13 Jul 2010 @ 9:35 AM 

Here, I become yet another irate blogger venting his disbelief and anger about the mind-boggling idea behind Drink This, Not That.

If you’re not familiar with it and are too lazy to click the link (fine by me), let me sum it up for you:

Americans get 25% or more of their daily calories intake from their beverages, this book is a guide that allows you to still drink everything that you want, but do it in a “more healthy” way. In this case, more healthy means – strictly – lower calorie, lower carbs. Why people around the craft beer industry are getting irritated with it are because of things like you see on the right here.

Indeed. Sierra Nevada Bigfoot certainly is the carbohydrate equivalent of 12 Mich Ultras. You can’t argue with it. But it’s a non-sequitur argument. These are not comparable products. Oh, yeah, sure.. sure. They’re both beer, but in the same way that Bartles and Jaymes “Fuzzy Navel” and Dom Pérignon are both sparkling wine.

I guess what really bothers me is the focus of these books is not about making more healthy choices, it’s about making the same shitty choices you’ve been making, but with less destructive products. It’s not, “Don’t eat that giant basket of french fries, eat this salad!”, it’s “Don’t eat that giant basket of french fries, eat this giant basket of french fries!”

Look fatass, here’s your problem: back away from the french fries.

Quick secret, and I’m not trying to brag or anything, but last year I lost 40 lbs, and I would never… and I mean never dream about replacing my awesome craft beer with Mich Ultra. You know what I did? I ate less and got off of my fat ass and exercised.

This theory that Americans somehow can’t control their own consumption is insulting. As if they’re somehow saying, “When sitting down to consume an entire extra large pizza in one sitting, remember to buy the one with low fat pepperoni.”

You know what 12 Mich Ultras instead of 1 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot is? It’s binge drinking. It’s over-consumption. It’s the misguided notion that, somehow, more of something cheap and crappy is better than less of something of high quality. It’s exactly the misguided notion that gets us eating over-sized Whoppers and liter fountain drinks instead of taking the time to actually eat something that tastes good and is better for you.

But for $3.00, I can’t get a hamburger that big anywhere!

Right – and maybe you shouldn’t. You’ll buy a lot fewer pairs of fat-legged sweatpants that way, Captain Wheezy. Do a cost analysis on your trips to Wal-Mart, McDonalds, and triple-bypass surgery and see where you come out in the end.

So, here’s my take.

Drink This: One high-quality great-tasting beer that you will greatly enjoy.
Not That: Twelve flavorless pints of empty calories.

If anything, you’ll spend a lot less time peeing.

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Categories: appreciation, industry, media, op-ed
Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 13 Jul 2010 @ 09 35 AM

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Think of it as a book club, but for beer.

What is it?

It’s a group that’s being put together for beer education. To help people who are new to craft beer to explore the flavors in their glass and to help people who already drink craft beer expand and explore their palates. It’s about learning how to taste your beer and building up your vocabulary about what you like – and what you don’t like – about beer and its ingredients.

This is not about getting trashed and pounding back a bunch of beer. If that’s your goal, please respect the purpose of this group and come by later to have a social beer with us when we’re done.

When is it?

The third Monday of each month. 6:30 PM. Expect to spend at least an hour, maybe an hour and a half, talking beer.

What are we drinking? How does this work?

The goal is 3 – 4 beers per month. We’ll try beers that are related to each other in some way. They’ll either be different examples of the same style, different styles that have a similar ingredients, or different beers from the same brewery. Each night, someone will speak a little bit about the over-arching theme of the evening, maybe a little bit of history, and a bit about what you can expect. Then, we’ll try each example separately and talk about what we taste.

How much will it cost?

Expect to spend $20 – $25. We’ll arrange a flight of samples (separated by time, so no cheating ahead), and a little bit of food to cleanse the palate.

I’m not much of a beer person, but I’m curious, can I come?

Absolutely. This is for you. Come learn. We welcome learning and growth.

I’m a huge beer geek, but I like trying beers like this because it helps me expand my palate, can I come?

Absolutely. We’d love to have your palate, your experience, and your vocabulary, but please respect and support people who are just beginning.

How do I get involved?

To help manage numbers, we’re using Meetup.com.

