On this last day of American Craft Beer Week 2013, there's good beer news to report from the Mid-Atlantic area.
Yours For Good Fermentables has learned from a reliable source that Dover, Delaware-based Dominion and Fordham Brewing Companies have obtained release from their Master Distribution Agreement with Anheuser-Busch InBev.
In 2007, When Dominion was purchased by Bill Muehlhauser of Fordham Brewery, with others, a distribution alliance was formed with the then Anheuser-Busch, which itself took a forty-nine percent ownership stake in the resultant company. Coastal Brewing, as it was called, was, in reality, an expression of the situation, rather than a beer brand. One never found Coastal beers on the shelves or on tap, but Fordham and Dominion.
A year later, AB would become Anheuser-Busch InBev. Preoccupied with its own big merger, the conglomerate became relatively hands-off toward day-to-day operations at Dominion/Fordham. Except for one major stipulation. Whenever Dominion and Fordham wished to expand distribution into new markets, ABIB had to sign off on that, which would be, of course, only to approved, existing AB wholesalers.
With this mutually-agreed abrogation of the Master Distribution Agreement, Dominion/Fordham is now free to choose those wholesalers it wishes, as it expands into new markets. According to Brewers Association statistics, Dominion/Fordham increased production/sales by 11% in 2011 and by 12% last year, to over 23,000 barrels.
And, here's the really big news, appropriate to American Craft Beer Week.
Since the initial deal in 2007, AB has reduced its ownership share to 37%. It may be on its way to selling back its entire stake. Lawyers must dot the i's and cross the t's, but, if so, the Coastal thing will be no more; Dominion/Fordham will be 100% independent, 100% free to live the (its own) dream. Small, independent, and traditional: an American craft beer company. Congratulations!
I relied upon a source I trust to write this post, but, as in such things, let's wait for official word from the parties involved for confirmation.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
On this last day of American Craft Beer Week 2013, there's good beer news to report from the Mid-Atlantic area.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
For Friday afternoon of American Craft Beer Week Friday, I drank a glass of Downright Pilsner —from Port City Brewing Company— at the brewery, located in Alexandria, Virginia.
Brewer Jonathan Reeves brewed the Pils —his late-spring limited release— with a Pilsner malt-only grist and hopped it exclusively with Czech Republic Saaz hops, often referred to as "noble' hops because of their perceived elegant aroma and flavor: over 30 pounds in kettle and an additional 11 pounds as 'dry-hops' after fermentation. 43 bittering units (BUs), 4.8% alcohol-by-volume (abv). Reeves used only Saaz hops in the Pils this year, because, he told me, the Czech harvest had been good, and the bittering compounds of the hops higher than normal.
The beer poured deep golden, with a tinge of chartreuse and haze (from the dry-hopping?). There's a wonderful aromatic surfeit of hops, but some sweet malt can be tasted in the background. Reeves describes the aroma and flavor as piney and woodsy, with the herbal heat of fresh ginger. I also tasted citrus like the twist of lemon. The finish is spicy, long-lived, and refreshing.
That I could drink a glass of the Pils at the brewery was itself a special thing. Only last summer, a law took effect in Virginia, which allowed the state's production breweries to sell pints to customers, much as Virginia wineries could already do (with wine, of course). To borrow the vernacular, this was a game changer: several breweries have opened in Virginia since the law changed, and several more are under construction or in planing. Neighboring Washington, D.C. allows its production breweries the same, and the Maryland legislature recently passed a similar law which will take effect 1 July.
At Port City's tasting room, I thoroughly enjoyed my taste of Downright Pilsner. I wanted another. I bought a six-pack to take home.
Monday, May 13, 2013
Welcome to American Craft Beer Week 2013.
For the eighth consecutive year, the Brewers Association —the national non-profit association on behalf of small and independent (and 'traditional') U.S. breweries— has declared one week in May to be American Craft Beer Week® (ACBW).
