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AboutTaylor Laabs – PorchDrinking.com

Taylor Laabs

Taylor Laabs

Posts By Taylor Laabs

Ask the Experts: Spring Beers They’re Excited About

March 19, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 3 min

Flowers bloom, jackets get placed in storage and new beer makes its way onto store shelves. If the recent weather is any indication, spring is right around the corner. And while I don’t want to jinx it, I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t already daydreaming of new spring releases and returning seasonals that pair well with warmer temps and added sunshine. Thankfully, I’m not alone in that sentiment. Spring is an exciting time for craft brewers as darker beers retreat to their barrels and lighter and fruitier options come into prominence. This spring might be even more adventurous for beer releases as craft brewers continuously compete to address changing consumer preferences amongst the surging popularity of lighter alcohol options, wine and spiked seltzer.

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With New Partnerships and Offerings, Airlines Aim to Take Craft Beer to New Heights

March 18, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 3 min

I grew up in Minnesota but currently live in Chicago. This means that I often fly back to Minnesota for family occasions and holiday gatherings. The sub-hour long flight has just enough time for one round of drink service in the cabin. Typically, I opt for whiskey or plain water given the lack of craft beer offerings on most airlines. Now, that might all be changing. A few weeks ago, Minneapolis-based Fulton Brewing announced that Sun Country Airlines would be offering their Lonely Blonde Ale on flights for the first time alongside their current craft option, Surly Brewing’s Furious IPA. It’s an exciting move that shows airlines aren’t averse to the changing drinking demands of consumers. I spoke with a few airlines along with Fulton to get more info on how these partnerships work and what beer drinkers should expect on flights.

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5 Questions with Firestone Walker’s Master Blender, Jim Crooks

March 13, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 3 min

Being a master blender is much like being a mad scientist. It takes an innate knowledge of the craft, a bit of daring, and a bit of flare. The job inherits a lot of risk thanks to how unpredictable wild yeast can be. Thankfully, California-based Firestone Walker has the man up to the task.

Jim Crooks, affectionately called Sour Jim, has run Firestone Walker’s Barrelworks wild yeast facility since its introduction in 2014. During that time, he’s worked on unique barrel blending projects like Feral One and newer ventures like their recently-released Rose-style beer that uses locally-sourced Paso Robles grapes. Crooks has produced a lot of innovative offerings over the past five years, but the best may be yet to come given their focus on blending the lines between beer and wine with the help of locally-sourced ingredients. We asked Jim five questions about his role, why he focuses on fresh, and what comes next for Barrelworks. Here’s what he said.

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Chicago Quick Sips | March 4 Chicago Beer News & Events

March 4, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 1 min

Quick Sips is our way of highlighting beer events, tap takeovers and other notable beer news around the city of Chicago. If you’d like to submit something to be included in the next Quick Sips, please email us at [email protected].

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Off Color Brewing Introduces Beer Emblems to Continue the Brewing Conversation with Consumers

February 27, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 3 min

Some breweries just do things differently. Whether it’s through a specialized brewing process, unique can art or a niche marketing approach, it’s a smart business strategy to stand out from one’s competitors. Off Color Brewing is one of those unique operations.

The Chicago brewery is known for its love of cats and numerous experiments with funky fermentation processes. Its brewing is regarded as an art form that cannot be painted in broad strokes or stylistic classifications. Instead, each specific aspect of the wild brewing endeavors conducted by brewers and co-founders John Laffler and Dave Bleitner demand denotation so that it can be celebrated and understood by the typical consumer. So, Off Color is bringing something new to the marketplace that has already been met by a bevy of consumer excitement. It’s not a new beer or yeast strain, it’s beer emblems.

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An Authentic German Beer Fest in Minnesota: How Schell’s Bock Fest Came to Be

February 26, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 3 min

August Schell Brewing Company, now named Schell’s Brewery, is the second oldest family-owned brewery in the nation. Founded in 1860 by German immigrant August Schell, the brewery is rich in German tradition. Stationed in the historic town of New Ulm, MN, Schell’s has weathered the storms of Prohibition and today’s ever-changing craft beer market thanks to staples like Grain Belt Premium. But it’s one of its seasonals that often gets the most attention due to the festival that celebrates it. First started in 1987, Schell’s Bock Fest celebration is an event as rich in tradition as the brewery itself. Here’s what you need to know about the event, which takes place on March 2, 2019 from 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. at Schell’s Brewing Company.

