Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Clipper City Engulfed by Heavy Seas

Interesting bit of news out of Baltimore today, in that the city's own Clipper City Brewing Company seems to be making a move away from that name and will now be branding all of their beers under the not-so-new Heavy Seas moniker (they've used the name for a lineup of beers under their banner for years already).

The new logo, as seen here, will adorn all bottles, and while the still-fairly-new Mutiny Fleet of 22oz. "big beers" (big in both bottle size and ABV) will remain and continue to grow, several of the more standard Clipper City beers will see major label art changes and even slight name tweaks. broke the news today and has even more details on these and other developments from Clipper City/Heavy Seas, including new beers, soon to be retired beers and more, and you can click here to get all of the info direct from them.

Hopback, beer, Baltimore, Maryland, Clipper City, Heavy Seas, Mutiny Fleet

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rocky Mountain High

Every craft brewery should have a mixed twelve pack. It just doesn't make sense to not have one: you get to put three to six offerings from your brewery into one package in an effort to turn a consumer on to as many of your products as possible. Plus, you're maximizing the chances that said consumer finds something that they like and would purchase again. If someone picks up a six pack of a particular brewery's IPA for the first time and hates it, the odds of them returning to that brewery to try a different style have decreased greatly. But, if they pick up a mixed twelve pack and hate the same IPA, yet really like two or three of the other styles that are included, then the pack has done it's job and that consumer will likely return to you to purchase the styles they did enjoy.

These mix packs are also a great investment for folks like myself who like to try a lot of different beers but don't want to blindly spend and potentially waste money on multiple six packs in fear that they may not be very good. For example, the Brewer's Lunchbox from the Fort Collins Brewery, which we will discuss in further detail shortly, was a no-brainer: $16 to sample two bottles each of six different styles from the brewery, or I could've spent $50+ on individual six packs for each style. Sure, I would've ended up with a lot more beer from the latter, but what's the point in that if I end up not liking two or three (or more) of the styles?

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: the Fort Collins Brewery out of (you guessed it) Fort Collins, Colorado. They don't provide much in terms of company history on their website (save for the fact that they are expecting to complete construction on a new brewing facility and restaurant slated to open in May 2010, but that is more company future than it is company history), but they do provide what is one of the more unique mixed twelve packs that I've seen available, at least in terms of the styles offered within, which include an American Wheat Ale brewed with pomegranate juice, a Schwarzbier, a Rauchbier, a Red Ale, an American IPA and an American Stout. Here are my brief thoughts on each:

Kidd Lager (Schwarzbier) - A nice deep brown to black color with chocolate, caramel, earth, smoke and perhaps even some brown sugar all balanced quite nicely in the aroma. The flavor is not as sweet as the aroma would lead on but definitely gives off a chocolate vibe and has a nice smoked, burnt finish. This one is very drinkable and is a nice winter, session-type beer.

Chocolate Stout (American Stout) - Pours near black in color with a nice chocolate milk-esque creamy head. The aroma has a mix of slightly burnt malt, a hint of licorice and some cocoa, while the flavor takes on a harsher tone with the burnt malt and what seems to be more bitter than sweet chocolate notes leading the way. A good beer overall save for what was a surprisingly thin mouth feel for a stout.

Z Lager (Rauchbier) - Copper color with a big white head. This one gives off scents of grass, caramel, smoke and some bacon (yes, bacon). The flavor leans toward the sweet side with the caramel playing nicely off of the grass and sometimes floral taste that comes through. Smoke is indeed present but much more subtle than anticipated for the style, which makes this one of the more universally appealing rauchbier's I've ever had. Pretty good stuff again here, but I personally would've liked to have seen a tick more of a hearty smoke presence in the flavor.

Rocky Mountain IPA (American IPA) - Hazy copper color with lots of web-like residue clinging to the glass...nice. The aroma is an excellent blend of pepper, pine, fruit juice, bread and earth and the flavor is similar, but sweeter and juicier, with a bit of fruit shining though amongst the pine notes. Hops lead for sure but don't overpower or distract. The finish takes on a bread-like taste with a tiny bit of the pepper coming through. Big thumbs up for this IPA.

Major Tom's Pomegranate Wheat (American Wheat Ale) - Slightly cloudy darker golden color, with passable but faint wheat, grain and pomegranate characteristics in the nose. The flavor thankfully steps it up a notch from the aroma, with the wheat and pomegranate coming through much more pronounced for a taste that's sweeter and that has more pep in it than expected, yet also provides a slightly dry bread flavor at the finish. Not bad overall but nothing memorable. Decent across the board with no major flaws. Tasty yet unimaginative, I'd say.

Retro Red (Red Ale) - A nice crisp ruby color with a soapy beige head. The aroma leads with caramel and slightly burnt malt and is complimented by some darker fruit and juicy hops. This continues in the flavor with even more roasted burnt malt throughout, some smoke in the middle and hops mostly noticeable at the finish. Another nice job by Fort Collins. Hearty and sweet, and I really dug the subtle smoke flavors that came out at times.

The big winners here for me were the Kidd Lager and Rocky Mountain IPA, with the Retro Red lagging not too far behind those two. I definitely see regular purchases of these in my future, and I'd be happy to drink all six styles again. I'd say the Brewer's Lunchbox is definitely worth checking out, as there is something in there for everyone, and there's a good chance that you'll find at least one beer (and hopefully more) that's to your liking...

Hopback, beer, Fort Collins Brewery, Colorado, Retro Red, Red Ale, Major Tom's Pomegranate Wheat, American Wheat Ale, Kidd Lager, Schwarzbier, Rocky Mountain IPA, American IPA, Z Lager, Rauchbier, Chocolate Stout, American Stout, Brewer's Lunchbox,

Stone Brewing Does Europe?

Greg Koch, CEO and co-founder of the Stone Brewing Company in Escondido, CA, has been using his Twitter account over the past few days to hint at some big news regarding Stone. Well, the news just hit and it looks like Stone is exploring the possibility of opening a brewing facility in Europe. Very interesting indeed. If this does actually happen (and it very well may not), it could re-write the book on American Craft Beer production and distribution.

A comprehensive video explaining their thought process, where they're at and where they'd like to get to with this project was just posted on the Stone Blog, so I'll let it do the rest of the talking:

Stone to open a Brewery in Europe? from stonebrew on Vimeo.

Hopback, beer, Stone, California, Europe, Greg Koch

Monday, December 21, 2009

TTB Find of the Week: Flying Fish Exit Series Goes to Twelve Ounces

In what I personally see as a great move, New Jersey's Flying Fish Brewing Co. appears to be taking their Exit Series to twelve ounce bottles. For those that don't know the story behind these beers, they each "focus on a unique aspect of an individual exit" of the New Jersey Turnpike. The series seems to really be taking off for the brewery and this is the next logical step in getting the beers into the hands of more consumers.

