Brains & Beer

brain-2
There was an interesting article this March on the Huffington Post by a neuroscience Ph.D. student at Northwestern University, with a BA in Behavioral Biology from Johns Hopkins University, Lisa Qu, entitled Why Brain Science and Beer Go Hand-In-Hand. In it, she observes that in her field of study, which she describes as olfaction, beer and neuroscience “can be tightly intertwined.” It’s something we all know, but it’s great to see that science is taking it more seriously, and that it’s being talked about in mainstream media, too.

beer-on-the-brain

What 3,465 Breweries Are Doing To The Hop Supply

hop
I admit there’s a certain “duh” factor to this, but it’s still interesting to see the numbers. With IPA and other hoppy beers accounting for over 20% of the craft beer market, there’s not enough hops being grown to keep up with current demand, and it will only get worse as interest continues to grow, as it seems likely the popularity of hoppy beers will be with us for the foreseeable future. This is from the May 2015 issue of Popular Science, which has a short article entitled Craft Beer is Annihilating the Hop Supply, which adds that demand for hops has “nearly quadrupled in the past decade.”

The article is subtitled “why that might be a good thing,” presumably alluding to the increased demand, but never really answers that question satisfactorily. There’s a quote from the former director of the Hop Growers of America, Doug MacKinnon, saying “Craft brewing is sucking up every pound of hops in the U.S. Growers can’t expand fast enough,” and suggesting that’s opening up the market beyond Washington, Oregon and Idaho, where U.S. hop growing has been concentrated at least since prohibition ended.

The article cites as proof that “single-acre hop operations are popping up on other types of farms across the country, including “Growers in New York, Minnesota, and Colorado,” and I’m also aware of similar efforts with commercial farms in Maine, Wisconsin and California, and I’m sure I’m forgetting somebody. Hops-Meister, which is near Clearlake, started in 2004 and grows ten different varieties on at least 15 acres. Co-owner Marty Kuchinski will be talking to my class tonight about hop farming. California used to grow more hops than any other state prior to prohibition, but never rebounded as farmers here found they could make more per acre growing grapes, but it’s why that legacy includes the town of Hopland and the Hop Kiln Winery. And New York used have an entire hop industry in the 19th century, until a downy mildew problem and other issues forced many to move production out west. So it’s little surprise that, with more modern farming methods, this growing demand would bring back hop farming to many parts of the country, not to mention a strong desire for brewers to have more local ingredients.

But the numbers just seem crazy: 27 million pounds of hops in 2014, and an estimated 31 million pounds this year.

hops-use

The Incredible Beerable Egg

egg
One of the highlights of this years Craft Brewers Conference in Portland was a potential innovation in brewing undertaken by Alan Sprints at Hair of the Dog Brewing. Alan posted a picture of his newest fermenter arriving to be displayed at the trade show, with Steve Rosenblatt from Sonoma Cast Stone, who manufactured the concrete fermenter.

egg-arrives

I was immediately intrigued and finding it in the trade show was one of my first missions of CBC. It turns out it was made in Petaluma, which is just down the road from where I live. The company has been making concrete fermenters for the wine industry, but this is the first one they’ve made for a commercial brewer. They have a separate website for this part of their business, Concrete Beer Tanks.

SAM_0428

There’s two sizes, the Amphora, which is 320 gallons and the one Hair of the Dog ordered, which is the Egg Shape, which is 476 gallons (or just over 15 barrels).

egg-wide

Their brochure lists the benefits of a concrete fermenter:

  • Concrete has natural temperature stability, and our tanks offer an optional, embedded glycol system for precise control.
  • Concrete allows the design of organic shapes, promoting convectional fermentation flow with no corners for fluid to pocket or stagnate.
  • The porosity of concrete allows for micro-oxygenation to aid in initiating the fermentation process.

egg-1

Apparently the wine industry has been using these increasingly in recent years, but they have been used for centuries prior to the advent of stainless steel. Just a quick search reveals quite a few articles about their growing use in winemaking. For example, in Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wines and Vines, Seattle Magazine and the North Bay Business Journal. And there’s at least one other domestic manufacturer, Vino Vessel and a German company, Speidel, that makes a Gärei Fermentegg, or Fermentation Egg.

