Lagunitas’ CEO and founder Tony Magee took to Twitter late Thursday night with some interesting data about craft beer’s percentage of the beer market, and what that looks like for future growth, both with existing breweries, and with new breweries. It’s an interesting bit perspective from the 6th largest craft brewery in America, and I’ve always enjoyed Magee’s perspective on his business. I edited his statement slightly, only to fix all the “Twitter grammar,” to make it easier to read:
Was looking at IRA data. I added ALL the craft-type sales, meaning the narrow Brewers Association definition of craft beer, as well as Shock Top, Blue Moon, Craft Brewer’s Alliance brands, Guinness, Newcastle, etc… It turns out that the things y’all drink when y’all want flavor represent a freakin’ 12% market share, not the 6% share that is reported.
Could say that the extra 6% share represents the ACTUAL shortage of capacity within authentic craft beer. Makes building another brewery seem like a stoopid safe bet. I see Blue Moon & Shock Top, and the other faux beers as mere spackling in the cracks. A sort of beer-bondo that we can easily chip back out when we’re ready to use that market crevice ourselves. Maybe that sounds pompous, and maybe it is. And when I write ‘we’ I’m referring to all of us new brewers. Bottoms up!
In a recent newspaper thing I said that I thought Lagunitas could be as big as Anheuser Busch or MillerCoors. WTF does ‘big’ mean? Big is the result of something else. No one ‘owns’ big. It’s an artifact of your decision making. Could Lagunitas be that big? Sure. But in the end it’ll be up to you. We’ll just try. But like every mountain climber knows first hand, there’s nothing up there on the top. The trip is the thing, & we’re sure trippin’ lately.
This past Friday, I had the opportunity to take part in a Lagunitas beer pairing dinner at Mandalay Bay’s Fleur. The event was organized by Certified Cicerone Sarah Johnson, Mandalay Bay’s director of food and beverage. The event was wonderfully executed, and featured not only great beer, but also very delicious food paired with it. Without further ado, let’s discuss the incredible dinner that took place!
Lagunitas’ pilsner was the first beer that we were given, to help whet our palates and prepare us for what was to come. This beer is extremely dry and crisp. It has the firm bitterness that pilsners should be known for, with a nice, grassy finish.
Seared Cajun Albacore, Yuzu Soy Vinaigrette, Garlic Chip paired with Censored Rich Copper Ale
Censored is an amberish red ale. It’s got a very sweet and rich malt character. Hops are at a minimum here, only poking their head out to balance out the sweetness at the very end and give it a little bit of an earthy finish. However, what made the beer really stand out, was the tuna. It was beyond soft and tender; the pieces would just fall apart in the chopsticks when trying to pick it up. The light, delicate flavor of the tuna was complimented by the sweet, soy vinaigrette that matched the sweetness in the beer perfectly. However, my favorite part was the green onions that wait until the end to bitter up the palate and clear out all the sweet flavors, causing you to reach for another sip of beer!
Wagyu Beef Carpaccio, Truffle Vinaigrette, Shaved Parmesan paired with Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ Ale
The beer is all fruitiness, but not quite as sweet as Censored was. The beer is made with three different kinds of wheat, creating a soft body and a lot of sweet bread flavors in the beer. A bouquet of hops pour out of the glass. It’s very fruity, with aromas of various citrus and tropical fruits. It smells like Fruity Pebbles. Thin strips of raw beef were wrapped around a bushel of arugula and topped with parmesan, basically encompassing the only ingredients worth putting in a salad. After chewing on the bitter, peppery arugula, the fruitiness of Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ was a refreshing palate cleanser.
