Jul 28 2016

Kickstarter Breweries: Where Are They Now?

Kickstarter Inspection

It seems like the peak for breweries utilizing Kickstarter was back between 2011 and 2012. Social media was full of homebrewers wanting to live the the dream, and you could support their fantasies for a mere $25 to $50 and, in exchange, you’d get some swag and vicarious bragging rights. Mostly the latter. 

I don’t think any of us really expected these breweries to necessarily thrive. It is hard enough to be a successful brewery for many reasons, and many of those reasons have nothing to do with beer. Owning a small business is a tricky game of spinning plates, and it takes a skill set that doesn’t overlap with the ones required for actually making beer. But the naive hope was that if a few people, with a small amount of disposable income each, could get these breweries over the hump of initial investment, then darwinism would sort the rest out.

Spurred by seeing an article today where someone I backed made an ass of himself, and I’ll get to that later, I decided to revisit beer-related Kickstarters that I backed.

Mystery Brewing

Mystery Brewing Company (Funded July 23rd, 2010)
Mystery Brewing continues to thrive in Hillsbourgh, NC under the leadership of Erik Myers. I had “virtually” met him through a round of the old Iron Brewer competitions, and he seemed like a serious and driven guy. This was, by my reckoning, a good Kickstarter, although I’m not sure it was needed for Mystery because he was going to succeed regardless.
Worthy Pledge?: Yes.

Pipeworks Brewing Company

Pipeworks Brewing Company (Funded January 1st, 2011)
Pipeworks Brewing is alive in Chicago, IL. and looks to be cranking out a lot of different styles of beer. I had a friend in Chicago pick up some of the initial beers offered to me through the pledge. He enjoyed those beers and gave his seal of approval for this brewery. Props to Pipeworks for making it in a city that has no shortage of quality beers at its disposal.
Worthy Pledge?: Yes

Wilderness Brewing

Wilderness Brewing (Funded August 4th, 2011)
Wilderness Brewing is the poster child (perhaps milk carton child) for floundering once getting funded through Kickstarter. Mike and Nate have left a lot of angry people in Kansas City with their lack of communication as much as their failure to thrive or produce anything at all. After raising $41,000 dollars for their brewery, they disappeared. These guys had the heart to start a brewery, but obviously none of the other skills. This one hurts because I even interviewed the Wilderness Brewing guys to support their campaign, because I liked their story. If I led anyone to pledge to this train wreck, I apologize. I know the shame of all this must be strong and demotivating to them, but they’ve never done the right thing in apologizing with a finality that would bring about closure for pledgers.
Worthy Pledge?: No.

Short Snout Brewing

Short Snout Brewing (Funded November 17th, 2011)
Short Snout appears to have had some fits and starts. In this interview/article I uncovered about Short Snout, it appears that things didn’t go to plan, so Brian took some time off to refocus and take another swing at opening a brewery. From the silence since that, I assume things fizzled out again. Brian is another acquaintance from Iron Brewer, and it was a no-brainer for me to throw him a few bucks. It doesn’t look that things worked out, but it appears that he gave it a good try. Hopefully he’s still chugging away at it, or at least has come to a place of peace for having tried.
Worthy Pledge?: Yes.

Brenner Brewing

Brenner Brewing Company (Funded June 12th, 2012)
Brenner Brewing is in Milwaukie, WI, and still making beers. I even stopped by their table at GABF and said hello to Mike Brenner to congratulate him. This one is a success, but yesterday’s article about beer shaming gave me some pause. In it he says:

“Mike Brenner, the owner of Brenner Brewing Co., 706 S. 5th St., is an intentional beer shamer without any shame in being one.

“The people who come to a brewery and order a Bud or Miller are just trying to be a**holes,” says Brenner. “I always try to be nice and offer them our German pilsner, but if they push me, I’ll say, ‘Wait! I DO have a Miller Lite.’ Then I’ll grab a glass and start to unzip my pants like I’m gonna p*ss in it.”

Brenner believes buying a local beer is a choice that impacts more than a person’s taste buds.

