In heaven there is no beer, that's why we drink it here
August 22, 2012 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Even in the grips of the Great Recession, one industry's profits are bubbling up, pouring forth, and experiencing growth in market share, dollars spent, and profit: craft beer!

World beer prodcution is up, and the major producers are reduced to bullying, postentially short-sighted sponsorships, intimidation and exploitation of the legal system to maintain their profits. Macrobreweries have tried to release their own versions of popular styles, or take over independant breweries. (Previously: Goose Island bought by Anheuser-Busch

Can Craft Beer Save America? All over the United States, local breweries are popping up. Bend, OR leads the way. Craft brewers in Oregon have broken production records, North Carolina has encouraged breweries to move there, and Texas could see a $5.6 billion economic impact if restrictive laws are changed. Part of the problem is the byzantine 'Three tier' model for distribution (previously and previouslier). Mississippi and Alabama have the most restrictive laws in the nation, but people are pushing for change (previously).

You can take a beer-destination vacation, pick up some local ale when away from home, or grab a pint while at a baseball game. A beer map of the US, previously. The best beer city in the United States, previously. Excellent bars focusing on craft beer have appeared around the country, including one that works like a stock exchange.

There are many different styles of beer: the historic roots of seven styles, ten healthier beers, eight India Pale Ales (IPAs) you might want to try (along with their endless sub-categorization and why it is called IPA, previously), the resurrection of lambic in America, a recommendation engine for dark beer, aged beer, and why lager is better than ale. Coming in the autumn: pumpkin beer. Previously:10 best beer names ever. How to Save A Beer Style (Hint: drink it!)

Hops and water are two of the key ingredients, and it is the water that led a famous West Coast brewery to open a new location on the East Coast.

Top 50 Craft Beers By Volume, previously

Here's a few, in no particular order:
Abita, located in beautiful Abita Springs, LA.
Shiner sponsors a beer run in their hometown.
Kona, like some other microbreweries, has a focus on sustainability.
Anchor is known for their hand-drawn labels.
Full Sail's interview with their founder shows brewing is no longer a boy's club.
Redhook successfully rebrands itself.
Sierra Nevada runs a beer camp for people who want to learn more.
Dogfish Head's founder Sam Caglione gives a talk, is featured in The New Yorker, covered closely in 'Beer Wars' on Netflix Instant, and was previously on MetaFilter.
Yuengling has become the largest US-owned brewery, and I couldn't possibly expand on this excellent post.
The beginning of this trend started with Sam Adams, which is changing their look to remain competitive. Some snobs turn up their noses at Sam Adams, but they forget the small business startup help and hop sharing program that the Boston Beer Company has done to help other breweries.

Still apprehensive? You may be surprised to learn that
beer saved the world(video). The Case For Beer, The Benefits of Drinking Beer, a Beer Taxonomy and an answer to the ubiquitous debate over cans.

In fact, canning beer is controversial, even during a significant expansion in the practice. One brewery avoids it completely, even as it becomes more accepted and easier. Cans keep out light, can be packed more closely, and chill faster. Before bottles or cans became popular, there was the growler (previously).

While travelling, you might get offered a craft beer in your hotel, or carry some with you on a hike. Be sure to secure your beer against unwanted visitors. And you'll need to know how to say cheers in 50 languages.

Of course, appreciation of good beer and developments in brewing are not limited to the US. Europeans, particularly the British, are brewing up their own new beers. France's beer has been neglected (though hopefully not for long). Even in traditionally-minded Germany and Belgium, changes are brewing.

There is lots and lots of information on the internet, for anyone who wants to learn more.

posted by the man of twists and turns (77 comments total) 113 users marked this as a favorite
Ha, I just got back from Portland, ME after a coulple of half pints of Allagash compelled me to explain the many myriad and granular factions within American beer production to my SO.
posted by The Whelk at 10:30 PM on August 22, 2012

Don't forget Japan!
posted by armage at 10:35 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Craft beer is currently gaining a significant market share of my blood. Therefore, I will attempt the digestion of this FPP tomorrow, after sleep. And perhaps an aspirin.

Great post, thanks!
posted by lazaruslong at 10:36 PM on August 22, 2012 [2 favorites]

Great post!
posted by now i'm piste at 10:37 PM on August 22, 2012

Great job, 'the man of twists and turns. I love beer.
posted by rmmcclay at 10:50 PM on August 22, 2012

I love my three local breweries: Epic, Red Rock, and Squatters. Red Rock also has an amazing kitchen.
posted by awesomelyglorious at 10:52 PM on August 22, 2012

Epic Post! Here's a CBC article from October about the state of craft brewing up here in Canada. The last few years have been great here in BC, I find I can pretty much try something new every time I stop in to pick up a case (which is often).

