There are not too many breweries that have had this kind of success in such a short period of time. Located strategically between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the town of Atascadero, Wild Fields Brewhouse is just three years old and has captured numerous gold medals. You would be hard-pressed to find two nicer people. Jacque & Ryan Fields are the real deal.
Flash back with us if you will, to the “Attitude Era” of the WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) This era was from the mid-to-late nineties through the early 2000s. It was dubbed the attitude era because of the in-your-face style of entertainment that was put on by the highly skilled athletes of the WWE. Over the top would be an understatement for the quality of entertainment a fan was able to witness in this era. From high-flying acrobatics and extreme stunts to wild promotions and one wrestler who always seemed to end up kicking his own bosses’ ass! We’re referring to the legendary WWE Hall of Famer, Stone Cold Steve Austin, who recently embarked on a beer collaboration with El Segundo Brewing Co.
As part of the PorchDrinking AleBlazers Series, I was excited to get to chat with Sarah Flora of Flora Brewing. If you’ve had a chance to peruse her website or YouTube channel, you know that she is a top-notch homebrewer. Additionally, she just made her commercial debut at Pilot Project Brewing, a brewery incubator in Chicago, with Medusa, a Pale Ale that is perfect for summer!
Over the past decade, clean barrel-aged beers (non-sours) at American craft breweries have gone from niche occurrences to common specialty releases. However, while barrel-aged Stouts, Porters, Trippels, have grown in popularity and availability nationwide, there are still only a handful of breweries who have risen to the top for truly doing those styles exceptionally well.
Throughout history, there have been rare occasions when two once-in-a-lifetime talents combine to form a unity even more perfect, that prove combined talents can be just as good, if not better than individual achievements. Jordan and Pippen, Shaq and Kobe, Ruth and Gehrig, Simon and Garfunkel, Hall and Oates.
There’s a widely known fact in the craft beer industry that women are underrepresented and largely outnumbered by their male counterparts. This isn’t great news, but that number is starting to grow, even if it’s by a small margin. A study from 2019 showed that only 7.5 percent of breweries employed a female brewer, but women made up 37 percent of employees that worked in the non-production or non-service staff roles.
When running through a list of craft beer luminaries who have had the most significant impact on the industry, names like Charlie Papazian, Michael Jackson, Garrett Oliver, Kim Jordan, Ken Grossman, Sam Calagione, Natalie and Vinny Cilurzo are often quick to roll off the tongue. However, to the common beer drinker, Julia Herz is a name that may not be as commercially recognizable as the rest but continues to have the most enduring impact on the current craft beer landscape.
Against the Grain Brewery opened its doors in 2011 as Louisville’s first brewer-owned and operated brewery. And over the past ten years, Against the Grain has grown to four locations and a production facility. From the beginning of the Smokehouse in 2011 to opening the Public House in 2019, ATG has made a name for itself as a brewpub. However, this past year ATG decided to dabble into something more than beer and opened their first music venue, the Flamingo Lounge. ATG went back to its roots, and most recently, opened the ATG Sandwich Emporium which sits above the Flamingo Lounge in downtown Louisville.
There’s no question that barrel aging and blending beers are a true form of art. I have admired this art form for years and after moving to Bozeman, Montana, I quickly learned that Bozeman Brewing excels at it. They have a wide variety of beers in their sour program, dubbed the Bozeman Underground. They affectionately gave it that name because their barrel aging facility is actually underneath the brewery — hence the name Bozeman Underground. The beers within their sour program range from Goses, Lambic-inspired Ales, Tripels and Flanders style to name a handful. I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Ryan Beal, brewer and cellarman at Bozeman Brewing, to discuss their sours, the barrel aging process and blending. Ryan is responsible for overseeing the sour program and everything that goes along with it. The knowledge and passion Ryan possesses for his craft, clearly shine through in his sour and funky ales.
Sustaining a business for 25 years is an achievement in any industry, but it is particularly impressive in the tumultuous and unpredictable world of craft beer. Downingtown, Pennsylvania-based Victory Brewing Company has been churning out Bavarian-inspired beers and other inventive offerings since 1996, establishing itself as a pillar of the Pennsylvania beer community and as somewhat of an innovator thanks to the rampant success of its Golden Monkey Belgian Tripel brand. Being able to properly execute a variety of European-styles, with Victory’s own unique twists, has generated acclaim and a passionate following for the brewery. With the brewery celebrating 25 years in business, I asked Victory Brewing founders Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski about how they’ve been able to sustain success, their approach to community building, and what excites them about the craft beer market today.
Now in its fourth decade, Anderson Valley Brewing Company (AVBC) is now owned by the McGee family, namely Kevin McGee, an attorney who previously opened the one-barrel, nano brewery called Healdsburg Beer Company (out of his garage). Although buying an “OG” craft brewery just in time for a global pandemic was not ideal, AVBC has managed to not only survive, but do well. It helps that AVBC beer remains in the hands of the well-respected, longtime brewmaster (and author) Fal Allen. Under his direction, the brewery continues to produce its famed Gose series, run a laudable barrel program and offer a slew of “regular” beers such as its Boont Amber Ale. The beer is produced in part with power from the sun, as roughly 40% of the brewery’s power is solar (and soon to be 100%). And why not? When you can look outside your brewery and view gorgeous scenery, you might feel inspired to protect the planet that provides it.
We wanted to know a bit more about Anderson Valley so we asked Kevin McGee, owner and CEO of AVBC, five questions about the brewery and its beer.
