It’s time, isn’t it? I mean I could understand it initially. Change brings out the deepest of insecurities and skepticism in people, especially when the thing that is changing is going in a direction of something that has for decades stood for inferiority and questionable quality.
When the initial wave of craft beer in cans began, there was a good amount of backlash from a sector of the craft beer community. But that didn’t deter those breweries from installing canning lines instead of bottling lines, and the trend (if you can call it that) shows no sign of slowing down.
According to CraftCans.com, 81 craft breweries were canning their beer in 2010. Today that number sits at well over 500 breweries which all together put over 2000 canned beers on US market shelves (and I suspect the numbers are even higher. CraftCan wasn’t up to date regards to breweries who can in Delaware and so maybe other states are under represented as well).
I’ve witnessed this growth myself watching the canned craft beer section at State Line Liquors, a small shelf pushed into a corner, grow into a much larger shelf that OK, is still pushed into a corner but you can no longer walk past it unaware of its presence.
Once breweries began to get their patrons over the stigma that beer in cans was inferior, in some way tasted like “canned beer”, or that a hop vine died every time a can was opened; it was inevitable that the convenience and portability of cans would be quickly embraced.
Let’s face it when it comes to the most accommodating friend who is always up for fun, cans are it. They can go places that bottles can’t go, are easier and safer to deal with than a pile of empty glass, and as I pointed out on a recent Facebook chat, they’re far superior based on their shear stackability alone.
These potential benefits weren’t lost on Lori Clough whose 3rd Wave Brewery although having a history of bottling their shelf products on a bottling line inherited when her and her partner Suellen Vickers acquired the old Evolution Brewing site, recently released their seasonal BeachBreaker Apricot Wheat in cans. “We are located close to the Delaware and Maryland resort beaches, lots of hotels and state parks. All of which do not allow (or discourage) glass bottles,” Lori said.
But Lori also commented that canning had other advantages, “As we researched the canning process, we decided to can one year round product and a few seasonals….Cans work so much better in carry in/carry out situations. The cans and the canning process has greatly improved over the last few years. More people tend to recycle cans. Cans protect the product much better than bottles. And last, lots of other breweries are canning, we don’t want to miss out!”
And Lori doesn’t have to look far to witness some of these other breweries that are canning. In fact, she doesn’t even have to look outside of the state.
Delaware’s Twin Lake Brewery has offered their only shelf product Greenville Pale Ale in a can from the very beginning, and Milford’s Mispillion River has canned all their beers except for occasional “brewery sales only” bottle releases. So what can we expect to see from 3rd Waving joining these beers in the future?
Lori told me that their pale ale ShoreBreak will be available in cans all year round and that along with BeachBreak Apricot you can expect two other seasonals, SunSet Peach Wheat and SunDancer White IPA in mid July and late August, respectively.
But if it was just these new, cool kids taking to cans, maybe this whole “craze” might go away but no, some of the more established breweries are also taking advantage of the aluminum resurgence. Sierra Nevada, Ballast Point, Avery, Victory, Cigar City, Brewer’s Art and Bells all now have offerings in cans and early this year it was announced that industry darling New Glarus had installed a canning line. Except they hadn’t. But then they had.
No, I feel that despite some stubborn naysayers who will continue to hold on to their glass as tightly as Rose did to Jack at the end of Titanic (until she finally…well, you know…), thanks to some breweries who were willing to go against initial skepticism, cans are here to stay and will only continue to grow in numbers on the shelves of your favorite beer stop.
As always I would like to thank Lori for taking some of her valuable time to talk to me.
Here’s a gallery of new labels and updated old labels from both Dogfish Head and 16 Mile breweries. Dogfish Head continues to update the look of their 12oz bottles and adds a new beer to their shelf product, while 16 Mile begins its redesigning and adds a new beer as well.
A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking to John Doerfler, Sales and Event Manger for Kent County Tourism and the new person behind the Delaware Wine and Beer Festival.
I wanted to talk to John to ask about any potential changes there may be coming for this year’s festival in light of some of the issues that plagued last year’s event. For those who didn’t go to last years or didn’t hear any of the rumblings, I’ll try to sum it up briefly.
It was crowded.
Oh Lordy, was it crowded.
By the time we returned to the main festival after visiting the homebrew competition we found the place had turned into a collection of queued people waiting in one line or another. Lines at the vendor tents were easily 30-40 people deep, even deeper at the port-a-potties. The main path through the event was so crowded that it was hard to tell if you were standing in a vendor line, or standing in the line to get passed the vendor lines and some of those vendors would end up running out of beer early into the festival.
We left early. Our friend (who had bought a VIP ticket) never got a beer from a vendor having only tasted the beers during the homebrew judging.
I was disappointed because in the past, The Delaware Wine and Beer Festival had been my favorite yearly event, an awesome collection of everything in the beverage scene in the state of Delaware. Some time later I hoped that my disappointment was confined solely to me and my group, and I hoped everyone else who had attended found the festival enjoyable and fun.
That was not the case.
The Delaware Craft Beer and Wine Lovers Facebook page event for the festival had over 3200-people who had clicked that they were going to the event. People were posting comments about how much they looked forward to going and were eagerly tagging their friends to spread the word. Immediately after the event however, the tone on the thread changed. It seems that we were not the only ones disappointed by the event.
And boy did they let us know.
From the looks of things, the next festival would have its work cut out for it trying to address the issues that had been raised and so with that thought in mind, I contacted John to talk about that very thing.
