Showing posts with label beer industry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label beer industry. Show all posts

Friday, May 15, 2020

Opening Up?

Today sees the beginning of "phase one" reopening in Virginia.

From a beer perspective that means restaurants, breweries and brewpubs are able to re-open for outdoor seating only, at 50% of their listed capacity, while maintaining appropriate physical distancing, and groups of no more than ten at any given table.

The various social media platforms I use have been almost swamped with posts from businesses announcing their decision to either expand their operations or not. The tone has varied from sombre and serious, mainly among those companies not opening up further, to celebratory from those opening up, and to be blunt some posts have been puerile to the point of crass.

Having seen a great swathe of posts I put the following on Facebook the other day:
"Have seen too many breweries, brewpubs, and restaurants touting offering outdoor seating service as of Friday with the notion of "getting back to normal".

Well forgive me for not sharing the relief while there is still no vaccine, no reliable treatment, and no cure.

Two weeks from Friday we'll be back to square one."
As a result of that post I have had several conversations with folks in the industry that I count as friends, whether brewers, servers, or owners. The majority of owners feel stuck between a rock and a hard place as they need to have some kind of revenue to pay the rent on their buildings, having unscrupulous landlords not willing to work with them to find a solution that doesn't put staff at risk. Most of the brewery staff I know are concerned that re-opening is going to turn into a shit show as people ignore physical distancing requirements, refuse to wear masks, or just behave in anti-social and frankly selfish manners, all in the name of getting their drinkies on.

One of the brewery owners I spoke with asked me the following question "what will it take to get you back to the pub?", I had no real answer on the spot, so I figured I'd take it out to Twitter...



Of the 25 people that responded to the question more than 75% are waiting for a vaccine or reliable treatment before heading back out to the pub, and I tend to agree with them.

I really do miss going to the pub, I am much more of a pub goer than a craft beer geek. I am as  perfectly happy in a great pub with a pint of Guinness as I am drinking craft lager in any of my favourite brewpubs in the Charlottesville area. However, until there is some form of medical protection against both the virus and the selfish stupidity of people banging on about their right to not wear a mask, I'll continue my drinking from home. Speaking of which, it's Friday and will soon be time to pick up a stash of fantastic lagers for the weekend while my Cascade hopped best bitter conditions in the kegerator.

Wherever you are drinking this weekend, drink responsibly, be safe, and wear a damned mask,

Friday, March 15, 2019

For the 1%

Last night I was about to send out a tweet to the effect that the six pack of Anchor Porter I was starting on was likely to be my last beer from that most august of craft breweries, and that fact actually made me sad. I really like Anchor beers, and they are not that easy to come by for some reason in this part of Virginia, so when I go to South Carolina I make sure to get a six pack of either their Porter or Liberty Ale.

The reason I was on the verge of a one man boycott was the way management were stifling attempts of Anchor workers to unionise and use the power of collective bargaining to improve salary and conditions. To make sure I had my fact straight, I made sure to check on the old interwebs for stories about the situation, to be presented with news that the workers had successfully voted to unionise. Naturally I was very pleased, and assuming Anchor's management does nothing to punish or interfere with the workers' rights to be in a union I will continue drinking Anchor with a clean conscience.

However, this got me thinking about how few craft brewery workers actually have union representation at their place of employment, and also the generally poor levels of remuneration and benefits for what is a dangerous job. Based on a survey of salary and benefits done by Jeff at Beervana, it is very rare for a head brewer/brewmaster to earn north of $48,000 - which equates to £36,200 or €42,385. Jeff goes into much more detail here, and it is worth checking out his analysis, and subsequent posts.

Given a median individual income in the US of $31,000, it would appear at face value that brewmasters are doing ok, earning 54% more than median, but let's take a moment to step away from the folks at the top end of the brewing totem pole. According to Jeff's analysis, a lead brewer is earning $38,000 per annum, still above the national median, but pretty much on par with the median in Virginia.Once you get to the bottom rungs of the brewing ladder, you dip just below the median salary.

