AboutTaylor Laabs, Author at PorchDrinking.com
Flagship beers are the lifeblood of any successful craft brewery. They provide sales consistency and additional sales points through variant releases that are familiar to the consumers, yet introduce new SKUs throughout the calendar year. New Holland Brewing’s cash-cow remains their Dragon’s Milk Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout line, a decadently strong and barrel-forward beer that continues to generate acclaim for the Michigan-based brewery. Amidst a reimagining of the New Holland brand, the Dragon’s Milk brand continues to quietly hum along, generating positive sales year over year, thanks to the success of the original Stout and the popularity of new, buzzed-about variants.
The craft beer industry has diligently adapted taprooms, business processes and safety protocols to better serve patrons and adhere to current safety guidelines caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Welcoming patrons back to drink outdoors (and, in some states, indoors) at a brewery’s location is a momentous task that cannot be understated. Being permitted to once again drink beer on-draft during Chicago’s Phase 3 and 4 reopenings has let some of Chicago’s beer drinkers experience a sense of cautious normalcy. One area of the craft beer scene that would typically draw crowds—and headaches—is a much-hyped beer release, like Revolution Brewing’s release of their latest Cafe Deth variant, Supermassive Cafe Deth. What does a beer release look like in the new normal? How do you execute one both safely and effectively? To find out, we asked Illinois’ largest independent brewer about how the release went.
Austin, Texas’ Jester King Brewery is many things to many people—it’s an esteemed farmhouse brewery, popular community gathering space, a bustling farm with pet goats and more. So, when the COVID-19 pandemic forced breweries across the nation to readjust their business models, the popular brewer was well-positioned to adjust in unique ways gives its business flexibility and available acres of Texas farmland. The result is Jester King Reimagined, a veritable Disney Land of Drinking that promises patrons several unique outdoor spaces to indulge in an array of Jester King’s tasty spontaneously-fermented and mixed culture beers, whilst also adhering to current CDC and social distancing protocols. Since opening May 29, the new outdoor drinking concept has been a hit with drinkers and outdoor enthusiasts alike.
The passing of Memorial Day signals the start of yet another summer and another period of delicious seasonal craft beer offerings. While canned lagers, mostly in the Macro-format, still reign supreme in any cooler or patio session for many, craft breweries across the nation continue to churn out a bevy of light, easy-drinking and flavor-forward sessionable offerings that appeal to any summertime day-drinking session. Chicago’s passion for beer is equally matched by its passion to get the most out of the few warm summer months that make the onslaught of freezing temperatures and cold worthwhile. As the city cautiously reopens its parks and outdoor spaces in the coming days, here are six Chicago sippers available in cans that you can comfortably drink from your home or from an appropriate social distance outside on a nice summer’s day.
Barrel-aged and blended beer releases aren’t just for winter months and colder temperatures. The dark liquid, bourbon barrels and boozy aftertastes of October through December releases give way to lighter colors, wine barrels and fruit-forward flavor offerings found in April and May. Such is the case for Deschutes Brewery, which has staked its fall and winter barrel-aging claim thanks to the likes of the popular The Abyss Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout. The Bend, Oregon brewery also recently announced the release of two new additions to their Small Batch Reserve series for spring: Tumalo Kriek and The Ages 2020. Both are available in 500 mL bottles and both highlight warm weather, seasonal ingredients: cherries in Tumalo and pears in The Ages. Deschutes was kind enough to send a bottle of each my way. With extra time on my hands, I really got to enjoy both of these beers. Here are my thoughts.
Current social distancing and shelter-in-place orders across the country have left bar stools empty and taps dry. On-premises sales of draft beer have all but halted, leaving millions of gallons of beer undrank. Even worse, the lack of demand for future kegged beer has left thousands of breweries with untapped kegs, which will slowly go bad. This unfortunate consequence has led breweries across the nation to dump their beer. However, creative thinking has presented an alternative use: turn the unused beer into hand sanitizer. This was the case for Chicago’s Koval Distillery, which partnered with local breweries to create and donate 500 gallons of beer-made hand sanitizer to community organizations in need.
