Some snippets from the Texas Craft Brewers Festival coverage

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Another successful year for the sold-out Texas Craft Brewers Festival, where one chocolate stout sold out of 2,000 pours before 4 p.m. and another brewer served beer out of an ice cream cart.

I mention these little factoids as a tip of the growler to Austin Eater, which gave us this highly colorful take on this awesome tradition – which was, by many accounts, the best yet.

The completely sold out Texas Craft Brewers Festival brought together nearly 60 breweries and brewpubs to Fiesta Gardens on a gray, hot, and slightly drizzling Saturday. For the seventh year in a row, the festival celebrated the best craft beers Texas has to offer, with even more breweries, brewpubs, and food to soak up the booze this time around. For those who weren’t able to make it out, read on for the hangovers, observed.” 

Click the link above to read his list of best named beers, and then here’s a good take on Culturemap’s top 5 best tasting.

“Beer fstivals in Texas have received a notoriously bad rap over the years. Some events have been organized by profiteers not concerned by guest experience or quality offerings, while others have been built by well-meaning (but overwhelmed) groups who simply couldn’t deliver on their promises. How nice it was to visit the 2014 Texas Craft Brewers Festival — an event that was well-planned, well-structured and executed with an experienced and thoughtful hand.” 

Check back here for links to more coverage as it comes out, and feel free to put your own links in the comments!

 

 

Beer distributors, including Hopkins of Texas, recognized for service to industry and locals

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The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) honored several industry leaders today during NBWA’s 77th Annual Convention in New Orleans, Louisiana.

The first NBWA Life Service Award was presented posthumously to Mike Hopkins, Sr., former executive director of the Wholesale Beer Distributors of Texas and the founder of Mike Hopkins Distributing Company in Brenham, Texas.

From an article posted on Brewbound:

2013-2014 NBWA Chairman of the Board Greg LaMantia said, “Mike was truly legendary as he possessed the most unique of perspectives: that of a fierce professional advocate for wholesalers and that of an owner of an independent distribution company.”

NBWA President and CEO Craig Purser added, “Following his personal philosophy of ‘Pass-It-On,’ Mike served on the Texas A&M Chancellor’s Council and volunteered for the Make-a-Wish Foundation among other organizations. Locally, if there was a club, he was a supporting member.”

“On September 9, Congressman Kevin Brady honored Mike Hopkins on Capitol Hill, with a tribute in the Congressional Record,” Purser said.

LaMantia said, “As the Congressional Record read, ‘Those who knew him and learned from him were blessed to have a true visionary as a mentor and a friend.’”

A second NBWA Life Service Award was presented to Allen Everette, who joined the beer distribution industry as the chief financial officer of Orange & Blue Distributing in Champaign, Illinois, in 1979.

The NBWA Industry Service Award was presented to Jeremy Pisca, executive director of the Idaho Beer and Wine Distributors Association for his energy, insight and service to the distribution industry.

This is just one of many reasons to get to know your local beer distributor. Here are a few more. 

Shameful, wrong-headed attack is the mark of political amateurs

John Nau III (From UTSA Today website)

A pro-life group has launched a shameful, albeit quixotic, attack on Republican donor and successful beer distributor John Nau because (GASP!) his wife allegedly supported Planned Parenthood in the past.

After 20 years in journalism and 17 covering Texas state politics, this kind of attack STILL sort of amazes me.

Because what this anonymous diatribe (from what appears to be a bogus email “prolifetexas@hushmail.com”) is actually doing with its new, cheap little website aimed at Nau, of Silver Eagle Distributors, is attacking Greg Abbott, their only hope for a pro-life governor this cycle.

Who made THAT call?

And while I’m asking questions, who is this group whose donors can’t be traced? And which can’t put its own name on its email OR the attack website? This doesn’t sound like the typical action of the usual pro-life groups in Texas, who rarely operate in anonymity.

Whoever it is, they’ve gotten all wrapped around the axle about the fact that Abbott has named Nau his campaign treasurer, therefore making him clearly his policy advisor on women’s healthcare because that’s what the money guys do, right? (RIGHT? They fill out the ethics reports and advise candidates on abortion. RIGHT?! What do you mean, NO?!) 

