Editor’s Note: This sponsored column is written by Nick Anderson, beermonger at Arrowine (4508 Lee Highway).
There is a never-ending deluge of events and goings-on in the beer world and in trying to stick to one topic per week, lots of things slip through the cracks. With no one subject in particular dominating my thoughts this week, I thought I’d take the opportunity to hit on a few recent events that caught my attention that I think are worth sharing:
Founders’ huge growth extends to All-Day IPA packaging: 2013 was a gigantic year for Michigan’s Founders Brewing Company. With a major expansion finished, Founders experienced a massive jump in production; from 71,000 barrels in 2012 to 112,000 by the time 2013 was done. With new room to grow at their brewery, Founders is having some fun: very soon we’ll not only be seeing the beloved Centennial IPA in 12-pack cans, but the current All-Day IPA 12-packs will become 15-packs in March. Go ahead, have a gander; I’ll be here when you get back.
Ok, so how cool are those? I can see no practical reason to do this, which makes me love the 15-pack all the more.
New year-round releases in March: Besides the All-Day 15-packs, there are going to be some significant new year-round beers hitting the market this March. Allagash Saison 4-packs will be arriving; a smart addition to the Maine brewery’s lineup as the Belgian-style Wit segment becomes more crowded. If these 4-packs are priced anywhere even close to their Black Stout 4-packs, this will be one of the few year-round Saison-style 4- or 6-packs out there.
Perhaps the biggest of the newly-announced year-round beers is Stone’s new Session Ale, Go To IPA. Clocking in at 4.5 percent ABV, Go To is dry-hopped with Citra, Mosaic, and Cascade hops. If what I’ve heard so far about Go To pans out, this could be the bold, full-bodied Session hop bomb a lot of folks have been looking for.
Big Beer’s acquisitions continue: AB/InBev buys Blue Point: The middle of the week brought bombshell news as Long Island’s Blue Point Brewing Company was bought by Anheuser-Busch/InBev (ABI). I use the term “bombshell” because I hadn’t even heard a rumor about this deal being in the works, and this is one of the most gossip-riddled businesses out there.
What isn’t surprising is the buyout itself; with Blue Point in its arsenal of brands, ABI now has known “craft” breweries in two of America’s biggest cities/markets (New York and Chicago’s Goose Island). As craft beer sales rise and macro brands falter, ABI and SAB Miller will turn even more to the time-honored philosophy of the massive conglomerate — if you can’t beat ‘em, buy ‘em.
I’m not interested anymore in the arguments over what makes a beer “craft” as opposed to “crafty;” I choose to define it by the Justice Potter Stewart standard of knowing it when I see it. If you’re a Goose Island or Blue Point fan and it doesn’t bother you that they’re now made under ABI, I have no problem with that. If you don’t want your consumer dollars supporting such massive companies, you have plenty of options these days.
Neither of these purchases has affected me much personally nor professionally: I’ve never been a huge fan of either brewery save for a beer or two and outside of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Series and Blue Point’s Toasted Lager, I’ve never gotten anything approaching enough customer requests to carry either brewery. What I’m saying today is to watch how announcements like this become more common, and then keep an eye out for distributor acquisitions.
I think the next battle, the real battle, is when ABI or SAB-owned distributors start buying up smaller distributors with the same zeal they buy well-known regional craft breweries. Distributors control access to retailers, restaurants, and bars—everyone in Virginia who buys beer or wine buys the products of any specific winery or brewery from the same company. I worry that someone at Big Beer has gotten smart enough to realize that with strong enough distributors under their control, they won’t need to spend their money bringing in new brands with their own sets of employees to pay and beers to package and market — they can simply sweep them under the rug.
I’m hoping for the best; but I have some experience with what happens when I do that, so watch the news, everyone. On that happy note, let’s quickly run through…
What I’m Drinking This Week
Omnipollo Nathalius: An odd beer from a brewery with a purity of vision that stands out even among the so-called “gypsy” brewers. Swedish brewer Henok Fentie visited the U.S. last year and spent some time at Of Love And Regret, the Baltimore bar of fellow “gypsy” brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales. Inspired by Stillwater’s Premium and Classique beers (which were in turn inspired by the most old-school of old-school Baltimore Lagers), Henok went back and brewed up this 8 percent IPA with the same corn and rice adjuncts found in Strumke’s homage to National Bohemian. The hops clashed pretty intensely with the malts, etc., in the bottle I tried a few days ago and to call the finish ‘bitter’ is understating things just a bit. Despite that, the beer is just so damn interesting I couldn’t help but get into it. I’d love to try a very fresh bottle and see the differences.
10 Barrel OG Wheat IPA: A customer brought this back from a trip to Bend and was kind enough to share. This is the first 10 Barrel beer I’ve tried, aside from last year’s collaboration Suede Porter with now-former Bluejacket brewer Megan Parisi at Stone Brewing. OG pours just a gorgeous fiery orange color, and has a great bitter streak all the way through. The malt character is simultaneously bright and clean, with an odd sweet note that pokes its head out here-and-there, which I found distracting. Overall, very good and now I’m looking to try more from 10 Barrel. Until next time!
Nick Anderson maintains a blog at www.beermonger.net, and can be found on Twitter at @The_Beermonger. Sign up for Arrowine’s money saving email offers and free wine and beer tastings at www.arrowine.com/mailing-list-signup.aspx. The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
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