Chicago’s Maplewood Brewery & Distillery has produced excellent beers and spirits from their quaint brewpub since 2014. Their 10BBL and 250L Kothe hybrid brewhouse is easily viewed from one of several plush chairs that adorns their always-popular “Lounge” space that looks into the brewhouse through several large windows. With beers like Son of Juice IPA, Fat Pug Oatmeal Milk Stout and Charlatan Pale Ale, lines to get into the Maplewood Lounge are frequent and long—especially on a nice Saturday. Although the in-person bar visits have stopped (for now) due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maplewood’s popularity within its Logan Square and larger Chicago craft beer community remains. To find out more about what makes the small but mighty operation hum, how Maplewood has adjusted its business to current times and what comes next, we asked Co-Owner and Head Brewer Adam Cieslak five questions.
The beauty of craft beer is in how intensely local it feels. Supporting your local brewery means supporting your city. While many breweries expand and grow in distribution, there’s something unique and familiar about drinking a beer that’s brewed close to you. With unique names and labels, breweries across the country lean into this understanding of what it means to be fiercely local. Illinois’ largest independently-owned brewery, Revolution Brewing, is interwoven into the tapestry of Chicago’s rich beer scene. Now, it’s going one step farther with the release of its City Series packaging refresh, which pairs iconic images of Chicago with some Revolution’s most popular session beers.
While breweries typically serve as an important third space during normal times, they have had to readjust their visions and priorities over the past few months to better reflect our current reality. As breweries continue to adjust their sales strategies towards to-go and delivery purchases, they also continue to find ways to give back to the communities they serve. Deschutes Brewery’s Pay it Forward Sixer program is just one example of this.
Easter will be different this year. While Easter mass, celebrations and social gatherings will all-but be cancelled due to current social distancing guidelines, this time of the year still gives you an opportunity to stock up on sugary sweets and decadent chocolate during your weekly grocery run. With that in mind, we thought it would be fun to pull together a list of six beers perfect for an Easter basket (or barrel) that works from sweet and tart to stout and savory. Instead of SweeTarts, Reese’s Eggs and Peep’s, you get milk stout, lambic-styles, chocolate porters and more. Here’s our Ultimate 6er of beers to stock in your Easter basket this year.
For many sports fanatics, myself included, the one event we have to look forward to in the near future is the NFL Draft. The NFL canceled the event in Las Vegas but is still committed to doing the draft virtually. Each NFL team will operate digitally and adhere to the appropriate social distancing guidelines from their selected remote locations, as team facilities are closed as well. As teams work tirelessly on their draft boards, they now have to plan for an added variable: Where do we host our draft headquarters? Thankfully, the decision was easy for the New Orleans Saints, whose owner, Gayle Benson, also happens to own Dixie Beer. Putting the two together made sense.
Now more than ever, the craft beer industry needs good news One bright light in this period of uncertainty comes from America’s oldest brewery, D.G. Yuengling & Son, which recently celebrated International Women’s Day with the announcement of the Yuengling Women in Brewing Scholarship Program for spring 2020. The goal of the scholarship, a collaborative effort between Yuengling and the Pink Boots Society, is to advance the careers of female brewers in the U.S through educational opportunities. The scholarship also reflects Yuengling’s unique place in today’s brewing industry: Led by Jennifer Yuengling, vice president of operations and 6th generation family member, the D.G. Yuengling & Son of today is comprised of the brewery’s first generation of all-female leadership.
The art of brewing beer varies by region, brewer and brewing style. Many brewers find their niche in one style or art-form, craft their beer to perfection and become famous for it. That’s the case for esteemed Rodenbach Brewery in Roeselare, Belgium, which brews oak foeder-aged sour Ales that have led the way for the category for almost two centuries. Their most popular offering is the simply named Rodenbach Classic, a standard-bearer Flanders red Ale that effuses the precision and expertise of Rodenbach’s master blenders and brewers.
Perhaps Rodenbach’s most well-known brewer is Rudi Ghequire. A Rodenbach brewmaster since 1982, Ghequire has walked the hallways in their massive foeder-filled brewhouse more times than he can count. Foeders are special to Rodenbach and they are special to Ghequire. Yet, many beer drinkers, myself included, are not fully aware of the magic of foeder-aged beers, the flavors that blending foeder-aged beers creates and the expertise needed to delicately create these offerings. To find out more about foeders and what makes Rodenbach’s foeder program special, I asked Ghequire five questions.
