By Joe Napsha
Published: Tuesday, October 23, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Updated 3 hours ago
Two men who enjoy drinking and brewing beer are trying to raise $30,000 to make their dream of operating a craft brewery in Latrobe a reality.
Mark Pavlik, 27, of Latrobe and Christian Simmons, 30, of Unity hope to move Pavlikâ€™s home-brewing operation into a 6,000-square-foot warehouse on Mission Road, where they want to operate by next spring a microbrewery to produce four craft beers and a dozen seasonal beers that will be sold in kegs and growlers, a customerâ€™s personal half-gallon beer container.
The men have discussed the idea of forming a business from Pavlikâ€™s home operation since the fall of 2011, Simmons said. They formed Four Seasons Brewing Co. Inc. last month, using Pavlikâ€™s Latrobe address as its offices, according to state Corporation Bureau records.
â€œI think what kick-started Mark was a lot of people started telling him how good his beer was,â€� Simmons said.
Because Four Seasons does not have a liquor license, Pavlik and Simmons are not permitted to sell their beer. Friends and family get to taste it, and the two have taken it to beer tasting events, such as they did last week at Dâ€™s SixPax Dogz in Monroeville.
â€œSome of them were local people who actually knew what they were talking about,â€� said Pavlik, who has worked with brew masters at All Saints Brewing Co. in Hempfield and Full Pint Brewing Co. in North Huntingdon.
â€œThey taught me a lot. They have the ability to fine-tune and not cut corners,â€� he said.
Before Pavlik can move his brewing kettles and fermentation tanks out of his garage and into the warehouse, there is the matter of raising enough money to make a tasty hobby into a money-making business.
Rather than taking their business plan to local banks and asking for a loan, Simmons and Pavlik are attempting to raise $30,000 by Nov. 1 through a website, Kickstarter, which offers startups a 30-day fundraising platform. With just a week remaining until their Kickstarter fundraising drive finishes, Four Seasons has pledges totalling just $2,160 from 12 backers.
Four Seasons is offering several incentives to get supporters to make pledges ranging from $10 to $2,500. A $10 pledge will get backers a sticker; a $25 pledge earns a bottle opener; and donors making a $50 pledge get a pint glass with the Four Seasons logo. Those willing to pledge $2,000 will be treated to a catered dinner at the brewery, and anyone pledging $2,500 can get to design, brew and name one of their seasonal brews.
The advantage of this method of raising capital lies in that the men do not have to give anyone a stake in the company, Pavlik said. The pair can retain 100 percent ownership.
The downside is that all their pledges will vanish if they do not reach their goal by Nov. 1.
â€˜A lot of good faithâ€™
The owners say the $30,000 would be used to cover legal costs necessary to obtain a Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board permit to produce and sell beer, insurance coverage, a brewing system, inventory Ââ€” such as kegs and growlers â€” and ingredients like hops and yeast.
â€œIt also would show a lot of good faith for any of the banksâ€� that might consider loaning money to the venture, Pavlik said.
Loan officers seeing such support might think â€œmaybe we should really, really look into these guys even a little bit more (because) obviously they have all these backers,â€� Pavlik said.
The problem with seeking traditional financing, Simmons said, is that banks likely would want collateral for any loan. Neither man is willing to offer his house as collateral.
They do have a fallback plan in case their web fundraising effort fails. The two said they will approach family and friends for the necessary investment, and even consider giving a large investor equity in the business. They said they also would approach the Progress Fund, a Greensburg-based community development organization that lends money and provides technical assistance to under-served entrepreneurs.
While neither Simmons nor Pavlik intends to give up his day jobs as a construction worker and electric utility technician, respectively, Pavlik will be the brew master and Simmons will handle sales and marketing. They are trying to get their business up and running by the end of the first quarter because beer sales are highest in the second and third quarters, Simmons said.
â€œItâ€™s OK to follow what you love to do. I love good beer,â€� Pavlik said.
â€˜Quality over quantityâ€™
In concentrating on making craft beers, the pair are focusing on â€œquality over quantity,â€� Simmons said. They have selected a segment of the industry that has shown the most growth and is becoming more crowded.
The Brewers Association, a Boulder, Colo.-based trade group with 30,000 members, said 250 breweries opened in 2011, with 174 of them microbreweries. There also were 37 breweries that closed last year, 12 of them microbreweries.
