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Know Your Enemy

30 Dec

In an effort to appeal to more markets Anheuser-Busch has always adapted what they are selling to fit current trends.  This idea did not falter when American Craft Brewing took off, and as a result there are many beers out there that one would not think to be owned by this corporate giant.  This idea was pointed out in the documentary, Beer Wars, and the information is widely available on the internet.  The problem is that many people to not consider this to be a possibility.  Anheuser-Busch does not want most of their consumers to know all of the beers that they distribute: it makes them more money.

Below is a list of some of the beers that Anheuser-Busch makes that is not common knowledge: (I already consider it common knowledge that they own Michelob, so none of those beers will be listed.)

Bare Knuckle Stout

Beach Bum Blonde Ale

Demon’s Hopyard IPA

Jack’s Pumpkin Spice Ale

Mule Kick Oatmeal Stout

Any beer made by O’douls

Organic Wild Hop Lager

Pacific Ridge Pale Ale

Red Fox Amber Ale

Shocktop Belgian White

Winter’s Bourbon Caske Ale

Leffe Blonde Abbey Ale

Hoegaarden White Ale

Widmer Brothers

Tomahawk Amber Ale

Wilde Blue Blueberry Lager

Stella Artois

Rolling Rock

Red Hook

Boddington’s

This is not intended to be a complete list of the beers which Anheuser-Busch produces, it only meant to increase awareness for the consumer.  Do not be fooled into thinking that you are supporting a local or craft brewery when purchasing these beers, for you are in actuality supporting a corporate giant who would love nothing more than to snuff out the competition.


Patience

19 Nov

It seems that instances of automotive crisis in my life are often paired with great beer moments (see September’s post Near Disaster Turned Milestone.)  The other night my car was towed (If I was blocking your driveway  I am truly sorry and I was unaware that I was doing so) and hence the following morning I had an ordeal when trying to get to work.  Those of you fortunate enough to have never had this happen should know that it is a pretty costly offense and certainly put a damper on my day.

On my way home that evening I stopped to buy some porter to cook dinner with at Oliver’s on Colvin and ran into a day-changer:

Estate Ale hits Albany, NY, and more importantly: my refrigerator.

Finally, Sierra Nevada’s Estate Ale has made it’s way to Upstate NY.  If you are unfamiliar with the premise of this brew, let me fill you in: it is probably the most environmentally friendly beer on the market.  Every ingredient in this beer is grown at Sierra Nevada’s brewery, they have also invested in solar power, fuel cells, recycling of materials and spent grains, etc.  For more info check out their website: Sierra Nevada’s Environmental Stewardship.

The beer is a little more cash than your average larger bottle of beer, but well worth it.  It is a wet-hopped ale: hops are added before they have been dried, resulting in hop flavor without as much bitterness.  This beer was a must-have for me and it certainly turned my day around, I recommend it to anyone curious to find a very ‘green,’ tasty beverage.

Ommegang Tasting

29 Sep

While many a foolish soul was at Larkfest in Albany, NY my friends and I were at a different, much smaller venue enjoying an overlooked event: an Ommegang tasting at Oliver’s on Colvin Ave.

Wes Nick laying down beer law

I was secretly hoping that not a lot of people would be at this tasting when I got there.  I am unsure as to how many in total turned out for it, as it was not widely advertised.  Ommegang has become one of my favorite brewery’s because of, well it’s beer and it’s proximity to the capital region.

One of their evening brewer’s, Wes Nick, was on hand and happily pouring samples of Rare Vos, Three Philosophers, Hennepin, Bier de Mars and their newest creation: Cup ‘o Kyndness.  Wes was proud to announce and boast of their bronze medal taken home from the Great American Beer Festival the week before for Three Philosophers, as well as thrilled when we were delighted by the floral qualities of Bier de Mars.

Oliver’s (Brew Crew) is a beverage center located in Albany that needs to be checked out by anyone in the area who is serious about craft beer.  They have a surprisingly good selection of American microbrews as well as European imports.  Additionally, they also have 5-6 beers on tap for you to top off your growler for a pretty reasonable price.  They are a good stop for someone wanting to try a selection of beers: they offer a make-your-own 6 pack and knock three dollars of the total price just for making your own.

Solutions from the Technological Age

24 Sep

Arguably the largest problem facing microbrewers is large corporate giants like Anheuser Busch InBev.  This problem shows itself not only in terms of marketing but also at a level at which the consumer has no input.  Laws vary from state to state, some states do not allow brewers to sell directly to consumers at any level, while other States allow to a certain point. In New York if you are a registered Microbrewer then you are elgible to apply for a distributor’s license.  This licesnse will allow you to self distribute 60,000 bbl per year.  To put that into perspective: a small brewery as recognized by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau sells a minimum of 2,000,000 bbl annually, a feat the Boston Beer company (Samuel Adams) just surpassed.  In other words, to really get your beer out to the world you rely on a distributor.

Again, a problem: monster-sized breweries like Anheuser Busch have had dealings with large distributors for decades and are not afraid to show some muscle to keep microbreweries out of the distribution game.  So many people don’t want consumers to have good beer, haha.  This is a poor, uphill battle for the little guy that does not get easier at any point.  For the consumer it is frustrating to know that the beers you want won’t be coming to stores near you because large, corporate breweries don’t want you to have the option of drinking those good beers.

Several summers ago I took a trip to Alaska to visit family.  I tried out the Alaskan Brewing Company’s Amber and Summer Ales.  At the time I had little appreciation for craft beer, but it was growing on me.  Now that I have a more vested interest in beer and homebrewing I wanted to go back and try some other beers that the Alaskan Brewing Company puts out (particularly their award winning Smoked Porter) but I cannot get their beer.  My best bet would be to have my relatives in Fairbanks mail me a package and hope for the best in shipping.  On the breweries website, however, I found a link to a delightful solution that I wish to encourage others to use so that it may grow.

Brewforia (notice the new link on the right side of the site) is an online distributor dealing only with microbreweries and craft beer.  They do not have a lot as of yet, which is why I want to try and help get the word out there that they exist.  So, now I can order a bottle of Alaskan Smoked Porter from NY and have it shipped to my house in Albany, NY.  So, check out the site and use it in hopes that word will spread and we can help level the playing field for the craft beer brewers.  Help the little guy and help good beer.

Another Burger Laid to Rest, Another Beer Enjoyed – Brown’s Brewing Company, Troy, NY

14 Sep

My Beacon in the Night

In my battle against hunger, thirst and the craving for the flavor and aroma of hops I found satisfaction in Brown’s Taproom, on River Street in Troy.  I had settled upon my destination but soon found myself caught in a feud of burger ownership from the City of Lakes, Minneapolis.  The Juicy Lucy, or Jucy Lucy, is a cheeseburger where cheese is cooked in the middle of the beef patty.  Two bars in Minneapolis both claim they were responsible for the creation of this burger, but I’m not picking sides: I am just enjoying Brown’s take on it.

Head chef, Paul Minbiole, has put together a very interesting menu for a Troy brewhouse: many of his creations involve beer made locally by Brown’s.  My burger, unfortunately did not contain any of their signature beers, but it was oozing with delicous boursin cheese.  What to pair with my rich, cheesy burger?  I used Brown’s Harvest I.P.A. (Beer of the Day on September 10th) because I gave in to temptation.  I can’t resist the idea of an I.P.A. made with hops that have been used in brewing a day after they are picked.

poor guy didn't have a chance...

I made short work of my burger and my beer was soon to follow.  If you live in the area and haven’t been to Brown’s then you should re-examine your priorities.  Even the building is cool: their taproom is an old brick building they saved and have re-worked to contain their brewery and pub.  I have to cut myself off because I will literally go on about how much I like this place for the rest of the day.  Just experience it for yourself.

Bloomington, Indiana’s Own Upland Brewery

9 Sep

I sometimes find myself in strange places during my travels.  My journey into the midwest ended in Bloomington, IN where I found a cove of good food and good beer.  I dined around town for two and half days but ate and drank every night at the same place: The Upland Brewery.

they're all good

My first stop included a chocolate cake made with their in-house Bad Elmer’s Porter.  It was late in the evening and we had spent the day figuring out academics at the local Indiana University’s campus so we capped it off after the cake.  The next day we stopped later in the afternoon for a sampler.  It included all of their year-round brews and I did not find one that I didn’t enjoy.  Obviously though, I did have my favorites: Bad Elmer’s Porter, Upland Wheat and the Rad Red Amber.  We visited in the middle of June so the Upland Wheat was everything we wanted: clean, crisp, refreshing and the draft of the day.  We left, explored downtown Bloomington, dealt with academic issues again and returned that night for dinner (we were addicted.)  I had a jalapeno burger with a spicy habenero sauce.  The burger was awesome, but even more awesome was how the Rad Red Amber cut through the beef and cut through the heat (Caramel malt with 100% American hops for a cleansing, flowery, citrus taste.)

On top of the food and brews what won me over on Upland was their practice.  Upland is potentially the most green and Earth-friendly brewery I have ever stumbled in or out of.  They donate proceeds of their Preservation Pilsner to saving local forests, they donate their spent grains to local farmers, and their brewery is fitted with solar panels and energy efficient lighting.

