There’s no doubt that 2012 was a big year for Drink Craft Beer! Last year was the year that we really took the bull by the horns and decided to see how far we could really take this company we started from meager beginnings back in 2006. Just how big did we go? Well let’s take a quick walk back through time and we’ll paint you a picture.
OK, we admit, we got off to a seemingly slow start. But we took a lot of meetings, talked with a lot of people (read: pestered a bunch of brewers) and this is when the groundwork for the year was laid. It’s not the fun part, but it’s necessary.
That said, January was the month we started writing about craft cider, and we even brought on a dedicated writer: Sarah, our cider writer! Since then, we’ve deepened our affection for this historic beverage and have had ciders at both of our festivals.
In February we held our biggest event to-date at that point! Over 550 people came out to the Taza Factory Store in Somerville for our craft beer and chocolate pairing event, “Can’t Keep ‘Em Apart: A Beer & Chocolate Love Story." With Taza donating chocolate and space and Slumbrew, Narragansett, Peak Organic and Sixpoint donating beer, we raised over $1800 for the Great Boston Food Bank - about 4,570 meals worth of donation! It even got covered on Boston.com!
March...well March was a prep month. Plus it was St. Patrick’s Day. We were busy. Let’s leave it at that.
In April it was up to Maine, something we would end up getting quite used to, to brew a collaboration beer with one of our favorite local brewers, Chris Lohring of Notch Brewing Co. After weeks of brainstorming and testing ingredients, we brewed and casked our true breakfast stout: a coffee milk session stout on cask! Coming in a little under 4% abv, this was truly one that you could have a couple pints of and not ruin the rest of your day. We launched it to a packed house at Lower Depths in Boston’s Kenmore Square and kicked the cask in just over an hour. We even had awesome coffee/beer mugs made up for the occasion! Chris said it would never be brewed again...but maybe if we all bug him enough it’ll make another appearance?
In May, we made some new friends in the form of the folks over at Grand Ten Distilling. If you’re not familiar, Grand Ten is a new distillery over in South Boston. It’s run by two cousins, one is a chemistry PhD and the other is an MBA. The split the work as you’d expect two people with those qualifications to. Spence, the distiller, is heavily influenced by time he spent in France and loves the tradition of their liqueurs. And their product shows it. They make possibly the best gin we’ve ever tasted (seriously, we use it a lot...especially in craft beer cocktails).
We hung out with them one night and worked (which I use in the lightest sense of the word) to pair their Wire Works gin with craft beer, doing a new take on the ancient practice of Kopstootje, or a shot of gin with beer. Check it out for yourself!
They’re great guys and we’ve since been back many times, including to make 2 hop liqueurs with Spence. One used an obscene amount of Sorachi Ace hops, the other had a dangerous amount of Chinook!
In June, while it may not seem huge, we had a revelation, and it’s name was Shandy! Take about equal parts craft beer and quality lemonade, combine and (if you’ve picked the right beer) you have a delicious sessionable concoction perfect for the hottest of days and the longest of all-day barbecues!
This made a huge difference in our summer as we were able to drink great beer, and still last all day as more and more of our friends seem to be getting yards...which inevitably means cook outs. Also, it helps that we can drink and it doesn’t hurt our skills at baggo, a favorite summer pastime of ours.
Nothing big really happened in July...oh, except that we launched our first craft beer fest! Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ales was a huge success, thanks to our volunteers, the brewers and all the awesome folks that came out. We had 25 brewers, all from New England and all of them brought at least one farmhouse ale or saison! All three sessions sold out and we had 1200 attendees drinking awesome summer beer on Friday night and all day Saturday. We also had B. Good and Culinary Cruisers serving up awesome grilled burgers and hot dogs, as well as Taza Chocolate and Quinn Popcorn on hand sampling. Damn this was a great event!
In August we launched a post about our five rules to rare craft beer that generated a lot of discussion on Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and elsewhere. While not everybody agreed with us (and that’s fine, we don’t pretend to be the autocrats of craft beer), many did on many points. The idea was to get a discussion going as it seems a portion of the craft beer audience is moving more into a ticker mentality of chasing down everything new and hyped. We just wanted to remember that beer is supposed to be fun and social. To recap, Drink Craft Beer’s 5 Rules to Rare Beer can be summed up as:
- Don’t be greedy
- Don’t sell it
- Drink it now
- Share it
- Beer should be fun
In September we made another new friend, Chris Olds bar manager at Park Cambridge. After Devon had a couple great experiences with their beer cocktails he was a convert to the idea of craft beer cocktails. The folks on bar there told him there were a whole bunch of off-menu beer cocktails available and, resultantly, our curious nature took over. Next thing we knew, we were hanging out with Chris at Park before opening, mixing up cocktails so that we could tell the world about the awesomeness available here.
