Homebrewers Pick The Best Beers In America 2013

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For the 11th 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 eleventh year, over 1,100 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 also printed in the latest issue.
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Top Rated Beers
(T indicates tie)

Seven of the top ten are California beers, with 26 making the list. This is the fifth year in a row AHA members chose Pliny the Elder as the top beer. This also the fourth consecutive year that Bell’s Two Hearted Ale came in second.

1. Russian River Pliny the Elder
2. Bell’s Two Hearted Ale
3. Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA
4. Bell’s Hopslam Ale
5. Ballast Point Sculpin IPA
6. Founders Breakfast Stout
7. Arrogant Bastard Ale
8. Sierra Nevada Ruthless Rye IPA
T9. Lagunitas Sucks
T9. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale
T9. Stone Ruination IPA
T12. North Coast Old Rasputin
T12. Sierra Nevada Torpedo Extra IPA
T12. Stone Enjoy By IPA
15. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
16. The Alchemist Heady Topper
T17. Firestone Walker Double Jack
T17. Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
19. Oskar Blues Dale’s Pale Ale
20. Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
T21. Bear Republic Racer 5 IPA
T21. Three Floyds Zombie Dust
T23. Firestone Walker Union Jack
T23. Lagunitas Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’
25. Goose Island Bourbon County Stout
26. Surly Furious
T27. Deschutes Black Butte Porter
T27. Green Flash West Coast IPA
T27. Troegs Nugget Nectar
30. Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA
31. Russian River Consecration
T32. Boulevard Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale
T32. New Belgium La Folie
T32. Russian River Supplication
35. Avery the Maharaja
36. Lagunitas IPA
37. Stone IPA
38. Odell IPA
T39. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald
T39. Left Hand Milk Stout
T39. Russian River Pliny the Younger
T42. Odell Myrcenary
T42. Russian River Blind Pig I.P.A.
T42. Stone Sublimely Self-Righteous
45. Firestone Walker Parabola
T46. Ommegang Hennepin Saison Ale
T46. Left Hand Milk Stout Nitro
T48. Ommegang Three Philosophers
T48. Deschutes the Abyss
T48. Green Flash Palate Wrecker
T48. Lagunitas Brown Shugga’

Brewery Rankings

Brewery rankings are based on total votes received by each brewery’s beers. This year’s top brewery is Stone Brewing Co. in Escondido, Calif. Stone placed five beers in the top 50, including its Arrogant Bastard Ale. Best Beer in America producer, Russian River Brewing Company finished second. Seven California breweries made the list, with five from Colorado, and two apiece from Michigan and Pennsylvania.

1. Stone Brewing Co., Escondido, Calif.
2. Russian River Brewing Company, Santa Rosa, Calif.
3. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, Chico, Calif.
4. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery, Milton, Del.
5. Bell’s Brewery, Kalamazoo, Mich.
6. Firestone Walker Brewing Company, Paso Robles, Calif.
7. Founders Brewing Company, Grand Rapids, Mich.
8. Lagunitas Brewing Company, Petaluma, Calif.
9. New Belgium Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
10. Deschutes Brewery, Bend, Ore.
11. Odell Brewing Company, Fort Collins, Colo.
12. Three Floyds Brewing Company, Munster, Ind.
13. Avery Brewing Company, Boulder, Colo.
14. Oskar Blues Brewery, Longmont, Colo.
15. Green Flash Brewing Company, San Diego, Calif.
16. The Boston Beer Company, Boston, Mass.
17. Boulevard Brewing Company, Kansas City, Mo.
18. Goose Island Beer Company, Chicago, Ill.
19. New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, Wis.
T20. Great Divide Brewing Company, Denver, Colo.
T20. Ballast Point Brewing Company, San Diego, Calif.
22. Troegs Brewing Co., Hershey, Pa.
23. Great Lakes Brewing Company, Cleveland, Ohio
24. Victory Brewing Company, Downington, Pa.
25. Brewery Ommegang, Cooperstown, N.Y.

