This week (May 13-19) is once again American Craft Beer Week, according to the Brewers Association. As they describe the event, it is a week-long celebration of “the 2,400+ small and independent craft brewers who continue to make the U.S. the world’s most diverse brewing destination.” They’ve assembled a calendar with over 1,200 events around the country, but sadly, not one event on their calendar is in the State of Montana.
The Brewers Association list 48 Montana breweries on their site, 30 of which are listed as members of their organization.
Might we suggest you visit a tap room or two this week for a spontaneous celebration?
You know craft beer has fully hit the mainstream when the Leader of the Free World has two beers brewing at the White House.
Last week, the White House released the recipes for a Honey Ale and a Honey Porter, both brewed with honey from the White House. Supposedly it is “the first beer brewed on White House grounds.”
Inspired by home brewers from across the country, last year President Obama bought a home brewing kit for the kitchen. After the few first drafts we landed on some great recipes that came from a local brew shop. We received some tips from a couple of home brewers who work in the White House who helped us amend it and make it our own. To be honest, we were surprised that the beer turned out so well since none of us had brewed beer before.
Here’s a video about the beers from the White House:
I’m sure Obama was probably looking for a pint or two of these after his DNC speech, I know I would be.
- Matt Pritchard
This week, Sen. Max Baucus held the first meeting of the Small Brewers Caucus, which he co-chairs with Idaho Sen. Mike Crapo. The caucus aims to showcase issues important to craft brewers and push those issues forward. Montana’s barley and the role it plays in the brewing industry was the focus of this week’s meeting:
I wanted to let you know that this week we held the first ever meeting of the Senate and House Small Brewers Caucus to discuss the importance of barley to American agriculture, issues facing the industry, and barley’s critical role in developing malt essential for high quality craft beer. Barley contributes nearly a billion dollars to the U.S. economy and supports jobs in rural America. Although barley is the third largest feed grain crop in the U.S. it is increasingly used for nutritious food, malting and brewing.
I believe Montana’s barley is second to none and our craft beers are the finest in the nation. To elevate the profile of our growing number of Montana small brewers who are creating jobs when our state needs it most, I honored all of them as part of my “Montana Jobs Economic Engine Initiative.” Beer from one of our economic engines, Big Sky Brewing in Missoula, was showcased as we met with members of the National Barley Growers Association and the Brewers Association.
To read the full letter from Baucus, click here.
- Matt Pritchard
Sen. Ryan Zinke, R-Whitefish, will sponsor several bills related to the Montana craft-beer industry in the upcoming Legislature, which convenes on Jan. 3.
The first is a proposal to shift the hours that taprooms are allowed to be open from the current 10 a.m.-8 p.m. to noon-10 p.m. The Montana Brewers Association has a petition up on its website that has gathered more than 650 signatures in the past month. Tony Herbert, executive director of the Montana Brewers Association, stresses that this is a shift in hours, not an expansion of hours. Zinke, in a telephone call, said that historically there has been hesitation by the Tavern Association on the issue because members have a hefty investment in their businesses and don’t want to see others cut into it. But the senator points out that breweries have a different business model and they, too, have a large investment. This shift in hours will only help Montana businesses, he said.
The second piece of legislation is in regards to filling growlers at taverns that hold all-beverage licenses. Bill Schneider of NewWest.net wrote a detailed article on the issue in September. Basically, according the article, the Montana Department of Revenue last April sent out a memo to tavern owners about a proposed rule to clarify a law about serving alcohol for off-site consumption. The plan, as it was worded, would make it illegal for taverns with all-beverage licenses to fill growlers. After the proposal was sent out, brewers asked Herbert to step in and the Department of Revenue agreed to drop the rule and let the 2011 Legislature sort it out. Zinke’s bill looks to clear up any legal gray areas so places such as The Rhino in Missoula can continue to fill growlers with no problems.
Finally a third bill, which is still in the works, looks to promote out-of-state sales of craft beer with the Made in Montana Brewery Act. Hopes are it could lift some restrictions on the amount of beer breweries are allowed to sell outside Montana, while still being able to serve pints in their taprooms. Zinke said the legislation would help expand the industry, create more jobs and allow brewers to use more local materials.
“My vision is creating world-class local and regional beers that are made in Montana using Montana ingredients,” Zinke said in an e-mail. “In the world of political fighting and gridlock, who could be against better beer? Even Ben Franklin recognized that good beer makes good policy.”