gaerei

Here’s how Speidel describes their fermentation egg:

The organic fermentation in the egg-form is based on the golden ratio without corners and edges. Wine, beer and cider could move fluently during the fermentation and storage. This gentle process guarantees on keeping the completely development of the product. The idea of fermentation or aging in the egg is just to come back to the ancient methods but with the new materials. Already in the ancient times beer has been placed for resting into the egg-formed amphoraes. Recently there were several successful tests for storage wine in the egg-formed fermentation vessels made of concrete. Shortly after Speidel has developed the fermentation egg made of food-safe polyethylene.

The fermentation egg is appropriate for the fermentation of wine, beer and cider. Fans and devotees of the fermentation egg confirm that the fermentation process runs spontaneous, therefore wine and beer taste more filigree and complex. Check it out and convince yourselves! Our food-safe polyethylenes have high permeability of oxygen. This ensures the evenly influence of oxygen and perfect conditions for the fermentation and maturation. It is very easy to clean the egg because of its smooth surface inside.

Here’s a drawing of the tank.
egg-tank-specs

Sonoma Cast Stone online has their reasons why brewers should consider concrete beer tanks:

Winemakers love concrete…

Winemakers all over the world are rediscovering the benefits of using concrete as a medium for fermentation, finding the virtues of both of oak and stainless steel with the drawbacks of neither. Now, most of the world’s highest-rated wines are made in concrete.

The craft beer industry is at least as creative and dynamic as the wine industry, and we at Sonoma Cast Stone are thrilled to offer you artisans of fermentation a new medium to create with. We predict a renaissance of innovation, producing an exciting, new generation of wild beers, sour beers, meads and porters.

Concrete is cool! No… really.

Concrete can take the heat, or the cold. It’s a natural insulator and will stabilize the temperature of whatever is inside of it. This stability makes for a smooth and gradual fermentation, because there are no temperature spikes to make the yeast become aggressive.

Sonoma Cast Stone also offers a unique temperature control system. Our system is hidden within the walls of the tank itself and does not make contact with that wine.

Just breathe!

Concrete is porous, albeit on a microscopic scale, and that’s where it beats stainless steel. The environment in stainless steel is too perfect to be ideal for fermentation. A gradual introduction of micro-oxygenation, the wine remains flat. It cannot breathe and evolve.

Wine fermented in concrete has the round mouthfeel of wine fermented in oak, but it has much greater purity of fruit flavor, even a greater intensity of fruit color. For fermentation, storage or aging, concrete is simply phenomenal.

Staying neutral…

Even neutral oak is not neutral. All oak will give a bit of itself to your beer, whether you like it or not. Concrete makes for a truly neutral vessel, imparting only a slight and desirable minerality.

What this means for a beer maker is control. Control over what your beer tastes like, and with the optional, embedded glycol tubing system, you also have precise control over the temperature you maintain throughout fermentation.

Hair of the Dog Brewing had their new concrete tank delivered yesterday and it should be installed and ready to go shortly. Alan told me that Adam will be the first beer he makes in concrete. It will be interesting to see how the new Adam tastes, especially in comparison to the old version.

egg-delivered

Bistro IPA Festival Winners 2015

bistro
After missing this festival for the past few years, I finally made it back to judge this year’s Bistro IPA Festival. This year’s big winner was Solana Beach IPA, from Pizza Port Solana Beach, which was chosen best in show, out of 70 IPA offerings, at the 18th annual IPA Festival today at the Bistro in Hayward, California. The full list of winners is below.

The California Drought: Almonds, Water (And Beer)

almonds
You probably noticed that California is living under severe drought conditions, especially since governor Jerry Brown recently imposed restrictions on our water use. One of the frequent industries to bear the brunt of blame is, of course, agriculture, which uses a lot of water to feed the country. But more specifically, a lot of blame has come down on almonds with stories in the Chronicle, the Guardian and even Slate declaring 10 Percent of California’s Water Goes to Almond Farming, among many others. I haven’t paid too much attention to that, mostly for the selfish reason that I’m not much of a fan of almonds, and couldn’t care less if they stopped growing them.

