Are We Watching the Next Stage of Sam Adams?

sam adams-2

Blink and you’ll miss it.

Among all the industry news of buyouts, investments and global mergers, we may be witnessing the pivot and turn of one of America’s most iconic breweries. While businesses are busy reimagining individual beers to lure back customers, another is making an adjustment in planning a decade in the making.

It’s certainly not a wholesale philosophical shift, but Sam Adams – and more specifically Jim Koch – is buying into a new approach.

And it may be a necessity.

Continue reading

A Labored Effort: September 2015 Beertography


Labor Day has passed, the white clothing is tucked away and the last vestiges of summer are gone. Good a time as any for a new collection 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 this month had to offer…

Harpoon Take 5 – Lazy Labor Day

harpoon-take 5-session ipa-ipa-india pale ale-beer-craft beer-beertography-web

AC Golden Colorado Native – Natural Habitat

ac golden-miller coors-coors-colorado native-lager-beer-craft beer-beertography

Troegs Java Head – Celebrating National Coffee Day

troegs-java head-coffee stout-beer-craft beer-beertography-web

Duck-Rabbit Milk Stout – No Crying Over Spilled Milk (When There’s Beer)

duck rabbit-milk stout-stout-beer-craft beer-beertography

Good People Bearded Lady – Ready for a Trim

good people brewing-bearded lady-wheat ale-beer-craft beer-beertography-web

Here’s hoping October 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

We are More Than Beer, Beer is More Than Us

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 8.58.17 AM

There’s an undeniable truth I have needed to come to terms with in recent years, despite what my loving mother and father may tell me otherwise.

I will never be the most famous Bryan Roth, let alone the most famous within a 12-mile radius.

That honor probably goes to Bryan Roth, professor in the Department of Pharmacology at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, literally down the road from where I live.

There’s also Bryan Roth, co-founder of Geocaching HQ, which popularized the adventurous activity of finding hidden items placed all over the world.

There is also Bryan Roth, the poetfootball star and highlight reel lacrosse player.

Somewhere along the line, there’s also me, Bryan Roth, the beer lover.

Continue reading

A Return to ‘The Pleasant Distraction’

There are always other things to do.

We have jobs and friends and responsibilities of life. But even then, there is always something else pulling us toward the multitudes of interests and passions we hold close. How we divide our time, through internal formulas working to extrapolate wants and needs, equates to each of our unique personalities.

If we pursue our goals both professional and personal, then the sum of our efforts shape who we are.

Most days, I seek to balance these fractions of my life with the help of this blog, which has become part of a weekly ritual. I may not be able to write every day, but through research, and more important, conversations, I’m able to further ferment my passion for beer, its industry and its culture.

That is to say, you’re as much to thank for pushing me as my internal drive. It’s why as I celebrated an award for my work this weekend, I have nothing but appreciation for the people I’ve met along the way and the things (I hope) we learn together.

On Saturday, the North American Guild of Beer Writers announced I had finished first in the category of “Best Beer Blog” at its annual awards ceremony. I’m thrilled to share this recognition with Oliver Gray, finishing second for Literature and Libation, and Jeff Alworth, placing third for his contributions at All About Beer. The work of both these men educate and inspire me and I’m so happy to be included with them for the same award.

But most of all, I’m excited to share this award with you. Whether you’re an everyday reader sorting through the archives, a commenter who has shared in conversation or simply stopping by for the first time, I’ve been lucky to find my voice and learn new things because of interactions with people like you.

There will always be something else trying to gain my attention – often deservedly so – but I love using this space as a way to grow with you through a greater appreciation for all things beer.

So as I revel in an awfully exciting moment for me, I want you to know, Dear Reader, that I’m forever appreciative of how you influence me. I strive to think creatively and provide my love of beer in a unique way, and it means so much that I get to share that with you.

There are lots of shiny objects floating around all of us, reflecting constant reminders of where we should focus our attention. Thanks for letting me distract you.

This is an updated repost of last year’s announcement. The year may have changed, but my feelings about receiving this recognition has not. I can’t stress enough how thankful I am for those that read my blog, the friends I’ve made because of it and the opportunities it’s presented me. I am humbled and grateful.

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

Reporter’s Notebook: The Hidden Game of Buying Beer

beer notebook_web2

We are all unique snowflakes.

We pride ourselves for the power of individual thought. Nobody else is like us. Nobody else can influence us.

We do what we want, what we like and what we need.

Except when we don’t.

Continue reading

The Search for Authenticity

good people brewery and taproom

There are so many choices today. More than consumers need.

Throughout bottle shops and grocery stores, shelves are stacked with more beer brands and styles than ever before. Each one calling to us, shouting for attention. Intricate names and designs adorn labels, begging for a ride with you to the promised land of a checkout lane.

But in a niche world where so many characteristics are used to catch our eyes and sway our opinion, one common denominator still rises above the chaos: the search for authenticity.

Customers want it and companies want to create it, whether through words on a bottle or can or ads that showcase beer brewed the hard way, artfully crafted, or one that pairs well with people.

For as much as this war is being waged for tap handles and shelf space, there’s one unifying place where a battle is being won.

It’s your neighborhood brewery.

