Dean Biersch Buys The Twin Oaks

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This is more local news and will be of interest mainly to my neighbors in Sonoma County. There’s an iconic bar in Penngrove, a small town next to where I live, in Cotati. It’s even smaller than my town, but it does have a pretty cool bar called Twin Oaks, which has been there since 1924, though at least until 1933 it was simply a road house tavern and gas station. Well, maybe not simply. According to 98-year old Vivian Kehl, who worked there during prohibition when it was also a grocery store, Twin Oaks also
sold co-owner Frances Hoar’s “very good home-brewed beer that, despite Prohibition, was widely popular with local customers.” But since we moved up this way, it’s been a kick ass old bar.

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But in 2013, Twin Oaks got a new owner, Sheila Groves-Tracey, who’s been booking local bands in the North Bay for decades, and she’d transformed the bar in a concert venue, as well.

On Wednesday, it was announced that Dean Biersch bought the Twin Oak. Biersch was a co-founder of the Gordon Biersch brewpub chain but left when the restaurant side of the business was sold. More recently, he opened the HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol, and has gone on to open two additional locations, one in Sonoma and the other in Novato.

In the Press Democrat, Biersch talked about his plans for the bar:

“In my mind the Twin Oaks is a ‘heritage’ hospitality site – one of the last roadhouse, tavern, honky-honks on the Old Redwood Highway,” said Biersch, reached by phone.

He plans to keep the name and ambiance that Twin Oaks Tavern (5745 Old Redwood Hwy, Penngrove) is known for while renovating and upgrading the space to include a new dance floor, expanded outdoor patio, and new kitchen. A licensing change will allow for families and children to enter the tavern to eat. Another major draw includes a lineup of 16 draft beers.

“It’s been running for 91-years continually, and that’s pretty cool. I’ve never considered (making it) another HopMonk,” he said. “Our biggest focus is to be a part of this great property, close to other craft breweries in Petaluma with a great beer, music and bar atmosphere,” Biersch added.

Twin Oaks will close briefly in January to do some minor renovations, with plans to open again in the spring, but Biersch cautions that’s he’d not planning on changing very much of the iconic old bar.

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American Cities Drinking the Most Craft Beer

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Usually, when they break down craft sales, it’s by state, so it’s interesting to see it done by city. Vinepair based their map, Cities That Drink the Most Craft Beer, on Nielsen dollar share data, so while that means it’s only mainstream data from major chains and traditional retail channels, it is still interesting to see how it shakes out. All of the top five cities are on the West Coast, while Washington D.C. leads the East. Of the five not in the West, three are in the Midwest, one is in the Northeast and the other is D.C. And it would appear there’s a large swath in the middle that has some catching up to do.

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Click here to see the map full size.

Storm Brewing Releases $1,000 Beer Bottle

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I suspect that by the time you read this, all ten bottles of the newest release from Storm Brewing, of East Vancouver in British Columbia, will already have been sold, despite the hefty $1,000 per bottle price tag. The new beer is Glacial Mammoth Extinction, and is described on Storm’s website. Essentially it’s a sour beer that, according to brewer James Walton, was frozen “into one big, solid ice cube at -30 degrees Celsius, a process that took him about a month to complete.” Then the water was removed, and the remaining liquid was “aged in French oak barrels for two years until it was ready.”

Part of the expense of the beer is the packaging, with a hand-blown glass bottle fashioned by a local artist, using a 14K gold clasp and 35,000-year-old ivory for the pendant hanging from the neck of the bottle. The beer weighs in at almost 25% a.b.v. and is described as “quite sweet, almost like a port.”

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The Beer: The Glacial Mammoth Extinction is the first beer of its kind (in the world!!) and the result of freezing a strong sour beer to -30C in two stages over a one month period. The sweet alcoholic liquid was separated from the extinct ice glacier that was left in the tank and then aged in French oak barrels for two years until it was ready. The final product is a rich, complex, and viscous 100% malt beverage that resembles Port more than beer.

