Thursday, March 25, 2010

... Out Like a Lamb? Not hardly...

March is nearly done.  End of the Quarter.  Beginning of Spring.  And so on.  To quote the great sage Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. You don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it."

Of course, there are choices that have to be made sometimes.  Weighing the lesser of two evils or - if you are lucky - the greater of two goods.  The more I go down the path of beer writer/blogger/advocate the more choices I am presented with and the more opportunities.  And with those choices come compromises.  Balancing those against a regular job and family life and just general responsibilities can be a daunting task.  But undaunted, I press on.

A lot is going on in the world of Craft Beer these days.  New breweries opening, long-standing ones being sold, and new offerings appears on shelves.  Distribution is increasing and beers previously unavailable in certain markets are suddenly there.  Fellow beer writer Ken Weaver described the craft beer situation in America these days as "an embarrassment of riches", and I have to agree.  And its one of those times you have to be happy about being embarrassed.  Here in Florida, the news is encouraging.  More craft breweries opening up, more events being held, and more beers are becoming available.  In fact, the shelf-space is becoming limited for all the new stuff coming in, and buyers are having to make choices about what to stock!  A good problem to have, I suppose, but it got me thinking.

Is there a peak that we might reach where there is TOO much craft beer out there?  How much will the market bear?  According to studies and reports I have read recently, the craft beer industry increased sales over the past few years while macro-beer sales have fallen.  In fact, the craft been industry is one of the few that have actually grown in this uncertain and unstable economy.  If you think about market share, we still have a LOT of room to grow.  But how does that growth happen and what does it look like?  Does it mean more production from the current breweries?  More breweries opening up?  Larger and more far-reaching distribution?  More local consumption?

The future of the industry is unclear, bu not uncertain.  I don't think there is much that could stop the increasing momentum short of another Prohibition, and all signs point to the opposite happening.  Greater acceptance and understanding of craft beer is taking hold, and it is also being recognized as a stable and positive economic addition to any local market.  More and more craft beer is moving up the ladder of respect, and the brewers recognized not only in their niche but in a larger capacity as business people and artisans.

The coming months should prove to be interesting and exciting ones.  I have been invited by the brewer of a yet-to-open brewery to sample some of his recipes, asked to help organize a craft beer pub crawl downtown, and expect to attend a few special events in the area.  Things are happening in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay, and all of it good!

Now... what beer to serve with lamb...

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Festivals and Honors

So out of nowhere, this very blog was selected as "Beer Blog of the Week" by the fine gentlemen of Beer Tap TV.  Eric Boles and Eli Shayotovich host a weekly internet TV show all about beer!  From events to tastings to beer-related news, these guys know their beer and are entertaining to boot!  I hope to raise a few with them someday.  I am very humbled to have been selected.  Thanks guys!

In a Hop Press article this week, fellow writer Brian Cendrowski reviewed his trip to the Chaleston Brewvival beer festival and it made me think about the festivals I have been to and will go to.  This coming weekend is the Florida Brewers Guild Beer Festival in Ybor City, an event I have been to numerous times.  However this time I will be attending as a member of the "press".  Being invited to a festival takes on a different feeling than just attending one.  There is a certain responsibility that comes with it to not only prove that you belong as a recognized beer writer/journalist, but also to represent your sponsor, even if it is just yourself.  In my case I am representing the Hop Press by, the St. Petersburg Craft Beer Examiner, and of course Beer for the Daddy.  My conduct directly reflects on all three (even more than the following article to a certain extent), and can very well determine future invites.  Drunken, slovenly behavior is not usually appreciated by hosts or sponsors.

That said, these ARE beer festivals. Alcohol is part of the equation.  And when you have twenty five craft brewers from Florida, and god-knows how many other great craft breweries represented, even if one were to only taste a single beer from each ("tastes" roughly being 1-2 ounces)... well, you do the math.

But something I have noticed about myself at recent festivals is that I am being more selective about what I choose.  Maybe it is a sign of being a little more mature, maybe a sense of responsibility... maybe I am actually taking the time to TASTE the beers now.  Yes, intoxication is pretty much a given, but obliteration is not.  Back in my days at the old Harp and Thistle Pub we used to call it "that slightly blessed feeling, where you are oozing good will and compassion."  Its a good state to be in.

Beer festivals have a tendency to bring out a variety of people.  Of course, you have the beer geeks, hop heads, malt-lovers, home-brewers and so on.  Then you have the people in the business... sales reps, distributors, brewers, and bar owners. 

