What’s Brewing?

 

shutterstock_242275753Rob and Kevin should be ashamed of themselves: The real reason it’s a wonderful time to be an American consumer has nothing to do with electronic media, drive-sharing, or any fancy-shmacy new technology. Via the Washington Post, this is the the best news about entrepreneurialism in America you’ll read all day:

As of Dec. 1, 2015, the Brewers Association had counted 4,144 breweries in the United States, the most ever operating simultaneously in the history of the country. According to historians, the previous high-water mark of 4,131 was set in 1873. The new number includes giant Budweiser, artisan Dogfish Head and your neighborhood brewpub. Although beer industry observers have known this day was coming, the pace of growth was explosive: At the end of 2011, there were 2,033 breweries, or fewer than half as many as now. In 2005, there were only 1,447. And 25 years ago? The Brewers Association, a trade group for small and independent breweries, logged a mere 284 in 1990.

The news isn’t all good, though. Rapid expansions are often followed by equally massive contractions, and it’s (unsurprisingly) becoming a harder for each additional brewery to gain a foothold:

On the other hand, the expanding market — at least two breweries open every day — has created a new set of problems for brewers. New arrivals, riding the craft beer wave, are finding it difficult to stand out. And it’s not as if bars have doubled the number of their taps in the past five years. So not only do the new breweries need to squeeze past their rivals even to make it in front of consumers, but they might need to convince bars that they’re more deserving of a chance than better-known beers from Lagunitas or Great Lakes.

But what’s bad from the producers’ standpoint is often to the benefit of the consumer. And though it’s still morning for most of us, it’s never too early to share recommendations.

So, Ricochet, here’s your challenge: If someone’s visiting from out of town and wants to try something local that they likely can’t find back at home, what would you fill their glass with?

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  1. Tom Meyer, Ed. Contributor
    Tom Meyer, Ed.
    @tommeyer

    Me!? Well, don’t mind if I do …

    If any of you come up to the Boston Area, make me get you a glass of Far from the Tree’s new Nova Cider, which is the most delicious thing I’ve had to drink it a long time. What’s really fantastic about it is that it’s hopped, so it’s got the sweetness of a (moderately dry) cider but finishes with the sort of piney bite you’d get from a pale ale.

    I actually can’t wait for it to get warmer so I can drink this on a hot day.

    • #1
  2. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Lakewood Temptress – the Bourbon Barrel variety if I could get it.

    If it was still available I’d have grabbed them some Saint Dymphna but it’s no longer produced more’s the pity.

    The brewery’s in Garland but called Lakewood because as the brewers joke no one would buy Garland Temptress.

    • #2
  3. PConn Inactive
    PConn
    @PConn

    Also from the Boston area, you have to try “heady topper”. http://alchemistbeer.com/

    Excellant IPA, and thats from a non IPA person. Careful though, it hits like a malt liquor(8%). Rhode Island has a few nice ones as well. My favorite session is from Foolproof brewery in pawtucket. Barstool golden ale is killa(little rhody accent there)

    Craft beer is indeed a joy…

    • #3
  4. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Its gone national now (the brewery was bought for $1B!!) but Ballast Point Sculpin is the best IPA I’ve had in America. In fact all the beer from Ballast Point is great.

    If you’re up north I highly reccoment Russian River Brewing Company – the best craft brewery I know of. Pliny the Elder is the best Imperial IPA I’ve ever tasted, Two Row Hill 56 is a fantastic American Pale Ale and their Lager is also surprisingly robust and delicious (I happen to favor ales over lagers). Also if you’re partial to them (I’m not), RRBC makes some great Sour Ales.

    And of course, if you feel like it, and you’re in the Pasadena area you can always stop by Grey Dog Brewery located at my house. Our Falling Down the Stairs Pale Ale isn’t bad, our Crashing Hops IPA is surprising delicious (and potent at 8% abv) and coming this fall To Be Named Later Belgian Pale Ale.

    • #4
  5. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    You know who is to thank for this glorious golden age?

    Jimmy Carter.

    While it’s not quite true that he “deregulated the brewing industry”, he did sign the legislation that legalized home brewing for the first time since Prohibition.

    This (arguably) got the ball rolling for state governments to start lifting a whole lot of the other restrictions on small brewers, particularly the legalization of brew pubs.

    US_Brewery_Count_Biodesic-thumb-400x339

    It was one of two big things conservatives should give Carter’s administration credit for (the other being deregulation of the trucking industry).

    • #5
  6. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    PConn:Also from the Boston area, you have to try “heady topper”. http://alchemistbeer.com/

    Love a good Heady…

    • #6
  7. CB Toder aka Mama Toad Member
    CB Toder aka Mama Toad
    @CBToderakaMamaToad

    I also like a local stout, called Mother’s Milk, from Keegan Ales.

    heady topper

    • #7
  8. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Back to the original question of the OP:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: So, Ricochet, here’s your challenge: If someone’s visiting from out of town and wants to try something local that they likely can’t find back at home, what would you fill their glass with?