A beer industry veteran, Pittsburgh attorney Cris Hoel, who once represented Pittsburgh Brewing Co. and Rolling Rock brewer Latrobe Brewing Co., said the craft beer segment offers the possibility of success for Four Seasons.
â€œBeing good and being novel are rewarded by the drinkers going after craft beer,â€� Hoel said. â€œThere is an enormous opportunity for a beer maker with a dream and a sack of hops.â€�
The craft brewing industry grew by 13 percent in volume last year and 15 percent by dollars, compared with 2010, according to the Brewers Association. Craft brewing sales accounted for 5.7 percent of all beer sales by volume last year, with an estimated 11.4 million barrels of beer in 2011, up from 10.1 million barrels in 2010.
Western Pennsylvania has a tradition of supporting craft beers, Hoel said, pointing to the success of Penn Brewery in Pittsburghâ€™s North Side, Church Brew Works in Lawrenceville, Rivertowne Pour House in Monroeville and the new All Saints Brewing Co. in Hempfield.
â€œItâ€™s not a fluke anymore. Theyâ€™re barking up the right tree,â€� Hoel said.
Brewing once a week
Tim Bates, a business consultant at St. Vincent Collegeâ€™s Small Business Development Center who helped Simmons and Pavlik with their business plan, said those seeking to start a microbrewery have a good idea, but their success lies â€œin the implementation of the idea.â€�
â€œIn this particular industry, you canâ€™t be everything to everybody, at least not in the beginning,â€� Bates said. â€œThe challenge is trying to keep the focus on what the original intent is … to keep the focus on what is your market niche and who are your clients.â€�
Pavlik said he intends to brew once a week once the business starts growing. So far this year, he has brewed beer 71 times in 5-gallon batches. He has ramped up production in the past two years, brewing different beers almost on a weekly or biweekly basis.
If they get their business off the ground, Pavlik said, the building the men want to lease has sufficient space for canning or bottling. They envision creating a taproom where customers can sample their brews as well as buy growlers. Simmons said he has talked to beer distributors in the region that would carry their kegs, along with some local taverns.
â€œThereâ€™s a very good potential for customers spending money on craft beer,â€� Bates said.
Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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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.
Bryan Leavelle sat back in a chair in the yet-to-open Our Mutual Friend brewery on Denver’s Larimer Street, guitar in hand and the fragrant smells of roasting barley filling up his workspace.
Leavelle’s maltstery, brewery and taproom await a permit that will allow it to join a rush of new breweries chasing the Denver craft-beer population boom.
Leavelle and his partners — all younger than 30 — represent a trend: Increasingly younger entrepreneurs and hobbyists are joining the brewing craze.
The Boulder-based American Homebrewers Association reports that the majority of beginner home-brewing kits are being sold
to people younger than 30. Beer brewing has become a hip hobby among college students, and several new Denver breweries are helmed by brewers under age 30.
“We are seeing a generational shift,” said Gary Glass, president of the American Homebrewers Association, the sister organization of the Brewers Association, organizer of the 31st annual Great American Beer Festival. The GABF, celebrating everything beer- and brewing-related, runs through Saturday at the Colorado Convention Center.
“The first of the millennials started turning 21 around 2005,” Glass said. “That happens to coincide (with) the uptick in people getting into the hobby. That generation seems to be fueling this growth.”
Glass said the millennials are into self-expression, and everything is personalized — such as Facebook pages and iTunes lists — so they even want that same power over the beer they drink.
“Millennials seem to be more inclined to take hold of trends like doing things local and supporting local businesses,” Glass said. “It doesn’t get more local than home-brewing.”
The Pew Research Center characterizes millennials — people born after 1980 — as being “confident, self-expressive, liberal, upbeat and open to change.”
They also have come of age in the depths of the Great Recession. The employment rate among people ages 18 to 24 is at an all-time low: 54 percent. And many of those graduating from college are saddled with high student-loan debt.
But they are finding success in suds.
Ryan Marks, a Denver middle-school science teacher, started a home-brewing club with friends about three years ago and has continued to develop interesting new concoctions. One of the members is developing plans to start his own brewery.
“We started brewing … just to be creative and try different things,” Marks said. “We haven’t brewed the same thing twice.”
Marks said his group brews about once a month, makes labels for the bottles and uses spent grains to make bread.
“There is definitely a do-it-yourself ethic,” he said.
