stories

Can I Interest You in a Regular Beer?

Illustration: Adam Waito

Illustration: Adam Waito

For October, I tackled a little notion that’s been sitting heavy in my grey matter these days: There’s nothing simple about today’s beer market. As breweries spread across America like peanut butter and jelly, they jammed beer aisles with beers boasting every imaginable ingredient and yeast strain, hops lavished like rose petals at a royal wedding. 

When everything is outlandish, when rebellious beers become the rule and not the exception, how is it possible to stand out? The answer, increasingly, is for breweries to stop going wild and start embracing their mild side. To cut through the double dry-hopped clutter, breweries are releasing mass-appeal lagers with humdrum names and often humble branding, harking back to the simpler days when beer was just beer—a one-size-inebriates-all lager sold good and cold.

Want to hear the rest of my thoughts? You’re in luck!

The Rise of the Really Tall Beer Can

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Large cans of domestic lagers and flavored malt beverages from big beer brands have long been stocked in fridges at gas stations and convenience stores, offering consumers a low-cost, no-fuss cold tallboy to go. Now many craft breweries are going big, packaging robustly flavored IPAs and hop-forward ales in 19.2-, 24-, and 25-ounce cans. They’re typically sold for $2 or $3, encouraging consumer trials and boosting sales. 

But why? Why is one the loveliest number for breweries? I have thoughts.

Swell Zone: Breweries and the Beach

Photo: Pelican Brewing

Photo: Pelican Brewing

For Imbibe’s summer issue, I tackle an issue very close to the sand beneath my toes: beer and the beach.

They’ve always been good buddies. As the sun casts rays, a crisp sip of beer removes salt from parched lips, refreshment served in a koozie. You don’t think much of beach beer until it’s missing, the cooler barren and your mind topped off with a thought: Where’s the beer? Restocking once meant running to the closest grocery or convenience store and buying Mexican imports (remember the limes!) or light lagers, likely made by some distant industrial brewery. Now, beachgoers can take in the crashing waves while crushing cold ones brewed near their preferred patch of sand.

A brewery near a beach is a different beast than one planted in an old factory or industrial park. Brewery owners must balance the breakneck production demands of high season’s fun in the sun with the doldrums of winter and drizzly afternoons, keeping anxious eyes on the Weather Channel for hurricanes that could wash business away. Some breweries embrace the coastal abundance to brew beer with local sea salt, beach plums and seaweed, while others seek inspiration from their beach surroundings.

Want to read the full story? You’re in luck!

Putting on the Spritz: Breweries Shake Up Cocktail-Inspired Beers

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Brewers have never been bashful about creating facsimile beers, like the campfire-inspired Dino S’mores by Off Color Brewing in Chicago and the popsicle-like Orange Dreamsicle by Great Notion Brewing, based in Portland, Oregon. Of late, cocktails have lent a spirited spark, letting breweries mine mixed drinks’ familiar flavors and rich cultural and emotional resonance. 

For SevenFifty Daily, I dive into the trend to discover how cocktail-inspired beers can create new audiences and spike sales. It’s a fun read. I swear! Or I’ll owe you a margarita-style gose.

A Sunny New Approach to Summer Seasonal Beers

Photos: Courtesy of Boston Beer

Photos: Courtesy of Boston Beer

Breweries have long calibrated their portfolios according to calendars. Core lineups were complemented by quarterly seasonal releases, whose arrivals heralded a change of taste. Nowadays drinkers needn’t wait three months for selections to shift. Each week welcomes new beers, double IPAs, and dessert-like stouts that are divorced from seasonality. We live in an on-demand beer world, with an endless selection streaming onto store shelves and into fridges. Seasonals “used to be where beer drinkers went for variety,” says Jim Koch, the chairman of Boston Beer Company, the maker of Samuel Adams beer. “Now the shelf is laden with variety.”

How are breweries approaching seasonal summer beers? Great question! And one I tackle for SevenFifty Daily, awaiting in the link below.

Why Hard Seltzer Is Bubbling Up at Breweries

Photo: Scott McIntyre

Photo: Scott McIntyre

As breweries try to keep sales flying high in a highly competitive market, a number of breweries are wading into the bubbly waters of alcoholic seltzer, one of the fizziest beverage trends of 2019. For The New York Times, I dive deep into the trend to discover what happens when breweries start cooking up boozy LaCroix.

A Cold Shift: Welcome to the World of Beer Slushies

Photo: Courtesy of Reve Brewing

Photo: Courtesy of Reve Brewing

The slushy machine has long lived at gas stations and convenience stores, doling out frosty concoctions that deliver both sugar rushes and brain freeze. Bars, too, slushify margaritas, daiquiris, rosé and more—the frozen drinks delivering good times on patios, backyards, and beaches alike.

Now, breweries are jumping into the slush. From Sweden’s Omnipollo to North Carolina’s Barrel Culture to Colorado’s Wiley Roots, breweries are creating colorful slushies that draw customers to taprooms, rounding out offerings for folks that might not be crazy for that hazy double IPA. “Our motto is, for you, for all,” says Hamlet Fort, the marketing and events manager for Denver’s Station 26 Brewing. “We want to make beers and create experiences for everyone.”

Heresy? Heaven? You make the call. My story awaits at October.

Aftermarket Effects: How Breweries and Companies Are Changing Beer's Flavor

Illustration: Ben Chaplek

Illustration: Ben Chaplek

For Good Beer Hunting, I tackled this little notion: What compels companies and breweries to tweak the flavor of finished beer? Whether for educational or taste-elevating purposes, breweries and companies are constantly inventing new techniques and tools to help consumers reshape and reimagine their beer. A pint doesn’t always sit at the finish line of flavor. In fact, sometimes, it’s perched on the starting blocks—ready to race in unexpected directions. Interested in reading more?

The Inside Scoop on Why Sam Adams Bought Dogfish Head

Jim Koch (left) and Sam Calagione at Eataly in New York City.

Jim Koch (left) and Sam Calagione at Eataly in New York City.

In early May, news broke big and loud that Sam Adams bought Dogfish Head. The very next day after the announcement, I had the chance to chat with Jim Koch and Sam Calagione about why the sale went down. I turned the interviews into a rapid-fire article for Men’s Journal, making sense of the sale for one and all. Curious? Oh boy, do I have a link for you!

The Hottest New Hop Varieties of 2019

Photo courtesy of Crosby Hop Farm / Blake Crosby is a fifth-generation hop farmer and the CEO of Crosby Hop Farm.

Photo courtesy of Crosby Hop Farm / Blake Crosby is a fifth-generation hop farmer and the CEO of Crosby Hop Farm.

Each year, farmers in the Pacific Northwest and around the world release the latest and greatest hop varieties destined to change the very aroma and flavor and beer. From the dank, passion fruit punch of Strata to grape-like Zappa, I dive into the latest varieties looking to make a splash in 2019 and beyond. My story for SevenFifty Daily awaits.