Gabf crowds

GABF Brewery Preview: Notable Omissions

The Great American Beer Festival is coming up in a couple of months and they recently released the 2017 list of breweries that will have booths at the fest. With more than 800 breweries represented every year, it has become the biggest beer event in the country. That number is only some of the breweries that wanted to be at the fest, however, since a lottery has been in place since 2014 to help organize the huge number of breweries that are eager to participate. In 2013, a surge of attendees entered GABF and the result was that the booth spaces sold out within 2 hours leaving many long time attendees as well as popular newer breweries out in the cold. Now there is an entry period over a few weeks where everyone can apply to pour beers and then they run a regional lottery to determine who can actually attend. Not everyone wants to go to GABF, however. Some breweries are not interested in trekking to Colorado or the large costs associated with the trip.

Dude, Where’s Vermont?

One notable omission from the fest is the entire state of Vermont. Not one brewery is representing the Green Mountain State this year and I, for one, am bummed. I grew up in Vermont and remember my first Otter Creek Pale Ale that ushered me into the wonderful world of hops. I think most craft beer lovers would agree that a Hillstead Farm, Lawson’s Finest Liquids or The Alchemist showing would make us incredibly happy and might even be a highlight of the trip. On the one hand, this omission is surprising because Vermont is known for producing some of the best craft beer in the country, but on the other hand, we have to remember we are talking about Vermont. Vermonters by nature don’t give a crap about most conventional accolades. They aren’t ones for tooting horns, blasting BS on social media, worrying about national distribution, or as it turns out, national exposure at the GABF. Vermont breweries have won a few GABF medals over the years and they certainly could be entering this year (that list is not available), so we will see if they pop up on in the winner’s circle in October. And if any Vermont breweries do need someone to hop on stage at the GABF awards and accept a medal for them, this Vermonter will be more than happy to help.

Big Boys Stay Home

Another notable omission from this year’s GABF list is most of AB InBev’s portfolio as well as other big beer owned breweries like Lagunitas. Big beer is just as welcome as any other beer to compete at this fest, but it seems that many of the “craft” breweries bought out by AB InBev decided to stay home. This is actually the first year that Breckenridge Brewery won’t be attending since 1991. Maybe they are making a stand against the Brewers Association which recently released an emblem designed to signify whether a brewery is a craft brewery or not. The High End’s video about the emblem is both hilarious and worth a watch to see their strong reaction.

Part of the reason for the low attendance by craft breweries probably has to do with the rules that GABF recently rolled out in 2014 which limits the number of beers entered from breweries owned by any one company to 20. When your “brand family” owns so many breweries, those 20 entries are spread out and limits the submissions from companies like AB InBev and MillerCoors.

But AB InBev does have a couple of breweries representing. Blue Point and Four Peaks will be pouring beers at this year’s GABF. Interestingly enough, these breweries are two of the most lo-pro crafty breweries with many people not knowing they are owned by AB InBev. While 10 Barrel, Elysian, Golden Road and even Wicked Weed have been much higher profile breweries for the High End (AB InBev’s craft beer division), the other two breweries have slipped by with less negative publicity surrounding their buy-outs.

To be fair, most of this is speculation at this point. We don’t really know why these breweries are staying home anymore than we know the reasons why breweries attend the fest. Thorn will be there this year pouring and your’s truly will be attending too, so look for more blogs coming you way about the biggest beer event of the year!


Big Ideas in Beer?

Craft beer is an industry built on creativity and imagination. Most of the time that creativity leads to tasty beer and innovative products, but other times it can leave you scratching your head and wondering, “What were they thinking?”

We thought we would give you a round-up of some of the most creative products we have seen recently, for better or for worse. All of these products raise the question of whether it’s a product meant to meet a real need or it’s a gimmick. Not that gimmicks are necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes the things done in fun and meant to be gimmicky ends having surprising legs (I’m looking at you Rocky Mountain Oyster Stout).

