Why big breweries want to go local

What’s driving the proliferation of satellite taprooms and brewpubs?

We don’t have to travel far back in our beer time machine to revisit the year when Goose Island Beer Co. still had only one brewpub, its venerable but not exactly cutting-edge Clybourn Street location. That was 2014, three years after Goose Island’s sale to Anheuser-Busch InBev. Just a few years later, the brewery has seven locations including pubs and taphouses in London, Sao Paolo, Toronto, Shanghai, Seoul and one on the way for Philadelphia, with more future openings likely. Right now in Shanghai, a pub visitor could be snacking on Sofie-battered baby squid washed down Wujiang Porter while the Clybourn brewpub sits shuttered, waiting for a remodel that’s slated to be complete in the coming months.

According to Goose Island International president Ken Stout, the biggest fan of all these new outposts is brewery founder John Hall himself.

“He was out in Shanghai and Seoul this year and he came back positively stoked about the quality of the beer and food, the design, the service. He was like, ‘The new Clybourn has to be as good as Soeul.’”

Wrap your head around that. Also wrap your head around Stone Brewing’s campus in Berlin, BrewDog’s dozens of global pubs and breweries, a coming-soon brewpub in Lincoln, Nebraska from West Coast stalwart Green Flash Brewing Co.; a forthcoming Chicago brewpub from Ballast Point Brewery; and an in-planning Maryland brewery and taproom for Guinness; a joint Victory/Southern Tier brewery/taphouse in Charlotte, North Carolina; not to mention 10 Barrel’s six spots including Denver and San Diego.

In the past five years, breweries have been playing at a giant Risk board, pushing brewpubs to corners of the country and world that seem to drift further and further from their original territories.

Why?

In 2017, taprooms rule. More breweries are opting to focus on taproom sales, which usually increase profits by removing the distributor’s cut. As a bonus, drinkers who visit a brewery are more likely to buy that brewery’s beer on shelves or from a bar, too. Larger, nationally distributed breweries are realizing that it’s crucial to foster regional and local connections to drinkers, who are presented with ever more competition for their beer bucks. A brewery, even if it’s owned by a larger company, can become your neighborhood hangout, complete with a regular bartender who knows your name and remembers that you always order the chicken pizza.

Goose Island's location in Shanghai, China

Goose Island’s location in Shanghai, China

“I see the larger [breweries] expanding into these spaces to make them relevant in those markets and say ‘We employ here, we’re part of the community, we give back and we’re local,’” says Kimberly Clements, a beer-industry consultant and partner at Pints LLC. “They can finally say all those things, which does make them local to that community.”

Taprooms have a dual function in 2017: They’re a source of revenue, but they’re also a marketing tool, a way to sample new customers on a beer that they might not have picked up off the shelf or ordered at a bar with 25 other options.

“The taproom is more and more becoming the focal point of craft operations, creating the ‘face’ for the brewery. Neighborhood taproom volume grew 27 percent last year and this has not been lost on the larger craft brewers,” says Joel Hueston, director of commercial strategy at brewing industry consulting firm First Key. “Taprooms are where today’s growth is in craft and a lot of players will want to jump on this train while it’s rolling.”

Goose Island’s Ken Stout calls it “making friends for the brewery.” 10 Barrel co-founder Garrett Wales calls it “localizing the brand.” BrewDog USA managing director Tanisha Robinson says the idea is to “create beacons for craft beer lovers and disseminate our spirit out into the world.” They’re all getting at the same goal: To get drinkers in a city or region to connect with their beer on a face-to-face level, setting it apart from the dozens of other options bombarding customers.

That was much of the reasoning behind Green Flash’s recently announced acquisition of the defunct Ploughshare brewery in Lincoln, Nebraska, which will be transformed into a 10,000-square-foot production brewery and brewpub by the end of the year. Previously, Green Flash didn’t have much of a Midwest presence at all; the brewery’s sales rep serving Nebraska was actually based in Denver and visited that state maybe two to three times a year.

“We sell very little beer in the middle of the country and this brewhouse will give us a nice start. We’ll be able to grow sales there,” says Green Flash co-founder Mike Hinckley. “We don’t use TV commercials or sponsor major sports teams. The way we build our brand is one pint at a time.”

He says this Nebraska expansion, which is the fifth location for the company that owns both Green Flash and Alpine beer brands, “reframed” the search for new markets.

“I’m looking specifically into places where craft is not already fully developed, looking into younger markets even if they’re smaller markets. The Mississippis, Alabamas, Louisianas, Arkansases, Oklahomas, these are now going to become my primary focus,” he says. “The long-term plan for Green Flash is to be local or at least regional in as many places as possible.”

10 Barrel's brewpub in San Diego, California

10 Barrel’s brewpub in San Diego, California

That’s one strategy. As some breweries inevitably go out of business (the rates of which have recently seen an uptick), better-established breweries like Green Flash are well positioned to acquire their assets and real estate at a discount, says Pints LLC’s Clements.

“Breweries are closing. They need buyers; and I think it’s a good model that somebody bigger comes in and buys them for pennies on the dollar. I think that you’ll see this more and more,” says Clements. “I’m sure there will be interest out there for breweries that want to expand and get their foothold in downtowns.”

But not everyone’s looking to smaller, developing markets. 10 Barrel (also a part of Anheuser-Busch InBev’s The High End division) last year built a flashy, 300-seats-with-a-rooftop brewpub from the ground up in Denver’s popular River North district and also has pubs in beer-heavy cities including Portland, Oregon and San Diego. Co-founder Garrett Wales says the idea is to offer 10 Barrel’s beers alongside the best in the country, be a part of beer-centric communities and see what savvy consumers think.

