Beer Cocktails

Beer Cocktails – yeah, they’re all the rage. We’ve read about them on various blogs, Facebook, in print and hell, there’s even a website devoted to them: they must be popular. For all the talk, however, I think there’s more confusion for readers and imbibers than there is when brewers talk mash techniques to a casual beer fan. For many, beer cocktails are modified ‘beer and a shot’ concoctions – pints of beer with an ounce or so of booze. Sure, I can appreciate the shot of Bourbon in an IPA, but it is a mess on the palate. Others take their beer cocktails more seriously, or at least seem to, and create intriguing elixirs that are more fun than good. Finally, there are a handful of folks that put the serious work into their cocktails and actually understand the balance required to make it good – evening out the booze, acids and sugars to create an inviting and festive drink that can be enjoyed time and time again.

Sadly I feel that lost in all this craze is the fact that we (Americans) are only rediscovering the greatness of beer and cocktails. The 90s were a fucking train wreck for craft beer and the cocktail worlds – craft brewers started putting out shit beer (not all, obviously) and cocktails were co-opted by Sex In The City viewers that demanded their drinks obnoxiously sweet and boozy. It has only been in the last eight years or so that authors, bartenders and editors began to question the cocktail world – and we all know that craft beer has had to redefine itself in that same time frame.

So here we are, newbies at a strange intersection where craft cocktails and craft beers meet. There are plenty of train wrecks, plenty of oddities and much confusion. That said, there are also a handful of great creations worth exploring.

To begin, let’s talk about the crappy stuff and get it out of the way. If you look online for any amount of time you’ll find some pretty terrible recipes for beer cocktails. It’s easy to see why, too. Beer geeks have taken their favorite drinks and combined them in appalling ways. I believe this is done by well-meaning folks that perhaps don’t understand the liquids they’re playing with (and if you read some of the instructions for building a cocktail, it becomes obvious they’re in over their head).

For an example, take a look at this recipe for “Tower Glen” – a mix of Glenlivet (Highland Single Malt) and Tower 10 (American IPA). The description talks of how the “peat cuts right through that hop aroma”, which is interesting given how little peat the Scotch has. Now, if it were an Islay Single Malt I could follow that statement, but still wouldn’t dream of the mix. This, in my view, is a sloppy drink created with little understanding of the liquids. Examples like this are plenty and I don’t mean to berate the creators too much, but these thrown together drinks are a far cry from excellence.

So, how do we create a good beer cocktail? Well, for starters, drop the word “beer” from the moniker – cocktails (and let’s not talk about the historical meaning of the word) are an intentional blend of ingredients that create a drink of balance. They should not have any one ingredient that completely dominates, nor should they unsettle the palate with confusion (starting one way, then finishing another – or not finishing at all).  The best cocktail makers look at ingredients and see how they will complement or contrast the flavors, aromas and texture of the base ingredient (usually a spirit). This thought process doesn’t just happen – the creator must have a working knowledge of flavors and available ingredients.

A quick detour (hey, it’s a blog, I can do this without pissing off an editor). 

If you want to be creative in the bar or kitchen, there’s a great resource that will make you look good – The Flavor Bible. This book is great for recipe development in that it is not in itself a cook book, but rather a list of ingredients and what other ingredients they will go great with. Quickly, let me just look at the “Ginger” section with you. Among the long list of food that go well with ginger you’ll see Apricots, Basil, Pears, Vanilla Lemon and Tea. Based on this, if you have a working knowledge of old-school drinks, you’ll remember the classic cocktail – The Horse’s Neck (a wonderful blend of whiskey, ginger & lemon). In the next section you’ll see “Flavor Affinities”, one of which includes “Ginger+Lemon+Mint”. There ya go, you have yourself a great jumping off point for a cocktail – you just have to find the best delivery mechanism for the flavors listed.

OK, back to the beer cocktails…

So, you want to create a cocktail that involves beer. Great. Please, please, please understand that beer is but a part of the drink and not the show, itself. Next, understand that ‘beer’ is like saying ‘fruit’ in that it really says nothing about the flavor, texture or aroma of the actual ingredient. To be more concise requires a base knowledge of beer styles – which ones offer roasted qualities and which offers citrus, spice, pear notes, toffee, caramel (and yes, there is a difference), banana… you get the idea. It isn’t enough to say ‘dark beer’, either – that can be toasty like a porter, roasted like a stout or fruity like a doppelbock or dubbel. I’m of the opinion that beer should be the last ingredient added to a cocktail, too. Build the drink to intentionally be lacking that flavor/aroma/texture you want the beer to add. Then, find the right beer for the job.

