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Small and Independent American Brewers Thrive Abroad

Boulder, CO • March 29, 2016—TheBrewers Association (BA)—the not-for-profit trade group representing small and independent craft brewers—today reported export growth data for the American craft beer industry in 2015. Supported by the BA’s Export Development Program (EDP), craft beer export volume increased by 16.3 percent in 2015, now totaling 446,151 barrels and worth $116 million.

Growth was seen in all major markets, most notably in Western Europe which saw a 33.4 percent increase. Ireland, the Netherlands, Thailand and Taiwan were the fastest growing markets in 2015.

Canada was again the leading international market for American craft beer, accounting for 51 percent of exports.  Meanwhile, Sweden, Ireland and the United Kingdom each took a market share of approximately 10 percent.  The top five was rounded out by Australia, which accounted for 4 percent of exports.

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“Small and independent craft brewers are putting American beer on the global map,” said Bob Pease, president and CEO, Brewers Association. “There’s a growing thirst from beer lovers in countries around the world for bold, innovative products from American craft brewers. As the demand for American craft beer continues to grow abroad, the Brewers Association is pleased to support our members by increasing their access to international markets.”

The EDP, which generates exposure for American craft beer through trade shows, festivals, seminars, media outreach and competitions, among other activities, was initiated in 2004 with funds from the United States Department of Agriculture Market Access Program (USDA MAP). There are now approximately 80 small and independent brewers exporting their beers from the U.S., by EDP estimates. 

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About the Brewers Association

The Brewers Association is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their beers and the community of brewing enthusiasts. The Brewers Association (BA) represents more than 70 percent of the brewing industry, and its members make more than 99 percent of the beer brewed in the U.S. The BA organizes events including the World Beer CupSMGreat American Beer Festival®Craft Brewers Conference & BrewExpo America®SAVOR: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience, AHA National Homebrewers Conference, National Homebrew Competition and American Craft Beer Week®. The BA publishes The New Brewer magazine and its Brewers Publications division is the largest publisher of contemporary and relevant brewing literature for today’s craft brewers and homebrewers.

 

Beer lovers are invited to learn more about the dynamic world of craft beer at CraftBeer.com and about homebrewing via the BA’s American Homebrewers Association. Follow us on Twitter.

The Brewers Association is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender, religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, or marital/familial status. The BA complies with provisions of Executive Order 11246 and the rules, regulations, and relevant orders of the Secretary of Labor.

Published in Beer News

Rhythm, Wine & Brews Experience returns for 2016 with an amazing line up of bands, wine and brews.

Live music, California craft beer and wine will create a backdrop in Indio at the scenic Empire Polo Club. This year, 311, Matisyahu, Dream Club, Insecure Alex, The Bellrays, and Long Duk Dong are joining 21 wineries and 48 breweries in Indio for the 5th annual Rhythm Wine & Brews Festival.

Kevin Olsen runs Adam’s Bottle Boutique in Redondo Beach and is the RWB beer curator. 

“This year, we have more unique selection of breweries, some a little less mainstream, so some smaller breweries – more artisanal and craft driven.  Last year, we definitely took a step in that direction.

Belching Beaver came out this year.  Strand Brewing, Ritual Brewing which is a little closer -  a local Inland Empire brewery.  Those are new additions this year…Bells is coming out to the California distribution scene.”  

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And lucky for us, Alpine is getting their toes wet in Riverside County for the first time.

Find out more about the breweries that will be rockin’ this year’s Rhythm Wine & Brews.

