Tapping into American Craft Beer

“Tapping into American Craft Beer” by Laura Latterman (Acuña) dated 05/13/2015

Tapping into American Craft Beer

April 7, 2015 was the 82nd anniversary of the failure of the Noble Experiment.  The repeal of Prohibition by the 21st Amendment is now celebrated unofficially as National Beer Day across the United States in honor of the government’s hindsight.  This year, National Beer Day fell on a Tuesday and when I got home from work and the condo smelled sweet, rich and heady.  As I closed the door and greeted our cats, I asked my fiancé what he was making for dinner.  Rick answered triumphantly, “Beer!”  That wonderful aroma was not spiced chicken and baking bread, instead it was freshly steeped barley and a tinge of spicy hops.  Rick, using a homebrewing kit from a local microbrewery he’d gotten for Christmas, was celebrating the end of temperance with the time-honored tradition of making beer.  Assuming the process it turns out to be a success; we should be enjoying fresh homemade craft beer in late May.

Beer.  The social lubricant whose praises are quoted from the juxtaposed mouths of both American forefather Benjamin Franklin and the modernly virtual Homer Simpson.  It is not just a beverage; it has become an American pastime.  A suds enthusiast can purchase beer at restaurants, amusement parks, event venues, supermarkets, gas stations, convenience stores, and of course liquor stores; in fact, some states even have drive-through liquor stores, fondly referred to as brew-thrus or beer-barns.  The more industrious hop-head, such as my fiancé, can buy brewing supplies, take classes or watch how-to videos on YouTube.com, and brew their own beer at home.  Tourists can purchase travel guidebooks or join tours of local breweries throughout different counties and states.  Americans love beer and make it readily available at every turn.

At home, Rick’s new brewing diversion is born out of our mutual love of craft beers.  At least once a month, we can be found lost in our local the Whole Foods Market, who touts their beer department as being “stocked by a group of merry revolutionaries dedicated to liberating civilization from the clutches of boring beer” – Much more noble-sounding than Prohibition in my opinion, yet today’s variety of American craft brews is deceiving.  It does not accurately reflect the struggle and near decimation of the microbrewery.  The failure of Prohibition left its mark, not only on the Constitution, but on the landscape of the American brewing industry.  Quite appropriately, though, it was Rick’s same hobby that saved the microbrewery industry from becoming a mythical history lesson.

The Age of Brews

One upon a time, the 1800’s more or less, an American in need of a frothy beverage would head into town to visit the local brewery to quench his thirst.  Breweries were abundant and small – they were what the Brewers Association, an organization dedicated to protecting the interests of craft brewers, would consider microbreweries in today’s terms.  Beer was consumed locally and publically, much to the enjoyment of the populace, and guaranteed to stay local as the natural bacteria in the beer made sure the beverage would spoil before it could be transported any great distance.

Meanwhile in Europe, Bacteria were also spoiling wine, something the French could not endure.  According to my Encyclopedia Britannica, in 1864, Louis Pasteur, at the behest of Emperor Napoleon III, developed the process of pasteurization to kill off the bacterial buzz-killers.  In the States, the self-admittedly innovative Anheuser-Busch brewery (just take a peek at the Our History section on their website) was the first American company to apply the pasteurization process to their beers.  Now breweries that could afford to employ the process could ship nationally, allowing their beers to be consumed far from their hometown tanks.  While the more industrious larger breweries sought out the American dream in terms of wealth and reach, the smaller community breweries set their sights on more easily attainable in-town profit goals and were happily brewing at status quo.

The Brewers Association kept a solid record of American breweries noting 4,131 breweries, large and small, in 1873.  But, in 1920 that number plummeted to zero when the “Noble Experiment” was enacted.  The U.S. government ratified the 18th Amendment to the Constitution mandating a nationwide Prohibition on all alcohol.  The booming beer industry dried up over night.  President Herbert Hoover is often quoted on the intention of Prohibition as “a great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far-reaching in purpose,” but those lofty goals fell flat.  The larger breweries, such as Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors, had the finances and facilities to keep themselves afloat during the dry years by making sodas, ice creams, cereal drinks, and even non-consumables.  (The Museum of American Finance highlighted Anheuser-Busch’s creative foray into truck bodies and commercial refrigeration units in their 2012 Winter issue of Financial History Magazine, marking the 150th anniversary of the St. Louis brewery where the truck bodies and refrigerators were produced during the enforced temperance.)  The local small breweries, however, lacked the bankrolls and industrialization needed to stay alive and most closed their doors.