10 Barrel and Goose Island have the resources to be able to do this. So does Ballast Point, which is owned by Constellation Brands, and is planning a 12,000 square foot brewpub with rooftop bar in Chicago’s Fulton Market District, a meatpacking-turned-nightlife corridor home to the city’s hottest restaurants and bars. It’s the eighth locations for Ballast Point, which also has a presence in San Diego, Temecula and Long Beach in California; and a production facility with a brewpub outside Roanoke, Virginia.

“There’s no other specific expansion plans on the horizon but we’re looking for opportunities to do more with this model,” says Hilary Cocalis, Ballast Point’s VP of marketing. “It just always goes back to how can we best reach our customers, give them the best Ballast Point experience and get them familiar with the brand. So far our tasting room experience has proven to be successful in that.”

Fulton Market is already a beer-soaked corner of Chicago, home to Haymarket Brewery, Cruz Blanca Brewery & Taqueria, Great Central Brewing Co., Goose Island’s Fulton Street brewery and taproom, On Tour Brewing Co., All Rise Brewing, as well as scores of bars with decent tap lists. Ditto with the area surrounding 10 Barrel’s new Denver location. Obviously the new kids on the block think they can thrive despite the competition, but how do the existing neighbors feel about the arrivals?

“It really varies. For the most part, it’s 60-40 in favor of people being positive, people that know the brand and know we make a great product,” says 10 Barrel’s Wales. “Those that are younger to the industry or don’t have a good understanding of the bigger picture feel a little threatened and challenged. But we make a point to go in and get to know those folks.”

“When you try to force it, you’re nothing but a chain that’s trying to be fake.”

Ballast Point said their neighbors’ reactions had been positive; likewise with BrewDog’s new Columbus, Ohio digs.

“Density creates a lot of energy in neighborhoods that’s great for everyone. A big challenge for us is just finding the right place and finding the right neighbors that feel the same way about proximity as we do; which is that it’s not a zero sum game,” says BrewDog’s Tanisha Robinson. “We also really, we want it to matter that we’re here. Half of our beers on tap are guest beers. Our mission is not to make people passionate about BrewDog but to make people passionate about craft beer.”

And consumer response? As multilocation brewpubs and taprooms pop up like dandelions through American cities, do they risk becoming stale and chainlike? Or will they become blandly ubiquitous mainstays like Rock Bottoms, BJs and Gordon Biersches?

“I definitely think this is wave two. The breweries doing this now, they’re very beer-forward whereas others kept with that restaurant model,” says Clements. “They offer consistency while still bringing something new and being a clean, friendly place to go. As long as they keep it fresh, they’ll be successful.”

Breweries cite different methods for keeping it fresh, from allowing local brewers freedom to make pub-exclusive beers or switching the food menu up in different markets. The tight-rope walk between consistency and cool becomes more challenging with every location, but with these pubs spread across the country and world, it’s unlikely that most drinkers have been to more than one or two. They still feels special, especially when the brewery is new to town.

“We don’t have an employee playbook that says ‘Here’s what you say.’ That would ruin it all,” says 10 Barrel’s Wales. “When you try to force it, you’re nothing but a chain that’s trying to be fake.”

Is there a day when we could see 10 Barrels across the world like Applebee’s?

“Absolutely not.”

Beers Americans No Longer Drink

American beer sales have been trending downwards in recent years. After peaking at nearly 219 million barrels in 2008, total U.S. shipments have declined since, reaching just 211.7 million barrels in 2013.

The recent drops in beer sales have been especially pronounced at many of the nation’s top brewers. Total shipments of both Anheuser-Busch InBev (NYSE: BUD) and MillerCoors have slumped as several of their major brands have lost substantial market share. According to data provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights, American sales of seven major brands, including Budweiser, declined by more than 20% between 2008 and 2013.

According to Eric Shepard, executive editor at Beer Marketer’s Insights, major beer brands can still point to the last recession as a contributing factor to their current slump. “The people that got hit hardest in the economic recession were your mainstream beer drinkers — lower- to mid-income males, 25 to 34 [years old],” Shepard said.

Another key factor in the weakening sales has been price dynamics. “Beer prices were increased more aggressively over the last five years than wine and spirits,” Shepard said. Many people in the industry believe that, as a result, some customers replaced buying beer with the now relatively less expensive wines and spirits, he explained.

Several other products were also gaining at the expense of big brand-name beers, Shepard noted. While some customers have been moving to wine and spirits, others were switching to imported beer, particularly Mexican imports. Indeed, in the five years through 2013, shipments of Mexican brands Dos Equis and Modelo Especial more-than doubled. Similarly, he added, “Some [drinkers] are moving to craft [beer]. Clearly, there’s been a trade-up in the industry.”

Craft beers have largely bucked the overall downtrend in beer sales. From 2008 to 2013, shipments of craft beer rose by 80.1% to a total of more than 16 million barrels, or 7.6% of the U.S. beer market. While the craft beer category now outsells Budweiser, it remains a relatively niche market. For comparison, the nation’s top-selling brand, Bud Light, shipped 38 million barrels in 2013, accounting for 18% of all beer shipped.