On building your drinks, it won’t take but a moment to realize that you should not shake your beer in a Boston Shaker – the carbonation will just blow the top off or cause a mess when opened (yeah, I know this from trial and error). If using fruits or egg whites, best to shake the mostly-built cocktail ahead of time, then either stir in the beer or float it.

Finally, you don’t have to use finished beer to make a beer cocktail, do you? If you have access to wort, you may find that adds an impressive layer to your creation – it’s a fun substitute for simple syrup. Again though, you must have a base knowledge on flavors. Pilsner malt wort will taste and look quite a bit different than porter or stout wort. Wort is actually a beautiful cocktail ingredient, in case you were wondering.

Sadly, this post barely scratches the surface of cocktails and beer and how the two can be happily married. To properly do that, one would have to write a book – and I haven’t been asked to do that yet. Just know this – among the bad and underwhelming ‘beer cocktails’ are some truly amazing creations. The key is the author/bartender and his/her knowledge of ingredients and how they work with each other.

For those that believe it’s blasphemy to use a great beer in the creation of a cocktail – get over yourself. Bartenders are expected to use the best and freshest ingredients possible in the creation of their drinks. Why would we, as general consumers, not want them to have the truly great ingredient beer can be in their arsenal?

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Getting Back to the Basics

In talking with casual beer drinkers over the past many months I’ve come to realize that we beer bloggers live in a world vastly different than 95% of today’s average person. Honestly, it’s alarming the chasm that exists in what the active online beer geeks are saying and wanting, versus what the rest of the world expects from their beer. Even those who have ‘graduated’ (a phrase I’ve grown to loathe) from the most popular international brands (Bud, Coors, Miller, Stella, Blue Moon, Guinness, etc.) to ‘craft beer’ (another term I hate) seem to have little interest in what the beer blogs are talking about. I can’t say I blame them.

Without digging a hole, I’d like to present a handful of terms & definitions that I come across everyday when pouring beer to thirsty patrons.

