Craft Beer with a View
About four and a half years ago I wrote and posted a not so short essay describing my journey to craft beer geekdom. Soon after that I stopped blogging (despite the fact that one of my craft beer idols, Greg Koch of Stone Brewing, actually took the time to read it and posted a complimentary comment). Plenty of good reasons got in the way of my writing (some less than good ones snuck in there as well) but my “research” and enjoyment of craft beer, the industry and, more importantly, the people involved with it continued.
Now that I’ve started blogging again I thought it would be a good idea (and maybe fun) to go back and re-read the Crafting of a Craft Beer Geek post to see if anything has changed since I wrote it. Do I still agree with it? Are the points or observations still valid? What did I miss? What’s Next?
One thing occurred to me right away. I did miss something. I had to have missed a lot of somethings to have written that whole thing all by myself (which I’m pretty sure I did). I know I attended and participated in the birth of all three of our children so at least I didn’t miss any of that. Lesson learned: only write posts that don’t require 2 bombers or other large format bottles to get through. With that in mind, here are a few look-back observations and updates to that infamous post:
- I must have thought I was going to win a prize for the longest sentence and longest average sentence. James Joyce would have been proud. My high school English teachers would have fainted. My college creative composition professor is still at the front of the class doing an adaptation of Ben Stein’s “Beuller….Beuller…?”
- I’m up to about 1,500 craft beers tasted and about 750 reviewed (still slacking there)
- Anchor Steam still has a place in my craft beer fridge. Fat tire not so much.
- I finally made the pilrgimage to Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens.
- That grown up version of the “safe tree” is still in Scottsdale/Sedona though the forest of safe trees now includes Papago Brewing, Four Peaks, Old Town Tavern, The Yard House & Stone Rose at the Princess.
- I finally began home brewing with Honey Badger IPA as chronicled in New Jersey Monthly Magazine.
Most importantly, I’ve found that I was right about my parting observation back then. It’s still not about the beer. It’s about the craft beer people like the group at Just The Booze Dancing and the people that make up the vibrant craft beer culture (fans, writers, brewers, bar owners) in places like Philly, Austin, San Diego, Asheville & the next great craft beer scene, wherever that might be.
Oh, and if you do plan to click over and read the original post, have a Stone Double Bastard in hand.
If you’re reading this you’re either a craft beer fan, a friend forced to visit the blog under penalty of fatwa or you landed here after misspelling the topic you intended to search on Google (understandable given the fact they cram so many keys on these keyboards). If you’re here by accident please don’t leave – you’ll probably add more more to the conversation than everyone else (and if you do leave I’ll add you to the fatwa list). Those of you who are craft beer fans have plenty of other interests too. I’m also a big college basketball fan. Big East born (sort of) and bred. My freshman year at Syracuse was also the inaugural year of the Big East Basketball Conference. So I’m watching ESPN last Fall and see that the Big East is welcoming a few new schools including San Diego State and Boise State. Wait…what?
Last time I checked San Diego was in California and Boise was in Idaho and neither of them are east of much of anything. Despite the geographic anomaly, those schools are moving east. They’re not the only things moving east. Over the past year, no less than five craft brewers have announced plans to build or have already begun building breweries far from their western homes. Most in the craft beer community welcome the expansion. I’m not so sure I’m on board. Not yet anyway.
Green Flash (Nature’s Version)
That’s a picture of the mythical green flash and I spent many a sunset on various Southern California beaches in San Diego, Malibu and points in between hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive phenomenon. I don’t know if I ever saw it. If I did, I’m sure Will Smith walked up soon after and slipped on those sunglasses. In any event, when I think of Green Flash I think of the green flash and that takes me back to California (yes, the Eagles were right. I checked out many years ago but I still haven’t left). So my perspective on the eastern migration of west coast craft brewers is greatly influenced by my years out there. In that respect, my opinions may be very different than most.
As of last count, three California craft brewers are opening new eastern breweries and two Colorado brewers are doing the same. Specifically:
- Green Flash (San Diego) to Asheville, NC
- Sierra Nevada (Chico) to Asheville, NC
- Lagunitas (Petaluma) to Chicago
- New Belgium (Ft. Collins) to Asheville, NC
- Oscar Blues (Lyons) to Asheville, NC
Granted, there are plenty of great reasons for these guys to open major brewing operations in the Southeast. Asheville is a worthy craft beer destinations these days. I get it. The economics just make too much sense. Green Flash and the rest of the reverse geographic pioneers almost have to have a presence out here if they want to increase market share and production while greatly reducing distribution costs and all the logistical nightmares that come with trying to get fresh craft beer onto shelves 3000+ miles away. Distribution up and down the eastern seaboard out of NC is certainly more advantageous than doing it from San Diego.
Which Coast IPA?
Craft beer fans (myself included) will have plenty to raise a glass to once the fermenters and bright tanks are up and running in the shadow of the Biltmore Estate:
- Availability – No more empty shelves in Philly. When Lagunitas sucks we’ll all get plenty to cheer about.
- Variety – California (or Colorado) only limited brews may see the light of an Atlantic sunrise.
- Freshness – There will always be challenges (individual retailers won’t be off the hook) but it stands to reason that it will be much easier to keep fresh brews on the shelves when it’s brewed closer to home.
All great reasons to applaud and look forward to the days when the new breweries are up and running but I’m only clapping with one hand. For me there will be something missing. Authenticity. When I pour a Green Flash West Coast IPA I want it be just that – a legitimate west coast IPA from the the real San Diego. I’m sure they’re going to do it right. The brews coming out of NC will probably be indistinguishable from the ones brewed in CA. That said, it’ll just feel a bit like I’m buying a label – buying a brand. That’s not a good thing IMO. That’s not why I check out from the craft beer shop any time I want and leave with California in the 4 pack.