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.

1. The Boston Beer Company (Samuel Adams) (40 beers)
2. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery (38 beers)
3. Avery Brewing Company (35 beers)
4. Cigar City Brewing (30 beers)
5. Sierra Nevada Brewing Company (29 beers)
6. Bell’s Brewery (28 beers)
7. New Belgium Brewing (27 beers)
T8. Stone Brewing Co. (26 beers)
T8. Goose Island Beer Company (26 beers)
9. Boulevard Brewing Company (25 beers)
10. Deschutes Brewery (24 beers)
T11. Foudners Brewing Company (23 beers)
T11. New Glarus Brewing Company (23 beers)
T11. The Bruery (23 beers)
T11. The Saint Louis Brewery (23 beers)
T15. Rogue Ales (21 beers)
T15. Lagunitas Brewing Company (21 beers)
T15. Odell Brewing Company (21 beers)
T15. Great Divide Brewing Company (21 beers)
T19. Firestone Walker Brewing Company (20 beers)
T19. Three Floyds Brewing Company (20 beers)
T19. Manayunk Brewing Company (19 beers)
22. Papago Brewing Company (19 beers)
T23. Great Lakes Brewing Company (18 beers)
T23. Southern Tier Brewing Company (18 beers)
T23. Victory Brewing Company (18 beers)
T23. Russian River Brewing Company (18 beers)

Top Imports

With a lot of ties, a few imports also received votes as readers’ favorite beers. As in years past, there was a decidedly all-American bent to the voting. Of the top 50 beers in the poll, none were produced by a foreign brewery, although Orval claimed the number one spot among imports.

T1. Orval (Belgium)
T1. Saison Dupont (Belgium)
3. Guinness Draught (Ireland)
T4. Rodenbach Grand Cru (Belgium)
T4. Unibroue La Fin du Monde (Canada)
6. St. Bernardust Abt 12 (Belgium)
7. Duchesse De Bourgogne (Belgium)
T8. Samuel Smith’s Oatmeal Stout (England)
T8. Chimay Grande Reserve/Blue Label (Belgium)
T10. Duvel (Belgium)
T10. Cantillon Gueuze (Belgium)

Anchor Zymaster Series #3 Is Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout

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Anchor Brewing announced today the release of the third beer in their Zymaster Series, a stout to be called Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout.

From the press release:

Named after a San Francisco sailing legend from a time when stouts were first exported to the West Coast, Zymaster® No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout will be released in selected Anchor markets in January 2013.

Our Zymaster® Series No. 3 (7.4% ABV) is a dry, Irish-style export stout akin to those brewed in the 1800s for the long voyage to San Francisco. Black as night, this high-gravity, malty brew offers intense but well-balanced flavors and aroma, with hints of dark chocolate and roasted coffee.

The arrival of a clipper ship in gold-rush San Francisco brought mail and news of “the States,” would-be miners and entrepreneurs, boots, shovels, pickaxes, butter from New York, cigars from Havana, and stout from as far away as London and Dublin.
The stouts that San Franciscans imbibed in those days were no ordinary ales. They were export stouts—dark, intense, high-gravity brews created especially to survive a long voyage like those around Cape Horn.

It took the average clipper three to four months to sail from New York to San Francisco. But not the Flying Cloud, which, in 1851, made the trip in 89 days and 21 hours anchor to anchor. With the exception of its own 89 day and 8 hour voyage three years later, its record remained unbroken until 1989. Thanks to this clipper’s “extreme” design and the savvy of its captain, Josiah Creesy, and his wife and navigator Eleanor, the Flying Cloud quickly became a San Francisco sailing legend. We celebrate it and a legendary brewing tradition with our Zymaster® No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout.

That sounds tasty, I can’t wait to give their new stout a try.

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The beer will be in stores and select bars any minute now. Here’s where it will be available.

