AboutTaylor Laabs, Author at PorchDrinking.com
Even the most avid craft beer fans get tired of beer after a while. Sometimes you want to change things. Maybe you decide to stick to spirits, Light Beers or Hard Seltzers, or you choose to refrain from alcohol altogether, One appealing option that continues to grow in popularity and variety is Non-Alcoholic (NA) beer, a rapidly expanding segment that continues to draw new buzz and more eyeballs – and tastebuds. NA-brewer Athletic Brewing is widely considered the giant of NA beer, taking big swings at releasing NA-versions of Hazy IPAs, Sours, Stouts and Witbiers. Their release focus on complex flavors and style gave them an appealing niche to sell to beer’d-out beer drinkers. Now, they’re leaning into the largest category of beer drinkers – Light Beer lovers, with the debut of Athletic Lite. Here’s why.
Every Midwesterner is familiar with the ritual. A stiff, cool breeze pushes through the air, alerting you to the change in seasons. A familiar crunch of dying foliage and an ominous whiff of bonfire – or maybe it’s grill smoke from the tailgate – fill the senses. The squirrels start moving a bit slower and look a bit rounder. Maybe today I’ll get a hot coffee. Maybe this morning is the time to pull out the sweatshirt from its slumber. It’s time for Fall and everything it has in store. Fall is objectively my favorite time for seasonal beers. You get Oktoberfests, Wet Hop IPAs and more – you also get a heavy dose of pumpkin beers. While the Oktoberfest style might have the most celebrated history, the pumpkin ale has a unique story as well, and the booming seasonal style doesn’t show any sign of slowing down.
How do you measure the success of your run? In calories burned, miles ran… or beers you’re able to consume afterwards? Many brewers and drink companies have leaned into that third category by making better for you NA-beers, light ABV options with salt and electrolytes, or even sponsoring races and marathons. The fitness drinker group is certainly a growing category, which is why Deschutes Brewing has decided to partner with one of the predominant running companies in the world, Brooks Running, on a new beer and merchandise line. The new, running-inspired “Run Hoppy” partnership updates Brooks’ “Run Happy” tagline with a playful nod to Deschutes’ IPA line and is sure to excite both runners and beer drinkers alike thanks to the corresponding launch of the Run Hoppy Golden IPA and a bevy of Run Hoppy merchandise, including an awesome new collectible Brooks Ghost 14 running shoe. Here are the details.
Chicago’s Revolution Brewing is a constant presence on local shelves, with an ever-growing national footprint as well. The brewery’s well-crafted lineup of ‘Hero’ IPAs and Deep Wood barrel-aged beers competes well in the ever-competitive American craft beer market, but the immense competition among breweries and changing tastes of consumers has made the market more unpredictable than ever. Like any smart business, Revolution looked for new markets – and mouths – to sell their beer and struck gold in Sweden. Soon, Revolution’s Hazy Hero IPA will be available in 450 stores across the Scandinavian country. Here’s how the unique partnership came to be.
Illinois’ Solemn Oath Brewery is ambitious. Founded in Naperville, the brewery continues to grow its presence through well-crafted IPAs and GABF medal-winning beers like their prestigious Lu Kolsch. Part of that strategic growth was opening up a secondary taproom in the brewery-filled Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago. The latest strategic venture is the establishment of their Hidden Hand Brewery operation, which exclusively brews IPAs and DIPAs inside the four walls of the larger Solemn Oath operation.
New Glarus Brewing beer courses through the veins of Wisconsin, yet its presence isn’t overbearing. The quiet brewery, stationed atop a hill in quaint New Glarus, Wisconsin thrives on subtlety. They don’t do any advertising—at all. Instead, they thrive on word-of-mouth marketing from their hordes of fans, both in-state and out-of-state. These avid fans clamor to buy their beer across Wisconsin outposts. They also trade for it if they reside outside of state lines. The brewery doesn’t need more marketing, but it still looks for new ways to connect with their audience. One of those avenues is through setting up a new Twitter account. This also connects with New Glarus’ broader mission of putting their employees first, in marketing decisions, brewery upkeep and their COVID-19 pandemic response. I talked to New Glarus’ COO and General Counsel, Drew Cochrane, about how New Glarus acts on this overarching mission.