Gizmodo has an interesting article suggesting that all that stuff about almonds was hooey entitled Seriously, Stop Demonizing Almonds. In a persuasive piece, it’s revealed that “Almonds might take 10 percent of the state’s water, but as the same report notes, they’re generating about 15 percent of the state’s total farming value and almost 25 percent of the agricultural exports from the state.” Of course, I’m no expert on these things, but I encourage you to read it and decide for yourself.

But I actually bring this up for wholly non-almond related reasons. Something in the article caught my attention, which is the chart below. It’s an infographic which originally was published in the L.A. Times, which the Gizmodo author, Alissa Walker, characterizes as a “very misguided infographic of “water-hungry foods.” The title indicates it shows the relative amount of water used to make the finished product, “Gallons of water per ounce of food.”

gallons-water-per-oz-food

But look where beer is on the chart. Beverages are in blue. Soymilk looks like it uses the most, but apparently there was an error that’s now been corrected, and it’s actually pineapple juice that’s the biggest water hog, using 6.36 gallons per ounce of juice. Compared to all the drinks listed, beer looks to be the most efficient, and the interactive portions of the chart on the L.A. Times website indicates that beer uses 1.96 gallons to produce one ounce of beer. But even that seems high.

A bunch of years ago I wrote a feature article for All About Beer entitled It Ain’t Easy Bein’ Green: The Greening of America’s Breweries, that examined the steps breweries were taking to lighten their burden on the planet, not just with water, but all sorts of things. One thing I learned was that brewing used roughly a 10-to-1 ratio of water, meaning they use 10 gallons for every gallon of beer. At that time, I also found. “Examining smart ways to conserve water, several breweries have reduced that ratio to four or five-to-one and Uinta Brewery from Utah has gotten it down to 3-to-1.” More recently, the Brewers Association’s Water and Wastewater: Treatment/Volume Reduction Manual claims that the average is now more like 7-to-1 gallons, with a few breweries actually below 3-to-1. Two years ago, Environmental Leader reported that MillerCoors managed to get their ratio of water use down to “3.82 barrels of water per barrel of beer.”

But even staying with a ratio of 10-to-1 for ease of math, this seems egregiously high. Converting the L.A. Times figure of 1.96 gallons to 1 ounce figure to ounces, it becomes 250.88 ounces of water per ounce of beer, or a 251-to-1 ratio, or 25 times reality, and undoubtedly more.

So where did this figure come from? All the Times reveals about its methodology is this. “Totals were converted to U.S. gallons per ounce (weight). Beverage values were additionally converted into fluid ounces using the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.” But that doesn’t really tell us where they got the numbers they’re basing this on. It doesn’t really tell us anything. But one thing seems clear, breweries are relatively efficient in their water use, much more so than is being reported during the California drought. And that brings us back to a statement U.S. Davis professor Charlie Bamforth recently made, which seems even more relevant in light of this. “When in drought, drink more beer.”

USDA Dietary Guidelines Under Fire Again From Prohibitionists

usda
Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or USDA, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS, updates its quinquennial Dietary Guidelines. They’re described as providing “authoritative advice for Americans ages 2 and older about consuming fewer calories, making informed food choices, and being physically active to attain and maintain a healthy weight, reduce risk of chronic disease, and promote overall health.” Since the last guidelines were published in 2010, it’s time for the new ones, and they’ve been proposed and are are now open for comments before being finalized.

In the 2010 Guidelines, a change was made to the structure of the recommended amounts of alcohol people should consume, if they’re going to enjoy drinking alcohol and are, of course, of legal age. At the time, the government took the radical view, to prohibitionists, that:

The consumption of alcohol can have beneficial or harmful effects, depending on the amount consumed, age, and other characteristics of the person consuming the alcohol. Alcohol consumption may have beneficial effects when consumed in moderation. Strong evidence from observational studies has shown that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Moderate alcohol consumption also is associated with reduced risk of all-cause mortality among middle-aged and older adults and may help to keep cognitive function intact with age. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits because moderate alcohol intake also is associated with increased risk of breast cancer, violence, drowning, and injuries from falls and motor vehicle crashes.

