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Friday, May 20, 2011

Little Giants Emerge Victorious!!

America has seen a recent resurgence in craft and home brewing in recent years. After reading an article online about where the majority of our beer is coming from, I am convinced that this renaissance of fermentation is NOT a fad. Some stats:
  • Craft brewers currently provide an estimated 100,000 jobs in the U.S., including serving staff in brewpubs.
  • Growth of the craft brewing industry in 2010 was 11% by volume and 12% by dollars compared to growth in 2009 of 7.2% by volume and 10.3% by dollars. 
  • Craft brewers sold an estimated 9,951,956 barrels* of beer in 2010, up from 8,934,446 in 2009.
  • The craft brewing sales share in 2010 was 4.9% by volume and 7.6% by dollars.
  • Craft brewer retail dollar value in 2010 was an estimated $7.6 billion, up from $7 billion in 2009.
  • 1,753 breweries operated for some or all of 2010, the highest total since the late-1800s.
I believe I speak for much of the appreciators of fine malt beverages when I say, "We are here to stay!"  There is not much to say other than we need to get behind these breweries. As the saying goes, "Think globally, drink locally." Unfortunately, much of the beer in the United States is produced by two major brewers. I think the craft brewing industry could have a way of stealing customers away from these giants.  The way most craft breweries attempt to convert our light beer swilling friends is to offer what is often referred to as a "transition beer".

A transition beer is usually a beer that is meant to clear the palette during tasting so that the taster has a clear view of the qualities of the ale in which they are tasting. Another use for these types of beers, which usually consist of a beer that is lighter in both color and taste, could be to transform light beer lovers into CRAFT beer lovers by offering them a beer that is similar in color, but is both better tasting and higher quality. Beers that are often used for this purpose are ones like cream ales, kolsch beers, American-style wheat beers, or any number of other unimposing, lighter beers.

Here is a challenge to cap off American Craft Beer Week. Convert a friend. Introduce one of your friends to craft beer. Or, if you have not had the pleasure of experiencing a local beer from your neck of the woods. I encourage you to seek out your local brewpub or craft brewery and try one for yourself. You will not be disappointed.

Cheers,

Nate

Thursday, May 19, 2011

EGGFEST!!!

Food and beer have a delicate and wonderful relationship. Saturday, I had the opportunity to attend Chef JJ's Egg Fest located in the parking lot next to Chef JJ's Backyard. Chef JJ's is a unique experience to say the least. They will host your private event, offer a grilling class complete with beer tastings, as well as cater your wedding. Chef JJ's backyard is definitely a culinary experience that one has to see to believe.

Saturday, Chef JJ's played host to the first annual Egg Fest. Several grillers were present using the Big Green Egg grill. The Big Green Egg is a style of grill modeled after the ancient clay cooker called a "kamado". It was released in 1974, and since then it has undergone many changes. Not the least of which is the replacement of the clay with space-age ceramics that make it virtually indestructible under normal cooking conditions. Chef JJ's just happens to be the only dealer of this marvel of modern cooking technology in Indianapolis.

Egg Fest was an event to be witnessed. Upon walking into the festival site, my wife and I were greeted with the wafting smell of grill smoke, cooking meat, and other culinary delights. Sun King was there pouring pints of delicious handcrafted ales. Upon obtaining my pint (first things first), my wife and I proceeded to make our way to each grill site underneath a massive white tent. With so many grillers and what seemed like a hundred samples of food, it would be an understatement to say that we were stuffed by the end of it. So much so that my wife was not able to finish her beer. I gladly obliged. Overall I would say this event was a success and I look forward to making this part of my annual routine.

Cheers!

Nate

Monday, May 16, 2011

Get Me Another Brew(ery)!!

Over the past few years, the American and international economies have seen many ups and downs. There seems to be one constant throughout the recession, though. That constant has been beer. The brewing industry has remained strong as other businesses shut their doors left and right. Even craft brewing, which is considerably more expensive, has continued to grow over the past five years. Is beer recession-proof, though? To this question, many economists would say, "no." Though it sure as heck seems that way.

Today we are witnessing a rebirth in the Indiana craft brewing industry. Not since the start of prohibition have we seen so many local craft breweries in this area. Because it has been such a long time, and pretty much no one dealing with this was alive during that time, many politicians and city planners have no experience in how to deal with these new businesses.