Thirteen years later, Americans witnessed a rare event: the U.S. Government admitted their mistake!  The 21st Amendment repealed Prohibition on April 7, 1933 and the sale of beer was decriminalized.  The repeal of Prohibition was a mild and short-lived reprieve from the reality of the Great Depression, already painfully felt for four years.  Of the local town breweries that had not succumbed to bankruptcy, only a few managed to get their feet back up under them in the midst of such a financial hell-storm.  The average drinker just couldn’t afford the luxury of beer and the local brewers could not afford to keep their doors open.  At the beginning of World War 2, the close of the Great Depression, there were only 672 breweries open in America.

The next few decades of American beer culture saw exponential growth for the major beer companies, Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors, who came to be known by industry professionals and the media as The Big Three.  The Big Three macrobreweries figured out how to make generically palatable homogenous beers, cheaply and efficiently.  They benefitted from wartime with brewing and shipping contracts for the troops overseas.  After the war, The Big Three took advantage of the mass distribution made possible by the aluminum can and began dominating the market.

I recently spent a lovely afternoon appropriately drinking a craft beer while watching Anat Baron’s 2009 documentary entitled Beer Wars.  In her film, Anat shared a clip from a NBC television news real from May 10, 1978, in which the narrator can be heard saying, “The Great American Beer War: A battleground of corporations, careers and cash.  Since 1970, 35 local beers have been killed off, driven out of business, or bought out by the giants.  Gone forever.”  While I cannot fault The Big Three for their success, that success does not mean a better product.  McDonalds, Walmart and Justin Bieber all prove the same point: with enough marketing and market leverage, you can sell anything.  The Big Three evolved into corporations focused on profit margins instead of flavor and quality – beer was no longer a craft to be honed; it was a business, tasteless and steeped in sameness – and the microbrewery had disappeared into the background.

Homebrewed Revolution

Jim Koch, a sixth-generation brewer and founder of Samuel Adams Brewery, was caught on film in 2009 reflecting on what it was like to have lost the craft beer: “All we knew about beer was from Budweiser; it’s as if all we knew about food was from McDonalds.”  How could American’s know what they were missing out on if it were not even an available option?  Americans yearning for fuller flavored beers, seeking heady hops and toasted barley, had only light lagers available to them.  Well, as the saying goes, if you want a thing done well, do it yourself.  Enter the homebrewer.

It was the homebrewers of the late 1970’s, an era of self-expression and experimentation (precisely how my mother fondly refers to the decade of her teens years), that breathed life back into the American brewing culture.  Fermented fans, like Mike Koch, with a passion for their fandom and hobby discovered that they could brew their own beer at home.  This was the spark that breathed life back into the microbrewery, a spark that hobbyists such as my fiancé, continue to rekindle and stoke daily. Beer hobbyists, homebrewers looking for creativity and diversity in their favorite beverage, collected and tested recipes, sunk their savings in brewing equipment, and convinced their friends and family to invest in the revival of the artisanal beer heritage of America.  The number of microbreweries began to climb and nearly 81 years after the repeal of Prohibition, the number of breweries in the United States reached 3,464, of which 3,418 were reported by the Brewers Association as craft breweries – The microbrewery was saved.

Assuming each brewery produces approximately five different beers a year (a very conservative number, as most microbreweries brew smaller batches of beer, frequently changing styles and flavors throughout the year), the average beer drinker has easily over 17,000 brewed drinking options in America.  This diversity and growth has yet to slow.  With the growing popularity in supporting one’s local economy, there has been an insurgence of spending on micro/craft brewed beer in the past four years mirrored by the national addition of 1,000 breweries between 2010 and 2014.  In my home of Orange County, CA, I can name five breweries off the top of my head that opened in just the past 18 months: Artifax in San Clemente, Barley Forge in Costa Mesa, Bottle Logic in Anaheim, Four Sons in Huntington Beach, and The Good Beer Company in Santa Ana.  This growth, however is not without its drawbacks.

Hops2O

It’s a warm, heady smell, reminiscent of freshly baked bread, like slices of sourdough toasting for breakfast, then there is this slightly dirty, earthy smell of bark, pine needles and old lemons, the finishing notes are of an antiseptic cleanliness – quite the combination of odors.  This is what it smells like to walk into a working brewery.  The first smell, the scents of yeast and toasted grains, means they are actively brewing; cooks working in the beer kitchen.  The juxtaposed smells of earth and sanitation are constants.  Breweries have to maintain strict cleanliness standards for quality and safety reasons, sometimes giving a brewery an austerely hygienic appearance and smell.  As for the distinctly earthy aromas that tend to permeate a facility, those are hops.

Hops, or Humulus Lupulus, is one of only two genera of the plant family Cannabaceae, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and shares some of the same aromatic features of its hemp cousin, Cannabis.  Hops come in many varieties with unique flavors and scents ranging from bitter pine to earthy vegetation to floral and citrus nuances, often with a sour skunky smell.  These beer building blocks grow as green little cones on vines throughout the world, but in the United States they are cultivated mainly in the Pacific Northwest with the USDA reporting 79% farmed in Washington state alone.  In recent years, the demand for these hops has grown, but the crops have not.