The Exit 4 label seen here was uncovered today on the TTB site's approved label list. No word yet as to if each beer in the series will be given twelve ounce status or if it will only be select offerings that carry over from the standard 750ml bottles.

While I tend to find much of the regular Flying Fish lineup to be mediocre, the Exit Series has certainly renewed my interest in the brewery. Exit 4 (an American Trippel) was very good, Exit 11 (a Hoppy American Wheat) was even better and I've had a bottle of Exit 1 (Bayshore Oyster Stout) in my fridge for some time now and it has been calling out my name recently.

Check back often for updates on availability of other beers from the series.

Hopback, beer, Flying Fish, New Jersey, Exit 4, American Trippel, Exit 11, Hoppy American Wheat, Exit 1, Bayshore Oyster Stout, Exit Series

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Don't know why, but I'm a sucker for any sort of Christmas beer: slap a Santa Claus, snowy landscape or a decorated tree on the label and chances are I'll buy it. Damn you, cheap marketing ploys. Of the myriad of Christmas-time offerings from American Craft brewers, there are of course a handful that really stand out as the cream of the crop. One of those is Our Special Ale from Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco. It's been a few years since I've enjoyed this one, but it's a whole new experience regardless. This may be the 35th Anniversary of OSA, but Anchor changes both the recipe and label each year, and each year OSA fans rave about what a great beer that particular year's batch turned out to be. The concoction for 2009 is no exception.

It pours wonderfully, with a murky brown ruby body and a somewhat creamy beige head that leaves thick rings of soapy residue on the glass.

The aroma and flavor are, for lack of a better term, like Christmas in a glass. There's a healthy dose of molasses, brown sugar, cinnamon and spruce, with perhaps a bit of pine as well. Throw in a touch of caramel and even some cocoa in the back for good measure. Everything just noted is balanced impeccably for a unique and impressive aroma. The flavor remains balanced yet allows for some of the characteristics to breathe through a bit more. Molasses leads the way up front and blends with a bit of a fruity flavor, while the finish is dry and a bit earthy even from a bit of roasted malt, but also a bit spicy from a dose of cinnamon and even a pinch of nutmeg. Spruce and pine mix in throughout the entirety of each sip but shine the most in the middle and just before the finish.

What really makes this beer what it is might be the mouth feel. Carbonation is kept at lower levels which leads to a medium bodied, heartier, chewier beer that just feels traditional, like you should be taking your mug of OSA from the bar and pulling up a chair next to Ben Franklin and Paul Revere in a Colonial tavern. A bit nerdy? Perhaps, but it is what it is.

You want to try this beer. Really. It's that good. Spices are not over the top and invasive as they are with, say, Harpoon's Winter Warmer, but they're not subtle either. Everything just blends together and hits the mark across the board, and the end result is a great beer to enjoy either with friends and family during the holidays or all by your lonesome next to the Christmas tree and fireplace.

Hopback, beer, Anchor, San Francisco, California, Christmas, Ale, Our Special Ale

Monday, December 14, 2009

BIG Plans for Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary

With their uber-hyped Life and Limb collaboration with Dogfish Head still trickling into certain markets, Sierra Nevada has decided once again to smack it's fans upside the head with some incredibly cool news for it's 30th anniversary in 2010: more collaborations with some of the pioneers of the craft brewing industry, with proceeds from said beers going to select charities. See below for more details in the official press release, but if you're looking for rumors about the beers, Brewed For Thought notes that the collaboration with Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing looks like it may be an Imperial Stout, the third beer may be brewed with both Charlie Papazian and Fred Eckhardt and the fourth may be a barrel-aged blend of existing Sierra Nevada beers. Again, these are all rumors, but they all sound pretty intriguing to me.

And now for the full release:

Four collaborations for Sierra Nevada's 30th.

Chico, CA (12/14/09)--Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. will mark 2010 with a yearlong celebration of the trailblazing brewers who helped transform America into the world's most exciting brewing nation. Next year is the 30th anniversary for the Chico-based brewery, and Sierra Nevada is teaming up with the founders of the movement to benefit select charities and beer drinkers across the country.

March of 2010 will see the first of four beers in a series of collaborative projects with America's craft-brewing pioneers: Fritz Maytag of Anchor Brewing; Jack McAuliffe, founder of New Albion Brewery; and authors, homebrewers, and beer advocates Fred Eckhardt, and Charlie Papazian. Together, this group is credited as 'the men who launched a thousand breweries;' and without them, our current day craft-beer-renaissance might never have happened.

"We wanted to pay tribute to the original pioneers who helped me and hundreds of others get started," said Sierra Nevada founder Ken Grossman. "Few people in the craft-brewing world have accomplished more than these guys, and we thought it might be fun to get the original crew together and make something special."

This project will begin where craft brewing started--Anchor Brewing Company in San Francisco. Maytag bought the historic brewery in 1965, and his vision for American beer changed everything. In December 2009, these pioneers gathered at Anchor to catch up, reminisce about craft beer's beginnings, and share their vision for the project.

"I feel honored to sit at the table with these guys," said Grossman. "Without the help that these guys gave me in the early days, I never would have gotten started. Each of them has shaped craft beer in some meaningful way, and without them, who knows what American beer would be today?"

The beers will be released periodically throughout the year, starting with the first release in March, and continuing until Sierra Nevada's 30th Anniversary on November 15. These limited-release 750ml cage-and-cork bottles will be available at select retailers and beer-centric bars.

These beers will be much more than a tribute: Proceeds from the project will go to benefit select charities chosen by the four pioneers.

Sierra Nevada started in 1980 with a humble hand-built brewhouse and some interesting ideas about beer. Today it's America's longest-running craft startup, and boasts the number-one best-selling craft brand in the country--the legendary flagship, Pale Ale.

A lot has changed in the generation since Grossman first met these brewing pioneers. When Sierra Nevada first opened its doors, there were less than 50 breweries in the United States. Today, there are more than 1,500 craft breweries in operation, and American brewers lead the world in variety of styles, innovation, experimentation, and quality.

I'd get in line for these now if I could. This just sounds like an amazing project all around. How about that 30th Anniversary logo, by the way? Stunning.

Check back often for more details as they are released from the brewery...

