East Coast Trip #3

My wife and I just returned from spending Thanksgiving with family and friends out on the East coast.  It was my third trip back since moving out to Oregon.  The second trip didn’t warrant a write up here since we only visited one brewery on that trip, although it was a good one, Joymongers Brewing in Greensboro.

Raleigh, NC Area: We flew into RDU airport and spent the first couple of nights at my best friends place in Garner (just south of Raleigh).  The first night we ventured out to a local bottle shop, The Beerded Lady, to grab some beer for dinner.  We got some cans of It’s Fall Ya’ll Coffee Stout from Trophy Brewing (Raleigh) and a growler of Pirate Queen Double IPA by Bombshell Brewing (Holly Springs).  The next day we met my sister and her partner for lunch and then after lunch walked around the corner to Brewery Bhavana.  Combination brewery, dim sum restaurant and bookstore, this place seemed to be pretty pretentious at first glance, but the beer was solid and the staff was down to earth, so looks aren’t everything.  Tried their flagship Till Farmhouse Ale, Dig Chocolate Stout and Patrick’s Birthday Barleywine (whiskey barrel aged).  All were very delicious.
46743022_10216048499459844_2292142815158730752_nWe finished the night at Brice’s Brewing  in Garner, just down the street from my friends house.  They had hosted a stout release party the night before and still had several on tap.  Between the four of us, we tried Oatmeal Stout, Chocolate Stout, Irish Stout and I also tried the Belgian Tripel.  The next morning we hit the road for South Carolina.

Pawley’s Island, SC: We didn’t make it to any breweries in SC, but we found some local beers at restaurants and at the grocery store.  The first night at dinner I had a great IPA, HopArt from Coast Brewing (North Charleston) which paired remarkably well with Southern style fried seafood. At the grocery store we picked up a 6 pack of Mango IPA from Palmetto Brewing (Charleston) and a 6 pack of Westbrook One Claw (Mt Pleasant).  The Mango IPA was quite good, the One Claw sadly was a little past it’s prime. I’ve had it before when it was better.  The second night I had an Espresso Porter also from Palmetto Brewing at a really great BBQ joint.

Asheville, NC: I hadn’t been to Asheville since I was young, and seemingly as soon as I left NC it blew up into a craft beer mecca.  We spent the next two days exploring Asheville, including a nice drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The first night we stopped at Burial Beer Co. after dinner, which was a small place but they had a lot of unique beers.  I tried their blended sour and double IPA, which were both great and very different, and my wife had the coconut brown ale aged on cocoa nibs which was super chocolaty.  The next morning we had a tour scheduled at New Belgium Brewing.  We visited their Fort Collins brewery on our Denver trip two years ago and now got to see the East coast location.  The tour was great, it was cool to see the brewery and our guide was really great.  They gave us samples of Fat Tire, which I forget how good it is when it’s fresh, and Fat Tire White Ale, La Folie sour ale which is phenomenal, and Abbey (Belgian Dubbel) which was actually the first beer they ever made, and then their HPA Hemperor IPA which is made with hemp seeds.  Let’s just say when he started pouring it smelled like someone was lighting it up.
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Several people on the tour recommended we go to Sierra Nevada Brewery if we hadn’t already been.  Another West coast brewery that has started an East coast outpost, Sierra Nevada was located in nearby Mills River.  Originally, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to make it out there, but it wasn’t as far away as I thought, just a quick 20 minute drive away.  We had dinner at the brewery (highly recommend the Duck Fat fries) and then did the self-guided walking tour.  I haven’t been to the Chico, CA location, but the Mills River brewery is massive but also beautifully laid out.  The long driveway with landscaping and custom street signs made it feel like you were entering a Disney property. While we were there, I had this years Celebration fresh hop IPA, which was really good, and my wife had the Sidecar Orange IPA which was also very refreshing.
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By this point we were actually starting to get kinda beer’d out.  After checking out some local art studios, we finished the Asheville tour with a trip to Urban Orchard Cider Co. It was nice to have something different, and the ciders were very refreshing.  We tried a hopped cider, a ginger cider and a holiday cider with cranberries that were all delicious.
46821421_10216048551061134_384162739905363968_nRaleigh-Durham International Airport: The last two days of the trip involved hanging out with my family and no beer, which is OK.  My parents don’t drink hardly at all and we’ve never had alcohol at any of the big family dinners, which is probably for the best.  However, we managed to snag a couple more local beers in the airport as we were headed home.  I had the Hoppy-Ki-Yay IPA by Lonerider Beer (Raleigh), and my wife had the Spoaty Oaty Pale Ale by Appalachian Mountain Brewing (Boone, NC).  Interestingly, I didn’t know at the time but as I just looked up AMB, they are part of Craft Brew Alliance which is based here in Portland.

