Tuesday, March 31, 2015

An open letter to American 'craft' breweries: Please consider joining us in May for American Mild Month!

Dear brewers and friends (NOT mutually exclusive!),

In case you hadn't heard the news, oh boy, the first-ever American Mild Month, occurs this May, all across these United States, to encourage American brewers to brew Mild Ales, and American beer drinkers to, well, drink them!

American Mild Month is the idea of Alistair Reece (an ex-pat Scotsman, past Prague resident, and now, at Fuggled, a Virginia, USA, beer blogger). The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has been hosting a similar thing for several years now in the U.K., and always during the month of May. So, Al thought, why not here in the U.S.?

I, and beer and whiskey author, Lew Bryson quickly agreed, and signed on to help out. You can too.

American Mild Month 2015

What is Mild Ale? Start with the concept of 'session' beer, which, after several false starts, has finally gained traction here in the U.S. Lew Bryson defines American Session Ale as:
► 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
► flavorful enough to be interesting
► balanced enough for multiple pints
► conducive to conversation
► reasonably priced

If that seems vague ... it is. Here's another definition: low-alcohol, but not low-taste. It's subjective. Live with it, and enjoy it. We're here to help make your night out more fun, more tasty, and more safe.

Going further with this, American Mild —lower alcohol, good flavor, drinkability, and balance of malt and hops— might be the quintessential 'session' beer. As Reece puts it, American Mild would be a "restrained, darkish ale, with gentle hopping and a clean finish so that the malt and what hops are present shine through." Or, as Bryson puts it: "an unsung delicious beer style; tasty and 'more-ish' at low alcohol levels."

American Mild Ale, defined

American Mild Month is really more of an informal thing, like #IPADay, but, of course, for American Mild Ale, and with the hashtag #MildMonthUS. But, it is emphatically NOT a Session IPA thing!

We're saying that an American Mild Ale should have an alcohol-content-by-volume (abv) of 4.5% or less, a color greater than 17 SRM (i.e., darker than a golden ale), and an International Bittering Unit (IBU) level of 30 or less (thus stronger than an English Mild, but 'milder' than an American IPA).

We're not style disciplinarians. Have fun with this. But we do ask for no over hopped ales, nor those of greater than 4.5% abv. Doing either, and you're playing with 'session' semantics.
American Mild is not a hop bomb, but neither need it be a hop free zone. 'Low' is not the same as 'none;' it is all about restraint, and with the wide variety of American hops available the range of hop flavors is actually quite broad, whether its the spiciness of Cluster, the grapefruit of Amarillo, or the tropical fruit of El Dorado, there is room here for differentiation, and dry hopping is ok too.

Remember though, before going crazy with the hops, an American Mild is not a Session IPA, or a Session Cascadian Dark Ale, it's still a mild. Traditional English milds top out at 25 IBUs, but for an American Mild we would suggest an upper limit of 30 IBUs.

One major departure from the English mild style in a theoretical American mild is the yeast. The classic American yeast strain used by many an American craft brewery is known for being very clean, allowing the other ingredients to shine through without contributing the fruity flavors of the British yeasts.

How to participate

  • Breweries
    There are currently forty 49 breweries participating, across the nation. To join with them, go to the sign up form. Pledge to brew a American Mild in May (cask-conditioned, a plus), and we'll place your brewery's name and website on our web-roll of distinction.

    This could be a simple matter for a brewpub that wished to participate, as well as for nano-breweries and other small production breweries. It might, however, be problematic for a larger production brewery. That is why we began the campaign in the beginning of March. Even so, three months lead time might still not be sufficient for many production breweries. If so, why not plan for next year? We already have breweries committing for 2016.

    There can be other ways and means.
    • In several states, production breweries are allowed to serve beer to patrons in their tasting rooms, like a bar, but without the food. That's the case here in the tri-state area of Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. If it's so in your jurisdiction, why not produce a small batch on your pilot system, and serve it exclusively in your tap room?

    • Or, produce a one-off 'collaboration' beer with another brewpub or brewery.

    • Or, if your brewery already has a beer that fits the parameters of American Mild, simply re-brand it for your taproom only (state laws permitting) and serve it there. For example, a local production brewery has a beer which it describes as
      This easy-drinking session beer pours a deep golden color. It smells slightly floral and herbal, thanks to a hopback full of Cascade and Centennial hops. [It] is tasty and refreshing, with a round mouthfeel.
      ABV: 4.5%
      IBUs: 17
      Well, there you have it. Simply rename it Session Mild for your taproom!

  • Pubs
    Restaurant, pubs, and bars: want to play along? Ask your local breweries for Mild Ales in May. If enough of you tell us that you are serving them during May and promoting the occasions, we'll add your listings. More work, but all for the Mild!

  • Homebrewers
    Organize competitions in May for American (and, okay, English-style) Mild Ales. Tell us about them.

  • American good beer drinkers
    You, the discerning drinker: you're the bulwark, the vanguard, the bottom line of defence, offense, and good taste. Tell your local breweries about this campaign for good session American Mild Ale. Ask your local pub to search for Mild Ales, and to serve them during May (if not year round). We can't do this without you.

In Mild Conclusion

Help bring back mild ale! The website is live at www.mildmonth.com; and so is Twitter at @MildMonthUS; and so is Facebook at AmericanMildMonth; and, with your participation, so can be Instagram, Flickr, and more.

American 'craft' beer pioneer Fritz Maytag once addressed a Craft Brewers Conference with a keynote paean to beer as a union of the Apollonian with the Dionysian. With your assistance and of all the brewers participating, American Mild might join that pantheon.

With your assistance, this month of May might indeed see some Mild drinking sessions. And possibly invoke muses of similar (mild) exultation.

Yours for good fermentables,
Thomas Cizauskas

Brewery count: 49
Updated: 4 May 2015.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 10/11, 2015.

