Fan with Google Trends: “Craft Brewery” displaced “Microbrewery” only a couple years ago

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.

craft micro brewery since 2004

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.

craft micro brewery geography

Fun with Google Trends: Hazy/New England IPAs are still hot, glitter beer is not

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:

Google searches for “Hazy IPA” (blue line), “NEIPA” (red line) and “New England IPA” (yellow line) over the past four years.

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.

hazy- New England IPA US Geography 5-27-2018
US Geography of searches for “Hazy IPA” (blue states) and “New England IPA” (yellow states)

On the other hand, glitter beer was the hot spring sensation, with Google searches for “glitter beer” peaking in March:

glitter beer 5-27-2018
Searches for “glitter beer” from the beginning of 2018 to present.

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.

Rambling Reviews 5.24.2018: Maiden in the Shade IPA from Ninkasi

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.

What’s that saying that writing about music is like dancing about architecture? That sums up my struggle to adequately describe this beer into words.

Google Trends and Cult Beers….now in The Full Pint

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”.

Talking with Brewmaster Joe Casey on the Gluten Reduced Beers of Omission Brewing

Some brewers strive to make the next killer IPA or to wow the world with all their culinary creativity.  For Omission Brewing’s Joe Casey, it was about simply giving people a chance to enjoy beer who otherwise couldn’t.

Omission Brewing was founded in 2012 as part of the Craft Brew Alliance (CBA) with a portfolio of gluten-reduced beers. Joe Casey, has been acutely aware of gluten-intolerance since 2005 when his wife was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. “Being a Brewmaster and knowing she wasn’t going to drink beer anymore, having something to fit that niche in her life became an interest to me”, explains Casey. “Prior to that, our company CEO at the time had been diagnosed with Celiac Disease. So I had both a personal and professional interest to see what we could do in terms of coming up with a beer they could both enjoy.”

Their first attempt started in 2007 using traditional gluten-free fermentables like sorghum, honey, and corn sugar.  “The beer was fine for what it what was, but it didn’t taste like the beer we were used to, the beer we wanted it to taste like,” recalls Casey.  The effort was put on hold until 2010 when Casey became aware of an enzyme called Brewers Clarex™ which breaks down gluten chains when added to the fermentation tank.

Brewers Clarex was released commercially in the mid-2000’s to reduce beer haze. “These haze proteins happened to be the gluten proteins found in barley, wheat and rye,” explains Casey. “As a side effect, they found it was digesting these gluten proteins to the point these beers could be labelled gluten reduced.” This gluten reduction process didn’t have any effect on the flavor, aroma, color or head retention.  After test batches and trials using the enzyme to create gluten reduced beer brewed with barley malt, CBA management green-lighted the project, and Omission Brewing launched in March of 2012, becoming the first large scale commercial brewery of its kind in the United States.

The initial reaction to Omission was immense. All sorts of people fighting gluten intolerance thanked them for allowing them to enjoy beer again. Joe Casey could once again share a beer with his wife.

OM_PALE_12ozBottle_040617_previewOmission’s line-up is rather straightforward and accessible, consisting of a Lager, Pale Ale, IPA, and recently released Ultimate Light, a low calorie, low carbohydrate Golden Ale.  Could Omission brew a high gravity beer like an Imperial Stout, or would that push their gluten removal process too hard?  “We haven’t really tried to push the boundaries on that. In theory, it’s possible,” explains Casey.  “We don’t have any desire to make a gluten removed Wheat Beer for example, that just doesn’t sound right. For us, that’s just pushing the boundaries just a little too far. We got the portfolio we have right now and it’s a very solid craft portfolio and we haven’t seen the need to go outside of that yet.”

I found the Omission beers surprisingly familiar. I expected them to be watery or have off-flavors, but detected none of that in the Pale Ale, Lager, and Ultimate Light brews I sampled. The Pale Ale was well balanced, with an orange citrus note, light sweetness, and tannic bitterness. Definitely a Pale Ale I’d reach for again. Lagers are a test for any brewery and Omission’s has a pleasant bready character with a background floral note.  It rates well among the new breed of lagers out there. As for the Ultimate Light, it’s clear, with a discernible cracker-like malt without any off-flavors and fizzy carbonation.

Ultimate Light was just released in response to changing consumer trends that occurred since 2012.  As Casey explains “When the brand first launched, we were really heavily targeted towards people that had medical necessities to avoid gluten and that’s still the foundation of the brand. But over time we’ve found there’s a large number of people who drink Omission just because they’ve decided to reduce gluten in their diet for reasons of choice. And that’s a much bigger market and there’s advantages to tap into that. It made sense to have a beer to fit into that healthy life-style category as well.”