In October, Devon and I used Columbus Day to go up to Portland, ME to check out the growing scene up there. We ended up hanging out with the folks at Urban Farm Fermentory for the morning and saw the great set up that they have over there. They’re turning out some awesome spontaneously fermented cider and doing all sorts of neat stuff to it. They also make some killer kombucha!
After a delicious lunch of burgers and beer at Nosh, we met up with Heather and Nathan from Rising Tide Brewing and checked out their new brewery, which is huge. It’s a good thing their new space is so big, because the beer rocks and we see big things for this husband and wife team!
We did a quick stop at Allagash Brewing to pick up some of their new House Beer, which unfortunately was sold out, but we ended up capping off the day by grabbing dinner with Heather and Natchan at Novare Res Bier Cafe, a joint that never ceases to amaze us, and even had a surprise chance to finally meet Craig, proprietor of the Pour Farm Tavern in New Bedford, MA. Great trip all around!
November was a busy, busy month! First, we went up to Maine again (we’ve been in Maine a lot this year it seems) to brew the Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest official beer with Peak Organic Brewing. Nut Your Average Ginger, a harvest brown ale with local ginger, hops, malt, honey and then some France-sourced chestnut puree, turned out great and was a hit at the fest. Not to mention we had a great time with Jon from Peak Organic as well as Josh from Puritan & Co. (the chef there, Will Gilson, supplied the honey for the beer from his family farm) and his girlfriend Stevie, and Brooks, the head brewer at the brewery we used to make the beer. Check the video:
Later in the month was our second beer fest ever, Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest. We again featured 25 New England brewers who this time each brought at least one beer featuring a fall or winter seasonal ingredient. The diversity of offerings was incredible, with fresh hops, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, Christmas spices, cider, rosemary, nuts and so much more all used to brew beers or ciders. Again, we couldn’t have done it without our awesome volunteers, the brewers or the 1500+ attendees that came out. These things just seem to keep growing!
As December just wrapped up, we look back at it and are just trying to get ready for 2013! We hit 200,000 followers on Twitter. We announced our next fest, Drink Craft Beer Springfest: A Celebration of Hops. We’re lining up some other great stuff for the coming year.
So we hope you all enjoyed 2012, we know we did! And, also, let’s look forward to what 2013 has coming for us. It’s going to be a big one! Thanks to everyone who helped make 2012 such a banner year for Drink Craft Beer. When we launched this thing in 2006, we never thought it would grow so big, but we’re stoked and flattered and, honestly, just overwhelmed by the support we’ve gotten. Thanks again, keep reading and drinking craft beer, and we hope to see you at Drink Craft Beer Springfest: A Celebration of Hops in April!
Back in 2009 the Craft Brewers Conference (the national industy event for the craft brewing industry in the U.S.) was in Boston. Cambridge Brewing Company (CBC) was chosen to brew the official Symposium Beer for the event, which would be distributed to all of the attendees. They now distribute this brew, called Audacity of Hops. At the time, though, they didn't have a bottling line, so they partnered with Mayflower Brewing Company for the production. Tons of Massachusetts brewers came out to join in on the act and we all had a great day. While I was over at Mayflower, though, I met an assistant brewer from CBC named Ben Howe. Ben still works at CBC as a bartender but, since then, he's gone on to recently found Enlightenment Ales, a nano-brewery focused on the Biere de Champagne style as well as other farmhouse styles.
As a frequenter of CBC, I've kept in touch with Ben over the years and, when I mentioned to Will Meyers (Brewmaster at CBC) that we were launching Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ale, he said I had to talk to Ben. Well, I'm not going to question a man like Will, so I called up Ben and asked what he had that would work. Ben was playing with a test batch of Farmhouse Ale at the time and thought that it would be perfect...so we signed him up without having any idea what he would bring, but knowing the beers he had brewed under Will had been great. What he poured at Summerfest was a delicious blend of spicy saison yeast and delicious hops. Not too bitter, but tons of flavor. Now, a few months later, he's bottled it and it's available all over Eastern Massachusetts. I picked up a bottle at Craft Beer Cellar, so let's check it out.
Just like the first experimental batch of this I had at Drink Craft Beer Summerfest: A Celebration of Farmhouse Ale, Illumination is a super hazy, almost milky looking straw beer. But don't let that put you off! The apparent thickness? That's flavor, and it's from the yeast. The head is huge and serves to let the whole room know that you're drinking a beer that smells like hops, saison and deliciousness.
It's tough to tell off the bat who's winning this one, the hops or the yeast. The farmhouse yeast that Englightenment uses has quite a pungeant aroma of spice and a little banana. That said, there is a wonderful, fruity hop aroma that comes off this that can't be beat. In the end, I'm going to have to say that the two play together in a synergistic (yep, I used the word "synergy") way that makes both even better. The yeast has a drying, estery effect that almost seems a little chalky. The hops are fruity and full. Together, the beer has a wonderful smell that just makes me want to drink it!