Loup de Mer Veracruz Style, Caper Beurre Blanc paired with Lagunitas IPA
That’s a bunch of fancy words that really mean “sea bass.” The crispy skin of the fish covered the very light and flaky meat, which was surrounded by artichokes, peppers, and olives. The mix of spices and vegetables gave the dish an herbaceousness that matched in character to the IPA. Lagunitas IPA is a great middle of the road IPA. It has a moderate malt character that you don’t quite find in IPA’s anymore. The hops have some of the typical grapefruit like bitterness, but it primarily leans towards a piney, floral character. While I do love the super dry, overly citrusy IPA’s, this beer was a reminder of how good a balanced IPA can be.
Lagunitas Braised Shortribs, Celery Root Mousse, Coffee Foam paired with Wilco Tango Foxtrot
This was definitely the best dish of the night. The beef was super tender, and just fell apart upon touching it. The coffee foam was more amusing than anything, but still added an interesting texture and added flavor. Celery root mousse was like eating sweet, creamy mashed potatoes. What made this paring great, was that the beef was braised in Wilco Tango Foxtrot. This beer is awesome. It has a strong, almost chocolatey malt backbone, but is also filled with massive citrus flavors from the hops.
Imperial Stout Bacon Beer Float
Not only was there a strip of bacon sticking out of the glass, the ice cream also had bits of bacon in it too. Not much can really be said about this. It’s one of those desserts that needs to be experienced to understand. It’s sweet, salty, and chocolatey. It was just perfect.
2009, 2010, 2012 Brown Shugga
In closing, we were given a platter of stinky cheeses and candied fruits and nuts to enjoy along with various vintages of Brown Shugga. Brown Shugga is Lagunitas’ winter seasonal beer, and it encompasses all the things that you should want in a winter beer. It has a bit of caramel-like malty sweetness to it, but also enough alcohol to balance it out. Fresh beer is always delicious, but it is also fun to age a beer and see how the character changes and develops. The 2009 vintage was incredibly smoothed out, with very little heat, or sweetness overpowering it. The beer becomes dangerously easy to drink at that point. I personally preferred the 2010 vintage. This had more oxidative characters to it, primarily those associated with higher levels of alcohol. Whereas the 2009 was easy drinking, the 2010 was incredibly complex in flavor, so much so that it demands to be sipped and enjoyed slow.
Once again, this was fantastic event, and was a great example of how beer can play a part in fine dining. Sarah Johnson’s next event will be a Beer Garden that is taking place as a part of Vegas Uncorked. Expect to see lots of delicious beers and awesome food!
Certified Cicerone Sarah Johnson, director of food and beverage for Mandalay Bay, is hosting a beer pairing dinner along with Lagunitas head brewer Jeremy Marshall.
In addition to the below pairings, dessert includes tastings of 2009 ,2010, and 2011 vintages of Brown Shugga!
It is interesting to see craft beer grow into an industry as large as it has become. With this growth, invariably, comes matters of propositions, legislation, and taxes. Currently, Florida is trying to legalize the sale of 64oz growlers. Maryland just legalized on premise beer sales and consumption for breweries.
Taxes have a bit of a mixed reputation in this country, to put it lightly. With regards to the beer industry, this is no different. Currently, the Brewers Association is pushing to enact the Small BREW Act through congress. This act is seeking to amend the tax code to lower the rates of excise taxes brewers pay. Well, specifically the first 2 million barrels produced by a brewery making less than 6 million barrels of beer a year.
The craft beer industry is one of the fastest growing industries in America, and for the breweries making less than 60,000 barrels a year, the new proposition would cut their taxes in half. Considering the massive growth the industry has seen, and considering the continuation of this growth, these tax cuts would allow for continued growth, investment, and jobs being added to the economy.
As for the breweries making more than 60,000 but less than 6 million, they would receive a smaller tax cut, decreasing from 50%, depending on their production. For the largest craft brewery, Sam Adams producing 2.7 million barrels a year, this equates to a 8.5% reduction in taxes, or $4,090,000 off.
