Posts Tagged ‘craft beer’
Edible DC has Arrived in Washington, D.C. with a fantastic Bang of an Event – Drinks Invitational held on Thursday, February 19, 2015. I truly had a great time at the Drinks Invitational which both introduced and celebrated the craft spirits/craft drinks revival that’s occurring throughout the Washington, D.C. area and also around the U.S. More than just a tasting, this event was well-laid out, had decent food (which could actually be eaten as a full-meal – what a rarity at these events!) and a pleasant vibe.
I entered the event on a really cold evening – maybe it was 15 degrees Fahrenheit, but the wind was swirling and the area seemed bleak – it was so refreshing once I arrived that I decided just to take in the event and not to take too many notes or worry about the meaning of the event.
I didn’t get a chance to taste everything (I’ve had Catoctin Creek, Greenhat Gin, Lyon Distilling (which I tasted their really molasseseey Dark Rum back at the DC Rum-B-Que!) and Bloomery Sweetshine’s spirits in the past and they’re quite good!), so I focused more on newer products and things I hadn’t heard of like Charm City Meadworks. Everyone knows that Cider is hot right now, but Mead is probably the next up-and-comer. The problem with Mead may be it’s image and history – it was known as the drink of the Middle Ages..or maybe it was the Vikings – who knows, but it seems almost pre-historic. I sampled both their Wildflower Draft Mead at 6.9% ABV and their Rosemary Still Mead at 12% ABV – the latter was truly funky and delicious and very memorable – It wasn’t particularly sweet and the rosemary and other flavors from the fermented honey gave it a knotch up in flavor to say a hoppy craft beer. Keep an eye out for them – Mead is the next cider/craft beer!
Other drinks I tasted that caught my attention included the Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur that really tasted great in a Ginger Beer style cocktail, a really interesting Honeydew Jalapeño Shrub by Element Shrub , some great Root Beers by Thunder Beast , and a cool Cocktail with One Eight Distillings Ivy City Gin !
All In all, a really fantastic evening with cool cats company – I didn’t even mention that it was a people mix of hipster, foodie, and DC Intelligentsia..well, maybe not so much the latter, but being a Foodie, I can be pretty judgmental! Let’s just say that DC is really coming into it’s own on the culinary and drinks scene – we’re not really copying anyone anymore – we’ve created our own intense, cerebral, juxtaposed Cocktail scene which is putting us on the a distinctive map of Taste!
Charlie Adler, “I Drink on the Job”
DC Is Now a Craft Beer Festival Mecca..
March 8th, 2014 saw a new craft beer festival – DC Craft Beer Festival – Spring Seasonals Although a first year event, it was from the organizers of the New York Craft Beer Festival and they had plenty of experience organizing events – they also put together music festivals!
150+ beers and ciders to taste and a slightly new wrinkle – rather than a mini-beer glass, we tasted with a beer shot glass – smaller pours, but way more efficiency in pour management which made for quicker lines and the ability to actually sample 60+ beers without getting drunk and losing focus!
