Category Archives: Craft Beer

Why Vermont?

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from Will Gordon, a writer for Men’s Journal. He had a very simple question – why did the state of Vermont have the largest number of craft breweries per capita? According to data provided by the Brewers Association The Green Mountain State has 10.8 breweries per 100,000 residents – more than any other state in the country. Will was writing an article about Vermont’s craft brewing industry, and wanted an answer to this question. In his e-mail, Will asked if I had time to chat with him on this topic. I responded that I would, and we agreed to chat the next day. This gave me less than twenty-four hours to come up with an answer to Will’s question. I had some hypotheses, of course, but some research would be required to verify (or refute) those.

My first thought was that perhaps Vermont has a large millennial population. There is a considerable body of research suggesting that the popularity of craft  beer is driven primarily by the millennial demographic.  While there is no universal agreement on what constitutes a millennial, the Pew Research Center defines this cohort as comprising individuals born after 1980. According to the website overflow.solutions, 25.9% of Vermont’s population are millennials. This places Vermont forty-fifth out of fifty states – not a particularly high rank;  suggesting that Vermont’s love of craft beer may not be driven by this particular cohort.

After refuting the millennial hypothesis, I decided to look at per capita beer consumption in Vermont. How did the state measure up on that particular measure? According to an article in the 24/7Wall Street, Vermonters (aged twenty-one and over) drink an average of 35.7 gallons of beer per capita. This places them fifth in the country. When it comes craft beer, Vermont ranks even higher. The 19.5 gallons per capita that its drinking age population consumes makes Vermont number one in the country. So Vermonters drink more craft beer per capita than the residents of any other state – this may go a long way to explaining why is has so many craft breweries.

My next line of thinking led me to examine the concept of neolocalism – the preference of some Americans to consume food (and perhaps beer) that is produced locally. Some scholars, such as the geographer Wes Flack, have suggested that part of the reason for the popularity of craft beer is this demand for locally-grown and locally-manufactured products. We see evidence of this demand in the increasing number of wineries and farmers markets across the country. The number of wineries in the United States increased from 1,755 in 1996 to 11,496 in 2016. Between 1994 and 2014, the number of farmers markets increased from 1,755 to 8,268.

But what about Vermonters? How does their demand for locally-produced products compare with other states? One way to measure such demand is to look at things such as the number of farmers markets and CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) in a state. With its ninety-six farmers markets and 149 CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) Vermont, on a per capita basis, ranks number one in the country. On a per capita basis, it also has more hospitals that are pledged to purchasing local food than any other state. Indeed, on seven variables that measure a state’s commitment to purchasing and eating locally-produced food, Vermont ranks first on six of them. So it seems that the neolocalism movement is alive and well in Vermont. Vermonters, more than the residents of any other state, love to purchase locally-grown food. If they feel that way about purchasing local food, I would argue that there is a pretty good chance that they may feel the same way about purchasing locally brewed beer. This commitment to purchasing local products, along with Vermonters love of beer (and craft beer in particular), is the key driver behind the state having the highest number of craft breweries per capita.

There is one more piece of the puzzle, however, and that relates to the quality of the beer being produced by Vermont’s breweries. In general, craft beer drinkers tend to have high standards when it comes to beer quality. Breweries producing a sub-standard product are unlikely to survive in the market place. When it comes to having access to high quality beer, Vermonters have nothing to worry about. According to the beer rating site, RateBeer.com, ten of the one hundred top-rated beers in the world in 2016 were brewed by two Vermont breweries – The Alchemist and Hill Farmstead Brewery. Only Massachusetts and the country of Belgium, each with fourteen brews, have more beers in the top one hundred. Moreover, in the same year, Hill Farmstead Brewery was rated as one of the top ten of breweries worldwide. Since 1983, nine different Vermont breweries have won medals at the annual Great American Beer Festival. All of this suggests that Vermont breweries are producing beer that is of very high quality, both in the eyes of the craft beer drinker and expert judges. Vermonters, it would appear, have access to some world-class, locally-brewed, beer. Vermont breweries also have a reputation for innovation and creativity. They are, for example, credited with developing a new style of beer – the New England IPA.