And yet, according to the Brewers Association, the craft beer market in 2017 was worth $26 billion, that's $26,000,000,000 (US billions being smaller than European billions, much like standard beer serving sizes). That $26 billion is in retail dollars, so let's remind ourselves of this breakdown of the costs of a six pack of beer.


According to this infographic, 52% of the cost of the six pack is markup from the middle men that come between me and my beer, distributors and retailers. So using that number as a guide, the production value of the craft beer industry is about $12.5 billion. The most shocking part of that breakdown though is the cost of labour, just 1% of the cost of your 6 pack is the hours the brewers spent making that beer. Risking physical injury and even death in the event of a tragedy, to earn a single percent of the pie, the same single percent of the pie as the yeast gets.

Perhaps it is the left wing blood that flows through my veins, being the grandson of a leader in the National Unemployed Workers' Movement in Scotland that lead hunger marches in the 1930s, but so little regard for the value of the workers making a company's beer sickens me. That may explain why when I hear stories of breweries that victimise workers for having the temerity to stand up to management and demand better working conditions (and some breweries I have seen the insides of are death traps) and better pay I will always stand in solidarity with the working brewers and thus not drink that brewery's products until workers are free to unionise.

In the meantime, cheers to the workers at Anchor Brewing!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Public Service Announcement: Sierra Nevada Recall

A friend of mine posted a news article on my Facebook feed this morning about a Sierra Nevada recall that has been issued, so in the interests of public safety I figured I'd also post about the recall, just in case folks haven't seen it yet.

Apparently there is an issue with some of the bottles coming out of the Mills River brewery in North Carolina. According to articles I have read, there are a limited number of bottles which have a defect that causes them to lose carbonation, and possibly also break on opening - with the attendant risk of that piece of glass falling into the bottle and potentially causing injury if unwittingly drunk.

The beers impacted by the recall are:
  • Pale Ale, bottled between December 5th and January 8th
  • Torpedo Extra IPA, bottled between December 5th and January 13th
  • Tropical Torpedo, bottled between December 5th and January 13th
  • Sidecar Orange Pale Ale, bottled between December 5th and January 13th
  • Beer Camp Golden IPA, bottled between December 5th and January 13th
  • Otra Vez, bottled between December 5th and January 13th
  • Nooner Pilsner, bottled between December 5th and January 13th
  • Hop Hunter IPA, bottled between December 5th and January 13th

For more details on the recall itself, see Sierra Nevada's website.

Thankfully the bottles of Narwahl I was given by Mrs V's cousin while we were in South Carolina over the holiday period are unaffected, and I don't think I actually have any other Sierra Nevada beer in the house at the moment, but do please go and check your stashes.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Fly In The Ointment

Mrs V and I spent the Thanksgiving holiday as we have every year since moving to the US in 2009, at her parents' place in South Carolina. The only beer I took with me was the homebrew I make each year specially for Mrs V's uncle, my plan was to just go to a supermarket for a load of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale and then maybe squeeze in a trip to one of the Green's Warehouse Discount Beverages to pick up some stuff that I can't get locally.

After six and a half hours on the road, including sitting in traffic around Kannapolis in North Carolina (traffic is always bad there it seems), the last thing I really felt like doing, having stretched my legs a bit, was to jump back in my car and go to a beer shop. Then Mrs V's mother mentioned that there was a new bottle shop just round the corner from their house, so naturally I was happy to check it out rather than going to a Bi-Lo or Piggly Wiggly hunting for nuggets in the morass of BMC.

Said bottle shop is called, conveniently enough, Bottles Beverage Superstore and they run the full gamut from soft drinks to spirits, they even stock ingredients and equipment for homebrewers. Oh and their selection of beer was excellent. Lots of local South Carolina beers, including the River Rat Broad River Red Ale which I have enjoyed muchly on my last couple of trips to SC, and the staff actually seemed to know their stuff which makes a pleasant change.