While the last few years have been difficult for many large brewers, they, too, have been introducing new products that combine well-known brand names with new concepts that appeal to consumers. In recent years, Anheuser-Busch has introduced Bud Light Platinum, a higher alcohol content beer with a sweeter flavor; Bud Light Ritas, a margarita-inspired malt beverage; and Shock Top, its own take on craft beer. As of last year, these three brands had captured 2% of the overall beer market.

To identify the seven beers Americans no longer drink, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed figures provided by Beer Marketer’s Insights for all brands with more than 1 million barrels shipped in 2008. All of these seven brands reported a 20% or more decline in shipments in the five years through 2013.

These are the beers Americans no longer drink.

5. Budweiser

> Sales loss (2008-2013): -27.6%
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels shipped (2013): 16,000,000

Budweiser is one of the most famous brands in the world. Created in 1876, Budweiser quickly established itself as a national brand through, at the time, innovative production and distribution methods. These included introducing pasteurization to the beer industry as well as refrigerated rail cars. Today, Budweiser is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, which was formed after Belgian brewer InBev acquired American beer titan Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion in 2008. The sale of an iconic American brand to a foreign company initially caused some outrage. However, Americans themselves are drinking far less Budweiser than in years past. Shipments of the brand fell nearly 28% between 2008 and 2013.

4. Milwaukee’s Best Light
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -40.6%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 1,010,000

Shipments of Milwaukee’s Best Light fell by more than 40% between 2008 and 2013. Previously quite small, Milwaukee’s Best Light held just a 0.5% U.S. market share last year. Whereas Budweiser and Miller Lite are considered premium brands, Milwaukee’s Best is part of the discount brand category. An improving American economy since 2008 may explain at least part of the drop in shipments. Americans’ buying habits shifted towards cheap beers during the recession. But now that the economy is stronger, the trend seems to be reversing again.

3. Milwaukee’s Best
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -57.0%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 580,000

MillerCoors describes Milwaukee’s Best as being “brewed for a man’s taste,” and as “Highly drinkable. Highly affordable.” The brand has also experienced a downturn in popularity over the last few years. From 2008 to 2013, brand shipments declined by 57%, or 770,000 barrels in total, and its market share slumped from 0.6% in 2008 to 0.3% last year. Like its light beer counterpart, Milwaukee’s Best is a discount brand, and some of its sales drop can likely be explained by customers switching to higher-priced brands as the economy has improved. Still, some discount brands have been able to retain, and even grow, market share in the improved economy. Shipments of Pabst Blue Ribbon rose 71.5% between 2008 and 2013.

2. Miller Genuine Draft
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -58.3%
> Brewer: MillerCoors
> Barrels shipped (2013): 1,175,000

In its advertisements, Miller Genuine Draft claims it captures a “the fresh taste of draft beer in a bottle.” According to AdAge, when launching the brand, Miller successfully “used advertising from Backer & Spielvogel, New York, that touted the brand’s cold-filtering process, a technique long used by rival Coors but not mentioned in its advertising.” Draft taste or not, interest in the brand has plummeted in recent years, as sales dropped 58% from 2008 through 2013.

1. Budweiser Select
> Sales loss (2008-2013): -61.1%
> Brewer: Anheuser-Busch InBev
> Barrels shipped (2013): 525,000

Anheuser-Busch introduced Budweiser Select in 2005 as a full-flavored light beer. Select is one of a number of initiatives that have been tried over the years to revive the Budweiser brand. Other attempts included Budweiser Black Crown, an amber lager, and Budweiser Chelada, a beer and clamato mix. Budweiser Select, however, does not appear to have been the answer for falling sales. Shipments of Budweiser Select declined 61% from 2008 through 2013, more than twice the decline for traditional Budweiser in that time.

6 holiday beer cocktails

Don’t bring the usual winter-warmer six-pack to your next holiday get-together; show your enthusiasm for all things boozy with a festive holiday beer cocktail.

BELVEDERE PINK GRAPEFRUIT CERVEZA

Claire Smith, head of spirit creation and mixology, Belvedere Vodka

This fruity, flavor-packed cocktail puts the traditional fruitcake to shame. Perfect for any party or a nontraditional dessert after a holiday meal, “It’s a sophisticated and refreshing twist on a traditional beer cocktail, with a hint of passionfruit and Campari,” says Smith.

1 ounce Belvedere Pink Grapefruit vodka

1/2 ounce passionfruit syrup

dash simple syrup

½ ounces lemon juice

egg white

½ ounces Campari

2 ounces Blue Moon

Combine the vodka, syrups, lemon juice, egg white and Campari in a cocktail shaker and shake. Strain into a cocktail glass and top with Blue Moon.

 

‘TWAS THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS AT GRANDMA’S HOUSE

Mathias Simonis, mixologist, DISTIL Milwaukee

Getting stuck making Old Fashioneds at grandma’s house on Christmas Eve as a kid inspired Simonis to spice up the traditional drink by substituting traditional brandy for maple-flavored rum and pumpkin whiskey, creating homemade cinnamon simple syrup and adding beer. Pair it with the usual party spread of nuts, chocolate and firm cheeses like Manchego and parmesan.

3 maraschino cherries

2 orange slices

1 ounce homemade cinnamon simple syrup* or store-bought Monin cinnamon syrup

2 dashes Angostura bitters

1 squeeze of lemon

1 ounce Great Lakes Distillery Pumpkin Whiskey

1 ounce Great Lakes Distillery Maple Rum

Miller High Life

Muddle cherries, orange slices, cinnamon simple syrup, bitters and lemon in a shaker, and add the rum and whiskey. Add ice and shake well for 15 to 20 seconds. Strain into a highball glass and top off with the beer. Stir with a spoon and garnish with orange peel.