The iconic Heady Topper

A couple of Vermont breweries, and the beers they brew have something akin to a cult following in the world of craft beer. For example, Heady Topper is a Double IPA (8% ABV) brewed by The Alchemist at their brewery in Waterbury, VT. Distribution of Heady Topper is limited to a twenty-five mile radius of the brewery. The Alchemist have a second brewery, eleven miles up the road in Stowe, VT. As the Waterbury brewery is not open to the public, Heady Topper is available for purchase at the brewery in Stowe. Visit the brewery in Stowe, however, and you will (along with everyone else) be limited to purchasing no more than two four-packs of Heady Topper per day. There are a small number of retail outlets in the immediate area, where Heady Topper can be purchased. But such is the limited supply of this much sought-after brew, most outlets only have it available for sale on one day of the week. So, for example, if you go to Alpine Mart in Stowe make sure it is a Monday, as that is the only day they have Heady Topper in stock. If they happen to be sold out when you get there, you can always wait until Tuesday and go to Bessary’s Quality Market in Burlington, VT to get some. Even those stores that receive shipments of Heady Topper often sell out within an hour. This means that to get your hands on some Heady Topper, you can expect to stand in line for an hour or so before the store has opened. And when you do so, there’s a decent chance that the person standing next to you has driven a couple of hours for the privilege of doing so. Heady Topper is not one of those seasonal or limited-release beers; it is brewed year-round, but there is simply not enough produced to keep up with demand. As for me, I have tasted Heady Topper once in my life; this past February in Santa Fe, NM of all places. I was in Santa Fe for a conference and my colleague Rachel Franklin, who teaches at Brown University in Providence,  RI was nice enough to put a can in her suitcase for me.

And so, I raise my glass to all those Vermonters who eat locally-grown food and drink locally-brewed beer. Their support of and commitment to their local food system is to be admired and commended. And to them I say Cheers.

Additional Reading:

Flack, Wes. 1997. American Microbreweries and Neolocalism: “Ale-ing” for a Sense of Place. Journal of Cultural Geography, Volume 16, Issue 2, Pages 37-53.

 

Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen

This is my third entry about my recent trip to Copenhagen, Denmark. You can read my other two entries here and here. I was there to attend, Beeronomics 2017, the biennial conference of the Beeronomics Society.

Carlsberg is Denmark’s largest brewer. Tuborg was once an independent brewery but is now owned by Carlsberg

Let’s begin with some facts about the Danish brewing industry and beer market. When it comes to beer Denmark is, in many ways, a very unremarkable country. The Danes themselves are not particularly big beer drinkers. Their average annual consumption of sixty litres per capita places them nineteenth in the European Union; well behind Europe’s leading beer drinkers, the Czech Republic whose residents in 2015 consumed an average of 143 litres per capita. Indeed, Danish  beer consumption per capita  decreased by thirteen percent between 2010 and 2015. With a fifty-three percent market share Carlsberg is the most important brewer in Denmark. Second place is held by Royal Unibrew who have a twenty-five percent market share. The most popular style of beer is Pilsner, which accounts for eighty percent of the Danish beer market. Craft beer accounts for approximately five percent of the volume of beer sold in Denmark; this is up from ~two percent in 2005. Of the 150 breweries in Denmark, one hunded are microbreweries. Interest in and demand for craft beer started much later in Denmark than in the United States, with some commentators signaling 2002 as a watershed year for the Danish craft beer industry. Between 2002 and 2008 the number of breweries in Denmark increased from nineteen to one hundred.

Nørrebro Bryghus is housed in an 1856 building
Rosemary, my friendly and efficient bartender, at Nørrebro Bryghus

I was able to visit two of Denmark’s microbreweries while in Copenhagen – Nørrebro Bryghus and Warpigs. Nørrebro Bryghus is named after the Copenhagen neighborhood (Nørrebro) where it is located.  It seems an appropriate neighborhood for a craft brewery; it was recently ranked as the twelfth most hipster neighborhood in Europe.  Nørrebro Bryghus was opened in 2003 by former Carlsberg brewmaster Anders Kissmeyer. Like many European craft brewers, Kissmeyer was inspired by the craft brewing movement in the United States. Specifically, he found inspiration from brewmaster Garrett Oliver, whom he met on a visit to Brooklyn Brewery. Nørrebro Bryghus made international headlines earlier this year when they made a beer using malted barley that had been fertilized by the 50,000 litres of urine that had been generated from 2015 Roskilde Music Festival. The brew, appropriately enough, was called Pisner and Nørrebro Bryghus became known as the brewery that puts the “P” in Pilsner. The Nørrebro Bryghus brewpub that I visited is located in an 1857 building. There is a second production brewery about twenty minutes away. The beers brewed in the Nørrebro Bryghus are listed on green chalkboards in the taproom while those brewed at the other location are on black chalkboards. I tried a number of Nørrebro’a beers on my two visits to the brewpub – Beer With No Name (a 7.7% ABV Stout), Zee Germans Had It Figured Out (a 6.6% ABV Märzen), Bombay Pale Ale (a 6.5% India Pale Ale), Ravnsborg Rød (a 6.5% ABV Irish Red Ale), Twenty 2 Lager a 5% ABV Pale Lager), La Secret De La Lcorne (a 5.9% ABV Farmhouse Saison Ale), and Nørrebro Pilsner (4.6% ABV). Nørrebro Bryghus is a great place to spend a couple of hours while in Copenhagen; the staff are friendly and attentive, the beer selection is good, and the general ambience very pleasant.

