Two Years Goes By Way Too Fast

IMG_20141011_131505

So two years ago today, Hop Snob was born.

I mean really, my hop snobbery goes way back before May 4, 2014, but on that Cinco de Mayo in 2014, I decided to create yet another Twitter account and jump into the ring with a simple first tweet.  It read:

And looking back, I couldn’t have made a better decision.  I left behind the pressure of having my name assimilated with anything I directly wanted to say, whether about beer or otherwise.  I developed a certain level of anonymity.  And really with it all, I jumped seemingly headfirst into what I now deem ‘Beer World’

The beer industry is interesting to say the least.  It is evolving faster than anyone can keep up with.  Its filled with micros and nanos that can barely serve the community they’ve set up shop in.  On the outside, it’s viewed as “99% asshole free”, but on the inside it is truly a business and is getting more and more cutthroat every day.

But anyhow, I haven’t written in quite some time and really didn’t plan on a blog post today, either.  I thought I would put a couple of words out there while I had the ambition.

Thought 1: Vermont Beer is at 50 breweries and counting.

Last September, LipstickNLager and I launched Vermont’s first ever beer week in September.  The premise was to bring to light the slew of Vermont breweries that were not owned by someone named Shaun, Sean or John.  We were always encouraging people to think outside the Silver Can. In hindsight, I think we did a pretty darn good job of hosting Vermont Beer Week.  The entire shebang was only run by the two of us and as taxed as we were for time, I’m happy with how it came out.  We helped get the name out there for other breweries and at the end of the day, that is what we truly wanted to do.

Thought 2: Beer people, deep down, are good people.

The number one thing I have gotten out of the persona Hop Snob is the people I have met. From bars and breweries to festivals, bottle releases and random meetups, time and time again I’ve been reminded that beer people ARE good people.  The greatest representation is that of LipstickNLager.  Two years ago I had never even heard of her, let alone meet her.  Fast forward two years?  I could not imagine my life without her.  Not only have we gone into business together with Measured Methods and launched Vermont Beer Week, but I have truly gained a best friend.  I simply cannot imagine how I would fill my days and nights had I not met her.  Cheers to many more!

Thought 3: My Snobbery extends beyond beer

You may not be surprised when I tell you that its not just hops and beer I’m snobbish about.  Turns out I’ve been a snob for music for a looooooooooong time.  Let’s not get started about my feelings for Coldplay, Radiohead and commercial radio.  Then, there are baseball hats.  I love baseball hats.  I can never have enough.  However,  it can’t just be any certain hat.  It has to have a good look and an even better fit.  Flat brims are not for me and if you ask, I find that they’re not for many.   I’m always in search of the next IPA, plate of chicken wings and the next hat to cover my balding dome.

Thought 4: There is no end in sight

This beer scene isn’t going anywhere any time soon.  For every hipster that jumps into a beer release line, there are 3 other people that have never branched beyond macro.  Buckle up, sit tight and don’t be afraid to offer your opinion if you feel that it is valid.  I’ve never bit my tongue when someone has asked me what I think about a certain beer or brewery.  If someone bellies up to the bar and ponders aloud what they should have, I chime in.  Because, see Thought 2.

Thought 5: Try something new

I couldn’t wait to try Foam Brewers.  Sure, we already had 49 breweries in Vermont as of April 27, 2016, but on April 28th, our 50th opened.  I’ve always enjoyed trying something new and sometimes you’ll be shocked as to what you discover.  Whether it is beer, food, the latest single from that hip new rock band, I’ve never been afraid to try something once.  What’s the worst thing that can happen?   I mean, c’mon.  Go out on a limb. Try a sour, even though you said they weren’t for you.  Order that blue cheese that has an aroma of sweaty socks.  Go check out that rock band you’ve heard so much about.  The worst thing is you spent $8 on that pint or spent 2 hours at a club on a school night.  The best thing that can happen?  You can find your next love.

So, that just about does it.  2 years old today.  I’m still shocked. To my 2,858 followers, thank you for putting up with me.  I wouldn’t be here without you.

Cheers to year 3!

Enjoy. 10, 12, 16, 22, 32 or 64 ounces at a time.

Stowe Brewers Festival July 29th & 30th, 2016

12794773_807899582647391_6596542419018625915_o

I had the distinct pleasure of attending the first ever Stowe Brewers Festival in 2015.  We were blessed with a warm, sunny day and got to enjoy beers from across Vermont and New England.

Turns out that one of the treats of the day wasn’t actually a beer. Stowe Cider was a great find that day and their hopped cider was quite enjoyable.

Stowe Brewers Festival returns for year two on July 29th and 30th.  A total of three sessions in two days and early bird tickets go on sale this Thursday, March 17th, which is St. Patrick’s Day!

One of my favorite local bands, Waylon Speed, will be playing during all three sessions. Be sure to grab a beer, or a bite at one of the 10+ food trucks, and bask in the outlaw rock that is Waylon Speed.

Read on for more details on the 2016 edition of Stowe Brewers Fest.

