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21st Amendment--brewed in Memphis? A "drink local" dilemma

Discussion in 'Beer Talk' started by elNopalero, Oct 1, 2012.

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  1. elNopalero

    elNopalero Oct 14, 2009 Texas
    Beer Trader

    I already knew that 21st Amendment contract brewed their beers, but in Minnesota at Cold Springs. However, on the can of Brew Free or Die I had tonight I noticed it said it was hand crafted and canned in Memphis, TN. Are they brewing and bottling (well, canning) in two separate locations now?

    And more for a discussion, I'm still conflicted about contract brewing--while I really don't have a problem with gypsy brewers (a la the recent 'skin in the game' conversation) or contract brewing on principle this usually translates to "as long as the beer is good." (As in, if the beer is lousy then contract/gypsy brewing = buuuu.) But what about being an environmentally conscious drinker? If I'm in SF then 21A is a local brewer--but only at the brewpub. Otherwise they are shipping their beer halfway across the country. Cans cut down on the impact but its still a long distance. Where's the "local" in this situation (and I'm sure they're not the only one--am I correct in thinking that the iconic Sam Adams isn't brewed in Boston?)--San Francisco at the brewpub (but only on tap), Minnesota, or Tennessee?
  2. kpacedo

    kpacedo Nov 24, 2009 California
    Beer Trader

    Not too terrible of a quandary since their beer isn't that good...
  3. jesskidden

    jesskidden Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    Chaz likes this.
  4. yemenmocha

    yemenmocha Jun 18, 2002 Arizona

    Maybe the problem lies in the "buy local" line of thinking...

    I hope you don't drink coffee from other countries, or orange juice in the winter that comes from Brazil, etc.
    Chaz likes this.
  5. jmw

    jmw Feb 4, 2009 North Carolina

    Nothing wrong with being aware of the footprint that your choices leave behind.
  6. mudbug

    mudbug Mar 27, 2009 Oregon

    If the recipe can be faithfully reproduced what does it matter where its done? A great chef is still a great chef no matter where he cooks, a great painter can paint anywhere. Contract brewing makes great sense environmentally as it lessens the impact of transportation and delivers fresher product.
  7. jtmartino

    jtmartino Dec 11, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    Except for the fact that all of our cans here in California, including the ones sold down the street from 21A, come from the Midwest.

    It has nothing to do with 21A being environmentally conscious. It has everything to do with money.
    yemenmocha likes this.
  8. thebigredone

    thebigredone Dec 19, 2011 Wisconsin
    Beer Trader

    You are correct about Sam Adams. Just did the brewery tour a couple days ago. Their Boston brewery is tiny, and only brews their hand-bottled beers (American Kriek, New World Triple, etc.). They also have breweries in Pennsylvania and somewhere else where they brew all other beers.
  9. bryanole27

    bryanole27 Jun 24, 2011 North Carolina

    I guess I just never thought of 'drink local' in that respect. I 'drink local' to support local businesses and my friends. Now it just so happens that they are small local breweries, not widely distributed contract stuff, so two birds with one stone I guess.
  10. MLucky

    MLucky Jul 31, 2010 California

    The same recipe won't produce the same results when using different equipment. And the analogy of a great chef going to a different kitchen isn't really accurate: contract brewing usually means turning over the entire project to another brewery, not having your people brew the beer on another company's equipment. And when you hire people to do a job like that, you sometimes don't get the same care and attention to detail you would give it yourself. In the case of small breweries contracting relatively small orders from larger breweries, the chances of a subpar job go up.

    This is not to say all contract beers are subpar. But I would say there are good reasons why many of us consider it a less than ideal practice.
  11. Mohican88

    Mohican88 Jan 20, 2010 Ohio
    Beer Trader

    Cincinnati is the other SA brewery. Wouldn't be shocked to see them expand westward in the next 5 years or so.
  12. jesskidden

    jesskidden Aug 10, 2005 New Jersey

    That'd be the former Schoenling brewery in Cincinnati, now technically known as the Samuel Adams Brewery Co. (I guess 'cause "Boston" didn't sound right in Ohio). Hudepohl-Schoenling had been one of BBC's contract-brewers when BBC bought the place in the mid-90's. It was also one of several Ohio breweries where Jim Koch's father had brewed professionally.

