AboutTaylor Laabs – 3/11 – PorchDrinking.com
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].
Amidst stunning architecture and a scenic landscape filled with rolling hills, snowy mountain caps, and rushing rivers, lies a long-standing brewing tradition primed for new growth. Austria is home to over 300 brewers now who made 9.8 million hectoliters (there are roughly 0.85 bbls/hectoliter) of beer last year; its people drink more than 110 liters of beer per year – only behind the Czech Republic and Germany for most Europe. Vienna, Austria’s capital, is a fitting image of the current state of the country’s beer scene. Many bars only have taps from storied breweries like Ottakringer or Trumer available. Zwickel, Helles and Pils reign supreme. IPAs are little more than a passing rumor with beers over 6% routinely raising eyebrows. It’s a city fixed between consistency and curiosity. All of these market factors were on display when I visited the Wiener Bierfest recently, just steps from the historic St. Stephen’s Cathedral.
The secondary market of craft beer is both vibrant and volatile. The search to buy or trade for “whales” and trendy hazy IPAs has only expanded with social media, trade forums and online communities. Buying beer off this market can …
Las Vegas is the definition of excess. From swanky pool parties to bougie night clubs and incredible hotels, Sin City is never one to lack in any type of entertainment. I recently took my inaugural trip to Vegas and came back with more than a few stories—with one in particular I’m keen to share.
Vegas has a world-renowned dining scene that offers cuisine that appeals to every palate. Every hotel on the strip boasts a bevy of great fine dining options but tend to lack in their craft beer offerings. While many house robust wine lists that you can’t find anywhere else, the beer pairings are typically not up to par. So, when I checked into my hotel for the trip, the SLS Las Vegas, I pinpointed one dining and beer experience that I was excited to try: The Umami Burger, Beer Garden—and Sports Book (it’s Vegas after all).
Consistency is hard to replicate in any industry; it’s especially difficult in the craft beer market. Churning out a consistently excellent product that resonates with consumers and drives a positive bottom line is no small feat; even for the most established brewers, like Oregon’s Deschutes Brewery.
Amidst the sustained success of their hallmark IPA, Fresh Squeezed, Deschutes has brought new beers and new branding into the fold to better compete with a slew of newcomers and new beer styles. Amidst all of this market churn, it’s important to have a consistent element; which is where Veronica Vega, Deschutes’ Director of Product Development comes in.
Sometimes you take the best things in life for granted. Chicago’s craft beer foundation is built on excellent ales like Anti-Hero and Daisy Cutter, but they no longer generate the lines and Untappd check-ins of past years. It’s not their fault—Chicago drinkers have so many great craft beer options at their disposal that it often becomes overwhelming. So how do you consistently churn out excellent flagships while appealing to the “newness” decree of today’s craft beer drinker?
One valid option is Revolution Brewing’s Hero series. With taproom-only releases, unique 6-pack offerings and comic-inspired variety packs, the Hero line has helped the city’s largest independent brewer stand out from the fray and consistently provide something new to the masses. Each new offering allows Head Brewer Jim Cibak a chance to flex his brewing muscles in new and exciting ways. His latest notable creation is Cryo-Hero. I spoke to Jim and the Revolution team about the new Hero variant, the complexities of that brewing process and what other exciting beers they have planned for the coming months.
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.