Hopback, beer, Sierra Nevada, California, Dogfish Head, Life and Limb, collaboration, Fritz Maytag, Anchor Brewing, San Francisco, Charlie Papazian, Fred Eckhardt, Ken Grossman, Jack McAuliffe, New Albion

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


Brewery mergers have been the talk of the town in recent days, so let's go the opposite direction and talk splits. A little over two years ago Tom Kehoe, founder of Yards Brewing Company, and Nancy and Bill Barton, Yards co-owners since 2001, came to an agreement to part ways. In a nutshell, Kehoe retained the Yards name and existing recipes and relocated the brewery shortly thereafter, while the Barton's held onto the Yards facility (originally constructed as a part of the Weisbrod & Hess Oriental Brewing Company in 1885) and equipment in the Kensington section of Philadelphia and formed the Philadelphia Brewing Company in 2008. The brewery now cranks out four regular beers (Newbold IPA, Rowhouse Red, Walt Wit and Kenzinger), along with a handful of seasonal offerings. I had the good fortune to sample a bunch of their stuff recently and here's how they all fared:

Kenzinger (4.5% ABV, a "golden session ale" and PBC's flagship beer) was up first and it looked amazing: a crisp golden color with a huge rocky, foamy head that lingered atop the liquid. Everything finally settles in and leaves hefty gobs of residue on the glass. Quite frankly, the head out of the bottle was actually a bit too crazy, as even the most careful of pours foamed up very easily. Regardless, this one was incredible looking.

There's a blend of sweet, subtle hop juice, some caramel and a bit of grainy bread in
the aroma, and these all carry over to the flavor where they meet up with a nice hint of pepper which hits you with a quick hop bite at the finish of each sip. Mouthfeel was maybe a touch thin, but this is a light bodied beer so that's to be expected to an extent.

Kenzinger was ridiculously easy to drink and quite enjoyable. Simple, flavorful and certainly one to revisit.

Next we had the Walt Wit (4.2% ABV, Belgian Style Wit) which poured with your typical (for the style) looking cloudy golden color and hits you with the basic wit aromas and flavors of lemon and other citrus notes, some wheat, a bit of yeast, and some herbs and spices such as coriander. The flavor brought the citrus and wheat to the forefront a bit more for a slightly bolder taste than aroma but overall everything was fairly tame. Balanced? Yes, but tame.

In terms of fitting within the style, this one did, but fell pretty close to the middle of the pack as it was average in just about every area. I wouldn't say to pass on it, but don't expect to be wowed either.

I was most curious to see what PBC's take on an IPA would be, as it's been the "in" style for some time now. Everyone's brewing them and most are going big with Double IPA's as well. I'm happy to say that the Newbold IPA (6% ABV, India Pale Ale) took one of the more unique approaches to the style that I've seen recently.

This was another one that looked amazing, with a nice murky amber color and a huge off-white head that is chunky as hell and which also left large patches of itself on the glass as it subsided.

The aroma and flavor were where this one started to stray from IPA territory, yet remained in character for the style at the same time. Sweetness and earthy malt dominated, with a good bit of fruit presence as well. Hops were in the mix for sure, but not nearly to the level that you'd expect, even for a basic IPA. They did come to the front a bit more in the flavor yet still remained tame, to the point where I'd say it even leaned toward a Pale Ale, yet not. I liked the murky, smoky undertones here as well. Weird. Good.

Interesting stuff and an odd one to pin down, but I liked it. A lot of atypical flavor and really unlike any other IPA I've ever come across.

Finally we had Joe (5% ABV, Coffee Porter) which was just released to the market in bottles and was a world apart from the three beers just discussed.

It's near black in color and had a rugged, coffee/chocolate aroma and flavor to it, yet was cut with a good amount of sweetness for balance. Come to think of it, the chocolate was actually more cocoa-like than straightforward chocolate. Coffee took over in the flavor yet still remained fairly balanced as the cocoa mellowed out a touch. A big fault of many porters is that they come at you with a hefty stout like body, but this one did not. It's certainly medium to full bodied, yet remained thin enough and spot on for the style.

I personally can't stand coffee as a stand alone beverage, but find myself liking a lot of coffee stouts and porters, and Joe was yet another one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

So there you have it. Overall I'd say there's some solid stuff coming out of the Philadelphia Brewing Company tanks with a few of the beers having some unique twists on their respective styles. When you sample four beers from a brewery and really enjoyed three of them with the worst thing you have to say about the fourth is that it was tame/average, that it's a nice place for them to be, or so I think. Hell, it's just one man's opinion, and who says I'm right anyway? If you live within their distribution area (only Pennsylvania and New Jersey right now as far as I know), pick up some of their stuff and prove me wrong...or right.

Hopback, beer, Philadelphia, Brewing, Nancy Barton, Bill Barton, Yards, Tom Kehoe, Kensington, Kenzinger, Walt Wit, Newbold IPA, Joe, Coffee Porter, Pennsylvania

Monday, November 30, 2009

Two Vermont Craft Brewers Plan to Join Forces

Here is the official press release on the Long Trail/Otter Creek merger news reported last week. Click here for the original post, which was later updated with my thoughts on what could potentially happen to the brands:

(Bridgewater Corners, VT) Excitement reigns at two local Vermont breweries in Middlebury and Bridgewater Corners, as word comes of a signed Letter of Intent by Long Trail Brewing Co. to acquire the Otter Creek Brewery, home to Otter Creek and Wolaver's Certified Organic brands. Long Trail anticipates the completion of the diligence process in the coming weeks.

"We are excited about the potential of two great Vermont companies joining forces," according to Long Trail Brewing's CEO, Brian Walsh, "We hold the same, proud Vermont traditions as creators of award winning craft beer. Our roots are in Vermont, and we are looking forward to growing our business together."

Long Trail and Otter Creek are Vermont's oldest craft breweries, with a combined brewing history of nearly 40 years. The brands are poised to continue to grow and develop in Bridgewater Corners and Middlebury, Vermont. As Mike Gerhart, Otter Creek and Wolaver's Brewmaster puts it, "We're all extremely excited about the partnership with Long Trail. There's a lot of creativity and talent in this building. Now, we'll have the resources and tools to up the ante and make each other stronger, pushing the craft beer envelope. At the end of the day, it's about making great beer." Bill Hill, Chief Financial Officer at Otter Creek added, "This is a great opportunity for each of Otter Creek's constituencies; our consumers, our distributors, our suppliers, and our associates."

Long Trail received the 2009 Vermont Governor's Award for Environmental Excellence, recognizing the brewery's innovative approach to preserving and protecting the environment. "Wolaver's is a natural extension to our ECO Brewing™ program," said Walsh, "to have a brand with such strong commitment to sustainability, and being one of the first certified organic craft beers in North America."

