This post is in direct response to Andy Crouch’s article “The Futility of Beer Styles” in this month’s (October 2013) Beer Advocate magazine [Edit: Andy has made me aware that this was only part 1 of 3 and these concerns will be addressed in future parts. A fact not mentioned in the magazine]. If you haven’t read it yet then I won’t fault you for reading it before continuing this post. However, if you don’t get Beer Advocate magazine or don’t want to wait then the quick summary is that he advocates for discontinuing the use of beer styles.
Category Archives: Opinion
Updated with West Sixth’s response to Magic Hat at bottom.
The beer world on the internet has been a buzz since yesterday morning. Around 11 am on May 21st West Sixth Brewing, a small craft brewery out of Lexington, posted the following link on their Facebook page and Twitter account: “No More Magic Hat“. Please take a few minutes to go read that, we’ll wait. Ok, everyone back? Great. I’m going forward assuming you’ve read that so if you haven’t, then do so now. That post started off this mini-firestorm of Retweets, Likes, and shares, plus individuals and other craft breweries urging everyone to sign a petition which would be sent to Magic Hat headquarters. In summary, West Sixth is claiming Magic Hat wants them to change their logo, which will put them out of business. There is some merit there; a brand means A LOT. Once you have that recognition built, having to rebuild it could lose you a lot of business. West Sixth also claims multiple times that they “reached out” to Magic Hat and never heard back.
Magic Hat was initially very quiet, then began deleting negative Facebook comments off their Facebok page, which is always a bad move. Around 10 pm on May 21st Magic Hat posted this link on their Facebook page: Claims Made by West Sixth Brewing Co.: Simply Not True. Please go read that and click on all the various gray-highlighted boxes. They are links to letters between Magic Hat and West Sixth.
Here are the two logos; I flipped West Sixth’s so you can better see what the whole deal is about:
Personally I can see what the stink is about and feel that Magic Hat does have some very, very small claim. Remember that many of the logos in question don’t have the “West Sixth Brewing Company Lexington, Kentucky” words around it. While the compass/star/dingbat thing and # are very different, they’re in a similar place. And damn do those numbers look identical, especially with the ball on the tail. Looking closely at these two logos I now see that Magic Hat’s 9 has a star/dingbat thing in the middle of the number. Do I think these are identical? No. Do I think they’re damned close and would “cause consumer confusion as to the source of those goods or as to the sponsorship or approval of such goods”† if said consumer had an upside down can of West Sixth? Possibly. But that’s what the jury will be tasked with now.
I want to take a look at some of the things said in each company’s statements. First off Magic Hat claims it was “blindsided” by the social media forces West Sixth gathered. Magic Hat also claims, and proves (something West Sixth does not do) that they attempted to make contact with West Sixth and, in fact, did receive responses from them. So we can see West Sixth’s claims of never hearing back are bull crap, which to me is disappointing.
A claim made by West Sixth is that Magic Hat wants “all their profits up until this point”. By looking at the letters provided by Magic Hat we can see that it’s not the case. Magic Hat wanted “an accounting of all sales made … so an appropriate royalty could be determined.” West Sixth also say that their logo includes “West Sixth Brewing Company”, which as Magic Hat points out, is not always the case.
Magic Hat offers to allow West Sixth to continue using the number 6 if they remove the star (which they call a “dingbat”) and always include the words “West Sixth Brewing”. Personally this seems like a good option to me as everyone would be happy and West Sixth would be reinforcing it’s brand name via the logo and the words. See below picture from Magic Hat’s provided letters
West Sixth then responds, agreeing to most of those terms and trying to get clarity on a few of them. Magic Hat responds saying they can’t provide clarity until they see West Sixth’s new logo that will replace the dingbat with a compass. More legal banter follows and the agreement basically falls apart due to the cost to West Sixth to replace all the logos and the two sides being unable to agree on what exactly to change.
That last letter was February 27th; no further contact between the two parties is provided so we are left to assume none occurred. Or to assume that one party is with holding it to make themselves appear better. Then on May 16th Magic Hat filed a lawsuit (linkage). I really can’t make too much sense of this through all the legal mumbo jumbo. Those letters sent back and forth were hard enough. But, it’s clear Magic Hat wasn’t happy with the proposed settlements and sued West Sixth over the logo.