  • ABV: This means “Alcohol By Volume”, it’s the standard measurement of alcohol in America. The ‘average’ beer has somewhere around 4.5-5.5% ABV, whereas the average wine in America weighs in around 12% ABV. The average beer poured in bars is served in a 16-ounce glass (pint), whereas the average glass of wine is shy of 10-ounces. With that understood, one glass of average strength beer is typically equivalent to one glass of wine – as far as alcohol by volume goes.
    • Beer Geeks: this is where we need to be careful. Many of the beers poured today in craft beer bars are 8% ABV or more. Having a few of these will impact you differently than having a few 4.5% ABV beers. Responsible bars will pour high octane beers in smaller glasses. This is a good thing.
  • IBU: This means International Bitterness Unit and is meant to give consumers an idea of how bitter the beer will be. Sadly, this number is wildly exaggerated by many brewers for reasons I won’t bore you with. Budweiser is said to have 8 IBUs, Sierra Nevada (Pale Ale) has around 35 – the upper-end threshold that humans can detect is 70. This is a pretty useless measurement.
  • Wheat Beer: Know that wheat is an ingredient used in many types of beer. If you’re a fan of “wheat beer”, you may enjoy a glass of hefeweizen (what most people mean when they ask for a wheat beer), Belgian Wit (or white, or witbier) like Allagash White or a Saison (like Ommegang). These beers tend to be less bitter and more palatable for people adverse to hops.
  • Belgian Beer: This term means absolutely nothing, except of course to refer to the region of origin. Beers of Belgium tend (I say this loosely) to be perceived as sweet. In my experience, I believe we mean to say “fruity” – as many beer’s in the Belgian brewing tradition have some sort of a fruit note, no matter how dry/sweet they are. I believe when someone says they like “Belgian beer” they are looking for something with a pear fruit flavor and spicy peppery yeast character. Yes, this is about as generic as I can possibly be. Hell, even ardent beer geeks seem to have little grasp on the beers of Belgium.
  • Pale Ale: This is a hoppy beer, tends to be more bitter than most ‘lagers’. For many “Pale Ale” is synonymous with Sierra Nevada. The commercial example of what a Pale Ale is varies wildly – from fairly dark amber to very pale golden, with a wide range of sweetness vs bitterness.
  • Lager: For bar-goers this tends to mean something incredibly easy to drink, often in large gulps. A good ‘lager’ should be very clean, brilliantly clear and with fairly low bitterness.
  • I.P.A.: Stands for India Pale Ale, but has little (if anything) to do with India. These beers tend to be incredibly bitter with varying degrees of hoppiness. Look for them to be amber in color with a big initial sweetness, followed by a gripping bitterness that will linger well into the aftertaste. Ignore the IBU measure on these, too – they tell you nothing.
  • Stout & Porter: While historically different, it seems today they’re just ‘dark beers’ with a big roasty flavor that is often described as ‘chocolate’ or ‘coffee’. Be sure to check out the ABV on these styles – commercial examples in America start at 3.5% ABV and go far north of 10% ABV. Know what you’re drinking.
  • Bottle Conditioned“: These beers tend to be effervescent with a creamy body. This is a good term to look for when shopping for examples of “Belgian beer” – as many examples in this family of beers greatly benefits from the higher volume of CO2.
Other than terms, there are a few basics I think will benefit the average drinker’s enjoyment of a good beer. These points are mainly for bar managers & owners.
  • Stop using chilled or frozen glasses. The ice build up on glasses only destroys the carbonation in your drink and makes it more difficult to actually taste the liquid it holds. IF you insist on freezing your glasses, freeze them standing upright only after they are thoroughly dried. If you store them upside down, you will encourage ice formation every time you open the cooler door.
  • Rinse your glasses before using them. Nothing kills the aroma of a beer more than sanitizer. If you don’t have an actual glass rinser, you can use a bowl of ice water.
  • Beer should be poured with a nice frothy head! Stop obsessing about that 0.5 ounce of beer you think you’re being cheated out of – head keeps carbonation in and oxygen out of your beer. Besides, there’s nothing less appealing than a glass filled to the brim of a yellow-ish liquid, it just looks like a urine sample.
  • Use a coaster.
  • Bartenders & Owners: Stop putting fruit in my beer without my permission! I can always add fruit to my beer if I want, I cannot take that aroma & head-killing aspect out of my beer once you’ve added it. I don’t begrudge anyone that wants an orange or lemon in his/her beer, just don’t ruin my beer with your insistence that every wheat beer be served with a wedge of fruit added.
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Consistency Matters

I don’t usually respond to other’s blog posts here, this isn’t a good forum for debate and conversation. However, there’s a piece out today that I apparently have very strong feelings about: consistency.

One of the truly great guys in the beer-writing world, Brian Yeager, posted a tidbit today about the importance of consistency and even asked if it was “overrated”. To be perfectly clear, the answer is no – consistency is not overrated. In fact, I think we are far too lenient toward our beloved brewers when a flagship beer fluctuates greatly from batch to batch.

Let’s back up a bit. One thing the post did, in my opinion, was muddle the great difference between consistency and diversity. Yeager muses if we truly wanted consistency in our beer we’d just drink Bud.

“If we all wanted homogenized beer, we know very well where to find that.”

I think this is the sentence that really throws everything for a loop with me. Being consistent in a flagship beer – be it IPA, Pale Ale, Brown Ale or Pilsner – says nothing to the diversity or creativity afforded our great brewers. I believe the best brewers in the country have nailed the recipes they choose to represent their brand year-round, but also reserve the right to ‘play’ with other recipes, even if in the same style. Look at Russian River, Stone or even Deschutes and Sierra Nevada. These breweries all make year-round, flagship beers – and make them consistently good. They also put out other brands in the same style, under different fanciful names, that taste nothing like the other brands.

We are not homogenizing our beer by expecting it to be consistent in flavor. Not in any way, shape or form.

The piece almost seems to be written in response to the now-famous issues of consistency at Lost Abbey (which, rumor has it, they are working to correct in the hiring of a world-class quality control manager). In this instance, consistency again matters – greatly. I’d suggest if it weren’t for the long run of success of the Lost Abbey crew, the issues they had would have been detrimental to the business. As is it’s hurt their reputation among some beer geeks. The leash here is quite long because we all know ‘shit happens’ and that the team there will continue to put out some of the best beer anyone could hope for.

