Big Beer vs Home Brewing?

You would think that Big Beer and homebrewers have conflicting interests. After all, if people are brewing their own beer, they are not buying it from Big Beer. Right? Well, it turns out that’s not exactly the case. The largest brewing company in the world, AB InBev, is not feeling threatened by homebrewing, it’s encouraging it!

To compete with the ever growing number of craft breweries, AB InBev created a special division that’s mission has been to acquire successful and growing craft breweries and make them part of AB InBev. It’s essentially the same strategy Darth Vader and the Emperor tried to use in Star Wars. If they could have gotten Luke to join them, they would be able to eliminate an enemy, and gain more power. Of course, this strategy didn’t quite work out for the Empire, but it seems to be working for AB InBev.

According to the American Homebrewers Association, homebrewers  produced over 1.4 million barrels of beer last year, and that number is growing fast as more and more people begin brewing their own beer.  So how can Big Beer eliminate that competition? Simple. By creating a division dedicated to acquiring the companies that supply homebrewers with what they need to brew.

By acquiring leading home brewing supply companies such as Northern Brewer, AB Inbev can actually profit from the growth in home brewing. As a result, AB InBev is happily promoting that growth.

So, is this a good thing? A bad thing? Or does it really matter? Personally, I find it a little disturbing. Short term it probably won’t make any difference, but long term?

What happens when all commercial brewing is owned by one company, and that same company supplies all the materials and equipment used by homebrewers?

 

Computers, Artificial Intelligence, and Beer?

Technology is progressing faster and faster, and computers have become a part of nearly every aspect of everyday life, but can a computer make a better beer?

Computers have quickly become an integral part of everything we do. In our cars they constantly make adjustments to the engine, warn us when we stray into the other lane, automatically stop the car to avoid a collision, and can even drive us to our destination. In our homes they can respond to voice commands, play our favorite music, and warn us about traffic conditions when we’re getting ready to go to work.

Computers have been used for years in manufacturing for years to assemble, monitor and adjust temperatures and power usage, perform quality control, and identify and correct errors.

In brewing, computers can control nearly the entire process from milling and mashing, to lautering and fermenting, and at any step of the way, the computer could make adjustments- all according to the brewers recipe.

London based brewery IntelligentX, claimed to be the first brewer to use artificial intelligence to brew a beer.  After a customer had tried an IntelligentX beer, they would then log into Facebook Messenger and give their opinions on the beer. However, instead of communicating directly to the brewery, the person providing the feedback would actually be talking to an artificial intelligence (AI) system called ABI, which would take that information, enter it into an algorithm, and then create a new recipe.

Recently Champion Brewing, in Charlottesville Virginia teamed up with a machine learning company called Metis Machine to brew what they hope will be the perfect IPA. According to Hunter Smith, the owner of Champion Brewing Co, by providing the AI developed by Metis Machine with the parameters that IPAs are judged by at the Great American Beer Festival, the metrics from the nationally 10-best-selling IPAs, and the 10 worst selling IPAs at a local retailer, the AI would come up with the recipe for the ideal IPA. The result was the ML IPA.

Carlsburg, one of the most recognized beverage brands in the world, is taking things to the next level with what they are calling their Beer Fingerprinting Project.  Carlsberg will be collaborating with Microsoft,  Aarhus University, and The Technical University of Denmark to develop an AI capable of sensing and measuring flavors and aromas in beer. The idea is that an AI with the ability to taste and smell beer will greatly enhance the process of developing new beers and also improve quality control.

According to Jochen Förster, the Director and Professor of Yeast Fermentation at Carlsberg Research Laboratory, there is currently no rapid technology that can differentiate the complex textures of flavors, but he believes the development of this technology is critical to developing beer of the highest possible quality with the added benefit of reducing the time and cost in developing new beers.

But what does this all mean? Could technology, by removing the human element in the brewing process, ultimately destroy the art and the craft of beer making? Will automation and computer analysis  reduce creativity and brewing innovation ?

Personally, I don’t think so.  Making it easier to get the results you want or reducing  human error doesn’t impede creativity. I believe we are still a long ways away from an AI saying, “Wait! What if I add (this strange ingredient) during primary fermentation?”  It still takes a human being’s imagination to create something new, and a human’s drive for something new and different.

Technology is amazing, but it’s really only as good as the people who use it.

 

Green Flash Brewing Company Has Been Sold, Leaving Questions for the Craft Beer Industry (via Food & Wine)

After an extremely shaky yearSan Diego-based Green Flash Brewing Company announced this week it was sold at foreclosure to a private equity group. Though the brand will continue on, the ownership has changed and the direction the company will take from here isn’t entirely known. What is known, however, is that Green Flash saw both stunning growth and an unfortunate downfall in the past 16 years and what was once a maker of amazing beers has left behind a cautionary tale.

Read more: Food & Wine

Scott’s Addition In RVA!