Two great, local, craft breweries are now looking toward the future as they continue to develop all three brands, right here in Vermont.

Hopback, beer, Long Trail, Otter Creek, Wolaver's, Organic, Vermont

Saturday, November 28, 2009

TTB Find of the Week: Two New from Harpoon

It appears as if Boston's Harpoon Brewery is expanding the offerings in it's regular lineup as well as getting ready to introduce the latest beer in it's Leviathan Series.

First up we have Harpoon BPA, a Belgian-Style Pale Ale that according to the neck label is a "golden amber ale that boasts a mellow malt body and a spicy, fruity aroma." This looks like it is a larger scale bottling of the BPA that was brewed in 2006 and offered at both the Belgium Comes to Cooperstown festival and the BeerAdvocate Belgian Beer Festival that year, and has sporadically popped up here and there since then. It seems to be a take on their IPA, just brewed with a Belgian yeast strain. No word yet as to if this will be a seasonal or one-off offering or if it is a new year round addition to the Harpoon family, but I will update if and when the brewery provides more details.

Next is an Imperial Red for the Harpoon Leviathan Series, of which each "big beer" is brewed in 120 barrel batches. This one comes in at 9.2% ABV and is "a deep amber ale [that] has an intense hop flavor that balanced by a complex malt character." The label continues on to note that the "yeast's fruity esters blend perfectly with the citrus hop aroma."

Belgian Pales and IPA's seem to be more and more popular these days so Harpoon's take on it will be interesting to see, and at the very least if it is simply the Harpoon IPA with a different yeast strain, it'll be nice to compare the two side by side, a la Victory HopDevil and Wild Devil.

As for the Imperial Red, both the 100 Barrel Series and the Leviathan Series are always interesting and more often than not are also well done, so this is another offering to look forward too...

Beer, Hopback, Harpoon, Boston, BPA, Belgian, Pale Ale, Leviathan, Imperial Red

Friday, November 27, 2009

Zero Hour, Nine A.M.

Going back five or six years, Bear Republic was amongst the Holy Trinity of breweries (at least to me) to seek out as a New Jersey resident. Stone Brewing Company and Bell's Brewery completed the trifecta, with none of them being available in the state at the time. Save for the likes of Sierra Nevada, Anchor, Anderson Valley and North Coast, California breweries weren't really making a big push here and Bell's was sticking to it's Michigan roots by remaining primarily a Midwest brand. I can recall a trip or two up to Half Time Beverage in Poughkeepsie, NY and coming home with a haul of stuff from these breweries (well, not Bell's as they weren't and still are not in New York either) and feeling like a kid just back from the candy store. Fortunately, Bear Republic and Stone have been available now for some time in New Jersey, so I can now drive five minutes down the street as opposed to two plus hours north to satisfy my craving (Bell's on the other hand, is still leaving the state in the dark...come on, Larry, you're in Pennsylvania...just keep going across the river!). Unfortunately, because they are in New Jersey now I skip over them more than I should, as I can get them anytime. Tonight I decided to revisit one of the beers that has eluded me (my own fault) for a while now: Red Rocket Ale.

I remember this one being much hoppier overall, with a distinct pine flavor to it, but it is much more subdued and balanced now...or perhaps I just remember incorrectly. Regardless, it's still nothing to scoff at. Caramel malt takes hold of you in both the nose and flavor and guides you throughout. Along the way, you pick up some toasted malt and the aforementioned pine hops, as well as a decent bit of darker fruit, although I'd say the fruit comes into play in the aroma more than it does in the flavor. While the ABV is fairly tame (6.8%), there's a definite alcohol presence here, but this time it comes through more in the aroma than the flavor, where it primarily keeps to the end of each sip. Mouthfeel is medium bodied and has what can best be described a a 'stickiness' to it. Interesting, in a good way.

This isn't exactly the beer I remember, as noted above, but it's close enough and works just fine as is now. Maybe I did pull a Roger Clemens and misremember this one (kinda fitting given the beer name here), or maybe my taste buds have changed over the years...who knows and really, who cares as long as it's still good in the end? Starting with the great looking pour that's a deep amber color with a huge foamy off-white head, and ending with the last sip, I've got no complaints at all with the Red Rocket Ale. It's a nice hybrid of the Red and Scottish styles and will be finding it's way back into my refrigerator soon.

Beer, Hopback, Bear Republic, California, Red Rocket, Ale, Stone, Bell's

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Long Trail to Purchase Otter Creek

Word on the street is that Long Trail Brewing Company of Bridgewater, Vermont will be purchasing Otter Creek Brewing Company, which is located in Middlebury, Vermont. Otter Creek also brews the organic Wolaver's line of beers. No word yet on how things are going to shake out in terms of all brands staying in the market, movement of production or closure of any facilities. Otter Creek would not confirm or deny the sale, saying only that they "have no meaningful information regarding this," and a Long Trail rep basically gave the same answer when I placed a call there to find out more. Read a bit more about craft brewery consolidation here at Andy Crouch's site as he is also reporting the news. Thanks to Keith Giberson for the news tip and stay tuned for an eventual press release...

2009-11-25 UPDATE: For what it’s worth, here’s my gut reaction to the sale: I don’t have a problem with the decision for either party, provided Long Trail keeps the Otter Creek and Wolaver’s brands in the marketplace. I sincerely hope this isn’t Harpoon/Catamount redux where Harpoon talked a big game about respecting the Catamount brand and products and how they were going to continue on with them in the marketplace, yet when push came to shove, Catamount was left to die after a brief mini-revival.

Keeping Wolaver’s alive is a no-brainer to me. While still holding a small piece of the pie, organic food and beverage is a growing segment for sure and Wolaver’s has been the leader in organic beer for about a dozen years now, especially in New England and much of the rest of the East Coast. Shutting the brand down would be a crushing blow to the organic beer market as a whole.

As for Long Trail and Otter Creek, clearly there’s going to have to be a bit of consolidation of portfolios, yet if you look at what each offers, there really isn’t a huge amount of crossover in terms of competition within the same style. From that perspective, I think this merger is a near perfect fit. The big one to look at right away would be the two flagships beers, Long Trail Ale and Copper Ale from Otter Creek, as both are Altbiers. In the end, the company that is making the acquisition usually does and likely should win out when it comes to cutting something from either the acquired company or their own, so if one is eliminated I’d expect it to be the Copper Ale.

Other than that, there really aren't many spots where they're brewing the same thing: Long Trail has an IPA, fruit/wheat beer and a beefed up Altbier rounding out their year round beers while Otter Creek offers up a Pale Ale, Porter and Euro-style Lager. It’s a witbier, Scottish Ale and Amber Ale for Long Trail seasonals versus Kolsch, Pale Wheat, Amber Ale and Brown Ale seasonals from Otter Creek. Sure. autumn is a bit of a hiccup with Long Trail Harvest Ale and Otter Creek’s Oktoberfest and the Belgian White and Otter Summer are fairly similar, but overall brewery vs. brewery you’d be hard pressed to put two together and have as few internal competition issues as you see on the surface here.

The “Big Beer” Series is a bit stickier, and although they’ve also been surprisingly different thus far, I’d expect one of them to be dropped at some point.

As details emerge we’ll all have a better understanding of where this is heading, but for now this seems to be a good match with any capacity increase Long Trail is looking for from this acquisition hopefully coming at the minimal expense of the Otter Creek line of beers.

2009-11-28 UPDATE: Per a post from Otter Creek Brewmaster Mike Gerhart that just went up on BeerAdvocate, it looks like the official announcement and details are coming this Monday morning, as he notes that "Long Trail and Otter Creek will be sharing some extremely great news." Gee, I wonder what it could be...

Hopback, beer, Long Trail, Otter Creek, Wolaver's, Organic, Vermont, sold

Monday, November 23, 2009

Jumpin' Jack Flash

Long live American Craft Beer! While the craft beer boom has been amazing here in the United States over the past decade, it really started in earnest only a few years earlier around the mid 1990's, yet there are a handful of craft breweries that have been champions of the industry for much longer than that. One of these pioneers is the Boulder Beer Company located in Boulder, Colorado, which is celebrating it's 30th anniversary this year.

The brewery was founded in 1979 when "two Colorado University professors applied for and received the 43rd brewing license issued in the United States." Over the years they have grown considerably, now distributing in 30 states and holding a spot amongst the Top Fifty Craft Brewers in America, according to the Brewers Association. Their biggest reason for growth in recent years has arguably been the popularity and expansion of their Looking Glass Series of beers, which includes favorites such as Hazed and Infused and Mojo IPA. For their 30th anniversary, Boulder revisited the series once again by introducing Flashback Anniversary Ale, an India Brown Ale. What is an India Brown Ale, you ask? Well, in a nutshell, it's a hoppier version of the Brown Ale style, which traditionally leans toward the malty and sweet side of things overall.

So, what is presented here is a deep amber beer that does indeed come across with a big roasted malt profile in the aroma, and also gives off a very healthy dose of bread notes, along with a good bit of pine from the hops. This continues on into the flavor with a lot more of the roasted malt coming through, to the point where a bit of smokiness is almost brought out at times. Hops are mostly picked up toward the finish of each sip where the aforementioned pine blends with a nice burst of citrus and provides a good bit of slickness to the mouthfeel.

This one is definitely what it set out to be: a hoppy brown ale, and I liked it yet can't completely wrap my head around it. The hops seemed out of place, yet very much enjoyable at the same time. Maybe it was just a matter of experiencing the style in a new way. Every time I caught myself feeling that I wasn't crazy about it, I was drawn back in for another sip. It certainly makes you think, and I like that. It's one of the more interesting and unique beers that I've experienced in some time. Personally, I usually prefer a heartier/maltier/rugged/chocolaty brown ale, but that's not what Boulder was going for here and I think they did a nice job with a slight twist on the style. It's a worthwhile addition to the Boulder family for sure.

Congrats on 30 years and here's to (at least) 30 more!

Hopback, beer, Boulder, Colorado, 30th Anniversary, Flashback, Hazed and Infused, Mojo IPA, Looking Glass

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Tonight I'm Gonna Take That Ride, Across the River to the Jersey Side

New Jersey needs to show more respect to it's own craft breweries. Finding Brooklyn Brewery beers in New York or Harpoon in Massachusetts? No problem. Tröegs has been on tap or served in bottles in every bar or restaurant I've ever been to in Harrisburg, PA. Pyramid Brewing is a staple in Seattle and beyond in Washington and I've even had beers from SweetWater Brewing Company available both on tap and in bottle at a hotel stay in Savannah, GA earlier in the year. But New Jersey? Many stores don't even bother with our six production breweries, and the ones that do often stock one or two regulars from a brewery or two (usually Flying Fish or River Horse) and that's it. Finding them on tap at a bar or restaurant? Damn near impossible, at least around here in Central Jersey. I will very rarely see a Flying Fish tap handle and have seen Climax on tap once or twice, but that's it. Yet stuff like Long Trail Ale, Magic Hat #9, Anchor Steam and Leinenkugel's Sunset Wheat can consistently be found on tap all across the state. Nothing against those breweries or their beers, but I say support your local guy first and then take care of the others!

That said, let's discuss a couple of New Jersey beers. First up is Fall Festivus from Cricket Hill. It pours nice enough, with a lighter amber color and a beige head that has good retention to it and leaves a very nice amount of residue on the inside of the glass once it subsides. I'd say the beer perhaps looks a tad thin overall but it's nothing to fret over.

There's a good balance of earthy malt and a blend of floral and pine hops in the nose. Bread/biscuit notes mix with caramel sweetness. It's simple but well done, and this continues on with the flavor, although the bread characteristics jump out at you here more so than expected, the aforementioned hops and caramel once again do their job to complement the rest of the flavors. Mouthfeel is light with a slight lean toward a bit of a medium body here and there and I also picked up a bit of slickness at times as well.

This was an enjoyable one for sure and it's a no frills beer in every way. It actually reminded me a bit of Cricket Hill's own American Ale, which is another simple but flavorful beer from their portfolio. I think brewmaster Rick Reed would be the first to tell you that he's not trying to blow your palate away with a hop or malt bomb, but is rather gunning for a quaffable, sessionable ale, and in my opinion he pretty much nailed it. While I enjoy the Pumpkin Ales and straightforward Oktoberfest beers that are common to the season, this is a nice change of pace from those styles.

Up next we've got Hefe-Ryzen from River Horse, which is in the midst of a revival as they have been revamping everything from recipes to introducing new beers into their lineup and right on down to their logo and labels. The Hefe-Ryzen is one of their newest offerings from the Brewer's Reserve series.

I was initially not impressed, as it poured looking like a glass of iced tea more than it did a beer, with a murky copper color to it and no head to speak of. It really looked like a lifeless pint of beer.

Thankfully the aroma flavor stepped it up a notch, yielding big bursts of wheat, candy/bubble gum and also banana. Yeast mixes in nicely throughout. It's pretty typical stuff for a hefeweizen but still nice nonetheless. As for any detectable rye, I maybe picked up a bit toward the back of the aroma, but it was incredibly subtle.

