Frank White, Brian Shurtleff and Matt Menard said they always had a passion for brewing beer, and now they’re getting to fulfill their passion at Bog Iron Brewery in Norton.
They all have been brewing beer individually with small brewing kits for years.
“Anybody who’s ever been a homebrewer, they sit around and daydream about this,” Shurtleff said. “We took one small step and then another, and we just kept going from there.”
The trio agreed it has been hard, but in 2012 they opened the brewery.
“It was three times the budget and twice the time frame, but we finally opened,” Shurtleff said.
White said he first started home brewing with his cousin and a friend in 1982.
“We figured we’d brew beer and sell it to our friends,” he said.
Shurtleff said he started because he was a “foodie,” and felt creating and selling beer was a natural progression.
“I got a kit close to 20 years ago and it came out pretty decent,” he said.
They said they all met at the South Shore Brew Club.
“That’s when we started talking about the brewery,” White said.
Shurtleff said beer brewing is essentially like brewing coffee.
“They’re basically the same process,” he said.
The trio makes four different beers, an India Pale Ale, a blonde ale, the Black Steam and the English Session Mild.
“The blonde is an easy drinking beer,” Shurtleff said. “The only difference is it’s 7.5 percent alcohol.”
The trio agreed their most popular beer at the moment is the English Session Mild, which is traditional English beer.
“The craft beer drinkers tend to like a lot of hops, or alcohol or some crazy off the wall ingredient,” Shurtleff said. “The English beer is a pretty basic standard ale. Not a ton of hops, alcohol or crazy ingredients.”
“It’s been amazing,” Shurtleff said. “Both Trinity and Kinsale have been amazing to work with and really supportive.”
Menard said after only being in business for three months, Trinity has put two of their craft beers on permanently, which is rare.
“For craft beers, they like to cycle the beers pretty quickly to get people to sample the new beer and get the crowd moving through,” he said. “It’s kind of unheard of.”
They said they will be going before the Norton Board of Selectmen soon to start selling the beers out of growlers and giving samples. For now, Trinity and Kinsale are the only places you can get a Bog Iron Beer.
For more information visit www.bogironbrewing.com.
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Saturday, April 06, 2013
Watch out other craft breweries–there’s a new beer brewing company tapping into Providence this year.
Since Nick Garrison got a brewing kit from his parents for Christmas and brewed the beer for his own wedding, he’s had a passion for brewing, a passion that has led to the birth of Providence’s hot new brewery: Foolproof Brewing Company.
GolocalProv took time to speak to Nick Garrison, the founder and owner of Foolproof Brewing Company, and and their professional brewmaster, Damase Olsson.
Could you explain your brewing process?
Nick Garrison: We approach brewing a bit differently at Foolproof. Before we even start talking about ingredients, flavors, and beer styles, we look at life experiences. We actually brew our beers with specific activities in mind. The names of each of our brews reflect these sacred beer drinking experiences.
We’re basically trying to get people to think about and treat beer as more than just an alcoholic beverage, but instead as an experience that should be savored and enjoyed.
I truly believe that we as beer drinkers consciously (or subconsciously) associate beers with various experiences, weather, places, moods, and activities. At Foolproof, we really wanted to take that concept to the next level, and that’s how we developed our philosophy of experience-based brewing.
We treat each of our beers as a tribute to a specific experience, and we encourage our friends and fans to go out and create their own experience. I love the idea of somebody picking up a six pack of our beer and taking it camping, heading to the beach, or maybe just staying at home on a rainy day and then sharing that experience with us.
Are there any traditions, or special styles you follow?
Damase Olsson: I do try to use only malt, water, hops and yeast in my recipes. I will also add various other things such as vanilla or honey if that is a flavor I am looking for in the beer. As for styles, I tend to brew mostly ales (as opposed to lagers), as ales will ferment more quickly (two weeks as opposed to five to six weeks), though I do enjoy brewing good lagers when I get the chance and time in the brewery permits. One style I have consistently brewed is a Russian Imperial Stout, so maybe that would be my special style.
A secret recipe?
Olsson: Now that would be a secret, wouldn’t it? But in reality, I have no secret recipes, as each brewer can take the same ingredients and have a slightly different flavor, depending on their brewhouse. After all, with only four ingredients, it is tough to have secrets.
How long have you been brewing beer? Have you hit any road bumps or accidents along the way?
Olsson: I have been brewing non-professionally since 1993 and professionally since 2006. I haven’t had any real bumps or accidents along the way, professionally at least. As a home brewer, I have made my fair share of mistakes, one of which was dropping a batch down a flight of stairs. Glass carboys will always lose a battle with a cement floor.
Garrison: I’ve been brewing for about five years and have been running a brewery for less than three months. It was certainly a challenge pulling this whole crazy idea together. It took me four years to take Foolproof from a dream to reality, and we definitely hit some bumps along the way. Financing, equipment, licensing, branding issues…you name it. Every new brewery faces an uphill battle, but I think we’ve done a great job working through all of the hurdles.
I’ve dumped my fair share of homebrew (things don’t always work out as planned!), but as Damase [Olsson] mentioned, we can proudly say that we haven’t had to dump any beer down the drain yet at Foolproof. I think it’s a testament to Damase’s talent as a brewmaster.
What made you decide to start brewing beer?
Olsson: I enjoyed the flavors of craft beer (though it was called microbrew back then), and I had the opportunity to take a weekend course taught by URI professors when I was living in Narragansett, so I decided to give it a go. Been giving it a go ever since.