  • 10 Barrel Brewing: Darling favorite in Oregon and multiple Great American Beer Festival Winner medal winner. They have brewpubs in Boise, Portland and Bend. 10 Barrel’s main working brewery is also located in Bend. 
  • Anchor Brewing Company: This brewery is dripping with history. Anchor began during the California Gold Rush.  Anchor Brewing were the first to produce steam beer, effervescent beer now labeled California common beer. Anchor is the only steam brewing company still in operation. 
  • Ace Cider: Did you know cider is fantastic to cook with? Use Ace cider in place of champagne to lighten up your dishes.  Try Ace Apple with your next pork dish!
  • Ballast Point: This San Diego brewery is a homebrewers fairytale come true. Founder Jack White opened Home Brew Mart in 1992, after wanting more quality and unique brewing ingredients as a homebrewer. Ballast Point opened their “back room” brewery behind the shop in 1996. They are now brewers of the deliciously famous Grapefruit Sculpin. And in November, the UCLA students, turned brewery owners sold to Constellation Brands for $1 billion. 
  • Sierra Nevada: Ken Grossman, the Godfather of craft, opened a homebrew supply store in Chico in 1976. He purchased whole cone hops from Yakima hop brokers directly and began brewing his now infamous hop-forward beers. He launched Sierra Nevada Brewing three years later.
  • Green Flash Brewing:  Green Flash opened Cellar 3 last year, a new tasting room and specialty brewing facility in Poway. The facility focuses on innovation through barrel-aging and wild yeast experimentation.  When not sipping something sour, try their Soul Style American IPA.  Citra, Simcoe and Cascade hops are layered, giving it tropical and sherbert flavors. It’s a perfect warm weather beer. 
  • Breckenridge Brewery: Colorado’s third craft brewery began at the hands of a ski bum homebrewer in 1990. Today, you can find their beers in 32 states. And in true outdoorsy form, the brewery put nitro in cans late last year. What’s better than craft in a can and a nitro tap?  Yep, Breckenridge’s new line of nitrogen-carbonated canned beer. Their Nitro Series in four-packs started with Nitro Vanilla Porter and Nitro Lucky U IPA.
  • Three Weavers Brewing Company: The female-run brewery is Los Angeles’ second successfully funded brewery Kickstarter campaign. Brewmaster, Alexandra Nowell was the former lead brewer at Drakes and won two GABF bronze medals for her Session beer and German-Style Kolsch while brewmaster at Kinetic Brewing Company in Lancaster.
  • Goose Island Brewing: Goose Island's brands are sold in 24 states and parts of Europe thanks to the Anheuser-Busch InBev deal in 2011. While craft beer geeks across the country cried in their beers over the deal, their Bourbon County Stout has remained world class.
  • Coachella Valley Brewing Company: CVB, as we locals like to call them, answers the call for a bigger selection of sophisticated and modern beers here in the valley. Head brewmaster and part owner, Chris Anderson, is also a graduate of the University of Alaska Anchorage Culinary program.  Using unique fruits and spices, Anderson brews using local ingredients. CVB started a sour program in 2015 and their Profligate Society features sours like the Cabernet barrel aged Epineux Poire prickly pear wild ale.
  • New Belgium Brewing: This is one of the coolest breweries on the planet.  The New Belgium folks not only advocate for beer, they advocate for the planet. They are so sustainable; they became a Certified B Corporation in 2013. Tour de Fat is New Belgium’s traveling party of all thinks bicycle. In every Tour de Fat city, one awesome role model will step on stage to trade in his or her car keys and pledge to live car free for one year. Oh, and the brewery is now 100% employee owned. 
  • Black Market Brewing: Black Market launched the craft movement in Temecula’s wine country. They recently brewed a Rum Matured Deception with Pineapple on cask. The “normal” Deception is a coconut lime blonde ale. Black Market releases a new beer on Cask Night every Monday.RWBEXP15 0130-resize
     