Matt Hess, 29, also began home-brewing about three years ago, discovering a passion that combined his love of beer with his love of science.
Hess was an engineer at Lockheed Martin but began to get disillusioned with his job as he continued to get shuffled in and out of assignments as budgets changed. He found himself at the bottom of the ladder, worried that the career path he had envisioned would never materialize.
He turned to beer.
“Certainly with the way the economy went south, people were looking for something they could have more control over, rather than waiting for the economy to improve,” Hess said.
In February, Hess took his obsession with home-brewing and turned pro. He opened River North Brewery, which focuses on Belgian-style ales and American-style ales with a Belgian twist. His brewery is wowing critics with its clean styles.
Within three years, Hess has gone from home-brewer to brewmeister. He learned how to remodel the space, set up a business and brew critically acclaimed beer.
He said he knows his youth played a role in being able to get this done.
“It has to do with being early in your career,” he said. “You are not going to wait around for it. You are not risking that much, because it’s early in your career.”
Jeremy P. Meyer: 303-954-1367, email@example.com or twitter.com/jpmeyerdpost
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).
With space hard to come by in Chandigarh, coupled with restrictions on independent beer brewing, Panchkula is fast emerging as a pubbing destination. There seems to be a demand for craft beers, as little else would explain the opening up of another microbrewery that is surprisingly housed not too far away from its predecessor. Situated on one end of the always-buzzing market of Sector 9, Ooze- The Brauhaus is discreetly tucked away in the first floor of an international fast food joint. There’s a huge beer cask that leads the way to a flight of stairs. With dark, black walls highlighted with yellow neon lights, there’s an immediate transition from the sunny ambience outside. The darkness engulfs once you are past the huge doorway, even though we visited it in the middle of the afternoon. There’s a large announcement at the entrance that asserts that weapons are not allowed inside. Yes, in this part of the world, these things have to be spelt out.
At first glance, Ooze- The Brauhaus (the latter is a German word for microbrewery) comes across as a diner-lounge. There are rows of lounge sofas, their backs plastered to the walls with tables (that should ideally have been coffee table height) across them. The copper-coloured steely units (adhering to German designs made by Chinese manufacturers we are told) that brew the beer can be spotted in one corner, carefully encased in glass.
The highlight is definitely beer that comes in four variants. There’s wheat, pilser, ale and stout priced Rs 150 onwards. “Here we follow the Bavarian Purity Law or the German Purity Law which states that the only ingredients that could be used in production of beer are water, barley malt, hops and yeast. There are no preservatives,” remarked owner Suraj Pratap Singh Sidhu. The wheat beer was light with a sweet aftertaste and the ale will appeal to those who prefer it bitter and stronger. The menu offers everything from Mexican, Indian and Oriental cuisines. The nachos we sampled with the beer were spot on and worth pairing up with a pilsner. Ditto for the Ooze special chicken that brought in rolls of chicken wrapped around a chilli. Fiery enough to make you gulp the beer.
Papa Do Preach
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It’s not every day that you get to compare the notes of a head brewer and a home brewer.
NewsWorks asked Paul Rutherford, head brewer at Iron Hill in Chestnut Hill, and Scott Wikander, home brewer and owner of Malt House, Ltd., a brewing supply store in Mt. Airy, about the craft of beer making.
Ramping up creativity
We’ve all seen our local watering holes change the taps before, but within the last several years, those drafts have become increasingly over-the-top and buzz-worthy.
Just consider Iron Hill’s “Pineapple Express,” a popular pineapple-flavored beer on tap at the brewery.
“Science is a part of the job,” explained Rutherford. “When we put a recipe together, we need to do research, especially with a novel ingredient like a pineapple.”
Wikander explains that time is what makes craft beers stand out against the Miller Lite’s of the beer world.
“The root of it is a commitment to quality, rather than mass-produced things,” said Wikander. “It’s taking the time to do it right.”
His interest in home brewing began at the age of 32 after learning from a friend.
“I was surprised when I learned how to home brew,” said Wikander, “I realized it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.”
Rutherford says he gained interest in home brewing at the age of 19. “That was a hobby for me then,” he admitted, “now, it’s a career.”
While working in the restaurant business in California, he decided he wanted to enroll at the Siebel Institute of Technology and World Brewing Academy in Chicago. He graduated with a World Brewing Diploma and even spent a month studying in Munich at a pilot brewery.