You can find our group at http://meetup.com/TasteYourBeer

If you plan on joining us, please take the time to RSVP on Meetup. While we’re getting this group off the ground, we’re capping participation at 20 people. We may expand in the coming months, if it seems manageable. In the meantime, we will only have prearranged samples for 20.

Important: If you RSVP yes and end up not being able to make it, please log in and change your response so that a person who is on the waiting list may be notified of an open spot.

The first meet up is this coming Monday, March 15 at 6:30 PM. See you there. Details about location are available once you RSVP.

And that’s all, if you have any questions e-mail me or post them below.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 11 Mar 2010 @ 01 24 PM

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 08 Mar 2010 @ 9:30 PM 

What I needed, more than anything, was another project to work on.

My brain has delivered unto me another idea.

Back in February, a buddy and I went up to Winston-Salem for the Foothills Sexual Chocolate Release Party. There, we ran into the gents from Hop Cast. Nice guys. I mention them as gents, however, because of their participation in The Fellowship of Gentlemenly Gentlemen. It is a group of people who get together on a general basis with a plan for tasting beer, cigars, and liquors in a social setting. As it’s been described to me, it sounds like a good time, and in our brief conversation we said – maybe we should start something up. After all, “Southern Gentlemen” has quite a ring to it.

Then my brain started working on it, which is never healthy.

Sometimes, when I’m working on something but not moving on it, the idea kind of ferments in my head: starts off as one thing, I add beer, it kind of works around in there, I add more beer, and then three weeks later it emerges from its alcohol-soaked chrysalis as some sort of… insect, I guess.

Here’s what came out:

I want a tasting group.

Stuff that’s somewhat similar to my idea already exists in my local area. There’s TriBeer, but it seems to be about just showing up and socializing where there is beer. While that’s cool, it’s not what I’m looking for. There’s the classes put on by our local homebrew mecca American Brewmaster. They focus on styles, how to taste them, and how to make them. They’ve got one coming up on Belgian Ales. It’s definitely a good resource, but I’m not really looking for another homebrew event or how-to-brew information necessarily. And that tasting panel is really wide. “All Belgian beers”? Holy moly. That’s quite a target.

I want something like this:

A group of people show up at a bar. They know ahead of time that there’s a theme. Tonight, we’ll be drinking porters. Someone (who was prepped ahead of time) gets up and talks a little bit about the history of the style, what people generally expect when they drink porters, maybe a rundown of the BJCP style and the BA style. Then, you drink a porter. You talk about what you just had. What flavors did you taste? What components of what you just talked about did you notice in this porter? Then, you drink a different porter. How did it compare the previous porter? How as it different? How was it alike? How do either of these beers relate to the style overall? Then, you drink a third porter. Same questions. Talk, educate, taste, learn.

Basically, I guess what I want is a book club, but for beer. I want it to be educational, and I want it to be for people who are not necessarily beer geeks. I want to help people explore their palates, and learn new things. I want them to be able to talk about it and not be afraid of sounding stupid. I want people to learn what they like and what they don’t like. I want people to grow and help craft beer grow at the same time.

So I’m putting one together.

I’m putting the wheels in motion next Monday. I’m planning on doing it at Tyler’s Taproom in Durham. The first week will most likely focus on IPA, mainly because – after perusing their menu – that’s what they have three of. Until I can get permission to actually bring beer in somewhere and create a more customizable flight, that’ll be the easiest thing. I hope to be able to put a handful of people together and I hope to god that there will be somebody there that I don’t know. Bonus points if they also don’t know beer (or IPA) and are there to learn.

I don’t know. The whole thing could be a bust. It might just be me hanging out with friends drinking IPAs on a Monday night. That doesn’t sound so terribly bad, though. But I’d really like it to be the start of something great.

Next comes the huge question: What do you call it?

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 09 Mar 2010 @ 11 44 AM

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Let’s be clear about something: Beer has alcohol in it.

No! Really! I wear no tin-foil hat! It is a scientific fact that one of the by-products of fermentation is ethanol which contributes to the feeling of fuzziness that you feel after a good pint.

You thought it was just the flavinoids, didn’t you? Maybe a carb high? Excess CO2? Hah! No. It’s alcohol.

I know. It’s a potentially dangerous topic. You see, in the early 20th Century, as your history teachers may have taught you, the creation, transport, and sale of alcoholic beverages was banned in the United States. It was crazy. You want to talk bullshit politics? They even amended the Constitution to do it – the one instance of an amendment to the Constitution of the United States that restricted freedom instead of expanded it.

