March 20, 2013
Late last year, the Brewers Association issued a press release attempting to define what constituted “craft” beer. They juxtaposed “true” craft beers against those they consider “crafty”…a delightfully Colbertian turn-of-phrase that implies a craft beer in macro clothing (see Big Beer, Big Lies).
This press release unleashed a cavalcade of angry responses (some reasonable, some just your typical internet vitriol). And while it’s probably just a tempest in a teapot to most folks, for beer enthusiasts, the question of “What is Craft?” is actually vitally important.*
*While we don’t necessarily agree on the topic, one of my favorite angry responses was from Alehead fave, Beerbecue. If you haven’t checked out his beer blog, do so, he’s got a good one.
John Cochran, brewmaster at the Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, GA had one of the most sober and intelligent responses to the Brewers Association’s missive. It’s important to note that Cochran is a highly respected brewer who sold a minority stake of his company to Tenth and Blake, MillerCoors’ American craft beer wing. So it can’t be said that he’s unbiased, but to his credit, he makes that explicitly clear at the beginning of his response.
I found myself thinking more and more about the BA’s press release and responses like Mr. Cochran’s over the past few months. I’ve had friends and relatives ask me about Budweiser’s Platinum and Black Crown offerings as well as Big Beer’s more duplicitous attempts to make inroads into the craft marketplace with products like Coors’ Third Shift or Anheuser-Busch’s Rascal’s Wild Red. Read the rest of this entry »
March 6, 2013
At some point this year, there will be over 3,000 breweries either operating or in development in the US (the most our nation…or ANY nation has had since the days when households stopped being breweries). It’s bad enough trying to come up with a catchy beer name to make your product stand out…but with THAT many breweries in America, you also have to think long and hard about what to name your ale factory. You could go with the tried and true method and just name your brewery after local geography (Russian River, Fire Mountain, French Broad). Or you could name the brewery after yourself (Bell’s, F.X. Matt). But those names don’t always “pop”.
Now I know what you’re thinking…who gives a shit? Fair point. But just like beer names and beer labels, your brewery’s name IS an important marketing tool. Picture yourself sitting in a bar with a choice of two IPAs on tap. Which are you more likely to order? The “Stellar Brewing Supernova IPA” or the “Bird Poop Brewery’s Cloaca IPA“. The Cloaca might be head and shoulders above the Supernova, but there’s the embarrassment factor to consider. In that vein, I sifted through the thousands of American brewery names and culled out my favorite 50 (and, of course, my least favorite 50). It should go without saying that the name on the bottle has absolutely ZERO impact on the quality of the beer. In fact, my #1 least favorite brewery name is considered one of the great American ale factories. On the flipside, having a killer brewery name does not guarantee that you’re cranking out super suds. It’s just marketing. But since you’ve come to depend on the Aleheads to make superficial judgements AND to create utterly useless lists, I’d hate to let you down. Read the rest of this entry »
February 28, 2013
It wouldn’t be a typical week for the Aleheads without another story about Big Beer buffoonery, this time in the form of a lawsuit filed in three states claiming that AB-InBev allegedly overstated the alcohol content in its beer.
In a nutshell, the lawsuit claims that AB-Inbev’s various labels add extra water and CO2 to their finished product, thereby diluting the labeled alcohol content of their products and in effect, misleading and overcharging consumers.
Of course, AB InBev’s VP of brewing and supply dismissed these claims as “completely false,” adding that “We proudly adhere to the highest standards in brewing our beers, which have made them the best-selling in the U.S. and the world.” Apparently, in a corporate concept called “cost connecting,” using rice in lieu of grain (and low quality rice at that) as well as bargain bin hops constitute “The highest standards in brewing” so someone should tell the folks at Russian River to stop trying so hard.
Read the rest of this entry »
February 20, 2013
A few months back, Bloomberg Businessweek published an article entitled “The Plot to Destroy America’s Beer” which outlined the drastic cost (and as a result, quality) cutting measures enacted by CEO Carlos Brito for many products under the AB InBev banner. It isn’t any news to craft beer lovers that their beer is sub par, but according to this article, one time fans of their product are starting to notice it too and it isn’t sitting well with them. In addition to cutting costs by using cheaper materials on things like cardboard and glass, AB InBev’s cost cutting measures have also extended to raw ingredients, the quality of rice for example, as well as leaving long time providers of hops and beechwood, opting for a cheaper and seemingly inferior providers. I won’t harp on about the article, but it is a great read for anyone interested in how the beer business works and how the quality of ingredients and profit are sometimes inversely related.
