December 2010

2010: The Year in Review

Another year is about to go into the books. For craft brewing, 2010 turned to be an eventful year indeed. Some highlights:

  • Collaboration beers were all the rage. Sierra Nevada kicked off the year by releasing the first of a four-beer series in which CEO Ken Grossman joined forces with Fritz Maytag, Jack McAuliffe, and Charlie Papazian. By year’s end, Infinium, a joint effort by Boston Beer Company and Weihenstephan, was on the shelves for holiday revelers.
  • Beer Week, which began in Philadelphia two years ago, spread to more than 20 cities, as well as several states. And Oregon has upped the ante, declaring all of July Craft Beer Month.
  • After 45 years at the helm at Anchor Brewing Company, Fritz Maytag sold it to a Bay Area investment company. Maytag is chairman emeritus of the new company.
  • Despite a flat economy, craft beer sales in America showed a substantial increase. Across the ocean, cask ale gained followers, especially among younger and female drinkers.
  • The roster of craft breweries that can their beer continues to grow. There are, by one estimate, more than 100. There is even a festival devoted exclusively to canned craft beer: Burning Can in Reno, Nevada.
  • The year saw the first-ever beer bloggers’ conference, held in Boulder, Colorado. Next year there will be bloggers’ conferences in London and in Portland, Oregon.
  • A couple of beers rose from the dead. Rheingold has been resurrected in the New York City area, while Duquesne returned to western Pennsylvania. And the F.X. Matt Brewery, badly damaged by a fire, enjoyed a phoenix-like revival.
  • The craft brewing industry continued to consolidate. Rochester, New York-based North American Breweries acquired the parent company of the Pyramid and Magic Hat breweries. And three major brewpub chains–Rock Bottom, Gordon Biersch, and Old Chicago have been brought under a single corporate entity called CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries, Inc.
  • John Hickenlooper, who went into the brewpub business after being laid off from his job as a geologist, was elected governor of Colorado.
  • Beer labels landed their creators in hot water. Short’s Brewing Company drew charges of racism for putting a picture of a hanged man on the label. Later that year, Lost Abbey offended Wiccans with a label depicting a witch being burned. Ontario nixed the use of Samichlaus because it smacked of marketing beer to children. And Swedish regulators said no to Founders Breakfast Stout, which depicts a baby on the label.
  • Reality TV discovered beer culture. The highlight was Discovery Channel’s new series entitled “Brewmasters,” which starred Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s founder, Sam Calagione.
  • President Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron settled a World Cup bet by exchanging local microbrews. Obama gave Cameron a Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat from his hometown of Chicago, and Cameron reciprocated with Hobgoblin, brewed in his Witney constituency.
  • In the ABV wars, Scotland’s BrewDog, Limited, declared victory with the release of The End of History, 55% ABV beer served inside an animal carcass. They were soon topped by a Dutch brewery called ‘t Koelschip which brought out a 60% ABV beer–which is stronger than bourbon.
  • The dreaded Beer Police made their appearance. Pennsylvania cops raided several Philadelphia-area establishments for serving beer that hadn’t been registered with state officials. Local beer writers were not amused.
  • Finally, an item from the “Can You Believe This?” Department: the folks at SABMiller examined how best to run a brewery in a post-apocalyptic future.
  • EPA Honors Sierra Nevada

    It’s been a great year for Sierra Nevada Brewing Company CEO Ken Grossman. His company turned 30 years old, and gained the beer world’s attention with a series of high-gravity beers made in collaboration with craft brewing legends.

    Now comes news that Grossman’s company has been honored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which named it the Pacific Western Division’s Green Business of the Year. Sierra Nevada keeps 99.5 percent of its solid waste out of landfills through such means as recycling and composting, and gets 85 percent of its electricity from renewable power.

    Session #47: Cooking With Beer

    If you love beer and writing about it, then you should take part in The Session. It’s a monthly event in which beer bloggers host a topical discussion. The series was started by Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin and Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer.

    Session number 47, Cooking With Beer, will be hosted by David Jensen of (Did we mention that you can take part in with discussion? Consider yourself invited.)

