We’re coming full circle. Multinational Brewing Corporations like AB-InBev are at trying to transition away from being completely dependent on largely tasteless light lagers, mostly by buying up smaller breweries to expand their portfolio. On the other hand highly respective brewing pioneers like Sierra Nevada are now “innovating” by releasing fairly tasteless brews. That’s my conclusion after drinking BFD, which Sierra Nevada helpfully informs us stands for “Beer for Drinking”.
They say it’s a hoppy Blonde Ale, but I didn’t perceive much hops. Or anything else. There’s nothing really wrong with BFD, just nothing really right with it. It’s just sort of…well, beer. Sierra Nevada can do the “light stuff” well. Kellerweis and Nooner Pilsner are mighty fine brews.
One suspects BFD was largely concocted in a meeting room rather than on a brewery floor. It’s packaging is suspiciously similar to Firestone Walker’s 805, a break-out hit I find equally underwhelming. I guess Sierra Nevada decided to put three big letters on their cans, to differentiate their product from Firestone Walker’s, which has three big numbers. How creative.
Is releasing minimal tasting beer to capture more market share the new thing for breweries like Sierra Nevada? If so, that’s a big fucking deal.
The Across the Bay 12k I ran this morning is a race of two distinct halves. The first half starts on a winding road in Sausalito, takes a series of switchbacks to climb up the Golden Gate Bridge, crosses the Golden Gate Bridge, and then takes a bike trail down hill to Fort Point. That’s about four miles of hills and turns. Then, it’s about a 3.5 mile straight shot to the finish in San Francisco’s Aquatic Park.
My plan was to get to the mid-point of the Golden Gate Bridge feeling pretty good to take advantage of the down hills. And that seemed to be working, as the hill climbing 2nd mile didn’t seem so bad, and as I crested the Golden Gate Bridge a third of the way into the race, I was feeling all right. Time wise, I had no idea how I was doing since my GPS watch was having trouble finding the satellites until I got onto the Golden Gate Bridge. So far, so good with a little bit of a timing hiccup.
The bad news was that by the time I got down to Fort Point, I was still hanging in there but couldn’t find another gear. From Fort Point to the finish, I passed a women in front of me and was gaining on a pack of 2-3 at the finish, but never could quite catch up with them despite pressing hard the whole way on the flat section. Of course, that’s a lot better than falling apart over those 3 1/2 miles and getting passed by a bunch of people
I crossed the finish line is 50:04, good for 6:40 pace. Next up, in two weeks I’ll run my first mile race since my high school and college days at the One Mile Bang, a point-to-point road mile in Los Gatos. Given most of my training has been distance runs with some tempo work thrown in, I ought to be suitably unprepared for it.
By now, you’ve probably heard of the passing of food journalist Tony Bourdain. If it weren’t for him, this blog might never have happened. I write about beer because it matters. Bourdain played a big part in showing me how.
An incredibly gifted story-teller, he showed us how food matters because in the ways he connected food to people all over the world in ways we never realized. His breakthrough book “Kitchen Confidential” changed the way we looked at restaurants because of all the insightful and sometimes inconvenient facts he shared about the people and their struggles to transform raw ingredients out of sight in the kitchen into the food we either quietly enjoy or slurp down without thinking very much about how it got there. On his TV food travel documentaries, he comfortably co-existed with both high-end French gastronomy or street vendors in crowded cities with surprising ease. In a world weary but enthusiastic voice, we’d listen to him talk about his travels to some part of the globe, watching him as he succinctly captured the culture of where ever he was at over a few meals with locals. How he did it so effortlessly, yet with such inexhaustible curiosity and passion was something none of us ever understood.
Unlike much of food writing, he never hesitated in taking on political issues. He showed that the simple act of eating manifested itself in numerous practices and cultural traditions all over the world, even though that all come from the same basic desires and needs. Unfortunately, that truth he uncovered is in itself an uncomfortable political statement all too frequently.
Since he died by his own hand, I can’t avoid the temptation to speculate why. Whatever demons were haunting him, I have to think he was running away from them by spending over 200 days a year all over the globe filming his shows. Where we might see a simple restaurant, perhaps Bourdain saw them as places of refuge where he could withdraw from whatever pain he was dealing with, places he could feel truly alive and share that experience with the world. I can see Bourdain, tired and broken down in a hotel room after decades of this personal battle, muttering “Fuck it, I’m just too old for this shit” and ending it all.
Rest in peace Tony, and thank you for showing us the way.
To my ears, the word “Microbrewery” seems like a quaint relic of the 1990’s. While the “What does it mean to be a craft brewery?” discussions seem endless, and in my opinion, a bit pointless, it seems like the term “craft brewery” has left “microbrewery” in the dust a years ago. But it hasn’t. If you look at the frequency of Google search terms for “micro brewery”, “craft brewery” and “microbrewery” since 2004, you’ll find searches for “craft brewery” over took “microbrewery” search around 2016.
Maybe I find find the word “microbrewery” dated because I live in California. If you look at Google searches for “microbrewery”, “craft brewery” and “micro brewery” over the past 12 months, you’ll see that “microbrewery” is largely a Midwestern term, while “craft brewery” is more prevalent on the coasts.
Perhaps the two hottest beer trends this year are the continued growth of Hazy / New England IPAs and the emergence of the polarizing glitter beers. Looking over the last four years of Google Trends searches of Hazy IPA / NEIPA / New England IPA shows they are still hot, and arguably getting hotter:
In addition, as I noted earlier, “Hazy IPA” is largely a West Coast term for these juicy tasting unfiltered IPAs, while “New England IPA” is used predominantly in the Central and Eastern United States, and these regional uses of the terms continues.
On the other hand, glitter beer was the hot spring sensation, with Google searches for “glitter beer” peaking in March:
Glitter beer searches have basically dropped back into the noise. Is glitter beer dead? I’m not sure I’d write it off as a one-time fad but for now, people aren’t looking for them on Google.
Some of the best beers are the hardest to describe. I’d say that applies to Maiden in the Shade IPA, a summer release from Ninkasi Brewing Company Brewed with no fewer than eight different hops (Summit, Centennial, Simcoe, Columbus, Crystal, Palisade, Amarillo, and Magnum), it has a complex flavor profile I best describe as floral and a bit tropical with no particular flavor dominating. It ends with a light, resiny pine finish. Flaked barely smooths out the body. The hops are front and center, but it’s not this big lupulin assault. I’d hesitate to say it’s an easy drinking IPA, because it’s not that. It’s just an easier drinking IPA than it has any right to be, given all the massive hop additions. Drinking it on my back patio was just like sipping a glass of hoppy sunshine.
If you were wondering where a recent post where I showed Google searches for cult beers have largely peaked a few years ago, I approached The Full Pint early this week to see if they were interested in running the story. And they were, so they did. I’m pretty enthusiastic about getting a wider audience for the work, especially since it took a while to research and I’ve already gotten so pretty interesting feedback from readers, something I rarely received in my quiet little corner of the internet. You can check it out here: “Interest in Cult Beers May Have Peaked According to Google Trends”.