Now the question of course is whether or not this is necessary. It should be noted however, that 95% of the craft breweries in America make less than 15,000 barrels a year. For these brewers, this would definitely cement their roots in place to continue growing, and to be successful as small business owners. For the other 5% of craft breweries, about 100 of them, it is a tougher sell, especially for the handful making several hundred thousand barrels of beer a year. They may not need the tax cut to stay successful, but because of their size, they have the potential to create the most jobs with the additional revenue. The curious thing to note however, is if 95% of craft breweries make less than 15,000 barrels a year, then why is the Brewers Association pushing to cut taxes on the first 2 million barrels of beer a brewery makes? Even more interesting, some breweries are divided on whether they even want the tax cut.
Lagunitas is the 6th largest craft brewery in the US, currently brewing 700,000 barrels of beer a year. Founder and CEO Tony Magee had this to say on Twitter:
So, wouldja be cool with us brewers dipping our wicks while you kick in? I think I feel bad about it happening. I wish it weren’t. I guess I’d like to pay less taxes, that’s rational. But it’s also rational 4 no one t want t pay taxes. I feel ok with the current deal.
Jeremy Grenert from Lagunitas then joined the Twitter conversation:
I think what he is saying is pay your fair share if you can. It does no good to decrease the tax burdon on the segment growing the most… If our current brewers do not want to pay their share, what sets them apart from the big boys?
Tax cuts are one thing, however some states are attempting to raise taxes on brewers. Washington governor Jay Inslee is proposing raising the state excise tax on Washington brewers to help fund the state’s needed education programs. In 2010, a temporary increase on state excise taxes was enacted on brewers, up from $8.08 a barrel to $23.58 a barrel. Breweries making less than 60,000 barrels a year were exempt. The expiration of these temporary taxes is this June, however the governor is looking to make these permanent, and extending them to all breweries. It should also be noted that candy and soda makers were also given a tax hike in 2010, however those industries were able to fight to get those taxes removed.
Should the taxes become permanent, the biggest hit would be to the state’s small brewers who are currently exempt from paying these taxes. The breweries I visited when I was in Washington would immediately face a large tax that was never expected, hurting them and any future breweries in planning. For reference, Washington’s neighboring states charge $2.60 a barrel in Oregon and $4.65 in Idaho. Added taxes on the breweries mean higher prices for distributors, and in turn higher prices for customers, making beers from neighboring states more price competitive.
On the bright side, this morning Tennessee passed a tax reform allowing the state to start taxing beer based off of volume produced, which is what 48 other states, and the federal government, use to tax beer. Previously, Tennessee was one of two states that was taxing beer based off of price.
With regards to taxes, it is a difficult balance of priorities. Governments need tax revenue to fund operations. Governments also try to be lenient to smaller businesses to help drive economic growth. When it comes to beer, it gets more complicated. Once prohibition was repealed, the three tier system was enacted to balance the power between all the breweries, preventing any sort of monopoly. By only giving tax breaks to one group, it is no longer fair. However despite best intentions, there most definitely is a beer monopoly in America, and providing tax incentives to the smaller breweries helps to level the field.
Hmm, “Beer Monopoly” sounds like a fun board game…
Selling out happens when you forget why it is that you are in that position in the first place. It’s easy to believe your own press. In our case, we realize that, as ever, we still suck and have a lot of work to do to earn a place in the world. Like I said above, beer-lovers are driving our bus and we do respect the bus driver!
Lagunitas is probably the most amusing brewery there is. As seen above, Lagunitas CEO and founder, Tony Magee, tries to ensure that the brewery doesn’t take itself too seriously, ensures they have fun, and laughs at themselves whenever possible. Examples include the release of a butterfly knife-styled bottle opener, and releasing a beer called The Kronic. The name later got denied by the TTB, so it was renamed Censored.