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 10/11
1 March - 14 March 2015

  • 2015.03.14
    Date proclaimed as Pi Day: 3.14.15.
    —Via Pi Day.

    American Mild Month 2015
  • 2015.03.14
    Inaugural American Mild Month announced for May, 2015.
    —Via Session Beer Project.

  • 2015.03.13
    "Virginia brewers have expressed a mixture of trepidation and optimism," as west coast breweries open in the state.
    —Via Greg Kitsock at Washington Post.

    Southern Drawl Pale Lager (01)
  • 2015.03.12
    Lagers enjoying a renaissance in America, as more 'craft' brewers and drinkers turning to 'craft' lagers.
    —Via Eric Asimov at New York Times.

  • 2015.03.12
    Bell's (large 'craft' brewery in Michigan) vs. Innovation Brewing (small 'craft' brewery in North Carolina) in trademark dispute. Bells' response to furor:
    "We have not, and are not asking them to change their name or their logo. There is no lawsuit. We are not suing them. We have not asked them for money. We have not asked them to stop selling their beer. We are asking them to withdraw their federal trademark application."
    —Via Jeff Alworth at Beervana.

  • 2015.03.10
    Memorial service held at National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. for Edward Brooke: 1st African-American popularly elected to U.S. Senate, Republican of Massachusetts, who died 3 January 2015, at 95.
    —Via Washington Post.

    The Flying Dog Winny (02)
  • 2015.03.06
    U.S. Court of Appeals rules that the Michigan Liquor Control violated the 1st Amendment freedom of speech rights of Maryland, brewery, Flying Dog. Brewery wins six-year court case to sell beer called Raging Bitch in the state.
    —Via Baltimore Magazine.

  • 2015.03.06
    The U.S. economy added 295,000 jobs in February; unemployment fell to 5.5%, the lowest in 7 years, since before the recession began.
    —Via CNN.

  • 2015.03.05
    "Uniquely in the world, apart from Belgium, Lithuania has not just preserved its ancient farmhouse brewing culture, but managed to commercialize it. There are at least 15 breweries in Lithuania brewing beers that are either real farmhouse ale in the Lithuanian tradition, or to some degree commercialized versions of farmhouse ale."
    —Via Lars Blog.

  • 2015.03.05
    The (U.S.) Brewers Association creates Digital Interactive U.S. Beer Styles Guide: "77 common U.S. beer styles inside of 15 style families."
    —Via Reuters.
    —The guide itself, at CraftBeer.com.

  • 2015.03.04
    "With malice toward none, with charity for all." The 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's 2nd inauguration and Lincoln's famous speech.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 2015.03.04
    Summary of the new TTB filing and reporting requirements for breweries and brewpubs.
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

  • 2015.03.03
    The Washington, D.C. City Council is considering legislation to allow patrons to drink outside at "artisan alcohol manufacturers."
    —Via DCist.

    Heavy Seas' barrel room
  • 2015.03.01
    'Craft' brewers facing price spikes and shortages of wooden barrels: bourbon and otherwise.
    —Via Austin Chronicle.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Washington, D.C. news organization rewrites local beer history.

Washington, D.C. brewery, DC Brau, will celebrate its fourth birthday next month. It was April 2011, when the brewery would deliver its first ever keg of beer —The Public, a hoppy, yet firmly malted pale ale— to a local restaurant. And, a big celebration, that day became.

WTOP —a Washington, D.C. all-news radio station and website— honored the upcoming anniversary with a story that began:
It may be hard to believe, but just a short time ago, there were no breweries in D.C. There hadn’t been one since 1956, when Christian Heurich Brewing Company closed its doors.

But the District’s 50-plus-year dry spell ended four years ago, when friends Brandon Skall and Jeff Hancock opened DC Brau. And the business ignited Washington’s brewing boom as others soon followed.

Well, yes to DC Brau, but hell, no, to that comment about "no breweries in DC [...] since 1956." It's just plain wrong.

Nearly nineteen years before DC Brau ever even began operations, the Capitol City Brewing Company —a brewery within a restaurant— would open, in August 1992, in downtown Washington, D.C., making it the first brewery to operate in the city, brewpub or otherwise, since the Heurich brewery shut down in 1956.

It would be a solitary one until a few years later when joined by Dock Street Brewing Company, John Harvard's, District Chophouse, and Gordon-Biersch. All were brewery-restaurants. Several of their resident brewers would go on to brew elsewhere, some still in the area, and some with great success.

Why ignore them?
  • Dock Street was a local offshoot of the pioneering Philadelphia brewery and brewpub of the same name that opened in the City of Brotherly Love in 1985. Its D.C. brewpub, located in the basement of the Warner Theater, would, unfortunately, remain open for only a year. (1996)
  • John Harvard's would then open in the same space, but would itself shutter just short of a decade later. (1997-2006)
  • The original Capitol City location at 12th & H Streets NW, is still open but only as a restaurant. In 2002, brewing operations were moved to the brewery/restaurant in the Shirlington district of Arlington, Virginia.
  • District Chophouse opened in 1997. Its Bourbon Stout might very well be the second-longest continuously brewed bourbon stout in the nation, after Goose Island's. 1
  • In 2013, Gordon-Biersch opened a second brewery/restaurant in the city, near to Nationals Park (in addition to its still open original location in what is now known as Penn Quarter).
Where in the world is Gordon-Biersch Navy Yard?

To gloss over the history and beers of these breweries solely because they were also restaurants (albeit without distribution) seems capricious. In fact, both Right Proper (opened 2013) and Bluejacket (opened 2013) — both mentioned in the WTOP article as new breweries— are themselves brewery/restaurants. 2

A look back at the beginning of D.C.’s beer boom

To be fair, at the end of the article, WTOP adds a qualifying comment. But it's appended with an asterisk, as if the reporter or her editor had added it, cover-your-arse-like, after the story had first been posted.
* While some restaurants/breweries were making beer in D.C. prior to 2011, there were no production breweries canning/kegging/bottling their beer for distribution/offsite sale.