If you are planning a mini-vacation, a weekend getaway, or just a night out, I can’t think of a better place than Scott’s Addition in Richmond, VA. This historical district currently boasts 5 craft breweries, 2 craft cideries, a meadery, and a craft distillery, not to mention over a dozen restaurants, coffee houses, and even a bakery: all within a 4-block radius!

Scott’s Addition was originally planned as a residential neighborhood. However, in 1927 it was re-zoned for industrial and a number of large plants, commercial buildings and warehouses were built, sometimes replacing the existing homes. The area thrived for a time, but then it started to decline. More and more buildings became empty as businesses began to close or relocate to larger and more modern facilities.

Fortunately, in 2010 a renaissance began in this mostly forgotten neighborhood. Buildings were renovated and turned into apartments, new apartments were built, and businesses began to return. Seeing the potential of this revitalizing neighborhood, Isley Brewing Company was the first craft brewer to move into Scott’s Addition, opening their doors on Oct. 23, 2013.

Since then they have been joined by Ardent, The Veil, Väsen, and Three Notch’d craft breweries. Buskey and Blue Bee cideries also moved into the neighborhood, as well as Black Heath Meadery. And of course, we shouldn’t forget Reservoir Distillery who opened their tasting room doors in 2009!

But there are more than just craft beverages in Scott’s Addition. Each brewery is likely to have a gourmet food truck parked right there, and if you’re looking for something a little different, there’s the Urban Farmhouse Market & Café, Peter Chang’s, Lunch|Supper, ZZQ Texas Craft Barbecue, The Dairy Bar, and many more restaurants. No matter what you are in the mood for; Chinese food, barbecue, seafood, burgers, sandwiches, or even a hearty breakfast, it’s there.

And did I mention The Circuit? It’s an arcade bar and, while it’s not a brewery, it does feature 44 self-service taps with both craft and non-craft beer,  ciders and wines, and an arcade with pinball machines and some of the best classic arcade games like Crazy Taxi, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Defender, Frogger, Galaga, NBA Jam, Guitar Hero, Packman and more!

If you’re into award-winning craft beer or cider, mead, finely crafted distilled spirits, good food, live music, and/or vintage video games, you should check out Scott’s Addition.

So, what are you doing this weekend?

NC Beer Month is Coming!

NC Beer Month is Coming!

April is North Carolina Beer Month, but with so many amazing breweries, we’ve decided to get started early. The Tar Heel State boasts over 250 breweries — from the mountains to the coast — ranging from long time award-winning brewers to newcomers hoping to ma…

Ode’ To Craft Beer

I remember my first beer. It was mid-summer and I was about 12 years old. My friend grabbed a couple of bottles of Old Milwaukee when his father wasn’t looking, and we put them in the creek to chill. When we finally drank them, I found it wasn’t as cold or as tasty as I thought it would be.

Years later when I turned 18 it was legal for me to purchase and drink beer (they hadn’t raised the drinking age for beer to 21 yet). Having very little money, I bought and drank Red White and Blue, and Black Label because they were the cheapest beer I could get. I eventually got a real job and began earning a decent wage. This enabled me to move up to Miller Lite and Coors.  At the time I was pretty happy.

Then sometime in my late 20’s I was sitting in a bar and a friend pushes a pint of what looked like coffee to me and says “Try this.”

Despite serious reservations I did try it, and something called Guinness changed what I thought of as beer forever.

This beer had flavor- not taste, but flavor! And the aroma!  It was like nothing I had ever had. It made me wonder, what else I had been missing, and I began to look a little more closely at the taps behind the bar. I tried Killian’s, Yuengling, and a few others, and discovered a world of flavor I hadn’t known existed. I tried to drink Miller and Budweiser again, but couldn’t. I branched out into imports like Becks, Heineken, Harps, Stella, New Castle, and more!  I had been living in darkness and had finally come into the light! There was color and texture in the world I had not known existed.

And then the craft beer revolution happened, and my head nearly exploded.

Sierra Nevada, Lagunitas, Goose Island, Dogfish Head, Brooklyn Brewery, New Belgium, Deschutes, Stone, Loose Cannon, Steamship, Hardywood Park and, and so many more! Small mom and pop craft breweries opening everywhere. Microbreweries, Nano breweries, new flavors, new aromas, new styles, and even experimental beers like Oreo Cookie, peach cobbler, fried chicken, key lime pie, and bacon!  If it can be imagined, for good or bad, a craft brewer will probably try and brew it.

Craft beer represents limitless creativity, imagination, and so many choices. Craft brewers are rediscovering hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of years of brewing tradition. Alewerks Brewing in Colonial Williamsburg teamed up with the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation to recreate 3 colonial beers from the 1700’s. Off Color Brewing in Chicago, working with the Field Museum of Natural History recreated beers of the Wari Empire in Peru from the 11th century.  Great Lakes Brewing Company in Ohio revived a   5,000-year-old Sumerian beer recipe!

Today, everywhere I go, when I’m asked what I would like to drink, I always ask, “What do you have that’s local?”.

I’m always looking for the best beer I’ve never had.