ALCOHOL – 25% ABV
RESIDUAL SUGAR – 80grams per litre
VOLUME PRODUCED – 400 litres

The Brewery: For over 20 years brewer James Walton and the Storm Brewing team have been bringing Vancouverites innovative and unpretentious craft beer. James is hailed as a craft beer pioneer by both media and trade and is proud to be one of the very first brewers in North America to brew sour beer. The brewery sits at the corner of Commercial Drive and Franklin Street in gritty East Vancouver and is considered a “must-visit” destination by craft beer fans worldwide.

The $1000 Bottles: A total of ten bottles were designed and made of hand blown glass by Terminal City Glass Co-op’s Brad Turner. Adorning these bottles are one of a kind prehistoric mammoth ivory pendants made by local sculptor Richard Marcus. The ivory used for these pendants is from a tusk estimated to be 35,000 years old and they are complimented with a 14K gold clasp. Both of these East Vancouver artists are renowned for their craft and their studios are located within walking distance from the brewery.

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AleSmith Partners With Mikkeller

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AleSmith Brewing of San Diego, California announced this morning that they’ve entered into a “creative enterprise” with Mikkel Borg Bjergsø to establish Mikkeller Brewing,” taking over day-to-day operation of San Diego’s second-oldest craft brewing facility. So essentially, as far as I can tell, Mikkel will be taking over the original AleSmith location, with Pete Zien retaining a minority stake in the business. Mikkel will get the older, original 30-barrel brewing system — which will become Mikkeller San Diego — and AleSmith will operate the newer 105,500-square-foot facility located two blocks west of MSD.

San Diego, California (December 8, 2015) — Two world-renowned brewing interests are proud to announce the launch of a creative partnership that will result in the planet’s most famous gypsy brewer acquiring a brick-and-mortar brewery to call his own. Mikkel Borg Bjergsø, the founder and creative mind behind Denmark-based Mikkeller, has officially entered into an agreement with AleSmith Brewing Company owner and brewmaster Peter Zien for the duo to establish a new company called Mikkeller Brewing San Diego. Bjergsø and Zien will possess ownership stakes in the business, which will be based within the storied confines of AleSmith’s original headquarters on Cabot Drive in San Diego’s Miramar community and produce beers for worldwide release.

“People have always asked me when I’m going to open my own brewery, and my answer has always been ‘never.’ It’s the easiest answer, but it’s been on my mind for several years,” says Bjergsø. “I like being a ‘gypsy brewer,’ but know that having a stake in a U.S. brewery will change our position here. Brewing in one of the best breweries in the world really makes sense. If they can brew beers like they do at AleSmith, it really can’t go wrong.”

Bjergsø’s vision will guide brewing operations at Mikkeller San Diego, which is equipped with the same 30-barrel brewing system AleSmith used to produce 15,000 barrels of beer annually before moving into a much larger, 105,500-square-foot facility two blocks west earlier this year. To ensure the fastest, most efficient transition, Zien will initially oversee multiple components of the brewing process and provide ongoing assistance on an as-needed basis. Additionally, several members of AleSmith’s original brewing team, the bulk of whose careers with the company have been spent operating the original brewery, will become employees of Mikkeller San Diego and usher the facility through its exciting second life.

“I am very excited to announce this partnership to the brewing world,” says Zien who will maintain a minority stake in the business. “Mikkel and I expect to create unique and flavorful beers of the highest quality, as we are both known for brewing with AleSmith and Mikkeller.”

Eager to embark on this shared next chapter in their brewing careers, Bjergsø and Zien worked with the eventual Mikkeller San Diego staff to craft two beers based off brand new recipes conceived by the former. Those beers, AleSmith-Mikkeller IPA (India Pale Ale) and AleSmith-Mikkeller APA (American Pale Ale) are currently on tap at Mikkeller Bar in San Francisco, Calif.; AleSmith’s recently debuted 25,000-square-foot Miramar tasting room; and numerous craft beer-centric venues throughout San Diego County. Thus far, they have been met positively by beer enthusiasts. Next up on the brew schedule is an imperial take on an English-style porter, which will be released via a similar distribution method. Eventually, numerous Mikkeller San Diego beers will be bottled, canned, and distributed more widely nationally and internationally.

