Great American Beer Festival

BA Fires Back at Carlos Brito

Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito stirred up a hornets’ nest by saying that “consumers are a bit tired of choice.” Bob Pease, the president of the Brewers Association, was quick to respond.

Pease pointed out that the 2016 Great American Beer Festival attracted a sellout crowd of 60,000, who sampled more than 3,800 from 780 breweries; and that the ability to choose from that many alternatives is “a central value of our democracy and a core tenet of ‘being American’.”

The BA head also asserted that Brito’s comment smacked of self-aggrandizement. He said that A-B InBev entered the craft beer market by acquiring a portfolio of craft breweries, and is about to use its economic power to push its brands onto store shelves and tap handles—and push out truly independent brands. Pease observed, “That’s reducing choice all right—but not based on beer lover demand.”

Peace also suggested that consumers will rebel against A-B InBev’s attempt to limit their choices. A recent Nielsen survey found 58 percent of American craft beer drinkers want even more flavors to choose from, and about 65 percent said they drink more craft beer specifically because craft offers more variety.

Why Some Breweries Skipped the GABF

Even though they’re well regarded and have a following, some breweries passed on this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Their reasons include the high cost of travel, the limited impact of GABF on sales, and the difficulty of getting the word out at such a heavily-attended event.

Some breweries that skipped the GABF poured instead at fringe events during festival weekend. Those events attracted aficionados of certain styles, such as sour beers and beers made with wild yeasts or locally-found ingredients. The more intimate, laid-back atmosphere enabled brewery representatives to talk to attendees and further build their brand.

The Friday Mash (Cubs Win! Edition)

On this date in 1908, the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series. Managed by Frank Chance of “Tinker to Evers to Chance” fame, they beat the Detroit Tigers, 4 games to 1. Cubs fans are hoping their team can end their 108-year drought in this year’s playoffs.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Detroit, where Ludwig’s beloved Lions will sell $3.50 beers during Sunday’s game against the L.A. Rams. The way the Lions are playing, fans need a few to get them through the game.

D.G. Yuengling & Son is waging a last-ditch fight against the pending merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller. Yuengling argues that A-B is trying to keep it out of new markets.

German scientists have found that beer causes less liver damage than hard liquor. The reason? Hops may inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species, which can damage cells in the liver.

Ken Pagan, the Toronto-area man accused of throwing a beer can at a player during a baseball game, better have his lawyer warming up. A Canadian attorney discusses Pagan’s legal problems.

Two Copenhagen men have taken the idea of freeze-dried coffee and applied it to four of their craft beers. They’ve created instant versions of a coffee beer, a fruity IPA, a wild-yeast IPA, and a pilsner.

After a church in Canyon, Texas, ran an anti-alcohol ad in the local paper, an establishment called the Imperial Taproom offered a discount to customers who brought in a copy of the ad.

Finally, Fat Head’s Brewery had a very short reign as “Mid-Sized Brewing Company of the Year” at the Great American Beer Festival. Officials revoked the award after concluding that Fat Head’s, which has three locations, had been misclassified.

In Case You Missed It

Here are the winners from this year’s Great American Beer Festival competition. We’re pleased to say that our home state of Michigan brought home ten medals.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Number of beers ordered by Bristol Motor Speedway for last Saturday’s Tennessee-Virginia Tech game: 545,000.
  • Attendance at that game: 156,990.
  • Ohio’s brewery count: 180.
  • Percent of Ohio breweries that intend to make 12-percent-plus beer now that the ABV cap has been lifted: 10.
  • Increase in 2016 craft beer sales over 2015 sales: 6 percent (compared to 19 percent the year before).
  • Percentage of top-ten craft breweries with lower sales this year than last: 50.
  • Decline in Samuel Adams Boston Lager sales from 2015 to this year: 13.8.
  • Tsingtao Brewery Company’s net income in the first half of 2016: 1.07 billion yuan ($160 million).
  • Change from the first half of 2015: Down 11 percent.
  • Number of tickets Toppling Goliath brewery issued for its Mornin’ Delight imperial stout: 500.
  • Number of people who logged onto Toppling Goliath’s website to buy Mornin’ Delight tickets: 80,000.
  • Average annual salary for assistant brewers at small breweries: $30,000-$40,000.
  • Average annual salary for head brewers at small breweries: $35,000-$47,000.
  • Style categories in this year’s Great American Beer Festival competition: 96.
  • Breweries expected to compete in this year’s GABF: 1,600.
  • Beer…By the Numbers

  • Average price of a 1/3-liter draft beer in Lausanne, Switzerland: $17.60 (highest in the world).
  • Average price of a 1/3-liter draft beer in New York City: $9.22.
  • Average price of a 1/3-liter draft beer in Bratislava, Slovakia: $2.80.
  • Average cost of a pint of beer in 2016: $3.99.
  • Average cost (adjusted for inflation) of a pint of beer in 1952: $5.93.
  • Craft beer’s sales growth in the first half of 2016: 6 percent.
  • Imported beer’s sales growth in the first half of 2016: 6.7 percent.
  • Grams of carbohydrates in a bottle of Michelob Ultra: 2.6.
  • Grams of carbohydrates in a bottle of Bud Light: 6.6.
  • Pounds of spent grain produced by New Belgium Brewing at its Fort Collins, Colorado, brewery: 73 million.
  • Spent grain’s share of brewery by-products: 85 percent.
  • Style categories in this year’s Great American Beer Festival competition: 96.
  • Estimated number of beers expected to be entered in this year’s GABF competition: 7,000.
  • Beers to be poured at this weekend’s Michigan Brewers Guild Summer Beer Festival: 1,107.
  • Breweries that will pour at the MBG Summer Beer Festival: 125.
  • The Friday Mash (Boomer Sooner Edition)