  13. John_M

    John_M Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Beer Trader

    Completely agree. This is my take as well. The problem, of course, is whether the recipe is (or can be) faithfully reproduced elsewhere. Assuming it is (or can be), then it doesn't matter to me what facility the brewer chooses to use to make his beer.
  14. mudbug

    mudbug Mar 27, 2009 Oregon

    Mlucky said, "The same recipe won't produce the same results when using different equipment"
    I think you may get an argument from the three biggest producers of beer out there plus Sierra Nevada and others. I defy anyone to accurately pinpoint where their Bud came from. And I'm very sure that a brewer worth his salt can reproduce a perfected recipe well within the normal batch variation.
    beertunes likes this.
  15. 30-06pack

    30-06pack Jul 26, 2012 Pennsylvania

    This is something to pay attention to, but judging by how awesome my last 4 pack of Hops Crisis was, QC doesn't seem to be a problem.
    Lantern likes this.
  16. afrokaze

    afrokaze Jun 12, 2009 Arizona
    Beer Trader

    I'm still mad nobody bought Monk's Blood and I can't have it anymore.
    Kopfschuss and litheum94 like this.
  17. John_M

    John_M Oct 25, 2003 Oregon
    Moderator Beer Trader

    I'm not entirely sure that's the best example ("this bud tastes more bland, less flavorful, more watery, and/or less crappy than the bud I had back in {name your favorite part of the US}").

    That being said, I've seen some past articles from AB in which they mention that achieving product consistency is one of the most difficult chores for them, and is apparently something they take considerable pride over (in fairness, I think they have every right to be proud of this accomplishment). So I'm not sure it's something to take lightly, or to assume that because they're able to do it, any other brewery in the land should be able to do the same with little difficulty. I'm not saying it's impossible to achieve, but my impression is that it may be more difficult than your post suggests.
  18. otispdriftwood

    otispdriftwood Dec 9, 2011 Colorado
    Beer Trader

    To add my $.02, the reason that pizza is supposedly better in NYC is because of the water. Well, since water is the base ingredient in brewing, it would follow that if the water is different, the beer will be different, no matter how you try to filter it to make it consistent. The difference may only be discernable to an expert, but there would be a difference.
  19. hopfenunmaltz

    hopfenunmaltz Jun 8, 2005 Michigan

    A brewery like AB or a Sierra Nevada can adjust the water.

    Sierra Nevada chose to locate the 2nd brewery near Asheville for many reasons, one was for the water quality. They will have water with low mineral content, and it should be easy for them to adjust.

    Some breweries use RO water and adjust with salts (FW) or blend with the tap water (Stone).
    I would bet good money that when you walk into an AB brewery, the equipment would be the same as the last one you walked into.

    As Sierra Nevada builds the second brewery, you could bet good money that they will have a Huppmann manufactured brew house to be consistant with Chico.

    Having the same equipment makes the job easier. They will also use the same processes on that equipment.
    Duff27 likes this.
  20. jtmartino

    jtmartino Dec 11, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    It's much easier to stay consistent when a single brewery has the technology and equipment budget of all the smaller guys combined.

    Regarding the water: Budweiser breweries take tap water and strip it of chemicals and minerals (via filtration.) They then add their own minerals which can be easily measured to get the same base water used by all of their plants. This same technology is used by other breweries like Deschutes, so it really doesn't matter much where the water comes from.
  21. elNopalero

    elNopalero Oct 14, 2009 Texas
    Beer Trader

    I don't always drink local but when I do ...

    I don't think there's anything wrong with being conscious about your environmental footprint. I also don't think there's anything wrong with brewers sharing brewing facilities or using equipment, whether it is because of their financial concerns like start-up costs.

