Lagunitas Announces Several Big Changes & New Ventures

lagunitas-circle moonlight-brewing independence-tx
Damn. Go big or go home, I guess. Tony Magee never does anything small … or halfway. Today Lagunitas Brewing announced a number of big changes and new ventures they’ve undertaken. Here’s the first part of the press release, laying out the general idea.

The Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma CA is excited to announce that we are expanding the way we participate in some of the great communities that have helped us learn and grow as brewers. We believe that beer is the original social media and we know that the best way to connect with beer lovers is face to face, over a beer.

Today we are announcing a set of intense local alliances with very special local brewers whose work we admire and are proud to partner with. They are four completely different partnering situations and in concert we will learn from one another and help build our breweries together culturally and geographically.

We don’t live in a world of either/or, our world is both/and. Drawing from the best of the best to find new possibilities is the most thrilling way forward.

The why and how differs from one cultural region to another but the intention remains the same: Connect with, learn from and support our communities. “We expect to be surprised by the things that we encounter as we grow these relationships. This will be a big learning experience for us” says Tony Magee, Founder of Lagunitas.

And here they are, though I’ve re-ordered them in order of importance to me personally. Not exactly scientific, but hey, this is a personal blog, so there you have it. By far, the most surprising, though exciting one, is a joint venture with Brian Hunt and his Moonlight Brewing Co.

Moonlight Brewing Company (Santa Rosa, CA)

We’re thrilled to be entering into a joint venture with Moonlight Brewing Company. We will work alongside Brian and his people to expand the reach of a genuine national treasure. Moonlight opened in 1992, (the year before Lagunitas) at a time when the term “craft” didn’t even exist. Over the years, we’ve long enjoyed a great friendship with brewer/owner Brian Hunt and have huge respect for is people, the beers he brews and the reputation he has created. We’re looking forward to learning together and having a blast doing it.

Brian Hunt (Moonlight)
Brian Hunt.

Independence Brewing Company (Austin, TX)

Lagunitas will combine resources with the great Independence Brewing of Austin TX to help them grow their brewing capacity and do more of what it is that they already do so well. Independence Brewing founders Amy and Rob Cartwright, along with their great people, will continue to lead their company and will help us deepen our own connection to Austin and the Lone Star State. We’re looking forward to learning from each other and sharing our local connections.

A Non-Profit Fund Raising Community Room #1 (NE Portland, OR)

On August 1st, Lagunitas will open the doors to our first Community Room, dedicated 100% to supporting non-profits with their fundraising efforts. The beer and the space will be completely donated to any bona fide Non-Profit organization so that they can focus on raising the funds they need to carry out their respective missions. A Lagunitas team and live music will be on-hand to ensure turnkey execution of the event and most importantly that all of their guests have a great time!

A 2nd Non-Profit Fund Raising Community Room (San Diego, CA)

Our 2nd Community Room will open January 2017. This space will also be made available exclusively to Non-Profit groups for fund raising.

A Lagunitas Taproom & Beer Sanctuary (Historic District Charleston, SC)

Lagunitas is under contract with the beautiful Southend Brewery and Smokehouse of Charleston, SC to convert the long time brewpub to a new Lagunitas Taproom and Beer Sanctuary in the heart of Old Charleston on famous East Bay Street. This turn-of-the-century landmark will be a cornerstone location for Lagunitas in the Southeast, offering small batch beers that are exclusive to the Charleston Taproom and brewed in the existing 10-barrel brewhouse. The Taproom also offers two different floors of event space which we will make available to local non-profits for their fundraising efforts. A Grand Opening party and more information to come in the near future.

Here, I’ll pick up with the remainder of the press release, giving more explanation.

This new thing for us represents our way forward into the brave new world of the brave new world of beer’s brave new world. I say brave thrice because it is exactly that; We don’t know exactly how this will unfold over time or what unforeseen paths forward it will reveal.

These new relationships will be learning experiences for all four of us. We all know that we love beer, we all know that we love brewing and the community that gathers around its fire. We all know that we all want to grow and make new connections. We know we all want to be productive and learn. We know we all want to earn a living and make a home for our employees who’ve put their chips down on the table alongside our own.

As we all learn and begin to grow together in this new paradigm I believe that we will find more partners in other parts of the country that we can also share with and cultivate regional relationships through. If we can get this first step right then it is just the beginning for all of us.

Lagunitas is the lead in the relationship because we gained adequate scale to be able to borrow the money it will take to be the lead and to help, but scale is not insight and money is not creativity. Insight and creativity are everything. They are the cornerstones of small brewing. That is the space where our four teams of brewers and marketers and managers are all standing eye to eye, playing together to try to make magic happen, and I for one am very sure it will. What form it will take will be ours to find out.

One thing is for certain, the future will not be like the past! Furthur….

Cheers all….!!

SAM_3102

And, of course, Tony weighed in with his own take on the changes, though this was originally meant to preface the above information, but I wanted to lead with the news first.

Greetings Fellow Travelers,

Over the last 23 years of running-off the mash and filling the kettle we have come to understand that the new world of small brewing is less a ‘thing’ than it is a ‘journey’. A point on a curve. Jack Joyce, founder of Rogue Brewing in Newport, once said that we’re not in the beer business, we are in the ‘change business’. Ask any brewer older than 5 years and they will tell you that in 2010 small brewing was a whole other place. Ask one older than that and they will tell you the same about 2005, and 2000, and especially 1995. And so it is that 2020 will be unrecognizable to the brewers of 2016.