This isn't the first time that the Washington, D.C. non-beer press has re-written local-beer history. Take for example, a July 2013 story in the Washington City Paper. The writer, in rooting for the quality of the 'food scene' in Washington, D.C., managed to explicitly 'disappear' all three brewpubs then operating in the city (District Chophouse and both Gordon-Bierschs).

Now, nothing against DC Brau. In fact, for me, just the opposite. I was there that day they first shipped beer in 2011, and I continue to enjoy DC Brau's beers today. I applaud their upcoming fourth anniversary 3 , and I wish them continued good fortune.

DC Brau in Falls Church

But "facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." 4 Whether writing on beer or something less profound, reporters for news organizations (and don't forget about us bloggers!) shouldn't be so cavalier.

As fact-checking assistance for any future local-beer story, WTOP, I offer this for the record: today, there are ten breweries in our Nation's Capital.

And, that's worth reporting.

UPDATE: I reached out to Rachel Nania, the author of the piece, for comment, via Twitter, and she responded:
I stand by my comments. Re-read those first two paragraphs of Ms. Nania's story, as quoted at the top of this piece. There's no "packaging brewery" modifier, and, in fact, there is none in the entire story until the conclusion, asterisked. To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, “A brewery's a brewery, no matter how small,” or even if it's in a restaurant.


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Three stars (of brewing).

For a couple (three?) reasons, it seemed timely to re-post this 18 October 2014 photo, several months after the fact, today.

Three stars

It's a trio of brewers seen during the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, in downtown Baltimore, Maryland, at the Pratt Street Alehouse.

Left to right:
  • Mike McGarvey —co-owner/founder, 3 Stars Brewing (Washington, D.C.);
  • Dave Coleman —co-owner/founder, 3 Stars Brewing;
  • Steve Jones —brewmaster, Oliver Brewing.
McGarvey and Coleman's brewery is three years old.

And, Steve Jones —who was the host brewer for the Chesapeake Real Ale Festival, and has been for eleven years— is soon to open a new, much larger, production facility for Oliver Brewing, off-site from its original home at the Pratt Street Alehouse (née Wharf Rat, 1993).

The conversation at that table was animated and enlightening. And, the boys sure can mug for the camera. As Jones pointed out, he was "still rocking my Derek Smalls facial hair from our previous evening's 'This Is Oliver Brewing Company' night!"


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Who, and what, is the (U.S.) Brewers Association?

In my report on the Brewers Association's 2014 'craft' beer business numbers, the footnotes were as lengthy as the body of the post. In hindsight, I believe that those observations and definitions rise above the level of mere clarification. So, I've brought them out into the open, above the jump.

Brewers Association

The (U.S.) Brewers Association —parenthesis, mine— was founded in January 2005 as a merger between the Association of Brewers (founded in 1983) and the Brewers Association of America (founded in 1941) ...

"to promote and protect American craft brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts."
The Brewers Association is an organization of brewers, for brewers and by brewers. More than 2,300 U.S. brewery members and 43,000 members of the American Homebrewers Association are joined by members of the allied trade, beer wholesalers, retailers, individuals, other associate members and the Brewers Association staff to make up the Brewers Association.

The Brewers Association's (BA) President and co-founder is Charlie Papazian; the CEO is Bob Pease; the Director is Paul Gatza.

The BA defines an American 'craft' brewer (and thus any and all of its brewery-members) as "small, independent, and traditional."
  • Small
    Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
  • Independent
    Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. *
  • Traditional
    A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

And, here's how the BA differentiates between six categories of breweries:
  • Microbrewery
    A brewery that produces less than 15,000 barrels (17,600 hectoliters) of beer per year with 75 percent or more of its beer sold off-site.
  • Brewpub
    A restaurant-brewery that sells 25 percent or more of its beer on site. The beer is brewed primarily for sale in the restaurant and bar. The beer is often dispensed directly from the brewery’s storage tanks. Where allowed by law, brewpubs often sell beer “to go” and /or distribute to off site accounts. Note: BA re-categorizes a company as a microbrewery if its off-site (distributed) beer sales exceed 75 percent.
  • Contract Brewing Company
    A business that hires another brewery to produce its beer. It can also be a brewery that hires another brewery to produce additional beer.
  • Regional Brewery
    A brewery with an annual beer production of between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels.
  • Regional Craft Brewery An independent regional brewery (between 15,000 and 6,000,000 barrels) with a majority of volume in “traditional” or “innovative” beer(s).
  • Large Brewery
    A brewery with an annual beer production over 6,000,000 barrels.

Did last year's 'craft' definition change affect the numbers?

In 2014, the BA changed its definition of 'small' brewery, increasing the upper annual production limit by 200%, from two to six million barrels of beer, and it changed the definition of 'traditional' from this (to what is stated above):
A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewers 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.

When the BA announced an 18% growth in the volume of 'craft' beer sold in 2014 over 2013, that definition change could have accounted for a non-trivial portion of that increase. In a footnote to that press release, the BA stated: "[Volume of craft beer sold] figure derived from comparable data set based on 2014 update of craft brewer definition." Thus, it appears appears that there may have been some sort of weighting of the numbers. Learning if so, and what exactly that might have been, will have to wait until the Craft Brewers Conference, in Portland, Oregon, in April, where the BA will release its final report.

In terms of the number of breweries, however, any increase caused by that would have been negligible. The small number of formerly 'large' or 'non-traditional' breweries that have now been re-branded as 'craft' —e.g., Yuengling, August Schell and Straub— would have been overwhelmed by the large numbers ofmicrobreweries, brewpubs, and regional craft breweries. And without the size-increase in the definition, Boston Beer/Sam Adams, which had been 'craft,' would have been excised from the 'craft' beer ranks.