Enjoy. (This time 3!) 10, 12, 16, 22, 32 or 64 ounces at a time.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 11, 2016

Contact  Lisa Senecal

Phone   802-595-9581

Email     lisa@greenmountainevents.com

Stowe Brewers Festival ‘early bird’ tickets on sale March 17

The Stowe Brewers Festival is back – bigger, better, brewier – in its second year featuring three sessions with more than 45 craft brewers from Vermont and across New England, live music by fan favorite Waylon Speed, a food truck extravaganza with more than a dozen food trucks, food pairing and tasting workshops and more. A limited number of Standard and VIP Early Bird tickets go on sale March 17 – when those sell out, prices go up!

“The brewer line-up is fantastic and the setting in Stowe is spectacular,” said Lisa Senecal, festival co-organizer. “We’re expecting a sold-out event and are excited to welcome folks back from last year’s successful inaugural event and meet many new craft beer and hard cider lovers.”

Held at Stowe’s Mayo Events Field on July 29 and 30, the 21-and-over event offers three sessions: both Friday and Saturday from 5:30 – 9:30 p.m. and Saturday 11:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m. Early Bird tickets are $35 for standard admission and $65 for VIP, with free admission for designated drivers. Standard ticket purchasers receive tickets for 15 three-ounce samples during the four-hour festival. VIP ticket purchasers also receive expedited festival entry, a VIP lounge tent, 2016 festival swag and a coveted “Hop the Line” pass, which allows expedited pours for VIPs if lines are long.

The festival is thrilled to present one of New England’s premiere bands, Waylon Speed, performing “underground outlaw dirt rock from the mountains of Vermont.” Festival attendees will be treated to live shows during each of the three tasting sessions.

The eco-friendly event will also benefit local non-profit organizations. “Our commitment to ‘doing good while having a good time’ continues in year two,” Senecal said. “The festival will again give a portion of proceeds to non-profits and is committed to a light environmental footprint with recycling and composting, all eco-friendly paper goods and utensils, a bike valet, no plastic bottles and free, fresh, filtered water provided by What’s Your Watermark.”

To buy tickets, sign up for emails or get more information, visit www.StoweBrewersFestival.com. Follow the festival on Facebook at www.facebook.com/stowebrewersfestival and on Twitter at @StoweBrewFest.

This Hop Snob Turns 1 Today

One year ago today, I took a leap by creating yet another Twitter account with an alter ego I called Hop Snob.

At the time, it struck me that the hype that many beers were being given was not living up to my perhaps unreasonable expectations. Much like the follow-up release from a bands debut smash, one’s strong presumptions can be quickly knocked down to reality by that first listen, or first sip. As my palate grew and matured, so did my belief that a beer should taste a certain way. After yet another beer disappointed me, Hop Snob was born.

In the past year, Hop Snob has treated me very well and introduced me to some amazing people in the beer scene and beyond. While Snob and Snobbery has negative connotations in the beer industry, I’ve never viewed myself as a true beer snob. While Thrillist gives us ’19 Types of Beer Snobs’, I don’t really view myself fitting in to any one of them. Turns out, I know what I like to drink and I prefer to drink good beer that fits my taste.

As for my taste, that has actually changed over the past year. When I was introduced to my first sour beer 9 months ago, I would have laughed at you if you had told me that sour would be one of my beer styles of choice. Fast forward 9 months and I’ve had some great sours from Wicked Weed, Paradox, Four Quarters and even the elusive Backacre, which I was fortunate enough to share a second bottle of just last evening.

I also would have laughed at you one year ago if you had told me that in 365 days time that I would amass 1,700+ Twitter followers just talking about beer. While most are strangers, some are bots and a few have nothing to do with beer at all, a handful of these 1,700+ followers are good friends. I don’t know where I would be on May 5, 2015 had it not been for Twitter and these fine folk that I now get to call my friends.

So, here’s to you, ALL 1,768 of my Twitter followers. I’d like to thank you for coming along for the ride and I’m extremely excited to see where the next year brings me, my palate, my liver and Measured Methods.

Enjoy. 10, 12, 16, 22, 32 or 64 ounces at a time.

To 2014 & Those I’ve Met Along the Way

Lost Nation (5)

Seemingly, as fast as 2014 came in, it is exiting and it’s been an interesting year to say the least.  I’ve drank some incredible beers, brainstormed and launched Measured Methods with a great cast of characters and had an opportunity to meet some amazing people in the Vermont beer scene.  This post is dedicated to those I’ve met along the way.

On Cinco de Mayo, May 5th of 2014, my alter ego ‘HopSnobbery’ was launched.  I certainly cannot say born as I’ve always had a tendency to drink IPAs and hoppy beers.  It donned on me that May evening that many of my tweets on my personal account were about beer and before I scared off the folk that followed me for my ‘day job’ tweets, I was better off starting another account.  For the last seven months I’ve tweeted about beer day and night, have opened my palate up to many different ales and lagers and most important, had the outstanding opportunity to meet and acquaint with many a fine folk. For those that question the ROI of social media, I give you my answer: RELATIONSHIPS.

vtbeer

Through Twitter, I had the chance to meet the gentleman that curates www.vtbeer.org and the @VTbeer handle on Twitter, Jim Welch.  Without a doubt, Jim is the biggest proponent of the Vermont beer scene I know.  With no agenda, favoritism or even compensation for his efforts, Jim has created THE go-to site for beer news around our fine state.  Keeping tabs on our 40 breweries in operation (and growing soon!), as well as a number in planning, and even the closed breweries, it has been a pleasure to get to know Jim.  I don’t know many people that will leave an event after paying $10 cover AND then give you three different homebrews and a Goose Island BCBS, but I do now know Jim and he did do that.  To Jim – CHEERS to you, one of my most favorite beers of 2014, 14th Star Brewing Company Quad D’Erable.

