spend in order to get the quality you want to get. The good thing about beer is that the price for the cheap beer and the craft beer isn’t that different.

The other brand the movie focuses on is Moonshot. It is a beer that was started by a former sales manager for Sam Adams. They show her struggles with getting funding to take the business to the next level. Moonshot is beer with caffeine in it, which is supposed to be an “untapped market.” The Moonshot lady eventually goes to Bud to try and sell her product. Basically everything that she was against, she winds up trying. I guess the movie was trying to show that you have to go to the big guys to get noticed. It neglects to say that beer with caffeine (which apparently doesn’t taste very good) is just a bad idea or how thousands of other breweries have managed to make it without going to the big guys.

The final part of the movie shows us the three tier system and how much money the beer industry spends in the government. To be honest, it was the most boring part of the movie. I don’t really care to hear about government legislation or anything of the like. The movie also featured a few Micheal Moore stunts like a blind taste testing between the three big beers. People were asked to pick out each of the beers and none of the people shown were able to get it right. Does it prove anything, no, was it entertaining, hell yes. The director of the movie also tried to get an interview with the Bud executives by running up to them and asking.  The obviously did not work and the movie tried to show it as another example of the big guys ignoring the little people. Not really the case, but anyway.

Again I want to say that I did enjoy the movie. There were just a few parts that bothered me in areas where the movie completely ignored. It was entertaining but I feel like the movie didn’t have a clear direction. I suggest seeing it and let me know you thoughts about it if you have/when you do.

Beer Pioneers trailer

08-04-01This movie has been in the works for fifteen years now and has all of the big names in the craft beer industry in it. There is a trailer on the website linked here. It is nice to see a bunch of movies taking place about the beer industry. The other movie that recently came out was Beer Wars, and soon we can expect this. I’m really looking forward to this as it looks to tell the story of craft breweries from the owners/brewers perspective. To quote the website,

Beer Pioneers explores the history and evolution of craft beer in America, from Anchor Brewing and New Albion to Merchant du Vin and the Maltose Falcons. The documentary takes an in-depth look at the people, places and events behind the craft beer revolution.

Filmed over a 15 year period, director Jay Sheveck interviews many of the early pioneers and revisits dozens of historic breweries and events that helped shape the modern day craft brewing industry. Archival photos, films and breweriana compliment the narrative, shedding even more light upon the earliest days.

Beer Pioneers reveals the story of the American craft brewing revolution unlike any other documentary to date. The final feature-length documentary will debut in Summer 2010.”

Magic Hat up huge

This is a few days late, but it is noteworthy, Magic Hat Brewing Company had a 26% increase in sales for 2008. 26% that is insane! The craft beer industry as a whole saw increases around 8% last year. It is also interesting because Magic Hat is expanding to new areas, and they are still seeing increasing sales in markets they already sell to. Magic Hat #9 sales were up 33%.

Magic Hat is the nations 12th largest brewer and is adding a massive addition to their capacity for 2009. They plan on taking production from 127,586 barrels in 2008 to 165,000 barrels in 2009. That is an increase of 37,414 barrels, or 1,159,834 gallons of beer, or 12,371,563 more bottles of beer. Way to go Magic Hat.