Big beer, little beer, craft beer

Pabst BrewingInteresting weekend in beer news, and I’m not just talking about the Firestone Walker and Duvel Moortgat acquisition/merger/investment news or the just-wrapped Beer Bloggers Conference (next year’s BBC location: Tampa, Florida). What I’m also thinking of is one piece of news that may have gone unnoticed and unremarked-upon, but which I think is significant: Pabst Brewing will be opening a “microbrewery” and tasting room at the site of its historic brewery, shuttered for nearly 20 years.

That particular news was reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and picked up by several other outlets and I actually think it’s just as significant as the Firestone Walker news: not only does it further blur the lines of that nebulous term “craft beer” but it strikes me that as we see the continued acquisitional growth consolidation of these smaller breweries, this Pabst news seems to be going in the opposite direction—a macro scaling down, if you will. From the MJS article:

The brewery and tasting room, with around five to 10 employees, will be on the building’s ground floor. A restaurant and tavern, operated by Milwaukee restaurateur Mike Eitel, will be on the second floor, said Michael Mervis, spokesman for Blue Ribbon Management LLC, which is buying the building and will lease space to Pabst and Eitel.

Pabst plans to have the brewery operating by summer 2016, said Eugene Kashper, chairman and chief executive officer. The long-vacant building’s redevelopment, which will include an addition, will amount to an investment of roughly $3 million to $5 million, Kashper and Mervis said Wednesday.

The company will use the brewery to experiment with Pabst recipes for discontinued brands such as Old Tankard Ale, Kloster Beer and other beers made before Prohibition. There are old recipes in Pabst archives at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Golda Meir Library and at the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Kashper said.

“It’s very exciting for us to have this innovation laboratory, and to be back in our hometown,” Kashper said. “There’s so much loyalty and passion for the brand.”

Pabst might also use the brewery to create some new brands, he said.

(No mention that I found of the size of the brew system they are planning.)

I think part of what makes this interesting to me is that, for the past couple of decades, Pabst has been a contract brewer (or a gypsy brewer, perhaps?) without their own brewery, so the idea of establishing a brewery to be used as an experimental test bed for old and possibly new recipes sounds very, well, craft-beer-like. So does that make them “craft”? Or “crafty”? I don’t know, but I do know I’d be very interested in checking out that brewery and tasting room when it’s open and brewing.

On the other side with Firestone Walker and Duvel, I don’t have much to say—though this is the kind of thing I’ve been telling people will be happening in this new era of post-AB InBev buyouts. The biggest of the small/craft breweries will continue to grow and expand, and among some, consolidation is inevitable and it’s only going to speed up. In this way craft beer resembles “big” beer, especially if you remember the history of the post-World War II years in American brewing from Maureen Ogle’s excellent book Ambitious Brew.

I think the best comment on the FW/Duvel sale I’ve seen was a comment on Twitter (unfortunately, I don’t recall the provenance) to the effect of, “Any questions you would ask Andy Goeler of Anheuser-Busch [head of the division buying up the likes of 10 Barrel, Elysian, etc.] should also be asked of David Walker.” Absolutely, objectivity is key and you can’t lob the easy underhanded pitch to a craft brewery if you’re going to come down hard on the bigger one.

And speaking of questions, here’s one to ponder: is Duvel considered “craft” by the Brewers Association? If not, does that mean Firestone Walker is no longer “craft” by the BA’s reckoning?

Oregon Beer News, 07/17/2015

Oregon BeerTGIF! Hope your weekend is looking up! Here’s the Oregon beer news for the weekend of July 17. As usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day with the latest news, so check back often. And if you have news to share, please let me know and I can get that updated as well.

Today is the latest Portland Beers Made By Walking, a “Cascade Views” walk at the Lower Saltzman Trailhead off Highway 30, and featuring The Commons, Hopworks Urban Brewery, and Upright Brewing: “What to Expect: Portions of the trail will be steep and exposed; A view of Cascade mountain peaks; A 4 mile hike with 1400 ft elevation gain. Following the hike, feel free to stop by the Skyline Tavern at 8031 NW Skyline Blvd. In celebration of the hike, Skyline Tavern Project will be featuring a beer from one of the hike’s lead breweries and donating $1.50 for every pint sold to the Forest Park Conservancy! Stay turned for the chosen brew.”

McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse (Hillsboro) is hosting the company’s 14th annual Roadhouse Brewfest this Saturday, July 18, featuring beers from both McMenamins breweries and guest breweries: “We’re going big this year: More tents and more handcrafted beverages—you’ll probably need more tokens! We’re featuring selections from McMenamins and guest breweries and cideries from around the region. Our barrel-aged selections will be indoors, ales will be in a tent and we’ll house a new tent dedicated to ciders!” It starts at 11am and runs all day; check out the beer list here. It’s going to be a good day! Continue reading →

Three Creeks Brewing celebrating 7 years this weekend

Sisters, Oregon’s Three Creeks Brewing is celebrating their seven years brewing beer this weekend, from Friday, July 17th through Sunday the 19th, with a weekend full of special beers, birthday cake, raffles and more:

Special Brews on tap all weekend long, including Rudolph Imperial Red, Belgian Trippel, and Vanilla Night Ski Stout. (all pair perfect with birthday cake.)

