April 30, 2010

Dropped Anchor. End of an era

Though I covered this in the SF Weekly's SFoodie blog and the SF Beer Examiner blog, the sale of Anchor this week keeps me pondering. Don't ask me to rattle off everything great about craft beer and the industry, but one thing I've discussed frequently is that all the forefathers, the pioneers, the movers, shakers, and brewers who got the keg rolling are, for the most part, still around. What other industry could that be said for? Luminaries such as Boston Beer's Jim Koch and Sierra Nevada's Ken Grossman are still captaining their ships, still vibrant and show no signs of slowing down; in fact, both of them keep ramping up great projects. This is what I set out to discover when I started working on Red, White, & Brew. While there was Dick Yuengling and Jake Leinenkugel whose great-great-grandfathers built the breweries they now preside over, I met with D.L. Geary who founded the first microbrewery in New England, Larry Bell who started Michigan's first, Carol Stoudt, the first female craft brewery owner, and more. While all of them have kids now who are working for them and learning the ropes in the hope that one day they take the reins from dear old Dad or Mom, the undisputed father of American craft beer is Fritz Maytag who bought the sinking Anchor Brewery in 1965. This week, after 45 years, he sold it. Just up and sold it.

While not the same level of severity as Kennedy's assassination or a man walking on the moon, I'll never forget when I heard the news. I was at the New Orleans airport returning from Jazz Fest Monday night when Half Pint texted me the news, informing me that our friend Jesse from Beer and Nosh was the first to post it. The shock hasn't really worn off.

Maytag is 72. Last month, Ken Allen, 70, sold Anderson Valley Brewing Co. As the pioneers
reach retirement age, this will happen more and more. It's inevitable. Change is constant. Even among the breweries I selected for RW&B, where longevity was a top criterion, half of the 14 have undergone major changes. And the fact that I picked 14 to represent just 1% of the then-1,400 breweries means it is likely that half of all breweries have experienced such transitions. To wit:
  1. Leinenkugel's was already owned by Miller. But the SAB-Miller/MolsonCoors merger of their US operations means that Leinie's is now owned by MillerCoors.
  2. New Belgium is employee-owned, but founders Kim Jordan and Jeff Lebesch were majority shareholders. They seemed an odd pairing--her nurturing and talkative, him taciturn and retiring. I just found out they are recently divorced and Lebesch has been completely bought out.
  3. Grand Teton was quietly sold by founder Charlie Otto after some 20 years.
  4. Widmer Bros. merged with Redhook, both already partly-owned by Anheuser-Busch, to form Craft Brewers Alliance with Kona and Goose Island falling under their umbrella.
  5. Anchor, the very first craft brewery, sold, along with its distilling business which was also a revolution in craft adult beverages.
  6. Electric Brewing in remote Bisbee, Ariz, everybody's favorite chapter, was sold to a couple of guys who recently opened Dave's Electric Brewpub in Tempe (founded by Electric Dave in 1988, one of the new owners name is also Dave). Far worse, Electric Dave was recently in a life-threatening car accident but is recovering in Bisbee.
  7. Dixie Brewing in New Orleans continues to be contract brewed in Wisc. and its return to the Big Easy grows ever unlikely.
Names and faces are changing. Fortunately, beer continues to get better and better. Go enjoy an Anchor Steam and count your blessings.

April 15, 2010

Keep yer milk man, gimme a beer man

I get all forms of news-letters, press releases, tweets, pings, pongs, pangs of jealousy, and information about beer happenings both locally and across this great craft beer soaked nation of ours, but this one made me nostalgic for a time I never knew.

From the email of The Bohemian, a killer B&B I stayed at in New Ulm, Minn. on my initial Beer Odyssey so as to visit the August Schell Brewery (the 2nd oldest in America and 26th largest overall and currently run by Ted Marti and his sons--the 5th and 6th generation descendants of the founder), here's the latest in giving the people what they want. On a sad note, this offer is only good for residents of New Ulm, Minn.

This weekend marks the delightful reintroduction of home delivery. It's a limited event, but a superb attempt at honoring nostalgia, history and, by golly, the local folk that fuel the enthusiasm of...our local brewery. The Milk Man, many remember, but around here, beer was also dropped off in earnest at the door. When news of this event surfaced, thoughts raced through my head of how many guests I could fit 'within the city limits' at my address! Everyonewanted to move to New Ulm, and with me, at least they could for the weekend. Only two cases were allowed at any door step, but I was still on my game, even though devastation was looming as the orders were filling fast and only so many available. I called Ted and Jodi Marti, pathetically maybe, but I really thought this idea was the next best thing to sliced bread! Upon no answer up front, and reading the fine print: This offer was for RESIDENTS of New Ulm. I did what any savvy girl would do, ran to the liquor store, got my order in and will just have to crack the cases when they arrive for the weekend! In other words 'share': my love of New Ulm, a brewery that rocks, incredible marketing and a good time. So, for one, call 507.354.BBNU. Oh, we are going to have to raffle, or maybe wrestle, for the signed cases from Mr. Ted Marti, which I suppose will be, uh, empty after we are through on the porch.

April 1, 2010

Wetting my Whistler

Greetings from the Great White North, eh. For the most part, it's hard to think of Canada as a foreign country, but considering how cold it is in Whistler (snowing every day in late March) and how expensive a six pack of beer is (about $12, and the US-Canadian exchange rate is virtually even!), this feels pretty foreign.

But their flag is red and white, so this still qualifies for red, white, and brew.

I'll say one thing for craft brewers here, they sure are up on their terroir. I bought a sampler pack from Rickard's, unaware at the time it's an imprint brand of Molson. The sampler had a Red (red ale), White (white ale), and Dark (porter brewed with maple syrup, though it hardly looked or tasted porter-ly).

When that ran out, I got a sixer of Granville Island Brewing Kitsalano Maple Cream Ale. Again, where's the maple?

In search of real maple syrup flavor, third time's a charm. I got two bombers of Cannery Brewing Maple Stout. The Web site says it's brewed with real maple syrup though the label lists among the ingredients "maple flavour." Still, it went great with our Nanaimo bars.

As for Cannery's Blackberry Porter and the awesomest named beer of all time, Russell Brewing IP'Eh, I'll have to wait til I share these with the hosers back home.

Take off, eh.