Wish You Were Beer: Strong Beer Month 2015

21st magnolia-new
It’s February, and that means it’s time for the 13th annual Strong Beer Month, once again with six new extreme beers each at 21st Amendment and Magnolia throughout the month. Try them all, and you get to keep the commemorative logo glass. Just collect all 12 punches in your Strong Beer Month ticket before the beer’s all gone. You can read all about it at the 21st Amendment website.

This year’s theme is the 1975 album “Wish You Were Here” by Pink Floyd. On the album from left to right are: Shaun O’Sullivan (21A co-owner) and Dave McLean (Magnolia owner).”

SBM_15_2ndEdCheckCard_RGB_Front_01

Here’s the lineup for the beer this year:

21st Amendment:

  1. Hendrick’s Imperial Stout: 9.1% abv
  2. Bike Lane Hopper Imperial Black IPA: 9.5% abv
  3. Beer Revolution Imperial Rye IPA: 9% abv
  4. Red Titan Uber Imperial Red Ale Aged on American Oak: 12%
  5. Dub Step Imperial I.P.A.: 10% abv
  6. POHW Imperial Blonde with Oats and Wildflower Honey: 9.5% abv

Magnolia:

  1. Madcap Imperial Botanical Beer: 10.6% abv
  2. Promised Land Imperial IPA: 10.2% abv
  3. Tweezer Tripel Belgian-Style Tripel: 10.8% abv
  4. Old Thunderpussy Barley Wine: 11.8% abv
  5. Pride of Branthill Imperial ESB: 9.1% abv
  6. Smokestack Lightning Imperial Stout: 9.8% abv

And here’s the back cover, too, with more details about each beer:

SBM_15_2ndEdCheckCard_RGB_Back_01

Cardboard Beer Bottles?

bottle-green-3
Well here’s a strange one. The Drinks Business is reporting that Carlsberg has created a new bottle made of “sustainably sourced wood-fiber” and “all materials used in the bottle, including the cap, will be developed using bio-based and biodegradable materials.” Known as the “Green Fiber Bottle,” it was announced at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, “as part of a three-year project with packaging company ecoXpac, and in partnership with Innovation Fund Denmark and the Technical University of Denmark.”

From the Drinks Business article:

Andraea Dawson-Shepherd, senior vice president for corporate affairs, said: “At Carlsberg we are firm believers in the importance of a circular economy in ensuring sustainable future growth and development on our planet, and today’s announcement is excellent news. If the project comes to fruition, as we think it will, it will mark a sea-change in our options for packaging liquids, and will be another important step on our journey towards a circular, zero-waste economy.”

The article notes that “Carlsberg’s bottles are planned to be produced in one piece using an inner coating that will decompose naturally.” I can’t but help thinking this has about as much chance of catching on as the plastic bottle, something Carlsberg, along with several other larger beer companies, dabbled with over the last decade.

carlsberg

Firestone Walker To Introduce Cans

firestone-walker-long
Firestone Walker Brewing announced today that they will be offering three more of their beers in cans shortly. According to the press release, “Union Jack (IPA), Easy Jack (session IPA) and Pivo (hoppy pilsner) [are] all being introduced in six packs starting in mid February.”
FW_Pivo_Can
From the press release:

“We could have rushed into canning a few years ago, but we wanted the timing to be right,” said brewery co-proprietor David Walker. “The market for canned craft beer is now hitting its stride, and canning technology has come a long way in a short period. Also, cans are a perfect fit for life here on the Central Coast. All of these factors converged to finally reach a tipping point for us.”

The brewery’s new canning line was made by leading beer packaging company KHS based in Dortmund, Germany.

“It was the best—and most expensive—solution,” said Brewmaster Matt Brynildson. “You can make the best beer in the world, but if you run it through a substandard packaging line, you end up with a beer-wrecking machine. With this KHS line, there are no worries about beer integrity.”

The canning line was first fired up last year to produce cans for the brewery’s 805 brand. The cans are dry-rinsed with ionized air and purged with CO2, then filled. The cans next run through a bubble breaker to remove any air bubbles before being surface purged with CO2 to eliminate oxygen from the head space. They are then seamed with a Swiss-made Ferrum seamer and inverted for a short period to detect any leaks as they exit the seamer. After a final rinse, cardboard carriers are auto-assembled around the cans. At full speed, the canning line produces 400 cans (12-ounce) per minute.

“I think there are advantages to both cans and bottles,” Brynildson said. “Cans do a great job of blocking UV light and maintaining a great seal, but on top of that they’re just fun. They’re light and they carry anywhere. I get goosebumps just thinking about having these beers in cans.”

FW_Cans_Trio

The Next Session Goes To A Beer Festival

session-the
For our 96th Session, our host is Joan Villar-i-Martí, who writes Birraire, which is also his nickname. He’s asking us all to attend a beer festival, either in person or virtually, and take a position one way or the other, or even somewhere in between, on this question, which, if you haven’t guessed, is the topic. “Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?.”