Banana takes control right off the bat when it comes to flavor, and bread/yeast follow closely behind. Rye is a bit more present here, yet still toward the back where it blends with a hint of cloves.

Disappointing appearance aside, I liked this one as well, but wouldn't say that I was wowed by it. I think it could certainly make a play to be a beer that appeals to someone who is just moving into craft beer for the first time, yet still work for the beer geek as well. I'd say that it is middle of the road compared to other stuff that's been coming out of Lambertville recently, such as the Oatmeal Milk Stout or Hop-a-lot-amus, but is still enjoyable in the end.

Support Local Craft Beer!

Beer, Hopback, New Jersey, Cricket Hill, River Horse, Fall Festivus, Hefe-Ryzen, Rick Reed, Climax

Thursday, November 12, 2009

TTB Find of the Week: Otter Creek Rebrands Itself and a New Seasonal From Magic Hat

While they have certainly made minor tweaks over the years, Otter Creek Brewing Company's brand identity has remained basically the same for nearly 20 years now. That's all about to change according to the Alcohol Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB), as labels were recently approved to drastically overhaul their image, and I have to say that I'm torn. While I like the new look for it's cleanliness and sophistication, I don't love it. That said, I do always lean toward the nostalgic side of things and hate to see the old look go, especially since I think said look very much ties into and plays off of their New England heritage, something that gets lost in the more generic branding of their new labels.

Also of note is the introduction of a new beer to the lineup: Solstice Ale. The label itself calls the beer an "interpretation of the perfect session ale," and at 4% ABV it certainly fits the bill.

And finally in what could be classified as the least shocking news ever as it seems to be never-ending news, Magic Hat is tweaking their lineup yet again! This time they are introducing Vinyl Lager as their new Spring seasonal beer. It comes in at 5.1% ABV and via their Twitter account, Magic Hat gave it the basic description of "a malt-based lager that will be [our] spring offering in 2010." It looks like this beer has been around in some form since at least early 2009, as there are a handful of reviews that have popped up on the internet already. The label for this one (seen below) was designed by Jim Pollock, perhaps most famous for his Phish concert poster designs, which makes him a fitting tie-in for Magic Hat.

Beer, Hopback; Otter Creek, New Hampshire; Solstice, Magic Hat; Vermont, Vinyl; Jim Pollock, Phish

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tripel Dubbel Q&A: Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project

And so it returns. After a four or five month hiatus for no reason other than lack of sending out questions on my part, the Tripel Dubbel Q&A has descended upon us once again. Bob Sylvester from Saint Somewhere Brewing tackled the first session here, and this time we've turned to a Massachusetts/New England fixture (except for when he decides to brew overseas): Dann Paquette of the Pretty Things Beer and Ale Project.

Dann has been brewing professionally since the early 1990's and his career has included stops at Ipswich Brewing Company, The Pilgrim Brewery, Mill City Brewing Company, John Harvard's Brew House, North East Brewing Company, The Concorde Brewery, The Haverhill Brewery (all located in Massachusetts) and The Daleside Brewery (in North Yorkshire, England).

His latest labor of (beer) love is Pretty Things, a "Beer and Ale Project" that was founded with his wife Martha and which brews a small but growing lineup of artisanal beer that includes, amongst others, flagship Jack D'Or (an American-Belgian saison hybrid), Baby Tree (a quadrupel brewed with dried plums) and Saint Botolph's Town (a "big malty brown ale"). All of Dann's beers are not contract brewed at Buzzards Bay Brewing in Westport, MA, which he will explain to you, well, now:

What made you choose Buzzards Bay as your production facility for Pretty Things, and please explain to those who might not understand the business side of the brewing process how you are NOT in fact a contract brewed brand.

Well, I've been friends with Bill Russell from Buzzard's Bay before there was even a brewery. For a while back in the mid 1990's when I was a brewer at North East Brewing Company in Allston, MA we were the only brewery in New England doing wood-aged beer. Since I've always been a weirdo, sour beer in wood was on my radar. I called Bill at his winery and he let me take a lovely French wine barrel off his hands. We made several of the first sour beers made in the US, using lactobacili for acidification in that barrel. By the way if you want to see it, last I knew it was sitting in a corner in the dining room of The Tap in Haverhill.
Anyway, there's a really amazing brewery down in Westy, on a 500 acre farm. Why wouldn't I like to be brewing there?

Why is Pretty Things NOT a contract? Well a contract brewing situation is where you pay someone to make beer for you. I make beer for us in someone else's brewery. That's why!

You've done the brewpub thing, been a brewer at production facilities both domestically and overseas, and even developed Rapscallion, a unique artisanal line within the structure of an existing brewery: which has proven to be the most valuable challenge for you and why?

Yorkshire was a decent challenge. It took me ages to understand my coworkers' accents and it felt (brewery-wise at least) that I had gone back in time. But I have to admit that I'm not eager to brew at brewpubs. I've worked at three over the years. With brewpubs you can be only as good as the neighborhood that drinks your beer wants you to be, and if the nachos come out cold then my beer sucks. It's all about all of that restaurant stuff. I prefer to be in the brewing industry where you connect with people who love beer - not good table service.

Anyway, I've done a lot since 1992. The biggest challenge was ages ago when most people didn't want good beer. We were marketing to anyone who would even pretend to want us. I remember many tastings, charity events and festivals back in the day (like many dozens) where I wasted a lot of time setting up, pouring and driving home late at night for people who would never even think of drinking good beer again (at least anytime soon). We're all spoiled now with the great consumers here in our market. We all need to thank Jason and Todd Alström for bringing it all together. The only problem is that these days, consumers that have been drinking beer for three months are spoiled for good beer, it's a different place than where my generation is from. For instance, growing up in good beer in my late teens I knew almost no one else who was into it or knowledgeable - so it was largely a personal thing. Now it's ALL about other people's opinions. I think that's sad.

Pretty Things has grown steadily but fairly quickly. Besides your home turf of Massachusetts, you're now available in Philadelphia and parts of eastern Pennsylvania, New York City and Minnesota. What's next in terms of distribution expansion? Is there even capacity to do so within your current facility agreement?

There's plenty of capacity and Rhode Island is an obvious place to go to. We're also in an agreement with a new distributor in Vancouver BC. But our biggest growth market is Massachusetts and that's our focus.

Which Pretty Things beer is your favorite and why?

Jack D'Or is my favorite. It was the first and just like children you always love the first one the best.

If you could brew a collaborative beer with any other US brewer/brewery, who would it be an why?

