I have just returned from twelve days in the Netherlands. While there, I spent time in three different places – Amsterdam, Groningen, and Dalfsen. In many respects these three places could not be more different. Amsterdam is the country’s vibrant and bustling capital city (although not the seat of the Dutch government interestingly), with a population of over 850,000. Groningen is a city of just over 200,000, almost a third of whom are students at either the University of Groningen or the Hanze University of Applied Sciences. Dalfsen, in sharp contrast, is a small agricultural town of approximately 8,500 people. It is located approximately equidistant from Amsterdam and Groningen.
Whenever I travel I try to drink local beer. I do so for a number of reasons. I like to support local breweries, the beer is as fresh as it can possibly be, and often I get to sample beers that I cannot get back home. As I travelled through the Netherlands on this particular trip it struck me (not for the first time) the way in which my definition and expectations of what is local beer has evolved over the years. I first visited the Netherlands in 1982 and at that time drinking local meant drinking beers such as Heineken, Grolsch, or Bavaria. The Dutch micro brewing movement was just beginning to emerge. By 2015 there were 238 microbreweries in the Netherlands. The appearance of so many microbreweries in the Netherlands, and other countries, has, for me at least, changed what it means to drink local beer. Drinking local once meant drinking Dutch beer in the Netherlands, Danish beer in Denmark, and Japanese beer in Japan. But thanks to the growing popularity of craft beer in the United States and beyond, drinking local now means drinking Amsterdam-brewedbeer in Amsterdam, Copenhagen-brewed beer in Copenhagen, and Tokyo-brewed beer in Tokyo.
And this is exactly what I did when I was in the Netherlands. In Amsterdam I drank beer brewed by three of the cities breweries – Brouwerij de Prael, Brouwerij ‘t IJ, and, Stoombierbrouwerij De Bekeerde Suster. While in Groningen I consumed beer brewed by Brouwerij Groninger, and Brouwerij Martinus. And even in the idyllic community of Dalfsen, I was able to enjoy a couple of different brews from the local Vechtdal Brouwerij. I was surprised to find that Dalfsen had a brewery. I had visited several Amsterdam brewpubs on previous visits to the city and felt sure that a city the size of Groningen would have several craft breweries. But Dalfsen is a small community, so I had not expected to find one there. The brewery, located in a former indoor sports facility, was opened in October 2016.
The Netherlands is not a large country. It has a population of just over seventeen million. It is just over sixteen thousand square miles in area, making it larger than Maryland but smaller than West Virginia. From a population-size peprespective it is closest to the state of New York which has a population of nearly twenty million. New York has 269 craft breweries. So with 238 craft breweries the Netherlands has a very similar number on a per capita basis. So perhaps I should not have been surprised to have found a brewery in Dalfsen. Go to Lake George, New York (population ~3,500) and you will find the Adirondack Pub and Brewery.
While I have come to expect being able to find a craft brewery in many of America’s smaller communities, the same reality is also becoming increasingly true in European countries. The United Kingdom, for example, has over 1,800 microbreweries, while Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy have over 700, 650, 550, and 500 respectively. And the number is growing each year. My colleague, Dr. Giulia Pezzi of the Gran Sasso Science Institute in L’Aquila, Italy has written about the small Italian town of Appechio. Located in the Marche region, Appechio, with just over two thousand residents is home to three craft breweries.
It is, undoubtedly, a great time to be a beer drinker. And with each passing day it gets better, as new breweries open their doors. Later this month I travel to Italy and Poland. The trip will include three stops in Italy (L’Aquila, Cagliari, and Rome) and two in Poland (Warsaw and Czestochowa). In each place I look forward to seeking out the most local beer available.
Pezzi, Maria Giulia. 2017. From peripheral hamlet to craft beer capital: Apecchio and the ‘Alogastronomia’. Italian Journal of Planning Practice, Volume 7, Number 1, Pages 154-185.
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.
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.
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.