While Omission chases food trends to grow their business, they continue their commitment to people with medical issues with gluten a website  where customers can download the test results from the batch of beer they’re drinking entering a code printed on the bottle. As Casey puts it, “Transparency is very important to us”. As May is Celiac Awareness month, let’s take a moment to realize simple pleasure like beer was out of reach for people with gluten intolerance. For many with that condition, that’s no longer the case thanks to breweries like Omission.

(I purchased Omission Pale Ale and Lager at local grocery stores for review.  Omission Brewing supplied samples of Ultimate Light. Joe Casey photo was taken by Sasquatch Agency. Product shot and Joe Casey photo used by permission of Omission Brewing Co.)



An Irregular PR at the Gr8ter Race

This morning I ran the Gr8ter Race, an eight mile race that starts in downtown Los Gatos, heads west on Highway 9 through residential neighborhoods to downtown Saratoga, which then doubles back to finish in downtown Los Gatos. The race was part of The Great Race, which starts in Saratoga and finishes in Los Gatos along the same course. The Gr8ter race is just The Great Race doubled.

Well, the good news I set my all time 8 mile PR. Never mind I’ve ever run an 8 mile race before. I finished in 53:18 which is about 6:39 per mile pace, not bad for a race full of rolling, nagging hills. None of the hills are particularly tough but it’s one of those courses where you’re always going either up or down. Considering I ran around 6:30 pace for five miles eight weeks ago on a much flatter course at the 408k, I’ll call this an improvement.

I would give you the blow by blow of the race, except I barely remember what happened out on the course just a few hours ago. Only about 100 people ran it, so the field thinned out pretty quickly.  After the first couple miles, I was pretty much by myself. Then I tired towards the end and with about 1 1/2 miles to go, a couple people caught me. I finished in the top ten, so I thought I might win the 50-59 age group, but it turns about a couple guys over 50 beat me. It’s great that old farts like us dominated the race, but then where were the young guys?

There a some races where you do well, creating that satisfying sense of accomplishment and excitement. Then there are bad races which you simultaneously try to learn from and forget at the same time. Then, there are others like the Gr8ter Race where you do OK and move on.

So the Gr8ter Race is over and done. On to the Across the Bay 12k held in San Francscio in six weeks.

finish gr8ter race

Rambling Reviews 4.19.2018: Figueroa Mountain’s Davey Brown, Santa Maria’s Julicious, and Firestone Walker’s Union Jane

davey brownOnce again, it’s time for another edition of Rambling Reviews. This time, the focus is on brews from California’s Central Coast.

Starting with Davey Brown for Figueroa Mountain Brewing, which is, as the name alludes to, a Brown Ale. When was the last time a Brown Ale made you go “Wow”? Now when was the last time a Brown Ale made you go “Wow” that wasn’t tricked up with all sorts of additions like cacao nibs or Kona coffee? It’s just a “regular” Brown, but with all sorts of layers of flavor. There’s noticeable coffee flavors, some nuttiness, caramel, and light smokey character.  Maybe Figueroa slipped some sort of spices or additions into this without admitting it on the bottle or their website, but it just has a few extra dimensions beyond the usual Brown Ale. Really impressive effort.

santa Maria juliciousNext up is Julicious IPA from Santa Maria Brewing.  Santa Maria calls this a New England Style IPA, but it didn’t look that cloudy to me and it’s fortified with pineapple juice. I picked up a bomber bottle of this last week on vacation on the Central Coast, which means it spent an afternoon in the warm trunk of my car all the way, a great way to tamp down those hop flavors. Despite these less than ideal storage conditions, this brew still retained plenty of fresh fruit flavors of pineapple and grapefruit, with sticky resin held up with some solid malt heft.

Last week’s vacation included a stop at Firestone Walker’s Tap Room in Paso Robles where they were pouring Union Jane IPA, a riff on their popular Union Jack.  Union Jane is a collaboration fundraiser with the Pink Boots Society, using a blend of Palisade, Simcoe, Mosaic and Citra Hops from YCH Hops  specifically for Pink Boots Collaboration Brew Day. This one has plenty of bright mango and citrus flavors yielding to a lightly piney finish. Unfortunately, it’s only seems to be available at the Firestone Walker tap room. We can only hope Firestone Walker realizes what it has on its hands and releases it for wider distribution.

fireston walker Union jane
Firestone Walker’s Union Jane

(Figueroa Mountain Brewing sent me a bottle of Davey Brown for review.)