The bar at the Nørrebro Brewpub

The second brewey I visited was Warpigs. Warpigs is a collaboration between the Danish brewer Mikkeller and 3 Floyds Brewing Company from Munster, IN. Its beers, brewed on site, are billed as “American-Danish style brews”  I am not quite sure what that means, or what constitutes an American-Danish style brew, but I suppose when you are Three Floyds and Mikkeller you can use that type of language. Anyway, at any given time there are generally twenty-two Warpigs’ brews on tap. As well as brewing beer, Warpigs has a kitchen. It specializes in “authentic Texas barbecue”. The brewery, which opened in 2015, is located in Copenhagen’s old meat packing district. In Danish the district is called Kødbyen, which translates as Meat City.  At one point, during the last century it was said to have had the highest density of butchers in Europe.  Gradually, however, one-by-one, butchers left. It was in danger of becoming an abandoned ghost town of sorts. Then, in 2005, the local council had the idea to redevelop the district à la Manhattan’s meat packing district.  The result has made Kødbyen one of the trendiest entertainment districts in Copenhagen. It is home to art galleries, boutiques, co-working spaces, cafes, bars, restaurants, and night clubs. There are still a handful of butchering operations in the neighborhood, so that  “in the morning, you see butchers in white coats with blood on their hands walking around the streets of the meatpacking district.” Adaptive reuse of old building by craft brewers is one of my research interests within the craft beer industry. So I was particularly looking forward to visiting Warpigs. When you walk into Warpigs, a former butchery,  you get a feel for the building’s previous use. To a large extent, that is because there are a lot of restrictions placed on the changes that occupants are permitted to make to the interior of any building. When I walked into Warpigs, I immediately noticed the white tile walls and the hooks in the ceiling from which carcasses used to hang.  Warpigs is located in what is known as the White Meat District (there are also Brown and Grey Meat Districts). The White Meat District comprises twelve acres of buildings dating from the 1930s. It has been described as “a pinnacle of functionalist architecture“. According to Wikipedia, “functionalism is the principle that architects should design a building based on the purpose of that building”. I am no student of architecture, but that definition certainly resonates with me when I think of Warpigs and other buildings I saw in Kødbyen.

Warpigs is located in Copenhagen’s historic meat packing district
Inside Warpigs. Few structural changes were allowed inside the old butchery

Warpigs, as noted, is a joint venture between Mikkeller and 3 Floyds.  Mikkeller is an iconic name within the world of craft beer. Mikkel Borg Bjergso, a former high school science teacher, founded Mikkeller in 2006. The company made its name as a gypsy brewer.  A gypsy brewer is a brewer that does not own a brewery, but rather creates recipes and contracts with existing breweries to brew them. Mikkeller is arguably the most famous gypsy brewer in the world. I say arguably because Bjergso’s twin brother, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso, is also an internationally famous gypsy brewer. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Jeppe’s company is called Evil Twin Brewing. Evil Twin was established in 2010. The name is a nod to the acrimonious relationship that exists between the two brothers. In March 2014 Jonah Wiener of the New York Times penned a fascinating piece on the evolution of this relationship. It makes compelling reading (you can read it here). Long story short – Mikkel started Mikkeller in 2006; a year prior to that Jeppe had opened a beer store in Copenhagen called Olbutikken. The relationship between Mikkeller and Olbutikken was symbiotic. Olbutikken showcased Mikkeller beers and Mikkeller beers drew customers to Olbutikken. In 2010 Mikkel opened a Mikkeller bar in close proximity to Olbutikken. Jeppe viewed the bar as competing with his store, and from that point forward the relationship started to go south.