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So there we have it, another fun trip to the East coast and five new locations to add to the Breweries Visited list.  All told, added another 31 unique beers to Untappd (plus a couple repeats).  Until next time, Cheers!

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7 Devils Brewing – Coos Bay

7 Devils Brewing in Coos Bay, Oregon is, to my knowledge, the southernmost brewery along the Oregon Coast.  Back in August when I wrote about my Oregon Coast Brewery Tour it was a location I had found on Google Maps but hadn’t been to yet.  This past weekend we finally made it.

Every year, my wife and I go camping down in Florence.  It was on last years trip we discovered Yachats Brewing.  This year we headed down south to Coos Bay.  A portion of the coast I had never been to and my wife hadn’t been to in a long time.  After exploring the coastline of Sunset Bay and Cape Arago State Parks we headed back into Coos Bay to have lunch at 7 Devils.

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We tried four beers between the two of us, Chinook Redd (amber ale with Chinook hops), Endless Summer Blonde (light blonde ale), Groundswell IPA (flagship IPA) and Lighthouse Session Ale (light pale ale).  The beers were solid. The Groundswell was a typical NW style IPA and the blonde was very refreshing on a hot day.  The Chinook Redd was a bit muddy, but not bad and the Lighthouse Session was almost flavorless, but that seems to be the target.

I’m not sure what my expectations actually were, but the taproom certainly exceeded them.  Somehow I wasn’t expecting a coastal brewery to be so… hip, if that’s the right word.  Covered in local art and the music overhead was all recordings of local bands who had performed at the brewery.  They seem to be deeply entwined in the local community.

The food was also very good.  They offer a small, but well curated, food menu including a lot of local items like Face Rock Creamery cheese and Oven Springs Bread, as well as seafood caught close by.  We had a tuna melt sandwich and “The Devil’s Flock” (chicken strips) in a sweet, soy Asian sauce.  Served with local Kettle brand chips (Salem, OR).  They also highlighted the wines and spirits on the menu that were from Oregon.  Very intentional focus on “local”.  We have good stuff here, why truck it in?

It takes a bit of effort to get down there (especially from Portland/SW Washington area) but it would be worth the trip.  Plus, this is what’s waiting for you when you get down there.

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Seattle Beer Scene

Perhaps it’s because I live in Portland and so I’m keyed in to every small detail of the Portland beer scene, especially comparisons to other regions, but it seems to me that Seattle doesn’t get a lot of hype as a beer town.  Perhaps it does and I just miss it, but at least to me it seems like an unknown waiting to be explored.

My wife and I just returned from a short weekend trip up to Seattle.  The purpose of the trip was a college soccer game and hanging out with family, so not at all a beercation, but since we were headed up that way, I offered to ferry homebrew samples up for one of the last competitions of the year, the Joint Novembeerfest and Puget Sound Pro-Am.  Yeah, it’s a mouthful.  I had a short list of a few places I wanted to hit while we were in town.

We started at Reuben’s Brews in Old Ballard.  A friend of ours from the PNWHC works there and we made it a point to stop by while we were in town.  Unfortunately, it was the Saturday before Halloween and they were PACKED! The dining room is small, and there’s a little bit of outdoor seating but it was pretty cramped.  We both got one beer each and found a table.  The Life on Mars IPA and Black Imperial IPA were both solid, we enjoyed them while we decided where to head to next.  One thing that really impressed me about that Ballard neighborhood was, even though we didn’t get a chance to go anywhere else, there was NW Peaks Brewing, Peddler Brewing, and Lucky Envelope Brewing all within a 4 block radius. *Update to add: There was also a Lagunitas Tap Room in the neighborhood, which I just discovered is the old location of Hillards Brewing.  We got cans of Hillards as a giveaway at the first PNWHC 2 years ago and I thought it was really good. Sad to discover they are no longer in business. Apparently, they got bought by Odin Brewing and then dissolved.

