Category Archives: Beer

Drinking Local in the Third Quarter of 2019

Here is how things shook out for my goal of drinking local in the third quarter of 2019:

Drink Local Third Quarter.png

Pretty good, I think.

Really light on the packaged beer for home because I did not drink much out of cans and I had “forward bought” some beer in the second quarter that sat in my refrigerator into the third quarter.  This might change in the fourth quarter.

About the only beer that was not “local” was the Firetrucker Brewery Cloud City, but that came from a brewery just two hours away in Ankeny, Iowa.  Over the Labor Day weekend I was drinking local in Nebraska with Lincoln area breweries including stops at both White Elm Brewing and Code Beer Company.  I am hoping to make a return trip to try out a wider selection of beers and breweries.

As a note, I did not record the beers that I drank during a trip to the so-called ABC islands.  Throughout the week I drank quite a few Balashi, Carib, and Polar lagers.  The joke in my house is that the beer does not matter since it all tastes the same.  Just order a Chango.   Now, drinking Polar lagers was interesting since the company is from Venezuela so it felt a little bit like I was breaking with protocol given the state of relations with the United States.

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Drinking Local in the Second Quarter of 2019

Here is what my beer purchasing looked like in the second quarter of the year:

second quarter beer.png

I want to apologize to the brewers at Barn Town Brewing for forgetting exactly which of their beers I drank following a spring bike ride in April.  It was an IPA and it was hazy.  After that my  memory has completely failed me.

A couple of things stand out.  First, I went a little overboard with the cans I brought home from Summit County.  There is no way to get Outer Range Brewing or Broken Compass Brewing beers except in the high country.  Plus, I wanted to share the experience with some people back home so I loaded up the cooler and acted like an old school bootlegger.  Twenty four cans of beer does not exactly make me a bootlegger, but let me have my moment.

Second, I bought a lot of so-called “middle craft” beers from brewers like New Belgium Brewery, Sierra Nevada, Firestone Walker, and Lagunitas among others.  Normally I would have little reason to choose a national craft brewer over something more local but a combination of grocery store sale pricing and rebates via the iBotta app changed my behavior.  The combination of the two often meant that I was buying a twelve pack of Sierra Nevada Hazy Little thing for less than $14.  That would compare with a local beer selling for $18-20 for the equivalent number of cans.

Once the summer rebates and pricing go away so does my interest.  Plus, Big Grove Brewery is carpet bombing the retail beer landscape here in eastern Iowa with twelve packs now.

The Death of “Middle Craft” Beer

American craft brewing legend Dogfish Head Brewery, the mad geniuses from Delaware, sold to Boston Beer, the parent company that brews Sam Adams Boston Lager among many other beers.  Neither brewery should be considered a micro-brewery, but neither is a macro-brewery.  They both exist in some kind of middle ground.  Being in that middle ground may mean death or consolidation going forward.

Apparently, the top 50 craft brewers are having trouble with many posting severe year-over-year declines.  These are the craft brewers that I would define as “middle craft.”  The challenge for these breweries is giving you the beer drinker a reason to try them over, say, a handful of hyper local breweries that may only sell products from their own taproom or a few commercial accounts.

In the past—okay, the 1990s—middle craft was the place to be as beer drinkers sought out different beers and the quality control at a lot of craft breweries was just bad.  I cannot tell you how many small breweries were making beer that would make most semi-skilled home brewers spit out their stout.  You sought out a New Belgium Fat Tire or Boulevard Wheat because those were well made beers from breweries you trusted.  You knew you were not going to waste $8 on a six pack.  Heck, you might even pick up something a little unusual from the same brewery when you were in the mood for a change.

That dynamic is long gone.  Award winning breweries are scattered across this nation.  Between Cedar Rapids and Iowa City I can patronize a half dozen breweries putting out good and sometimes great beer.  Those same breweries have won medals at prestigious beer festivals and have reputations well beyond the borders of the state.  Expanding my field of view to the entire state opens up a whole host of small, innovative, and well regarded breweries making all sorts of different beers.  If you do not believe me just spend a minute perusing the tap list at the Iowa Taproom in Des Moines.

All things being equal, why would I buy a New Belgium Citradelic over a Lion Bridge Brewing Tag?  Or, why would I buy a Dale’s Pale Ale over a Big Grover Brewery Arms Race?  I like all four of the aforementioned beers.  I choose to buy the local products almost every time.

This is the reality for the beer business in 2019.

Drinking Local in 2019

One of my 2019 “resolutions” was to drink local.  Now, I already spend most of my beer dollars on local beer but I thought it would be instructive if I really went out of my way to drink local and record the results.

Here is how things shaped up for the first three months of 2019:

First Quarter 2019 Beer List.png

Big Grove Brewery, ReUnion Brewery, Lion Bridge Brewing Company, SingleSpeed Brewing, and Exile Brewing are all breweries from Iowa.  The six pack of Denver Beer Company Incredible Pedal was purchased in Colorado, so I am going to count that as local.  Therefore, the only non-local beer that I purchased for home consumption in the first quarter of the year were two six packs from New Belgium and Lagunitas.

Away from home things look a little different.  Most of the beers I consumed were either purchased at the brewery taproom (Barn Town Brewing, Lion Bridge Brewing Company, Big Grove Brewery) or close to the brewery (SingleSpeed Brewing, Clock House Brewing, Green Tree Brewery, Outer Range Brewing, Bonfire Brewing).