However, I can read and do LOVE this: “Plaintiff Magic Hat is one of the largest and most well-recognized craft brewers in the United States.” That’s some funny stuff. You want me to believe Magic Hat is more well known then Stone, Dogfish Head, or Sam Adams?? HAH!
My opinion on all this is that it’s damned fracking nonsense. I really view the issue as the U.S. Patent Office being stupid for allowing a
patent trademark on “#9”. I mean shit, seriously? They patented trademarked #9? And It was approved!
Really to me, in the end, what matters here is beer! I tried Magic Hat’s variety pack last year (my review) and was very unimpressed and didn’t like most of it. I have not yet had any West Sixth, but from what I’m told their IPA should be widely available in the Cincinnati area. I will not be able to try any this week but getting some and reviewing it will be my top priority.
Now, after having read far too much legal-ease it’s time for some music. As soon as I thought to write this post, Jimi Hendrix’s song “If 6 was 9” popped into my head as the perfect title for this post. Turns out the lyrics fit my view point on this lawsuit pretty damn well too.
Now, if 6 turned up to be 9,
I don’t mind, I don’t mind.
If all the hippies cut off their hair,
I don’t care, I don’t care.
Dig, ‘cos I got my own world to live through
And I ain’t gonna come near you.
Another song also kept running through my brain and if you haven’t read the number 9 enough times already then digg this masterpiece of craziness
Correction: As many people have pointed out I misspoke and this is not a patent issue, it is a trademark issue. I have corrected the mistakes, my apologies for this and my thanks for pointing it out.
Update: West Sixth has posted a response to Magic Hat’s post from last night. West Sixth’s new post can be read here. In short they accuse Magic Hat of ignoring them via letter, phone, and email and accuse Magic Hat of preferring to communicate over Facebook. West Sixth calls Magic Hat out on various claims they made and proposes to settle based on the terms I mentioned before (that is using “West Sixth Brewing” in all logos and changing the compass). West Sixth then goes on to show some of the proposed changes to the logo.
Around 8 months ago I posted Now is the winter of my dark-content. Discussing how I’d never tried too many stouts and not given thought to them but was setting out to change that. It’s now spring and with spring comes the release of summer ales. While drinking a Sam Adam’s Summer Ale (my review) earlier this week and grilling a burger I decided it was time to reflect on my adventure into the world of stouts. Here are a couple of things I’ve discovered:
- Stouts seem to be one of the most diverse sub-categories of beer. From 3.5% dry Irish milk stouts to 10% imperial stouts up to 19.5% bourbon barrel aged stouts!
- Further on that point, if someone doesn’t like bourbon barrel aged imperial stouts they should not give up on stouts all together. Milk stouts (especially on nitro) have little in common with their barrel aged cousins and are almost a different beast entirely.
- Don’t be afraid of dark beers. OK… maybe we should all be a little afraid of The Bruery’s Black Tuesday, 19.5% ABV is nothing to take lightly. However, it seems quite a few people who may love IPAs or Belgians have a “fear” of dark beers. There is nothing to fear unless you really hate coffee and chocolate… or are allergic to it, then yeah that’d be scary.
- Bourbon barrel aged stouts are the stout-flavor of the day and get a lot of the attention. I don’t agree with the hype. I definitely love some of them like KBS and Parabola but others like BCBS are just far too much bourbon. But as André 3000 says, whatever floats your boat or finds your lost remote.
- I, personally, prefer porters to stouts. Stouts get a lot more attention these days then porters and I find that to be a shame. There are some amazing porters out there like Rivertown’s Roebling and Sixpoint 3Beans. Porters can have the complexity of stouts with a slightly lighter body.
- If you don’t like a stout now give it a few months or years to age. Most stouts will age quite well with their flavor profiles changing over time. How long to age X beer is still a bit of a guessing game, so buy a few and try one every couple months. If you find a spot you love, drink em all!