These bills are still being prepared, so they could be changed as they work their way through the legislative process.
- Matt Pritchard
Here’s a story from Anne Creighton of the News-Review in Roseberg, Ore., on Tom Johnson, head brewer at Roseburg Station Pub and Brewery, which is part of the McMenamins chain in Oregon and Washington. Johnson, who went to the University of Oregon to study finance in the ’80s, decided he needed to take a different career path so he followed his love of brewing. It’s always nice to someone who follows their passion and succeeds, especially when beer is involved. Enjoy.
ROSEBURG, Ore. – When Tom Johnson starting brewing beer on the kitchen stove at his Eugene home in the ’80s, the University of Oregon finance major never thought he would end up working for one of the top craft breweries in the United States.
“I was never really big on wearing a suit and tie to work,” Johnson said. “My first attempt at beer was good enough, so I decided to stick with it and try some different recipes.”
Johnson, 48, is now 10 years into his career as head brewer at Roseburg Station Pub and Brewery, one of nearly 60 McMenamins brew pubs in the Northwest. Along with making the chain’s standard ales, he also concocts his own specialty brews using ingredients such as locally grown Asian pears or McMenamins coffee, giving them names such as Spearhead Molly, Pull Up Your Shwartz and Arrogant Beaver.
“Sometimes a name will just pop into my head, and I think, ‘Oh, that’s a great name for a beer. I should try and make a beer to fit that name,’ ” he said.
Roseburg pub manager Lisa Brannon, who has worked for the company for five years, says she has tried beer from many of the other brew pubs, but their pints just don’t compare to Tom’s.
“I think brewing beer is an art form, like painting a picture,” Brannon said. “Two different artists can paint the same picture, but they perceive it completely different, and I think that’s what Tom does with beer. He just has something amazing.”
Johnson said his road to employment wasn’t an easy one. He spent six years trying to find steady work in the industry. After earning a master brewer’s certificate from the University of California at Davis in 1995, Johnson job shadowed several Eugene brewers, hoping he would stumble across a job.
He eventually got a one-day-a-week gig in Corvallis for Oregon Trail Brewery, but Johnson said the cost of commuting was more than his paycheck. “I was just about ready to give up and become a FedEx driver,” he said, laughing.
One of the contacts he had made during his job search called him one morning with an opportunity. “He told me the McMenamins in Roseburg might be looking for a brewer, so I gave it a shot,” he said, and “the rest is history.”
Over the years, Johnson has won several awards for his home-brews, including a blue ribbon at the Oregon State Fair for his blackberry porter and a Best In Show award at the Douglas County Fair for a steam beer, a highly effervescent ale.
Johnson said he sometimes thinks about starting his own brewery, but doesn’t know if it’s something he wants to tackle at this stage in his life.
“Maybe if I ever happened into a lot of money, but it’s an incredible undertaking, and I would be working seven days a week until it got off the ground.
“I enjoy working at a small pub where I can get to know all the people who come in, and I think I have pretty good job security here,” he said, knocking on the wood dining table.
Brannon attributes the pub’s loyal patronage to the beer that Johnson brews. “This McMenamins has had its ups and downs, but Tom’s beer is what has kept those people coming back,” she said.
Roseburg resident Matt Fortune said he has frequented the Roseburg McMenamins since it opened in 1999 and keeps coming back for the beer. “Tom’s beers are great,” he said, sipping a pint of the Arrogant Beaver. “It’s just good quality.“
Michael Widman of Glide, another 11-year patron, said he’s had several conversations with Tom throughout the years in the pub. “He’s the most humble person. He lets the beer speak for himself.”
- Matt Pritchard
If you have tried or are going to try this year’s version of Big Sky Brewing Co.’s seasonal Powder Hound, you’re going to notice some changes.
Matt Long, head brewer at Big Sky Brewing, says it was “just time to change things up.” He said they haven’t changed the recipe in five or six years.
He’s calling the new Powder Hound a “transcontinental pale ale.” It looks lighter this year (a reader described it as a “light golden color”), but is still flavorful, Long says. This year’s version has malts and barley from Belgium, Germany and the U.S. And features hops from Germany and the U.S.
At 55 IBUs and 7.2 percent alcohol by volume, Long says the beer has a hoppy, almost lemony flavor.