According to the USDA’s 2014 National Hop Report, hops crop yields from 2013 to 2014 increased just over 2.5% with 69,246,100 lbs. in 2013 and 70,995,900 lbs. in 2014.  Meanwhile, the number of U.S. breweries grew 18.6% in the same timeframe with 3,464 breweries operating in 2014 versus 2,917 in 2013.  The demand for the pinecone-shaped flowers is growing and there is concern over the ability of the farmers to meet it; there is only so much land for farming.

While we are potentially experiencing a hops drought, there is a very realistic water drought – A reality strongly felt in my native Orange County, CA.  With all recent the concern over water shortages on the West coast, I have to stop to ponder if investing in such a water-based product is a wise decision.  Although water conservation and efficiency is important to a brewer’s business model, some brewers are looking further than their bottom lines.  In 2014, Oregon’s Clean Water Services, a water resources management utility covering the Tualatin River Watershed region, and the Oregon Brew Crew homebrewing group held a homebrewing competition where brewers had to use 30% effluent (reused/reclaimed) water in their contest submission.  The Pure Water Brew Challenge successfully showed that there is more than enough water available for brewing, so long as the water treatment plants were available and local laws were adjusted to allow the human consumption of reclaimed water.

Last month, the Oregon Health Authority approved Clean Water Services to continue the limited production of beer from treated wastewater and the 2015 Pure Water Brew Challenge was recently announced.  Jokes about toilet beer and prison wine run through my mind, and social media and online news sites are abound with potty humor regarding the competition.  The reality is that the growing demand of beer, more specifically craft beer, means more usage of resources; the American brewing industry needs to hop to it with crops growth and start tapping into alternative sources of water.

Love at First Pint

What is it that drives someone (me) to spend $13.00 (yes, I’ve spent that) on a six- or four-pack (in my case on one bottle) of craft beer, instead of $6.00 on a six-pack of mass produced brews?  The American consumer is being romanced by the specialization, creative names, and most importantly unique flavors of craft beers.  According to a 2014 study in the Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, Gabrielyan, McCluskey, Marsh and Ross, professors at Washington State University, found that Americans shared a “Willingness to Pay for Sensory Attributes in Beer,” as the article was named, and that as they “find beers that match their ideal concept of taste, they will be willing to pay a premium for them.”  To which, I can attest – One of my favorite beers, Tank 7 Farmhouse Ale from Boulevard Brewing Company out of Kansas City, MO, can only be found locally in 750 mL bottles with a price tag often over $11.00.

This past December, Rick, the new fiancé/then boyfriend, popped the proverbial question and we celebrated by going out to dinner for steaks and $15.00 bottles of beer.  Splurging on the fancy craft brews seemed more appropriate for us than sharing a single bottle of mediocre champagne.  While we share a love of microbrews, we have different tastes, so Rick had a double India pale ale, while I had a seasonal saison.  Not quite done celebrating, we decided to have our nightcap at Bottle Logic Brewery in Anaheim, CA.  Craft beer and our relationship have gone hand in hand in from the start.  On our first date, we met at The Yard House restaurant and discussed our favorite beers over freshly poured draughts.  For us, birthdays are microbrewery tours, vacations are craft beer festivals, new towns require local brewery searches on Yelp.com, and grocery shopping becomes meticulous once the beer isle pops up.

When it came time to start planning our wedding, I could think of no better central idea than craft beer.  Rick and I will be wed on September 19th, the first day of Oktoberfest 2015.  We will have locally brewed beers on tap, bouquets and boutonnieres made of hops and dogwood blossoms, beer-infused cupcakes, framed engagement photos of us at our favorite breweries and festivals, and a brewery tour bus as our wedding shuttle.  For Rick and me, it was love at first pint, and while that is our wedding theme, I see the same sentiment mirrored in the beer-drinking culture of the U.S.

In fact, according to a global survey report entitled “Millennials and the New Era of Food, Wine & Beer Festivals” recently released by the online event ticketing company Eventbrite, beer festivals beat out wine and food festivals as the most attended type of festival and as the festival type that attendees were willing to spend the most money on ($36-$50 per ticket).  The modern American is seeking the unique flavors and creativity behind craft beer and they are willing to pay for it.  They want to fall in love at first pint and it’s the craft brewers who are playing matchmaker.