One thing that hasn’t changed though is the personal connection that beer lovers want with the people that make the beer they take into their bodies in the hope it will thrill their tastebuds as it enters their blood enroute to their brains to make it do tricks. This is pretty personal stuff and as brewers our job is to make that connection.

Last September we announced our own way of relating to the world outside of the United States through a joint venture with the last of the largest family-controlled (meet Charlene De Carvalho-Heineken..!) brewer in the world. Most U.S. beer lovers don’t know too much about the family and I really didn’t either until I began to meet them and understand them and their company and grew to love them as people and a company.

There is an old expression friends sometimes use when the go to lunch, ‘Let’s go Dutch’, meaning let’s split the bill. That expression, I’ve learned, comes from a place and a people. You haft’a wonder how it is that a small, mostly flooded, lowland country ever became a global colonial superpower? Most know that New York was once called New Amsterdam but most also don’t know that Brooklyn and Bronx and other local names are actually Dutch names too. The answer to the question is pretty straightforward: The went Dutch. The cooperated, collaborated, shared risk, partnered, co-invested and joint ventured. This is what we built with Heineken, we are pulling on the rope together.

I have seen that one way they achieved their own goals of growing Heineken was and is now to co-invest in local brewers around the globe, not to ‘consolidate’ or dominate or reduce competition, but to expand and nurture the opportunities to the benefit of themselves AND their partners. They do this with big brewers and with brewers far smaller than ourselves in all 24 time zones.

If one were to take a line drawing of a map of the borders of the 50 United States and lay that line drawing over the continent of, say, Europe, it would look a lot like, well, Europe. There’d be spaces the size of France and the UK inside of Nevada and Illinois and there’d be a Rhode Island like there is a Monaco and so on. In Europe nationalism matters and each country has historically meaningful brewers that are important to those individual countries. All over the world, beer is local. It’s gradually becoming more so here too. But Americans still like to think of us all as Americans and we have liked having 50-state nationally distributed brewers.

In the past, before and just after prohibition this wasn’t really so, but it became that way over time. Now it is going back the other way. Small brewing has played a role in re-igniting regional pride the way music and locally-sourced food is doing the same.

Having said all that, it’s no secret that the U.S. is a whole lot of places stitched together by a constitution, right? I mean, good people from Florida are very different from good people from South Dakota and Oregonians would never mistake themselves for Texans. Even Wisconsinites sometimes call Illinoisans ‘Flatlanders’ while some Minnesotans still think that grave-robbing is called date-night in North Dakota (it’s an old Johnny Carson joke….all apologies to North Dakota). There will always be nationally distributed brands and I sincerely hope that Lagunitas can continue to find a place in peoples hearts irrespective of geography by working to be something close to the bone, rooted to a fundamental human experience that actually does cross borders fluidly. But local matters, and will matter even more in the future.

This is very cool actually, because it means that if we can be genuinely local we can be part of the future. When we became genuinely local in Chicago we found lots and lots of new friends that we might not have by just shipping it in from the Left Coast. We’re already feeling the same vibe in Southern California even as we construct our new brewery there. It’s a great thing to be able to do. However we can’t do that everywhere. But….we can go Dutch everywhere, and that’s exactly what we are doing right here right now.

Stone Brewing To Open Taproom & Pilot Brewery In Napa

stone
Stone Brewing announced today that they were renovating the historic 10,000 square foot Borreo building in downtown Napa. Once completed, it will be a tap room and pilot brewery, which will do growler fills, as well as create exclusive beers for that location. The restaurant will use locally sourced food available “on premise or to take away picnic style.” The new Stone taproom is expected to open sometime next year.

Stone-napa

Here’s the press release from Stone Brewing:

Stone Brewing will begin renovations to a 10,000 square-foot iconic building in downtown Napa, bringing its bold and flavorful craft beer to the region well-known for its amazing wine. Stone’s newest outpost, located on 3rd Street and Soscol Avenue, will include a pilot brewing system, a dining experience, growler fills and Stone merchandise.

“The historic Borreo building is the perfect space for us to put down our roots in Napa,” said Greg Koch, Stone Brewing CEO & co-founder. “Not only is it literally made of stone, it’s one of downtown’s most iconic links to the 19th century and a landmark that’s been vacant for the past 15 years. We recognize the high quality of wine that comes from the region and the appreciation that Napa Valley locals and visitors have for fresh, well-crafted drink. We are elated to become a contributing part of such an artisanal town.”

The 10-barrel pilot brew system will enable brewers to produce Stone’s iconic bold and innovative beer using core recipes as well as indigenous ingredients from the local geography. The Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa will fill growlers and serve Stone’s year-round beers as well as special releases brewed onsite.

Stone’s food philosophy will carry over to its newest Tap Room with a dining experience that incorporates the local Napa flavors for enjoyment on premise or to take away picnic style. Stone proudly specializes in locally grown, small-farm ingredients and features an eclectic menu of world-inspired cuisine and a unique take on comfort food. As strong advocates for environmental responsibility and high-quality food, Stone will purchase local and small-farm organic produce from the Napa region. Making the most of outstanding weather is something the San Diego-based company is quite familiar with. Locals and tourists visiting Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa will enjoy an outdoor seating area complete with communal tables, fire pits and views overlooking downtown Napa.

The historic Borreo building, named for the family that formerly owned the historic stone structure, is an Italianate Renaissance design made from native-cut stone. It was completed in 1877 and has been vacant since 2001. While keeping historic elements in place, Stone plans to transform the building’s western wall, adding expansive doors to a stunning garden facing the Napa River.

