Beer Birthday: Chris Swersey

Today is the 51st birthday of Chris Swersey, who’s on the staff of the Brewers Association as the Competition Manager for both the Great American Beer Festival and the World Beer Cup. He coordinates all the judges, volunteers and the thousands of beers needed for each festival. It’s a big job and Chris seems to do it effortlessly. Plus, last year, Chris and I both judged in Belgium at the Brussels Beer Challenge, which was great fun. Join me in wishing Chris a very happy birthday.

Chris reading the list of World Beer Cup winners in 2008.

Nancy Johnson, Justin Crossley & Chris Swersey Before the GABF Awards Ceremony
Nancy Johnson, Justin Crossley & Chris right before the GABF Awards Ceremony in 2009.

Eric and Lauren Salazar, both from New Belgium Brewing, sandwiched by Jim Crooks, from Firestone Walker, and Chris Swersey, Competition Manager for GABF judging.

Me, Chris and another BA staff member freshly arriving at CBC in Austin in 2007.

American Brewery Count Reaches 4,000 Milestone

The Brewers Association announced this morning that the American Beer Industry has hit another milestone: there are now over 4,000 active breweries in the U.S. It also appears likely that the previous high of 4,131, which was achieved in 1873, will likely be broken if not by the end of this year, then certainly sometime in 2016.

Here’s the press release from the BA’s economist, Bart Watson:

Much of the beer world’s attention in the past week was focused on the Great American Beer Festival. However, the week also brought another milestone in the resurgence of local American brewing, with the Brewers Association database passing 4,000 active breweries. Although precise numbers from the 19th century are difficult to confirm, this is almost certainly the first time the United States has crossed the 4,000 brewery barrier since the 1870s.

Van Wieren (1995) notes that the Internal Revenue Department counted 2,830 “ale and lager breweries in operation” in 1880, down from a high point of 4,131 in 1873. Given the strong pace of openings (approximately two openings/day with a net increase of 1.9/day factoring in closings), it is likely that later in 2015, or early in 2016, there will be more active breweries in the United States than at any point in our nation’s history. This is a remarkable achievement that would have been unthinkable in late 1970s, when the number of American breweries dipped below 100.

More recently, it seems only a short while ago that I was writing about passing the 3,000 brewery mark, and many of the same thoughts still apply: the continued return to a localization of beer production and the potential for future growth balanced by ever increasing competition and future challenges for breweries to differentiate themselves. I’ll also repeat what I said then:

“What it does not mean is that we’ve reached a saturation point. Most of the new entrants continue to be small and local, operating in neighborhoods or towns. What it means to be a brewery is shifting, back toward an era when breweries were largely local, and operated as a neighborhood bar or restaurant. How many neighborhoods in the country could still stand to gain from a high-quality brewpub or micro taproom? While a return to the per capita ratio of 1873 seems unlikely (that would mean more than 30,000 breweries), the resurgence of American brewing is far from over.”

The past 15+ months have borne out that statement as the map of U.S. brewing has continued to diversify. There are now breweries in more than 2,000 unique cities across all 50 states. At the same time, there are also nearly 1,000 cities with a population of more than 10,000 that don’t have a local brewery yet, and numerous neighborhoods in larger cities without a local brewpub or taproom. As America’s beer culture continues to deepen and spread, there are still ample opportunities for well-differentiated, high-quality entrants. So, to all the hard-working brewers/brewery staff that have made 4,000 breweries a reality, and to the next wave of innovative entrants to follow, cheers!

Bountiful Breweries

GABF Awards With Photographs 2015

On Saturday, September 26, the winners of the 34th Great American Beer Festival were announced. A record 6,647 beers were judged in 92 categories by 242 judges, of which I was again privileged to be one. I was on hand at the awards ceremony and thought I’d share the results again, this time along with some of the photographs I took during the awards.

Inside the back of the theater, about an hour before the award ceremony began.

Justin Crossley, from The Brewing Network, on stage getting ready to simulcast the awards.

After the theater filled up.

A partial panorama view of the theater.

[Read more…]

Beer Birthday: Paul Gatza

Today is also Paul Gatza’s 51st birthday. Paul is the Director of the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colorado. He’s held numerous executive positions with the BA and its previous incarnation, the Association of Brewers. An avid homebrewer, Paul is great face for the BA and a terrific person. Join me in wishing Paul a very happy birthday.