Around the World Photo Contest! Post a picture of your favorite activity in your favorite TCBC gear. You just might be a winner of a $100 Gift Card!

Jul 17: Friday, 6pm – Birthday Cake.
Jul 18: Saturday – All Day Raffle
Jul 19: Sunday – Winners of Photo Contest Announced

Three Creeks Brewing 7 year anniversary

Also at the brewpub they have the following seasonals on now you’ll want to check out while you’re there this weekend:

Vaquero 9.1% ABV 70 IBU (Desperado Series, available 22oz bottles and draft)
This beefy Northwest style strong ale is built on a base of German Munich and British Maris Otter malt then heavily hopped with Columbus, Cascade and Cluster hops. Crystal, Special B and Carabohemian malts along with a 3 hour boil contribute loads of plumlike dark fruit flavor.

Golden Stitches Hoppy Wheat 5% ABV 22 IBU (available 22 oz bottles and draft)
The official beer of the Sisters Outdoor Quilt Show. A modern twist on the classic Belgian witbier spiced with fresh orange zest and coriander then dry hopped with lemony Sorachi Ace hops.

Crowdpleaser IPA 7.3% ABV 84 IBU
Our rotating IPA uses the same simple malt bill each time in order to showcase the newest and trendiest hop varieties in a new wave IPA. Version 7.0: Sorachi Ace and Comet steal the show, creating notes of tropical fruit and lemon zest, while Amarillo, and Chinook round out the hop bill.

Top Hat Belgian Trippel 9% ABV
A unique take on the traditional Belgian style. Brewed with a fruity balance in mind you will find dried apricot along with a variety of other fruit flavors in this big beer. Full bodied and full flavor to end your summer day.

Even though it’s located near the western edge of Central Oregon out of the Bend spotlight, Three Creeks has remained a solid fixture in the local beer scene with great beer, good food at the pub, and even anchoring the annual Sisters Fresh Hop Festival every year. They recently also expanded, opening a production brewery in May and releasing their beers in cans.

Were you around seven years ago when they opened? I was and wrote about it; and of course they made it into my book. To help commemorate the anniversary, here are the first two paragraphs I wrote about them in Bend Beer:

Ground was broken on January 7, 2008, with an official name: Three Creeks Brewing Company. It would consist of a ten-barrel brewery, brewpub and restaurant, with a rustic, Old West livery stable theme (much like the touristy Old West theme of the rest of the town of Sisters) and a planned summer opening. Underwood had contacted and hired brewer Dave Fleming, who had helped to launch the brewery at the McMenamins Old St. Francis School in Bend and who had been working at the Lucky Lab Brewpub in Portland since leaving McMenamins in 2006. The brewpub officially opened on July 21, 2008, with three beers initially: Knotty Blonde, Old Prospector Pale Ale and 8 Second India Black Ale. (Those first three beers were brewed by Wildfire Brewing under contract with Three Creeks, as its new brewery equipment hadn’t yet been installed.) Additional beers to join the lineup in the coming weeks included Firestorm Red, Anvil Amber and Stonefly Rye.

The timing was fortuitous: the flush economic boom years of the first half of the decade had been unsustainable, and the slowdown of the economy and onset of the Great Recession at the end of 2007 heralded a crash that would settle into Central Oregon—and Bend in particular—by the middle of 2008. Three Creeks had opened just in time; Underwood asked his banker six months later what the result would have been had he tried to get funding for the brewpub at that time (the end of 2008). The answer: “You would never get through the door with that business plan! We wouldn’t finance it; there’s no way we would finance it!”

It’s been a great seven years for Three Creeks, and here’s to another seven—and more! Congratulations!

Oregon Beer News, 07/16/2015

Oregon BeerHere’s the news in Oregon beer for Thursday, July 16. As usual, I’ll be periodically updating this post throughout the day, so check back often. If you have news to share, please contact me and I can get that posted as well.

Belmont Station (Portland): Their Puckerfest continues today with a Double Mountain Night from 5 to 7pm featuring Hood River’s Double Mountain Brewery: “We’re bringing back our friends from the gorge for another night of fruit filled fun. This year we’ll be helping them launch bottles of Peche Mode, their new Peach-infused sour ale. We’ll also have it on tap alongside Devil’s Kriek and Tahoma Kriek, their two delicious sour cherry ales. Who knows, they may have other surprises as well!”

McMenamins Kennedy School (Portland) has a limited-edition beer tasting today starting at 5pm, featuring Begbie’s 80 Shilling Scottish Ale: “Begbie had some great quotes. Unfortunately, most of them are filled with @#$%’s and &*!#’s. So instead we leave you with this: “You are not dying yet, you have to live your life until you are.” This beer will help you really get living. Malty, roasty and delicious, Begbie would definitely approve.” We don’t see enough of these Scottish-styled ales these days…

Continue reading →

Beer Bloggers Conference, 2015

Tomorrow the 2015 edition of the Beer Bloggers Conference (since renamed the Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference) kicks off in Asheville, North Carolina—one of the country’s most vibrant beer cities. It looks to be a terrific conference this year, with a great agenda—one I’m sorry to miss, but unfortunately it just wasn’t in the cards for me to make it this year.

Beer Bloggers Conference 2015

The good news is, I can follow along online—and you can too, via the various social media feeds everyone will be using. Follow along here with the #bbc15 hashtag: