Let’s drop right into this. Left Hand Peanut Butter Milk Stout has finally hit shelves, and it’s perfect.
Yeah, I’ve bolded that because it bears emphasis. We live in a time in beer history that might be best summarized in one word – adjuncts. Here at this publication, we’ve mentioned a wide range of beers that have everything from candy, cakes, and fruit, to scorpions, crickets, and grasshoppers. Some beer additions should be sprayed for by an exterminator, and not wind up in your mash tun. But hey, you do you.
It’s the wild west of adjuncts out there. Some of these creations are so sweet you actually have a sugar crash later, while others end up being little shelve grenades in aluminum. Trying the next hyped brewery science experiment can wear out your taste buds, your wallet, and even your faith in beer brewing at large.
Still, there are some great pastry/milkshake/candy/cookie/skittles/chicken wing/hamburger/dragonfruit/marshmallow/baklava/cheesecake/jelly/pizza/tomato/herb beers out there, so I do what anybody else would do. Find them all and drink them all.
When it comes to well-established breweries like Left Hand, I hold them to a higher standard when it comes to a beer like this, and with good reason. They know what the hell they are doing, as evidenced by their Milk Stout. As good as that beer is, brewers want to play and fans demand variety. According to Left Hand, a peanut butter variant was the top request. However, it was never going to be as easy as just tossing peanut butter (in any form) into their milk stout and shipping it.
The best evidence of this? Peanut Butter Milk Stout was slated for November. “Despite getting close to how we envisioned this beer, we hadn’t nailed it yet,” says national sales director Jason Ingram, “Our brewing team worked hard until they got it right and it makes a difference,” he adds. Ingram is right because it was love at first sip for us.
Left Hand held themselves to a very high standard for the seasonal, and you the beer drinker, is the winner for their efforts. Peanut Butter Milk Stout is crafted. Meaningful. And worth the money.
Now you can taste the result of their hard work across the brewery’s distribution footprint this month. This beer is adjunct hope in dark beer form, in and increasingly muddy, sludgy world of pastry beers. 2020 is tasting good already.
6% ABV, 25 IBUs
PIC: Beer Street Journal
As of today, the World Health Organization has declared a global public health emergency over the Coronavirus outbreak. If you haven’t noticed by now, the deadly virus shares a name with a certain global beer brand. Judging by Google search trends, there has been a major spike in searches for the “Corona beer virus.” It can be presumed that some believe Corona has some responsibility for the outbreak.
The two are not remotely related.
We stumbled across this interesting fact when a friend sent us a meme of a Corona bottle, with a bunch of Heineken bottles huddled behind a surgical mask. The debate that ensued shortly after dealt with the fact that no one is dumb enough to think the Coronavirus (aka 2019-nCov) is caused by, or even cured by- beer. Specifically Corona beer.
A quick trip over to Google Trends proved otherwise. As you can see from the screenshot below, the interest in “Corona Beer Virus” spikes around mid-January. Hawaii and Washington D.C. tops the charts with the most searches, followed by Nebraska, Connecticut, and Kansas. Let’s just assume it’s folks doing a little diligence before cracking open a bottle after work.
Since it’s not named after the beer, then why is it called the Coronavirus? The word corona means “crown” or “halo” in Latin. Views of the viruses using electron microscopy show projections on its round surface giving the illusion of a crown. Other Coronaviruses include Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
This past weekend, Sandy Springs-based Pontoon Brewing celebrated its 2nd Anniversary of operations at their physical brewery. Pastry stouts flowed like water as Georgia started to feel winter weather for the time this season.
Years ago in 2014, brewery founders Eddie Serrine and Eric Lemus were standing in my kitchen holding bottles of what would be Pontoon Brewing’s flagship beers – an IPA and a Kolsch. One of the guys had broken his leg but despite crutches and a cast, he insisted on standing up and drinking as we talked. I respected the commitment.