Also the bit in the post about canning made me wonder whatever happened to the rumoured self-chilling-can I read about a few years ago - according to this the idea has been revived and people in Southern California and Nevada will be able to try them by the end of the year.
posted by mannequito at 10:56 PM on August 22, 2012

I don't know a lot about beer outside the US, and there are thousands of local micro and nano breweries, so more links are always appreciated!
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:08 PM on August 22, 2012

An English perspective: down with craft beer.
posted by MartinWisse at 11:43 PM on August 22, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think someone who deserves credit in the good beer arena, yet does not often get it, is Trader Joe's. Around here (the Bay Area) most of the house brands are made by Gordon Biersch - kind of a Yuengling for California & Nevada. TJ's does the same thing with beer it does with most house brands: contract out to a well-known local and sell it for less than the brand goes for. It's not a well-publicized thing, but if you're familiar with the products, you can usually guess who makes it for them.

I have a strong suspicion that they go to Strauss dairy for their milk and yogurt around here, too.

I'm skeptical about craft beer in the same way the English author above is. While it's often great, it fosters a sense of elitism and "oh, if you haven't tried X you haven't lived" that is as off-putting about beer as it is about coffee, fine dining, blue jeans and all the rest. It can be an even worse version of consumerism. What difference is there between being obsessed with Brother Thelonious and being obsessed with Uniqlo other than the size of the company?
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 11:58 PM on August 22, 2012

By and large, snobbery is heavily discouraged with most serious craft beer aficionados. I'm not saying it doesn't happen (or that it isn't distressingly common sometimes), but I've been fortunate to spend time sharing a glass with more than a few people who are more than passingly into the craft beer community, and to the last one, they all agree that craft beer should Not Be About Being Better Than Others.

The environment is very communal. Look at the huge explosion in collaboration beers between different breweries that are, ostensibly, competitors in the marketplace and the common practice of talented homebrewers getting a chance to work with local breweries on their own recipes. Bottle hoarding and reselling rare beers for massive markets, ala the stereotypical massive wine cellar, is frowned upon by every single brewer and store owner I've ever spoken to (Stone went so far as to put a EULA on the back of one of their recent limited runs banning the resale of the bottle to prevent people scalping the beer on eBay).

The prevailing attitude amongst the seriously dedicated is, simply, we're all involved in this community because we love good beer. Being judgmental about who's had what and what brewers are beneath contempt (even macros, I find it hard to turn down an ice-cold Coors or Red Stripe when it's hot) is counter to having a good time and simply enjoying beer. It's hard to be stuck-up about beer when some of the best places to get a pint are dive bars in sketchy parts of town. Bottle hoarding and scalping is counter to the idea that beer is, above all else, something to be enjoyed, preferably with a few friends (that's why I don't mind that The Brewery only puts out 750mL bottles). Why buy it if you're just going to talk about having a 2005 Barrel-Aged Speedway Stout instead of cracking it open on a special occasion and just enjoying it?

Bottom line, the craft beer community is one of the most open, friendly and accepting bunch of people I have ever met. if the people that you've run across in the craft beer community are only focused on having a more impressive Untappd list than anyone else and aren't seeking out good beer for the sake of having a damn good beer, then hit me up the next time you're in LA and I will gladly take you somewhere where the atmosphere is relaxed, the food is good and the beer is even better.
posted by Punkey at 12:18 AM on August 23, 2012 [8 favorites]

hit me up the next time you're in LA and I will gladly take you somewhere where the atmosphere is relaxed, the food is good and the beer is even better.

I love this Metafilter community, and this is an awesome post.
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 12:23 AM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Started homebrewing in the last year, so I've been visiting little breweries when I can. Got a chance to visit Stone earlier this year too. I'm finding that all of them have the same vibe Punkey is talking about. Everyone is just there because they really like beer. And the option to get a growler of good beer straight from the folks that made it is pretty awesome as well.
posted by eyeballkid at 12:35 AM on August 23, 2012

(oh and Stone's growlers are totally rad.)
posted by eyeballkid at 12:37 AM on August 23, 2012

Gah, typos. "reselling rare beers for massive markups" "that's why I don't mind that The Bruery only puts out 750mL bottles"

Also, JoeBlubaugh, The Trappist is in Oakland, and if you like Belgian beers - especially abbey beers - you owe them a visit. And, of course, you live across the bay from one of my favorite places on the planet, the Toranado. When the place is packed (which it often is), you 100% HAVE to know what you're ordering before you hit the bar, and it's cash-only, but they have an amazing beer selection and great atmosphere (for a dive bar). Highly, highly recommended.
posted by Punkey at 12:38 AM on August 23, 2012

Yeah, I'm an old face at the Trappist by now :). Abbey beer is some of my favorite liquid on the planet, and I think Cyrus expresses the non-beer thing I like about them very eloquently: they have a sense of "enough".
posted by JoeBlubaugh at 12:46 AM on August 23, 2012