Drink Local

The consumer – the local – is the key to keeping microbreweries thriving.  The neolocalism movement, discussed by Schnell & Reese in their 2014 study on “Microbreweries, Place and Identity in the United States,” is summarized as a desire to re-connect with the local community and it’s this movement that is keeping Americans engaged with their hometown breweries.  In some ways by choosing a microbrew, as opposed to a mainstream domestic beer, the consumer is acting out in protest against the macrobrews in an anti-establishment/anti-mass production toast – Screw the system, cheers!  In other ways it’s an idea of customization, the thought that the microbrewery makes the only beers you enjoy for you, producing a relationship between the consumer and the brewer.  And, by combining both these ideas in public, you get a group of people all enjoying the same ideals and personalized beer creating what those Washington State University professors dubbed a “we-feeling.”

We.  Us.  You and me and that person over there.  We, together, drink beer.  And by doing so locally, we create a community.  We are locals, we drink craft beers, and we are proud.  The Institute of Research on Labor and Employment (IRLE) at University of California, Berkeley hosts a working paper entitled “Bottle Revolution: Constructing Consumer and Producer Identities in the Craft Beer Industry?” in which they observed that by knowing more about obscure beers, craft beer drinkers label themselves experts and “moral entrepreneurs.”  Together, we know beer.  We are beer snobs.  That elitist image is embraced, not only by the drinker, but by the brewers themselves, such as with Escondido, CA’s Stone Brewing Company and their tip-of-the-hat with their Arrogant Bastard Ale.

Other breweries focus on the locale instead of the local by naming their beers after landmarks and community traditions.  Tustin Brewery in Tustin, CA names the majority of their beers after their hometown including Red Hill Red, named after the area and street, Old Town IPA, supporting Tustin’s historic downtown district, and Blimp Hanger Porter, denoting the visually iconic WWII era blimp hangers on the edge of town.  Some breweries garner support by appealing their shared interests through themed breweries (such as sci-fi brewery Bottle Logic), kitchy or tongue-in-cheek beer names (Belching Beaver Brewery), pop-culture references (like Oskar Blues’ Mama’s Little Yella Pils) and artistic labels (do yourself a favor and Google image search for Odell Brewing Co.).  All these ploys are honest attempts at expression on the part of the breweries and identified with by the drinkers.  As a craft beer drinker I applaud the creativity and constantly seek out what is new.  Anat Baron captured a quote from Dogfish Head Brewing Company’s founder, Sam Calagione, that I feel sums up much of the uniqueness of the microbrewery: “If it’s already been done then it’s not really something we’re interested in doing.”

Breaking the Seal

No matter my love for or the popularity of craft beers, they are not the end all and be all of the beer market.  The domestic macrobreweries still hold the lion-share of the market, with craft beers topping out at 11% in 2014.  While that percentage is small, it is still significant considering that while the overall beer market only grew 0.5% from 2013, the craft market grew a solid 17.6%.  Based on these numbers from the Brewers Association, I’d have to surmise that while Americans are not drinking much more beer than usual, the beer they are increasingly more likely to drink is produced by a craft brewery.  My own refrigerator stands as a testament to those stats, for although we have a 12-pack of Bud Light, we also have a variety case of microbrews from Mission Brewery in San Diego, CA.

Beer.  The social lubricant whose praises are quoted from the juxtaposed mouths of both Benjamin Franklin and Homer Simpson.  It is not just a beverage; it has become an American pastime.  In truth, suds enthusiast can purchase craft beer directly from breweries, at restaurants, amusement parks (Disney’s California Adventure caries craft beer from Karl Strauss Brewery.), event venues, supermarkets, gas stations (I once filled up at a gas station run by a brewing company in Temecula, CA.), convenience stores, and of course liquor stores; in fact, some states even have drive-through liquor stores, fondly referred to as brew-thrus or beer-barns.  Americans are falling in love with craft beer and making it readily available at every turn.

That popularity and growth is a double-edged sword for the microbrewery, for if they were to waiver from the ideals that have made them such a specialty, their consumers would be the first to call them on it.  Voicing one of many genuine concerns for small brewers, Tremblay and Tremblay’s 2011 review in The Economics of Beer noted, “The irony is that as successful micros grow, they lose their ties to local communities and could no longer be called microbreweries.”  In a large scale homogenized environment it is not economical to cater to the specific desires of individual customers when the larger percentage of consumers are happy with the status quo.  Why brew beer just for Joe, when Dan, Jose, and Quan are okay with the beer made for everyone?  To explain just that, the Berkeley IRLE applied the concept of resource partitioning theory to the modern beer industry.  The theory allows that as “specialists,” microbrewers have honed and crafted what their consumers deem to be the ideal imagining of beer: craft beer, or as I like to think of it, the god beer.  When a macrobrewery tries to present a craft beer, such as Coors with Blue Moon – a branding deception that the average consumer is often unaware of – the beer snobs will recognize it as an imposter and protest it as a false idol.  In an environment where your consumers are beer-drinking zealots, authenticity and identity are critical.