    Lost Coast: Lost Coast began its humble beginnings in 1990, in a 100-year-old castle in Eureka, California. Barbara Groom, a pharmacist turned homebrewer, now owns the 43rd largest craft brewery in the U.S., distributing in 22 states, three Canadian Providences, Puerto Rico, Australia, Costa Rica, South Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore and France!  Have a friend who hasn’t turned to craft yet?  Give them a pint of Great White – they may just turn to craft yet.
  • Founders Brewery: If you haven’t fallen in love with Founders, you don’t have a heart.  This brewery is ranked in the top breweries in the world by Ratebeer.com for the last five years. If you haven’t tried their Breakfast Stout, you haven’t lived.
  • Speakeasy Ales and Lager: Speakeasy hales from San Francisco. Last year, a new 60 barrel brewhouse, malt handling system, fermenters, centrifuge and canning line were installed. Production capacity increased to 90,000 barrels per year.
  • Bootleggers Brewery: Orange County craft beer darlings, Bootleggers was established in 2008 by husband and wife Aaron and Patricia Barkenhagen. They brew the popular Mint Chocolate Porter, perfect to sip during the holidays.
  • Firestone Walker Brewing Co.: I can’t say enough good things about Firestone. And neither could GABF last year.  Firestone took a silver for their Feral One in the Belgian-Style Lambic or Sour Ale category. They also brought home two bronzes for their Hammersmith IPA in the English-Style India Pale Ale category and their Sour Opal in the Wood and Barrel-Aged Sour Beer categories. Then, Firestone was awarded golds for their Pivo in the German-Style Pilsener and their DBA in the Ordinary or Special Bitter categories.  So, it only made sense that they were awarded the Mid-Size Brewing Company and Mid-Size Brewing Company Brewer of the Year award.
  • Bell’s Brewery: Bell’s was founded by Larry Bell as a home brewing supply shop in 1983. They ranked eighth in total volume of all domestic craft brewers in the U.S. for 2010.
  • Barley Forge Brewery: They were recently awarded “Best Brewery” in the OC Weekly in 2015.  Barley Forge specializes in Belgian, West Coast and German-style beers.
  • Brew Rebellion: This brewery is true to its name. Brew Rebellion brews beer in quantities of 30 to 50 gallons at a time. That means an awesome rotating tap list and more specialty beers.
  • Coedo Brewery: Japan: Coeda beers are named after five classic Japanese hues. Coeda honors traditions. The brewers allow the first sip of beer to fall to the ground, from the tanks, as a tribute to the brewmasters who came before them. They’ve won awards in the World Beer Cup, European Beer Star and International Taste & Quality Institute. Their mission? Beer beautiful.
  • Einstock Brewing: is located just 60 miles south of the Arctic circle in the fishing port of Akureyri, Iceland. All Einstök beers are 100% vegan, with no GMOs.
  • Clown Shoes: Funny name, great beer. The craft beer industry is a fun bunch and produces amazing beer, all while being a little crazy. One example is their American Black Ale dubbed “Lubrication.” The label features a robot at a gas station holding a pump handle in his groin vicinity. Fun tidbit: the artist is a woman. And the Clown Shoes story isn’t your typical one. This brand came as a result of a liquor store loving beer so much that the owner decided to brew a line of their own. Clown Shoes contract brews through Mercury Brewing Company in Massachusetts. 
  • Hangar 24 Craft Brewery: At the end of a dusty road, with the San Bernardino Mountains serving as a backdrop; Hangar 24 is named after the hangar where owner Ben Cook—a licensed pilot—and his friends would relax after a day of flying. Fun fact: Hangar 24’s main brew house came by way of Las Vegas’ Monte Carlo Casino.
  • Pizza Port Brewing: Pizza Port serves delicious craft beer in Solana Beach, Carlsbad, San Clemente and Ocean Beach. Each of Pizza Port’s four San Diego County brewpubs won at least one GABF medal last year. The original Solana Beach location won Great American Beer Festival “Small Brewpub of the Year” in 2003. In 2009, they won nine medals at GABF and the Carlsbad location was named “Large Brewpub of the Year.”  Simply, Pizza Port rocks.
  • Mission Brewery: Mission Brewery was originally established in 1913. See Acoustic Ales below. Like most breweries of the time, they went out of business during the first year of Prohibition. The revived Mission Brewery is now in the East Village in downtown San Diego in the historic Wonder Bread Building. As I always say, beer is food.
  • King Harbor Brewing Company: was the first production brewery in Redondo Beach. Last June they opened the Waterfront Tasting Room, joining Los Angeles craft beer bar icon, Naja’s Place, on the International Boardwalk.
  • Belching Beaver Brewing: This is a dog friendly brewery in North Park, San Diego. Their Beavers Milk, Milk Stout took a gold medal at the World Beer Championships in 2014 and 2015. Their Dammed! Double IPA also took a gold at the World Beer Championships in 2014. 

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  • Strand Brewing: Torrance’s first production brewery has grown so much since 2009, it moved to Old Torrance last October.  Now, Strand Brewing, Monkish Brewing, The Dudes Brewing and Smog City Brewing are all within walking or a short Uber ride distance from each other. Cool.
  • Deschutes Brewing: Deschutes is awesome and it’s family owned and operated. They even set up an employee stock ownership program in 2013 so employees can own a percentage of the company. If you try anything from Deschutes, try The Abyss. It’s a world class, 12% ABV imperial stout.
  • Alpine Brewing: You probably already know Green Flash and Alpine merged in 2014. Green Flash is about 20 times larger than Alpine. Apine’s IPA popularity couldn’t meet the demand. Now they can. 
  • Angel City Brewing: Angel City has a special place in my heart. When I first started writing about beer in 2008, I met Michael Bowe, the founder of Angel City.  He’s since sold it and is sailing around the world.  But it continues to thrive in downtown Los Angeles, bringing old-world craft brewing to the new expanding Arts District.  
  • Ironfire Brewing Company: John Maino and Greg Webb met at Ballast Point in San Diego and decided to start their own brewery in Temecula. Ironfire was born in 2012.
  • Barrelhouse Brewing Co.: BarrelHouse not only has fantastic beers (& sours!), but beautiful views from their inviting Central Coast patio. They just announced their 2016 Curly Wolf. This Maple Vanilla Bourbon Barrel-Aged Russian Imperial Stout has been a crowd favorite in Paso.
  • Rock Brothers Brewing: Music and beer are this brewery’s mantra. Creating custom brews for bands is their focus. And no surprise, they (along with Nebraska Brewing Company and Cigar City Brewing) made 311’s Amber Ale beer possible.
  • La Quinta Brewing They opened their doors in the fall of 2013 in the Coachella Valley. And after much success and popularity, they recently opened a brewpub in Old Town La Quinta.
  • Elysian Brewing: Elysian was founded in Seattle in 1995. Try their Avatar Jasmine IP brewed with died jasmine flowers.
  • Golden Road Brewing: All of their beers are delivered in cans. Canned beers stay fresher longer without light oxidation and they are better for the environment. Anheuser-Busch Inbev acquired Los Angeles’ largest craft brewer last September.
  • Babe’s Bar-B-Que & Brewhouse: The Rancho Mirage BBQ restaurant and brewhouse was founded by the Marie Callender’s founder, Don Callender. Don had a passion for craft beer and opened two small breweries in 1998 and 1999.  Babe’s later opened in April of 2002. In 2014, their Belgian Vanilla Blonde Ale took a gold at the Great America Beer Festival.
  • Acoustic Ales Brewing Experiment: Acoustic started brewing in 2012. But the building that houses their brew has over 100 years of American brewing history. The original facility housed Mission Brewery, which operated before Prohibition.
  • Karl Strauss Brewing Company: Strauss was former vice president of production and reached Master Brewer at Pabst Brewing Company. He, Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner started the first-ever brew pub in San Diego in 1989. It was the first brewery of any type to operate in San Diego since 1953.
  • Lagunitas Brewing Company: The brewery that brews in Northern California and Chicago sold a 50% stake to Heineken last September in an effort to expand the brand globally. 
  • Reverand Nat’s Hard Cider Rev Nat West started making cider in his basement and in the spirit of craft beer geeks, grew it to a business that now distributes in five states.
  • Ritual Brewing Company: Redlands brewery founded by Owen Williams and Steve Dunkerken. Williams is the former Brewing Operations Director of BJ’s Brewhouse and Restaurants and teaches Beer & Culture at California Polytechnic University in Pomona. Dunkerken is a Redlands native and long time homebrewer.