Luckily, a few years later (only 13!) this Amendment was repealed by another, different, freedom-making-Amendment. What’s not often made clear is what led to alcohol being prohibited. Many people think that it was just a bunch of teetotalling windbags that happened to have gotten popular sway and managed to get 2/3 of the states to ratify an Amendment.

Just FYI: That’s a LOT of work.

But they’re not wrong. It was just a bunch of teetotalling windbags that happened to have gotten popular sway. It also happened to be a bunch of crazy religious windbags, but this is not about religion. It’s about windbags.

Let me tell you about windbags. Windbags know what’s good for you better than you do. Windbags come in many, many different colors. They’re Democrats. They’re Republicans. They’re white and black and hippies and yuppies and pretty much everybody with a half a brain who thinks that their shred of randomly sparking neurons makes them a better judge for what you do with your life than you are
There are even windbags amongst beer geeks. But those aren’t the windbags that I’m concerned about.

(In this part of the column.)

The turn-of-the-20th-Century windbags saw depravity at hand in the country. They saw problems in society, and they had this idea that rather than working toward a reasonable solution to the problems existent in the country by addressing the root and causes of problems, that they would instead work toward eliminating a symptom: drunkenness.

The squeaky wheel gets the grease and they squeaked a LOT. For years. Political battles were lost and, eventually, won on the topic, and our forefathers were treated to thirteen years of attempting to pleasantly escape reality using … well .. cigarettes, probably. Whippets, maybe. Not the dog.

As it turns out, drunkenness is a great human pleasure. We’ve been doing it for 4000 years, and we’ve made it this far – in fact, I’m sure that on some level that we made it this far because fermentation helped us get through some sort of sterilization procedure before we knew what those wild autoclaves in the forest did. People strove for drunkenness, even through Prohibition, and in the country came out of the other end much worse for the wear, not only in the realm of beer (where big industrial lagers were able to take the market in their hands), but across society which had been indulging in just as many depravities, except now they were increasingly more depraved because they had to be secret about it.

I’m rambling, extrapolating and hyperbolizing a lot, here. Bear with me.

As it turns out, there are still windbags out there who would like to restrict alcohol consumption and/or ban it altogether. Even the person who started MADD has said that it has become a neo-prohibitionist organization. They’re not alone. There are windbags everywhere, even (and especially) in other countries.

So, back to beer. Beer, as we said, has alcohol. We, the craft beer industry, love beer. Duh. Why the hell would there be a craft beer industry, otherwise?

A few weeks ago, there was a poll out in the intertubes asking:

If beer didn’t contain any alcohol, but still tasted the same, would you still brew/drink it?

Yes – 76%
No – 23%

The results show me that at least 23% of the people that took this poll were honest. I took this poll when it came out. I voted no. Why? I mean, I love the taste of beer. I probably would drink it if it didn’t have alcohol if I thought it would exist in society if it didn’t have alcohol in it. As much as I love it for all of its other properties, there’s no doubt that one of the beautiful things about it is the fact that it’s a mind-altering social beverage. Is the alcohol the only reason to drink it? No. Is it a part of the package? Most definitely.

On top of that, how many sodas, juices or other drinks do you consume that have astringent bitterness as a core flavor component? You wanna put some hops in that Coke or that apple juice to balance out the sweetness? Yech.

But that’s okay! There’s nothing to be ashamed of in liking alcohol and, dare I say it? Liking to get drunk! You can enjoy it without abusing it – the ability to do just that is the backbone of the craft beer market segment.

Here’s where the problem lies. There’s a thin line between the appearance of enjoyment and the appearance of abuse. The difference is between:

“I’m heading out to a beer tasting to try some awesome new beer.”

And

“I’m heading out to a beer tasting and I’m gonna get TOTALLY TRASHED.”

Please note: Most likely, both are true. I’m as happy about it as you are. But, craft beer industry, here’s my question: Can we let the latter go unspoken when we’re in public? At least MOST of the time?

Appearances are important. We are judged by our actions and our words in the court of public opinion, and nobody’s going to take the time to look for extenuating circumstances when they think they’re right before they hear us.