“I’m a huge Napa fan,” said Koch. “I’ve been visiting for more than 20 years and I first toured through the Borreo Building nearly five years ago. We’ve tried a few times to make something happen there, and are thrilled to finally see it come to fruition!”

With an anticipated opening in 2017, Stone Brewing Tap Room – Napa joins two expansion projects already underway for the growing company. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens – Berlin will open its doors in Germany this summer. Stone Brewing — Richmond will begin supplying fresh Stone beer from its 250-barrel brewhouse in July.

ABI Buys Devils Backbone

ABI devils-backbone
In what’s becoming almost routine news, Anheuser-Busch InBev announced this morning the acquisition of Devils Backbone Brewing of Roseland, Virginia.

Here’s the press release:

Today, Anheuser-Busch announced an agreement to acquire Devils Backbone Brewing Company, the leading and fastest-growing craft brewery in the state of Virginia. Devils Backbone will be the latest partner to join the diverse portfolio of craft breweries within The High End, the company’s business unit comprising unique craft and import brands.

“I am extremely pleased to announce the partnership of Devils Backbone Brewing Company with Anheuser-Busch. While we are joining a creative group of craft breweries in the division, Devils Backbone will retain a high level of autonomy and continue its own authentic DNA within The High End framework,” said Steve Crandall, co-founder and CEO of Devils Backbone Brewing Company. “The existing management team plans to stay on board for many years, while continuing to innovate and bring locally crafted Virginia beer to the nation.”

In 2008, founders Steve and Heidi Crandall opened the doors to Devils Backbone Brewing Company in the Virginia Heartland, after being inspired by a ski trip to northern Italy in 1991 where they had their first taste of Germanic style beer. After success with the first brewpub, Basecamp, the decision was made to break ground on the Outpost facility, in Lexington, Virginia. Originally projected to produce 10,000 barrels of beer in its first ten years, the Outpost produced almost 45,000 barrels in its first three. Steve credits much of this early success to the excellent network of distributors within his system, which is weighted heavily towards Anheuser-Busch.

“I congratulate Steve and Heidi Crandall and the entire Devils Backbone team as they partner with Anheuser-Busch,” said Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. “Through the strength of Anheuser-Busch’s network of distributors, Devils Backbone’s award-winning craft beer will soon be available throughout the country and beyond. I want to thank Devils Backbone for their immense contribution to Virginia’s world-class craft beer industry, and I look forward to the additional exposure for Virginia as a leading state for craft beer lovers.”

Today, the Outpost Brewery & Taproom in Lexington serves as the primary production brewery while the Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows in Roseland, serves as a visitor destination. Devils Backbone takes full advantage of the scenic 100-acre Basecamp property surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, offering a variety of opportunities for guests to enjoy the outdoors. In 2015, the two locations hosted more than 500,000 guests.

“Devils Backbone has captivated beer drinkers in Virginia since opening its doors eight years ago,” said Felipe Szpigel, President, The High End. “From the beginning, they have shown creativity and talent with the great beers they brew, and they’ve been able to use the authentic offerings at Basecamp Brewpub & Meadows to cultivate a fun, outdoor lifestyle that resonates with everyone. Pair these qualities with dynamic leadership and a dream to do something bigger, and you have the recipe for an even more promising future.”

While best known for its flagship Vienna Lager, which accounted for nearly 60% of Devils Backbone volume in 2015, the portfolio also includes other award-winning year-round favorites like Eight Point IPA and Schwartz Bier. Developing beers with personality and individual integrity of flavor has helped enable Devils Backbone to win four National titles: 2014 Great American Beer Festival Mid-Size Brewery & Brew Team, 2013 Small Brewing Company & Small Brewing Company Brew Team, 2012 Small Brewpub & Small Brewpub Brewer, 2010 World Beer Cup Champion Brewery, and the Virginia Craft Brewers Fest Best of Show medals in 2015, 2014, 2013 and 2012.

First Beverage Group acted as financial advisor to Devils Backbone Brewing Company. Anheuser-Busch’s partnership with Devils Backbone is expected to close in the second quarter, subject to customary closing conditions. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

devilsbackbone-coaster

Spring Brews Festival This Weekend

bn-grenade
One of the best Bay Area beer festivals is taking place this Saturday — tomorrow — in Concord. It’s usually a winter festival taking place in January, but because of the brouhaha with SF Beer Week moving because of the Super Bowl in San Francisco sucking up all the event spaces and hotel rooms (or tripling their prices) they decided to move out of the way, and wait until spring. So this year, the Brewing Network is putting on their annual festival, temporarily renamed the Spring Brews Festival. It will take place on Saturday, April 2nd, 2016, from Noon to 4 pm at Todos Santos Plaza.

Here’s more info from the Eventbtrite page where you can also buy tickets:

The Brewing Network’s Winter Brews Festival returns to in Concord to celebrate its seventh year as one of the best craft beer festivals in the Bay Area. And while we are a little late this year due to schedule conflicts and the threat of inclement weather, we’re bringing the same great lineup of amazing beer and another awesome day for beer lovers in Concord!

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 are just $5, however this is a 21 and over only event so all attendees must be of legal drinking age.

The event is conveniently located just two blocks away from the Concord BART station so mark your calendars for a craft beer infused day for a wonderful cause.

We are very proud that this year’s event is a benefit for the TSBA Arts Foundation, which helps fund the summer music program in Todos Santos Park, as well as youth music programs around Concord.