Naturally they had endless banks of IPAs from across the US, and they have a really good choice of Central European beers, though I tend to think stocking lager on a shelf at room temperature is a major no-no. I even managed to pick up a couple of beers from the Black Isle Brewery back home in Scotland. Oh and the prices were pretty damned good, $7.99 for six packs of Sierra Nevada beers??? If the in-laws come visit for Christmas I'll be putting in a bulk order for Kellerweis, which is rarer than hens' teeth in this part of Virginia.

I have a feeling that Bottles is going to be a regular stop whenever we are in Columbia, perhaps because of their 30-odd tap growler filling station, however I do have one gripe, and it is a gripe I have made about bottle shops before, selling out of date beer. Checking the dates on bottles has become something I do with British beers, especially Fullers as there are still loads of the old bottle style floating around, and the 4 packs of London Porter being sold at $11.99 (I think) were a couple of months past their best before date. The one that got my goat though was a bottle of Kru?ovice Imperial I picked up on a nostalgia kick that when I inspected it having got home (yes, yes, I know, caveat emptor and all that jazz) had this on the label


Born on the 24th July 2015, more than 16 months before I decided to drink it on Saturday afternoon. Keep in mind that this is a beer that would have been fermented at cool temperatures and then lagered at near freezing, before being sent out in distribution, where goodness knows what perils it has gone through, to sit on a shelf at room temperature for goodness knows how long.

It has got to the point now where I am going to check every single bottle and six pack of beer that I buy, especially beer not brewed in the US (and even then if it's not from the east coast I'll check that too), so I am not paying full price for a sub-par product. Also as a side note, perhaps it is time for bottle shops, large and small, to seriously consider their stocking strategy. Sure, shelf after shelf of the weird and wonderful looks fantastic to the casual shopper picking up their 18 pack of Budweiser or 12 pack of IPA depending on their particular brand of beery conservatism, but leaving slower shifting stock to sit around until Ragnar?k is frustrating to say the least.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Selling Stale

Tomorrow I am planning to do a blind tasting of American made Oktoberfest lagers. I have already gathered 7 examples form across the US. Yesterday I decided to check a bottle shop near my office to see if they had any single bottles available so I could bump my testing up to 10 beers.

Having realised that there was nothing that I didn't already have, I took to looking around and seeing if anything else might take my fancy. Ever since I wrote a post about being in a local gas station that also has a decent selection and noticing out of date beer being sold at full price, I have started check out the 'best before' or 'bottled on' dates to make sure I am not getting stale beer.

The first bottle I picked up and looked at was this from Green Flash...


A best before date of November 2015??? What the actual fuck? Surely a retailer wouldn't try to push this stuff on an unexpecting public at daft prices?


Oh wait, yes they would. That's right folks, this particular Charlottesville, Virginia, bottle shop expects people to pay north of $12 (after tax) for 4 bottles of year out of date beer.

Hoping this would be a one off, I started checking out some of my favourite beers, especially the Fuller's stuff, which while still in date was in the older bottles, so it is coming to the end of its shelf life. Then there was this...


I do like Bengal Lancer as a general rule, and sure I know the history of IPA meant that it travelled in hot conditions for 6 months to get from England to the Sub-continent, but this bottle will be 2 years past it's best before date in just 120 days. Yours for full price.

As you know if you are a regular Fuggled reader, I love the lager family of beers and Firestone Walker Pivo Pils is something that I am always happy to drink. Unless of course it was bottled nearly 8 months ago, and is sat on the shelf of a very warm shop, kind of like this one.


As I was leaving the shop I noticed that they were selling day old bread with a sign informing the customer that the bread wasn't that day's. If only they treated their liquid bread with the same respect.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

More Than Strength

Yesterday Lew Bryson announced that April 7th would be 'Session Beer Day' (quite why all these days have to be on Thursdays is beyond me, but that's by the by), and that is something that Fuggled gets 100% behind. However, it also got me thinking about the current swell in session beers that we are seeing in the US and I am not happy with what I am seeing. Ask your average Joe on the street what a 'session' beer is and you'll likely get the response that it is a low alcohol beer that you can drink a lot of, and while that is an undeniably true statement, it is not the whole truth about session beer.