Want an extra hour of unlimited tastings from these amazing craft breweries?  You’ll want to check out the Friday night Bottle Share & Kick-off Party. Held on March 4th, the Bottle Share event is open to Rhythm, Wine & Brews Experience VIP ticket holders, Sponsors and Press. Make sure you brink one or two 22oz of awesome craft beer to share. 

So, what about the headliner? 311’s name originates from the police code for indecent exposure in Omaha, Nebraska, after the original guitarist for the band was arrested for streaking. As of 2011, 311 has sold over 8.5 million records in the US. Never has running around naked in Nebraska proved this profitable. While 311 has called L.A. home for years, the band is orginally from Omaha.  With collaboration from the band members and a local brew partner, Rock Brothers partners with fellow Florida brewery, Cigar City on all its bands beers. It's no wonder award winning Nebraska Brewing Company was chosen as the local brew partner to brew the 311 Amber Ale.

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“Choosing bands from a variety of genres makes our event appeal to a broad audience,“ said Alex Haagen, IV, producer of the Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience. “Reggae always draws a big, happy crowd. We added rock, a dash of blues and some funk and think we have an impressive show that everyone will enjoy.” He added, “We’ve woven together live music, craft beer and wine tasting, a variety of amazing food offerings, colorful art installations, circus performers and an incredible venue to create a real ‘experience.’ Come on out and have a great time!”

Published in The Beer Goddess Blog

Taste hundreds of varieties of craft beer and wine

Feb. 22nd, 2016, Indio, CA - Empire Music Ventures is pleased to announce the 5th Annual Rhythm, Wine and Brews Experience on Saturday, March 5th, 2016 at the Empire Polo Club.  Taste delicious craft beer and elegant fine wine in one of the most beautiful venues in the Coachella Valley, as you groove to the tunes of a diverse musical line-up designed to offer something for a variety of ages and musical tastes. The 2016 bill includes 311, Matisyahu, Dream Club, The BellRays and Insecure Alex along with a variety of craft breweries, wineries and food trucks.

Published in Beer News

Thousand Palms,California

February 1,2016

Coachella Valley Brewing Co. (“CVB”) is proud to announce expansion of distribution to Nevada starting February 3,2016.

Published in Beer News
Wednesday, 09 September 2015 00:00

Mad River Brewing Announces New CEO

Blue Lake, CA – Mad River Brewing Company is excited to announce that Tom Del Sarto has joined their team as CEO. Del Sarto comes to Mad River with over 35 years of experience in the beer business. He began his career at Coors West Distributing on the San Francisco peninsula working his way up to Vice President/Managing Partner before transitioning his team to South Bay Beverage, the Miller/Coors distributorship in Santa Clara County.

Del Sarto is replacing Charlie Jordan, who has accepted a leadership position with a virtually located company that allows her more flexibility to spend time with family. “It is a very exciting time at Mad River right now,” said Ms. Jordan. “I am grateful to the owners for trusting me to lead the company through several changes including the completion of a brand refresh.”

For the past eight years, Del Sarto has provided consulting services to the beverage industry with a focus on the craft beer segment and distribution. On his decision to take the helm at one of California’s first craft breweries, Del Sarto states, “Mad River has a great product and great people. I feel that my experience on both the distributor and supplier side can help grow the business in the evolving craft beer market.”