This year, from Monday, May 13, through Sunday, May 19, 2013, American Craft Beer Week will provide an opportunity for small and independent brewers, craft beer enthusiasts, and better beer retailers to celebrate the ever-advancing beer culture in the U.S. Events include exclusive brewery tours, special beer releases, multi-course food and pairing dinners, collaboration beers, retail promotions, etc. A list of events is listed on the Association's website.
The Brewers Association was founded in 1983 by Charlie Papazian, founder of the American Homebrew Association and the Great American Beer Festival. It was known then as the Association of Brewers. At the time, the much larger United States Brewers Association was in existence, but Swiftian attrition was rapidly shrinking its membership as U.S. mainstream brewing companies and plants were being closed or acquired. Another organization, the Brewers Association of America had been formed in the 1940s as an alternative to the the USBA , to be an advocacy group for 'small' breweries. In 1976, the USBA and BAA jointly secured a tax differential, for breweries producing fewer than 2 million barrels per year, on the first 60,000 barrels they produced, a tax break that still exists today.
In January 2005, the Association of Brewers merged with the Brewers Association of America to assume its present composition as the Brewers Association. It defined the production limit for a 'craft brewery' as fewer than two million barrels per year. In January 2011, the BA, in danger of losing Boston Beer Company as a member as that brewery was approaching the limit, changed its definition of "small" to six million barrels.
The USBA was disbanded in 1986 —after 124 years of advocacy for American breweries— because of withdrawal of support from the then American-owned mega-breweries.
In his speech to the Craft Brewers Conference in March of this year, in Washington, D.C., Charlie Papazian never once referred to a brewery as a "craft" brewery. Rather, he pointedly, and repeatedly, used the phrase "small and independent" brewery, avoiding even the Association's own 3rd stipulation for a 'craft' brewery, "traditional."
An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional.
- Small: Annual production of beer less than 6 million barrels. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition.
- Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.
- Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewer's brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.
For American Craft Beer Week 2013, here's my modest proposal. Scrap "craft." Scrap "small." Scrap "traditional."
The Brewers Association should re-convene next year as the reincarnation of the venerable United States Brewers Association.
What would the requirement be for membership in the new USBA? Simply put, a brewery would have to be majority American-owned. That's it (well, along with dues). With this, all American breweries —from family-owned Yuengling Brewery to the nano-est nano-brewery— could work together, barrel-by-barrel, toward their common interests. It could end the jumble of fungible barrellage requirements, ingredient self-righteousness, and convoluted arguments about what exactly "craft beer" is.
American Craft Beer Week began originally as American Beer Month. Not its duration, but the inclusiveness, produced an insalubrious side-effect of honoring the industrial light lagers of the brewing behemoths. Now that not one of those mega-breweries is independently American-owned, it is 'craft' brewers who hold the mantle of the true makers of American beer. So, let the international beverage conglomerates of Anheuser-Busch InBev, SABMiller, MolsonCoors, and their ilk— fight among each other. For the rest of us: Long live American beer!
Anyone with me?
Sunday, May 12, 2013
If I were to choose one very special beer to share with you, today, on Mother's Day, it might be this: Serendipity Happy Accident Fruit Ale, from New Glarus Brewing (of New Glarus, Wisconsin).
New Glarus is known for its sweet-tart fruit beers, especially its Wisconsin Belgian Red, fermented with the equivalent of over a pound of Door County cherries in every bottle.
In 2012, however, brewing that beer would prove impossible, when ninety-seven percent of Michigan's cherry crop was destroyed by a freak weather pattern. An unseasonably warm March caused trees to bud early; that was followed by an April freeze that killed the blossoms. (Associated Press). But nature, with berry serendipity, compensated by delivering a bumper cranberry harvest. Here's how New Glarus' Dan and Deb Carey responded.
Severe Drought, we shared the farmers' horror as Wisconsin's cherry crop failed! Dan bought what cherries he could. The Apple crop fared better. Then joy! A grand Wisconsin cranberry harvest. What will Dan brew with Apples, Cranberries, and Cherries? Oh my! You hold the happy accident of Wisconsin's favorite fruit aged in oak with an almost magical wild fermentation. Serendipity is a wondrous celebration that sparkles your senses, and dances across your palate. A kaleidoscope of flavor discovered by accident in a sour ale! Cheers to the unexpected!
