Reporter’s Notebook: North Carolina’s Smallest Brewery

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If you don’t follow me on Twitter, you’re really missing out on a wild collection of inane commentary, especially on the beer industry.

But that means you probably don’t know I’ve been lucky to begin contributing to All About Beer magazine. My first story, about the growing connection between small breweries and local agriculture, isn’t currently online but can be found in the May issue along with really great work by other writers.

In the meantime, I have extra content from an upcoming story that offers a “behind the scenes” look at one of the piece’s subjects: Dave Peters, the owner and head brewer (of course) of Bear Creek Brews, North Carolina’s smallest (probably) brewery.

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How One (Big) Beer Company Bucks Craft’s Rise

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When we talk about beer industry growth, it’s pretty much an exclusive discussion of craft’s never-ending climb and how that ascension is changing the industry.

Or it’s about Big Beer’s fall from grace and how their throne is threatened, leaving them scurrying about the land, snapping up businesses into a mutated form of fiefdom.

But perhaps one conversation we need to have is about beer’s other story – the rise of one Big Beer giant, going against the grain of its behemoth brethren all thanks to the success of one segment of beer.

And it’s not even craft.

Instead of growing depletion numbers and rising profits from a brewery down the street, this tale instead comes from south of the border.

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Spring Has Sprung: March 2015 Beertography

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March has reached its end, 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 March had to offer…

Haw River Ales No Holdsies – Hands Off

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NoDa Brewing Coco Loco – Don’t You Know I’m Loco?

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Sierra Nevada Nooner – Beer O’Clock

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Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin – Gone Fishin

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Ballast Point Habanero Sculpin – Spicing Things Up

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Here’s hoping April will be just as fruitful as the last few weeks. 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

Singing the ‘Blues': Finding the Next Big Boy in Beer

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Look around you and it’s impossible to miss. The world is growing up all around us.

The maturation of people, places and things we hold dear is a necessary and welcomed evolution, one that signifies change, hopefully in a good way.

Our near, dear beer industry has hit a wonderful growth spurt in recent years, filling our towns and cities with new breweries and bars stocked with the latest libations of hopped up goodness. The advancement within beer has provided us with many wonderful new businesses that add jobs, fulfill individual dreams and expand the palette of options.

But what about the old standbys? The ones that have been around long enough to not just see the industry as a whole grow to potential, but their own enterprises as well?

It’s New BelgiumAllagash, Boulevard and so many more.

But also Oskar Blues, the Colorado (and North Carolina) brewery that in recent months has seen it’s arms and legs grow long, a deeper, stronger voice among peers and a declaration of maturity: they’re ready to be a Big Boy in beer.

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The Skinny on Michelob Ultra: Why a Light Beer Isn’t a Featherweight in Sales

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There’s an interesting dichotomy going on in the world of beer right now.

Drinkers across the country are craving double IPAs, imperial stouts and high-octane brews that could make them keel over. Yet on the other side, there is a segment of people who aren’t just interested in the growing prowess of beer, but their waistlines as well.

Last year, I wrote about the wild growth of Michelob Ultra in the face of other macro domestic brands. While craft beer is booming, it seems this beer-branded sports drink is doing pretty well, too. Consider the sales percentage growth over the past four years, as reported by sports business analyst Darren Rovell:

2011 – 10.3%
2012 – 10.3%
2013 – 8%
2014 – 12%

Craft beer sales may be booming, but the rising interest of Michelob is only compounding year-to-year. According to Beer Marketer’s Insights, barrel production of Michelob Ultra grew 30.9 percent from 2009 to 2014, one of only three top-10 macro beers to actually grow during that time.

Most of all, there are several indicators to suggest this pattern won’t be losing steam any time soon.

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Reporter’s Notebook: Ohio and Craft Beer

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This week I shared a post focusing on the interesting case of Ohio, which has become a surprising hot spot for craft beer. Consumer demand is way up in the Buckeye State, where supermarkets, bottle shops and distributors are seeing strong enough growth to liken some Ohio cities to beer destinations like Portland and San Diego.