In addition to beers brewed solely by Mikkeller San Diego personnel, Bjergsø intends to make a center of craft collaboration of his new digs by inviting respected brewers from all over the world to conceive and brew recipes that push the envelopes of what ales and lagers can be. In doing so, he will build off relationships forged during his decade spent trotting the globe in an ongoing mission to bring his beery ideas to life with the help of gifted brewers the world over. He will also reach out to new and upcoming brewers making waves within the industry, providing the basis for many happy returns among brewery visitors.

While the brewing component of Mikkeller San Diego’s campus—which consists of five suites within an intimate business complex—will remain mostly untouched, construction will soon commence to convert the 750-square-foot tasting room to an interior design concept more consistent with that of Mikkeller’s global beer bars. The sampling space is projected to open to the public in early 2016, offering an array of beers that simultaneously display traditionally stylistic roots while coming across as exploratory, adventurous and, in some cases, downright twisted. It will be the only place in the world to taste the entire array of Mikkeller San Diego beers in a single sitting.

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Matt Brynildson, from Firestone Walker, and Mikkel comparing beards with Sir Thomas Gresham at a pub in London.

Beer & Exercise

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Last week, the New York Times had an interesting piece about a pair of studies examining the relationship between exercise and beer, entitled The Close Ties Between Exercise and Beer.

My favorite bit is that in past studies “men and women who qualified as moderate drinkers, meaning they downed about a drink a day, were twice as likely to exercise regularly as teetotalers.” But that was for earlier, apparently less rigorous studies.

The first of the new studies was conducted at Penn State, which used test subjects already enrolled in a different health study, and found consistent results from the earlier studies.

When the researchers collated and compared the data from their volunteers, they found, for the first time, an unequivocal correlation between exercising on any given day and subsequently drinking, especially if someone exercised more than usual. As the scientists write in their study, which was published recently in Health Psychology, “people drank more than usual on the same days that they engaged in more physical activity than usual.”

This relationship held true throughout all seasons of the year and whether someone was a man or a woman, a collegian or a retiree. Age and gender did not affect the results.

Thankfully, the data did not show that exercise incited or exacerbated problem drinking.

The second study was published in Frontiers of Psychiatry — Exercise and Alcohol Consumption: What We Know, What We Need to Know, and Why it is Important — was a review of those previously mentioned previous studies. And the two seem to reinforce one another, coming to the same conclusions. And most worrying of all, at least for the prohibitionists who incessantly decry alcohol, “the available evidence suggests that exercise may encourage people to drink, [but] it does not indicate that this relationship is necessarily worrisome for the vast majority of us. Someone who drinks moderately is unlikely to become a problem drinker as a result of exercise.”

So moderately drink up, and keep working out, apparently both are good for you.

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Consumers File Lawsuit To Stop ABI Buying SABMiller

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In a particularly strange twist, 23 consumers — 19 from Oregon, 3 from California and 1 from Washington — have filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court, for the District of Oregon, Medford Division. The Plaintiffs are represented by two law firms, the Alioto Law Firm of San Francisco, California, and Cauble & Cauble, LLP of Grant’s Pass, Oregon. The lawsuit names both Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller as Defendants and the initial filing requests “Injunctive Relief to Prohibit the Acquisition of SABMiller PLC by Anheuser-Busch InBev, SA/NV as a Violation of Section 7 of the Clayton Antitrust Act, 15 U.S.C. § 18.” The 33-page complaint is available to read online as a pdf. The Oregonian is reporting on at least a few of the Plaintiff’s rationales for the lawsuit. “I don’t think it’s good for consumers, I don’t think it’s good for industry, I don’t think it’s good for the tax base, I don’t think it’s good for any of that,” states Plaintiff James DeHoog, who owns an air quality and environmental consulting business in Central Point, which is near where the case was filed in Medford, Oregon. Courthouse News Service also has an account of the filing.

It will certainly be interesting to see how far they get with this.

Court Gavel And Money

California Reaches 600 Breweries

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On the heels of yesterday’s news that the number of breweries in America has reached a historic high point, today the California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) released the news that the number of breweries in the state of California reached 600. The next closest state, Oregon, has less than half of that. Congratulations to all 600!

