Color of Beer: Addressing Our Whiteness

judging

When imagining the stereotypical beer drinker, thoughts might float to large, bearded men with rotund bellies or thick-rimmed, bespectacled hipsters carefully quaffing out of snifter glasses.

Rarely does an initial impression end up with women, who account for 25 percent of total beer consumption by volume and about a third for craft beer. Even more so, how often would we consider a black, Hispanic or Asian drinker?

“It doesn’t bother me that much, but after a while, you’re like, ‘how come more people that are like me aren’t doing this?” asked Liz Garibay, historian and beer writer at History on Tap. “It’s never been something I’m overly sensitive to, but you start looking around a room, especially within the beer industry, and it’s something you become aware of.”

liz garibay-history on tap

Liz Garibay

Garibay, whose parents both immigrated from Mexico to her current hometown of Chicago, admitted she’s never felt out of place within the beer community because of her background – enjoying good beer and good company isn’t dependent on the race or ethnicity of others. But for any community, having the ability to share multiple perspectives isn’t just pivotal for the sake of diversity, but can be meaningful for education and exposure.

Which is why, as beer companies shift attention to demographics not representative of the large, bearded man or skinny-jeaned hipster, perhaps we should, too. Because, as scholar J. Nikol Beckham points out, “from every casual scanning of a craft brewery’s website to the staff page of Brewers Association, it’s pretty obvious to anyone inclined to notice that craft beer is remarkably white.”

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Refreshed and Ready: Post-Vacation July 2015 Beertography

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Summer is here, and I can tell because I’ve been on vacation for almost two weeks, ignoring Real Life Responsibilities, but not completely forgetting about my beery habits.

Even though I’ve been silent in words, my mind has been active, brainstorming new ideas to share with you.

But in the meantime, let’s enjoy our monthly tradition and get around to a roundup of beertography.

Below you’ll find some of my recent photos, which you may also come across on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. If you like these, you can find more beertography on Instagram or in my running archive.

Let’s see what July had to offer…

Turk’s Head Lager – Drinking in Paradise

turks head-lager-turks and caicos-caribbean-beer-craft beer-beertography

Harpoon Take 5 – Staying Relaxed

harpoon-take 5-session IPA-IPA-beer-craft beer-beertography

New Belgium Long Table – Pull Up a Chair

new belgium-long table-farmhouse-beer-craft beer-beertography

Troegs Cultivator – From Mother Earth to Bottle and Back Again

troegs-cultivator-bock-helles bock-beer-craft beer-beertography

Allagash Century Ale – 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall, on the Floor for 100

allagash-century ale-saison-beer-craft beer-beertography

Here’s hoping August will continue to offer inspiration. As always, you can go back to see previous beertography posts:

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

The High ABV Beer is Dead! Long Live High ABV!

tombstone header

Lagers make a comeback. Session IPAs steal share from their imperialized counterparts. Dogs live with cats!

It’s mass hysteria.

Or, at least, if you’re ready to buy into the latest publicized trend in beer by market research company Mintel, who noted the rise of high ABV beers in recent years. According to their estimate, just 6.6 percent of new beers globally were “high strength” in the early 2000s at an ABV above 6.5 percent. But in recent years, that’s jumped significantly:

  • 2012: 14 percent
  • 2013: 25 percent
  • 2014: 23 percent

Keep in mind those percentages reflect a global growth with new breweries opening nearly every day, so in America in 2013, it could be 25 percent of beers created by the 2,456 and then in 2014 it’s 23 percent from 2,917 breweries, per Brewers Association estimates.

“A potential backlash against this [high strength] trend is almost inevitable because there is far too much high ABV innovation happening,” said Jonny Forsyth, global drinks analyst for Mintel. “Beer remains fundamentally a volume and refreshment beverage and high ABV beers quickly take modern health-conscious consumers over the recommended limit.”

While it’s true beer’s success is partially driven by an opportunity for volume-based consumption, it feels a bit risky to contend that a backlash is on its way, especially when high-ABV beers are widely considered some of the best you can find. For example, look at the alcohol by volume of RateBeer’s top twenty-five best beers from their “Best Beer” lists covering 2006 to 2015:

top 25 avg ABV

Among the items RateBeer prides itself on is its global user base. Glancing at the website’s top user rankings, it’s easy to see that potential fans for these best beers are coming from all over.