However, the phone call I went into thinking of strictly as an interview turned out to be more of a discussion. Plans for this year’s festival were still being ironed out, and John was very interested in hearing what criticisms myself and others had about last year’s event to see if they were in line with some of the feedback he had heard.
As such I won’t write a detailed recap of our discussion, I will instead hit some of the highlights to explain the reasoning behind the announced changes.
VENUE: As stated in Thursday’s release, the event is being moved away from the Delaware Agricultural Museum. Moving the festival to the Harrington Fairgrounds immediately relieves several of the problems from last year. The larger venue allows the festival to be more spread out and thus eliminate the congestion, plus make space for more toilets.
John stated another advantage to the move, “We have access to a couple of big buildings allowing us to have some of the vendors inside and if the weather is bad we could move the whole festival indoors.”
VIP DIFFERENTIAL: Of all the big issues I thought last year’s event suffered from, I thought this was a pretty important one. When I stated that some folks didn’t see the value in the VIP ticket compared to the general admission ticket I had to admit that I agreed with them.
John definitely could see their point, and we did discuss some options but Thursday’s release made no mention of VIP tickets. When I inquired as to why, Marketing and Communication’s Manager, Justine Zimney was quick to respond, “As of right now, we are still working on details such as the VIP tickets and the homebrew competition. The press release sent out this morning was to highlight the new venue as well as early bird tickets.. which is the first time we are doing a special early bird ticket price! Once more information is released then we will have an additional press release.”
If you haven’t seen the information yet, the festival is offering general admission tickets from now until July 8th, for only $25. After July 8th, advance admission will be $35, and day-of-event tickets will be $40. Your ticket will get you entrance into the festival and you can sample any beers, wines or spirits, as well as purchase a full pour (full glass of beer, wine or a cocktail).
RUNNING OUT OF BEER: While many festivals rely on brewers to donate their beer, that’s not been the case with the DWaBF. When I asked if it was true that the festival buys all the beer from the vendors, John confirmed that that was indeed the case. “For other festivals I could offer them exposure in return for a brewery’s beer, but these vendors already have that. They’ve worked hard on their product. Why shouldn’t they get paid for it?”
So how do you make sure you’re buying enough. This is where John’s previous experience with festivals at Dover Downs and as a onetime caterer comes in handy. “There are ways to calculate this kind of stuff. I never ran out of anything when I catered.”
Still, will this guarantee that some breweries won’t still run out. No, because sometimes breweries can only give so much. I happen to know that part of the reason Argilla left early last year was because their annual Fall Festival was the following weekend and Steve only had so many kegs he could release to Delaware’s event.
Likewise, Big Oyster had just started up their small production brewery and was also probably limited to the number of kegs they could contribute.
That being said, John’s goal is to have as much beer (and wine, mead, spirits) available for festival goers throughout the entire event.
LONG LINES: Although John acknowledges that some waiting in line is a benefit to help control over consumption, he was quick to point out that he felt that waiting 25-30 minutes in line for a sample was unacceptable. John would like to see three to four smaller lines at each tent instead of one long one. “If we could set it up where the breweries have more taps and we have more volunteers to help them pour, then the line problem becomes more manageable”.
And as far as people standing in line waiting to get into the festival? “We have access to the latest technology to get people into the festival as fast as possible”, John said.
I was very encouraged about this year’s festival after my discussion with John. I found him eager to discuss how the festival might be improved and he took none of the issues from last year’s patrons lightly or offhandedly. In fact, on several occasions when I brought up an issue he would quickly agree that there should be a better alternative which lead me to believe that he had already given the matter some consideration.
I think this can be best illustrated by a point towards the end of our discussion when I brought up the fact that many people were disappointed in the use of plastic cups. I didn’t even get to finish my statement.
“Yeah, we won’t be doing that. They’re gone.”
As always I’d like to thank both John Doerfler and Justine Zimney for taking some of their valuable time to talk to me.
The festival includes live music, performers, games, and access to a select number of local eateries featuring gourmet foods and Delaware delicacies. We will offer a merchandise store and a wine store with discounted prices on bottles or cases of Delaware-made wines.
This autumn festival will have you experiencing some of the First State’s finest culinary landscape. A food unique to Delaware called “scrapple,” a pork-based meal known to be Delaware’s most icon dish, is a fan favorite for many. Guests can look forward to a variety of Delaware delicacies such as seafood and barbecue dishes. Food trucks from local culinary artists will also be set up with delicious and convenient items for all to enjoy
You must be 21 to attend.
Please note: There are no refunds for this event, and it will be held rain or shine.
As a point of disclosure I’m obligated to inform you that there was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy this book.
Oh sure, I was going on a little faith as I knew absolutely nothing about Tony Russo before I caught wind of his new book Delaware Beer: The Story of Brewing in the First State. A brief stroll through the interwebs informed me that indeed this was not Mr. Russo’s first foray into the area of local craft beer.
So it seemed on a glance that Mr. Russo would be a capable writer with the necessary level of knowledge of the subject to answer the question that his latest book’s title seems to beg.
What is Delaware beer?
One gets the feeling that in order to answer that question Tony Russo took a cue from Cosmos host Neil deGrasse Tyson. While standing on top of a hill with a clear view of everything that is currently happening “beerwise” in the state of Delaware; Russo seems to have asked the same question Mr. Tyson often asked viewers – How did we get here?
And – much like the show Cosmos – Mr. Russo is going to have to take us on a trek back in time to begin to answer that question.
