Skip to main content

Exporting beer and a revolution


Oddly, though, Boxer Light hasn't
taken Belgium by storm
Twenty years ago, I would tell you that Belgium was the greatest brewing country in the world. And today I would say it's the United States. -- John McDonald, Founder of Boulevard Brewing Company, in an +NPR story.

Exporting a revolution


Late last year, Belgian beer company +Duvel Moortgat closed a deal to buy +Boulevard Brewing Co. primarily to secure an American craft beer for export (or, I guess, import, depending upon your perspective). The word from all involved is nothing will change about the beer, and, while there's tons of historical evidence that corporate culture will have an affect on the beer, there's no evidence that Duvel isn't a quality beer company. It's billed as a Belgian craft brewery and is a family owned company.
More recently, Lagunitas sniped at Boston Beer for making a West Coast IPA that was, they say, an attempt to horn in on their market. It's odd, as Samuel Adams has been a supporter of smaller breweries without becoming a monster acquirer of them. 
As larger companies expand to keep up with demand, and smaller companies feel the heat of the need to expand, the craft beer bubble already is starting to feel pretty precarious. In a classic case of "careful what you wish for," demand among the faithful is getting more diverse. For the last decade, mid-sized and small craft breweries have been the vanguards of democratized beer. They've encouraged everyone to try something new, to develop a palate for beer the way some people have developed a palate for wine. This demand has made it so breweries like Lagunitas have had success in the east and east coast standard-bearers like Dogfish Head have been lured for westward expansion.
That's more like it...

Dated Thinking, Dated Brewing


Under the 20th century brewing model, there is a finite demand for beer. And as the baby boomers increasingly leave the beer market, taking their decades-old Bud and Miller loyalties with them, demand clearly will shrink precipitously. This is true only if the model of beer being primarily purchased by middle-aged American, working class white guys holds. And guess what? It ain't.Better beer isn't a trend, it's a sea change. Most people understand that there are standards for beer, now that have more to do with taste than price and ability to get wasted with. The gimmicky aspect of selling beer is going to start to fade. There still will be plenty of gimmicks (both from craft brewers and their craft-y counterparts), but the significant difference is this new, rising understanding of quality. I might switch from Bud Light to Miller Lite for a cool toy, but I'm not going to switch from 60 Minute IPA to Blue Moon because of a keychain giveaway.

And then there's planet earth...


If Belgium sees the importance of getting quality American beers for import, and England does as well. Beyond that, the idea of craft brewing that has been fighting to return both to Europe and the Americas over the past 30 years, finally has caught fire. 
China is preparing to hold a major craft beer festival again and, although there's no way even to conceive of it now, if American craft beer catches on there, we can plow under the tobacco farms and plant hop hills. More realistically, though, the idea of craft beer, which is taking hold in China, only will continue to spread. 

Popular posts from this blog

Into the past

I went to college as a 30-year-old and, as I made for the graduation finish line, my first marriage came apart. If I ever write that story it will read like the lamest version of the poor man's Fear and Loathing. Come to think of it, Fear and Loathing in Delmar would be an awesome title. Doing primary source, original research was a graduation requirement, so I combined my appreciation for a good tavern with the fact that I had to write about something. While researching taverns in colonial Maryland I discovered that there was such a place a Castle Haven. More than a decade later, that paper became the first chapter in my first book, and the second installment in my blog about writing the book. This is the story of our attempt to breach Castle Haven in search of photos.

Searching Philadelphia for Maryland Beer

The Van Pelt library at the University of Pennsylvania truly is the type you can get lost in. I know 'cause I did. Early in my research I discovered that there was a person named John Beale Bordley, who was a colonial hotshot and one of the first production-scale brewers in Maryland. Bordley was friendly with Thomas Jefferson and as concerned as he was about what we now call sustainable living. Part of that, for Bordley, was not having to rely upon the British for ale.
After reading his book online and fumbling across some of his papers, it became clear to me that it might just be possible to find his recipe. Finding the first Eastern Shore beer recipe and including it in my book, would be a massive coup. I had to head to Philly to have my computer repaired. The best way to have your Mac die, it turns out, is to get behind on your writing schedule and then engage on a wild goose chase. The Apple people took it from me and sent it off to have the hard drive replaced. I thanked God…

What is in a name?

In this week's Beer with Strangers podcast, Doug Griffith of Xtreme Brewing in Laurel and I discussed the recurring news story that craft beer is running out of names. Among the concerns is that it makes it harder for new brewers to break in and it prevents smaller brewers from having big breakout beers. Craft beers allegedly have kooky names because they are the product of one brewery making many, many beers.
It makes sense, at some level, to have weird names for beers. Brewers like to be distinctive, to set themselves apart. And people who like craft beer get a kick out of kooky names.  Raging Bitch made national news when there was a fight over whether it was an obscene name. Beyond that, as shelves get more crowded with bottles and cans, and as breweries continue to try and push the envelope with tastes and flavors, brewers want a name that is as distinctive as their beers. Plus, in absence of any other knowledge or review, lots of beer drinkers simply judge the beer book by …