The Missoula Downtown Association and the guys over at Growler Fills have come together to create the inaugural Missoula Craft Beer Week. There are events all week, including a screening of “The Love of Beer” a documentary that details women in the craft beer industry, which takes place Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Wilma.
If you didn’t have a reason to drink beer this week, better clear your calendar and help celebrate the brews of the Garden City.
- 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.
Become a fan of Grizzly Growler on Facebook and score a chance at a free seat for the Blue Canyon/Kettlehouse Beer Dinner
This might be one of the easiest things you’ll ever do. Just open up your Facebook site and do a search for GrizzlyGrowler.Com. You should find something like this. Then become a fan before 5 p.m. on Thursday, April 15 and get a chance to win one seat at the Blue Canyon/Kettlehouse Beer Dinner on Friday, April 16. I’ll contact the winner through Facebook that evening. You can also scroll down this page on the right side and look for this logo in the right column. Click on that if you’re already on Facebook and you happen to be logged in.
When my friend Jon told me he wanted to give his Barista Manifesto at the Ignite Missoula event, I wondered how difficult it would be to give a manifesto with a five-minute time limit accompanied by a PowerPoint presentation. I still don’t know if it was easy, but it was done and brilliantly.
Jon’s a master barista, a coffee judge and an advocate for coffee farmers around the world. He works for Cup of Excellence, a Missoula non-profit with world-wide connections and influence. And as one friend put it recently, “the only people who seem to really understand what Fair Trade really means.”
But I digress. Jon’s Barista Manifesto touched many people last night, not the least of which was Missoula’s honorable mayor John Engen, who shook Jon’s hand shortly after the presentation and then proceeded to hug Jon. I thought that I might have seen a tear in the mayor’s eye briefly, but it could have been the lighting.
The crowd of mixed ages mingled casually, sipping craft beer out of bottles and enjoying the eight five-minute presentations ranging from early childhood development to how to start running when you hate exercise.
Our group, which had gathered to support Jon, moved casually from the Elks Lodge to Jon’s house, where we gorged on fresh-baked cookies left graciously by the babysitter. I really need to find one like that.
A six-pack of Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Bigfoot Barley Wine showed up as if by magic, and we broke out tall red wine glasses and poured a whole bottle in each glass. The foam bubbled up creamy and beige, like a cappuccino, and we swirled and talked about flavors like fig, banana, coconut and dried pineapple as we tasted the big beer.
It took almost any hour to kill that bottle, but that’s the beauty of a barley wine, it just opens up the warmer it gets. Soon you’re smelling a veritable jungle of tropical fruits and tasting rich roasted graininess and a strong hop presence. We sipped and talked, sipped and talked. We slipped through the health care debate and rehashed current events here in Missoula. We relived Jon’s awesome Barista Manifesto several times and then came back to the beer. You always come back to the beer.
Until you finish it.
Another beer appeared, as if by magic, and we poured it’s clear, bronze liquor into our wine glasses and smelled a tremendously green and floral hop presence. This was a Widmer Brewing Company Deadlift Imperial IPA, and the use of Nelson Sauvin hops from New Zealand certainly defines this beer. At a reported 9.5 percent ABV, this beer is all in the nose. I couldn’t put my glass down, and we just kept passing it around the room letting everyone stick their noses in our glass.
If I could only smell this beer and not taste it, I would rate it very high, and it’s made me far more interested in those Nelson Sauvin hops than any beer brewed with them I’ve tried before. But I did taste it, and I just wasn’t as impressed with the big-bodied beer with a funky middle to it. Something just below the tongue picks up some dark chewiness that isn’t bad, but it’s funky, and it’s difficult to describe. My friend Beau decided he liked the funk after a few sips. I drank the whole beer and still wondered whether it was growing on me or not. The funk that is.
The barley wine had better alcohol heat balance than the Imperial IPA had, and I’m a huge proponent of keep the imperial designation for beers that really deserve it. A 9.5 percent ABV IPA is good, but it’s still just an IPA. An imperial IPA should stand up for itself and take a bow in anything above a 10 percent ABV range. I see far too many in the 7.2 o 8.2 range.
We could’ve kept our conversation going until all hours of the morning, or if the beer ran out, but it was a Thursday night, and we knew there were more beers to meet on Friday and Saturday.
My wife talked me in to taking a late-afternoon yoga class at the YMCA today, after which we planned on a good, healthy dinner, a movie and then a good night sleep before Monday madness.
Yoga went reasonably well. I held a decent number of positions and was able to keep from farting in public, which is always a worry when you’re contorting your body into those strange poses.
On the way home, we stopped in to a grocery store for a few need items and a bottle of wine for dinner. Dressed in Adidas outfits and looking very Run DMC, the clerk asked us both for our identification to prove our age. My wife neglected to bring her ID into the store, and my arguments about who is purchasing the alcohol went unnoticed. I left angry, as I always do when screwed over by a clerk who does not respect state law but follows blindly the store policy, which flaunts its authority over common sense. Would you indeed card my 11-year-old if he were in line with me instead of my 36-year-old wife.
But I digress.