Recent growth at the award-winning brewery also includes the addition of a kitchen to the Mad River Tap Room. The popular brew pub offers a family friendly environment with a variety of tasty cuisine for all ages, and local bands are featured on most nights. The outside beer garden welcomes pets and offers plenty of sunshine to enjoy your Mad River brew with family and friends.

About Mad River Brewing Company:

Built in Humboldt County in 1989, Mad River is an award-winning craft brewery and one of the first in California. Their distinct ales are renowned for their unique flavor profile and consistent quality. Their flagship brand, Steelhead Extra Pale Ale, and their John Barleycorn Barleywine have received gold medals at The Great American Beer Festival (GABF), the industry’s most prominent award. In 2010, Mad River Brewery was select as the “Small Brewery of the Year” by the GABF. The brewery produces a broad array of beer styles and flavor profiles.

Published in Beer News

As part of 21st Amendment’s launch events in Southern California (June 17th – June 20th ) and the run-up to LA Beer Week, brewmaster Shaun O’Sullivan has teamed up with his good friend Alexandra Nowell, the head brewer at Three Weavers Brewing Company in Inglewood, CA to produce a crisp and delicious watermelon Saison called “We Saw Them Coming.” The beer has the refreshing quality of a Belgian-style Saison and the unique and summery quality of real watermelon, and weighs in at 6.3% ABV.3weavers

Published in Beer News
Friday, 22 May 2015 15:33

La Quinta Brewing Ramping Up in 2015

La Quinta Brewery has been busy brewing for Coachella Valley locals and visitors since late 2013. Last year, the brewery delivered 1,000 barrels from their Wildcat Drive location. This year, they are on par to brew 2,000 barrels and owner Scott Stokes shared they might be expanding with one or two more fermenters, in the near future.

Published in The Beer Goddess Blog
Tuesday, 17 March 2015 00:00

Easy Jack Is Back

Session IPA Now Available in Cans Year Round Thanks to Brewmaster’s Hallertau Hop Quest 

Paso Robles, CA— Firestone Walker Brewing Company launched Easy Jack last year as a different kind of session IPA, one with surprising complexity fostered by a rare selection of newer hop varieties from around the world.
 
But the brewery learned the hard way what “rare” really meant when it launched Easy Jack as a summer seasonal—and then promptly ran out of the hops by mid-summer, spelling an early end to Easy Jack.
 
Now Firestone Walker is doubling down and re-launching Easy Jack in 2015 as a year-round release, and adding cans to the mix along the way.  
 
The difference this time is that Brewmaster Matt Brynildson went the extra 5,000 miles to make sure he doesn’t run out of those crucial Easy Jack hops.
 
Indeed, during last September’s harvest season, Brynildson traveled to Germany and spent several days in the Hallertau region, the birthplace of hops dating back more than 1,000 years. There, he hung out at small family hop farms and worked with the farmers to secure an ample supply of Mandarina Bavaria and Hull Melon—two backbone hops for Easy Jack.
 
Brynildson said that Firestone Walker is the first American craft brewery to put such emphasis and weight behind these new German hop varieties.

“Mandarina and Melon are entirely unique, and there’s nothing grown in the U.S. that’s anything like them,” he said. “They have this classy European swagger. I first experienced a beer brewed with Mandarina in Germany a few years ago, and I knew immediately that I wanted to make it a centerpiece of our own session IPA. This trip was all about making sure we could continue to do that.”

The Book on Easy Jack: Hoofing It in Hallertau 

Brynildson was so inspired by his travels that he penned a small pictorial book documenting the Hallertau hop scene’s distinctive blend of traditional culture and cutting-edge cultivation. A digital version of the book can be viewed here: www.firestonebeer.com/brewery/hops-of-easy-jack.php

By the end of the trip, Brynildson had visited numerous hop farms, all of them small multigenerational family operations run by fathers and sons.

“I was overwhelmed by their hospitality,” he said. “Here’s this American craft brewer walking onto their land, and I wasn’t sure how receptive they’d be. But they genuinely wanted to bounce ideas around, and there was this profound sense that we’re all in this together, trying to get the most out of these up-and-coming hop varieties.”
 
So now Easy Jack is back, and better than ever. “We were making collaborative decisions that incrementally improved hops and ultimately the beer,” Brynildson said.

The Hops of Easy Jack 

“With Easy Jack, we didn’t want to just make a miniaturized IPA,” Brynildson said. “When you dial down the malt and alcohol profiles to make an IPA sessionable, things can become bland and unfocused pretty quickly. The key for us was to find these hops that have full texture and flavor, while still bringing the fruity pop that you want from a true IPA.” 

Mandarina Bavaria – Hallertau, Germany

“Mandarina is the defining hop of Easy Jack. It’s real orangy, zesty, like a fresh orange off the tree, which I’ve never smelled in any hop before.”

Hull Melon – Hallertau, Germany

“I call this the rhythm guitar. It has this melony, ripe tropical fruit characteristic that complements the citrus of the Mandarina.”

Southern Hemisphere Hops

“These hops are equally elusive as our prized Mandarina and Melon.  We have begged, borrowed and traded…Yes, we literally traded 8 Wired Brewery in New Zealand an equal amount of Centennial and Amarillo hops for some fresh Nelson hops. The transaction was more complicated than any hop purchase I have ever made.”

Blend of U.S. Hops

“Mosaic provides a tropical vibe with herbal and pine notes, while Citra and Amarillo add complexity and dimension.”
 
Now in Cans
 
Easy Jack becomes one of the first Firestone beers to be canned, courtesy of the brewery’s new state-of-the-art canning line made by KHS, a leading packaging company based Dortmund, Germany. Easy Jack will also be available in bottles.
 
“Putting Easy Jack in cans was a no-brainer,” Brynildson said. “Cans are just fun, they’re light and easy to carry to the beach or a party or wherever. They’re a great fit for a session beer like this.”
 
Look for Easy Jack’s return starting now in markets across the United States.
 

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Published in Beer News

Eastbound and down, loaded up and truckin'
Ah we gonna do what they say can't be done
We've got a long way to go, and a short time to get there
I'm eastbound, just watch old Bandit run

Keep your foot hard on the pedal
Son, never mind them brakes
Let it all hang out cause we got a run to make
The boys are thirsty in Atlanta
and there's beer in Texarkana
We'll bring it back no matter what it takes”

Published in The Beer Goddess Blog
Wednesday, 28 January 2015 00:00

Homebrewing in the Coachella Valley

The ties between the professional craft beer industry and amateur homebrewers are a close and strong bond.  The culture of beer stretches back more than 4,000 years.  The more things change, the more they stay the same. Homebrewing is on a meteoric rise in the United States, due to the popularity of the craft beer industry and a new generation of brewers.

The Homebrewers Association did a survey in the earlier part of 2014 with a third party resource, estimating there are now at least 1.3 mil home brewers in the U.S.  The homebrewing industry has been experiencing unprecedented growth, growing at a rate of ~ 20% per year, in the last five years. And yes, there are a lot more women joining the hobby.

As homebrewing continues to grow, home beer supply retail shops are also thriving. Sales of beer ingredients have surpassed wine ingredients among home beverage supply stores, in the last two years.

Since 1978, the American Homebrewers Association has promoted the joys of homebrewing.  It now has over 43,000 members.

I spoke with four active and passionate homebrewers in the Coachella Valley and their methods and styles of producing delicious home brewed beer.

Joshua Kunkle has been brewing since October of 2007 and is now the president of the Coachella Valley Homebrew Club. The club meetings are held on the first Thursday of the month, at Coachella Valley Brewing, starting at 7pm.

Unlike most homebrewers, Josh first started making alcoholic ciders, after returning home from France. Living in San Francisco at the time, he sought out local brew supply shops that sold the appropriate equipment. When the equipment came with a free batch of grains, to brew beer, Josh knew he had found not just a hobby, but a community.

“I did the beer, beer turned out better than I thought it would. And when I finally got around to making the cider, it was so much of a bitch to do that, I thought, I’m going to stick with the beer. It’s a lot less work, for a lot better product. But, that spurred me into trying different things, and along the way, every time I made a mistake, it turned out to be kind of serendipity in my favor, so that helped me learn new things.”  

EP: “Have you always been brewing in the Coachella Valley?  If not, where?”

JK:  “No, I started brewing when I living up in San Francisco, did that on a very small scale…I moved back to Southern California. I was living over at my parents’ house, which is on 5 acres, and that gave me impetus to expand the operation and start working my way to all grain. Once I started doing all grain, that’s when I started building all my equipment…”         

“On one hand, the beer was slightly better at his parents’ house in Murietta, because they lived on a well system. But on the other hand, the weather was perfect for brewing in San Francisco. The temperatures do fluctuate more in Southern California.”    

EP:  “What are the main differences in brewing in the desert vs. brewing elsewhere?”

JK:  “I will say, Murrieta, the temperatures have higher degree of fluctuation, compared to out here, that I was surprised to find out. But, one thing that makes it interesting out here is the higher temperatures, which for certain styles actually turns out to be a good thing. A lot of your Belgian styles will ferment around 80-85 degrees and that actually is a good thing, versus ya’ know some of the other styles like Ambers and stuff – not so good…it doesn’t really surprise me that Chris over at CVB might be focusing a lot on Saisons and Belgians, just from that stand point alone.”          