Unlimited Tasting From Over 50 Craft Breweries

Live Music From Purple Haze Jimi Hendrix Tribute Band

The brewery list is still being built so stay tuned, but below is a look at who will be there as of now to give you a good idea of how many wonderful breweries attend:

21st Amendment Brewery – San Leandro
Drake’s Brewing Co.
White Labs
Ale Industries
Almanac Beer Co
Altamont Beer Works
Anderson Valley Brewing Company
Ballast Point Brewing & Spirits
Beechwood Bbq & Brewing
Bear Republic Brewing Co.
Berryessa Brewing co
Black Diamond Brewery
Cali Craft Brewing Co.
Cider Brothers
Cleophus Quealy Beer Company
Coronado Brewing Company
Deschutes Brewery & Public House
Dust Bowl Brewing Company
Eagle Rock Brewery
Eight Bridges Brewing
E.J. Phair Brewing Company
Epidemic Ales
Faction Brewing
Fieldwork Brewing Company
Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
Flat Tail Brewing
Gillman Brewing Company
Gordon Biersch Brewing Company
Half Moon Bay Brewing Company
Heretic Brewing Company
Hermitage Brewing Company
Highwater Brewing Company
Iron Springs Pub & Brewery
Kinetic Brewing Company
Lagunitas Brewing Co
Libertine Brewing Company
Linden Street Brewery
Lost Coast Brewery
Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery
Marin Brewing Company
Moonlight Brewing Company
Moylan’s Brewing Company
Mraz Brewing Company
Nectar Creek
New Belgium Brewing
North Coast Brewing Company
Pizza Port Brewing Co.
The Rare Barrel
Russian River Brewing Company
Sierra Nevada
Societe Brewing Company
Sonoma Springs Brewing Company
Speakeasy Ales & Lagers
Sudwerk Brewing Co.
Three Weavers Brewing Company
Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse
Working Man Brewing Company

For more information on the event please visit: BNbrewfest.com.

Rain or shine, we’ve got you covered. And with the Concord BART station just two blocks away, this afternoon event will be sure to satisfy locals wanting to enjoy some beers for a great cause. SORRY, NO DOGS OR CHLDREN WITHIN FESTIVAL GATES. NO SMOKING IN TODOS SANTOS PARK OR DOWNTOWN CONCORD (INCLUDING E-CIGARETTES).

Spring_Brews_Fest-Logo-NewLogo

Deschutes Announces New Brewery In Virginia

deschutes
In the rumor mill for several months, today Deschutes Brewing of Bend, Oregon announced that they’ll be building a second brewery in Roanoke, Virginia. They’ve set up a separate page for information about the new facility in Roanoke. Here’s the press release:

Deschutes Brewery announced its much anticipated decision on an east coast location today at an event in downtown Roanoke, Virginia. The growing brewery, which was founded in Oregon in 1988 by Gary Fish, has explored hundreds of potential locations in the region over the last two years. The company selected Roanoke based on several criteria including a culture and community that fit well with Deschutes’ decades-deep roots.

“We started Deschutes Brewery when craft beer wasn’t burgeoning and led with a beer style that wasn’t popular at the time – Black Butte Porter,” said Gary Fish, CEO and founder of the brewery. “This pioneering approach was a key driver behind our decision to go with Roanoke, as that same spirit exists in this community and its fast-growing beer culture.”

The future Roanoke facility has been lovingly dubbed “Brew 4” as it takes its place in line after the original Bend, Oregon public house (Brew 1), the brewery’s production facility in Bend (Brew 2) and the Portland, Oregon public house (Brew 3). Brew 4 will be located at the eastern edge of Roanoke with construction on the site beginning in 2019. Eventually, a little over 100 new jobs will be created for the region, and the new brewery will produce approximately 150,000 barrels to start, with a design to increase capacity as needed. Deschutes expects to start shipping beer from the Roanoke location in about five years.

“Roanoke is honored to be chosen as Deschutes Brewery’s East Coast location after a very thorough review of several communities in the Southeast,” said Roanoke City Manager Chris Morrill. “It is a company with a strong culture of community engagement, recognized for its craftsmanship and will be a perfect fit for Roanoke’s vibrant outdoor lifestyle. We are thrilled to welcome Deschutes as we continue to build a diverse, resilient economy.”

Deschutes Brewery chose to add an east coast location after the company’s distribution footprint (which currently includes 28 states and the District of Columbia) reached the east coast. By having a production facility on the eastern seaboard, the brewery will be able to deliver beers – such as its flagship Black Butte Porter – to states east of the Mississippi quickly and more sustainably.

Michael LaLonde, president of Deschutes Brewery, who was an integral part of the east coast location selection team, said, “Although it was a tough decision – we loved so many of the communities that we visited over the past two years – we are very excited to be heading to Roanoke. We love the region and everyone we’ve had the opportunity to meet and work with during this process has been incredible. We have absolutely been blown away with how the community rallied around bringing us here and has given us such a warm welcome. #Deschutes2Rke we’re on our way and proud to be able to now call Roanoke our second home.”

deschutes-va

Cigar City Bought By Fireman Capital

cigar-city oskar-blues-blue
In an exclusive this morning, Brewbound is reporting that Fireman Capital to Purchase Cigar City. According to Brewbound, “Cigar City, a leading independent brewery based in Tampa, Fla., has agreed to sell controlling interest to Boston-based private equity firm Fireman Capital Partners, which already owns majority stakes in Oskar Blues, Perrin Brewing and the Utah Brewers Cooperative outfit that includes the Wasatch and Squatters brands.”

The overall entity created by Fireman Capital for their brewery acquisitions is United Craft Brews LLC, incorporated in Delaware. The SEC Form D lists Fireman Capital’s address is Waltham, Massachusetts, but information on OpenLEIs lists a registered address in Delaware, but Oskar Blues’ Longmont address as Headquarters for United Craft Brews. Last year, Westwood was still asking Does Oskar Blues Still Own Oskar Blues? This will undoubtedly continue to muddy the waters surrounding the answer to that question.

