Props to Boston Beer Company

I checked in on Untappd a few weeks ago to Samuel Adams Harvest Pumpkin Ale.  I was disappointed in the taste and spoke of it being “…Sour. Astringent. Warm. Disappointing.”  It also went flat pretty quickly, so I tried to update my Untappd check-in with this information.  Seeing that I couldn’t, I took to Twitter and posted an update on my experience.  Sam Adams replied, leading me to a consumer complaint page (stay with me – I have a point).

I filled out the complaint page with my opinion of the beer (it seemed like they were in a hurry to get it to the market) and replied to Sam Adams that I had logged the incident.  “No worries,” I thought.  I was just letting them know, you know?

I got an e-mail the following day from some outsourced customer service company saying

I see from the details that you provided that we do not need any addition information to proceed with our tracking and investigation of your issue. I appreciate the cooperation and effort to provide the facts that we need and I have moved forward with a refund for the Samuel Adams HarvestPumpkin Ale that you purchased.

We are a small company, so please allow 2-3 weeks for a refund check to arrive…

I was taken aback at what I’d read – the company was going to simply reimburse me for a beer.  One beer from a 12-pack seasonal collection.  Also, they were not answering my question; I wrote back:

I understand that things like this happen.  I wasn’t expecting a refund though. I’d like to know what the brewmasters think about what I said, and whether they agree that the beer wasn’t supposed to taste that way. Is this a quality control issue or was the beer intended to be just what it was?

 

As a true believer in American Craft Beer and a connoisseur, I just want to know what happened. Refunding my money isn’t, in my opinion, a solution.
Thanks,
Ben Rehberg
Ben on Beer
I got absolutely no reply.  Today I received a check in the mail with a letter from Jim Koch:
It’s not every day you get a letter personally signed by the founder of this country’s largest craft brewery.  The check (for $10) also had an original signature.  The letter explains how there are sometimes mishandling incidents that occur and other variables outside of their control that can spoil the taste of the beer.  I understand that, and now it makes sense that the Hazel Brown Ale (from the same 12-pack) didn’t taste right either.  perhaps if I find another sampler at a different retailer I’ll give it another go.
In the mean time, I’d like to mention that this kind of personal contact would not occur with any larger beer company.  Try complaining to Anheuser-Busch about something – I guarantee you won’t get a check and a letter from the CEO.
This is what I love about craft beer – it’s made by people.  People you can actually get to know.  I have become less and less a fan of Samuel Adams over the years because of their far reach and obvious propensity to flood the market, but this experience has reeled me back in to liking the company a whole lot more.  Cheers to Jim Koch and the Boston Beer Company.

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery Lands in California’s Central Coast

I received a press release today and thought I’d just re-post it here:

REDLANDS, CALIF. – Nov. 1, 2012 – Hangar 24 Craft Brewery, one of the top 100 craft brewers in the country, has expanded its California footprint to now include Northern Los Angeles and Ventura Counties and its famed Central Coast. Previously only available in Southern California, the nearly five year old craft brewery offers 30 different styles of beer across seven categories.

“Hangar 24 continues to grow and we are excited to see people resonate with the brand,” said Founder and Master Brewer Ben Cook. “I am incredibly proud of the hard work that our team has contributed over the past five years, including our brewery staff, sales team and distributors.  We’ve all worked together to get us where we are today.”

Hangar 24 is now available in Ventura, San Luis Obispo, San Benito and Santa Clara counties, in addition to already being featured in Los Angeles, Orange, Fresno, Kern, Kings, Riverside, San Bernardino (home of the brewery) and San Diego counties.

Hangar 24’s current craft beer offerings are categorized by style in groups including, but not limited to:

  • Year Round Offerings – Hangar 24’s seven core beers, offered throughout the year
  • Seasonal Offerings – The perfect beer for each of the four seasons
  • Local Field Series –  Each release features an ingredient grown in Southern California, including citrus, dates, red wine grapes, pumpkins and more
  • Barrel Roll Series –  Barrel aged beers available in very limited quantities

Some of Hangar 24’s craft beers that are currently available include, but are not limited to:

  • Orange Wheat – American Wheat Beer brewed with whole, pureed, 100 percent locally grown oranges added throughout the process
  • Amarillo Pale Ale – American Pale Ale dry hopped with Amarillo hops with an assertive hop flavor and aroma with a hint of caramel in the background
  • Alt-Bier Ale – Northern German Ale with a caramel dominated flavor, bready/toasty finish, followed by a roasty flavor to dry it all out
  • Hullabaloo (Seasonal, November-February) – A Scottish Ale brewed with American and English hops

For a full list of on and off-premise locations carrying Hangar 24 craft beer, please visit http://www.Hangar24Brewery.com/findbeer.htm. For a complete list of Hangar 24’s craft beer styles and categories, please visit: http://www.Hangar24Brewery.com/currentofferings.htm.