Before going further, let's remind ourselves of Lew's definition of session beer here in the US, sure other cultures may have different definitions, and that's fine, but I find most other countries concepts are broadly similar. Here is the definition as spelled out on Session Beer Project:
  • 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
  • flavorful enough to be interesting
  • balanced enough for multiple pints
  • conducive to conversation
  • reasonably priced

Clearly by that definition many a 'session IPA' is not a session beer. Founder's All Day IPA, 4.7%, not a session beer. Lagunitas Day Time, 4.7%, not a session beer. Lickinghole Creek Til Sunset, 4.7%, not a session beer. That's not to say these are bad beers, and in the case of Til Sunset far from it, or that they are beers I don't enjoy polishing off a six pack off, and again see Til Sunset, but they are not session beers. They are what I refer to as 'pintable', meaning I can have 2 or 3 pints quite happily, but not sessionable in my mind, and not just because they exceed the ceiling of 4.5% abv - something Lew actually mentions in his Session Beer Day announcement.

Where many such beers fall down as regards the definition of session beer is in pretty much every other facet of the description. Many a session IPA, and I am sorry if I am picking on a particular style right now, is one dimensional in the extreme, once you get past the sensory blast of hops. Oooo hop flavour and aroma, how freaking original.

This why beers like a a good dry Irish stout, a classic best bitter, or a well made Czech pilsner all succeed far better as session beers, they have layers of flavour that hide and reveal themselves as you drink them. I find with the kind of dry stout that I love, think Starr Hill's magnificent 4.2% Dark Starr, you start off with a roasty bite, but as it warms chocolate notes shine though, and the clean bite of the hops snaps to attention. What do you often have behind the hops of a session IPA? A base of pale malt that is like eating saltines, and that quickly becomes boring, after about 2 to 3 pints I find, and sessions don't start until pint 4 is finished in my world.

Balance is also important, and while I don't particular hold to the view espoused in the latest Sam Adams ads on TV of beer being a battle between hops and malts, I agree with the overall idea, balanced beers are generally good beers. Beers where everything is noticeable, but in harmony with each other, not dominating, not being lopsided. It's almost like a hermenutical circle, understanding the parts helps us to understand the whole, which helps us further understand the parts, and so on.

There isn't much need to speak too much about session beers being conducive to conversation, if you're the kind of person that likes going to the pub of an evening, downing 8-10 pints of best, and then tottering home, or getting a taxi if you live too far from the pub door, then chances are you have been engaged in conversation with your mates for the duration. Unless you're the kind of bod sitting at one end of the bar reading the Daily Mail/Guardian, depending on your political persuasion, scowling at the world.

Which brings us to the last point in the definition, and one which I think is scandalously disregarded, session beers should be reasonably priced. The question here is 'what is reasonable'? Let me put it this way, I walk into your bar/tap room and the best selling beer on the taps is a 7% IPA for $5 for a 16oz pint, why would I pay $5 for a 3.5% dark mild? The cost of creating the dark mild is considerably less than the cost of making the IPA and yet the savings of making session beer do not get passed along to the consumer. Somewhere someone is gouging consumers that want to drink session beers, and in my opinion this really needs to stop. Thinking a bit wider for a moment, pricing of beer is something of an annoyance of mine lately, especially when non-US macro beer gets lumped with local craft beer in the pricing structure of many bars, but I'll likely moan about that some other time.

So there we have it, for this year's Session Beer Day, let's see brewers and bars actually stick to Lew's definition of session beer and not just flood the taps with lazy session IPAs.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Cost, Price, and Value

Yesterday on the Yours For Good Fermentables Facebook page, Tom Cizauskas posted a 2014 article from the Huffington Post which purported to breakdown the cost of a 6 pack of beer. Below is the chart from that original article.