For some time now I’ve wanted to visit the Ohio City neighborhood of Cleveland. In my academic research on the role of craft breweries in neighborhood change I had read a lot about Ohio City, particularly the catalytic role of the Great Lakes Brewing Company in that process. But while it is only a two-hour drive from my home I had, until last month, never been there. The opportunity to visit came when my wife and two friends were on our way home from a three-day weekend at Geneva-on-the-Lake. Geneva-on-the-Lake is in the heart of Ohio wine country. We had went there to visit some of those wineries. Our journey home took us through Cleveland and so we decided to stop off in the Ohio City neighborhood for lunch, and also visit a couple of breweries.
Ohio City is located just a couple of miles west of downtown Cleveland. It is home to around nine thousand people. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Ohio City was a vibrant industrial neighborhood. Mills, foundries, distilleries, and other manufacturing facilities provided employment for local residents. By the mid-twentieth century, however, like many similar neighborhoods across the Midwest, Ohio City started to experience plant closures and out-migration. In 1968, the Ohio City Redevelopment Association was established to address the dual issues of blight and neglect. Thirty million dollars were invested in the neighborhood and structures such as the West Side Market and St. Ignatius High School were refurbished. By the late 1970s, over one hundred buildings had been renovated. But the neighborhood still needed additional investment. Enter, stage left, brothers Pat and Dan Conway – two Clevelanders who decided to revive brewing in their hometown. The city’s last brewery, C. Schmidt & Sons, ceased operations in 1984. In 1986, the Conways opened the doors of the Great Lakes Brewing Company (GLBC). There was not much in the way of commercial activity in Ohio City when the Conways opened GLBC. In fact, one local business owner described the brewery as an “an oasis in a desert of ghetto.” The arrival of GLBC is considered by many to have played a key role in the neighboood’s subsequent revitalization. Today, Ohio City is a bustling neighborhood where bars, restaurants, and other retail establishments provide residents and visitors alike with a variety of dining and shopping options. Included in these businesses are six breweries – Bad Tom Smith Brewing, Great Lakes Brewing Company, Hansa Brewery, Market Garden Brewery, Platform Beer Co., and Nano Brew. A number of metrics illustrate the success of the investment in Ohio City. Between 2005 and 2013, the crime rate in the neighborhood fell 24%, while real estate values more than doubled. Development of the neighborhood is overseen by Ohio City Incorporated, whose mission is to “lead the development of Ohio City by serving a diverse community of committed people, driving new investments in and preserving the history of a unique place, and promoting an authentic urban neighborhood”. Ohio City is demographically diverse; fifty percent of its residents are White, 34% African American, and 23% Hispanic.
Unfortunately, our visit to Ohio City was on a Sunday; the only day of the week on which the Great Lakes Brewing Company is closed. We were, however, able to walk past and catch a glimpse of the Ohio City Farm. Opened in June 2010, this six acre farm is located just around the corner from GLBC. The farm started as a partnership between Ohio City Incorporated, The Refugee Response, and GLBC. Today, five entities have plots on the farm – Central Roots, Cleveland Crops, CMHA Green Team, GLBC, and The Refugee Response.
Each of these entities utilize their farm plots for a different purpose. 1) Central Roots are a for-profit venture who grow chemical-free fruits and vegetables; 2) Cleveland Crops is a non-profit affiliate of the Cuyahoga County Board of Developmental Disabilities. The adults working on their plot have developmental disabilities. Farming provides them with valuable skills; 3) Cleveland Metropolitan Housing Auhthority (CMHA) Green Team provide seasonal jobs, discounted food, and educational programming about healthy food for its public housing residents; 4) Through its Refugee Empowerment Agricultural Program (REAP), The Refugee Response provides agricultural-related training for resettled refugees; and 5) Great Lakes Brewing Company grows vegetables and herbs for their brewpub, as well as hops for their beers. Ohio City Farm is one of the largest contiguous urban farms in the United States and in 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized Ohio City Farm as a national model of successful urban agriculture. It’s existence and success owes a great deal to the vision of Pat and Dan Conway.
While the Great Lakes Brewing Company was closed when we visited Ohio City, a number of other breweries were open. We visited two of those – Market Garden Brewery and Nano Brew. Market Garden Brewery was our first stop and we had an enjoyable lunch at their brewpub. The brewpub opened in 2011. In 2016, in close proximity to the brewpub, a thirty-five thousand square foot production brewery was constructed. After lunch, we stopped by the production Brewery and visited its gift shop. Next, we took the short walk to Nano Brew, a brewpub that is also part of the Market Garden family of breweries. We had dessert at Nano Brew – deep-fried Oreos which were really tasty, and reminded me of deep-fried Mars Bars from my time living in Scotland. One of the noteworthy aspects about Nano Brew is that some of their fruits and vegetables are sourced from The Refugee Response at Ohio City Farm.