Zymaster® Series No. 3: Flying Cloud San Francisco Stout will be available in California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Texas, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Missouri, Indiana, Minnesota, Georgia and Florida.

Bagby Signs Lease On New Brewery Location

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This is excellent news. Jeff Bagby, who won a boatload of awards while brewmaster at Pizza Port Carlsbad and Director of Brewery Operations for the entire chain, has been searching for the ideal location to open his own brewery, to be called Bagby Beer Co. He announced earlier today that he and his wife, and business partner, Dande Bagby, have signed a lease for the property at 601 S. Coast Highway in Oceanside, California. The 11,000 square foot space used to be “the historical Continental Motors and BMW Oceanside,” and consists of three separate buildings and a small courtyard, which they hope to turn into an outdoor beer garden. They anticipate starting construction on the brewery and restaurant in early 2013. There’s still a lot of work to do before they’re up and running, and Jeff is brewing beer again, but at least they’re over the first hurdle. Join me in congratulating Jeff and Dande on finding a location for their brewery.

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Beer Institute Releases Results Of New Beer Drinkers Poll

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According to the Beer Institute (BI), recent economic analysis has revealed “that brewing and importing accounted for $223.8 billion in the economic output of the United States — with employees earning nearly $71.2 billion wages and benefits, and generating more than $44 billion taxes. In 2010, the last year tax statistics were available, 45 percent of what every beer drinker paid for a beer went to taxes of some kind, which “makes taxes the most expensive ingredient in your beer,” Joe McClain, president of the BI, stated.

The Beer Institute has just released a national poll of 1,000 likely voters, which found strong opposition to increasing taxes on beer. Nine out of 10 voters in the poll agreed that “raising taxes on beer will mean working class consumers will have to pay more.”

The poll also found that self-identified “beer drinkers” are a larger proportion of the electorate than self-identified supporters of either the Tea Party of Occupy Wall Street movement, and were evenly split between Republican and Democratic parties.

Beer drinkers are also more political than the average likely voter:

  • 68 percent of regular beer drinkers say they discuss what’s going on in the presidential campaign with friends or co-workers.
  • 66 percent of regular beer drinkers say they are going to be watching the presidential debates, meaning they are more likely to watch presidential debates than watch the World Series or an NFL game.
  • 25 percent say they will likely donate or contribute money to a political party, cause, or candidate running for public office.
  • 14 percent (or one out of seven) beer drinkers say they will likely volunteer for a political party, cause, or on the campaign for a candidate running this year.

Larry Sidor’s Yet To Be Named Brewery Has A Name

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The last time I saw brewmaster Larry Sidor, he was still working at Deschutes Brewing, but I already knew he had a new project in the offing. Since leaving his old job at the end of last year, he’s been building a new brewery in Bend, a brewery without a name, and the progress has been chronicled at Yet To Be Named Brewery. I got the word today from brewery partner Paul Evers that they’ve finally settled on a name: Crux Fermentation Project.

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The three Founders of Crux Fermentation Project on the roof of their under-construction brewery with grain silos in the background. Left to right: Larry Sidor, Dave Wilson and Paul Evers. (©2012 Photo by Brian J. Bulemore, ABACUS PHOTOGRAPHY.)

Here’s the explanation, along with a basic overview of the new brewery and their plans, from the press release:

Crux Fermentation Project — an introduction

We’re really excited about how quickly the beer world is evolving. It wasn’t that long ago when IPAs hit the scene and took everyone’s taste buds to a place many of us weren’t sure we were ready for. Today, beers like the Abyss, Pliny the Younger, the Dark Lord, and many others, are unapologetically blowing up taste profiles with their complexity and creativity. Our team will focus primarily on these beers — it’s at the heart of what we do, pursuing the next great beer. To achieve this, we’ve designed the brewery to deliver beers that take us on a journey. From decoction mashing, open fermentation, barrel aging, crazy yeast varieties, and the use of experimental hops we hope our project delivers beers that will take you on a ride!