Breweries attempting to open their doors currently are running into red tape that has delayed opening in some cases by several months. Other cities, like Portland, have embraced the new beer revolution. This Pacific Northwestern city, known for many things like the Trailblazers its rich agriculture, is also home to 28 microbreweries like Widmer Brothers, Bridgeport, and Hair of the Dog. This region of the United States is home to the Willamette Valley which is one of the leading hop-growing regions in the nation. Along with the locally-grown two-row barley, this region is a breeding ground for regional breweries.

Back on topic. What can we do to promote these businesses, or attract others to the area?  Here is my theory:

Right now in Indianapolis, there are dozens of vacant, distressed buildings. Breweries like Sun King, Flat 12, and soon-to-be-opened Fountain Square and Triton breweries have taken over, renovated, and revitalized these buildings. This has positively affected the areas that surround the breweries.  Unfortunately, it is extremely expensive to obtain a brewing license as well as a lengthy process to be rezoned.

As a city we should get behind these brewers and support them. They have been proven to increase community involvement and have an overall positive effect on a city's economy. I propose creating a "Barley District" of Indianapolis. This area of the city would focus on attracting breweries. We could create an incubator for not only the breweries that are already here, but attract other breweries to move here or encourage new ones to open up within the city. There will be more to come on this subject. Until next time...

Cheers,

Nate

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fountain Square Brewing

Friday evening, my wife and I were invited to taste beer along with a select group of people at one of the city's up and coming breweries, Fountain Square Brewing Company. We met at an old carburetor exchange building right off Shelby Street just southeast of downtown Indianapolis. The first thing I noticed as I walked in the old warehouse was its size. The building was about a 40,000 to 50,000 square foot facility with fermentors, brew kettles, and mashtuns lined up on the south end of the building. In the corner was a small group of people gathered around four small cornelius kegs.  My wife and I approached the group and were met by Skip, the brewer, and Bill Webster, the CEO, of Fountain Square Brewing Company.

On tap Friday were four different types of beers, pale, porter, IPA, and blonde. I had the opportunity to taste all of them, and I can say, without a doubt, if these gentlemen continue to brew beer at the same caliber as their test batches, they are going to give Sun King a run for its money. I began the night with the blonde ale. Bill described the beer as a sort of "transition" beer good for someone used to drinking American-style light lagers such as Bud or Miller. It was a deep golden color with both well balanced malt and hop profile. The beer was crisp and clean with a dryness that I especially love to see in blonde ales. As I drank my glass, I noticed a heavy lacing creeping down the glass like a rope ladder. This is something that is ideal in any beer, but is especially rare in blondes, which have notoriously poor head retention. Grade: Keeper

Next up was the porter. Unfortunately, many of you who read this blog will never see this beer. Although I would love to have this again, this beer, in its current form anyway, will never see the light of day. Skip wasn't happy with the balance of the beer, and is going to tweak it and hopefully add to the complexities of an already complex beer. Visually, the porter was as high on the SRM scale as one could get. It had a dark brown almost black color with a rich peanut butter colored head. The porter, upon first taste, blasted me with intense notes of coffee, caramel, and chocolate. Although this may turn off most people at first, it will win them back with the dry, clean and not overly malted flavor that manifests itself toward the end of the taste. Bill recommended using the first taste to get yourself acclimated to the intense flavors of the beer and then take a second taste to explore its deeper complexities.  Grade: Wish I could have more, but can't wait to see the finished product.

Third in the line up was their pale ale. This beer was named a pale, but was closer to an IPA when looking at overall malt and hop profile. This beer was a pale golden color with good head retention and visible lacing. This pale was was the type beer that would turn even a light beer drinker into a pale ale lover. Although it was not heavily hopped, there was a significant hop profile. Notes of citrus came through well, but were balanced by a maltiness that added needed body to the beer.

Finally I tried the India Pale Ale. This beer had a much heavier hop profile then the pale. It gave floral notes on the front of the pallet, but as the taste progressed I noticed a very piney and grapefruit-like flavor. This, to some people, can be off-putting, but in this case it was handled with care. This description is typical of American style IPAs, but different brewers decide to show it to varying degrees. One man's pale ale is another man's IPA.

Overall I would say the experience was a real treat. My wife and I had a wonderful time tasting different beers from one of the city's freshest faces in the newly-reinvented Indianapolis beer industry. I can't wait to see what they have in store next, and I hope I get another invitation. Stay thirsty my friends!

Cheers,

Nate