After leaving Reuben’s we decided to walk up to Ballard Way where we had seen a couple of good looking restaurants while we were trying to find Reuben’s.  We ended up at the MacLeod’s Pub.  Known for their fish and chips (which were excellent) they also had an interesting selection of Scottish beers including McEwan’s and Belhaven, plus a list of 250 scotch whiskeys.  After some google sleuthing we discovered the Belhaven was made in Dunbar, Scotland, which is where one side of my wife’s family hails from.  Needless to say we had to try them.  The Scottish Ale on Nitro was OK, but it had a strange tartness to it, and seemed overly malty bordering on oxidation. We keep trying them, but it turns out neither my wife or I are big fans of beers on Nitro. Just not our jam.  Next we tried bottled versions of the Twisted Thistle IPA, their version of an American Style IPA and the 90/ Wee Heavy.  Both of those were quite good.

Our last stop of the night was close to our Air BnB, in Kenmore, called Nine Yards Brewing.  They were much more laid back and less crowded than Reuben’s and we discovered that this was a local hangout for Washington State fans. (U of Washington is IN Seattle, so the WSU fans/alums are in enemy territory).  We decided we would hang out a while and watch most of the game.  This gave us a chance to try several beers there.  It’s nice when places offer a 6-10 ounce short pour that’s a bit more than the typical 3-4oz “taster” but not a full pint.  Most of the bars we went to in Seattle called this size a Schooner, which is ironic to me because that brings up in my mind a giant Stein.  I’m not sure why.  Wikipedia tells me in Australia and the UK a schooner is smaller than a pint, whereas in Canada a schooner is a large mug, usually two US pints (32 ounces) but I can’t imagine where I would have heard either of those two references before.

Nine Yards started out a little shaky (in my opinion) but then improved as the night went on.  I got adventurous with my first beer and ordered a Marzen, which was good, but not great.  Next, I had noticed a couple of Randalls on the wall filled with fresh cut fruit.  I found the infusions on the menu and ordered the wheat with orange and it was incredible! The aroma was like squeezing a fresh wedge of orange, and the flavor was a subtle citrusyness added to the base beer.  I followed that with a Mosiac dry hopped pale ale that was really nice and then finished with a roasty milk stout that was really good.  The game started to get a little ugly in the wrong direction so we called it a night.

The next day before we left town, we met a friend for lunch up in Snohomish at the Trails End Taphouse.  For being a random, hole in the wall joint, they had an amazing beer selection.  The taps were mostly Seattle/Washington centered, but a couple Oregon offerings and then some really unique stuff like Founders Breakfast Stout and Firestone Walker Parabola (2013).  They also had a really awesome bottle selection, both for on premise and take home.  They had a lot of pretty sought after stuff such as Firestone Walker, Almanac, Founders, Bells, Stone, way too many to list.  Two bottles in particular caught my eye and then I had to make a really tough decision.  I had to decide between Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout (KBS) and Fremont Bourbon Barrel Aged Dark Star.  They were roughly the same price, but realistically I could only get one.  Part of me thought I should get the KBS since I never really knew when I would see it again, but the other part of me said I should get the Fremont, since I was specifically hoping to find Dark Star while we were in town.  I struggled mightily over this while we ate (great food too!) and watched the Seahawks game.  When it was time to go I bit the bullet and chose the Fremont.  I hope I made the right choice, but on the other hand, I’m not sure there’s a wrong choice in this aspect.

So, short trip but got to experience some local Seattle flavor.  Cheers Seattle!

2017 GABF Winners

Apparently, I missed the 2016 awards, at least as far as the blog is concerned, but looking back at the 2015 Awards post there were 17 medals from Oregon, 8 medals from North Carolina and the distribution was 9 Gold, 8 Silver and 8 Bronze.

This year, I was able to watch/listen to the live feed of the awards ceremony and got to cheer and hear them as they were announced.  This year there was again a large number of Oregon awards and a good amount of North Carolina awards including a couple of multiple award winners.

