Posts Tagged ‘Opportunity’

Here I am starting to write this minutes away from the Brewers Showcase in Sacramento, California – the grand finale of the awesomeness that is the California Craft Beer Summit. By the time I finish this, I will likely be plenty inebriated and cooked well-done thanks to this lovely Sacramento heat. The overall experience was amazing to say the least.

The first year of California’s Beer Summit included a host of talks and classes by some of the most recognized names in the brewing industry. The guest list consisted of the past, present, and future of the California and U.S. craft beer scenes. Greg Koch, Vinnie and Natalie Cilurzo, Tony Magee, Matt Brynildson, Dr. Charlie Bamforth, Ken Grossman, David Walker, and several others addressed craft beer industry professionals and fans alike. Many of the key points were highlighted on the California Craft Brewers twitter feed, but I will highlight a few of my own takeaways.
The main entrance to the Expo Hall

The main entrance to the Expo Hall.

Well… that lasted a whole two paragraphs… The whirlwind of a weekend didn’t stop at the end of the Summit, but instead continued through the Brewers Showcase with an outstanding showing by some of California’s finest. The hundreds of beers available and numerous cornhole games kept me preoccupied and away from the digital devices (with the exception of UnTappd checkins in the rare case you didn’t see them). But don’t worry, I’m now well rested and fully recovered!
The turnout for the Brewers' showcase.

The turnout for the Brewers’ showcase.

There was a lot going on at any given time during the summit. There were “Educational Sessions,” which took the form of a typical lecture with a powerpoint and Q&A at the end. There were also “Tap Talks” and Food & Beer demos that took place on small stages at different corners of the main expo hall – these talks gave the speaker a stool and mic with a smaller audience. I believe there was just enough information given to create a craft beer encyclopedia, so I will not do it injustice by providing summaries with potential for misinformation. Instead I will highlight each of the talk that I went to with one main idea or sentence. But enough with the talk! Beer time…
One of the entrances to the Educational Session rooms.

One of the entrances to the Educational Session rooms.

September 11th, 2015 

Moment of Silence – This was not a part of the Summit, and by the time you’re reading this it will no longer be September 11th. But in case you missed it, please share with me a moment of silence for those lives taken over 14 years ago. 

State of the Industry: Current Trends & Statistics Where the Industry is Heading – Bart Watson, Chief Economist for the Brewers Association.
  • Main takeaway:  While there are currently over 500 breweries in existence and in planning, there is still room for growth for another 200+ breweries! (I knew these crowded cities were good for something! California beer is awesome!)
  • Also, the next “IPA” will likely be…. an IPA.

Craft Beer “The New Top Shelf” How craft beer can increase your overall bottom line – David Macon, VP Sales & Marketing, Firestone Walker Brewing Co.
  • Main takeaway (although tailored for beer retailers): Be objective in beer selection; use proper glassware; utilize Brewers Association standards for draft & refrigeration systems; try beers often; and have fun!

Value of a Cicerone – Virginia Thomas, Cicerone Certificate Program
  • Main takeaway: Knowing how to taste, describe, and experience beers will allow you to help others do the same! Cicerone Certification helps this process.

From left to right: Dave Gull (New Helvetia Brewing Co.); Ryan Graham (Track 7 Brewing Co.); Glynn Philips (Rubicon Brewing Co.)

From left to right: Dave Gull (New Helvetia Brewing Co.); Ryan Graham (Track 7 Brewing Co.); Glynn Philips (Rubicon Brewing Co.)

Sacramento Brewers Panel – Glynn Philips (Rubicon Brewing Co.); Ryan Graham (Track 7 Brewing Co.); Dave Gull (New Helvetia Brewing Co.)
  • Main takeaway: Sacramento beer is awesome, and the beer scene is rapidly becoming one of the premier California beer scenes! “Drink local, go with the home team!” – Dave Gull
  • Also… Glory, glory Sacramento!
September 12th, 2015

Beer Styles: the Advanced Course – Mike “Big Mike” Moore, Beer Judge, Beer Educator & Food Specialist
  • Main takeaway: History and origin is very important to beer style and beer overall! Remember the history of what’s in your glass!

Homebrewing – Gary Glass, American Homebrewers Association
  • Main takeaway: Homebrewing is easy, fun, and better with friends…. Join the AHA!

The hop wall and  the history on hops.

The hop wall and the history on hops.

Reverence for Beer – Dr. Charlie Bamforth, UC Davis
  • Main takeaway:Use the proper glass, and treat the beer with the respect and reverence it deserves!
  • On “yellow, fizzy” beer: “Its up to you – what you like, and have reverence for it.” – Dr. Charlie Bamforth

Beers You Can Age & How to Store Them at Home – Matt Brynildson (Firestone Walker Brewing)
  • Main takeaway: 97% of the beers produced are not made to age – if the brewers wanted it aged, they would age it themselves. The 3% produced that can be aged should be stored properly and in a controlled environment.

