I am extremely excited about our next live video. I’ve wanted to do something about women in the local beer industry for many years now. But I never felt that interviewing them and writing down their words was good enough. As soon as Jesse and I started doing the videos I thought we had the right format for what I wanted. After the Beer Bubble panel at Brink, I realized that we definitely had the right format. This way Jesse and I can set up the live video and then get out of the way and let some incredibly intelligent women talk.
Quaff Bros. is a gypsy beer label from Cincinnati, and now across Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. It’s been three years since my post helping you know your local brewery. There have been some changes at Quaff Bros that we’re going to get into, but rest assured, the future is bright and blue (melvin)!
Both of those lists are now hilariously out of date. The best example of this is that Rhinegeist isn’t on either list as they weren’t open yet. I initially sat down to write an update for Ohio’s part in the Six-Pack Project but remembered the difficulty in narrowing an entire state down into six beers. So, I decided to settle down to just a Cincinnati Six-pack, plus a few from Dayton. I also reached out to Pat at Pat’s Pints in Columbus and Rick Armon at The Ohio Beer Blog in Akron/Cleveland. They’ll both be doing similar posts covering their parts of Ohio in the next few weeks.
If homebrewing is a bike, then a 2-vessel brewhouse is your average car, and a 4-vessel brewhouse is a Tesla Roadster. Everyone learns to ride a bike and does so for many years. Many people graduate to cars, usually some cheap or used ride to get them around. Then, finally, a very few get something as profoundly bad ass as a Tesla.
I’ve lost count of all the breweries I’ve visited in the past 11 years, from folks as small as DogBerry to as big as Sierra Nevada. What I can still count, on my hands, is the number of breweries I’ve been to with a 4-vessel brewhouse. To learn more about what a 4-vessel brewhouse is, and their difference from 2-vessel systems, I headed down to Rhinegeist to talk to Head Brewer Jim Matt.
It is hard to find classes to learn about beer, and even harder to find ones with great teachers. Luckily two of our local breweries have started just such classes!
The Bird Haus Beer Series
The Bird Haus bills itself as “Cincinnati’s migrating classroom” where different organizations in the community will host classes on whatever they’re good at. In this case, Rhinegeist is hosting a series of 3 classes: The History of Rhinegeist, All of the Senses, and Study Abroad English Style Ales. I wasn’t aware of the History of Rhinegeist class, but as soon as I learned about All of the Senses I snapped up tickets. An off-flavor class hosted by Rhinegeist head brewer and BJCP National level judge Jim Matt? I’m there!!
Jim led us through the brewing process before pouring us samples of the off-flavors. He used Cougar as the base beer then added different chemicals to it to create a few common off-flavors.
We got to try each off-flavor then discuss and guess what we thought they were. I got half right. Luckily you rarely encounter these issues in homebrew competitions or production breweries. If you are a homebrewer or just curious about how beer can go bad I’d urge you to go to the next class like this. Which, as far as I know, will be next month at MadTree, but more on that soon.
The next Bird Haus/Rhinegeist class is all about the English beer tradition. There are still tickets available for that here. Unfortunately that’s all that’s scheduled for now, but hopefully they’ll line up more classes soon.
Luckily MadTree is kicking off their own Beer Class series!
MadTree Beer Class Series
One day last month I saw this pop-up on MadTree’s Facebook page and immediately snatched up tickets. Head brewer Jeff Hunt led the first class which focused on beer recipe formulation.
We received a great peek into his process for making beers and how the recipe comes together to result in the flavor profile he’s after. The classroom was in MadTree’s front room and homebrewers packed the house. Jeff skipped past the homebrew basics and led us into a discussion that sailed over my head on occasion. We were also treated to a few behind the scene bits about MadTree’s setup.
It wasn’t all just theoretical discussion of how Jeff makes a beer. We sampled 6 MadTree beers and learned why they are what they are, from idea to recipe, to name. Somehow I never knew that Happy Amber’s name came about because of a text auto-correction from Hoppy to Happy.
MadTree just posted the video of the Recipe Formulation class up on YouTube. Go check it out!
I can’t recommend the average beer enthusiast check out this class if they do it again. It was very homebrewer focused and in-depth. Luckily, MadTree has a slate of ideas for other classes lined up! The next class, set for April 22nd, is “Ask us anything”, tickets are already available here for $20 each. Sounds like a good opportunity to pick some of the brewer’s brains about everything from how they got into brewing to their beard care regimen.
May’s class hasn’t been fully nailed down yet though I’m told it’s May 19th and focus on flavor identification. This sounds like what I did at Rhinegeist. If you homebrew, are a beer judge and want a refresher, or are just curious about what can go right and wrong in beer then you’ll want to get tickets to this class.
