Podcast – The Scotsman Flies Solo

One of the Scotsman's favorite beers these days. The Black House Coffee Stout from Modern Times!

One of the Scotsman’s favorite beers these days. The Black House Coffee Stout from Modern Times!

On this episode of the Ale Evangelist show, the Scotsman ranges outside of the Central Valley and discusses the beers of 927 Beer Company in Cambria, Firestone Walker in Paso Robles, and Central Coast Brewing Company in San Luis Obispo.

He talks about this week’s show beer, which is Black House Coffee Stout from Modern Times.

He also talks about the nature of brewing, automated brewing machinery (the Zymatic from Picobrew), and talks a bit about Patrick’s sausages over at the Market.

It’s a grab bag of topics on this solo episode of the Ale Evangelist Show!

To download this podcast, right-click the mug, and click "Save Link As" or "Save Target As"

To download this podcast, right-click the mug, and click “Save Link As” or “Save Target As”

Alaskan releases their coffee brown!

I hope this is as good as it was int he brewery. Easily the best coffee beer I've had.

I hope this is as good as it was int he brewery. Easily the best coffee beer I’ve had.

I’ve shared the story on the podcast, I believe, but I can’t believe this is happening.

In 2008, when I was on a cruise to Alaska, I had the opportunity to visit the Alaskan Brewing Company brewery in Juneau. While I was there, I had a sample of what they had on tap there. One of the beers they had on tap was a coffee brown ale. I had my doubts that it would be worth drinking, but it really was!  The rich, sweet brown melded perfectly with the warm, lightly roasty notes of the coffee.  I’ve tried several times to recreate it, and I do think I’ve found the proper recipe, but I’ve always wanted to try it again.

Sadly, they said it would never see the light of day. That tap was for experiments, and they’d never brew it. Well, apparently, they figured out a way to bottle it, because they have released their Heritage Coffee Brown ale, and I can’t wait to get my hands on a bottle. Here’s to hoping they didn’t have to modify the recipe too much to make it profitable!

Read the details here – http://www.brewbound.com/news/alaskan-brewing-releases-heritage-coffee-brown-ale

Is Craft Beer dead?

Goose Island was the first bomb to drop. They would not be the last.

Goose Island was the first bomb to drop. They would not be the last.

I’m not trying to be Chicken Little and shout that the craft beer sky is falling, but it’s just one acquisition after another these days.  And they’re not over, my flavorful-beer-loving friends. I think we can expect this trend to continue for a lot of different reasons. From aging founders looking for that payoff to help them in retirement, to jaded business-owners who see their competition being snagged for large sums of money, to people starting breweries just hoping to be bought out, I think we can see the trend continue, and at a faster rate than before. I’ve shared the articles with you, my craft beer brothers and sisters. Craft Beer is undergoing a major upheaval, and it’s coming from those brewers which craft beer has always struggled against: The Macros.

Soon to follow was 10 Barrel...this trend certainly wasn't slowing down...

Soon to follow was 10 Barrel…this trend certainly wasn’t slowing down…

The first harbinger of the winds of change was Goose Island. When this deal went down, I’d really only heard of their Bourbon County Stout. In fact, I’d actually had it, and really thought it was something special. What the bourbon barrels did to this stout was amazing, and I’d never had anything like it. Some time later, they purchased 10 Barrel Brewing out of Bend, OR, which I’ve still never tried (and won’t), followed a couple months later by Elysian Brewing out of Seattle, WA. The Elysian deal hit me harder, as I’d actually been to one of their pubs in Seattle, and really liked their pumpkin beers.  In fact, until that point, the Elysian Pub experience was one of the more enjoyable craft beer experiences I’d had. How these brewers could sell out to what had been the enemy prior to this was unthinkable. Elysian’s motto had been “Corporate beer sucks!” How do you lose track of this, I wondered. It just didn’t make sense.  You quit your (potentially more lucrative) day job (which possibly had benefits and some sort of retirement package), and start doing something you’re passionate about. Clearly you’re not in it for the money. I mean, obviously you have to pay the bills.  Obviously, you have to live. But when many of these breweries started, craft beer was not the booming market that it is today.

