AboutTaylor Laabs – PorchDrinking.com
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.
Craft beer’s shift into alternative beverages has been one of the biggest trends of 2019. The most notable addition to many brewing portfolios has been spiked seltzer, which appeals to a new subset of drinkers, expanding the brewery’s revenue stream in the process. Craft breweries rolling out new spiked seltzer lines doesn’t generate the same type of headlines it did earlier this year, but mead spritzer? That’s a different story entirely. With many brewers zigging into seltzer, St. Louis-based Schlafly Beer has decided to zag, unveiling Boomerang Mead Spritzer, a new-age beverage that amplifies Schafly’s desire to differentiate themselves from the brewing competition. To learn more about what inspired Schlafly to delve into mead spritzer, we asked Schlafly Lead Brewer Jared Williamson.
Good things come to those who wait, right? That’s the case for Colorado beer drinkers, who got a chance recently to buy Where I Live, a mixed culture dark sour beer created in collaboration between two of Colorado’s most esteemed brewers: New Belgium Brewing Co. and TRVE Brewing. Made with 100% Colorado-made malt and lavender, Where I Live is unique both in composition and inspiration. The brewers first discussed making this beer during the 2016 GABF, but it wasn’t possible due to regulations that prohibited brewer-to-brewery tax-free transfers of ‘finished’ beer. As fate would have it, a legal loophole that popped up in passed legislation one year later made the blending collaboration possible and Where I Live became a reality. To learn more about how this beer came to be, we asked Andrew Emerton, New Belgium’s Specialty Brand Manager.
Everyone has improperly poured a beer in their life to the grimaces and eye-rolls of their drinking buddies and colleagues. The prime illustrator of a poorly-produced draft beer in any American bar or drinking table is the overwhelming presence of foam that inundates the glass and misbalances the minute equation between liquid and bubble. The copious head of white, quickly-dissipating bubbles – you can call it “dry foam” – is a sure sign that you’re not going to have an ideal drinking experience, regardless of if you’re drinking a Natty Lite or an award-winning IPA. But what if the overwhelming presence of foam was a good thing?
If you’ve had a properly-poured Pilsner Urquell straight from a Pilsner Side-Pour faucet, you’ll know that the presence of wet foam in your pour of a Pilsner is a good thing – and by design. So, what’s the difference between the foam in a typical beer and what is present in a proper pint of Pilsner Urquell? To find out, we asked the historic Czech brewer.
Drink good, feed good? That’s the vision behind Chicago’s first local hard kombucha maker, Luna Bay Booch Co. While Chicago is home to the nation’s most craft breweries per capita, the city’s appetite for lighter alternatives like White Claw and Truly Spiked Seltzer is also clear. So, why not hard kombucha as well? Kombucha continues to increase its popularity in the health and wellness market, especially among younger drinkers, creating a myriad of adjacent business opportunities for courageous thinkers like Luna Bay Booch Co. founders Bridget Connelly and Claire Ridge. The two saw the opportunity to bring hard kombucha, a popular product on the West Coast, to the Midwest by creating a local, Chicago-based brand that targets Chicago drinkers looking for a break from a beer along with those wellness-focused folks looking for a fun, spiked alternative to their favorite antioxidant-laden kombucha beverage. To find out more about the upstart hard kombucha business and what Chicagoans can expect from Luna Bay Booch, PorchDrinking spoke with Bridget.
Surly Brewing’s Furious IPA is one of the most well-known beers in Minnesota. The hazy IPAs, most notably Dreamyard IPA, coming from their Northeast neighbors, Modist Brewing, are some of the most popular in the state. Not to be out-done, Chicago’s Mikerphone Brewing’s musically-inspired IPA and stout releases frequently generate lines around the block. So, when Surly recently brought brewers from Modist and Mikerphone to their brewhouse to make a new collaboration beer, the result had to have been an IPA, right? Wrong. Instead, the latest, and perhaps most adventurous edition of Surly’s BC Small Batch series is Magic Formula for Peace, a coffee stout made with citrus.
Winning something once is tough. Repeating that successful feat is an even tougher task. So, when Cincinnati-based Brink Brewing won GABF gold for “Very Small Brewing Company” for a second consecutive year, a lot of people took notice – myself included. As a young operation, volatility and uncertainty are commonplace. Making good beer, consistently, at a profit, is an arduous task that not many can master. Building a loyal drinking base and gaining accolades for your creations become even more difficult as you try to keep your core business afloat. This is what makes the work of Head Brewer Kelly Montgomery even more impressive. To find out more about the success of their small but stout operation, their reaction to GABF gold, and what comes next, we posed 5 questions to Brink Brewing’s Kelly Montgomery.
Some beers are just meant for certain seasons—or temperatures. While Oktoberfests and pumpkin beers are synonymous with fall weather and football, many other seasonal offerings can get lost in the fray. Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale is a staple of the Delaware brewery’s seasonal lineup, yet it’s a newer, apple pie-inspired cream ale release that might start driving bigger headlines soon. First released last November, Dogfish Head’s Suddenly Comfy Cream Ale is back again with an earlier fall release and a bevy of unique fall flavors that makes it immensely memorable.
Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales is most known for its well-crafted array of sour ales, but it’s Traverse City brewpub location is known for something else. The brewpub is attached to Bowers Harbor Inn, home to upscale restaurant, Mission Table, and gorgeous views of the waterfront. It might also include a haunted spirit. Just in time for Halloween, here’s what you need to know about this Jolly Pumpkin location’s haunted history, which may be one of spookiest brewpub spots in the U.S.
I love IPAs. I also can’t stomach several in one drinking session anymore. The intensity of the flavors and hop-bill typically restricts me to a small pour or one sole can at a time. It’s a common occurrence for many beer drinkers today. Craft brewers continue to push the limits on flavor in IPAs, ramping up the ABV and ingredient list while lowering the drinkability in the process. Every IPA has a place, but I’ve increasingly found that Session IPAs continue to gain more space in my beer fridge than their hoppier counterparts. One new addition that I’m dedicating shelf space to is Oskar Blues’ One-y hazy session IPA.
It’s finally the season for barrel-aged beers. Chicago is spoiled with its options: Revolution’s Deep Wood series kicks off this weekend; Cruz Blanca also has standout offerings – oh, and Begyle won gold for their Barrel-Aged Imperial Pajamas at GABF this year. While the beers get all the glory, the barrels that produce them sometimes get lost in the fray. Ever the creative-types, breweries typically find alternative use cases for these barrels after their primary usage days are past them. To find out how these barrels find new life post-barrel-aging, we asked the breweries.
Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is an iconic beer brand is steeped in rich tradition. Its malty Pale Ale is a classic while the brewery’s barrel-aged creations, such as its Narwhal Imperial Stout, continue to garner praise year after year. And starting in 2015, the brewery engaged in yet another tradition that’s brought the Sierra Nevada even more attention: Sierra Nevada began partnering with German breweries to brew a seasonal Oktoberfest Märzen made available to U.S. beer drinkers.
Each year’s creation is different; some bold, some spicy, but each notably unique and drinkable. This year, Sierra Nevada partnered with Germany’s Bitburger Brewery on the newest Oktoberfest release, which is now out on shelves. To find out more about this year’s partnership, the proprietary ingredients that went into the brewing process, and what consumers should look for in this Oktoberfest, we asked Sierra Nevada’s Chief Commercial Officer Joe Whitney five questions.
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].
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.