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Monday, September 26, 2011

BridgePort Hop Harvest 2011

Got this sample last week, and when today's work was done -- singing, plumbing, trip planning, and I had to mow the lawn in the sopping humidity; not hot, just disgusting -- Cathy and I split the bottle. It's a hazy light apricot in color -- or heading the other way, maybe a ruddy straw -- with lemony and sweet dough aromas. The taste? Not overwhelming; understated. I'm not surprised to get more hop flavor than bitterness from a BridgePort beer; these guys aren't about beating you over the head. There's not too much bitter, not too much sweet. I liked it, and I'd be happy to take a few more glasses in the course of an evening.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Guinness Black Lager

What do you expect when Guinness, the world's biggest brewer of stout, the classic 'black beer,' a dark, dark ale...comes out with a beer called "Guinness Black Lager"? Well, I didn't know what to expect, so I was quite curious when I popped the top on this sample.

First, like the "black beer" itself, it isn't really black. It's a very, very, very dark brown, and when you hold it to the light, you can see that around the edges. A quibble.

Second, I was, I guess, expecting something more in the way of aroma, but all I really got was a bit of wet bread and an earthy note.

But get stuck into it, and -- well, not a lot, actually. The mouthfeel's maybe the best part of it, and it does roll around nicely; there's a decent uptick of bitterness at the end, though not anything you'd pucker over. Otherwise? A bland sweetness tempered with a wisp of coffee, a breath of burnt-grain bitterness...and it's gone, leaving only a faintly pleasant sweetness behind.

I can't help thinking that this is a signifying beer, something for the guys who can't handle Guinness (!) but want something black in their jar. I don't see a lot of future here. Sorry.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Big Moves in the U.S. Scotch Market

Really interesting numbers on U.S. Scotch whisky sales from Shanken News Daily today. For the first time ever, a single malt -- The Glenlivet -- is one of the top five Scotch sellers. The Glenlivet passed J&B to cross over the 300,000 case threshold. If you needed further proof of premiumization in this market, Johnnie Walker Black is selling significantly more than JW Red:
The brand, including Black, Red, Blue, Green, Gold and Swing, had total volume of 1.61 million cases in the U.S. market last year. Black continues to comprise a greater portion of the total Johnnie Walker brand, reaching an estimated 810,000 cases last year compared to Red’s 720,000 cases. Back in 2000, Black was the smaller player with 550,000 cases, compared to Red’s 675,000 cases.
Fascinating.The top five sellers' total volume was down 4.3% (The Glenlivet was up 8%, but #2 Dewar's was down over 14%), but the overall market was up 8%, while dollar sales grew 14%. Sound familiar to folks who follow the craft beer market?

For those of you who asked for more numbers...

USA - Top Five Scotch Whisky Brands
(thousands of nine-liter case depletions)
1Johnnie Walker1Diageo North America1,4151,5791,6102.6%2.0%
2Dewar’sBacardi USA1,3751,4001,200-2.7%-14.3%
3Clan MacGregorWilliam Grant & Sons USA650637594-1.8%-6.8%
4Chivas RegalPernod Ricard USA484397402-3.6%1.3%
5The GlenlivetPernod Ricard USA2322863095.9%8.0%

Total Top Five4,1564,2994,115-0.2%-4.3%

1 includes Black, Red, Blue, Green, Gold and Swing
2 average annual compound growth rate


Too much work, not enough blog

I've been missing, largely due to family stuff, but now I'm going to be missing largely due to work. We just had a huge project blow up at Malt Advocate that I'm ramrodding (more on that later, probably), and I've got another possible big project I'm discussing with an editor today, and there's all the usual small stuff, so...I'll be checking in here when I can. I'm going to the Kentucky Bourbon Festival this weekend, and I've got three events the following week, and the week after that I'm judging at GABF, and the week after that is San Francisco while I should have some cool stuff to write about, jeez, where to find the time?