That identity and authenticity lie in handmade craft beer.  The keyword there is craft.  It is a skill, an art, a creation, a profession, and connection to our past.  Craft beer is steeped in American history.  It is a both a way to embrace our past and to look forward to the future of brewing.  Innovations will continue as hurdles are overcome and the local microbrew aficionado will continue to feed their local economy.  And here, in Orange County, CA, two hopheads will be wed in September, honoring the grand craft brewing culture of the U.S. with a toast during their vows.

Cheers.

 

References

Anheuser-Busch. (2015). History.  Retrieved from http://anheuser-busch.com/index.php/our-heritage/history/.

Baron, A. (2009, 16 Apr.). Beer Wars [Motion picture]. USA: Ducks In A Row Entertainment Corporation.

Brewers Association. (2015). The American Beer Story. CraftBeer.com. Retrieved from http://www.craftbeer.com/the-beverage/history-of-beer.

Brewers Association. (2015). Number of Breweries. Retrieved from https://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics/number-of-breweries/.

Brewers Association. (2015).  National Beer Sales & Production Data. Retrieved from https://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics/national-beer-sales-production-data/.

Eventbrite. (2015). Millennials and the New Era of Food, Wine & Beer Festivals. Eventbrite.com. Retrieved from http://eb-blog-education.s3.amazonaws.com/academy/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Food-Wine-Beer-Report_Final.pdf.

Hoover, H. (1928, 28 Feb.) Personal correspondence to Sen. William E. Borah.

Gabrielyan, G., McCluskey,  J., Marsh, T.L.and Ross, C. F. (2014, Apr.). Willingness to Pay for Sensory Attributes in Beer. Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, 43(1) 125–139.

Louis Pasteur. (2015). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/445964/Louis-Pasteur.

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Classification for Kingdom Plantae Down to Family Cannabaceae. Retrieved from: http://plants.usda.gov/java/ClassificationServlet?source=profile&symbol=Cannabaceae&display=31.

Oregon Health Authority (2015, 1 Jan.). Public hearing on proposed approval for a limited drinkable reuse of recycled water. Retrieved from http://www.oregon.gov/deq/docs/022015drinkable.pdf.

Pozner, J., DeSoucey, M. and Sikavica, S. (2014). “Bottle Revolution: Constructing

Consumer and Producer Identities in the Craft Beer Industry”. IRLE Working Paper No. 118-14. Retrieved from

http://irle.berkeley.edu/workingpapers/118-14.pdf.

Profita, C. (2015, April 15). Sewer Water Beer Wins Oregon Regulators’ Approval. Oregon Public Broadcasting. Retrieved from http://www.opb.org/news/article/wastewater-beer-wins-oregon-regulators-approval.

Samuel Adams Brewery.  History.  Retrieved from https://www.samueladams.com/history.

Schnell, S.M. and Reese, J.F. (2014, 16 Mar.). Microbreweries, Place, and Identity in the United States. The Geography of Beer. 167-187.

Tremblay, C.H., Tremblay, V.J.  Recent economic developments in the import and craft segments of the U.S. brewing industry. In: Swinnen, JFMeds. (2011) The economics of beer. Oxford University Press, Oxford. 141-160. DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199693801.003.0008

Wexler, S. (2002). From Soap Suds to Beer Suds. Financial History Magazine, Winter (77).

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Bootlegger’s Tasting Room & Pilot Brewery

Bootlegger’s Tasting Room & Pilot Brewery

130 S Highland Ave,

Fullerton, CA 92832

http://www.bootleggersbrewery.com/

 

Bootlegger's

 

Undeniably one of my favorite local breweries.  It’s unpretentious, only slightly off the beaten path, and they make some amazing beers.

 

LocationIMG_4329

Located in Downtown Fullerton, parking can be a bit of a hassle on the weekends.  Luckily, Bootlegger’s is just down the street from a public parking structure and a few blocks from a train and bus depot.  Set back from Commonwealth, the tasting room doesn’t stand out, but if you know what you’re looking for then you’re in for a treat.

 

Comfort & Decor

This is an industrial warehouse opened up to the air with a garage roll-up.  Seating is all picnic tables and communal.  They have no AC, so if you come in the summer, be prepared to be standing outside on their patio hoping for a gust of air.  On the upside, they have plenty of cold beer.  This is a very relaxed setting.  Even though downtown Fullerton turns into a busy night spot on the weekends, the club getup is not the norm at Bootleggers.  Jeans, tshirts and hoodies are the unspoken dress code.  In fact, on Sunday afternoons you’ll find Millennial parents with their dogs and toddlers in tow.

 

1525016_10100552881812410_988659905_n (1)Brews

Here are a few of the beers I’ve tried on various occasions at Bootlegger’s:

Old World Hefeweizen – 5.0% ABV, 8.1 IBU – A simple, traditional and delicious hefe made for everyday enjoyment.  It’d go perfectly with a fresh slice of banana bread.