    Furthermore, I like having options. I like having consistency. I like knowing that I can get a Stone IPA in California, or Texas, or Michigan, and thanks to mass transit (and refrigeration) there's a good chance it will taste just as amazing as I expect it to.

    That said, when I travel I like to try out local beers. If I'm able to visit a 'beer bar' I will ask for something local, something from the area, something that I might not be able to find anywhere else. In this instance the beer at the brewpub may be local, but the beers at the store aren't... and the SF-Bay Area is such a rich region for craft beer that I have so many other options that this is just a minor head scratcher... ...which is why I am still on the fence with all this.
  22. dmoser

    dmoser Sep 11, 2009 California

    yeah, do you realize how much it would cost to build a brewery in that location? they have a brand and a storefront. nothing wrong with midwest brewing
  23. jtmartino

    jtmartino Dec 11, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    There are plenty of places in California where building a brewery would be comparable in cost to something in the midwest. I don't see your point.

    My main gripe with 21A is that they play themselves off as a SF brewery. This is very misleading, which is clear to me since I live here. Kona does the same thing with their beers, and guys like Garrett Marrero (brewmaster at Maui Brewing) is pretty outspoken about their blatantly misleading labeling and advertising. Which is why I prefer to buy cans of Maui than bottles of Kona.
  24. dmoser

    dmoser Sep 11, 2009 California

    My only point was that it would cost a fortune to build a brewery in SF near AT&T Park.
  25. Highbrow

    Highbrow Jan 7, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    stick with the brew pub. problem solved. next!!
  26. drewone

    drewone Sep 18, 2006 California
    Subscriber Beer Trader

    Curious about this - when I was in Hawaii recently was trying to figure out if the Kona beer in bottles in Hawaii was from the mainland or brewed in Hawaii - couldn't figure it out - I know that Kona supposedly brews draft beer in Hawaii but wasn't sure if they did any bottling - anybody know?
  27. jtmartino

    jtmartino Dec 11, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    All of Kona's bottled beer, and 90+% of their kegged beer is contract brewed at Widmer in Portland and Redhook in both Woodinville, WA and Portsmouth, NH. This is because Kona is part of the Craft Brewer's Alliance. Kona's big island brewery can produce about 11,000 barrels of beer which is keg-only and consumed in Hawaii. On the mainland, over 110,000 barrels of Kona are brewed at the contract breweries. So all of the bottles of Kona you can buy in stores in Hawaii are actually brewed in the US. The brewpub east of Honolulu also makes beer.

    There was an interesting article about this in a recent issue of Hawaiian Air's in-flight magazine. Apparently pressure from Maui Brewing has pushed Kona to update their labels to include their mainland brewing locations. Garrett at Maui was trying to push state legislation that a product cannot claim to be Hawaiian or from Hawaii unless it was actually made there. Rather than face any kind of public backlash, the guys at Kona quietly made the decision to update their labels.

    Same goes for the "Hawaiian" beer Primo, which is brewed by Miller in Southern California. Maui is the only Hawaiian beer you can find on the mainland that's actually made in Hawaii (which is why it's expensive.) There was a bunch of other cool information in the article, such as the fact that empty bottles are more expensive to ship from the mainland to Hawaii (per bottle) than full bottles, since empties are more likely to break during transit. Hawaii does not have the ability to manufacture empty bottles, but they do make aluminum cans that are used by Maui. Cans are also cheaper to ship because of their shape and weight.
    John_M and drewone like this.
  28. jtmartino

    jtmartino Dec 11, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    But then we wouldn't get to talk trash about mediocre breweries and their sneaky marketing!
  29. MLucky

    MLucky Jul 31, 2010 California

    I don't think you would get an argument from any experienced brewer that the same recipe will not produce the same results using different equipment. That is simply a fact, and there are easily explainable reasons for this. The size and shape of the fermenter affects the pressure inside and the way the temperature is distributed, which affects the yeast, which affects the beer. Different mash tuns give you different efficiencies. And so on.