Toasting in New Orleans for CBC.

Working the AHA booth at GABF.

At the podium during the opening of CBC in 2008.

Paul giving his annual state of the industry talk at CBC in 2012.

Homebrewers Pick The Best Beers In America 2015

For the 13th straight year, the readers of Zymurgy magazine were asked to send in a list of their 20 favorite commercially available beers. With a record number of votes in the poll’s thirteenth year, over 1,900 different breweries were represented in the voting. The results were not exactly shocking, and most of the beers and breweries that got the most votes were what you’d expect, I think, but it’s an interesting list all the same. The results are, as usual, printed in the latest issue, July 2015.
Top Rated Beers
KEY: T indicates tie / (#) indicates rank last year / [Arrow indicates their movement over the previous year].

Four of the top ten are California beers (the same number as last year), with again 24 making the list. This is the seventh year in a row AHA members chose Pliny the Elder as the top beer. This also the sixth consecutive year that Bell’s Two Hearted Ale came in second.

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder [↔]
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale [↔]
3. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA [↔]
4. Stone Enjoy By IPA (8) [↑4]
5. Founders Breakfast Stout (9) [↑4]
6. The Alchemist Heady Topper (5) [↑1]
7. Bell’s Hopslam Ale (4) [↓3]
8. Three Floyds Zombie Dust (14) [↑6]
9. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA (7) [↓2]
10. Firestone Walker Wookey Jack (13) [↑3]
11. Deschutes Fresh Squeezed IPA (not on last year’s list)
T12. Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro (not on last year’s list, though plain Milk Stout was 29)
T12. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale [↔]
T12. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA (20) [↑8]
15. Goose Island Bourbon Country Stout (10) [↓5]
16. Russian River Blind Pig I.P.A. (22) [↑6]
T17. Arrogant Bastard Ale (18) [↑1]
T17. Founders KBS (11) [↓6]
T19. Russian River Consecration (39) [↑20]
T19. Russian River Supplication (30) [↑11]
21. Deschutes Black Butte Porter (23) [↑2]
T22. Firestone Walker Parabola (not on last year’s list)
T22. Firestone Walker Union Jack (18) [↓4]
T24. Firestone Walker Double Jack (15) [↓9]
T24. Odell IPA (49) [↑25]
T24. Tröegs Nugget Nectar (39) [↑15]
27. Founders All Day IPA (34) [↑7]
T28. Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA (27) [↓1]
T28. Sierra Nevada Celebration (15) [↓13]
30. Lagunitas IPA (38) [↑8]
31. North Coast Old Rasputin (23) [↓8]
32. Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ (15) [↓17]
T33. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin (not on last year’s list)
T33. Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale (25) [↓8]
35. Surly Furious (32) [↓3]
36. Stone Ruination IPA (26) [↓10]
37. Deschutes The Abyss (41) [↑4]
38. Green Flash West Coast IPA (31) [↓7]
39. Oskar Blues Ten Fidy (44) [↓5]
40. Cigar City Jai Alai (42) [↓2]
T41. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter (47) [↑6]
T41. New Belgium La Folie (33) [↓8]
43. Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale (36) [↓7]
44. Founders Backwoods Bastard (49) [↑5]
T45. Victory DirtWolf Double IPA (not on last year’s list)
T45. Fat Head’s Head Hunter (not on last year’s list)
T45. Lagunitas Sucks (6) [↓39]
T45. Stone IPA (37) [↓8]
T49. Odell Myrcenary (not on last year’s list)
T49. Russian River Pliny the Younger (28) [↓21]
T49. Ballast Point Victory at Sea (not on last year’s list)

Brewery Rankings

Brewery rankings are based on total votes received by each brewery’s beers. This year’s top brewery is the same as last year, Russian River Brewing Co., in Santa Rosa, Calif. Russian River placed five beers in the top 50, including both its Plinys. Stone Brewing finished second, while Bell’s Brewery came in third, exchanging places from last year.

finished second, while last year’s winner, Stone Brewing Co., came in third this year. Eight California breweries made the list (one more than last year), with five from Colorado, and two each from Michigan and Pennsylvania. Again, (#) indicates their rank last year, while [Arrow indicates their movement over the previous year].