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A Forever Flagship: Larry Bell Talks about Two Hearted and What Comes Next

February 22, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 4 min

To appreciate the many wild branches of today’s craft beer industry in America, one must take note of its roots. There are few bigger pillars in the American brewing industry than Larry Bell, the founder of Bell’s Brewery. What started as a humble homebrew supply store in the ‘80s has turned into a craft brewing powerhouse that remains a foundational stitch of the modern brewing fabric. A testament to the Michigan brewer’s impact is the sustained success of Two Hearted IPA. Alongside their Oberon Wheat Ale, the unassuming IPA with a fish on the green-hued label is a beer that helped modernize the craft beer scene and helped establish the IPA trend in America. PorchDrinking sat down with Bell’s founder Larry Bell to learn more about the history of the flagship and what comes next.

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5 Questions With… Odell Brewing Co.’s Agronomist, Scott Dorsch

February 19, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 4 min

How do you stand out in the ultra-competitive IPA market? Maybe you go the hazy route; maybe you go with something double or triple-hopped, or maybe you just make a damn good single-hop IPA. That’s the inspiration behind Odell Brewing Company’s Wolf Picker IPA series, which shines a light on a new hop in each iteration.

The 2019 Wolf Picker features the new Oregon-grown Strata hop and is the first of the series to debut in cans. Sourcing unique hops that stand out amongst the competition is a tough job, but it’s one that Odell’s agronomist Scott Dorsch relishes. A typical agronomist role requires the person to be an expert in the science of soil management and crop production, but it takes on a bit of a new meaning when you work at a craft brewery. We asked Dorsch five questions about his career in agronomy, why he chose Strata for the latest Wolf Picker and what excites him about the hop marketplace in 2019.

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How Chicago’s Logan Square Neighborhood Became a Craft Brewing Hotbed

February 15, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 5 min

Chicago beer drinkers are spoiled with the multitude of taproom options available to them throughout the city. With more breweries than any other city, it only makes sense that there are numerous spots where patrons can leisurely stroll from one brewery to the next in just a few minutes. Up north in Ravenswood, there is the Malt Row which boasts the likes of Half Acre, Spiteful, Begyle and Dovetail Brewing. To the west is the Chicago Brewing District, which includes award-winners like On Tour, Great Central Brewing Co. and more. Smack dab in the middle (okay, somewhat close to the middle) of these two vibrant brewing neighborhoods is Logan Square, which has quickly become one of the hottest brewing locations in the nation, with a growing list of breweries calling the unique neighborhood home.

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Perfect Timing: How the New Dogfish Head + Brouwerij Rodenbach Partnership Came to Be

February 7, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 2 min

Brewers collaborate with each other all the time. The results are usually pretty good and often buzzworthy. Then, there are those collaborations that make your eyes light up and your tastebuds salivate at the thought of two sour beer-brewing masterminds coming together to create something truly special that is primed to set the market ablaze – if executed properly. The new international collaboration between Delaware-based Dogfish Head and Belgium sour stalwart Brouwerij Rodenbach has the potential to do just that.

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Hazy Inspiration from Different Sources: How Bell’s and Surly Created Their New Hazy IPAs

February 5, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 3 min

The Hazy IPA beer-style is primed for a big 2019. Amidst GABF category recognition and consumer demand, every brewer aimed at appealing to today’s beer consumer has made the creation of a Hazy IPA or some variety of it a mandate on their brew list. The trend has become an unavoidable one for old and new brewers alike, from almost every region. What started as a brewing style that was strictly New England-style in nature has bounced from coast and coast and is now getting a unique Midwesterner spin from two of the Midwest’s best IPA creators: Bell’s Brewery and Surly Brewing Co. Both have built their business on a flagship IPA that centers around bitter hops and a strong malt bill (Two Hearted and Furious, respectively). Now, both are using their IPA experience and some unique forms of inspiration in the creation of their new, nationally-distributed hazy IPAs: Bell’s Official and Surly One Man Mosh Pit. Here are the details. Read More

New Holland Expands the Dragon’s Milk Family with New Lower ABV Offering

February 1, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 2 min

In the dead of winter, seasoned beer drinkers often reach for the high-ABV behemoths that warm their insides. Hearty barrel-aged stouts like New Holland Brewing’s Dragon’s Milk and its many Reserve variants have often been the beer of choice for such an occasion. And yet, one can only have so many viscous, flavor-packed stouts before keeling over and ceding to lighter, more approachable options. New Holland knew this and decided to make an adventurous change to their hallmark brand, introducing Dragon’s Milk White, a bourbon barrel-aged white stout that stands firm at 6% ABV. We asked the brewery about the new beer and what consumers should expect from a barrel-aged offering that comes in on the lighter side – both in color and in alcohol content.

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5 Questions with New Belgium’s R&D Brewer, Ross Koenigs

January 29, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 4 min

Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company has been around for a long time (more than 25 years) and its beer portfolio has changed and adapted as the craft beer market grew up. While their excellent sour beer program and iconic Fat Tire Amber Ale remain staples of their lineup, New Belgium has made some interesting shifts in their IPA portfolio over the past few years to appeal to a younger, more adventurous and IPA-crazed beer drinking demographic. New Belgium retired their Ranger IPA in 2017 but the ethos of that brand now lives on in their popular Voodoo Ranger IPA lineup.