As if I really needed anymore reason to drink beer. Great post!
What a treat, lots of great links. latest love is ...Believer, double red ale ...brewed by Ninkasi
in Eugene, Oregon. But I'm fickle, I'm sure something else will be
knocking at my door soon.
posted by quazichimp at 12:56 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

My personal favorite in this neck of the woods - Howe Sound's Total Eclipse Of The Hop.
posted by mannequito at 1:04 AM on August 23, 2012

Ooh, if we're going to share beers that we've become infatuated with recently, I'll have to say at the top of my list are two beers from new breweries in Oregon. I was up in Portland on vacation and stopped in at Apex (again highly recommended, again cash only) and they had Boneyard's Hop Venom and Gigantic's The City Never Sleeps on tap. The City Never Sleeps is a style of beer I had never seen before: a black saison (a light saison brewed with patent malt for that dark black color and nutty roasted taste), while Hop Venom was, as best as I can describe it, a Pliny the Elder for the new vanguard of hop varieties. Where Pliny the Elder focuses its flavor on classics like Cascade, Chinook and Columbus and their more resin-y, evergreen scents and flavors, Hop Venom was bursting with the floral and citrus notes of hops like Citra. Just as complex and delicious as Pliny the Elder (which is no small praise), but in a completely different way.
posted by Punkey at 1:08 AM on August 23, 2012

I love this post so much.

And not just because it the perfect excuse to not put my next batch of home brew on.
posted by Mezentian at 1:11 AM on August 23, 2012

Lazy Magnolia brewery is one of my favorites - I was introduced to their Southern Pecan by the owner of a restaurant I was a regular at a few years ago, and I really like all of their beers. The Ginger Jaque was a real treat.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 1:32 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

C'mon Mez, you'll be grateful of the bottle age come summer if you get it in now.
posted by bystander at 2:08 AM on August 23, 2012

“If regulations were to change, the entire craft beer environment in Texas would change for the better. We would see a drastic increase in revenue, and subsequently tax revenue, from our tap room sales. These sales are taxed at a higher rate than our wholesale sales through our distributor. With the ability to sell our beer in our tap room we could generate more revenue for our business as well as for the state,” says Josh Hare, brewer and founder of Hops & Grain Brewing.

This guy's been drinking too much Laffer Ale. It leaves you with an awful hangover.

Ron Extract, managing partner at Jester King Craft Brewery, agrees. “Craft beer is a growing part of the economy and it could grow more. We are constrained right now. We don’t have the same rights that wineries or other out-of-state breweries enjoy. The growth is hampered by the current laws. The chances of a new brewery succeeding are much, much lower in the current climate.”

This guy too. Always blaming the "current laws" for his woes. The man is really keeping him down. Maybe if he just worked harder and was more productive and took a little personal responsibility for his business and made a better beer he would create more jobs. Quit crying Mr. Successful businessman and get back to work.
posted by three blind mice at 2:34 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is a gorgeous post.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:47 AM on August 23, 2012

Fantastic post, personally as a CAMRAy English homebrewer I'm extremely jealous of the great beer that seems to be sprouting up all over the US (and hardly ever making its way across the Atlantic...)
posted by brilliantmistake at 2:59 AM on August 23, 2012

Some Atlanta fonts of awesome:
- Sweetwater Brewery - The most popular of our locals.
- Red Brick Brewing -Dependable, and like Sweetwater, offers brewery tours that end with an almost never-ending tasting.
- Red Hare Brewing - The latest and maybe the most innovative so far, as they've just introduced a canned variety of their Long Day Lager that is delicious.
posted by grabbingsand at 3:57 AM on August 23, 2012

An amusing teeny local storm-in-a-teacup here in NZ. Provincial newspaper columnist 'reviews' Tiger beer, "Cheap, abundant and flavoured just enough so you know it's beer" and simultaneously puts the boot in to "haughty" "petulant" and "prohibitively expensive" local craft beers.
The comments provide a good primer to some Kiwi beers worth trying if you are ever down here:
Moa, Emerson's, Three Boys, Epic, Townshends, Tuatara, Mike's Brewery, and creators of the mind-bending Monkey Puzzle Extra Strong Ale, Mussel Inn.
posted by Catch at 4:22 AM on August 23, 2012

"You can only drink 30 or 40 glasses of beer a day, no matter how rich you are." - Adolphus Busch

(In 1861, he married 17 year-old Lilly Anheuser--whose father owned the struggling Bavarian Brewing Company--in a double wedding with her older sister Anna and his older brother Ulrich. Pretty crafty!)
posted by argonauta at 4:51 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Asheville, NC is "Beer City, USA" again with ~12 local breweries. Sierra Nevada and New Belgium are building breweries here, too.
posted by I'm Doing the Dishes at 5:19 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

The Houston brewpub boom of the 90's slowly fizzled with the final one closing just last year. Though that was due to rent increases not lack of profit.