Garrison: I received my first home brewing kit as a Christmas gift from my parents. I never thought that two plastic buckets could actually change my life. Within a year of picking up homebrewing as a hobby (ok, borderline obsession), I knew this was what I had to do with my life.
What does beer mean to you?
Olsson: They say beer is what started civilization, and I tend to believe that. Beer is the great equalizer. Every society has had a grain-based beverage, whether it be from corn, wheat, sorghum, or barley. Beer is consumed by folks in every level of society, so if civilization began with beer, every society has had some form of beer, and every strata of society drinks beer. I guess you could say that beer is what keeps the world humming. Or, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, “Sometimes a beer is just a drink.”
Garrison: Working at a brewery for a living, beer is obviously a very important part of my life. In fact, it changed my life. To me, when enjoyed responsibly, beer is something that brings together family and friends, and ultimately, we drink beer because it’s fun. I really wanted the Foolproof brand to reflect that idea – good beer is something that will always bring people together.
Pairing Your Brews
In the mood for getting together with friends for a BBQ? Backyard will match the friendly, smokey atmosphere. Olsson gives us the inside scoop on how to pair Foolproof with your experience, and what to pair it with to make your taste buds tingle:
Barstool – something light in flavor, so it will not overwhelm the beer. Some folks have had it with sushi and loved it. So I would definitely say fish, chicken (not BBQ’ed but baked or lightly grilled), or even a salad.
Backyard – Now there is a BBQ beer, so something more robust, and spicy. Mexican would also work well with this beer.
Raincloud – The roasty flavors remind me of a nice roast, beef, or pork, which would all work very well with this beer.
Revery – I am going out on a limb here, but a French vanilla ice cream beer float works very well. But if you do not want to put ice cream in your beer, you can have it on the side, on top of a warm brownie.
Bringing in a Local Taste
The local brewery hopes to get even more local in the next year, looking to use Rhode Island hops in some of their batches. Currently, the brewery uses hops from all over the world. “We have hops from the Czech Republic, England, Germany, and the Northwest of the United States,” Damase says. “We hope to be using Rhode Island hops next year in some of our batches.”
Try a Taste
Get down and check out the brewery for yourself, see the brewing process, and try the beer a tour Fridays and Saturdays for $10. You can grab a taste of the golden drink at any of these locations.
Foolproof Brewing Company, 241 Grotto Avenue, Pawtucket. Click here to visit the website and for more information.
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TORONTO, Feb. 27, 2013 /CNW/ – Award winning Cool Brewery is set to
launch a unique self tapping “mini” keg for the take home market.
Cool’s 3.1 litre mini keg will pour an equivalent of nine regular
bottles of beer and is equipped with an easy to carry handle.
“Cool brewery is the first to market a unique 3.1 litre mini keg” said
Andrew Costa, Marketing Manger for Cool Brewery. “We discovered there
was market demand for a mini keg if the keg cost less than twenty
dollars and if they can fit easily in the fridge at home.”
The mini keg will pour Cool’s award winning Craft Lager which will be
available at all self serve Beer Stores and select LCBO outlets in
southern Ontario. Cool designed their web site www.coolbeer.com to help beer drinkers locate LCBO and Beer stores carrying Cool beers
and to offer home delivery service.
“There are 5 litre take home kegs in the market but beer drinkers
complain they take too long to chill, didn’t fit in the fridge and the
beer style is too European, too heavy,” said Costa. “Our Cool mini keg
addresses all these issues and our Cool Craft Lager is not only award
winning but easy to drink, refreshing and affordable” he concluded.
Cool Beer Brewing Co. Incorporated is a regional brewery founded by
Bobby Crecouzos in 1997. Cool initially focused on selling draught
beer to the restaurant trade but expanded to serve LCBO and Beer Stores
by introducing unique packages, such as 4 beers for 5 Bucks and a 275
mL clear bottle of Stonewall Light. Cool’s mission is to brew award
winning, high quality, affordable, refreshing beers for the everyday
beer drinker. Cool’s Millennium “Buzz” beer is the only all natural
Hemp Beer in Canada. Visit Cool at www.coolbeer.com
Image with caption: “Cool mini keg: easy to handle, chills quickly, fits in fridge, holds 9 beers and sells for less than $20.00 (CNW Group/Cool Beer Brewing Co.)”. Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20130227_C8689_PHOTO_EN_24083.jpg
SOURCE: Cool Beer Brewing Co.
For further information:
Marketing Manager, Cool Brewery
Phone (416) 255-7100 (ext 255)
E-mail : email@example.com
Chris Ash of Northfield would call himself a beer enthusiast.
Not only does he concoct his own stouts and pale ales at home, he makes the trek to The Ale Jail in St. Paul and other craft beer shops to test a couple of specialty local brews that haven’t made their way to the Northfield area liquor stores he frequents.
He’s also a member of the Milltown Mashers, a group of Northfield area brewing fanatics. They swap tips and their latest concoctions at monthly meetings.
With his Cicerone certification—the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier—Ash has proven his expertise in beer selection.
For Ash, good beer is not about the alcohol. It’s about sitting around with a group of buddies, sipping a rich, milk stout you crafted yourself.
“Beer is just the reward of a process,” he said. “You can either create a car engine or fix an oil filter or a computer … or the end result could be beer.”
Many small brewers statewide have turned that homemade passion into a local business.