    There are great local brews that, while great, aren’t really very different from other great brews one can get elsewhere.  As such, rather than recommending the local beers that I buy most often, I’m going to recommend two brews that may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but are definitely interesting and/or different:

    a) Holy Smokes Scotch Ale by Church Key Brewing of Campbellford, Ontario. A tenth of the malt is smoked over a peat fire, giving the brew a very strong smoky flavour. Definitely a sipping beer. Chugging a six-pack will make you feel ill.

    b) Bog Water Gruit Ale by Beau’s Brewing of Vankleek Hill, Ontario. In addition to the hops, they use “bog myrtle” (a deciduous shrub native to Northern Ontario and Québec), hand-harvested from a Québecois First Nations reserve.

    (Honourable mention goes to The Tom Green Beer, also by Beau’s Brewing. It’s a milk stout that contains organic lactose as an ingredient.)

    • #8
  9. FreeWifiDuringSermon Inactive
    FreeWifiDuringSermon
    @FreeWifiDuringSermon

    In Cincinnati, the three main craft brewers are Moerlein, Madtree, and Rhinegeist. Can you tell the Germans have been here? I’ll drink just about anything from Rhinegeist but their Truth IPA is a local favorite. Moerlein’s Bay of Bengal IPA is maybe my current all time fave.

    • #9
  10. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    Mrs. Locke and I are into the heavy-duty stuff, not a big fan of the hoppy trend.  Some faves:

    Jamie, if you want to go to the real North of CA, try Mad River Brewing in Blue Lake.  I recommend the Steelhead Extra Stout.  If you’re lucky they will have the bourbon barrel version of it, only available at the tap room.  Pricey, but worth it, a true sippin’ beer.

    More widely distributed and known in the Northwest is Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR.  Their original brew and still IMO the best.

    A local fave from Treasure Valley is Crooked Fence Brewing.  They have a very heavy duty Imperial Stout.

    And don’t forget Sam Adams is the largest remaining American-owned brewery.  So if you want to support the home team have a Sam – their seasonals are almost always good.

    • #10
  11. Austin Murrey Inactive
    Austin Murrey
    @AustinMurrey

    Locke On: More widely distributed and known in the Northwest is Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR. Their original brew and still IMO the best.

    I’ve had that in Texas – you’re right it’s very good.

    • #11
  12. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Deschutes is one of my favorite breweries. Mirror Pond is one of my favorite all Cascade APAs and I love their Red Chair Ale.

    • #12
  13. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    A neat story: When I was first learning to brew I stuck with American Pale Ales. I sent an email to the brewmaster at Deschutes for some advice as Mirror Pond is one of my favorites, and not 1 hour later I received a nice long email with advice and even some recipes.

    • #13
  14. Tenacious D Inactive
    Tenacious D
    @TenaciousD

    Some American craft brews that I’ve enjoyed include Elysian in Seattle, Troegs in Pennsylvania, and Allagash from Maine (though I had it in Chicago). Also, I should give a mention to Shiner Bock, since the company I work for supplied their wastewater treatment system.

    • #14
  15. Michael Brehm Coolidge
    Michael Brehm
    @MichaelBrehm

    At time of writing, I am less than a mile from the Troeg’s brewery. If you make it to my neck of the woods, try a Hop Devil or a Mad Elf sometime.

    • #15
  16. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    In Arizona, it’s a no-brainer: Four Peaks. Their Kiltlifter is tremendous, and their Peach Ale is one of the few fruit beers I enjoy.

    My goal these days is to find a real pre-Prohibition lager. As much as I lurves me my ales and my porters, there’s just something to be said for a cold, clean lager on a hot summer day. I’ve tried the Anchor Lager (quite good) but go-to these days (because it’s easier to find) is the classic Kona Longboard Island Lager.

    • #16
  17. Kevin Creighton Contributor
    Kevin Creighton
    @KevinCreighton

    CB Toder aka Mama Toad: Love a good Heady

    “That’s ‘Hedley’!”.

    • #17
  18. The King Prawn Inactive
    The King Prawn
    @TheKingPrawn

    Hood Canal Brewery is basically across the street from my neighborhood, certainly close enough to crawl home if I were into beer.

    My wife recommends Tripel Entendre and Monk’s Indiscretion from Sound Brewery if you’re ever in Kitsap County.

    Of course, stuff from Silver City is a local favorite, especially their Fat Scotch (formally called Fat Bastard till the Hollywood bastards got ahold of them.)

    One guy at work wears a lot of shirts from Valhöll, but I have no data on their beer other than he really likes it.

    All of these are within a few miles of my house, and that’s probably not all of them. Maybe I should get into beer…

    • #18
  19. Z in MT Member
    Z in MT
    @ZinMT

    Montana is awash in microbrews. I am actually sitting down in one now for a slice and pint lunch.