Steve 14th star

I don’t even recollect how or when exactly in 2014 I met Steve Gagner of 14th Star Brewing Company, but I am glad I did.  Sure, he makes some mighty fine beer and I’m thankful for that.  But it’s the heart of Steve that I’m most appreciative of.  Steve is the type of individual that should you have never met him, you’d hear stories and think ‘yeah, he has an agenda’ or ‘that can’t be true’.  But each person I talk to about Steve has yet another story to add and nary a bad word. His generosity seems to know no bounds and no one should question his dedication – to our country as an Army Captain, to his craft and business and most certainly to his community of St. Albans and Franklin County.  On a busy Saturday afternoon in October, while knee deep in construction at their now new location, Steve took his ever valuable time to offer a private tour and show off his new space.  An hour turned to two and then we made our way to the now former home of 14th Star for a private sampling. Two hours turned to three and I won’t soon forget leaving with great memories, as well as a new glass, t-shirt, growler and two bombers of the previously mentioned Quad D’Erable.  Whether over a beer or lunch at the Farmhouse or during the craziness of the 14th Star grand opening on Veterans Day, I’m truly fortunate to have had the chance to chat and laugh with Steve.  CHEERS to you Mr. 14th Star, a beer that absolutely blew me away at first sip in 2014, Bissell Brothers The Substance.

jeff baker

The folk that congregate around the #VTbeer hashtag on Twitter are a passionate bunch.  There may not be many, but those that do share their knowledge and their passion for beer. Jeff Baker, who goes by @APhilosophyOf, and who is also the Director of Fluid Assets at Farmhouse Tap and Grill, takes it one step further and shares his knowledge and passion in the Burlington Free Press for his column ‘Hops & Barley’.  I knew I had to get to know Jeff after reading his article staking a claim for Vermont to be recognized for its own style of IPA.  We finally did meet in the Beer Garden at Farmhouse and through my numerous additional trips to his curated taps, I’ve had the opportunity to chat more and more.  A bit mad scientist (have you seen his hair?!?) and a bit Sherlock Holmes (have you seen his hats?!?), Jeff is a huge asset to the Burlington and Vermont beer scene.  He’s always working, so you can’t buy him a beer, but should you have the opportunity to, please do so from me.  Put it on my tab. To know me is to know my liver – and my palate and I appreciate every single tweet, and even a Facebook message, that Jeff sends letting me know what is on at his bar.  To Jeff – CHEERS to you a Yarrrggghhh!!! from Lawson’s Finest Liquids and Tree House Brewing.

ben and amanda

For those that haven’t had the chance to check out The Growler Garage in South Burlington, you should make a point of visiting.  A cool, laid back atmosphere lends to good conversation and good drinking.  During my first visit to the Garage, I had the opportunity to meet the Northern Bayou crew – Ben Lee (Northern Bayou Cold Brew) and his beautiful fiancée, Amanda Breazeale (Northern Bayou Apothecary).  Although we’ve only had the chance to hang out and talk a few times, they did host the only bottle share I attended in 2014.  Warm, generous, funny and engaging, Ben and Amanda are a dynamic duo that upon saying ‘goodbye’ to them, I immediately look forward to saying hello again.  You should also know that anyone alone that can get me to drink cold coffee deserves an award and recognition.  To Ben and Amanda – CHEERS to you, a beer that is a fitting name for a great couple, Lawson’s Finest Liquids Double Sunshine.

lnl

I’ve saved the best for last.  The best #BeerGirl that this guy could hope for, that is.  Someone who was a stranger as 2014 started, but is now a trusted friend and a partner in the Measured Methods team as the year concludes.  I’ve lost count of our numerous ‘lunches’ over the year.  We’ve had brewery runs. We’ve had business meetings.  We’ve had dozens and dozens of absolutely incredible beers.  My bank account may be lighter, but I’m richer for having met you, LipstickNLager.  You’re engaging, intelligent, outgoing, beautiful AND know your beer?  I’d call that a total package.  I look forward to seeing where 2015 takes you with Girls Pint Out and Measured Methods.  The #VTbeer scene is a better place because of you and since #VTbeerian of 2014 has already been taken, I’ll deem you #BeerGirl2014 in my book.  To LipstickNLager – CHEERS to you, Maine Beer Company’s Dinner.

To all the others I’ve had the chance to meet along the way in 2014 – fellow drinkers, brewers, tweeters and more – I can’t wait to see you again in 2015.  CHEERS and enjoy. 10, 12, 16, 22, 32 or 64 ounces at a time.