Microbreweries have erupted throughout Minnesota since the so-called “Surly Bill” passed in the Legislature in 2011, which allows breweries to have a taproom license to serve their beer on site. That leg up has helped almost double the amount of Minnesota breweries in the past two years.
Minnesota is following what’s happening nationwide. According to the Brewers Association, 2011 saw the highest number of breweries since the 1880s, where 1,989 total operated for part or all of that year in the U.S.
Ash sees the recent explosion of microbreweries in Minnesota as a result of some cultural shifts in taste.
“Today’s beer drinkers aren’t drinking the same things their dads and grandpas drink,” Ash said. “They’re drinking beer more like it was thousands of years ago: Full of flavor, full-bodied, not watered-down and made for the masses.”
That preference evolution holds true locally, at least among a small segment of Northfielders with more adventurous taste buds.
Beer made near home just tastes better, according to Norman Butler, the owner of the Contented Cow Pub and Wine Bar in Northfield.
“The people who are doing this love their work,” Butler said. “It’s hand-crafted beers. You can taste the difference.”
Last August, the pub featured Minnesota brews on tap for the entire month.
“It’s been quite an amazing change over the last two years,” Butler said. “When I opened the pub about 14 years ago, there was very few— about three or four, maybe—Minnesota beer brewers. When we looked at the ‘Drink Local’ month, it must have been about 30.”
Butler said he’s also seen local distillers inching their way onto the scene, including two Northfield High School graduates, Mark Schiller and Simeon Rossi, who hope to bring their craft distillery to Northfield with their product called Loonshine.
It took a couple of years for some Twin Cities-based breweries to send their bottles south. The local crafts that the Northfield Municipal Liquor Store can round up don’t stay on the shelves for long, according to Stephen DeLong, the liquor operations director.
“Whatever we can get our hands on, we carry,” DeLong said. “They all tend to sell. It’s basically one category in beer sales that have continued to grow.”
Although the Minnesota drafts are still a small portion of the total beer sales, he said, the demand is definitely there. And, the store frequently brings in new beers.
“They’re huge,” DeLong said. “The college students are probably some of the best supporters. They have the most interest in the newest thing.”
Nearby brewers have proliferated at Firehouse Liquor in Dundas.
“We’ve seen a lot of new ones in Minnesota and we’re going to see a lot more” said Sean Adams, the store’s owner.
He said there’s been a huge demand for some local, seasonal rotations. Twin Cities folks called him recently, inquiring about a limited release from Brooklyn Center-based Surly Brewing Co. and other smaller brewers.
People who are about 25 to 45 are generally more interested in the microbrews, Adams said. And, they tend to be more informed consumers who revel in the “kid in a candy store” feeling they get with a wide-range of beer choices.
The biggest thing about the craft beers is their “uniqueness,” Adams said, in both the creative branding and the flavor.
It’s also about the variety, he said.
“Who’s the new guy on the block?”
One Northfield beer fanatic recently switched to exclusively home-brewed batches.
Randy Clay decided to try to not buy any beer in 2013.
“As I’ve made more beer, I’ve bought less beer,” Clay said. “I’ve realized how much easier it is for me to brew now and to brew good beer.”
Clay started brewing about 13 years ago, around the time he moved to Northfield. He helped start the Milltown Mashers about a year ago, a group he said has grown from five to nine members.
After some upfront costs developing his basement stockpile of beer brewing tools and ingredients, he can now make a five-gallon batch of beer for $15 to $20.
“One of the big factors I’ve learned that makes homebrew such an advantage over buying beer is the freshness of the beer,” Clay said. “Sometimes it’s really frustrating to buy a good six-pack of hoppy beer and come to find out it’s six months old and it doesn’t have that hop presence that you paid a lot of money to get.”
Making his hobby a business might take the fun out of it, he said. But, he said he thinks Northfield is ready for a craft brew business, as it already has a strong local product presence with its co-op and farmers’ markets.
“Northfield is ripe for a microbrewery or brew pub,” Clay said. “I think it’s going to happen sooner than later…We’re in a community that definitely could support one.”
Minnesota Public Radio contributed to this story.
Reach reporter Kaitlyn Walsh at 645-1117, and follow her on Twitter.com @NFNKaitlyn.
GRAND RAPIDS, MI — A pillar in the beer ranking world has begun rolling out several lists of top performers in the craft beer industry for 2013, and some familiar Beer City USA names from West Michigan are getting top honors.
HopCat, Siciliano’s Specialty Market and Founders Brewing Co. in Grand Rapids each landed at the top of initial 2013 lists released by RateBeer.com, which annually ranks the best beer, breweries and retailers in the worldwide craft beer industry.
Siciliano’s Market and HopCat, each a mecca of sorts for craft beer drinkers, were among the six United States companies landing on the list of best beer retailers worldwide.
HopCat was named the best brewbup in the United States, and Siciliano’s was named the best beer grocer in the U.S. by the website, which uses the Bayesian estimate formula to calculate ratings.
Founders Brewing Co. was named the best brewer in Michigan and the company’s popular Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) was named best beer in the state on the top beer and brewers by sub-region list.
RateBeer will release additional 2013 lists throughout next week, ranking beer and breweries in different categories leading up to Feb. 1, when they release the list of best brewers in the world.
“That’s the one we hang our hats on,” said Sarah Aldrich, communications manager at Founders. “The past two years, they have rated us as the second best brewery on the world.”