So perhaps reports of high ABV’s death have been greatly exaggerated.

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Summer Has Arrived: June 2015 Beertography

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June has now come and gone, which means it’s time for my monthly roundup of beertography.

Below you’ll find some of my recent photos, which you may also come across on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. If you like these, you can find more beertography on Instagram or in my running archive.

Let’s see what June had to offer…

Homebrew Blonde – Celebrating Summer

homebrew-summer-beer

Fullsteam Brewery – Proper Glassware

fullsteam-nc beer-craft beer-beer-beertography

Perennial Peach Berliner Weisse – Quenching My Thirst

perennial-beer-beertography-berliner-peach-craft beer

NoDa Brewing Nodajito – The Ultimate Lawnmower Beer

noda brewing-nc beer-noda-nodajito-wit-beer-craft beer-beertography

Small Town Brewery Not Your Father’s Root Beer – Just Desserts

not your fathers root beer-small town brewing-beertography

Here’s hoping July will continue to offer inspiration. As always, you can go back to see previous beertography posts:

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

The Defining Reason to Talk About Sam Adams Not Being ‘Craft’

Sam-Adams-craft beer

If you’re deep in the weeds of today’s industry – or if you read my recent Beer Money series – you’ve no doubt heard about the Fair BEER and Small BREW acts, opposing legislation that have been geared toward presenting tax breaks to the beer industry. The Small BREW Act was created to address only breweries producing less than 6 million barrels of beer a year, while the Fair BEER Act would benefit all brewers, including Big Boys like Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors and Heineken.

Those attempts are now more or less scrapped in lieu of a bill known as the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act, which is jointly endorsed by the Brewers Association (“small guys”) and Beer Institute (all of beer) who were previously on opposite sides of the spectrum.

This new bill – with bipartisan support from beer trade organizations, just like Congress – does have one hiccup, according to this piece: it might push Boston Beer, maker of Sam Adams, out of the “craft” beer club due to tax relief tied to production limits of 6 million barrels:

…Boston Beer’s production in 2009 was roughly half of its 2014 total. That’s an average of more than 20% growth a year. If that pace continues, Boston Beer will be over the 6 million bar in less than three years and, for tax purposes, would be considered a macro.

But here’s the thing. None of these bills are likely to pass, so we don’t need to worry about definitions and labels – yet.

Because Boston Beer could still lose its “craft” definition, just not for the reason everyone’s talking about.

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We Are the 11%

sour beer

The above tweet and responses came from ESPN business reporter Darren Rovell, who, admittedly, has one of the most ardent collection of online trolls of any reporter personality.

But the reaction from several of his followers isn’t just a case of Angry Internet Stalkers emerging form under a bridge. It’s an honest representation of how many view beer – it’s a means to get drunk or access to some kind of WHALEZBRO dick measuring contest.

It’s easy to get caught up in our own world of beer enthusiasm, where like-minded people reverberate our passion and interests, but it’s also an insulation. The vast majority of beer sales are still macro lagers. Michelob Ultra is growing at a fast rate. Alcohol content does matter to people.

Craft beer is 11 percent of volume share. That leaves a lot of percents on the table … or in pint glasses.

So every time we have a conversation about whether craft lagers are A Thing or how hops impact what beers we drink, it’s even more important to remember that most drinkers are not us. They’re interested in how they can make beer bend to their wants and needs, whatever they may be, or how calories might impact their waistlines.

Perhaps this is why conversations with friends often lead to the importance of education with fellow beer drinkers, to show there is more out there than a hopped up IPA or barrel-aged stout. But many drinkers might not care, and that’s OK.

It’s just a reminder that the beer-drinking public goes far beyond blogs and online discussion threads where people actually know what’s a Pliny the Elder.

We can be a niche, but don’t ignore the rest. It’s our own educational opportunity waiting to happen.

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

Reporter’s Notebook: Small Brewers with a Big Stake in Beer

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“Local” means all sorts of things to people.

When it comes to locally-made goods, it could be from your neighborhood, your city, your county or your state. It could be anything within a 50-mile radius. Or even 100 miles.

No matter what your personal definition may be, one inarguable fact is that small brewers making local beer are a big deal these days.