For distribution inquiries in Northern Los Angeles and Ventura Counties please contact Allied Distributing at (818) 362-9333. For distribution inquiries in California’s Central Coast, please contact Central Coast Distributing at (805) 922-2108.

About Hangar 24

Hangar 24 Craft Brewery began with a true passion for good beer, the absolute love of flying and the pure enjoyment of being around great friends. Owner and master Brewer Ben Cook and his buddies used to meet at Hangar 24 after an afternoon of flying to trade stories, talk aviation, play music and share a few cold ones that Ben just finished brewing at home. These days, the location where these fine beers are brewed has changed, but the quality time spent enjoying a delicious, handcrafted beer and conversation is the same as ever. Hangar 24 Craft Brewery employs more than 50 team members and its distribution is now spanned throughout Southern California with its addition of another company, Hangar 24 Craft Distribution. Its annual capacity now stands at approximately 40,000 and its Brewery and Distribution Center together employ nearly 100 people.

Quantities Abound

This project is finally coming to an end.  This isn’t intended to be a full-on review of the beers mentioned in the article but to illustrate a point: the mega-breweries do not produce a unique product.  I took nine different cans and compared them visually and by taste to see if any one of them stood out in any way.  Read on to learn what I did and didn’t do.

I don’t have a whole lot of notes; I didn’t really take any.  I tasted the Natural Light first, as it was simply the first in line.  The next, Coors Light, has a distinctly different taste to it than Natural Light, though that difference cannot be described in terms of ingredients.  I believe I could only tell this because I tasted them together.  The next, Coors, had just the slightest bit more body than the two light beers before, but still had that same old smell that American lagers have.

When I got down to the Bud Light, that familiar yet still indescribable taste was found, right where I left it in 1996.

 

Old Milwaukee somehow comparatively tasted like some cleaning solvent found in a motorcycle repair shop.  Seriously.

After my tasting that included spillage down my beard and onto my shirt, I concluded that the smell of bile is something they all have in common once they begin to get warm (I’m talking low 60s F warm, not room temperature).  That is simply something I cannot get over, and was not able to drink them all during the video/photo shoot in my back yard.

I must admit I wasted beer, but it wasn’t really beer to begin with.  I’m sure that at some point in the 19th and 20th centuries these breweries, while still separately owned and producing for quality, made something worth drinking.  I do not believe that to be the case today.  Enjoy craft beer and know where it comes from.  Get to know or read about the people who make it and make sure it’s good.  If you don’t know where to start, just ask me!

 

Beer Wars

I know I’m late to the game, but I just recently had the opportunity to watch Beer Wars, a documentary on how craft brewing is having such a hard time against the big three. One thing I learned watching the film was that I should do a blind taste test myself to determine the difference among Coors, Budweiser, and Miller. The folks in the documentary were 100% confused about what they were drinking, and I figure I need to have that little experience on my belt to explain to the public how shitty the corn/rice beer is.

Craft brewers produce something that is admittedly for a select market, but that doesn’t mean everyone else should go and piss off. We’re connoisseurs, not snobs. However, it’s becoming more and more difficult to find a variety of beers where I live. When I go to a package store, I find it annoying that I don’t see much that I haven’t already had. My location severely limits my selection of craft beer and that bothers me most of the time.

The fact that mainstream media has a stronghold in the Southeast doesn’t help my case at all. Quite a few people believe what they hear other people say in front of them in the checkout line at Wal-Mart, and the major cable news stations are gospel. So when it comes to deciding on beer, that 64-calorie bullshit seems cool on the commercial…

If anyone had the chance and the desire to learn about the history of beer, they would certainly and quickly find out that until the 1800’s in the United States, beer wasn’t so light on color and taste. It was dark at times, murky, nutritious, and necessary for survival. The push to sell more and beat the competition led to the unfortunate majority of beer we have on the market today.

Still, the United States has the most diverse beer market in the world. With a reported 1,938 craft breweries in this country operating in 2011 (including brewpubs), we have a nearly endless selection across this land. I share my favorites with my readers all the time, and I get new favorites every month. I just discovered the Clown Shoes series of beers by Mercury Brewing Company, and the Muffin Top – a “Belgian Style Tripel India Pale Ale” – is exactly what it says. To me, anyway.