“It’s like any other trade,” explained Rutherford. “The industry is growing. Now, it’s a viable career path.”
Hollywood names for hometown beers
Naming beer is essential to the craft. Wikander says one of his favorites is “Saison II: Tokyo Drift,” a spin on the movie of a similar name.
“Most home brewers come up with crazy names,” said Wikander, who currently has a “Maison Saison” on tap, meaning “house malt,” and an “East Coast Pale Ale.”
With names like “Cowabunga Porter,” “Chestnut Hill Cream Ale” and “Kryptonite Imperial IPA,” Iron Hill always has an array of unique beer names.
Breaking down the brewing process
During the NewsWorks visit, Wikander made a British Mild Ale that was brewed with pale and crystal malts, British hops called “Fuggles” and British ale yeast.
Rutherford brewed a Biere de Garde, a French farmhouse style ale that translates as “beer for keeping.” It was brewed with pilsner, aromatic and Munich malts, a lager yeast and cracked black pepper.
Wikander utilized a pot on his stovetop, while Rutherford used a mash tun, a brewing vessel that can hold up to 800 pounds.
Both brewers boiled water, with Wikander boiling 5 gallons and Rutherford boiling 2.5 barrels (about 82 gallons).
The processes were similar, including the hop addition. Both brewers explained that there are three fundamental hop additions that a brewer can add to their beer. The first addition adds bitterness, the second adds flavor and the third adds aroma.
While there were differences in the scale of the equipment being used, one stand-out item that the brewery did not have on hand was a “hop sock.” The sock or netted bag can hold a hop addition that is sunk into the brew.
“[It] is purely a home brewer item,” said Wikander. “It’s meant for small amounts of hops, commercial brewers use much larger quantities.”
Hazards of the trade
Both processes include a hazardous element because of Carbon dioxide (CO2) build up. The fermentation process itself converts sugars into alcohol and Carbon dioxide.
Rutherford says Carbon dioxide can cause a pressure build up that could essentially cause a small explosion.
“That’s why we have a blow-off tube that vents the CO2,” said Rutherford.
He surmised that home brewers could also have issues in a glass carboy. “They’d have a glass mess on their hands,” said Rutherford.
In a glass carboy that contains Wikander’s brew, an airlock releases Carbon dioxide and allows gas to escape the container, preventing a small eruption.
“For a home brewer, the stopper or lid would give-way before a fermentor actually exploded,” explained Wikander.
Losing money from botched batches
Wikander says if a batch of beer is bad or undrinkable, he loses about $40. “It depends on the ingredients,” he explained.
Rutherford agrees that ingredients are what determines the cost of a batch and says the brewery can lose thousands of dollars. “It depends on what the raw material costs.”.
Both brewers agreed that sanitation is a key part of making a good beer. Wikander even cleans the bottles and caps that he stores his beer in and Rutherford personally checks and shines the glassware at Iron Hill.
“Bad batches for home brewers are usually the result of improper sanitation that result in foreign or wild yeast entering the beer and adding off-flavors,” said Wikander.
“Eighty percent of the job is cleaning. It’s not that glamorous,” said Rutherford, “but mostly, it’s the best job in the world.”
Tuning in to the right timing
Both brewers watch a clock when brewing, with Rutherford using his cell phone and Wikander a wall clock. “Everything is time sensitive,” said Rutherford.
With 16 beers on tap at Iron Hill, Rutherford says a major part of his job is scheduling. He has six 10 barrel tanks and one 20 barrel tank filled with fresh beer ready-to-go at any one time. He described it as “a juggling act.”
“It’s better to have a second person to help on this level,” said Rutherford, who works alongside Derek Testerman, assistant brewer at Iron Hill, “usually we’re overlapping a lot of projects at once.”
Because he has a kegerator, a refrigerated container that dispenses beer, Wikander can keep four beers on tap at the same time. He typically has three to four batches ready to drink with “a few fermenting.”
A sense of camaraderie
Both brewers agree that brewing is something that has its own culture and community. They love that they’re able to share their craft with friends, family and beer lovers alike.
Wikander says he gives his beer as gifts. “I bring it to parties,” said Wikander.
Rutherford says he enjoys participating in the beer culture. “We plan events and have beer release parties,” he said, “we really try to keep people talking.”
In July, Iron Hill held a Wrestlemania-inspired event featuring two beers, “Ultimate Warrior IPA” and “Belgian Full Nelson.” They invited patrons to order one or the other until one was tapped out, making that beer the winner.