Beer geeks and brewery employees are the ambassadors of the products that we craft and love. While the “I’m getting totally fucking crunked” line will definitely pull in one section of the population to our cause, it doesn’t portray us as connoisseurs and enthusiasts. It doesn’t portray us as artisans and experts. It portrays us as drunks. And if we’re all coming off as drunks, we lose the collective respect of those NOT in the craft beer industry

I mean, we might be drunks. But we don’t have to advertise it, do we?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to be the windbag here: Go get drunk. Tell your friends. Enjoy it. Have a blast. I do. Just have some class.

Every once in a while, you’re going to end up telling the public at-large about the obscene amount of fun we’re all having. But can we at least attempt to tell them that the obscene amount of fun that we’re having just happens to go alongside intelligent discourse and honest appreciation and leave the “OMFG I’m sooooo trashed” for friends and trusted compatriots?

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Tags Categories: appreciation, marketing, op-ed Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 04 Mar 2010 @ 11 01 AM

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 16 Dec 2009 @ 4:57 PM 

Ah, the gateway beer. You see the term all the time. It’s a term stolen from “gateway drug,” generally referring to the beer that will turn someone from BMC lite lagers to good, craft beer in a “if you have this, you’ll probably step up to the other stuff later” kind of way. But does it really exist?

I’ve made reference to a gateway beer here before, in reference to Blue Moon. And even the good folks at Ad Age, in their bullshit craft beer psychographics column mentioned that “Blue Moon drinkers probably don’t know it’s a Molson Coors Brewing Co. family product made in Colorado” which, to me, suggests that even they’re thinking of it as a gateway beer, but the more I think about it, the more I’m not so cool on the idea.

A quick Google search comes up with Guinness, Smithwicks, Sam Adams Boston Lager, and even New Glarus Spotted Cow as examples of gateway beers, and I’ve run into a few moderately sexist blog posts wherein people suggest that women either have no taste buds or only enjoy fruit-flavored things. They suggest gateway beers that include Corona, Heinekin Light, Red Stripe, Sapporo, Stella Artois, Lindemans Framboise, Fruli or (and this is my favorite) Sol.

Sol? Really? Guatemalan light lager?

The last woman who told me point blank what beer converted her to craft beer was said it was Stone Arrogant Bastard. I’d hardly call that a “gateway.” I, personally, have converted multiple people to good beer on Oud Beersel Oude Gueuze Vielle alone.

Sol, indeed.

But! It illustrates a point. For whatever reason, people seem to think that craft beer is something that you have to be trained into. You can’t just jump into liking it, you have to step yourself in through small points of slightly less shitty beer. It’s like walking into the swimming pool slowly because the water isn’t really cold and you’re afraid of getting comfortable too quickly.

I deny this. I think all of this stepping stone stuff is total nonsense. Is there a gateway wine? How many people that start with Night Train graduate to $130 bottles of aged Bordeaux by going through those 2L bottles of crappy grocery store merlot? No. You never hear someone saying, “Mussels are great, but you may like them more if you take an intro path through imitation crab, first.” Please.

If someone’s going to like craft beer, they’re going to like it. If you really feel like they need convincing then educate them and give them something good, don’t give them slightly less shitty beer than they’ve tried before.

I’ve written before that finding beer for people is an individualized process that involves finding out what flavors people actually like, and I want to reinforce that.

Gateway beers are a myth. We don’t need them.

Beer has a vast multitude of flavors and is incredibly accessible. It just needs you, as the person who enjoys it, to adequately explain why it’s good, instead of cheaping out on people and giving them a Blue Moon when you could be giving them a Hennepin, a Guinness when you could be giving them an Oskar Blues Ten Fidy, or a Sol instead of.. well.. c’mon.. anything else. On the other hand, you can’t just give them your favorite beer because they are different than you. It doesn’t matter of they’re a man or a woman, black or white or brown or purple or whatever. What they will want out of a beer is going to be different based on their personal experiences and personal tastes. Those might lend themselves toward fruit and light lager, but they may also lend themselves toward coffee, or chocolate, or sours, or strong bitterness, or piney flavors or so damn many other things.

Don’t shortchange their experience by trying to trudge them in through the shallow end of the pool; let them take a dive. Just show them where to jump from and be ready to act as a lifeguard.

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Posted By: erik
Last Edit: 16 Dec 2009 @ 04 57 PM

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