Starting with Oregon;

Breakside Brewing – Portland, OR
Bronze Medal – American IPA (408 entries!)
Bronze Medal – Rye Beer
Bronze Medal – American Style Strong Pale Ale (182 entries)
Bronze Medal – Fruited American Style Sour Ale (105 entries)

Goodlife Brewing – Bend, OR
Gold Medal – American Style Wheat Beer

Sunriver Brewing – Sunriver, OR
Gold Medal – American Style Wheat Beer with Yeast
Gold Medal – Imperial Red Ale
Small Brewing Company of the Year

Logsden Farmhouse Ales – Hood River, OR
Silver Medal – Belgian Style Fruit Beer

Ground Breaker Brewing – Portland, OR
Gold Medal – Gluten-Free Beer

Flat Tail Brewing Co – Corvallis, OR
Gold Medal – American Style Sour Ale

Alesong Brewing and Blending – Eugene, OR
Bronze Medal – Brett Beer

Full Sail Brewing Co – Hood River, OR
Silver Medal – American or International Style Pilsener

Base Camp Brewing – Portland, OR
Gold Medal – Speciality Saison

Three Creeks Brewing – Sisters, OR
Bronze Medal – Session Beer

Zoiglhaus Brewing – Portland, OR
Gold Medal – German Style Pilsener

Coldfire Brewing – Eugene, OR
Silver Medal – Double Red Ale

Now for North Carolina;

Lynnwood Brewing Concern – Raleigh, NC
Gold Medal – American Belgo-style Ale
Silver Medal – American Style Pale Ale (199 entries!)

New Sarum Brewing – Salisbury, NC
Gold Medal – Herb and Spice Beer (145 entries!)

Currahee Brewing – Franklin, NC
Bronze Medal – Coffee Stout or Porter

Bond Brothers Beer Co – Cary, NC
Silver Medal – American Style Sour Ale

Sycamore Brewing and Cannery – Charlotte, NC
Bronze Medal – Light Lager
Bronze Medal – American Style Lager or Malt Liquor

Foothills Brewing – Winston Salem, NC
Bronze Medal – Bohemian-Style Pilsner (93 entries!)

Wedge Brewing Co – Asheville, NC
Gold Medal – German Style Maerzen

Lonerider Brewing – Raleigh, NC
Bronze Medal – German Style Doppelbock or Eisbock

Olde Mecklemburg Brewing – Charlotte, NC
Bronze Medal – South German Style Hefewiezen

Hillman Beers – Asheville, NC
Bronze Medal – Belgian Style Dubbel or Quadruple

BearWaters Brewing Co – Canton, NC
Bronze Medal – Belgian Style Strong Speciality Ale

Duck Rabbit Brewing – Farmville, NC
Silver Medal – Scotch Ale

What an impressive showing.  16 individual medals + Small Brewing Company of the year for Oregon and 14 individual medals for North Carolina.

The medal breakdown for Oregon is 7 Golds, 3 Silver and 6 Bronze, while North Carolina took home 3 Gold, 3 Silver and 8 Bronze.

Salem Mini Tour

On Sunday, my wife and I went to visit friends in Salem, Oregon who just happened to be the same friends we visited in Denver.  They’ve now moved back to Oregon after completing a PhD internship and we were celebrating their return. So what else would be on the docket but a brewery tour, right?

Salem is much smaller than Denver, but has a growing beer scene.  Currently, there are 5 breweries in the city, with at least one more opening soon. We made it to three of the five on our mini tour.  Three that happen to be very close together on the same side of town.  Gilgamesh, Santiam and Salem Ale Works.  Vagabond and McMenamin’s Thompson Brewery and Pub are the other two in town.

We started at Gilgamesh because our friends told us they had good food, and did they ever! It does lean heavy on pub favorites like burgers, but they were good.  We tried the stoney fries (bacon, cheese, chipotle sour cream), the mac attack (mac and cheese with bacon and pulled pork) and the happy hour sliders.  Those were all great, and had some pretty good beers to wash them down.  Hoot Attack ISA (funny story behind the name and logo), Vader Coffee CDA, and Hoppy Farmer, a barrel aged sour saison.