In my reporting for the piece, I reached out to many people in Ohio to gain better context for some of the trends I was paying attention to from afar in North Carolina. While I was able to fit many details into Wednesday’s post, I wanted to share additional content that didn’t make the piece, but is interesting and important all the same.

So let’s flip back the cover and see what scribbled notes are worth another look.

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Buckeye Beer: Is It Time to Pay More Attention to Ohio?

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Lately, it seems we’re reminded almost daily about craft brewery growth. Whether it’s anecdotal evidence from our local paper or the hardened fact that we’re on pace for 1.5 breweries to open every day.

But sometimes the success of this sector of the beer industry can surprise you, especially in “emerging markets” for those of us looking in from the outside. All around us, local interest for beer is frothing over and the supply is meeting new demand.

Which led me over the last six months to wonder: what’s up with Ohio?

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My Mount Rushmore of Beer

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Set high above our bars and breweries, sculpted in the granite of personal history, lies a metaphorical place that stands the test of time as a “shrine of beerocracy.”

It’s Mount Rushmore … only my repurposed symbol of fermented freedom. No longer do Washington, Jefferson, Roosevelt and Lincoln emblazon its side, but rather my own heroes, representing the people who have shaped my past and influenced my future with beer.

Today, along with a collection of fellow Mid-Atlantic beer bloggers, I’m sharing who should be remembered for the impact they’ve made on my beer drinking world. So let me introduce you to the dignitaries of my Mount Rushmore … of beer.

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Trend Watching: Are Craft Lagers Destined To Be ‘A Thing’?

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Just like any other industry, beer and its community are influenced.

Whether it’s a flash in a pan fad or an honest to goodness trend, the ideas that impact people who create and consume beer can have lasting impacts. Then there are behemoths like the IPA – now making up roughly a quarter of craft beer sales – a style which just a few years ago seemed like a trend until it starting setting its own sub-trends with double IPAs and session IPAs and whatever India’d style you can dream of.

We’re always looking for that Next Big Thing that’s going to start something new, gazing into metaphorical crystal balls with hope of understanding what will next be poured into our glass. For Bart Watson, chief economist for the Brewers Association, that answer is lager:

Going booth to booth at the recent craft brewer pavilion at the National Grocers Association show, nearly every brewer had a great pilsner. Some were brands that have been around for a while, but there were plenty of new additions. Those new entries are combining with longer-term brands to create new excitement around pilsners.

Even if January sales of pilsners were up 56 percent in 2015 compared to the same month in 2014, the big question to ask isn’t just whether “excitement” equates to groundswell of a trend, but also do American drinkers want this trend in the first place?

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A Winter Tale: February 2015 Beertography

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February has almost gone by, which means it’s time for my monthly roundup of beertography.

As the grip of Old Man Winter took hold of North Carolina this month, it left me with something different for February’s collection: a theme.

So below you’ll find some of my recent photos celebrating several weeks in something akin to a winter wonderland. But, you know, with beer.

In addition to what you see here, you may also have come across photos on my Instagram page, Twitter account or even Untappd. If you like these, you can find all beertography on Instagram or in my running archive.

Let’s see what February had to offer…

Brueprint Midnight Brue – Night Comes Early

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A strong stout only seems fitting for frigid weather, until…

Troegs Blizzard of Hops – The Accumulation

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Which satisfies until things get ugly…

Great Lakes Blackout Stout – Drinking in the Dark

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The only thing left to do, as the cold creeps in and saps your warmth, is to pack it in and pack it on…

Wicked Weed Indulgence – Hibernation Libation

web-wicked weed-indulgence-sour beer-tart-asheville-beer-beertography-photo-pictureWhile we can blame a rodent for our never-ending winter, I wish you and yours warmth, merriment and something nice to sip by a fire…

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Here’s hoping March is just as fruitful as the last few weeks. 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