There is a discrepancy between the total amount of U.S. beer produced as implied by the BA and as explicitly reported by the National Beer Wholesalers Association.

Calculating the total beer volume in 2014 —using the BA's number of 'craft' beer volumes of 22.2 million barrels as 11% of the total volume— yields 201.82 million barrels of beer.

The NBWA based its numbers on the TTB's report of beer produced: 2,843,141,000 case equivalents (CEs). Since one barrel of a beer (31 gallons) is approximately 13.78 CEs, total U.S. beer production in 2014 can be calculated to 206.3 million barrels. A big discrepancy, even if accounting for rounding errors.


  • * Under the BA's 'Independent' definition, pioneering 'craft' brewers such as Widmer and Redhook are not considered 'craft;' nor are Blue Point, Goose Island, Elysian, all of which were recently majority-purchased by Anheuser-Busch; nor is Founders, which recently sold a 30% stake to a Spanish brewery. Terrapin Brewing, in Athens, Georgia, however, is NOT majority-owned by SAB/Miller, as is sometimes claimed. The conglomerates' investment division does own a less-than 25% stake, but lies well within the 'craft' parameters.
  • Read the BA's report on the state of U.S. 'craft' beer in 2014: here. If the BA announces any significant modifications to its numbers and/or reveals more about its methodology, I'll update this post to reflect that.
  • Read the NBWA's report on the state of all of U.S. beer in 2014: here.

  • For more from YFGF:

Monday, March 23, 2015

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 8/9, 2015.

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 8/9
15 February - 28 February 2015

  • 2015.02.28
    Meritage 2009 from Muse Vineyards of Woodstock, Virginia, wins Virginia's best wine in the 2015 Governor's Cup.
    —Via Virginia Wine.

  • 2015.02.27
    Leonard Nimoy, an American actor well-known for his portrayal of Mr. Spock on the television sci-fi series, Star Trek, has died at age 83.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 2015.02.26
    Comparing beer business tax breaks: Small BREW Act vs. Fair BEER Act.
    —Via All About Beer.

  • 2015.02.26
    The Federal Communications Commission approves 'net neutrality' rules, reclassifying high-speed Internet service as a telecommunications service, instead of an information service, under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 2015.02.25
    M&T Bank pulls a television advertisment featuring Baltimore, Maryland's Union Craft Brewing because of the use of the term "joy nuggets."
    —Via Baltimore Business Journal.

  • 2015.02.24
    Employees at Full Sail Brewing (Hood River, Oregon) vote to scrap their Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), and merge with an investment firm.
    —Via Beervana.

  • 2015.02.23
    Ocean City, Maryland 'craft' brewery, Back Shore Brewing, wins trademark case to use its original name, "Shorebilly."
    —Via USA Today.

  • 2015.02.23
    Eight southwestern Virginia breweries promote a Blue Ridge Beerway.
    —Via Blue Ridge Beerway.

  • 2015.02.19
    In January, on-premise 'craft' beer volume growth slowed, up 0.9% vs. up 1.9% in 2014. Still at 30% of all draft beer sold.
    —Via Craft Brewing Business.

    Goodbye, Heavy Seas original brewhouse!
  • 2015.02.19
    The decommissioned brewhouse at Heavy Seas Beer, in use at the Baltimore, Maryland, brewery since it opened in 1995, being dismantled and shipped south to Waco, Texas, where it will brew the wash for new 'craft' distiller, Tate Distillery. Owner, Chip Tate, was the founder of Balcones, a pioneering Texas 'craft' distillery, which he opened in 2008, also in Waco. He recently departed Balcones after a disagreement with the board.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 2015.02.18
    "End goal [of Budweiser, etc.] is to dominate every segment of beer world," according to Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery, on the international conglomerate's current acquisitions of 'craft' breweries.
    —Via Men's Journal.

  • 2015.02.17
    Danish 'gypsy' brewer Mikkeller to move into a permanent home, in ... San Diego California, in the former Alesmith Brewery facilities.
    —Via All About Beer.

  • 2015.02.16
    A changing of guard for Virginia 'craft' beer. Mark Thompson, founder of Starr Hill Brewery, in Crozet, Virginia, departs the brewery after 16 years at the helm.
    —Via Starr Hill.

    Hopyards @Stillpoint Farms (02)
  • 2015.02.15
    Contract hop prices have doubled and even tripled since the last USDA National Hop Report, in 2012.
    —Via CNBC.

  • 2015.02.15
    'Craft' brewers facing price spikes and shortages of wooden barrels: bourbon and otherwise.
    —Via Austin Chronicle.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

How beer as a whole fared in the U.S. in 2014.

Two reports on the state of beer in the United States in 2014 were delivered this month.

One came from the Brewers Association —founded in 2005 to advocate for 'craft' brewers— that showed a continuing double-digit rate of growth for 'craft' beer. Read that: here.

The other was from the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) —founded in 1938 as a trade association representing beer distributors in the U.S. (currently numbering just under 3,000).

The purpose of the National Beer Wholesalers Association is to provide leadership which enhances the independent beer distribution industry; to advocate before government and the public; to encourage the responsible consumption of alcohol; and to provide programs and services that will benefit its members.

The NBWA's report showed that:
  • U.S. taxable beer volume as a whole —factoring in mainstream beers, 'craft' beers, imports, and flavored malt beverages (FMBs)— increased by 0.4% in 2014, to a total of 2,843,141,000 'case equivalents' (CEs *).
  • One barrel of beer is the equivalent of 13.78 cases. So, doing the math, the total volume of beer produced in the U.S. in 2014 was 206,323,730 barrels (two-hundred six million, three hundred twenty-three thousand, seven hundred thirty barrels).
  • Mainstream beer sales, by volume, were down slightly (-0.6%).
  • Imports were up (+6.9%).
  • 'Craft' beer sales were up dramatically (+18% over 2013), to 22.2 million barrels. But, at 11% of the total beer sales, 'craft' beer gains were still not enough to offset mainstream beer's losses. The NBWA didn't break down 'craft' beers' numbers. For that, read: here.
  • Can beer sales continued to exceed bottle beer sales.
  • Draft beer sales were down slightly (-0.4%).
Final December numbers from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) on national domestic beer shipments were released Monday. This release from the TTB closes out the last 2014 report for total industry accounting. The combination of domestic tax paid and imported volumes represent the total amount of beer available for sale in the United States. This is the only measure we have of total industry volumes that cover all domestic brewers, brewpubs and importers of malt beverages.

