Tag Archives: PakTech

First Quarter 2020 Beer Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral

Here is what my beer purchasing history looked like for the first quarter of 2020:

Q1 2020 Beer

In terms of drinking “local” I only purchased one beer that was not produce nearby.  At a hotel bar in Davenport my choices were fairly limited, but for some reason Summit Brewing’s very good Saga IPA was on tap.  I will admit that I am conflicted when it comes to large-ish regional breweries like Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota.  It is not local to me, but it is definitely still more of a craft brewery than something owned by the giant brewers.  Nonetheless, one beer from a non-local brewer over the course of three months is pretty good.

I was doing really well buying beer that did not produce any packaging waste, but then coronavirus upended all of my plans.  Before leaving for an aborted ski trip to Colorado I stocked up on some local beers from Big Grove Brewery and Iowa Brewing Company.  Big Grove Brewery’s Easy Eddy has become my “go to” beer over the last six months or so.  Available in twelve packs widely across my metro area it is an easy pick-up.

In Colorado I found myself really digging the beers made by the folks at Hideaway Park Brewery.  On the Saturday that the state of Colorado effectively closed all ski resorts for the season—only two hours or so after I arrived in Winter Park—I was sitting on barstool at Hideaway Park enjoying several draft beers.  I also bought two six packs to take back home and hunker down for a period of isolation.  Damn coronavirus.

If there is one thing that I can ask everyone and anyone who ever drinks beer it is to support the local breweries in your community any way possible during this really shitty period of time.  A lot of the business that these breweries count on is gone.  There are little to no commercial account activity in bars and restaurants.  On site draft and merchandise sales are gone.  It is hard times.  Buy a six pack if you can.  Hell, buy a case if you can.  Even if it sits in the refrigerator for several weeks that is okay because the cash flow might just help your local brewery make it through until we can all raise a glass again at the bar.

Local, Direct, and Packaging Neutral Beer

The “middle” of the craft beer market is dead.  Successful craft brewers caught between the mega corporations like AB InBev and the nimble locally focused brewers are either selling to the big boys (e.g. New Belgium Brewery) or downsizing (e.g. Boulder Beer).  Heck, even the big boys are getting out of the craft beer game after realizing that nationally distributed craft beers are not really attractive to a consumer with hyper local choices.  Yes, I am looking at you Constellation Brands.

Instead of forking over money to a faraway brewery that might actually just be a faraway mega corporation, make your beer consumption as local as possible.

Better yet, make your beer consumption a direct affair.  Buy your beer directly from the brewery.  Do not involve a distributor or a retailer.  Make every dollar go to the brewery.  It can make a difference.  The most successful new breweries—over the past five years or so—seem to be the ones who operate with a taproom as their primary source of revenue.  Why?  It cuts out the middle man and avoids the headaches of distribution.

Even when you buy local beer at the grocery store it potentially involves a number of middle men.  In some states it is possible for your local brewery to “self-distribute” but this is a hard road and really only works in a hyper local type of market.  Even in this instance there is the retail outlet’s need for some level of profit.

Going further, make your beer consumption a packaging neutral affair.

The old saw about recycling an aluminum can is that it saves approximately 95% of the energy compared to creating an aluminum can out of virgin ore.  This is usually equated to running a light bulb for an entire day or watching a television for a couple of hours.  Calculate a different way, recycling one pound of aluminum (approximately 33 cans or a “dirty thirty” of PBR) saves around 7 kWh of electricity.

However, even recycling that aluminum can uses energy and contributes to a global supply chain that uses a lot of energy.  The aluminum supply chain, unfortunately, does not have a 100% recovery rate as evidenced by the number of cans I pick up along my usual cycling route in a given week.  Removing any volume from this supply chain is an environmental win.

By utilizing a reusable package, in this case a glass growler or “meowler,” removes aluminum packaging from the waste/recovery stream.  I am sure that there is a calculation to figure out how many times I need to use a growler to compensate for its own production costs in terms of energy, but given that I have owned the same growler for almost five years I am going to consider those costs accounted for several times over.

The goal is to buy beer that is made locally, purchased directly from the brewery, and in packaging that is reusable.  Local, direct, and packaging neutral.  It’s the future.

Friday Linkage 8/23/2019

I came back from a week of being totally disconnected from the news media to find that Trump wanted to buy Greenland, Denmark said no, Trump huffed off like a fat little baby, and now he is claiming to be the “chosen one.”  Are we sure that we are not living in some kind of simulation where the programmers messed up the code in some way?

On to the links…

A Republican Firm Is Targeting EPA Staff Who Have Donated to Democrats—This is our world now.  Donald Trump and members of his corrupt administration can break laws with impunity while Republican thugs target career staffers of agencies they dislike.

One of the World’s Largest Banks Thinks the Writing is on the Wall for the Oil Industry—We can all hope that this is the case, but my fear is that even if the decline is irreversible it may take too long for the dinosaur business to roll over and die.  Hell, we live in a country where K-Mart and Sears are still holding on for some reason.

All the World’s Coal Power Plants in One Map—This is the map of opportunity for the energy transition.  Every circle on this map must be eliminated in the coming decade.