I may not agree with some of the characterizations in the last sentence, but it does serve to demonstrate how conservative the guidelines are, and that they’re not cavalierly telling people to start drinking. Plus, unlike some anti-alcohol groups, I’m not trying to willfully mislead people about what they say. They also have a handy chart of key definitions.

key-definitions-alcohol-2010

So what that second definition means is that if you’re a woman, you can enjoy 3 alcoholic drinks a day (or less), so long as you don’t have more than 7 during the same week, and you’ll be considered to not be a heavy drinker or engaging in high-risk drinking. A man, however, may enjoy 4 alcoholic drinks a day (or less), so long as he doesn’t have more than 14 during the same week, and he’ll likewise be considered to not be a heavy drinker or engaging in high-risk drinking. That, in effect, relaxed the “1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men” axiom that had been in place for a long while. When those changes made the rounds five years ago, the prohibitionists threw a temper tantrum and accused the government of all manner of bias and corruption, which is almost funny given how conservative they really are.

The new Dietary Guidelines for Americans, for 2015, are now going through the comment period, and once again the prohibitionists are apoplectic. Alcohol Justice, for example, whines that the government “proposes a risky and harmful shift in its definition of moderate drinking, and promotes drinking as a healthy dietary behavior. It suggests that a two-to-threefold increase in daily consumption limits is safe, and that questionable claims of health benefits outweigh known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption. The Report represents a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines, and does so without sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift.”

So how honest is that statement? Let’s take a look. First, what is the “risky and harmful shift in its definition of moderate drinking” from 2010 to 2015? The “new” language is on Page 105 of 107, constituting the proposed guidelines for 2015.

2015 Language:

Moderate alcohol consumption — Average daily consumption of up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men, with no more than three drinks in any single day for women and no more than four drinks in any single day for men.

And here’s the old language below. Notice the difference? No? That’s because there really isn’t any. There are a few of the words that are different, numbers replaced by the word written out, some different punctuation, but that’s about it. The meaning is entirely the same.

2010 Language:

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. Heavy or high-risk drinking is the consumption of more than 3 drinks on any day or more than 7 per week for women and more than 4 drinks on any day or more than 14 per week for men.

There is no shift. If anything, this version of the guidelines merely confirms changes made to the 2010 Guidelines. “Regarding alcohol, the Committee confirmed several conclusions of the 2010 DGAC, including that moderate alcohol intake can be a component of a healthy dietary pattern, and that if alcohol is consumed, it should be consumed in moderation and only by adults. However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits.”

AJ says the “Dietary Guidelines should recommend ways to reduce and prevent alcohol-related harm, not increase it,” but of course that’s not at all what they say. That’s just more whining because they don’t like what the USDA is proposing. They didn’t like it five years ago, and they don’t like it now. They go on to claim that with “current and growing evidence regarding risk of disease and harm from drinking even low levels of alcohol, the Dietary Guidelines should include recommendations for Americans to drink less alcohol – not more.” Of course, that’s another misleading statement. They can, and often do, cite single studies that say what they want, but as detailed in Studies Show Studies Don’t Show Much, most are not worth the paper they’re printed on, but they keep hammering on them because it makes for effective propaganda, especially in the school of “if you repeat a lie often enough ….”

AJ further believes that the proposed guidelines say “that a two-to-threefold increase in daily consumption limits is safe.” But this mythical increase is just that, a fantasy. The 2010 guidelines said the same thing. There’s no proposed increase, just a confirmation of the last version. And guess what happened with the 2010 change? Nothing, that’s what. The country did not fall to ruin from people suddenly drinking too much because they believe the guidelines told people they should, or could.

Then they accuse the guidelines are based on “questionable claims of health benefits [which] outweigh known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption. The Report represents a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines, and does so without sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift.” What utter bullshit. Do you know what constitutes a “questionable claims of health benefits?” Anything that AJ doesn’t agree with. And how they define “known, substantiated risks of alcohol consumption?” That’s easy, it’s one they like that agrees with their skewed world view. As shown, this is absolutely NOT “a significant departure from previous Dietary Guidelines,” but is virtually identical to the 2010 version. And their statement that there is not “sufficient scientific basis to justify such a shift” is laughable because they’ll never except any scientific evidence that disagrees with or contradicts their dogma. Here’s how the USDA explains how they arrived at the alcohol guidelines.