I Found Myself at Lost Nation

Lost Nation (1)

On a wet and dreary October Fall day, the timing seemed right to venture out and visit a Vermont brewery outside of my local region.  With LipstickNLager in tow, we made our way from Burlington, down Interstate 89, through Waterbury and Stowe and into the town of Morrisville. What was once a community that was passed through by beer enthusiasts on their way to Hill Farmstead in Greensboro Bend, Morrisville has become a destination in itself due to the arrival on the Vermont beer scene of Lost Nation Brewing

Having been open barely a year and a half, Allen Van Anda & Jamie Griffith have done an awfully good job at what they set out to do from day one with Lost Nation: brew an honest beer.  It took me a year after their opening to try their ‘flagship’ Gose, a traditional German beer style brewed with coriander and sea salt.  Without the word hop in the description, I had always been skeptical. However, during a visit to the Mule Bar in Winooski in May where I didn’t find myself particularly inspired by the selections, I gave the Gose a whirl.  As I said on Untappd: ‘Didn’t know what to expect. I like it quite a bit!’

After a conversation with Jim of VTbeer.org where he told me how much he enjoyed the Lost Nation beer and referred many people up to Morrisville, I knew I finally had to visit. As much as I tweet about beer (find me at @HopSnobbery), I rarely get to visit breweries outside of my home base of Chittenden County.  Barely an hour after leaving downtown Burlington, and having navigated the construction in ‘downtown’ Morrisville, we found the filled parking lot of Lost Nation. Timing is always everything and we lucked into a vacating table after just a few minutes in the quaint tap room. 

With six Lost Nation beers available (they also host guest taps), ordering the flights for only $5 was an absolute no-brainer.  When in Rome, right?  Two orders of the Gose, Vermont Pilsner, Petit Ardennes, Saison Lamoille, Rustic Ale and Pitch Black made its way to our table and after some obligatory photography that produced this image below, LipstickNLager tells me to ‘shut up and drink already’.

Lost Nation (6)

Moving from one glass of ultra-clean Vermont brew to the next, my taste buds were reminded that an enjoyable brew doesn’t have to be a big chewy, citrusy DIPA. The Gose is a great start to the Lost Nation cannon.  A supremely drinkable, non-traditional brew, the salt is there, but not prominent. It is the most easily available Lost Nation offering, with bottles on-hand and kegs and casks making their way throughout tap houses in Vermont and now, a bit beyond.

The Vermont Pilsner was just what I want in a pilsner.  Crazily drinkable. Clean from start to finish. No flavors jumping out or hiding.  I found the Vermont Pilsner a surprise out of my flight.  This was one beer that I wish I had found during the dog days of Summer and not on a chilly and rainy Autumn day. On to the Petit Ardennes and into the Saison Lamoille, it was the same story. Pleasant, smooth, flavorful beers that just beg to be drank.

The tap room never rested while we were there. The door was always opening and closing with guests coming and going. Pleasant wafts of scrumptious looking food was around us the entire time.  The warm colors of the walls and the exposed wood beams of the space was exactly what you’d expect in Central Vermont.  The staff was friendly and attentive the whole time we were there.  Lost Nation really has the entire package going and going well.

With only the Rustic Ale and Pitch Black left in our flights, I raised the Rustic to my nose.  What’s that I sense? HOPS!  With the first four in my flight not being the typical hop-forward beers I normally enjoy when I’m drinking, I didn’t find myself missing that profile either.  It caught me off-guard to get the hop aroma on the Rustic Ale and upon first sip, I was immediately pleased with what I had before me.

Lost Nation (4)

The Pitch Black, by name alone, says dark, bold, heavy and couldn’t be further from the truth.  As the Lost Nation site describes ‘although the color is black, the beer drinks smooth and finishes clean with subtle notes of smoke and roast balanced by a gentle malt body and crisp hop finish’. The Pitch Black is the furthest removed from the other 5 in the flight, but still fit the theme of the flight. Clean, drinkable, smooth, sessionable, enjoyable.  Just a treat from start to finish with all six beers that I was able to try.

One of the best parts of the visit was the ability to leave with a growler in hand and the affordability of the visit.  Having brought a glass from home, I filled 64 ounces of the Rustic Ale for only $10.  Being familiar with the Chittenden County prices of growlers, I almost had sticker shock at the bargain prices of the fill.

With well more then two dozen Vermont breweries left to visit, I must say I’m already looking forward to another visit back to Morrisville and Lost Nation.  We missed their outdoor biergarten by one day, but whether it is back open or we have to hunker down in the tap room, I’m looking forward to trying some of Chef Erik Larson’s creations and drinking more great beer from Lost Nation.

Enjoy. 10, 12, 16, 22, 32 or 64 ounces at a time.

Lost Nation (5)

At Long Last, I Got to #DrinkWinooskiBeer

velpicstitch20141011_193105

With how long it took me to finally visit Four Quarters Brewery (4QBC) in Winooski, you would think that it was located clear across Vermont from me, but, no.  My day job finds me one mile away daily and I live just over 10 minutes away.  So, after opening in March of 2014, why did it take me nearly seven months to make my way to 150 West Canal Street?  After discovering Opus Humulus today, I’m not precisely sure why.

Before today, my only previous experience with 4QBC had been a quick sample during the 2014 Vermont Brewers Festival.  After tackling hop bombs for most of the start of the Brewers Festival, my palate was polluted, so it is difficult to judge the proper and intended taste of any beer.