Look, if you want to create a regionally successful brewery you simply have to nail down your flagship beers. If you fail to do that, you’ll lose tap handles and key accounts as customers return product because it wasn’t the same as it used to be. Trust me on this, the few people that read beer blogs is vastly different from the average customer struggling to come to grips with a $10 six pack.

Brewers and Beer Geeks – just to be clear. I love the diversity we have in our beer today, it’s truly a thing of wonder. Brew as many IPAs and Pale Ales as you want – open a brewery dedicated to one style if you want and make sixteen versions of your IPA. If you do that, though, don’t call them all the same name. To do so only cheats the average customer that demands consistency. It’s not their fault and it’s not the fault of Bud, Coors or Miller. If my favorite cheese suddenly changed in flavor and consistency, it likely wouldn’t be my favorite cheese anymore. Sure, I’d try and and look forward to the experience, but it would not be my go-to option. Same with my favorite bread, or coffee.

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It’s The Little Things

*Disclaimer: I have no idea where the sharp tone in this piece came from. All I can think is I went to a reputable establishment last week that served me a sub-par glass of great beer. Beyond that, I’ve been researching a few ‘behind the bar’ stories… guess it came out in these words. 

How hard is it, really, to serve a good glass of beer? Well, apparently harder than I thought. It should be noted that I work behind the bar – I pour a lot of beer. Beyond that, I’ve been fortunate enough to sit in some top-notch beer pouring seminars. I believe I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. Perhaps that’s what irks me when I receive a piss-poor glass of beer.

To begin, it’s not just about ‘pouring’ a beer. If you’re working behind the bar I think it only appropriate to expect a minimal amount of friendly (at least, non-threatening) eye contact. I’m not asking for a hand job or a free pint, but to be treated humanely is always a step in the right direction. Once a request has been made, take a moment to visually inspect the glass you’re about to fill. Here, I expect you to look for one thing, and one thing only: lipstick. Look, I can live with a fingerprint smudge (or 20) on the outside of my glass – I’m not looking for a pristine glass. However, a little lipstick immediately makes my drinking experience less appealing (no, it’s not like making out with the last person that drank out of the glass). Honestly, it takes a fraction of a second to eyeball the glass before putting it under the tap.

From here, don’t be timid. Open that tap all the way up and pour the beer into a glass held at about a 45 degree angle – when liquid hits the rim of the glass (when the glass is 2/3 full or so), straighten it out and allow a nice little head to form. If your customers bitch about a little foam on the top of their beer, feel free to tell them how that frothy crown keeps CO2 in the beer longer, while also keeping oxygen away from the liquid. Unless they’re chugging (and do you really want to be serving a chugger?) they should appreciate a beer that stays fresh and carbonated longer. Oh, please, don’t ever put fruit in my beer without me specifically asking you to. Thanks!

Finally, it’s nice if the glass you pour doesn’t smell like your sanitizing solution. I know not every bar can be set up with a slick rinser (like we use), but that doesn’t mean you can’t easily rinse a glass before you fill it. How? Use a bucket. Ideally it’d look attractive (shiny metal looks cool) and will be filled about 2/3 with ice water. Simply dunk the glass in the water (this will chill the glass, which customers like, and remove any off-putting soapy aromas that are inherent in American bars after a run through the wash).

A word to the consumers out there, too. You ought to care how your beer is served. If you’re paying $5 (or more) for a pint of beer, it’s alright to expect good service and attention to detail – you could drink at home for less money, after all. That, in itself, doesn’t make you a douchebag. That doesn’t mean you need to find other ways to play your DB card, however**. Expect good beer. Drink good beer. Repeat.

**You can show your DB card in a few easy ways: raising your hand wildly to get the attention of an already-too-busy bartender who already knows he/she needs to get to you; hitting on your server – or staring at her tits/ass; telling the barkeep you’d ‘tip more if you charged less’; setting up your office in the bar – laptop, phone, jacket strewn over three seats at lunch time; bitching about a little head on top of your beer (or, “bitching about a proper pour” as I’d call it); puking; passing out; driving drunk… don’t be a douche. 

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Beer and Patriotism

I’m certain I’ve posted something similar before, but figured I’d do it again because I care.

Independence Day in America is coming up fast and while many news posts are focusing on grilling, I wanted to encourage you to drink properly. By that I of course mean responsibly and American.

