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Showing posts from March, 2018

Eaten By Its Young: The Smuttynose Story

The rise, fall and apparent resurrection of Smuttynose is the story of the craft beer industry as a whole.  There's growth in the industry, as the Brewers Association reports, but the story is changing from the simple David vs. Goliath narrative of craft beer vs. big beer, of quality vs. quantity, to something else.  It's also a story of complacency and change.  Of new generations, looking to do things a different way.  Breweries inspired by the titans of the past, are making their mark.  And for some, this means eating away at the business of the firms that inspired, and even trained them.  America's regional craft brewers are being eaten by their young.

I can think of no place where this trend is more clear than in seacoast New Hampshire, where Smuttynose brewing plays the roll of the fallen giant, lying in a verdant field of upstarts.  The seacoast raises the craft beer standards for the entire state.  It's a region defined by a scant 18 miles of coastline, and anch…

Box Scores for the Craft Beer Business 2017

The business of craft beer continues to grow both in barrels of beer, and in dollars.  The Brewer's Association just published headline data from their annual assessment of industry trends.  It's teasing out a more detailed presentation at the Craft Brewer's Conference at the end of April.

Here are a few key take aways from the data shared so far.
Craft beer prices went up by about 1% in real dollars.  There was an 8% Increase in retail sales.  Inflation was 1.8% in 2017.   Breweries are opening faster than the market grows.  There was a 16% increase in brewers.   The report does not discuss changes in craft brewing capacity, which I think is the an interesting part of the story.  However a follow up analysis by Bart Watson, BA's resident economist, indicated that the revenue growth was limited to the microbrewers and brewpubs, while the larger so-called regional brewers (>15,000 bbl/yr) lost ground, or at best held near constant volume of +/- 1%.  These large regio…

Dear Science, Will Yeast Engineering Change the Way We Make Beer?

Brewer's yeast has been modified to make both alcohol, and hop aromas by researchers at Berkeley and the US Department of Energy's Joint Bioenergy Lab.  Charles Denby, Rachel Li, Jay Keasling and a number of collaborators recently published a paper in Nature Communications. They describe a technique to modify brewers yeast to express two molecules known to contribute hop flavor and aroma.  The paper provides an analysis of the relative expression of these compounds, as well as the yeast's fermentation efficiency.  Quite remarkably, the authors report the results of a tasting panel trained by Lagunitas Brewing Company to assess beer flavors in ~10 gallon batches of beer.  Should we call it home brew?  Lab brew?  Sci-brew? If I had any idea that beer tasting notes could be publishable in a Nature journal, I would have considered more strongly a career in academia.

As cool as all this is, what does it mean, and why is it important?  There are two incredibly important steps …

New Adventures In Taxonomy: Hazy or Juicy IPAs

The New England IPA is officially a thing.  The Brewers Association recently released their 2018 Style Guidelines and included three new categories capturing New England's great gift to tap room trends: the Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale, IPA, or Double IPA.  Yes, a full 30% of the association's 10 categories of Pale or India Pale Ales attempt to describe the darling of Instagraming craft drinkers by binning them by relative strength.

Old Nation's M-43: a New England IPA brewed in Michigan These beers are startlingly photogenic. And offer an easily accessible flavor palate for a hop forward beer.  Aroma is the key.  Dry hopping, and late additions are used to craft a bouquet of fruit flavors without imparting too much bitterness.  The beers are actually quiet sweet - with a clean malt bill, and unfermentable sugars from lactose or hazy adjuncts like oats and wheat.

One of the great ironies of the style is that its noted progenitor, Heady Topper, from the Alchemist is packaged in cans…