Crux … what does it mean anyway?

crux: noun,

  1. a vital, basic, decisive, or pivotal point. “The crux of the matter.”
  2. something that torments by its puzzling nature; a perplexing difficulty.

Our name, Crux, celebrates the moment where tension and conflict meet. It’s that critical do or die moment where everything comes together— striking that perfect balance. Some people perform their best in these moments, and surely the moment inspires innovation and creativity to push through. We’re not pursuing convention — we want to face the “crux of the matter” and push through to the other side. What’s there? We can’t wait to find out.

Fermentation Project also has meaning for us. Fermentation lies at the “crux” or “the pivotal point” of the brewing process. And Project best describes the process we’ve experienced in sharing our dream with friends, families and a wide variety of beer lovers from both inside and outside the industry. With each step, more and more people have joined us and contributed to the vision. We had an ah-ha moment— we realized this will always be a “project” — experimental and collaborative at its core.

Who are the founders?

The founders are Larry Sidor, Dave Wilson and Paul Evers. Each of these three friends has a passion for extraordinary beer and a long rich history in the industry. How’d they meet? Working together and testing the boundaries of craft beer— they’ve collaborated on projects for Deschutes Brewery and 21st Amendment Brewery. Larry, a celebrated brewmaster, has an extended list of gold medal beers he created while at Deschutes Brewery with The Abyss, The Dissident, Hop Trip and Red Chair being some of his more notable creations. We can’t wait to see what’s next! Dave is a veteran in Sales and Marketing who also worked at Deschutes and most recently turned the entire country on to the red-hot 21st Amendment Brewery. Dave’s approach to distribution and his relationships will help us deliver our beer to the right folks. Paul, with his team at the creative shop tbd, has a gift for story telling through thoughtful and imaginative design. They’ve created packaging and branding for Deschutes, Odell Brewing and most recently, along with Dave, the breakthrough packaging for 21st Amendment.

How did the vision come together?

Over beer, of course. The vision for this project came out of many late night discussions between friends while enjoying some amazing beers. They tasted, first hand, beers that were pushing the conventional brewing path, and were inspired to join other brewers in that ambitious journey. Larry, Dave and Paul gained a deep appreciation for each other’s passion and skills and saw an opportunity to collaborate and embrace the talents of each other with a new brewing project. With a team made up of a celebrated brewmaster, a charismatic sales guy and a soulful creative director, we got pretty excited about the full potential of how, together, the sum could be much greater than the parts.

How did we choose the location that we’re in?

After looking at over 50 industrial properties in Bend, Paul came across an old listing for this old AAMCO Transmission shop online. We started asking around about the property, sought the advice of our real estate broker and the opinions of those we respect. Most shook their heads and gave a puzzled expression because it was isolated off the beaten path in a forgotten old mill area that few were familiar with. Some told us that we definitely didn’t want to go there. Our response? — we got psyched. We wanted something different. Turns out — it’s an amazing site. Folks in Bend know our location as both easy to see, but hard to get to. In the middle of nowhere, but right in the heart of Bend — it’s located literally at the intersection of the four quadrants that divide Bend between east and west and north and south. We love how this site sits in the balance of contradictions — at the “crux”. We aim to create beers that do the same—so it just felt right. And then, there’s the panoramic view of the Cascade Mountains, of course.

What is our capacity?

Not much. Initially, we’ll only have a few thousand hectoliters of capacity. With added fermenters and bright beer tanks, we could push that to 11k hectoliters. We’re committed to being a purely metric brewery, but if you’re looking for the conventional barrel as a measurement, we will max out a few years from now in the ballpark of 9,000 barrels. But limited capacity excites us too. With smaller batch sizes, we can experiment and push some brewing boundaries that might not be approachable with larger batch sizes.

How will our beers be offered?

Your best bet is to come to our Tasting Room and take in the brewery and a variety of beers first hand. We’re working hard to create an experience that connects beer lovers to the brewing process — when you visit us you’ll get to hang out in an actual operating brewery. You’ll take in the rich aromas of the mash, the waft of warm spent grain and, of course, the fruits of all the labor in all the exciting new brews. Beers will be served in 500ml and 300ml pours. Bring your growler (1,900ml), too.

We will also offer our beers in draft at fine craft pubs and in bottles in three sizes at bottle shops and specialty grocery stores. In the near future, you’ll be able to check our website for locations near you. Our expected initial footprint will be in Oregon and on the opposite side of the country — the Northeast. Go figure.

What will be the prices of our bottled offerings?

We’ll offer some beers at about $6 for a 500ml bottle. Other brews will be more complex and
would be priced at around $16 for a 750ml bottle of those. Our highest end we expect to sell for $13 for a 375ml—but those won’t be ready for a year or two as they’ll be barrel aged . We’re not after scale. We’re not trying to win with the masses. Our focus is on producing small batches of thoughtful high quality brews that have higher ingredient streams and more complex processes and aging.

When will you be ready to share our beer?

We’re working hard to make beer available in June. That’s what we’re chasing.

Sounds like it should be spectacular, but then given Larry’s track record, I’d expect nothing less. Personally, I can’t wait until June.

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The three Founders of Crux Fermentation Project celebrate the installation of their two grain silos. From left to right: Larry Sidor, Paul Evers and Dave Wilson. (©2012 Photo by Brian J. Bulemore, ABACUS PHOTOGRAPHY.)

Traquair House Switches To 500ml Bottles

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One of my favorite breweries, Traquair House in Scotland, announced today through their importer — Merchant Du Vin — that they’re switching to 500 ml bottles for all of their beers.

That might not seem like big news, and perhaps it’s not, but Traquair House is one of favorite places so I never miss a chance to talk about it. If you’ve never been to the brewery, it should definitely be on your beer bucket list. It’s not easy to get to, but it is worth it. Oh, and the beer is terrific, too. If you haven’t had their beer, you should correct that … immediately.

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Traquair House Ale shows a deep reddish-amber color and full, velvet-like body. The aroma offers a hint of rich oak; the flavor is opulently malty, complex, and deep but subtle. OG 1.070; IBU 26; ABV 7.2%.

Traquair Jacobite Ale, first brewed in 1995, is spiced with hops as well as another traditional seasoning: coriander. Deep brown; spice and leather aroma; full body; exotic, engaging character and finish. OG 1.075; IBU 23; ABV: 8.0%.

From the press release:

In 1566, Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, visited Traquair House on the banks of Scotland’s Tweed River with her infant son James, who would later become King James I of England. During that visit, she drank good ale brewed at Traquair.

Descendants of the same family have lived at Traquair since 1491. Beer was brewed there from the earliest times until some time after 1800; in 1965 the 20th Laird of Traquair, Peter Maxwell Stuart — following his heart and his family heritage — brought the tiny brewery back to life, brewing traditional ales in a 1738 copper brewkettle and fermenting them in wooden vessels.

Traquair House Brewery is known today for excellent ales — traditional, historical, masterpieces of rich, full, engaging flavor: a taste of Scotland.

It’s a cool place, with a cool history, making cool beers. What more do you need to know?

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I took this photo of the brewery when I visited Traquair House around 1994.

BA Releases 2012 Beer Style Guidelines

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Just in time for the World Beer Cup this May, the Brewers Association today released their annual style guidelines for judging. According to the press release, this year’s guidelines include 140 separate categories, including one new one: “Indigenous Beer Category.” Curiously, the World Beer Cup website lists 95 on their 2012 Beer Styles Menu and the descriptions, too. You can download a pdf of the guidelines here.

MillerCoors’ Tenth & Blake Buys Crispin Cider

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Amid recent rumors, the Tenth and Blake Beer Company, the craft-and-import division MillerCoors created last year, announced today that they’re purchasing Crispin Cider, which includes both the Crispin and Fox Barrel hard cider brands.

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From the press release:

Minneapolis-based Crispin sold its first cases on St. Crispin’s Day, October 25, 2008. The company grew approximately 200 percent in 2011, outpacing the overall cider category’s 26 percent growth during the same period, and is already the No. 3 producer of cider in the U.S.

“Our vision is to accelerate our portfolio expansion within the world’s most exciting beer market. With cider’s explosion in the U.S., we were looking at the best way to participate in that growth,” said Tenth and Blake President and CEO Tom Cardella. “As we explored the category, Crispin stood out, not only because they were the most progressive and innovative producer, but also because we shared great personal chemistry. In addition to the best cider portfolio in the business, we love their energy, creativity and unsurpassed innovation capability. They make us an even better company right away.”

The deal includes Crispin’s affiliate, Fox Barrel Cider Company.

“We’re thrilled to be part of the Tenth and Blake family,” said Joe Heron, Crispin’s CEO. “We’ve always had very ambitious plans, and we’re proud of what we’re achieving with great products and an unrivaled creativity that mirrors the inspirational American craft-beer ethos. Tenth and Blake provides us the capability to scale up at the same pace as our increasingly accelerating demand in the U.S. and beyond.”

Crispin Cider Company produces European-style natural hard apple ciders using fermented unpasteurized fresh-pressed apple juice in Original, Light and Brut varietals, as well as additional unfiltered Artisanal Reserves — Honey Crisp, Lansdowne, The Saint and Cho-tokkyu, and also imports a classic English Dry Cider, Crispin Browns Lane.

Crispin affiliate, Fox Barrel Cider Company, is dedicated to the production of superior pure pear ciders, using fermented unpasteurized fresh-pressed pear juice. Available in Pacific Pear, Blackberry Pear and Apricot Pear varietals and additional unfiltered Cidery Reserves — Ginger & Blackcurrant and Rhubarb & Elderberry.

Crispin will be run as an independent division of Tenth and Blake.

Basic CMYK

In addition to these two cider brands, Tenth and Blake also controls the following brands: “Blue Moon Brewing Co. at the Sandlot in Denver, Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. in Chippewa Falls, Wis., 10th Street Brewery in Milwaukee, AC Golden in Golden, Colorado, Birra Peroni in Rome and Plzeňský Prazdroj (Pilsner Urquell) in Pilsen, Czech Republic. Tenth and Blake beers include Blue Moon Belgian White, Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss, George Killian’s Irish Red, Batch 19, Henry Weinhard’s IPA, Colorado Native, Pilsner Urquell, Peroni Nastro Azzurro and Grolsch.”

State Alcohol Administrators Slam Alcohol Justice

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You probably knew that each state has some form of an ABC, an alcohol control organization that after Prohibition was created to administer their state’s laws regarding alcohol. Not surprisingly, they also have an organization where the professionals in these state organizations can get together and share information, how they do things, and generally learn from and help one another be better at their jobs. It’s called the National Conference of State Liquor Administrators, or NCSLA. Their stated purpose is:

The purposes of the Association shall be to promote the enactment of the most effective and equitable types of state alcoholic beverage control laws; to devise and promote the use of methods which provide the best enforcement of the particular alcoholic beverage control laws in each state; to work for the adoption of uniform laws insofar as they may be practicable; to promote harmony with the federal government in its administration of the Federal Alcohol Administration Act; and to strive for harmony in the administration of the alcoholic beverage control laws among the several states.

They have an annual convention where they get together, along with other events throughout the year. Also, in addition to the obvious members, it’s also open to distributors, suppliers, retailers, law firms, health organizations and anyone else with an interest in the administration of alcohol at the state and federal level.

Well. Earlier this week, Alcohol Justice posted a press release entitled Big Alcohol Dominates Alcohol Regulator Meeting, which touted an article in the new edition of the journal Addiction that they claim “Documents Unhealthy Influence of Alcohol Industry over State Regulators.” Not surprisingly, the author of the article, Sarah M. Mart, is the Director of Research for Alcohol Justice. So they created the propaganda, then promote it is as if it’s news and/or impartial information and it’s not surprising that it just happens to support their agenda. Is the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy lost on them?

In this case, the article, Top priorities for alcohol regulators in the United States: protecting public health or the alcohol industry?, purports to examine the “NCSLA Annual Meeting [that] took place 20–24 June 2010 in New Orleans, Louisiana.” Smart claims as a “finding” that “[m]ore than two-thirds (72.2%) of the 187 conference attendees were from alcohol producers, importers, wholesalers, retailers or their attorneys. Nearly two-thirds (65.0%) of the 40 panelists were from the alcohol industry. The author of this paper was the only attendee, and the only panelist, representing public health policy.”

In the press release, Alcohol Justice spins it this way.

In a peer-reviewed article in the February 2012 issue of Addiction, Sarah Mart, director of research at Alcohol Justice, has documented the alcohol industry’s excessive involvement in a 2010 annual conference of state liquor administrators.

“With alcohol use being the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S, you would think state regulator meetings would focus on the most effective and cost-effective ways to reduce alcohol-related harm,” stated Mart. “But this event was really about the industry’s agenda.”

Mart’s article details her experience at the annual National Conference of State Liquor Administrators (NCSLA), which took place in June 2010. More than two-thirds (72%) of the 187 meeting attendees, and 65% of the panelists, were from the alcohol industry. The rest represented state alcohol control systems and federal government agencies. Mart was the only participant representing public health policy.

“The NCSLA is dominated by the global companies that produce, import, distribute and sell alcohol,” said Mart. “Not surprisingly, the Association’s liquor control agenda lacks public health considerations.”

On average, 79,000 deaths annually are attributed to alcohol consumption. In 2005, there were over 1.6 million hospitalizations and 4 million emergency room visits for alcohol-related causes. Alcohol-related costs to state budgets are staggering, yet this trade organization of state regulators, which could play an important role in reducing the harm, has no stated position supporting public health.

“Big Alcohol panelists actually sent regulators a warning message: Be industry-friendly. Don’t rock the boat of commerce with public health concerns, or your job may be on the line,” reported Mart. “The Federal officials that were present also spoke about supporting the industry, instead of protecting public safety. That was a disappointment.”

Sounds bad, right? Well, the NCSLA sees it a different way. They’ve now responded with their own press release telling the other side of this story.

NCSLA, The Inclusive Crucible Of Alcohol Policy Issues, Dismayed By Inaccuracies Of “Sour Grapes”

When requested to comment on the recent press release from an entity named “Alcohol Justice”(formerly known as The Marin Institute), NCSLA President William A. Kelley, Jr. today said,

“The National Conference of State Liquor Administrators (“NCSLA”) has for decades been the only organization of the 50 states with the sole clear, transparent and inclusive purpose of effectively controlling alcoholic beverages. That purpose cannot be effective without input from all interested parties. Indeed since this Nation was founded, the fundamental principle of American government has been to make decisions with the consent of the governed. That requires substantive communication with and consideration of the concerns and competing interests of those who would be subject to regulatory action by the federal and state government. This is the hallmark of a real democracy.

The NCSLA is dismayed at the conduct of any organization which has chosen to re-brand itself and seeks to create relevance for its new brand by pandering for headlines, while taking no real, affirmative action to support and defend the federal and state beverage alcohol regulators in the executive, judicial and legislative branches of state and federal government. These federal and state regulators stand alone as they fulfill their lawful obligations to strike a balance between the protection of the common good and the service of the public demand for the different sorts of alcoholic beverages made available by this legitimate, responsible industry.

The agenda of self-promotion by “Alcohol Justice” is obvious and unavailing. The telling fact is that the now re-branded entity formerly known Marin Institute has repeatedly chosen not to become a member of the NCSLA despite the numerous invitations that have been extended to them and the years of courtesies from the NCSLA they have enjoyed in the form of expense-paid attendance at NCSLA conferences and participation on NCSLA panels. It is equally telling that this statement comes when further special treatment has been denied this re-branded entity while at the same time it was directly invited and encouraged to join the NCSLA, take a seat at the proverbial table, but on the same terms as those long met by other public health and public advocacy groups. It is disheartening when any entity with substantial financial resources, yet without the economic hardships endured for years by state beverage alcohol regulators, appears content to do nothing.

The silence of this re-branded entity is deafening in the national dialogue that continues as Congress, The President of the United States, the people of the state of Washington and the representatives of the people in all the 50 states grapple with the modern issues of beverage alcohol control. This struggle is the American legacy of that failed experiment named “Prohibition.”

I look forward to the honor of leading the NCSLA when it convenes in Washington D.C. to continue its efforts in fostering principles and techniques of balanced alcoholic beverages control. Unfortunately it appears that this re-branded entity chooses to continue to sit on the sidelines in its complacency, fermenting in its sour grapes. Perhaps sometime soon the reality will be recognized that much is expected from those who are given much.”

Nicely said, Mr. Kelley. Nicely said.

Sierra Nevada Chooses Asheville North Carolina Site For New Brewery

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After scouting numerous sites in North Carolina and neighboring states, Sierra Nevada Brewing announced today they have selected a location near Asheville, North Carolina to build a new brewery to supply their beer throughout the east coast.

From the press release:

The site, approximately 90 acres in the Henderson County town of Mills River — along the French Broad River, 12 miles south of Asheville — will be home to the new production facility, as well as a proposed restaurant and gift shop.

“We are thrilled to have found an ideal location in western North Carolina for our second brewery,” says Ken Grossman, founder of Sierra Nevada. “The beer culture, water quality and quality of life are excellent. We feel lucky to be a part of this community.”

The new facility will add much needed capacity for Sierra Nevada, and will allow for the quick shipment of brewery-fresh beer to consumers in the east. The East Coast brewery will start with a capacity around 300,000 barrels, with room to grow. The added barrelage will accommodate wider production of the myriad of seasonal beers and bottled specialties Sierra Nevada has produced in recent years, as well as an expansion of the brewery’s well-known flagship product: Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

Sierra Nevada began the search for a new location several years ago. The brewery looked at hundreds of potential sites, eventually narrowing the search down to a handful of locations. The list of criteria was long and included quantifiable factors such as ease of shipping and water quality, as well as quality of life issues for its employees. Sierra Nevada has a reputation for a laid-back brewery culture and a love of the outdoors, and the new facility will retain this same tone. The Asheville area offers Sierra Nevada Brewing the perfect confluence of community, recreation and craft beer culture.

Sierra Nevada’s eastern brewery site is expected to employ approximately 90 workers, with additional staff in the restaurant to follow. The brewery anticipates being operational by early 2014.

That’s one more great reason to visit Asheville. I took a family vacation there a couple of years ago and it’s one of the best places I’ve been to for beer, food and culture. They have an amazing beer community. I’m sure not everyone will be thrilled by the news, but it’s been my experience that Sierra Nevada has been a good steward to the beer community as a whole, and has acted honorably in every instance I’m aware of, and I wouldn’t expect that to change as they expand their operations.

UPDATE: Asheville’s Mountain Xpress had photos and a report of the ceremony today at the site of the brewery that included North Carolina governor Bev Perdue and Ken and Brian Grossman, from Sierra Nevada.

Sierra Nevada announcement with Gov. Bev Perdue and others
Ken Grossman, Governor Perdue and Brian Grossman raise a glass of Sierra Nevada beer at today’s ceremony in Mills River.

Sierra Nevada announcement with Gov. Bev Perdue and others
A drawing of the proposed site.