Am I the only one who doesn't get the whole collaboration thing? You fly a thousand miles to make a throw-away beer for what: ego and one shelf space? But if someone were to ask me I'd like it to be in a brewery I was interested in brewing on their equipment. How is Yuengling for an answer?

What is your proudest moment as a professional brewer?

With Pretty Things I've had some great moments. It's been like a rebirth for me. Around the time John Lennon was killed I remember hearing and reading all of the interviews about how happy he was at 40. I remember as a young kid wondering how anything could be better than standing there in a green Sgt Pepper's costume knowing you had just recorded "A Day in the Life" with the Beatles? But there comes a time when it is your time and it's all positive. Listen, I do things my way and I'm happy to have the opportunity with Martha to put this all together. We brew beer to our tastes, based on real experiences in Europe and the US as beer-lovers. There's no style, no nonsense like that. Just flavours and ingredients we know. Style is essentially a bunch of numbers that don't translate into flavour and imposed on culturally-authentic beers in the past tense. They were never meant to be "recipes", just historical records. Beer is an ephemeral thing - it's got a very short relevance. In other words: styles are meaningless in the present tense to American brewers. Doing my own thing with Martha and having people out there to enjoy it? That's the best thing ever.

Thanks to Dann for a quick reply with answers that were both thoughtful and insightful, and keep on the lookout for the next round of Tripel Dubbel, which I assure you is not months away this time...

Beer, Hopback, Pretty Things, Massachusetts, Dann Paquette, Jack D'Or, Baby Tree, Saint Botolph's Town, Yuengling, New England, Buzzards Bay, Rapscallion

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The Low End Theory

Oatmeal Stout is probably my favorite beer style. There's just something about it's overall smoothness mixed with it's typical sweetness that gets me every time, especially when said sweetness is countered with a nice dose of roasted malt flavor. So, when I saw a single bomber of Conspiracy Theory from Manchester Brewing Company sitting all by it's lonesome on the store shelf, I had to take it home.

This one is such a deep, dark brown color that you could almost call it black as night. A slightly creamy tan head tops the beer off, but subsides fairly quickly leaving bits of residue clinging to the sides of the glass. Not bad.

The aroma and flavor go pretty much hand in hand here: there's a good amount of sweet milk chocolate in the aroma, however it takes on more bitter characteristics in the flavor as it blends with coffee notes that are present but more subtle in the aroma. Darker fruit notes help to keep the sweetness alive throughout. I think I picked up some hints of licorice here and there, and there is also a fairly strong alcohol presence. You can sense it in the aroma and it definitely helps to accent any burnt or roasted malt flavoring. It actually makes the beer seem a bit "hot" at times, especially in the mouth feel, which is a bit thin at times for the style. I tend to associate a stronger alcohol presence with Imperial Stouts, and would much prefer a creamier, smoother body with an Oatmeal Stout.

This is a decent take on the style overall and is actually quite an easy beer to drink. It also gets bonus points because I finished off the bottle just as the World Champion New York Yankees were clinching their 27th World Series title. But seriously, it was an enjoyable stout in the end but I would definitely rein in the alcohol. Toning that down a bit and giving this one a bit more of a full body would take Conspiracy Theory from good to very good, but that's just my opinion. Still, I'm intrigued to try more from these guys, who I hadn't even heard of until this weekend as they are fairly new to the craft beer scene, brewing out of New Hampshire for only about a year or so now from what I can gather. Check out their stuff if you can.

Beer, Hopback, Manchester Brewing, New Hampshire, Conspiracy Theory, Oatmeal Stout

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

TTB Find of the Week: Sam Adams Strikes Yet Again

My apologies if my sporadic posts have been heavy on the Samuel Adams chatter of late, but they've clearly had a lot going on in 2009. The latest find from them via the always great TTB site is the forthcoming release of a new seasonal beer called Noble Pils.

According to the label it is one of the only beers to be brewed using "all five noble hops from the world's oldest growing regions." It appears as if it will be available in both 12 ounce and 22 ounce bottles.

To give credit when it's due, user MarioL66 from BeerAdvocate provided some further details on this one, noting that it will be replacing the White Ale (which previously replaced the Spring Ale) as the SA Spring seasonal in 2010. It was supposedly originally developed and brewed for the wedding of Jim Koch's daughter. Said user apparently got the details from a Boston Beer Company marketing e-mail that was testing names for the beer.

It'll be nice to have a pilsner back in the SA lineup. The Golden Pilsner that got the axe in the late '90's was always solid, and while I didn't hate the White Ale, it didn't separate itself enough from the Summer Ale in my opinion and especially now with the recent introduction of Coastal Wheat, which to me is a White/Summer hybrid as previously mentioned, the White just didn't fit in anymore. I wouldn't have minded a return to the underated Spring Ale kolsch, but the Noble Pils seems like it may be a welcome addition.

Hopback, beer, Samuel Adams, Noble Pils, White Ale, BeerAdvocate, Jim Koch, Boston, TTB

Smashing Pumpkins

For reasons I still can't figure out, I always seem to overlook the Heavy Seas lineup from Maryland's Clipper City Brewery at stores. It's not that they make bad beer. Aside from one or two hiccups their lineup is actually quite solid, and has some real gems like their Loose Cannon IPA, Peg Leg Imperial Stout and Winter Storm "Category 5" ESB. Anyway, a recent trip to the store had me staring at a few of their most recent offerings from their Mutiny Series of big beers. Always on the lookout for a new Pumpkin Ale, I picked up a bottle of The Great Pumpkin and gave it a go.

It's got the typical Pumpkin Ale look to it: an orange-copper color with an average sized off-white head that settles into a thin lace fairly quickly. It looks very clean and crisp overall.

Although many say that the use of actual pumpkins in beer provides little to no aroma or flavor, I actually found there to be a definite pumpkin vibe here that was balanced nicely by a subtle spice blend that consisted of cinnamon, a bit of nutmeg and a healthy dose of caramel. There may have even been a hint of ginger in the mix.

Sip after sip the flavor takes on all of the characteristics of the aroma but pumps up the spice a bit, yet not to the point of being overbearing. Cinnamon and nutmeg take the lead most of the way and then caramel finds its way into the mix toward the finish of each sip. I'm still picking up a bit of ginger as well. Call me crazy, but it's there.

Where Clipper City hits the mark with this one is that they beef everything up to make it "Imperial," but they don't go over the top with the spices, which is the dagger that most breweries fall on when they miss the mark with a spiced ale. The Great Pumpkin thankfully makes the grade across the board and also hides it's somewhat high 8.5% ABV quite well over the course of the bottle. A very good job. This one is as direct as can be for the style yet packs a nice flavor punch that's balanced and memorable. I would definitely pick it up again...