Despite the jokes, and humor, Magee ensures that the company has a strong awareness of all types of global, economic, and environmental effects of the beer business. Opening a second brewery in Chicago is benefiting the company in that there is less beer traveling long distances, which in turn reduces fuel usage and shipping costs. In fact, the savings in reduced shipping costs is actually how the company is affording to open a second brewery. The above quote was a part of a much larger interview with Tony Magee and The New School Beer, which discusses a wide range of topics, most notably his ethics in opening another location and securing funding to do so. All that aside, I am personally excited to see the re-release of one of my favorite IPAs, Lagunitas Sucks.
Last year, the brewery was in the middle of a large expansion, which temporarily put a strain on their available fermentors. The decision was made to not brew their winter seasonal, Brown Shugga’ (also an amazing beer). Brown Shugga’ has a longer fermentation and conditioning stage than their year round beers, and to make this beer meant less of their core brands. Knowing their customers would be furious due to the lack of such a great winter beer, Lagunitas released a substitute beer, and appropriately named it: Lagunitas Sucks. Despite the name, and despite the anger of Brown Shugga missing, everyone agreed that Lagunitas Sucks was an incredible IPA. Thanks to the success, Lagunitas re-released the beer this year, with a plan for a year round availability.
The immediate standout feature of this beer is a huge fruity and citrusy aroma. Mango, and grapefruit dominate, with pineapple, orange peel, and pine contributing the enormous bouquet. Tastewise, this is an incredibly balanced IPA. There’s just the right amount of residual malt sugar to compliment the citrusy hops to give it a sweet, fruity finish. Once again, sharp grapefruit bitterness is there, along with a clean, piney finish that lingers long.
It’s shocking how good this beer is, and how few other beers come close to comparing to it. Please, do yourself a favor and pick this up. Hopefully it should start a year round production, but go buy it now just in case!
Simply put, cask beer is a beer that is brewed and fermented, and then placed into essentially a small keg, where it is then conditioned and naturally carbonated through a secondary fermentation. The beer is transported to its serving location in this vessel and served directly from this vessel without the use of any additional pressure.
That being said, cask beer is delicious. Todd English’s PUB and Public House always have at least one cask beer available at any given moment. There are a couple other places in Las Vegas that also have cask beers available off and on. If you get the chance, try out one of these beers!
Here’s what to expect:
Because the beer is naturally carbonated through fermentation inside the vessel, and because additional carbon dioxide isn’t used to push the beer, it is not as carbonated as typical kegged beer. Depending on how fresh the cask is (once tapped, cask beers are good for about 3 days), will ultimately determine how much carbonation is left in the beer. I’ve had some cask beers that felt like it had nearly the same amount of carbonation as any other beer, and I’ve had other cask beers that were almost flat, with just the slightest amount of carbonation.
Secondly, the beer is served at “cellar temperature.” This is done out of tradition, as cask beers originated prior to refrigeration. Expect the beer to be in the low 50′s (fahrenheit). For point of comparison, draft systems require kegged beer to be in the high 30′s. Truth be told, high 30′s is too cold for beer to be served. However to maintain a balanced draft system, with minimal foaming, this low temperature is required. If you aren’t used to ice cold beer, cask beer may seem uncomfortably warm.
Taking those two points together, cask beer feels thinner and lighter bodied. The natural carbonation isn’t as harsh as forcing carbon dioxide into a beer, so it has a softer texture to it as well. The warmer serving temperature helps to taste more of the beer, but may not make the beer as enjoyable for certain styles.
As far as choosing the best cask beer, here’s what I recommend: A beer with a heavier body and/or a higher alcohol percentage. The primary reason for this, is that the heavier body will feel a bit more natural on cask as opposed to something lighter, which may become too thin and almost watery. I think every time I’ve been to Todd English’s they’ve had Deschutes Black Butte Porter on cask. This is the way that beer was meant to be enjoyed. The light carbonation, and soft head compliment this beer perfectly, making it extremely drinkable. The warmer serving temperatures brings out a lot more the chocolate flavors that are usually hidden when served from a refrigerated keg or bottle.