1. Russian River Brewing Co., Santa Rosa, CA [↔]
2. Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, CA (3) [↑1]
3. Bell’s Brewery, Inc., Kalamazoo, MI (2) [↓1]
4. Founders Brewing Co., Grand Rapids, MI (6) [↑2]
5. Firestone Walker Brewing Co., Paso Robles, CA (7) [↑2]
6. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Chico, CA & Mill River, NC (5) [↑1]
7. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, DE (4) [↓3]
8. Lagunitas Brewing Co., Petaluma, CA & Chicago, IL [↔]
9. Ballast Point Brewing, San Diego, CA (13) [↑4]
10. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, OR (9) [↓1]
11. New Belgium Brewing, Fort Collins, CO (10) [↓1]
12. Avery Brewing Co., Boulder, CO (20) [↑8]
13. Odell Brewing Co., Fort Collins, CO (14) [↑1]
14. Three Floyds Brewing Co., Munster, IN (11) [↓3]
15. Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, CO (17) [↑2]
16. Goose Island Beer Co., Chicago, IL (12) [↑4]
17. New Glarius Brewing Co., New Glarus, WI (18) [↑1]
18. Surly Brewing Co., Minneapolis, MN (21) [↑3]
19. Tröegs Brewing Co., Hershey, PA (not on last year’s list)
20. The Bruery, Placentia, CA (not on last year’s list)
21. Green Flash Brewing Co., San Diego, CA (not on last year’s list)
22. The Boston Beer Co., Boston, MA (15) [↓7]
T23. Great Divide Brewing Co., Denver, CO (22) [↓1]
T23. Cigar City Brewing, Tampa, FL (not on last year’s list)
T25. Victory Brewing Co., Downington, PA (19) [↓6]

Best Portfolio

They also determined which breweries got the most votes for different beers that they produce, and called that list “best portfolio.” The number following their name is how many of their beers got at least one vote. (#) indicates their rank last year, while [Arrow indicates their movement over the previous year].

1. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. [60 Beers] (3) [↑2]
2. Stone Brewing Co. [54 Beers] (5) [↑3]
3. Bell’s Brewery, Inc. [52 Beers] (6) [↑3]
4. New Belgium Brewing [47 Beers] (1) [↓3]
5. Avery Brewing Co. [39 Beers] (10) [↑5]
T6. Goose Island Beer Co. [37 Beers] (10) [↑4]
T6. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery [37 Beers] (4) [↓2]
T8. Firestone Walker Brewing Co. [35 Beers] (not on last year’s list)
T8. The Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams) [35 Beers] (2) [↓6]
T8. The Bruery [35 Beers] (9) [↓1]

Top Imports

With a few ties, several imports also received votes as readers’ favorite beers. For at least a second year in a row, Unibroue’s La Fin du Monde claimed the number one spot among imports. Again, (#) indicates their rank last year, while [Arrow indicates their movement over the previous year].

1. Unibroue La Fin Du Monde, Canada [↔]
2. St. Bernardus Abt 12, Belgium (3) [↓1]
3. Rodenbach Grand Cru, Belgium (5) [↑2]
4. Guinness Draught, Ireland (1) [↓3]
5. Saison Dupont, Belgium (not on last year’s list)
T6. Orval, Belgium (not on last year’s list)
T6. Chimay Grande Reserve/Blue Label, Belgium (not on last year’s list)
8 Samuel Smith Oatmeal Stout, England (not on last year’s list)
T9. Weihenstephan Hefeweissbier, Germany (not on last year’s list)
T9. Cantillon Gueuze, Belgium (not on last year’s list)

Senate Passes Resolution Celebrating Brewers

This is kind of fun. A few years ago, the California state senate declared that February was California Beer Month using language I helped draft. Other states have followed suit, as well. But now the U.S. Senate has unanimously passed a national resolution, S. Res. 188 recognizing the efforts of small breweries nationwide and American Craft Beer Week in particular.