Palomino Pale Ale – 5.5% ABV, 19.5 IBU – A solid go to.  Slightly citrus with light hops, but mild on the bite.

Rustic Rye IPA – 6.2% ABV, 90.9 IBU – My boyfriend Rick’s favorite.  The earthy and floral notes help balance the hops.  It makes for a smooth IPA without any skunk.

IMG_4321Rocco Red Ale — 7.1% ABV, 35.8 IBU – My personal favorite.  It’s malty, toasty, flavorful but not heavy and with just enough hops to keep it interesting.

Golden Chaos – 8.5% ABV, 27.5 IBU – Whenever available, we fill up a growler.  It’s a strong Belgian golden ale. Rich in fruit and honey flavors.  It also can sneak up on you.

Mountain Meadow — 5.5% ABV, 15.7 IBU – Want to try something a little different?  Try mixing all the savory herbs in your cupboard with a field of wild flowers, then toss in some honey and a nice pale ale.  That’s what this tastes like and it’s refreshing as all get out.

 

MarketingIMG_4335

Bootlegger’s doesn’t even have a real sign up.  At least they didn’t last month.  They had a banner sadly flapping in the wind.  But, does that impact their patronage?  I don’t think so, and if it did, then it does it on purpose.  Most people aren’t going to stumble upon Bootlegger’s and wander in.  Instead, they are seeking the clientele that knows who they are or specifically came out to find them – therefore no fancy signage is required.  It’s their product that will bring forth the masses.  They bottle their beer and it can be found at various local retailers and on tap throughout Orange County.  Their notoriety is growing on a cult level.

 

Food

They do not have their own food, but they do have food trucks on the weekends and there’s the Two Saucy Broads pizza parlor next door that will deliver a fresh pie right next to your cold pint.

 

IMG_4316  IMG_4315

 

Entertainment

They are involved with Beer for Boobs, OC Brew HaHa, and various other events throughout the year, but not too much onsite.  Periodic events are held on site for different occasions (release parties, birthdays, etc.), but mostly it’s just Bootlegger’s everyday tapping.  They have giant Jenga and corn hole toss on the patio and a few old-school video games inside.  Oh, and every Wednesday you can drink beer and play Trivia during their weekly trivia night.

 

Recommendation

If you’re looking for a relaxed evening with friends over some unique cold beers, this is the place.  Sitting or standing, it’s a comfortable environment filled with a mellow crowd and great beers.  Bootlegger’s reminds me of my time in Denver and for a lot of people that’s quite the brewery compliment.

553850_10100339755259730_402791636_n (1) 1526347_10100552881857320_1104729069_n IMG_4326 IMG_4323

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Keeping Beer Local

I had the unique opportunity to sit down with Anthony McLeod, a professional bartender based in Laguna Beach, and Mike Conner, the Manager of Spirits at Phantom Ales, Ciders & Cellar in Anaheim.

I set out to see what (if any) impact the growth of the craft beer market has had on restaurants, but what I discovered was a locally driven symbiosis between the brewers and the sellers.

See for yourselves what I discovered. Cheers!

 

For my WORKS CITED please read on: Continue reading

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Back Street Brewery

Back Street BreweryBack Street Brewery

14450 Culver Drive

Irvine, CA 92604

http://www.lamppost-backstreet.com

 

We decided to try Lamppost Pizza’s Back Street Brewery in Irvine for a friend’s birthday a few weekends ago.  The weather was pleasant so we sat on the patio to enjoy some beer and pizza.  Here’s a short review based on our one-time experience.

Location: Located in a grocery store anchored shopping center, this attached shop location could easily be overlooked.  It’s in a busy residential area and most of the clientele are locals.

Comfort & Decor:  Upon entering, you’ll be greeted with long tables and benches for community style dining.  This makes sense as much of their patronage is made up of post-game sports team dinners.  You can order  your pizza in the main area or hang a left for the brewery portion of the restaurant/brewery.  A small-ish wooden bar sits in front of the cramped brewing vats.  It it inviting, but has the look of being space challenged.  Our friends chose to sit on the patio, but that ended up being the haven  for a cigar smoker and two gentlemen with speakers and a love of country music.  So, maybe pick your seat based on your companions children-free, smoke-free, or country music-free preferences.

Brews:  We tried one of their IPA’s and their Red.  The Red was the overall favorite for the group I was with.  It a bit earthy for me.  We wanted to try their Hefeweizen, but they were unfortunately tapped out.  Their brews were a novelty due to their location within a pizzeria; however, I would not drive to Back Street Brewery specifically for an individual beer.

Staff:   We were a little neglected on the patio, which I was surprised of since we were a larger group and were ordering beers and pizzas.  Better service would have been an easy tip.