After Nano Brew we ventured to Forest City Brewery. While only a ten minute walk from Nano Brew, Forest City is beyond the borders of Ohio City. It is actually located in Cleveland’s Duck Island neighborhood. The name Duck Island has nothing to do with ducks apparently; rather, the popular conception is that it got its name during Prohibition because it developed a reputation as a place where bootleggers would “duck” the law. During the nineteenth century, Duck Island was a proud manufacturing neighborhood where steel mills and other factories employed local residents. By the 1970s the neighborhood found itself in a downward spiral as mills, factories, and other businesses closed, and residents started to move out. Today, the neighborhood is undergoung a renewal, with leadership of the this process being led by the privately-funded Duck Island Development Collaborative.
Forest City Brewery opened in 2016, is part of the renewal that is taking place in Duck Island. It takes its name from the original Forest City Brewing Company, which existed in Cleveland between 1904 and 1930. The brewey is also home to what is possibly the oldest beer garden in the state of Ohio (there is a beer garden in Cincinnati that may be older). The Atlantic Beer Garden dates from 1865. I spent a very pleasant half hour in the beer garden, while enjoying a Forest City Duck Island Amber Ale. The brewery shares its twelve thousand foot building with four other businesses – a dance studio, coffee company, meadery and cycle-touring business. Also, Forest City has a Toledo connection; one of the co-owners Jay Demagall has a degree in history from The University of Toledo.
So while I did not get to visit Great Lakes Brewing Company, there were still plenty of other wonderful breweries to visit in Ohio City. I still want to go to Great Lakes though. I’ll make sure that my next visit to Ohio City will be on a day when the brewery is open.
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.
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 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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
A few weeks ago I visited a new brewery. Upside Brewing is, according to Google Maps, 9.4 miles from my house. The brewery is located in Sylvania, OH, a suburb of Toledo. Upside opened in September 2016. You’d think that The Beer Professor would know about the opening of a new brewery so close to his home but I did not know of its existence until about a month ago when I read this article in The Toledo Blade. Shame on me, but from what I can tell the brewery opened up without a great deal of fanfare. The Sylvania Advantage had ran a story back in May 2016 about the upcoming opening of the city’s first brewery. But I do not read the suburban community’s newspaper that comes out twice a month.
Upside Brewing is located inside J&G Pizza Palace on Sylvania’s Main Street. J&G’s has been part of the Sylvania landscape since 1971; its current owners, the Dallas family, took over the business in 1979. Along with my wife and two friends I visited J&Gs on a Saturday evening. The place was packed; we waited forty-five minutes for a table. Such waits, especially on a Saturday night, are not unusual apparently. Having been around for over thirty-five years this pizza joint has a loyal customer base; plus it has a relatively small seating capacity. As we stood at the front of the restaurant waiting for our table I watched pizzas being made; many of which were picked up by customers for home consumption – J&Gs was doing a brisk take-out trade.
The evening we were there J&Gs had four of its own beers on draft – Palace Cream Ale, Division Street IPA, Ten Mile Amber Brown Ale, and Bavaricana Witbier. The also had one guest tap – Sunshine Daydream Session Ale from Fat Head’s Brewery in Cleveland, OH. I opted for the Palace Cream Ale with my pizza. The beers are brewed onsite by Nick Dallas, son of owners Mark and Jill Dallas. Dallas started homebrewing a little over five years ago and now uses a one-barrel brewing system to make J&G’s beers.
Nano breweries have a number of advantages over their larger peers. First, they are relatively inexpensive to start and operate. Start-up costs are generally somewhere in the five figures. According to Mark Garrison, a writer for Slate, nano breweries provide “an opportunity for skilled homebrewers to dip a toe into the commercial market, without having to find investors or take on crushing debt to secure the kind of funding required to start a microbrewery or brew pub.” This is especially the case when the nano brewery is an add-on to an existing successful business, as is the case with Upside Brewing. If a nano brewery does have plans to grow, however, a couple of years as a successful nano brewery strengthens the position of the brewer when he or she goes seeking investment to expand.