Rumors had been swirling that ABI was considering Cigar City as their next target for acquisition, and founder Joey Redner confirmed that he’d gotten as far as signing an LOI. But ABI let their exclusivity period pass without executing a formal purchase agreement, leaving Cigar City free to entertain other potential buyers.

CCB

Cigar City’s website posted a joint press release about the transaction:

Oskar Blues Brewery Rolls up a Cigar City Blunt

Longmont, CO, & Tampa Bay, FL — Oskar Blues Brewery announced the acquisition of Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing. Putting months of acquirement rumors to rest, the decision is driven by mutual irreverence, respect and desire to stay true to craft beer roots.

The combination stems from the want to take risks, sniff out bullsh*t and grow against-the-grain in an era of increasing competition within craft beer. The collaboration will match years of large-scale growth, expansion expertise and resources of Oskar Blues with the strength of Cigar City’s local following to help both breweries strengthen their future position. Similarly to Oskar Blues, Cigar City’s award-winning brews are well known and respected within the craft community.

“Cigar City is facing next-level challenges and we needed to develop next-level skills and resources to meet them. But, we got into beer out of passion and an unwavering desire to travel our own path. We didn’t want to just shove our round peg into some f*cking square hole and hope for the best. Florida craft beer drinkers want something they can proudly stand behind. These guys get that. They wrote the book on keeping it real,” says Joey, founder of Cigar City Brewing. Joey will remain as CEO of Cigar City following the transaction.

Since 2009, Cigar City Brewing achieved a near constant growth pattern reaching nearly 60,000 barrels in 2015, placing the Tampa Bay area and the state of Florida on the craft beer map. The partnership will provide additional investment for Cigar City’s infrastructure growth within Florida.

“What Cigar City has done for the community of Florida craft beer is impressive. It’s important for our culture to do business with people we want to hang out with and Joey and the gang fit,” Dale Katechis, Soul Founder of Oskar Blues, stated about the new partnership.

Oskar Blues Brewery is the funky brewpub that started brewing beer in 1999 in the small town of Lyons, CO and is responsible for starting the craft beer in-a-can movement in 2002 with Dale’s Pale Ale. In 2008, the brewery expanded down the street to Longmont, CO. and added an additional brewery in Brevard, NC in 2012. Oskar Blues brewed 192,000 barrels in 2015 and announced another brewery in Austin, TX scheduled to open in May of 2016.

Terms of the acquisition are not disclosed.

CCB-logo

Brewers Association Poll Reveals Top 51 Favorite American Bars

beer-bar
The Brewers Association‘s consumer website, CraftBeer.com, asked visitors to the site to choose their “favorite craft beer bar” in their home state by filling “out a short survey about what makes it so great including atmosphere, staff, beer selection and special events.” Over 9,000 people voted between August and December of last year. More of a popularity contest, so I’m not sure it’s fair to call them the 51 Best Beer Bars in America, but still the results are interesting. California’s top vote-getter was the Twisted Oak Tavern, in Agoura Hills. I confess I’ve never heard of it, but then Agoura Hills is in Southern California, in west L.A. County.

But I can name some pretty great beer bars in California, even quite a few in that part of the state with great reputations. How is this the best one in the state? It’s also a brewpub, sort of, although according to a newspaper article they refer to it as a “restaurant located at the former LAB Brewing Co. space in the Agoura Hills Town Center. The brewery continues to operate on the premises.” They seem to have a full bar, and of the thirty taps, eight of them are house beers, and the rest are mostly local, with another fourteen bottles and cans. But the original LAB Brewing Co. opened sometime around late 2011, and the new space — the one that is the best bar is California — opened March 25, 2015. That means it was open for four months when voting opened, and just nine months when it ended. I’m sure it’s a nice place, but I have a hard time believing it’s better than any number of great bars, like the Toronado (either one), The Trappist, Hamilton’s, Blue Palms Brewhouse, Beer Revolution, 38 Degrees, Urge, Naja’s, Stuffed Sandwich, O’Brien’s, Capitol Beer & Tap Room, Monk’s Kettle, Library Alehouse, Tony’s Darts Away, Boneyard Bistro, La Trappe, The Bistro, Blind Lady, Lucky Baldwin’s, Good Karma, Tiger Tiger, Father’s Office, ØL Beercafe, Barclay’s, Zeitgeist, Live Wire, The Good Hop, Taps, Harry’s Hofbrau, Congregation Ale House, Original Gravity Public House, The Surly Goat, The Hopyard, Jupiter, Lanesplitter and the Public House at AT&T Park, to rattle off a few that come to mind.

It’s not listed at all on Beer Advocate’s L.A. Beer Guide, suggesting there at least fifty better bars just in the L.A. area, let alone the state. In fact, it has no listing at all, though the now-closed LAB Brewing still does. The same is true for RateBeer, too, which similarly does not yet list the best beer bar in California, only its predecessor. So it’s too new for either of the premiere beer listing websites, but still got more votes than countless great beer bars in California. Not knowing how they got the most votes, or why, it’s hard not to consider ballot stuffing, or a campaign of getting people to vote for them. I hate to be so hard on a place I don’t know, but given how many California bars they appear to have bested in being voted the state’s best bar, it’s difficult to comprehend.

To be fair, the Falling Rock won Colorado, which I fully endorse, and the same with Saint Paul’s Happy Gnome, Asheville’s Thirsty Monk and Max’s in Baltimore. Unfortunately, I’m not as sure about many of the rest. Of the 51, only 11 have been open since at least the 1990s or earlier. A perplexing five of the bars on the list opened in 2015, and another three the year before, in 2014. A total of 25, or nearly half of the list, opened in 2010 or afterwards, meaning half of the best beer bars in America are around five or less years old. I’m sure it’s the curmudgeon in me, but that just doesn’t seem like enough time to build a reputation that you’re the best in your state. But despite my objections, congratulations to the bars who got the most votes. I’m sure they’re all worth visiting and enjoying a few beers.

GABB_2016_Winners

10 Barrel Hoping To Open San Diego Brewpub

10-barrel
You’ve probably heard the rumors and the news that 10 Barrel Brewing, acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev in 2014, is trying to open a new brewpub location, this one in San Diego, California. Today I received a press release from ABI, detailing the trouble they’ve met in trying to expand into the Southern California market. Here’s what they had to say:

This will be the first non-craft brewery, per the Brewers Association’s definition of a craft brewer, to expand into San Diego — which is already home to 117 local craft breweries, with 40 more in planning. The news has been met with strong opposition from members of San Diego’s craft beer community, including the San Diego Brewers Guild, who’s mission is to promote awareness and increase the visibility of fresh, locally brewed beer.

10 Barrel has applied for a permit to construct a brewpub in San Diego’s burgeoning East Village, at 1501 E Street, and has proposed a “full-service restaurant with accessory alcohol manufacturing.”

Today, February 17th, representatives of 10 Barrel will present on behalf of the project to the Downtown Community Planning Council (DCPC), an advisory group, and a decision is expected soon.

Apparently, the biggest opposition they’ve received is from local brewers already in the market, in the guise of the San Diego Brewers Guild. This is setting up to be an interesting battle. San Diego business owners clearly want to keep their local angle for the businesses, though how that will square with the acquisition of Saint Archer by MillerCoors remains to be seen.

Curiously, ABI’s press release also includes that opposition, in fact is more than half of what I received, giving voice to their complaints. According to them, “Representatives of the San Diego Brewers Guild, including President Emeritas Kevin Hopkins, will speak at the meeting on behalf of the Guild,” and also circulated the guild’s official statement:

“The acquisitions that transacted last year and the news of AB-InBev’s intentions to open up in San Diego through 10 Barrel highlights the fact that San Diego is truly a world-class brewing center. That reputation is due to the hard work of locally-owned breweries and the San Diego Brewers Guild. Historically, it has been independent brewers who have built the thriving beer community that San Diego is now known for around the world. The risk underlying the acquisition of breweries by large, international corporations and the risk of businesses like the proposed 10 Barrel brewpub in San Diego is that beer drinkers here may think that when they patronize these businesses, and buy and drink beer, that they are supporting the local brewing community. That is not the case. Should the 10 Barrel project open in San Diego as proposed, consumers need to know that it is owned by Anheuser-Busch and not a local craft brewery or a craft brewery in general. Now more than ever, with the introduction of non-craft breweries to San Diego’s craft landscape, it is important to continue to support locally owned and operated San Diego breweries, like the brewer members in the San Diego Brewers Guild.”

I’m a little baffled by that. Are they looking for sympathy for their cause. On one hand it’s certainly understandable that San Diego brewers would prefer to not have a carpetbagger come into their midst, but as Thorn Street Brewery owner Eric O’Connor said in a letter of opposition, “large companies have the right to open and operate where they see fit.” I’m sure I’d feel the same way, but I’m not sure what anyone could do about it. As long as consumers support the venture, it will continue to thrive. If everyone agreed to not patronize it because its ownership wasn’t local, it would likely have to close. But how realistic is that? I’m not trying to be difficult, I honestly don’t know. We all talk a good game about supporting local and not spending money with breweries who’s ownership has changed and/or is not to our individual liking. But Goose Island, 10 Barrel and even Blue Moon continue to do quite well despite all the foot stomping. And this is not a new problem. People said the same thing about Redhook and Widmer when ABI acquired just a minority interest in them in 1994, and both are still in business over twenty years later, so I’m not sure a boycott would really work, nor could this sort of hand-wringing do any good.

In O’Connor’s letter, he adds that if 10 Barrel does come, “there should be complete transparency of who the ownership is and where the money is going.” But isn’t there already? Don’t we already know that ABI owns 10 Barrel and that’s, of course, where the money will go. MillerCoors isn’t hiding the fact that they own Blue Moon, or Saint Archer. Likewise, it’s not exactly a secret who owns Goose Island, Blue Point, or Shock Top. But that’s because there’s a tiny sliver of the market that actually pays attention to who owns what. Most of the world is busy doing something else, living their lives, and drinking whatever they want, oblivious.

And believe me, my sympathies are with the San Diego brewers, but I don’t see what they can really do. ABI also included a pdf of all the complaints their plans have received, including letters from other local bars and brewers. The gist of them is that “beer drinkers here in San Diego may think that when they patronize a business like what 10 Barrel is proposing, and when they buy and drink 10 Barrel’s beer, that they are supporting the local brewing community.” And they’re probably right to be concerned about that, but I think it’s more of a problem because most people don’t care as deeply about that as we do. Mike Sardinia, president of the guild, insists “it is vital that consumers need to know that it is owned by Anheuser-Busch and not a locally operated brewery.” In his conclusion, he warns that “[i]t is important that the City not make it easy for Anheuser-Busch to open in San Diego without due diligence and without a full review of its application and its intentions with the 10 Barrel project.”

