The “2017 Best Nine.” I thought it was a silly trend at first, but eventually came around to see the value in what viewers liked the most on the @BeerAffair Instagram account over the course of 2017. Of course, every moment of my love affair with beer is special to me, and some of these moments are meaningful, but what I found really interesting is how many of them are, well, sorta not. Continue reading →
Meg Gill critiques a brew in Beerland Season 2. / Photo credit: Viceland
I recently had the chance to, once again, interview Meg Gill, co-founder and president of Golden Road Brewing and star of Beerland, a television show on Viceland that follows Gill’s travels across the country as she meets some of the nation’s most interesting, unusual and fervid homebrewers.
After a successful debut last spring, Beerland has been renewed for a second season, and its five episodes tackle a cornucopia of themes just in time for fun family discussions during the holidays: among them, race, immigration, poverty, disability, illness, and the call to utilize one’s talents and capabilities to better the larger community. Continue reading →
Last week, the Brewers Association launched Take Craft Back, a “tongue-in-cheek” campaign crowdsourcing imaginary funds in the amount of $213 billion from craft brewers and consumers. The goal? To foot the bill for a weighty purchase: buying out Anheuser-Busch InBev, or ABI, the world’s largest brewing behemoth.
Why? Because ABI has systematically purchased a total of 10 formerly independent craft breweries in the past several years, which allegedly bumps “real” craft brewers off the shelves, out of hop fields and clear out of the minds of beer consumers who aren’t educated enough to make the right choice when faced with corporate versus independent brands at the bar or in the supermarket.
Did the campaign have good intentions? Yes. Absolutely. The BA works their asses off standing up for small and independent brewers around the country, and I respect them for it. In fact, I often cover their successes in beer politics, share and review their Brewers Publications book releases, and reach out to their leaders when I think a story could use their expertise. Take Craft Back is one of the many ways they are both showing and garnering support for the small beer community and I commend that.
But, there was some backlash. Although many of the brewers we love shared the news and contributed to the campaign—and, apparently, upwards of 8,000 people have “donated” (no real money was exchanged, but pledgers are sent some swag for their support)—other industry members were not so tickled. I’ll be the first to admit I laughed at the video, but I too was confused about what I was looking at.
Criticisms of the Campaign
Beer writers in my extended network reacted the most negatively out of anyone, really, and not necessarily to a fault. While the campaign, at best, is obviously a lighthearted attempt to get more eyes on the BA’s goals and convince more people to take the side of the small and independent brewers who work so hard to bring us great beer, the campaign is also bewildering, divisive, and quite frankly, petty. At it’s worst, it’s being criticized as childish, embarrassing, and a misguided use of resources.
I, as always, can appreciate both sides. However, I do agree that there are more effective (and certainly, more distinguished) ways to educate the public about the differences between independently brewed and macro-brewed beer. Although ABI hasn’t issued an official response yet, I imagine they’re laughing their way to the bank, and that the bank is the only institution that will ever touch those $213 billion.
Today, the Brewers Association launched a crowdfunding campaign to “Take Craft Back” (#takecraftback), purporting to crowdsource the funds necessary to buy Anheuser-Busch InBev: $213 billion dollars.
The announcement came with a campaign video that is equal parts “LOL” and “WTF?”:
In it, “not-yet-superstar, Andy” leads the tongue-in-cheek charge of craft beer brewers and enthusiasts in the fight against Big Beer, which, in AB InBev’s case, has bought up 10 formerly independent breweries in recent years.
Is it a hoax? Yes. I’ve contacted the BA to confirm that it is, in fact, a humorous campaign designed to draw attention to Big Beer’s broadening grip on the “craft” industry, as it buys out formerly small and independent brands and thus, according the the BA, limits and confuses consumer choice.
This, as always, turns our attention to the meaning of “craft” and whether or not that definition matters in a changing marketplace. Whatever the case, pledgers get some pretty sweet swag.
Learn more about the Brewers Association’s Take Craft Back campaign at takecraftback.com.
Such are the words used by brewers and their representatives at Belgium Comes to Cooperstown (BCTC), Brewery Ommegang’s annual beer festival that took place this year August 4-5, when asked the question: What does craft beer mean to you?