Mr. Russo starts off in the early days of Delaware. Much to his credit, the author doesn’t proceed into a long rehashing of this time period, simply pointing to John Medkeff Jr’s recently published Brewing in Delaware for a more in depth study.
However, he does use this opportunity to set up future chapters by explaining such things as the influence of German immigrants that drove lager to prominence in the marketplace in Delaware and indeed the US, the impacts of Prohibition on the brewers that called Delaware their home, and also the strong sense of culture – the “tavern” community – that arose around the simple pleasures of family and good beer among these same German immigrants (remember that last one; it’s important).
Once the groundwork is laid we’re brought forward in time for a look at three men Delaware beer enthusiasts should easily recognize: Sam Calagione, Al Stewart and Jim Lutz (who provides the forward for the book).
The author lays out enough history to be informative but not boring while explaining the framework of state regulations, still prevalent prohibition mindsets, and early equipment frustrations that Sam and Al had to wade through to get their respective brewpubs off the ground. And by dialing in other breweries such as Iron Hill, adds a discussion on how each company took a different approach in the attempt to establish themselves in a market place that was (and maybe to a point still is) trying to figure itself out.
At the heart of Delaware Beer are the multitude of stories that are woven within the framework of this history concerning the people behind these breweries and consequently the breweries that would begin to open over the coming decades including 3rd Wave, FoDo, Mispillion, Twin Lakes and most recently, Blue Earl Brewing. Stories which help flesh out the narrative and make the book more than just a dry history text.
Mr. Russo uses these stories to highlight the fact that although each brewery worked independently to find their own identity within their surrounding community (remember that from above?) the overall result was a commonality that solidly defines what he believes Delaware beer is. How? Well you’re going to have to read the book to find that out for yourselves, but trust me, in my opinion Mr. Russo has more than risen to the task.
At 106 pages, Delaware Beer isn’t a daunting read. The narrative of the book flows effortlessly and it reads quite well. It also contains a good number of black and white pictures throughout (along with a 16 page color photo insert) of places and faces that people familiar with the Delaware beer scene should easily recognize.
As stated above there was no way I wasn’t going to enjoy this book, and I’m glad to say that I was right – mostly because I had the pleasure or experiencing this beer Renaissance for myself. Tony Russo has written a worthy addition to the bookshelf of anyone interested in the journey beer brewers took in the state of Delaware to get the beer scene where it currently resides today. I’d consider it an excellent follow up read (if not a totally unintentional companion) to John Medkeff’s book mentioned above.
How did we get here? I think Mr. Russo did a fine job explaining our journey. But unlike Cosmos, not only didn’t we have to leave our galaxy to find the answers – we barely had to leave our state.
Blue Earl Brewery – May 12th
Dewey Beer Company – May 15th
Seaford Library – May 30th
Fordham and Dominion Brewing – June 3rd
Salisbury Shore Craft Beer Fest – June 18th
Bethany Beach Books – June 19th
[Disclosure: I’d like to thank Emily Hommel and Katie Parry of Arcadia Publishing/History Press for sending me an advanced copy of Delaware Beer. Receiving this book free as a reviewer’s copy in no way influence my opinion of this book or its review.]
Below is information from the press release on Tony Russo’s (ShoreCraftBeer.com) up coming book entitled “Delaware Beer: The Story of Brewing in the First State” which is set to go on sale May 9th. Links for pre-orders can be found at the bottom of this post.
***** Press Release*****
About the book: Boasting a brewing history older than the United States, Delaware packs an outsized punch in the craft beer scene with its landmark breweries and bold flavors. In 1873, the German lagers of Wilmington’s Diamond State brewing rose to dominance. After Prohibition and the bust of the first craft beer bubble, entrepreneurial homebrewers resurrected the industry. Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head led the charge by rewriting the state’s beer legislation, and the field opened to other brewpubs like Stewart’s and Iron Hill to pair savory bites with their brews. By 2009, production breweries like 16 Mile and Fordham & Dominion were on the rise, changing the arc of Delaware beer. Beer writer Tony Russo tells a story of big risks and innovative brewers and proves that there has never been a better time to drink local.
(Click on release to enlarge to full screen)
You can pre-order “Delaware Beer” from the following locations:
Brewpubs usually come into being with a torrent of fanfare and anticipation as the local beer community eagerly awaits the opening of the doors, and the amazing beers beyond. However, on very rare occasions, in the state of Delaware at least, brewpubs can open with the far less ceremonious swipe of the pen, and the mundane task of filling out forms.
That’s what happened recently when the popular Two Stones Pub franchise had to re-license their two Delaware bars/restaurants as brewpubs due to the recent opening of the Aston, PA based 2SP Brewery by Two Stones Pub owners Mike Stiglitz and Ben Muse.
When I reached out to Mike via email to get more information he confirmed the recent change. “True. As a brewery owner, all other restaurants must be licensed as brewpubs or we would be violating the regulations.”
(1) For a manufacturer or supplier, or the owner, partner or stockholder of a manufacturer or supplier, to own or be interested in any manner in any establishment licensed by the Commissioner to sell alcoholic liquors, either by the bottle or by the glass to the consumer thereof for consumption either on or off the premises where sold.
And although Robert admits that the law is pretty restrictive, “Delaware has the most stringent tied house laws in the United States”. He was quick to point out that the law has a good reason for existing.
“The law keeps someone like Anheuser-Busch from coming into the state and opening a bunch of restaurants and exerting their influence on the tier system.”