Shower Beer

shower beer gimmick

Shower beer is certainly not a new concept. In fact, enjoying a cold beer while taking a warm shower seems to be a universal activity that spans the world. This simple pleasure spawned the idea of Shower Beer by Swedish brewery Pang Pang and Snask Creative Agency. This beer is a 10% brew sold in 6 oz bottles to help kick start your night out. It’s meant to be a quick shower beer, though this might be the first sticking point for veteran shower beer lovers who want more than a couple of sips of beer. This has gimmick written all over it not only because it was co-created by an ad agency, but also, is it really filling a need? It seems that the ultimate shower beer might be any beer you love in a can. How can this be the ultimate shower beer when it comes in a glass bottle? Now that so many craft beers come in cans, it’s easier than ever to get your favorite brew into the shower. There’s even a website for people who love to drink beers in the shower: Their directions for drinking the perfect shower beer are short and sweet:

big idea

Mad Hops

This could be the product that no one asked for but might fill a need for some people; flavorings for cheap beer to make it taste like expensive beer. Not kidding. Wild Blueberry, Apple Amber, Mexican Lime, and Pale Ale are just a few of the flavorings Mad Hops offer that you can squeeze into “everyday” beer to make it taste like a craft beer. The Mad Hops marketing shows them transforming Coors Light into a delicious craft beer. The admittedly good reviews on Amazon highlight things like;

“It makes Bud taste like something from a local micro brewery. “

“People had a blast changing the regular old beer into a craft beer of their choice!”

“Completely transformed my cheap beer into a craft beer. So yummy and cheaper!

Craft beer is certainly more expensive (and for good reason). But maybe the people who would buy this product don’t have access to the plethora of amazing beer we have around here. In the end, there seems like there could be a market for this, but not likely in San Diego.

Fried Fried Chicken Chicken Beer

We’ve survived many strange beer ingredients over the years, some of which we blogged about in the past including, beard yeast, pizza, and bull testicles. Now, Veil Brewing and Evil Twin Brewery have collaborated to put out a beer called Fried Fried Chicken Double IPA, made with real pieces of fried chicken tenders from Chick-Fil-A.

Creative beer ingredients will always get a pass as long as they taste good. This beer is unabashedly a gimmick because the brewers fully admit the beer tastes nothing like fried chicken. In fact, it only has trace amounts of fried chicken in the beer, amounting to less than .4% of the total weight of mashed ingredients. People seem to be enjoying the beer for what it is, a hoppy double IPA bursting with Citra, Simcoe, and Enigma hops. The two breweries, meanwhile, get a huge boost in media exposure from the dubious idea of fried chicken in a beer.

Canvas Barley Milk

Brewers are often looking for ways to reduce, reuse and recycle their beer-waste. Now, a company called Canvas developed a product called Barley Milk made with the spent grains from breweries. They call it “saved” grains to gussy the name up a bit but it doesn’t sound like a half-bad idea. Lots of people will drink anything high in fiber and protein and we certainly can take the help with disposing of brewery waste. They currently sell their drinks on Kickstarter and have raised more than $40k towards their $25k goal. The only thing that makes me go hmmmm is that at the very bottom of their Kickstarter page, it says they are backed by AB InBev’s “global disruptive growth group,” Zx Ventures. It’s unclear why a company backed by a multi-billion dollar company need to use Kickstarter to fund their products, but only time will tell if this barley milk has any staying power.

In the end, these companies should be applauded for their boldness to try something new. Whether it’s a gimmick or not hardly matters if the company gets positive buzz created around their business. So congrats to these guys for boldly going where no brewer/company has gone before and having some fun while doing it.





relay ipa in the sun

Hello, I Love You, IPA

Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, IPAs are a formative beer in the craft beer universe. Still far and away the most popular craft beer style, IPAs are known and loved for their ability to wake up the taste buds with a kick to the face of hops and bitterness. Yes, it’s an incredibly delicious kick to the face, but it’s the reason why many people love, and other hate, the mighty IPA.

