- Written by Jeff Wharton
A while back, in a move that surprised many in the Craft Beer community, Bell’s Brewing Company pulled out of the lucrative Illinois market over an issue with distributors. They distribution rights were sold to a larger house who did not want to deal with their entire line, but just a few of the best sellers. Larry Bell and his crew, worried that this new company would not fully have the best interests of the Kalamazoo company at heart and would not know how to best service a craft label such as Bell’s, opted to pull their business out of Illinois rather than work with a distributor who was not fully behind them.
While this could easily turn into an article about franchise law and how distribution works, it won’t. A quick summary is in order, though. As many of you know, Illinois has a three tier beer distribution system. Tier 1, the producer, brews the beer. Tier 2, the distributor, takes the beer from the producer then sells and ships it to the retailer. Tier 3, the retailer, then sells it to you, the consumer. Due to the nature of the brewing industry in post-prohibition America, with huge breweries and mostly small distributors, laws were put in place that make it virtually impossible to leave a distributor without good cause. Not carrying all your brands does not count in this case. This is why Bell’s left Illinois, rather than go to a different distributor.
So where are we going with this? Well, as you know, we like to keep you up to date on what’s coming down the pipeline for new beers. On our latest check, we found the labels to the right.
Now, this is fine. People put out new beers all the time. In fact, we love it! What’s curious is the line on the back: “Brewed especially for the people of the great state of Illinois.”
Is Bell’s putting out a new line of protest beers in their existing markets? Maybe some novelty bottles for a brewery only beer? I don’t know. I’m intrigued, though, as everything I’ve had by these guys during “Devon and Jeff Drink the Great Lakes” rocked!
We attempted to contact Bell's for this story, and got no response to our inquiries. For now, we're still in the dark as to what's going on.
- Written by Devon
Hi all you Craft Beer Drinkers!
For those that haven't checked out the forum, we've begun our Journey out to the midwest! We're on a 10 day, 2300 mile journey that will take us to 7 breweries where we'll be talking with brewers and owners.
Our schedule is as follows:
Friday Sept 7th
Jolly Pumpkin - morning
New Holland - Afternoon
Saturday Sept 8th & Sunday Sept 9th
Off - exploring the area
Monday Sept 10th
Founders Brewing Co
Tuesday Sept 11th
Wednesday Sep 12th
Thursday Sept 13th
Friday Sept 14th
Great Lakes Brewing Co.
We're on the road, but we'll do our best to give a brief daily recap of where we are and what we're doing, so check back often. Following the trip we'll have some great interviews and beer news for you all!
Day 1: Wed Sep 5th - We rolled into Buffalo, NY around 1am and set up camp...time for sleep
Day 2: We left Buffalo around 10am and rolled into our campsite in Michigan around 3 after a LONG Journey through Canada...wow that's a boring drive but it's all ok now because we just picked up an awesome selection of beer from both Bell's and New Holland which we'll be sampling tonight. We're gearing up for a big day tomorrow speaking with both Jolly Pumpkin and New Holland. We got some Expedition Stout, Double Cream Stout, Batch 8000 and Oberon from Bells and the Ichabod Pumpkin Ale from New Holland. We can't wait to try some of these! It's 7pm on day 2 of our beer road trip, and we still have yet to have had a beer! Oh well... Soon!
Day 2 UPDATE: We have a leak in our front driver side tire. Uh oh! Luckily we found a Sears Auto Center open late, and they fixed it! That would have seriously messed up our interview with Ron from Jolly Pumpkin and possibly our New Holland interview.
Day 3: We interviewed Ron from Jolly Pumpkin this morning. He's a really good guy! Unfortuanately, schedules changed and he had to brew this morning. But, being the good guy he is, he made time for us. We spoke about some new Bam Bieres, what's going on at JP and lots more! Definitely look for this interview when we get back to Boston! Right now we're sitting in the New Holland Brewpub. This place rocks! We're right next to the brew system. We're getting ready to do our interview, and just drank a couple of delicious beers. The Road Brewer was recently here too! Read about is here. Jeff had the beer... Delicious! We're coming back tonight, after the interview, to do some more "research" on this "Art in Fermented Form!" We have nothing to do now until Monday when we meet with Dave at Founders. We have a whole weekend to chill and drink Michigan beer. We'll keep you all in the know!
We then shot over to New Holland to meet with Fred Bueltmann. Their Dragon's Milk is amazing and the Poet Stout...well it kicks ass. We'll have a great full interview up on this soon, including some cool info on craft spirits. We love craft beer, but we're certainly intrigued by craft whiskey, gin, and rum as well. New Holland is doing some very interesting things in this area.
Day 4: It's our first day off, so we decided to roam around a little. And by roam we mean we went to Founder's. Holy crap the beer is good here, not that we need to tell you that. The bar is great. Our bartender Melissa was awesome and gave us the lowdown on a lot of the beers, ad eventually put the porter on for us...mmmmm...porter.
Well by mid afternoon we reaized that we prob needed to stop drinking or we'd be drunk soon. We got some food and then headed over to The Hideout, an AWESOME bar that Randy, a guy sitting at the bar at Founder's told us about. When we came in Randy was at the bar already. Once again we had an awesome bartender. Melissa was really helpful in telling us about the beers they made. Their Imperial Stout is amazing, and is a must try if you are in the area.