Breweries and Beers:
Alewerks Shorty Time
Bells WO Hearted
Duck Rabbit Milk Stout
Duck Rabbit Hoppy BUNNY
Founders All Day IPA
Great Lakes Conways
Great Lakes Commodore
Jacks Hele sns
Lagunitas Lil Sumpin
Mad River Steelhead Extra Pale
Mad River Stellhead Double IPA
New Holland Poet
New Holland mONKEY KING
New Hollanndd Full circle
North Coast Brother THELONIUS
North Coast Le Melrle
port City Wit
Port City Collosal 3
port City manaical
Speakeasy Big Daddy
Wild Wolf Alpha Ale
Wild Wolf Blonde HONEY
Boulevard pop up
Boulevard 80 acre
Foothills Hoppyum IPA
Foothills Torch Pilsner
Ommegang Rare Vos
Sam Adams Cold snap
Sam Adams Rebel IPA
Saranac Pale Ale
Shiner White Wing
Shiner FM 966
Starr Hill Bandstand
Starr Hill Grateful Pale Ale
Terrapin Rye Pale Ale
Angry Orchard Crisp
Angry Orchard Ginger
Woodchuck Reserve Pink
Anchor California Lager
Anchor Anchor Bock
Harpoon Long Thaw
New Belgium Fat Tire
New Belgium Snapshot
Dogfish Midas Touch
DogFISH 90 Minute IPA
Sierra Nevada Pale Ale
Sierra Nevada Torpedo
Firestone Walker Union Jack
Firestone Walker Wookey Jack
Heavy Seas Loose Cannon
Heavy Seas Black Cannon
Flying Dog Doggie Style
Flying Dog In Heat Wheat
Magic Hat Pistol
Magic Hat Dream Machine
Legend Brown Ale
Aviator Frost Nipper
Aviator Mad Beach American Wheat
Mother Earth Dunkel
Mother Earth Weeping Willow Witt
Blue Mountain Dark Hollow
Blue Mountain Local Species
Breckenridge Agave Wheat
Breckenridge Vesper French Saison
Brewers Art Ressurection
Brewers Art St. Festivus
Burley Oak Aboriginal Gangster
Burley Oak Bulletproof Tiger
Oliver Ales Watermelon Honey Wine
Oliver Ales Strawberry Hard Cider
Peak Organic King Crimson
Peak organic Pomegranite Wheat
Union Craft Old Pro Gose
Union Craft DuckPin
Stillwater Artisanal Folklore
Stillwater Artisanal As Follows
Fordham Rt 1 Session IPA
Fordham Gypsy Lager
Dominion Candi Belgian Triple
Dominion Oak Barrel Stout
Goose Island Sofie
Goose Island Illinois
Kona Big Wave
Widmer Columbia Common
Victory Swing Saison
Victory Dirt Wolf
Troegs Perpetual IPA
Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA
Smuttynose Robust Porter
Sweetwater Sweetwater 420
Omission Pale Ale
Devils Backbone Eightpoint IPA
Devils Backbone Pear Lager
Bold Rock Cider Apple
Bold Rock Cider VA
Natty Greenes Red Nose
Natty Greenes Old Town Brown
Natty Greenes Buckshot
Ace Cider Perry
Ace Cider Berry
Lone Rider Peacemaker pale ale
Lone Rider Sweet Josie Brown
Lone Rider Shotgun Betty Hefe
Union Market had a Memorable Craft Beer Shindig on Saturday, July 27th, 2013..
I attended the Eat Local First Farm to Street Party on a sunny day with a late outpour that brought true Foodies together..Capital Kombucha, Route 11 Potato Chips, Uncle Brutha’s Hot Sauce, Vigilante Coffee and a whole slew of local foodies, artisans, restaurants and craft beers all came together to create a true Foodie Gathering!
Recent List of Local beers served at the Union Market “Eat Local First” Block Party –
3 Stars Citra & Lemon Peel Saison
Blue Mountain Full Nelson Pale Ale
Brewer’s Art Parking Lot Beer
DC Brau The Tradition
Devils Backbone Vienna Lager
Dogfish Head Festina Peche
Evolution Lot 3 IPA
Flying Dog UnderDog
Franklin’s Mandarin Summer
Heavy Seas Loose Cannon
Lost Rhino Meridian Kolsch
Mad Fox Post Meridian Schwarzbier
Monocacy Riot Rye
Oliver Modern Life Is Rubbish
Port City Optimal Wit
Stillwater Cellar Door
Troegs Perpetual IPA
Union Balt Altbier
I enjoyed quite a few of the beers – 6 to be exact, but I had recently tried the Stillwater Cellar Door at Birreria in Georgeotwn, and I’ve had the Port City Optimal Wit many times at local bars. Since it’s Summer, most of the offerings were lighter, lower in alcohol beers to refresh – it was about 90 degrees until the rains came!
