Can We Still Learn From Samuel Adams?

More business, less beer!

Quench Your Own Thirst: Business Lessons Learned Over A Beer Or Two

I get it, Sam Adams (Boston Beer Company) is not the cool beer on the market. But if you’ve been drinking craft beer as long I have, you might have a deeper appreciation for what the Boston Beer Company has brought to the craft beer scene. You may not be drinking their beer, but they still do make some really good beers. I’ve always enjoyed their Octoberfest.

I can still remember being pretty excited when they introduced a new seasonal or even a new style that I wasn’t familiar with. I will admit, there a quite a few beer styles I had never tried, until the Boston Beer Company made the introduction. Do you remember Triple Bock? That maple bomb might have been the beginning of the Pastry Sou…Nope not going there. Cranberry Lambic anyone? Sure it might not be a great example of a sour or funky beer, but I’m pretty certain it’s the first one of that style I ever had. And guess what, good beer or not, it got me looking for and drinking more sour and wild beers.

So what does this have to do with a book that states it’s about business lessons? For me, it meant I was going to cut it a little slack (just being honest) for all the great memories I had trying, drinking, sharing beers from the Boston Beer Company.

The book is presented through the company’s timeline from inspiration to current times. Each chapter is geared towards giving you a business lesson told with some homespun wisdom from Jim Koch.

While I didn’t get a lot of insight from the business side, I did learn a lot about the business. Like the fact that he had a female business partner when the company was launched. Or that he struggled with the sales part of the business, which would seem to contradict his media presence.

The book is really a grouping of short stories about the history of the Boston Beer Company. Koch talks about failures, success, and the challenges of staying relevant. There are even stories about the brewing industry and how breweries like AB (InBev) and Brooklyn Brewing tried to take them down or at least tarnish their reputation.

All in all the book was a fun, quick read. Although it presents it’s as a business book, it really is more of a history lesson through the eyes of Koch. No doubt there is some fluff and maybe a bit of exaggeration, but if you have read anything about Jim Koch you probably won’t be surprised.

1994 Brew Reserve Triple Bock,
1994 Brew Reserve Triple Bock, 8.45 oz Colbalt Blue Bottle, coming in at a massive 17% ABV

So What Does 22 Mean In Beer Years?

Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale or just DBA is turning 22 & they are celebrating with a beer dinner.

Happy Birthday, DBA!

For those of us old enough to remember drinking beer (legally) before the existence of DBA & Firestone Walker, congratulations on still being able to remember things.

Back before Social Media and second wave of craft beer began, when you discovered a beer it was a major achievement. Now I don’t remember my first DBA. I do remember not knowing anything about the company. Were they new? Established? Related to a tire company? What I did know was that I found a beer and brewery that would change my understanding of beer and what it could be.

I’ve used DBA as a gateway beer for many of my non-craft friends. The expectation of somewhat darker, fuller bodied beer would often scare off the doubters. Inevitably, I got them to take a sip of my DBA…instant perception change. I might not have won them over, but now they were a little more open to experimenting, and straying away from their norm.

While you may think DBA is not cutting edge in today’s beer world, Firestone Walker still holds a patent for their Union System that is used in the fermentation process. And with four golds and one silver at the Great American Beer Festival, this beer has some serious street cred.

The fact that Firestone Walker is celebrating its 22nd year of existence, is as much as a celebration of its longevity as it is a celebration how far craft beer has come.

Do you think we will see DBA in a nitro can this year? I know it would make the Lion happy.

The Menu:

  • Double Barrel Ale: Welcome beer
  • Agrestic with fresh locally sourced fruit & cheese
  • Reginald Brett with an arugula salad with fresh citrus, toasted almonds, & raspberry vinaigrette
  • Rye Double DBA with NY steak potpie with flakey pastry dough, peas, carrots & beef gravy
  • UDBA with Chocolate pretzel brownie with caramelized bananas

BarrelRoom

Listen To Your Beer

And you thought beer was just for drinking!

I am talking about podcasts. Do you listen to podcasts? On your commute, in the gym, on the toilet; just about every topic covered by podcasts. Whether it’s news and commentary, music, sports, religion, hobbies, entertainment, fiction and non-fiction, every topic is covered. And yes, BEER.