On the other side, we've seen several breweries open up in the past couple years:

Shiner is the old standby, located an hour or so outside of town. In Texas terms that's close.

Saint Arnold Brewing Company has been around since '94 and is doing great.

Katy's No Label Brewing seems to be doing well, I'm just starting to see their beer on the shelves in addition to in pubs.

Southern Star is slowly ramping up. I was skeptical of cans but so far I like it.

And finally Karbach Brewing opened recently, I've had a couple of their beers and enjoyed both.

Slowly we're getting the beer laws in Texas updated and dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century. We've been trying for years to get the law changed to allow small amounts of beer to be sold at a brewery, but have lost to the TABC and 'big beer' every time. But it's always close and I think eventually it will be overturned.
posted by beowulf573 at 5:23 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Here in Lincoln Nebraska it seems like I'm always hearing about another new microbrewery.

Meanwhile, in restaurants I can always get an excellent beer from somewhere in the state, if not in the county.

And at the store? So many beers I despair of ever getting through all the different beers and coming back around to try anything for a second time.

Of course, there's also all the homebrew in my basement, a hobby that I have after reading another fine metafilter post. Thanks, mccarty.tim!
posted by jepler at 5:30 AM on August 23, 2012

NY State is in the midst of a craft beer boom and much of it is happening in Central and Western NY. Even the hop industry is coming back, with new hop farms popping up in the last couple of years. It's a good time to be a beer drinker.
posted by tommasz at 5:47 AM on August 23, 2012

Some beers I've enjoyed recently.

If in the Netherlands, Emelisse, Brouwerij 't Y, Jopen, de Prael, de Molen, Scheldebrouwerij, Peelander and I'm sure I'm forgetting a lot are interesting smaller breweries to look out for.

Or just work your way down the list of Dutch brewers on Wikipedia.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:53 AM on August 23, 2012

The best beer city in the United States, previously.

I don't understand why this doesn't link to Philadelphia.

Philadelphia Brewing Co.
Yards Brewing Co.
Dock Street Brewing Co.
Flying Fish Brewery
Sly Fox Beer
Stoudt's Brewing Co.
Victory Brewing Co.

Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant
Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant
Earth Bread + Brewery
Nodding Head Brewpub
Triumph Brewing Company
McKenzie Brew House
Forest & Main Brewing Co.

And slightly further afield:
Boxcar Brewing Co.
Doylestown Brewing Co.
Fegley's Brew Works
Free Will Brewing Co.
Intercourse Brewing Co.
Lancaster Brewing Co.
Neshaminy Creek Brewing Co.
Prism Brewing Co.
Reading Brewing Co.
Round Guys Brewing Co.
Rumspringa Brewing Co.
Spring House Brewing Co.
Weyerbacher Brewing Co.
D. G. Yuengling & Son
Tröegs Brewing Co.

And, of course, the crown jewel, Philly Beer Week.
posted by The Michael The at 5:54 AM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Great post!

When I went through Germany on my honeymoon 14 years ago, I loved how every little town seemed to have a brewery. I just loved that wherever I went, I could drink local brews and literally get the flavor of the area.

At the time, brew pubs and small breweries in general were only in a handful of towns in central Maryland. Wow has that changed. Today, I have choices of local beer pretty much everywhere, with another new one seemingly every few months. So many that brewery "crawls" are now possible. More and more people are also growing hops locally to make the local beers with. Its fantastic that American beer palates have come so far in such a short time.

Now if only some of the locals could brew a great Pilsner. Nearly all of them seem to focus on heavier/crazier styles, and they shy away from the clean simple session beers.
posted by Patapsco Mike at 5:58 AM on August 23, 2012

Wow, looks like my lunch hour errands are gonna prevent me getting through all this! Lots of peeking between test cases, I foresee...gettin' thirsty just reading the link-text. Thanks ever so much, Man Of Twists and Turns.
posted by Alewife's Husband at 6:01 AM on August 23, 2012

Nearly all of them seem to focus on heavier/crazier styles, and they shy away from the clean simple session beers.

That seems to be a weakness with American style craft brewing as well, or at least judging from what makes across the pond and what imitators like #$@&! Brewdog take away from it.
posted by MartinWisse at 6:07 AM on August 23, 2012

Session Beers: How Low Can You Go? Session Beers are becoming more popular, with the Session Beer Project, "a non-profit, unorganized, unofficial effort to popularize and support the brewing and enjoyment of session beers. " There's even a session beer festival.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:23 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, there's a demo going on in Live Meeting so I can multi-task...