Beers with higher levels of alcohol will also have a heavier body and benefit in the same ways. On top of that, typically beers with higher levels of alcohol also are best served at warmer temperatures. The first cask beer I had was Coronado Brewing Company’s double IPA, Idiot IPA. Big floral, purfumey aroma coming off of an incredibly drinkable beer. The soft carbonation softened the blow from the hop bitterness in a very pleasing way. A couple of nights ago, I had Lagunitas Cappuccino Stout on cask at Todd English’s. The alcohol was hidden extremely well, with rich coffee and dark chocolate flavors in an easy drinking imperial stout. A far cry from the traditional British cask beers, but it is beers like this that really shows the benefits of cask beers!
A shot of the festival grounds with local band Tribal Seeds
On October 20th, Motley Brews presented the follow-up to their 2012 Great Las Vegas Festival of Beer: The Las Vegas Downtown Brew Festival. After having a blast at the last Motley Brews presented festival, I was more than excited for this one. To start with, the location and timing of this event could not have been more perfect! The Clark County Amphitheater is a nice, large, outdoor venue, and the great October Vegas weather made for a phenomenal marriage!
For their first outing in 2011, I had complained that the event seemed disorganized, and way too compact. These problems were pretty much resolved on their second go around. This time, I can only tip my hat to the organizers and sponsors of this fantastic festival! We arrived a bit late (roughly 2:15 PM), but had no trouble finding parking in the large adjacent parking lot. Upon walking up to the entrance, we were quickly able to redeem our Groupons, and were inside and ready to drink within just a few minutes.
Upon entering, we made our way right to the Joseph James tent to try and wet our palettes with their R/D #11 Ginger Lemon Weizen. Thankfully, and remorsefully, we were able to get our hands on the very last drops, which may have proven to be the best beer I had the pleasure of experiencing. The beer tasted like a mix of spicy ginger ale with a refreshing lemon twist. I really hope this one sees a bottle release, as I want everyone to be able to taste this amazing local brew! Their other two R/D offerings did not disappoint either; both the Black Rye Session Pale and the Bourbon-Barrel Aged Russian Imperial Stout were quite the tasty offerings! Joseph James never ceases to amaze me when it comes to what they pull off for these special events. I will continue to look forward to more R/D batches, while still sipping on their great year-round fermented offerings.
Karl Herrera, the Las Vegas Beer Ranger, pouring some New Belgium brews
Our next stop was to the New Belgium tent to get a pour of their refreshing Shift Lager. Shift really is a perfect summertime beer with its light-body, and flavorfully crisp finish. While chatting with Las Vegas’ new Beer Ranger, Karl Herrera, he officially coined the term “Get Shift-faced!” which pretty much demands to be on the front of a T-shirt! New Belgium was also pouring their Red Hoptober, Ranger IPA, and of course, Fat Tire. Their Super IPA was also on display at the Get Hopped Up Tent, along with Stone 16th Anniversary IPA and Bear Republic’s Racer 5.
Tim and Alex from Tenaya Creek
From there we hit another local favorite in Tenaya Creek. They were happily pouring their new Dutch-style Belgium Tripel, Oktoberfest Lager, the recently bottled Hauling Oats Oatmeal Stout, and their iconic Hop Ride. Not to mention, they also decided to unveil a Hop Ride infused popcorn! Being a Las Vegas staple for years, you really can’t go wrong with anything that Anthony and Tim brew up. Their year round beers are top-notch, and their seasonal brews always leave you looking forward to the next one! If you haven’t been to the brewery yet, you should make it a point to do so. Hell, there’s a good chance you’ll see your’s truly at the bar sipping on a Hop Ride!
