AboutTaylor Laabs – 2/9 – PorchDrinking.com
The nice thing about the craft brewing industry is that there’s always something new to drink and learn. Both happened to me at Allagash Brewing’s Saison Day at Off Color Brewing’s on April 6, 2019. I wasn’t expecting to find a beer on tap with a hazy color and a viscous texture that would showcase the bright and colorful Saison and Farmhouse ale creations from the likes of Off Color, Allagash, Side Project and Brasserie Dupont. But there I was, savoring every drop of Birds Fly South Ale Project’s Rustic Sunday, a deliciously savory yet fruity Farmhouse ale created via the Solera aging style. I had never heard of Solera aging before but after having one of Birds Fly South’s (BFS) brews, I knew I had to find out more.
Beers with higher alcohol content typically aren’t what you consider refreshing. The booziness is hard to shy away from and can often be overwhelming. While some turn to colorful adjuncts and infusions to hide a higher ABV, some industrious brewers are taking a page from the blending book and brewing beer with tea and Kombucha. As beer hybrids continue to increase in popularity, tea-infused beers offer another enticing avenue for brewers looking to differentiate their portfolio and potentially appeal to an entirely new subset of drinkers. Whether it’s an IPA, Wit or Blonde Ale, tea is slowly but surely making its presence felt in the craft beer space. Here’s a look at three craft brewers who have mastered the craft.
Brewing beer is hard. Starting a brewery is even harder. Along with making the beer that keeps the lights on, there’s logistics, staff, space and marketing workflows that need to be addressed and accounted for. It’s a big undertaking that takes a certain sense of passion and entrepreneurship; many brewers often say it’s a calling. This was the case for Peter Bouckaert when he decided to open up Purpose Brewing & Cellars last year.
Colorado makes a lot of good beer; thankfully, many of the brewers that call the state home have made it a point to distribute their goods outside of their state lines. As margins continue to decrease and shelf space continues to dwindle, the mid-size breweries that distribute on a regional basis have shrunk as well. Throwing your beer into a new state is a harrowing business venture that requires a variety of planning and strategy to ensure that your beer competes well on-shelves and on draft with more local options. Fort Collins-based Funkwerks recently made such a move, announcing that four of their offerings are now available in Chicago, tallying their total distribution presence to 11 states.
In today’s U.S. craft beer market, tenure is a very relative term. So, when something has been around for 20 years, you take notice. That is the case with New Belgium Brewing’s wood-aged sour program, which is the oldest in the United States. The program has created sour trendsetters like La Folie; all the while continuing to set the mark for what consumers should look for in a good wood-aged sour.
America is bursting at the seams with great American craft beer options. There’s a bevy of tasty hazy IPAs and adjunct-filled stouts that generate social buzz and full bellies, but sometimes you just want a nice, easy-to-drink beer. For that, many look to and take notes from the Germans and their time-tested and rigorous brewing processes that continue to set the standard for classic beer styles. While solid imported options do exist, they can be hard to come by and even harder to identify if you’re not well-versed in traditional German brewers. Paulaner, a German stalwart of brewing that is older than America itself, is hoping to change that with Paulaner U.S.A’s announcement that their Hefe-Weizen and Original Munich Lager offerings will be available across the U.S. in 16.2oz cans this Spring. Here’s what you need to know about the new Paulaner beers gracing shelves stateside soon.
The calendar year is full of great sports events, but there is arguably no better multi-day sports period than the opening weekend of March Madness. From early Thursday to late Sunday, college basketball fans, avid gamblers, and college alumni alike will gather around computer screens, flat-screen TVs and in stadiums across the nation to cheer on their favorite team. It’s an experience that frays the nerves, especially if you have a team you’re rooting for or money on the line. It’s also one that is ideal for your favorite beverage of choice—several of them in fact. Whether you’re on your couch or on a bar-stool, the non-stop basketball action for the opening weekend deserves a light yet flavorful beer that’s high on hops but low on alcohol. Here are four new Session IPAs that should make it into your starting lineup this weekend.
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.
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.
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.
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].
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.