The small size of nano breweries affords brewers with a lot of latitude to experiment, which is good news for beer drinkers looking for new innovative brews. As noted by Derek Pettie, writing in Beer West, “nano breweries are able to experiment at will because of the low stakes and freedom to, well, brew whatever they want.” Paul Dlugokencky, owner of of Blind Bat Brewery in Long Island, NY stated “I brew what I’m interested in drinking, as well as what I think might be interesting to brew. At my size, I can afford to take a chance on what might be considered to be an odd or weird beer. Commercial appeal [hasn’t] been a factor in anything I’ve brewed.” A nano brewery allows brewers to test the market for their beers, while developing a customer base. This reduces the risk should they decide to scale-up and invest in a larger brewing system. Nano breweries also tend to get to know their customers fairly well. According to Tony Ammendolia of Final Gravity Brewing Company in Richmond VA, “being as small as we are allows us to have face-to-face interaction with all of our customers, since the only place you can get our beer is in our tasting room.” Indeed a couple of years as a successful nano brewery strengthens the position of the brewer when he or she goes to seek investment to expand.
Three different models of nano breweries have been identified:
1. Proof of concept. These are started by brewers who have plans for larger scale breweries. However, they refuse to or do not have the capital to invest in a larger brewery. They use the nano brewery to test the market for their beer. One example of such a brewery is 56 Brewing of Minneapolis, MN. They started out in a 700 square foot space in the northeast of the city in 2014. They very quickly outgrew this space and in 2016 vacated it to move to a larger facility. Starting out small, however, proved to be a smart business move according to 56’s co-owner Kerry Johnson. Commenting about their growth strategy Johnson noted that “starting small and building our reputation is a huge asset.” The space that 56 moved into in 2014 had previously been occupied by NorthGate Brewing who, in a similar fashion, vacated it when the space was no longer large enough. After 56 moved out another nano- brewery, Broken Clock Brewing, moved in and are now brewing there.
2. Second income. In these cases passionate homebrewers want the best of both worlds – to run a brewery while maintaining the security afforded them by their regular jobs. While keeping their day jobs these individuals brew in the evening or on their days off. The Black Frog Brewey in Toledo, OH is an example of such a brewery. Owner and brewer Chris Harris works full time as a claims representative for the Social Security Administration. His brew days are Wednesday and Sunday, while the Black Frog taproom is open on a Friday and a Saturday.
3. Add-ons to existing restaurant pubs. Many restaurant owners recognize the value of brewing their own beer on-site and adding it to their menu. Lack of space means that a nano set-up is ideal. Upside Brewing is an example of this model. To some extent this is a low risk approach as the brewery is being added to what is hopefully an already successful business. There is a built-in potential customer base and, as long as there is space to add the brewing equipment there is no additional outlay needed to acquire space.
It was the Austrian economist Leopold Kohr who championed the idea that small is beautiful- if you want to see evidence of the efficacy of this idea look no further than your nearest nano-brewery.
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”.
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.
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.
I am writing this in the city of Auckland. It is the last day of a ten day trip to New Zealand. The main purpose of my visit was to attend a meeting of the International Geographical Union’s Commission on the Dynamics of Economic Spaces. The theme of this year’s meeting was ‘New Resource Geographies”. I made a presentation on changes taking place in the American hops industry as a result of the growth of the craft brewing sector. The meeting was in Palmerston North, an inland town of about 85,000 residents, located on the eastern Manawatu Plains of the country’s North Island.
As always, when I travel, I enjoy exploring the beer scene in the places I visit. Like many developed economies New Zealand has an emerging craft beer scene. According to a 2016 report there are 168 craft breweries in this country of 4.5 million people. Craft beer accounts for fifteen percent of the country’s beer sales.