Much of the beer community starts at local home brew clubs like M*A*S*H (Mt. Airy Society of Homebrewers), the G.L.U.B. (General Lafayette Underground Brewers) Club in Chestnut Hill and the YTM (You The Man) Homebrew Club in Manayunk.
Whether they’re producing a few gallons or multiple barrels, both brewers agree that it’s creativity and community that keeps them loving the craft of beer making.
Wine and beer fans, get ready.
Both a wine festival and a craft beer festival are coming to town this weekend, giving wine and beer lovers from Omaha and beyond the opportunity to taste hundreds (yes, hundreds) of drinks from dozens of breweries and wineries.
Saturday is the Great Nebraska Beer Fest, an event sponsored and organized by the Nebraska Brewing Co. The fest drew a few dozen breweries and 400 guests when it started in 2009. This year, organizer (and Nebraska Brewing Co. owner) Paul Kavulak has lined up 82 breweries that will offer more than 400 beers to a crowd of at least 2,000 from at least 16 states.
“It’s growing beyond a really cool local beer fest to a really cool regional beer fest,” Kavulak said.
The Great Nebraska Beer Fest offers only American craft beers, in many cases from brewers Kavulak has gotten to know personally during the time he’s run the Nebraska Brewing Co.
“We’ve all become friends,” he said.
And, as with any good beer festival, many of the breweries on the roster don’t distribute in Nebraska.
Among the breweries on the list: Stone Brewing Co. from California, Schlafly Brewing Co. from Missouri, Wyncoop from Colorado, Blind Tiger and Free State from Kansas, and Maui Brewing Co. from Hawaii.
Home brewing clubs from Lincoln and Omaha also will be there, offering samples of some of their best brews.
The event include live music, food and seminars on topics such as beer travel, the role of the Internet in the growth of craft beer, home brewing troubleshooting and beer and food pairings.
The event is outdoors at Shadow Lake Towne Center, 72nd Street and Highway 370 in Papillion. Doors open at 1 p.m. and the final pour is at 6 p.m. Tickets are $40 in advance and $45 the day of the event. For more information, go online to www.greatnebraskabeerfest.com.
Meanwhile, the Riverfront Wine Festival, also in its fourth year, begins Friday night in Stinson Park, 67th and Center Streets.
The big change from years past: “We have a lot more wine,” said festival organizer Jen Kocher.
Guests can choose from more than 200 wines from 40 wineries and distributors. Like Kavulak, Kocher made sure to include wines that aren’t usually distributed in Nebraska. Among those are wines from a vineyard owned by NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon. Wines from the Paoletti and Hopper Creek wineries in California also will be available.
The event is geared toward wine newbies and serious wine drinkers alike, Kocher said, and will include high-end (and pricey) California wines, as well as offbeat wines that taste like chocolate or are infused with citrus or almond flavors, and wine-based cocktails.
Live music, an array of 40 craft beers and a wine academy where guests can learn about such things as Australian wines or the Chinese wine market round out the event.
It runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 day of the event and include 10 wine tickets, a sampling glass, unlimited samples of craft beer and access to all wine academy classes. Tickets and more information are available at www.riverfrontwinefestival.com.
ALBANY, N.Y. — You may now chug with the bride.
Toasting the bride and groom with Champagne is de rigueur. But recently, couples hip (or is that hops?) to craft beers are shaking up the wedding reception scene by insisting on serving the brews they love on their big day, everything from local ales to home brews concocted by the bride and groom.
It’s not unusual for stouts and pilsners to flow at receptions or for rehearsal dinners to feature “beer flight” tastings of different craft brews. The high-end Baltimore caterer Chef’s Expressions offers hors d’oeuvres consisting of a shot glass of beer and a burger slider.
One couple even set up tasting stations with beers from around the world, said Anja Winikka, site editor of TheKnot.com. Another couple who met in the Yukon served beer from Yukon Brewing in an ice-packed canoe.
When Julie Ho and Ben Rinn of New York City wed in April, they chose craft beers representing their Texas roots (Shiner Bock) and their college years at Johns Hopkins University (from local brewer Brewer’s Art).
“A lot of weddings with beer you have your Coors Lights and your Bud Lights out,” said Ho, who hired Chef’s Expressions for the wedding at Johns Hopkins’ stately Peabody Library. “We definitely wanted to have good beers out because we do enjoy drinking good beer. And then we also wanted to make sure we included what we like.”
