Ontario, CA Beers: Pretty Bland, Eh?

An Eight-pack?! Well, they got something right...

An eight-pack?! Oh…the metric system!

Canada: snow, hockey, lumberjacks, beer. That about sums it up, right? But yesterday, I said to my husband, “Hon, would you like some wine? I’m not really in the mood for beer tonight.” This is something rarely said in my home. However, the only beers we had in the fridge were in an eight-pack mixer from our vacation in Canada. I simply could not muster enough enthusiasm for my Canadian beers to pop open another 473ml can of meh.

My family and I have visited the balmy northern shores of Lake Erie every summer since before I can remember. The visit has always consisted mainly of reading on the beach, eating fresh fish and fruits, and (once I reached the Ontario, CA drinking age of 19) drinking copious amounts of beer.

I always took an inordinate amount of pride in knowing to order a Blue in Canadian bars, rather than a Labatt. Problem is, of course, that Blue isn’t all that good. It’s one of my favorite cheap beers, but I’m just not a cheap beer kinda gal. Drink it for a whole week?! You might as well make me go camping. Full disclosure: we brought up craft beer from the states. Continue reading

Craft Beer Defined (No, Your Other Six-Pack)


US states by their biggest “craft” brewery

The elusive definition of craft beer is not exactly the meaning of life, but you’d think it was given all the attention it gets in craft beer forums (definition: an online symposium of slightly to highly intoxicated enthusiasts of commodified tastes). Guys with chat names like DuffMan23 and BeerPirateRockstar argue about yearly barrel output and shareholder standings.

Your basic Wikipedia definition of craft beer is that it’s created in small batches, which finally solves the mystery of what microbrew means. There is no USDA of craft brewing, and hence the definition remains in the hands of the defined. Realistically, anyone could slap craft on their label without legal repercussions, although the legions of drunk, self-righteous craft beer drinkers might give one pause before doing so. The Brewers Association (BA), a brewers’ trade organization, has a more in-depth definition, stating that craft breweries must be small, independent, and traditional.

Dogfish-Head-logoBy small, they mean producing six million barrels or less per year which, at 252 pints per barrel, comes to 1.512 billion servings. This is, like, a river of beer that makes my weekly consumption seem way more reasonable. It may be nothing to the big guys, but that’s a lot of beer! Sam Adams, who is frequently under fire for being “too big” to be craft, makes just 2.5 million barrels a year. Dogfish Head makes 175,000 barrels a year, which to me seems a more accurate limit, if we’re drawing arbitrary lines. Continue reading

Small is the New Big: Drinking Local

Courtesy The Brewers Association

Courtesy The Brewers Association

The other day I was enjoying a beer on my porch when my neighbor, who lives a luxurious ten feet away, came out of his garage lecturing his friend about the evils of Wal-Mart. His friend, who floated lazily behind him on a skateboard, remained silent. My neighbor went on to say he hadn’t shopped there for years and stopped going to McDonald’s as well, since they were epitomes of capitalist nonsense (I’m paraphrasing). His friend attempted an ollie in the driveway.

His fervor surprised me because it’s not the usual rhetoric I hear spouted in neighborhoods like mine, which is to say, poor ones in central Ohio. It cheered me to hear someone outside my little blue bubble of artist friends who understood what megagiagantoconglamamarts do to the local economy. The word is spreading, my friends. And just as the buy local and eat local movements are gaining ground, so the drink local fad is rapidly becoming not a fad.

Allow me to share some statistics directly from the Brewers Association, a nonprofit trade association that supports small and independent American brewers. They will blow your hops off! In 2013, there were a total of 2,822 breweries in the US. Of those, 2,768 were craft breweries. That’s 98%! Continue reading

It’s Can-demonium! The Wild Proliferation of Craft Beer in Cans

Bottles and cans, just clap your hands, just clap your hay-ands.

I imagine when I first saw a can of Oskar Blues beer, my expression was akin to the one my mother made the first and last time I made her listen to Beck. Like, really–you thought I’d like this?

I first came across this can-only Colorado brewery at the 2006 Great American Beer Fest in Boston. Until then, my only contact with canned beer was that one Busch Light I sipped on unhappily for hours at a college party, the stress of being polite rendering me dead sober. Imagine my surprise when I tasted a sample of Ten Fidy, an imperial stout in Oskar Blues’ trademark can, and found it not just equal to the beer samples I’d had poured from bottles, but even better than many.

Now, eleven years after Oskar Blues launched the “Canned Beer Apocalypse,” the rest of the craft beer world is picking up the trend. Cans are IN. Why, you ask? There are numerous checks in the pro-can column; here are a few:

  • Cans are cheaper to make and ship. Aluminum is less expensive than glass and considerably lighter, resulting in lower shipping costs. Also, the cost of creating a label and a bottle separately can be costlier than using pre-printed aluminum. Lastly, glass can break in transit; aluminum doesn’t.
  • Cans keep beer better than glass. They don’t let light in, light being the prime culprit in skunky beer. (Beer in green bottles = bleh.) Also, these aren’t my father’s cans: nowadays aluminum cans are lined so the beer never actually touches it, which eliminates that metallic zing on your tongue. Continue reading

Near Beer 2012: Good Stuff’s Just Around the Corner

Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head in his own Beer Bubble

Two great things were born in 1981: The Great American Beer Festival (GABF) and me. The GABF is touted as the biggest, oldest beer tasting in the US; I am touted as a big ol’ beer taster, myself. This year’s GABF was held last weekend, meaning for me, three days of texts from gloating friends who attended: “Dude. Just talked w/ Sam Calagione for like 5 min!” I was totally jealous of this one-on-one with the founder of Dogfish Head. It did occur to me though, after my fantasy chat with Sam, that I live in a Beer Bubble. Craft beer has not touched everyone’s life like it has mine. I came of age in a great era for beer drinkers; however, while craft beer has come a long way from 1981, we can still do better for our fellow Americans.

According to BeerAdvocate, the US was home to 4,131 breweries in 1873. But matters just spiraled downhill from that peak to 1919 when some self-righteous sons-a-guns cursed the whole country with Prohibition. That screwed things up profoundly. Americans were not even allowed to brew their own again until 1978 (respect-knuckles, Jimmy!). I’ve dated guys older than that law. Continue reading