As previously reported, domestic volumes were down slightly (-0.6% CY), but import volumes rose significantly (+6.9% CY) to bring total industry volumes (+0.4%) into positive territory. While looking relatively flat, the industry saw some significant shifts in package mix between cans, bottles and draft. The table below shows combined domestic and import volumes for 2013 and 2014 with volume changes and shares.

The data above show that the can segment was the big winner in 2014, growing more than 30 million cases and gaining almost 1 share point of total volumes from 2013. Bottle packages lost almost 18 million cases and subsequently lost almost all of their share to can packages. Draft, on the other hand, continues to hold a 10 share of the market, losing only about 1.2 million case equivalents (CEs).  The shift between can and bottle packages in the marketplace was seen in both import (+18%) and domestic (+1.1%) volumes. Clearly, the can package has managed to break into the high-end beer business where glass has traditionally had a hold for both craft and imported beers. Craft beer’s expansion into more channels from convenience to airlines over the past few years also has helped increase can packages share of total business.

The conundrum for the beer industry is draft beer. Despite significant growth in brewpubs, taprooms and festivals driven by smaller brewers with a heavy draft mix, the total share of draft beer continues to be stuck at around 10 percent share of market and actually declined in 2014.

The graph above shows draft beer share grew from 9 percent in early 2005 to more than 10 percent in 2011; however, share growth slowed from 2011 to 2014 despite significant growth in the number of small brewers and brewpubs. 

In fact, the volume of draft beer shipped in 2014 at 287 million case equivalents is about the same volume that was sold back in 1954 at 255 million cases.


'Craft' beer by the (2014) numbers

Two reports on the state of the 2014 U.S. beer industry were released this month.

One from the Brewers Association (BA), on 'craft' beer1 sales in the U.S. The other, from the National Beer Wholesalers Association, on how beer as a whole fared.

As to the first: the state of 'craft' beer is hearty and hale.

  • By dollars, 'craft' beer sales totaled $19.6 billion dollars, representing 19.3% of all beer sold in the U.S. (which is $101.5 billion dollars!).
  • By volume share, 'craft' breweries sold 22.2 million barrels, 18% growth over 2013, accounting for 11% of the total of all beer sold in 2014 (which came to more than two hundred million barrels)2.
  • Not in the report, but the BA's mission statement calls for achieving a 20% market share by volume by the year 2020.
  • By the end of 2014, there were 3,814 'craft' breweries operating in the U.S., accounting for 98.6% of all U.S. breweries.

Craft beer growth in 2014 (Brewers Association)

Craft Brewer Volume Share of U.S. Beer Market Reaches Double Digits in 2014

Brewers Association Reports Annual Growth Figures for Small and Independent Brewers

Boulder, CO • March 16, 2015—The Brewers Association (BA), the trade association representing small and independent American craft brewers, today released 2014 data on U.S. craft brewing growth. For the first-time ever, craft brewers reached double-digit (11 percent) volume share of the marketplace.

In 2014, craft brewers produced 22.2 million barrels, and saw an 18 percent rise in volume and a 22 percent increase in retail dollar value. Retail dollar value was estimated at $19.6 billion representing 19.3 percent market share. 3

“With the total beer market up only 0.5 percent in 2014, craft brewers are key in keeping the overall industry innovative and growing. This steady growth shows that craft brewing is part of a profound shift in American beer culture—a shift that will help craft brewers achieve their ambitious goal of 20 percent market share by 2020,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “Small and independent brewers are deepening their connection to local beer lovers while continuing to create excitement and attract even more appreciators.”

Additionally, the number of operating breweries in the U.S. in 2014 grew 19 percent, totaling 3,464 breweries, with 3,418 considered craft broken down as follows: 1,871 microbreweries, 1,412 brewpubs and 135 regional craft breweries. Throughout the year, there were 615 new brewery openings and only 46 closings.

Combined with already existing and established breweries and brew pubs, craft brewers provided 115,469 jobs, an increase of almost 5,000 from the previous year.

“These small businesses are one of the bright spots in both our economy and culture. Craft brewers are serving their local communities, brewing up jobs and boosting tourism,” added Watson. “Craft brewers are creating high quality, differentiated beers; new brewers that match this standard will be welcomed in the market with open arms.”

Note: Numbers are preliminary.

The Brewers Association will release the list of Top 50 craft brewing companies and overall brewing companies by volume sales on March 31 [2015]. Additionally, a more extensive analysis will be released during the Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America® in Portland, Oregon from April 14-17 [2015]. The full 2014 industry analysis will be published in the May/June 2015 issue of The New Brewer, highlighting regional trends and production by individual breweries.


Saturday, March 21, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Lemons, limes, & Hopslams 2015

Lemons, limes, & Hopslams 2015

It seems appropriate for the bar to have placed bottles of Bells Hopslam 2015 (10% alcohol-by-volume, or abv; 70 International Bittering Units, or IBUs) next to a 'hotel' pan of lemons and limes. Only missing from the tableaux were grapefruits and pine cones.
Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell’s Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell’s repertoire. Selected specifically because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest varieties contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit, and floral notes. A generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey provide just enough body to keep the balance in check, resulting in a remarkably drinkable rendition of the Double India Pale Ale style.
Bell's Brewery

And, then, there were those Dogfish Head 120s!

