Beer, Bars & Brewers #34
This week in beer: a craft brewery employee says being bought by a multinational is nothing like going over to the Dark Side, travelling beer canning trucks are saving small breweries, myths about beer IBUs get busted, the flawed logic behind creating a beer for women, and the history of American sour beers.
May is the month for long reads in the beer world, and we’ve seen a couple of truly excellent articles doing the rounds recently. Get things started with a firsthand account of what it’s like when a brewery goes from craft to corporate, and a long, hard look at so-called ‘beers for women’. Plus, AB InBev and Condé Nast teamed up earlier this year to launch October, a blog dedicated to beer in America, and it’s been publishing some great pieces. Cheers!
What It’s Like to Work for a Brewery That ‘Sold Out’
We all know how craft beer drinkers (and many brewers) feel about the big multinational brewers like AB InBev and Heineken. Even the term ‘craft beer’ is usually defined in opposition to the mainstream beers these brewing giants put out. But what happens when a successful craft brewery gets snapped up by a multinational? Typically, there’s a social media backlash accompanied by panicky articles warning of an inevitable drop in quality. Then everyone just moves on.
Draft Magazine went beyond the basic narrative to get an unnamed insider’s perspective from a brewery which made the switch from craft to corporate, and their experience is surprising. Contrary to what you might expect, the brewery retained all its staff and most of its independence, as well as getting a serious boost in resources. The employee says there is more paperwork to do now, but considers it a small price to pay for all th.
What It Means to be a ‘Beer for Women’
Eater’s Morgan Childs casts a suitably sceptical eye over the beer industry’s fixation on attracting women to beer – and its failure to do so. Sadly, breweries all seem to fall for the same superficially appealing strategy: creating a special beer that’s supposedly perfect for women. This has led to the periodic trend of big companies launching ill-conceived brews which fade away even faster than the rationale behind them. One of the best examples is a Molson Coors “lemon and rosé-flavoured ‘bloat-resistant’ lager” with the sure-to-be-mispronounced name Animée. As one marketer and beer lover puts it, trying to come up with a list of the qualities women want from beer is “just as asinine as saying, ‘What kind of pasta do men like?’” We’re inclined to agree.
Beer Can Caravans Are Saving America’s Craft Brews
Beer cans may not be such a common sight in Germany, but they’re becoming ubiquitous in the US. As small brewers compete with big businesses – and each other – for finite shelf space, compact cans offer a major logistical advantage. In fact, “a brewer or distributor can push out almost twice the amount of beer using cans instead of bottles.”
For small brewers, there’s just one problem; running a canning machine is prohibitively expensive. That’s where can caravans, the beer industry equivalent of food trucks, come in. Each of these small canning vans can fill, carbonate, seal, and label nearly 20,000 beer cans in just 12 hours. It’s no surprise the demand from independent brewers is growing.
Last Call for IBUs: Fact, Fiction and Their Impact on Your Beer
Fans of weird and wonderful beers will know that the International Bittering Unit was designed to measure the number of bittering compounds in a beer. It’s a scale on which just about all beers will fall between five IBUs and 120 IBUs.
That’s a handy way to get an indication of how bitter a beer is before you try it, but Chris McClellan of CraftBeer.com says misguided drinkers have begun using the IBU count as their sole measure of beer quality. Of course, bitterness is only one of the flavours a good beer could have, but the problem goes deeper than that. As McClellan puts it, “IBU counts do not a great beer make, and what’s more, your perception of these IBU counts is often completely at odds with the actual measurement of the beer.”
The Year Sour Beer Became a Sensation
Continuing his series for Punch on the recent history of previously niche beer styles, Aaron Goldfarb has charted the rise of sour beer amongst America’s craft brewers. Although sour beers have been made consistently in Europe for centuries, it’s only in the past decade that these traditional styles have caught on across the Atlantic. Goldfarb says a lot of the credit belongs to Belgian distiller Cantillon, whose lambic ales became something of a secret handshake between beer geeks, before finally achieving more mainstream US success in 2013. Better late than never, right?
Foto: Photo via Tim Klöcker.