While Mike and Ben’s situation appeared relatively straightforward, Robert indicated that is not always the case. “Hotels are my [bane]”, he said as he went on to describe how quickly things can get complicated.
When a hotel opens and wants a license for a bar, the owning parties of the hotel are searched out. This usually means companies owned by other companies and more often then not can eventually lead to investment companies like REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) which in turn can have thousands of shareholders. Apparently, figuring out who all the “owners” are and if any of them own a stake in a manufacturer as describe above is just a small part of what makes Robert’s job – interesting.
So with a better understanding of the regulations that forced Mike and Ben to re-license their establishments, questions started flooding in my mind. First and foremost? If the State is going to make them be a brewpub, are they going to in fact be a brewpub?
“Yes we will be doing nanobrew size batches throughout the year,” Mike replied. “We have several (VMS350) SABCO systems and we have decided to brew at all locations but it will be periodically throughout the year nothing scheduled and nothing set in stone.”
Of course that leads to another bonus of being a brewpub – growlers. But while the switch in license does allow the locations to sell growlers if they want, Mike was quick to point out that there are certain restrictions.
“Yes you are allowed to sell growlers if you are a brew pub but only what you produce. So that means we can only sell growlers at Two Stones Newark of beer that is produced at Two Stones Newark. We can not sell any other beer even Two Stones Pub Wilmington beer or 2sp Brewing Company beer.”
On the surface, this re-licensing might seem like a nuisance but it actually can be very beneficial to the owners of 2SP Brewery. Having pilot systems at their restaurant locations gives them a great opportunity to brew small batches of beer and get almost instant costumer feedback outside of the brewery. That kind of marketing situation is a great benefit.
It also gives them the opportunity to work closely with the kitchen at each location, perhaps producing beers that meld well with that particular Chef’s style or vision.
All of which gives Two Stones an excellent opportunity to scout beers that may become candidates to scale up at the larger brewery.
And it’s a wash financially for Two Stones as according to Robert there is very little licensing cost difference between that of a bar and that of a brewpub (depends on how you look at it. A restaurant license is $500 biannually, the lowest production brewpub/brewery license is $1500 for the same period). In fact, if Mike and Ben decide not to brew at their Delaware locations, very little would change – just a different license.
So this is a total win, right? Sadly not. The licensing change does have one downside to it which will be guaranteed to make Delaware craft beer fans unhappy. Section 512B Brewery-pubs of the regulations (again, emphasis mine) reads:
(b)(2) It may brew, bottle, and sell beer at no more than 3 licensed establishments, provided that each such licensed establishment qualifies as a separate brewery-pub under this section
(g) The provisions of § 546 of this title to the contrary notwithstanding, the sale for off-premises consumption at up to a combined total of 3 licensees licensed under this section or 2 licensees licensed under this section and a microbrewery licensed pursuant to § 512C of this title all owned or controlled by the same person shall be permitted.
(As a quick point of clarification, since the 2SP microbrewery is licensed in PA, it doesn’t count in regards to – or 2 licensees licensed under this section and a microbrewery.)
This means that when the next Two Stones’ location opens up later this year in Hockessin, it will be the third brewpub for the company; the most allowed by law for a common owner and the final Two Stones to open in the state of Delaware. When I commented to Mike that this was a shame because I know many people who would still love to have a Two Stones in Middletown, he replied that it wasn’t from a lack of trying.
“We are very upset we were not able to move into Middletown and we actually had signed the lease last year but then we were pushed out in favor of Green Turtle. I completely understand but chains seem much more preferential to a developer then a stand-alone unit independent proprietor. And just [to be] clear we did have a lease signed with the letter of intent but Green Turtle at the time was chosen over us as a preferred tenant.”
So there you go. The Delaware Two Stones Pub locations can now be officially referred to as brewpubs, although how much beer will actually be produced at each location is still under consideration by the owners and if it changes anything regarding the locations remains to be seen.
[The author would like to thank Mike Stiglitz and Robert Weist for their valuable time.]
Over the years I’ve been unapologetic concerning my fondness for Twin Lakes Brewing’s Greenville Pale Ale. Not only is the cascade laden ale so fiercely drinkable that I included in my post for The Six Pack Project, but I also tell people that it’s my go to BBQ/Grilling beer. Sometimes I think they believe I’m over stating this, but all you have to do is scroll down this blog’s Facebook page and you’ll see that unmistakable, green can in a lot of photos sitting next to grills and grilled meat.
So when I caught wind last week that the brewery was closing down to move to a new location I was obviously curious and quite surprised, as I know the location has been a source of pride for co-owner Sam Hobbs since the brewery opened in the spring of 2006.
The Twin Lakes brewery currently resides on a piece of land that has been owned by the Hobbs family for seven generations, and the brew house itself was set up in a barn that dates back to the 1820s. The name refers to two ponds, or “lakes”, that sat on the property on which the Hobbs family allowed locals to skate since the early 1900s. And while the property, with its single vehicle driveway, small tasting room and not-so spacious brew house might not have been the most convenient for a working brewery, it was the most scenic and beautiful brewery in Delaware. After all, what other brewery can you take a few minutes after picking up a growler to pet a horse.
But before I get too deeply into this post, let me be up front and say that this is not a “news article”. I don’t have any knowledge or information on the situation at the Twin Lakes Brewery that hasn’t already been printed or that can be gleaned easily from social media.
