What’s just as important as making good craft beer? Making sure it’s available to as many people as possible. 

The three-tier system was established after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 and not much has changed. An organization called Liberation Distribution (LibDib) is offering what it calls the first three-tier compliant web-based platform. LibDib creates an opportunity where makers and buyers can work directly together, thus giving restaurants, bars and retailers access to a larger variety of boutique craft libations.

Launched on March 22, the San Jose based company has over 250 accounts in California so far, and have moved onto New York.

I spoke with Cheryl Murphy, LibDib’s founder and CEO:

What prompted you to start LibDib?

It’s really crazy, just all of the industry consolidation that’s happening across all three, ya know, wine, beer and spirits; on the distributor side, that’s kind of what got me into doing what I’m doing here. I spent 20 years in the wine business; managing wholesalers…could never get their share of mind. And understandably so, they, especially when consolidation happens, they gotta’ pay attention to where their money is coming from and my winery was not big enough to really matter. 

So, every year I would make numbers or a distributor of mine would go out of business or they’d get acquired and then we would be at the bottom of the wrung at a giant distributor. It was like pulling teeth and I kind of had a little too much to drink one night when I was with my dad, who was my boss at the time. I was working at our family’s winery. 

And I said, ‘ya know, I cannot – you can’t do this based on the industry’s conditions. How can we be successful?’

When you take control of your own destiny, as a sales person, as a brand, is when you can be successful. But the problem is when you have a distributor, in between is beholden to larger companies, you can often, even though go out and get your own places and get your own sales, sometimes the distributor is beholden to other people so it’s not going to be top of mind to keep those placements or take those orders. 

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My whole goal is how can we facilitate legal three tier sales, I want to make sure that’s really important, we are part of the three tier system…But how can we enable small breweries, wineries, distilleries to do business with other small businesses, grocery stores, bars, restaurants, where there’s thousands and thousands of them, without a giant company in-between. 

The way my model works is that we built a two-sided web platform for the maker, what we call our supplier, where they can go in, put all their materials online, sales materials, POS, videos, social media links, everything about their brand…then they can buy right then and there. 

As a distributor, we collect the money. We pay the maker. We pay the taxes. We do all the things we have to do as a distributor.  We take half the margin. So, that’s anywhere from 15-20% of whatever product you’re talking about. And the maker is responsible for delivery. 

It’s been really interesting so far. A couple of the breweries that we have, they were self-distribution. But now we’ve kind of brought them back into the three-tier system because we’re taking care of a lot of the things that they don’t want to do. 

They want to go out and sell their brand. They want to make their beer. But they don’t want to collect. And they don’t want to invoice. And they don’t want to do all the things that are just a pain to do. So, we’re trying to make it easier for those guys, and we’re making it easier for the account side, cause the accounts like to carry small production craft products. But they don’t want to write 100 checks every month….

Small craft products don’t necessarily fit with the distribution, the current model of distributors. They’re not going to make enough money on your brand, so why would they care?

In working with us, you can have that direct fulfillment, but then still have the backend of the distributor with one invoice and one check.

So, in essence, they are saving money and able to get into more locations easier without having to do the self-distribution work. 

Exactly. A lot of breweries want to fulfill because they want to have that complete control, over the temperature, over everything. But they don’t necessarily want to do all the other stuff that the distributor does.

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How many craft breweries are on your system?

Well so far, there’s some compliant stuff, so it takes longer, but so far we have two breweries that are local around here. We have one from Alaska coming on…

What’s your biggest group so far? Would it be restaurants, or bars, or retailers?

So far, it’s bars and bottle shops. We’re working on a couple big deals. There’s a stadium that’s interested in working with us and having us get 15 or 20 taps, just totally unique, small craft beer stuff…

Have distribution companies taken notice yet?

Yes! I was very nervous about the wine and spirits folks, if they not be happy about this. But for the most part, they’ve been pretty accepting. They recognize that with this consolidation, that they need – their bread and butter is their bigger suppliers. And some of these folks, some of these little guys take away their time and effort from where they really make their money, so they like the idea maybe I can be like a incubator model for them…so far so good…the way that I’m starting to see trends happening on the spirits side too, and I think it will come with wine eventually, out of all of these giant companies, that they’re buying craft breweries. They know they need that to keep their market share. It’s going to happen in spirits too…

How do you think you’ll ultimately affect the big beer buyouts?

There’s so many small companies that need help with their distribution. I’m going after what I call the long tail of the industry. The  people that couldn’t get distribution, even if they wanted it…if you want to pick up and leave, you can go, pick up and leave.

This is a totally different vertical, but do you consider yourself to be in any way similar to AirBnB?

In terms of posting your things once, and having people from all over the world, and having hundreds of thousands of people be able to see it, yes. It’s definitely like the AirBNB of alcohol distribution.  It’s funny, VC’s around here will tell us, don’t tell us you’re the Airbnb of anything. But it gives people an idea. You can go in, you post your product, buyers from our legal market can see it and purchase it legally. 

Shotgun cover photo: @thebeerhiker

During Coachella in mid-April, I tasted some delicious craft beer not only in the ‘Craft Beer Barn’, but also in the ‘Rare Beer Bar,’ headed by Beer Belly’s Jimmy Han.  He even stashed away some Wicked Weed Marina, a blonde sour ale aged in wine barrels with over one pound per gallon of peaches and apricots.

This brewery is now one of 20+ craft breweries that are now owned by larger, corporate brewers. The Brewers Association defines a craft brewer as small, independent and traditional – with less than 25 percent ownership by a non-craft brewer. 

I spoke to Mitch Steele, former brewmaster of Stone Brewing and current co-founder, brewmaster, and COO of New Realm Brewing, as well as Julia Herz, Brewers Association craft beer program director, about why it’s important to know what you’re drinking.

I know there are a lot of feelings on both sides as far as craft breweries “selling out.” What are your thoughts in how it affects the craft beer industry?

JH: Big picture, even though it’s not happening in mass, right? 99% of the 5,300 plus breweries  - and that’s our 2016 data there – but 99% of those are still independent and small. But as the purchases continue to happen… the slowing down of purchases was where we thought this was headed and Department of Justice issued a consent degree…and over the purchases in 2015 and 2016 – Devil’s Backbone [Brewing Company] being a key one, that was approved with some changes made from the DOJ. That’s the consent degree. Now, when Karbach came along, that was a separate investigation that then still got approved. So, as these are continuing to happen, not in mass, but as these are continuing to happen, independent breweries are absolutely threatened by the chance to already have access to market.

The more that the large global brewers become a one-stop shop, for brands and beer styles, to both distributors and retailers, the harder it is, number one to make the marketplace fair, number two, for beer lovers to really get the choice that many beer lovers desire. 

MS: Well, I think it’s really dangerous what’s going on right now, honestly. The problem is, is that the majority of the beer drinking public don’t know or don’t care about the business practices of large brewers and how it impacts small brewers. I think that’s really where the danger is, cuz, ya know, when a brewery is buying tap space, which is technically illegal, and small breweries can’t  - number one, most small breweries won’t do it because they don’t want to do something that’s against the law. And they can’t afford to play that game either. They’re not swimming in cash like some of these big brewers are, really puts the small brewers at a disadvantage. I think that the concern is that nobody really knows that except for small brewers.  When somebody’s whose kind of a casual craft beer fan walks into a bar, and sees all these beers that are craft, yet they’re all brewed at Anheiser Busch Brewery, most of the time, they’re not going to register it’s not a small, independent brewer. You see this kind of thing with other kinds of businesses as well. It’s hitting where it hurts for craft. When these brewers can potentially come in and sell a keg of beer for 50-60% of what a small craft brewer can afford to sell their keg of beer at, it really is damaging the ability of the craft brewers to sell their beer. 

I know Lagunitas isn’t your typical, small craft brewery, because of the size and how long they’ve been around, I would guess that this sell out would affect it even more. Correct?

JH: Yeah. And then you also add Ballast Point in the mix with Constellation purchase. So, if you look at sales data, sales data is not definitive, sales data from IRI more so reflect more popular selling styles of beer, because that’s what is going to go up in those scans at grocery store registers, not brewpubs down the street. Thousands of breweries frankly are not in the scan data. But if you look at scan data, and the trends of the top selling styles, you’re seeing less and less over time, the independent craft brewers brands at retail, in this case in off premise retail being in the top of the mix. 

Where you surprised by the Wicked Weed buyout? 

JH: Well, based on hearing that we’re almost done with Karbach, yes. But based on knowing that any business is going to make moves and plays to be available and it looks like the efforts to localize their beer presence is on. So, in that respect, I am not surprised. Cause they continue to make regional purchases in key beer markets of the country. Four Peaks, Arizona, Blue Point in New York, Los Angeles for Golden Road. These are very geographically, strategic made procurements and we also have to talk in terms of whatever article you publish, the deal has not gone through. It’s an announcement from AB Inbev that they are moving to make a partnership and bringing Wicked Weed into their brand portfolio, but it is not a closed or done deal. It’s still subject to review. 

MS: Well, that surprised me. I’d go so far to say that it shocked me. I didn’t see that one coming. I thought they were in it for the long haul. And I know Luke and Walt pretty well and I’ve brewed with them before and we’ve hung out a lot. I didn’t see this one coming from them. Now, I don’t know their ownership very well, and the people that actually funded that brewery for the most part. I know Luke and Walt are part owners of that, but I don’t know what percentage they own. But, I know that they had some big time investors in that brewery, and they’ve been mostly their decision, but who knows. Ya’ know, nobody really knows. But, yeah, it shocked me. Disappointed me. Some of these are not a big surprise. You hear through the grapevine that some of these newer breweries that are building themselves to sell and want to sell eventually and they’re just trying to get their business to a point to where they’re attractive to a large brewer. There are other breweries that have gone down this road that you never saw it coming.  There are people that have said, ‘Wicked Weed was built to sell.’ But I never looked at it that way, knowing the guys and knowing their beers. I thought they were in it for the long haul. Ya’ know, the whole thing is, somebody comes and offers you a ridiculous amount of money, who’s to say you’re wrong for taking that and setting up your family for generations? You can’t really fault it, I just wish it didn’t happen. 

Right. The big difference of say Golden Road, Ballast Point and Lagunitas – from what I hear, people are more sympathetic – they don’t see the Ballast Point sell as the same as Golden Road. What are your thoughts?

JH: I don’t know. I feel like there’s been social on Ballast lately. It just depends – it’s an interesting one. The acquisition, no matter who you’re talking about, have struck different nerves at different times, but I think the reasons that you’re getting so much play this week, I think potentially reaching a tipping point to some of the beer lovers that I’m seeing. I’ve even seen one comment – ‘the straw that broke the back.’ It’s getting more than any beer lovers expected. 

MS: Yeah, and people didn’t really see that one [Ballast Point] coming. The word on the street was that Ballast Point was going to do something. Stock offering, things like that. But I think the other difference with Ballast Point is the purchase number was released along with the news, and so when people see $1 billion, they’re like, ‘ok, who are we to say they shouldn’t have done that.’ 

Do you sympathize with any of these craft breweries after they explain on social media? “We had to do this because of distribution.” “The beer will stay the same.” What do you think of their rebuttals and explanations? 

JH: Well, bottom line, any brewery, any business  - let’s talk about it that way – has the right to be able to make any business moves that they want. But when 99% of the 5,300 breweries are still independent and you’ve got a 180 plus regional craft brewers that are doing it independently and you have breweries on the record saying, “we will never sell, we will always be independent,” then there are examples in the marketplace showing that you can do it without selling out to big beer…Sam Calagione of Dogfish has been very vocal about it. There was a USA Today piece on Oskar Blues. 

MS: Yeah. I don’t know if you know this, but I worked with Budweiser for 14 years. This was back in the 1990s. People still looked at Budweiser as the evil empire, but I dealt with the reaction from craft brewers all the time. Negative reaction and people who say, ‘it’s lousy beer, lousy quality beer.’ I’d get on my soap box and say, ‘ya know, you may not like it, but don’t ever talk negative about the quality because the people who brew this beer are as passionate about it and you are about yours.’ But it’s a different company now. I certainly get the backlash, I can relate to it because I dealt with it for a long time myself. I came from craft, and then I went to Budweiser and was there quite a while…it’s tough if you’re a craft brewer and in that position and all of a sudden you become the enemy. I think it’s a very uncomfortable feeling for most of them because the craft brewing business is so built on community and comradery.  Now all of sudden you’re not in the club anymore. That’s a hard thing to swallow, especially when you’ve got so many friends in the business…and people that don’t have ownership in the brewery that sell, and have no say in it, and they’re just kind of, there when it happens, those are the people that I feel really bad for, because they had no say. 