- There is plenty of focus on rare stouts but some things available every day like Victory’s Storm King kick plenty of ass as well!
I am very glad I did this and have a new found love and respect for stouts and porters. Am I gonna stop drinking them now that the winter is over? Hell No. First off they rock, secondly (and perhaps more importantly) my basement is suddenly overflowing with them, thirdly I have two in my fridge to review which are available in this area and supposedly bad ass. So keep an eye out for my reviews of Ale Smith’s Speedway Stout and Epic’s Big Bad Baptist, plus many many more to come!
Also we’re currently running a survey to try and get some feedback from our readers on what they like and want. Please take 5 minutes and let us know how we can improve!
Beer is popping up everywhere. More and more restaurants and bars are now serving craft beer in many shapes and forms. However, a ‘Beer Bar’ is a special place and differs from just a bar or restaurant in a variety of ways. These practices can be implemented at any place trying to run a good beer program.
So, what makes a good beer bar?
1. Tap Quality, Not Quantity, Matters
Bar XYZ has 100 taps, so it must be a beer bar. Wrong. Some of the best beer bars have as few as 10 taps but utilize them far more successfully than bars with over 100 taps.
Take those 100 taps, and eliminate anything from Budweiser, Miller, and Coors. Now eliminate stuff you can buy every single day of the year at the gas station or grocery store1. What does that number look like now? The tap list at a beer bar looks different every time you come in. Local one offs and seasonal beers are not the exception, they are the norm. If you can’t try something you have never had before (either in a bottle or on tap), you either are not in a beer bar, or you are and just have a drinking problem.
2. Beer Is The Main Attraction
Serve wine, serve liquor, serve food; I like them all. But beer is the star of the show here. It is called a beer bar, after all. The staff should be educated about the offerings and be able to make recommendations to novices and seasoned veterans alike. There is a manager dedicated to the beer offerings that is in frequent contact with local breweries and distributors. And if food is served, pairing recommendations are a must!
3. There Is Always A Fresh IPA On Tap
Americans like hoppy beers. Beer nerds like hoppy beers. Keep a good, fresh IPA on at all times. Just in Ohio alone, there are around a dozen very good IPAs brewed in state. Add states touching Ohio, and that number jumps even higher. Keep them rotating, variety is great! And the more local, the better!
4. Seasonality Matters
In the winter, Belgian Strong Ales, Stouts, Porters, and Barleywines dominate the taps. In the summer, Saisons, Pale Ales, IPAs, and Pilsener are the star of the show. Does this mean there are no barrel aged Barleywines in the summer and no sessionable Saisons in the winter? Of course not! But there are beers styles associated with seasons for a reason.
5. It Looks More Like A Pub Than A Club
Music is in the background. Did you hear that, I said BACKGROUND. T-shirts are perfectly acceptable attire. There is not a dance floor. The ratio of girls to guys does not matter. The jukebox contains more Bob Dylan than Pitbull2. You get the idea.
6. There Is Some Effort Input
If you take the effort to stock hundreds of different beers, why be lazy and not print them onto a list? Update social media with your tap offerings. Collaborate with local vendors, musicians, and artists. Get involved in the community. Organize fun events. Little things like these pay big dividends.
So, what do you think defines a good beer bar? Did I miss anything?
Steve1: I am not saying there aren’t great everyday beers available. Great Lakes Edmund Fitzgerald, Bell’s Two Hearted, these beers are staples at great beer bars. But there also has to be some effort put forth to keep things fresh and interesting with at least portion of the taps. 2: No offense meant to Mr. Pitbull.
Oh, New Year’s Resolutions. I’ve never much been one for them, but being a grownup with a wife, kids, and a house gives me enough things to improve myself on that I think I’m going to give a few a whirl in 2013. Among the more trivial of those are related to alcohol. Because I don’t drink that much, my resolutions aren’t related to the Betty Ford Clinic or anything so dramatic. I’d like to homebrew more often, make better homebrew and — the topic of this post — I would like to give local beers more of a chance.