I had the ultimate excuse to finally make it out to 4QBC today.  They hosted the West Canal Street Block party and my friends Andrew James and Milton Busker were kicking it off at high noon. For once I was on schedule and by the time I walked up to the Brewery at 11:55, Andrew and Milton were still setting up to play.  @VTbeer popped out of the front door, with his pup Raven in tow, and noted that they still weren’t pouring, as the special permit allowed them to start at 12.  What special permit? Well, Vermont alcohol laws are funky. If you are a brewery, you can sell samples and you can sell growlers, but if you want to sell full pours and you don’t offer food, you need a loophole. The law can be leapfrogged by bringing in one of many food trucks that are populating our city streets and then you may receive a special permit to offer full pours.  With Dolce VT and Southern Smoke on site offering their treats, the full pours were available and Four Quarters provided a full day’s worth of music for free.

One thing you don’t want to do is rock the boat with the local jurisdiction that has graciously provided you with permit upon permit upon request.  Also, as the City of Winooski allowed 4QBC to shut down West Canal Street in front of their brewery for the day, you should indeed follow the rules to insure the next request goes smoothly.  So, we had to wait a few minutes for the prompt stroke of noon to commence drinking.

With an affordable flight of generous sample pours in hand just past noon, a crisp Fall afternoon in Vermont was greeted with Andrew and Milton alternating songs while playing acoustic on the makeshift stage on West Canal.  I sampled first through Herbie, a watermelon wheat beer, made with 100lbs of local baby sweet watermelons (from Digger’s Mirth at the Intervale).  I also had Opus Ferum (a Belgian Abbey Patersbier), the Red Eye, a coffee red ale which is conditioned on espresso beans and my personal favorite for the day, the Opus Humulus.  This beautiful “work of hops” is a hoppy Patersbier, that many would deem a session beer. All four were on the lighter scale of the big beers that I’ve been enjoying as of late, but I enjoyed each a great deal.

After the set from Andrew and Milton came to a close, I escaped to get a bite to eat with my young son in tow (he’s a big Milton Busker fan). We came back with a pie from Papa Frank’s and I picked up a full pour of the Opus Humulus.  At this point, the crowd had filled in a bit, with many folk enjoying food from one of the two food trucks on site.  Plenty of fresh 4QBC was going around as well as some great locao #BTV area Twitterati.  As @Metallidan tweeted, we had a good showing, coupled with a newly relocated #VTbeer Tweeter, Renée (@renserasera)

With responsibilities elsewhere, I had to cut my day short close to 3PM, but not before filling a full 64 ounce growler with the luscious Opus Humulus.  I can definitely see revisiting this beer when the hot summer days of Vermont return.  While Fall may call for stouts or porters, I was only more than happy to bring home this beer for my first full batch of Four Quarters Brewery.  I am already looking forward to my next chance to return to 4QCB.  They are hosting the newly announced Vermont Firkin Festival on November 8. Also of note is an upcoming beer called Barleygirl, which is an Autumn Double IPA described as bright orange with a nice bitter backbone and huge citrus aroma. Sign me up for the Barleygirl, which could be my next great opportunity to #DrinkWinooskiBeer

Enjoy. 10, 12, 16, 22, 32 or 64 ounces at a time.

1413043731607

#BeerIsSocial to Drinkers & Brewers Alike

BREWS1 cropped

It seems like just a few years ago that interacting with your favorite brand (whether it was Coke, Dove Soap, Starbucks or Stone Brewing) may have involved a 1-800 number and a stranger’s voice on the other end of the line. Let’s be honest: at what point would you call that 1-800 number? Normally, it was when things weren’t going well, you had a problem, and were looking for a solution. Normally, nobody ever went out of their way to call their favorite brands just to tell them to keep up the good work.

#BeerIsSocial

With the widespread use of social media, not only is this no longer a case, but brands have been knocked down to almost human status with their modern day voice. Whether it is through the brand’s blog, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or even the newly found Ello (or tomorrows latest must use medium), the users interactions are much different from those few short years ago.

Modern day consumers are not at all alike the consumers of yesteryear. Consumers might as well be employees of the brand at times, as drinkers, we are marketers ourselves. We are brand advocates and cheerleaders. Chances are that as a social drinker, if you have either had an incredible OR terrible beer, you have told your social network. Whether that is 1, 100, 1000 or 10,000 followers, odds are that one of your followers has told their followers. Subsequently, they’ve told their followers and so on and so forth down the line. One relayed message can have the impact of tens of thousands of impressions due to social channels. For as PBS’ ‘Generation Like’ mentioned, Social Media is the biggest transformation that we’ve had in terms of communicating with consumers in a lifetime.

Nowadays, breweries are more than just faceless beer producers. With 3,000+ breweries in the nation and more opening by the day, breweries are brands within themselves. Most craft beer consumers are much more than just drinkers, as we are also connoisseurs and aficionados. Not only will craft consumers drink their favorite beer faithfully, but we will drive four hours to get it and wait in line in the rain for two hours to purchase it. Then we will post a picture about it in our favorite beer forum on Facebook, check it in on Untappd, tweet our followers about it and then post about it again when we’ve run out. We’ll tell you what we love, what we dislike, what we’d change and more. Nothing quite like instant feedback direct to the breweries that want to listen.

