True Romance: New Glarus Gives a New Meaning to Brand Loyalty

If you’re deep in the weeds or thick in the mash or whatever the appropriate idiom would be for someone who thinks about beer too much, you’re likely familiar with New Glarus. The Wisconsin brewery is a unique snowflake in the industry as one of the largest brewers in the country (#16 on the Brewers Association list) … and widely beloved … yet only sells its beer in its home state.

In 2016, the brewer sold 214,000 barrels … only in Wisconsin. To put that in comparison, New Glarus last year sold *more* than Oskar Blues (201,000 barrels), which is distributed nationwide. Or just a touch more than 21st Amendment and Rogue *combined*. Since 2010, New Glarus as grown production 133%, going from 91,937 barrels to 214,000.

So of course they’re going to start selling more. Per Brewbound, New Glarus is about to embark on scaling up, set to reach a future max of 400,000 barrels.

“Did I envision a 400,000 barrel brewery? Hell no,” New Glarus founder and president Deb Carey told Brewbound of the $12 million investment. “We thought we’d be an 8,000 or 15,000 barrel brewery.”

15,000 barrels? How quaint.

This all got me thinking about doing some silly, uneducated math. The best kind.

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Deconstructing What It Means to Be Best: Is It Beer or Experience?

The past week was a wild one of lines drawn and heated tempers – all over a logo.

Or, rather, a logo released by the Brewers Association to separate their “small and independent” members from other businesses managed to rile up beer enthusiasts, creating collateral damage of their good intentions. No matter what the success of the effort is in the long run, it’s clear that the business – for the geekiest and most committed – is entering a stage of new definitions in which “us vs. them” is merely a starting point for breweries to pledge their independence with a physical commitment of space on packaging.

But still, non-Brewers Association defined beer makes up about 87.5% of sales in the U.S., making it a mathematical impossibility that any significant number of drinkers will choose this battle as their last stand. “Small and independent” matters to consumers, but not in a way that any kind of majority (or “silent majority,” even) will create some kind of beer-focused coup and overthrow the centuries-long fact that humans really like drinking lager.

Among all this, I posed a question on Twitter inspired by a (civil!) Reddit thread: was the “best” beer you’ve ever had about the beer or experience?

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Citation Needed – What Does It Mean to Support ‘Independence’ in Beer?

The Brewers Association has created a new “independent” logo for businesses to display on beer packaging. As for its value as a good or bad thing, I’ll leave it to others.

This move is really interesting, as it fits so well within the BA’s mission and pairs perfectly with another recent decision to reserve certain kind of sponsorships for “craft”-defined breweries only at their annual Great American Beer Festival. However, the backlash (and support!) on social media and elsewhere shows there is more to consider than just the questionable visuals of the logo itself.

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Malt Liquor’s One-Off Return to ‘High Class’ Status

This week, Founders announced the arrival of a new beer in their barrel-aged series, DKML. A rather innocuous announcement, as these things happen all the time. There are entire websites dedicated to beer releases, after all. But from a historical perspective, it was a little different. DKML stands for – if internet circles are to be believed – Dick Kicker Malt Liquor.

For $12 a 750 mL bottle or $15 a four-pack, this latest offering provides an on-the-nose joke to its buyers not originating from the first half of its name, but its second.

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The Life of a Professional Beer Taster

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Ken Weaver gets a visit from Andy three or four times a week. It’s been this way for more than a year.

Occasionally they’ll see each other at Weaver’s favorite local bar, but almost exclusively, Andy stops by Weaver’s house in Petaluma, California. He never comes empty-handed, either. IPAs, wheat ales, sours, stouts. Restocking a fridge has never been so easy or convenient when you know someone like Andy.

“I see a UPS or FedEx person here every single day,” said Weaver.

Andy, who works for UPS, is a regular at Weaver’s home, where he drops off boxes of beer. Sometimes he’s not the only one making that stop, either. Weekly – if not daily – cardboard boxes full of freshly packaged brews appear on Weaver’s doorstep. They’re unwrapped or pulled out of packing peanuts, the boxes are broken down and placed in the garage and later that day, Weaver pulls a bottle or can from his fridge and gets to work.

He’s no ordinary lover of beer, after all. He’s a professional taster.

Yes. He gets paid to sample beer.

“The best parts of this job are exactly what you’d hope for them to be,” Weaver said. “It’s neat to have beer arriving on your doorstep. I have access to just about anything you’d want. That’s fun and exciting and what’s most interesting on social media, and that’s the part of my job that brings people behind the scenes of what’s going on in the beer industry.”

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I went to GABF with a Plan. I Found This Story Instead.

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I may have made a beer fest faux pas. I had a plan for the Great American Beer Festival.

Not necessarily a long, marked up sheet with beers I wanted to try – that can simply be disastrous with the pressure you put on yourself – but a short list of breweries I wanted to see. I was interested in their booths and what kind of attention they may receive from the thousands of committed beer lovers milling about the Colorado Convention Center.

The idea was to find these tables with hope of acquiring fodder for stories for All About Beer. I had good intentions. Things did not go as planned.

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The Pleasant Distraction

There are always other things to do.

