Good people drink good beer

Good people drink good beer – Hunter S. Thompson

This is one of those “good news, bad news” sorts of things. The good news is that the number of craft breweries in the United States has hit a 125-year high,  and mega-breweries continue to lose market share. The bad new is the consumption of beer (and beer-like substances) is dropping. (see graph at bottom of post)

Still California is part of the boom, according to; California “saw a full 43 openings recently: 27 microbreweries, 11 brewpubs and 5 contract breweries.”

The California Craft Brewers Association says California’s craft breweries produced “more craft beer than any other state, brewing more than 2.4 million barrels (32 gallons per barrel),” meaning that “one in five craft beers brewed in the United States” is produced in California. Also, “California has more craft breweries and had more breweries open in 2012 (56) than any other state.” What can I tell you? We Californians are good people and we like good beer.

Beer trend 2000-2011 for total industry shipments. (All figures in Bbls-000. Source:


Can you make beer cheaper than you can buy it?

New Albion, now

New Albion, now (Photo credit: cizauskas)

The answer is a definite maybe not.

You may be able to brew your own beer cheaper than you can buy it at the supermarket unless we are talking a Bud/Miller/Coors product, and then only if you never make a mistake and have a bad batch (they do happen, even to the big guys), don’t include your labor time, or the equipment.

I just brewed a batch of a New Albion pale ale clone. If you’re not familiar with New Albion, it was the craft beer brewed by a micro-brewery (in the days when Anchor Brewery was considered a small brewery), the year was 1976. (I will write more about New Albion’s history in another post.) The recipe is simple with no specialty ingredients needed. It is base malt plus a small amount of hops, and water and yeast. The simplicity lowers the ingredients cost and the time.

My calculations (below) show that I can brew a New Albion clone for $0.127 per ounce versus buying one from the supermarket for about $0.136. Or put another way, a bottle of my clone costs $1.52, which is 11 cents cheaper than a store bought version. My calculations include the cost of bottles and labor (at minimum wage).

Now, you can argue that you won’t need to buy bottles every single time (and you would be right). You might not even have to buy bottles at all and have them donated to you by friends. If you go the used bottle route, there is still a cost, the cleaning and sanitizing will take time and materials to get them ready to fill.

You might not want to include your labor, but it needs to be included (even if it’s only at minimum wage rates) because it is what economists call the “opportunity cost.” Your time is not worthless. Instead of brewing beer you could be doing something else, perhaps earning money at the minimum wage. I used four hours for the time needed to set up, mash, sparge, boil, cool, transfer to fermenter, and clean up afterward (which may be a little tight). My time for all of that is around the six hour mark, which would mean that it is cheaper for me to buy my beer than to make it (by $0.17 per bottle). I am paying for the privilege and fun of the brewing day.

The cost of equipment type stuff, boil kettles, mash tuns, etc., has been ignored; though when you throw that in it certainly tips the scales in favor of the buying of commercial beers.

The costs of brewing versus the cost of buying  are here:

Ingredient price per unit unit Amount Total
2-row pale malt $0.73 lb 12 $8.76
Cascade hops $1.25 oz 2.1 $2.63
Safale American 05 yeast $2.99 ea 2 $5.98
Propane $2.49 gallon 2.5 $6.23
Bottles $12.95 case 2.2 $28.49
Corn sugar $1.95 lb 0.25 $0.49
Labor $7.25 hr 4 $29.00
Total $81.57
Price per ounce $0.127
price per 12 oz bottle $1.53
New Albion (with CRV and sales tax) $9.79 6 pack 1
Price per ounce of Sam Adams New Albion Ale $0.136
price per 12 oz bottle $1.63

The Beer Brewing Process Infographic

I like this infographic showing “The Process of Brewing Beer” (hat tip to Jay Brooks at the Brookston Beer Bulletin). The graphic provides three steps that do not need to happen (but can, and often do, at the craft brewery and mega-brewery level): whirlpool, hopback, and filtering. Those three steps do not have to happen to make beer.