A Rogues gallery of pseudo-craft offerings.
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February 20, 2013
The craft beer marketplace has become rather crowded these days. One way to stand out from the field is with a killer label. But designing a sweet-ass label takes time and artistic ability…two things many brewers simply don’t have. There’s also the “draft-only” issue to consider. Many beers brewed by craft outfits are keg-only, so a brewer needs another way to convince the drinking public to sample their wares.
Enter, the “awesome beer name”. With just a few choice words, a clever brewer can instantly connect with the public. Whether it’s a hop or style-related pun, a pop culture reference, or just something absurd, nothing gets an Alehead’s attention faster than a unique beer name. When our site was in its infancy, one of our first posts was a list of the 50 Best American Craft Beer Names we had ever come across. Years later, it’s still one of our most popular articles. Well, I figured it was about damn time I updated that post. So today, I’m unveiling a brand new, Top 100 Best Beer Names list. If you don’t see one of your favorites here, check that older list. And if it’s not there either, add it in the comments below. We don’t want any ridiculous beer names to go unnoticed by Alehead Nation! Read the rest of this entry »
July 5, 2012
Quick question for you: what is responsible for the adoption of agriculture, the pyramids, antibiotics, the Sistene Chapel, antiseptic medicine, modern commerce, American colonization and independence, modern manufacturing, the end of child labor, and little girls being able to eat ice cream?
If you guessed beer, you’re right. You’re pretty smart. Wow. I’m impressed. Or you’ve seen “How Beer Saved the World,” brought to you by America’s favorite source of shark-related infotainment, the Discovery Channel.
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June 21, 2012
This will soon exist. Seriously.
In her post decrying the stereotype of the craft beer drinker, Mother Gueuze describes the prototypical Alehead as “a man, perhaps in his thirties, usually with a beard and maybe even a pair of Ray-Bans.” While the majority of craft beer drinkers are indeed male, the scales are rapidly tipping thanks to female craft evangelists like Mother Gueuze and our newest Alehead, Lady Jay. As for Mother’s supposition that most Aleheads are in their thirties, I couldn’t even venture to guess how true that is. I know Aleheads in their 70s and their 20s and every decade in between. But yes, it’s probably true that a large percentage of craft beer geeks are in that mid-to-late 30s range where you still like to drink a few too many beers at night at the bar but have also earned enough liquid capital to afford some high-quality suds. I don’t know where the Ray-Bans quip came from. I think of Ray-Bans as being the domain of polo-wearing preppies who drink Manhattans at their country club. Perhaps Mother Gueuze is hanging out in the wrong beer bars… Read the rest of this entry »
June 19, 2012
Kid Carboy did a great post a few days ago about introducing people to craft beer. One part, of course, stuck out to me as the lady Alehead. Women and craft beer is a weird little paradox. I have seen both success and failure in trying to get my female friends into craft beer.
Let’s start with a little background:
There are two abnormal things about me as a craft beer lover: 1. I’m young and 2. I’m a girl.
When you picture the typical beer enthusiast, you see a man, perhaps in his thirties, usually with a beard and maybe even a pair of Ray-Bans. You don’t picture a short blond girl who looks like she’s 16 but is actually 22.
Read the rest of this entry »
June 15, 2012
The original craft can.
The craft canning revolution is upon us. Thanks to the pioneers at Oskar Blues in Lyons, Colorado (the first craft outfit to wholly embrace the beauty of the humble aluminum can), the rest of the craft beer industry is slowly coming to realize the superiority of cans to bottles. We’ve talked endlessly about the advantages of cans (easier to stack, easier to store, recyclable, light-proof, shatter-proof, etc.), but one thing we’ve failed to mention is that they just LOOK cooler than bottles. Graphics and marketing on a glass bottle are limited to the size of the label…but with a can, the entire container is your palette. This benefit has allowed craft breweries to design and produce some of the best looking beer label art EVER on the surfaces of their aluminum offerings.
