The Session #118: Who You Gonna Invite?

sessionThe Session creator Stan Hieronymus first launched this beer blogging exercise in 2007. For his third time hosting, he poses the question “Who you gonna invite?” More specifically, “If you could invite four people dead or alive to a beer dinner who would they be? What four beers would you serve?” He then added, “To participate, answer these questions Dec. 2 in a blog post (or, what the heck, in a series of tweets).” Not one to be known for my punctuality, I picked up the gauntlet of tweeting or microblogging over a series of 16 tweets (below). Since, let’s be honest, if you don’t say it on Twitter, you might as well be the tree that falls in a lonesome woods. My responses are no #pizzagate, but hopefully they’ll find a few readers nonetheless. At least I can promise these are not fake.

(This one above was even “liked” by Golden Road’s Twitter!)

I WAS RIGHT (5,005 Breweries)

Ask my long-suffering wife. By that token, ask any of my ex girlfriends. Ask my parents. Ask any of my friends over the last 30 years. Ask any of my ex friends if the reason they’re no longer my friends is because they think I always have to be right. But the takeaway here is: I was right.

Back when Derrick Peterman of Ramblings of a Beer Runner hosted the 67th monthly installment of The Session, a beer blogging exercise. In short, he wanted to know how many American breweries there’d be in five years. At the time (2012), the Brewers Assocation (BA) stated there were 2,126 in operation. To start off his round-up, Derrick said, “As for who wins the prize, forgive the sappy cliché but you’re all winners.” But he, unlike me, was wrong. Oh sure, David Blascombe of Good Morning… was also right in a slightly more general sense. He was more not-wrong than I was right (on the money). He put down “Over 5,000.” I predicted 5,001. Seriously, click on that.

In my blog, I reasoned that, “it’d be logical that since more Americans prefer beer to wine, there should be more breweries. Or at least the same amount. Fine, how about at least HALF as many!?”

This morning, the BA announced that on November 30, 2016, the United States reached a new peak in the brewery population: 5,005. They further pointed out that it is half the number of wineries.

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Bart Watson, Ph.D. is the BA’s Chief Economist. Dude’s got mad numbers skills. And I pinged him this past summer, when I noticed that the official count had topped 4,500, if he thought my prognostication was correct in pegging the year-end tally at five grand. “We’re averaging closer to two a day (net) over the past 12 months rolling,” Watson said, regarding the rate at which breweries open. “Based on what I see – I think end of the year is about when I’d predict 5,000, though could be a bit longer if closings finally start to tick up.” For all the media speculation about the craft beer bubble bursting, and some dire reports painting a slow-down, I’m going on record as saying: nuh uh. Don’t buy it. Well, the “craft” segment as a whole may continue to grow at a snail’s pace, but grow it will. More specifically, the number of breweries will continue to climb even if that means that the largest producers—or perhaps just the mid-range ones—will see stagnant sales. To bolster this assessment, Watson added, “There were 6,080 active Federal licenses at the end of 2015, so it’s just a matter of when all those breweries in planning open their doors.”

Here in Portland, we have 65 commercially operating breweries. That’s a number that all but about five other cities would be screaming “Saturation Point.” And yet we just welcomed three new ones in a third-mile radius. And three more are on track to open this winter. There’s absolutely reason that every American city with our population or larger can’t sustain as many breweries. That’s 25 larger cities by population. Some 640,000 people call Portland home. Denver has about 690,000 and, congratulations Mile High City, you’ve passed Portland with your 73 breweries. San Diego (pop. 1,4M) claims 130, but that’s all of SD County. The 690,000 folks who live in Seattle proper have 59 breweries to call their own.

On the flip side, my most recent Beer Traveler column for All About Beer focuses on metropolises that are just turning into beer destinations, places like Fredericksburg, Virginia and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Yeah Iowa! If you brew it, they will come!

Below are the rest of the predictions submitted back in 2012. Not that they are all below 5,000. Technically, Derrick asked for our predictions in exactly five years, so mid-2017, but I say we’ll have at least 5,400 next summer, unless people stop loving beer, or there’s an asteroid heading for the US, or Trump’s economy wreaks havoc on par with Prohibition + planetary annihilation.

Just for funsies, remember this number: 8,075. Between the openings and inevitable closures, that’s my guess… How many breweries do you think will be operating in America in 2022?