Upon arriving home, we cooked up a salmon fillet given to us by some dear friends who went to run the food stores for the scientists in Antarctica during the summer down there. We also braised some Brussels sprouts in butter and sauteed some spinach in olive oil and red pepper flakes.
On a whim, and because we didn’t have any wine, I decided to open a bottle of Two Moon Saison from Montana Brewing Co. with salmon I normally prefer wine, either pinot noir or pinot gris, but saison has taken a huge step forward as of tonight.
Something about the beauty of salmon, Brussels sprouts and copious amounts of butter, but the hops and farminess of saison seemed to produce amazing responses from those who matter most. My wife. The kids liked the dish sans saison.
It was the vegetal taste of the saison that paired so wonderfully with the braised Brussels sprouts and the sweet and sour of the huckleberry sauce. With just a hint of lemon in the huckleberry sauce, the yeast in the saison was fully revealed with fruity and barnyard characteristics.
Two of my favorite reporters absolutely love saison, and I can’t blame them. It might be one of the most food-forward beers on the market along with a Belgian tripel.
Paired with fish and anything soaked in butter, you can’t go wrong. Absolutely amazing.
Montana Brewing Co.’s Two Moon saison is not available in Missoula, but you can get several really good saisons at The Good Food Store and at Worden’s Market.
I’ve wanted to attend this festival for as long as I’ve known about it. But Alaska is not exactly easy to get to for someone like me. I almost always need extenuating circumstances to travel, and there are as about as many extenuating circumstances in Alaska as there are people.
Luckily, my dear friend and former blogging partner Michelle Theriault lives there and actually attended this year’s festival. She agreed to send me a blurb about the festival for old times sake.
Here’s what she says:
The Alaska Beer & Barley Wine Festival is a sell-out event held in downtown Anchorage in the dead of winter, just a block away from a pavilion of ice sculptures in the city center park. In a state that takes beer very, very seriously, the crowd is a lively mix of connoisseurs toting judging notebooks as well as just about every 30-and-under resident of the city. The festival features more than 200 different beers, and breweries from Unibroue (makers of the aptly named La Fin Du Monde, a 9 percent triple fermented golden ale) to the Oskar Blues Brewery of Colorado, makers of some very innovative canned brews.But the highlight , for me at least, was the impressive turnout of Alaskan breweries. For a state with less than 600,000 people and a very limited road system, there are sure a lot of people brewing beer. Highlights included appearances from Silver Gulch Brewing Company of Fairbanks, Homer Brewing Company and the upstart Kenai River Brewing Company. Their “breakfast beer” — an oatmeal milk stout — was a festival favorite.
Turns out Bayern is asking folks to recycle the entire Bayern Brewing package. Cardboard container, glass bottles and caps. It’s not quite California’s 5 cent return on aluminum cans, but it’s a great effort on the part of a great brewery. Here’s more info from their Facebook page:
As of 1-1-10 Bayern Brewing has been recycling its entire 6 pack, not just the carrier anymore. In an effort to truly reduce, reuse, and recycle, Bayern Brewing will be accepting Bayern 6 pack carriers (in reusable condition) and Bayern only glass bottles as well as metal caps in the tasting room.
This is the first effort for a brewery to recycle its entire package in Montana. Receive 15¢ for trade in or 10¢ cash per 6 pack holder with Bayern glass bottles at the tasting room only.
Here’s the word from our neighbor to the north.
WOO HOO!!! The Centennial Scottish Ale is FLOWING!! This smoky ale is tapped with a VERY low carbonation level. We thought it might be interesting to present a beer that might be similar to a beer served 100 years ago when force-carbonated beers were starting to sweep the land! ENJOY IT!
Get yourself some.
I popped into the Big Sky Brewing Co. taproom last night, and Alix told me the Betty’s for Beer reunion and beer dinner is filling up fast. If you’re a Beer Betty, don’t forget to drop by and sign up.
November 19: Betty’s for Beer Dinner/Holiday Class for Alumnae. If you have already taken the first series, sign up for this great 6-course small plate beer dinner! Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Taproom at (406)549-2777 ext. 120. The cost is $40 and is from 6-8PM.
I don’t have all the details of this blessed union, but I figure even the news of this is blog worthy.
So, our very own Big Sky Brewing Co. is joining such classy acts as New Belgium Brewing Co., Russian River Brewing Co., as brewers of Bottlework’s celebrated anniversary ale series.
Matt Vandenberghe and Matt Bonney of Brouwers/Bottleworks, pick a different brewing company to blend up their special creations each year. The 10th anniversary brew was called the Bottleworks 10th Anniversary Wild Ale, and it was a blend of brews from New Belgium Brewing Co.
These ales often become big-time collector’s items, as they are meant to age over time.
The limited details I know are this: Matt and Matt will meet up with Big Sky’s head brewer, also Matt, and they will be working on some very cool, unique blend next week. I’m hoping to hang out with the group and find out all about the art of blending beer, but I’ll get back to you on that.
So check back in for more details on the Bottleworks 11th Anniversary Ale as brewed by Big Sky Brewing Co.