Josh’s system is a 4’ x 4’x 8’insulated, temperature controlled box, which started out as an old armament storage from his grandfather. There’s a door on the side and lid that opens at the top. After doing research about home brewers using chest freezers, his system is larger and has the ability to put as much as 70 gallons in it at one time, he’s able to also control the temperature of his bottled beers.  On one half of the box, he’s got a hole cut out with some PVC and a window air conditioning unit and temperature thermostat, hooked up to a temperature controller. This gives a relatively accurate reading of the temperature inside the box. He even has a dual stage controller, to run two different circuits – air conditioning or heater, depending on any weather.

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As for the system itself, it was built with a slight pyramid shape to center the gravity to the middle, minimizing the risk of tilting each side, which raises and lowers via a winch and pulley system. Each side sits in a set of tracks with heavy duty wheels, taking the load when the plates holding the pots are being lifted.

With this system, Josh has won several medals, including the Best of Show at the 2013 Props and Hops Homebrew Competition.

With a nearly 100 degree variance in temperature in the Coachella Valley from winter nights to hot, summer days, he’s found this to be the key to his award winning beers.

“I’m dealing with a living organism; I should treat it with respect. I used to joke - you should treat yeast like people. If you fluctuate the temperature, hot, cold, hot, cold, you get sick. And I imagine yeast is the same way. Your beer is a result of that, for better or for worse. The idea is, you’re creating a nice environment for them.”

His two favorite homebrews have been a Trappist style honey-orange pale ale and a “Braggot” style hybrid-beer. Braggot is actually a form of mead made with both honey and barley malt, introducing nitrogen after fermentation. Like most homebrewers, Josh isn’t afraid to experiment. He’s even brewed with wormwood, taking concepts from Absinthe.

Josh won the gold in the Lager category and Best of Lager for his pilsner in 2014. He also won a silver and bronze for his porters. In 2013, he was awarded the silver in Old Ale for his honey orange pale ale, and Best of Show for his porter.

EP: “As the new homebrew club president, what are you doing to lead the club this year?”

JK:  “One of my big things, I told the club at the last meeting, was that I want to be part of the community a lot more, ya know. I want to get our name out there; I want people to know who we are. “That we’re not just a bunch of drunk guys sitting around. There is a science behind this. There is biology, chemistry. This is a smart peoples sport. You can learn a lot about the art of it…and of course, trying different things, propagating the art of it…the other one would be focusing on a lot more training during the meetings. It’s nice trying different beers, but sometimes a lot of people come to the meetings hoping to learn something…so I’d like to use the meetings as a means of getting people together and learn, ‘tonight we’re going to learn why an IPA is an IPA’, or ‘why sanitation is a good thing’…”

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Josh is also collaborating with Kimberly Bowers, the president of the Mohave Desert Brewers Guild. Josh’s favorite locally brewed beers are Coachella Valley Brewing’s Condition Black, La Quinta’s Tanline Brown and CVB’s Monumentous.

As a full time reference librarian, brewing feeds his desire to constantly learn.

“I live by the ethos that if I’m not learning something I’m dying.“

Despite being interested in craft beer since 1993, Brett Newton only started brewing with his cousin (with whom he co-hosted a podcast called "Beer Me Podcast" up until a couple of years ago) a little over five years ago. Their first batch was an IPA and it wasn't very good. But it was drinkable.

He joined the Coachella Valley Homebrew Club in 2010 after meeting four of its members. He sat in with many of the members on brew days in order to learn more about the process (including future brewmaster of Coachella Valley Brewing, Chris Anderson). He then went on to be elected president of the club in 2014.

EP: “What resources have you used since to hone your brewing skills?”

BN: “The best research I ever did was sitting in with a bunch of the original homebrew guys in the club, like Micah [Stark], Chris [Anderson, now of Coachella Valley Brewing] and Sarge [Ralph Sargent]... I just kinda’ watched them do what they do… I feel like I was able to brew better beer right away.  There’s a bunch of resources online…there’s a free older edition of “How to Brew” by John Palmer. That’s kind of the brewing bible. You can buy a version of it that’s up to date. I also read a couple of books by Charlie Pappazion, who’s kind of considered the godfather of homebrew.”

Brett has brewed some delicious English barleywines. In one, he soaked French oak cubes in Makers Mark Bourbon and the other barleywine was brewed with French oak cubes soaked in Genlivet Nadurra 16 year old scotch whiskey. He’s also brewed lavender, lime Saison and raspberry rose Saison, brewed with dryed rose petals. Brett orders his ingredients online at Austin Homebrew Supply because of the quality and customer services. In a pinch, he’ll visit MoreBeer in Riverside.

EP: How has the local home brew club helped brewers here in the desert?

BN: I think it’s just like, as self-reliant as I can be, it still helps me with learning to brew and I basically, it’s a great place to come ask questions, whom you can sort of test out. You can go online and you can get some good advice, you have to sift through some stuff. But you can know that there are some guys in the club who can really brew because you’ve tasted their beer. And you can ask them questions and be a lot more sure of the answers…also, just to get everyone together and get people motivated.”