#DoSocialWell

All of this being said, it is surprising that so few breweries seem to do social media well. With many craft breweries having few employees, it’s understandable that brewing beer alone is a full-time job for all those on board. When you tack on the normal business day-to-day operations and decisions, family life and sleep that is required, breweries, like many small businesses, don’t have the time to properly use social media. Social media is not merely jumping on Twitter and retweeting your latest mentions. It is not responding to the last few Facebook wall posts or photo comments when there is time to get online. It is not one blog post every four months on the company website. Social media has become a full-time job. As consumers and your advocates, most of us are expecting prompt interaction with the brands that we support and champion for.

As a brewery, why wouldn’t you want to interact with your end consumer? Most of us are your ideal brand ambassadors. We are passionate, we share, we are repeat customers, we wear your shirt or hat and we tell our friends about how great your beer is. But please, if you are going to do it, do it right. Your avatar should be identifiable to you. Your handle should be your brewery. You should monitor the channels as much as possible. You don’t have to be everywhere, but you should be on the hot channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Untappd) and have an up-to-date website. Your current offerings at your location or out with your distributor should be easily located when searched. Most importantly, don’t forget what social media really is – social and fun. Reach out to your fans. Thank them for their support. And when things aren’t going right, be sure to ask questions why we aren’t happy.

Enjoy. 10, 12, 16, 22, 32 or 64 ounces at a time.

Dating: Not Just for Relationships. #DrinkFresh

Fiddlhead hat

Remember ‘Born on Dating’ from Budweiser? I do and at the time, it seemed silly.  For a brewery that produces such massive volumes of a mediocre colored water, it seemed like a trivial thing at the time, but in hindsight, perhaps they were on to something.  Even though they admit that their beer is good for well over 100+ days, will their clientele notice if they were to consume a Bud older than 200 days or even more?  Maybe so and maybe not.

Fast forward many years to the craft beer boom we are currently experiencing.  3,000 breweries strong and growing by the day.  Thousands more in planning.  It has become more and more about local and about fresh.  How fresh?  How about off the canning line and into your hands fresh?!? That is what I experienced yesterday.

Fiddlehead Brewery, after being open just two and a half years, has seen amazing growth.  By the start of year two, Fiddlehead IPA was available in over 200 locations on tap solely in Vermont.  In the last 6 months, Fiddlehead has gone from those 200 locations and growlers at the brewery only to the latest craze in the craft beer industry: canning.  Thanks to Iron Heart Canning of Connecticut, the fantastic beers of Fiddlehead have found a new home in 12 and 16 ounce cans.  With a few canning runs of Second Fiddle and Hodad under their belt, it was announced recently that Fiddlehead would be canning every few weeks.  The demand for each run of Second Fiddle, Fiddlehead’s first widely released Double India Pale Ale (DIPA), has grown immensely and the last batch sold out in under an hour, direct from the brewery on Shelburne Road (Route 7) in Shelburne, Vermont.

Fast forward to yesterday – August 21, 2014 and coincidentally, my birthday, but that is not the point, the date that Fiddlehead announced they would have their MasterMind DIPA available for a full canning release.  Having been brewed in September 2013 & January 2014 for a brewery only beer, it was a bit unknown, at least by me, as to what could be expected.  Having never had the beer before, I ventured to 6305 Shelburne Road, just up the road from the famous Shelburne Museum and directly across the street from the Shelburne Vineyard at 10:15.  A full 45 minutes before the doors were to open and was greeted with a light line:

Fiddlehead (4)

What better thing to do while waiting in line than to talk about beer, right?  I chatted up the gents in front of me and those 45 minutes passed rather quickly as dozens joined the line behind us.   Notice the tail of the big yellow truck in the picture above?  That is Iron Heart Canning and I thought it curious that they were onsite and working at 10:15 in the morning.  Having never been to a can release at Fiddlehead or any other location, I had presumed that the cans were done the day before and then sold the following day.  Understanding space constraints at most locations, holding onto hundreds of cases of filled cans is not ideal or most of the time, not even practical.

Space constraints aside, I was a bit shocked to see firsthand how the MasterMind was being delivered.  After watching the first 12 or so customers walk in and out immediately with their 4 packs, or case, or 2 cases or more, the line started to slow down. As I approached the bar, I understood why.  The cans were coming out FRESHLY CANNED DIRECT FROM THE LINE.  What? Could this be happening? We all want to think our beer is fresh, whether it has a dating system or not, but, to actually watch the cans come out of the back room, drenched in condensation and spillage?  Could this be right?  Indeed it was, as I watched as Matty O., the proprietor and founder of Fiddlehead, personally carrying cases from the back into the retail location to his adoring fans.

Fiddlehead (2)This can’t be the norm I thought.  15 minutes into the can release and I am literally watching the line drop beers into the hands of awaiting drinkers?  I’m not going to complain.  Why, yes, I’d love a free sample of your Mellow Mike pale ale while I wait 3 minutes for perhaps the freshest beer I’ve ever seen, why not?

Let us think about this freshness for a few more seconds…….

Fast forward 30 minutes and I’m poking around the shelves of The Beverage Warehouse in Winooski,  If I picked up 50% of the beer on the splendid shelves of the best craft beer seller in Northern Vermont and tried to locate a ‘born on date’, do you think I would find them?  My guess would be no.  The more I try to find a date on a bottle or a six pack rack, the more I’m flustered and confused why dating is not more prevalent within craft beer.  If you haven’t read Jeff Baker’s (@aphilosophyof on Twitter) column from the Burlington Free Press, he wrote a great article on being informed about beer dating that you can read here.