In April, I shared some behind-the-scenes photos and info about Bear Creek Brews, a tiny professional brewery situated on 38 acres of forest in Bear Creek, NC. Kegs and bottles produced at Bear Creek are sold quickly at just a few bars and restaurants in neighboring towns, delivered by owner and brewer Dave Peters. It’s beer made and sold within roughly 20 miles and has earned Dave a strong relationship with beer drinkers in his community.

bear creek brews-office

The office at Bear Creek Brews. See other photos and learn more in this post.

Today, Bear Creek Brews is part of a story you can now read online from All About Beer, in which I explore the role nanobreweries play in today’s beer industry.

At the end of 2014, the Brewers Association estimated nearly 3,500 American breweries – they’re currently opening at a rate of almost two a day. Given the sheer volume of businesses, you can imagine that the idea of serving and focusing on the immediate, local community is becoming more important, which is one of the reasons I was interested in writing this story.

We often hear about the “beer bubble” and hitting saturation points for the amount of breweries and beer we can handle, but from my prospective, it’s an entirely local proposition. If a business wants to start and stay small, which offers a variety of benefits, then perhaps it’s easier to handle a greater number of breweries. Maybe we’re just shifting back to a pre-Prohibition culture, where breweries and bars were very much a neighborhood thing.

In my reporting for a different story, I came across Steve Chernoski, a beer enthusiast who lives in Lambertville, NJ. He set a personal goal in 2015 to only drink beer made within 250 miles of his home or wherever he may be vacationing with his wife. He wanted to do it to support local economies, shrink his carbon footprint and highlight the benefit of what local businesses have to offer.

“Of the independent hometown brewers I’ve meet, many of them see themselves as stewards of the community,” Steve said. “A place for ideas to be born and for good vibes in the towns.”

Which is a mindset I’ve increasingly seen not just from people drinking beer, but from those who are making it as well.

As the beer industry grows and evolves, the idea of “local,” in terms of personal connection and literal production, seems poised to play a more important role. Which is why I’m excited to have a front row seat for the rise of the little guys.

Read my All About Beer story about nanorbreweries here.

Related: North Carolina’s Smallest Brewery

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

Copy Cat: A ‘Best Beer’ List Loves IPAs, ABV. Again.

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Last week, Zymurgy, the official publication of the American Homebrewers Association, released its latest update to its annual “Best Beers in America” list.

The compilation of top-50 beers, voted on every year by readers of the magazine, typically stands out slightly from other such lists from Beer Advocate or RateBeer because of general lack of imperial stouts, which so often dominate other polls. There were seven this year and one imperial porter.

Despite that difference, Zymurgy’s voters do have one thing in common with just about any other “best beer” list you’d find – they love IPAs.

zymurgy best beers-ipa and dipa

After last year’s dissection of Zymurgy’s list, I took additional data with hope to better analyze the outcome of historical votes, offering context to any shifting preferences and patterns from over the years.

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More on Hops: Prices and Future Growth

hop bine

A follow up to yesterday’s look at hop planting trends and the beers that influence them, since 1,000 words is certainly enough for one post…

Pricing

Obviously, one of the biggest topics related to the use of agricultural goods can be cost. That’s certainly not lost on hops, which has a wide range of pricing dependent on supply and demand.

Aroma hops are hot right now, so it’s a natural assumption varieties in that category would cost more.

As the Brewers Association’s Bart Watson noted in this piece, aroma vs. alpha hop prices move in opposite directions at the moment, partially because “Germany continues to be the lower cost alpha provider to the world, so U.S. aroma acres keep marching upward.”

Watson mentioned that spot market prices may have little relation to contracted prices, but for posterity’s sake, here are the lowest prices I could find on the Lupulin Exchange for hops they had available and I recognized as popular aroma/flavor additions, so note that these may not necessarily reflect the highest or even other prices:

Hop Variety Price per pound
2013 US Amarillo $26.25
2014 US Amarillo $20
2014 NZ Pacific Jade $16.28
2014 NZ Green Bullet $14.70
2014 US Centennial $11.83

On the other end, here are popular bittering hops (I realize Columbus can also be used for aroma) but with their highest listed prices, so note that current costs can easily be found for less:

Hop Variety Price per pound
2014 US Columbus $10.50
2014 US Summit $9.08
2014 US Magnum $9
2014 US Galena $7.82
2014 US CTZ $7.35

This is not meant to act as some end-all example, but rather a pretty basic one to broadly show where prices stand through one avenue. I did find it funny that a year-old crop of Amarillo priced out the highest.

Notes from an Expert

There may be fewer people more qualified to comment on the topic of hops than beer writer Stan Hieronymus, who, among many other books and articles, wrote “For the Love of Hops: The Practical Guide to Aroma, Bitterness and the Culture of Hops.”

I emailed Stan to pick his brain about changes in hop farming and he shared some insight that offers great context for the trends I wrote about yesterday. Most notably, that popular varieties like Citra, Simcoe and Mosiac are currently controlled by Select Botanicals,  an integrated botanicals management group that specializes in breeding new hop varieties.

“They are being very careful about expansion – making sure the hops are going in places they will grow, that they are consistent, that they are processed properly, etc.,” he wrote, pointing to this page that touches on Select Botanicals’ quality management policies. “Mosaic and Citra, and you will see it with Equinox, are picking up steam because now they have the rootstock to start to meet demand. I think almost any farmer offered an opportunity to plant those hops would.”

Stan also mentioned that rights to rising varieties like El Dorado and Amarillo are held by individual farmers, but growers outside the Pacific Northwest are interested in trying their hand with those brands.

If you have access for Zymurgy’s e-magazine, I highly recommend reading two of Stan’s recent pieces:

  • From the Jan/Feb 2014 issue, where he touches on new varieties and sharing growing rights.
  • From the March/April 2015 issue, which discusses the process of brewers experimenting with new varieties. I found this one particularly useful in relation to my own post, given it highlights the need for increased hop acreage in the U.S. – “as much as 50 percent within the next several years” to meet predicted craft beer production demand, he writes.

Hop Farming Outside the Pacific Northwest

One of the most fascinating parts of all this is how farmers outside of today’s biggest hop-growing states are addressing the need for the product. According to the Hop Growers of America report, total hop growth outside the Pacific Northwest increased nearly 42 percent from 2014 to year-to-date 2015. Of course, the non-PNW crop still accounts for less than 3 percent of the U.S. harvest.

The report relies on a variety of help and reporting from experts around the country, so while these figures might not be perfect, there were several states with their first showing on the list of hop acreage strung for harvest:

  • Arizona: 1 acre
  • Pennsylvania: 4 acres
  • Iowa: 5 acres
  • Maryland: 15 acres

Of particular interest to me was New York’s growth, which went from 150 harvested acres in 2014 to 250 acres strung in 2015. As Brew York’s Chris O’Leary pointed out last year, this will be a very important state to watch thanks to big tax incentives provided to New York breweries who use in-state products to make their beer.

According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension, an outreach system of Cornell University that focuses on agricultural research, these are the hops that would grow best in New York (categorization is their own):

  • Aroma: Cascade, Willamette, Mt Hood, Fuggle, Liberty and Perle
  • Alpha (bittering): Brewers Gold, Chinook, Centennial and Newport

With the exception of Centennial, this list simply emphasizes the importance of success for Pacific Northwest hop farmers, as brewers all over are seeking “it” aroma varieties not mentioned here, but discussed in my previous post.

Related: If You Drink It, They Will Grow: A Changing Landscape for Hops

Bryan Roth
“Don’t drink to get drunk. Drink to enjoy life.” — Jack Kerouac

If You Drink It, They Will Grow: A Changing Landscape for Hops

hop bine

I’ve got a running joke on Twitter, in which I tease news of all things IPA by “shouting” in all caps, calling beer drinkers INSATIABLE ANIMALS for their unrelenting assault on taste buds with lupulin-laced brews.

But there shouldn’t really be any surprise. IPA is the top-selling craft beer style. The top-100 craft brewers are selling an average of three IPA brands each.

From Jan. 1 to May 17, market research company IRI counted 888 IPA brands in U.S. supermarkets, a 20 percent increase in just five months over the 741 from 2014. Here’s a look at the past six years and 2015:

ipa brands in supermarkets

Over that timespan, supermarkets – which typically get increased beer shelf space and new brands at a slower pace then specialty stores like bottle shops – saw an average of 112 new IPA brands a year, or an average increase of 27 percent year-to-year.

That’s a lot of IPA, but most important, that’s a lot of hops for INSATIABLE ANIMALS.

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