    What you seem to be talking about with "the three biggest producers out there plus SN" is the ability of a brewing company to make the same beer at different sites. This is possible when companies do rigorous testing and adjust the recipe, water, and procedures as necessary to achieve conformity. That's not applicable to most contract brewing situations in which a smaller company places an order, a larger company brews it, and the smaller company takes what they get. If it's a long term partnership, the contractor can make changes over time, but it's kind of a crap shoot for contractors and consumers alike.

    Again, I'm not saying contract beers or all bad or anything like that. But there's a reason virtually all of the world's great brewing companies brew their own beer.
    jtmartino likes this.
  30. Tilley4

    Tilley4 Nov 13, 2007 Tennessee
    Beer Trader

    What I find truly ironic about the whole situation is that I live 70 miles east of Memphis and im unable to get 21st Amendment stuff here in TN.... how much sense does that make?
  31. harperman69

    harperman69 Feb 11, 2009 Tennessee
    Beer Trader

    I must be close to you. I'm in Selmer, middle of nowhere.
  32. zappafrank

    zappafrank Sep 9, 2012 Ohio

    Bitter American is an amazing session beer!
    afrokaze likes this.
  33. afrokaze

    afrokaze Jun 12, 2009 Arizona
    Beer Trader

    Indeed, I really enjoyed Hop Crisis and Allies Win The War too! They have plenty of awesome that never gets bottled too, unfortunately.
  34. BallantineBurton

    BallantineBurton Jan 22, 2012 Massachusetts

    Just get familiar with the idea of contract brewing for smaller brewers. Most brewers engage in contracts because they lack the capacity to produce more beer or because they lack specific packaging equipment such as a bottling line , or today because they lack a canning line. Brewery expansion is expensive and canning lines in particular are really expensive for large scale canning. Contract brewing fills that need for smaller brewers to widen their offerings and enlarge capacity without a huge investment.
    Is the beer the same as in the brewpub or smaller brewery? Maybe or maybe not, that's for the consumer to determine for himself/herself. I personally enjoy Narragansett Lager brewed at the Genesee Brewery in New York, but do not particularly like Narragansett produced at the Western Pennsylvania (City B.C.) Brewery in Latrobe.
    One more point on labeling. The principal place of business mandatory was approved by ATF in the early 1980's at a time when only large brewing companies operated multiple breweries and the difference between Budweiser or Schlitz produced in different cities/breweries did not matter to either the brewer or the consumer. Today that's different with many small breweries operating several locations or contracting (as a qualified alternating brewer) at a larger brewery. A rules change is certainly warranted but very unlikely to take place in today's regulatory/political climate.
  35. Highbrow

    Highbrow Jan 7, 2011 California
    Beer Trader

    IOW, we wouldn't look like we have nothing better to do than consume ourselves with talking trash about mediocre breweries with sneaky marketing?
  36. Tilley4

    Tilley4 Nov 13, 2007 Tennessee
    Beer Trader

    Right outside of Lexington so fairly close... where do you buy your beer?
  37. harperman69

    harperman69 Feb 11, 2009 Tennessee
    Beer Trader

    All over. Bowling Green, Huntsville, Birmingham, Nashville, Louisville and Asheville. Brother moved to Denver so that also helps. Some stuff I buy from online retailers.
  38. jtmartino

    jtmartino Dec 11, 2010 California
    Beer Trader

    touche ;)
  39. Dools9

    Dools9 Jul 5, 2011 Massachusetts

    The Narragansett produced at City Brewing in Latrobe is god awful, the Rochester produced stuff is so much better. I still can't understand why they contract out to City to brew the Lager.
  40. July2Nov

    July2Nov Aug 27, 2006 Hawaii
    Beer Trader

    Actually the Koko Marina Brewpub doesn't brew anything on location there, it's all sent in from the Big Island.
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