Back in 2014, Georgia laws surrounding breweries were pretty strict. It was illegal to sell pints directly to customers, which basically forced Georgia’s breweries to drag visitors through a tour just to give them free beer samples. Not to mention, an expensive multi-barrel volume production operating model was your business’s only option to survive. Any brewery opening in Georgia was big news because you had to go pretty big to make it.
Pontoon Brewing, with its warm weather, outdoor lake life vibe was going to be a great fit for Georgia’s hot climate, but these introductory beers in front of me that day in 2014 sadly underwhelming. True, this sounds a little harsh even as I mention it in hindsight but these beers weren’t going to compete with the south’s burgeoning IPA scene. Despite that negative opinion, it was best kept to myself. Congratulations were in order and the brewery is young.
Within a few weeks, Pontoon Brewing hit distribution and shortly after that, seemingly vanished from beer conversation.
Fast forward to a warm day in the summer of 2016 during a collaboration brew day at Wild Heaven. Sean O’Keefe walks into the brewhouse holding 6-packs of Pontoon Brewing’s upcoming canned beers. Laying eyes on them was shocking to say the least, as I had all but thought the brand was basically defunct. Yet here is Sean, cans in hand, with a date his new brewery and taproom would be completed in Sandy Springs.
Pontoon’s return to the spotlight had already started.
It’s 2020 and a lot has changed in at Pontoon and in Georgia. The temperature is barely 40 degrees and the wind is whipping through the parking lot gale-force speeds. Despite this cold snap, Pontoon is quite busy on this second birthday of the brewery build. Any memory of those two underwhelming beers are a distant memory.
It’s barely 1 pm on a Sunday and hundreds are kicking back pastry stouts, hazy IPAs, and thick fruited Berliner beers one after the other. Inside there’s animal caretaker playing with rescued river otters (the brewery’s signature animal) and South American armadillos. At one point I found myself drinking a beer inspired by Samoa Girl Scout cookies snapping pictures of an otter eating a piece of fish. This is craft beer these days, not a weird dream.
Since 2014, Eddie and Eric each started families with months of each other and tapping Sean O’Keefe to run point for Pontoon. Sean has taken Pontoon in the hazy/milkshake/pastry direction which not only carved out a decadent niche for the brewery, but built a loyal following that has fallen in love with beers like Brownie Batter, and Snozzberries Taste Like Snozzberries. The stouts are sweet and boozy, the fruited beers are so thick they sometimes leave chunks on the glass.
This might be a complete departure from clear beers and big west coast imperial IPAs from 6-7 years ago. Industry veterans might wonder how craft beer got here. As for Pontoon’s fans this afternoon, every sweet sip is why they are here. “I know (our beers) can get a little weird,” says O’Keefe, “using things cookies, vanilla beans, fresh fruit, coconut and candy bars,” he adds. ‘I just think if you are going to do it, we are going to do it well.”
From kitchen to the taproom, Sean, Eddie, Eric, Earnest and the crew at Pontoon have defined their style and love of their fans. Shades on, Bottoms Up. Happy 2, Pontooners.
The hard seltzer industry is on fire, and about to get crowded at the top. Bud Light Seltzer launches Monday.
Hard seltzer was the clear winner in the beverage industry last year. The beverage segment, now worth in excess of $1 billion, saw historic and unparalleled growth from coast to coast. While mega-brewery Anheuser Busch already has two seltzers in the market now – Natty Light Hard Seltzer and Bon & Viv, a Bud Light branded hard seltzer headed to market absolutely predictable.
We expected an official release and marketing blitz leading up to summer 2020, but Bud has opted to debut Bud Light Seltzer ahead of the Super Bowl. ABI has already spent millions on 4 minutes of commercials during the game, dedicated to both Bud Light and the new seltzer line as well as Michelob Ultra and Michelob Ultra Pure Gold.
Four flavors will be available on Monday – Black Cherry, Lemon Lime, Strawberry, and Mango. Each can is 100 calories and 5% alcohol by volume, but unlike Truly Hard Seltzer, Bud Light’s release has 2 grams of carbohydrates per serving. All four flavors will be available in 12-ounce cans, in a 12 can variety pack, as well as 25-ounce cans. (Think convenience store purchases.)