Arlington, Virginia.
11 March 2015.


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Drinking, again! Pilsner Urquell, unplugged. (review)

Beer reviews Drinking , Again is a series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits).
No scores; only descriptions.

World of BeerWorld of Beer is a chain of beer-centric taverns with numerous locations, most in the Southeast, but a few elsewhere. Each has 50 taps and sells a large selection of bottled (or canned) beer as well.

Recently, World of Beer offered what appeared to be an exclusive.

The chain had procured kegs —unfiltered and unpasterized— of Pilsner Urquell, the iconic pilsner* from the Plzensky Prazdroj brewery in Plzen, Czech Republic, and had had them air-freighted from there to the various World of Beer locations. According to press releases, Pilsner Urquell can rarely be tasted this way (both unfiltered and unpasteruized) except at the brewery itself.

There is a World of Beer located near to me. So, this 'natürlichen' Pilsner Urquell, I would be fortunate enough to try.

First, a bit about Pilsner Urquell.
Pilsner UrquellPlzensky Prazdroj, in Plzen, Czech Republic, is the source of Pilsner Urquell ([meaning] the "original Pilsner"). The brewery has operated since 1842, producing a bottom-fermented pale beer that has become the model for Pilsners the world over. Bottom-fermenting yeast ... when combined with Bohemian hops and soft, local water, made for quite a beer.

[...] The company traditionally fermented the beer in open, wooden vessels, and aged it in pitch-lined oak casks. Some beer enthusaists might selfishly feel that the "velvet revolution' that freed the Czech Republic was a mixed blessing, for it has brought technological progress to a brewery that was allowed to pursue its traditonal (albeit labor-intensive methods under communism.

[...] Most of the Pilsner Urquell made for export is [now] fermented and aged in steel vessels.
The Encyclopedia of Beer (1995)

Arriving at the local World of Beer, I did suffer an initial disappointment. A 'special' (yet simple) lever-valve tap had indeed been installed to serve the beer. But, instead of that, the pub was pouring the beer in the 'normal' manner, through a regular draft beer tap. As it turned out: no matter!

PU tap

Sipping from this uber-fresh glass of the world's original pilsner, I became enthused enough to tweet about it. And Pilsner Urquell, now very much savy to the modern world, noticed and tweeted back.

Moving to Facebook, I became downright belligerent in my praise.
No pumpkin or peach. No persimmon or peppermint. No civet-extruded coffee beans. No one-billion IBUs. No fermented yak milk aged on a pristine hillside in Tierra del Fuego. No, just the beer, ma'am. Unpasteurized, unfiltered Czech Pilsner Urquell, on draft at World of Beer, in Ballston, Virginia. A touch of fruitiness, and, maybe, a hint of traveled oxidation. OtherwIse delicious. If you're looking for flavored beer, skip this. Save the PU for the rest of us!

Brevity being the soul of social media, I may have omitted a couple/three things.

A thing like that fruitiness: a hint of candied-orange slice that I've never tasted in 'regular' Pilsner Urquell here. Or like that aroma of the Saaz hops, pungent of mowed-grass and flower-garden on a spring day after a light rain (so unlike the dank cat-litter box of some American 2x IPAs). Or like that short-bread maltiness —seemingly subsuming any diacetyl (butteriness), common to the style— the like of which have never before tasted in PU, here.

I was surprised by the relative lack of dimethyl sulfide (DMS), that 'canned corn' aroma I often encounter in packaged lagers, but I did notice an odd 'woodiness' (not oak-barrel 'woodiness'), that I chalked up to 'traveled oxidation,' all 4,300 miles of it. Or not.

PU unfiltered

Of course, there was the beer's gorgeous, deep golden hue, maybe with even a hint of chartreuse, swimming behind a thin veil of haziness (not murkiness). That was surprising to me, used as I am to the brightness of pilsners, but the beer was, after all, unfiltered. And, finally, as climax and denouement: malt sweetness chased by that long, wonderful, Žatec spicy-hop finish.

Pilsner Urquell, unplugged? Yes, please! True süffigkeit.

I asked my bartender for another.


Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Dancing a firkin jig

Sara taps cask of Draft Punk

It's a first for Pic(k) of the Week! Not a static photo such as above, but a short video clip, below.

Sara Sorola —representative for Oliver Brewing (of Baltimore, Maryland)— tapped a firkin, and then danced a celebratory jig, at Rhodeside Grill, a tavern and restaurant in the Court House neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia.

11 March 2015.

The beer in the firkin was Draft Punk IPA:
An Englishman’s interpretation of an American IPA, maybe not as over-the-top as some of it’s “true” American counterparts but with more hops than we’re used to using!

7% alcohol-by-volume, and 'dry-hopped' with American Cascade and Centennial hops, two of the classic and quintessential American "C" hops, with aromas and flavors of grapefruit and gooseberry.

Dry-hopping is the process whereby
hops are inserted in the primary ferment, the secondary ferment, or in the cask directly after filling. The purpose of dry hops is to add additional aromatic properties to the beer.
The Encyclopedia of Beer (1995)

A 'firkin' is the British term for a cask containing 9 Imperial gallons, which in U.S. measurement is 10.8 gallons, or 86.4 U.S. pints (one pint = 16 U.S. fluid ounces).

But, a firkin rarely yields the full 86.4 pints. The beer inside contains yeast which has naturally carbonated the beer, and which —if the cask has been properly cared for— has fallen beneath the tap. So no sediment in the drinker's glass ... but you wouldn't want to pour those last few pints.

A gentleman at the bar remarked that cask ale is flat. "Then, where did those bubbles in your glass come from," I (gently) prodded him. "I meant it's less carbonated than draft," he answered.

So true, except that I prefer to say that it's cask ale that has been properly carbonated. Draft beer is gassy.

Oliver at the bar (02)


Monday, March 09, 2015

Session Beer Day returns 7 April 2015.