Day 5: Another slow day we went to a bar in grand rapids, Grand Rapids brewing and a local liquor store, basically we bought a lot of beer.
Day 6: We're off to interview Dave at Founder's. This will be our third time at Founder's this trip (yeah it's that good...and we went twice on day 4)
- Written by Devon
American Craft Breweries are putting out more and more Oktoberfest beers each year. We decided to review some of them. Its tough chosing a favorite so we invite you to do some tasting of your own!
Appearance: Goldy copper, quite white head
Smell: Just malt... smells that we normally find in lager... bready malt
Taste: Bready... in a good way. Malty, but not sweet. A little breadier than average. This has a nice bittering hop flavor. It's not a bitter beer per se, but it taste a bit more bitter than most Oktoberfests that we've tried
Why we like it:
1. A little hoppier than usual
2. Super easy to drink
3. We can't think of anyone who wouldn't like it
Flying Dog Dogtoberfest
Appearance: Darker than Stoudt's... More amber. The head is darker too.
Smell: Clean and sweeter than Stoudt's. Less bready.
Taste: Sweeter... way less bitter. Very very smooth and even... good finish. Only sweet up front, but not in the finish. The flavor builds nicely as you drink and really make you want to have another.
Why we like it:
1. So smooth!
2. Very traditional (and sometimes that's nice)
3. AWESOME label by Ralph Steadman.
Buzzards Bay Oktoberfest
Appearance: Rich copper color, off white,
Smell: Rich bready tones
Taste: Holy crap this tastes good. It's richer tasting than many Oktoberfests we've had, but still very smooth and very drinkable. We happened to get a six pack that was bottled less than a week ago, so it's pretty much as fresh as you can get. The downside is that unless you live on the south shore in MA, you probably can't get it. So why are talking about it? Because IF you do live on the south shore or can drive there, it's worth it.
There's a nice spice to it, we don't mean actual spice but the grain and hop combination blend to create a very nice balanced flavor
Why we like it:
1. Richer flavor than many Oktoberfests
2. Smooth (we say that about almost all of these but hey it's true and that's why Oktoberfest time of year is awesome)
3. The "spice" is a nice unique flavor that we really enjoy
Appearance: Medium amber off white head (hey it's all the same style, so no shockers here)
Smell: Bready, a bit sweet
Taste: Nice malty sweetness a little hop spice, and overall a damn good traditional Okotberfest. We personally get a keg of this for our Oktoberfest party each year. As far as traditional German Oktoberfests go, this is our pick. We tried a few last year in a blind taste test and this won out. This is the first time we've had it this year and it still tastes awesome. Don't get us wrong, we love a good American Oktoberfest, but it's good to see what inspired those to be created in the first place.
Why like it:
1. It's from Munich, it's in the REAL Oktoberfest
2. Its our favorite REAL Oktoberfest beer
3. It's been brewed for over 360 years, no mystery why it tastes awesome
Appearance: Darker than many others. Off white head.
Smell: A little sweet... a little boozy... a little bready
Taste: A little too sweet for an Oktoberfest. A little boozy for style. Fruity, and not in a good way.
We've had some great stuff from Berkshire. Their Coffee Haus Porter is killer! Unfortunately, this is just not up to par. Don't overlook their stuff, just maybe pass this one up. Dieses Oktoberfest bier ist nicht so gut.
Appearance: medium amber a bit redish.
Smell: Smells like an Oktoberfest beer... OK let's be honest, we've tried six or so Oktoberfest beers now, they all smell really similar
Taste: While the smell might be similar for many, the taste is not. This beer is VERY clean tasting, it loses some of the malt funk (funk isn't a bad thing, this is just different) and adds a nice bitterness that we'd pretty much expect from Victory. We love Victory and this beer is what we'd expect them to put out for an Oktoberfest. It feels like an american oktoberfest but isn't overdone in any way. There's just enough hops to make it feel like it's from Victory without ruining the style.
Why we like it:
1. Another great beer from Victory (we swear they don't pay us to say this, we really just think their beer rocks)
2. Little more hops makes it a little more tasty
3. Goes really well with food (even Kung Pao Chicken...which we're eating right now)
- Written by Jeff Wharton
Well, as we've said before, we here at DrinkCraftBeer.com like local beer. But you don't have to be small to be local. Having produced 105,000 barrels of craft beer per year, they're definitely one of the bigger breweries in Massachusetts. And, with their IPA, 100 Barrel Series and an array of other quality brews, they are definitely putting out some delicious and drinkable beers! We corresponded with Michael Smith, one of the brewers in their Boston facility, about how he got his start, what he likes about brewing, where he sees the industry going and more. Here's what he had to say:
DCB: How’d you get into brewing? Did you homebrew?
Michael Smith: My mother gave me a homebrew kit for my twenty-first birthday. It really opened my eyes to the fact that people actually make beer—it doesn’t just come from the package store. I read the Charlie Papazian book, then some Michael Jackson, and really became interested in all the different styles of beer and how they evolved. I am fascinated by the convergence of history, geography, economics, science and good beer.