Just wanted to warn you. In the meantime, check out these numbers and tell me if it doesn't look like the craft beer revolution is going right over the top. The guys in St. Louis (and Brussels) and London must be crapping their pantaloons. (Though they keep raising their prices, so profits stay up...but that inevitably erodes the price divide between the categories, making crafts even more attractive...)

See you, gotta go write a piece on why the shaker pint is not a sign of the End Times.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Where there's smoke...there's Yards

On September 23rd, I have a private tasting in Lancaster. It's a two hour drive. But I'm not going to miss The Third Annual Smoke ‘Em if Yous Got ‘Em that afternoon at Yards. Shmokey beers? Shmokey foods? Shmokin' hot music? Shmokin' ceegars? Iron Hill brewer Larry Horwitz in a bacon suit, chased by a pack of wild dogs? 

You damn betcha I'm gonna be there, cuz there was some awesome good beers there last year (and check out those breweries!). Come on down and join me!

Yards Brewing Company is hosting Smoke ‘Em if Yous Got ‘Em on Friday, September 23, 2011 from 2 to 6:30 pm. And this year’s event is going to be smokier than ever.

With Smoked Beers From

  • Allentown/Bethlehem Brew Works
  • Ballast Point
  • BrewDog
  • Brooklyn Brewery
  • Caldera Brewing
  • Dark Horse
  • De Dochtor Van Korenaar
  • Emeliesse
  • Evil Twin
  • Iron Hill
  • Ithaca Beer Co.
  • Sixpoint
  • Sly Fox
  • Stoudts
  • Victory Brewing Co.
  • Yards Brewing Co.

Smoked Foods from Amateurs and Professionals Alike

Including Brauhaus Schmitz, Percy St. BBQ and The Smoke Truck

Music By

Brad Hinton Band and Keystone Mountain Boys
And other surprises.
Tickets are $50 in advance and include food, beer samples and commemorative glassware. Procrastinators will pay $60 for the same privileges, and well, Designated Drivers will pay $25 for food, music, water and hopefully future favors from your friends.
Purchase Tickets

Friday, September 2, 2011

Nick Johnson, Matt Guyer, beer, can't help but wanna go, right?

Uncle Jack drew my attention to this event: we're both dog owners, he knows I'm a sucker for stuff like this (I'm a sucker for the beers at the Beer Yard and Teresa's Next Door, too, and God knows I'm liking the Tröegs). It's tomorrow afternoon, so check it out if you got nothing going on. I'll be in Boston, taking the boy back to school, but hey, that's the sacrifices you have to make. Cheers!

Session Beer Event at Farmer's Cabinet

That's right: there's a session beer event at Farmer's Cabinet in Philly on September 9 and 10: over 25 session-strength beers, and I'll be talking about them on the 10th at 1:30. Know where you can find the details? Of course you do.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Saranac Octoberfest

I've been a fan of Saranac for years; I mean, years. Drinking Saranac, a good Saranac, makes me realize how long I've been at this. I was enjoying Saranac back in...1985? Wow. And I watched Saranac grow and develop: Saranac Amber, Saranac Golden (a delicious crisp pilsner), Black Forest, Black & Tan, Stout, Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, and for God's sake, Russian Imperial Stout that kicked ass.

I got a 12-pack of samples just before I left on vacation, didn't get a chance to even open it, but yesterday I tore them open: Saranac Octoberfest and Pumpkin Ale. I stuck three Ofests in the freezer as I was quickly putting the last touches on dinner, and when the spuds and pork and onions were ready, I poured two of them into a half-liter willbecker and hit the trough.

This is one damned fine beer. I'm kind of picky about Ofests -- hope I don't have to judge them at GABF -- because the malt character's so crucial, but they've done a great job here. It's solidly medium-bodied -- not too light, not too heavy -- dryly malty, and not glopped up with caramel. It was so good I had the third one, and it didn't mess me all up: 5.4%, a good strength for a beer you want to dive into a bit. I've got three freebies left, but I believe I'm going to have to get more of this.