The Energy Transition is Underway: 10 Charts Tell the Story—The pathway is clear.  We need to figure out the methodology by which we accelerate the transition so that it is no too late for human civilization.

It’s Official: Wind Power Is Catching Up To Natural Gas—So, you can get clean power with no fuel cost variability for the same price as a power source that emits greenhouse gasses, requires drilling, and has price variability.  No wonder the smart money is betting on wind.

Old Wind Farm Has A Secret Weapon Up Its Turbine Towers—Repowering is a great opportunity.  The infrastructure is already in place.  As it details in the article you can get more total power from a fewer number of turbines while maintaining peak output capacity.  Where is the downside?

Onshore Wind In Europe Could Meet 100% Of Global Energy Needs—We are not at a point where people are trying to figure out how much of a buildout would be required to power the world 100% on renewable energy.  These are exciting times indeed.

Planting Trees Is Good. Eliminating Deforestation Is Better.—I have a radical idea: Why don’t we do both?

Is Grass-Fed Beef Really Better For The Planet? Here’s The Science—The moral of the story is that the issue is complicated and you need to know your farmer.  Buying grass fed beef from a multi-national meatpacking company is just perpetuating a system that got us into this mess in the first place.

Why did Coffee Cups and Soda Cups Get so Big?—I do not go the gas station very much anymore—thank you Nissan Leaf—but on trips I am always shocked by the size of the soda cups that people walk out of the store with.  And the kids!  I see small children carrying a 32 ounce soda of their own.  Who thinks that is a good idea?

Breckenridge gets Electric Buses, Encourages Visitors not to Rent Cars—My family usually skis in Breckenridge once or twice a year and I am really excited to see electric buses on the free city network.  It is amazing that people even bother driving around town in the winter when the bus is super easy to use.

Want to Go Plastic-Free? Start with One Thing.—Everyone should just try to do one thing different today.  The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, right?

Amazon Under Fire for New Packaging that Cannot be Recycled—This is why we just need to buy less stuff and buying less from Amazon is a great place to start.

What the Heck is PakTech?—Those little plastic snap rings for your craft beer are apparently hell in the recycling system.  A group of Minneapolis area breweries have banded together to become recycling sites for these things and are offering money off of beer for people who bring them in.  This is just excellent.

Rocky Mountain Goodness in a Can

Some places just do not like glass bottles.  So, in order to bring some beer to my holiday weekend festivities I needed to stock up on canned beer.  The upside was that I “needed” to make a trip to the liquor store to peruse the aisles for something contained within aluminum that could whet my whistle.

Sure, Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy was calling to my from 16 ounce cans in the cooler but I wanted something different.  With the heat approaching 90 degrees and the sun feeling like it was trying to melt my face off, an IPA or stout or other heavy beer style was off the table.

Breckenridge Brewery came to my rescue with two options in cans: Avalanche Ale and Summer Bright Ale.

Avalanche Ale is described as being an amber style:

Avalanche Ale

This style, along with different varieties of pale ale, is one of the hallmarks of the American craft beer movement.  A relatively light (4.4% ABV) and mild (19 IBU) Avalanche Ale drinks easily on a warm day without tasting like straw colored water.  One thing that I really appreciated about Avalanche Ale was the inclusion of Chinook hops which are quickly becoming my favorite variety in homebrews.

The great thing about the amber ale style is that it can accommodate so many variations across the beer spectrum.  There is lighter fare, like Avalanche Ale, and much more heavy fare, like some of the homebrews that my friends have shared where the alcohol is north of 7.0% ABV and the bitterness is approaching 70 IBU.  The key is that the malt really provides a structure for the brewmaster to make an imprint.

Summerbright Ale is another story:

Summerbright Ale

Reading the can after pulling one out of a slushy cooler with temps above 90 degrees I was ready for summertime perfection.  Instead, I was left with a totally lifeless beer.

I cannot really pinpoint what went wrong with Summerbright Ale because I think many things are off.  There is very little malt structure whatsoever.  Therefore, you are left with a beer that just flies off your palate in no time like a drink of cold water.  It’s really on par with the malt structure of your typical canned American light lagers you see guzzled by the caseload over the Fourth of July.

There is also no hop profile to speak of either.  I am not a “hop head” seeking out the most bitterness all the time, but beer needs to have a balance between malt and hops to provide flavor.  Summerbright Ale did not have any of this interplay and came across somewhat tasteless.

I would purchase Avalanche Ale again and avoid Summerbright Ale.

Speaking of the six-pack, I was really curious about the packaging:

Six Pack Rings

Made by PakTech these rings are made from #2 HDPE plastic, which is one of the two types of plastic that are readily recyclable.  However, comparing these rings with the traditional plastic “tape” style it seems like the newer rings are made from much more material.  Considering that a lot of plastic does not get recycled would it not be better to use the packaging with less material?

One nice feature, as pointed out by the makers of the handles, is that the fully enclosed top protects the drinking area of the can from dust and debris.  It seems like a pretty minor advantage considering that I can wipe off the top of the can pretty easily.

Apparently, I was not the only one wondering about this new version of the venerable six-pack.