Jacob Gram Alsing, Operational Manager at Mikkeller shared his perspectives on the brewer at their barrel-ageing facility
Peter, Pale and Mary – an American Pale Ale – one of the Mikkeller brews I sampled at Mikkeller Baghaven

I visited Mikkeller along with other delegates from the Beeronomics conference. The Mikkeller facility that we visited was Mikkeller Baghaven. This venue serves multiple functions. First, it is Mikeller’s barrel-aging facility.  Mikkeller sends beers that are brewed at various locations around the world to Baghaven to be barrel-aged. Second, it is a venue that can be rented for a variety of events such as weddings and parties. Third, it is a taproom where you can enjoy some great Mikkeller beers.  When we arrived at Mikkeler we were greeted by Jacob Gram Alsing, Operations Manager at Mikkeller. Jacob spent about thirty minutes with us, telling us about Mikkeller and answering questions. One of the most fascinating facts, that Alsing provided us with, is that Mikkel has a recipe book that contains somewhere in the region of a thousand different recipes for beer. I find that to be quite mind boggling. Mikkeller beer itself is brewed in four different countries – Belgium, Norway, Italy, and the United States. Technically, Mikkeller is no longer a pure Gypsy brewer. In addition to the brewpub that Mikkeller owns in Copenhagen with 3 Floyds, the brewer recently opened a brewery in San Diego, CA . The San Diego brewey is another joint venture – this time, with AleSmith Brewing Company. The San Diego Brewery allows Mikkeller, among other things, to get their more perishable brews such as IPAs to their customers in a condition of peak freshness.  And Mikkeller recently announced that they would be opening a brewery in a non-ticketed section of Citi Field, home of the New York Mets. Indeed, there appears to be a trend of gypsy brewers investing in brick and mortar breweries. There are a number of reasons for this, including a brewer being able to interact with his/her customers and this getting direct feedback on the beers they produce.

From a beer drinker’s perspective Copenhagen turned out to be a more interesting city than I had anticipated. But, I suspect, thanks to the growth of the craft beer movement, that every city is more interesting than it was say twenty or even ten years ago. And for that, as someone who travels quite a bit I suppose I owe craft brewers a huge debt of gratitude. Craft breweries add local color and flavor to a city, while their beers reflect the creativity and craftsmanship of a local brewer. So to craft brewers everywhere I say Skål.

 

Il Locale

I was in Copenhagen, Denmark a few weeks ago. I was there attending the fifth biennial conference of the Beeronomics Society. It was my first visit to Copenhagen; my first visit to Denmark, in fact. So I was keen to explore the Danish beer scene. I was there for six days and did indeed get to visit a couple of Danish craft breweries while there, as well as sample a good number of Danish craft beers. What I did not anticipate, however, was drinking a goodly amount of Italian craft beer. But there it was; right across the street from my hotel – Il Local – an Italian craft beer bar. It didn’t look much from the outside. I had arrived from Detroit, via Amsterdam, that morning. I was tired and so it would have been very easy to have a couple of more beers in my very comfortable seat in the lobby bar of the Avenue Hotel and then retire for the evening. But I didn’t. I got up, settled my bar bill, and headed across the street. And boy, I was glad I did.

Il Locale was right across the street from my hotel
Il Locale was getting ready to celebrate its one year anniversary

I have been in literally thousands of bars over the years – many of them forgettable, and a few of them memorable. On the spectrum of forgettable to memorable Il Locale definitely leans toward the latter. The bar opened in 2016. In fact, the weekend after I was there it was going to be celebrating its one-year anniversary.

Il Locale is a venture of Hibu Craft Brewery. Hibu was established in Milan in 2007, but relocated to Burago di Molgora (twenty kilometers northeast of Milan) in 2015. The man behind Hibu is Raimondo Cetani who quit his job in IT to take his passion of home brewing to the next level. With the assistance and support of his business partners, Tommaso Norsa and Lorenzo Rocca, he did just that. The name, Hibu, has an interesting etymology. It represents the combination of the word homebrewer and the acronym IBU. IBU (International Bitterness Unit) is a technical term that indicates the degree of a beer’s bitterness.