From the sounds of it MadTree has a few more ideas up their sleeves for various classes. I’m extremely happy that they’re doing this, Rhinegeist has done it, and hopefully more local breweries will catch on with the idea.
Tomorrow (Wednesday, March 4th, 2015) the Kentucky Senate will vote on HB168. House Bill 168 will redefine the requirements for owning an alcohol distributor in the state of Kentucky. The Kentucky house approved it last week. The Senate’s vote is the last step before the Governor signing the bill into law.
In brief, a distributor is a company that buys beer from the brewery, stores it and employs sales people to convince retailers to sell the beer. Distributors form a part of the 3-tier system. For a full background on the 3-Tier system please see my series from 2013 beginning with my introduction.
Two extremely different companies are very upset about this legislation. I’d like to help clear the air and share my opinion on the situation. The two companies are AB-InBev and Rhinegeist, the elephant in the room and the mouse the elephant is afraid of.
AB-InBev owns a distributor in Louisville and last year they bought a distributor in Owensboro. The purchase of that distributor in Owensboro is what set all this off. Currently, any brewery in Kentucky is unable to own a distributor in Kentucky, but out of state breweries can. [footnote] Thanks to Ryan Phillips for clearing that up for me[/footnote]That is exactly what this law is going to change. Anyone who owns a brewery will be unable to own a distributor in Kentucky, which is where Rhinegeist comes in.
Rhinegeist has used Ohio’s laws that allow a brewery to self-distribute their beer to do exactly that. Yes, self-distribution laws are a relaxing breaking of the 3-tier system, turning it into a 2-tier system. The way people argue for self-distribution is that Rhinegeist can only self-distribute Rhinegeist. When Rhinegeist decided to expand to Kentucky they couldn’t find a distributor “with the right craft-focus and a small enough portfolio to ensure our mindshare.” to quote Rhinegeist owner’s Bryant Goulding and Bob Bonder’s op-ed in The Courier-Journal. As a result, they decided to open Riverghost Distributing to carry Rhinegeist products and other breweries products, in the state of Kentucky. Now we see why Rhinegeist is siding with AB-InBev. Both AB-InBev and Rhinegeist will have to sell, or close, their distributors in the state of Kentucky if this law passes.
Sorry, Rhinegeist but that’s a GOOD thing
The good thing from my point of view. It’s a bad thing for the owners of Rhinegeist because this means someone else gets a cut of their profit. As it stands now Rhinegeist makes more per beer sold than MadTree does[footnote]MadTree is distributed in Ohio by Cavalier & Kentucky by Beer House[/footnote]. Rhinegeist also pays a number of sales people and delivery drivers. Plus they maintain a fleet of vans to enable them to self-distribute. Most breweries have distributors take care of that overhead. So, Rhinegeist losing Riverghost will mean lower profits per beer in Kentucky for the folks at the top. The same on all that goes for the AB-InBev owned distributors as well.
This is a good thing for everyone except these two companies. If Riverghost starts carrying other brands and there comes a day where one store only has one spot available on the shelf, who gets that spot? I have an extremely hard time believing that that spot will be fairly assigned to the product most sought after in that market. That spot will be assigned to Budweiser or Truth.
My biggest problem is that this is a slippery slope that could lead to decreased competition and eventual vertical integration. If a distributor or store is owned by a brewery there is far less reason for that distributor or store to care about other breweries products. Same goes for a distributor owning a store or bar. Why should they push someone else’s product when the folks at the top can make more money pushing the products of the brewery they own?
Part of what has allowed craft beer to explode is the separation of the 3 tiers. Sure, it’s not great but it’s the best we got for now and getting read of, or blurring the lines between, the tiers is not going to help anything. One of the reasons England’s craft beer explosion has been more muted than ours is because of tied houses, where a brewery owns a bar. As I said before, when one tier owns another it lowers the competition. The tied houses in England only serve the beer of the brewery that owns them, unless customer demand for other products reaches an extreme point.
This Will Cost Jobs
Both AB-InBev and Rhinegeist have said that the passage of this bill will cost jobs. That’s only true if AB-InBev and Rhinegeist decide to shut down their distribution companies. They’ve both proven that there is a strong need for these distribution companies to exist. They’re both savvy businesses as well. They’re not just going to dump all the money they’ve invested in this. No jobs will be lost. The only thing that will change is who is at the top of these 3 distributors and that the 3-tier system will be more reinforced in the state of Kentucky.
With the winter holidays upon us and the new year drawing near I’m taking a moment to think about what I’d like to see develop for Cincinnati next year. WCPO’s Jesse Folk hatched this idea to “pick an aspect of the industry or scene that we’d most like to see or change in Cincy.” I’m pretty satisfied with the brewers, bars, and beer stores in the area, so I decided to think out of the box a bit to other fermented products.
I have a voracious appetite for new music, nearly as aggressive as my quest for new beers. This has only gotten worse with Spotify and the ability to stream 17+ million some songs at the click of a mouse. One day I tweeted a few of the brewers looking for musical suggestions. Steve Shaw at Cellar Dweller was quick to respond with Larry and his Flask, which I now listen to daily.
That got me thinking what other brewers, and bloggers, like for music to brew by or keg/clean/bottle to? With Saturday being Learn to Homebrew Day what better time to build a playlist of tracks to listen to while teaching a friend to brew?
When I asked Steve Shaw again for writing this post he listed Hank The Third, Johnny Cash, and Steve Earle. Mentioning that Johnny Cash’s song Hey Porter is the song that named they named their Porter, “Hey Porter”, after. So here’s that to listen to
Matt Rowe said they’re mostly classic rock. He gets a little doo wop fifties and sixties music mixed in there as well. Another favorite is bluegrass, especially The Tillers and The Rumpke Mountain Boys. Perhaps most importantly from MadTree is their Do Not Play List
To make sure we all get to enjoy lots of different music with this article here is a specific song that Matt Rowe mentioned liking
Leave it to Blank Slate to have an eclectic love of music. While breaking the bounds of beer styles and defying having a single flagship beer owner and head brewer Scott LaFollete likes to listen to everything from Punk to Hip Hop. Never having been a big too exposed to Punk I checked out his three specific suggestions (Minor Threat, The Queers, and New Bomb Turks) and dug this track the most.
Mitch Dougherty is the man behind Ei8ht Balls brews and is into everything from Patsy Cline, Muddy Water, and Tool to Hank 3 and Pantera. So I had to diversify this list and get some metal in here.
I reached out to Rhinegeist’s Head Brewer Jim Matt for what him and brewer Luke Cole like to listen to. While Jim is all over the map musically and Luke was a Led Zeppelin fan Jim did call out 1 song in particular that I had to include in this list.
On creative days they like 311, others range from Seattle Grunge to Rolling Stones, with a love of classical (Beethoven and Chopin) or Jethro Tull.
Just like our brewing portfolio, all styles get tossed around the brewery!
Chris Stevens may not brew beer, but he’s hugely passionate about music and beer and most especially The Tillers so I couldn’t write this without giving him a shout out. Matt Rowe from MadTree also mentioned The Tillers as a favorite so here’s a track from their new album.
Holy smokes, 1809 votes over two weeks! There are clearly a lot of people out there who love Cincinnati and Dayton’s craft beer scene. For those that missed voting the poll had two questions, one where you could pick your favorite IPA from Cincinnati and the next question being the same for Dayton. Now for the results!
The first question focused on Cincinnati’s IPAs (remember it’s straight IPAs only so no Fork in the Road or Citra High) and was won, by a large margin, by Rhinegeist’s Truth! MadTree’s PsycHOPathy came in second with Cellar Dweller Hoppy Poppy coming in at a solid third.
As I said before the second question was all about Dayton IPAs. Dayton Brewing Company’s Oregon Alley IPA will be heading to Columbus to show what the Dayton beer scene has to offer. Following Dayton Beer Company was Yellow Springs Wobbly Wheel at second and Fifth Street’s Icebreaker IPA in third.
Part of the plan is to have each of the five bloggers involved in this pick one beer from their area to bring along with the two beers selected by the voters. For my pick I’m going with the second highest vote getter, and what I honestly believe is one of the best IPAs in the area, MadTree’s PsycHOPathy.
From Across The State
The three beers above are what will be heading to Columbus from the Cincinnati/Dayton area but there are four other regions coming too. Check out the following posts to see who else will be going!
The next step in the King of the Ohio IPA competition is that myself, and the other bloggers, will pick up the freshest growlers or six packs of these beers that we can find. We’ll all meet up in Columbus next Saturday (November 1st) for the judging. We will have helpers on hand to make sure we are drinking the beers blind and judging them solely based on their inherent qualities and not on favoritism, brand recognition, or any other external influences. We will know the winner that day but you won’t find out until Monday November 3rd. Then the winning brewery will receive a King of the Ohio IPA championship belt.
Stay tuned to Queen City Drinks on Facebook and Twitter for updates, and more importantly results, on the competition! Plus don’t forget to follow my fellow bloggers covering the rest of Ohio.