    • #19
  20. Jamie Lockett Inactive
    Jamie Lockett
    @JamieLockett

    Kevin Creighton: Kiltlifter

    Kiltlifter is freaking delicious.

    • #20
  21. Johnny Dubya Inactive
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    Misthiocracy:You know who is to thank for this glorious golden age?

    Jimmy Carter.

    While it’s not quite true that he “deregulated the brewing industry”, he did sign the legislation that legalized home brewing for the first time since Prohibition.

    This (arguably) got the ball rolling for state governments to start lifting a whole lot of the other restrictions on small brewers, particularly the legalization of brew pubs.

    US_Brewery_Count_Biodesic-thumb-400x339

    Finally, something we can thank the Man From Plains for.

    The red bars in the graph may also be seen as proxies for improved variety and flavor.  For how long did we suffer through the tyranny of dreck lagers pumped out by giant brewers?  Thank goodness my children will never know the horror.

    There is a brewpub opening a stone’s throw from Chez Dubya.  It’s called Twin Elephant Brewing, which makes me think the partners may be members of a once-great American political party.  Here in NJ, the tavern industry is highly-regulated, with liquor licenses severely restricted.  One will set you back about $500,000.

    I spoke with one of Twin Elephant’s partners the other day as he was feverishly completing carpentry, aiming for an April 1st opening.  I think he said their license was $10,000.  A big restriction, though: no food may be served.  So it will be BYOF.  Of course, food trucks may set up shop in the parking lot, so everyone will be happy.

    • #21
  22. Matt Balzer Member
    Matt Balzer
    @MattBalzer

    Re the first link, I found this the other day.

    As far as what’s on tap in my area, completionism requires me to point out Leinenkugel’s and Northwoods Brewing even though the former doesn’t quite fit the spirit of the post and I’m not all that fond of Northwoods’ offerings.

    Where I do go is Lazy Monk, whose beers I have found to be generally excellent. The Baltic Porter is seasonal, but highly recommended, and the Smoked Bock I had on my previous excursion was also great.

    • #22
  23. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    Austin Murrey:

    Locke On: More widely distributed and known in the Northwest is Black Butte Porter from Deschutes Brewery in Bend, OR. Their original brew and still IMO the best.

    I’ve had that in Texas – you’re right it’s very good.

    Yup. This was one of our standards when we lived in Texas.

    • #23
  24. Hartmann von Aue Member
    Hartmann von Aue
    @HartmannvonAue

    We were also quite fond of Deschute’s Stout. And as much as I hate, hate, hate their politics, New Belgium’s 1554 Black Lager has much to recommend it.

    I would recommend some local Biere but we live in Bavaria, which in the context of this post is a disqualifier.

    • #24
  25. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    Jamie Lockett:A neat story: When I was first learning to brew I stuck with American Pale Ales. I sent an email to the brewmaster at Deschutes for some advice as Mirror Pond is one of my favorites, and not 1 hour later I received a nice long email with advice and even some recipes.

    The Deschutes is a great river to fish…

    • #25
  26. jzdro Member
    jzdro
    @jzdro

    R. S. Taylor & Sons Brewery, in Hebron, Washington County, New York is a spanking new brewpub with excellent brews and an old-fashioned esthetic.  They are also selling our elderflower bubbly wine, for which we also thank them!

    • #26
  27. Spin Coolidge
    Spin
    @Spin

    If I’m limited to something that the visitor probably couldn’t get at a local store, then one of two beers would come to mind:

    Boundary Bay’s Scotch Ale, which is brewed here in Bellingham, WA

    Iron Horse Brewery’s Irish Death, from Ellensburg, WA.

    • #27
  28. thelonious Member
    thelonious
    @thelonious

    Believe it or not Utah actually has pretty decent beer.  Only 3.2 though. Wasatch Polygamy Porter “Why have just one” is the slogan on the bottle is a good dark and stout beer.  Uinta brewing company also makes some quality beers.  Monkshine is my favorite.  Very hoppy beer if you’re into that sort of beer.

    • #28
  29. Dean Murphy Member
    Dean Murphy
    @DeanMurphy

    Here in Colorado Springs, I have not had the pleasure of sampling all of the local brews, but of the ones I have, I really like Bristol Brewery’s Red Rocket Ale.  Their Laughing Lab is the most popular, but it’s a tad sweet for my taste.  My wife prefers lighter beer, and when she imbibes she goes for the Blonde Beehive.

    I grew up convinced I didn’t like beer.  Then I had a Guinness Stout at the Old Chicago and the universe opened up.

    • #29
  30. Locke On Member
    Locke On
    @LockeOn

    Hartmann von Aue:I would recommend some local Biere but we live in Bavaria, which in the context of this post is a disqualifier.

    Ricochet meetup at Hartmann’s for Oktoberfest!!!

    A German immigrant couple have opened up a restaurant in our neighborhood and are featuring Rauchbier.  Awesome stuff.  Gotta find out if we can get the smoked malts over here…

    • #30
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