Fabio, one of the wonderful bartenders who works at Il Locale

In addition to its intimate and in places cozy ambience, one of the delights of Il Locale is its Italian staff members. They are friendly and knowledgeable about the beer they sell. They are eager to engage in conversation and answer any question you may have about the bar or any of its beers. You quickly feel at home and and are soon starting to plot your next visit. Planning your next visit is made a little easier when the bartender hands you a coupon for a complimentary beer. This is exactly what my friendly bartender, Fabio, did as I was about to call it a night that first evening. It was a buy your first, get your second beer free coupon – redeemable on my next visit.

There were quite a few conference attendees staying at the Avenue Hotel and inevitably some of us found ourselves in Il Locale in the evening. There was a huge map of Italy hanging at one end of the bar and it was used as a teaching prop on more than one occasion as the bartender showed us where this or that craft brewery was located. During one of our early conversations with the bartenders we mentioned that we were academics who studied the beer industry and were in Copenhagen for the  Beeronomics Conference. They seemed genuinely interested in this; so much so that they wondered if it would be possible to attend the conference and take in a few of the presentations. We suggested that they turn up at the conference the next day and one of us would have a word with the conference organizers to see if they could get complimentary admission. So the next morning a couple of Il Locale’s staff members showed up at the conference and were soon sitting among us listening intently to what was being said by that morning’s presenters.

Il Locale’s bar area – note the map of Italy
If sitting at the bar is not your scene there is thus cozy lounge area
Koln, a 5.1% ABV Kolsch by Hibu Brewery

Il Locale does not just carry Hibu beers. It also has beer from other Italian breweries, including Dada, Black Barrels, and Croce de Malto. There is also a small but delicious food menu. The Italian chef had spent some time in Australia before coming to Copenhagen. The pasta with the crumbled spicy Italian pork from  Ariccia was particularly tasty. Il Locale has been added to my list of “must visits”. These are bars that I will go out of my way to visit should I return to a particular city. Il Locale is now one of those bars. Others on the list include Brouwerij de Prael in Amsterdam, Loos American Bar in Vienna,  and Tokyo’s Bar Monde.

 

Prof Beer

A few weeks ago I received an e-mail from John Paul Breslin. John Paul is a reporter with the Sunday Post, a Scottish newspaper. John Paul had come across my beer blog, saw that I was originally from Scotland, and was interested in writing an article about my research Continue reading Prof Beer

Two Days in Hong Kong

I just returned from a ten day trip to Asia, which included two days  in Hong Kong. The main purpose of my trip was to attend the twenty-fifth biennial Pacific Conference of the Regional Science Association International that was held in Tainan, Taiwan. When my Continue reading Two Days in Hong Kong

Milk, Bread, and Beer

My wife and I met some friends for dinner a few weeks ago. We went to a Mexican restaurant, Cocina de Carlos, that neither my wife or I had tried before. It was an excellent choice – the food was freshly-made, helpings were generous,  and the service was both Continue reading Milk, Bread, and Beer

Last Call?

Jim Koch, who founded Boston Beer Company in 1984, is an iconic figure within the world of craft beer.  Forbes Magazine refers to Koch as a “founding father of the American craft brewery movement”. There can be little argument that the entire craft beer Continue reading Last Call?

Three Things I’ve Learned Drinking Craft Beer

Growing up in Scotland I was (and still am) an avid football fan. That’s the football played with a round ball, or soccer as it is referred to in the United States. My passion for the sport has not waned over the last four and a half decades. And thanks to the wonders of the internet I am able to watch livestream coverage of games played by my favorite football team back in Scotland, Glasgow Celtic. And I can also follow all the news and gossip by connecting to the webpages of Scottish newspapers such as the Daily Record or The Scotsman. A common feature that has recently made an appearance in these, and other, newspapers is the “Three Things We Learned” column (sometimes it’s five things). Typically these columns will focus on the weekend’s fixtures or a particular match-up and will detail three (or five) things that a particular journalist feels were learned from the set of fixtures or from a particular fixture. As I was reading one of these columns the other week it got me thinking about craft beer and the things that I have learned as a craft beer drinker. So here goes – in no particular order – three things I’ve learned drinking craft beer?

