Drunken Speculation

MR | Second Edition, April 2014 – #GBW14 planning & big craft

saturdaysofthunderLast week on Drunken Speculation, I provided an update on my homebrewing and reviewed an above-passable pilsner.

With Brewsvegas firmly in our rearview mirror, our attenton now turns to Melbourne’s Good Beer Week in late May. It probably goes without saying that we’ll be returning for GABS again this year, but we’re also thinking about taking on some more events, e.g. Craft of LouisianaMega Dega II2 Brothers DegustationParma Wars and, of course, Pint of Origin. That doesn’t sound like a lot but I’m sure it’ll keep us busy for the few days we’re in Melbourne. Going to be a fun week.

To Tweet of the Week!

@RoonFTW neatly summarised what was wrong with the post in the original tweet. A list of South Brisbane’s top beer spots and Tukka – a restaurant that specialises in cooking native fauna – makes the cut while the excellent Burrow does not? Or the Brewhouse? This is why we don’t trust the local media for beer stories. And it’s not like there’s a shortage of local beer fans that are ready to offer an opinion.

Moving on, what did others have to say last week?

Denver Post – Does American craft brewing have a quality problem?

Gatza, president of the Brewers Association, the Boulder-based trade association for small and independent American craft brewers, said seven or eight of the 10 breweries needed improvement. The brewers didn’t think so, he said. They thought their beers were awesome.

“The truth is, they’re not – and we need to improve it,” Gatza said. He then offered a blunt assessment of the importance of maintaining quality in an industry that is growing crazy fast: “Don’t fuck it up.”

A Good Beer Blog – One Key Way Big Craft and Small Brewers Differ

I have another suspicion. New smaller brewers have and do undersell the established brewers on price now. You see it all the time in central NY beer stores. The $5.99 bomber next to the $12.99 one… or, worse, the $23.99 one. Me, I like to reach for the cheaper one knowing full well I have been more disappointed by wildly over-produced beers that are far too common today than I am by these well priced new entrants to the market. Could it be that what a least a few of those seven or eight out of ten are doing is making good reliable beer at a decent price that doesn’t rely on a bourbon barrel, the use of a marketing gimmick such as making a saison-IPA cross or otherwise buying into the narrative that big craft has set out for the new smaller brewers to buy into?

Alan makes some excellent points, particularly in the distinction of “small brewers” and “big craft”, the division of which is rapidly becoming apparent. It’s also interesting that there may be a shift in the narrative: it’s no longer big versus small. It’s changing to the consumer can’t trust the big boys: their beers are bland and uninteresting; the consumer also can’t trust the small guys: their beers aren’t up to scratch. But us, the middle sized guys? We’re alright, you can trust us. The “big craft” guys can use their relative size to shift the dialogue in this way without compromising their street cred. Further, the observation that the new guys are undercutting on price is doubly interesting as this is the most glaringly obvious, and yet under-utilised, way to differentiate a product. Make it good but make it cheap. The competition intensifies.

Australian Brews News – Three take bronze at Beer World Cup

Three Australian breweries have taken bronze medals at the 2014 World Beer Cup, announced in the US overnight.

The medal tally is down on 2012 in both number and colour, but in stiffer competition. As always, what matters most is that we beat New Zealand in the tally, which claimed two. Congratulations to all brewers, especially Endeavour which followed up the 2012 silver medal it earned for its pale ale with a medal for its bright ale this year.

I really have to question the category Australasian, Latin American or Tropical-Style Light Lager in which Toohey’s Extra Dry took a bronze. Seriously? How do those things come together? Are they supposed to be a style or is the Beer World Cup of the view that anything below the equator is more or less the same?

Ale of a Time – Beer Basics: Starting and keeping a cellar

There are photos around the internet of massive, lovely cellars. Organised and pristine; or junky, dusty and overflowing.

I worry about those cellars. I worry how many of those beers are going to dive right past being good into oxidized lifeless messes. I’ve had beer go too far and it was nothing but a let down.

250 Beers – Stone & Wood Stone Beer 2014

I was treating my jaunt as somewhat of a pilgrimage – mainly due to the ancient-like methods utilised in the Stone Beer brewing process; predominantly, the use of white-hot rocks in the kettle and fermenter. It also felt appropriate to deem my journey as a pilgrimage due to the stature of Stone & Wood Brewing Co. itself. The company, its ethics and its short history are held in high regard throughout Australia and beyond. So, taking a little swipe at The Beer Pilgrim in the process – and being the hilariously witty person that I am – I sported this signage on my rear windscreen…

I think about beer – Brussels Calling – Half a Day Wasn’t Nearly Enough

Au Bon Vieux Temps could be classified as what the Dutch and Belgians call a “Brown Bar.”  Brown bars refer to a friendly place to get a drink that feature dark wood and a convivial pub like atmosphere.  It was a Wednesday afternoon and I was one of the few people there so I picked a seat at the bar.  Apparently, the place as been around for around 300 years.  It’s like walking in the door takes you to a portal through time.  Unfortunately, the prices are very modern as it’s become a tourist stop.  I paid €12 for a bottle of Westvleteren 12, but hey, it seemed like the thing to do at the time.

Chasing Ale – North America: Round Two

Last time I did this I researched the hell out of each city – I’m talking about spreadsheets and maps people! It was a little ridiculous. I’m not going to that much trouble this time though; I‘ve barely had time to sort out my itinerary, let alone plan where I’m going to drink beer. Plus I learnt a very important lesson last time: good beer is EVERYWHERE in the US. You don’t need to find it, it’ll find you. And when it finds you, you’ll know it. Because you’ll be drinking it.

A PhD in Beer – Sour Program – Part 1: Unblended Lambic #1

Typically, Lactobacillus and / or Pediococcus are used in beer production for “sour” ales. Both Lactobacillus and Pediococcus are homo-lactofermenters, which means that the fermentation products formed by those organisms are exclusively lactic acid and carbon dioxide (in the case of Lactobacillus, most Pediococcus species do not produce carbon dioxide as a byproduct). Hetero-lactofermenters, such as the organism used in some sauerkraut production Leuconostoc mesenteroides, produce a mixture of lactic acid and ethanol as fermentation products.

Watchudrinkin? – Is Gruit Beer?

Gruit was a continental thing. Gruit is a mixture of herbs that law demanded be used in all beers. Gruit was distibuted and taxed by the church. It was a neat little racket that kept the beer pure and coffers full. The use of hops in place of gruit was in part a reaction against the Catholic Church. As protestant ideas spread through the low countries and Germany, using hops was an act of rebellion.

So what does it taste like when you take the hops out of beer?

Before I sign-off, our Beer of the Week: Coopers Dark Ale. I’ve homebrewed it but never known what the professionally made version was supposed to be like. I was pleasantly surprised and I think it’s probably the pick of the core Coopers range.

Anything I missed?

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