“If you drink Miller, Pabst or even Goose Island for that matter, you’re pretty much just an ignorant piece of sh*t who doesn’t care about your own community,” he says.”

To give him the benefit of the doubt, I can hope that this is a planted article by big beer, or perhaps he’s playing loose and trying to drum up some indie cred and get some free press. But, in hindsight, this isn’t the kind of brewer and maturity that I would have liked to support.
Worthy Pledge?: Yes, from a successful business perspective, but increasingly less so from an idealogical perspective.

Burlington Beer Company

Burlington Beer Company (Funded November 30th, 2013)

This Kickstarter was specifically earmarked for barrels and kegs for Joe’s new brewery, Burlington Beer Company. Joe is someone I knew through Iron Brewer, but also Twitter. Backing Joe wasn’t a difficult decision because I knew he would be successful because he had already been successful. He had been cranking out experimental homebrew batches while brewing professionally for both Dogfish Head and Evolution Craft Brewing Company. I still haven’t made it to Vermont to visit, but I will someday. 
Worthy Pledge?: Yes.

 

Is there a common thread here? The Iron Brewer Competition cost me a lot of money. (Kidding.)

These were the halcyon days of beer start-ups, and everyone’s naiveté for living the dream as a brewer was only matched by our ignorance of how terrible a model a nano-brewery is to the long term success of a business. I have little regrets overall, but there is a reason why small businesses go through the process of creating a business plan and are subject to review by investors and banks. The ease in throwing $25 towards a Kickstarter is part of the allure, but it doesn’t require the vetting process that larger investments should have and you should adjust your expectations accordingly. 

I always thought about these pledges as entertainment. If you play the lottery, I hope you are playing it for the thrill. Because winning the mega bucks is a longshot and, with the many points of failure over time, supporting a successful brewery might be even worse odds.


Jul 20 2016

The Bourbon County Stout Recall and the Slow Havoc of Lactobacillus Acetotolerans

goose island bourbon county recalls

The recall of more of Goose Island’s Bourbon County Stout this week has me fascinated on this ongoing story that began with the recall of the coffee stout and barleywine, but now has spread to the Bourbon County Stout Original and Proprietor’s. To be clear, I have little concern or interest in conspiracy theories about why this happened, or to kick a brewery when it is down. Especially when they are doing the right, and very expensive, thing of doing a recall.

What is really interesting to me is the bacteria that is causing this souring. These beers are high in ABV and IBUs, which is a pretty hostile environment for lacto to grow and thrive in. This bacteria was identified by a lab as lactobacillus acetotolerans, which is a new one to me, and it was originally discovered in rice wine vinegar and it has a very high tolerance for acetic acid.

It appears that they are still trying to figure out how the batches got infected, but one theory is out there that it happened in a transfer or a bright tank rather than from the barrels, although that appears unlikely. That will be an ongoing investigation for GI which is complicated by the many steps that occur once these beers leave the barrels and then go from tank to truck and then back into a tank and through a bottling line. There are many points of failure there, and they must be difficult to manage and monitor.

What is interesting is that when plating these beers and looking for contaminants, most of the things that a lab is testing for will grow in 5 days. The lacto acetotolerans appears to be an outlier in that it grows very slowly and may not show itself until after 7 days or more. This slowness is atypical and makes it an unusual bacteria for a brewery to discover through standard procedures.

The overly easy answer to this is that you flash pasteurize the beer in the future to insure that stability, and that is probably something that GI is contemplating. This is certainly a bit of a mess, but it is rare situation and contaminant, and they are doing all the responsible things they can to make this right with the beer that has already left their docks.

The question that a sour beer geek like myself is asking is “what can we do with this new lacto?” Pedio takes a long time to develop in a beer, but we are patient with it because it gives us much more sour complexity than we find with lactobacillus. I wonder if the final affect that lacto acetotolerans has on a beer is desirable and worth that time it takes to become apparent, as well.

Ed and I had joked on Twitter about finding a recalled bottle and ramping up some of that lacto, and I think he has found trader for a bottle of this glacial moving destroyer of beers. I look forward to seeing if this is a cool, new souring agent for our quivers, or just a nightmare for the GI guys.