The Michael The: I hail originally from Philly but wonder what that list would have looked like in 1992 when I last lived there.

Thomasz: Central NY is definitely home to some good breweries, notably for me Ommegang, which I sometimes call OhMyGod coz it's so darn good. I believe they're owned by Duvel and use actual Belgian recipes.

I lived in Lewes DE for about 4-5 months in summer '96 and did spend some time in the Dogfish Head pub there in Rehoboth. Good food and great beer. Selection was a bit smaller then but still high-quality.

GrabbingSand: Now local to Atlanta, I love the Red Brick beers, esp. Laughing Skull and the Brown Ale. Sweetwater I'm less partial too but they are the most popular 'round here for sure. The Brew Pub scene is quite good, too, with locals 5 Seasons, Max Lager's, Wrecking Bar, Parl Tavern and many others (including chains like Gordon Biersch).
posted by Alewife's Husband at 6:28 AM on August 23, 2012

Craft brewers in the US may not be snobbish exactly, but they are highly competitive in ways that I personally find damaging to my enjoyment.

It is not at all unusual to visit a tavern that caters to the craft-brew crowd and find nothing on the menu under six or seven percent ABV, or to find several entries over nine. I'm not talking about barleywine, either; these are regular IPAs and stouts.

I will echo the sentiments in MartinWisse's link, from an American perspective: not nearly enough real ale, and way, way too much alcohol. Yes, most places will offer a lonely "cask-conditioned" offering, but it's never a priority, and it's never the best thing there -- which it should be ("nitro" is not REAL ALE, either). And you still can't drink it in quantity over a session.

Most American craft brewers (working in an English style) would benefit from a trip through some first-rate English pubs, particularly IN THE NORTH. Why does no American craft brewer make a Mild Ale, for starters? Because you can't win a prize with four percent ale, without a bushel of hops in every glass (the flowerier the better), without being able to stand up a spoon in it. An English pub ale tastes fresh and alive, but modestly so. American craft beer, too often, is shouting at you; it tastes like being punched in the face.

There are some craft brews I can tolerate; Hales Cream Ale is nice, on nitrogen (NOT the same thing as real ale). And I can tolerate a glass of overhopped, overalcoholed IPA. But I can't sit with friends and quaff six of them like I can easily in one of the many great pubs in Liverpool or York.

American craft brewing suffers from the same syndrome as American winemaking: more, more, more until it's too much. Seventeen percent zinfandels! Fruit bombs that deaden the taste buds and render food untasteable and varietals indistinguishable. With American wines, I now choose solely by alcohol percentage -- nothing over thirteen percent, 13.5 in a pinch. With craft beer, same thing -- scanning the menu for a lonely "4.8", usually with a notice apologizing for even suggesting that a big strong beardy fellow like you would want something so weak -- perhaps for grandma?

Yeah. I'm not your grandma, I just want a more relaxed sensation. And I'm not a weenie; I will drink you under the table any old day. I just want it to take longer than a few minutes.
posted by Fnarf at 6:35 AM on August 23, 2012 [10 favorites]

Why does no American craft brewer make a Mild Ale

Full Sail is starting to. Great Crescent has one as a limited release, Motor City Brewing Works has their 'Ghettoblaster' as mainstay, and Pizza Port has their Dawn Patrol.

Really, there is a heck of a lot of beer out there.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:47 AM on August 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

American craft brewing suffers from the same syndrome as American winemaking: more, more, more until it's too much.

I love a good craft beer, but I loathe the high-alcohol mindset of the brewers. I find most of them undrinkable with the combination of head-fogging alcohol level and the attendant overly-yeasty mouth. It's just not enjoyable. This goes for the "dump a mountain of hops in the thing" trend for IPA/APA brews. Just make a solid, simple ale, ferchissakes.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:03 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, 10%+ alcohol makes beer taste like cough syrup.
posted by Wolof at 7:22 AM on August 23, 2012

I love what Brian Strumke is doing with Stillwater Ales and the whole gypsy brewing thing here in BMore.
posted by HumanComplex at 7:23 AM on August 23, 2012

I live a short stumble from this place.
posted by goethean at 7:39 AM on August 23, 2012

There are choices for 'regular' and not over-done Ales and Lagers about, but there is definitely an overabundance of too-hoppy and over-7% stuff, which easily can be perceived to dominate the scene. The local Red Brick brewery offers several mid-alcohol, milder-flavor varieties like their Blonde, Peachtree Ale, Laughing Skull and their Pale Ale. These are all 5.x%, I think. But they'll be hard to find outside Atlanta.

Here are some seriously low-alcohol beers, and Shipyard (Maine) makes several Ales from high-4 to mid-5 %. Not sure how widely available those are.