Keynote – Greg Koch (Stone Brewing Co.)
  • Main takeaway: The craft beer industry is booming in the U.S., and there is potential for growth on the international level.
  • Stone Brewing will remain strong and independent in its own brand! “My answer is no or hell no” – Greg Koch
During the Keynote with Greg Koch. "My answer is no or hell no" - Greg Koch on Stone Brewing being sold.

During the Keynote with Greg Koch. “My answer is no or hell no” – Greg Koch on Stone Brewing being sold.

 

If you couldn’t tell, the first ever California Craft Beer Summit was worth every penny, and I enjoyed every second of it. The education alone was worth the cost.. not to mention the special releases and tastings available all weekend!

The one that got away...

The one that got away…

 

As I’ve said before, California’s Craft Beer Summit included some of the most iconic figures in today’s American craft brewing scene. While being within arms reach of many of these guys and girls, it’s easy to see that they are all still just regular people whose passion and drive led them to great success in the craft beer world. I mean, after the Summit Greg Koch threw on his backpack and sunglasses and walked a few blocks over to the brewers’ showcase! If I saw him in passing in Downtown Sacramento, I would have never looked twice. The same was the case with the Cilurzos, with Mitch Steele, and the rest of craft beer community. Unfortunately, I turned into a 13 year-old boy around Taylor Swift anytime one of these people sat or stood around me, which is why I have no pictures with them. Nevertheless, being in the same room with some of the same interests as these folks was truly an amazing experience. Time to start the countdown to next years’ summit!

Let me start off by saying this is The Internets – everyone has an opinion. And I am no different. The beautiful thing about these United States is that everyone is entitled to their opinion. That’s the freedom that we all enjoy as Americans. With different experiences and perspectives comes different opinions on various topics.

Sometimes groups as a whole can have an opinion about certain topics that many people can relate to. For example, one popular opinion may be that beer is a great water substitute. While many reading this may agree (even if only half-heartedly), there are still those who would like to say otherwise.

That’s likely where my next series of posts will land – in the “unpopular opinion” category, thus the birth of the “UnPop Op” series. My next few posts may contain some elements of devils advocate thinking, but most of the time the posts will be of my own thoughts and beliefs based on the information I’ve found. Some ideas may not be on the extreme side of unpopular, and some others you might even agree with. Still, with the articles, interviews, and conversations that I’ve found, the next few posts will be contrary to popular opinion.

Photo courtesy: dreamcast-talk.com

My first example(s) are my opinions on those money hungry craft brewers and brewery owners/founders selling out to Big Beer. It seems like we see a new “acquisition” of a craft brewery every day – Goose Island Beer Co, 10 Barrel Brewing, Elysian Brewing, Meantime, and the list can go on and on. What happened to bringing down “The Man?” Craft breweries should be sticking it to him (or her), and they should be wildly successful in stealing market share from the Big Three, or two, or however many there are now. These craft breweries should be the shining example of quality beer that’s not mass produced on the global scale, and they should be owned by their original owners/founders. I mean, that’s what makes them true craft and not sellouts, right?

Okay, so here comes the unpopular to the opinion – selling the brewery to the larger beer corporations is okay. I know, crazy right? [Enter controversy, online arguments, and web trolls.]

So why do I say it’s perfectly fine to “sellout” to the big beer companies? Let’s take a look at a few different elements in play: the dream, the business, and the product.

Now I am no professional brewer, nor do I own a brewery, but I do have some type of general business know-how. And I know that most entrepreneurs (in this case the brewers or brewery owners) start with an idea or dream they would like to see through to success. In today’s world, the stories are few and far between of a person entering the workforce as a business owner. In case you didn’t know, most owners of breweries, brewpubs, and other craft beer establishments are real people. These real people had a real job to pay their real bills to support their real families, and yet they still had the dream to leave that job behind to start their own brewery. See what didn’t change? Their idea or concept came to fruition, but that did not change the fact that they still had real bills and real families.

Which leads me to the business element in play. If you remove the ogre-like layers of your favorite nano, micro, or macro brewery, there remains a business.People still purchase that brewery’s product and experience that brewery’s service. A quick Google of “define: business” provides many definitions of the word, two of which are included below:

  1. a person’s regular occupation, profession, or trade.
  1. the practice of making one’s living by engaging in commerce.

Behind the passion, the art, and the science of your favorite beer destination, there is a well-developed, carefully calculated, highly detailed business plan. The brewery’s business plan has everything from the company’s (yes, company) marketing plan, financial and investment plan, production plan, and risk management plan. And at the very bottom of all their financial reports? Yep, that’s their net profit.