Continue reading

Artsy and Fartsy: August 2015 Beertography


August 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 this month had to offer…

DuClaw Brewing Morgazm – Drink with Protection

duclaw-morgazm-blone ale-beer-craft beer-beertography

Left Hand Brewing Introvert IPA – Drinking in Solitude

left hand-introvert IPA-session IPA-india pale ale-beer-craft beer-beertography

Boulevard Brewing Dark Truth Stout – Embrace the Darkness. Eat Arby’s.

boulevard-dark truh-stout-beer-craft beer-beertography

Wicked Weed Brewing Freak of Nature – Backyard Beer

wicked weed-freak of nature-double ipa-beer-craft beer-beertography

Stone Brewing Company Delicious IPA – Thesaurus Worthy

stone brewing-delicious ipa-india pale ale-gluten free beer-beer-craft beer-beertography

Stone Brewing Company Pale Ale 2.0 – Classic Art, Modernized

stone brewing-pale ale-beer-craft beer-beertography

Here’s hoping September 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


This Beer Used 77 Hop Varieties, But Not for the Reason You May Think

lone rider-west-cowboy

There’s something rugged and romantic about the Wild West.

Beyond the dusty plains and horseback rides under the gleaming sun, there’s an ideal of self sufficiency, born from the created reality of Manifest Destiny. It wasn’t necessarily about going it alone, but recognizing the opportunity to make something of oneself in the midst of everyone else doing the same.

To seize a moment when odds were stacked against you.

Kind of like business.

“We were all standing around one day, lamenting hops,” said Lonerider Brewing Company CEO Sumit Vohra, recalling a conversation that led to the creation of a potentially record-setting beer. “I’m saying to my team, ‘I can’t believe we’ve got to a point where we can’t find hops.”

Of course, that’s not entirely true. Vohra and his brewery staff could certainly find hops to use for their Shotgun Betty Hefeweizen, Sweet Josie Brown Ale, Peacemaker Pale Ale and even their IPA, Addie’s Revenge. It was just the fact things were getting a little harder.

“Our brewers have to predict our production levels two years down the road to contract hops now,” Zohra said. “That’s the business reality of it.”

Which led to a decision that may have been part parody of the situation or part marking inspiration, but really just an excuse to play.

It was a fitting chance to explore the outlaw theme of Lonerider.

It was an opportunity to create a traditional, American beer, utterly untraditional in its conception.

Continue reading

The Man Behind the Motion


Trevor Carmick at his computer, touching up the his latest animation.

If he had it his way, the work that gained Trevor Carmick attention from renowned photographers to the New York Times never would have happened.

Or, at least, they never would have seen it.

His once personal project, started for fun and jest, would have stayed just that: personal and private. But then a coworker caught wind of his efforts and after some poking and prodding, a blog was born.

Continue reading

Reporter’s Notebook: Redefining the IPA

beer notebook_web2

What do you do in a crowded marketplace, where all your competitors look like you?

Where what was once extreme is now mundane? Where, if you don’t act, you’ll get left behind?

It’s one of those “put up, or shut up” situations that can help define a brand and even a company. For as fickle as consumers might be, it’s still a business’ responsibility to find ways to innovate and stay on top of their game.

All this helped drive my latest piece for All About Beer, which you can now read online: “Redefining the IPA.”

“If you think about any broad category, the biggest question a savvy brand marketer has to ask is whether a category is driven by an objective feature or the subjective attitudes of the consumer,” said Derek Rucker, a professor of marketing at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. “When it’s subjective, you have to innovate to keep up with what’s driven by consumers.”

Which is what we’ve seen from breweries in recent months as they try to stay ahead of the crowded IPA market. Or, in the case of my story, catch back up.

Two big examples – New Holland Brewing Co. and Stone Brewing Co. – decided to alter flagship beers that hadn’t been touched in almost 20 years. “Hoppy” and “bitter” may have been weird signifiers for beer back in the 1990s, but it’s what drinkers want these days. Most important, the shelf space once dominated by these companies is now chock full of other IPA options that are finding new flavors or pushing new boundaries.

ipa brands in supermarkets

“With a flagship brand like this that’s helped define our brewery, making a change isn’t without concern,” said Fred Bueltmann, vice president of sales and marketing at New Holland, talking about their Mad Hatter IPA. “But we saw in some instances where Mad Hatter might get overlooked for more dramatic examples of the style. The marketplace is indicating there would be benefit for a change and our group instinctively started looking at each other asking, ‘what do you think?’”

stone-ruination label-edit

Stone Ruination Double IPA 2.0 label, with a new credo. Click to enlarge, underlining mine.

As I mention in the All About Beer story, Stone Brewing’s interest in changing Stone Ruination IPA is clear to see – it’s right on the label: “…the desire to go beyond bracing bitterness.”

To be clear, they’re not alone. As June’s hop acreage report suggests, specialty hops to boost aroma and add new flavors are on the rise. These are aspects of a beer people want, let alone the most popular craft beer style on the market. You see that reflected in Ruination Double IPA 2.0, which added Nugget, Simcoe and Azacca hops on top of Centennial and Citra, which get plenty of attention as well.

“The overriding factor was the fact that we recognized that craft beer fans are changing,” said Mitch Steele, brewmaster at Stone Brewing. “What was extreme even 10 years ago is fairly common and routine now.”

Which echoed this comment by Rucker, who told me: “This is one of those classic dilemmas of over time, you have to innovate to stay modern.”

For the full story, with lots of details about the changing IPA market and different context from these people and others, check out my story on All About Beer.

Related reading: 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