Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting with Anne Becerra at Treadwell Park, a beer hall and gastropub in the Upper East Side, to check out New York City’s first designated beer cellar: the Cellar at Treadwell Park.
The brainchild of Becerra, Treadwell Park’s beverage director, who is often billed as New York’s first female Cicerone, a beer judge, and a credited expert, christened the cellar with a visit from Sam Smith’s of England in October. The visit was fitting breaking of the beer cellar’s seal, as Becerra aims to use the space to bring back excitement for world class beers. 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.
SAISONS POUR TOUJOURS!
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 →
The 2017 Brokelyn Beer Book: Zone 1 (Above Atlantic Ave.)
The 2017 Brokelyn Beer Book: Zone 2 (Below Atlantic Ave.)
Every year since 2010, Brokelyn has published the Beer Book, a pocket guide and passport giving craft beer lovers 30 tickets to the best beers in the borough. Now available in two separate editions, one for upper Brooklyn and one for lower Brooklyn, the Brokelyn Beer Book is created with the dual purpose of making beer more accessible to Brooklyn’s budget-conscious beer lovers, as well as to support and promote the beer businesses that are creating the craft beer scene as we know it.
Without the bars, beer-conscious restaurants and, in more recent years, awesome small and independent breweries that participate in the Beer Book, we would not have the outstanding selection or flavorful variety of handcrafted, lovingly crafted beers—created with the curious, caring consumer in mind—that we have today.
Likewise, without Brooklyn’s beer drinkers, from the craft beer curious to the beer connoisseurs, the bars and breweries we now know and love would not have the opportunity to thrive.
The 2016 Queens Beer Book is also still available until April 2017.
As the Brokelyn Beer Book (or, as it is also referred to, the Brooklyn Beer Book, since Brokelyn now also publishes a Queens Beer Book, available until April 2017) enters its seventh year, with yours truly as current curator and copywriter, I ask that you take a minute to explore the new editions—both the Upper Brooklyn Beer Book and the Lower Brooklyn Beer Book—and to appreciate the 60 businesses who made the books possible this year. Without them, there would be no Beer Book.
And, I invite you to explore, especially, the new breweries included in the 2017 editions—like Interboro, KCBC, Lineup and Wartega—along with the updated mix of beer-slinging institutions and those who are newer to the scene. If you’re in the industry, or lucky enough to have regular access to craft brews without breaking open your piggy bank, consider buying the Beer Book as a gift for the thirsty and thrifty beer lover in your life.
Here’s to Brooklyn beers, and to a pair of Beer Books that are better than ever!
In case you missed it, today’s beer industry “yikes”—after a quality inspection determined certain beers may have a “packaging flaw” involving broken glass—Sierra Nevada recalled all 12-ounce bottles of its Pale Ale, Nooner Pilsner, Beer Camp Golden IPA, Hop Hunter IPA, Torpedo Extra IPA, Tropical Torpedo IPA, Sidecar Orange Pale Ale, and Otra Vez bottled at its Mills River, North Carolina location between December 5, 2016 and January 13, 2017.
If you thought Trump’s presidency wouldn’t affect your beer-drinking habits, think again: Stocks for the largest producer of beer, wine and spirits in the U.S., Constellation Brands, are already plummeting, according to Fortune. Read more on MensJournal.com.
Photo credit: Ronaldo Schemidt / AFP / Getty Images
Aeronaut Brewing and The Lights Out present: Intergalaxyc T.R.I.P.
Bands and breweries have produced beers together many times before—Crooked Stave recently released Damn! IPA and Totem Wild Ale with the Motet; U.K.-based brewer, Camerons teamed up with the remaining members of Motorhead to release an American-style pale ale, Road Crew; Unibroue, world brewer from Quebec, partnered with Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine to release A Tout Le Monde, a Belgian-style saison brewed in honor of Mustaine’s 55th birthday; and Champion Brewing of Charlottesville, Virginia has long partnered with punk bands for beers like their Black Me Stout with Against Me! .
But for the first time, a brewery and band have partnered to release an album on a beer—and the story only gets weirder from there. Continue reading →