Back Street Brewery LogoMarketing:  Kudos to BSB for getting their freshly (just within the past 2 months) bottled beers into local retailers such as Total Wine & More and BevMo!  The bartender was happy to tell me about their recent retail success – Something that many other small scale local breweries have yet to do.  That aside, there wasn’t a binding factor or underlying theme for marketing in their beer naming structure or associated artwork.  They have their own Mug Club, carry t-shirts, and offer growler fills – All great marketing for your local beer lover.  I don’t believe that marketing is their forte, but they seem to be doing well enough based on word of mouth in the local market.

Eats:  Our pizza was delicious and huge.  Their portions are easily sharable, which is a throwback to their communal dining room.  Besides, who wants to eat pizza and drink beer alone?  Pies and pitchers are meant for sharing!

Entertainment & Events:  Aside from a few arcade games, this is primarily a sit-down sports bar/brewery/pizzeria hybrid.  They have some happy hour specials, but I didn’t notice any specific entertainment related flyers.

Recommendation:  Dad’s night out with the kids?  This is your go to.  Coach’s pizza party after soccer finals?  This is where you’ll want to end up.  I felt they play into a more macho/male/sport oriented crowd.  Shoot the shit a little, have a beer that’s better than a PBR, share a giant pizza with a buddy, etc.  No frills.  This is a bro’s brewery.

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Microdocumentary – A Drop in the Bucket

As many of you may know, I started this blog for a class.  Today was to be my ‘Milestone 2’ on the microdocumentary final for my Multimedia Writing course. Ideally, I was to meet with an expert on my topic/field. I’ve tried two ideas thus far and both have failed miserably:

Idea #1) Introduce a domestic big-name beer drinker to local craft microbrews. This sounded like a great idea until I realized that almost everyone I know likes and drinks craft beers. Also, it’s rather biased in that I believe the outcome is preordained and the Bud drinker’s eyes would be pleasantly opened to a new and better realm of beer. I’m also biased on this.

Idea #2) Do a blind beer tasting mixing domestic big-name beers with local craft microbrews. Get unbiased opinions on the beers, reveal everyone’s preferences and tasting notes, and perhaps surprise ourselves with the results. Again, sounded like a great idea until no one wanted to be on camera and/or schedules changed. I’m still trying to finagle this on a smaller scale, but it’s proving difficult with holidays and conflicting schedules.

Which brings me to Idea #3.A) This is not yet fully formed, but I decided to start with my professional/expert interview. I will be interviewing one of the bartenders at Watermarc restaurant in Laguna Beach later this week. He’s been in the industry most of his professional life, working as a bar manager and acting sommelier at various stages, and has a fine taste for craft beer. We will be discussing the trends in customer consumption of beers, varieties, and breweries. I want to know if and/or how sales have changed on domestic big names vs. smaller microbreweries. I trust in his experience and look forward to the discussion; also, he is not camera shy.

Idea #3.B) I will follow this same line of thought with a local grocery store (Ralph’s) and a local liquor store (BevMo). I’m making some calls tomorrow and hope to have someone at least willing to share some sound bytes.

Idea #3.C) I think that taking #3.A and #3.B in conjunction with a smaller scale #2 could be interesting. It’ll be a commentary on consumership changes on #3 and potentially why on #2.

What I’ve learned?  By being a partaker of microbrews, I’ve surounded myself with other craft beer drinkers and/or converted those around me to my way of drinking.  I’ve learned that no matter how outgoing someone seems to be, it all changes with the on switch of a camcorder. And along those same lines, I’m shy enough to be feel unfomfortable scheduling professional interviews.  I just need to push my way through it.

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National Beer Day 2014

 

By kcbeerblog.blogspot.com

(courtesy of kcbeerblog.blogspot.com)

On April 7th, 1933 the Nobel Experiment died.  It died an ignoble death that was celebrated across America by the raising of glasses in toasts from sea to shining sea.  81 years later, we celebrate April 7th as National Beer Day – The day that President Franklin D. Roosevelt ended 13 years of prohibition with the implementation of the Cullen-Harrison Act.  So, today, go out and exercise your 21st Amendment rights with a frosty frothy brew.  Cheers, my fine patriots.   Cheers!

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Phantom Ales, Cider & Cellar

Phantom Ales, Ciders & Cellar
1211 N Las Brisas St
Anaheim, CA 92806
www.phantomales.com

Wandering around Anaheim, I jumped on Yelp.com and discovered Phantom Ales, Cider & Cellar. I was delighted to poke my nose into this 3-fold business: microbrewery, winery tasting room, and home brewing supplies store. They had been open two months to the weekend when we popped by and I’m looking forward to visiting again.