I was hit hard with this news. No more fine pumpkin ales for me...

I was hit hard with this news. No more fine pumpkin ales from Elysian for me. The truly sad thing is now that they’re AB InBev, they’re more likely to be seen in the Central Valley, tempting me to ignore my inconvenient principles.

And I guess that’s what has really changed over the years.  Many of these breweries did not start out when craft beer was in its infancy. I mean, we’re talking the 80’s at that point, which was really a lot longer ago than I care to admit, apparently. When companies like Sierra Nevada Brewing started out, they were not meeting a need, they were showing people they had needs that were not being met. They were truly evangelizing what full-flavored beers could actually be. Things are significantly different now. While not in the same league as macro beers, craft beer is the only market segment which is growing. The fact of the matter is that these days, there IS money to be made in craft beer. Some companies are starting out hoping to make it big, and be the next success story in craft beer. But what does that even look like today?

Another acquisition, though perhaps a less distasteful one, but one which was MUCH closer to home.

Another acquisition, though perhaps a less distasteful one, but one which was MUCH closer to home.

See, the fact is that everyone is hoping to be the next Stone or Sierra Nevada. Possibly, they even want to be the next Boston Beer Co. That ship has sailed, I think. Just as there was never going to be another Annheuser-Busch, companies growing up in craft beer today have thousands of competitors. As craft beer is proving to be more than just a fad, more and more breweries are entering the segment, and crowding it.  What do you have to do in order to make a splash in the craft beer world these days? Do you make a fine example of an IPA? White noise, especially on the left coast. Do you make a crazy 18% abv barrel aged imperial pilsener? You will likely be shunned by the beer purists who say your innovative concoction spits upon the tradition of fine Czech brewing. You can’t color outside the lines too much, because you will be shunned, but you

I'd seen Saint Archer on the shelves, but hadn't had the chance to try it. Won't get that chance now.

I’d seen Saint Archer on the shelves, but hadn’t had the chance to try it. Won’t get that chance now.

can’t just conform to the BJCP style guidelines or you won’t be distinctive enough to make that splash you need to guarantee your successful entry into the market. When was the last time you found yourself saying “Wow, that was just a consummate English Bitter?”  Shoot, when was the last time you found a brewery offering a to-style English Bitter? Or a mild? The craft beer landscape is crowded, and it’s getting more difficult to figure out what the next “big thing” is going to be in the market. What will set truly fine brewers apart in 5 years?

This is one that truly saddened me. I had just discovered their Gingerbread Stout and even more recently their Wolf Among Weeds IPA. I enjoyed it while it lasted...

This is one that truly saddened me. I had just discovered their Gingerbread Stout and even more recently their Wolf Among Weeds IPA. I enjoyed it while it lasted…

And that’s where we find ourselves today. There is money to be made in craft beer, but it’s increasingly looking like the MOST money is to be had by selling out to a big brewer. As jaded as it sounds, I guess we’ll see what brewery owners are REALLY in this business for in the coming years. Because *I*, for one, think that craft beer isn’t going anywhere. When craft beer started, it was all about the ingredients and the quality. Was Bud cheap? You bet it was. But was it quality? No. There is just nothing to compare to an all-barley beer when it comes to flavor. Yes, you can use rice syrup to up the alcohol without adding body, but what if I WANT body, flavor, and complexity? I think the distinction between complex/flavorful and shallow/sweet is still worth making. And as for craft breweries who sold out to the enemy (and to be clear, to me that’s AB InBev), I’m not buying your beers anymore. You sold out to a company who uses their distributor network to squeeze out small brewers and files lawsuits just to torpedo small brewers. I don’t and won’t support companies that pull that crap, end of story. I don’t think craft beer, with its original definition (which had more to do with quality than size or ownership), is going anywhere. But I certainly think it’s going to look different in the coming years.  It’ll be interesting to see where it goes. If you get tired of the money shenanigans, feel free to swing by and I’ll pour you a pint of something that was truly brewed the hard way: by hand, in my backyard.