This is one of those brews that is a great blend of two styles. Too often, when a brewer combines styles, one of them is dominant and the other is an after thought. In the case of Enlightenment's Illumination, though, the hops and the yeast come together to make a style I wish had always been around...and I'm sure farmhands of yore would have drank with much enthusiasm. The hops? Fruity, tropical and light on the tongue. The saison? Spicy, dry and refreshing. The high carbonation that comes with the saison style, as well as the estery, spicy yeast help to accentuate the hops and showcase them in their best light. In the way that vanilla makes chocolate a better flavor, I firmly believe that saison makes hops take on a more interesting character, done right. And this one is done right. Bring this to your next special event, as the 750 ml format is great for looking fancy, and your host will love you. Or just enjoy it by yourself on a slow night. We won’t judge.
Stone Brewing Co. has long been a leader in the craft beer industry. They’ve helped lead the way in brash, highly hopped IPAs and marketing that talks about, to paraphrase, “if you don’t like it, you’re just not good enough to get it.” Founder Greg Koch, aside from helping to come up with and continue those arrogant sounding marketing tactics, has been a champion of the industry and way to make it better for consumers as well as brewers. A recent cause Koch and his company have taken up is beer freshness. Now, many people will print a “best by” date on their bottles. Some will even be good about ensuring that stores keep up with that date and see that stock is rotated correctly. But Stone has now gone one further, creating a beer whose entire existence revolves around promoting freshness.
The “Enjoy By...IPA” series is a rotating series where a super-hopped double IPA is released in limited quantities into a few markets at a time. This way, Stone can ensure that it’s being sold through the retail channel long before it’s “best by” date has passed. And, to make sure the consumer knows about this freshness dating, they’ve put the date right into the name. So, in Boston, I was able to pick up an “Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA.” And, wouldn’t you know, that coincides nicely with the end of the world (according to a few gullible people who misinterpreted a several thousand year old calendar). So, with that in mind, lets check out how this super fresh beer is.
With a crystal clear, barely darker than straw-colored body and a barely off-white head, Stone Enjoy By 12.21.12 IPA looks exactly like an IPA! The color is maybe slightly orange at times, depending on the light. The said, the head recedes fairly quickly, leaving me with a thin film on top of the beer and a ring of head around the edges.
“Enjoy By” is all about the hops and I know that from just sticking my nose in the glass. Tropical aromas, oranges, pineapples and other citrus abound. Malt? Well I feel like Stone would say that’s for people who aren’t as worthy. Because, and listen close, this is for those of you who are of a hoppier persuasion. Soft round edges? Matured flavors? No thanks, this is all about the purity of essence of thousands of little flowers that grow on vines and the sacrifice they make to make beer so delicious.
So I may have waxed poetic (or at least as close as I get) there for a moment, but my first sip of Enjoy By confirms my thoughts. This beer may as well be bubbly, cold hop tea because that’s all I get from it. The bitterness is strong, but not quite overwhelming. The mouthfeel is a little oily from all the hops. But the flavor is back to those tropical fruits again, all from that glorious little flower we call humulus lupulus. This is delicious, and I’m definitely enjoying it. Would it be as good on December 22? Probably. But I get the point that Stone is making and applaud them for it, even if they used a little hyperbole...sometimes you’ve got to to get your point across. Also, as we all know, Stone loves hyperbole and bombast.
If you live in the Boston-area, chances are you’re going to have to wait until the next time this one comes by because it came and sold out quick. But, if you live in other places that Stone distributes, just keep your eyes out for news of Enjoy By coming to your city, because this is a delicious IPA!
We here at Drink Craft Beer would like to thank everyone who came out to Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest on November 30 and December 1, 2012! The volunteers, the brewers and, of course, the attendees, thanks! You made it all possible!
1500 awesome attendees, 25 craft breweries, 75+ brewery representatives, 80+ amazing brews, 67 volunteers, 6 food vendors, 1 venue and several great security professionals working the door helped to make the first annual Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest a total success and a weekend to remember! Come April 5 & 6 there will be another fest from us, Drink Craft Beer Springfest: A Celebration of Hops...but there will never be another first Drink Craft Beer Fall to Winter Fest. And we’re running out of first fests to have...or are we?
See pictures from throughout the fest on our Facebook page. But first, check out these highlights right here (photos by Amie Fedora Photography):
Drink Craft Beer & Peak Organic Collaboration Beer: Nut Your Average Ginger Brown Ale.
Devon and Jeff, founders of Drink Craft Beer, hanging out at Fall to Winter Fest.
Our awesome brewers and volunteers from Fall to Winter Fest!
Attendees on Saturday night at Fall to Winter Fest.
We couldn't make these things work without our wonderful staff of volunteers. Thanks, girls and guys!
Finally, are you ready for Drink Craft Beer Springfest: A Celebration of Hops?!