Back to my point, which is really just a call-t0-action: Learn about beer. The history, how it’s made, and the immeasurable variety of it that we have to choose from. Vote with your dollar. Craft beer is good for the economy, and I’m not going to elaborate on that point. To know your beer is to enjoy it. If you have any questions or need some pointers on where to begin your craft beer journey, just ask me.

Oh, and one last thing (I’m going to make this a point at the end of every podcast): enjoy your craft beer responsibly.

Cheers!

Review: New Belgium Shift

I tweeted the other day about comparing canned to bottled beer, assuming that I would be able to get the Shift Pale Lager from New Belgium in both packages.

According to this article, though, Shift is only packaged in a 16-oz can. New Belgium is putting Fat Tire and Ranger IPA in cans (12 and 16 oz) as well as the 12oz bottle, so I’ll definitely get to do a blind bottle-to-can comparison.

In the mean time, here are my thoughts on Shift:

The initial nose-in-glass gives a likening of Ranger IPA – the finishing hops are very present to begin with (Shift and Ranger IPA have Cascade hops in common). Head retention is awesome – like that ocean fizz that hangs around for days. That could be the last bit of conditioning in the can showing off, though. Great stuff.

This brew is somehow especially appropriate for the end of a long day. It’s not too filling or overpowering in mouthfeel, yet at 5.0% ABV it is difficult to say it’s not a perfect beer for a Tuesday sunset. And one 16-oz can is enough, especially if it’s before dinner. It has a palate friendly bitterness at 29 IBU, so it won’t ruin supper – you could even start eating before you finish it. I did.

There are so many pale brews out there that one could partake in the early evening – it’s difficult to say which one I’d pick over the other. Being me, I’d choose the one I’d never had before. If the choices were smaller, Shift would definitely be at the top of my considerations.

Again – I don’t quantify my beers, so you’re not going to get a number score. New Belgium continues to impress me with their products and their love of the craft and the culture. They’re serious about what they do and it shows. I recommend Shift to anyone who likes a crisp, cold, palatable beer after work. It’s way more rewarding than anything from the big three.

Cheers!

New Belgium possibly coming to Asheville NC

New Belgium Brewing Company has announced that they are looking for a location to place a second brewing facility on the East Coast. Rumor has it (so far) that the choices are now between Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Asheville, North Carolina. At this time of writing I believe I have read another rumor that a site deemed a great possibility for a brewery is under contract in Asheville, but mum’s the word.

I’ve never been to Asheville, North Carolina or to Philadelphia. I have, however been to Fort Collins, Colorado, the birthplace of New Belgium Brewing. I’ve researched Asheville in the past as a potential place to live and I liked what I saw during my review. A small town in the mountainous region of North Carolina is much more like Fort Collins than Philadelphia is. Asheville has about 83,000 people and at least seven breweries show up on a Google Maps search. That tells me that in addition to being a college town, beer has a great presence and probably drives a lot of the culture there.

I like the state of North Carolina and their support for beer culture. Their laws seem to make it pretty easy to found a brewery and begin distributing. There are more breweries in Asheville than there are in the state of Georgia. My state could learn a thing or two from North Carolina. Anyway, New Belgium and I have a good history together since I discovered Fat Tire in Colorado. The relationship was even further solidified when, after I moved to Georgia, they began distributing here just a few years ago. That being said, any facility they build on the east side of the country should be as close to me as possible. Asheville is so much closer than Philly is – I may could even help build it for a day if they have some sort of community effort!

So there it is: no good reason for New Belgium to choose Asheville other than my own selfishness. Philadelphia just doesn’t fit for the company culture. I’d like to make it a point to visit the new place either way; it will just be easier to visit more often than if it were in Pennsylvania. Congrats to New Belgium, though – it’s exciting to think my favorite brewery is enjoying this much success!

I’ll be sure to update this post as I hear things, whether they’re confirmed or not. I’m on my way to NC next month and quite possibly could make it to the Asheville area. Until I hear something, though…

Cheers!

 

Update: New Belgium made an official announcement on April 5, 2012 regarding the new East coast facility, and it will be in Asheville! It’s seven hours from my house in Georgia and will be an awesome road trip in the coming years. Ground breaking is expected to be sometime in early 2013, with production beginning in 2015. This says a lot for Asheville’s economy and beer culture, and I would only be more excited about it if they were coming to my hometown. I’m glad New Belgium took my advice – I heard that Philly brushed them off.