So where does all this business stuff come from, and how does it add any weight to the argument that selling a brewery to big beer does not mean being a sellout? For that we will go to the product: Craft Beer.

Yes, there is passion. Yes, there is innovation. There is both art and science in brewing. From creating the recipe, to ensuring all the measurements are where they are supposed to be. For many, it truly is a dream come true. The difference is that this dream gets turned into a tangible, inventoried product that has to be sold to consumers and other businesses. It costs to make the beer and it costs to sell the beer. There are fees, taxes, municipalities, distributors, retailers, bottling and canning companies, and many other organizations taking a bite out of that $12 – 22 oz. bottle you purchased at your local bottle shop. That means that although there is a rush of breweries opening every day, the profit following those openings is a mere trickle. Speaking of money hungry brewers, the Huffington Post attributes just 8% of the final cost to “Brewers Margin” (more information can be found in their article here).

Photo courtesy: Huffingtonpost.com

Remember when you worked at that job where you worked significantly harder than what you were being paid to work? Remember when it was celebrated that a person who started from nothing worked their way up to something? What about those times when small companies were celebrated for their tremendous growth thanks to their strong leadership and quality product? Does that sound familiar? Maybe it’s time we celebrate those brewers and brewery owners that are tasting success and seeing their hard work pay off. If you still consider them a sellout, it’s not too late to vote with your wallet and support another hard-working brewer and brewery owner in your town. And don’t forget to thank them for that amazing experience in the glass in front of you.

If you don’t have a calendar, this weekend will be the cause of celebration for some and remembrance for others. This Memorial Day weekend will likely be similar to many others you may have had before. Perhaps BBQs and beer will be the main event of your weekend. Maybe you’re more of a shopping and beer type. Or if you’re a home-body like I am, your weekend will be filled with relaxation… and beer. Regardless of your celebration style, it is always a good thing to remember those who have died for the greater good, and for those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

Photo courtesy: Wikipedia.org

After spending a few moments in remembrance, your celebration will continue and you will enjoy your craft beers. Hopefully you will enjoy this time with friends and family, who may also enjoy craft beers. But… there is always that one. The one who forgoes your keg of homebrew or craft beer. The one who dodges the hop-friendly IPAs and oak-aged Stouts you so selflessly opened to anyone in attendance. They’ve even managed to offload that pilsner or other craft lager you personally purchased for them since they only drink “light” beers. But fear not! There is hope for this friend, spouse, and/or family member!
The other day my wife and I made a trip to our friendly neighborhood bottle shop (Beverages and More), and sifted through the generous selection they always have available to us VIPs – its called the Craft Beer Aisle. I searched up and down the aisle monitoring my moods and emotions as I scanned their inventory. I selected a few that were recommended, and a few that I read about. All for me, of course. I then encouraged my wife to make a selection or two for her own enjoyment.

Photo courtesy: Bevmo.com

My wife is a Texan through and through. She loves the entire state (I’m not sure how that’s possible). She misses the rolling thunderstorms, and the crazy Texan courtesies. She loves her Dallas Mavericks, her Dallas Stars, and worst of all, her Dallas Cowboys. Now, I’m not a fan of the Cowboys by any stretch of the imagination; but Texas has given her and her family something far worse in my opinion – the taste for the American Lite Lager, especially Coors Lite. The first time we went out she offered a Coors Lite to me. I was still trying to impress her, so I drank it. Once the courtship became official, those went out the window.
Now that you know her history, back to the Beverages and More story. She scanned the few aisles that she was interested in and gently put her selection into the cart. I looked down only to see Boulder Beer Company’s Shake Chocolate Porter. It doesn’t matter what you think of the porter, but I think we can all agree that’s quite the step from Coors Lite. The good news is, her transformation is ALL my doing. And I’ve shared my secrets to getting someone to drink craft beer below:
  1. If they don’t drink beer, make them drink one anyway. They’ll enjoy it… eventually.
  2. While you’re drinking one of your favorites, make sure you force them to have a sip too! It’s a great beer!
  3. Even when trying different, and often weird, styles of beers throughout the day or week, repeat # 2.
  4. You can also try the force method with that 3 hop, 5 malt, 2 yeast experiment you home-brewed a few weeks ago. You’re a good brewer right?
  5. Start with the “best” beer you can find. You know, those Double IPAs, the Imperial Stouts, and the all-Brett Sours. People need to get with the times! Bigger is better!
  6. Don’t start them with something similar to what they already like. If they like sweet, don’t give them a cider, mead, or any other malt forward beer. Try Stone’s Arrogant Bastard or Ruination. Everyone likes Stone, right?
  7. Good beer has no seasons. Founders’ KBS and Rasputin’s RIS drink just as easy in the middle of a Texas summer as Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale or Sierra Nevada’s Pale Ale.
  8. Make them stand in line with you for those private releases, and convince them how amazing it is to wait hours for the opportunity to potentially purchase one.
  9. Or for the average days, allow them to enjoy looking at your local bottle shop’s new inventory for the hour or more that you’re there.
  10. If all else fails, “trick” them by pouring it in a red solo cup and writing their name and “Coors Lite” on the cup.
Hope these work for you as “well” as they’ve worked for my wife and I.