Serendipity Ale, a mere 4% alcohol-by-volume, but, oh, what zymur-alchemy, what a happy accident. Big sweet/sour, cherry/apple flavor and aroma. The cranberries magically seem to stretch the cherry character. At 4%, a magnificently flavored treat, sweet with fruit, but tart and dry and lingering in the finish. [Fie on all you 'session-beer' haters.]
I have to admit, though, Mom, that I drank the bottle already, in fact, on the very day that one of your other sons drove it down from Wisconsin. I hope that you'll accept flowers and home-cooked brunch as a substitute on this morning.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom!
— Dan Cary, co-owner/brewer of New Glarus, as quoted by Jay Brooks (of Brookston Beer Bulletin).
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Its nest not far away, a robin keeps a wary watch on the photographer.
10 May 2013.
Wednesday, May 08, 2013
From the American Homebrewers Association (AHA): For the first time, homebrewing is to become explicitly legal in all 50 states of the United States.
The Alabama legislature has passed a bill that, once signed by Governor Robert J. Bentley, will effectively legalize homebrewing throughout the state. Alabama will be the last state in the nation to legalize homebrewing. Alabama is the last state holding out against legalizing homebrewing. In March 2013, Mississippi became the 49th state to pass homebrew legislation. The AHA has been working with Right to Brew for five years in order to get the Alabama bill passed.
"Homebrewing has been an integral part of the history of America, so it’s thrilling to know that soon all 50 states will support this growing hobby and long-standing tradition," said Gary Glass, director, American Homebrewers Association. "We appreciate the backing of all of the homebrewers, the dedicated grassroots efforts of Right to Brew and the legislators who have worked so diligently to make homebrewing a reality in Alabama. We are especially grateful to Representative Mac McCutcheon who introduced this bill and has fought long and hard for its passage, along with Senator Bill Holtzclaw."
Homebrewing became federally legal in 1979, though the 21st Amendment predominantly leaves regulation of alcohol to the states. Therefore, even though homebrewing is federally legal, it is up to individual states to legalize homebrewing in state codes. Once the Alabama bill is signed by Gov. Bentley, it will be the first time since pre-Prohibition days that homebrewers in all the states can legally brew at home.
The hobby of homebrewing has seen exponential growth in recent years. The AHA estimates that more than one million Americans brew beer or make wine at home at least once a year. Alabama is home to an estimated 5,000 homebrewers who will soon enjoy brewing without the restrictions of a state-wide ban.
Congratulations to the AHA and the home-grown groups of homebrewers who were instrumental in achieving these victories. In Alabama, that was Right to Brew and Free the Hops. In Mississippi, it was Raise Your Pints.
I got the geography wrong in the original draft of this post. Thanks to Craig of Raise Your Pints for the correction. And, congratulations!
Saturday, May 04, 2013
Asparagus with cheese and capers: the 1st course 'vegetarian' substitution for a 5-course dinner featuring the wines of Cade Winery (Howell Mountain, California) and its 'sister' winery, Plumpjack (Oakville, California), both owned by California Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom and San Francisco philanthropist Gordon Getty.
The guest speaker for the evening was Danielle Cyrot, winemaker for Cade. "My father is French; my mother, Irish. I have the French nose for wine, and the Irish liver for its enjoyment." "Personally, my preference is for screwtops over corks. The wine in the bottle tastes just as I remember it from the barrel."
The asparagus was served with Plumpjack Merlot 2010, a wine that those who pooh-pooh the varietal (related to those who pooh-pooh Chardonnay) should taste. Ripe plum, dark berry flavors, with notes of sweet cooking spice and chocolate. In the finish, moderate tannic structure and refreshing acidity balance the 'California' suppleness of the fruit.
L'Auberge Chez Francois
Great Falls, Virginia.
24 April 2013.