After Palmerston North I took the bus south to New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. A city of 400,000 Wellington has a vibrant craft beer scene. This was my third visit to New Zealand, but my first to Wellington. While there I took the opportunity to visit one of the city’s craft breweries. Black Dog Brew Co. was established in 2011. Located right in the heart of the CBD the brewery was a comfortable walk from my hotel. I arrived at the brewery mid-afternoon on a Saturday. As I approached I was a little surprised to see that it seemed to be packed with people – they were spilling out onto the streets. I had stopped in at a few bars on my way to the Black Dog and the Saturday afternoon patrons were few in number. But, as I got closer, I noticed something unusual about the crowd at Black Dog – many of them had dogs in tow. As it turns out my visit to the brewery coincided with the annual fundraiser that the brewery holds for the Wellington branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). I made my way through a throng of people and dogs and found a seat towards the back of the bar. As I looked round I counted probably a dozen dogs who sniffed around as their happy owners enjoyed a brew. Last year’s event attracted forty or so dogs apparently. This was the third year that the brewery had hosted this fundraiser. And each year they have brewed a special beer; the proceeds from the sale of which are donated to the Wellington SPCA. In 2015 the brew was Skater Hater, a hoppy Pilsner. It was named after one of the dogs who regularly frequents the brewery and has a particular disdain for skateboarders. This year the brewery produced XPCA, a New Zealand Pale Ale. While I was there one of the brewery’s owners, Simon Edward, said a few words about the event and thanked everyone who had come out in support.
While the brewery was too busy for me to get a few words with any of the owners all indications are that they are dog lovers. In addition to this annual fundraiser and the brewery’s name, a number of Black Dog’s brews are named to have a dog connection. Clifford, a Red IPA, is named (presumably) after the children’s book character, Clifford the Big Red Dog. Then there’s Hair of the Dog, an appropriately-named breakfast IPA that comes in at an ABV of 2.2%. Other dog-inspired beers are Golden Lab (a golden ale), Chomp (a New Zealand pale ale), and Bite (a hopped Pilsner). I spent an enjoyable hour or so at the Black Dog, sampling their beer while watching dog lovers and their pooches.
The fact that Black Dog were hosting an event to support a local charitable cause does not surprise me. Craft breweries tend to be high connected to and engaged with their local communities. In 2014, for example, American craft breweries raised over seventy-one million dollars for charity, That’s an average of $20,664 per craft brewery or $3.25 per barrel.
In addition to craft breweries Wellington also has a number of craft beer bars. After Black Dog I visited one of those – The Malthouse. Since its opening in 1993 this Wellington institution has been described as the high alter of the local craft beer scene. It was the first bar in the city to serve Heineken. Today if offers 150+ beers, including 25+ on draft, from all over New Zealand and around the world. Non-draft beer is stored in one of six refrigerated coolers, each one set at a different temperature to suit the. beer inside.
It is really great to see the craft brewing movement prosper outside of the United States. And the more I travel, the more I talk to people, and the more I read about craft brewing in other countries the more I notice commonalities that transcend international borders. Whether you are in Sweden, New Zealand, or in the United States there are a growing number of people who desire beer that is of higher quality and more flavorful and more diverse than that which is being offered to them by the large multinational conglomerates. And thankfully there are brewers who are willing to step-up and take the risk of commercializing their hobby to provide the beer drinker with the wonderful array of craft beers that we have available to us today.
I was in Columbus, OH a few weeks ago. I was there for a couple of conferences – CEOs for Cities and Data Driven ’16. While my days were spent listening to presentations my evenings were free. My colleague Margie, who arrived in Columbus before me, picked up a small booklet titled Columbus Ale Trail. It is a pocket-sized, passport-type, booklet that contains information on the twenty-eight breweries that comprise the Columbus Ale Trail. The basic idea is that as you visit an establishment on the trail you get a stamp verifying your visit. Visit four establishments and you receive a complimentary ale trail beer glass (shaker style); visit all twenty-eight and you get a complimentary pack of ale trail playing cards. While most of the breweries on the trail are located in the city of Columbus there are a few that are to be found in outlying communities such as Westerville Continue reading The Columbus Ale Trail→
Earlier this summer I received a check for twelve dollars in the mail. It was my share of a class action lawsuit that had been successfully brought against Anheuser-Busch (A-B). The focus of the lawsuit was Beck’s beer. Beck’s is ostensibly a German beer. The Beck’s Continue reading Beck’s, A Lawsuit, and Terroir→