Andy Crouch

Beer Snobs Face a Backlash

Andy Crouch, who writes the “Unfiltered” column at, has a warning for craft beer snobs. The insults you hurl at big breweries, and those who drink their beers, are not only wearing thin but also brand you as an elitist.

Crouch accuses snobs of playing right into the hands of the big breweries. Anheuser-Busch’s “Brewed The Hard Way” and “Not Backing Down” ads tout Budweiser as “not small,” “not sipped” and “not a fruit cup”. And those ads are resonating with beer drinkers.

Worse yet, beer snobs have become a recurring punch line on prime-time TV. Crouch says, “Want to signal to the audience that a character is an unbearable jerk? Put a six-pack of fancy beer in his hand as he walks into the party. Worse yet, have him try and offer one of his high priced beauties to another character and then watch him get flatly rejected.”

The Winter of Jim Koch’s Discontent

A story by beer writer Andy Crouch in Boston magazine describes how Boston Beer Company CEO Jim Koch reacted to a beer bar that left his beers of the menu. That establishment, and some others, think his Sam Adams beers are passé.

Koch can be called a victim of his own success. Some drinkers in their 20s, who don’t remember a world before Sam Adams, are looking for beer “that is organic, local, small-batch, authentic, cool, and new.” They’re really love hoppy beers, which isn’t what Sam Adams is known for.

Once the undisputed king of the craft-beer industry, Koch finds himself in an unsteady market. After spending 30 years battling Budweiser, Miller, and Coors, he’s now portrayed as the bad guy by some craft brewers and beer drinkers.

Crouch points out that Koch entered the beer market when it was at its nadir, that he cleverly chose Revolutionary War figure Sam Adams as his symbol and identified his product with the city of Boston. And despite his critics, Koch grew his business to a 2 million-barrel-per-year operation, which has made him a billionaire.

Despite the criticism, Koch is philosophical. He told Crouch, “You know, to me, one of the fun things of being a craft brewer is that people are more colorful, and we don’t have to be corporate. I can be who I am. That’s Boston Beer.”

Trademark Tips From the Top

As the number of craft breweries has grown, so has the number of trademark disputes. Some of them have gotten nasty. But according to the experts, many of these disputes are avoidable.

Andy Crouch of All About Beer magazine spoke to attorneys who do trademark work for breweries. Topping their list of advice: protect the mark by registering it with the federal government. Even though a brewery acquires limited trademark protection by putting its product on the market, failure to register invites rival breweries to register first, and leads to disputes over the where the brewery’s territory ends. Before bringing its beer to market, the brewery should also do its homework, paying particular attention to whether similar marks are already registered. It should also invest the time and come up with distinctive marks that are easy to defend–though that job is getting harder as the number of breweries grows.

“Use it or lose it” is a basic principle of trademark law. This means a brewery can’t sit idly by when a competitor brings out a beer with a similar name or appearance. But how should a brewery deal with such a situation? A polite letter to the competitor often solve the problem, since most infringers are unaware that someone else has a better claim. However, some disputes can’t be resolved amicably. In those cases, the worst thing the combatants can do is litigate their case in the social media. All that does is make one side appear whiny and the other look like a villain, and makes both sides look petty to boot.

The Friday Mash (O.K. Corral Edition)

On this day in 1881, the most famous gunfight in Old West history took place at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. It was fought between outlaws Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and his brother Frank; and lawmen Virgil Earp, his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, and temporary deputy Doc Holliday.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Detroit, which hosts the Michigan Brewers Guild’s Fall Beer Festival this weekend. It’s a perfect time to read Bill Loomis’s story about the city’s hard-drinking past.

Not everyone associates “green beer” with St. Patrick’s Day. Roxanne Palmer of the International Business Times updates us about America’s most environmentally-friendly breweries.

This week’s fun fact: the barley genome is almost twice the size of that of human beings. But a new, high-resolution draft of the genome could someday pay off in the form of higher-quality beer.

Does that beer you’re drinking taste nasty? Jay Brooks, who judges beer when he’s not writing about it, explains what causes the ten most common off-tastes in beer.

Actor Will Ferrell, the star of Old Milwaukee beer commercials that ran in cities like Davenport, Iowa, has shot four new–and silly–Old Milwaukee ads that will run in Sweden.

Ohio’s Winking Lizard beer bars will stop serving Bud Light and Miller Light because it has grown tired of the big breweries’ price hikes. Yuengling Light will replace those brands.

Finally, Andy Crouch, who has attended the past 16 Great American Beer Festivals, is concerned that the festival is getting too big. He offers a ten-point plan to improve future events.