Dogfish Head Brewery continues to be one of my favorite breweries in the country due to their unrelenting pursuit of brewing daring beers that challenge and excite the average beer lover. Sometimes, these beers fall flat and the flavor notes don’t mesh like they should, but most times, they create something new and inventive that makes me take notice. Their newest offering, Vibrant P’Ocean, which was done in collaboration with the nearly two centuries old Brouwerij Rodenbach, falls into the latter category.
The new blended Sour Ale combines the mastery of both breweries in pursuit of a drinking experience that feels familiar and emblematic of two breweries separated by thousands of miles. Vibrant P’Ocean comes in at 4.7% ABV and is composed of a two-year, foeder-aged sour from Rodenbach mixed with a Dogfish Head kettle sour brewed with pilsner malt, malted wheat, elderberry, elderflower, sliced lemons and Belgian fleur-de-sel. I was lucky enough to get a few cans of this new beer from Dogfish Head recently – here are my thoughts.
Barrel-aged stouts dominate the Fall and Winter release calendars of many breweries as beer drinkers pine for a hearty, boozy beer that they can settle down with when the temperature drops. One of the familiar additions to these barrel-aged beers is coffee. It can add body, big flavors and huge aromatics that round out the barrel qualities and mellow the ABV burn. While I’m a huge fan of coffee in my boozy stouts, I get equally excited by breweries that look to collaborate with their community coffee purveyor or lighter offerings like lagers, cream ales, and simple stouts. Here are six recent coffee beer releases that fit that billing.
The rapid contortion and contraction of today’s U.S. craft beer markets present opportunities for both brewers young and old to capitalize on the American passion for high-quality beer. While the OGs of American craft beer like Sierra Nevada and Anchor Brewing continue to churn out quality beer, there’s an even older subset of international breweries looking to make their own inroads beyond their traditional Oktoberfest imports.
Collaborations are commonplace across the craft beer industry, but collaborations that bring together breweries from across oceans are special. Back in 2015, Sierra Nevada started its popular annual tradition of collaborating with a German brewery on a traditional Festbier made available across the U.S. The 2019 Festbier came as part of a collaboration with the historic, family-run Bitburger Brewery. Now, the two are back at again with a new collaboration set to release in March: Triple Hop’d Lager.
Chances are, if you’ve perused a liquor store in the past few years you’ve passed a suspiciously sublime skeleton emblazoned on bright cardboard. Much like the aggressive hop bill inside, New Belgium Brewing Company brewed its Voodoo Ranger series to stand out both in flavor and branding. Launched in 2017, the Voodoo Ranger IPA series has quickly become a foundational pillar of the New Belgium portfolio. We asked New Belgium’s Director of Brand Marketing, Kyle Bradshaw, about the growth of the brand, how it has been able to connect so effectively with consumers and what comes next.
From the scenic beer labels and vibrant Instagram posts to the comfortable taproom and flannel merchandise, it’s clear that Maine’s Allagash Brewing Company is fiercely passionate about its city (Portland) and state (Maine). The brewery has become one of the most revered craft beer brands thanks to their thoughtful brewing work, focus on local ingredients and excellent beers. So, when Allagash announced the unveiling of their first-ever certified-organic beer, CrossPath, the industry took notice. While Allagash has brewed with locally-sourced organic ingredients for years, the 100% organic CrossPath represents a true celebration of the Maine-based businesses they routinely source ingredients from.
What a decade it has been for beer drinkers. In 10 years, craft beer went from a bundle of small upstarts to a booming and cutthroat industry that has solidified itself as an important part of social culture. 2019 was a fitting conclusion to a wild decade of beer as the past 12 tumultuous months offered readers and drinkers alike a bevy of perplexing headlines, new beers, exciting new initiatives and cautious optimism for what is to come in 2020. The year offered too many topics, trends and social media flareups to count, but I thought it would be helpful to recap five of the most notable trends I observed this year.