*Cinnamon simple syrup: Bring 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water and 4 4-inch-long cinnamon sticks to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let cool.

 

BROOKLYN TAI

Jonathan Pogash, cocktail consultant

Known as the “Cocktail Guru,” Pogash puts a wintry twist on one of his favorite drinks, the Mai Tai, with splashes of beer and Cognac. “By the time you finish the drink, you’ll feel warm enough to beat the cold outside,” he says. “The fresh fruit and spice notes from the rum and almond syrup remind me of cool nights and blustery days.”

3/4 ounces almond syrup

3/4 ounces fresh lime juice

1 ounce Appleton Estate Reserve Rum

dash Angostura bitters

Brooklyn Lager

lime wheel and mint leaf, for garnish

Set aside beer, and shake all remaining ingredients together with ice. Strain into a chilled pilsner glass, top off with the beer and garnish with a lime wheel and mint.

 

CARTE BLANCHE

Christine Sismondo, author, “Mondo Cocktail: A Shaken and Stirred History” and “America Walks Into a bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloon, Speakeasies and Grog Shops”

Sismondo channels holiday desserts with this cocktail full of cranberry, nutmeg and cinnamon flavors and splashed with a white beer, sweet Chambord and a kick of rum. “If you pour carefully, you can get a nice little white foam on top of the light pink drink,” she says.

1 ounce Flor de Cana 5-year-old rum

1/2 ounces Chambord

1 ounce cranberry juice

2 ounces Unibroue Blanche de Chambly

fresh grated nutmeg and cinnamon, for garnish

Shake the rum, Chambord and juice together with ice and strain into small tulip glass. Top with the white ale and, using a microplane, add a dusting of nutmeg and cinnamon to the top.

 

THE DIRTY SNOWMAN

Jill Schulster, owner and mixologist, Joe Doe, New York City

“It really looks like a snowman jumped into a beer and started to melt,” says Schulster, who suggests a seasonal winter beer for this dessertlike cocktail. Although the drink resembles the slush outside, the creamy coconut taste mixed with the strong flavor of the black lager, rich chocolate and hazelnut make this a highbrow dram that’s an ideal after-hours snack.

cocoa nibs and chopped hazelnuts, for garnish

1/2 ounces simple syrup

1 teaspoon cocoa nibs

1 ¼ ounces Cognac

1 to 3 ounces Magic Hat Howl

splash coconut milk

Use simple syrup to rim a pilsner glass with crushed hazelnuts and cocoa nibs. In a pint glass, muddle 1 teaspoon cocoa nibs and the simple syrup. Add the Cognac and shake with ice. Strain into the rimmed pilsner glass, add ice and top with beer. Float a splash of coconut milk on top.

 

LADY IN WHITE [pictured]

Onyx Bar & Lounge at The Four Seasons Resort, Scottsdale, Ariz.

A beery take on a mimosa, this cocktail’s the secret to a brew-lover’s holiday brunch, and a veritable vacation in a glass with its sunny vibe.

1/2 ounces St. Germain Elderflower liqueur

1/2 ounces Grand Marnier

1 ounce any hefeweizen

orange and lemon twists, for garnish

Shake together the St. Germain Elderflower liqueur and Grand Marnier and pour into a Champagne glass. Top off with hefeweizen, and garnish with orange and lemon twists.

Is Guinness really ‘good for you’?

Guinness, like other Irish stouts, enjoys a seasonal popularity every St. Patrick’s Day. It has also been touted as being “good for you,” at least by its own advertising posters decades ago.

But can this creamy, rich and filling beer really be added to a list of healthy beverages? Or is its reputation just good marketing? We researched the beer’s history and talked to brewing experts and break out the good, the not-so-great and the ingenuity of Guinness.

The good

The original Guinness is a type of ale known as stout. It’s made from a grist (grain) that includes a large amount of roasted barley, which gives it its intense burnt flavor and very dark color. And though you wouldn’t rank it as healthful as a vegetable, the stouts in general, as well as other beers, may be justified in at least some of their nutritional bragging rights.
According to Charlie Bamforth, a professor of brewing sciences at the University of California, Davis, most beers contain significant amounts of antioxidants, B vitamins, the mineral silicon (which may help protect against osteoporosis), soluble fiber and prebiotics, which promote the growth of “good” bacteria in your gut.
Most U.S. beers to get calorie and ingredient labels
And Guinness may have a slight edge compared with other brews, even over other stouts. “We showed that Guinness contained the most folate of the imported beers we analyzed,” Bamforth said. Folate is a B vitamin that our bodies need to make DNA and other genetic material; it’s also necessary for cells to divide.
According to his research, stouts on average contain 12.8 micrograms of folate, or 3.2% of the recommended daily allowance.
Because Guinness contains a lot of unmalted barley, which contains more fiber than malted grain, it is also one of the beers with the highest levels of fiber, according to Bamforth. (Note: Though the USDA lists beer as containing zero grams of fiber, Bamforth said his research shows otherwise.)
Bamforth researched and co-authored studies recently published in the Journal of the Institute of Brewing and the Journal of the American Society of Brewing Chemists, The Science of Beer.
Here’s more potentially good news about Guinness: Despite its rich flavor and creamy consistency, it’s not the highest in calories compared with other beers. A 12-ounce serving of Guinness Draught has 125 calories. By comparison, the same size serving of Budweiser has 145 calories, a Heineken has 142 calories, and a Samuel Adams Cream Stout has 189 calories. In the United States, Guinness Extra Stout, by the way, has 149 calories.
This makes sense when you consider that alcohol is the main source of calories in beers. Guinness Draught has a lower alcohol content, at 4.2% alcohol by volume (ABV), compared with 5% for Budweiser and Heineken, and 4.9% for the Samuel Adams Cream Stout.
In general, moderate alcohol consumption — defined by the USDA’s dietary guidelines for Americans as no more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women — may protect against heart disease. So you can check off another box.

The not-so-great

Guinness is still alcohol, and consuming too much can impair judgment and contribute to weight gain. Heavy drinking (considered more than 15 drinks a week for men or more than eight drinks a week for women) and binge drinking (five or more drinks for men, and four or more for women, in about a two-hour period) are also associated with many health problems, including liver disease, pancreatitis and high blood pressure.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, “alcohol is the most commonly used addictive substance in the United States: 17.6 million people, or one in every 12 adults, suffer from alcohol abuse or dependence along with several million more who engage in risky, binge drinking patterns that could lead to alcohol problems.”
And while moderate consumption of alcohol may have heart benefits for some, consumption of alcohol can also increase a woman’s risk of breast cancer for each drink consumed daily.
How to stick with your exercise resolution: Drink beer
Many decades ago, in Ireland, it would not have been uncommon for a doctor to advise pregnant and nursing women to drink Guinness. But today, experts (particularly in the United States) caution of the dangers associated with consuming any alcohol while pregnant.
“Alcohol is a teratogen, which is something that causes birth defects. It can cause damage to the fetal brain and other organ systems,” said Dr. Erin Tracy, an OB/GYN at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive gynecology. “We don’t know of any safe dose of alcohol in pregnancy; hence we recommend abstaining entirely during this brief period of time in a woman’s life.”
Regarding the old wives’ tale about beer’s effects on breastfeeding, Marnell added, “It’s not something that Guinness has perpetuated … and if (people are still saying it), I’d like to say once and for all, it’s not something we support or recommend.”
By Lisa Drayer, CNN
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5 WAYS TO MAKE BAD WINE BETTER

Bad wine. There’s so much good wine in the world that bad wine seems such an exceptional tragedy. But as we have all experienced at parties, receptions and your BFF’s ultra-cool gallery opening, bad wine does exist. Maybe there’s even a bottle or two of it in your kitchen that an unfortunate soul brought to your recent dinner party, with nothing but the purest of intentions (bless their heart).

But alas, this wine makes your left eye twitch just a little and it burns on the way down. Not cool. However, now you’re left with the regrettable task of dealing with this unpalatable bottle. It is booze, and it is in your house, so the idea of throwing it out is heartbreaking. Time to get creative. Use those brain cells! Or, just read below.

 

1. Wine Spritzer

Don’t laugh! Wine spritzers are delicious and the best part is, they’re easy. Granted, this works best with white wine (or rosé!) and sunshine, but we have to make accommodations for the suddenness of this leftover bad wine you have. Here’s what you need: about 3/4 of a glass of wine and the rest club soda. Serve over ice, with a wedge of lime, mint leaves or, if you have your fancy pants on, a dash of an artisanal aperitif like the amazing Imbue Petal & Thorn.

2. Mulled Wine

Now we’re talking warm wintery goodness, and also a good use for that leftover red. Any recipe for mulled wine you come across (like maybe this one) has a basic theme of fall flavors in a pot with some wine. So don’t get too nervous about having any exact ingredients on hand. Take your bottle of wine, dump in a large pot and add any combination of the following: apple cider, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, a rind or two of an orange, whole cloves, star anise, a splash of brandy or port, a bit of honey (if not using cider to act as a sweetener). Bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes while you enjoy the smell wafting about your house. Perhaps pretend to be Betty Draper for a few minutes. Then enjoy your beverage while warm. Money.

3. Put a Penny in it

No, really. Now, this is a very specific situation we’re talking about here. If you have a bottle of red wine that smells remarkably like rotten eggs, onions, matches or skunks, swishing a penny around in the glass is an old winemaker’s trick for getting rid of this issue. These smells are called mercaptans, which is a five dollar word for issues. Natural byproducts of fermentation can get a little stuck in the wine’s aromatics. Many times they will go away on their own, but the copper in the penny will neutralize it. Make sure you’re using a penny that’s older than 1982, and give it a whirl.

4. A Kalimotxo

Call-ee-MO-cho. Sometimes it’s best to rely on pure simplicity, that which will never fail you. A Kalimotxo is a Spanish Basque country classic: red wine and cola, about a 50-50 ratio. Some claim adding a squeeze of lemon will brighten the overall palate of this no-frills beverage. Serve it over ice and put away your preconceived notions of what you think it might taste like. This could be the biggest pleasant surprise you’ve ever encountered. Side note: we suspect that this combination of hair-of-the-dog, carbonation and sugar may be a secret hangover cure. Let us know what you come up with.

5. Cook with it

If all else fails, save this not so great wine for cooking before you toss it. It will have endless uses: sautéed mushrooms & onions? Wine. A jar of spaghetti sauce? Wine. A turkey or chicken brine? Wine. Steak sauce? Wine. Are you sensing a pattern? Just don’t give up on that bottle. It will prove its use to you.