The whole access to ingredients thing I think is a little bit overplayed. I think if you’re a growing craft brewer, there are enough suppliers out there, if you work it hard enough you can get what you need, with a few exceptions. For example, Galaxy hops. Nobody can get Galaxy hops right now. Can a big brewer go in and get Galaxy hops? I don’t know if they can. I don’t know if they’re available to them. I think that’s overplayed, just a little bit. I think really the big advantage for a small brewer joining forces with a big brewer is the access to the resources, the technical resources, so they can understand what’s happening in the brewing process  - be it really complex lab equipment or whatever. And then the distribution access is huge, that’s really, the financial end of it, expansion and that kind of thing. Those are the things that really matter. 

Does distribution and those laws have anything to do with this and why they are selling?

JH: Yes, as soon as you sell, you get instant access to things that those 99% of the 5,300 breweries don’t have. You get into a system in the network for better economies of scale, for purchasing raw materials and ingredients and you get instant distribution that cannot be matched and is unparalleled and frankly, is not necessarily <pauses>

Fair?

JH: It’s leading towards not thinking it’s fair…the number of distributors over time continues to wane. Even though we have 5,300 plus breweries, today, there are only 1,000 plus active distributors. Five hundred plus of those are controlled by AB Inbev. Miller Coors has several hundred as well. Distributors are amazing partners to beer, but it’s a matter of priority. How do they decide what they’re going to sell? And when you’re an AB house – that’s a common term for distributors – their first priority is likely those AB brands. 

MS: The whole South African hop thing I think is way overblown. That’s not what people should be getting angry about Anheuser-Busch about, because Anheuser-Busch owns hop farms in several areas and they don’t sell those to any craft brewers. I don’t think this is a move on their part to really limit the accessibility of hops to craft brewers like people are making it out. I think it’s just they have a use for those hops, and they don’t have a surplus. They don’t have a surplus anymore. That’s coming from people I know that work at AB, that I trust. I just don’t think it was politically motivated. I think it was just part of their business. There are so many other things that they’re doing. Going in and buying tap handles in bars, cleaning out all the independent brewers and filling the bars with some of these brewery’s beers that they’ve purchased. They’re opening taprooms and brewpubs all over the country with that are branded with Goose or 10 Barrel or Goldenroad, or whatever. I think those are the kind of things, and they pass those off as craft. I think that’s where the real problem is and the real danger is...be honest about what you’re brewery is and what it isn’t. If you’re passing yourself off to somebody who’s a small, independent blogger, or beer writer, or brewery, or whatever, and you’re completely backed by Anheuser-Busch, you gotta’ have fully discloser there. 

Just when you thought the beer offerings at the annual music festival couldn’t get any more awesome, this year proved to be the most refreshing and abundant yet.

Friday, 18 March 2016 22:16

Get Crafty This Baseball Season!

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I recently rented out my room through AirBNB to a Smog City Brewery employee.  Located in Torrance, the five-year-old brewery quickly developed a cult following for its quality crafted and flavorful beers. 

This wasn’t coincidental and I was giddy when he brought a dozen of their delicious stouts, IPAs and sours.  That same weekend, I stayed in La Quinta at Jim Lefebvre’s house.  Yep, I sipped on some Hoptonic IPA with a baseball legend.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016 23:16

Firkfest 3.0 Arrives in Anaheim on Saturday!

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Get ready for the premier Cask Festival in Southern California, Firkfest 3.0!

  • 30 Breweries
  • 50 Casks
  • 4 Hours
  • Unlimited Pours

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!”

Sunday, 14 February 2016 21:45

A Drive Through The Central Coast: Grapes & Grain

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Some beerand wine drinkers have the silly idea that you must be loyal to one beverage or style. Let me introduce myself. My name is Erin Peters, and I am a cross drinker.  

And I’m not the only one. 

A visit to California’s Central Coast is a perfect time to compare some of the world’s best artisan beers and wines. I recently took a drive up to Paso Robles and further north to the Monterey area to find out what craft beers wine experts turn to. 

Thursday, 23 July 2015 18:10

What's new in the San Diego Craft Beer Scene?

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San Diego is world renowned for producing amazingly high quality beer that has encouraged new comers to be creative and push beer style limits to new heights.

San Diego’s legacy breweries like Karl Strauss Brewing Company, Stone Brewing Co., Ballast Point, Green Flash Brewing Company and AleSmith Brewing Company have a stellar reputation for brewing consistently great craft beers over nearly a century, collectively.

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