Overall, the crowd was pretty young – I would say even younger than the average Union Market crowd, and I would assume that’s because of the nature of the event: an outdoor affair with great craft beers. To really tell you what it was like is impossible – the new DC Foodie and craft beer scene has to be experienced..so many people with exciting ideas, lofty goals and unique perspectives on what the future will hold. Looking at a crystal ball, my first assumption is that coffee is really happening – quite a few companies are opening roasting facilities soon and I’ll keep readers up to date on that. Kombucha is here and with over 3 vendors at the event, I think you’ll start seeing more in markets. The one question spot is food delivery – will people engage in websites that deliver specific ingredients with recipe instructions (I’m extremely skeptical) or more general delivery of food..it’s hard to say, but it’s also hard to know – personally, I still shop for all my ingredients at local stores, but honestly the strange behavior of shoppers (weird outbursts, unfriendly staff, and frankly limited selections) may change that for me soon – who knows..
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
Saturday, December 15th, 2012 marked 3 Stars Brewery’s launch into the world of Art and Beer with their new Mural at their 6400 Chillum Place Brewery and a Who’s Who of DC Food and Drink Artisans.
This was a DC Foodie Scene:
-I finally tried (and met the owners of DC’s First Distillery) Green Hat Gin – I really like their blend of spices with alot of Indian spice like cardamom and interestingly it reminded me alot of Pisco. Michael Lowe and John Uselton were both there and I could feel their enthusiasm for DC’s first Distillery in many years. Currently, they offer the chance to work their bottling line at the Distillery, but we talked about a more in-depth class like a Distilling 101, more news soon..
-Qualia Coffee’s Joel Finkelstein was sampling his off-premise brand “Fresh Off the Roast” and talking about his recent tasting with some DC Local Press – Here’s the article from Tim Carman over at WaPo about Joel’s indignation over the lack of quality crafted coffee in DC Restaurants
-I sampled some of Righteous Cheese ‘s well, cheeses, and chatted with the Founder Carolyn Stromberg about the need for more cheese classes in DC. Her schedule is so busy and a retail cheese shop is so demanding of her time, that she felt she could only do a limited number, but expect to see more in 2013.
–3 Stars was pouring Pandemic Porter, Southern Belle, Peppercorn Saison, Sea Change Pale Ale, Winter Madness, Global Pandemic (Bulleit barrel-aged Pandemic Porter (aged six months from the first brew in the brewery) blended with fresh Pandemic Porter) and all were delicious – I definitely remember the oak, vanilla and smoke of the last beer which would be perfect with some BBQ pork ribs! Dave Coleman was having a great time with the release of the new mural made by local artist Kendra Kuliga – I also noticed that the warehouse space had room for expansion..sort of a hint?
–Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore’s was slicing up some salty and delicious brisket as well as some briney Edwards Virginia Hams (which remind me alot of Spain’s Serrano Ham).
-Sampled some charcuterie with Three Little Pigs co-owner Carolina Gomez – she told me the store would be closed much of January because she’ll be getting married.
–Gordy’s Pickles Sheila Fain spoke with me about the phenomenal growth of her spears and how Whole Foods was carrying them in all of their DC markets. I had to bring up the curious local connection of Rob Duncan of Dolcezza creating a special Thai basil jalapeño sorbetto, featuring Thai basil jalapeños from Gordy’s Pickle Jar
Rappahanock Oysters was tasting some of their wonderful salty Virginia oysters. I’m hoping they do more tasting events and dinners in Washington, D.C. – Although we have one major oyster fest (Oyster Riot at Old Ebbitt Grille), there is definitely enough demand for more events around oysters and easily we could pair them with other local artisan products..speaking of which..
There were also Cocktails by Nick Nazdin of El Chucho & Carlo Bruno of Sidebar, but by this point I was so looped, that I had no palate to speak of!
A fun time had by all and a very good idea for future new concept events – maybe we could do a DC Brew and Oyster Fest, or a DC Cocktail Expo, or even a Chesapeake Wine and Oyster Fest..there are a myriad of possibilities and definitely the demand is there for these type of Foodie Experiences – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
WTOP Beer of the Week: 3 Stars Brewery Pandemic Porter
w/Greg Engert, Beer Sommelier of Neighborhood Restaurant Group
Last year in 2011, two new breweries opened up in Washington, D.C. – this after almost 60 years without a brewery to call our own. Yes, we have Brew Pubs like Capitol City Brewpub, District Chophouse, and Gordon Biersch, but a true brewery produces beer in quantity for off-premise consumption. With the openings of DCBrau on April 15th, 2011 (great article by Tammy Tuck/Lagerheads) and Chocolate City Beer on August 18th, 2011, the DC Beer Scene had something to Celebrate – Local Pride! You will hear over and over again if you live in the DC area that there are few natives, almost everyone who lives here comes for a job/career and the assumption is they may not be here for much longer than a few years. The sign of a good economy is a mobile economy – this is true, but employees are human and they need to identify with something. This is where the locavore movement came to be: the concept that by eating local, and supporting local businesses, you help the local economy and develop a sense of community pride. DC’s local breweries tapped into this need for local identity – just consider their company names and the names of their beers, for example, DC Brau’s The Corruption and The Citizen.