There’s little danger Champagne will get knocked off its bridal throne, but the craft brew buzz running through the wedding scene is yet another sign that beer – once a workingman’s beverage sold in pop-top cans – has successfully transformed into a respectable artisanal beverage suitable for nuptial toasts.
Americans have warmed up to hoppier, tangier brews, and the volume of craft beer produced nationwide has jumped 83 percent since 2005, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group. Crucially, craft beers also have proven more female friendly. Unlike mainstream beer makers – who spend millions on commercials featuring man-children and their improbably hot girlfriends – the small-batch brews offer artisanal overtones and endless flavors.
But while craft beer has been making inroads for years, wedding industry people have really noticed its presence increasing in the last year or two. Winikka explained that the tradition-bound wedding industry tends to be slow to latch on to trends. She also noted that more couples are paying for their own weddings, and thus are less bound to expectations of what others want.
Plus, beer is really fun.
“What you’re seeing is that instead of the signature cocktail – like the fruity, weird martini thing that a lot of people were doing five, 10 years ago – couples are saying, `That’s not really our style, so were going to do a beer flight at our cocktail hour,’” Winikka said.
Winikka, who is getting married in May, plans to have a beer flight at her own rehearsal dinner. Like Ho and Rinn, she and her fiance chose local beers that reflect their lives. Beers will represent where she grew up in Arizona, went she met her fiance in Kansas and where the couple lives in Brooklyn.
The brides and grooms demanding local brews are no different from the growing number of Americans scouting farmers market for local corn and grass-fed beef. And just as it has become easier to source food locally, it has become easier to find a local brewery. Jerry Edwards of Chef’s Expressions points out that unlike wine, good beer can be made anywhere.
In Chicago, that means couples asking for beverages from hometown brewers like Metropolitan Brewing and Goose Island, said Dan Scheuring, event service manager of Blue Plate catering.
“When talking to the clients they want to bring in that one Chicago `wow factor’ for their out-of-town guests,” Scheuring said.
And some craft brewers are starting to take note of the trend.
In Albany, C.H. Evans Brewing Co. has a beer trailer suitable for pulling up to wedding receptions. Brewer’s Alley in Maryland offers a “Wedding Alt” (an altbier is a German-style brown ale) in bottles that can be customized with the newlyweds’ names.
And last month, the nation’s largest craft brewer, the makers of Samuel Adams beer, offered for one day only a “Brewlywed Ale.” It was sold in wine-sized bottles with a sparkling wine-style cork.
Can’t find the perfect beer to have and to hold on your wedding day? You can always brew your own.
Chris Lehr and his fiancee Robin made five different beers for their wedding in Austin, Texas, last year. This required a marathon 16-hour brewing day and for Lehr to truck in his kegerator (a small refrigerator built to hold a beer keg and fitted with a tap on top) to the reception.
Guests toasted the couple with Champagne while the wedding party toasted with a brown ale from northern California. But otherwise the alcohol choices were all barley-based: pale ale, India pale ale, German-style kolsch and honey hibiscus wit. They also gave away bottles of homemade porter.
“Everyone loved it. We had a few early evening casualties of people peeling off quickly because they over-enjoyed it.” Lehr said. “But all in all, we had no complaints.”
And the couple saved a growler of the porter to drink on their first anniversary.
BREWER’S LIFE: Stu McKinlay considered a career in cuisine, but decided brewing was more fun.
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Craft beer fans should be grateful that Stu McKinlay doesn’t like the idea of working a chef’s hours. The Yeastie Boys brewer briefly considered a career in cuisine a few years ago, before settling on brewing instead.
“I thought about the horrendous hours you’d work while everyone else is out having fun so it seemed less appealing than brewing, which you can do any time of the day – you can brew in the morning, night, weekends, whenever you want.”
Taking those first steps into home-brewing can be a bit scary, but the amount of information available for someone starting out is incredible, Mr McKinlay says.
Compared with when he began, the difference is remarkable. “When I first started looking into things I just had this slow dialup modem and couldn’t find much on it at all.
“You had to find old books from the library or track down old magazines with brewing tips in them. But now, with the internet, the world is your oyster.”
For someone who is interested in trying their hand at brewing – or even just looking to learn more about beer – the best place to start is with a beer in hand.