In the process of making this video, it became clear right away that even when put on the spot, brewers know exactly what craft beer means to them. Read a transcription of their answers below.
“Craft beer means a dedication to what you’re doing and a certain knowledge and skill level. I’ve worked in all different sized breweries…I firmly believe there’s craft in every size. I’ve met some of the best, smartest people in larger breweries. The common thread is passion for beer and making as high quality beer as you can.”
—Phil Leinhart, Brewery Ommegang brewmaster
Phil Leinhart was not available at the time of filming; we called him up afterwards so he could weigh in.
What Is Craft Beer?
“Craft beer is love. It’s care. It’s quality…There’s no boxes. There’s no limits. There’s no, ‘you can’t do this,’ ‘you can’t do that.’” – Scott Luposello, Brewer’s Apprentice and Taproom Manager, Clemson Bros. Brewery,Middletown, NY
“Craft beer, to me, means a lot of pride from where you come from.” – Noreen Lanasa, Bartender,Oyster Bay Brewing Company, Oyster Bay, NY
“I was just so inspired by craft beer that I dropped out of college…it’s my life now, so it means everything.” – Austin Partridge,Red Shed Ale, Rochester, NY
“It’s a lifestyle. I make it and I drink it, every day.” – Kevin Van Blarcun, Brewer,Red Shed Ales, Kingston, NY
“Good people. Good drink. Good times.” – Jamal Robinson, Director of Sales, Stony Creek Brewery,Branford, CT “You really find, when you’re in it, it’s just this community.” – Richard Rogers, Brewer, Roscoe Beer Co.,Roscoe, NY
“Really, it’s people creating things that they’re passionate about and interested in…It’s keepin’ it real.” – Tony Bellis, Co-founder and Brew Commander, Kings County Brewers Collective,Brooklyn, NY “For the customer. Full of soul.” – Colin Herzog, Brewer, Flying Bison Brewing Co.,Buffalo, NY
“Individuality, freedom of expression, stickin’ it to the man.” – Randy Schull, Packaging Manager, Captain Lawrence Brewing Co., Elmsford, NY
April 8 was Saison Day, a beer holiday created several years ago by Allagash as an ode to the Belgian-style farmhouse ale. As expert brewers of the stuff (you may have heard of their eponymous Allagash Saison), when Allagash says it’s Saison Day, we listen.
I remember when I started drinking saisons and was thrilled about the “new” beer style I was beginning to like. Soon, I grew confused: every saison I tasted seemed completely different from the next, with one dry and peppery, another fruity and sweet, and the next a bit spicy with hints of lemon.
And thus is the beauty of saisons: they are, at their core, seasonal —“saison” being the French word for season—and are inherently varied, each an embodiment of a time and place.
I couldn’t let this beautiful beer style go unnoticed, so, I sat down to think long and hard about what to recommend to MensJournal.com’s national audiences (you can check out those recommendations right here). But then I faced another problem: I was writing for a crowd craft beer drinkers that spans the country, and couldn’t shout out all of the local saisons I’m currently drinking, which are really good!
5 More Saisons to Drink Right Here in NYC
In addition to the recommendations I made for Men’s Journal that span super esoteric (looking at you, Arizona Wilderness/Other Half collab) to grocery store staples (hey, Hennepin), I thought I’d share a separate list over here with a few saisons that have been standbys for me in NYC.
This is one of the first brews to debut from Interboro Spirits & Ales, a brewery and distillery (New York City’s first) that launched late last summer in Brooklyn’s East Williamsburg neighborhood. Saisonnier is a perfect appropriation of the saison style: bright gold, hazy, and a little bit hoppy, the farmhouse style ale is well suited for the urban palate. (PS: watch this video about Interboro Pat and I produced last summer!)
Threes Table Beer
Threes Brewing brought table beer to Brooklyn, or at least, gave it a name and made it cool. This purpose of this simple saison is to have it with food (on the table) and enjoy its fresh flavors of wheat and light bitterness without thinking about it too much, which is exactly what happens when you order one. Try it out sometime.