Recipe: Texas Breakfast Beer Bread

Ingredients:

  • 5 strips bacon
  • 2 to 3 jalapeños (depending on heat level — ours are pretty hot right now so I used 2)
  • 3 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 cup finely shredded sharp cheddar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup (preferably grade B)
  • 1 beer (I used Abita Amber which gave it a nice but not overpowering beer flavor)
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 4 tablespoons melted unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons maple sugar

Instructions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350° F. Crisp the bacon in a skillet. When the bacon is cooked, drain it on paper towels and pour 3 tablespoons of bacon fat into a loaf pan (to be honest, I didn’t measure, I just dumped. Five strips center-cut bacon produced what looked like about 3 tablespoons of fat). This bread is not for the faint of heart: Did I mention that? Roughly chop the bacon.
  2. Remove the stems and seeds from the jalapeños and roughly chop them.
  3. Put the flour into a mixing bowl. Mix in the cheddar cheese.
  4. Now make a well in the middle and pour in the maple syrup and the beer.
  5. Mix together until everything is moistened and combined (a few lumps are okay).
  6. Break the cream cheese into small chunks (I just pulled it apart by hand, but you can also cut the block into smaller pieces) and drop them into the dough. Add the jalapeños and bacon and fold them in until everything is uniformly mixed.
  7. Now scoop the dough into the loaf pan and spread it evenly. Pour the melted butter on top (yeah, I know) and put the pan on a baking sheet and into the oven. Set the time for 20 minutes.
  8. At 20 minutes, sprinkle the sugar on top of the loaf, then bake the bread for another 40 minutes, or until a toothpick test comes out clean.
  9. Allow the bread to cool for about 10 minutes before turning it out of the pan.

5 awesome beer day trips from coast to coast

Looking to get out of town for a brewery adventure, but don’t have more than a day? These itineraries have you covered.

Phoenix → Flagstaff → Prescott
Phoenicians’ need for a summer getaway is pretty much unparalleled, as temperatures reach surface-of-the-sun levels and even kiddie pools full of ice cubes do little to combat the scorching heat. Luckily, Flagstaff is a day trip away; its significantly higher elevation making it a (relatively) cool oasis. Once in town, beer seekers should hit up Historic Brewing Co.’s downtown Barrel + Bottle House outpost for a glass of cult favorite Piehole Porter, which was recently pulled back to a taproom-only release. Hungry? Fresh, substantial sandwiches from next-door Proper Meats can be ordered to the patio. Next, hit up The State Bar for a 30-tap draft list that rounds up the best of Arizona’s breweries. (You’ll also want to take a photo of historic Route 66, just across the street.) Other great stops in Flag include Hops on Birch, Mother Road Brewing and a final stop at Pay ‘n’ Take bar/beer shop for souvenirs. Add on to the trip with an additional stop in quaint, small-town Prescott, where you can visit renowned Superstition Meadery and Prescott Brewing Co. in the same block.

Tampa → St. Petersburg → Tarpon Springs
Tampa has its own growing beer scene, but it’s just a 30-minute drive across the bay to the southern end of St. Petersburg’s newly launched Craft Beer Trail, which runs north to south from Tarpon Spring to St. Pete. Start off at the legendary Cycle Brewing, ideally with a seat at a picnic table on the front patio. Draft offerings rotate constantly, but you can’t go wrong with any barrel-aged and flavor-spiked stout on the menu. Then it’s onward to Green Bench Brewing for 20 taps of brewer Khris Johnson’s creations; try the refreshing Les Grisettes if it’s available (if not, don’t fear, bottles are available yearround). En route to Tarpon Springs, make a detour to Rapp Brewing, an unassuming tasting room in an industrial strip of Seminole, Florida. Its location belies the top-notch stuff flowing from the 650-square-foot taproom, including a thirst-quenching gose. Onward to Tarpon Springs for pilgrimage to St. Somewhere’s new, (dare we say adorable?) taproom for a taste of brewer Bob Sylvester’s unfiltered, exquisite farmhouse beers. Definitely pick up bottles to take home.

Fish tacos at Aslan Brewing

Fish tacos at Aslan Brewing

Seattle → Bellingham → Skagit Valley
There’s obviously no need to leave Seattle if you’re in search of great beer. But if you want some laidback charm and pastoral views with your pint, you’ll have to hit the road. Drive north for about an hour to Farmstrong Brewing in Mt. Vernon, where you can cool down with Cold Beer pilsner and learn about the brewery’s goal of one day using 100 percent local malts. Then hop on Chuckanut Drive/State Route 11 for a scenic, water-views drive to Bellingham where a smorgasbord of great breweries await (watch for bicyclists). Refuel with grilled rockfish tacos and a glass of Disco Lemonade Berliner weisse in Aslan Brewing’s sunny brewpub, then revel in the tart and sour spectrum of offerings while catching rays on the patio at Wander Brewing. On your route home, swing by Chuckanut Brewery’s new Skagit Valley spot in Burlington, affectionately called South Nut; there you’ll find two outdoor seating areas surrounded by verdant lawn (and giant Jenga and cornhole games), a fishing pond and plenty of nearby farm stands to pick up a fresh snack for later.