“Just get in among it and try lots of beers. Think about what it is that you are drinking and the way you would describe the flavours. That’s the best way to learn, because you’ll start to develop a vocabulary for the flavours you are going for.”
Wellington’s beer community is a great place for those looking to try brewing, with tastings, regular brew events, and plenty of beer bars embracing craft beers.
“You can learn so much from talking with other brewers, tasting beers, and discovering how all of the vocabulary fits together.”
Learning how to brew a good beer is a lifelong project, with every new beer teaching you a new thing or two, he says.
“You get to a point where you can make some quite nice beer and you’re proud of the way your friends react to it, but we are all constantly learning and trying to push the boundaries in different ways. I’ll never, ever stop learning, and I’ll always be a bit nervous when we put a new beer out there.”
Yeastie Boys will be on tap at Beervana at Westpac Stadium on August 17 and 18. Beervana brings together craft beer brewers, local food, and beer seminars. Tickets from beervana.co.nz.
– © Fairfax NZ News
Yvonne Curran loves being a Rum River Wort Hog. Never mind that the primary purpose of the venerable club – crafting handmade beers – holds little interest for her. “Some people have no intention of brewing, like me,” Curran said. “I just taste.”
And that’s part of the beauty of the club, which is open to anyone who’s interested in brewing and fine beers. That includes the beginner to the professional, extract and all-grain brewers and vintners, who come from the north metro and beyond.
Every month, the club meets at Billy’s Bar and Grill in Anoka, its longtime home base, to talk shop and sample each other’s handiwork.
Over the years, the group, which goes back to 1995, before the craft beer boom started, has grown steadily. Today it has nearly 50 members, according to Curran’s husband Tim, a founding member who serves as its treasurer.
Often, the club, which relies largely on word-of-mouth, recruits family members. A number of couples, like the Currans, who live in Ramsey, attend meetings together. Dues are $10 per household each year.
The club’s name, a wordplay on a local river, “wort,” a technical beer term, and the animal known as the wart hog, conveys the sense that members don’t take themselves too seriously.
“We try to be encouraging,” said Tim Curran. “Some beers are a little less than perfect. I’ve heard other clubs are more snooty.”
Blending art, science
For Greg Kern, a resident of Big Lake Township, it was the lack of craft beers around that got him into home-brewing in the first place, when he started out in the 1990s.
“Now it has really changed,” said Kern, who has also been with the group since the beginning. “We’ve caught up with the Pacific Northwest.”
The fact that craft beers are readily available today, however, hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for making his own.
Kern, who holds the unofficial title of “weiss president,” has a knack for crafting German-style wheat beers.
“It’s a fun blend of art and science,” he said. “It’s like cooking, but not.”
Further, having a bigger craft beer selection to choose from at bars and restaurants or liquor stores is part of the fun.
“Some of us are beer hunters, constantly seeing new things,” he said.
Club members often return from vacations bearing beer for the group.
Anoka resident Owen Strand, another founding member, said he’s come a long way since his first batch of beer, which was undrinkable.
He usually prefers to work with basic ingredients, including malt, hops, yeast and water, which he combines in different ways.
Whether the beer is light or dark, “It almost always turns out OK and sometimes really nice,” and “sure to be tastier than standard commercials.”
It’s the veterans such as Strand that member Koli Fyten-Swap, who is the club’s co-president, along with her husband Cory, has come to rely on over the years.
Fyten-Swap, a farmer and food truck entrepreneur, joined the club six years ago. She likes to experiment with the apples, berries and rhubarb she has growing in her yard.
But it’s not just the technical expertise that makes the club worthwhile.
“Our whole lives revolve around the people we met through this club,” she said. “It’s a social network. We’ve met so many amazing people.”
The Rum River Wort Hogs is among the 37 homebrew clubs statewide registered with the Boulder, Colo.-based American Homebrewers Association.
In some ways, the club’s longevity is a testimony to the popularity of craft beer and home brewing, which has taken off locally and nationally, especially over the past decade, said Michael Cot, who heads the Minnesota Home Brewers Association.
The clubs run the gamut from the social to the competitive. Here, many craft beer startups have their roots in home brewing.
“We have a lot of talented brewers and we’re expanding into the world of mead,” or honey wine, he said.
“The growth is pretty phenomenal.”
ANNA PRATT IS A TWIN CITIES FREELANCE WRITER.
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