Why do we only want SOME companies to be successful?

Wolf Among Weeds is a stellar IPA, and is currently one of my favorite IPA's out there.

Wolf Among Weeds is a stellar IPA, and is currently one of my favorite IPA’s out there.

As I sit in my new-to-me home, drinking a Wolf Among Weeds by Golden Road Brewing, I ponder why we can’t just make across-the-board changes that help companies succeed.  You see, I had come across this article, and as the fantastic 8% alcohol by volume IPA soothed away the frustrations of a broken sprinkler head which I don’t have time to replace, I pondered why we always have to “help” tiny sections of the economy. The mere existence of these bills mean that we recognize that our system of taxes is burdensome and clearly does the opposite of what this bill is supposed to do. Namely, help companies succeed. Specifically, this sentence is bugging me:

“We wanna make sure that we are creating the environment that makes it easier for these companies to not only start but also to be very successful,” said U.S. Senator Gary Peters.

First off, did Senator Peters just say “wanna?”  I expect people who think they can run this nation to speak using better grammar than that. I admit that perhaps UpNorthLive.com might be transcribing the Senator’s words, but since when is “wanna” a word used by journalists? In either case, it sort of (sorta?) set me off.

The second issue I have is that the existence of the “Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act of 2015” shows that lawmakers believe there is a problem with the system. If the CBMaTRA is going to help breweries start and be successful, it stands to reason that it’s currently difficult for businesses to start and be successful. If that is the case, why not just create the MaTRA, and give ALL businesses the benefit of starting and being successful?

However, as the volume of beer in my glass dwindles, I realize that my railing against this issue isn’t going to do much to help Michiganders (Michiganians?) figure out that the problem with this bill is that it doesn’t go far enough. Why stop at one industry?

I know, I know…the tax system in place for Craft Breweries is weird and complex.  At least in Michigan.  According to one brewer:

“Right now the taxation system is so complex it’s based off carbonation level what type of fruit is in the product the alcohol level of the product and there’s a big flow chart on figuring out what tax you owe and no one really understands it,” said Scott Newman-Bale, President of Business Development with Short’s Brewing Company.

Punctuation aside, that has got to be incredibly frustrating. However, I’d venture to say that Craft Beer isn’t the only industry burdened with such stupid tax laws. Why not spend the time and effort to just fix them all? But hey, I just drained the last of my 8% ABV IPA, and am considering reaching for another…what do *I* know?

Podcast: Interview with Aaron Wharton of Cambria Beer Co.

Come to beautiful Cambria, California, and bring your thirst for some Cambria Beer Co. brews!

Come to beautiful Cambria, California, and bring your thirst for some Cambria Beer Co. brews!

The Scotsman goes solo and heads for the coast…the Central Coast of California, that is. The ScotsFamily heads to picturesque Cambria, California to share some pints with and interview Aaron Wharton, brewer and owner of the soon-to-be-named-something-else Cambria Beer Company. Why the name change? Well, hear Aaron talk about why, how he came to start a brewery in Cambria from his hometown of Modesto, and listen to Scotsman and Aaron talk about his brews on the Ale Evangelist Show.

This surprisingly spacious taproom is where wonderfulness is served!

This surprisingly spacious taproom is where wonderfulness is served!

The proprietor doing his thing!

The proprietor doing his thing!

The beautiful interior of this fine taproom shows a love of the business that the owners lavish upon it.

The beautiful interior of this fine taproom shows a love of the business that the owners lavish upon it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To download this podcast, right-click the mug, and click "Save Link As" or "Save Target As"

To download this podcast, right-click the mug, and click “Save Link As” or “Save Target As”