Most of the beers I review for this site are brewed in the Cincinnati region. Behind the scenes and away from this blog, though, local beers make up a tiny portion of what I consume. There are a number of reasons for this: up until this last year, there really wasn’t a great deal of locally-brewed beers on the shelves that were up to par or better than the non-local options sitting right next of them for the same price. Many of the beers that I would then actually rather buy than their non-local counterparts were either draft only, growler only, or not available on most stores’ shelves. Not exactly conducive to everyday drinking.
With the last year, a lot of this has changed. Though Cincinnati still needs to get with the program and catch up to its C-named sisters in terms of producing a really good, off the shelf IPA (Cleveland with White Rajah and Head Hunter, Columbus with Columbus IPA and Bodhi), the options have improved substantially in terms of quality. In many ways, 2012 was a banner year for better beer in Cincinnati. Rivertown now puts out a sour for almost every season of the year. Listermann/Triple Digit, who turned Cincinnatus from a pretty bad barrel aged stout into a fantastic one, has been pushing out high-gravity beers than can be found all over the place, including places like Walgreens. We’ve also seen Blank Slate welcomed to the scene, Fifty West (my current favorite and most promising brewery) opened their taproom doors with more than ten offerings out the gate, and MadTree is going to be making a splash immediately from the looks of their setup and capacity. And that’s without even mentioning the crazy barrel-aged only stuff that Quaff Bros seem to be constantly brainstorming.
Even with all of that, local brews currently don’t make up anywhere near half of the beers I drink. When I can pick up a six-pack of Two Hearted from the gas station a block away from my house, it’s always going to be an uphill battle for local breweries. But, you know what? I’m going to try in 2013 to give local breweries a fair shake. I’m going to try this: half the beers I drink, at least to start 2013, will be locally-brewed. I’m even going to include my own homebrew into that bucket, so it should make things a little easier.
I’m certainly not bought into the “buy local” beer movement and I probably never will be. More than blindly buying local, I advocate being a smart consumer first. I’m happy to give local beer a try, but when it’s not as good as the commonly-available non-local alternative, I’m not going to continue to buy it just because it’s local. So, I’m asking you, local brewers, keep improving your regular lineups so I can keep this resolution moving. Even better, if you have something you’re proud of, fill me in. I’m always happy to put up reviews to give local beers their time in the spotlight.
Happy New Year’s to all you Queen City Drinks readers out there. Drink well, but more importantly, drink safe and we’ll look forward to seeing you in 2013!
First things first, beer is not healthy. No matter what Guinness wants to advertise about a “meal in a glass” or however few calories Budweiser can cram in a bottle of “beer”, the beverage we love so is not a healthy one. Beer is empty calories, regardless of how many times I proclaim that “they’re not empty, they’re full of joy!” From what I’ve seen the average 12 oz craft beer runs around 250 calories. Really not horrible compared to most of the stuff at McDonald’s but still not healthy, especially when water is 0 calories and a can of coke is 140. For comparison liquor usually runs about 100 calories per shot, depending on proof.
Where am I going with this? Well, it’s a new year and time for new resolutions. After successfully completing last year’s, and many year’s prior, resolution of quitting smoking I’m on to trying to lose some weight. So what is a lazy IT guy who loves a beer (or more) a night to do??
Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been going through my Untappd profile, rounding up my most memorable beer than I was lucky enough to try in 2012. I ended up with a total of fifteen beers, consisting of a top ten and five honorable mentions which were just short of the cut. It’s not quite the end of 2012 yet, so I suppose it’s possible that late additions bump some of these out, but it’s a risk I’m going to make.
- I definitely like barrel-aged beers.
- Cincinnati-area beers performed well, taking 4 of the 15 spots.
- This list was really, really hard to cull down. There is so much great beer out there and I’ve been able to try so much of it. I love the choice that better beer drinkers have now.
Now, for the list. There are more details for each beer in the captions of the slideshow below, but this here’s the summary. By the way, the top ten are in no particular order.