Let the Best Beer Win

English: Anheuser-Busch plant, St. Louis, MO USA

Anheuser-Busch plant, St. Louis, MO USA (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Over at the ever-relevant Beer and Whiskey Brothers blog (and my go-to blog for all things beer-taste related), Jim Galligan has posted, “Brewers Association Calls Out Counterfeit Craft Beers.” He said he asked Julia Herz of the Brewers Association (BA) why they’re speaking out now, since in the past they had “tiptoed around the topic….She simply said that talk about Big Beer offering up imposter brews has been growing increasingly louder in the craft beer community, and the BA felt it was time to state their point of view on the topic.”

I’ll have some more to say further down, but first, here is the BA media announcement in its entirety:

Boulder, CO • December 13, 2012—The Brewers Association, the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American craft brewers, issued the following statement regarding the increase in production and promotion of craft-like beers by large, non-craft breweries:

An American craft brewer is defined as small and independent. Their annual production is 6 million barrels of beer or less and no more than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer.

The community of small and independent craft brewers has grown as beer enthusiasts embrace new, diverse beers brewed by their neighbors and friends who are invested in their local communities. Beer drinkers are voting with their palates and dollars to support these entrepreneurs and their small and independent businesses.

In 2011, small and independent craft brewers saw their industry grow 13 percent by volume; in the first half of 2012, volume grew by an additional 12 percent. Meanwhile, the overall beer industry was down 1.3 percent by volume and domestic non-craft was down 5 million barrels in 2011.

Witnessing both the tremendous success and growth of craft brewers and the fact that many beer lovers are turning away from mass-produced light lagers, the large brewers have been seeking entry into the craft beer marketplace. Many started producing their own craft-imitating beers, while some purchased (or are attempting to purchase) large or full stakes in small and independent breweries.

While this is certainly a nod to the innovation and ingenuity of today’s small and independent brewers, it’s important to remember that if a large brewer has a controlling share of a smaller producing brewery, the brewer is, by definition, not craft.

However, many non-standard, non-light “crafty” beers found in the marketplace today are not labeled as products of large breweries. So when someone is drinking a Blue Moon Belgian Wheat Beer, they often believe that it’s from a craft brewer, since there is no clear indication that it’s made by SABMiller. The same goes for Shock Top, a brand that is 100 percent owned by Anheuser-Bush InBev, and several others that are owned by a multinational brewing and beverage company.

The large, multinational brewers appear to be deliberately attempting to blur the lines between their crafty, craft-like beers and true craft beers from today’s small and independent brewers. We call for transparency in brand ownership and for information to be clearly presented in a way that allows beer drinkers to make an informed choice about who brewed the beer they are drinking. [emphasis added]

And for those passionate beer lovers out there, we ask that you take the time to familiarize yourself with who is brewing the beer you are drinking. Is it a product of a small and independent brewer? Or is it from a crafty large brewer, seeking to capitalize on the mounting success of small and independent craft brewers?

A full list of U.S. breweries is available on The Brewers Association list of domestic non-craft breweries is available for download.

The BA has a point. BMC (Bud-Miller-Coors) market-test their beers to make them appeal to the widest audience possible (or the lowest common denominator, depending on your point of view and how charitable you feel). And, like other large-scale retailers, they will copy hipper and trendier styles and market those products minus their Big Box brand’s label.

Now I drink “craft beer” and I make “craft beer,” but for me, it is an artificial distinction. Each beer must stand or fall on its merits (and, frankly, whether I like the style). The “big corporations are evil” story is getting stale. This is beyond beer-nerdery (if that can be a word) and into beer snobbery.

The big brewers make good and consistent beers. These brews may not be what you or I want to drink but that distinction says we have different tastes from the mainstream. That Anheuser-Busch can brew a beer in twelve regional facilities and produce a beer that tastes the same is a testament to their abilities.

Smaller and nimbler breweries make an asset of their attributes. They can produce new beers when the whim strikes them (without test marketing reactions); and, they have been known to distribute one-off mistakes, such as Lagunitas Brewing‘s Brown Shugga, meant originally to be a batch of their Olde GnarlyWine Ale.

