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Off Color Brewing has built its vibrant niche in the brewing community by doing things differently. Known for experimentation in its wide array of curious beers – and sake – the Chicago brewing destination is also familiar with experiments in packaging. Last year, Off Color brought the small-format 250ml bottle format to Chicago. Now, it’s joining a variety of its Chicago colleagues by announcing that its beer will soon be available in 16oz cans. Here are the details on Off Color’s recent packaging announcement, along with what Chicago beer drinkers should expect.
Brewing new beers to celebrate a local event or festival is not unusual in the craft brewing community. Michigan-based Perrin Brewing Company took that idea and flipped it on its head with their latest IPA: Storming The Gates Area 51 Experimental New England style IPA. Brewed in celebration of their 7th anniversary party, the new NE-style IPA is brewed to celebrate (or mourn) the now-canceled Storm Area 51 event that was supposed to take place on September 20, 2019. While that viral event is now no-more due to a myriad of practical and human safety issues, the IPA remains and has had many Michigan beer fans storming the gates of the brewpub this past week.
While Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Co. boasts the oldest wood-aged sour program in the country and a stable of well-crafted IPAs, their biggest brand remains their Fat Tire Amber Ale. First introduced in 1991, the iconic Amber Ale remains a pivotal beer in the U.S. beer scene. Now you can consider it a part of America’s grilling culture as well.
In partnership with Niman Ranch, New Belgium recently introduced their Fat Tire BBQ Collection, which combines the malty deliciousness of Fat Tire with Niman Ranch’s Certified humane pork and beef raised by independent U.S. family farmers. With five current offerings at launch, the Fat Tire BBQ Collection offers a variety of great grilling options perfect for a Saturday tailgate or backyard grill session.
I had to divide up this Two Days Two Nights feature due to how many great breweries I experienced during my trip. While Part One features highlights on Allagash, Industrial Way, Bissell Brothers and more, Part Two features a full experience of Portland’s trending Yeast Bayside brewery scene along with a particularly scenic trip farther north up the coast to visit some of Maine’s more interesting farmhouse breweries. So, let’s kick back off with the second part of Friday afternoon, which revolved around a trip to downtown Portland, home to the trendy Yeast Bayside brewing district.
When I told my friends and colleagues I was heading to Portland for the weekend, the most common follow-up was “Oregon?” And while the largest city in Oregon is well known for its established beer scene, I was actually headed to the burgeoning beer city of Portland, Maine, which boasts the most breweries per capita in the U.S. It continues to garner accolades as one of the best beer cities in the world. After a smooth two-hour flight, I was smack dab in the middle of one of America’s hottest beer cities, home to the likes of Allagash and Bissell Brothers along with a bevy of beer-focused neighborhoods like Yeast Bayside, delicious Maine cuisine and wonderful sunrises—all positioned neatly around Casco Bay. Here’s a look at how you can get the most of your experience in Portland, Maine. Part one of this Two Days Two Nights feature is below. You can read part two here.
The craft beer scene in the U.S. has been around for a relatively short period of time. Part of its rapid growth and success can be attributed to the industry’s willingness to evolve and contort itself to appeal to the ever-changing whims of today’s curious consumer. While hard seltzers and fruit-puree sours might be nothing more than a passing trend, one recent market shift seems to be here for the long haul: craft beer in cans. The benefits of cans are clear: they’re more transportable, better for the environment, and boast longer shelf life than their glass counterparts. A huge signal that the can trend is more of a foundational than fleeting trend in the U.S. is that century’s old European brewers are also augmenting their typically rigid perceptions of packaging to appeal to the American market.
Perusing the curated beer list found on a brewer’s website is a common pastime for beer fans looking to learn more about a new brewery or gain insight into a brewery’s new releases or seasonals. Left Hand Brewing’s beer page is one of the more unique ones you will find. Alongside a robust list of “Perennials,” seasonals and limited releases, the Colorado operation also has a full list for its Nitro offerings. While Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro in cans is by far their most widely-distributed nitro offering, the brewery has diligently worked to expand its canned nitro selection to include a variety of fruity and seasonal nitro releases, available on-draft and in cans, that has helped carve out a unique niche for the brand. We asked Left Hand’s Social Media and Events Coordinator, Kristina Schostak about the program.