Jul 7 2016

American IPA – Hoppy McHopface

I made an American IPA for the Starr Hill competition and, in the interest of sharing my recipes and current processes, here is the quick story:

A local brewery was throwing a IPA homebrew competition and I decided that it was and good time to play around with a new hop and yeast. I had found some Idaho 7 hops, which it seems has subsequently been renamed 007: The Golden Hop, and I wanted to play with them as they reportedly had a orange/apricot/herbal flavor with hints of black tea.

Coincidentally, I had seen a tweet from Nathan Smith about a week before my brew day where he mentioned that he was enjoying a new IPA from Heretic Brewing:

 

Luck was not on my side as I had come across some Cashmere hops a few months before from PH Farms and had made a nice APA with them, but had none left for this brew. After a quick side conversation with Nathan, he mentioned that Cashmere is its own beast in terms of flavor components, but that it is a cross between Northern Brewer and Cascade, so using a mix of those hops might be worth a try.

In the interest of deviating from my standard IPA malt bill, which is usually a 50/50 base malt mix of American 2-row and Maris Otter, I followed the Heretic model and swung towards more American 2-row and added some crystal 40L.

The new yeast was the Wyeast London Ale III, which wasn’t a new yeast to me, but it was the first time I was planning to use it in an IPA rather than an English ale. The commercial and homebrewed London III IPAs that I had tried, the yeast did an extremely good job of accentuating the malts in the beer, but it can come at the cost of a beer that never truly clarifies and stays murky in the tradition of the New England IPA. (Which isn’t to say that this yeast strain is the primary reason that those IPAs remain cloudy and, as I call them, “some pulp.”)

The brew day was straightforward and easy. There’s little excitement in IPA brew days. (The process and recipe are at the bottom of this post.)

Finished beer:

In terms of hop contribution to the beer, this one ended up very mild. Despite adding 6 ounces of the Idaho 7/Golden Hop from whirlpool to dry hop, there were only a small amounts of the citrus fruits I expected and a light background of the black tea. Perhaps I got an abused bunch of the hops, and as homebrewers we always get the worst hand-me-downs, but I was underwhelmed by their flavor and aroma presence. If you are wondering if this might be the next hot IPA hop, I’ll tell you “no” from this first experience. I think it would be great in a Belgian pale ale, a saison, or a pale lager base. I may have named this Hoppy McHopface, but it was not, indeed, hoppy.

And from these pictures you can tell that tell that the London III did not leave behind a clear beer. I did not expect it to be a pretty glass, but I added whirlfloc to the boil, Clarity Ferm to the ferment, and I cold conditioned the beer at packaging. So I gave the beer every chance to achieve some sort of clarity, but it was having none of that.

Hoppy McHopface

Hoppy McHopface

 

Murky McMurkface

More Like Murky McMurkface

Despite the murkiness, the yeast did its job in terms of giving me a soft and more rounded beer, although it didn’t drag the malts to the forefront like it has done in the past for English ales.

 

Brew Day: 5/8/16
OG: 1.068
FG: 1.014

Bottled: 5/22/16

12 lbs 2-Row
2 lbs Maris Otter
0.5 lb Crystal 40L

Mash: 150F for 60 minutes

1.0 oz Simcoe pellets 12.9% AA (60 min)
0.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.9% AA (10 min)
0.5 oz N. Brewer pellets 9.6% AA (10 min)
1.0 oz Idaho 7 pellets 14.1% AA (10 min)
0.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.9% AA (whirlpool)
0.5 oz N. Brewer pellets 9.6% AA (whirlpool)
3.0 oz Idaho 7 pellets 14.1% AA (whirlpool)

60 minute boil
Wyeast yeast nutrient (15)
Whirlfloc (15)

15 minute whirlpool at 170F

Ferment: 68F with Wyeast 1318: London III (2000ml Starter made)
ClarityFerm

5/20/16
0.5 oz Cascade pellets 6.9% AA (dry hop)*
0.5 oz N. Brewer pellets 9.6% AA (dry hop)*
3.0 oz Idaho 7 pellets 14.1% AA (dry hop)*
*Mixed together, then added as two different dry hop charges


Jul 1 2016

The Best Music of 2015 and, of Course, Their Beer Pairings (Belated to the Point of Pointlessness)

I wrote an absurd Music and Beer pairing post every year but, in my hiatus from blogging, I didn’t post a single one during the last two years. The moment has passed and I’m only posting this because I had done most of the work for the 2015 post last December, but I have not added the usual (lack of) polish and hyperlinkage.