Look, I love a good German hefeweizen and Belgian Triple as much as the next guy, but you know we have great home-grown versions of these beers right here in America (and they’re typically fresher versions). I know that drinking American beer does not make one patriotic, but in a time where we consume more imports than domestic goods, why not make an active choice to do all you can to buy American for a day, or a week? I’m reminded of the great James McMurtry song, “We Can’t Make it Here”:

Now I’m stocking shirts in the Wal-Mart store

Just like the ones we made before

‘Cept this one came from Singapore

I guess we can’t make it here anymore

This weekend we’ll be faced with a choice. The end cap specials will display cases and cases of Corona and Heineken, Stella and Newcastle on sale for our Fourth of July festivities. On the shelves craft beer fans will find a myriad of great imports as well. Steer clear consciously. Choose to buy American. Better yet, choose to buy local if you can – get your growlers filled, buy a sixer from the brewery.

We make the best beers in the world, craft beer geeks know this while industrial beer drinkers may or may not appreciate it. If you’re a die-hard Stella fan, pick up a pack of Trumer or Sierra Nevada’s Summerfest – both incredibly pale, soft and perfectly quaffable (and brewed in America). If you’re a die-hard hefeweizen fan, there’s all sorts of American-brewed wheat beers (like Kellerweisse). If you’re unsure, just ask someone that looks like they should know – or shoot me an email or comment.

On BBQ & Pairing

If you’re obsessed with finding the perfect beer to go with every single dish you make or eat, I’m sorry. Yes, the right beer will make a great dish better, but not every meal demands this. Certainly not the most casual of tables, the Barbeque dinner. That said here are a few basics to take with you if you’re hoping to score points with friends. The principles have been widely documented – with pairings you want to either complement the flavors of the dish, or contrast them. With boldly flavored dishes, I think contrasting is the best way to go, as adding similar layers tends to muddle the whole experience. One thing not talked about enough is the body & mouthfeel of both the dish & beer. If you have a heavy, fatty dish you’ll want an effervescent and light beer to cleanse the palate. Oh, while highly estery or phenolic beers (your hefeweizens, saisons, etc) are wonderfully refreshing, their spice quality can quickly clash with many grilled dishes.

Oh yeah, I don’t follow any of these rules most of the time and suggest you don’t either. Just drink the beer you like and focus more on the company and amazing weather summertime drinking affords.

• Chicken (glazed): Marzen or Vienna Lager or a Pale Bock – something that has a nice melanoidin character, which pairs wonderfully with grilled poultry.

• Chicken (spicy rub): Amber Ales & Porters are quite good at playing off the spice without compounding the flavors, like a stiff IPA will do.

• Chicken (sauced & soppy): Pilsners and Trippels are great when highly effervescent, which you’ll want to clean the palate.

• Beef (spice rub): Porters, with their roasted and caramelized flavors, play wonderfully with charred red meat, so does a big dubbel. A Flanders-style Red (or something like Consecration) will contribute a lovely acidity and fruit quality that will contrast the flavors in a great way.

• Beef (sauced & soppy): Pilsners again to cleanse the palate, or a bottle-conditioned Belgian-style pale beer (strong golden or something like Rare Vos (Ommegang – which is currently being brewed in Belgium, I believe…).

• Beef (Smoked): Complement with a smoked porter or even an Imperial Stout. I’d also suggest a nutty brown ale if one is handy.

• Salmon (Smoked): Saisons and Hefeweizens with their yeasty spices play wonderfully with smoked fish, especially salmon, and the effervescence cuts right through the fatty quality of the fish.

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Updated List of New NorCal Brewers 2011

For those keeping track of such things, this is the most current list of new breweries slotted to open shop in 2011. Nice. Getting back to the way things used to be.

  1. Knee Deep – Rocklin (Open)
  2. Loomis Basin – Loomis (Open)
  3. Feather Falls – Oroville (Open)
  4. Sutter Buttes – Yuba City (Open)
  5. Old Hangtown – Placerville (Open)
  6. High Water – Bay Area (Open)
  7. Cherry Voodoo – Bay Area (Open)
  8. Roseville Brewing – Roseville
  9. Track 7 – Curtis Park
  10. American River Brewing – Rancho Cordova
  11. Berryessa Brewing – Winters
  12. Black Dragon – Woodland
  13. Elevation 66 – El Cerrito
  14. Heretic – Bay Area
  15. Almanac – Bay Area
  16. Souther Pacific – SF
  17. Van Houten – Marin
  18. Dying Vines – Oakland
  19. Oakland Brewing – Oakland
  20. Creek Monkey Tap House – Martinez
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The Complexities of Beer – Not the Liquid

I’ve had an interesting life treading the world of beer. I remember starting as a doe-eyed enthusiast that believed all craft beer was good beer. I then got indoctrinated in the BJCP, for better and for worse, and believed that style was the almighty measure of quality. From here I began a website that was just about cheesy reviews of beer (the now-defunct pb-rick.com). Ah, it was right around this time that all thirteen readers (or so) convinced me I was a beer expert. Given my new-found (self-appointed) status, I knew it was time for me to share my expertise with the world, thus Pacific Brew News was born (in November 2005). It wasn’t long before I was making road trips to beer fests, introducing myself to many friendly brewers and absorbing things like a sponge. A couple years after PBN started, I was hired by DRAFT Magazine as its Beer Director, a crowning achievement in my beer life, there can be no doubt. This gig put me front-and-center in the beer world – talking to several brewers every day for work, sampling different beers each day too. Man, that was a great gig. Tough gig, too, I might add. What many bloggers don’t appreciate is the power of the deadline, devotion to AP Style Guidelines and the ability to write for a broad audience while sounding informed, but not like a douche-bag. I left the magazine gig to partner up with one of my best friends to start a small brewery.

It’s been over a year since the brewery was founded and as I look back at the various achievements of the past five-plus years, I’m struck at the realization that I knew absolutely nothing about the beer industry when I started this site. Even more, I knew very little about the industry when I was Beer Director for the nation’s largest beer-related publication and talking to brewers on a daily basis. Now, I do believe I have a good palate and a decent ability to articulate my thoughts in words, but knowing a thing or two about beer doesn’t mean jack shit when it comes to understanding how it’s made – and I don’t mean the process of converting malt sugars to alcohol. What’s more, all this realization leaves me with one thought: we have made things overly-complicated.

This realization has fully matured in my planning of a big event in the Sacramento region designed to promote beer and beer vendors in the area. Years back it seemed like a no-brainer, if you want to promote your brand or those that sell your product, you’d be allowed to do so. However, what I failed to recognize are the vast limitations put on brewers, in particular, by the State of California with regards to each business’ ability to tell the world about its beer and events. Case in point: from a purely technical / legal standpoint, it is illegal for a brewery in the State of California to mention in public forums where its beer is sold. In as far as our ABC lawyer is concerned, this means breweries cannot blog, tweet or list retail accounts in the state of California, lest they face a massive fine if the ABC catches the infraction (given that we’re in Sacramento, the State Capital, we toe this line dutifully). For me, personally, this also meant giving up freelance writing about beer – as it is difficult to write about beer when restricted by the law saying I cannot mention an alcohol retailer (hence the number of beer-based commentary here, lately – generic to the core). For all you bloggers with aspirations of opening a brewery and using your social networking skills to promote it: sorry, not in this state.

In this the whole concept has to do with “Value Add”. In a world that was dominated by industrial brewers with deep pockets, it was conceivable that Major Brand A could take out a full-page ad in the local paper promoting its beer at Local Bar A, giving them an assumable unfair advantage in the market. Yes, these rules were put in place to protect the little guys. That said, we no longer live in a world that requires large budgets for self-promotion. With the dawn of Social Media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Four Square (just to name a few) we now have a truly democratic system that requires only the ability to communicate clearly, without the need for a truck-load of money. There is no buy-in for advertising or promotion today and now, more than ever, we see small business on a more level playing field. Should the laws be adjusted to allow brewers to self-promote online, anyone with a computer connection or smart phone can do it. Will some be better at this than others? Yes, of course. But that’s limited only by creativity and ability of the business owner, not the ad budget that can barely afford logoed pint glasses.

The concept of “value add” doesn’t stop with advertising, either. In California it is illegal for a brewery to provide those big buckets you see at beer festivals, the ones kegs sit in with ice. You see, that too is a “value add” for the venue. Pint glasses? Nope. Those can’t even be sold at cost, but must be marked up a certain percentage before sold to a retailer. Meet the brewer nights? Oddly, no. It is a value add to the business if you promote that you will be at a particular bar on a particular night. Shirts, hats and hoodies? No, no and no.

