On the Road Again: The Very Real Impact of Beer Tourism

glass on map - durham

Brewery relocation has been a hot topic lately, as the American beer market looks to shrink its world.

Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, New Belgium, Deschutes, Stone – all high profile cases where long-tenured legacy breweries looked to the East Coast for welcoming arms, plentiful space and tax incentives, of course. Each of these businesses have added or plan to add additional facilities thousands of miles from where they originally set up shop with hope of better tapping into markets with fresher beer and more integrated associations with communities once full of strangers.

In a way, it’s merely one end of a spectrum, where at the other, local rules supreme. Even if you may be a national brand, you can still find a connection to that powerful emotional theme of community.

But for as much effort as governments put into courting these companies – $18 million from North Carolina here, $5 million from Virginia there – it’s important to not overlook the context of what it means to have the Big Boys of craft playing alongside your small, local startups. No matter your politics or belief in courting outside businesses, there are many reasons why this happens.

Because for whatever amount of money it may take to land one of these behemoths, at least one outcome can’t be ignored. Beer isn’t just a liquid in our glass, after all. Now more than ever, it’s also an economic force benefiting communities around us.

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One Word of Advice for the Craft Beer Newbie

word cloud-live-beer

We’re all on the clock.

The Great Inevitability of Life – it’s own end – ticks away, but still ignored by our inclination to rarely check the minute and hour hands to deal with that truth.

But ever so often, our ears are retrained to hear the staccato of their machinations, usually when some tragedy has affected us or, even worse, it’s Too Late.

We hold tight to the thought that there will always be more time, simply because we believe so. But whether we have religious tendencies or not, we are still left at the mercy of some variable outside our reach. It could be Fate or it could be the fact we just don’t know what tomorrow will bring.

This is the kind of existential quandary that has picked at my brain recently, a byproduct of unfortunate circumstances chipping away at my consciousness.
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Six-Pack Project Review: Beers from CO, PA, NJ, SC and VA/DC

six pack-beer

A week ago, I introduced you to a new pet project of mine, the Six-Pack Project. The purpose? To bring beer writers from around the country together to highlight their state’s ideal six-pack of beers.

Basically, I want to answer the question: If you’re visiting somewhere new, what should you drink?

While I have North Carolina covered, I need help providing recommendations for everywhere else. Luckily, I had some great assistance for the first round of beer selections. I’m still looking to expand the list of picks, so if you write a beer blog or want to provide a guest post to contribute to the Six-Pack Project, contact me on Twitter and let’s chat.

In the meantime, let’s head back to our initial list of six-packs. I’ve picked out some highlights for you in case you’re looking for something to sample during your summer vacations…
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The Six-Pack Project: Beers from Around the Country

six pack-beerWith Memorial Day in the rearview mirror, we’ve entered the (unofficial) start of summer. Barbecues, beaches and vacations lie ahead.

But what’s a trip away from home without throwing beer into the mix?

Enter the Six-Pack Project. It’s a new, collaborative effort between beer bloggers from around the country to highlight a six-pack of our state’s native brews that we believe best represent what the beer culture of our respective states offer. If someone is coming to visit, what bottles or cans would we want to share?

Here are our rules:

  • Pick a six-pack of beers that best represents your state and/or state’s beer culture.
  • Beer must be made in your state, but “gypsy” brewers are acceptable, so long as that beer is brewed with an in-state brewery and sold in your state.
  • Any size bottle or can is acceptable to include.
  • Current seasonal offerings are fine, but try to keep selections to year-round brews as much as possible. No out-of-season brews preferred.

Welcome to the inaugural round of the Six-Pack Project. I hope to include bloggers from across the U.S. in future versions, so contact me on Twitter if you or someone you know may fit the bill.

Some quick notes to about selections for my state, North Carolina:

1. I approached this task as if I were building a flight of beers for you to try. Because of that, I’ve picked six different styles of beers that would (hopefully) take you through a great North Carolina beer experience, although subjectively selected by me.

2. All of these picks can be found year-round in NC beer shops.

Without further adieu, let’s find out what North Carolina has to offer…
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Out of Town – 3 Do’s and Don’ts in Asheville, Beer City, USA

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I spent the past weekend in Asheville, NC, the four-time Beer City, USA winner. I was excited.

It’s not worth going into all the nitty-gritty details of the trip when others have done it superbly well, so I thought I’d take the chance to offer travel guide suggestions rather than review the city and the amazing time I had there.

So if you love beer, nature or simply want a good time away from “It All,” I offer you three do’s and don’ts for your trip to the beer mecca of the East Coast.
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A Unique Experience with … DC Brau

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Along with the requisite trip to the original Dogfish Head brewpub during my recent beergrimage, I was taken to one of Washington, D.C.’s great up-and-coming breweries, DC Brau.

