Erin Peters

Erin Peters

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.

Buellton, California— The winning streak continues for Figueroa Mountain Brewing Co.  After bringing home 17 medals from the 2016 San Diego and Los Angeles International Beer Competitions—8 and 9 respectively—the local California brewery has done it again. 

Venice, CA—After three years of anticipation, Firestone Walker Brewing Company’s new Propagator campus in Venice, California will open its doors in April, with limited evening hours starting on April 7 before expanding into daily lunch service in May. The Propagator is located at 3205 Washington Boulevard near the corner of Washington and Lincoln.

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.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact:

Abby Berman Cohen (on behalf of the Brewers Association)

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646.695.7044

Brewers Association Lists Top 50 Breweries of 2015

Boulder, CO • April 5, 2016 – The Brewers Association (BA)—the not-for-profit trade group representing small and independent craft brewers—today released its annual lists of the top 50 craft and overall brewing companies in the U.S., based on beer sales volume. Of the top 50 overall brewing companies, 43 were craft brewing companies.¹

“The top U.S. brewers continue to drive demand, growth, innovation and exponential interest in beers from small and independent brewers,” said Bart Watson, chief economist, Brewers Association. “With a historic record number of breweries in U.S., the top brewers continue to open new markets and expose beer drinkers to a variety of fuller-flavored styles and offerings.”

Top 50 U.S. Craft Brewing Companies

(Based on 2015 beer sales volume*)

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The Association's full 2015 industry analysis, which shows regional trends and sales by individual breweries, will be published in the May/June issue of The New Brewer,available in May 2016.

For additional statistics, see the Brewers Association’s annual craft brewing industry growth report for 2015.

1 Figure based on companies that met craft brewer definition for all or part of 2015. An American craft brewer is small, independent and traditional. Small: Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Independent: Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. Traditional: A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

2Top 50 Overall U.S. Brewing Companies notes: (a) includes 10 Barrel, Bass, Beck’s, Blue Point, Bud Light, Budweiser, Busch, Golden Road (partial year) Goose Island, Elysian (partial year) Landshark, Michelob, Rolling Rock, Shock Top and Wild Series brands. Does not include partially owned Coastal, Craft Brew Alliance, Fordham, Kona, Old Dominion, Omission, Red Hook and Widmer Brothers brands; (b) includes A.C. Golden, Batch 19, Blue Moon, Colorado Native, Coors, Keystone, Killian’s, Leinenkugel’s, Miller, Saint Archer (partial year), and Tenth & Blake brands; (c) includes Pabst, Schlitz, Small Town, and 28+ other brand families; (d) includes Alchemy & Science and Sam Adams brands. Does not include Twisted Tea or Angry Orchard brands; (e) includes Dundee, Genesee, Labatt Lime, Magic Hat and Pyramid brands; (f) includes Kona, Omission, Red Hook and Widmer Brothers brands; (g) full year volume; craft rank reflects pro-rated volume due to sale of stake to Heineken (h) includes BridgePort, Shiner and Trumer brands; (i) includes Bell’s and Upper Hand brands; (j) includes Mountain Crest and 10 other brand families as well as export volume; (k) includes Sleeman and Sapporo brands as well as export volume; (l) volume will be pro-rated in 2016 data set due to sale to Constellation Brands; (m) will be part of control group with Duvel Moortgat USA starting in 2016; (n) includes Utah Brewers Cooperative and Perrin Brewing Company brands, will include Cigar City brands starting in 2016; (o) includes Boulevard and Ommegang brands; (p) includes Flying Bison, Saranac and Utica Club brands; (q) includes James Page, Point and Whole Hog brands; (r) includes Grain Belt and Schell’s brands; (s) includes Long Trail, Otter Creek, The Shed and Wolaver’s brands; (t) includes Casco Bay, Sea Dog and Shipyard brands; (u) includes Iron City and 17 other brand families.

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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, Homebrew Con, 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.

 

CELEBRITY CHEF AARTI SEQUEIRA JOINS 6th ANNUAL PALM DESERT FOOD & WINE PRESENTED BY AGUA CALIENTE CASINO RESORT SPA, APRIL 8-10

Celebrity book signings, live cooking demonstrations, and wine and craft beer tastings round out the weekend-long celebration, taking place in the Coachella Valley

PALM DESERT, CA; March 17, 2016)—Palm Desert Food & Wine presented by Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, is just a few weeks away and excitement is building as top chefs from across the country—alongside more than 60 restaurants and 40 premium wineries, breweries, and spirit purveyors—gather in the Coachella Valley, Friday, April 8 through Sunday, April 10. A recent addition to the star-studded lineup, the festival welcomes celebrity chef Aarti Sequeira (host of Food Network’s “Aarti Party” and season six winner of “The Next Food Network Star”). Sequeira will host a live culinary demo at the Sunday, April 10 Grand Tasting, alongside Ricardo Zarate, Suzanne Tracht, and Valerie Gordon, among others. A full schedule of events is available at www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com.

Programming highlights include:

Friday, 18 March 2016 22:16

Get Crafty This Baseball Season!

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!

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!”

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