Celebrating the July 4th holiday in 2021 takes on added significance due to the arduous year-plus America has been through. Many hope—myself included—to return to normal BBQs, gatherings and outdoor events over the weekend with an added sense of appreciation as to why these small moments in time are so valuable. One timeless tradition of many July 4th celebrations is the packing of a proper beer cooler. While water—both bottled and frozen—are a necessity, along with probably some seltzer, the options for the beer you choose to fill it with are seemingly endless. That’s why I decided to pull together a quick checklist for any Chicago craft beer drinker looking to properly stock their cooler for the July 4th weekend.
Growing a sustainable, repeatable business is the dream for any business owner. When you have both of those tenets down, the next step is a bit harder. Do you stick or twist? Do you keep with the status quo, with what works; or do you move, expand and innovate to stay ahead of market forces and competitors alike? Whether it’s a foray into NA, good-for-you beverages, an ambitious oat-milk Hazy IPA collaboration or an adventurous brewpub expansion in Miami, it’s clear that Delaware-based Dogfish Head Brewery continues to twist. Their recent expansion of taking their canned cocktail program nationwide, by leveraging their in-house distilling program and national distribution network, is yet another example of how the brewery continues to make moves in the face of a tumultuous craft beer marketplace. Here are the details.
Year over year, non-alcoholic (NA) beers continue to carve out a bigger chunk of the craft beer market, in no small part due to the NA beer produced by powerhouse Athletic Brewing Company. The NA brewer continues to brew up a bevy of different NA beers from Golden Ales to Hazy IPAs but it’s their mission to welcome a larger part of the adult population into the craft beer community through NA offerings that continue to resonate with consumers. This focus on welcoming continues to manifest in different ways for the brewer, including through their latest collaboration with prominent LGBTQI+ activist and advocate Alex Johnson, a competitive climber with two World Cup Gold medals and five US National titles, on the limited release of Rainbow Wall Blood-Orange IPA. It will debut in June during Pride Month.
Chicago’s largest independent brewer, Revolution Brewing, and its most polarizing liquor brand Jeppson’s Malort (made by local CH Distillery), are again teaming up for some boozy shenanigans this summer. The two Chicago staples first teamed up for an Anti Hero Malort ‘variant’ last spring to save some unused kegs of Revolution’s flagship Anti Hero IPA that weren’t being used due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, they’ve decided to expand their collaboration further. Starting in June, adventurous drinkers in the city can expect four unique limited edition labels of Anti Hero Malort that house the famed wormwood-forward liquor with a bit more barrel-character added this time. Here are the details.
Nestled in Hawley, PA, Wallenpaupack Brewing Co. consistently churns out award-winning and fan-favorite beers that celebrate a variety of different styles. Whether you’re looking for a Pilsner, Stout, IPA or even an English Pale Mild Ale, Wallenpaupack offers a variety of beer styles with an underlying consistency in quality. One of the beer series that consistently showcases Wallenpaupack’s creativity and brewing expertise is their award-winning Lake Haze IPA series which explores and celebrates a variety of different Double IPAs from West Coast to Imperial and even coffee. The latest edition, Lake Haze #15: Morning Haze DIPA is a creative and ambitious take on how coffee can add and augment the unique flavors in a Hazy IPA.
Scroll through Instagram’s visual-forward feed, and you’ll find pictures of people celebrating life events, vacations and accomplishments—along with a heavy dose of very prescriptive sponsored posts that make you question your internet browser’s personal data collection policies. You’ll also find a bevy of new beers, pumped up by appeasing photos that appeal to both your eyes and your taste buds. While a striking photo of your latest beer to hit shelves is the standard, many breweries have taken things a step further—perhaps inspired by the poetic musings of the Dont Drink Beers Instagram account—to layer their latest beer release with passages of beer-inspired prose.
When a bet works, it’s not a bad idea to double down. California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Company bet big on the Hazy IPA trend back in 2019 with the release of Mind Haze IPA. Firestone Walker believed that they had dialed in the hops and malt bill needed to create a standout Hazy IPA with the Firestone Walker spin that would be competitive in the California – and US – landscape. And they were right. Mind Haze is a best-seller for the brewery and the Hazy IPA trend shows no signs of slowing down. Two years later, Firestone Walker is doubling down on their Hazy IPA bet with the release of Double Mind Haze – a beer that they call their “juiciest, fruitiest and haziest IPA ever.” Here are the details.
Sustaining a business for 25 years is an achievement in any industry, but it is particularly impressive in the tumultuous and unpredictable world of craft beer. Downingtown, Pennsylvania-based Victory Brewing Company has been churning out Bavarian-inspired beers and other inventive offerings since 1996, establishing itself as a pillar of the Pennsylvania beer community and as somewhat of an innovator thanks to the rampant success of its Golden Monkey Belgian Tripel brand. Being able to properly execute a variety of European-styles, with Victory’s own unique twists, has generated acclaim and a passionate following for the brewery. With the brewery celebrating 25 years in business, I asked Victory Brewing founders Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski about how they’ve been able to sustain success, their approach to community building, and what excites them about the craft beer market today.