    One hundred and twenty-five years ago today, at high noon, thousands of people took part in the Oklahoma Land Rush. Within hours, Oklahoma City and Guthrie had instant populations of 10,000.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Tumwater, Washington, once the home of Olympia Brewing Company. Today, it’s the home of a cluster of legal marijuana growers and processors—including one of the state’s largest.

    Peru’s Cerveza San Juan beer brand has replaced the roaring jaguar with barnyard animals on its cans. The reason? The brewery is calling attention to the big cat’s endangered status.

    Officials have reinstated beer at the University of Missouri’s “Tiger Prowl”, where graduating seniors eat barbecue, get free merchandise, and get ready to say goodbye to their classmates.

    Anheuser-Busch InBev has acquired its eighth craft brewery, Devil’s Backbone of Roseland, Virginia. Established in 2008, Devil’s Backbone has won multiple Great American Beer Festival medals.

    The Vietnamese love beer, and craft brewers have begun to enter the market. One new craft is the Pasteur Street Brewing Company, whose founders include Vick’s Florida native John Reid.

    Forbes magazine’s Tara Nurin explores “pay-to-play” in beer distribution. Even after a high-profile crackdown in Massachusetts, she says it’s “a common yet whispered business practice”.

    Finally, Don Russell aka Joe Sixpack takes us back to the bad old days of Prohibition’s “needle beer”: speakeasy owners injected alcohol into near beer—which was still legal in the 1920s. One customer, who sampled the stuff, compared it to 44-D cough syrup.

    One Man’s Quest at the GABF

    David Obuchowski, one of Deadspin.com’s beer writers, went to this year’s Great American Beer Festival on a mission: Drink at least one beer from every state. He actually sampled more than 200 beers to find at least one from each state worth putting on the list. Sampling that many beers posed a couple of challenges: long lines; a strictly-enforced 10 pm last call; and, most importantly, the GABF’s policy of not replacing lost or broken sampling cups.

    After finishing his sampling, Obuchowski ranked each state’s beer from 1 to 51 (he included the District of Columbia). In the interest of full disclosure, he admits to having a bias toward stouts.

    How the GABF Came to Be

    Last night, the 34th Great American Beer Festival came to an end. There wouldn’t have been a 34th GABF, or even a first one, had it not been for Charlie Papazian—and, perhaps, an event called “Beer and Steer”.

    Beer and Steer, organized during the 1970s by Papazian, was annual beer party, held in the foothills above Boulder, Colorado. Homebrewers and beer enthusiasts gathered there each year to swap beers and recipes, and enjoy roasted meat and good company. Partiers brought down snow from higher elevations to keep the beer cold.

    Each year the party grew more elaborate and more popular, forcing Papazian and his fellow organizers to limit it to 400 attendees.

    The experience Papazian gained from Beer and Steer proved invaluable when he founded the American Homebrewers Association. He invited industry professionals to the National Homebrewers Conference, turning a low-key competition into an industry event. Papazian next launched the GABF, which gave aspiring craft brewers an opportunity to meet professional brewers and learn how to scale up their own operations while maintaining quality.

    The Friday Mash (Henry Hudson Edition)

    On this day in 1609, explorer Henry Hudson became the first European to discover Delaware Bay. If you live near Cape May, New Jersey, or Lewes, Delaware, you can celebrate on Saturday at a beer festival held in two different states, but on the same bay.

    And now….The Mash! 

    We begin in North Carolina, where festivals have been the target of a summer crackdown on liquor code violations. Organizers contend that the rules are obsolete and confusing.

    Mitsubishi Plastic has overcome a major obstacle to putting beer in plastic bottles. The company added a thin carbon film, which greatly reduces the loss of oxygen, to the inside of the bottles.

    Joe Stange of Draft magazine has a word of warning: American “session beers” are much stronger than their British counterparts, which means they’ll make you drunker than you think.

    When California’s She Beverage Company applied for a trademark for the “Queen of Beers,” Anheuser-Busch InBev filed a notice of opposition. A-B claims She’s marketing is almost identical to its marketing of the “King of Beers.”

    A Denver-area brewery will serve “marijuana beer” at next month’s Great American Beer Festival. It doesn’t contain THC, which is against federal law, but does include cannabis oil.

    Venture capitalist Robert Finkel has made an unusual career move. His brewery, Forbidden Root, specializes in beer made with botanic ingredients, including lemon myrtle which costs $75 a kilo.

    Finally, a Detroit Free Press correspondent went to a festival where the taps are open all night and attendees can walk to bed. It was the sixth annual Michigan Homebrew Festival, which continues the brewing competition once held at the Michigan State Fair.

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