The art of choosing which beer to sell has become a highly competitive, data-driven process, and the tastemaking “beer buyers” with the job are often regarded as celebrity gatekeepers who can make or break upstart breweries.
From its brewhouse in Hood River—a Silver LEED certified building with a roof covered in solar panels and a rainwater collection system for irrigation—pFriem is melding European tradition with American ingenuity using tools unfamiliar to most small craft breweries.
Of the 836 new breweries that opened between 2010 and 2013, approximately 350 will close by 2016. It’s a shocking number that makes sense after asking the people behind recently shuttered breweries about the challenges they faced.
In the parlance of committed tinkerers and unrepentant hoarders, the “boneyard” is where old flubbernuzzer tubes and double-lined samizdat tanks languish until pressed into service. Tony Lawrence has kept one for most of his adult life. In his younger years, it held car parts. Most recently, the garage his house in Bend, Ore., has held brewing equipment.
The vast majority of craft brewers make forgiving, warm-fermenting ales. But new lager-focused breweries are taking a two-tracked approach to changing that, making fresh versions of the German classics and pushing American lagers into new territory with pumpkins, coffee, rye malt and candi sugar.
For as long as Beeradvocate.com has published a list of the world’s top beers there have been those who attempt to sample everything on it. Why? Because, like a mountain, it’s there. And because you know you’re trying the best beer in the world, as determined by a broad consensus of beer advocates.
Tasting panels are trained by smelling the chemical aroma standards responsible for each flavor—as beer geeks know, banana flavor is isoamyl acetate and butter is diacetyl—in decreasing dilutions. They taste the isolated chemicals added to polyethylene glycol until small amounts can be detected.
Slowly, but very surely, Akron is coming into its own as a beer town, with more establishments offering craft beers and Akron’s own breweries starting to emerge. It’s also worth noting—with appropriate irony—that Akron is the birthplace of Alcoholics Anonymous.
Visitors find a walkable college town with crisp, fresh air and a vibe that’s simultaneously urbane and outdoorsy—more hippie than yuppie. So it’s no surprise that Flagstaff is a big beer town, with a scene that’s still on the rise.