For HopCat, it’s also another in a line of accolades racked up since owner Mark Sellers opened the popular brewpub in early 2008.
“It’s nice to finally get to number one,” said Sellers. HopCat has been named No. 3 best beer bar in the world by Beer Advocate — the other pillar of craft beer ranking — multiple times. CraftBeer.com named HopCat the 2nd best craft beer bar in the United States in September and Draft Magazine already added the bar to their list of best beer bars this year.
“We have an advantage because we’re in Michigan,” said Sellers. “We get these great beers that other states don’t have access to. Other states don’t get the Shorts, Dark Horse and other great beers we have here.”
Siciliano’s has made RateBeer’s best retailer list before, but never ranked as tops overall in the United States.
“It’s a wonderful accolade,” said owner Stephen Siciliano. “People are obviously recognizing us.”
The market, located at Lake Michigan Drive and Collindale Ave NW, is a destination stop for area home brewers and past market employees have gone on to great success as head brewers at places like Brewery Vivant and Founders.
The market holds a highly-regarded home brewing competition every year, the Siciliano’s Cup, and is working on holding a special public brewing event downtown this spring in conjunction with the American Homebrewers Association Big Brew Day on May 4.
The market, which recently expanded its footprint, has seen a growth in business in 2012 — a huge year for Grand Rapids beer with the city being named “Beer City USA” and numerous breweries opening up in the area.
“We sold so many home brew kits over Christmas,” Sicililano said. “We always do, but it just seems that everybody wants to brew right now.”
“We’re feeding off the breweries and the breweries are feeding off the home brewers,” he said. “It’s a nice synergy.”
Email Garret Ellison or follow him on Twitter.
It’s a good time to be a beer drinker in Minnesota.
A 2011 Legislative action, dubbed the “Surly Law,” has paved the way for small breweries to sell their beer by the pint on-site.
Though Surly, whose supporters championed the law, has yet to begin construction or officially settle on a site for its “destination brewery,” a half-dozen beer makers have beat it to the punch. The vibe in the current mix of taprooms, as brewers call the areas where they serve the public, ranges from a nightclub-like corner of a warehouse to drinking with a few hundred people in a big boat house.
Craft-beer fans have embraced this trend, testing hand-crafted beers by the flight or pint before taking home growlers (half-gallon jugs) to enjoy later.
We’ve been making our way around the Twin Cities, gauging the atmospheres of taprooms, which are as varied as the beers they serve.
None of the taprooms open so far has on-site food service, but many invite food trucks to sit in their parking lots and serve hungry beer drinkers.
Here are the first six taprooms we tried in the metro area. Another half-dozen or so have just opened or are about to open, so watch for the second part to this roundup in February.
ABV means alcohol by volume. Run-of-the-mill American pilsners from big breweries hover in the 5 percent range. Light beers from those same breweries are usually a percentage point lower.
Harriet is our favorite taproom so far.
part taproom and part nightclub, it smells charmingly of beer being brewed, and there’s eclectic art hanging from brightly painted walls behind the stage.
There’s live music a few nights a week, so check the schedule on the brewery’s website.
One of our favorite features there, besides the strong yet not-strong-tasting Belgian-style beers, is proximity. The beer being poured into our glasses came from fermenters and barrels less than 10 feet away.
The vibe varies from rowdy to just crowded, especially on nights when there’s live entertainment.
Beers to try: Divine Oculust (8.9 percent ABV) is a fruity, fresh, slammable beer, which is dangerous considering how strong it is. The clarity of it, and most of Harriet’s beers, is striking.
For something a little less strong, try the amber-colored West Side Belgian IPA (6.5 percent ABV). It’s the most bitter of the Harriet beers we tried, but much more subtly hoppy than some other hop-forward beers around town.
Harriet Brewing: 3036 Minnehaha Ave., Minneapolis; 612-315-4633; harrietbrewing.com; 4-11 p.m. Wednes-days-Thursdays, 4 p.m.-midnight Fridays, 1 p.m.-midnight Saturdays.
Drinking at Excelsior is like hanging out in your rich uncle’s boat house. And in the winter, it’s kind of weird because everyone is wearing parkas.
The back-alley brewery behind Excelsior’s boutique-heavy downtown is crawling with locals who play cards, order pizzas or just socialize with friends, shopping bags in tow.
Surf boards and life savers hang from the ceiling. It’s loud, but what would you expect from a boat-house party where there’s easy-drinking, house-made beer?
You’re more cut off from the brewery than at Harriet, but there are cute velvet stanchions keeping you out instead of a brick wall.
Beers to try: Big Island Blond (5.1 percent ABV) is clean, refreshing and would be great on a boat. It fits the theme.
For something more seasonal, try the roasty-toasty Bitteschlappe brown ale (6.8 percent).
Excelsior Brewing: 421 Third St., Excelsior; excelsiorbrew.com; 4-10 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, 2-10 p.m. Saturdays.
Fulton’s taproom, the first to open in Minnesota, is large and good-looking.
Its long bar, backed by a big black wall with Fulton’s simple hops logo, and mix of high- and low-top tables accommodate pre-game Twins fans on their way to Target Field and North Loop neighbors who gather for happy hour.
It’s a little hard to find, and parking is not great. But it’s worth any hassles to sample Fulton’s refreshing, interesting brews with fellow craft-beer fans.
The taproom is separate from the brewing room, but from a window at the end of the bar, you can see guys in rubber boots mucking out the tanks.