Thanks to the good folks at CraftCans.com, you don’t need to look far to find a comprehensive database of these cylindrical brews (of course, it helps that there still aren’t THAT many craft cans out there…although new ones are being produced seemingly every day). I was able to use their database as a one-stop shop for perusing all the craft cans on the market and then culled that list down to a 30-pack of the coolest. Many of these reflect my own personal biases towards simple, clean design. But some of them are outrageous, gaudy, or just plan weird. Regardless of their aesthetics, they’re all worthy of celebrating: Read the rest of this entry »
May 31, 2012
In the funny little world of beer-blogging, there’s a strange phenomenon that I’m just coming to grips with. Before I explain, keep in mind the Aleheads site that you’ve been reading for the past couple of years has been, and still is, a completely free site. There’s an ad here and there that you’ll see next to our posts but those aren’t generated by Aleheads, they’re generated by the hosting service that’s nice enough to let us take up space on the internet for practically zero cost (just some extras that we like to pay for). Sure, I’ll take money if someone wants to pony up some cash, but we’re not looking to generate revenue. Not sure why anyone would pay us anyway. Have you read this site? Anyway, being that this is a free site that answers to no one and has no controlling interest in anything, ever, I find it a little strange when our “Feedback” box is filled with various messages from companies asking either if we’ve tried their product and would be willing to review it or if we’d like to try a sample of something new. I think that’s very cool and I love the trust that some people have in a bunch of folks that know just enough about beer to be mildly annoying at a bar, but I’m still learning to deal with the “notoriety” if you will. Now, if this new-found notoriety brings free beer, then I say BRING IT ON! And that’s how we’ve come to this review of Newcastle Summer Ale. Read the rest of this entry »
May 18, 2012
“The chalice from the palace has the brew that is true”
It has been trending for at least two years — craft breweries are not just bottling, but canning their most popular brews. There are can-fans (even canned craft beer festivals) and of course, opposers. Beer’s fruity cousin, cider, is no exception.
Though Woodchuck Cider doesn’t quite fit into the “craft” category, it does have a nearly cult-following. Woodchuck President and CEO, Bret Williams, announced May 1 that their amber hard cider would now be available in cans.
Read the rest of this entry »
April 1, 2012
ST LOUIS, MI- In the wake of the successful launch of their latest innovation, Bud Light Platinum, Anheuser-Busch InBev has announced an even more impressive release, a limited edition, barrel-aged version of Bud Light Platinum that has spent 6 months mellowing in casks of the world’s most popular brand of liquor, Jagermeister. This new product, which in internal AB InBev memos has been described as a “craft beer killer with a powerful punch…like King Hippo” will be on shelves by summertime.
AB InBev’s Strategic Parnerships spokesman, Robert A. Bouie, describes this collaboration beer with great enthusiasm:
Along with our good friends at Jagermeister, we are proud to announce the first of many collaborative beers with the launch of Bud Light Platinum: Oaked Edition. This is what we like to call an “extreme remix beer,” which features the superior drinkability that consumers have come to expect from Bud Light Platinum mixed with the complex herbal flavors and oak notes that are the hallmark of that great “Jager” taste. Market research shows that Bud Light Platinum drinkers also like to responsibly enjoy the rich, smooth taste of Jagermeister, so we view this partnership as a natural extension of both of our brands that will keep fans talking and social media buzzing. We feel that the authenticity of this beer experience will push this limited release to become one of the best sellers of the summer. We also believe that it may convert a few craft beer drinkers. After all, it is barrel-aged, a trend which attracts the hippest segment of the 21-35 year-old male craft beer-drinking demographic. Read the rest of this entry »
March 12, 2012
A few months ago, Mom and Dad Sixpack invited Slouch and I down for a weekend visit. Unfortunately, Slouch was too busy with work*, and couldn’t make the trip. I decided that the second week in March seemed like a good time to get away from the cold, snowy, Kansas winter** in favor of sunny Tampa Bay. When I arrived, I realized that my choice had fortuitously*** put me in Tampa for Hunahpu’s Day, arguable the biggest craft beer event in the Southeast United States.