Hopback, Beer, Clipper City, Maryland, Mutiny Series, The Great Pumpkin, Imperial, Pumpkin Ale, Heavy Seas, Baltimore

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Hazy Shade of Winter

Word is in that the 2009 Samuel Adams Winter Classics Mix Pack (always a favorite for SA fans) has hit the streets, and the Boston Beer Company has apparently shit the bed big time with this years edition.

In a nutshell, the pack offers the only chance each year to obtain their most excellent Old Fezziwig Ale, equally impressive Holiday Porter and also the liquid death known as Cranberry Lambic. Two others, their flagship Boston Lager and seasonal Winter Lager, are also always included, and justifiably so: The Boston Lager is Samuel Adams and is a great year round beer, and having the Winter Lager in a Winter themed twelve pack is just a no-brainer. The sixth and final beer (two bottles of each are to be had in each pack, for those not in the know) has been up for grabs over the years. Previously they had tried to fit the Sam Adams Light into the pack and, well, it just didn't work with the rest of the collection. The past few years the BBC has gotten it right and included their Cream Stout in the mix. This year? They made what is arguably their biggest mistake yet, by putting their brand spanking new Coastal Wheat in as the last beer. Yes, you heard me, Coastal Wheat. The slightly above average wheat ale that tastes strikingly similar to their Summer Ale (actually, to me it's sort of a Summer Ale-White Ale hybrid) and is more beaches and palm trees than it is snowballs and Christmas trees.

This really is shameless force-feeding of the beer into the marketplace by the BBC. Yes, I get that they want to push their newest product, but in a Winter Pack? Not a chance. For as horrid as the Lambic is, at least it fits in with the Winter/holiday theme of the pack, and at least in that sense I can't argue with it's inclusion. Make no mistake, the Coastal Wheat isn't a bad beer. It's not that great either, but it is marginally enjoyable in the end. It simply has no place in this collection of beers.

Of their current offerings, there are some obvious choices to fill this beer slot: Black Lager, Scotch Ale, or the aforementioned Cream Stout. I'd say the Honey Porter too but there's already a porter in the mix. Hell, the Irish Red or Brown Ale would even work (although I see them as Spring and Autumn beers, respectively). I'd even accept a price increase on the pack if they threw in a couple Imperial Stouts as the final beer. Now that would be an awesome collection.

I found it to be odd that they released the Coastal in late September and this move is even more bizarre, at least from an overall collection standpoint. Unfortunately the sad part is that in the end this tactic will work for them. People aren't going to shy away from the Winter Classics. The love for for the Fezziwig and Porter is off the charts and you can't get them anywhere else. They're just going to hope that people enjoy the Coastal. I for one was unimpressed overall when I sampled it, but we shall see.

Oh and one final thought for the BBC folks to ponder: you know those bombers of Boston Lager and Octoberfest that have been showing up on the shelves in recent months? Both Old Fezziwig and the Holiday Porter would look great in those. A case of each would easily make it into my stash every holiday season. I know it'll almost certainly never happen, but one can dream...

Hopback, beer, Samuel Adams, Winter Classics, Old Fezziwig, Holiday Porter, Coastal Wheat, Cranberry Lambic

Saturday, October 17, 2009

TTB Find of the Week: BIG Beer from Blue Moon?

This one was actually approved by the TTB back in the summer, so I'm surprised I hadn't heard about it until now, but MillerCoors' faux-craft Blue Moon brand appears ready to test the waters of the big beer market with Grand Cru, an 8.2% ABV behemoth (for them) brewed with coriander and orange peel, and available in 750ml bottles. Wow. Just, One things for certain, I can't say that I'm not intrigued.

If you notice, it still has the "Belgian White, Belgian-Style Wheat Ale" tag to it that the standard Blue Moon beer carries, so it would seem that this is just an amped up version of their flagship for the brand, but we shall see...

The label clearly notes a 2009 "vintage," so look for it to hit the shelves sometime in the next couple of months.

Hopback, beer, Blue Moon, MillerCoors, Grand Cru, Belgian White

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Foam Keeps Getting Thicker

Just a quick post to note that Phish announced today via it's website for Festival 8 that Sierra Nevada has brewed a special beer exclusively available at the festival in Indio, California two weeks from now. Word is that it is a pilsner, has been given the name FOAM and will be draft only, no bottles.

They also note that over 50 beers will be available, including "microbrews, ‘beers of the world’, Pabst Blue Ribbon." While I'm guessing beers of the world will be the likes of Bass, Stella Artois, Guinness, etc., this is still great news all around for festival-goers!

2009-10-16 UPDATE: I spoke directly with Sierra Nevada earlier this evening and the girl who answered the phone had no idea what I was talking about regarding this beer. I was put on hold for a minute or two and when she returned, the story was that the beer was simply their "regular pilsner." While SN has brewed a few pilsners over the years, their only real "regular" one is the Summerfest, So I wouldn't be surprised if FOAM is simply that beer renamed, which, while still nice to have on tap, is still a bit of a letdown after the initial news.

2009-10-29 UPDATE #2: Apaprently the girl on the phone @ Sierra Nevada had no idea what she was talking about. From the SN press release:

Sierra Nevada Brewing is pleased to present FOAM, a special beer created especially for the Phish Festival 8 in Indio, California.

FOAM is a German-style pilsner beer that we are brewing specifically for the Phish Festival. Phish have been longtime fans of Sierra Nevada and after talks with the band, event organizers, and management, we agreed to brew this beer for the festival.

A lot of us here at the brewery are Phish-heads, including several of our master brewers, and it only seemed natural to team up with a great band and a great California festival. This is a fun way to offer fans a liquid souvenir and to show our support for the music scene.

For the beer itself, we were looking for a lighter style with a lot of character. Here at the brewery we occasionally brew different Pilsner-style beers throughout the year, and decided a special Pilsner would be just the thing for this festival. We brewed 150 kegs of beer, all of which will be sent to the show. This is a draft-only product and we do not expect the beer to be available outside of the event.

Come out to the Phish: Festival 8 and hear great music and enjoy great beer.

Foam is a German-style Pilsner, light bodied and easy drinking, yet loaded with flavor. Brewed with a mix of European and American malts, balanced by a spicy, and herbal hop kick. Brewed specifically for Phish: Festival 8, Foam is a crisp and refreshing traditional pale gold lager beer. In the words of Phish—“I’m looking through, And it all would be, So crystal clear, If it wasn’t for the foam.” Great music, great beer, and good times.

beer, Hopback, Phish, pilsner, Foam, Sierra Nevada, Indio, California