The Friday Mash (Mr. Zip Edition)

On this day in 1963, U.S. Postal Service introduced ZIP (for Zone Improvement Plan) codes. To get Americans to use the newfangled numbers, the Postal Service introduced a cartoon character called “Mr. Zip.” He’s moved on to advertising heaven, but ZIP codes are still with us.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Frederick, Maryland, where new state laws have allowed the Flying Dog Brewery to bring back brewery tours. The tours are popular, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead.

Will session beer catch on in the U.S.? Perhaps, but Andy Crouch warns that it faces major cultural hurdles. Being goal-oriented, Americans don’t like settling in for hours at a time at a pub.

What do The Turtles, Bob Dylan, and Dr. Dre have in common? All three can be found on the list of Top Ten Songs in Beer Commercials, compiled by Ciaren Thompson of

If you live, work, or find yourself in New York City, beer gardens aplenty are waiting for you. Amarelle Wenkert of Black Book magazine offers some of her favorites.

In Ottawa, Ohio, Larry Wagner plunked down $740 for a can of beer. The cash went to a good cause–the struggling Putnam County Fair–and Wagner got a neon sign along with the beer.

A 170-year-old bottle of beer found in a shipwreck was contaminated by salt, and contained no yeast cells needed to reverse-engineer the brew. Scientists hope for better luck next time.

Finally, Appalachia’s tobacco farms are giving way to a variety of crops including truffles, wasabi, shiitake mushrooms, and last but not least, hops. Draft magazine takes a look.

Lew Bryson Hits the Road

With fourth edition of Lew Bryson’s Pennsylvania Breweries about to hit the stores, Lew’s going on another book tour. It kicks off September 23 at an establishment near his home and, over the next couple of months, will take him to book signings throughout the state.

There’s a Beer Festivals Calendar connection to Bryson’s book. Maryanne and Paul are the authors of Michigan Breweries, part of the same series. It’s published by Stackpole Books.

Cheers, Lew!

Beer Hunting in Vietnam

Andy Crouch, the Beer Scribe, and his brother, Myk, are back from a round-the-world trip during which, we gather, many beers were consumed. Andy’s latest blog entries introduce us to Vietnam’s beer culture. He’s embedded plenty of video, much of it starring the local brews, typically light- and dark-colored lagers that earned generally good marks.

Their journey began in Saigon (many locals still refuse to call it “Ho Chi Minh City”), where they visited an outpost of the Hoa Vien brewpub chain as well as the Lion Brewery–a choice that Ludwig applauds.

Part Two took place in the small town of Hoi An, where they quaffed one of the local brands at the Sleepy Gecko pub.

The final installment found the brothers in Hanoi where, at one establishment, all the lights were out and the hostess had to wake up from her nap to show them to a table.

Michael Jackson Remembered

Last Friday Andy Crouch, the Beer Scribe, wrote about a recent visit to England. The highlight of the trip was Michael Jackson’s archive in Oxford. It contained 30 large file cabinets filled with everything from tasting notes to his personal research into treatments for Parkinson’s disease.

Crouch’s post got the attention of Jack Curtin, who blogs at Liquid Diet. The fact that no one had visited the archive in two years prompted a blog post containing this comment:

We really need a good Michael Jackson biography written, and the sooner the better. It was something I ever so gently approached him about once and was going to make a more serious effort to present the last time we met, about five months before his death in 2009, but never managed to get to.

Curtin’s post also links back to his fascinating interview with Jackson’s personal assistant, Owen Barstow, who portrays “The Beer Hunter” as honest, intense, and dedicated to his craft. And, like most writers, underpaid.

A Modest Proposal

We’ve been to festivals that feature big beers–the Great Alaska Beer & Barleywine Festival is one of the best in that category–but Andy Crouch has a very different idea: a festival devoted entirely to small beer. Not weak beers, mind you, but beers made with the second runnings of strong ale. Anchor’s small beer, for example, is the second runnings of Old Foghorn Barleywine. Andy points out small beer makes economic sense, too: why throw out grain that still has enough sugar to produce a second batch of ale?

Better Late Than Never: A GABF Review

Andy Crouch at offers his “inevitably late review” of this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Crouch’s review focused in part on New England, a traditionally under-represented region that did rather well in this year’s competition. He also noted that organizers expanded the festival venue, creating space for the Great American Beer School and other educational presentations. Barrel-aged beer was very much in evidence this year, and a number of breweries brought craft-brewed lagers to the festival floor.

If you’re interested in attending the 2010 GABF, circle September 16-18 on your calendar.

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