The discussion at hand is “Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?” I guess it is pretty much clear, but apart from exposing whether the answer is A, B or C (the latter being “it depends”) I expect participants to give us some insight into their local beer scene to better understand the importance or irrelevance of Festivals in each area. My guess is that it can be quite different depending on the popularity of beer in different countries and cultures.

P1010052
The Great American Beer Festival in 2002.

So get thee to a beer festival, or search your memory banks for your festival experiences. To participate in February’s Session, just wax on and/or off about your take on the humble beer fest. Then on February 6, post your thoughts in the comments section to Birraire’s announcement.

P1010533
At the Toronado Barleywine Festival in 2013.

Anheuser-Busch InBev To Buy Elysian

ABI elysian
Anheuser-Busch InBev and Elysian Brewing of Seattle, Washington announced today that they had reached agreement for ABI to buy the small Elysian brewpub chain.

From the press release:

“For two decades, we’ve welcomed guests into our brewpubs and served them creative and impeccably crafted beers,” said Joe Bisacca, Elysian ‎CEO and co-founder, who will continue with Elysian along with his partners, Dick Cantwell and David Buhler. “After a lot of hard work, we’ve grown from one Seattle brewpub to four pub locations and a production brewery. With the support of Anheuser-Busch, we will build on past successes and share our beers with more beer lovers moving forward.”

Dick Cantwell, Elysian co-founder and Head Brewer added, “Throughout our journey we’ve been focused on brewing a portfolio of both classic and groundbreaking beers and supporting innovation and camaraderie in the beer industry through collaboration and experimentation. By joining with Anheuser-Busch we’ll be able to take the next steps to bring that energy and commitment to a larger audience.”

Elysian sold more than 50,000 barrels of beer in 2014, with Immortal IPA accounting for more than a quarter of the company’s total volume.

“Elysian’s story includes everything we look for in a partner,” said Andy Goeler, CEO, Craft, Anheuser-Busch. “The team has spent their careers brewing distinctive beers in the thriving West Coast beer community and building unique venues that celebrate beer. As the fastest growing brewer in Washington, their recipe is working. Elysian’s brands are an important addition to our high-end beer portfolio, and we look forward to working together.”

In addition to the Seattle Airport Way brewery, the acquisition includes the company’s four Seattle brewpubs, Elysian Capitol Hill, Elysian Tangletown, Elysian Fields and Elysian BAR.

Anheuser-Busch’s purchase of Elysian is expected to close by the end of the first quarter of 2015. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

Not sure what to make of the news yet, all I know is what’s in the press release. So far, there’s been no statement from anyone at Elysian, though I suspect we’ll learn more throughout the day.

Elysian

Schooner’s To Open Production Brewery

schooners-new
Antioch’s brewpub Schooner’s Grille & Brewery is currently looking for a space to build a production brewery and begin offering their award-winning beers in bottles. The restaurant and brewery was purchased by new owners last May, and they planned from the beginning to start packaging the beer. But recently they decided to close the restaurant as of February 1, 2015. So Schooner’s beer will likely be a little harder to find for a few months, while they transition from brewpub to production brewery.

I spoke to longtime brewer at Schooner’s, Craig Cauwels, and he tells me they hope to be brewing in a new space by mid-to-late summer. They may contract some beer during the downtime, but a final decision on that hasn’t been made yet, and will most likely be dependent upon how the search for a new building for the brewery is going. They expect to know more about potential sites for the brewery over the next month.

Cauwels also will be investing in the new brewery, and will become a partner in the venture, which is exciting, because Craig is an incredibly talented brewer and it will be great for him to have a stake in the company. Schooner’s was named “Brewery of the Year” at last year’s California State Fair Brewery Competition, and has won countless awards over the years. His Old Diablo Barley Wine is consistently one of the best barley wines you’ve never heard of (but should have) and hopefully will soon be available in bottles, along with many of Schooner’s other beers. Look for bottles of Schooner’s beer on store shelves soon, or at least by the end of the summer if all goes according to plan.

craig-cauwels
Schooner’s brewmaster Craig Cauwels.

Help Rebuild Belgium’s Hof ten Dormaal

Hof-ten-Dormaal
Yesterday, January 6, was a dark day in Tildonk, Belgium, located in the Flemish Brabant, near the center of the northern part of the country. Tildonk is located in the municipality of Haacht, and that whole area has less than 14,000 people, so it’s a fairly small village. It was also home to a true farmhouse brewery, Hof ten Dormaal. The small brewery made a wide variety of beers, including a range of Belgians, sours, wild beers, a barrel-aged series and a number of experimental beers, too. I say “was,” because yesterday starting around 6:45 a.m. there was a fire at the brewery which completely destroyed the farm brewery, and the “bottling line, warm chamber and a big part of the stock (another account mentions thousands of bottles) are completely lost.” The brewery originally came from Montana, and was installed in 2009. The following year, they added a bottling line. Fortunately, the brewhouse and fermenters appear to have been spared, and, more importantly, no one in the family was injured.

hof-fire

During last year’s Brussels Beer Challenge, I had the pleasure of visiting the brewery, meeting André Janssens and his family, and tasting many of their beers along with my fellow judges. It’s out in the open countryside, a beautiful rustic setting. We visited the brewery, the tasting room, but spent most of our time in the garden, opening and enjoying the beer made right there at the farm.