Another local staple, Big Dog’s Brewing Company was pouring just nearby. Their selections included Dirty Dog IPA, Las Vegas Lager, Lake Mead Monster Double Red Ale, and the Great American Beer Festival 2012 Silver Medal winning Red Hydrant Ale! Big Dog’s is another local brewery that you just can’t go wrong with! While I would have loved to have seen the seasonal Pumpkin Ale, or the monster that is War Dog IPA, I was more than pleased with what they had to offer! With 2 locations in the Valley, there is no reason not to stop by and grab a drink!
After making our rounds with the local breweries and New Belgium, we decided to hit the outside circle and try and get our hands on some beers we haven’t had before. Our next stops were to Tommyknocker’s and Moa. Tommyknockers, from Colorado, is fairly new to the Las Vegas craft brew scene. They had with them a nice assortment, including Vienna Amber Lager, Maple Nut Brown, Imperial Nut Brown, and a nice, mild, Pumpkin Ale. All of their offerings were solid, and can be found locally at this time.
Moa, from New Zealand, is a brewery that I have yet to try, but I’ve always been curious about. They had samplings of their Breakfast, Pale Ale, and Blanc Evolution. I only tasted the first two, but I was quite fond of both! As a nice contrast to most breakfast inspired stouts, Moa’s Breakfast had a bright, wheat, sweet cherry flavor that would pair nicely with a berry muffin or eggs. While it won’t be for everyone, I think it would be a nice substitute for a mimosa at brunch. The Pale Ale had a subtle citrusy hop nose and flavor, which was balanced by a bitter malt aftertaste.
From here, we went along the line, sampling well known beers from the likes of Dogfish Head (Namaste and Midas Touch), Firestone Walker (Pale 31, Union Jack), Sierra Nevada (Hoptimum, Pale Ale, Torpedo, Kellerweis), Lagunitas, Indian Wells, Three Monkeys, Chicago Brewing Co., and a newer name to the Las Vegas scene: Riley’s
To be honest, I had not heard much about Riley’s until this event. Riley’s is a smaller brewery from Madera, CA, who are in roughly their fifth year of existence. Their lineup consisted of: Sancha, which reminded me of a cross between a pale ale and a honey ale; Vixen: a coffee/chocolate inspired stout; and Wildcat IPA. All three were quite tasty brews, and show a lot of promise for this new brewery. I’ll be looking forward to what they decide too cook up next!
If there is one beer trend that I really enjoy, it’s the new “Session IPA/Pale Ale” trend. Something just appeals to me about a low ABV, flavorful IPA that won’t make you feel all nice and fuzzy after just one glass. Thankfully, one of our last stops, Ballast Point, brought along a beer that is a perfect pale ale for this occasion. Their Even Keel Pale Ale, was just fantastic, and perfect for this mild October day. It had a perfect pine aroma, with just enough citrus to hit your nose. The taste was quite the same, with a great dry finish that didn’t linger for too long. Not be outdone, they also brought along an arsenal of their other lovingly-crafted brews: Big Eye IPA, Calico Amber, Pale Ale, and the incomparable Sculpin IPA.
I can’t finish this without giving a shout-out to all of the food vendors that made it out to quench the hunger of the beer sipping crowd. From restaurant representatives to food trucks, there was something for everyone. Our eatery of choice ended up being Haulin’ Balls, who serve a variety of gourmet sandwiches based around, you guessed it, the meatball. The food was nothing short of remarkable, and I would recommend that any carnivore seek them out.
All in all, this may have been the most pleasant beer festival that I’ve had the opportunity to attend. A big thanks is in order to all the vendors, sponsors, and especially Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada for all the phenomenal brands that they helped bring together! As a group, we’d also like to thank any of our followers that found us and said hello. It’s always great to meet you guys in person, and we appreciate all of the kind words and constructive feedback that we receive.
In closing, if you have not had an opportunity to attend one of these festivals, then you are missing out! Do yourself a favor and make sure that you clear your calendar off and come out and have a blast! …I’m sure you’ll see us there!
Your’s truly filling in for Karl at New Belgium, while he took a well deserved bathroom break