If by some miracle you are actually keeping up with this blog and its posts, you may have noticed that the posts have stopped. Well… as it turns out, I am still alive and well. It also turns out that blogging is A LOT of work. By “a lot of work,” I don’t mean its hard work – but it is work to publish something that doesn’t turn into a series of Facebook and Instagram updates, yet is still frequent and interesting to read. 

Example:

     “Here’s a picture of my beer.”
     “Here’s the food from this place that I had with my beer.”
     [INSERT POSITIVE QUOTE]
     [INSERT RANT ON CURRENT ISSUE]
     “This beer tastes like this.”
     [INSERT FUNNY MEME]
     “Look at this IPA. It is so hoppy.”

Other than trying to figure out this whole blogging thing, I’ve also been shoulders deep in reading everything I can about entrepreneurship, brewing, and running a taphouse/brewpub/restaurant. My office is filled with everything from recent articles and books on running your own business, to magazines on beer and brewing – including some old issues of Zymurgy (1989-1996 editions) given generously on Freecycle.org. [Freecycle.org is this amazing, community-based website where you can give and find tons of free/used stuff. For more information, click here.]

From what I’ve read so far, apparently there are a million ways to do the same thing – and everyone is right! There will definitely be good times ahead. If I never open a brewery/taphouse/brewpub, at least I’ll be that much better of a businessman and homebrewer right?

*****UPDATE*****

In other news, the experimental “Pale ale”  is now in the secondary. Its cleared up quite a bit, and is hopefully conditioning just as well. It should be bottled within the next week, and thanks to natural carbonation, will be ready to drink by the middle to the end of September. I’m curious to see the differences the yeast made. I’ll get some photos come bottling time.

*********************

Finally, here’s a funny photo just because I can. You’re welcome.

 

Photo cred: see photo.

Hello, my name is Conrad. (Hi Conrad.) And, I think I am obsessed with beer. No, I am not an alcoholic. I definitely recommend anyone who has hit a level of dependence or loss of control to seek professional help. Instead, I am talking about a different kind of obsession altogether.

I walk around the grocery store with the wife and I think, “Hmm.. Coriander and pumpkin pie spice? Well it is time for Autumn brewing..” Or I see fresh fruits and I instantly start searching for recipes that may use some of the ingredients before me. Even when I walk through the camping gear, I see the coolers and say, “That’s a nice small batch mash tun. Oh that would work for the 5-10 gal. batches.”

All I can think about is my next batch. My last few (to include a Centennial-based IPA, an American Brown, and a Belgian Tripel) do not seem to be satiating my appetite. I even switched to small-batch brewing to I could brew and experiment more.

Now that my obsessions are out in the open, it is time to share a little secret – I want to open up a brewery and/or tap house. “But Conrad, recent openings of breweries have increased exponentially within the past few years. The market is already too saturated!” I know. “And, Conrad, don’t you know that the Craft Brew bubble is about to burst?” Maybe it is. “Conrad, you do know it is a lot tougher than just drinking beer all day right?” You’re right, I’ll stick to the walk in the park that is my Monday through Friday.

Look… I’m not trying  to open up the next BBC, Fat Tire, or Stone. I don’t need a brewery pumping out thousands of barrels of the same IPA or Blonde. In fact, there’s a hole in the wall pizza joint that serves the best damn pizza and craft brew that I could ever want. And, at this point, that’s all I want. A local, nano brew/tap house that puts another quality beer into someone’s hand.

I know it’s not going to be all fun and games. And I’m not in it to make riches beyond my imagination. It is most likely a billion times more difficult (on a scientifically accurate scale) than I could imagine. But a man could dream right? We all have something that we want to do when we “grow up.” Not all of us grew up wanting to work for the local government. We did not always want to be accountants and office managers. We didn’t want to labor for 10-12+ hours for a major construction company. We have an idea of what we want to do the rest of our lives, so why not try and make them happen? I mean, what’s the worst that could happen – we keep doing the same thing we’ve been doing all along?

Cheers to a dream in the works, and to the awesomeness that is homebrewing.