Some beer-related thoughts from the past week or so.
BeerAdvocate’s Sour Note
BeerAdvocate’ s editor’s introduction in the April 2014 issue rubbed me the wrong way. It felt like a screed against home brewers getting too uppity and acting like they were pros. Beer Advocate’s focus is on professional, craft brewing companies, but I’m sure the audience includes a healthy number of home brewers too.
I’ve been a practicing lawyer, so I appreciate the importance of being properly licensed and obeying the law before beginning to distribute one’s beer. These kinds of complicated, state-by-state laws and regulations keep my professional peers in business. Was the intro supposed to be a tie-in for the featured article “The Illegal Beer Business”? That article focuses on resale of rare/coveted beers (Heady Topper), the “black market.” It didn’t have anything to say about home brewers, but the editors in their introduction sure did:
We’re seeing a disturbing, growing trend in the craft beer scene: homebrewers operating like licensed brewers. By this we mean people who are pouring at festivals, bars, and other events; bottling at distributing samples; and promoting their “brand” as though they’re a licensed brewer.
They go on to argue that these people are breaking the law, creating consumer confusion, and drawing the wrong kind of attention from the government. They admonish “aspiring pro-brewers out there” to:
Exercise due diligence, get a clue, and get licensed to brew before you serve the public.
I suspect that BeerAdvocate had a few specific brewers in mind that they are choosing not to name out of either courtesy or a desire not to be sued or attacked in the court of public opinion. The tone of this so snarky though — “get a clue”? Maybe their introduction is always this snarky and it hasn’t grated on me because the topic hasn’t been at the intersection of things that matter to me, like home brewing and the law.
From a legal perspective, I can see some of the practices they highlight being problematic. Charging for and distributing alcohol is governed by lots of laws that vary by jurisdiction. I would need to see the “branding” to know how its deceptive, but from an entrepreneurial point of view I think creating a brand as part of and prior to the licensing process makes a lot of sense.
Again, the brothers Alstrom must have someone in mind here. I just wish I knew who.
Berliner Weiss – Yay
Berliner Weiss is making inroads in the U.S. I place this entry first to let everyone know that I am not a hater on light beer styles. Berliner Weiss is typically sour, low alcohol, and often flavored with red (raspberry) or green (woodruff) syrup. I first had it on my honeymoon.
In Europe, the idea of mixing a light beer with some sort of sweetener is fairly common, so you’ll see shandies and radlers (usually beer with lemonade/sprite) on lots of menus. Berlin was the only place I remember seeing Berliner Weiss, and now our local brewery (Actual) is making a version called Curiosus. They told us all about the process of making it – it involved lots of funk and blankets.
Session IPAs – Meh
The pendulum swings back from high-alcohol hop bombs to…low-alcohol hop bombs. I like me a good IPA — Ballast Point’s Sculpin, Founder’s Centennial — but this new trend is not the style for me. It must be working for lots of other folks, though, since more breweries are jumping on the bandwagon.