I will admit, I love podcasts.  And I will also admit that many are just not that good. Poor sound quality, way too long, self-absorbed hosts or just boring. But that doesn’t mean that all are bad. In fact, some are done so well and engaging, that you don’t want to turn them off.

So where does beer come in? Why would anyone want to talk about, let alone listen to other people talk about it? Beer is certainly a fine and tasty beverage, but it’s also a hobby. If you follow it close enough, you’ll find the beer community skirts closely to the Real Brewers of “insert your favorite City“. Trademark infringements, tap handle wars, sell-outs, venture capital, new releases, new breweries, homebrewing and just about anything else.

Beer podcasts fall into a few categories, but most blur the lines a bit between styles.

  • Beer Reviews and Tasting
  • Interviews and story-driven
  • News and education
  • Homebrewing

My favorite beer podcasts are ones that are having fun while trying to educate. After all, it’s still beer, and it should be fun. It’s nice to listen to a show that mixes it up a bit. I can only listen to somebody blather about what they think of a particular beer for so long. I try not to get too caught up in what other peoples opinions are. Taste is a personal thing.

Some of my favorite shows:

Four Brewers –  Beer reviews and tasting notes, social commentary, humor (sometimes a bit crude) and the occasional interview.  They even throw in some homebrew talk on occasion. A fun show that doesn’t take itself or beer too seriously.

The Full Pint – A long-standing beer blog that jumped into podcasting a while back. Beer news and interviews make up the bulk of the show.  They cover a wide array of beer topics, and the Full Pint crew has been reporting on craft beer news longer than most.

Good Beer Hunting – Deep Cuts! This show digs in on all aspects of beer from brewing to sales and distribution. They also cover all beer. From Nanos to macro, and stories from the entire brewing world. This show covers the business side of brewing really well, and not just craft.

Steal This Beer – A little loud and a little drunk. This is an interview show that includes blind tasting and analysis of beer drank out of blacked out glasses. This show also concentrates on the business side of beer but keeps it on the lighter side.  Best described as a conversation about beer in a bar after everyone has had a few. Oh wait, that’s exactly what this show is.

Beervana – This show is self-described as “about the art, culture, economics, and business of beer and brewing”. While a totally agree with their description, I would say this podcast keeps it a bit lighter and academic. This is a good show for someone not wanting to get caught up in too much hype, or beer business. This fits a really good middle ground.

Basic Brewing – Homebrewing! HOMEBREWING and Homebrewing? I would recommend this show to anyone who homebrews, is thinking about homebrewing or is just interested in how beer is made on the home level. Practical, informative, fun and a bit homey.  This show is a podcast classic that is still putting out great shows.

The Brewing Network (multiple shows) – I saved this for last, for a few of reasons.  First off, it’s a network. Many shows and topics to choose from. Highly produced and commercialized, but a wealth of great information to be had.  Check them out for yourselves.

If you’re a regular participant in the local beer scene, you might even know your local beer podcaster. I became friends with all of the Four Brewers at different times, years before they began their show.  The Full Pint crew are regulars at beer events in Southern California and are always happy to share in some solid beer conversation.

I know, there are way too many shows to listen to every week. A few I listen to every week. Some I read the description and only listen to the episodes that interest me. How you listen is up to you.  If these shows don’t work for you, search for your own favorites.

  • Protip – Speed up the playback just a bit. You’ll get more listening in and if something really peaks your interest, you can always go back and listen again.

So This Happened

Homebrewing has always been one of those things were I had to find space to do it. Kitchen, garage, backyard and maybe an unused bathtub. It was always about putting everything back in it’s place, but often misplacing that thing you need right now.

With the move to Sacramento, came the ability to start fresh with a new space. My space to configure how I wish to.

So this 10′ x 12′ shed will be my new brewing space. This is just the start. In the next few months, the plan will start coming together. Stay tuned.

January Brings A New Challenge!

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January starts the new trek for attempting to hit a minimum of 100 different breweries or tasting rooms. This will be the 4th year of this personal challenge and if I’m going to make 100 different brewery stops, I’ve got to start strong. Math tells me I need to hit 8.4 breweries each month to meet my goal. So how did January go?  Well, a little bit of a slow start, but that’s what the rest of the year is for.