On 7 April 2015, celebrate Session Beer Day!

Some history, first.

7 April is the day, in 1933, that beer became legal again in the United States after thirteen years of Prohibition. Well, sort of.

On that day, the Beer and Wine Revenue Act went into effect, declaring, in effect, that alcoholic beverages of equal to or less than 3.2% alcohol-by-weight (4.05% by volume) were to be considered as "non-intoxicating" under the requirements of the 18th Amendment. Even though Prohibition still remained in effect, beer, of a 'session' sort, had become legal. (The passage of the 21st Amendment would finally repeal national Prohibition, a few months later, on 5 December 1933.)

Some more recent history.

In 2009, beer writer Lew Bryson 'formalized' his campaign to bring back American session beers —that is, well-flavored beers of less than 4.5% alcohol-by-volume— with his Session Beer Project blog.

Since then, he has asked brewers, pub owners, and good-beer drinkers to work toward the return of session beer to America. And, now, in 2015, he asks us to celebrate its return.

Session Beer Day_2015

Session Beer Day 2015 is on for April 7!

After several years of being on the cusp, of thinking 'okay, this is the year session beer goes mainstream!', we're here.

Almost every beer bar I walk into these days -- hell, here in Philly, almost any new bar I walk into -- has at least one session beer on tap. Every major brewer has a session beer in their portfolio (or comes grudgingly close). There are session beer events regularly, there are brewers who make only session beers, session beer has been recognized as one of the major trends in craft brewing.

We can do Session Beer Day right this year.

What is a session beer?

How to define a session beer is open to debate.

The Encyclopedia of Beer (1995) defines it as a beer a person can drink throughout the evening withot becoming inebriated.

Mr. Bryson pegs it as ...
... beers that are under 4.5% ABV, that are flavorful -- sorry, no mainstream light lagers need apply, that's just how it is. [...] It's a common taunt: "People who drink light beer don't really like beer; they just like to pee a lot." Well...if you're going out to drink beer, why get hammered on two or three huge beers? If you really like to drink beer, why not find a good, flavorful session beer and have five? I mean...if you like drinking beer, and the conviviality and social fun that goes with it, why not have a beer that lets you keep doing that longer?

I've read descriptions of 8% alcohol beers as 'sessionable.' Ha! To paraphrase former Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart: "I know a session beer when I see it, and an 8% alcohol-by-volume beer is not that."

And, it's better not to ignore the vocal subset that disputes Mr. Byson's upper limit of 4.5% alcohol-by-volume (3.6% by weight), calling instead for one of 4.0% or less (3.2% by weight). Theirs is an argument historically accurate in terms of what happened in the U.S. in 1933 (and of beer history in 20th century Great Britain), but one that can be rendered moot by calling for a modern American session beer.
But insist on 4.5% or less. If it ain't significantly less, it ain't significant. We've watched "IPA" become an increasingly meaningless marketing term; even "craft beer" is being hollowed out by arguments over what is and what isn't. I welcome the discussion of whether session beer should be under 4.0%, but I dismiss the idea that it is under 5.0%. There's just not enough difference to be different there. If you want more on why, I've written plenty: have a look.

Even only a few years ago, Mr Bryson (and many of us session guerillas) would often be told that session beers would never work: 'craft' beer drinkers wanted bang for their bucks. My response has been: if alcohol is the goal, beer is a poor delivery system. Try Everclear, instead.

But shouldn't brewers be charging less for lower alcohol beers? No, says Mr. Bryson!
But we've had that discussion, and the truth is, lower alcohol beers don't really cost that much less to make or sell. Materials -- hops, malt, spices -- are only part of a beer's cost; there's energy, labor, transport, taxes, promotion, facility costs, debt service... If a pint of 4.5% pilsner is a good pint, a good-tasting beer, why should it be cheaper than a 6.5% IPA? Because it cost a nickel less to make? Or because it has less alcohol? I thought craft beer was all about flavor. If it's about the alcohol, well...why are you drinking it, again? Maybe you ought to think about that. In any case, I'd certainly encourage any brewpub operator or bar manager to think about dropping pints a buck just to encourage the multiple sales sessions are about, but it's not about session being a somehow "lesser" beer. We don't buy that, no matter what the price.

How to celebrate Session Beer Day

So let's do this.
  • Brewers, get your little beers ready.

  • Bars, get your little beers on. If you're a bar manager: please consider putting at least three beers on tap that are 4.5% or under. If you really want to support things, don't make them all "session IPA" choices; the Session Beer Project has always been about expanding choices. Lead, don't follow. Find something different, and reward it. If you have equipment for cask ale, by all means put the session beers on if possible; that's where they shine.

  • And the rest of us? Start asking if YOUR local is doing anything for Session Beer Day.
Start planning what you're going to do; get creative! If you've got good stuff, let me know! Tweet it up: #SessionBeerDay.

Get ready for OUR DAY. Session Beer Day. April 7. Dream Big for Small Beer!

So, what is Session Beer? Why, it's the one beer to have when you're having more than one! And, it's the one with Goldilocksian character: not flavor-hyped, but definitely not flavor-wanting. Just right.

Miller Lite fails the character test; Mild Ale, by contrast, doesn't.


Saturday, March 07, 2015

Pic(k) of the Week: Barleywine, while snow falls.

Barleywine, while snow falls

It was snowing outside, but it was warm(ing) inside, on Saturday, 21 February, 2015.

It was day one —of two days— at the 5th annual Barleywine Festival, of Mad Fox Brewing Company, in Falls Church, Virginia.

The brewpub was serving its patrons thirty-seven barleywines —several of which had been vintage-aged on-site (the beers, that is!). A few were Mad Fox's own; the others from elsewhere.

Only eighteen of the barleywines were 'on' at any one time. But midway through the day, on both days of the weekend festival, the brewing staff would switch the draft-lines to the other eighteen, seamlessly and quickly. A tip of the pint ... er, 4-ounce glass. No pints were served! (The 37th barleywine was served cask-conditioned, and remained 'on' throughout.)

