Tag Archives: Des Moines

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.

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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.

Friday Linkage 4/28/2017

Did you see the details of Donald Trump’s tax “reform” plan?  Okay, details were sparse because it read like an objectivist’s children’s book on tax reform.  Taxes…bad!  Corporations…good!  If you want to know how this story plays out look at Kansas.  Maybe that is not the comparison that Trump and the Hucksters would like you to make, but it is the most apt corollary.

On to the links…

Is Wind Power Saving Rural Iowa or Wrecking It?—Most people I know who live in rural Iowa are wind power proponents.  Lease payments have allowed people to continue to maintain farms in lean years when crop prices fall.  However, there are those who consider the turbines a blight.  I think that the important question to ask is what these communities would look like without wind power.  There was nothing else that was going to fill the economic void.

Windblown: MidAmerican Zeroes in on 100% Renewable Energy—Iowa, as a whole, may get nearly 37% of its electricity from the wind but utility MidAmerican, owned by Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, is closing in on getting 100% of its juice from the wind.  That seems like something worth celebrating.

Going Green Shouldn’t be this Hard—No one is saying we need to whole hog embrace a hair shirt lifestyle cold turkey.  Incremental improvement across a broad swath of areas is the key to lasting and meaningful change.

How Republicans Came to Embrace Anti-Environmentalism—I think it all comes down to cash.  People like the Kochs, flush with fossil fuel cash, were willing to lavish it on politicians who defended their oily interests.

Outdoor Recreation Industry, Seeing Role to Protect Public Lands, Boasts $887 Billion Impact—There is a downside to exploiting public lands for mineral gain.  The opportunity cost is a loss of sustainable recreation dollars.

Can We Fight Climate Change with Trees and Grass?—We are going to need all the tools we can get in the coming decades.

New Orleans — “Biking Boomtown” — Doubled Rate Of Bicycle Commuters In 10 Years—New Orleans does not leap to the front of mind when thinking about bicycling hot spots.  However, mild winters and a flat topography do make for a favorable location.  Why can’t more communities put some effort into bicycling as transportation like New Orleans?

Dodging Rubble is One Thing — in Mosul, Cyclists Contend with Mortars and Gunfire Too—If you complain about the problems on your commute just think about living in Mosul, Iraq.  First world problems, man.

Milkweed by the Masses: Nebraska Eyes New Habitat Goal for Monarchs, Other Pollinators—Iowa has seen great success with introducing pollinator friendly milkweed patches and it now looks like Nebraska, normally a fairly reactionary environmental state, is getting in on the action.

Does Saturated Fat Clog Your Arteries? Controversial Paper Says ‘No’—No one is saying binge on bacon, but maybe we can finally retire the old Ancel Keys’ wisdom about fats being the root cause of our dietary ills.

Confluence Brewing Company Des Moines IPA

The Iowa beer trail has stopped in Des Moines for an offering from that city’s Confluence Brewing Company.  On tap is the Des Moines IPA:

Des Moines IPA

At a rated ABV of 6.9% and an IBU of 75 you will be instantly hit with how drinkable this beer is given those decently lofty figures. Do you remember when a time when a beer at 75 IBUs would have been considered on the extreme end of things? I do. It was called the 1990s.

The trick with making Des Moines IPA so drinkable is that it has the perfect complement in a strong malty backbone. Unlike a lot of beers that sock you in the palate with a hop blast, this beer allows the body to mellow out the hop profile so that you can enjoy it rather than looking for a snack to cleanse out the bong water aftertaste. Note to brewmasters everywhere: Just as there is more than umami to a dish’s overall flavor excellence there is more than hops to a beers overall flavor excellence. Balance, dig it.

Purchase 3 Mug Rating

See what other people are saying about Des Moines IPA at Beeradvocate.

Confluence has only been in business since 2012 the brewery is putting out three year round beers with a selection of seasonal and limited runs. In addition to the glass growlettes Confluence is putting its beer in cans, which is good for all of us out there who want to enjoy a beer in a place where glass is forbidden and do not like the environmental impact of glass bottles. If Oskar Blues can figure out a way to make a “crowler” then every brewery should be on board with the canning movement.  I totally want a local brewery to get one of these.

If you get a chance when you are in Des Moines—cut the Iowa jokes because this state is a great place to live and Des Moines has a lot of good things going on without a hipster quotient that will make you want to cry—visit the taproom near downtown. The area is pretty sweet with minor league ballpark nearby and some other decent bars—El Bait Shop anyone?—nearby if what is on tap at Confluence does not do it for you.

By the way, I am complete sucker for these little growlettes or apothecary bottles. Seriously, these are like the fuzzy bunny rabbits of packaging. Who does not like these little guys?

The Joni Ernst Watch 1/19/2014

Joni “Make ‘em squeal” Ernst is rarely without something to say.

Well, keeping quiet is just not Joni’s style and the Republican leadership has deemed her star power of sufficient wattage to deliver the rebuttal or response to the State of the Union speech on Tuesday.

Raise your hand if you think this is odd, but wonderful. Thought so. Generally, the response is given by a rising star in the party who has designs on national office. It’s not an easy speech to give because it is done in front of television cameras, as opposed to an audience, and you are following up a national office holder bringing the gravitas of the President. Best of luck to you Joni.

Recently, Des Moines’ Water Works Board voted to file a federal lawsuit against three rural counties in the northwestern part of Iowa for failing to control nitrate pollution. Naturally, the junior senator from Iowa favored a voluntary system:

It is an issue that I believe needs to be done on a voluntary basis, and we do see a lot of great programs that are being implemented.

Really? What incentive to rural counties have to reduce nitrate pollution on a voluntary basis right now? None. That is why the water is polluted. Whenever it comes to a regulation that makes sense the Republican talking point flowchart says to label it something that should be done on a voluntary basis. Because, as we all know, businesses will just reduce profitability because a voluntary program exists. I call shenanigans.

Here’s another potential Republican nominee in 2016 saying stupid things. This time it is Rand Paul spouting off on disability:

The thing is that all of these programs, there’s always somebody who’s deserving, everybody in this room knows somebody who’s gaming the system. I tell people that if you look like me and you hop out of your truck, you shouldn’t be getting a disability check. Over half the people on disability are either anxious or their back hurts. Join the club. Who doesn’t get up a little anxious for work every day and their back hurts? Everyone over 40 has a back pain.

Never mind the truth when you can get in a good sound bite in front of a favorable crowd.

Besides Joni Ernst delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union this week also brings us the so-called “Iowa Freedom Summit” from everyone’s favorite member of Congress Steve King.  Just look at the list of Republican luminaries lining up to genuflect before the new kingmaker of the Iowa caucuses Representative Steve King:

  1. Sarah Palin
  2. Ted Cruz
  3. Chris Christie
  4. Mike Huckabee
  5. Rick Santorum
  6. Donald Trump
  7. Rick Perry
  8. Scott Walker
  9. Newt!
  10. Ben Carson
  11. Joni Ernst
  12. Terry Branstad

The sad thing is that Rand Paul or Marco Rubio could not make the event.  The headlines are going to write themselves on the 25th.