Beers to try: A staple in our house, Lonely Blonde (4.8 percent ABV) is a perfect everyday beer. Low in alcohol but high in flavor, it’s great with pizza, tacos and, well, just about everything. It’s bright, citrusy and clean.
Sweet Child of Vine (6.4 percent ABV), the brewery’s other flagship beer, is grassy, floral and balanced.
Fulton: 414 Sixth Ave. N., Minneapolis; 612-333-3208; fultonbeer.com; 3-10 p.m. Thursdays, 3-10 p.m. Fridays, noon-10 p.m. Saturdays, expanded hours on days of Twins home games.
Indeed’s taproom feels like a corner bar, complete with a shuffleboard table.
The trio of friends who started the brewery last year used reclaimed wood and other recycled material to build most of the bar. They also salvaged the taproom tables, which still have signatures of famous visitors to the club room of an old printing company inscribed on them.
All the natural wood, exposed brick walls and big, old warehouse windows make for a beautiful beer-drinking setting.
Beers to try: Day Tripper (5.4 percent) is an intensely hoppy, spicy beer that’s good for all those hop-heads out there.
Our favorite Indeed brew is the Shenanigans Summer Ale, but you’ll have to wait for warm weather to try this seasonal brew.
Indeed Brewing: 711 15th Ave. N.E., Minneapolis; 612-843-5090; indeedbrewing.com; 3-11 p.m. Thursdays-Fridays, noon-11 p.m. Saturdays.
Hiding inside a boxy former gymnastics gym in a Stillwater business park, the Lift Bridge Brewery taproom is a surprisingly warm, inviting space with a small bar manned by volunteers.
The beer slingers apparently drink enough of the beer to help patrons order the right thing. Try a flight, served on a wood paddle, to decide your favorite.
The brewery equipment is walled off from the public, but there’s a window where you can see what’s happening inside.
Upside-down beer barrels and long picnic tables are filled with locals most nights. Occasionally, there are events at the taproom. Check the brewery website for a calendar.
Beers to try: The Farm Girl Saison (6 percent ABV) is a pale, smooth, citrusy, slightly spicy Belgian beer that works well in any season.
We also loved the HarvestÃ¶r Fresh Hop Ale (6.5 percent ABV), a fresh, grassy and really drinkable beer. Unfortunately, it’s a fall limited release, and it’s sold out.
A good bet for the colder months is the Chestnut Hill brown ale (6.5 percent ABV), a nutty, roasted malt affair that manages to be rich but not too heavy.
Lift Bridge Brewery: 1900 Tower Drive, Stillwater; 888-430-2337; liftbridgebrewery.com; 5-8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, noon-8 p.m. Fridays, noon-5 p.m. Saturdays.
Old-man Summit, not to be left out of the craft-brewing groundswell, has opened the Ratskeller at its St. Paul brewery on Friday nights and sells beer by the pint and flight.
The Ratskeller, German for “council room,” doubles as a community room and company lunchroom.
Not surprisingly, the taproom at the biggest brewery of the bunch feels more sterile and less intimate than taprooms at smaller producers. Still, Summit has been brewing since 1986, and its refined lineup of beers are local favorites.
Sometimes, the brewery offers special beers from its pilot brewing system, and it taps a cask beer each week. Get there early, though, because the cask — beer served without additional carbonation — sells out fast.
Beers to try: Old 152 (5.8 percent ABV), the current beer in the brewery’s Unchained series, is malty, caramely, slightly smoky and easy to drink.
Oatmeal Stout (5.1 percent ABV) is thick, rich and smooth. It’s available only on tap in select locations, and it’s worth a trip to the taproom to try it if you’ve never had it.
Summit: 910 Montreal Circle, St. Paul; 651-265-7800; summitbrewing.com; 3-8 p.m. Fridays.
Jess Fleming can be reached at 651-228-5435. Follow her at twitter.com/jessflem.
There’s nothing Canadians love more than strange brew.
For a long time, options for beer drinkers were relegated to big national labels — primarily Labatt and Molson.
Now, beer aficionados are turning to smaller, independent breweries in their quest for “hoppiness.” Even U.S. President Barack Obama has been brewing his own beer in the White House.
In fact, some say craft brewers are becoming the white knight in a beer renaissance that has overtaken the industry.
“A lot of mainstream brewers are taking notice,” said Brad Clifford, the head brewer of Get Well, a bar on Dundas St. W. which recently opened its own on-premises nanobrewery.
“Experimentation would be the first and foremost benefit because we have the freedom to brew anything we want in very small batches on a dime and in a couple weeks, have it on tap.”
That creative experimentation, coupled with natural ingredients and care, are drawing crowds to craft beers. Strictly defined, craft brews are made by operators who produce under 400,000 hectolitres of beer a year — the equivalent of 2.8 million cases.
According to the LCBO, sales of suds made by Ontario craft brewers (OCB) grew 45% in 2011-12. OCB annual sales jumped from $2 million in 2004 to $22 million last year.
“The smaller breweries have been doing much better … where the larger breweries are seeing much slower growth,” Bank of Montreal economist Alex Koustas told the Toronto Sun.
“That has a lot again to do with consumer tastes and choices,” which has consequently led larger breweries to buy smaller ones to offer specialty flavours.
It wasn’t too long ago, though, that it seemed like Canadians’ love of beer had waned.
According to a report from Statistics Canada in March, beer sales were being challenged by increasing wine sales. Compared to 2000, the market share for beer in 2011 had sunk from 52% to 45%.