This is really bad, according to this pro-life email, because you know… Greg Abbott HAS ALWAYS BEEN SO WISHY WASHY ABOUT ABORTION.

I mean, what if Nau changes Abbott’s mind and turns him into a big ole abortionist?! IT COULD HAPPEN!

“Why does Greg Abbott have someone who is supporting planned parenthood (sic) as his campaign treasurer?” reads the website.

And then, apparently because they needed to fill white space, they demand to know why U.S. Sen. John Cornyn has Nau as his national finance chairman.

Because, you know. Cornyn HAS ALWAYS BEEN SO WISHY WASHY ABOUT ABORTION. Easily influenced by the far left. A real moderate, that one.

In its attack, the group called Nau “one of the most influential donors with the Associated Republicans of Texas and Texans for Lawsuit Reform” but then says he doesn’t support traditional Republican values.

Here again, I have to ask how a man who has donated boatloads of cash to ART and TLR can be accused of not supporting the GOP? Because perhaps he (or his wife) doesn’t agree on this one issue?

I have to say, if this were primary season, I’d at least be able to give them props on their timing. But Abbott is the nominee, guys. Take out after him, and succeed (OMG right?!), and who do you get? How do you win there?

John Nau has donated to myriad causes over the years and, God forbid, clearly subscribes to the modern-day notion that a man’s wife can support anything she damn well pleases.

This shameful attack on a guy (and wife) who is NOT a politician but who chooses to spend his money affecting the political process – and his time helping candidates that pro-lifers oughta oughta be thanking God for EVERY DAY – is about the most ridiculous political posturing I’ve seen in a very long time.

Let me tell you a little story.

In Oct 2008, the Texas Conservative Review slammed a political activist, Kathy Haigler, for attacking Joan Huffman, now a GOP senator, because she took a donation from Nau, characterized in her attack as a known PP supporter.

Calling the attack a sure sign that the “silly season” in politics had begun, a month before the elections, the TCR – another liberal rag, am I right?! – had this to say:

“What does this have to do with Joan Huffman and her strong pro-life credentials? Absolutely nothing, especially since John Nau has donated to about every key conservative officeholder in the state of Texas, and has even given money to Ms. Haigler’s choice for SD 17.” (EVERY KEY CONSERVATIVE OFFICEHOLDER IN THE STATE OF TEXAS – just making sure you saw that) EVEN HER CANDIDATE.

Huffman won, and as we all know, went on to firmly and categorically support Wendy Davis in her filibuster of the anti-abortion laws last summer.

OH WAIT, NO SHE DIDN’T. Because she’s pro-life. Just like Abbott.

And even John Nau, as powerful and influential and popular as he is, can’t change that. This attack is shameful and cheap, and only shows the weaknesses of his attackers.

Big Bend Brewing celebrates wild success

(from bigbendbrewing.com)

A young brewery out in West Texas is exploding onto the market after less than two years in existence, thanks for a thirst for craft beer in the region and a regulatory environment that clearly supports great brews.

Not to mention, they make a great beer that works well in the desert climes – a key part of the equation.

Big Bend Brewing Co., based just outside Alpine, is getting some major attention lately for its success in the remote West Texas region, where beer is big but crafts are few. With twice daily tours and quadrupled production in its first two years, BBC is a success story that inspires.

Says a recent Texas Monthly article:

“Supply interruptions notwithstanding, the brewery has built a loyal customer base in West Texas, where the beer is on tap in bars as far south as the Mexican border. Big Bend National Park stocks six-packs in its park convenience stores, and more than a hundred bars, restaurants and stores are on the brewery’s waiting list.

Nearly two years after producing its first kegs, Big Bend Brewing Company has quadrupled production.”

A recent article in the Midland Reporter-Telegram touts the brewery’s success and has this to say about its plans for the future:

“In a few years, Big Bend Brewing Co. plans to sell its chilled and canned beers in El Paso, Midland, Odessa, Lubbock, Big Spring and San Angelo, essentially all remaining West Texas markets.”