Next stop was Santiam Brewing, and this time instead of a pint we decided to split their large taster tray (10 samples).  My wife remarked that she was having Denver flashbacks at this point.  The beers at Santiam were solid, but not remarkable.  They didn’t really blow us away.  While they were good, they were just missing that oomph.  You could tell the beers they spent a lot of time and effort on, the raspberry pale that tasted like a bite of fresh berries, the Bourbon barrel aged version of their English Amber, and of course, the classic Pirate Stout, Rum barrel aged with coconut.  The rest didn’t seem to have had as much attention paid to them, which was a bit disappointing.  Again, not bad by any stretch of the imagination, but just middle of the road.  “Serviceable”.

The last stop was Salem Ale Works.  I had heard of this brewery through a pro-am brew that a friend did, but I haven’t had much else of their stuff.  These beers really blew us away.  We had a NE style IPA, which I’m not a huge fan of but this one was really good.  A pale ale with an interesting blend of hops in their rotating Sgnarly series, a light refreshing summer ale with the hilarious name of Frisky Marmot, and the Cast Iron CDA which was dark and slightly chocolaty with a huge hop presence.  The waitress (who turned out to be a sales rep) did an amazing job describing the beers to us, and what was in the glass matched exactly what she said, so she did a great job selling us on the beers!  We didn’t eat anything at SAW, but the food coming out of the kitchen looked great so we’ll have to try that next time we’re in town.

So a super quick trip, but hit up a couple of the Salem hotspots.  I would recommend all three, but especially Gilgamesh for great food and Salem Ale Works for great beer.

Yachats Brewing and Farmstore

Last weekend my wife and I went camping down in Florence, Oregon with her family.  This is an annual tradition which happened to fall on one of the hottest weeks in record in Oregon.  Thankfully, it was much cooler down on the coast.  On the way down, we stopped in the tiny coastal town of Yachats to have lunch at Yachats Brewing and Farmstore.

 

I don’t write about every brewery we visit because that would be overwhelming, but if a place is unique, a special experience, or in my thoughts “unknown” or underhyped, I’ll write about it.  Yachats was all three.

Before the visit, I was only vaguely aware of Yachats Brewing.  I had a barrel aged version of their Marbled Murrelet Stout at Festival of the Dark Arts.  It was “on the way”, so we decided to stop in.

Camping is always a food-fest so we decided to split a sandwich, which was a good idea because it was HUGE! BBQ chicken, onions, peppers and cheese, it was great.  Warm polenta and fermented veggies on the side to round it out.  Highly recommend the food.

The two beers we tried were the Coastal Dark Ale (4.5 stars), their version of a CDA, my wife’s favorite style, and the Hyphyweizen (4.5 stars), their version of a German Hef.  Both beers were really good and we ended up taking a crowler of the CDA camping and I got a bottle of their Kriek (which I haven’t tried yet).

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The location was really cool.  Obviously not the original use of that building.  We sat on the side patio, which was half indoors/half outdoors and used to be a greenhouse/plant area.  You could see into the brewery with some tanks back in the back, as well as mics and speakers for live music.

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We got there shortly after they opened, so they weren’t very crowded and the staff was very friendly.  Quick to recommend a beer, ideas about food, pointed out seasonals and special items.  Overall a great experience.  If you’re on the southern Oregon coast, I highly recommend swinging by Yachats Brewing and Farmstore.  They are located right on 101 (Pacific Coast Highway) about a half hour south of Newport.  It’s worth the drive.

The war rages on…

Last week was a roller coaster in the beer world.  The Brewers Association announced a special logo, recognizing independently owned breweries.  You can read the release and see the logo HERE. To me, this just further emphasizes the point that the only important part of the “Craft” designation from the BA is ownership.  Based on the BA’s definition of craft, “small” is 6 million barrels of beer a year.  The largest craft brewery is Yuengling at a reported 2.9 million BBLs of production (2012) so there’s still a lot of room to grow and still be considered craft.  The limit was increased last year or the year before, specifically to bring Yuengling into the fold.  Sam Adams (Boston Beer), the 2nd largest “craft” brewer (4 million BBLs/2016) is distributed nationwide.  I can walk into a grocery store in tiny Canby, Oregon and find Boston Lager, Rebel IPA, Grapefruit IPA, 3 flavors of Angry Orchard (a Boston Beer wholly owned subsidiary) and now the new Truly Alcoholic Sparkling Water (another BB subsidiary).  I find it hard to swallow that they aren’t pushing other beer off the shelf, which is exactly what we accuse ABInBev of, but it’s OK because Sam Adams is “craft”.