I also want to mention that DC doesn’t always mean “District of Columbia” to us locals – NoVa (Northern Virginia) and Montgomery County (sometimes Prince George’s County too!) in Maryland all make up our local craft beer market – Baltimore is a whole different story. Port City Brewery opened up in 2011 with a bang and from a slightly different angle – yes, Alexandria, VA needed a Brewery (or 2..) but the background of Port City’s founder is really the story of the evolution of a wine professional into a craft beer brewer. During my days in the wine business, I often saw Bill Butcher, Port City’s Founder, at Mondavi tastings promoting the wine lifestyle. And that’s what wine marketing is really about – lifestyle. People who purchase wine tend to have a higher income (or they did a decade ago), are well educated, and pretty much define the commonly used term today “aspirational” – they have money, but dream of a higher status, and Mondavi/wine perfectly fit into this cozy scenario. But beer is different, even craft beer. What Bill did is create a local brand that gives and identity to Northern Virginia that it needed – a sense of place. SEE LIST OF PAID EVENTS BELOW
Quick Info Resources:
- DC Beer Week 2012 from the DCBeer people
- Washington City Paper (considered the Official List)
- Washington Post (Fritz Hahn)
Some events that feature local breweries or paid events to plan ahead for include:
3rd Annual DC Beer Week Craft Beer & Dinner Cruise on the Odyssey, August 12th (Sunday) boards the Odyssey at 5 pm, sets sail 6-9 pm
Enjoy unlimited tastings of more than 40 craft beers from across the US and around the world Included in the cost of admission is a full dinner buffet, DJ, dancing and a 3-hour cruise along the Potomac as we pass the majestic skyline of the nation’s capital. Cost is $125, tickets will not be available at the door, but can be purchased here.
-Italian Craft Beer Tasting
August 12th (Sunday) 2:30-4:30pm
Maple, 3418 11th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20010
Maple is hosting an afternoon tasting of craft brews from Italy. The country’s vibrant beer scene has rapidly expanded in recent years,
but the beers are not yet widely available in the U.S. Join us to sample six Italian beers and learn about the breweries behind them.
Antipasti will be served. Beer List
Tickets Are $40/per person, exclusive of tax and gratuity
Please reserve your spot by calling us at 202-588-7442.
–Meridian Pint: Cheese and Oxbow Beer – August 13th (Monday) 6:30pm
Meridian Pint – 3400 11th Street NW
Join Tim Adams, co-founder and head brewer of Oxbow Brewing Company, and Tim Prendergast, Assistant Beer Director at the Meridian Pint and a Certified Cicerone®, for a casual afternoon exploration of Oxbow beers and American artisanal cheese. Through five pairings, you will see the amazing affinity that Oxbow’s farmhouse beers and artisanal cheese have for one another. $45 includes tax and gratuity. Buy your tickets here http://goo.gl/STeiK. Save $10 when you also purchase tickets for Smoke & Barrel’s “Beer Meat Whiskey: Utah Edition” event http://goo.gl/Wy47z.
-5-Course Ommegash it’s Allagang Beer Dinner, August 14 at 7 p.m.
Granville Moore’s, 1238 H St. NE, Washington, DC 20002Portland, Maine’s Allagash Brewing Co. and Cooperstown, N.Y.’s Brewery Ommegang provide the beer for this dinner with food pairings by Granville Moore’s Chef Teddy Folkman and his culinary team. Complete Menu Tickets Are $65/per person, Call For Menu and Reservations (202) 399-2546
– SOLD OUT-DC Brau’s Genuine 1st Annual Official DC Beer Week Crab Festival Monumental Extravaganza, August 15th (Wednesday) 5 – 10 pm
Quarterdeck Restaurant, 1200 Fort Myer Drive, Arlington, VA 22209
SOLD OUT-Please help DC BRAU celebrate indigenous beer and these indigenous mid-Atlantic delicacies – All you can eat crabs and DC Brau Discount Pitchers of Beer. Tickets Are $35/per person, Purchase Tickets Online
–Smoke and Barrel: Beer, Meat, and Whiskey: Utah Edition – August 15th (Wednesday) 7pm
Join Michael Malachowski, National Sales Manager of Epic Brewing, and Troy Karnes, Passionate Whiskey Missionary from High West Distillery, for an hour of exploration into pairing meat with Utah beer and whiskey. Executive Chef and pitmaster Logan McGear will offer three distinct meat plates each paired with an Epic brew and a High West concoction.
$45 includes tax and gratuity. Save $10 when you also purchase tickets to Meridian Pint’s Cheese & Oxbow Beer event. Details at http://goo.gl/58rNY. Tickets and menu available here:
–Mad Fox Brewing Company: Cask Beer Dinner August 15th (Wednesday)
Mad Fox Brewing Company – 444 West Broad Street – Falls Church
Five course beer dinner featuring Mad Fox’s cask beers. $75/person.
-Hopfenstark Guided Beer Tasting, Thursday, August 16, Georgetown, 7pm
Pizzeria Paradiso (Georgetown), 3282 M Street NW, Washington DC 20007
Featuring a guided tasting of 10 Hopfenstark beers by brewmaster Frederick Cormier
$35 for 10 three ounce pours & your choice of 1 twelve ounce pour paired with its own Special Pizza
Call 202-337-1245 for Reservations (Required)
Complete Menu of Beers
–District Chophouse: 2nd Annual Cask Night – August 16th (Thursday) 6pm
District Chophouse – 509 7th Street NW , Washington, D.c.
Featuring Handcrafted Casks from over 15 Local Area Breweries, including DC Brewers Beer Week Collaboration Beer: Solidarity Saison, Bluejacket, DC Brau, 3 Stars Brewing Company, District Chophouse, and many more! $50 ticket includes: unlimited beer sampling, light Chophouse fare, tasting glass, raffle prizes. Reserve tickets by calling 202-347-1922
–Smoke and Barrel: Crab Feast with Evolution and 3 Stars Brewing Companies, August 17th (Friday)
Smoke and Barrel – 2471 18th Street NW, Washington, D.C.
Tom Knorr, founder of Evolution Craft Brewing, is driving down bushels of Maryland Blue Crabs straight from the shore. Join him and the guys from 3 Stars Brewing for an all-you-can-eat crab feast. $45 covers tax and gratuity, as well bottomless Evolution and 3 Stars drafts from 6-8PM! Tickets available here: http://goo.gl/Tvj7i
–Bier Baron: Midsummer Barleywine Festival , August 17th (Friday) 7pm
Bier Baron – 1523 22nd Street NW , Washington, D.C.
The Bier Baron will be releasing its Cellar Reserve List—featuring its extensive collection of rare and vintage beers—and hosting a vertical tasting of four select vintages of Anchor Old Foghorn. Tickets can be purchased at BierBaronDC.com ($40 online/$50 at the door). Ticket includes entry to the event, a vertical tasting of Old Foghorn starting with an entire bottle of vintage 1991, and 20% off everything on the Cellar List and vintage barley wines on draft. Purchase Tickets Online (Paypal)
More to Come!
So what is “Real Ale” and what is a Real Ale Festival?
Please Note: I went to the Chesapeake Real Ale Fest 2011 which you can read about below, but I also want to mention that I’m planning a DC Based Real Ale Fest some time in late 2011. My next local Real Ale Festival is in Bel Air, MD, in early September – you can purchase tickets at: Real Ale Festival
My Quest for “Real Ale”?