As alcohol is a unique aspect of the diet, the DGAC considered evidence from several sources to inform recommendations. As noted above, moderate alcohol intake among adults was identified as a component of a healthy dietary pattern associated with some health outcomes, which reaffirms conclusions related to moderate alcohol consumption by the 2010 DGAC.

No matter how you slice it, there is nothing new regarding the alcohol guidelines in the proposed dietary guidelines for 2015. But to hear Alcohol Justice tell it, this is “a radical change,” despite being almost exactly the same as five years ago. This is their action plan for the faithful sheep that follow them, [with my rebuttal in brackets]:

THE PROPOSED CHANGE:

Without providing any explanation or evidence for a radical change [they do explain the reasons, citing that there’s evidence supporting their decision], the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee proposes to increase limits used to define “moderate” drinking. [No, they don’t. All they do is confirm the changes made five years ago.]

The current (2010) U.S. Dietary Guidelines define moderate drinking as up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men (daily limits) [that’s not all they say, they also cite the weekly allowances]. In contrast, the proposed change would base these 1/2 limits on average rather than daily consumption and suggests it is safe for women to drink up to 3 drinks in a day and men up to 4 drinks in a day so long as the averages are not exceeded [exactly as they did in 2010]. This effectively triples (the daily limit for women and doubles (the daily limit for men). [Not this time, it doesn’t.]

Furthermore, the report implies that drinking is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle: “the U.S. population should be encouraged to consume dietary patterns that are rich in vegetables …; moderate in low and non fat dairy and alcohol (adults).” [Oh, no! The horror. Frankly, what’s more surprising is that, given their findings that total mortality is improved with the moderate consumption of alcohol, they’re so conservative in their suggestions. But it makes sense in the context of anti-alcohol groups that throw tantrums any time their world view is challenged. But their statement that “the report implies that drinking is recommended as part of a healthy lifestyle” is complete and utter nonsense, and could even be called grandstanding because the language of the proposed 2015 guidelines also includes this: “However, it is not recommended that anyone begin drinking or drink more frequently on the basis of potential health benefits.” So it’s pretty crystal clear that the USDA is not recommending people start drinking “as part of a healthy lifestyle.” AJ just made that up.]

THE PROBLEM:

Since most adult drinkers in the U.S. don’t drink every day, the proposed change effectively encourages consumption right up to binge drinking levels, thus increasing health risk. [That identifies the problem with the definition of binge drinking, as I’ve written about numerous times. That’s the problem here, not encouraging people to drink moderately. After all, if they did, they might live longer. We wouldn’t want people to know that, would we?]

Binge drinking (4 or more drinks per occasion for women; 5 or more drinks per occasion for men) causes more than half of all alcohol related deaths each year in the U.S., and impairment and increased risk begin below those levels. The proposed changes are, therefore, dangerous for public health. [Again, that’s a problem with the definition of bingeing, which used to be more vague, making it hard to quantify. So it’s been narrowed over the years, and made easier to quantify, bringing more and more people into the specter of binge drinkers, artificially inflating statistics about its dangers.]

There are no randomized studies showing any health benefits from any level of alcohol consumption as well as no evidence that moderate drinking promotes a healthy lifestyle. [Poppycock. They’re hanging their hat here, one presumes, on “randomized” studies, but it’s unlikely even that’s true. The USDA itself in 2010, looked at meta-analysis of a wide range of studies, concluding just the opposite of AJ’s position. But AJ keeps ignoring that “evidence” because they don’t like it. It’s easier to just keep saying what they want to be true.]

It’s hard to know what to make of so dishonest a piece of propaganda as this is, raising unfounded fears, not to mention being littered with just out and out misinformation. It’s one thing to be in favor of promoting “evidence-based public health policies and organiz[ing] campaigns with diverse communities and youth against the alcohol industry’s harmful practices” but quite another to watch how that plays out in reality. “Evidence-based” seems to really mean anything they agree with and “the alcohol industry’s harmful practices” includes literally every single thing we do. I wish that was hyperbole, but I’ve never seen any action taken by an alcohol company that AJ didn’t find fault with, from donating cans of water to Haiti after the devastating earthquake there to their “‘charge-for-harm’ approach, which is based on the assumption that anyone who drinks deserves to be punished.” And another similar group stated at a 2013 conference that “they simply didn’t care about the public health impacts of taxes. They were in the game solely to get some of the tax revenue steered toward their organization.”