They may not be boasting about it, but Transmitter has been crafting excellent Belgian-style ales (in fact, almost exclusively excellent Belgian-style ales) since they started. One of my all-time favorites from them is the S8, a light and spicy rice saison brewed with pilsner malt and flaked/toasted rice, along with a liberal amount of “new school” German hops.
KCBC Sun Wizard
Kings County Brewers Collective came out the gate with a great portfolio of approachable ales. One the OGs was the Sun Wizard, a bright yellow saison with a fruity tang and citrus bite from El Dorado, Galaxy and Chinook hops. KCBC also recently released the Beggar’s Gold, a Belgian-style blonde ale. I haven’t had a chance to try it yet, but I hear good things.
Folksbier has quickly become one of my favorite breweries. Their beers are simple, clean, and solid German-inspired classics, ranging from roasty-yet-refreshing dark rye ales or Berliner weisses with fruit (check out the Glow Up series; each one is fermente with a different fruit, and they are all delicious). As pretty much sums up their style, Magdalena blends new school and old school hops, high quality malts and offers slightly sweet and biscuity flavors balanced with a crisp, dry finish.
March 25, 2017 is Orval Day, a toast to the Trappist beer and brewery born in the Abbaye Notre-Dame d’Orval in Belgium. Ask any brewer, old school or new, and this beer is likely in his or her dream six pack. This beer, a Belgian-style pale ale, is regarded the world over as, essentially, perfect. Continue reading →
It’s always fun to read “best beers” lists, but it’s especially exciting to see your own local breweries floating to the top of beer media’s best picks from around the globe. In this year’s 100 Best Beers in the World from Men’s Journal, three beers from New York City-based brewers made it to the list of the world’s finest, and all three of them were from Brooklyn. Continue reading →
Editor’s note: A version of this post originally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse. I figured I may as well publish it here, too.
As a craft beer journalist and blogger, I’m often met with mystified expressions and questions when I explain what I do: “A beer writer? So, you drink beer and write about it? That must be fun!”
Well, yes, I do write about beer, and I do drink a lot of it in order to write about it. But, much like food writers don’t spend all of their time seated at fancy restaurants with a sea of courses stretching before them into waves of table infinity, beer writing isn’t all about bellying up to the bar. Continue reading →
The Queens Beer Book was recently featured on NY1 News!
This week, the Queens Beer Book made its second annual appearance on NY1 News in an interview with Josh Schneps, owner of Schneps Publications and publisher of QNS.com and Brokelyn.com (co-publishers of the book), and myself, Cat Wolinski, curator, writer, editor and obsessor over this little book of big dreams.
I’m still getting the hang of TV appearances, but I’m sharing this for the sake of the bars and breweries featured in the book. What I hoped to communicate in the interview was that the Queens Beer Book was created to promote local businesses who are making and selling great, independently produced beer, making the craft beer community a possibility in Queens. What came out was more like, “There’s great beer here, and it’s not Budweiser.”
But, foot in mouth or not, I always feel great knowing that people may be catching a glimpse of my efforts to support and encourage the progress of craft beer; that they may retain a little bit of awareness about our local beer makers and the bars, restaurants and shops who are supporting them; and that maybe, just maybe, the next time they reach for a beer menu, they’ll ask for a SingleCut, Rockaway, LIC Beer Project or Bridge & Tunnel, or a Finback or a Transmitter, and they’ll leave the Bud Light behind for the days when better quality, better intentioned beer wasn’t available here.
Queens Beer Lovers Now Have a Guide for Best Brews in the Borough
Beer lovers in Queens now have a go-to-guide to help them find some of the best brews in the borough.
The Queens Beer Book is back for a second year. It showcases more than 30 beers at more than 30 of the best bars, breweries and beer-centric eateries across Queens.
Brooklyn has had its own similar beer book for a few years. Publishers say they’re ready to show off what Queens has to offer.
“The beer scene in Queens is exploding, so right now you have at least a half dozen breweries in Long Island City [and Astoria] alone,” said Josh Schneps , QNS.com publisher.
“The criteria, first of all, is having great beer. That means beers that are made locally, made regionally—things other than the normal Budweiser [and] Bud Light that people might be used to,” says Queens Beer Book curator, Catherine Wolinski.
The book can be purchased online for $30.00. It’s good for one year. For more information visit http://www.QNS.com.