subscribe » advertise » wholesale » contact us
ColumnsReviewsFeaturesRegionalVideosBlogs
/// EDITORIALS & LETTERS
 
EDITORIALS & LETTERS 2011 » BACK TO EDITORIALS & LETTERS INDEX
 
December 2011/January 2012
That Was The Beer Year That Was

 
Several years ago at the Craft Brewers Conference, Kim Jordan, cofounder and president of New Belgium Brewing Company in Fort Collins, Colo., suggested that craft beer might grow to be 10 percent of American beer production in the next 10 years. There were a few snickers of incredulity at the time. Today, it looks like Ms. Jordan might have even underestimated craft beer’s growth in the American beer market.

The Brewers Association and Symphony IRI Group, both of which track brewing industry statistics, reported dollar sales for craft beer being up 15 percent for the first half of 2011, meaning that craft beers are on pace to achieve their sixth consecutive year of double-digit dollar sales growth in supermarkets. The two organizations also announced that craft beer has, for the first time, reached a 10 percent dollar share of the overall beer category in supermarkets — nearly double what it was in 2005. The craft segment seems destined to reach 10% overall market share sooner rather than later.

The top 15 brands account for 40 percent of all craft dollar sales. The best-selling brand is Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. Canned craft beer offerings are continuing to grow, with 12-ounce cans up 121 percent over 2010. And we’re talking about assertively flavored craft beer, too. The India pale ale category has passed pale ale to become the number two selling craft beer style in supermarkets. In the beer-loving state of Oregon, craft beer has outsold premium brands since October 31, 2010. The big guys are nervous.

The craft beer industry is a job creator, too! Craft breweries continue to grow despite many challenges. They currently provide an estimated 100,000 jobs and contribute significantly to the U.S. economy. Beer production by craft brewers for the first half of 2010 was an estimated 4.6 million barrels, compared with 4.2 million barrels sold in the first half of 2009.

America now has 1,790 breweries, according to the Brewers Association, an increase of 165 breweries since June 2010. The BA also tracks breweries in planning as an indicator of potential new entrants into the craft category, and it lists 725 breweries in planning today, compared with 389 a year ago. Not all of them will make it to market, but the numbers are astounding and bode well for the continued growth of the craft beer segment.

The Celebrator Beer News is honored to have been a part of, and an observer of, this amazing growth over the last nearly quarter century. With our next issue, the Celebrator will celebrate 24 years of spreading the word about good beer. Many thanks to our dedicated subscribers and readership for their support of our efforts over the years. We’re looking forward to covering the beer story in the decades ahead. The great beer we all now enjoy and celebrate is our reward.

A 2011 Retrospective

What a year it was! We began 2011 without the services of our longtime San Diego associate editor, Rich Link, who retired after 22 years on the beer beat. Later, we lost longtime correspondent (and 1998 Beerdrinker of the Year) Bobby Bush, who covered the southeastern part of beer country for us. We welcomed the beer-savvy writing talents of Brandon Hernández, who now covers the vibrant beer scene in San Diego County. Check out his report on San Diego Beer Week in this issue.

The iconic Brickskeller closed in Washington, D.C., but its sister beer-focused restaurant, RFD (Regional Food and Drink), continues to bring the good stuff to the nation’s capital. John Hickenlooper, founder of Wynkoop Brewing Company in Denver, entrepreneur brewpub creator and eventual mayor of Denver, moved up to become governor of Colorado (go, John!) and still had time to address the brewers at the GABF awards ceremony this year. Beer guys rule — literally.

In 2011 we saw the maturing of Beer Weeks all over America. Philly Beer Week set the bar high some four years ago, and now almost every major (and some not-so-major) city has a beer-focused week of its own promoting great craft beer.

The Celebrator hosted a highly successful Brews Cruise to Alaska, in which some 80 beer lovers enjoyed tastings, lectures, dinners and tours on a cruise ship from Seattle to the Inside Passage and back. More beer cruises are planned for 2012.

The Celebrator also covered the Kona Brewers Festival, which was wiped out by the Japanese tsunami but managed to open a day later in a new location — a testament to brewer tenacity, to be sure.

Passings

In 2011 it was our sad duty to report the passing and document the lives and times of far too many contributors to world beer culture. In the Celebrator’s February/March 2011 issue, we reported on the death of Bruce Nichols in late 2010. Nichols, cofounder of Philly Beer Week and sponsor of Michael Jackson’s legendary beer lectures at the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Anthropology and Archeology, died unexpectedly.

Legendary publican Don Younger, founder of the Horse Brass Pub in Portland, Ore., passed away on January 31 after a short illness. There was a tremendous outpouring of love and affection for him, including a memorial gathering attended by beer lovers from around the country and the world.

“Rocket” Rod Romanak, homebrew evangelist, died on February 4 from complications of melanoma on the island of Hawaii.

Another beer legend, Pierre Celis, died on April 9. Mr. Celis literally revived a lost beer style in creating his Hoegaarden Wit beer, first in the tiny village of Hoegaarden, Belgium, and later at his Celis Brewery in Austin, Texas.

New York City beer pioneer Ray Deter, founder of d.b.a., died in a bicycle accident on July 3 in the city he loved. A huge New Orleans–style funeral parade paid tribute to his many contributions to beer in New York and New Orleans.

Yet another pub pioneer, David Farnworth, founder of Lucky Baldwins Pub in Pasadena, Calif., and several sister pubs, died just recently. Please see our remembrance in this issue.

These giants of beer culture made enormous contributions to what we now think of as commonplace: great beer served properly by knowledgeable staff in comfortable beer-centric surroundings. Give some thought and thanks to them and to what they left behind, which we can enjoy every day.

Onward…
October/November 2011
Caffeine in Beer & Beer and Food

 
California Legislature Reacts to Caffeine in Beer

To err is human; to really screw things up takes a legislature. The California State Legislature took up the noble task of dealing with high alcohol and caffeine in malt beverages — some of which exceeded 12% abv! — which seems to be all the rage for the new-to-alcohol set. The result was that some craft-brewed beer with essence of coffee, chocolate or tea would have been banned, along with the artificially induced high-alcohol and highly caffeinated buzz drinks marketed to the 20-something hipsters. Talk about throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Fortunately, in stepped the California Small Brewers Association, headed up by Tom McCormick. Responding to calls from member brewers about the scope of SB 39, the bill proscribing caffeinated drinks, the CSBA worked with the bill’s author (Democratic Senator Alex Padilla) to develop language that does not impact craft beers with natural ingredients such as chocolate, coffee or tea. The bill specifically allows “caffeine as a constituent of a natural ingredient, such as coffee, chocolate, or tea.” What? Common sense won for a change? Most excellent.

The California Small Brewers Association is a nonprofit industry group dedicated to the legislative interests of small brewers in the state and beyond. All California breweries should consider membership, as all breweries benefit from CSBA activities and scrutiny. Proudly display your CSBA member sticker and encourage fellow brewers to do the same. Brewers in other states with similar organizations are also joining their state organizations for a common cause. Consumers will take note and patronize those who support the industry.

Beer and Food

We’re only 11 years into the 21st century, and already beer has attained credibility as a worthy beverage with fine food, alongside wine. Considering that the “good beer” movement is only some 30 years old, that is quite an accomplishment. The Celebrator has been doing a Beer and Food issue for over 10 years, and today beer dinners and gastropubs are commonplace. Recently, Social Kitchen & Brewery in San Francisco hosted a beer dinner featuring Thai-Italian cuisine with Belgian and American-style beers. Wow! Talk about a mash up of styles, cultures and traditions. And it sounds wonderful!

This issue features many articles on the subject, including one by our resident foodie, Lucy Saunders, who takes us on a cruise through Chicago’s burgeoning gastropub scene, European traveler Chuck Cook tells us how to eat and drink well in Belgium (who knew?). Jack Curtin points with pride to the Philly good beer and food scene. Brandon Hernández will not be outdone in this department, talking about his home base of San Diego. And Fred Eckhardt talks about a good beer dinner at home.

It is now possible for you, the beer-loving enthusiast, to bring a bottle of great beer to a restaurant and offer to pay corkage (cap-age?) to enjoy your beverage of choice with the establishment’s great cuisine. It is a good time to be a beer lover.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (October/November 2011)

Dear Editor:
I am inquiring to see what is needed from me to gain access to the secure webpages linked to the Lagunitas Beer Festival event. Thank you for providing the Celebrator. It is welcomed by my friends and myself.

Regards,
Earl Cullum
San Diego, California

Dear Earl:
We need to know that you are not a registered naughty boy or stalker. That being dealt with, you can access the “Mature Audience” photos at Celebrator.com via the username "lagunitas" and password "heyrube". Thanks for the kind words and your keen interest in beer art like the fabulous Lagunitas Beer Circus — Ed.
August/September 2011
Brave New Beer World

 
In the midst of unprecedented success, the craft beer industry is changing — and we can only hope that it is for the better. Growth of the craft brewing industry in 2010 was up 11 percent by volume and 12 percent by dollar sales, compared to growth in 2009 of 7.2 percent by volume and 10.3 percent by sales, according to the Brewers Association in Boulder, Colo. No other segment of the “adult beverage” market even comes close to such numbers.

The overall U.S. beer market is in decline. U.S. beer sales as a whole were off last year, while craft beer climbed to new heights. Imported beer sales were off significantly in the last two years despite that category’s dominance just 10 years ago.

But don’t count out the big players just yet. They are desperate for category growth and sales.

The watchword for many years now has been “consolidation.” It started in a big way several years ago when beer distributors began gobbling each other up, leaving fewer houses to manage an ever-growing list of brands. Family-controlled Anheuser-Busch was blindsided by a hostile takeover by Belgian-Brazilian InBev nearly three years ago — a move that newly appointed President August Busch IV greeted with “over my dead body.” He lives, but his company is now owned by foreign interests. Miller did a marriage of convenience with Coors (now owned by South African Breweries). As a consequence, craft breweries are increasingly the targets of big-beer expansion.

On the craft side, Pyramid bought Portland several years ago and was in turn acquired by Magic Hat, who promptly sold the conglomeration to North American Breweries. The venerable Anchor Brewing in San Francisco sold to the Griffin Group. The Anheuser-Busch InBev–controlled CBA (Craft Brands Alliance), owners of Widmer and Redhook, bought Kona Brewing. Centerbridge Capital Partners purchased Rock Bottom Restaurants, including the Old Chicago chain of multitaps as well as the extensive Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant chain. A-B InBev also picked up Chicago’s Goose Island Beer Company and its popular 312 brand (Chi-town area code). Word on the street has A-B InBev attorneys busy getting the TM on area codes around the country. And that’s the 411 on that.

Meanwhile, growth in the craft segment is nothing short of astounding. Veteran Sierra Nevada is looking to open a new brewing facility east of the Mississippi, as are some other Western craft brewing behemoths. Rapid expansion is the norm for many regional craft brewers, such as New Belgium, Stone and Lagunitas. New Belgium is investing in a new high-speed canning line, and Cold Spring Brewing, an old-school regional brewery in Minnesota, has invested in state-of-the-art brewing equipment to handle its expanding contract work.

All this can mean more good beer being made by fewer people. We at the Celebrator think it’s all about the beer. If the quality remains high (with names like Anchor and Sierra, one would expect that to be the case), beer lovers will ultimately benefit. With capital-conscious entities looking to recoup vast investments, we cannot be too sure. Listen to your beer (as Fred Eckhardt is fond of saying); therein lies the answer.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (August/September 2011)

Dear Editor:
Regarding the CBN Blind Tasting Panel for the June/July issue, is it just me, or is it official or commonplace language to compare the aroma of a beer, in this case the Golden Pheasant pilsner (Hurbanovo Brewery, Slovakia), to “freshly opened tennis balls,” or the aroma of the Karlovacko Beer (Karlovacka Pivovara, Karlovac, Croatia) to “cooked vegetables”?

Strange thing is, I want to find the Golden Pheasant pilsner and then hit the sports shop for a can of balls just to find out. Tell your tasters to keep up the demanding and no doubt enjoyable work.

Sandy Sears
Anchorage, Alaska

Dear Sandy:
We here at the Celebrator have been accused of having a lot of balls… and we do. Some of which are tennis. Thanks for noticing our eclectic descriptors. Hope the T-shirt we sent you fits. No mediums, sorry. — Ed.
June/July 2011
A Great Time To Be A Beer Lover

 
The U.S. craft beer industry recently gathered in San Francisco for a conference and trade show and a chance to meet and exchange ideas and information. In many industries, such gatherings can be dreary, cagey affairs with trade secrets and market jealousies coloring the social interaction. Not so the craft beer industry. The Craft Brewers Conference in San Francisco was more like a college reunion of classmates and alumni eager to meet new attendees and greet old friends and colleagues.

This is not to say that there isn’t competition for market share and innovative strategies for product development among craft brewers. There remains, however, an open camaraderie in the beer industry that is unique in the business world. Perhaps it’s the multiple hospitalities and free-flowing beer that create such a warm and felicitous spirit at beer industry gatherings.

This upbeat gathering was aided in no small part by the summary of new statistics from the Brewers Association, released just before the start of the conference. The most recent data on the performance of the craft brewing industry showed that it continued to set new records of growth and dollars earned. The overall number of breweries in America has grown to levels not seen since the pre-Prohibition era. There are now over 1,760 breweries operating in the country — a huge increase from the perigee of producing breweries in the ’70s. The Brewers Association also reported that craft beer production was heading toward the 10 million–barrel mark, worth some $7.6 billion in revenue. Craft beer remained the only bright spot in the overall national beer production picture.

Forty years ago, we were a nation of light lager drinkers. It was world travelers and homebrewers who reintroduced ales and other beer styles to their myopic lager-drinking countrymen. There are now over 100 beer styles recognized, sold and judged in this country. Change you can believe in — if you are a beer lover.

Our job as informed consumers is to support our craft beer industry members by enjoying and sharing the fruits of their labors. We can do this by example in our buying habits and by suggesting to less enlightened retailers, restaurants and pubs that they consider broadening their selection of good beer and appealing to the ever-growing number of consumers of craft beer.

This is a great time to be a beer lover! Spread the word.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (June/July 2011)

Dear Editor:
I thought your in-memoriam issue to Don Younger was very well done. He sounded like quite a character.

Bob Atkinson
Pleasanton, California

Dear Bob:
Thanks for the kind thoughts. Character-wise, we only scratched the surface of the man that was Don Younger. His contribution to the beer culture in the Pacific Northwest was incalculable. — Ed.



Dear Editor:
To judge from the plethora of your pix in the current issue [grrrrrrrr!], it looks like this publishing-a-beer-mag regimen is good for you! I can’t tell you how sad I am that you “came out” as Hop Caen. I much preferred the mystique that surrounded your nom de plume.

Miles Jordan
Chico, California

Dear Eric:
Thanks, I think. Yes, beer publishing been beery, beery good to me. Thanks for noticing. The Hawaii trip was a mix of a very tragic tsunami and a very successful beer festival pulled off by the Kona Brewing folks.

I started writing Hop Caen in September of 1990 as an excuse to combine beer industry humor with my affection for and tribute to the late Herb Caen, who did a daily humor column in the San Francisco Chronicle for nearly 60 years — without missing a deadline, I might add. When we did our layout revision in the last issue, it was suggested that not many readers in our national audience knew of Herb here in Northern California. We’ll keep the Caen flame alive anyway. — Ed.
April/May 2011
Don Younger, 1941–2011

 
Don Younger, famed publican extraordinaire and legendary beer evangelist, died early Monday morning, January 31, 2011, of complications from a fall a few days earlier. He was 69 years old.

Don was a “larger than life” character with an enormous passion for beer, brewing and beer culture. He loved meeting new people and spreading the word of good beer but eschewed “phonies” and poseurs. He also eschewed people who would say “eschewed.” He was not a model for a healthy lifestyle, preferring beer, whisky (make it Macallan 12, please — 18 if ya got it) and cigarettes (Spirits will do) to more conventional comestibles. It is suggested that both he and Patsy from the BBC’s “Absolutely Fabulous” had not had solid food since 1977. That is not true, of course … but close.

A pub crawl with Don involved a ride in his beloved 1973 Thunderbird with a hood as long as an arena-size football field. But parking never seemed a problem. He knew all the great places and seemed to know just when to get there. The truly worthy might be treated to a crawl of the great beer places of Portland (in chronological order), beginning, of course, with Produce Row. Great moments of beer education not soon forgotten.

I first met Don at the Rogue Ales Public House in Newport, Ore., before it moved across the bay into the vast former boat storage facility. Owner Jack Joyce told me I really needed to meet this guy who owned a cool pub in Portland. Don looked to be a cross between a thoroughly aged hippy and Gabby Hayes, with puffy lips smacking at the possibility of another great beer and slightly bulging, sparkling blue eyes that seemed to take in everything. His smile and gracious, welcoming demeanor were legend. He truly wanted to listen to you, but get him started and tales of pubs past and beers future spewed forth like first runnings.

I learned that a visit to Portland without a visit to the Horse Brass on Belmont was as vacuous as a light lager. But Don was not a beer snob. He began as a light lager drinker (there was precious else to drink in the ’70s) and was indeed known locally as Captain Blatz. He famously won his pub in a drunken card game, awaking with two headaches: his own and his new ownership of a pub. Ouch. He maintained that he had no idea what he was doing and that his early success was due to blind dumb luck and an interest in good beer.

As the Horse Brass Pub prospered with adoring fans both local and from distant lands (a sister pub in England is in mourning), Don spread his wings and started other pubs to spread the culture of good beer. Some worked and some faltered. He learned and moved on. His legacy is manifest in his surviving pubs and retail outlets.

But Don’s lifestyle proved to be a challenge. Oregon’s chief beer scribe John Foyston reported: “Living as he wanted included being a famously avid cigarette smoker and a man who loved a pint or three with friends, and those habits finally caught up with him, despite his legendary Keith Richards–like constitution.” If only he could have played guitar.

Don was a product of the ’50s and loved the music of the era. He and his buddies would drive to hilltops around central Oregon to pick up broadcasts of Wolfman Jack at night from a 150,000-watt station across the border in Mexico to hear the latest rock ’n’ roll or doo-wop. He carried that outlaw spirit with him into the 21st century.

His best-remembered aphorism (maybe because he kept repeating it) sums up Don: “It’s not about the beer. It’s about the beer!” Well said, sir. I think. And ultimately, it’s not about Don — it’s about Don. Your next visit to the Horse Brass should begin with a pint of Younger’s Special Bitter, and remember: It’s named for his brother Bill, not for Don. But we know better, don’t we?
February/March 2011
Our 23rd Anniversary Issue

 
The craft beer industry (called “microbrewing” back in the day) got its start in California (Anchor, New Albion) and the Pacific Northwest (Grant’s Yakima Brewing & Malting) over 30 years ago. The Celebrator Beer News, then called the California Celebrator, got its start in 1988 when only 20 breweries and brewpubs existed in all of California. Founders Bret and Julie Nickels’s prescient publication took on the task of documenting this nascent industry as a labor of love. It certainly wasn’t a source of enormous revenue.

Over the years, the Celebrator and the industry it covers grew exponentially as the good-beer story began to permeate every region of this great beer-drinking country. This publication has been fortunate in developing a network of skilled and knowledgeable writers to discover and report on this expansive beer story. We have been equally fortunate in acquiring the support of the industry for our financial sustenance.

At 23 years and counting, the Celebrator staff looks forward to the beer stories yet to come and to celebrating the milestones of great brewing entities, such as the recent 30-year anniversary of the iconic Sierra Nevada Brewing Company in Chico, California.

It is you, dear beery reader, who keeps us in search of the next big story, and it is our loyal advertisers who provide the wherewithal for us to continue covering this great industry. Please support our advertisers, as they are the ones who really made our 23-year run possible. Here’s to cheers and beers for another 23 years!

Beer Year 2010

Craft beer sales in 2010 continued to roll and boil like a runaway brew kettle. Industry statistics continued to impress the money guys while savvy beer consumers kept demanding more rich and flavorful brews with character. Meanwhile, overall beer sales volumes for the U.S. fell again — this time by 2.2 percent (the highest rate of decline since the 1950s).

Industry analysts suggest that the mergers creating MillerCoors and Anheuser-Busch InBev (much to A-B’s chagrin) — leaving only two major brewers making almost all the industrial light lager — are putting pressure on the new multinational conglomerates to raise prices to pay off debts and increase profits. Naturally, the same “industry experts” see the solution in better marketing and holding price lines.

Notice there is never a mention of the flavor, character or taste of the product itself. The big two, obviously concerned with the decline in mainline products, are attempting to pick up the slack by acquiring craft brands for their disparate and desperate distribution channels. Meanwhile, retailers are concerned with price increases and loss of revenue. The demand for and margins made on craft beer are looking more attractive and requiring more precious shelf space. What’s a Big Guy brewer to do?

The year 2010 also saw a rapid consolidation in the craft category. Joint ventures like Wynkoop Holdings and Breckenridge Holding Company leveraged size and market branding while benefiting from managerial and operational consolidation.

Mergers have also contributed to craft consolidation, with industry veterans Gordon Biersch (itself a consolidation of Big River and the original GB from California) and Rock Bottom Restaurants (including the vast Old Chicago chain) joining up to form CraftWorks Restaurants & Breweries. Its own press release stated: “The combined business becomes the nation’s leading operator and franchisor of brewery and craft beer–focused casual dining restaurants, with nearly 200 owned and franchised locations across the United States.” A consequence of this “vastness” may be the loss of some great brewing talent as management toes the corporate brewing line.

Seattle-based Pyramid Breweries bought Portland Brewing for its more modern production facilities several years ago. It was in turn bought out by Magic Hat Brewing from Vermont, and last year that conglomeration was bought out by North American Breweries, a company based on the old Labatt distribution network that also owns Genesee and Dundee brands. Are you with me so far?

In other recent merger and acquisition action, venerable Hawaiian brewer Kona Brewing Company, whose bottled products have long been produced at Widmer Brothers in Portland, Oregon, was bought out by Widmer’s parent company, Craft Brewers Alliance, which also owns Redhook and Goose Island.

We can expect more corporate consolidations in the new year. As beer lovers, our concern is with the quality of the products going forward. Many smaller start-ups are offering new choices for savvy beer consumers. We’ll try to keep a handle on all the beery activity, so stay tuned for more to come: 2011 could be a great year for beer — but you’ll need a program!
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR (February/March 2011)

Dear Editor:
I want to thank you for featuring Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Ken Grossman in your October/November 2010 issue. The wait was well worth it. Oh, one more thing: I hope that the absence of Hop Caen’s “Heard It Through the Hop Vine” in the [December] issue of the Celebrator was an anomaly and that he’ll be back in future issues.

Cheers,
Miles Jordan
Chico, California

Dear Miles:
Thanks so much for your enthusiastic support of beer in general and Sierra Nevada in particular. Mr. Grossman’s amazing 30-year run at Sierra deserves the name of one of his great beers — Celebration! As to our equally laudable but doddering scribe, Hop Caen, he was given a rest last issue (i.e., space issue) but is back in this issue. Promise! A Celebrator event T-shirt is heading your way. — Ed.



Dear Editor:
I saw an issue of yours in my local brewery and loved that it had lists scattered throughout it of all breweries and brewpubs in the nation, broken down by region. I was wondering if there was a way to get that list. I didn’t see anything like it on your website. Thanks for any information!

Eric Eads
Fort Collins, Colorado

Dear Eric:
We try to keep track of breweries and brewpubs in the Western U.S. and all places that carry the Celebrator. For a comprehensive digital guide to pubs and breweries, try Beer Mapping or any of the other searchable databases available for beer. And thanks for your kind words about the Celebrator. We’re here for the beer. An event T-shirt is heading your way. — Ed.
 

Advertisement

 

home » columns » reviews » features » regional » videos + » blogs » events » subscribe » advertise » wholesale » contact us

© Celebrator Beer News | Dalldorf Communications, Inc. All rights reserved. Hosting provided by RealBeer.