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For me the biggest takeaway is how rapid the number of California breweries doubled. Fritz Maytag bought the Anchor Brewery in 1965, but the first new brewery opened over a decade later, in 1978. That was New Albion. It took until 2012, or 34 years, to reach 300 breweries. Three years later, this month in 2015, there are 600. That means half of the breweries in California are less than three years old, which seems remarkable.

Here’s the press release:

The California Craft Brewers Association (CCBA) today announced another milestone in the growth of local brewing, with more than 600 craft breweries in operation across the state. More breweries call California home than any other state in the nation.

“We continue to celebrate the success of craft beer in California,” said Tom McCormick, executive director of the CCBA. “The Golden State is the birthplace of the American craft beer movement and continues to lead the nation with its committed fans and creative brewers. We have seen a remarkable and growing demand for neighborhood-supported craft breweries and handcrafted, locally produced beers. It’s an exciting time to be a craft beer drinker in California and even more exciting to be a craft brewer.”

The 18 percent increase in operating breweries over that past year represents a return to the localization of beer production. In 2014, an average of two breweries opened every week in California.

Industries associated with craft beer also continue to expand, with additional investment in California-grown ingredients. Breweries throughout the state are planting hops and barley and looking to local farms to source ingredients.

“California’s craft beer drinkers are looking to their neighborhood breweries for local, sustainable, hand-grown, hand-produced, hand-crafted beers,” said Jacob Pressey, owner and brewmaster for Humboldt Regeneration Brewery and Farm and CCBA member. “We are the first California brewery since Prohibition to brew a 100 percent house-grown and malted beer, a milestone we’ve been focused on for the past three years. Across the state we see hop growers, grain growers and craft maltsters set the stage for a sustainable, local-focused industry.”

As the number of craft breweries has increased, so has national recognition for creative styles and classic West Coast IPAs brewed in California. In 2015, California breweries received the largest number of awards at the Great American Beer Festival, contributed hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of jobs to the state’s economy and donated approximately $11,050,000 to support local and statewide charities, including fundraisers for nonprofits and charitable causes.

“California is the growth epicenter of the craft beer industry,” said Brook Taylor, deputy director of the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz). “More than 600 California craft breweries generate $6.5 billion in annual revenue, employ thousands of people and contribute to the state’s nation leading job growth. The craft beer industry is emblematic of California – innovative people, creating innovative products and providing new jobs in a rapidly growing industry.”

Number Of American Breweries Reaches Historic High

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The most breweries open in the United States at any point in our history was 4,131, a milestone reached way back in 1873. Right afterwards, breweries started merging at a furious pace, drastically reducing that number. Then prohibition decimated the industry, closing almost every brewery (except for the few who figured out non-alcoholic products to make). When prohibition ended thirteen years later, fewer than 800 reopened in the year after repeal of the 18th Amendment. But many didn’t last long, and by 1950 the number was down to 407. And the slide continued, with only 230 in 1961 and the nadir of 80 in 1983, with only 51 of them owned by independent companies. For what it’s worth, other accounts say 1978 was the low point. Once the first two California craft breweries got going — Anchor in 1965 and New Albion in 1978 — things moved slowly, it took until 1994 before small brewers made up 1% of the total beer market. In 1996, we returned to pre-prohibition numbers, with 1,000 breweries open. Fifteen years later, in 2011, that number had doubled to 2,000, but in only three more years we’d reached 3,000 breweries. At the end of September, three months ago, we reached 4,000.

Today, the Brewers Association released a new press release:

As of the end of November, there are now 4,144 breweries in the country, topping the historic high of 4,131 breweries in 1873.

I knew it was coming, but it’s still a nice milestone to mark. More breweries are open right now in the U.S. than have ever been open at one time before. That’s pretty cool. Congratulations to all of those breweries.

A few additional tidbits worth noting:

  • Brewery openings now exceed two a day.
  • Fifteen states are now home to more than 100 breweries: California, Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Texas, Ohio, Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Indiana.
  • IPA remained the top style sold by independent craft brewers, and continues to grow faster than the overall craft category.

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Spinning Statistics … Again

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A few days ago, I wrote that in my mind, Alcohol Justice, as much as any prohibitionist group, had achieved the status of a cult, given their by-any-means-necessary tactics and casual relationship with the truth. Today presented a perfect example of that, in which they took another “study” and bent it and remolded it into the shape they wanted it to be in order to advance their agenda. This morning they tweeted the following:

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And there’s certainly some scary claims in that tweet. “Stunning death rate rise for middle-aged white US men,” which is apparently linked to “alcohol” and also “drug misuse.” Or is that misuse of both drugs and alcohol? It could be read either way, and since you rarely here “alcohol misuse” as a term — it’s almost always “alcohol abuse” — I suspect that it was chosen on purpose to give the impression that it was simply drinking alcohol that leads to this “stunning death rate.” But what does the actual “study” claim? The tweet includes a link, which takes you to an article from November 2 in the New York Times, Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds. But that title is similarly misleading, because once you actually read it, you’ll discover that it’s not all middle-age white men whose risk is increasing, but a specific subgroup within that cohort. That group is increasing overall, but only because the steepest rise is almost entirely coming from less educated men in that group.

The mortality rate for whites 45 to 54 years old with no more than a high school education increased by 134 deaths per 100,000 people from 1999 to 2014.

I guess that’s statistically significant, but it’s an increase of 0.134%, which doesn’t sound as bad as they’re making it out to be. Later in the article, they say that “[i]n that group, death rates rose by 22 percent while they actually fell for those with a college education.” Of course, I don’t have a Nobel Prize in Economics, as one of the people who conducted the study does, which the article makes a particular point of pointing out. Despite those honors, they’re as flummoxed by the results as apparently everyone else who’s found it’s such a growing problem for “the declining health and fortunes of poorly educated American whites.” adding. “In middle age, they are dying at such a high rate that they are increasing the death rate for the entire group of middle-aged white Americans” and this has been “puzzling demographers in recent years.” Seriously? Let me take a stab at it. The middle class has been eroding for decades, real wages have been stagnating almost as long, people are losing their pension plans, unions are under attack and our government has been co-opted by business interests who have been doing everything possible to keep tax breaks for the wealthy, allow our elections to won by whoever has the most money, and generally make life miserable for every worker below the executive level, the people in the 90%. And which group would you expect that to most affect? I would suggest it’s people in the lower paying jobs, the ones requiring less education, which would go a long way toward explaining why these are the same people drinking themselves into an early grave.

They do finally make some mention of this, but apparently don’t think it was significant enough to “fully account for the effect,” when they earlier cited that middle-aged white men with only a high school diploma have “a more pessimistic outlook among whites about their financial futures.” But doesn’t it seem like one of those “well, duh” moments?

The least educated also had the most financial distress, Dr. Meara and Dr. Skinner noted in their commentary. In the period examined by Dr. Deaton and Dr. Case, the inflation-adjusted income for households headed by a high school graduate fell by 19 percent.

But that can’t be it, they seem to conclude. That wouldn’t cause them to become depressed, which might lead them to drink excessively or take more drugs, is what they’re saying. Why do we continue to go out of our way to insist that the alcohol or drugs, in and of themselves, are the problem, but not the underlying problem or problems that make people reach for them? Remember, the message from Alcohol Justice was that “alcohol and drug misuse” were the link to a “Stunning death rate rise for middle-aged white US men,” but that’s not what the study found, or is even the focus of the article, despite the fact that misleading headline could make you think that was the case, if you didn’t bother to read it. What this study of metadata from the CDC found was that there’s an increase for such men with less education and who abused alcohol, which is very different from what AJ is peddling. And this spin is doubly reinforced by the photo they chose to use with the tweet. It shows two older couples, well-dressed and sipping on champagne. That’s practically the polar opposite of the image one would expect for which group is showing an increase in their risk of death found by the study they’re referring to. And it’s the photo you see first, before you read either the tweet or click on the article. Before you have any facts whatsoever, you’re confronted by this misleading image of well-heeled bubbly revelers.