Athens, GA-based Creature Comforts has quickly grown into a regional powerhouse thanks to its mix of tart and bright Berliner Weisses, movie-star endorsed IPAs and commitment to the local community. And, until now, only beer drinkers in Athens have been able to pick up some of Creature Comfort’s more exclusive, taproom-only offerings that highlight their work in barrel-aging and mixed fermentation.
Starting this week, Creature Comforts’ will release DaySpring, a Grisette made with local wheat from DaySpring Farms, and Common Things, a mixed fermentation Saison made with local honey from the University of Georgia’s Honey Bee Program, in both their tasting room and to their distribution footprint in 750-mL bottles.
It has been a busy summer for Revolution Brewing. Between their Midlife Crisis barrel-aged release and the hyped-up IPA collaboration with Hop Butcher coming later this week, Chicago’s largest independent brewer has made headlines during the hotter months. That being said, year three of Revolution’s acclaimed Deep Wood barrel-aged series is set to generate buzz among the beer-drinking community for the upcoming colder months thanks to its consistent release of new and old canned barrel-aged creations from October to January. The 2019-2020 roster includes five returning favorites and five new creations, all available in 4-packs of 12oz cans. Here is what you need to know.
With so much good beer coming out of Colorado, it’s easy to take for granted one of the early upstarts in the state’s brewing history. Ska Brewing has been around since 1995. The brewery has stood the test of time thanks to their commitment to rigorous brewing standards and bold flavors. A perfect example of this is their stalwart IPA, Modus Hoperandi, which is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this summer.
Modus Hoperandi was a trendsetter when it was released a decade ago and it still stands up against today’s wide swath of IPAs. The IPA was one of the first to come in cans and has won numerous awards thanks to a delicately-hopped combination of citrus and pine. Still, every brewery needs to innovate to stay competitive, which led to the release of its citrusy-variant, Modus Mandarina, in 2015. Both IPAs stand strong alone but work even better together. I got a chance to review both on a warm summer evening recently.
It is still the biggest news to come out of the craft beer industry this year: Boston Beer Company purchased Dogfish Head Brewery for a reported sum of $300 million. The move merges the two brands under the collective roof of Boston Beer Company bringing together the 2nd (Boston Beer Co.) and 13th (Dogfish Head) biggest producers of craft beer in the U.S. It’s a massive move that caused shockwaves throughout the craft beer industry and beyond. Craft beer is no longer in its startup phase: It is big business, which sometimes warrants massive moves that can shift the entire trajectory of the market with it.
Of course, Boston Beer Company bringing the Dogfish Head brand onboard also comes with the totemic leadership of its founder, Sam Calagione, who will sit on Boston Beer Company’s Board of Directors. Calagione has always been an outspoken and vibrant voice in the craft beer community who frequently zigs where others zags and takes pride in the innovative spirit on which Dogfish Head has built its market share. With the new merger comes a new role for Sam and a new path for Dogfish. In the days following, beer drinkers have voiced valid concerns that the Dogfish brand might get diluted or complacent post-acquisition. True to form, Calagione thinks otherwise and is rather bullish on what the merger can do for his brewery.
I asked Sam five questions about what life looks like for Dogfish Head in a post-merger world, what beer fans can expect from the brewery, the collaboration opportunities that are now available with Boston Beer Company and more. Here’s what he said.
The crowded Chicago brewery scene can soon add one more new operation to its list: Midwest Coast Brewing, located in West Town at 2137 W Walnut Street. Brewer and founder Cameron Compton is excited for all of the challenges and opportunities that opening a new brewery presents. Much like their name, which came after Compton decided to balance equal parts West and East Coast IPA styles when brewing their flagship CHI.P.A., Compton is looking to take a balanced, measured approach to growth once Midwest Coast hopefully opens to the public. PorchDrinking was lucky enough to get a preview of the space and the beer soon to be available at the newest West Town brewery.
Chances are, if you have been to a brewery before, you have been on a brewery tour. It’s an easy way to get the consumer closer to a brewery’s brand, process, and beer. While some offer hands-on exercises, unlimited samples, and specialized experiences, your typical, run-of-the-mill brewery tour is no longer memorable. Beer drinkers are much more educated and knowledgeable of the brewing process and the craft beer industry as a whole than they were 5 or 10 years ago. Sniffing hop pellets and looking at stainless steel fermenters can get dull after a while.