Courtesy of Sloop Brewing

Courtesy of Sloop Brewing

NYC → Hudson Valley
Just an hour and a half (ish) from New York City, Hudson Valley is a scenic destination with a growing food scene. The agricultural focus has also lead to a boom in farm breweries, many of which are located just a half-hour’s drive from each other. Start the rustic exploration at Hudson Valley Brewery in Beacon for a taste of easy-drinking, oak-fermented wild ales as well as dry-hopped IPAs and double IPAs (pick up some of the hoppy goods in cans, with barrel-aged sours in bottles debuting this summer as well). From there, head 30 minutes north to Plan Bee Farm Brewery in Poughkeepsie, whose mission is to brew with all in-state-grown ingredients, including many from the 25-acre farm itself. While the brewery’s taproom clears final licensing hurdles, Plan Bee has set up an event tent on hill from which they serve four draft beers and more than a dozen styles in bottles for onsite consumption or take away. Make sure to check hours before arriving; Plan Bee’s farmstand is only open to the public on weekends. Another 30 minutes’ drive north will get you to Suarez Family Brewery, an attention-garnering year-old outfit from a former Hill Farmstead brewer; if sitting in the sunshine drinking an unfiltered pilsner is your idea of a good time, you’ll find yourself in good company. If you still haven’t had your fill, Sloop Brewing is just a quick jaunt from Suarez and satisfies with all manner of IPAs, double IPAs and sour beers, plus live music on Sunday afternoons.

Chicago → Milwaukee
While this could technically constitute a road trip, it could also be accomplished as a rail trip: Amtrak operates 14 daily trains between Chicago and Milwaukee (12 on Sundays), with each leg lasting a leisurely 90 minutes. Milwaukee’s brewery scene has exploded recently; we won’t summarize all the new openings, but find them here in our recent Beertown: Milwaukee. In between brewery stops, you’ll want to make sure to check out the city’s beer bars, which are some of the best in the country. Start at Burnheart’s, where a formerly run-of-the-mill corner bar has maintained its Midwest hospitality but seriously upped its beer cred. Make sure you’re hungry for your next stop: Honeypie, a pie cafe with solid beer options (Milwaukee, we love you) where you can wash down a slice with a silky Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald Porter or local favorite Bells Oberon. Then it’s an invigorating walk south along bustling Kinninickinnic Avenue to Palm Tavern, a small Bayview bar literally crammed with booze, including the best of regional and international beers as well as an impressive liquor back bar. Up for one more stop? End the tour at Romans’ Pub, a 20-plus-year-old Milwaukee beer institution, and a must for any first-time visitor.

 

What a psycholinguist can tell us about how we describe beer flavors

Want to improve your tasting notes? Practice, practice, practice.

Ilja Croijmans is a psychologist by training and a homebrewer in his off time. He’s a researcher in the field of psycholinguistics, which combines psychology and linguistics, obtaining his PhD at the Centre for Language Studies in Nijmegen, the Netherlands.

His work is currently focused on the ways people describe the flavor and aroma of food and beverages. In this vein, Croijmans coauthored a 2015 study titled “Odor Naming Is Difficult, Even For Wine And Coffee Experts,” which found that “both wine and coffee experts were no more accurate or consistent than novices when naming odors. ”

When I read of this study via Sprudge, a coffee publication, I naturally thought, “OK, but what about beer?”

Croijmans was kind enough to answer my questions about how his research into the language of flavor and aroma could impact beer judging as well as everyday beer enjoyment. Some of his responses have been edited for clarity and length:

Why has your research until now mostly focused on wine and coffee?
It has focused primarily on wine, actually. Wine is, like coffee, an incredibly rich source of aromas, and can be experienced by smelling it, and by tasting it. In both cases, the nose is involved. Wines differ along a few dimensions–grape type, country of origin or terroir, and yet, there is so much variety. There are many wine experts available in the Netherlands, in shops (vinologists), in restaurants (sommeliers), and we even have a few wine producers now (oenologists). Additionally, wine expertise is well defined. To become a sommelier or vinologist, you have to go through intensive training and get a degree. Wine experts are interesting, because they talk and write about the smell and flavor of wines frequently–in shops, in restaurants and in reviews on the internet.

Have you considered applying your research to beer rather than wine or coffee?
Beer is also incredibly interesting. Back when I started this project on flavor language, this whole “craft beer revolution” was just kicking off in the Netherlands, which is only four years ago. Back then, there were 200 breweries, already 40 more than in 2012. Right now, there are around 422 breweries in the Netherlands. While beer is an interesting and obvious choice right now, it wasn’t yet back then. There are beer expert communities in the Netherlands with incredible expertise, and at least 422 commercial brewers which I think are expert enough to participate in my studies, too. And I think beer is talked about a lot too. What you see for wines (wine menus, wine reviews online) you see for beers more often too. There now even is a Michelin-star restaurant in the Netherlands (de Librije in Zwolle) that has a beer menu to pair with their seven-course menu.

It is too bad we don’t teach our kids to talk about smells and flavors, but focus on what cows say (sound) and what color a sheep is (vision) instead. It’s speculative, but it might be possible people would be better at naming smells if they learned to pay attention to them when they were young.