I did end up drinking some Lagunitas IPA at an event in Davenport.  This was the most “craft” option available and it goes to show how far beer has come in the last decade.  When you are somewhat disappointed that Lagunitas IPA is the best option you know things are pretty good right now in the state of beer consumption.

The only other non-local beers that I consumed away from home were a Surly Liquid Stardust that I was eager to try when it became available on draft at a local establishment and Roadhouse Brewing Mountain Jam that was recommended to me by a server in a Colorado stop.

Looking back I would say that my efforts were solid.  Only Lagunitas, owned by Heineken, would not be considered a craft brewer under the guidelines set forth by the Brewer’s Association.

Outer Range Brewing Co. is the Best New Brewery in America

Forget what the open poll from USA Today determined.  Despite what the voters said, I am crying “fake news!”  Outer Range Brewing Co. in Frisco, Colorado is the best new brewery in America.

High praise for sure, but I task you with finding someone who has actually sampled the beers in their small tap room or yurt that would disagree.  I will wait here for a few minutes while you try and find someone.  Bueller…Bueller…

The focus at Outer Range is on Belgian and IPA styles.  If you came looking for stouts or pilsners or marzens…you are out of luck.  That is okay because the beers being made by Outer Range are all excellent because of this particular focus.  Not every brewery should have a back catalog of thirty different beers and Outer Range shows just why this is true.

On my visit I had one glass each of In the Steeps, Quiet Depths, and Water Colors.  All three beers showed similar stylistic traits but was unique in subtle ways that get lost when a brewery is focused on a lot of beers.

If you get a chance to visit the taproom, do it.  If you see their beers on a tap list at a bar, order quickly because I have been sitting in more than one establishment in the high country when kegs have been cashed.

The only downside, if it is such a thing, is that the beers are usually clocking in above 6% ABV and do not drink as such.  If this is your first day or two at altitude and you are hitting the slopes after your visit be careful.  Moderation is your friend, but the guys at Outer Range can help you out by selling you a four pack of cans to take home.

I am such a homer that I bought the t-shirt:

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One of the best deals in the mountains happens at Outer Range’s taproom.  If you are a skier or boarder hop on the opportunity to get a “Wax + Beer” when the Ski Doctor is parked out front.  For $25 I got my Icelantic’s waxed and drank a glass of In the Steeps.  Rarely does something seem like a steal in the mountains, but this has to be the one time that it happened.

 

 

Paying More for the Growler Privilege

Lately, I have been getting my local beer fix via growlers filled when I stop in somewhere to have a beer and maybe eat some food.  If my son had his way we would eat at the brewery all the time because he gets to have a grilled cheese and a soda.  His motivation is always easy to figure out.

Something has started to gnaw at me a little bit when it comes to growlers.  I am paying more for the privilege of using a reusable container.  Hear me out.

On average a growler costs me $12 to $14 to fill.  Not bad for 64 ounces of fresh, local craft beer.  However, a six pack of 12 ounce bottles from a local brewery only costs $9 to $10 at the grocery store.   For the math challenged that works out to an average of $13 for 64 ounces of beer versus an average of $9.50 for 72 ounce of beer.  Or, on a per unit basis, approximately $0.20 per ounce for the growler versus approximately $0.13 per ounce for the six pack.  Therefore, I am paying more for less beer from the same brewery.  Why?

You could argue that the taproom has to be staffed to fill a growler, but I would counter that the same brewery has to staff a bottling line, pay for packaging, deliver the beer to retailers, and in a lot of cases share some promotional cost.  Never mind the costs of designing packaging, getting approval from regulators, and what not.  This is all for the same beer from the same brewer.

Thus, I am spending more money to use my own container, which is reusable a nearly unlimited number of times, to directly purchase beer from the brewer, so no retailer or middle man gets a cut.  What is up with that?

Some Changes Afoot

You might have notices some changes lately, but judging by the attendance…sorry, a little Major League reference this baseball season never hurts.

Anyway, I have started making some “lifestyle” changes.  A while back I stopped brewing beer and cut back on my consumption of beer for a number of health reasons.  If you start thinking that you are going to get gout you will do just about anything to avoid that damnable condition.  I still sought out different beers and spent the time to shed some light on products on this blog.

Well, this summer that is all going to change.  I am going to dive head first and make beer the one product that I solely purchase from local purveyors.  Furthermore, I am only going to purchase beer for home consumption in reusable containers from local vendors.

In the past three or so years this has become possible because a number of local establishments have opened that brew excellent beer.  Within Linn County I can get beers from Lion Bridge Brewing Company, Another Road Brewing, Turner Alley Brewing Company, Iowa Brewing Company, Quarter Barrel, and chain brewery Granite City.

While there are great beers that come from all over the country I feel that my money is best spent by supporting local brewers.  Also, I am trying to commit to reducing my carbon footprint through a reduction in packaging.  Even though cans are a more environmentally friendly way to ship beer from brewery to consumer when compared with glass there is still an environmental cost to that packaging.  So, no crowlers for me even though I love the idea of a crowler.  It’s disposable and that makes it a no go this summer.

Will I still seek out new breweries and beers when I travel?  Hell yes.  I have a list of breweries in Minnesota, Nebraska, and Colorado that I want to try in the next few months during trips.