- Rivertown Lambic (2010)
- Founders Looking Glass
- Sierra Nevada barrel-aged draft only beers
- Quaff Bros. Joseph
- The Bruery Black Tuesday (2009, 2011) & Chocolate Rain
- Goose Island Juliet
- Dark Horse Bourbon Barrel Plead the Fifth (2011, 2012)
- Goose Island Bourbon County Stout (2012)
- Westvleteren XII
- Listermann Cincinnatus
- Rivertown Sour Cherry Porter
- Stone Enjoy By 11.09.12
- Quaff Bros Sour Grapes
- New Belgium La Folie
- Founders Better Half
But. (There’s always a But.) The idea that introducing gender into the conversation is inherently unnecessary or somehow offensive is a little off the mark. And this is where I have to stop taking issue with The Brew Professor’s post and see where he’s coming from.
Advocacy groups like the two aforementioned still exist… why? Well, for the same reason this post wasn’t titled “Newbies, Don’t Fear The Beer.”
Because men have never been taught to fear beer. Men don’t have decades of marketing to unlearn. Men have not been overlooked as consumers, creators, and connoisseurs. Men have very likely never been whispered at, “That has a lot of calories, honey.”
Women are fairly well represented in the craft beer world, but the “mainstream” drinking woman is still heavily favoring wine over beer (see stats above). And here’s the rub. How does one entice a wine or cocktails gal over to “our side”? Clearly not by insulting her current beverage of choice, or her intelligence. (And let’s all agree not to place beer in any kind of antagonistic position to either wine or spirits. If anyone suggested my bourbon, gin, or champagne was inferior to beer in any way, I’d laugh at them.) You drink what you want and what you’re in the mood for. I’m not here to judge anyone. So how do you gently suggest that someone, who might not otherwise be so inclined, try a beer?
[After the Bew Prof’s “Women, Don’t Fear the Beer” started a good conversation on gender and craft beer, I was contacted by Andrea to do a guest post in response. Like the earlier mentioned article, this one will be split into two parts. The first will address some issues Andrea found in “Women, Don’t Fear the Beer”, while in the second you will find an good analysis of women and beer and some recommendations of her own. Andrea, thank you so much for putting this together and welcome! -J]
A recent post on this blog caught my attention, since I’ve been thinking, reading, and writing a lot lately about women and beer. I’m a woman who genuinely loves beer, and I don’t do it to “be one of the lads,” or to show off, or to look cool in front of guys. I’ve loved the beverage ever since I can remember. As a kid, I begged for sips of my dad’s beer (he only ever let me have the tiniest sip of the foam); as a teenager, I visited the Czech Republic, where my mom is from, and reaffirmed my love of beer. Now, I trade feats of connoisseurship with my husband, who is only too happy to while away hours poring over the selection at our local emporium and spend entire holidays in Belgium with me. I love beer so much that when I meet someone who doesn’t care for it, I sort of want to convert them. So I understand the impulse behind “Women, Don’t Fear the Beer.” I believe it was a well-intentioned missive that came from a good place and had an honorable goal – to see more women get into craft beer. Still, there were a few missteps that rightfully irritated some of the commenters, and I wanted to address them here in a little more detail.
First off, The Brew Professor admits that his post contained “generous helpings of broad assumptions and stereotyping. Most of this is observational ‘fact’ that I have experienced personally.” This weakened his argument upfront, which is a shame, since literally two minutes of research would’ve yielded some statistics that might have strengthened his position. Let’s take a look at a recent Gallup poll for starters: the alcoholic beverage most consumed by men is, by a wide margin, beer (55%); for women, it’s wine (52%), followed by a fairly even split between liquor (22%) and beer (23%).So instead of throwing out some nebulous anecdotal evidence, he could’ve started with something a little more concrete, and then maybe we could’ve had a real conversation about those numbers, and what they mean.
Secondly, he chose absolutely the wrong wording in the wrong forum. On this blog, you’re dealing with a constituency of beer drinkers, male and female. To speak to this audience from the position he took, e.g. that women need instruction on the ways of beer, was somewhat poorly thought out. Granted there are some spaces where this might be appropriate, but this blog wasn’t one of them. Furthermore, statements like “The problem with experimenting with real beer is that the selection process can be extremely intimidating” are in no way gender specific. It is no more intimidating to women just getting into craft beer than it is to men just getting into craft beer, which many commenters pointed out.