This is getting seriously out of hand. as anti-alcohol groups get bolder and more obviously prohibitionist, their divisiveness makes any meaningful discussion increasingly impossible. And unlike these prohibitionists, most people I know in the beer world, and the real world for that matter, recognize that while moderate drinking of alcohol is a good thing for a majority of adults, it’s not for everybody. Some people can’t handle it, and they often ruin it for the rest of us. Because those are the people that anti-alcohol folks always use to represent everyone who drinks, ignoring that they’re minority and that most of us can have a few drinks and not plunge the world into turmoil. But as long as they keep painting us as all the same, they’ll never be able to admit anything but an absolutist view of drinking, no matter how ridiculous that is, and no matter how ridiculous it makes them seem. When you start accusing the conservative USDA of ignoring science and encouraging people to start drinking, you’ve definitely jumped the shark.

The Top 50 Annotated 2014

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This is my eighth annual annotated list of the Top 50, skipping last year because the BA provided that information then, so here again you can see who moved up and down, who was new to the list and who dropped off. So here is this year’s list again annotated with how they changed compared to last year.

  1. Anheuser-Busch InBev; #1 nine years, no surprise
  2. MillerCoors; ditto for #2
  3. Pabst Brewing; ditto for #3
  4. D. G. Yuengling and Son; Same as last year
  5. Boston Beer Co.; Same as last year
  6. North American Breweries; 5th year on the list, same position as last year
  7. Sierra Nevada Brewing; Same as last year
  8. New Belgium Brewing; Same as last year
  9. Craft Brewers Alliance; Same as last year
  10. Gambrinus Company; Same as last year
  11. Lagunitas Brewing; Same as last year
  12. Bell’s Brewery; Up 1 from #13 last year
  13. Deschutes Brewery; Down 1 from #12 last year
  14. Stone Brewing; Up 3 from #17 last year
  15. Sleeman Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year
  16. Minhas Craft Brewery; Down 1 from #15 last year
  17. Brooklyn Brewery; Down 1 from #26 last year
  18. Duvel Moortgat USA (Boulevard Brewing/Ommegang); Down 4 from #14 last year
  19. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery; Up 1 from #20 last year
  20. Matt Brewing; Down 2 from #18 last year
  21. Harpoon Brewery; Down 2 from #19 last year
  22. Firestone Walker Brewing; Up 1 from #23 last year
  23. Founders Brewing; Jumped Up 12 from #35 last year
  24. SweetWater Brewing; Up 2 from #26 last year
  25. New Glarus Brewing; Same as last year
  26. Alaskan Brewing; Down 2 from #24 last year
  27. Abita Brewing; Down 5 from #22 last year
  28. Anchor Brewing; Up 1 from #29 last year
  29. Great Lakes Brewing; Down 2 from #27 last year
  30. Oskar Blues Brewing; Up 3 from #33
  31. Shipyard Brewing; Down 10 from #21 last year
  32. Stevens Point Brewery; Up 13 from #45 last year
  33. August Schell Brewing; Down 5 from #33 last year
  34. Summit Brewing; Down 2 from #32 last year
  35. Victory Brewing; Down 2 from #37 last year
  36. Long Trail Brewing; Down 5 from #31 last year
  37. Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits; Up 1 from #38 last year
  38. Rogue Ales Brewery; Down 2 from #36 last year
  39. Full Sail Brewing; Down 5 from #34 last year
  40. Odell Brewing; Up 4 from #44 last year
  41. Southern Tier Brewing; Down 1 from #40 last year
  42. Ninkasi Brewing; Down 3 from #39 last year
  43. World Brew/Winery Exchange; Down 13 from #30 last year
  44. Flying Dog Brewery; Down 1 from #43 last year
  45. Pittsburgh Brewing (fka Iron City); Down 2 from #47 last year
  46. Uinta Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year
  47. Bear Republic Brewing; Down 1 from #46 last year
  48. Left Hand Brewing; Up 2 from #50 last year
  49. 21st Amendment Brewery; Not in Top 50 last year, though they were on the list in 2012
  50. Allagash Brewing; Not in Top 50 last year

Not too much movement this year, except for a few small shufflings. Only four new breweries made the list; Sleeman Brewing, Uinta Brewing, 21st Amendment Brewery and Allagash Brewing.