Interestingly, wine has been picking up steam with a market share of 23% in 2010 to 30% in 2011.
Despite those numbers, the Brewers Association of Canada said beer sales are actually up 1.6% from last year and craft breweries are gaining popularity.
“A craft brewer is someone who basically does everything with the best materials they can get, using fresh grains, some Canadian, some European and fresh hops from Washington State and we’re brewing everything in small batches,” explained Ken Woods of Black Oak Brewing Company, a microbrewery based in Etobicoke.
The big mainstream brewers, however, continue to represent the lion’s share of the industry.
“You don’t get to be Canada’s second oldest company by not learning to adapt and our recent moves to expand into new territory has been just that,” said Debra Kavchak-Taylor of Molson Coors.
“The beverage industry as a whole is becoming increasingly competitive. Whereas years ago some people were ‘beer drinkers’ and some people were ‘wine drinkers,’ now we’re seeing people move across categories like never before. It’s caused us to evolve from just focusing on the traditional beer space, which has always been competitive, to thinking about the broader drink-scape.”
Get Well co-owner Jeff Barber said putting a nanobrewery in his bar seemed like a smart business move.
“It’s about educating the consumer, the more that’s out there, the healthier the industry is and it’s very much about good competition,” Barber said. “The more brew-pub and microbreweries out there, the consumer is going to want to know more.”
While Get Well keeps a well-stocked selection of Ontario craft beers as well as mainstream labels out front, their pride and joy pours right from the back of the bar where the nanobrewery is located.
“The Get Well Porter,” a traditional English-style stout, chocolate-rich and infused with coffee, debuted at the bar when the brewery launched in October. They’ve also had a Pinball Wizard American Pale Ale and their Let it Be Bitter English Ale on their homemade list.
The cozy brewing station consists of a 1,208-litre hot liquor tank which is filled with water — fluid destined to become beer. Next, the water is moved to a 1,246-litre mash/lauter tun, where worts are separated from grains and the brewer waits for it to turn into fermentable sugars.
The worts are then sent to a 1,283-litre boil kettle where, after two hours, hops are added. Finally, three fermentors — each measuring 1,240 litres — are employed for the final step of the brewing process. It takes a minimum of two weeks to create the beer.
The bar churns out roughly 180 to 200 litres per batch — or three full-sized kegs — every week.
Another big benefit to brewing small batches is if a beer isn’t a big seller, Clifford said, it’s only three kegs the bar has to offload.
And for brewers trying to break into the beer business without breaking the bank, nano is the way to go.
“If you’re really an obsessive brewer like myself … starting a microbrewery, you’re looking at $500,000 to $1 million to start it up,” he added. “A small operation of this size, you’re looking at thousands instead of hundreds of thousands of dollars.”
Nano and slightly larger microbreweries may be fairly new in the GTA, but they’ve been around since the 1970s in the U.K.
There seems to be more support for craft brewers because people like supporting local businesses and ingredients. There is also a tight “community” feel among craft brewers. If space and time allows, brewers will help out smaller operators by contracting out their tanks to them.
The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario said it could be difficult to tell whether nano or microbreweries are on the rise, simply because all breweries apply for the same licences.
Five Toronto businesses have brew-pub endorsement licences. There are 16 in Ontario. There are also 16 craft breweries with manufacturer’s licences.
–With files from Maryam Shah
Micro and nanobreweries in Toronto with a brew pub endorsement licence (brew and for single glass consumption onsite):
- Volo Ristorante Cafe – 587 Yonge St.
- The 3 Brewers – 275 Yonge St.
- Burger Bar – 319 Augusta Ave.
- Babur Restaurant – 273 Queen St. W.
- Get Well – 1181 Dundas St. W.
All breweries with a manufacturer’s licence in Toronto (can manufacturer and sell their product to LCBO, Beer Store, own retail shop):
- Amsterdam Brewing Co. – 21 Bathurst St.
- Bellwood Brewery – 25 Mackenzie Cres.
- Black Oak Brewing Company – 75 Horner Ave., Unit 1
- Cheetah International Brewers Inc. – 75 Milliken Blvd., Unit 12
- Cool Beer Brewing Co. – 164 Evans Ave.
- Duggan’s Brewery – 2 Lombard St.
- Granite Brewery – 245 Eglinton Ave. E.
- Great Lakes Brewing – 30 Queen Elizabeth Blvd.,
- Hogtown Brewers Inc. – 120 Adelaide St. W., Unit 2400
- Heady Brew Company – 620 Supertest Rd., Unit 10
- Indie Alehouse – 2876 Dundas St. W.
- Junction Craft Brewing – 15 Boustead Ave.
- Mill Street Brewery – 55 Mill St., Building 63, Paint ShopMolson Canada – 33 Carlingview Dr.