#001 – Monk Cellar I really don’t get out here enough.  They are brewing some classic styles beautifully and the food is spot on. My choices for lunch, their take on an American IPA and what might be my favorite, the London Porter. The IPA drank big for a 6.5% IPA. West Coast bitterness with some candy sweetness from the hops. The London Porter is an open-fermented gem that has a smooth chocolate finish while not drinking too heavy. The Scotch Eggs pair with life, don’t leave without trying them.

#002 – New Glory Brewery So, New Glory is an easy “Go-To” for me. Great staff, good vibe (keep the punk rock going) and I’m always impressed with the beer. This stop included Take 5, really superb Session IPA. Do you Even Simcoe, Broh? part of the single hop series. I try not to miss out on any of these.  Lastly, Greenergy, this 8.1% DIPA was drinking the best tonight. I’ve been going away from the higher ABV IPAs, but this one might bring me back in.

#003 – Track 7 Brewing (Curtis Park) is another favorite of mine, and today was no exception. The day started with Haze and Lupuline in Curtis Park, this 10.2% ABV triple IPA is dangerously smooth. Next up, Love and Hoppiness in Vermont. I drink this every time I see it. At 5.1% ABV, this could be a daily hazy for me. Then off to a new one for me, Darkness, Imprisoning Me. Holy hell, this 13.3% ABV Russin Imperial Stout is insanely good.  With an Untappd rating of 4.21, I don’t think I’m the only one who is loving this beer. Lastly, a palette cleanser with Left Eye, Right Eye. It’s just a 9.5% DIPA that is damn good.

#004 – Fieldwork Brewing (Sacramento Tasting Room) January’s stops ended here. I’m a big fan, but I left with mixed reviews today. My flight included Island Time, a fruited sour. Ill-Gotten Grains, a Gose was next up. Stream of Coffee, an English mild. Then to Coffee Town, a Brown Ale.  Finishing up with Sniff Test Bru 1, IPA. I really like Fieldwork, but I was disappointed. The coffee beers didn’t pop with coffee. The IPA didn’t taste up to par with Fieldwork’s IPAs I’m used to. My favorite today was the Gose.  Although it wasn’t a great day for me, I will be back (probably soon).

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February is off to a great start. More Sacramento area breweries, a trip to Vegas and followed up with a trip to Paso Robles. This month might get me back on track.

When Are There Too Many Breweries?

Is having a brewery in every neighborhood good, if they are just producing average beer?

I absolutely love the fact that it’s really easy to find a brewery just about anywhere in California. It’s also pretty damn easy to find one when traveling. But are they any good? Are they really needed?

Fine, I’m guilty! I love trying new breweries. In fact, I’ve had a running goal of visiting 100 individual breweries for each the last 3 years. The goal (mostly) accomplished. But how many were truly memorable? How many are worth a second visit? Sadly, too many are just fine. Not flawed, but not exciting either.

So, back to the question? Do we really need a bunch of average breweries for the sake of having a lot of breweries? I’m starting to think not. Now, if your idea of a brewery in every neighborhood is more about having a local place to meet, drink and make friends… or a bar, fine. But now you have a bar with a super limited selection. While a brewery can be a fairly decent bar, I think real bars do BARS better.

If you walk into a brewery, sample a few beers and think “they didn’t suck”, is that good enough. Is that good enough to not give those beer dollars to a brewery you really enjoy? Not to mention time and effort lost on ho hum beer.

I really feel 2018 is going to be the year we start to see morebreweries close. And unfortunately, not all the closures will be bad breweries. Just look at the Oregon brewery The Commons. A highly regarded brewery with an average Untappd rating of 3.8 closed. Modern Times is taking over the facility. Beer consumption is down, I know, it’s hard to believe. If that trend continues, along with adding new breweries, beer dollars are going to be spread pretty thin.

If you care about well crafted beer, you need to support the breweries that are producing it. And, stop worrying about who owns what and if they are a social media darling. If your favorite spot is not cutting it, maybe it’s time you need to drop a few hints.

This doesn’t mean, no new breweries. This means new breweries need to step up. High quality and innovative beers needs to be the normal right out of the gate.

Cheers to great beer and the fans that support it.

No Resolutions

No resolutions, but I do have goals. One of those is playing guitar. My mom played a little bit. I started learning electric guitar back in high school, but life got in the way. Too many years later, I decided to challenge myself to pick up where I left off. 2018 will be the year