BMC can do good and bad things. Anheuser-Busch endowed the beer program at University of California at Davis. This has benefited craft brewing immensely. A number of the brewers that today make craft beer went to UC Davis and studied under Dr Bamforth.  But, because they are big, BMC can really throw their weight around and play to win. As Jim Galligan wrote for the Today blog, The Big Beer companies have “done their best to push craft beers off the shelf, confuse consumers by creating their own craft beer lookalike brands, and they’ve purchased beloved craft breweries like Goose Island outright, replacing the folks who built the place with their own mass-market veterans.”

But hold on, the BA’s pronouncement has incensed other brewers, who have been excluded from the BA by its definitions of what constitutes “Craft Beer.” According to, August Schell of Schell’s Brewing, announced:

We put the same amount of pride and effort into producing our American Lagers as we do our line up of all-malt “specialty” beers, since we can’t dare call them “craft.” I know for a fact the same holds true for our friends at the Yuengling and Straub breweries. For you to say that the three oldest, family-owned breweries in America are “not traditional” is downright disrespectful, rude and quite frankly, embarrassing. – August Schell

Drink the beer because you like who made it. Drink the beer because it tastes good. Drink the beer because your server is cute. It’s beer, and while it may be art, it ain’t the Mona Lisa.

As Lagunitas says, Beer speaks, people mumble. Or as Sam Calagione, owner of Dogfish Head Brewing says, “Beauty is in the eye of the beerholder.”

Related articles

California Craft Brewers newest video: Support Your Local Brewery

Great to see one of my favorite breweries (Triple Rock of Berkeley at around the 1:50 mark) on this new video, Support Your Local Brewery,” produced by the California Craft Brewers Association.

I do support my local brewery, Kelsey Creek Brewing. The brewer, Ron Chips, has a new wet-hopped beer, the Wet Willie, (named after?) that tastes great. I was a little hesitant to try it, since I thought it might be like drinking fermented grass clippings (wet-hopped beers can harbor vegetal flavors). Those worries ceased with the first sip. It’s a great West Coast style ale–hop forward. Try it while supplies last!

There are a bunch of great craft breweries in California. Support them all.

Making your own beer for fun not profit

One of Papazian's homebrewing books

One of Papazian’s homebrewing books (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I sent this to the Lake County Record-Bee in hopes of it becoming a regular feature called The Brew Note.

Making Your Own Beer for Fun not Profit

Hello ladies, how are you? Fantastic. Does your man look like me? No. Can he make beer like me? Yes. If your guy can make instant oatmeal, he can make you a beer with more flavor than chocolate. In fact, he can make you a beer with chocolate in it. Or, if you like, you can do it yourself and not break the bank.

If you are tired of the same-old same-old beer, you know what I mean: beer whose only taste is “fizzy.” Then you are ready for craft beer. And, one of the best things about craft beer is you can make great tasting handcrafted beer yourself. And you will gather friends to help you drink your beer.

Here are some reasons to brew your own beer:

  1. You can be creative. If you want chocolate and habañero chiles in your beer, you can make your beer with chocolate and habañero chiles. You can make light or dark…or pink beer, if that lights your candle.
  2. You will know exactly what is in your beer because you made it. Nothing you want left out is in and nothing you want in is left out.
  3. It is simple to do. We humans have been making beer for as long as we have been growing grains. When you brew, you connect with a tradition that is thousands of years old. That’s downright ennobling, ain’t it?
  4. It’s pretty cheap to make. No expensive high-tech equipment is needed. You need a pot to boil in and a container (such as a food-grade bucket with airtight lid and airlock) to ferment in.
  5. Beer is honest. Beer doesn’t lie to you (unless you drink too many—then it lies like a cheap rug). If your beer has a problem, it tells you (it never says, “If you don’t know what the problem is then I’m not going to tell you either!”). Homebrewed beer gives you honest feedback as to whether you did it correctly.
  6. When you homebrew, you will learn the secret handshake that all homebrewers around the world know that gets them free beer at all places that serve good beer. [Okay, I made that one up. But, I have told a brewpub’s waitstaff that I’m a homebrewer and have been invited back to see the brewing equipment and have been given samples to try.]
  7. Good people drink good beer. If you are interested in trying, there is help available for brewing. There is a club dedicated to brewing good beer here in Lake County that meets at 6pm on the third Monday of each month at Guido’s Pizza in Kelseyville. They love talking about beer and how to make it and how to make it better. They don’t talk politics, religion, gossip, or current events; it is all about the beer.