*Slouch is unemployed
**it didn’t even snow this winter
***ok, this is just a lie. I knew exactly what I was doing.
Armed with three mules (Mom, Dad, and Lady Jay) we arrived at the event about an hour before opening. I was a little afraid this would be a touch on the late side, but it worked out just fine. We scored the very last parking spot in the abandoned Sears parking lot across from the brewery, and got into the event about 20 minutes after the gates open. Getting there very early would have been a good time, but I had my parents’ attention span in mind. Read the rest of this entry »
March 1, 2012
Who makes this beer again?
Yesterday, Doc sent out an e-mail to the Aleheads asking if any of us had sampled Batch 19 yet. During a recent trip to VA, Doc was half in the bag after tucking into some delicious Bell’s Two Hearted and HopSlam pints. His bartender, taking pity on him, apparently suggested he scale back on his ABV intake by partaking in a Batch 19 instead. Doc said he enjoyed the beer…until the next morning when he discovered that Batch 19 is brewed by Tenth and Blake (the “craft” division of MillerCoors). That didn’t change his enjoyment of the beer from the night before. But it did add some context that made him question the experience.
This morning, the Czar forwarded the rest of the Aleheads an excellent article from the West Coaster (an on-line publication representing the San Diego craft beer scene). In it, the author compellingly argues against the current practice in which Big Beer markets their “craft” products without giving any indication of who is actually brewing the beer. Blue Moon is the best/worst example. Their beers are wholly brewed by Coors, but their bottles claim they’re produced by the “Blue Moon Brewing Company”. Doc had no idea who made Batch 19, and indeed, as the West Coaster author notes, neither the Batch 19 bottles nor the tap handles mention that they are brewed by a huge multi-national. Read the rest of this entry »
February 27, 2012
Our long national nightmare is over.
I hesitated to post about this last week, but what the hell. As the guy who named Weyerbacher as having the most egregiously horrible beer labels in the craft beer world, I figure I owe them a shout-out for finally redesigning their old logo which was about as drab and ugly as any out there. Read the rest of this entry »
February 1, 2012
El Segundo Brewing Company. Home of Blue House Ales
If you read this blog on a regular basis, then chances are that you too have fantasized about ditching the rat race to start your own brewery, but most of us never get beyond the weekend home brewer stage and are forced to drown our “shoulda coulda woulda” sorrows in pints of the latest and greatest regional brew while checking work email on our phones. One man who actually took the plunge and gave up a cushy corporate gig to pursue the dream of making the perfect beer is Rob Croxall, owner and head brewer of El Segundo Brewing Company
in El Segundo, CA. His taproom opened back in October of 2011 and has since been well received by not just residents of the South Bay, but also beer lovers from all around the greater Los Angeles area, who flock to the subterranean tasting room on Friday and Saturday nights to watch college sports and have some laughs over pints of Hyperion Stout with Vanilla, or the flagship Blue House Pale Ale with fellow beer geeks. You see, until recently, Los Angeles, a city of over 9 million residents, has never been much of a beer city. It was no problem finding beers to drink, but as far as locally produced brews, LA paled in comparison to nearly every other part of California. This has been changing though, and Angelinos are finally able to drink beers that we can call our own, thanks to folks like Rob.
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December 24, 2011
The depths to which big beer will sink to lure in new (read: young) consumers has reached a new low this week, with the announcement that the Draftmark™ tap system should be rolled out in the St Louis market at the end of 2011 and early 2012. The official press release is here but in Aleheads’ rich tradition, we’ll go ahead and translate the corporate speak for you, dear reader and craft beer lover, so grab a pint of the good stuff, sit back, and enjoy as we dive into the latest installment of
Corporate Speak Translated.
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December 21, 2011
2011 was a monumental year for craft brewing, which saw overall beer sales down but sales within the craft industry increasing like never before. Craft was like a metaphorical Robin Hood taking money from the deep, evil corporate pockets of the AB InBevs and MillerCoors of the world and putting it back into the brewing community. 2011 also saw more independent breweries opening or being scheduled to open than any other time in recent history. The homebrewing community also became more popular than ever, with people of all ages and walks of life taking a genuine interest in how their beer is made. 2011 was a great time to be an Alehead. All that being said, 2011 was not without its disappointments in the brewing world, from once local hero breweries sidling up to the corporate teat, to marketing campaigns that insulted consumers, to the never ending pissing contest of gadgetry in the light beer world, I give you dear reader, the year in disappointments. Read the rest of this entry »