Never A Dull Moment


Every month when I finish my latest article I wonder what I’ll be writing about next
month. Once in a while I already have an idea, but usually I just experience the world
of craft beer and something comes along that strikes me as interesting, which with
craft beer going crazy like it is shouldn’t be difficult. So let’s see what I found recently.

Sam Adams released their new Sam 76, which I had a chance to taste. They say it’s
a new style of beer as they’ve combined lager fermentation with ale fermentation. It’s
a light straw color and starts out with a great nose. It’s got a very light refreshing
taste, which I’m immediately thinking would be great in the summer, especially with a
4.8% ABV! My learned beer judge sitting with me tastes it and says this is a beer that
should be consumed fresh to get the most out of it. We look on the bottom of the can
and it’s got a May 2018 date, so Sam is giving it a few months of freshness also. Not
unlike what we’re hearing about many IPAs, that should be consumed when freshest.

Clearly Sam Adams is one of original craft breweries and has grown to be the largest,
but there are many who diss them, which makes sense if your only goal is to try a
different beer every time you drink. Personally I give Sam Adams a lot of credit, not
only for being an original and making one of the great crossover beers, but
consistently being innovators, making good solid beers and caring about the industry
in general. Their Cream Stout this winter was very good and I just saw a six of their
classic Boston Ale at the store and will have to pick one up before they’re gone.

Following along in the same vein, I saw an article that Starr Hill in VA is releasing their
new Front Row Golden Ale. They describe it as “a great beer for hot days as a
crisper, cleaner and more refreshing alternative to an IPA.”  At 4.9% ABV and with
some reasonable taste it sounds like something that could be perfect for a hot
summer day. Starr Hill has a long history with music so the name Front Row pays
homage to that (although if they were from Milwaukee I’d be thinking Bob Uecker,
especially since I got to sit next to him on my trip there…) and makes good marketing
sense if you want to sell it at concerts. They’re hoping it will be “an approachable
gateway beer for those who are not huge craft fans, but want a quality beer they can
appreciate.”  Their Marketing Manager states that golden ales are currently the
fastest growing style in the industry. That’s interesting as that’s the first time I’ve
heard that. Some of that could well be and is the law of large numbers; as IPA
grabbed a bigger percentage of the craft beer market year after year it’s harder to
keep up the big growth percentage. I’ll be down in that area in a couple of months so
will have to check it out.

I find it interesting I’m continuing to see more lower ABV beers coming this spring and
summer. Thinking back to last year session IPAs were all the rage, but brewers were
also introducing more golden and blonde ales; Green Flash’s GFB blonde, New
Belgium’s Dayblazer golden and Unita’s Park Series Golden Ale. Probably the
forerunner was Firestone Walker’s 805; a sweet lightly hopped honey colored blonde
ale that was initially only available in the taproom and named after the local area
code. Distributed only within 100 miles of the brewery it became the fastest growing
craft beer in the country! It’s now distributed in TX, AZ and NV and is the largest
selling Firestone Walker beer!

They really may have seen the market and opportunity for a tasty lager first. They
took it a step further as there is no style descriptor on the packaging and created its
own website trying to relate the beer more to working people than focusing on the
craft aspects. I did have the opportunity to try 805 last year in CA and found it
enjoyable; a good hot summer day brew. I’ve taken Sierra Nevada surveys which
have taken some of this “don’t focus solely on the beer” approach, so that may be
another avenue the craft brewers start using more of.  Session IPAs have continued
to do well with Founder’s All Day IPA being one of the biggies and their biggest seller.
So is this intro of more lower ABV beers a continuation of that trend? Guess we’ll
have to wait and see.

Maybe some of these lighter ales can continue to get mega-brew drinkers to try and
like craft beers. If you think about it the three biggest beers in America are light beer;
Bud Light, Coors Light and Miller Lite. If you’re drinking them because you don’t care
about any taste in your beer, then I’m guessing you wouldn’t really care or need to
try one of these lighter golden ales, but there must be some who can really
appreciate a better taste. On a side note I did shed a tear for Bud (after LMAO) that
it’s not a top three beer for the first time in decades. Bud Light pushed it into #2 in
2001, 10 years later Coors Light pushed it to #3 and now it’s actually less of a slip in
sales (since all of the bigs have dipped this past year) that Miller Lite pushed it to #4.