From there things start to go downhill.  Its a toss-up to me which is worse: the frat-boy drunk or the beer-snob.  The frat-boy drunk is the loud obnoxious guy sporting his Hollister shirt (2 sizes too small) trying to drink as much beer as he can and trying to find the highest alcohol beers only.  He does taste, he guzzles.  He probably will try to sound like he knows something about beer by making "poignant" statements like "I'm really into beer these days.  Mostly I like lagers and ales."  He will say this with a straight face.

The beer-snob is at the other end of the spectrum; she knows her beers.  In fact, she knows YOUR beers.  Better than you do.  And she knows what is good, regardless of what you actually like.  She will recite the OG, IBUs, and  ABVs of everything you mention (WTF... seriously...)  And she will tell you she will not enter a bar that serves Budweiser.  She too will say this with a straight face, and probably an upturned nose.

But do not let the inevitable appearance of these two deter you from attending.  They are easy to spot, and easy to avoid.  It is not hard to find the beer geeks and genuine craft beer lovers, and they will most likely welcome you into their conversations, talk about the beers that have tried and liked, and direct you to ones you may not have found yet.

Saturday I am looking forward to tasting many of the Florida craft beers I have not had a chance to sample before.  Swamp Head, Saint Somewhere, and a few I have never heard of are tops on my list.  Most of all, I am looking forward to talking to some of the brewers and hearing their stories and ideas for the future of craft brewing in Florida.  The event proceeds all go directly to moving pro-craft beer legislation in Florida government, spearheaded by the Florida Brewers Guild.

Monday, March 1, 2010

...Coming In Like a Lion

Oh February... where hast thou gone?

I find myself beginning the last month of the first quarter (in business parlance) wondering how I got here.  Where did January and February go?!  Granted, articles were written, festivals attended, events and new discoveries and so on.  But can it really be March, 2010 already?

Apparently it not only can be, but it is.  So be it.

Since this blog is not only about beer, here are some thoughts and musings of the past 2 months:

I have been reading Sam Calagione's Brewing Up a Business and am very impressed.  I am a big fan of Dogfish Head Brewery, and really like most of their beers.  It is very eye-opening to see things down the right way and have them equated with a successful business.  I have seen many other companies doing the opposite, and they are miserable places to work.

More people seem to be taking notice of the difference between "beer geeks" and "beer snobs".  I talked about it in a Hop Press article a few months back, but have now seen it pop up in other articles and as a topic of discussion.  Beer snobs do a disservice to the industry they purport to love.  Beer geeks uplift it.

The Winter Olympics were a lot of fun to watch.  I would love to visit Vancouver again some day now that I am an adult.  I really enjoyed the opening ceremonies and most of the games I watched.  However, NBC's decision to air the majority of the hockey games - including the USA v Canada (preliminary) game - on their cable channels was a huge disservice to their non-cable audience.  And then to go a step further and offer it streaming online was great... until you discovered that even online, you had to be a cable subscriber.  NBC = FAIL.

Olympics II: The men's hockey tournament was exceptional.  Even though the USA lost, the level of play was a joy to watch from every team.  And the level of class each team displayed regardless of victory or defeat should be a model for athletes world-wide (including prima-donna Russian figure skating men).  Call Alexander Ovechkin a show-boat, but you didn't hear him bad-mouthing Team Canada after losing.

January and February are typically cold months everywhere in the northern hemisphere, even in Florida.  However, in the past 15 years that I have lived here, I have never experienced this many "cold" days.  By cold, I mean in the 50's or below.  Now, before those in snowy climes start guffawing and pointing and shaking their heads, it should be pointed out that people live in Florida mostly because it does NOT get snowy and icy and frigid.  People who live in those Hoth-like locales are there by choice.  I am tired of being cold all the time.  But it does make for good stout, porter, and barley-wine drinking weather.

I have sampled the Three Halos Rum Porter now a few times since bottling.  This most recent test revealed a really, really good beer.  Not as much rum flavor as I had hoped, but its there.  Cheers, my friends.

My journey up to Dunedin Brewery for the Stogie and Stout event was excellent.  I fell in love with stouts while living in Sonoma, and they were my beer of choice for many years.  I was reminded why at the S&S.  Full, rich, dark, and flavorful... I need to remember that its not always ONLY about hops...

The coming weeks hold several beer-related events and happenings which will be detailed out on and the Hop Press.  I am also going to try to be more present here on Beer for the Daddy.  Until then, relax and have a homebrew or craft beer...