Can Craft Beer Afford To Play With The Big Boys?

As a self-proclaimed Beer Geek I often find myself checking out a restaurant’s beer list before I decide if it’s really where I want to go have a nice dinner or not. If you’ve ever looked at a Happy Hour list or daily specials at your local watering hole you are no stranger to the fact that Craft Beer takes a back seat to the big boys on the block. Mind you, I’m not talking about the tap rooms or establishments that pride themselves on local, state, and Craft Beer offerings in general. I’m talking about the places where they force down the American macro-lagers; Bud, Miller, and Coors (BMC). We’ve all been there when we see specials for $2 domestics or $6 buckets. Go ahead, ask for a Sam Adams or Sierra Nevada and get your bill for $5.75.”Oh, that’s an import.” they’ll say. Imported from where? Boston? California? Give me a break! Bars and restaurants have started calling these larger craft offerings “Premium”. In other words, not available for their specials funded my the big marketing machine of BMC.

I’ve always wondered if the Craft Beer industry can play by these same rules, or better yet, can they afford to? Continue reading

Once You Go Black

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I’ve found a new dark place to hide. Among my world of Craft Beers, tasting the amber, golden, yellow, and crystal clear, there is a deep, dark and refreshingly hoppy alternative. The Black IPA. I’ll go ahead and admit it. I’m a hop head. My standby beer is a good IPA but I do go off path and take in a good Pale Ale or Wheat beer too. Occasionally, especially when it starts getting cooler, I will take in a few Stouts or Porters. And let’s not forget Guinness. Dark beers have there place with me but they always seemed to lack a little something. Yes, I’m talking about the hops.

Over the past few months I have been reading about a relatively new entry in the Craft Beer marketplace, Black IPAs. Wait, what? Could it be the perfect melding of a dark, roasty beer with an over the top hop kick? As I came to find out last night, yes it can! The Beer Advocate description states that these beers “range from dark brown to pitch black and showcase malty and light to moderate roasty notes and are often quite hoppy”.

The first Black IPA that I tried was a Stone Brewing 15th Anniversary Imperial. Not being a huge fan of Imperials it was about what I expected. Dark, roasted, and hoppy. The alcohol content killed this one for me. Not bad, but definitely not great. Next up, Widmer Brothers Pitch Black IPA. Now we’re getting somewhere. A good balance between the dark chocolate flavor and a recognizable hop kick. A little disappointing that they called this one an IPA though. Not a big hoppy beer in my opinion. Lastly, I reserved the hard to find, and definitely worth the wait Olde Hickory Black Raven. This beer is like drinking a stout but getting kicked in the face with a good hop blast. Is this what Guinness would taste like if we hooked it up to the Randall?

So the Black IPA has made it to my rotation. Maybe I’ll even try this one in the Homebrewing schedule. There are plenty of Craft Brewers adding the Black IPA to their menus. Local brewery, NoDA Brewing Company has a limited release of Midnight Madness. Terrapin, Sweetwater, Sierra Nevada are all offering the style. The list is growing and I am buying. Looking forward to trying many more Black IPAs as we make our way though winter.

Cheers!

Beer Vegas

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Las Vegas, NV may be the adult entertainment capital of the world but it is certainly not the capital of Craft Beer. I just spent five solid days in Sin City on a business trip and surprisingly was unable to find a Craft Beer haven among the decadent and lavish resort world of amenities. From the Venetian and Palazzo to Caesars and Fremont Street big beer is king.

I had exchanged pleasantries with several bartenders and cocktail waitresses through the week. “May I get you a drink.” “Sure, do you have any IPA’s?” “What’s an IPA?” “You know, a Pale Ale. A Craft Beer.” “Oh yeah! We have Shock Top and Blue Moon!”

One evening I asked a Bartender for a Craft Beer. He asked me what kind. I tamed it down and asked if he had a Pale Ales. He responded, “No, all we have is Sierra Nevada.” Ugh!!!

Although I was eventually able to stumble upon a Sin City Brewing kiosk is a casino mall (pretty cool to get a plastic cup of Oktoberfest in a food court) and a Lagunitas IPA at a sports bar, Vegas is obviously dominated by high-profit watered down consumer beer products. Craft Beer as we know is a substantial cost difference as opposed to Bud Miller and Coors when purchasing in a retail environment. If I was giving away free beer to gamblers, I would also pick the least offensive cost product as well. But when the casinos are serving top dollar name brand liquor such as Johnny Walker, Cabo Wabo, and Glenfiddich why can’t they splurge and provide a little Craft Brew for the people who enjoy it on the poker tables?