This was my mission on Saturday, May 14th, 2011 as I visited the Chesapeake Real Ale Fest 2011 at the Pratt Street Ale House in Baltimore, MD. To make things even more interesting, my Verizon DSL, phone and FAX were under repair for the 3rd day – seems that 3 visits from Verizon Repair Techs couldn’t resolve the problem – the concept that the phone line had actually been cut was confirmed by Tech 1, but seemed to baffle Tech 2..until he went up on the Poll and confirmed that..OK, back to Real Ale..
My curiosity with Real Ale has alot to do with my background in wine – in wine, the concept of “terroir” or the “placeness” of wine (some would call it “micro-climate”, but that’s over-simplified..) is an integral factor in the taste and composition of wine. Wine is alive and represents all the factors involved with grapes and wine-making – including yeast. Real Ale is very much about the yeast – keeping them alive and allowing them to flourish and remain alive and change the flavors in the beer. But first, let’s clear up a few terms and concepts..
What Is Real Ale?
From Wikipedia: Real ale is the name coined by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in 1973 for a type of beer defined as “beer brewed from traditional ingredients, matured by secondary fermentation in the container from which it is dispensed, and served without the use of extraneous carbon dioxide“.
Real Ale = Cask Ale?
YES -Right from Wikipedia: Cask ale or cask-conditioned beer is the term for unfiltered and unpasteurised beer which is conditioned (including secondary fermentation) and served from a cask without additional nitrogen or carbon dioxide pressure. Cask ale may also be referred to as real ale, a term coined by the Campaign for Real Ale, often now extended to cover bottle-conditioned beer as well.
Is “Bottled-Conditioned” Beer the Same as Real Ale?
Yes – Bottled conditioned ale has living yeast that will generally consume and alter the aging compounds in a beer, making it evolve instead of degenerate with age. Thus, some bottled conditioned ales could be of over ten years of age, evolving in flavor during that time.
If My Ale Isn’t Real, Is it Fake? This is very similar to the argument about wines that having no terroir or character because they’ve been over-manipulated by man – I don’t believe that’s true, because a good brewer just like a good winemaker can take good ingredients and make them taste excellent. Making wine or beer is a talent that can be learned and is not wholly based on the raw ingredients – then again, if the grapes had a difficult growing season or the Hops are used incorrectly, that will have an outcome on the final product. The good news is that beer producers have choices on how their final product tastes – West Coast brewers LOVE hops, while other brewers ususally use hops more sparingly. And then there are breweries that use local hops, possibly even organic hops. The same goes with grains – brewers can choose many different grains like wheat and barley, and where they are produced. Ultimately, beer is more about the brewer’s style, while wine is a split between the quality of the grape harvest and the winemaker. Ultimately, the consume must decide.
Me? Well, I drink Real Ales when possible because I like the often sour notes or unusual flavor conditions of the beer for a truly unique drinking experience! Do I think Real Ale will someday surpass those of regular beers? No – and why should they – to enjoy something unique, special and unusual is all about the personal experience, and no one wants those to be copied..just like individuality, craft beer should be enjoyed simply for the experience occasionally, but most of the time it really just quenches my thirst – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
I haven’t forgotten my dear Blog readers..just needed some Summer time off to re-visit, re-invent, and re-think; I think everyone deserves a little time off for reflection. Nothing earth shattering, just a chance to travel a bit (short soul searching trip to Durham and Nagshead North Carolina, gotta tan out of the deal!) and look back. Conclusion? Sit tight, there are changes going on in the U.S. in general and in the food and wine industry as well. Here are some ongoing and new trends I’ve noticed:
1) Restaurant portions are getting larger..and larger
I was at the Fancy Food show in NYC and mentioned to an exhibitor how I don’t enjoy going out to eat at restaurants as much as I used to because the portions are so large – I hate wasting all that food or taking it with me. The reply was interesting..they asked me if I had seen the size of the new dinner plates being offered by many restaurants, they were on display at a restaurant supplier’s booth – they were Serving Tray Size! Call it the Cheesecake Factory effect, but many existing chains as well as standard American restaurants will be using bigger entree plates. Conclusion: the American waste size will just keep getting bigger..
2) The Food Truck Craze is Amazing!