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Lagunitas Adapts its Packaging to Evolve its IPA Portfolio

January 24, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 2 min

Lagunitas Brewing Co. is a massive brewery with a global reach. Yet, they still remain nimble enough to adapt to the changing drinking preferences of today’s craft beer consumers. From draft, to bottles, to cans, the preferred drinking vessel for many in America has changed over the past decade. Largely because beer became more intertwined with the unplanned outings and weekend activities of enthusiasts. With an eye on appealing to consumers on-the-go and in the midst of day-drinking activities, Lagunitas has decided to make two drastic updates to their canning portfolio. Their bellwether Lagunitas IPA arrives in 19.2oz stovepipes and sessionable DayTime IPA comes to 12oz cans. We asked Lagunitas’ Communications Director, Karen Hamilton, about the news.

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Chicago Quick Sips | Jan. 22 Chicago Beer News & Events

January 21, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 1 min

Quick Sips is our way of highlighting beer events, tap takeovers and other notable beer news around the city of Chicago. If you’d like to submit something to be included in the next Quick Sips, please email us at [email protected].

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An Extended Summer: The Gose’s Evolution into a Year-Long Staple

January 18, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 5 min

It’s the dead of winter and I’m not drinking a burly, barrel-aged stout – or even an IPA. Instead, I’ve cracked open a can of Creature Comforts’ Tritonia Gose. Was I envisioning a beach on some far off island? Or a sweltering summer sun? Nope, I just wanted something light and flavorful that wasn’t a lager and wouldn’t weigh me down like some of the heavier stouts and barleywines I’ve had on winter night’s past; and I’m not alone in this sentiment.

Much like the rise of spiked seltzer, the lighter styles of beer, namely session sours such as gose ale, are experiencing a bit of a renaissance this days as folks are beginning to choose tart and tangy beers for their ability to bridge the gap between calorie-conscious and flavor-packed. IPAs aren’t going away – to the contrary even. However, many breweries have begun to appreciate the gose’s spot in giving their beer lineup a bit of balance along with a burst of new flavors. For more insight into the growing popularity of the style over the past few years, I asked several breweries making some of the best gose-style ales in the nation to get their thoughts.

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Metropolitan Brewing Celebrates 10 Years of Business in the Increasingly Competitive Chicago Market

January 17, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 2 min

Chicago and the surrounding area are currently home to the most breweries in the nation. It’s an especially impressive stat when you realize that the market hasn’t really been around for that long. Being able to create a successful brewery during the early growth period of the Chicago market and then stay equally successful amongst growing competition across every neighborhood in the city is an impressive feat that deserves a bit of praise. It’s not easy, but Metropolitan Brewing has managed to do it, which is why their upcoming 10 Year Anniversary celebration this Saturday is so exciting.

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Ask the Experts | How to Properly Return a Beer

January 16, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 3 min

If you’ve drank enough beer, you’ve probably found yourself in this situation. It’s an unfortunate experience that leads to apprehensiveness among patrons and bar owners: how do you handle the conversation when there is something clearly off with your beer? With January being the biggest month for gift returns, I thought it might make sense to take a look at how and why patrons should return a beer to their bartender or bottle shop manager. It’s not a cheery subject, but common sense from both sides can lead to a positive outcome that betters the drinking experience of the patron and the drinking relationship between the patron and beer purveyor. To help provide a full perspective on the issue, I asked craft beer bar owners and craft brewers alike to gather their insight. Here is what they said.

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Firestone Walker Expands its National IPA Profile with Release of New Mind Haze IPA

January 10, 2019 | Avg. Reading Time: 2 min

“We’re finally ready do a hazy IPA the Firestone way.” Those were the words from Firestone Walker brewmaster Matt Brynildson in this week’s press release. While 2018 created the initial haze craze, 2019 represents the second wave of the trend, with more major players like California’s Firestone Walker Brewing Co. entering the fray with their new Mind Haze hazy IPA.

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The Longer the Government Shutdown Goes On, the Bigger Problem it Becomes for Craft Brewers

January 8, 2019 | 1 Avg. Reading Time: 2 min

The government shutdown is now in its third week due to the debate over a border wall and has resulted in noted consequences for federal workers, government entities and general governmental functions. While many are more pressing, perhaps the one many craft beer fans should keep an eye on is how it impacts the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

One of TTB’s functions is approving new beer labels, licenses and ingredients that are vital to the continued business of any craft brewer, winery or distiller. As long as the government keeps its doors shut, the TTB does too, which means any meaningful innovation or initiative from craft brewers come to a grinding halt as the government body will not “review or approve any new submissions” during the shutdown.  Here are some of the major implications if the government decides to extend the shutdown further.

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