- Sawdust City Brewing Company – 300 New Toronto St., Unit 21
- Steam Whistle Brewing – 255 Bremner Blvd., The Roundhouse
—Source: Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario
FUQUAY-VARINA – When Mark Doble buys ingredients to make beer for the Aviator Brewing Co., he tastes them without ever asking about the price.Doble, who owns the Fuquay-Varina brewery, doesnt want a little thing like price to affect his ales and lagers. In fact, he doesnt know what it costs to make each beer.We do not put a beer on a spreadsheet, Doble said. We always buy based on quality. We select the grains based on taste. Were not about trying to make an extra 5 to 10 bucks. None of the business guys get it.In about three years, Dobles love for craft beer has transformed his company from a two-person operation in an airport hangar to a business of 64 employees that produces about 10,000 barrels of beer a year and runs a restaurant and tap house in Fuquay-Varina.Most recently, Aviator won five N.C. State Fair ribbons four of them first-place wins in the N.C. Brewers Cup, the fairs first beer competition.Aviator was one of 33 professional breweries that entered the statewide competition. It walked away with top prizes for its European amber lager, American ale, Belgian strong ale and smoke-flavored/wood-aged beer.For avid beer drinkers, theyre known respectively as OktoberBeast, Hot Rod Red, Devils Tramping Ground and Black Mamba Stout.While Doble said hes happy about the wins, the competition meant more than blue ribbons it brought exposure to one of the states booming products: craft beers.People are going to the state fair and see these beers and say, Whats Hot Rod Red? Maybe this is someones beer awakening, said Doble,, a former Hewlett-Packard engineer who turned his beer-brewing hobby into a full-time job after he was laid off.Local residents can expect to see a lot more of Aviator in the next month or two. The company just inked a deal with grocery-store chains Harris Teeter, Lowes Foods and Food Lion.Even with the business success and continued growth, the state fair wins mean a lot to Aviators employees.The fairs all about showing off the best of the state, said Ben Hart, a brewer. The beer industry is getting big. I think it needs to be showcased.With North Carolina serving as home to more than 60 breweries and beer pubs, it was time to acknowledge beermakers presence, said Richard Mitchell, organizer of the N.C. Brewers Cup. Mitchell approached state fair officials early this year about adding a beer competition to the fairs judging slate after reading a blog post about the need for one.The fair in turn asked him to take it on.I was dumb or smart enough to say yes, said Mitchell, a technology consultant from Chapel Hill. There (is) a talented group of brewers that deserve the same recognition as everyone else. Its like being a master chef.All of the winning beers are on display no taste-tests available at the N.C State Fair in the education building.
Beer for breakfast? Depending on your point of view, that’s either the height of indulgence or the depths of depravity.
But if you get to the seventh Maryland Microbrewery Festival at the Union Mills Homestead when the gates open at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 29, you will at least be able to say you had a Maryland-brewed beer or ale for brunch.
Kidding aside, the Union Mills Homestead’s state-sanctioned beer festival is less a refuge for over-indulgers than it is a haven for discerning beer drinkers and dedicated beer makers who take their suds very, very seriously.
At the festival, attendees will have the opportunity to taste modest-sized samples of more than 30 different styles and brands of ale and lager produced by a dozen different microbreweries and brew pubs.
Steve Kranz, secretary and founding member of the Carroll County-based Midnight Homebrewers’ League, is in charge of this year’s home brew competition, the final rounds of which will be judged at the festival.
He said there were 39 entries last year, and this year he expects even more.
After all, the winning recipe will be brewed and sold commercially by Westminster-based Dog Brewing Co., and — for the first time — the best-of-show brew will also be offered on tap at Buffalo Wild Wings restaurants, one of the festival’s sponsors.
“The number of home brewing entries have grown exponentially over the years,” Kranz said.
“In earlier years we really didn’t want to open the contest up to too many of the sort of wild variations of beer that many home brewers like to get involved with,” he said. “Instead, we limited it to a pretty narrow range of mainstream-style beers. That’s because we needed the winner to be a commercially viable beer that Dog Brewing Co. could sell, so we limited the style selections.”
But as beer drinkers and home brewers have gradually expanded their palates and become more adventurous in their tastes (think fruit beers, wheat beers, wood-aged beers, barley wine-style ales, etc.), the Midnight Homebrewers’ League has expanded the stylistic perimeters of its competition to accommodate this adventurous spirit.
This year, the competition is open to any and all lager and ale styles of beer, as long as they are between 6 percent and 10 percent in alcohol content. The only styles that are still off limits are smoked beers and sour beers, which, according to Kranz, represent the extreme when it comes to acquired tastes.
“We took the idea of expanding the range of acceptable styles to Buffalo Wild Wings and they were all in favor of it, because they had just begun introducing craft beer menus in their restaurants,” Kranz said. “They were excited about having something more dramatic to introduce to their customers and to add to their craft beer menu.
“This year we also have a category in the competition called `specialty beer,’ which basically is a catch-all for beers that don’t fit anywhere else, whether it’s in terms of unusual ingredients or elevated levels of alcohol, or hops or malt,” he added. “We already have quite a few entries in that category. So we can expect some pretty off-beat kinds of beers, I think.”
Kranz says the original concept for the annual Maryland Microbrewery Festival started nearly a decade ago with the folks at the Union Mills Homestead, including the Shriver family.
They sought, and obtained, official state sanctioning from the Maryland Legislature. Thus, the festival has a lofty distinction of being “an official state event.”
“From the very beginning, the Shrivers came to our homebrewers’ league because they wanted the home brewing community to be part of their festival,” Kranz said. “Since the first year, Midnight Homebrewers has always had a home brewing tent where we’ve offered information, demonstrations and discussions on different ways to home brew.”
Maryland’s microbrew industry will be well represented at the festival. Heavy hitters like Heavy Seas brewery in Baltimore and Flying Dog Brewery in Frederick will offer samples, as will brew pubs such as Johansson’s and Pub Dog, both in Westminster; Ellicott Mills Brewing Co., in Ellicott City; and Brewer’s Alley, in Frederick. All told, a dozen brew pubs and microbreweries will be on hand.