The purpose of this post is to allow me to express some of the sadness I feel when the business end of the beer world interfers and/or disrupts an otherwise fine producer of great beer. Why do I say that? Because quite rapidly the story changed into more than just the brewery changing locations.
For the benefit of my readers who are outside the Delaware area, I’ll sum up the situation to the best of my ability.
Back on June 17th the brewery posted on its Facebook page that the tasting room was closed until further notice. The post gave no explanation, and advised the page’s followers to await information on when the tasting room would reopen.
On July 6th, Jack Curtin posted on his Liquid Diet Blog that according to his sources there had been a “crisis at” the brewery wherein investors were trying to force Hobbs out of the business.
My initial thought was that this was ridiculous but on July 7th, Delaware Online posted this article that stated the brewery was moving to a new location because its lease had expired back in 2013, while the brewery’s Webpage listed growth as a reason for the move. The article wouldn’t have struck me funny if not for Curtin’s post from the previous day and the fact that it contained quotes from brewery CEO Adam Doherty and brewery co-founder Jack Wick and nothing from Sam Hobbs who had been (it seemed to me anyway) the face of the brewery. But maybe I’m reading too much into that. For those of you who go on to read the article please note that on its initial posting it made no mention of Rob Pheiffer or the “other brewer”. This portion was edited in later.
That night I was clicking around some beer related social media and came across several posts which really throw me for a loop – long time head brewer Rob Pheiffer apparently would not be following the brewery to its new location as he had apparently parted ways with the company several weeks earlier along with assistant brewer Julia Christie-Robin whose social media now lists her as a brewer at Forgotten Boardwalk in Cherry Hill.
When I pull all the above together, I’m forced to conclude that there has indeed been some kind of shake up at Twin Lakes and the explanation that this is simply a move revolving around “growth” reeks of not being the full story as I don’t know of too many brewers that would walk away from their jobs just because the brewery wanted to move and expand. But having said that, these facts coupled with a few other pieces of information, I could probably paint a couple of scenarios where expansion may have been the catalyst for all the fallout at Twin Lakes. But since I either don’t have, or am not 100% sure on those other pieces of information I’ll refrain from laying out what I believe happened because as I said initially, that’s not the purpose of this post.
No the purpose of post is to give me a forum to convey my disappointment that it appears that this fine brewery has been ripped apart by business disagreements and infighting. Oh sure, the voices who now seem to be calling the shots assure us that the brewery will reopen once a new location is secured, but will it truly be “Twin Lakes” outside of the property that gave the brewery its name (not to mention its water) and without some of the people who gave the place its personality (when the Delaware Online article was updated it included a quote from Wick that Sam Hobbs was still an owner of the brewery).
Rob Pheiffer, besides being an awesome brewer, was very active in the Delaware brewing community. His enthusiasm and sly grin lead me to start referring to him as “the happiest man in the business” and while I have no doubt that I’ll still bump into him a events from time-to-time, to walk up to a Twin Lakes tent at a festival and not see him smiling behind that large wooden tap pedestal just isn’t going to feel right.
The property itself will be missed amongst the community as it was the location of such awesome events such as the Wilmington Burger Battle (which has found new digs for its upcoming August 29th event) and The “Red Shoe and Brew” which benefited The Ronald McDonald House of Delaware.
As for the new location, I’m sure the now powers-that-be will be looking for a place that will allow them to increase capacity as well as placing the brewery more in line with the current small brewery model that is currently popping up in Delaware. And I’m sure the new brewer, whoever he or she may be, will work hard to continue to produce the recipes that Rob worked so hard to develop. But to me, the place will never have the soul of the old Twin Lakes. It’s impossible.
If they took your favorite bar, tore it down, rebuilt it in another location, changed the decor and got rid of your favorite bartenders, you probably could still enjoy the beer and the food, but would it still be your favorite bar? I guess that’s what we’ll see in the future.
The beer? I guess we’ll have to see about that as well. But you can bet that I’ll be very keen to taste the initial batches of Greenville Pale Ale that come from the new location.
I’d like to wish Rob and Julia good luck in their future endeavors and as well as those at the brewery with their move going forward. While at the end of the day I can rationalize that its just an unfortunate repercussion of the nature of the business it doesn’t change my overall reaction to the situation. It’s sad.
With less than three days to go until Philly Beer Week (PBW) 2015, the route for the annual Hammer of Glory (HOG) Relay has been announced, culminating in the HOG’s arrival at Opening Tap. Tickets are still available for Opening Tap, featuring pours from 42 local breweries!
The 2015 HOG Relay Route
As has become an annual tradition, the HOG will travel across Philadelphia via every means of transit imaginable, stopping at top beer bars as well as television stations and newspapers before arriving in style at the Opening Tap for the ceremonial first tap that officially begins PBW
At each stop, the HOG handlers will recite the hand-off toast: “Noble carrier, we entrust you with the Hammer of Glory, the omnipotent symbol of our beloved Philadelphia Beer Week. May your journey be safe. Work ye up a thirst, for there shall be a beer waiting for you at your destination. Godspeed!”
This year’s route will begin at 6:45 a.m. at CBS 3, followed by a can’t-miss stop at Fox 29. From there, the HOG will make its way, via SEPTA Regional Rail, Philly Roller Derby, the Two Roads VW bus, horse-drawn beer wagon, the Fishtown Beer Runners, wheelbarrow, motorcycle, and even Marie Antoinette, to destinations that include pubs (such as Grey Lodge), breweries (such as Saint Benjamin), entertainment complexes (such as SugarHouse), local favorites (such as London Grill) and more before arriving, via a certain 1980s TV show, from Kite & Key to Opening Tap.