So, like someone who publishes unfinished work as a reminder of the process and the celebration of warted early drafts, here is the sketch for 2015:

Here is the final list for 2015 that you don’t care about. I used to turn these yearly pairings into a blog post, but I’ve gotten to busy and unmotivated to maintain my brewing blog and the time it takes to post to that.

I don’t present these as the best albums from the year. (If so, Kendrick Lamar would have made the list. Maybe Courtney Barnett.) Just the albums that I enjoyed the most. And the beers didn’t need to be new to the world, just to me.

In alphabetical order:

Beach Slang - The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us

Beach Slang – The Things We Do to Find People Who Feel Like Us
And
Sierra Nevada & Brauhaus Riegele – Oktoberfest

– Maybe Beach Slang sounds a little too much like The Replacements, but how could that be a bad thing? In less than 30 minutes, they deliver an earnest dose of punk rock and roll, and memories of being young, too cool for the world and destructively bored.
Sierra Nevada and Riegele got together and made an amazing Oktoberfest that was bready, light in caramel and just damn easy to drink. It appears that Sierra Nevada will make this a seasonal collaboration with a different German brewery each year, and I’m looking forward to the future brews if this is any indication of the quality.

Bully - Feels Like

Bully – Feels Like
And
Devils Backbone – Hasselhoff

Bully is another throwback album that would have fit into my collection in the 1990s. In a list full of strong, female voices, Alicia Bognanno shows off a Kurt Cobain howl in this raw coming of age album.
– I was very lucky to have two of my beers brewed by local breweries and put on tap in 2015. Hasselhoff was a pro-am beer that I did with Devils Backbone. My original homebrew was a Bohemian pilsner that slid into German pils territory, so it wasn’t surprising when the DB version started as a German pils that slid into Bohemian pilsner territory. Light, dry and refreshing, this beer was as easy to drink and it was to make with Jason Oliver and the amazing Devils Backbone crew.

EL VY - Return to the Moon

EL VY – Return to the Moon
And
Wicked Weed – Montmaretto (Barrel-aged sour with Montmorency Cherries and Almonds)

– I don’t honestly know if EL VY is a coherent album. In a way, I was so hungry for a new The National disc that Matt Berninger’s voice over the sound of children banging on pots and pans would have been welcomed. EL VY is successful in adding musical variety to Matt’s word salad and I’m curious to see if this collaboration continues in the future.
– I tried this version of the Wicked Weed Montmaretto in Denver, and I was impressed with the sourness that played under the cherries and almonds. I expected the almonds to mimic some of the Belgian krieks I’ve enjoyed since those brewers leave some of the pits in the cherries to impart a light nuttiness. But these almonds conveyed a touch of Amaretto that I found interesting and refreshing.

Grimes - Art Angels

Grimes – Art Angels
And
Ballast Point – Grapefruit Sculpin

Grimes was a surprise entry into this list, but it hooked me quickly. Is this a logical evolution of K-pop, or the rare album with top 40 potential but bigger ideas? Maybe both, but Boucher knocked this out of the park.
– Ballast Point was sold for 1 billion, with a “B”, dollars last year. I don’t know if that was a great business deal for purchaser, but their Grapefruit Sculpin is a great tightrope walk between bitterness, hop aroma and pithy fruit.

Hop Along - Painted Shut

Hop Along – Painted Shut
And
Russian River – Ron Mexico

– That. Voice. Frances Quinlan’s transitions between girlish whispers to hoarse screams are everything in this album from Hop Along. Her words sounded rubbed raw and I hung on every line.