To stand out in today’s brewery tour landscape, you really have to offer something that goes beyond the status quo and provides a deeper connection to the brewery you’re visiting. Many national and regional breweries have realized that their brewery tour can help extend the beer drinker’s experience with them, which could help influence subsequent purchasing decisions at retail locations and bars. Offering something different and memorable is a great way to standout from the fray of local colleagues and regional competitors. Things like specialized tours and immersive tasting experiences are just a few ways that breweries have revamped their tours to better appeal to today’s beer drinking clientele.
Hot or cold, Revolution Brewing sure knows how to throw a release party. Hundreds of barrel-aged fanatics, myself included, made their seasonal pilgrimage to Revolutionâ€™s Kedzie taproom for the latest Deep Wood release. This series has quickly grown to national acclaim thanks to its bold portfolio of Barleywines, Barrel-Aged Stouts and adventurously-boozy experiments like last yearâ€™s Code Switch, a Barrel-Aged Imperial Ale made with blackberries.
Many people associate Deep Wood beers with huge parkas, plunging temperatures and bitter Chicago winters given its annual winter release cadence. Boozy beers that push ABV limits typically go well with sub-zero winter nights. But Revolutionâ€™s Midlife Crisis Barleywine release had none of the expected barrel-aged beer release trimmings. Coats were swapped for tanktops, boots for flip flops, and freezing temps for 100 degrees and brutal humidity.Â
Their IPA might be their most well-known and widely-distributed, but my favorite Lagunitas Brewing Company offering is a beer that blurs the lines of the drinking experience. A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ is a classic that can be enjoyed rain or shine, sun or snow. Its hearty ABV, unique wheat body, and complex flavor profile have made it a fan favorite for years. It’s also an employee favorite, says Lagunitas Brewmaster Jeremy Marshall. While the original has its perks, Lagunitas employees and brewers have had access to a version of A Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ that has never graced retail shelves before now: an unfiltered-version designed to taste like you’re drinking it straight from the tank. That was the inspiration for their newest offering and Sumpin’ Sumpin’ sibling, Little Sumpin’ Hazy.
What does it mean to be a craft brewer in 2019? For many, sticking with the status quo is no longer business as usual. Brewers today understand their consumers on a deep level and have more data than ever on their preferences. One of the newer preferences that continues to make waves outside of the typical craft beer market is hard or “spiked” seltzer.
A brewer’s influence can expand well beyond the beer you buy in a taproom or the cans you see on shelves. Craft brewers today realize that their presence in their local communities can inspire positive change and network effects that help their neighbors and taproom regulars alike. Athens, GA-based Creature Comforts Brewing Co. is one of the breweries defining what it means for a brewer to be authentically connected to their community. In early 2018, Creature Comforts hired Matt Stevens to be their Community and Culture Director; his job description includes running their Get Comfortable and Get Artistic charity initiatives.
I spent four days in Austria. The majority of that time was spent exploring Vienna, but I also ventured to Salzburg for a full-day experience and I’m very thankful I did. Taking the 2.5 hour train through the scenic Austrian countryside made the trip fly by. Snow peaks and shimmering lakes whirred by from the comfy view of the cabin seat. Then, the Untersberg appeared, a northern peak of the Alps, rising high above; below the mountain sits Salzburg, a historical city home to 150,000 inhabitants and a timeless beer tradition.
IPA continues to be the biggest seller for craft brewers thanks to the focus and innovation U.S. craft brewers have put on the style and the fanaticism of the general craft beer drinker for the hoppy liquid. Drinking an IPA now is way different than it was a decade ago, primarily because there are so many different versions of it. The resinous and bitter West Coast-style has led to the New England-style, Brut and Milkshake styles—and everything in between. While many of the primary styles that appear in today’s craft beer lexicon stem from the east and west coasts, there is a new version of an IPA that could take the style to new heights—pun intended. Call it gimmicky, a marketing ploy or something in between but the Mountain-Style IPA has arrived.
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].