Now while not all beer is meant to be consumed fresh, my personal beers of choice – pale, IPA, DIPA – is best suited and drank while as close to kegging, bottling and canning as possible.  What I experienced today almost seemed beyond that.  Right out of the tanks and into 12 ounces of pure joy.  My hope is that everyone can experience beer not only this good, but this fresh.  Do yourself a favor and go out of your way to try it sometime.  It doesn’t have to be MasterMind, or even Fiddlehead. per se.  I can tell you that I’ve never been one for lines, but after this experience and being treated to a brewer delivered case right off the line, I’m now sold.  Oh, it also helps that what is inside the can is FANTASTIC.

Enjoy and #DrinkFresh: 10, 12, 16, 22, 32 or 64 ounces at a time.

 

Recollecting the 2014 Vermont Brewers Festival

2014-07-19

If you waited until 4:12 on Thursday, May 15 to get your tickets for the 2014 Vermont Brewers Festival, you were one minute too late.  I am thankful that I was in cue as the clock struck 4 and I was instantly put into a refreshing browser with Ticket Alternative.   After two straight years of the Friday afternoon session, I decided I would try the elusive final session, clocking in from 5:30 to 9:30 on Saturday evening, July 19th.  Being at home the night before, I worried that the Friday evening weather was perfect….everything you wanted for sampling high end Vermont and abroad beers and after experiencing 95 degree weather in 2013, my fingers were crossed that Saturday evening was going to treat us well.

Late Saturday afternoon delivered.  Some light clouds, no threat of rain, low 80’s and 2,800 friends I didn’t know showed up for the ribbon drop right at the crack of 5:30.  If you’ve never been to the Vermont Brewers Festival, there is good reason why it is recognized as one of the top 10 beer festivals in the Nation.  First: the scenery.  The picture above tells it all.  On the beautiful Burlington waterfront, you are mere feet from Lake Champlain, with a great view of the Adirondack Mountains of Upstate New York. Also for scenery?: the women.  My last blog post was a reflection on how the normal craft beer drinker has swayed into the opposite sex.  The Second reason is the operation. Having hosted the Vermont Brewers Festival for 22 years, the kinks are worked out.  From checking in, finding your way around, the housekeeping of the grounds, the bathrooms, all the way down to the brewer selection and the exit, the operation is smooth from top to bottom.  In 2014, there were no exceptions that I saw.   Everything ran like a well-oiled machine and the enjoyment of the attendees was evident.  Third, the beverages.  Featuring dozens of breweries and well over a hundred beers (with a majority of them being Vermont based), your fifteen sampling tickets never seem to be enough.  Strategy is key before you roam the waterfront so that you are ensured to try the beers you want.

Waiting 20 minutes before the ribbon dropped and knowing a great deal of the waiting attendees were immediately going to flock to the big 3 (Hill Farmstead, Lawson’s Finest Liquids and The Alchemist), I felt like a kid in a candy store knowing that 32 of the 37 other Vermont brewers were offering their wares (1st Republic Brewing, 14th Star Brewing, Bobcat Cafe, Burlington Beer Company, Crop Brewery, Drop In Brewing Company, Fiddlehead Brewing Company, Foley Brothers, Four Quarters Brewing, Harpoon Brewery, Infinity Brewing, Jasper Murdock’s Alehouse, Kingdom Brewing, Long Trail Brewing, Lost Nation Brewing, Madison Brewing, Magic Hat, Northshire Brewery, Otter Creek Brewing, Prohibition Pig, Queen City Brewery, Rock Art Brewery, The Shed, Simple Roots Brewing, Stone Corral Brewery, Switchback Brewing, Trapp Lager, Trout River Brewing, Vermont Pub and Brewery, Whetstone Station, Wolaver’s Organic Ales and Zero Gravity) plus 14 others from Canada and the Northeast USA.

Back when I started this blog, I said I didn’t want to venture into overly critical beer reviews and numbers.  There are too many great websites and reviewers, with too many people using terms that I would never have connected to beer.  I’m not going to get into stars, mouthfeel or finish, but more about my recollections and thoughts at the time I experienced it.  This, I believe, is one of the best parts of the craft beer community.  Strangers become connected, opinions freely shared and welcomed and the where you are and who you are with, coupled with what you are drinking is truly an experience.

My handful of favorites from 2014, included:

Ironically, my first beer, Brett On The Dance Floor from Fiddlehead Brewing Company, having heard great and funky things about the Brettanomyces strain of yeast, I hadn’t planned to hit Fiddlehead first.  We were right around the corner from the first batch of tents when the ribbon dropped and while most wandered to the Big 3 or 14th Star, I walked right up and got a Brett and a disco ball necklace from Matty O directly.  A great pale out of the gate, the funkiness that I had heard about with the yeast wasn’t over the top. Very smooth, very drinkable.  I loved the beer and my number one choice for the day.

Not surprisingly, one of my other favorites was the Brettanomyces Incident from the recently opened Burlington Beer Company.  This was Joe Lemnah’s first Vermont Brewers Festival and I was happy I got to say hello and introduce myself. I’ve only had the opportunity to try two of BBC’s beers locally and I haven’t had the chance to visit his Williston facility, but after being 3 for 3 on his beers, it is now high on my agenda.