Here’s the BA’s press release:

The weeklong celebration honoring the country’s small and independent craft brewery renaissance during the 10th American Craft Beer Week (ACBW) continues, as Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Susan Collins (R-Me.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) introduced a resolution, S. Res. 188, expressing the Senate’s appreciation of the goals of the week and commending the craft brewers of the United States. The U.S. Senate passed S. Res. 188 by unanimous consent.

From May 11-17, all 50 states witnessed over 2,000 registered ACBW events, including exclusive brewery tours, special craft beer releases, food and beer pairings, tap takeovers and more, to honor the ever-advancing craft beer culture and unite tens of thousands of beer lovers nationwide. also created an interactive graphic featuring fun facts to commemorate each state and its respective commitment to craft brewing.

“American Craft Beer Week is about supporting and celebrating small and independent brewers,” said Julia Herz, publisher of and craft beer program director at the Brewers Association. “We are thrilled to see the U.S. Senate recognize the week and commend the accomplishments of small brewery businesses, each of whom are a driving economic force and cultural bright spot for this country.”

In addition to expressing gratitude for the goals of ACBW, the resolution recognizes the significant contributions of the craft brewers of the United States to the economy and to the communities which the craft brewers are located. The resolution also commends craft brewers for providing jobs, supporting agriculture, improving balance of trade—particularly by producing many sought-after new and unique styles ranging from smoked porters to pumpkin peach ales—and educating the country and beer lovers around the world about the history and culture of beer, while promoting legal and responsible appreciation.


American Craft Beer Week 2015

Today begins the 10th annual American Craft Beer Week, which is themed this year as Cheers to the Sweet Land of Li-beer-ty. This year it will take place May 11-17, and “all 50 states will hold events including exclusive brewery tours, special craft beer releases, food and beer pairings, tap takeovers and more to honor the ever-advancing craft beer culture and unite tens of thousands of beer lovers nationwide.”

“American Craft Beer Week has provided independent beer fans across the country a chance to support their local breweries since 2006,” said Julia Herz, publisher of and craft beer program director at the Brewers Association. “With celebrations happening in all 50 states, this is truly an annual national event that recognizes all those involved in making craft beer from small breweries in the U.S. such a success.”

You can also follow news of ACBW and see what events have been scheduled and the list can be searched by state. The BA this year has also “created an interactive graphic with fun facts to commemorate each state and their commitment to craft brewing.”

Click here to see the ACBW poster full size.

And here’s a larger view of what they had to say about California.


Beer In Ads #1537: … That’s Where We’ll Go!

Sunday’s ad is for United Brewers Industrial Foundation, from the late 1940s. I’m not exactly sure what year, but it’s the year after whatever year the brewing industry paid $400,000,000 in taxes. Two men are looking for a place to grab a beer, and decide the bar must meet four criteria:

  1. The food is good!
  2. It’s a clean, pleasant inviting place
  3. They obey the law …
  4. And they serve good beer and ale

I know I always wonder if bar owners are following the law before I’ll even consider visiting them. Don’t you? The other oddity is that the UBIF also announced a “clean-up or close-up” program to improve or get rid of bar bars in order to raise the standard of all of them. The idea, undoubtedly, was to change the pre-prohibition perception of bars, especially when it was still fresh in the minds of most Americans. Still, I know I’ll go to a place meeting those conditions, though I suppose the last one os the most important to me.


Beer In Ads #1523: In A World Of Strife, There’s Peace In Beer

Sunday’s ad is by the United Brewers Industrial Foundation, from 1941. This was early in the industry’s ads promoting beer, and would have been after the start of World War 2, but before Pearl Harbor and America’s entrance into the war. I imagine it would have been a time of uncertainty and anxiety, so it’s interesting that they picked up on that, and suggested something we all now, that when you’re feeling stressed, a beer can help you relax, slow down and feel a little better. So while it would never occurred to me to say so, there really is peace in beer. How cool is that?


Top 50 Craft Breweries Infographic

This is pretty cool. Vinepair took the list the BA released on Tuesday, the Top 50 Craft Breweries For 2014, and created an infographic showing where the top fifty are located. It’s interesting to see the pockets where there are only smaller breweries, those ranked 51-3000+. It does appear that the top 50 are concentrated in a few broad areas.

Click here to see the infographic full size.