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But that image holds another secret, and one Alcohol Justice probably doesn’t want you to know about, especially as they’ve started tweeting for donations at this, the giving time of the year. The image is actually taken from an article in the British newspaper, the Telegraph, from early September of this year. That piece, entitled Drinkers ‘subsidising’ non-drinkers by £6.5 billion a year, flies right in the face of one of AJ’s most-cherished propaganda lies, the idea of alcohol harm, that people drinking are a drain on the economy, forcing teetotalers to pay for their excesses and strain public resources. It’s one of AJ’s most common arguments for raising taxes on alcohol, under the notion of a “charge for harm” that they’re so fond of insisting. But the subtitle of the Telegraph article is: “A drain on taxpayers? Drinkers pay their dues three times over, new study claims.”

Far from being a financial burden on taxpayers, people who enjoy alcohol pay the cost of dealing with drink-related social problems almost three times over in tax every year, the analysis by the Institute of Economic Affairs, the free-market think-tank, argues.

The paper calculates that the NHS, police, the criminal justice and welfare systems in England collectively spend £3.9 billion a year dealing with the fallout from excessive alcohol consumption.

But that figure is eclipsed by the £10.4 billion a year it says the Treasury gains in alcohol duty in England.
It argues that taxes on drink could be halved and still leave the Government firmly in profit.

They continue:

Christopher Snowdon, author of the report, said: “It is time to stop pretending that drinkers are a burden on taxpayers.

“Drinkers are taxpayers and they pay billions of pounds more than they cost the NHS, police service and welfare system combined.

“The economic evidence is very clear on this – 40 per cent of the EU’s entire alcohol tax bill is paid by drinkers in Britain and, as this new research shows, teetotallers in England are being subsidised by drinkers to the tune of at least six and a half billion pounds a year.”

So that’s where the photo came from that Alcohol Justice used to accompany a misleading tweet about misstated statistics, linking to a somewhat misleadingly titled article. And this is from the organization that claims to be the “industry watchdog,” forcing me to ask, yet again, who’s watching the watchdog? Because left to their own devices, they obviously aren’t terribly concerned with honesty or truthiness. And that makes it increasingly difficult to have any meaningful discussions with them about alcohol policy or indeed believe anything they say or claim.

Pretty Beer To Stop Brewing

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Sad news. Dann and Martha Paquette, co-owners of the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project posted on their website today their decision to cease the operations of their company. Explaining their decision in For a Beginning, there must be an End, here’s what’s up:

Seven years ago we sold our first glass of beer at The Publick House in Brookline. We didn’t foresee then that our strange project would become such a part of our lives.

It has been a crazy fun time. We’ve dressed up in more costumes than a Bob Hope special. Amazing employees and friends have conspired with us along the way. Bocky, Anya, and John Funke have channeled our project almost better than we have done ourselves. And we found a rag tag group of like-minded creative brewers out there in the world as well.

Brewing our beers has been a great labor and a great joy. But best of all we shared it with so many great beer drinkers. It really feels like we met you all. We’ve stood in shops, bars, restaurants, on stages, in VFW halls. Sometimes you were already fans. Sometimes you spat out our beer. Sometimes you just fancied a chat. We always felt happy to meet you by the end. It was always fun, or funny, or we sold a beer, or learned something. Many of you became friends. We’ve loved drinking beers with you.

We hope our beers brought you joy and brought you closer together. There’s no greater goal for a batch of beer or a project like ours.

After seven years it’s time to draw the curtains and head off to a new adventure. A poorly drawn grain of barley called Jack D’Or made this whole thing possible. He’ll be coming with us.

Besides making great beer, Dann’s thoughtful approach to everything they do has been great to watch, if only from afar. The few times we’ve spent any time together I’ve loved talking philosophically with him and certainly hope his voice won’t be lost as he transitions to whatever adventure awaits him in the next chapter of his journey. And I wish Dann and Martha the best of best wishes going forward.

Pretty Things beer will be available until it runs out, probably sometime in January of next year. If I were you, I’d stock up while you can.

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Their parting shot.