    To get the ball rolling, Jensen offers some ideas for posts:

  • Find a recipe that includes beer as an ingredient, share the recipe, cook it, and tell us the results.
  • Talk about a meal prepared by somebody else (by a friend or at a restaurant) that used beer as an ingredient.
  • What is the best dish you’ve had made with beer? The worst?
  • What are some of the challenges in cooking with beer whether it be a savory or a sweet dish?
  • What does beer add to a dish?
  • You can contribute a post until Friday, January 7. Afterward, Jensen will write a brief wrap-up of what was posted.

    Buy Low, Sell High

    During the dot-com stock bubble, it seemed that every bar had the television tuned to CNBC and half the clientele looked like they’d skipped work to play the stock market. Then the bubble burst, and the TVs went back to ESPN. But in Michigan, the Kalamazoo Beer Exchange has put quotes back on the big screen. Not for stocks, but–pun intended–more liquid assets. Here’s how it works:

    Let’s say that one of those beers is a pint of Bell’s Amber Ale for $3. Depending on what the demand is for a pint of Short’s, the price could shoot up to 15 percent of the average price per pint or drop up to 50 percent. The prices, displayed on several large monitors around the dual-level bar, change every 15 minutes.

    Once in a while, the Exchange’s owner, Jim Flora, announces a market crash with an ear-splitting blast from an air horn. For five minutes, customers can buy their favorite beer at its all-time low price.

    Paul can’t help himself. He wonders if a doppelbock called Speculator is on the beer list.

    Another Brewing Reality Show

    “Almalkin,” a member of the community, tipped us off to a new brewing reality show, which premieres on The History Channel Saturday, December 26, at noon Eastern time.

    Here’s how The History Channel describes it: “Watch today’s best home brewers battle to fill your glass with a beer that made history!”

    A Musical Interlude for Christmas

    A British commercial for Grolsch beer features the “Swingtop Philharmonic Orchestra” playing Oh Christmas Tree with Grolch’s swingtop bottles. Enjoy!

    From Beer Camp to the Beer Aisle

    Sierra Nevada Brewing Company hosts Beer Camp, where industry people–distributors, retailers, and even the occasional beer blogger–spend two days at the brewery’s pilot brewhouse. Each group of campers gets to brew their own small batch of beer. One of those batches, released for this year’s San Francisco Beer Week, served as the prototype for Hoptimum. It’s an imperial IPA brewed with whole-cone hops. Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin tried some at Beer Camp last week, and came away impressed. The rest of the country will have to wait until January 1 to get their Hoptimum.

    2010 in the Rear View Mirror

    Gerard Walen of has compiled a a list of top ten beer trips, but this one has a twist. Five of the trips were taken by Walen himself, the other five suggested by his readers.

    If you didn’t get out as much you wanted in 2010, fear not. A new year is almost upon us, and you’ve got lots of ideas to kick around.

    Higher Zymurgical Education, Part Two

    It’s been more than three years since Appalachian State University beat Michigan in football. It was one of the biggest upsets in sports history, and Wolverine fans are still crying in their beer over it.

    Speaking of beer, ASU operates the Ivory Tower Brewery, a small non-profit facility operated by professors who teach an honors class in brewing. Up to now, the beer was made strictly for research and educational purposes. But the university has applied for state and federal permits to sell it at the on-campus Broyhill Inn and Conference Center as early as next summer. It’s also a step in a continuing effort by ASU to offer more classes in wine- and beer-making and, eventually, a four-year degree program in fermentation sciences.

    Toasting Colorado’s Next Governor

    Last month, Coloradans voted to send John Hickenlooper, the founder of Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Company, to the governor’s mansion. He’ll be sworn in on January 11, and beer will have a starring role in the festivities. Not only will Wynkoop’s Hickenlooper’s InaugurAle be on the beer list at his inaugural ball, but products of at least 16 other Colorado micros will also be served to party-goers.

    If any state deserves to have an ex-craft beer pioneer as governor, this is it. Colorado ranks third in the country in the number of breweries, and first in breweries per capita.

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