I’m by no means an expert on this, but I think it suggests a longer term trend. If more and more food trucks hit the streets, then restaurants are going to have to compete on price, value and variety as well The trucks offer such a diverse array of foods, we even have a Korean Taco food truck on the streets of Washington, D.C. People often wait 45 minutes or more when they could easily sit in a restaurant, get service and finish their meal in the same amount of time. Why people prefer this method of food delivery is hard to say, but one reason is most likely the rare chance for people to physically interact. As we get more computer and technology oriented in our daily lives, there will be more need and excuses for real human contact.
3) Craft Beer is Hot
I somehow missed this trend – pretty ironic when you consider that I make a living organizing wine and food events over at TasteDC. Again, what causes a trend like this is hard to determine, but I have an inkling that it may be a reverse trend. Craft beer attracts slightly more men than women overall, but it’s not a significant percentage difference, or at least it isn’t lopsided. On the other hand, the number of women’s events in the DC area is astonishing – every week there are many fashion, women-only networking, plus the fact that stores offer much more selection for women – I even found a yoga store that is exclusively for women! All men have left is sports, restaurants and..beer! With more and more dollars being spent by women FOR women (vs. as gifts by women for men), expect to see more “male oriented” food and beverage trends. Craft beer fits perfectly because most boys/men are brought up with beer, and craft beer’s demographics are higher income, better educated and more traveled.
I’ll keep searching for new trends, but hopefully this gives a snapshot or taste of what’s going on in our world of food and beverages – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
When I first began putting this article together, I really wanted to understand cider – no, not the stuff you drank as a kid, and not really the “hard cider” concoction mass-marketed in the U.S. for people who want alcohol but have a sweet tooth – I’m talking about the “artisanal” ciders produced in Brittany, France, parts of Britain and now the U.S. Farnum Hill Ciders seemed like a good place to start and the fact that they were willing to “donate” some samples to my tasting cause (tax man-I drank them as a “charity” to my spirits!) certainly made the journey to understanding worth it. I tasted (more like consumed!) the Kingston Black Reserve and the Extra Dry. Yes, both of them had aromatics reminiscent of apples, but just as in wine, there is so much more to the nose. Well-made artisanal products have intense aromas and I noticed quite a bit of spice – or was that the fact that I associate apples with cinnamon and clove? Ahh, the brain, such a wonderful organ, it adds immense complexity to everything, especially when it comes to olfactory powers! What screamed out of the glass (mug?) of the Kingston Black was a yeastiness reminiscent of Belgian Lambics. The finish was dry as a bone on both products and you could see right through each glass of cider – they are obviously filtered. Conclusion: I need to learn more about cider before I evaluate them, so I contacted Farnum Hill’s Corrie Martin (Director of Marketing and Strategy).
Cider: Closer to Wine or Beer?
My conclusion from the interview is that “cider” is a great product and has a significant “potential” audience, the problem is getting the message to them! The dilemma is whether cider is more like beer or wine when it comes to marketing the product? Farnum Hill uses the same yeast strain that is used to make Champagne – so check-mark on the the wine side. Corrie mentioned that the market for the product and the retail shelf location tends to be near Belgian beers in the refrigerated section – two check-marks for beer. Much of the marketing is geared towards Champagne lovers – another check-mark for wine. Apples have “terroir” like wine grapes do, but apples are grown generally in cooler regions where beer is consumed as in Britain and northern France – check-marks on both side. When it comes to pairing, wine, beer and cider all have their pluses and minuses. In other words, cider has some image hurdles to jump before it can reach its intended audience.
So after the interview, I have some thoughts about cider and it’s place in American consuming culture. As Corrie mentioned: “cider is a farm drink”, it’s an agricultural product, a product of the earth. I think this is an important point: wine is portrayed to the American consumer as a “cultural” product. Yes, vines are grown in the fields and grapes ripen based on sun, heat and other elements, but there’s a bit of the “liquid poetry” and the expression of the earth story line. I don’t picture wine makers in overalls, even though that’s probably how they do their job, I picture them in a tasting room, evaluating. If you’ve ever been to France at wine trade tastings, it’s coat and tie, and frankly it’s a bit stuffy. Add the English culture to the wine equation with connoisseurs, sommeliers, and Clarets and wine is part of the aristocratic tradition. Even the British wine critics are bery, bery British, I mean watch your P’s and Q’s, thank you very much!
