Sunday, February 2, 2014

Red Bull and GoPro Release Felix Baumgartner's 128k Jump Footage

Felix Baumgartner had a dream to break the record for the longest skydive, set by U.S.A.F. Colonel Joe Kittinger on Aug 16, 1960 at an altitude of 102,800 ft.. 52 years later, on Oct 14,2012, that record would fall. At an altitude of 128,000 ft above the earth Felix Baumgartner would risk everything to realize his dream. This is Felix's 4 minute journey....

(for optimum picture quality click play arrow, then pause, click the "cog" icon on the video menu, select 720HD, then click play again.)

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Not Enough Beer To Go Around?

 So you're absolutely perplexed as to why it's so hard to get that elusive single batch or limited edition beer at your favorite bottle shop. Maybe you've even had to wait hours in line, at the crack of dawn, in the freezing cold, only to get to the front of the line and find out that store was sold out. 

 Retailer's all across the country are faced with the challenge of just how to secure these prized beers for their customers. What makes it more frustrating for them is in states like California, where it is illegal for beer distributors to "allocate" beer products, large chain retailers seem to get more than their fair share, often times completely shutting out the small guy. These larger grocery and liquor chains have ordering systems which allow them to electronically send their order directly to the distributor, thus allowing them access to everything in the distributors portfolio. And yes, that can include limited edition beers as well. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. This story isn't as simple as you may think.

 Although the Macro brewer's are the bread and butter for the distributor they have little control over where the independent craft brewer's beer goes. The Big Boy's have "Chain Account Managers." who specifically call on large grocery chains, box stores and liquor chains. Their main concern is the distribution of their "core brands" i.e. Bud, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light etc. They only influence the distribution and sale of their own craft brands such as Shock Top, Blue Moon, Red Hook, Goose Island etc.

 Larger craft breweries such as Dogfish Head, Rogue, Stone, SweetWater, Boulder Beer and such, may also have Chain Managers, but they as well only influence distribution of their own product. A lot of smaller breweries don't have chain people. For Craft Chain Managers, most of their time is spent making sure they merely have their product on the shelf or are being featured in the weekly ad. They deal directly with the buyers for the chain stores, usually focusing on distribution and placements of their flagship brands. Limited edition and single batch beers rarely are a topic of discussion at this level unless it's a key liquor chain.

Some of the supply issues can be tied to distribution practices. Some can be associated with how much of the beer is actually produced and how much the brewery releases to its distributors So, here's kinda how it works....
Craft brewers sign distribution agreements with local area distributors. These brewers require the distributor to provide the brewery with a projected number of cases of a specific beer they wish to purchase. This number is based on the number of cases the distributor believes they can sell over certain period of time. The Brand Manager for the distributor handles all these projections, for all the brewers flavors. The brewer collects all these forecasts, from each distributor, so they know "about" how much beer to produce. Brewers also hold distributors to the fire to actually purchase their forecasted quantities.

 All quantities received at the distributor are always based on what the brewery calls the "yield". This is the actual volume of beer that was generated during the brewing process. Yes it can very from batch to batch. If the yield was smaller than what the brewery anticipated then the brewery may cut the forecasted number of cases shipped to the distributor. This normally is not an issue with flagship flavors, but can be a major factor when it comes to limited ed., single batch and seasonal beers. The distributors Brand Manager is at the center of decisions made on which and how many cases are made available to retailers. Then it's the distributors sales force who actually places the order for the customer. The Brand Manager also works in conjunction with the distributors Sales Managers and, if they have, their Craft Brand Sales Managers to determine which accounts are eligible to receive the brewers limited ed. and single batch beers.

 Okay, how do you determine eligibility? Well this lies in the customers business relationship with both the distributor and brewer. If a customer is loyal to both parties, meaning they regularly carry all the brewers "focus" flavors; always has that brewery's beer on tap; has a history of purchasing a large number of cases from that brewer each year; and additional has worked with the distributor on features and promotions, then yes they will be top-of-mind to get prized beers.

 Lastly, the distributor is solely responsible for what are called "depletions". The brewery does not take back beer. If the distributor has a surplus of unsold product, they are likely to sell it to higher volume retailers who can move it quickly. 

 This may not seem like a fair system, but it's what we all have to deal with, as a result of the growing popularity of Craft Beer. Some states are not as restricted as others, making the availability of limited and single batch beers more accessible. Some smaller retailers and bottle shops have taken the position that if they can't get enough of these beers to satisfy at least a portion of their consumers, then they'd rather get nothing at all and avoid any negative backlash. 

 We'd like to hear your comments and stories on what you have gone through to get limited edition beers. Was it easy or difficult? Did you get shut out? You can use the comment box below.


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Emperor's New "Craft" Clothes

 As 2013 comes to comes to an end, I reminisce over the multitude of craft pints which I've consumed this year. Some were memorable and some, well, not so much. But one thing comes to mind, that being the misconception that even the greatest breweries can do no wrong. The enormous growth of our industry  now compels craft brewers to divert from their (to quote Nick Lowe), "peace, love and understanding" philosophy toward the craft brewing community, to understanding the oft-used term by those evil macro breweries.. "market share". One flagship brand makes not a successful brewery. So in the quest to differentiate yourself in this highly competitive and most exciting segment of the beer industry, the need for brewers to think outside the box becomes a necessity.  But does it always work?

 Collaborations are now common place and just about everyone has a line of single batch one-offs. There are more seasonal offerings than seasons. Some seasons will see multiple releases i.e. a Winter Warmer and a Barleywine. Barrel age programs are the norm, and some breweries only barrel age. Bob's Brewery brewed a Double IPA, I better brew one too. And really,  just how many "Pumpkin Pie" beers do we July none-the-less?

 Okay so what's your point? Well, I may not be BJCP certified but I believe I have a rather educated palate. Enough to tell when a beer misses the mark. So, does the label "Collaboration" always mean the beer was great? Does the subtext "limited-release" or "seasonal offering" mean the beer is infallible? I believe not. If your claim is that your White IPA is a Belgian meets American IPA then I would love to taste the Belgian part. Don't just expect me to believe it's there because you're a "hip" big name brewer. If the "Bitter Bomb" you brewed as a "collaboration" is nothing more than just that, then why bother brewing it?

 There's no room for "marginal" in this business. Your barrel-aged imperial stout or your Belgian Style Farmhouse Sour should be true to style. And if not, then as better beer drinkers, we all should have the courage the tell the Emperor.... "your Majesty, you are naked".



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Goose Island Releases Their Barrel-Aged Wild Ales

Goose Island announces the release of their limited batch barrel-aged wild ales, with two new additions to the "Four Sisters".

Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago
Press Release: Oct 16, 2013

 This month, Goose Island Beer Company is unveiling four Belgian-style wild ales from its diverse and creative portfolio.  The Chicago-based beer company will debut two completely new barrel-aged farmhouse ales called Gillian and Halia, and release the 2013 vintage of the much sought after sour ales, Lolita and Juliet. With select national availability, these Goose Island creations will be part of the brewery’s Vintage Collection, which includes award-winning beers like Sofie, Matilda and Pere Jacques. Each of the barrel-aged ales features a unique story, locally sourced fresh fruit and exceptional, complex flavor profiles.

Gillian was inspired by an amuse bouche that was often prepared by the wife of Goose Island Brewer Keith Gabbett. New for 2013, Gillian is a Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale that brings together fresh ingredients sourced locally from family farms in Michigan and Illinois. Gillian is partially aged in wine barrels with 10,000 pounds of strawberries, 4,000 pounds of honey and white pepper. Its refreshing effervescent body is slightly tart and is complemented by a pronounced white pepper note that folds nicely into the sweeter hints of strawberry and honey. Gillian is 9.5% alcohol by volume and develops in the bottle for up to 5 years.


Halia, Hawaiian for “remembrance of a loved one”, was brewed by Goose Island Brewer Brian Taylor in memory of a dear friend who loved peaches. New for 2013, Halia is a Belgian Style Farmhouse Ale aged in wine barrels with 12,000 pounds of fresh peaches, sourced locally from a family farm in Michigan. The result is a bright, effervescent beer with a soft, hazy body that finishes slightly tart and a little sweet with the pleasant character of ripe, juicy peaches. Halia is 7.5% alcohol by volume and develops in the bottle for up to 5 years.


Juliet is fermented with wild yeast Brettanomyces, and aged in wine barrels with 9,000 pounds of blackberries, sourced locally from family farms in Michigan. Tart and fruity, with complex notes of wood, tannin, dark fruit and spice, Juliet is a unique choice for beer and wine drinkers alike. Inspired by the sour beers from the Cantillon Brewery in Belgium, we named Juliet after the sister of the owner and fourth generation brewer of Cantillon – homage to a gracious host on many travels to Belgium. Juliet is 8.0% alcohol by volume and develops in the bottle for up to 5 years.

Lolita is a rose-colored Belgian Style Pale Ale fermented with the wild yeast Brettanomyces and aged in wine barrels on 30,000 pounds of fresh raspberries, sourced locally from a family farm in Michigan. Aromas of fresh raspberries, bright jammy fruit flavors and a crisp, refreshing body make Lolita ideal for beer drinkers fond of Belgian Framboise. Lolita is 8.2% alcohol by volume and develops in the bottle for up to 5 years.

 "We’re incredibly proud of the depth and breadth of our barrel-aging program and excited to introduce two new and incredibly tasty beers to our fans with Gillian and Halia,” said Brett Porter, Brewmaster for Goose Island Beer Company. “The passion our brewers have for innovative brewing is unparalleled and it’s evident in their new creations.”The sours are part of Goose Island’s wine barrel-aging program, which began in 2007 with a small 10-barrel batch of Juliet. The brewery has introduced several more beers aged in wine barrels since then including the award-winning Lolita, Madame Rose and Sofie. Goose Island now ages a variety of styles in thousands of barrels each year. Over the course of a year - the brewers at Goose Island sample, score and test beer from the barrels on a weekly basis – waiting for the flavors to peak before creating the final blend.

 “Creating and blending our barrel-aged beers takes an incredible amount of skill, time and effort – as much art as it is science,” said brewer and Goose Island Head of Innovation Mike Siegel. “Creating these new beers is truly a labor of love; I feel lucky to be a part of a brewery where innovation is celebrated and encouraged.”

Friday, October 18, 2013

Jack-O Traveler Shandy

 In an effort to find new ways to bring you new content, this quick sampling is  brought to you courtesy of my new LG smartphone...
 Jack-O Traveler is the latest release from The Traveler Beer Co. As if we really needed another "Pumpkin Pie" Ale, our Shandy brewing friends have decided to toss their proverbial "Pumpkin Head" into the fray. With the scary number of beers already fitting this profile, it's become quite difficult to bring anything new to the table. "Jack" rides down the same cobble stone road traveled by many, many headless brewers before him. As you would expect, the story of this beer begins with a malty Amber Ale to which they add the usual array of characters, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove etc. The one twist is the addition of lemon peel, which adds a bit of tartness and gives the beer that signature shandy flavor. "Jack" shows his true colors as he warms up, becoming a much more complex sensory awakening. Although the flavors become more pronounce, all this does is make for an even more tedious "B" horror film.  Cheers!