IPAs are King

First, let’s get into the fact that Americans love IPA. In fact, they love IPA so much that the dollar shares of IPAs are nearly double that of the next most popular beer style on the list, Seasonal Ale. What’s interesting about this graphic from the Brewers Association is that Pale Ale is so far behind IPA on this list. It’s been a conversation in our brewery as well as many others as to what defines a Pale Ale vs. a Session IPA with different opinions coming from different brewers. In the end, it seems to be a naming choice that the individual brewer makes. While Pale Ales generally have a slightly maltier backbone than many session IPAs, this difference tends to disappear more when you get into the category of West Coast Pale Ales, which to many can seem like lower-alcohol but just-as-hoppy IPAs. This graphic highlights the reason why so many brewers decide to call their lighter IPAs “Session IPAs” because when it comes down to it, IPAs just sell better than Pale Ales.

What’s With the Origin Story?

We’ve all heard the rumors: IPAs were invented by a brewer named George Hodgson, they were high in alcohol to survive the long journey across the seas and were made for British troops to enjoy while overseas. While none of this is far off, it isn’t exactly correct either. In the late 1700s, the East India Company was shipping supplies to British forces overseas, in India, on their way to fill their ships with spices, silks and other valuables from the Far East. Here is the first inaccuracy. Even though the beer was on a boat shipping supplies to British forces, the beer wasn’t really favored by the troops, who in fact still favored porters. The beer was consumed mostly by middle and upper-class British expats in India who had been consuming Pale Ales since the 17th century.  You also might have read that IPAs came about because stouts and porters of the time were sub par beers to ship across the violent seas and they often ended up stale, spoiled or infected. But all beers ran this risk at the time, including pale ales. While hops do act as a preservative, they were no match for the more primitive means of storage and shipping that beers faced during this time and arrived spoiled just as often as darker beers. In order to expand the market, George Hodgson’s Bow Brewery decided that instead of sending a porter, they would try to send what was called an “October Beer.” This strong, pale beer was brewed at harvest time and loaded with just-picked hops to keep a fresh taste even when it was aged, sometimes for years. Apparently, the rough, ocean journey matured this beer much like it would taste after 2 years aged, so when it arrived, it was at peak flavor. The resulting brew was a hoppy success and popularized the taste for Pale Ale in India as well as back in Britain, though this style of beer wasn’t called IPA until 1835.

Double IPA = Imperial IPA

Being that Americans do everything bigger, it was only a matter of time before we started producing a super-sized IPA. While Imperial Ales, in general, have been around since the 1700s, the term “Double IPA” is quite new. It was first coined in 1994 by Blind Pig brewer, Vinnie Cilurzo, who was playing around with his IPA recipe and the amount of hops that were usually used in such recipes. What came out of this was a hop-bomb that excited the palates of Southern Cali craft brewers at the time and then exploded nationally.

So what’s the difference between Imperial IPAs and Double IPAs? The answer is nothing, really. Imperial, double and even triple IPAs are labels to connote more hops, more malts, and more alcohol but there is really no standard for when a brewer has to use the term or which term to use. The terms are pretty interchangeable, though double/triple is most often used in terms of IPAs here in the states. Another thing to think about is that the U.S. craft beer movement is heavily influenced by Belgian beer where there are dubbels, trippels, and quads. They also refer to the beer being a bigger version itself, with more hops, malts, and increased ABV. Their origins, like most beer history, are also somewhat murky but one theory is that it has to do with Trappist Monks marking two, three and four X’s on a bottle of beer to denote how strong it was and what number it was in a series.

The Constant Evolution

One of the coolest things about the craft beer industry is that it seems to be in a constant state of creative development and experimentation. This idea is front and center with IPAs and the ever-evolving use of hops. While most people know the big proprietary hops including Amarillo, Citra, Mosiac, Simcoe, and Warrior, there are tons of other varieties of hops out there that brewers are brewing with which create exciting new flavor profiles in IPAs. All About Beer published a piece on “Hops to Watch in 2017” that included Idaho 7, Azacca, Cashmere, Jester, and Comet (described as Citra’s little sister) varieties. To push the creativity even further, many brewers have started using Lupulin power and hop oil in their brews which only adds to the complex flavoring that a beer can provide.

In the end, while IPAs aren’t for everyone, they certainly are loved by many, if not most, craft beer consumers. So raise a pint of your favorite IPA in honor of National IPA Day (Thurs, August 2nd) and savor the flavors that evolved over the last few hundred years to get us to the delicious state of beer we are in today.