I supplement my US Craft purchases with English/Irish classics like Harp, Bass, or Guinness as well as good ol' Sam Adams (Lager or Boston Ale) when I want less alcohol and good flavor. Also some typical German or Dutch brands.

Pardon the HuffPo link, but they had a list of 15 under 5% beers with flavor (evidently from Imbibe Magazine but I couldn't find the original).
posted by Alewife's Husband at 7:47 AM on August 23, 2012

The Michael The: I hail originally from Philly but wonder what that list would have looked like in 1992 when I last lived there.

Very different. I think every brewery on there save Yuengling came into existence in 1994 or later. Yards, Weyerbacher, and Victory came in '94, '95, and '96 respectively. But, the same can be said about most places around the country. Stone didn't open in San Diego until 1996 and Rogue and Deschutes in Oregon in 1988, for example.
posted by The Michael The at 7:55 AM on August 23, 2012

Jimmy Carter made it his mission to repeal any remaining prohibition era laws against home brewing. Now home brewers are a national treasure. What's next, legal home poker games?

Actually, I've just recently been looking at the viability of farming hops on Manhattan rooftops. Seems very promising.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:28 AM on August 23, 2012

No, home distilling!
Please, please, please!
posted by Seamus at 8:34 AM on August 23, 2012

Home distilling requires an easy to obtain license, but brewing requires no paperwork whatsoever.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:41 AM on August 23, 2012

I only wish it was easier to get great beers outside their home territories.

I go to Minnesota every summer and this was the first time in YEARS that I have been able to have Summit when I got back to Rhode Island -- because this year I drove out! I was able to tuck a dozen bottles of Summit Extra Pale Ale (and four Surly Furious!) into the car before I repacked it with all the clothes and assorted junk.

But I won't taste any Surly or Lift Bridge or even Summit (as big a brewer as they are) again until next summer. Oh, sure, one time my brothers lovingly packed up 24 bottles of Summit individually into a huge box and UPS'ed them to me, but that was over a decade ago. Why can't I order my hometown suds online the way I can get obscure foods (hello, Salted Nut Rolls & Nut Goodies!)? Come here and get my money!!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:47 AM on August 23, 2012

Why can't I order my hometown suds online the way I can get obscure foods (hello, Salted Nut Rolls & Nut Goodies!)

Maybe not your Hometown suds, but there are a few top crafts available at this online store. Other results came in a google of "online micro brew sales". But shipping could be pricey, and sometimes state laws will get your way -- states on the FAQ: We currently do NOT ship to these states, so please do not even try: AL, AR, KY, MA, MS, MT, NH, PA, TX & UT.
posted by Alewife's Husband at 9:03 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Of course, should any MeFites happen to find themselves in the vicinity of Muncie (and, frankly, I don't why on earth you would), I will pop for the first round at our local, beloved Heorot. Craft brew paradise, my friends.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:16 AM on August 23, 2012

StickCarpet, from my research, you can distill for fuel purposes but even for that is not an easy process to get licensed (in the US). The ATF seems to have gotten rid of the part of their FAQ that says you can't do it.

Back onto topic, though. My new favorite brewery is Upslope in Colorado.
They have avoided the problem with many American brewers or high gravity and heavy hopping. Super drinkable beers.
I just have to have my brother carry them halfway from Denver to Texas in order to drink them.
posted by Seamus at 9:17 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

For years I drank shitty, shitty domestic beer until Brawley's Beverage opened up down the street from me here in Charlotte and the owner introduced me to the Highland Brewery out of Asheville, NC. I've never looked back. The quality of their product, especially the Gaelic Ale, was quite the revelation.
posted by zzazazz at 9:23 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

These are all 5.x%, I think.

This is where the mindset has left you -- 5.anything% is extremely strong ale, not mild.

Bass in bottles is exactly what that English link was referring to -- not a "classic" but an imitation, a fake. It's not alive. It's not real ale. "Alive" is not a metaphor"; the yeast in real ale is still alive and still producing natural CO2. The beer is pumped out of the cask with a hand pump (a beer engine). It's a very different experience, and as different from Bass in a bottle as Bass in a bottle is from Busch Lite.

The man of twists and turns: thanks for the info about US Mild Ale, especially the Full Sail, which might be findable here. It's still not real ale, of course, and I'm a little worried about the brewer's statement about "the flavor I remember fondly from that first pint in London" -- you can't get mild in London, either. Gotta go up north, where the real beer is, like the great Roscoe Head in Liverpool (seriously, Liverpool's got more great pubs than London any old day).
posted by Fnarf at 9:58 AM on August 23, 2012

"Alive" is not a metaphor"; the yeast in real ale is still alive and still producing natural CO2. The beer is pumped out of the cask with a hand pump (a beer engine). It's a very different experience, and as different from Bass in a bottle as Bass in a bottle is from Busch Lite.

Point taken, but despite the "live" bottled brews you can find in US stores, I doubt you're going to find that kind of full "experience" anywhere but small-town England, or perhaps in bits of Europe. Holding that as an ideal to which the US micro industry might aspire, IMO, might be noble but is probably futile. American beer/ale culture will never be what it is in other parts of the world, and that's probably a good thing for the world. Unless it becomes the model for the rest of the world.

Ultimately, as a beer drinker, I really enjoy the variety of styles and flavors to come onto the US market over the last 15 years. I am very thankful for that.
posted by Alewife's Husband at 10:33 AM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

" latest love is ...Believer, double red ale ...brewed by Ninkasi"

Ninkasi is one of my neighbors :) I'm currently drinking a lot of their seasonal Radiant Ale.

And joy of joys, our little neighborhood is becoming a brewing district! Along with Ninkasi, Hop Valley and Oakshire are building breweries here.

It's a great time to be a beer lover, especially here in the Whit :D
posted by Phyllis Harmonic at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2012

Oh, and Austin folks, if you haven't heard . . .
The Celis family bought it's name back and is re-opening a brewery in Austin.
They will be re-entering a market that has changed drastically since they sold out to the majors, but they have a lot of name recognition and nostalgia going for them.
I'll just be happy if I never get another bottle of Grand Cru that tastes like I am sucking on a band-aid.
posted by Seamus at 10:51 AM on August 23, 2012

I had a sampler four-pack of Ninkasi when I was up near Bellingham, WA. Nuptiale Cream, Total Domination IPA, Maiden the Shade, and Radiant Ale. They were a little hoppy for my taste, but excellent nonetheless.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 10:58 AM on August 23, 2012

MartinWisse: "
Or just work your way down the list of Dutch brewers on Wikipedia.

I just tried my first Guulden Draak, which was amazing. Good flavor, amazing color, complex taste. After the first one, however, I became aware of certain facts that helped me to appreciate it correctly as a sipping beer.
posted by boo_radley at 11:14 AM on August 23, 2012

The recession is over!
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 11:20 AM on August 23, 2012

I'm not getting the hop hate, because first of all, isn't it a good thing that styles are more diversified these days? Why should all beer be brewed exactly the way it is in Britain? If you don't like spicy food, don't eat Indian food. If you don't like hoppy beer, don't drink West Coast IPAs. Second of all, you can't just brand beers as "overhopped", because it makes a vast difference whether the hops are put in at the beginning of the boil, when their primary contribution is to bitterness, near the end, when their primary contribution is to hop flavor, or at the very end, when they only affect the aroma. So something like Alesmith IPA is brewed with tons of hops, but it's not too bitter--estimates very, but only 50 IBUs according to one site--just incredibly flavorful.

Also, it's not THAT hard to find cask beer in the States. There's even a Real Ale Festival in San Diego featuring only cask beers.
posted by IjonTichy at 12:19 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

IjonTichy, I happen to enjoy hoppy beers (though not exclusively) but I definitely understand where the hop hate comes from. A lot of times I'll go into a reputable beer bar, and if there are sixteen taps, six of them are some form of IPA, three or four are imperial stout, imperial pilsner, imperial porter, or some other style that's b, then maybe a pale ale or two, a hefewiezen, and a handful of other less hoppy beers fight over the remaining spots.

This is really just beer bar owners responding to what customers want, because hoppy beers are popular in the US. And it's not like you can hide from hops by just avoiding West Coast IPAs, or all IPAs. One of my favorite porters is Troeg's Dead Reckoning, and it's very, very hoppy. Victory Prima Pils? Hoptacular. Sam Adams Noble Pils? Hopariffic. There are very few styles that someone hasn't tried to crank up the hops dial on in the U.S., and I can understand that some people get tired of it, especially if it's crowding out the options at their favorite bar.
posted by tonycpsu at 12:37 PM on August 23, 2012

It's not hop hate. I'm a huge IPA fan. But it's the trend toward making beers that taste like you're biting-off a wad of concentrated hops that really grates. There's a lack of balance with so many craft brewers today. You can have amazing variety and still create drinkable brews, but they seem to believe that the only way to make a name is to go overboard.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:06 PM on August 23, 2012

The hop-craze is only objectionable because it is so prevalent and ubiquitous.
When I can find a well-crafted beer that isn't heavily hopped, it stands out more than a well-crafted, heavily hopped beer because it seems so different than the norm.

I too am a huge hop fan. I like super heavy, super hoppy beers. In moderation.
But it seems that if I want a session beer, I gotta go out of my way to find it. Or drink Lonestar.

That being said I wish I could get a twelve of Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap Pils at a decent price. I could drink those doing yard-work.
posted by Seamus at 1:14 PM on August 23, 2012

In any case, if you're in the Midwest and you're looking for a good session ale I like Three Floyds Pride and Joy. It's the only mild I've had from an American microbrewery, and it's just the thing for mowing the lawn, say, or for that special situation where you absolutely have to drink six beers without falling over for some reason.
posted by IjonTichy at 2:02 PM on August 23, 2012

I was in Yellowstone Park last week and drank a Pako's IPA at the Old Faithful Lodge. I had a lot of MT and WY micros on this trip but this was a treat. Wish I wasn't driving that day or I'd have had two more.

I usually order IPA by default these days because too many EPAs are under-hopped. I cut my teeth on Summit EPA, which has enough hops to make you respect its authority but not enough to twist your mouth into a spasm. So I expect pales to have a little resonance and too many do not. And half of those IPAs are either what a pale should be or hopped up to a point where there is no balance. Even a beast like Surly Furious has a balance of malt/hops. Dammit, I need more Surly in my fridge.

In another month I'll be able to switch to Oktoberfests and go on a malt orgy. And then will come the Christmas ales. I guess I just love the change of the seasons.
posted by Ber at 2:14 PM on August 23, 2012

Yeah . . . special situation, IjonTichy! It's called Wednesday!
I wish they distributed to Iowa so my connections could bring me some.
posted by Seamus at 2:16 PM on August 23, 2012

Mmmmm, Surly Mild -- not around right now but that's a nice micro mild. Unexpected from the brewery that's made its name on a three-pronged approach of HOPS IN YR FACE, being the absolute best at marketing, and BREWING TO STYLE IS FOR CHUMPS HOPPITA MOPPITA. Their special anniversary batches are getting a little more ridiculous with every passing year, but if they can keep making buckets of money off those and still brew tasty subtle things like Hell which I've been enjoying all summer, then no complaints here.
posted by clavicle at 2:32 PM on August 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I enjoy a good high gravity beer (8-11%); two of my favorite homebrews so far have been a barleywine and a Belgian tripel, and a local beer called "Certified Evil" is a winner as well. On the other hand, a 12oz (350ml) bottle is to be split with a friend (or recapped and returned to the fridge if no friends are available). I'll order Certified Evil by the pint at a restaurant, but I regret it halfway down the glass.

I suppose I should try a true session beer at home. Unfortunately, cask conditioning is a technique that remains out of my reach. Bottle conditioning will have to do.
posted by jepler at 2:45 PM on August 23, 2012

three blind mice, I'm late to the party, but is that sarcasm? Because it really does seem like Texas's brewery laws are a substantial burden to the breweries. Wineries and basically every other manufacturing group in Texas can sell something directly to the consumer, but breweries cannot, and it was only due to the efforts of Jester King and others that they can even print the ABV on the label and call beers by their actual names now. TABC is utterly ridiculous. Growth in the small breweries has been astounding in the past few years -- I can only imagine what will happen when the market's opened up to allow brewpubs to bottle and sell offsite or breweries to sell direct from their facilities.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again -- I feel lucky to live in Austin right now. Some very good beers are being made here, and I hope Texas will decide to be hospitable to what could be both an even more profitable business and one for us to be proud of.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:07 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Mmmmm, Surly Mild -- not around right now but that's a nice micro mild. Unexpected from the brewery that's made its name on a three-pronged approach of HOPS IN YR FACE, being the absolute best at marketing, and BREWING TO STYLE IS FOR CHUMPS HOPPITA MOPPITA.

Surly's Bitter Brewer is another good session ale.

Worth noting, too, that Surly supports CAMRA.

As others have noted, many of the US smaller breweries pride themselves on cast- or bottle-conditioned brews, and many of us, including me, are lucky enough live in a place with many good local options. (There are, unfortunately, some pasteurization traditions that sometimes get in the way--i.e., small breweries who get bigger guys to bottle their stuff, but the big guys insist on pasteurizing which kills the yeast).

Although I do get the back lash against tons of hops, even if I like them myself.
posted by agog at 10:40 PM on August 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Checking in here, from good old Bend, OR. It's hard to describe how much this town has really embraced the craft beer explosion. Our 4th beer festival of the summer is coming up next weekend, with all local barrel-aged beers and we had 3 new breweries open in the last 3 months. It's a happy, happy place for a beer lovers, and there are beers for every taste, including lots of low-ABV options. It's a blast showing visitors around town and introducing them to some of the 10 breweries that are within walking distance of downtown. It doesn't get much better.
posted by evilbeck at 1:22 AM on August 24, 2012

That's great new about Celis starting up again. I hope they are able to match the flavors, the versions produced by the Michigan Brewing Company weren't quite the same.

Apparently Houston has three new breweries opening in 2013.
posted by beowulf573 at 6:59 AM on August 25, 2012

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