Off the list was Blue Point Brewing, Cold Spring Brewing, CraftWorks Breweries & Restaurants (Gordon Biersch/Rock Bottom), Karl Strauss Breweries, Lost Coast Brewery, and Mendocino Brewing.

If you want to see the previous annotated lists for comparison, here is 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007 and 2006.

Save The Bees, Save The Beer

bee
Beer, of course, is an agricultural product, two of its main ingredients are very dependent on a good harvest. Both hops and barley (and other grains such as wheat and rye) grow best when they’re planted in the right place and the conditions are present to encourage their best selves. I received an e-mail a few days ago with the intriguing message. “Bees pollinate 1/3 of our food, including the hops used to make beer. Save the bees, save the beer.”

beer-and-bees

The e-mail was about an Indiegogo campaign to create a “community open to anyone who cares about bees, the environment and food,” called BeeWithMe, which will consist of “a dynamic new website that teaches people how easy and fun it is to raise a diverse range of gentle bees.” Unless you’ve been cryogenically frozen recently, you no doubt have heard that bees are disappearing from our environment, which could have devastating consequences for our food supply and our life cycle more generally. Find out how to participate at You Can Help Save the Bees, which begins:

Imagine a world without bees. There would be no blueberries, no cherries, no pumpkins – not even beer.

Here’s the problem: Most farmers depend on a single type of bee to pollinate our food and that bee, the honey bee, has been struggling.

You can be part of the solution and protect our food supply by raising gentle, native bees in your backyard or supporting someone else who does.

Keep your favorite foods on the table by contributing today and joining the BeeWithMe network that will collaborate to raise more native bees and grow more food.

Most of the pledge levels involve getting your own bees, some to simply release in your back yard, up to everything you need to raise your own bees. There are also teacher’s packages for classrooms and levels for entire garden clubs and communities. Please bee generous. And remember, save the bees, save the beer.

3bitesoffood

Oskar Blues Buys Perrin Brewing

oskar-blues-blue Perrin
Oskar Blues, makers of Dale’s Pale Ale and other canned beers, has announced acquisition of the Perrin Brewing Co. of Comstock Park, Michigan (near Grand Rapids). MLive is reporting the deal, and that as part of it, Keith Klopcic, who formerly worked with nearby West Side Beer Distributing, becomes the new president at Perrin Brewing Co., replacing founder and former brewery head Randy Perrin. According to the article, “financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.” I love this quote: “Other than that, it’s the same company,” said Klopcic. “Nothing changes.” Not to second guess the deal, especially since I don’t personally know the parties involved (apart from Dale Katechis from Oskar Blues), but saying nothing changes when a brewery head and (I presume) a founder leaves a company when it’s sold doesn’t strike me as a particularly honest assessment.

Dan Perrin and Jarred Sper will continue running the brewery alongside production manager and head brewer John Stewart and his team. Sper, who will be vice president of sales and marketing at Oskar Blues-owned Perrin, said the brewery is very excited by the acquisition deal.

According to MLive, here’s what Dale had to say:

In a statement, Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis called the deal “a radical thing.”

“We at Oskar Blues love the Michigan craft beer scene and what the guys at Perrin are doing,” Katechis said. “We feel that Perrin and Oskar Blues have the same mindset toward the craft industry and this partnership will allow us to share information and innovative ideas with one another.”

In December, the breweries teamed up on a lager called “Cornlaboration” that was sold only in Michigan, a state in which Oskar Blues began distributing in 2013.

Until Oskar Blues’ canned beer sales outstripped their original brewpub, they were considered one of the country’s largest brewpubs, so it’s interesting to see them reach a point where they’re acquiring additional brands and another brewery.

perrin-brewing