The full route is available online under Hammer Relay on the official PBW website. Per tradition, SugarHouse Casino’s double-decker bus will provide transportation throughout the day. Participating bars and venues are listed below:
6:45 a.m. – CBS3 (1555 Hamilton Street)
7:55 a.m. – FOX29 (330 Market Street)
8:18 a.m. – Red Owl Tavern (433 Chestnut Street)
8:34 a.m. – The Philadelphia Inquirer (801 Market Street)
8:57 a.m. – SEPTA Fox Chase Line (Jefferson Station, Market Street, between 10th & 12th)
9:47 a.m. – Hop Angel Brauhaus (7980 Oxford Avenue)
11:56 a.m. – Saint Benjamin Brewing (1710 North 4th Street)
12:29 p.m. – Philadelphia Brewing Company (2440 Frankford Avenue)
12:50 p.m. – Johnny Brenda’s (1201 Frankford Avenue)
1:15 p.m. – Bar Ferdinand/El Camino Real (1030 North 2nd Street)
1:33 p.m. – Standard Tap (901 North 2nd Street)
1:59 p.m. – Yards Brewing (901 North Delaware Avenue)
2:17 p.m. – SugarHouse Casino (1001 North Delaware Avenue)
3:00 p.m. – Garage (1231 East Passyunk Avenue)
3:25 p.m. – 12 Steps Down (831 Christian Street)
4:08 p.m. – Varga Bar (941 Spruce Street)
4:31 p.m. – Time (1315 Sansom Street)
4:54 p.m. – The Institute Bar (549 North 12th Street)
5:32 p.m. – London Grill (2301 Fairmount Avenue)
5:57 p.m. – Belgian Café (601 North 21st Street)
6:20 p.m. – Kite & Key (1836 Callowhill Street)
6:53 p.m. – Opening Tap, 23rd Street Armory
Opening Tap 2015
· Tickets are still available for Opening Tap, the official annual kick-off celebration of Philly Beer Week and the culmination of the HOG’s day-long tour around town
· Opening Tap 2015 will be held on Friday, May 29 from 7 p.m. until 10 p.m. at the 23rd Street Armory (22 South 23rd Street)
· Three tiers of admission are available:
o General Admission: $46 (includes beers from 42 local breweries, plus the debut of Brotherly Suds, the local collaborative brew created by Flying Fish, Iron Hill, Nodding Head, Sly Fox, Earth Bread + Brewery, Troegs, Victory, Weyerbacher and Yards, as well as live music and entertainment, including an interactive photo booth loaded with props from PBW sponsor Photobot 3000 that is sure to be a do-not-miss attraction)
o VIP Admission: $92 (includes an additional hour of access, beginning at 6 p.m., plus exclusive beers, a lavish buffet and a special beer and cheese pairing from PBW sponsor Di Bruno Bros.)
o Designated Driver Admission: $25
o There will be 42 featured breweries and home brewers, including: 2nd Story, Barren Hill, Samuel Adams, Broken Goblet, Cape May Brewing, Conshohocken Brewing, Dock Street, Dogfish Head, Doylestown Brewing, Evil Genius, Fegley’s Brew Works, Flying Fish, Free Will, Home Sweet Homebrew, Iron Hill Brewery, Keystone Homebrew, Kurant Cider, Lancaster Brewing, Manayunk Brewing, Penn Brewery, Philadelphia Brewing Company, Riverhorse, Rock Bottom, Round Guys, Saucony Creek, Shawnee Craft, Ship Bottom, Sly Fox, Spring House, Saint Benjamin Brewing Company, St. Boniface, Stoudt’s, Susquehanna Brewing, The Lion Brewery, The Other Farm Brewery, Troegs, Vault, Victory, Weyerbacher, Wyndridge Brewery & Cider, Yards and Yuengling
This post has been quite a while coming. As you may or may not know the Brewer’s Association awhile back released a list of breweries in the US that did not meet their definition of “craft brewery”, and of course, a little uproar ensued.
For those of you who are not aware of this, or really don’t see why people should care, let me fill you in.
The Brewer’s Association is the self-appointed watch dog of all things “craft beer”. In order to be labeled a “craft brewer” you have to meet a number of requirements set out in a multi-part definition that they have put forth. Requirements such as barrel output (size), types of ingredients used, and ownership.
Now that last one might seem a little strange but indeed, it matters to many people (and to the Brewer’s Association) who owns breweries that are trying to pass themselves off as “craft” breweries. And by definition, if your “craft brewery” is owned more than 25% by an entity that is itself NOT a craft brewery, than by the trickle-down theory of zymurgnomics you are non-craft.
Although I feel that the 25% number is a bit arbitrary, the reasoning behind this stipulation is pretty straight forward. The Brewer’s Association does not want big corporations swooping in and buying smaller craft breweries, changing things around and then trying to continue to pass them off as “craft breweries” to the unsuspecting public.
Again, if you know nothing about this situation the whole thing may seem pretty odd, but believe me there are many evil specters in this world that want to infiltrate your favorite small brewery and then, while you sleep soundly at night, replace your brewery’s six-packs with six-packs made under the guise of your brewery, but having a big corporation taint about them. Kind of like a craft beer changeling if you will. They look like your beer, cost like your beer, hell they may even taste like your beer, but there are people out there who can sense their malevolent aura liquor stores away. Like how a mother always knows which baby is not hers.