Beer on the other hand, is a more industrial product, and even on the “micro”/craft level, I picture engineers in jeans playing with test tubes, measuring the hops and talking about ABV. Even high-end beers are enjoyed by jean-clad, t-shirt wearing beer geeks who often produce the product in their cellars at home. You never hear the term “craft” relating to wine, it’s “craft beer” – you can make this stuff, buy the right ingredients, get your yeasts, a few instruments and heck, you can make the good stuff! The biggest differentiation is when you attend a premium wine festival vs. a beer festival. Wine is more dressed-up, beer is more casual in dress as well as attitude. You “have” a beer, never wine. Wine has plenty of accessories: corkscrews, glassware, stoppers, aerators, preservation systems and the list goes on; beer needs a church key and a glass, you’re good to go!
So where does cider fit – and is that “hard cider”? My conclusion is that cider’s strength’s are closer to beer’s. Yes, apples vary from year to year like the quality of grapes, but cider is not a product that needs aging, and it preserves better refrigerated, so it most likely will be found in your retail outlet either in the domestic beer section or near the Belgian beers. Most cider will probably be marketed as dry or off-dry (that’s another consideration – how many people “perceive” cider to be sweet – that’s a marketing hurdle all by itself!) and possibly even looks similar to Champagne in color and bubble, but it just drinks more like beer! The alcohol level is in the 6-8% range (generally, very generally!) so that makes it a consumable closer to beer for practical purposes – you can have a mug of cider/beer of 12 to 16 oz. and still walk-away – the equivalent consumption of wine might take you over the legal limit, again, another consideration.
So now I add the weird question: when would I drink cider? Does it replace some of my wine consumption, or more of my beer drinking? I drink wine with food – period. Beer to me is an excellent stand-alone beverage, something I often drink when smoking meats, in fact, I use it as a cooking timer – ribs are ready after 2 or 3 beers, brisket the same, but add a 1-hour nap. I’m basing the beer equation on an approximate 12 oz. beer, many of the ciders are sold in 750 ml’s which is just over 25 oz..oh, that’s 2 beers, right! I often add beer and apple cider vinegar when I braise my BBQ to finish it for an extra hour or two – hey, again, cider is perfect, it saves me one step! Oh, and I love to make wine vinegar with any leftover wine, now I can make artisanal cider vinegar. Another double benefit for me. Cider will take away some of my beer consumption, but virtually none of my wine consumption. I drink beer maybe once a week, but wine literally every day, usually lunch and dinner, so a few bottles of cider a month suffice for my personal consumption. Another plus, is it doesn’t effect my Scotch/Rum/Bourbon consumption – a true relief to me!
Image is everything when it comes to marketing a product, especially when you are trying to reach the “up market” demographics that cider is reaching. The bottle shape, size, closure (cork or cap?), the location in the store, the design and text of the label will all have an enormous effect on the perception of cider. The trick is to be associated with a competitive product that has the high-end image the producer is seeking. Champagne has this image as well as wine, but so does craft beer. If I pour cider in a fancy thin flute, you might sip it differently than you would if I poured it in a 16 oz. pint glass, in fact, I guarantee you will treat it differently. Still, Belgian beers have been relatively successful at marketing themself, and the consumer will drink Belgians in pints or in special glasses, I’m not sure if it makes significant difference in the products perception? Personally, I like the idea of a group of casually dressed people in a Pub with old-fashioned blue-collar ceramic mugs drinking frothy ciders and singing old English songs of a time gone by. I actually like the blue-collar image of cider – it’s sort of a nostalgia thing, kind of like the return of the Hamburger joint in the U.S. – yes, the hamburger’s recipe has been updated with better cheeses, Kobe beef, homemade ketchup and fries fried in olive oil, but it still brings back memories of a simpler more casual time. When I drink my Champagne, I want my Champagne, but when I drink my cider, I want to just be cave-man me!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler