There are some places you go you can’t forget. Some places that change you a little bit the second your feet hit the soil. You return a different person. It would be impossible not to.
It’s an incredibly hot day in July in Atlanta, and I find myself on a rooftop in downtown. The kind of heat where you can’t hide the fact you are dripping with sweat. A month prior I had gotten a random email from some folks that work for Yellowstone Country Montana. They were hosting a happy hour in ATL. If you know anything about me at all, I will literally drink anywhere. With anyone.
In the modern influencer culture, Yellowstone was looking to boost tourism to the state. What immediately came to my mind was some attractive 20-something Instafamous person, standing on a chair in some Montana restaurant trying to take pictures of their [bison] nachos with their iPhone. In other words, not me. I’ve always said I’m a drunk with an internet connection. Millions of folks read Beer Street Journal a year, but thinking like an “influencer” or even being considered one is a foreign idea.
After traveling across 30 states and four continents on drinking escapades with a camera in my hand, I’ve seen a lot. Picturesque landscapes, long stretches of highways, between the hole in the wall towns and busy skyscraper cities. None of this prepared me for a state in my own country. Montana has been there all along, ready to change me.
So much of running this site has been done alone. In a room. Writing for days. It’s been just me. Pushing forward with this site. Friends got married, started 401K’s, families, buying expensive cars and clothes. Now I’m considered mid-life now, on my second car and have never owned more than two pairs of jeans at the same time.
For most of it’s been me. Some times frustrated, climbing the walls. Finding happiness in the quiet. Drinking alone with delusions of some writing greatness that has never come, for this sometimes ill-placed love of the beer industry. My parents understood it and supported it without question.
Having the opportunity to witness people’s passions in life, where they brew, distill, craft and create and the world around them is what has made this site so rewarding. It’s being submerged in the reality beyond a press release that hits the inbox. Another solo trip was imminent, this time northward. It’s hard to write about anything you haven’t seen. Judging by the pictures, it was going to beautiful, an experience you want to share with someone. As much as I wanted that, what I found, is the gift of being alone. Let’s be real, Yellowstone Country Montana is ridiculous. You are wasting precious minutes of your life not laying eyes on this majesty.
It’s almost fall. (Well, up here at least). The cowboy boots I swear I’ll one day die wearing, hit the ground in Bozeman. The airport has a weird calming sense to it – it looks and feels like a cozy lodge that incidentally has Delta planes in the driveway.
I grab my rental car keys and step out into Big Sky. I have 7 days and 1,000 miles to go. This is adventure at first breath. I’ve never seen a state like this. A place like this. It’s just me and a camera. Alone, the way it’s always been since the site began.
This is Beer Street Journal: Montana, the first in a series of stories from Yellowstone Country. A drinking adventure across a piece of America you need to go see.
It costs you nothing but time. Read along.
All photography: Beer Street Journal
A man has won a judgment in small claims court in the United Kingdom against Scottish brewer BrewDog, on the basis of sex discrimination over how he was sold the brewery’s Pink IPA.
The beginning of this story goes back to early 2018, with BrewDog’s launch of the “Beer For Girls” campaign which debuted in conjunction with International Women’s Day. Per the brewery’s website, Pink IPA targets not only the gender pay gap but also targets how some breweries rely on sexist marketing to sell their beers. On International Women’s Day, the beer was sold for 20% less to anyone that identified as a female. Men paid more for the beer. Furthermore, Brewdog wrote on their website: “Men? You pay full price. Reality really is that harsh.”
In the case, 27-year-old Dr. Thomas Bower stated he attempted to purchase Pink IPA at the BrewDog location in Cardiff, Wales and was charged the more expensive price until he was “forced” to identify as a female. Once he self-identified as female, he was charged the cheaper price.
According to Bower, charging different prices for the beer dependent solely on whether you were female or male violates the UK Equality Act of 2010, enacted by Parliament.
BrewDog stated the price difference was not discrimination, but “a part of a national campaign to raise awareness about the gender pay gap,” the Independent.co.uk reports.
Apparently, Bower would have dropped the entire thing, had BrewDog just apologized publicly for the incident. BrewDog did not, and allowing the case to proceed.
Ultimately, the court didn’t see the same virtue in the Beer For Girls/Pink IPA pricing move, finding that simply that BrewDog discriminated against Dr. Bower based on his sex, and awarded him $1,200 (USD).
A sum he donated, minus court costs, to both women’s and men’s charities.
An air portends fragmentation of silence under the shadows a light threatens meekly the dark everlasting. The story of Orpheus in the Underworld.
Air is a song. The [song] is sung to Hades in an attempt to get his dead wife back. That attempt was a threat to the whole life/death balance in the world. It threatened (portends). The light is Orpheus of the living, threatening the balance, a meek threat because he never had a chance against the dark everlasting. A mimicry of volition. These five beers are about Orpheus thinking he has a chance of saving Eurydice from the underworld and break the balance of life and death. Before leaving Hades, Orpheus lost his faith that his wife was behind him. Because he turned his head to see her, Orpheus lost her. Perhaps he never had a chance. All you get is all you get.
That earlier phrase is written all over the wall at the brewery this past weekend. Honestly, we thought it was more mythology that brewery founder Jason Pellett loves so much. With a name like Orpheus Brewing, it’s pretty obvious.
In this case, it’s more than ancient mythology. It’s a crazy range of different styles for the brewery’s 5th anniversary.
Most breweries have a special bottle for an anniversary. Just one bottle has never really been Pellett’s style. “I know I wanted some special beers, and I figure it out as I go,” Jason, says.
Lambic brewing methods are his favorite to work with, along with anything utilizing fresh fruit. Earlier this year, the “Stouts All the Way Down” series debuted, Orpheus’ deep dive into imperial stouts. The brewery is no stranger to brewing boozy stouts (like The Ferryman and 12th Labor), but this series is a new avenue of experimentation. It started with an adjunct-free, barrel aged imperial stout- an almost ancient notion in craft brewing, and has progressed since then. As you will soon see, it’s gotten weird.
Pellett, who has a masters in orchestral trumpet performance, describes this anniversary list a bit like Gustav Mahler describes his symphonies. “The whole world is in here,” he says. “I’m trying to tell a story with these releases. I like to play with big themes, hoping the beers are a jumping off point for conversation. The names, the artwork, how it all ties together – instead of it being just a liquid. Just a commodity.”
A year ago, he and I sat here drinking the eight monster sour and wild bottles he decided to release on his 4th anniversary. It wasn’t the soberest of afternoons, progressing from beer to classical music theory. This afternoon is proving to be no different.
As with any brewery, it’s been a year of change for Pellett and Orpheus. Transmigration of Souls, the first beer brewed here has gone from 10% to 8% alcohol by volume. Choosers of the Slain, a pilsner, is phasing out a sour -Over and Over. Serpent Bite is toast, making way for ‘All You Get’ a new sour inspired by the above story of Orpheus. Pellett says the brewery is constantly broadening their horizon. They are harnessing what is in their barrels more intentionally. “We were very focused for a while on just a handful of beers, and now we are more open. I never thought there would be pilsner here a few years ago, but now it feels natural. It fits in between the wild ale and stouts we are drinking,” Jason adds. “People know who we are now, and we can expand the brewing vision without losing ourselves,” he adds.
After 5 where does Orpheus go? “I have no idea what year 6 will be. This is a transformative time in beer. Who knows until we get there.”
That being said, as Jason and I slip away from what little sobriety we ever have, below is the list of anniversary liquids with a few drunken notes.
- Under the Shadows 6.8% – Wild Ale aged 3 years in wine barrels, refilled on top of plums from Atalanta Reserva. Refermented with blueberries.
- Fragmentation of Science 5.9% – Methode Traditionnelle (Lambic process) wild ale it’s Oblacinska (Serbian) cherries for a traditional Kriek flavor. Barrels that are less acidic that show more of the Esther and hop character. The brewery produces about 60 brewers barrels of lambic. About 30 bbl get released a year, in wild ale projects, which is going on 4 years. Jason dotes on this one.
- A Light Threatens Meekly 13.8% – Staff blending contest lead to this. Barleywine, Adambier, and stock all aged in barrels. Inspired by the blending sessions of Firestone Walker for their anniversary releases. The final blend is about half Barleywine, 3 Adambier barrels in Jack Rye, Heaven Hill and Woodford Double Oaked. All in all – it’s big. Milk chocolate, fig, leather, dried fruit and caramel, and boozy vanilla.
- An Air Portends 13.1% – Imperial stout in bourbon, with macadamia nuts and vanilla beans. The beer had been aging on vanilla beans, and brewery transferred to the tank with roasted nuts. Boozy, nutty, slightly sweet. The 13% hidden well.
- The Dark Everlasting. 13.6% – Imperial stout aged 14-39 months in bourbon barrels, with vanilla beans & slow roasted coconut, held at 135 degrees for 5 weeks. Inspired by black garlic. The coconut caramelizes, starts tasting a bit like flan. The trick was finding peak aroma throughout the process. It’s coconut, but aromatically very different.
- Stouts All the Way Down Vol 11 12.4% – Strawberry hits the nose. Fermented in barrels with cocoa nibs and vanilla beans. The vanilla bean budget at the brewery is quite large. The strawberry leads this beer, which carries over to chocolaty, vanilla hinted finish. Why strawberries? Orpheus found great strawberries.
- Stouts All The Way Down Vol 8. 13.2% ABV – Mexican-inspired stout, with ghost peppers, cacao nibs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. The heat builds into a hot stout with chocolate and hints of spices. Don’t let the ghost scare you. This is a perfect amount of heat.
- This Again– part of the ongoing Over & Over series. Sour ale with pineapple, guava, and vanilla.
- Mimicry of Volition – “Just an IPA” but it’s Jason’s favorite. Old school style but still hazy. Columbus, Mosaic. Needed an IPA once in a while. Something that’s not transmigration (now at 8%)
For those keeping count, that’s 5 bottle releases this weekend, plus 4 more stout bottles and three cans. Plus some ridiculous creations involving Butterfingers that tops out at 14% that the production team was struggling to filter hours before the party. Candy bars? This is craft beer lately. Get used to it.
After a few boozy afternoons of sitting across the table from Jason, a word comes to mind. Maturity. Let me explain.
The brewery, inspired by Greek hero, poet, musician, and prophet, Orpheus. It conjured up thoughts of sitting in a chair by a fire with many leather bound books while someone played a grand piano in the corner. The vision of Orpheus Brewing is a beautiful one. The highly intellectual inspiration for brewery didn’t have beers that matched the maturity of the overall approach. Time and trial brought those two in sync as if all the pieces of the orchestral are finally mastering the overture.
Orpheus Brewing is no one and done haze lineup. Orpheus is a performance. Sit back and enjoy.
Boston Beer and Delaware’s Dogfish Head are merging. Brewery founders Jim Koch and Sam Calagione announced the deal today.
Delaware based Dogfish Head and Boston Beer, makers of Samuel Adams are both craft beer power players. In a press release circulated this afternoon:
Together, Boston Beer and Dogfish Head will create a powerful American-owned platform for craft beer and beyond. The new entity will possess more than half a century of Craft brewing expertise, a balanced portfolio of leading beer and “beyond beer” brands at high end price points, and industry leadership in innovation and quality. Following the transaction, the combined company will have a leading position in the high end of the U.S. beer market, bringing together Boston Beer’s craft beer portfolio and top-ranked sales team[i] with Dogfish Head’s award-winning portfolio of IPA and session sour brands.
The deal, according to Dogfish Head, is valued at $300 million dollars. Nearly 5 years ago, Dogfish Head announced a 15% stake sale to LNK private equity firm. At the time, Dogfish Head said they would be gradually buying back that stake. We are initially told that LNK exits with this merger.
Sam and Mariah Calagione have elected to take substantially all their merger consideration the form of SAM stock, making them the largest non-institutional shareholders after Boston Beer founder Jim Koch. Calagione also states that they intend to devote a percentage of stock they receive to establishing a foundation to fund location charitable programs.
For those wondering if their combined brewing volume will knock them out of the “craft brewing” definition, the brewing duo has this to say:
The combined company will maintain its status as an independent Craft brewery, as defined by the Brewers Association. It will be better positioned to compete against the global beer conglomerates within the craft beer category that are 50- and 100-times its size, as well as other craft brewers, while still representing less than 2% of beer sold in the United States.
The combined company will be led by Boston Beer CEO, Dave Burick.
Back in 2014, Texas-based Austin Beerworks released a first in the craft beer industry – the 99 pack. That’s 99 cans, for $99 dollars. For the non-math majors out there, that’s a $1 a can. Damn good deal.
This week, Pabst Blue Ribbon “unofficially” boasted their own 99-pack of Blue Ribbon. (They’ve actually done this before for Christmas, ironically in Canada.) Pictures of the 99-pack surfaced on social media this week. Twitter users were quick to point out to Pabst that Austin Beerworks had done this before.
Matt Bruhn, GM of Pabst replying to a tweet to Chris Furnari of Brewbound on Twitter that “Good ideas should be shared – enjoy responsibly.”
Good ideas should be shared – enjoy responsibly
— matt bruhn (@thebruhn) May 7, 2019
Incoming shade. Austin Beerworks took exception to the thought of sharing their originial idea.
Oh, wow. We thought you were just a run-of-the-mill Twitter dummy, but we see you’re the GM of Pabst (which doesn’t necessarily disqualify you from the former).
Is “Good ideas should be shared” the official company stance?
PS – sharing is consensual.
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 8, 2019
You can literallly hear the Twitter torches being lit when a craft brewery speaks out against a larger one. However, this story takes a more postive turn. Austin Beerworks and Bruhn didn’t hash this out on social media, they did something almost unheard of these days. They picked up the phone.
Pitchforks down, everyone. Just had a really nice conversation with @thebruhn (it’s impossible to be mad at anyone with an Australian accent) and they’re working to making things right. Cheers!
— Austin Beerworks (@AustinBeerworks) May 8, 2019
Instead of sending a fleet of expensive attorneys down to Texas to crush Austin Beerworks (let’s call that the Anheuser maneuver), Pabst admitted they stepped in it.
.@AustinBeerworks had an epic idea and put it into the world. Thanks for doing that. Ideas are hard and they don’t all stick. We haven’t officially announced the 99-pack, so here we are. We want to pay homage to the people who made this idea stick. Takes grit.
— Pabst Blue Ribbon (@PabstBlueRibbon) May 8, 2019
We don’t know what Austin Beerworks means by Pabst making it right, but it might entail collaboration. Or… the 198 pack???
In the spirit of innovation, we ask what packaging you want to see? Maybe we’ll even work with @austinbeerworks and really find a way to make it stick. Let us know. Reply to this tweet!
— Pabst Blue Ribbon (@PabstBlueRibbon) May 8, 2019
Ed note: Still verifying the source of the 99-pack image. If this is yours, contact us.
Easton, Pennsylvania based Weyerbacher Brewing has filed for Chapter 11. The brewery has sold a majority stock of the brewery to a private equity firm.
1518 Holdings LLC now holds a 55% majority stake in the brewery, a Philadelphia based firm that has a non-existent Google footprint. Going forward, Weyerbacher will undergo a series of changes. Josh Lampe, the son of the Weyerbacher co-founder will become the president of the brewery as a part of the restructuring.
According to Weyerbacher, the brewery is looking to add some contract brewing in order to make full use of the $2 million dollar brewing system the brewery installed in 2015. With this new cash infusion and future contract partners, Weyerbacher will be doubling their production in 2019.
Additionally, the brewery will add new locations presumably in Philadelphia or the immediate area, joining their two current locations, Easton and New Hope at the Ferry Market. Also, expect an expanded spirits lineup from the brewery’s distillery.
“We’re going to respect all of the tradition of Weyerbacher while continuing the work we’ve done over the last few years to keep innovating and creating great beer.” – Josh Lampe, Incoming Weyerbacher president
Weyerbacher started in 1995 by Dan Weirback in downtown Easton, Pennsylvania. The brewery currently has 30 full-time, and 20 part-time employees. Weirback will continue to consult as he has for the last 3 years.
Ballast Point Brewing, who was purchased for a whopping $1 billion dollars in 2015, is downsizing.
“Trade Street”, Ballast Point’s 80,000 square foot barrel-aging facility which includes a good bit of the brewery’s sour/wild ale program will close. Addtionally, the brewery’s Temecula, California location will also close.
Last night, a future ex-employee of Ballast Point Brewing contacted us at Beer Street Journal, speaking off the record in regards to the recent moves. Last August, Constellation surprised more than 60 people, some who had only worked for Constellation a few weeks (we know of folks that left other craft breweries for positions at Constellation just weeks) were all laid off. Constellation reportedly handed the craft sales over to the Modelo import team going forward.
These recent closures and job cuts are, what is characterized by our now unemployed Ballast Point source, as Constellation “right-sizing” the Ballast Point business wing. Or – Ballast Point was not profitable as-is. It’s corporate speak for firing people. This downsizing is seemingly a direct correlation to a reported $86 million dollar impairment charge Constellation recorded for Ballast Point trademarks last summer.
An impairment charge is entered as an expense in the profit & loss account. The carrying amount of the asset is reduced by the impairment amount. This reduces the company’s net worth or book value. The net profit, too, is adversely affected in the year the charge is made. In other words, Ballast Point was grossly overvalued by Constellation Brands, prompting this “right-sizing” move.
The future Ballast Point location in San Francisco has also been scrapped.
There is no confirmed number of the employees affected by the immediate closure of the Temecula location and gradual closure Trade Street facility.
Emails to Constellation have not been returned.