What implications could your research have in terms of how we understand and value beer judging?
What we found in wine experts is that it matters how much you talk about smells and flavors in order to become better at describing it. If these beer judges talk a lot about beer, in addition to tasting and judging it, the findings for wine experts might apply to beer judges too. I think judges (for wine and beer alike) are very useful. It is hard to judge from a bottle of beer how it will taste, and some beers are quite expensive, so these pose a risk. If a beer expert has described the flavor in a way I can understand, this helps me in my decision process. I see sometimes online that people really don’t like a well rated beer, for example a Berliner weisse or a lambic or a black IPA. And it turns out they just didn’t expect the flavors in those beers, for example, in case of the Berliner weisse, they expected more of a traditional German weisse or Belgian wit. If they would have had access to a short description of the flavor, they might have given it a second thought, or not spent money on it in the first place. Expert descriptions are very useful, especially when novices struggle with finding the right words for the flavors

How can casual beer drinkers become more adept at describing aroma and flavor?
With practice, people can become better at describing aromas and flavors. A guided tasting can help: Let an expert explain what flavors they taste in a beer, and see if the casual beer-drinker can spot these too. Or a beer flavor wheel might help, seeing particular flavors occur in a beer. This is speculative, but in the beginning, it seems it is important to just get acquainted with the words that are used in beer contexts, and these wheels can help. After a while, it is more about practicing using them and applying them to new beers.
There are apps in which you can choose a few flavor descriptors for each beer you drink. This is already easier than just coming up with your own, or type in your own description. Becoming an expert in any domain, like in music or in chess, takes time, on average around 10,000 hours, so it really just needs deliberate practice and time. But even practicing it a few hours can help. It is too bad we don’t teach our kids to talk about smells and flavors, but focus on what cows say (sound) and what color a sheep is (vision) instead. It’s speculative, but it might be possible people would be better at naming smells if they learned to pay attention to them when they were young.

Do you have a favorite beer style?
I don’t have a specific favorite. It depends too much on the context. But there are types of beers I like more than others. I am quite into the sour beers: gose, Berliner weisse, lambic, gueuze. Somehow the sourness keeps being interesting, while for example for with IPAs or stouts, these seem to become more similar to each other the more I try (although I also really like IPAs). I also like the crossover-type beers, in which multiple styles are combined, e.g., a sour stout, or experimental beers in which interesting ingredients are used.

Has your research changed the way you personally experience the act of drinking beer?
I don’t think my research has changed the way I am experiencing beer. Whether it changed what types of beers I drink, I think homebrewing is more to blame for that–if you know how something is made, you may find flaws and possible ways to improve it. But I am trying to be aware of the flavors and tastes in what beers I drink, and I try to at least write a few words on each beer I drink and rate it, even if I’ve had it more than once.

WHAT IS SCOTCH ALE?

What is it?

Hailing from the land of whisky, haggis and Irn-Bru, Scotch ale is a malty, rich delight of a beer that warrants looking into – especially if you’re suffering from craft beer fatigue.

Not to be confused with Scottish ale, Scotch ale is bold, complex and has abundant flavor. It also clocks in at a higher alcohol level; where Scottish ale hovers between 2.5 to 5.5 percent ABV, Scotch ale is typically bottled around a minimum of 6.5 percent all the way to 10 percent ABV. Needless to say, they pack a punch.

And although the name may conjure up visions of barrels and amber liquid served by the dram, these ales don’t taste like Scotch whisky. You won’t find peat or floral aromas in a glass of Scotch ale. They do, however, share a pleasant malt flavor, but more on that later.

You’ll also see Scotch ale described as “Wee Heavy” and the style dates back to the 19th century when this pale ale was first brewed. Its origins lie in Edinburgh and it represents a style of ale that was both common and quite popular during this period in time.

Traditionally, Scotch ales saw a long boiling period in the kettle. This caramelizes the wort and gives a pint of heavy its characteristic color, shades of copper ranging to an exquisite dark brown. This process also lends a slightly sweet flavor to the finished product. Malt, rather than hops, is the star here, and the result is significantly less bitter than many other beers you’ve probably tasted. The reason Malt is used is simply due to the fact that hops had to be imported to Scotland and it was much more practical to use the ingredients already on hand. Scotch ale is a closer relative to barleywine (another style of strong ale) than other pale ales like the ever-popular IPA.

The Shilling System

These categories first cropped up at the tail end of the 19th century and were based on the overall strength of the ale. The stronger the beer, the higher the cost as more taxes (aka duty) had to be paid and corresponded to the price of a hogshead during this time period. Here’s the breakdown:

Light – 60 shillings, for Mild ales of about 3.5 percent ABV.
Heavy – 70 shillings, slightly more robust and somewhat sweeter than Light. Usually between 3.5 and 4 percent ABV.
Export – 80 shillings. These were the classic Scottish ales of yore, which hovered around 4 to 5.5 percent ABV.
Wee Heavy (Scotch ales) – 90 shillings. Occasionally you’ll come across a Scotch ale label 90 shillings and these are at least 6.5 percent alcohol.

Ordering a Pint of Wee Heavy

Robust, generous and complex, Scotch ale is just the thing for the beer lover with a jaded palate. The maltiness gives this ale a whisper of sweetness yet you’d never call it truly sweet; the finish is without a doubt, dry. Caramel, toffee, the occasional hints of dried fruits and naturally, roasted malt all come together in Scotch ale. Since hops don’t play a major role in Scotch ale, this beer won’t have the characteristic bitterness of styles that are hop-heavy.

Do yourself a favor and serve it the right way. Scotch ale is best at a cool room temperature (the way you’d enjoy a Guinness or glass of red wine). Being from Scotland, it’s naturally served in a ‘thistle’ glass. In the glass, it takes on colors ranging from rich amber to brooding copper or chocolate brown.

Scotch ale is perfect for this time of year; warming, malty, with the suggestion of something sweet, it’s just the thing for those nights out braving the cold or a cozy night in with friends.