The category leaders at the start of 2020 are White Claw, largely own by Mark Anthony Brands, and Truly Hard Seltzer (Boston Beer Company). Pabst Blue Ribbon announced its own seltzer last year at 6% ABV, as well as Four Loko which is a whopping 12% ABV.
The hard seltzer segment grew 210% over the past year, according to Nielsen data. America’s craft brewers are releasing hard seltzers at a brisk pace too, including Avery Brewing, Schlafly Brewing, NoDa Brewing, Sockeye Brewing, and Atlanta’s Scofflaw Brewing.
All four flavors of Bud Light Seltzer should be on shelves nationally by mid-January. Now we wait to see what the Seltzer Knight looks like #FizzyFizzy.
Boston Beer Company’s Truly Hard Seltzer debuted in 2016 and has been on fire ever since. The flavored seltzers are one of the top 3 selling brands in the category in America. Building off that success, Boston Beer has announced their next creation in an already explosive category – Truly Lemonade.
Keeping with Truly’s “healthier” approach, Truly’s new Lemonade and family of flavors boast 100 calorie, 1 gram of sugar, and 5% alcohol by volume.
According to Casey O’Neill, Senior Manager of Product Development at Boston Beer says the Lemonade series has more flavor than the traditional hard seltzer.
“It really is the best of both worlds and brings together flavor and refreshment in a way that nothing else in the category does right now. Drinkers will have to taste it to believe it, but we’re confident they’ll love Truly Lemonade as much as we do.”
Truly Lemonade is available in Original Lemonade, Black Cherry Lemonade, Strawberry Lemonade, and Mango Lemonade in 12oz/12ct variety packs, 16 & 24-ounce single-serve cans, nationally starting in January.
Style: Hard Seltzer/Hard Lemonade Hybrid
Availability: 12oz, 16oz, 24oz Cans. Nationally
Debut: January 2020
PIC: Beer Street Journal
Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy will be available nationally again this month. This time around, the stout is getting a little packaging makeover.
It takes the better part of a year to brew and barrel-age Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy. 19.2-ounce cans of the imperial stout were first found in the brewery’s taprooms in fall of 2015. The demand was so high, Oskar Blues ramped up production and made it nationally available for the first time in 2016.
This month, Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy will be nationally available again, but this time in 12-ounce cans. Ten Fidy is aged in a blend of Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill bourbon barrels for at least 8 months.
“Ten FIDY is a complicated beer for our brewers but they really dig into the behemoth task of delivering a big-time stout. Barrel-aging ups the ante even further – ramping up the chocolate, coffee and roasted notes to the maximum.” Tim Matthews, Head of Brewing Operations
To celebrate this beer’s return, Oskar Blues is releasing variety 4-packs of barrel aged variants of Ten FIDY, including JAHvanilla, Salted Caramel, Chocolate Hazelnut Praline, and Java on November 29th.
Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy is available in 12-ounce cans and limited draft by mid-November 2019.
Bell’s Brewery is honoring veterans and active service military with a special beer release for Veteran’s Day. Bell’s Goin’ Dark debuts at the brewery’s Eccentric Cafe on November 11th.
Goin’ Dark is a coffee milk stout brewed with bourbon barrel-aged coffee beans. This beer was visualized, conceived, brewed and packaged by a team of 20 Bell’s employees that served in the military or currently enlisted or have families actively serving.
“It’s an honor to recognize the men and women in our military as well as their families and extend that celebration to those who make that sacrifice.” – Larry Bell, Founder & President
Additionally, Bell’s is working with Section Collection, a nonprofit that provides support for veterans in need.
Bell’s Goin’ Dark will be available exclusively at the Eccentric Cafe on November 11th, in 12-ounce bottles and draft.
Style: Milk Stout (w/ Coffee.)
Availability: 12oz Bottles, Draft. Brewery Release.