Brewery Staff Are A Friendly Lot

Lansing Brewing Company in Lansing, MI – one of the craft breweries with a friendly and knowledge staff

I have visited dozens of craft breweries, not just in the United States but also  in a number of other countries including Austria, Australia, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and Sweden. A common characteristic of almost every single craft brewery in which I have spent any time is the friendliness, passion, and knowledge of the staff. I like to visit craft breweries when they are quieter – late afternoon is one of my favorite times. I do so partly because I do not particularly like noisy bars. Also, those quieter periods are the perfect time to engage the bar staff in conversation. The bar staff in a craft brewery tend to be very knowledgeable and passionate about the product they are selling. They can also tell you about the brewery itself – the background of the owners, the size of the brewing system used, and the history of the building in which the brewery is housed. And it is a knowledge that they love to share. So I have spent many pleasant hours in craft breweries sitting on a bar stool chatting with bar tenders, asking questions and listening intently. And in the process I have learned so much about the craft beer industry. Not only do the bar staff know about the craft brewery at which they work but they also know about the other craft breweries in town; so my final question to them is often to ask their recommendation for the next craft brewery I should visit.

There’s A Craft Beer for Everyone

Something for everyone- Barley’s Brewing Company in Columbus, OH
Samplers are a good way to taste test a variety of craft beers

I have a number of friends who are not beer drinkers. Their preferred libation is wine. However, in going to craft breweries with them, to my joy, all of them have discovered at least one beer that they enjoy. In most cases these beers happen to be stouts or porters, particularly those that contain coffee or chocolate flavoring. In some respects I am not surprised that these friends have found a craft beer that they genuinely like. The Brewers Association recognizes the existence of over 150 different styles of beer. There is  Scottish-style Heavy-Ale, Finnish-style Sahti, Swedish-style Gotlandsdricke, English-style Brown Ale, German-style Kölsch – the list goes on and on. With so much choice there is surely something for everyone, and my, albeit limited, experience suggests that this may well be the case. So the next time you are in a craft brewery and a friend or family member tells you that they do not like beer, challenge them. Purchase a sampler of five or six different beers and have that person try them all. It might also be an idea, in selecting the composition of the sampler, to enlist the help of the friendly and knowledgeable bartender (see above) and have that person chat with the non-beer drinker to see what tastes and flavors appeal to his or her palate. So don’t take no for an answer when you offer to buy your non-beer drinking friend a beer. Their experience of beer up to that point has probably been Budweiser or Coors Light – so this is your opportunity to expand their horizons and introduce them to wonderful and diverse world of craft beer.

It’s Getting Harder to Drink Macro Beer

I rarely drink macro beer – but here I am doing it at a University of Toledo football game

I attended quite a few weddings last summer. All of them had an open bar. At the final wedding of the summer season I arrived at the reception and went up to the bar to see what was on offer – Budweiser and Bud Light. I opted for the Bud Light and went back to my table. After my second sip I realized that I could not drink any more. It simply was not a taste that I enjoyed. I had four or five hours ahead of me that evening and I am sure that I was close to breaking out into a cold sweat at the thought of drinking Budweiser or Bud Light all evening. Several years of drinking a wide range of flavorful craft beers had finally taken its toll. I simply could not tolerate the taste of macro-produced American-style pale lager – even if it was available for free all evening, as it was. A few minutes later I found myself back at the bar to see what they had for purchase. To my horror the bartender told me that they had no beer for purchase – only Budwesier or Bud Light for free. The bartender must have seen the expression of panic on my face because he quickly added that there was another bar in the building, which he assured me had a fine selection of craft beers for sale. I found it and spent the rest of the evening going back and forth between my table and the bar. The beers were around $6-$7 each so instead of drinking free all evening I forked out somewhere in the region of $35 on beer. But that is where I am when it comes to drinking beer. I’d rather pay for a good craft beer than drink a free Budweiser. I do not consider myself a beer snob. I do not look down on people who drink Coors Light. Live and let live –  if someone enjoys the taste of Miller Genuine Draft let them drink it. There are times, albeit very infrequently, when I do not drink craft beer. On those occasions my beer of choice, more often than not, is Pabst Blue Ribbon.

So here’s to beer drinkers everywhere – drink what you enjoy and enjoy what you drink.

Brewed By The Birds

Polly James (left) and Nerys Hughes (right) as The Liver Birds

 

The two sculptured birds atop Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building

The British can take credit for the creation of some wonderful situation comedies. Growing up in Scotland during the 1970s and 1980s I was a regular viewer of a number of these. Some of my favorites included Only Fools and Horses, The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin, and Porridge. Recently I was reminded of another – The Liver Birds. The Liver Birds ran for ten seasons on BBC from 1969 and 1979. Set in Liverpool the storyline focused on the lives of two women (Sandra played by Nerys Hughes and Beryl played by Polly James) who shared an apartment. The title for the series was inspired by two sculptured birds that are perched on top of Liverpool’s Royal Liver Building. The building, opened in 1911, was built to house the offices of the Royal Liver Assurance Group. The “bird” reference in the show’s title, however, is also a nod to the British slang word “bird”, which refers to a young woman. The American equivalent would be the word “chick”.