The irony there is that in the early days, small brewers were complaining that it wasn’t fair how difficult the then Big 3 (Bud, Miller and Coors) made it for them to obtain distribution, tap handles and generally succeed in a market that they dominated. I’m certainly glad we have more power now, and have, in many cases, succeeded spectacularly, but I’m still not sure this, while understandable, is the best way to use it.

Last month, Peter Rowe, in the San Diego Union-Tribune, asked rhetorically, An Anheuser-Busch brewpub for San Diego? Toward the end, he even mentions that “some threaten to picket and boycott 10 Barrel, when and if it opens,” which also seems silly. If people in San Diego, like most places, are really as supportive of local-only businesses then it will fail all by itself. But I think the real fear is that everybody loves the locals on Twitter, or Facebook, or when answering a pollster, but not when it comes to reality. Like it or not, national brands in every industry are popular precisely because they’re familiar, widely available and the same everywhere. It’s certainly true that artisanal products, like cheese, chocolate, bread, etc. are all doing great, but the big brands are still the big brands, just like with craft beer. Dents have been made, but they still have a majority marketshare.

But headlines about this from mainstream news are along the lines of Local craft brewers to Anheuser-Busch: Keep out. It feels strange to side with the big guys but it doesn’t feel like they’re doing anything particularly wrong here. I understand opposing this or even working together to promote their own local-ness as a positive attribute, but this feels like a case when turnabout isn’t fair play. We should be better than that. If San Diego brewers are making great beer — and they are — and if people in their market are willing to support them, then this is something that will take care of itself, and that, I think should be the goal.

Victory & Southern Tier Announce Merger

victory-new sign-plus southern-tier sign-equals abv
Victory Brewing, of Downington, Pennsylvania, and Southern Tier Brewing, of Lakewood, New York, announced today a merger between their two companies. Essentially, they’ve created a holding company called Artisanal Brewing Ventures (ABV) for both companies, and ABV will essentially own both breweries. Here’s how they characterize the newly created entity in their joint press release.

Artisanal Brewing Ventures is located in Charlotte, NC and was formed by Phin and Sara DeMink and Ulysses Management LLC; a New York based family office, with the vision of creating a home for like-minded, best-in-class craft breweries in close partnership with their founders. Ulysses Management was founded 20 years ago by Joshua Nash as the successor firm to the pioneering investment firm Odyssey Partners, LP. Ulysses invests in profitable, well-established companies with tangible, competitive advantages with the goal to build long-term value that benefits all stakeholders. To learn more about Ulysses Management please visit www.ulyssesmgmt.com.

ABV

Here’s more from the press release, which is on Southern Tier’s website:

Having just marked 20 years in the craft brewing industry, Victory Brewing Company (Victory) proudly announces a landmark alliance with Southern Tier Brewing Company (Southern Tier) under parent company Artisanal Brewing Ventures (ABV). As the first major transaction of 2016 within the rapidly evolving craft beer industry, this union presents a new model for craft beer partnerships by preserving brewery independence while pooling deep collective resources.

The new strategic framework between ABV, Victory and Southern Tier provides capital, security and vision for the future. ABV, formed to unify independent craft brewers and distillers, embraces the collaborative craft spirit while administering crucial growth resources. Arlington Capital Advisors acted as exclusive financial consultant to Victory. Wells Fargo’s Beverage Finance group provided capital to support the investment and continued growth at ABV. The transaction is expected to close within the next 60 days.

Under the umbrella of ABV, Victory and Southern Tier will independently operate their breweries, commanding a joint capacity of over 800,000 barrels of potential annual production. This alliance creates one of the largest brewers in the Northeast and ranks within the top 15 craft brewing companies in the United States according to Brewers Association criteria with combined 2015 shipments of over 250,000 barrels. With a world-class roster of complementary beer brands and an even stronger standing in the marketplace, ABV will shepherd Victory and Southern Tier in collaborative sales and marketing efforts to strengthen, support and expand its distributor and retail partnerships. Victory and Southern Tier brands will become increasingly available to loyal and new consumers across their combined markets as a direct result of this union.

“The craft beer community is at its most critical moment since its inception as larger brewing corporations have bought into our grassroots movement, irrevocably changing the marketplace. Like-minded brewers such as Victory and Southern Tier can preserve our character, culture and products by banding together,” said Bill Covaleski, Founder and Brewmaster of Victory Brewing Company. “Allied we can continue to innovate and best serve the audience who fueled our growth through their loyal thirst.”

“Having gotten to know Phin, John and the whole management team, I am more excited than ever about the innovations that lie in our collective futures. One walk through their brewery and I knew that Southern Tier had the same belief in quality and excellence that has driven our culture for 20 years,” explains Ron Barchet, COO of Victory Brewing Company.

The Victory and Southern Tier leadership teams and employees will remain intact. Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet of Victory, who will become significant shareholders in ABV, will join the Artisanal Brewing Ventures’ Board of Directors. CEO John Coleman and CFO Bill Wild will lead ABV’s management team.

“This is exactly the kind of alliance we imagined when we created Artisanal Brewing Ventures in 2014,” said Phin DeMink, founder of Southern Tier Brewing Company and also a major shareholder in ABV. “This is a concept that was specifically designed by and for craft brewers, so we can focus on the things we’re best at while creating meaningful scale advantages. I’m proud to see this model validated and am grateful that my friends Ron and Bill have become our partners.”

“This is the ultimate craft beer collaboration. It is an honor to be associated with these pioneering entrepreneurs who have been contributing to the industry since craft’s early days,” said John Coleman, CEO of ABV. “I look forward to guiding these two truly great organizations forward as they collaborate, innovate and share best practices.”