We have jobs and friends and responsibilities of life. But even then, there is always something else pulling us toward the multitudes of interests and passions we hold close. How we divide our time, through internal formulas working to extrapolate wants and needs, equates to each of our unique personalities.

If we pursue our goals both professional and personal, then the sum of our efforts shape who we are.

In recent years, I’ve sought to balance the many fractions of my life with help of this blog, and increasingly, work with the talented editorial teams at All About Beer, Beer Advocate and Good Beer Hunting. I’ve achieved so much because of the opportunities presented to me through research and relationships built off This is Why I’m Drunk. It has helped me only further grow my passion for beer, its industry and its culture.

But, the truth is you’re as much to thank for pushing me as my own internal drive. Sharing an education in beer comes in all sorts of ways.

This past weekend, the North American Guild of Beer Writers announced I had finished first in the category of “Best Beer Blog” at its annual awards ceremony. I’m thrilled to share this recognition with Robin Shepard, second for work at Isthmus.com, Carla Jean Lauter, third for The Beer Babe, and Jay Brooks, who received an honorable mention for Brookston Beer Bulletin. I’m so happy to be included with them for the same award.

But most of all, I’m excited to share this with you. Whether you’re an everyday reader sorting through the archives, a commenter who has shared in conversation or simply stopping by for the first time, I’ve been lucky to find my voice and learn new things because of interactions with people like you.

There will always be something else trying to gain my attention – often deservedly so – but I love using this space as a way to grow with you through a greater appreciation for all things beer.

Please know, Dear Reader, that I’m forever appreciative of how you influence me. I strive to think creatively and provide my love of beer in a unique way, and it means so much that I get to share that with you.

There are lots of shiny objects floating around all of us, reflecting constant reminders of where we should focus our attention. Thanks for letting me distract you.

The Data Behind Your GABF Beer Samples

Heading to Great American Beer Festival? Hope you like hops.

Thanks to Porch Drinking, festival goers have an advance preview at the many beers that will be served to thirsty enthusiasts descending on the Colorado Convention Center. Want an idea of what to expect? I crunched some numbers pulled from a continually updated list at Porch Drinking, as submitted by breweries.

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Some Details Forgotten in Latest AB InBev Buy

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Whenever one beer company takes over another, there is always reflection. Especially if it’s by someone like AB InBev.

What will happen to Brewery X? How will this impact their beer? Should I care about them any more?

From my American point of view, it’s been an interesting case trying to track the recent purchase of Belgium’s Bosteels by AB InBev, which was announced earlier this month. Bosteels, maker of Kwak, Karmeliet and Deus, is a 225-year old brewery.

Immediately after the announcement, people seemed to ask: but how much of the “family” aspect will be left?

During this week’s discussion on The Beer Temple, I got to chat with host Chris Quinn and others about the purchase. As is often the case, there’s plenty beyond the top-level assumptions or quick reactions.

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Get Buzzed: Coffee is Ready to Take Over Your Pint Glass

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Joel Kodner used to rely on energy drinks to get him through the day. What spark he couldn’t muster on his own would come from a 12-ounce can of Red Bull or 8 ounces of Redline.

Until he came bean-to-face with a new obsession.

In 2014, the brewer at Florida’s Due South Brewing Co. traveled with coworkers to Fort Lauderdale’s Argyle Coffee Roasters, which focuses on specialty grade, single origin coffee beans. Through an afternoon of “cupping,” the coffee-specific slang for a tasting, Kodner experienced bold flavors he never would have expected from Maxwell House or Folgers as he sampled coffees made with beans from Costa Rica and Brazil.

“It blew my mind how these guys at Argyle talked like brewers,” Kodner said. “A few extra minutes of roasting or few degrees in brewing temperature can really change the flavor profile of the same exact bean.”

After sipping his way through various roasts, Kodner was hooked. He doesn’t rely on energy drinks anymore.

Joel Kodner, left, poses with Manny Carrera from Argyle Coffee Roasters. He’s holding a bag of coffee sold in the Due South Taproom from the same roast used in Java Mariana Trench, the coffee variant of the brewery’s yearly imperial stout.

Joel Kodner, left, poses with Manny Carrera from Argyle Coffee Roasters. He’s holding a bag of coffee sold in the Due South Taproom from the same roast used in Java Mariana Trench, the coffee variant of the brewery’s imperial stout.

At the time, Due South’s Cafe Olé Espresso Porter was Kodner’s favorite beer. The stage was set, but it was that trip and its serendipitous outcome that created a tighter attachment to the coffee-forward brew. Perhaps fittingly, you can probably draw a direct line from that experience to today, with Kodner acting as the man behind Twitter’s @TeamCoffeeBeer, a handle dedicated to championing all things its name suggests.

“Coffee beer is kind of my favorite thing right now,” Kodner said. “It’s definitely something that’s getting bigger.”

He’s not the only one thinking that way. From new brand rollouts to festivals celebrating all things coffee beer, the style is showing American drinkers that life exists beyond the hop. As the coffee industry trends upward alongside beer, a natural partnership is forming. The small beans most associated with travel mugs and morning commutes aren’t just an afterthought for beer lovers or brewers any more.

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