Getting back to craft there’s still this idea that making crazy ingredient beer is a good
thing as the next few items indicate:

To celebrate Mardi Gras Chandeleur Island Brewery, out of Gulfport MI, brewed beer
with King Cake. For those unfamiliar, King Cake, in the US, is a type of cake
associated with pre-Lenten celebrations of Mardi Gras. The most traditional is a ring
of twisted cinnamon style dough with icing on top, typically sweet and includes a small
plastic baby (to represent Baby Jesus) formerly either inside or underneath but more
so now on top so no one chokes on it and then sues (yes very similar to “ouch my
hot coffee is hot and I got burnt…”). The baby symbolizes luck and prosperity to the
person who finds it in their piece of cake and designed king or queen for the
evening.  So yes, you can now have a King Cake Beer! They put some king cakes in
their tanks and aged some beer on them for a few days; the result alcoholic King
Cake and thankfully supplies are limited. We have not received confirmation that the
plastic babies were included in the process or not. Not sure if that would constitute
contributing to the delinquency of a minor or not.

Not to be outdone Departed Soles Brewery here in beautiful downtown NJ is
collaborating with Montclair Bread Company. Although they’re a bread company
they’re really known for their delicious doughnuts. So to make a different white stout,
DSBC has added 96 brioche doughnuts, which I guess are basically chocolate
covered doughnuts with sprinkles, to make a chocolate covered doughnut inspired
beer. After a few days they threw in 15 pounds of cocoa nibs, to err… put the icing
on the doughnut. The end result, as they describe it, is a beer with the aroma of
brioche donut, the heavy body of a stout, the appearance of a blonde and subtle
chocolate and coffee flavors. And my favor beer bar was servicing this beer along
with a donut last Saturday morning…and damn, I somehow luckily missed it.

I’m beginning to think I should start a monthly award; maybe something like “Big G’s
Craft Gaffe of the Month.” And although these first two may have been in contention
this next one is the clear winner!

The Unknown Brewery in Charlotte, NC has brewed their rarest most expensive beer,
called Rare Bean. It’s described as an Imperial Pastry Sweet Stout and it uses two
very interesting coffee beans in the brewing process. The first is Black Ivory Coffee,
the rarest on earth. What makes it so rare? So when elephants wake up in the
morning they need a pick me up, just like we do, so they eat the black ivory coffee
beans; probably a double dose when they’re filming the charging scenes in Tarzan.
As the day goes on they process it and at some point deposit it somewhere on the
ground. Now the next step is the interesting one where I’m guessing someone has to
go through the elephant excrement, poop, feces, dung, s… (well I think you’ve got
the idea) and find the precious processed beans. I’m really hoping the next step is
washing them, but who knows.

Surprisingly enough only 1,000 pounds of black ivory coffee are produced a year so
it costs $100 a bag! And yes they use another coffee bean in this beer called
Tongan vanilla bean, which is only $30-40, but not at all interesting since it must just
get picked by humans as opposed to “processed” by an animal. Unknown only
produced 100 16.9 oz. bottles of Rare Bean, so there’s a limit of two and I believe I
read somewhere it was $40/bottle.  I’ll be down there in a couple of months but I’m
sure they sold out the initial release day…my bad luck. But I may stop in to try to
understand their creative process; I’m guessing the best ideas come at the end of
the night after many hours of sampling the wares.

And as a final note, for my young millennial readers (and since I’m not on Snap Chat,
Twitter, Instagram or whatever I’m guessing that would be about 0) MillerCoors
announced the release of a new fruit flavored light beer called Two Hats. It seems
that the 21-24 age group doesn’t drink much beer, they prefer wine and spirits, so
MillerCoors is going after them with a 4.2% ABV that comes in lime and pineapple
varieties and its cheap…sounds like a good millennial beer to me and gladly I’m too
old to qualify.

You can’t make this stuff up…it’s the world of beer…

Glenn DeLuca writes about beer and culture of drinking. He may
be reached by writing

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Glenn DeLuca
Outtakes from a life of beer. presents
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