I’ve yet to try this year’s Powder Hound, but would love to know what you think.
- Matt Pritchard
Raise your glasses, lager lovers: Craft beers have more than just weathered the recession. While other segments of the economy – and the hospitality industry, specifically – have slumped, sales of craft beer have skyrocketed.
In fact, sales of craft beers have increased by about 50 percent over the last five years.
Consider these interesting bits of intell from the Chicago Tribune:
By EMILY BRYSON YORK
The economic downturn hurt the restaurant industry and canceled a lot of travel plans, but it hasn’t dampened enthusiasm for the ales, lagers, stouts and other specialty brews known as craft beers.
While overall beer sales fell by 2 percent last year, the first decline in six years, the craft segment keeps growing. Craft beers still account for just 4.5 percent of U.S. consumption, but sales have increased by about 50 percent over the last five years, according to Beer Marketer’s Insights.
And that’s got big brewers looking for a bigger piece of the action.
It’s particularly evident in Chicago, where Guinness, an import owned by London-based Diageo is testing a craft beer-like specialty brew, Guinness Black Lager in local bars, groceries and liquor stores. Chicago-based MillerCoors, meanwhile, has established an independent division, christened Tenth and Blake Beer Co., to nurture its craft and import beers, including Blue Moon, Leinenkugel, Peroni and Pilsner Urquell.
”Craft beers and imports have done surprisingly well,” said Tom Ryan, spokesman for Tenth & Blake, noting that the recession has been hard on beer and other discretionary purchases. “There are a lot more choices out there and people are perhaps choosing to buy fewer beers, and maybe with a little more flavor.”
Ryan said craft sales have been on the uptick with young, urban professionals for a number of years, while total beer category sales were relatively stable until last year, when sales began to decline. The slide has continued this year, as 21- to 35-year-old men, a key beer-drinking segment, have been disproportionately affected by rising unemployment.
Harry Schuhmacher, editor of Beer Business Daily, said the beer industry hasn’t suffered declines this steep since the federal excise tax was doubled in 1992, and there haven’t been consecutive year declines of this magnitude since Prohibition.
As for the rise in craft beer sales, experts point to a broader shift in taste preferences, price sensitivity and drinking occasions.
”There is a generational shift that is further advanced than is generally recognized,” said Benj Steinman of Beer Marketer’s Insights. “There are consumers that are increasingly choosing sort of the flavor, diversity and innovation of the craft brewers if they can access it economically.” Craft beers are generally much more expensive than their mass market counterparts.
So worry not, craft beer aficionados, the future looks wet – and wild.
Travis Zeilstra leaving Montana Brewing Company to start Black Tooth Brewing Company in Sheridan, Wyoming
One of my favorite brewers and one of Montana’s most awarded is leaving Montana Brewing Company to start his own brewery in Sheridan, Wyoming. Travis Zeilstra sent me a note today to tell me of his plans and introduce me to the man who has taken over for him at MBC.
It’s one Evan Taylor, a past recipient of the Glen Falconer Scholarship and a graduate of Siebel. Taylor came to Montana from Bend, Oregon and spent some time brewing at Silver Moon Brewing Company. Zeilstra has a lot of faith in Taylor, and to fit into Zeilstra’s award-winning shoes is a tall order, so things are looking good in Billings.
I first met Travis at the Great American Beer Festival in 2007. He won numerous awards, including the prestigious Small Brew Pub of the Year, beating out thousands of other small breweries across the United States.
Since then, he’s been a great advocate serving as President of the Montana Brewer’s Association and otherwise providing leadership and advocacy for the craft brewing industry in Montana.
Here’s a little note direct from Travis:
The new brewery will be called “Black Tooth Brewing Co.” it is named after “Black Tooth Peak” which is located in the Bighorn Mtns. and this peak can be seen from the town of Sheridan. I have been planning on opening my own brewery for several years but this was the year that seemed the most realistic. I chose to open a brewery/taproom in Sheridan because one there is no brewery in town like this at this time and the red tape in Wyoming is significantly less than in Montana.
While I’m sad to see him leaving Montana, Sheridan is only about 30 miles from the border, so I’m going to keep a good eye on the happenings at Black Tooth Brewing Company.
Cheers Travis, and good luck. I look forward to sitting down to a pint of beer with you at the new brewery soon!