“It’s a good line-up this year,” Kranz said. “Ruhlman Brewery, from up in Hampstead, will be also there. They just started, so I’m interested in tasting their beer.”
Above all, Kranz said he and his fellow festival organizers are keeping a close eye on the weather. Over the years, the elements have not been kind to the festival. It was rained out last year.
“Oh yes, we’re definitely crossing our fingers that the weather will be nice,” he said, “even though we know the beer will be great.”
The Maryland Microbrewery Festival will be held Saturday, Sept. 29, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., at the Union Mills Homestead, 3311 Littlestown Pike, Westminster.
In addition to samples of more than 30 different brands and styles of beer, the festival will include craft, merchandise and food vendors, along with live music and entertainment. There will also be seminars, presentations and literature on home-brewing and the art and science of beer brewing in general.
Tickets for adult beer sampling are $18, and $5 without beer sampling tokens. There is no admission charge for children under 12 when accompanied by adults.
For more information, call 410-848-2288. To purchase tickets on line or for additional information, go to http://www.marylandmicrobreweryfestival.com.
LYNCHBURG, TENN. – A president must waste long hours on trivial issues such as foreign policy, the economy and his own re-election. But Barack Obama has found time for something more important: home-brewing beer. And on Sept. 1, he revealed his secret recipe to a grateful nation.
Obama owes a debt to one of his predecessors. Jimmy Carter, though a teetotaler, loosened restrictions on home brewing when he signed the Cranston act in 1978. That act also changed federal excise taxes so that home brewers were whacked with lighter levies than big breweries when they sold their product. Deregulation allowed America’s fledgling craft-brewing industry to flourish.
American beer drinkers, who once had little option besides gassy, mass-produced bathwater, may now choose from hundreds of beers of all shades, styles and strengths. Craft beers’ share of the national throat remains small, but it is growing. And as beer goes, so go spirits, as laws dating from Prohibition are whittled away.
The Brewers Association, a lobby group, defines a craft brewer as one that makes at most 6 million barrels a year, in which big companies have a stake of less than 25 percent and that uses traditional malt ingredients such as barley. Within that category, sizes vary: Boston Beer Company, the largest craft brewer, sold around 2.5 million barrels, whereas Sweetwater, of Atlanta, sold 95,000.
Minnesota craft brewers include Summit Brewing Co., Surly Brewing Co. and Fulton Brewing. At this year’s Minnesota State Fair, craft brewers promoted the state as “The Land of 10,000 Beers.”
In the same year Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Stella Artois, Beck’s and Budweiser, sold 106 million barrels, almost 10 times as much as the entire craft industry, and mopped up 48 percent of the U.S. But craft sales rose between 2010 and 2011, as overall American beer sales declined.
These days bars with 20 taps are common. Connoisseurs of chocolate stouts, blueberry wheats and hopmonsters are spoiled for choice. Even the big breweries recognize the value in craft-beer cachet. Shock-Top, for instance, may be “a Belgian-style unfiltered wheat ale brewed with real citrus peels and coriander spice,” but it is brewed by Anheuser-Busch.
According to the Brewers Association, in 2011 there were 1,940 craft breweries in operation. In one sense, this is a novelty; as recently as 1979 America had fewer than 200 breweries in total. But it is also a renaissance: on the eve of Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, there were around 1,200 active breweries. With refrigeration scarce and refrigerated trucks scarcer, shipping American beer was then hard; most breweries served only local markets. Today, even small brewers may range far and wide. Drinkers in San Diego can sip a Maine-brewed Allagash, and Dogfish Head, the pride of Delaware, can be bought in Seattle.
America is also enjoying, if not a spiritual renaissance, at least a renaissance of spirits. At the dawn of the 19th century the country boasted 14,000 distillers. By the time Prohibition ended there were barely a dozen (excluding moonshiners). Much like American beer in the 1970s, American spirits were mostly produced by big companies with big brands: Jack Daniel’s whiskey, Jim Beam and Wild Turkey bourbon and Smirnoff vodka, for instance.
That has changed. Frank Coleman of the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States says that in 2001 there were perhaps 24 craft distilleries in America–producers of at most 40,000 nine-liter cases a year. Today there are ten times as many. But even that ceiling is high for many independent distillers. Tuthilltown Spirits, a New York-based company that makes vodka, whiskey and gin, expects to produce around 8,000 cases this year. By way of comparison, in 2011 Jack Daniel’s sold 4.7 million cases in America and 10.6 million worldwide.
Craft distillers’ overall sales may be small, but they tend to be more profitable. They accounted for just over 25 percent of the volume of spirits sold in America last year, but more than 45 percent of the revenue. Their share of the overall spirits market is growing — measured in both revenue and volume.
Walk into a specialist bourbon bar and you will see scores, perhaps hundreds, of brands arrayed behind the counter. Despite the ersatz homeyness on the labels, many are made by big firms: Jim Beam, for instance, distils and bottles expensive brands such as Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s and Booker’s. The label on bottles of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve bourbon, which can sell for $50 a glass, says it is “Bottled by Old Rip Van Winkle distillery.” No such place exists. The fluid is made and bottled by Buffalo Trace, a Kentucky distillery that makes 12 different bourbons, a vodka, a couple of ryes and an eye-watering, 125-proof white dog (unaged whiskey).
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