“I believe this is a watershed transaction for the craft brewing world. This union of two great regional players preserves their independence and distinct cultures while sharing administrative and management functions to support deeper investment in sales, marketing and innovation,” commented Vann Russell, Managing Director and Founder of Arlington Capital.

This is something that has been in the works for many months. The trademark application for ABV was filed last year, in late August. That suggests that the deal would have been all but done if they’d progressed to the point of getting the new logo trademarked.

abv-crowns

Here’s more from the press release on the two companies.

About Victory Brewing Company

Victory Brewing Company is a craft brewery headquartered in Downingtown, PA. Founded by childhood friends, Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet, Victory officially opened its doors in February of 1996. Victory’s second state of the art brewery opened in February of 2014 in Parkesburg, PA to serve fans of fully flavored beers in 37 states with innovative beers melding European ingredients and technology with American creativity. In addition to the original Downingtown brewpub, Victory’s second brewpub is in Kennett Square, while Parkesburg recently launched self-guided tours and the third brewpub.

Bill_Ron_2015(Social)
Bill Covaleski and Ron Barchet.

About Southern Tier Brewing Company

In 2002 Phin and Sara DeMink founded Southern Tier Brewing Company in Lakewood, New York with the vision of reviving the practice of small batch brewing to a region rich in brewing tradition. Following several expansions from 2009 through 2013 Southern Tier now ships over 100,000 barrels annually to 33 states to meet growing demand for Southern Tier’s diverse portfolio of innovative beers that embody the spirit of American craft brewing. In 2015 Southern Tier Distilling Company was formed to create innovative small batch spirits using unique local ingredients under a New York farm-distilling license.

STBC_phin_sara
Sara and Phin DeMink,

Super Wager For The Super Bowl

sb-50
You knew it had to happen. There’s at least one every year. Two breweries in the home city or state make a bet for whose team will win the big game, with the other’s beer as the prize. The only question is which breweries would step up.

This year, Denver’s Spangalang Brewery is throwing down the gauntlet, and Fullsteam Brewery of Durham, North Carolina has picked it up. The two breweries have wagered the outcome of next weekend’s Super Bowl on february 5, and apparently “the terms of the wager are significant for the brewers and their fans.”

According to the press release I got today from Denver beer writer Marty Jones, “The losing brewery will have to brew a special batch of beer from a recipe chosen by the winning brewery. The beer recipe will include indigenous ingredients from the winner’s state and will be named by the winning brewery.

On tapping day the losing brewery must hang the winning team’s flag and fly it for one week or until the beer is gone, whichever comes first.”

Marty Jones & Sean Wilson
Marty Jones with Fullsteam Brewery’s Sean Lilly Wilson during CBC 2010 in Chicago.

“That Panthers flag,” says Sean Lilly Wilson, founder of Fullsteam Brewery, “is going to look great hanging in the Spangalang tasting room. But we’ll send a beer recipe with some choice Carolina ingredients and flavor to help ease the pain of Denver’s loss.”

“It will be interesting to see if Cam Newtown can sport his 1000-watt smile with Von Miller in his face,” says Spangalang co-founder and brewer Darren Boyd. “I’m thinking ‘Cam’s Kryptonite’ would be a good name for the beer recipe we send to North Carolina.”

spangalang
Spangalang’s Austin Wiley with Orange Crushsicle.

Each brewery will be asking its social media followers to suggest beer styles, local ingredients and names for the winning beers.

From the press release:

On February 5, the Friday before the Super Bowl, each brewery will release a special pre-game beer to rally local fans.

Spangalang will bring back Orange Crushsicle, which it debuted prior to the Broncos defeating the New England Patriots to win the AFC crown and a place in the Super Bowl. The beer equivalent of the Dreamsicle frozen treat, Orange Crushscicle is a citrus session ale enhanced with orange juice, sweet and bitter orange peel and vanilla. Its name pays tribute to the past and current defense of the Broncos and predicted the creaming of the Patriots by the Broncos.

“Broncos fans came out in droves to try the beer last weekend,” says Spangalang brewer and co-founder Taylor Rees. “Our tap room will be a sea of orange jerseys when we tap it again.” Fullsteam will release Bless Their Heart, a twist to its recent collaboration with Charlotte-based Free Range Brewing. The beer is made with foraged juniper, North Carolina Frasier fir, and an addition of chokeberry syrup. “We thought chokeberry would be a good ingredient to use in this beer,” Wilson says, “due to Manning’s history of choking in the Super Bowl.” No matter which team wins the game, the rival brewers are comfortable with the wager. “The worst that can happen,” Boyd says, “is we let a like-minded, quality obsessed craft brewer take the lead on a beer of ours. So this is a good bet to make. Although the Panthers flag in our brewery would make us all sick.”

Founded in 2010, Fullsteam Brewery is a Durham, North Carolina production brewery and tavern inspired by the food and farm traditions of the South. The brewery aims to “pioneer the art of distinctly Southern beer” and specializes in traditional and experimental beers with a Southern sensibility. Its beers often incorporate locally farmed goods, heirloom grains, and seasonal botanicals.

Spangalang Brewery was founded in April 2015 by former Great Divide Brewery brewers Taylor Rees, Austin Wiley and Darren Boyd. The brewery crafts world-class beer for locals and celebrates the past and present culture of its historic Five Points neighborhood. Spangalang earned numerous “best new brewery of 2015” honors and a gold medal at the 2015 Great American Beer Festival medal.

May the best brewery win.

superbowl-2016