Finally, and this speaks again to the issue of research, The Brew Professor says:
“Okay, ladies. Why is the craft beer movement mostly driven by men? What is holding you back from trying more beer? In my experience, it is inexperience.”
Hmmm, wrong. The craft beer movement isn’t where the women aren’t (if you follow me). There are plenty of female brewers, sellers, journalists, and drinkers in this milieu. There is still a small imbalance to address, granted, but advocacy groups like the Barley’s Angels and Girl’s Pint Out are working to educate and empower women to buy, drink, and order beer with confidence. On the consumer side of things, it’s the macro brewers who have much, much more of a gender problem than the craft beer world.
But. (There’s always a But.) The idea that introducing gender into the conversation is inherently unnecessary or somehow offensive is a little off the mark. And this is where I have to stop taking issue with The Brew Professor’s post and see where he’s coming from.
Come back tomorrow to catch the second half of Andrea’s piece!
Andrea Janes lives, drinks, and writes in Brooklyn, New York. When not trying new beers, she writes horror stories and leads ghost tours of the city. Her story collection, BOROUGHS OF THE DEAD, is available on Amazon. She can be found on Twitter @SpinsterAunt and on Untappd (Andrea J).
Because I like to think that people actually read what I’m writing here and hopefully they do so because they trust my taste, I’m going to start a new series that I’ll try to get up at the end of each month. In it, I’ll give a brief memorial for the three most stellar things I’ve drank over the month. They might not all be beer; spirits, wines, hell, even not-alcoholic things are fair game. Maybe the other QCD contributors will decide to post theirs, as well (hint hint), and we’ll get a wide spectrum of ideas.
Note: since some of these beers will be limited or draft-only, you may be SOL on trying to get ahold of it when the monthly post goes up. Also note that these are in no particular order.
This is kinda cheating because I knew it was going to be on my list before I even drank it. I’ve had it once before during last year’s Cincinnati Beer Week, and it blew my mind. A blend of Bell’s Expedition Stout and Double Cream Stout aged in bourbon barrels, this beer hits every check box for a beast-like imperial stout. Sweet, yet countered by a slight roast, this beer treads all over your average barrel-aged stouts without even trying. If you see it on tap and don’t order it, that sound you hear is my head shaking at you in shame. If you need any indication of how good this beer is, when I saw it was on tap, I connived to have family in town for Thanksgiving go to the Lager House for lunch the day it was tapped so I could get a pour. Not moving mountains or anything, but still.
Though this local beer could have qualified on creativity alone, it scores massive bonus points for being really tasty. Take a hearty red wine, mix it with a brown ale or porter, aged that in a bourbon barrel, and then pretend it doesn’t sound disgusting. That’s what Sour Grapes is like. They were barrel-aging a brown ale, when – OOPS! – it sprung an infection and soured. In trying to salvage the beer, they added Sangiovese grapes and let it ride. The fact that this “by the seat of their pants” project worked out is pretty amazing. Sadly, unless you rob my cellar, good luck getting a bottle. Like every one of the Quaff Bros bottles, these went pretty quickly.
Believe me, I was just as surprised as most of you are to see two local brews on this list. It’s probably the first time I would have ever been able to do this and I think it speaks highly to the improving quality of beers brewed in this area. Not to mention the ass that Quaff Bros are kicking all over the block with the stuff they’ve been putting out.
Joseph is a mild coffee stout (coffee provided by Taste of Belgium) aged in Elijah Craig barrels. This is easily in my top five of any beers drank by yours truly with coffee influence. The coffee takes a slight back seat to the bourbon, which is preferable, in my opinion. Perfectly balanced and dangerously drinkable (at 9.5%), if Quaff Bros don’t put another batch of this together on their own regards, I think I’m going to kidnap them and force them to do so. If you move quickly, you can still pick up a growler of this at Party Source ($9.00 for 32oz, $ $17.99 for 64oz) and I urge you to do so. Not only is it delicious, a growler of this might be one of the best barrel-aged beer deals you’ll ever find.
That’s what impressed me this month. Did anything blow you away in the month of November?