This chart got me thinking more about the cost of being a craft beer drinker, and frankly I find some of it really rather disturbing.

We hear much about craft beer being expensive because of the use of expensive ingredients, but if this chart is correct then the ingredients themselves constitute just 10% of the cost of the beer in your 6 pack. The bottles and the cardboard carton said beer is sitting in is far more expensive than the beer itself. I would love to see a comparative chart about the cost of creating a 6 pack of industrial beer and see what proportion of the final cost is the ingredients.

More disturbing is that the cost of labour is a mere 1% of the overall cost of a six pack, think about that for a moment, that six pack in your hand at the shop contributes just 9.9 cents to someone's pay cheque. Add that 1% to the ingredients and only 11% of the cost of the six pack is actually involved in the production of the beer, everything else is margin, distribution, and tax. The actual cost of your beer is likely not much more than $1.09, chuck in the packaging costs and the total package on that six pack is $2.39, and that's before the brewery themselves have added a markup, which takes the total so far to a mere $3.19 for a six pack, less than a third of the final cost.

Why then is craft beer so expensive? It's really quite simple. 52% of the cost of a six pack of beer is margin added by the distributors and retailers. Now, I understand that businesses need to make money to survive, but when more than half the cost of my six pack is being taken up by people not actively involved in the production of the beer then I start to wonder whether that is really justified or whether they are just scalping the consumer because the product is so popular at the moment? It also reinforces my belief that the 3 tier system that exists in the US booze industry simply serves to line the pockets of middlemen. Imagine a world where breweries could sell directly to retailers and a healthy chunk of that 21% distribution markup saving could be passed on to the consumer, thus the 6 pack drops to $7.82 in the store.

By removing the distribution channel and letting the breweries sell directly to retailers like bars and stores you actually encourage genuinely local breweries whose products are primarily available in the brewery's catchment area. This also means that breweries are not encouraged to expand their presence into markets they can't support sufficiently, sure it might mean a slow down in growth but I would rather have fewer high quality brewers like Sierra Nevada than multitudes of third rate 'craft' swill.

For me, the 'more expensive ingredients' as a primary driver of the cost of craft simply fails to stand up to scrutiny, if this chart is accurate, and having seen the cost per barrel of the leading beers at a local brewery it sounds about right. The true reason for the cost of craft beer is that the people that control the beer once it is out of the brewery door can basically set the price at whatever they feel the market will bear, and as long as consumers keep stumping up the cash without criticism the more the price will rise. That is the very nature of the market, it will charge whatever it can get away with and that will only change when people start voting with their wallets and refusing to pay sucker prices.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Revolution Will Be Purchased

According to news coming out of the Pacific Northwest, Bend's 10 Barrel Brewing has been purchased by Anheuser-Busch.

Now, don't worry, this won't be some hand wringing diatribe on a brewery selling out to the evil corporations. Neither yet is it a lament about another well respected, award winning, brewery going from craft to crafty in the ledgers of the Brewers Association. You see, it really isn't all that important, unless of course you buy into the faux-revolutionary bollocks which is much of craft beer marketing. What we have here is a very successful business buying another successful business because they think it will benefit their business.

Thus has it ever been, and thus will it ever be.

A couple of things though that stood out to me in the press release included the following statement from the CEO, Craft, at Anheuser-Busch, who said:
"10 Barrel, its brewers, and their high-quality beers are an exciting addition to our high-end portfolio"
In that one sentence you have the perception of much of the 'craft beer world', upmarket, high-end, aspirational.

The other was 10 Barrel being excited to benefit from the 'operational and distribution expertise of Anheuser-Busch'. Essentially saying that they are looking forward benefitting from AB's expertise in quality control processes and getting consistently quality beer into the hands of drinkers, which can only be good for drinkers in the long run.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Taste of the New

It seems crazy sometimes, but it is almost 5 years since I drank my first ever Starr Hill beer. It was in May 2009 that a friend of mine brought a bottle of the much missed, at least in my world, Starr Hill Pale Ale back to Prague with her. A few months later, having arrived on these shores, I was working in the Starr Hill tasting room, and drinking a fair bit of the Pale Ale, and the Dark Starr Stout as well.


