Monday, March 25, 2019

Craft Beer is Dead... Long Live Craft Beer!

A recent article on the Medium website bemoans past and current depredations of the beer giant, AB InBev, and paints a fairly dark picture of the future of craft beer companies. 

Entitled, "How the World’s Biggest Brewer Killed the Craft Beer Buzz", it perhaps goes too depressingly negative with the following question: "Is the party over for indie suds?" With over 7,000 breweries in operation and a $26 billion market, the answer would seemingly be No. But the author shows how the largest beer company has worked to weaken or co-opt the strength of the craft beer business.

In three ways: 

1) Co-opt key partisans
AB InBev bought up ten respected craft breweries between 2011 and 2017. This led to outcries and boycotts from hard-core craft drinkers. But the majority of drinkers do not really care who owns the beer. In addition, AB InBev does not really tout themselves as the owner -- a lack of transparency is called "craft washing."

2) Supercharge production
The craft breweries bought by AB InBev gain almost unlimited access to ingredients and brewing facilities. They can easily expand production when they need to. In addition, they benefit from a much stronger distribution network.

3) Win the propaganda war
AB InBev bought RateBeer (a beer evaluation website) and Northern Brewer (a large homebrew supply website). It also created the online publication, October and a beer festival, OctFest. These moves allow the company access to information on current trends as well as platforms for promotion on a scale larger than that enjoyed by any other individual brewer.

Sounds pretty bad for your average little neighborhood brewery, doesn't it? Read the article and decide for yourself. 

I feel that craft beer will not disappear. There may be a shakeout coming. In fact, in some places it may already be here (see recent developments in the Portland, OR area). Despite these moves to co-opt the market, craft beer is not going away, and there will likely be even more breweries in your neighborhood (in the near term, at least) rather than fewer.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Zwickelmania 2019: Last Stop, Threshold Brewing

Threshold Brewing & Blending is one of the newest breweries in the Portland area, and it was our last stop of the day. The sixth brewery we visited -- and, honestly, my memory of it is not very strong. Sorry…. And I promise to revisit the next time I’m in town.

This brewery is just now getting under way. They had five taps of their own beer and four guest beers. I had a sample of Fuzz Face, a New England IPA.

The day was long, fun, full of good beer from six breweries. Thanks to the guys for a great experience, especially R. for organizing it and A. for deftly navigating the Portland traffic to get us from place to place.

                                                (photo by オ州酒)

Another Zwickelmania in the books. See you next year.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Zwickelmania 2019: Migration Brewing - Gresham

Once again, I happened to be in Portland for this great event.

Every year, on a single day in mid-February, breweries across the state of Oregon host free tours in an open house format. Participants take short tours and receive samples given directly from the conditioning tanks. The tap near the bottom of the tank is called a "zwickel," and hence the name. This event takes in the Portland metro area on one weekend, and then in all other parts of Oregon state on the following weekend. This year, in Portland alone, 65 breweries participated.

Five of us went off across the city in search of some of the newer breweries, or some in cases newer outposts of established breweries: Vagabond Brewing Portland, West Coast Grocery, Ruse Brewing, Von Ebert East, Migration Brewing - Gresham, and Threshold Brewing & Blending.

Our fifth stop of the day was Migration Brewing – Gresham.

To be honest, I hadn’t paid much attention to Migration Brewing for several years. I recall visiting their Glisan St. brewery during Zwickelmania in 2013, but I don’t think I have tried any of their beers since then.

Well, things have changed and are continuing to change. First, the brewery has built a large new facility and plans to expand production greatly. Migration produced 1450 barrels in 2017, planned to make 3,000 barrels in 2018, and has the aim to turn out 10,000 barrels in 2020. Second, they hired Head Brewer Trever Bass away from Hopworks Urban Brewery. Third, they signed a distribution deal that should allow them to make their beers much more widely available. Fourth, they now have a large taproom area at the front of the brewing facility. Finally, the customer space will soon be augmented by an outdoor patio and an event space.

                                         (lots of room to expand)

Generally at Zwickelmania, we tend to drop in at a brewery, sample a few taps, chat briefly with the brewer or the staff, and then quickly move on to the next place. However, we spent a considerable amount of time at Migration. This was partly due to the quality of the beer and partly because of Trever Bass’ interesting stories and explanations.

                                  (Head Brewer Trever Bass (right) took good care of us)

The beer ranged from a massive barrel-aged imperial Stout (“Vanilla Westward”) to an intense West Coast IPA (“Straight Outta Portland”) to a saison made with 500 lbs. of grapes (“Maltbec Nouveaux”).

                                           (sampling the Maltbec Nouveaux)

18188 NE Wilkes Rd.
Portland, OR 97230

(971) 274 3770