 We absolutely love to see the success of a great craft beer. It tells us two things: 1) that the regulatory environment is ideal for fast growth of craft beers and 2) that making a great beer and having a good marketing strategy is key to success.
Congratulations BBC!!!

Here’s why craft beers applaud the three-tier system

(By Erika Lambreton/TBIJ)

Because without it, Big Beer would take over. Many, many craft brewers know this. Unwilling to get caught up in the popular, though ineffectual and inaccurate, crafts-good-laws-bad drumbeat currently in vogue with a handful of brewers, guys like Flying Dog Brewery in Maryland understand that the laws protect them – and that loosening them would simply open the door for Big Beer to take over.

We see an excellent treatment of this issue in the Washington Examiner recently:

“The result is the “three-tier system,” in which brewers must sell to distributors rather than to retailers, and distributors must sell to retailers like liquor stores or bars rather than directly to consumers.

“That system helps craft brewers, says Jim Caruso, CEO of Flying Dog Brewery in Maryland, by keeping markets “relatively open” for small producers.

“‘If the laws were such that Budweiser could brew the beer, control all the distribution, and have Budweiser bars,’ says Caruso, ”they would just — on every street — open bars, and only have Budweiser products. I could go there every day or once a week, and they’d never take my beer.’

“Without the three-tier system, Purser says, beer would be sold the way soda is, with supermarkets offering relatively few brand options and Coca-Cola and Pepsi sponsoring restaurants that serve only their drinks.” 

And that’s all I’m sayin.

 

ICYMI: Twin Peaks: In-house brewery could be key to success

Credit: Charlie L. Harper III

We love to see restaurants taking advantages of the new freedom craft beers have thanks to the laws passed last session by the Texas Lege with the support of the craft brew industry, the wholesalers and the retailers.

This report in the National Restaurant News discusses how this restaurant chain, which also owns the Ojos Locos restaurant/bars, believes its new craft beer option will help it capitalize on what it sells the most of – craft beer.  The article describes the chain as “a casual-dining chain, which is known for its all-female waitstaff and 29-degree-Fahrenheit tap beers” (treats for the eyes as well as the gut, in other words) and says this:

“There are very few breweries that can open up and inside of a year reach their max capacity without any selling costs. We don’t have to hire salesmen or brokers or anybody to go out and find us customers, … and we don’t have to incentivize retailers to carry our beer. It will really add to the profitability of our concept, both for our corporate stores and our franchisees in the market.”

The goal is to have the beer in all 21 of its properties across Texas – we’ll be waiting!

Study: The three-tier system helps good craft beer thrive

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A fascinating and insightful analysis recently released by The Boston Consulting Group unequivocally states what many of us have argued for a long time: Good craft beer survives on its merits, and thrives in an open-distribution system such as the three-tier system that exists in Texas.

It is a great explainer for those who can’t see past the noise in the very passionate but highly political (and not, in my opinion, very well informed) debate over the regulatory system and the craft brews.

A big THANKS to BCG for doing the study.

From the analysis titled “For Small and Large Brewers, the U.S. Market Is Open:”

“The economics of the U.S. beer business conveys significant advantages to those with scale. But, as it turns out, subscale small brewers are also (unexpectedly) the beneficiaries of the advantages afforded major domestic brewers. The reason: they can leverage an effective route-to-market distribution system that was built by distributors and larger brewers over the decades. This open distribution system enables small brewers to avoid significant, if not prohibitive, costs to entry, while also gaining deep access to large and small retailers.”

 ”Small brewers seeking to break into the market must recognize that they ultimately depend on consumer loyalty and that the distribution costs are not the impediment they seem to think they are,” states the intro. In fact, thanks to piggybacking on independent distribution networks supported largely by the economics of large domestic and import brewers, small brewers avoid much higher distribution costs. And regulators need not worry about the barriers to entry for market newcomers given their recent success and ability to leverage the industry distribution system.”

The article makes three major points:

  • Demand for craft beers, and the rise of small brewers, is fundamentally driven by consumer preference.
  • The open distribution system for beer in the U.S. has helped small brewers gain access to the market because they do not have to build their own networks.
  • Given the open distribution system, both small and large brewers must compete for consumers in order to survive.