Country Boy Brewing opened in Lexington in 2012 by four Kentuckians, Daniel “DH” Harrison, Jeff Beagle, Evan Coppage and Nathan Coppage. Their four core beers Cougar Bait Blonde Ale, Shotgun Wedding Vanilla Brown Ale, Cliff Jumper IPA and Halfway Home American Pale Ale quickly gained popularity among craft beer drinkers across the Bluegrass State.
In February of 2017, Country Boy Brewing opened a 22,500 sq ft. taproom and production facility in Georgetown, Ky, just 19 miles from its original location in Lexington. And in May of 2019, Country Boy added a $1.8 million expansion to the Georgetown facility, adding 19,000 sq. ft. This weekend, Country Boy Brewing celebrates nine years of brewing craft beer in Kentucky.
Picture your favorite beer. What do you see? Maybe it’s poured in a proper glass, bubbles bursting. Odds are though, you’re picturing the can or bottle the beer initially came in. While the liquid itself brings great pleasure, it’s typically the vehicle it comes in that you associate with first. That’s why beer can artwork is so fun, so creative, so celebrated at times. Because it makes the beer standout both on-shelves and in your mind. St. Louis-based Schlafly Brewing continues to churn out great beer can designs that celebrate the history or place of origin behind a beer’s name or style. It’s a unique approach that has paid dividends for the brewery and for their lead designer, Sarah Frost. To learn more about Frost’s unique approach to beer can art, what inspires her and what labels she’s most excited about this year, I asked her five questions.
Nestled in a picturesque box canyon and scored seasonally by lush green cliffs or powder-capped mountain tops, Telluride, CO is a magical resort town that remains one of the most scenic destinations in the state.
Despite the world-class skiing, a multitude of festivals that used to fill its lodging capacity every summer and Bridal Veil Falls, a dramatic 365-foot waterfall that is fully visible from downtown, the town still exudes a relative quaintness due to its remote location–unlike other resort towns like Breckenridge, Aspen and Vail.
Similarly, Telluride Brewing Co., which was founded in 2011, is highly adored and respected by those familiar with the industry while still flying relatively under the radar. Long revered for its signature Facedown Brown and more recently gaining steam for their continued work in hop-forward beers, Telluride Brewing is now on the cusp of its next evolutionary phase.
While Athentic Brewing might be the most recent member of the Athens, GA craft beer scene to open in August 2020, they certainly are not strangers to brewing. Or to setbacks. For anyone who doesn’t know, though, take my word when I say that many people would have likely called it quits before opening. Fortunately for the Classic City beer scene, Paul Skinner and Mark Johnson didn’t quit. I sat down with Paul and head brewer Chris Willis over a beer (Insubedience Black IPA) to discuss all things Athentic and what it meant to be part of the growing Athens beer scene.
Gravely Brewing Co. in Louisville, KY won two medals at this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Sprockets, a German Pilsener, won a gold medal and Doc’s Dunkel, a German Wheat Ale, won a bronze. Gravely Brewing was the only Kentucky brewery to bring home medals at this year’s Great American Beer Festival.
There are currently well over 7,000 breweries in the U.S., each of them have a unique story to tell. Bunkhouse Brewery in Bozeman, Montana is a unique nano-brewery located steps away from the campus of Montana State University and the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. Bunkhouse is what many would consider a neighborhood brewery. They only distribute to a couple accounts and heavily rely on taproom foot traffic and sales. These types of breweries have been hit hard during the COVID pandemic and have had to get creative and adjust on the fly. Fortunately, Bunkhouse is producing as much beer as ever and is still focusing on the community aspect of the brewery.
Paul Arney, co-owner and head brewer of The Ale Apothecary in Bend, OR has a bit of a reputation. Words like “legendary” are often thrown around to describe his brewery and the unique, place-based wild beer he brews. Arney has a bit of a nutty–yet deeply intellectual–personality. It’s not uncommon to hear him lovingly referred to as bats#&@ crazy. We sat down with Arney for five questions about Ale Apothecary and to see how he’s holding up during the pandemic. We were relieved to hear that he hasn’t let up one bit on his unrelenting “art over industry” philosophy.
Breweries making beer-adjacent offerings is nothing new, particularly when you look at the rapid influx of new hard seltzer and cannabis-focused offerings produced by breweries across the country. One brewery that has always leaned hard into the cannabis-friendly market is Atlanta’s SweetWater Brewing Company, thanks to their very “dank” and not-so-subliminal 420 IPA brand. Consequently, SweetWater was recently acquired for $300 million by the global cannabis company, Aphria. Amidst the rapid legalization of cannabis across the country and a growing sector of drinkers interested in cannabis-forward beverages, the possibilities for the expansion of the 420 brand and the introduction of new products are flush, which makes the new partnership a solid match. To learn more about what comes next for the brewery and for the 420 brand in particular, we asked Brian Miesieski, VP of Marketing, SweetWater Brewing Company, 5 questions…
While Oktoberfest style beers and Pumpkin Ales get all the attention as summer turns to fall, true beer fans know what September brings: fresh hop season. Fresh hops or wet hops, depending on who you talk to, are only available for an extremely limited time frame and are usually brewed within a day of being picked. Their distinct flavor and unmistakable aroma are as exciting for brewers as they are for beer fans. But the story doesn’t start with the harvest—it starts years earlier under the care of hops farmers.
With fresh hop season quickly approaching, we chatted with Jake TeSelle, founder of Crooked Yard Hops, to discuss every beer lover’s favorite ingredient: hops.