EP: “How do you think home brewing has changed over the years?”

“Maybe in the same way craft beer has changed. People are willing to try lots of different styles. It’s not just ‘let’s brew the hoppiest beer we can brew’, which I always thought was ridiculous, because I try to discourage the beginners from going hoppy right away, because that’s one of the harder ones to get right…it’s way easier, almost in every way, to do Belgians or English…the margin for error is much larger….”

Brent Schmidman is not only the previous owner of Schmidy’s in Palm Desert, the founder of the Props and Hops Festival in Palm Springs, but is an avid home brewer for the past eight years.

Brent started with a Mr. Beer kit and quickly realized there’s got to be a better way to brew. He now has a system that was partly purchased from MoreBeer and some elements that he designed himself.

Like Josh and Brett, Brent utilizing the Coachella Valley homebrew club as a great resource in learning more about the craft.

“I’d say when I joined the club, Chris [of Coachella Valley Brewing] was probably the most influential, cause he was so open to meet new people, and that kind of thing…and the rest is just experience. You just keep brewing and do something different until you get what you’re looking for.”

One of Brent’s most impressive homebrews was a 17% ABV chocolate cherry Russian Imperial Stout, aged in Bourbon barrels.   

EP:  “How has the homebrew club helped home brewers in the desert here?”

“I think the best part about the club is that people can come and just learn and experience and share before they have to actually go and buy equipment to do all of that. We had several members that came for 6 months to a year before they ever bought anything…it’s a very open and accepting club…”

EP:  How do you think home brewing has changed over the years?

BS:  “I think it’s a lot more user friendly and accessible and convenient now, than it used to be…now there’s so many different sites that you can order from online. There’s tons and tons of books now…now you can have kits that take a Russian River beer and you have a clone that’s very, very close to that. Maybe you’ve never made a sour before, and you can buy a kit and do it. I think it’s the accessibility to everything, in small quantities…”

Fellow Coachella Valley home brewer, Erik DeBellis has been brewing for just two and a half years, but has racked up the medals, locally.

Erik took the gold medal in the American Ale category in 2013 and 2014 at the Hangar 24 homebrew competition. He took home the gold in the German Wheat category at the 2013 and 2014 Props and Hops home brew competition, the gold and silver in the IPA category at the 2013 Props and Hops competition. He also nabbed a silver in the German Wheat & Rye category at the Southern California Homebrew Championships.

Erik is now the assistant brewer at Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse in Rancho Mirage.

The Hangar 24 home brew competition in 2012 sparked his interest in homebrewing, after he and a friend visited the brewery, on the day of the competition.

EP: What kind of system do you use?

ED: “…I used to just do stovetop, ya’ know, everything on your burner. Now I actually bought a propane powered burner. So, I’m doing everything on that…and it’s awesome. I will never go back to stovetop.”

EP: “Why? What’s the difference?”

“Because I’m just getting so much more power out of it…I’m just getting so much better isomerization of my hops on this bad boy…more power, more heat. You’re getting a better boil, which allows my hops to bitter more, I’m getting more out of my bittering additions.”

EP:  “Where do you buy your ingredients?”

ED: “MoreBeer in Riverside is kind of my main source. Although, I think they take relatively shit care of their hops. So, now, I pretty much buy everything at MoreBeer or Northern Brewer, um, but when it comes to hops, I just source straight from the farms. Mostly, Yakima Valley Hops...”

Want to start learning more about home brewing? There are a slew of resources if you want to start or further your craft.

Beer Conscious Training  offers beer training and eLearning videos for those interested in passing exams like the Cicerone®, Beer Judge Certification Program and Beer Steward Exams.

Beer Smith is a homebrewers dream resource, with answers to just about any brewing question or roadblock. It also has informative video blogs from seasoned home brew professionals.

Better Beer Scores™ is a Colorado based company that offers fantastic interactive webinar programs to learn more about craft beer styles, homebrewing and prepping for beer exams.

Craft Beer University is an online school offers Beer Judge Certification Program (BJCP) exam prep courses and web based educational services to improve home brewing skills.

So what are some current and upcoming trends to be aware of?

Brew in a Bag (BIAB) 1 gallon kits are becoming more popular for brand new home brewers. BIAB is an inexpensive way to for homebrewers to transition to all grain or partial mash brewing.  

Alternatively, all-grain is becoming more popular and extracts are declining, likely due to the fact that home brewers aren't purchasing the extract kits as much as they were several years ago. This speaks to quality and the fact that the future brewers of America want to make the best beer they can.

With the ever-growing popularity of the hobby, you can now find more quality ingredients; including malts and hops from around the world and top-notch yeast from more companies.

Don’t fear the foam.  Join the club, do some online research or read a home brew book. Then take a sip and exhale with the satisfaction of your delicious, home brewed pint.

Published in The Beer Goddess Blog
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