The three at this table, in from the blizzard, were enjoying (a few) of those.

What are barleywines?

Barley wines are the strongest of beers [usually 8-12% alcohol by volume] and while not always literally approaching the alcohol content of wine, usually surmount the strength of ales referred to as "strong' and "old," to which they are related.

[...] British examples are noteworthy for pronounced alcoholic and sherry like flavors.

The American Northeast [...] produces barley wines in a kind of mid-Atlantic meld, tending more to the sweet and strong, with tempered flavors of age. Owing in part to the relative proximity of supply [of hops], the barley wines of the West Coast [and especially Pacific Northwest] are fierce in hop bitterness and aroma, even after the time ordinarily counted upon to diminish hop character.
The Oxford Companion to Beer: Oxford University Press, 2012.

And why are they sometimes called "barleywine-style ales," at least in the U.S.?
The United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms [now known as the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, or TTB] has outlawed the mixture of beer and wine and the use of any label that hints at such a mixture. Therefore, this type of beer is likely to be labeled, "barleywine-style ale."
Encyclopedia of Beer: Henry Holt and Company, 1995.

A bevy of barleywines (02)


Thursday, March 05, 2015

#VeggieDag Thursday: Quick Links for February 2015.

VeggieDag Thursday
VeggieDag Thursday is an occasional Thursday post
on an animal-free diet and ecological issues.


Quick links for February 2015

  • 28 February 2015:
    Nearly half of all fruits and vegetables produced in world end up as waste.
    —Via FAO (Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations).

  • 12 February 2015:
    Marcellus Shale field pipeline threatens pristine forest in upstate New York.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 4 February 2015:
    A pint of beer requires roughly 1.5 gallons of water solely for hop cultivation (and a total water requirement of between 8 and 24 gallons, per pint). By comparison, a glass of almond milk needs 23 gallons of water, and cow's milk requires 30 gallons.
    —Via Mother Jones.

  • 29 January 2015:
    Choose blending over juicing for more nutrients in fruit (and veggies).Texas A&M study.
    —Via NPR Food.

  • 26 January 2015:
    President Obama proposes setting aside more than 12 million acres in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as wilderness, and thus off-limits to oil exploration.
    —A map, via Washington Post.

  • 23 January 2015:
    Tomato 'Sushi:' "a dead ringer for Ahi tuna sashimi?" The plant-based faux-fish movement.
    —Via NPR Food.

  • 22 January 2015:
    Biologists unexpectedly discover fish living deep under Antarctica’s ice shelf, under 2,428 feet of ice and 528 miles from the edge of the ice shelf, far from any hint of sunlight, the energy source that typically powers marine food webs.
    —Via Smithsonian Magazine.

  • 21 January 2015:
    For the first time in over one hundred years, baby tortoises have been found on an island in the Galapagos.
    —Via The Dodo.

  • Fracking in the U.S._2015, by Inside Climate News
  • 20 January 2015:
    Fracking now occurs in 22 U.S. states; could soon begin in 5 more.
    —A map, via Inside Climate News.

  • 16 January 2015:
    2014 was the warmest year on record, since measurements began in 1880. Findings announced jointly by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The 10 hottest years in modern times have all come since 1997, NASA scientists said.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 15 January 2015:
    Pope Francis I on climate change: Man has "slapped nature in the face;" hopes his upcoming encyclical on the environment will encourage negotiators at a climate change meeting in Paris to make "courageous" decisions. Investor's Business Daily responds that the pope's climate change focus was "even more disturbing" than his "recent leftist statements," and that the Vatican "apparently now has been infiltrated by followers of a radical green movement."
    —Via Huffington Post Green.

  • 15 January 2015:
    "The not-so-humane way ‘humanely raised’ chickens are being raised. [...] The physical toll the chickens endure as a result of their genetic make-up only appears to be exacerbated by the physical reality of circumstances in which they're being raised. The birds are confined to a space smaller than a square foot, and frequently spend their entire lives atop mounds of feces. The result is that many birds—more than 1,000 per 30,000 bird flock—die within the first six weeks."
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 14 January 2015:
    New study: offshore wind power would create more jobs for mid-Atlantic than oil drilling.
    —Via Blue Virginia.

  • 7 January 2015:
    Researchers discover a new form of possibly resistance-free antibiotic that grows only IN soil, not in laboratory conditions.
    —Via Boston Globe.

  • 8 December 2014:
    The majority of streams in the Chesapeake Bay region are warming, and that increase appears to be driven largely by rising air temperatures. These findings are based on new U.S. Geological Survey research published in the journal Climatic Change. Air temperature has risen 1.1 C (1.98 F), and water temperature has risen 1.4 C (2.52 F) between 1960 and 2010 in the Chesapeake Bay region.
    —Via Science Daily.



  • Meatless 'Meatball' sub sandwich.
    —Via One Green Planet.

  • Vegan 'Lobster' Rolls (with hearts of palm).
    —Via The Lusty Vegan.

  • Seventeen recipes for plant-based Super Bowl snacks. (Valid for other occasions.)
    —Via YFGF.

  • The science of pie crusts.
    —Video, via Post TV.

  • Virginia Peanut Soup, but no peanut butter. Creamy, but no dairy.
    —Via Washington Post Food.

  • The recipe for, and history of, the United States Senate's famous Navy Bean Soup.
    —Via WAMU Metro Connection.
    —Vegetarian recipe, via Slate.

  • "Make 2015 the year of tempeh, [...] the cultured soybean cake with as much protein as beef. [...] Fermentation makes tempeh quite possibly the most nutritious, digestible form of soy around. It’s also one of the least-processed, using the whole bean (as opposed to tofu, made from soy milk)."
    —Via Joe Yonan (Editor, Washington Post Food).