Our view is that success in the beer industry still rests fundamentally with consumer demand. Further, the current open structure of the three-tier distribution system has been a fundamental enabler in the craft beer segment,” the article reads.

For anyone who is truly interested in why we should fight hard for the open-distribution system if we want to fight for craft brews, take a minute to get past the hype and really educate yourself – this is a great article for those who wonder why all the fuss.

Chron: For brewer, emphasizing tradition, community pays

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We’re kind of in the summer doldrums, not much going on with people on vacation and such, but one of my favorite beer writers, Ronnie Crocker, hit another homer with this great profile of St. Arnold’s and their pioneering spirit when it comes to making great beer and changing the way Americans drink it.

From the piece:

“Wagner and Stephen Rawlings, a 28-year-old Saint Arnold brewer, were on Day 4 of a weeklong buying trip through two of the most storied regions in the world of brewing — the Bavarian Hallertau of Germany and now the Saaz in the Czech Republic, not far from the birthplace of pilsner beer.

Hallertau and Saaz hops have been prized by generations of brewers across the globe as well. The Japanese and, increasingly, the Chinese have become major customers.

But it’s American craft brewers like Wagner, a relatively new breed in beer’s millennia-long history, who have made the biggest mark on the European hops business, elevating hops to their most exalted status while using them in creative new ways and radically altering the perception of American beer around the world.

Wagner, now celebrating 20 years in business, is among the veterans in that transformation.

Just 185 U.S. craft breweries and brewpubs in business today opened before Saint Arnold did, records show. The most recent Brewers Association count shows there now are 2,866 in operation, which means the Houston brewery has been around longer than 93 percent of its contemporaries. It survived the boom times of the 1990s and the shakeout that followed.”

Crocker’s piece takes us to Bavaria and beyond – click here to settle in for a great read! 

 

 

Congrats to East Texas cities for voting in beer and wine sales

Bumper sticker by Two Brothers brewing in Aurora, IL.

Some exciting politics happening in East Texas over the weekend, with four cities voting down antiquated dry laws and allowing beer and wine sales.

Soon the folks in Van, Grand Saline, Gilmer and Quitman will be able to not only enjoy a tasty beverage without driving far and wide to get it, but they’ll also be able to enjoy the economic development benefits that elude dry counties, such as increased retail and restaurant action.

Canton rejected both of the ballot measures, the same in all five cities, that would have allowed sales of beer and wine for off-site consumption and the sale of mixed drinks by restaurants, respectively.

From the Tyler Telegraph:

It’s very clear that all over East Texas, voters are overwhelmingly approving alcohol sales, and we are really excited about it,” said John Hatch, with Texas Petition Strategies, the company that assisted in getting the propositions on the ballots.

“These elections rarely fail on facts,” he said. “If they fail, they fail on rumor, innuendo and misinformation.”

 

 

 

 

 

What’s the meaning of craft beer these days? Thanks in part to Big Beer, who knows?

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I like the treatment of this issue by the brilliant people over at Texas Public Radio, who ask the question that will get any non-hipster kicked off Rainey Street in Austin in a matter of seconds: What exactly IS craft beer anymore?

We know what craft beer used to be. We think we know it when we taste it. And of course, as I’m sure my detractors will point out in the comments, everybody who’s anybody knows what craft beer is, duh.

Except really? TPR makes two excellent points with the following comment in their story about the issue:

Small breweries are transforming into big ones, while big breweries are masquerading as small brands, selling “crafty” knockoff beers in an attempt to lure customers from the craft beer market.

Part of the confusion over what craft beer means has come from within the craft beer community itself. The Brewers Association, a Colorado industry group that serves as a voice for craft brewers, has changed its definition multiple times.

Good discussion points here, but I’d like to highlight here the widely recognized tendency of Big Beer to try and cash in on the craft brew population by thoroughly confusing the people who don’t have time to study the fine print – well-meaning craft beer drinkers who may get fooled by brands like Shock Top used to do before everybody figured out they were AB.

Anyway. Read and learn. Good stuff.

 

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