If you ever find yourself in Bloomington, Indiana with no idea where to eat, this is a must-stop.  The brewery was the highlight of my trip to the midwest.  Upland does everything in-house, EVERYTHING: even marketing and design.  To be honest, it shows.  I have seen worse websites (though not many) but that is one more thing to love about this brewery: it’s local people doing it all for themselves and the community they are a part of.  Check them out online, and if you get the chance, in person.  Upland Brewery

Spent Grains at the Upland Brewery

Beer Wars Movie Review

8 Sep

watch this, not the image, the movie.

Ultimately, this documentary brings up good points about beer in America, however, I have my criticisms.  Who am I to criticisize?  No one: just some guy who likes to brew, drink, buy beer, has made and been a part of documentaries and watches a good deal of them.  Do not get me wrong, as I am no authority on this and I do not claim to be.  Take what I say with a grain of salt.

Let’s start with the pros: the major problem in the pursuit of good beer in this country and the major focus of this film is Anheuser Busch.  This corporate giant is responsible for over 50% of all beer consumed in the United States and due to marketing and advertising strategies aims to dominate this market in every single way.  The other major problem this film hits upon is the issue of the odd relationship between brewer>distributor>customer.  Basically, a brewer is not allowed to sell beer straight to consumers, it has to be given to a distributor.  A real fact for this country is that Anheuser Busch, Miller and Coors own most distributors. In order for a craft brewer to get their product to consumers they must hitch a ride aboard one of the big three’s trucks.  These are two real problems and kudos to Anat Baron for bringing them to someone’s attention.

My main criticism is that the film seemed less focused than I wanted it to be.  Generally speaking I think the film took on too much.  This topic is incredibly large and, to be honest, based on the title of this movie the documentary could have been about any number of things.  Instead, it was a conglomerate of all of those potential ideas for a film which hit upon a few key ideas.  Because of this buckshot main idea the film is not terribly exciting:  my first attempt to get through it resulted in a nap.  (In the movie’s defense I started to watch it already being quite tired.)

I found some of the side stories touched upon in the film to be of more interest.  For example: the blind taste test in which loyal customers of the big three breweries could not identify their ‘favorite’ beer; the founder of Dogfish Head Brewery, Sam Calgione, discussing his struggles and triumphs of opening and maintaining his business; or Rhonda Kallman’s struggles of getting her newest beer, Moonshot, off the ground.

This is a movie worth watching.  I think that I was expecting something different and I cannot really fault the film for my misinformed preconceptions.

Watch the movie.  (Beer Wars)  You decide, and tell me what you think.

16th Annual Mount Snow Brewers Festival

6 Sep

they had beer

This event took place September 4th and 5th at Mt. Snow in VT (1.5 hour drive from Albany.)  It featured 31 breweries, 80 varieties of beer and over 200 kegs.  Breweries included: Long Trail, Magic Hat, Otter Creek, Wolaver’s Organic, Harpoon, Olde Burnside, Berkshire Brewing Co., Stone Brewing Co., Allagash, Saranac, North Coast, Stoudts, Rock Art, Woodchuck Ciders, Dogfish Head, Sam Adams, Brooklyn Brewing Co., Rouge Brewing, Smuttynose, Sierra Nevada, Northshire Brewing Company, Peak Organic, FArnum Hill Ciders, McNeil’s Brewery, Trapp Family Lodge Brewing Co., Flying Dog Brewing Co., Ommegang Brewing Co., Original Sin Ciders and Eurobrew.

they had people...

My initial attempt to reach the festival on Saturday resulted in a flat tire and a day spent with tow trucks and waiting rooms of garages.  On Sunday I re-gathered my courage and set out for some brews.

Entry into the event cost $25 per person, came with a pint glass and two tokens which could be redeemed for 8 oz. beer samples.  With an additional 5 tokens added to my pocket after entry I was on my way to sample some beer, finally.

I started my tasting light: Alagash’s white.  Despite a drunk, stumbling loud mouth swearing up and down to have their Tripel (which I am sure is also delicious) I chose their white ale and was not disappointed.  Round two went darker as I found Sierra Nevada’s booth.  I left there with a glass full of Tumbler and a brochure on brewing sustainability.

The rest of my beer intake went as one would expect: rather rapidly.  Notable mentions and kudos to the Olde Burnside Brewery for their TenFidy Wit and their Dirty Penny, pre-mixed black and tan.  Having grown up on the banks of the Battenkill River I could not resist the Northshire Brewery’s Battenkill Ale, which did not disappoint, nor did their Equinox Pilsner.  Our last surprise came out of Peak Organic’s Espresso Amber Ale.

Overall this festival packed in the beer and the breweries.  However, the food for the most part was lacking.  In future years I thought that it may be a good idea to try and include local food vendors as well as local breweries.  I realize this means less of an income from the Mt. Snow food, but surely something could be worked out.

I look forward to this event again next summer, as well as their winter brew fest which is sure to be interesting.