When the brewery opened in 2009, it was the first brewery to operate inside the District of Columbia since 1956. Now it’s joined by several others, including Chocolate City (2011) and 3 Stars (2012). Given its lead in opening, DC Brau is the most commercially advanced of these, shipping six-packs of cans around the immediate DMV region.

With DC-themed, near-graffiti art on its walls, the DC Brau headquarters is split into two sections – a small tasting/hang out room and its canning/fermentation space. I really liked how open their building was, which allowed my friend, Justin, and I to get a look at some of their equipment:

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After grabbing some samples, we decided to share a couple six-packs of their flagship brews. The Citizen, a Belgian pale ale, and Corruption, an IPA, both impressed.
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Out of Town – beergrimage

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Beer itself may not be religious, but it’s certainly capable of causing a religious experience. (Or food, or sports, etc)

Hence, the beer pilgrimage. Or beergrimage.

Whether it’s Costa Rica or across the country or simply across your town, it’s a matter of finding a place that holds special meaning for you. For the past two years, my location has been the original Dogfish Head brewpub in Rehoboth Beach. Aside from Sam Caligione’s contributions to craft beer – which are many – Dogfish has always held a special place in my heart as the first brewery that really introduced me to how craft beer can push boundaries.

So this past weekend I packed up the car and headed north to spend a sudsy couple days (re)exploring my connection to the alcoholic concoction we love so much.

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A Few Words on … the airport bar

Photo via jayRez on Flickr

“The Wright Brothers would kick us all right in the $#%@ right now if they knew.” – Louis C.K.

Flying sucks.

But, as The Ones Who Invented Flight, it is our inalienable right to alter and forcefully evolve what that experience means and what relationship we have with it, imparting true American virtues of impatience, greed and contempt for anyone outside friends or family we’re traveling with.

As The Ones Who Invented Flight it is our unfortunate reality to have willingly bastardized this marvel of modern transportation into something we need, we love and then decry its virtues in order to make ourselves feel better about unforeseen circumstances that “ruin” our days. This guy gets it.

It is fitting then, that one of the best things about flying didn’t originate with us, The Ones Who Invented Flight. Thank god for the airport bar.
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Out of town – Milwaukee (Part 1)

“Perfected mediocrity.”

This is how my friend best put into words my general feelings from my first day (ever) in the state of Wisconsin and the city of Milwaukee. How is this applicable? My initial foray into Wisconsin beer (non-New Glarus) was a mixed bag. Two trips to local breweries mostly left me scratching my head.

Milwaukee Brewing Company flight

At Milwaukee Brewing Company my flight of beers offered something unique – the first cream ale I could ever stand. Every other cream ale I’ve ever had has been too watery and devoid of taste (corn not bring an ideal taste from beer). But somehow, Outboard gets around that corn flavor, even though it is an ingredient. Perhaps it’s the 6.5 percent ABV that adds something extra? Or some Saaz hops in a traditional American beer? Either way, it actually had some kind of flavor and a light bitterness that I haven’t found elsewhere. To put it bluntly, it was the least cream ale of any cream ale I’ve had. Somehow, this brewery managed to make (to me) a perfect version of an otherwise mediocre beer style.

My other favorite from Milwaukee Brewing Company was their Polish Moon milk stout which isn’t the “winter warmer” it promises to be with a 4.5 percent ABV, but is nice and sweet, but the lactose is best overpowered by roasted intensity that adds a great amount of body and flavor to the beer.

Louie’s Demise, the brewery’s flagship beer, was a perfectly fine amber ale that didn’t really have anything that made it stand out, but was good and something I could drink a lot of in one sitting.

Lakefront Brewery flight

The second stop of day one brought us to Lakefront Brewery, where another flight offered quality across the board, but nothing that blew me away. I loved – in idea – the Wisconsinite hefeweizen, which is an all-locally sourced hefe. The flavor was pretty hum-ho and everything you’d expect with banana esters and a bready backbone. It was mostly the fact they’re able to get malt, hops and yeast locally, which is just a cool aspect of the beer.

Another “stand out” from Lakefront was their New Grist gluten-free beer. The only other gluten-free offering I’ve ever had was the Tweason’ale from Dogfish Head, and New Grist was a perfectly toned down version of that. While the base of both these beers is the same – sorghum – Dogfish’s addition of strawberry and honey gives Tweason’ale a easily recognizable flavor. New Grist tasted just like Tweason’ale, but without any additional flavoring. It was a bit sweet with a clean finish, but not much else. Granted, this is what I imagine you’d want from such a beer.

The Brunch Box

One other novelty from the trip was Comet Cafe‘s “Brunch Box,” which was neither brunch nor a box, but was had with breakfast. This drink consisted of amaretto, orange juice, generic Belgian white and topped with Guinness. The orange/amaretto/Guinness combination was very good and seemed to enhance the chocolatey-roasted flavor of the beer a bit. Try making yourself – highly recommended.