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4,252 In their Session debut, The Brew Gentlemen

3,189 Alan McCormick of Growler Fills

3,125 is the number Jon Abernathy of the Brewsite predicts My good friend Jon… my poor, stupid friend Jon… predicted…

Around 3,000 opines Sean Inman of Beer Search Party

2,831 is the number Chris Staten of DRAFT Magazine

2,620 Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer Stan is obviously quite wiser than I. But…

2,589.5 is the prediction by What We’re Drinking, … his home town of Dayton, OH, he writes:   “I do think that 3-4 local, small scale breweries can be sustained within a city the size of Dayton…”…It’s worth noting the population of metro Dayton, OH is about 840,000. (Editor’s Note: there are currently FIVE in Dayton)

2,500 is the number by Roger Mueller of A Fool and His Beers

1 A dire prediction that one megabrewer will control the world comes from Jon Jefferson of 10th Day Brewing.

 

Just how sour

Remember Top Secret? Remember that great song in it, How Silly Can You Get? That’s how I think of a lot of beers. How alcoholic can you get? Brewmeister’s Snake Charmer has an ABV of 67.5% How bitter can you get? Flying Monkey’s Alpha-fornication packs 2,500 IBU. From OG/FG to SRM, brewers have a lot of measurements and acronyms to tell the consumer just how something something is. For sour heads, ours may come in the form of TA. Ttrataible Acidity. Firestone Walker Brewing isn’t the first to use TA in their lab, but they are the first to put how quantifiably sour their beer is right on the label of their funky Barrelworks offerings.

Now, a quick word about this story on Titratable Acidity just published in the November issue of BeerAdvocate: it’s crazy heavy on the chemistry-spiel, and I barely passed high school chemistry. I do this from time to time–I really challenge myself to wrap my head around a story. I had never heard the word “titratable” or “titration/titrating” before pitching this. I bludgeoned these poor master brewers, master blenders, and folks with Ph.D.s in food and brewing science with questions first so I could begin to understand what’s going on with the acidity in certain beers–specifically what types of acids are present and how they got there–and once I felt semi-comfortable with that, I had to write it up for the readers who didn’t have the same access I got. SO… if you think this story is “TL;DR” just imagine poor little me for whom it was nearly TL;DW. (And here I massively applaud my editor at BA, Ben Keene, for whom this must’ve been challenging to no end but did a masterful job, even if he originally assigned me 1,800 words, then caved and gave me 2,000, and somehow got it way, way down to 2,300!)

Portraits of Dead Soldiers Left in the Yard: Bad Hombres Edition

Three and a half years ago, evidently, I was inspired to write a series of blog posts inspired by a particular type of infuriating litter I’m always finding in our flower boxes or somewhere near the front yard: dead soldiers. Empty beer bottles and cans. Click here to see the entire “series” (2 posts: BridgePort IPA and Sparks: Blackberry) from my old Beer Odyssey blog. I pick up so many recyclables–both craft and macro–that I’m occasionally inspired to kickstart it back up. But today’s discovery made it imperative.

Some of you know of one of my beery obsessions: nips. Fun fact: a story I wrote about tiny bottles appears as a reference on Wikipedia! And in fact, they were the subject of yet a different blog: Welovenips. That one I evidently pulled the plug on two years ago. It still lives on in Twitter form. (Follow @welovenips for a bimonthly tweet.) So imagine my delight and horror–equal parts–when I discovered these three amigos in said planters.

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This tears me apart. I love cuartitos or chicos, but Corona is my absolute least favorite Mexican lager.  I’m not sure if these bad hombres were smuggled over our open borders or were simply bought at Freddy’s across the street, but clearly someone was thirsty enough for 14 oz but not for 21. Oh, I confess I was tempted to crack open that third one and write a review of a lightstruck Coronita, but I was afraid Dia de los Muertos might arrive 11 days early.

These planters are for succulents. Not sucky beer.

Portland’s Beerly Walkable Buckman/Hosford-Abernethy

The Brewers Association announced to their freelance crew that they would be adding a feature called “Walk this Way” for their Beer Muses blog (about walkable brewery ‘hoods). Natch, I pitched that it needed to start with Inner Southeast Portland’s twins Buckman and Hosford-Abernethy. Here’s the result, published August 30, 2016.And already

The kicker? Fewer than 7 weeks later, we’ve already seen Mt Tabor Brewing Company – PDX & Scout Beer open. (And possibly in the next 7 weeks we’ll welcome Wayfinder Beer & Ross Island Brewing.) That will bring us to 13 independent breweries within a 2.5 mile walk! CheersGrixsen Brewing Company, Baerlic Brewing Co., Ground Breaker Brewing,Lucky Labrador Brew Pub, PDX Green Dragon, Cascade Brewing, The Commons Brewery, Hair of the Dog Brewing Company, Base Camp Brewing Company, Burnside Brewing Co

 

Draft: Craft Lightens Up

Funny where inspiration will hit. For me, it was at a G. Love concert at a music venue that serves beer from such dirty tap lines I’d vowed never to drink there again. Until I made a valuable discovery. Actually, it was a $2 discovery.

For an industry defined by its antithesis to cheap, macro light lagers, does its growth hinge on emulating that model?

Lush Life: Tiny Wolf and Portland’s Nanos

I’m forever deliberating over the impact nanobreweries can or do have on a city’s beer culture. For every Commons (nee Beetje) brewery in Portland or Hess in San Diego, there are seemingly a dozen more that think they can emulate that level of success. To find out what these nanobrewers want to get out of the brewing industry, and what they think can have to contribute, I went straight to the teensy-tiny sources in my August turn at the Mercury’s Lush Life column.