I’d heard great things about the Prohibition Pig Pale Ale as of late and when I went in and checked it in on Untappd, I was surprised to see that I had the beer before.  Why was I surprised? When previously I had given this beer a 2 (which rightfully was probably very early in my ratings on Untappd), this beer was anything but.  Golden, hoppy, smooth, this beer was terrific.  Rarely do I bump my ratings on Untappd, but I was truly off.  I moved this one up to 4 stars and I cannot wait to try more beers from the Pig as they are knee deep in construction on their own brewery, located immediately behind their restaurant (and former home of The Alchemist) in downtown Waterbury (also known as #WaterBEERy).

One of my pleasant surprises was Palomino Pale Ale from Stone Corral of Huntington.  This nano-brewery hasn’t been open for long, but I had heard positive words and the Palomino didn’t disappoint.  An incredibly clean drinking Pale, this was one definite all day long type of beer and I’m excited to try it again, as well as some of Bret Hamilton’s other offerings.

Four hours came and went much too fast.  I never struggled to find a beer I wanted to try.  It was more like limiting my choices down to the tickets I had.  With 8%+ ABV selections being two tickets, it was easy to use up your tasters if you wanted to go big.  I used my 15 tickets and bought five more for a generous $10 and still went through them before last call.  Fortunately, as the last offering of the night, I had the opportunity to try 14th Star Brewing’s Maple Breakfast Stout, thanks to the suggestion of head brewer and owner Steve Gagner.  Stouts have taken on an entirely different taste and feel to me as of late. Once I thought of them as too heavy, dark and appetite filling beers. Now, the modern stout is anything but. Smooth, drinkable, flavorful, enjoyable.  The Maple Breakfast Stout was a perfect encore to my 2014 Vermont Brewers Festival as the event closed for the year.  As for 14th Star Brewing? The 2013 Vermont Brewers Fest was their first and they produced all they could just to supply their first year.  2014 has been HUGE for 14th Star.  They brought a total of 11 different beers over the 3 sessions in 2014. They are also 75% into an expansion into the former St. Albans bowling alley, which will allow them to increase their brewing capacity by 10 times while offering pours of their beer and others out of their own onsite brewpub. 14th Star had the longest lines after the Big 3 and I believe that in 2015 we may be talking about the Big 4 in #vtbeer.

Save the dates! In 2015, the Vermont Brewers Festival returns on July 17th and 18th.  More importantly, remember May 15th.  During Craft Beer Week at 4PM, the internet will become a challenging obstacle course for many craft beer drinkers trying to squeeze into the majestic Burlington, Vermont waterfront.

Enjoy: 10, 12, 16, 22, 32 or 64 ounces at a time.

This Seat No Longer Taken: Women in Craft

Photo Credit: vtbrewfest.com

Notice anything different while searching the aisles for your favorite beer or while holding down a seat at your favorite imbibing location?  Look around.  Chances are that person next to you doesn’t sport a plaid shirt or a beer belly.  Chances are, this person is young, attractive, fit…and a woman.

Is it just me, or has the demographic swung drastically over the last few years? I may have noticed it first 2 years ago at the Vermont Brewers Festival. Then in 2013, I definitely noticed it…the Burlington, Vermont waterfront was flooded with women getting their craft beer drink on.   No longer was the Vermont Brewers Festival (ranked as one of the Top 10 beer festivals in the Nation) a congregation of frat boys and aging hippies coming down from the mountains.  The attendees were attractive and female!

Come on, don’t tell me it’s just me noticing this.  It doesn’t matter if I hitch up at Mule Bar, The Farmhouse or Vermont Pub & Brewery, the women are EVERYWHERE.  But wait, I thought that wine, Zima, Mike’s Hard Lemonades and white russians were for women and beer was for men? While that may have been the case, certainly not anymore if the last few years have proven anything.  It may not look to be 50/50 in the marketplace, but the craft drinkers are certainly balancing out between men and women.  Go shop at the Beverage Warehouse and take a look at who is browsing the shelves.  Look at who is commenting on the threads in the Lawson’s Finest Liquids Lover’s !!!!! Facebook group, or on a post from the Vermont Brewers Festival.  It’s evident that no longer is this a man’s show and I’m quite okay with that.

It’s not just at the stores and the bars, either.  Women are brewing, blogging, reviewing, posting, sharing and more. Craftbeer.com offers an article called ‘Women, Craft Beer and Centerfolds’ that sums it up nicely.  But I don’t need statistics to rationalize what I can see with my own two eyes. It’s apparent and I’m not the only one that notices.  Whether it is the BeerBabe writing, @StoutsStilettos blogging or @brittneyhibbs reporting locally in Burlington on television, they are getting the word out there about their love and passion for this industry that once was so dominated by the opposite sex.

I appreciate it.  I welcome it.  Heck, I find it damn sexy.  The craft beer boom isn’t going to burst anytime soon and seemingly, neither is the women’s interest in it.

I’ll see you this weekend at the Vermont Brewers Festival.  I’ll be wearing sunglasses and enjoying the sights in more ways than one.

Enjoy: 10, 12, 16, 22, 32 or 64 ounces at a time.