Or at least that’s what some people would have you believe.
The problem with approaching this situation from this perspective is that not all ownership partnerships are created equal.
[Author’s note: Since I wrote this article, AB snatched up Elysian Brewing to much outcry and now there are reports that they’re courting Cigar City]
And why should they? Although it is above the 25% limit the BA sets, 30% is far from a majority interest in the brewery. Add to that Founders co-founder and CEO Mike Stevens’ assurance to the craft beer world that “Founders will remain Founders”, and most people are probably willing to simply hold their breath and hope for the best.
And if nothing changes at Founders? Well isn’t that the more important concern we should be considering here? If Mahou San Miguel is willing to let the people at Founders run the brewery as they have in the past, does the ownership issue really matter? I guess it depends on your point of view.
Anyway, back to the list that the Brewer’s Association put out. I was of course curious to see who was on it, and see which aspect of the definition the offending brewery had broken (NOTE: Due to continued desire of the Brewer’s Association to not kick Sam Adams out of the sandbox, it’s never ‘size’). Of course, I never expected to see a brewery from Delaware on the list, let alone two. But there they were – Fordham Brewery and Old Dominion Brewery, under the umbrella company Coastal Brewing. Reason? “Brewery is owned 49% by AB InBev”.
What? That was news to me. Now granted, I wasn’t intimately familiar with the backgrounds of these two breweries (for clarification, while the breweries currently operate as separate entities with different packaging and portfolios, they share a single facility, brewing equipment, sales representatives and head brewer) but I never suspected that AB InBev had a large stake in their operations.
A quick internet search revealed that indeed, back in 2007 before the two breweries merged and moved to their current location in Dover, DE; Anheuser-Busch entered an agreement with the then Annapolis, MD based Fordham Brewing which did eventually give Anheuser-Busch (which hadn’t been bought up themselves yet) an apparent stake in the breweries. But I couldn’t find any reference or statements to back up the 49% asserted by the BA.
Not long after that, Fordham/Dominon Maryland representative Casey Hollingsworth tweeted that the breweries were not owned 49% by AB InBev and challenged the Brewer’s Association to “do their homework” (sadly I could not find this tweet using Twitter search to include in this post).
At that moment I thought, “Yeah, maybe someone should do that homework. And maybe that someone should be me.” But sadly, time passed and the idea of finding out what was really the truth concerning Coastal Brewing got pushed onto the back burner. And I’ve seen it stated several times since, but when someone recently posted the statement in a Facebook Group, I decided it was time to see if I could get some clarification concerning the matter.
I reached out to Fordham/Dominion through their website, and Jim Lutz, President/CEO of Coastal Brewing agreed to take some time to talk to me about his company’s relationship with AB InBev and (more importantly to me) the conglomerate’s dealings with the everyday operations of his company. And to help clarify the situation as much as possible, Jim invited Ryan Telle, VP of marketing for Coastal Brewing to join in on the conversation.
Jim began by filling me in on the back story of how AB InBev first came to acquire a stake of Coastal Brewing. [Author’s Note: Some of this information is on the Old Dominion Brewery Wikipedia page, but the page information was incomplete and out of date. Not really knowing about the page, Jim and Ryan said they’d look into updating it and in fact, Ryan must be updating in now, because I’ve notice that changes have been made to it as I’m writing this].
Back in 2007, Fordham Brewing and Ram’s Head Taverns owner Bill Muhlhauser entered an agreement with Anheuser-Busch, which at that point, gave AB a 49% stake in the brewery plus control of the brewery’s distribution.
Bill then reached out to purchase Old Dominion Brewing which owner Jerry Bailey had been trying to sell since the mid-2000s. Once the transaction was complete, Muhlhauser found himself in ownership (along with other partners) of both breweries, with AB still having a stake in the companies as well as the distribution rights to the breweries’ beers. So where does that arrangement stand today?
“In-Bev’s current stake in the two breweries is less than 40%,” Jim related.
OK, it would have been nice if it had been below 25% so we could have killed this thing dead once and for all, but as I said above, what was more important to me was to find out what that truly meant to the day-to-day operations of Coastal Brewing.
Did they have input in the recipes that head-brewer Dan Lauder formulates for the two breweries, brewing philosophy, or marketing direction? What exactly is Coastal Brewing’s obligations to AB InBev because they have an approximately 40% stake in the company?
“We send them a financial report every month,” Jim stated.
Really? No quarterly meetings with AB Inbev where you have to present a ridiculously huge slide deck laying out all your business and marketing strategies for the coming year?
“In the years I’ve been here (Jim came over from Flying Dog in January of 2011) I’ve only met with the AB InBev people twice, both times in New York City. In fact, the two people I met with no longer work for AB InBev.”
So at the moment Jim wouldn’t know anyone from AB InBev if they walking into his office? “I wouldn’t know them from Adam.”
Ryan echoed that statement, “In the two years I’ve been here, I’ve never talked with anyone from AB inBev.”
Of course I really wanted to nail this point home so when I asked if an entity that owns close to 40% of a business operation doesn’t at least check in every now and then, the assurance was quick, “No.” Jim would then go on to add, “AB InBev has never stepped inside the brewery.”
In fact, since the years that have followed their initial agreement, Coastal has worked to distance themselves even further from AB InBev by reacquiring the distribution part of the business. “We now have the ability to go into any state and negotiate with all distributors until we find the one that we feel will serve us the best,” Jim said. “When we went into New Jersey, we chose a non-AB InBev distributor. When we pulled out of Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Alabama because we felt it didn’t make sense for us to be there, WE made that decision.”