Getting the proper education to professionally brew and judge craft beer is vital to finding success in the craft beer industry, yet these educational opportunities are not distributed equally. Pink Boots Society, an association designed to “assist, inspire and encourage women fermented/alcoholic beverage industry professionals to advance their careers through education,” is looking to change that. One of the best ways to advance the Pink Boots cause is through added funding and visibility, which commonly manifests through unique brewing partnerships Pink Boots works on with interested breweries.
With this in mind, Brew Pipeline, Potosi Brewery and Pink Boots Society teamed up to brew up a beer just in time for March, which is Women’s History Month. The grapefruit-forward Hefeweizen, dubbed Rosa Stiefel, or German for “pink boots,” is the latest collaboration aimed at advancing educational efforts for women looking to get into the craft beer space. Here are the details.
Sustainability is an integral part of the corporate talktrack these days, with big and small corporations alike sharing their commitment to sustainable business practices and production habits. The craft beer industry is an area of the market that has always tilted towards sustainability, as brewers big and small continue to reap the benefits of growing and using ingredients and energy produced on their premises. Revolution Brewing’s savory Honey Jacket Barleywine uses honey harvested from bees that reside on the roof of their production facility. Some go as far as producing their own energy via solar panels. Brewery Vivant’s solar program, which includes a 54-kilowatt solar system and 192 solar panels, produces 20% of the facility’s energy needs.
With commitments to sustainability and renewable, clean energy sources becoming a bigger and bigger area of focus for craft breweries, here’s a look at three new pledges from big name breweries that signal craft beer’s ongoing commitment to existing constantly while leaving the world a better place than they left it.
With the hazy IPA, is there ever enough? For breweries looking to delve into the crowded category with a new offering, you really need to stand out. One brewery never shy in doing just that is Dogfish Head, which recently introduced Hazy-O! This new hazy IPA is brewed with four types of oats: malted, rolled, naked and oat milk. Dogfish makes it a point to note that this will be the first nationally-distributed oat milk IPA on the market. Here’s what you need to know about a beer that Dogfish says took almost a year of research and development to perfect.
Picture your favorite beer. What do you see? Maybe it’s poured in a proper glass, bubbles bursting. Odds are though, you’re picturing the can or bottle the beer initially came in. While the liquid itself brings great pleasure, it’s typically the vehicle it comes in that you associate with first. That’s why beer can artwork is so fun, so creative, so celebrated at times. Because it makes the beer standout both on-shelves and in your mind. St. Louis-based Schlafly Brewing continues to churn out great beer can designs that celebrate the history or place of origin behind a beer’s name or style. It’s a unique approach that has paid dividends for the brewery and for their lead designer, Sarah Frost. To learn more about Frost’s unique approach to beer can art, what inspires her and what labels she’s most excited about this year, I asked her five questions.
The non-alcoholic (NA) beverage and beer segment continues to eat up market share thanks to its ability to offer younger buying groups a palatable and fulfilling NA option that takes the place of the typical beer, hard seltzer or hard cider. For many, NA beverages have become an addition to their overall alcohol-consuming habits while others have used NA beers to stop drinking altogether. I, like many others in the U.S., fall somewhere in the middle. According to Lagunitas, 45% of American adults have now purchased an NA beer. Data from Nielsen shows that 47% of Americans are making an effort to “cut back or abstain from” alcohol altogether.
While December is often filled with excess drinking, January is typically viewed through the lens of constriction, where you either consume less alcoholic drinks or participate in dry January, a month-long pledge to stop drinking alcoholic beverages entirely. If you’re a beer drinker curious about new NA beer options available on the market or participating in dry January, below is a list of five options we’re excited about.
In part two of our series on the state of barrel-aged beers (read part one here), we’re generating some word-of-mouth buzz by letting the brewers share the most anticipated barrel-aged beers lurking in their barrel programs. The ever-present bourbon barrel-aged stout makes an appearance or two, but it’s the experimentation and creativity highlighted by brewers across the board that really gets me excited. Foeder-aged ales, tequila Goses and barrel-aged Cream Ales? That’s just a sampling of some of the compelling creations these breweries are looking forward to releasing to consumers.