Welcome to Phanom Ales, Cider & Cellar

Location

Another hidden brewery in the mass of commercial business parks in Anaheim, Phantom Ales’ grapevines and feather signs help draw attention to their location. Just off the 91 and 57 freeways, Phantom Ales is close to downtown Fullerton, various other microbreweries, and CSU Fullerton (they even offer student specials).

Best of all, they have their own Beer Hop bus to help shuttle you around (scroll down to Marketing for more info)!

Comfort & Décor

It’s a bit confusing, because upon entering you’re in a home-brewing supplies shop. The store is kind of a foyer to the brewery/wine bar. I think perhaps they are going for a little bit of a speakeasy feel: darker color schemes with solid/large wooden tables and chairs, seating below a staircase, and a seemingly makeshift bar. Think speakeasy meets wine cellar. The tasting room is completely separate from the brewing area, however they do offer tours of their back brewing facility. It is a very small and intimate venue with seating for maybe 40 people.

"Anaheheim"Beer

We were there briefly, but we had enough time to do a quick sampler.  I thought their Dunkelweizen was delicious – very well balanced and not too sweet- and even Rick (my IPA lover) liked it. The other memorable taster was their Perry Cider.  Initially quite tart and mellowing on the back, the distinct pear flavor was sweet and would have paired excellently with some nutty cheeses.  The rest of their beers stuck to their English style brewing with toasted malts and medium bodies.  Here’s their current (03/28/14) tap list:

Phantom Fusion Pale – 6.3 % ABV, 60 IBU
Phantom ESB – 6.6% ABV, 40 IBU
Phantom Irish Red –5.7% ABV, 36 IBU
Phantom Oaked Irish Red – 5.7% ABV, 36 IBU
Phantom Export Stout – 5.6% ABV, 40 IBU
Phantom Scottish 80 – 5.0% ABV, 28 IBU
Phantom “Hop Burst” Apple Cider – 6.1% ABV
Phantom Irish Dry Stout (Guinness yeast) – 7.0% ABV, 60 IBU
Phantom Falconer’s Flight – 6.3% ABV, 60 IBU
Phantom Dunkelweizen – 5.0 % ABV, 20 IBU

Staff

There were three employees there when we stopped in, two behind the bar and one in the kitchen. I felt like they were still trying to find their stride. We experienced a little beer-snobbishness, so my suggestion would be to make sure you focus on their own brews. They had a few guest beers on tap at the time, but the staff was uninformed about them and seemed unhappy to be asked about them. I could turn that around and call it pride in their own beers, but it’s all in how you say it.  I believe we just caught them on the downswing of a busy afternoon.

Brew Hop

Marketing

They recently rebranded from Forty Vines Winery & Brewery (I’m going to find out the story behind that), but the new Phantom Ales has a delightfully spooky logo with red beady eyes. The specter idea ties well into the dark motif of the tasting room. Their best marketing investment thus far has been the Brew Hop Bus.

The Phantom Brew Hop Bus is a free shuttle service that runs between the local breweries. We just so happened to be there the first day that they got the bus. How can you not love a short bus with a beer tap handle for a shifter, colored tube lighting, and schedule built around breweries?! They are still working out the kinks, but the Brew hop Bus runs Friday – Sunday and stops at some of my favorite local breweries:  Bootlegger’s Brewery,  Bottle Logic,  The Bruery, and  Noble Ale Works.

Brewing SuppliesSecond best would be their storefront. While I think it detracts aesthetically from the tasting room, it brings in a different class of clientele – these are people that not just love beer, they love to make it. Meaning that a lot of Phantom’s customers will hold the their brews to a higher standard.

Many of the other clientele will be college students, so weekly specials are a smart way to keep those Titans happy.  Phantom’s weekly beer specials include:
Back to School Wednesdays – $2 off Any Pint with Valid College I.D.
Taster Thursdays – $9 Flights
Phantom Fridays – $3 off 1st Pint if wearing Phantom apparel.

Minor marketing mishap: I noticed that their coasters had their address misspelled, but that just one of the many kinks that’ll work their way out as they are open longer. I am curious to see where they are brand-wise in six months.

Food & Other Beverages

Have someone with you that is not much of a beer drinker? Phantom Ales also carries their various wine varietals for the gentler pallet. For food, their menu is small and reminiscent of a gastropub. We didn’t eat while there, but their cheesesteak looked amazing and I saw at least three people order it. Their kitchen closes from 2-4pm on Friday and Saturday, so keep this in mind as you plan your weekend. The kitchen is open 12-6pm on Sunday, closed Monday, and open after 4pm Tuesday-Thursday.

Recommendation

I feel like this would be a perfect first date location. Intimate venue with unique options in beers, ciders, and wine and gastropub fare – sure to impress your date! Also, it’s off the beaten path location puts you in the light of being “in the know.” In the mean time, I’m going to hold back my full recommendation until I go back again. I want to see what they are like after being open a little longer.

Phantom Ales

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