The other problem I have with the logo comes from a strictly food labeling standpoint.  Even though the logo is not designed as any sort of designator of product quality, that is how it will eventually be perceived.  The BA is trying to assert that local and independent beer is “better”.  That “better” can be interpreted millions of ways, but for the average consumer that will equate to better quality or “tastes better”.  Earlier this morning I responded to a post on the American Homebrewers Forum about how the logo will be adapted into a quality statement.  I was already thinking about this post when I formulated this reply, so I will just copy it here in it’s entirety.  Click the link above to scroll through the entire post.

“This is all well and good for those of us who are deep into the industry, but as always these moves are made for the “rest of the world” who don’t care as much where the stuff in the can comes from.

As with most things that go on a label, and which several people have mentioned above, there will be an implied quality statement with the logo.  That’s just how food labels work.  I’m a food scientist and there’s a lot of stuff that goes on food labels and of course if it goes on a label it must be important right? That’s how people’s brains work.  The FDA doesn’t regulate beer labels yet, but it’s coming very soon.  We’re already having to work on calories and nutrition facts labels.

There’s a lot of stuff out there that has nothing to do with quality, but crafty advertisers or just human intellect of “this must be different and special” turns into quality statements.  For example, if I say the words Black Angus, what do you think? Most people are going to think about a fancy downtown steakhouse like Ruth’s Chris. Black Angus is a breed of cattle.  Not a quality designation.  There are three grades of meat, Select, Choice and Prime.  Choice is what you get in the grocery store, Prime is what you get in Ruth’s Chris, but they are both still Black Angus.  When Hardees/Carl’s Jr is advertising Angus Burgers they are banking on most people equating that with expensive steak.  Are they using Prime beef? Hell no, they are using Choice (or even Select) but people equate Angus with Prime.

The BA’s selling point is “local and independent is better”.. better how? Better for the economy, better business practices, better for your community etc etc.  Over time most people will turn that into “better quality” or “tastes better”.  Is the BA trying to intentionally mislead people? No, I don’t think so, but they are certainly taking advantage of how human emotions work to push their message.  In essence that’s how all advertising works.  Is it meant as a quality statement? No, but in 5 years that’s not what people will remember about it.  People automatically assume “better quality” and pay a premium for things like “Natural”, “No Corn Syrup”, “Free Range”, “Dolphin Safe” “GMO Free” etc etc, all of which are unregulated and mostly meaningless statements (Organic is the only one certified by the government) and don’t always (or sometimes ever) equate to product quality.  It’s a shell game.. and it always has been.”

Of course, the other side of this coin is the immediate and comical reaction from ABInBev’s High End. This is the branch of the company that owns the 10 Barrel’s and Wicked Weed’s in their portfolio.

You can watch the video HERE from Draft Magazine.  It’s… well.  It’s something.  It’s ridiculous and it’s a video that doesn’t need to exist.  I may or may not agree with the labeling, but there was absolutely no reason for InBev to respond to it.  Just let it go.  They aren’t helping themselves with this at all.  They come across as whiny and judgmental even though they are the ones controlling the market.  They have a huge chunk of market share, but some new label comes along and they are all up in arms about how it’s “not fair!”.  Wow.  This is greed and capitalism 101, big companies only like something if it’s *their* rules.  The whole “we need to gang up on wine and spirits” is complete bullshit.  The market doesn’t work that way, at least not at the distributor level.  It may look that way in the high up offices of a multi trillion dollar international conglomerate who has to worry about the Diago’s and Robert Mondavi’s of the world, but on the boots on the ground level, at your local pub, it’s beer vs beer.  Mr Small Local Brewer wheels a keg into a bar, the bar man say’s sorry, we don’t have any open taps because some distributor went in and brought 12 kegs instead of one.  What looks like a decent selection of Budwieser, Elysian, 10 Barrel, Goose Island, Breckenridge and Wicked Weed is not much of a variety at all when they all come from the same company.

I’m all for fighting against illegal business practices.  I don’t think a large brewing concern like ABInBev should own distributors.  In some states that’s legal, in some it’s not.  To me that pushes the boundaries.

However, I don’t think the BA is going about it the right way.  You can’t beat the behemoth at their own game.  It won’t work.