Now, not all of this is bad. I don’t think the small brewers of California want to see all of these laws tossed out. Fact is, the majority of small brewers in the state cannot afford to give away shirts, hats and goodies – not at the level major brewers can. That all has to do with buying power, when you buy 10 cases of an item you just cannot get the same low price at the company that buys 1000 cases of the same item. That’s simple to understand. Oh, and there would be ‘gifts’ made available to retailers like TVs, draft lines, etc that no small brewer could dream of installing in exchange for priority handles at the bar. Hey, this stuff happens (along with a myriad of other practices that I can’t even pretend to have time to delve into).

My plea is simple, ABC. Make it easier for small businesses in this state to succeed. Allow them the possibility to advertise in a zero-buy-in situation, like social media. Allow them to support and even promote other small businesses that support them by carrying their products – by allowing them to list the establishments that carry their brands. Allow breweries to bring essentials to beer festivals, like buckets. You don’t need to mess with the “trinket” laws, they’re find where they are. I’m not asking that you allow brewers to advertise to kids, or to anyone that doesn’t want to know more about their products. In this day and age where information is more than plentiful, end users for the most part get to ‘subscribe’ to the stories and information they want. When a Twitter user follows a brewery, I believe it’s safe to assume they’d like to know where and when an event will be – along with where to find the products they already like. Allow the creativity of free advertising to be the level playing field it is for every other industry in the state.

PS – Can we get rid of the Excise Tax, please?

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Sacramento’s Beer Scene Set to Explode

In a good year around these parts we’d celebrate the opening of any brewery or beer store or beer bar – lately we’ve lost more than we’ve gained it would seem. Well, people of Sacramento, hold on to your hats – it’s about to get crazy. Rather than detail all the openings and things to look forward to, I am just going to list a few of the more exciting developments here.

Perfecto Lounge in Roseville – NOW OPEN

This place is a cigar shop, first and foremost, with a commitment to serve beer as fine as its cigars. With six taps dedicated to craft beer and a passionate owner, this place seems like a winner for those who love the great combo of cigars, wine and beer. These guys have their grand opening today!

Yard House in Roseville – COMING SOON

OK, I’m not going to lie – I find these places annoying and you likely won’t find me here too often. That said, there’s a lot of folks who just love a good beer no matter what how shiny the place. I guarantee there’ll be a beer here for you – there’d better be among the 100 or so taps they’ll likely have. This is expected to open this spring in the Fountains Plaza in Roseville.

Track 7 Brewing in Sacramento – COMING SOON

Very little is known about this small brewery, but apparently it’s opening in the Curtis Park area of Sacramento. I’ll have more details soon.

Loomis Basin Brewing – COMING SOON

I’ve had more than a few of Jim Gowan’s beers and I have to say, I’m more than a little excited he’s choosing to open this new brewery in Loomis; which is such a great little community, not far from Sacramento, that already has a few trendy spots – like High Hand Café.

Roseville Brewing Co in Roseville (name may change) – COMING SOON

This is a homebrewer and beer geek partnership. Very little known at this time, but they’re finalizing their ABC and TTB paperwork and hope to open shop in May. Location apparently has been secured. Again, I’ll have more info up as soon as I can.

Knee Deep Brewing in Lincoln– COMING SOON

These guys are currently brewing up in the Reno area, according to their website. Rumors have it that they’ll be occupying the old Beermann’s location in Lincoln. The website also has them entering something at the Bistro’s legendary Double IPA Festival as part of SF Beer Week – as well as pouring for Sacramento Beer Week.

Feather Falls Casino / Brewery in Oroville – OPENING ANY DAY NOW

I was skeptical when I first heard of this, worried it’d be a dump and stir job seeking to get a liquor license on the cheap. Well, that certainly is NOT the case. With millions of dollars invested and some big name consulting provided, this promises to make beer that is at least clean – if not imaginative and flavorful. It’s out of the way for locals, but not a long trek up the 99 if you’re interested in discovering something new. In my conversation with the brewer there, it also seems likely we’ll see some of its beer served in the Sacramento area for Beer Week.

Alley Katz Pub in Midtown Sacramento – NOW OPEN

Located in Midtown Sacramento, this bar has a focus on craft beer with over 100 beer options and 26 taps. Here’s hoping these guys keep the lines clean and the selection rotating! They don’t have a website that I know of, but do have a Facebook page with some info.

Cheers, my beer-loving friends!

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