I asked Jim how he felt about the Brewer’s Association and the fact that his breweries would never be considered craft under their current definitions. It was here that Jim’s passion for what Coastal Brewing has accomplished really came through. “I’m sure they have to draw a line for a definition. The managing board meets and they need to have a definition. It’s a shame. We pay our dues to the Brewer’s Association. We’ve won craft beer medals. We won a Gold medal in the 2014 World Beer Cup. We won a Silver medal at this year’s GABF. But if they don’t want to acknowledge us a ‘craft’ well…”
Winding up the interview I wanted to ask a few other questions that I myself was interested in knowing the answer to, after all it’s not every day I get to talk to the CEO and Marketing VP of one of Delaware’s major breweries. Having recently noticed some changes in the social media concerning the two breweries and the wording on the new packaging of one of the breweries, I asked if we had officially come to the time when we could drop the “OLD” from “Old Dominion.”
“Oh, yes,” Jim responded.
Ryan added, “We’ve recently consolidated the two brewery’s websites into one site. We’ve started using ‘FoDo’ as a marketing designation and everyone who works for us has it in front of their names on Twitter.”
So is there any chance of this on going consolidation including the two brewery’s portfolios in the future? “No, we’ll be keeping them separate as they are two different [brewing philosophies],” Jim replied. “Fordham is more sessionable, while Dominion is where we brew bolder beers.”
Regrettably, I walked away from this interview feeling less than totally satisfied. The bottom line is that until such time as the ownership agreement changes, Fordham and Dominion will not be considered “craft” by the Brewer’s Association. And that’s sad, because they are two fine breweries that in every other way, symbolize what it means to be a “craft brewer”.
But armed with the fact that AB InBev has no input into the day-to-day operations of the breweries, and that Fordham’s Rosie Parks Oyster Stout and Dominion’s Double D IPA are two of my favorite beers brewed in Delaware – that’s “craft” enough for me. Especially when you take into consideration that I’ve never liked using the word “craft” to describe a brewery anyway. But that’s another post.
I’d like to thank both Jim Lutz and Ryan Telle for taking some of their valuable time to talk to me.
Press release received about new .beer domains being made available for public purchase. See related article here. -Ed
I thought you might be interested in receiving this. Let me know if you have any questions or would like to learn more about this initiative for the beer industry – or even get involved.
PR adviser to .beer / Minds + Machines
.beer Domain Launched
Brewers Association among first to register .beer web addresses
Santa Monica, September 25, 2014 — The Brewers Association (BA), the not-for-profit trade association that represents the majority of U.S. breweries, will be among the first to register .beer web addresses under the new Internet top-level domain .beer when it becomes available to the general public on September 25, 2014.
The launch of .beer by registry operator Minds + Machines is part of a major overhaul of the Internet’s naming structure top-level domains by ICANN, the Internet’s governing body. Over 1,000 new domains will be introduced onto the Internet over the next 18 months providing choice, relevance, and name availability to communities and businesses globally.
The public can register their .beer names at http://www.mindsandmachines.com/beeror at any participating domain name registrar. New .beer domain names will start at about $25 a year.
Among the .beer web addresses already registered are craft.beer, pumpkinfest.beer and homebrewers.beer. Well-known brewers like Elysian Brewing Company and Bear Republic Brewing Company have also already come on board to welcome the new Internet name.
Antony Van Couvering, CEO of Minds + Machines,
“We are in the middle of the largest transformation of the Internet to date. New top-level domains have been embraced by the likes of Amazon and Google, and we’re about to see a tipping point where people naturally adopt domain endings that signal a particular interest, location or activity. We believe that everyone who is passionate about beer will adopt .beer as their natural Internet home. We are proud to be working with the Brewers Association and timing the launch of .beer to coincide with their Great American Beer Festival® in Denver, North America’s most famous beer event.”
Brewers Association Director Paul Gatza said:
“As the online landscape continues to evolve, the Brewers Association is working on behalf of our members—the country’s small and independent craft brewers—to ensure they have access to robust online representation. We’re pleased to count the BA and some of our members among the first .beer registrants.”
In 2013, craft brewers captured a US market share of 14.3% in retail dollars and a 7.8% share by volume. In the first half of 2014, the sector continued to see double-digit growth with 10.6 million barrels sold in the first six months of the year, an increase of 18% from the first half of 2013.
About Minds + Machines Group Limited
Minds + Machines Group Limited is a publicly traded operating company listed on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange, focused on the new generic top-level domain (“new gTLD”) space. Top-level domains, such as .com and .net, are regulated by ICANN. ICANN is currently expanding the number of new generic top-level domains from the current 23 to over 1000. Minds + Machines is one of the leading applicants for, and owner/ operator of, new gTLDs.
About Minds + Machines’ Registry and Registrar operations
Minds + Machines’ registry operations are delivered by its wholly owned registry services providers based in Dublin and in London. In addition, Minds + Machines Registrar operates an ICANN-accredited registrar selling directly to the public. Further information on Minds + Machines’ registry and registrar operations can be found at www.mm-registry.com and www.mindsandmachines.com, respectively.
The Brewers Association is an organization of brewers, for brewers and by brewers. More than 2,300 U.S. brewery members and 43,000 members of the American Homebrewers Association are joined by members of the allied trade, beer wholesalers, retailers, individuals, other associate members and the Brewers Association staff to make up the Brewers Association.