What does it take to get started brewing beer? That’s for next time. For now, “Relax,” as the Godfather of homebrewing, Charlie Papazian advises, “don’t worry, have a homebrew” (or a store-bought craft beer if there’s no homebrew around).

BrewingTV visits Dogfish Head Brewing

I am completely jealous. Northern Brewer‘s BrewingTV got a great tour of Dogfish Head Brewing in Milton, Delaware and their brewpub in Rehoboth Beach.

Last summer, my wife and I toured Dogfish Head Brewing on September 1 (note: you need to make reservations in advance). Dogfish’s motto is “Off-centered beers for off-centered people.”We had a great time and enjoyed conversing with the employees and our fellow tour-groupers. After the tour, we tasted 90 Minute IPA, Indian Brown Ale, Punkin’ Ale, and Midas Touch; and then went to lunch at their brewpub and tasted their Lawnmower, Shelter Pale Ale, 60 Minute IPACask-aged 75 Minute IPA, and Midas Touch.

I’m not head-over-heels in love with Dogfish’s beers; I prefer our west coast style ales. I must be more centered than I knew.

Brewers Association Announces 2011’s Top 50 Breweries

Craft Brewers Association Announces 2011’s Top 50 Breweries

Brewers Association Releases Top 50 Breweries in 2011

The Brewers Association has released its annual lists of the top 50 craft and overall brewing companies in the U.S., based on 2011 beer sales volume. Of the top 50 overall brewing companies, 36 are small and independent¹ craft brewing companies¹,².


Top 50 Craft Brewing Companies
(Based on 2011 beer sales volume)

 Rank Brewing Company City State
1 Boston Beer Co. Boston MA
2 Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Chico CA
3 New Belgium Brewing Co. Fort Collins CO
4 The Gambrinus Company San Antonio TX
5 Deschutes Brewery Bend OR
6 Matt Brewing Co. Utica NY
7 Bell’s Brewery, Inc. Galesburg MI
8 Harpoon Brewery Boston MA
9 Lagunitas Brewing Co. Petaluma CA
10 Boulevard Brewing Co. Kansas City MO
11 Stone Brewing Company Escondido CA
12 Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Milton DE
13 Brooklyn Brewery Brooklyn NY
14 Alaskan Brewing & Bottling Co. Juneau AK
15 Long Trail Brewing Co. Burlington VT
16 Shipyard Brewing Co. Portland ME
17 Abita Brewing Co. Abita Springs LA
18 Great Lakes Brewing Co. Cleveland OH
19 New Glarus Brewing Co. New Glarus WI
20 Full Sail Brewing Co. Hood River OR
21 Summit Brewing Co. St. Paul MN
22 Anchor Brewing Co. San Francisco CA
23 Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Paso Robles CA
24 Sweetwater Brewing Co. Atlanta GA
25 Rogue Ales Brewery Newport OR
26 Flying Dog Brewery Frederick MD
27 Victory Brewing Co. Downingtown PA
28 CraftWorks Breweries & Restaurants Chattanooga/Louisville TN/CO
29 Oskar Blues Brewery Longmont CO
30 Odell Brewing Co. Fort Collins CO
31 Stevens Point Brewery Co. Stevens Point WI
32 Ninkasi Brewing Co. Eugene OR
33 BJ’s Chicago Pizza & Brewery, Inc. Huntington Beach CA
34 Blue Point Brewing Co. Patchogue NY
35 Bear Republic Brewing Co. Cloverdale CA
36 Lost Coast Brewery Cafe Eureka CA
37 Big Sky Brewing Co. Missoula MT
38 North Coast Brewing Co. Inc. Fort Bragg CA
39 Saint Louis Brewery, Inc./Schlafly Bottleworks St. Louis MO
40 Gordon Biersch Brewing Co. San Jose CA
41 Breckenridge Brewery Denver CO
42 Founders Brewing Co. Grand Rapids MI
43 Saint Arnold Brewing Co. Houston TX
44 Karl Strauss Brewing Co. San Diego CA
45 Real Ale Brewing Co. Blanco TX
46 Mac and Jack’s Brewery Inc. Redmond WA
47 Smuttynose Brewing Co. Portsmouth NH
48 Utah Brewers Cooperative Salt Lake City UT
49 Left Hand Brewing Co. Longmont CO
t.50 Anderson Valley Brewing Co. Boonville CA
t.50 Four Peaks Brewing Co. Tempe AZ