Fast forward to April 2014 and I still work at the tasting room a few weekends a month, and I still wish the powers that be would resurrect the old Pale Ale. I haven't worked since the beginning of March for one simple reason, the tasting room has been closed for renovations.


This weekend, that all changes. The tasting room will once again be open for business, though it is hugely different from the old days. Gone is the simple wooden bar with industrial kegerators behind it, replaced by a custom built bar with lines that run directly to the cold store, so no more lugging kegs from the cold store to the bar on a trolley I guess. Gone is the stifling heat of summer, and the frozen backsides of winter, we now have a closed in, temperature controlled space which looks out on the production floor of the brewery itself.


A couple of weekends ago we had a team meeting to be introduced to the new space and, to put it simply, it is stunning. The guys that designed the space have done an amazing job, and incorporated some neat touches from the old days of Starr Hill when it was a brewpub in Charlottesville.

To say I am looking forward to getting back behind the bar is something of an understatement, and what a glorious bar it will be to be working behind!

The grand opening is this Saturday, but I will be working on Sunday, so come on down, enjoy the new space, and of course drink the beer!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Is Your Beer Local?

Buy Fresh, Buy Local. A nice slogan for an idea which I have a lot of sympathy for. I like to support local brewers, Mrs Velkyal and I enjoy days out fruit picking in the counties surrounding Charlottesville, and then making jams, chutneys and booze with the produce, we sometimes wander up to the farmers markets in the area and see if there is anything of interest (cynical aside, I really didn't know that bead jewellery grew on a farm!). So yes, in a perfect world, I would be happy to buy most of the stuff I eat and drink from local suppliers.

I have said many times that one of the things that Mrs V and I both love about this part of Virginia is that it is so booze friendly, wineries aplenty, a slew of good breweries, cider makers and even distillers. Yes, it is good to be a drinker in central Virginia. Even so, my overactive brain has been getting the better of me of late with regards to buying fresh and local, and wondering if there isn't an element of hypocrisy within the beer world in promoting such an idea?

I find it a little disingenuous for brewers to support the "buy local" concept when it comes to consumers going to the pub or supermarket and making their choice for the evening, but then not supporting local suppliers when it comes to buying their own ingredients. I think this is particularly pertinent here in Virginia, where during the Colonial Era, the Commonwealth was essentially the Kent of the Colonies. By the middle of the 19th century, Virginia alone was producing nearly 700 imperial tons of hops a year (that's 750 US tons or 680 metric tons). Hops were once an integral part of Virginia agriculture, just like tobacco. Unfortunately I couldn't find any figures on commercial hop farms, but I do know that Blue Mountain Brewery has a small hop farm, as do Devils Backbone, and both support a local hop farmer.

This kind of thinking is something that should be encouraged. If brewers are going to jump on the buy local bandwagon as a way of inducing people to buy their beer, then they should likewise make a commitment to buying locally sourced ingredients whenever possible. Obviously brewers need to source their ingredients from wherever they can in the absence of local providers, but encouraging small businesses by buying up their crops is one way that could encourage greater localisation of the beer that we buy. It might also serve as an antidote to the increasing blandness of many a brewery's lineup of beer, which, let's face it, is becoming as boringly dominated by IPA and other assorted hop bombs as the macro brewing industry is dominated by pale lager.

Who knows, if brewers were to source their ingredients locally, we might end up with the situation were a Virginia IPA becomes as distinct from a West Coast IPA as it would be from an English IPA. The alternative would be admitting that none of the ingredients are locally sourced and the carbon footprint of the beer in your hand is far higher than you would like to think about.

Beyond January

Dry January is over, but my beer fast continues. Well, it continues until Friday. As a general rule I only drink at the weekend, thus my win...

男女真人后进式猛烈动态图_男人让女人爽的免费视频_男人脱女人衣服吃奶视频