The farm grows cereal and keeps cattle, and is “99% self-sustainable.” The farm grows its own hops and malt, their water comes from a well on the property and they make their energy from rape seeds grown in their fields. Yeast is the only ingredient they buy for brewing. They feed the leftovers to their livestock. Perhaps you’ve had their beer, it is imported by Twelve Percent Imports and available in California, along with Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, South Carolina, Washington DC, and Wisconsin.

Here’s a short video showing part of the damage to the brewery and the farm buildings.

It didn’t always look like that, of course. Below are a few of my photos from my visit last November. Happily, there’s already an effort underway to return the once-picturesque brewery to former glory. A GoFundMe campaign has been set up and is soliciting donations. If you love good beer, please be generous.

DSCN2133
Outside the farmhouse brewery.

DSCN2108
I loved these tiny clay shields on the brick wall outside of the farmhouse.

DSCN2109
From the gate outside looking in to Hof ten Dormaal.

DSCN2131
Cafe seating on a patio outside the tasting room of the brewery.

DSCN2112
Inside the tasting room, local artwork hangs on the wall above wooden kegs aging beer.

DSCN2137
Owner and brewmaster André Janssens leads a tour of his brewery.

DSCN2114
Hof ten Dormaal’s brewhouse.

DSCN2130
The courtyard garden, surrounded by the family home, farm buildings, and the brewery.

DSCN2135
Some of the Brussels Beer Challenge judges posing in the courtyard.

hoften_dormaal

Again, if you love great beer and want to help support it, this is a great way to help out a family and their farmhouse brewery. Please donate to help rebuild the brewery through Go Fund Me and definitely go visit the brewery the next time you’re in Belgium.

UPDATE: Sam Vanderstraeten, the creator of the GoFundMe campaign posted some Day 2 photographs showing more of the destruction wrought by the fire.

Hof-ten-Dormaal-d2-3

Hof-ten-Dormaal-d2-1

Hof-ten-Dormaal-d2-2

Winter Brews Festival In Concord January 24

bn
On Saturday, January 24, from Noon to 4 PM, the Brewing Network‘s 6th annual Winter Brews Festival will take place at Todos Santos Plaza in Concord. The beer festival will feature over 50 breweries and proceeds will benefit the Coral Reef Alliance. Sandwiched in between the weekends of the final NFL Playoffs and the Super Bowl — so you won’t miss a game — the annual event will showcase dozens of award-winning craft breweries, including local favorites, 21st Amendment, Drake’s, Heretic, and Lagunitas, as well as some great new breweries like Calicraft and The Rare Barrel.
Winter-Fest-2015
Live music from Ralph Woodson and Purple Haze will set the mood for an afternoon of great beer and a worthy cause. Sponsors of the event include The Hop Grenade Taproom & Bottle Shop, the 21st Amendment, Drake’s Brewing Company, Hop Tech Homebrew and White Labs, and proceeds will benefit the local environmental non-profit, the Coral Reef Alliance.

Tickets are now on sale and are $40 pre-sale or $50 at the gate and include unlimited pours and a commemorative glass. Designated Drivers pay only $5, however this is a 21 and over only event. The event, which will, for the first time, take over the entire Todos Santos Plaza, is conveniently located just two blocks away from the Concord BART station, making it easy to get to and from the festival safely. For more information on the event, and to purchase tickets, please visit: www.BNbrewfest.com.

winter-brews-2015-v

The Next Session Looks For The Next Great Beer Book

session-the
For our 95th Session, our original host has gone missing, so happily Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog offered to come to the recuse and host the January Session, his third time hosting. For his topic, he’s asking one simple question. “What beer book which has yet to be written would you like to see published?” You can read Alan’s thought process and more about what he’s looking for in his post “I Answer The Call! Again I Host!!!,” but these are the important bits.

What is the book you would want to write about good beer? What book would you want to read? Is there a dream team of authors your would want to see gathered to make that “World Encyclopedia of Beer and Brewing”? Or is there one person you would like to see on a life long generous pension to assure that the volumes flow from his or her pen? Let us know.

Books&Beer

So put on your thinkin’ caps, let the synapses fire on an open flame. To participate in January’s Session, just come up with the next great beer book. Then on the second day of 2015 — see you’ve got until next year to work on this, plenty of time — post your idea in the comments section to Alan’s announcement. Then get writing. We’ll all want to see that book written by the following year at the latest.

books2

Craft: New Documentary About California Breweries

craft-doc
This looks interesting. Jeff Smith and Fran Ellsworth are directing and producing a new documentary film about California breweries entitled “Craft: The California Beer Documentary.” They recently released their first trailer, which you can watch below. All I know at this point is from a short description of their project. “A road trip throughout California, learning from the master brewers of the state. It’ll also feature interviews with beer enthusiasts and home-brewers.”