Top 50 Overall Brewing Companies
(Based on 2011 beer sales volume)

Rank Brewing Company City State
1 Anheuser-Busch Inc. (a) St. Louis MO
2 MillerCoors (b) Chicago IL
3 Pabst Brewing Co. (c) Woodbridge IL
4 D. G. Yuengling and Son Inc. Pottsville PA
5 Boston Beer Co. Boston MA
6 North American Breweries (d) Rochester NY
7 Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. Chico CA
8 New Belgium Brewing Co. Fort Collins CO
9 Craft Brewers Alliance, Inc. (e) Portland OR
10 The Gambrinus Company (f) San Antonio TX
11 Deschutes Brewery Bend OR
12 Matt Brewing Co. (g) Utica NY
13 Bell’s Brewery, Inc. Galesburg MI
14 Minhas Craft Brewery (h) Monroe WI
15 Harpoon Brewery Boston MA
16 Lagunitas Brewing Co. Petaluma CA
17 Boulevard Brewing Co. Kansas City MO
18 Stone Brewing Co. Escondido CA
19 Dogfish Head Craft Brewery Milton DE
20 Brooklyn Brewery Brooklyn NY
21 Alaskan Brewing and Bottling Co. Juneau AK
22 Long Trail Brewing Co. Burlington VT
23 August Schell Brewing Co. (i) New Ulm MN
24 Shipyard Brewing Co. Portland ME
25 Abita Brewing Co. Abita Springs LA
26 World Brews/Winery Exchange (j) Novato CA
27 Great Lakes Brewing Co. Cleveland OH
28 New Glarus Brewing Co. New Glarus WI
29 Full Sail Brewing Co. Hood River OR
30 Pittsburgh Brewing Co. Pittsburgh PA
31 Summit Brewing Co. St. Paul MN
32 Anchor Brewing Co. San Francisco CA
33 Firestone Walker Brewing Co. Paso Robles CA
34 Cold Spring Brewing Co. (k) Cold Spring MN
35 Sweetwater Brewing Co. Atlanta GA
36 Rogue Ales Brewery Newport OR
37 Mendocino Brewing Co. (l) Ukiah CA
38 Flying Dog Brewery Frederick MD
39 Victory Brewing Co. Downingtown PA
40 CraftWorks Breweries & Restaurants (m) Chattanooga/Louisville TN/CO
41 Oskar Blues Brewery & Tasty Weasel Tap Room Longmont CO
42 Odell Brewing Co. Fort Collins CO
43 Stevens Point Brewery Co. (n) Stevens Point WI
44 Ninkasi Brewing Co. Eugene OR
45 BJ’s Chicago Pizza & Brewery Huntington Beach CA
46 Blue Point Brewing Co. Patchogue NY
47 Bear Republic Brewing Co. Cloverdale CA
48 Goose Island Brewing Co. (o) Chicago IL
49 Lost Coast Brewery and Cafe Eureka CA
50 Narragansett Brewing Co. Providence RI

According to said Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, “In the last 15 years, craft brewing has gone from one percent of the overall beer market to almost six percent in 2011.”