– HBC 438 was unusual new hop in that it was offered to homebrewers before commercial brewers. Russian River was allowed to play with this neomexicanus hop in their Ron Mexico beer given out at the National Homebrew Conference in 2015, and it had a smooth tropical fruit quality that stood out amongst the raw hop throat scrapers in southern California.

Kacey Musgraves - Pageant Material

Kacey Musgraves – Pageant Material
And
Creature Comforts – Tropicália

– If every female country music singer isn’t taking notes from Kacey Musgraves right now, they are fools. Approachable, personal, playful and relaxed, this album doesn’t work in less skillful hands. Pageant Material is built to be sung on back roads in effortless harmonies with well-worn friends, and we all need more of that.
– I was lucky enough to get some Creature Comforts beer muled up to me by my nephew who goes to UGA. Athena was a nicely kettle-soured Berliner with yogurt notes, but it was the Tropicalia IPA that stood out. Juicy, and crushable, while leaning more towards orange than grapefruit. Seek out these cans if you want to try one of the premier IPAs on the east coast.

Sleater-Kinney - No Cities to Love

Sleater-Kinney – No Cities to Love
And
Firestone Walker – Feral One (Batch 1)

– This return by the Sleater-Kinney ladies made this list before the end of January. Likely their most approachable album, but no less challenging or pointed. This wasn’t the mature masterpiece of 2005’s The Woods, but it was amazing to hear new music from them for the first time in 10 years, but it wasn’t surprising that they hadn’t lost a step.
– I had unreasonable expectations for Firestone Walker’s Feral One and they were easily met. This blend of four barrel-aged beers was big with bright citrus and juicy fruits. The high carbonation helped push forward the  noticeable barrel character. I only wish I had a dozen bottles enjoy and watch evolved. 

Tame Impala – Currents

Tame Impala – Currents
And
Three Notch’d Brewing – Brettadocious

– I love Tame Impala and Kevin Parker’s insane drive for perfection, but their latest almost didn’t make the list. Despite being an inconsistent album, it had some truly great tracks, and I respect Tame Impala’s ability to make psychedelic R&B, whatever that means, work.
Brettadocious was the second beer I had go on tap last year and it was with Three Notch’d Brewing. We brewed it in 2014 and it aged in two Pollack Vineyard wine barrels for a year with a dozen brettanomyces strains before blending them back together. The final beer was dry, funky and full of the complex notes that came from the wine barrels. One barrel was packaged straight up, and the other will hopefully be ready in 2016 after aging on pedio and tart cherry purée.

Thee Oh Sees - Mutilator Defeated at Last

Thee Oh Sees – Mutilator Defeated at Last
And
The Rare Barrel – Ensorcelled

– Despite breaking up or changing their line-up, Thee Oh Sees seem to make my list every year and I won’t make excuses for my homerism. They are my favorite, and most consistent, garage band, and they have perfected a formula of strange, fast and spacey rock with fuzzy psychedelics.
Ensorcelled is an inspired blending of a sour, red beer and a black, Brettanomyces beer and aging that blend on raspberries. The raspberries were bright in this beautiful beer and they sat nicely on top of funky leather and dark fruit sweetness. The Rare Barrel is becoming infallible.

Wilco – Star Wars

Wilco – Star Wars
And
Rothaus – Pils Tannenzäpfle

– It was nice to have a Wilco album released that meant something. I had difficulty listening to their previous three albums more than once or twice. I don’t know what happened to Tweedy, whether he was in a good place or sober, or whatever it was that took away his edge, but Star Wars felt alive and interesting. And it was the right amount of sloppy and passionate. I’m happy that his jaw isn’t broken and his bandage isn’t wrapped too tight. The world has less need for a fangless Tweedy.

– The Rothaus pils was a surprise to me and lagers often are. (This is my problem, but I’m working through that as most craft-loving Americans slowly do.) I tried this one at the local Kardinal Hall and could see myself easily sitting down to more than a few pints of this smooth, lager of light malt, grass and cereal.

 

Previous “The Best Music of XXXX and, of Course, Their Beer Pairings” posts:

2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009.