In Melbourne I enjoyed this Sunset Ale by Two Birds Brewing Company
Melbourne’s Hairy Little Sista Bar/Restaurant where I enjoyed a Sunset Ale

The show popped into my head, a few weeks ago, when I was in Melbourne, Australia. This was my fifth visit to Australia, but my first to Melbourne. I first visited Australia in 2006. While not much has changed since my first visit ten years ago one change that I have observed is the growing popularity of craft beer. Like Americans, increasing numbers of Australians, are demanding better quality and more flavorful beer than that which is offered by the large macro-brewers. I sampled quite a number of these Australian craft beers on my eight day trip there. One that I sampled was called Sunset Ale by Two Birds Brewing Company. It was recommended to by a bartender in Hairy Little Sista, a bar/restaurant in Melbourne’s CBD. I was with a colleague and we went into the Sista to get a beer. It was my round so I went up to the bar to see what was on offer. The bartender saw me perusing the selection of beers on tap and before I could make a decision she said “You should try the Sunset Ale by Two Birds Brewery. The brewery is owned by two women, that’s why it’s called Two Birds, and they make some really good beer. It’s brewed here in Melbourne”. This particular bird, the bartender, had a sweet smile – I couldn’t refuse her recommendation. And I was not disappointed. Sunset Ale is a tasty amber ale that comes in at an ABV of 4.6%. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I had another the next day in another bar; this time from a bottle.

The two birds behind Two Birds Brewing are Jayne Lewis and Danielle Allen. They both grew up in the city of Perth, in Western Australia and met there while teenagers. Throughout the course of their friendship they both developed a love and appreciation for  beer. Lewis eventually entered the brewing industry where she gained valuable experience working  for a number of Australian breweries, including as head brewer at Mountain Goat Brewery in Richmond, a Melbourne suburb. Allen, meanwhile, was putting her Marketing and Public Relations degree to work. Her passion was the food and beverage industry and she worked for a number of private sector firms following graduation. These included some time spent as Product Development Manager with the Australian retail giant, Woolworths, where she worked on the company’s private label brand of food products, ‘Select’.

In 2011 Lewis and Allen decided to enter the world of commercial brewing. At that point they were not ready to invest in a bricks-and-mortar brewery; instead they contracted with other  breweries to brew their beers. This allowed them to concentrate on other aspects of the business, including recipe development, establishing a distribution network, getting their brand known in the market, and also raising the financing to build an actual brewery. The latter they did in 2014 when they opened Two Birds Brewery in the Melbourne suburb of Spotswood. Within the Australian context Lewis and Allen are pioneers – they are the country’s first female brewery owners. As part of the process of establishing their brewery the Two Birds made several pilgrimages to the United States, one in 2010 and one in 2013. They did so to immerse themselves in the American craft beer scene, to see what they could learn, and to draw inspiration – the fact that they made not one, but two visits to the United States is  a testimony to the cutting edge nature of the American craft beer industry.

Regular readers of this blog know that I have covered the topic of female Brewers in previous entries. In March 2016 I interviewed Shannon Fink, Head Brewer at the Black Cloister Brewing Company in Toledo, OH. In July 2016 I wrote an entry about female-owned High Heel Brewing of Lakeland, FL. Historically, before beer became an industrialized product, the role of brewer was a predominantly female one.

After I returned from Australia I came across an article about two women, Aida Musulmankulova and Arzu Kurbanova. Musulmankulova and Kurbanova are the owners of Save the Ales, the first craft brewery to be established in the central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. The brewery is located in Bishkek, the country’s capital city. Not only are the owners (who also happen to be the Brewers) female but they made the decision to hire an all-female staff.

While female brewers are still heavily outnumbered numerically by their male counterparts there is no question that the number of female brewers is on the rise. And here in the United States we have, I believe, reached the point where female brewers are no longer regarded as a curiosity or an oddity. And while there is still a ways to go female breweres are slowly, but surely, becoming mainstream. And that, surely, is a good thing.