*Top 50 U.S. Overall Brewing Companies notes: (a) includes Bass, Beck’s, Busch, Goose Island, Landshark, Michelob, Rolling Rock, Shock Top and Wild Blue brands. Does not include partially owned Coastal, Kona, Red Hook and Widmer Brothers brands; (b) includes A.C. Golden, Batch 19, Blue Moon, Colorado Native, Herman Joseph, Keystone, Killian’s and Leinenkugel’s brands; (c) includes Schlitz and 28 other brand families; (d) includes Dundee, Genesee, Labatt Lime, Magic Hat and Pyramid brands; (e) includes Kona, Red Hook and Widmer Brothers brands; (f) includes BridgePort, Shiner and Trumer brands; (g) includes Flying Bison brands; (h) includes Mountain Crest and 10 other brand families; (i) includes Grain Belt brand; (j) private label brands; (k) includes Gluek and 17 other brand families; (l) includes Butte Creek, Kingfisher and Olde Saratoga brands; (m) includes A1A, Big River, Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurants, Rock Bottom Restaurants, Ragtime and Seven Bridges brewpubs; (n) includes James Page and Whole Hog brands; (o) sold to Anheuser-Busch in 2011.

The Association’s full 2011 industry analysis, which shows regional trends and sales by individual breweries, will be published in the May/June issue of The New Brewer, available May 22, 2012.

For additional statistics, see the craft brewing statistics, and 2011 craft brewer sales numbers.

¹The definition of a craft brewer as stated by the Brewers Association: An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional. Small: Annual production of beer less than 6 million barrels. Beer production is attributed to a brewer according to the rules of alternating proprietorships. Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for purposes of this definition. Independent: Less than 25% of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is not themselves a craft brewer. Traditional: A brewer who has either an all malt flagship (the beer which represents the greatest volume among that brewer’s brands) or has at least 50% of its volume in either all malt beers or in beers which use adjuncts to enhance rather than lighten flavor.

²Flavored malt beverages are not considered beer for the Top 50 rankings.

Abby Berman (on behalf of the Brewers Association)


The Brewers Association is the not-for-profit trade association dedicated to small and independent American brewers, their craft 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 Cup®, Great American Beer Festival®, Craft Brewers Conference and BrewExpo America®, SAVOR℠: An American Craft Beer & Food Experience 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 and about homebrewing via the BA’s American Homebrewers Association. Follow us on Twitter.

For the hops junkies out there: Randall the Enamel Animal, Jr

You say you just can’t get enough hops (or other spices) in your beer? You say that if the International Bittering Units aren’t off the scale the beer is not worth drinking. Then you need to search no further because the folks at Dogfish Head Craft Brewery have an answer for you. It used to be that you would have to have your own full-sized Randall the Enamel Animal, but now through the miracle of science (or marketing…one of those anyway)for only $19.99 (it sounds so much less than $20, doesn’t it) plus shipping you can get your own Randall the Enamel Animal Jr.

Here is what the folks at Dogfish Head have to say about Jr:

So you’ve tried to acquire the Randall 3.0 and it’s either out of stock or out of your price range, right? Well, we heard you and here’s the answer! The same concept in a much more convenient size and price tag. The Randall Jr. allows you to infuse your favorite brew with just about whatever ingredients you can think up. Midas Touch with lime and mint? Yes please! World Wide Stout with espresso beans? You betcha! Just place the ingredients in the Randall Jr. and pour the beer right over them. Place in a cold climate such as the fridge for 10 minutes or so and you’ve got an amazing concoction on your hands! Share with a friend…or not…we’re not judging.

It also makes a terrific stocking stuffer for the beer drinker in your life.

Lagunitas Brewing to open new brewery in Chicago |

Funny I should mention that I cloned a Lagunitas brew just yesterday.

About 10 hours ago, Lagunitas Brewing Owner, Tony Magee announced in a series of ‘tweets’ on Twitter that Lagunitas will opening a 250 barrel brewhouse in Chicago. He expects “1st mash-in will b Q4 2013. Freakin cool, this. Lots and lotsa work ahead.”

Announcing a new 250 bbl brewery140 characters (or less) at a time.

The brewhouse’s location will be “18th & Rockwell, Chicago” and bigger than most of the craft breweries in Chicago combined. At 250 barrels, it will be 5x the size of Goose Island’s operation in Chi town.

He expects “Fresher beer w/ less diesel in it.”

For more go to Beerpulse:
Lagunitas Brewing to open new brewery in Chicago |