Tuesday, June 9, 2015

America On Tap - Trenton: a quick review


America on Tap is making its way around the country with a multitude of stops. We hit the Trenton stop last Saturday. There were a lot of beers and unlimited pours...I found myself going back for the Humboldt Black Xantus Imperial Stout (so glad we got to try this because you cannot get it anywhere within 100 miles of here other than this fest - send us some - loved it!) and the Blue Point Old Howling Bastard Barleywine (⏎ click there to see a review by @MassiveBeers). It was great to meet a few of the local brewers while other taps were mostly manned by volunteers or hired hands. Colby from Hoboken's 902 Brewing was super friendly and having a great time pouring and talking beer. Also Evil Genius was dishing out Purple Monkey Dishwasher. Tickets were heavily discounted and you definitely get your money's worth with 3.5 hours of tasting. The crowd was way bigger than the first picture shows but lines moved along quickly.

It was more of a tasting event than a festival but it was fun for what it was. There was a band (not great and barely audible) as well as a booth to check out Fizzics, a machine that "makes your beer taste better." These guys have already reached 275% of their goal on IndiegoGo - take a look. There are plenty more stops on the America on Tap tour if you wanna hit it.
Here are a few pics:














Thursday, May 7, 2015

Beer Around the Bases!





On Saturday May 16th from 12-5pm the Independent minor league baseball team The Rockland Boulders will be hosting their 3rd Annual “Beer Around the Bases” craft beer festival! It takes place in Provident Bank Park in Pomona, N.Y. (Rockland County). For $25 you get unlimited tastings of more than 25 beers, live music and entertainment all followed by a matchup between the Boulders and the NYPD baseball team and then fireworks! Take us out to (the beer fest and then) the ballgame!

We had a chance to sit down with George McElroy, the man behind the fest. He was born in Nyack in Rockland County, NY and has been a resident of the county his entire life. He is the General Manager of Ovations Food Services at Provident Bank Park. He definitely drinks his share of craft beer and couldn’t be happier to hold this new annual Boulders tradition.

Here is our talk with George:

ITBAN
Baseball and beer. Two of America’s favorite pastimes. Of all the major sports, baseball really lends itself to enjoying a craft beer, not just drinking a beer. Each games sets its own pace, its played during great weather (most of the time) and you can relax and sip in the sun or summer eve. That being said, how does the Rockland Boulders organization and yourself decide what beer will be served at Provident Bank Park? Is the selection during the season limited to contracts with your vending organization or the distributor?

GM
We are proudly teamed up with Dana Distributors which is a Budweiser distributor. That being said, we have to bring in beers that Dana offers. They have a wide selection of beer and I strive to bring in all of their crafty beers.

ITBAN
We were told that you were the man behind the Rockland Boulders Annual Craft Beer Festival. Can you tell us a little bit about how “Beer Around The Bases” came to be? And now that it is in its 3rd year, have there been any major changes since year one? Are there some things that you learned along the way, running the first two?

GM
Three years ago we decided that we could host a great craft beer festival and we had a beautiful spot to host such an event. So we just went for it…each year we hosted the event in September. This year is much different, we decided to go a different route and host the event in May. We hope that the weather will be better and it will give people the chance to check out the ballpark before we open for the season.

ITBAN
You may even get some new season ticket purchasers once they see the beautiful park. Throughout the stadium patrons have a few beverage possibilities…beer, soda, wine, coffee, water, etc. We assume every single purchase made is catalogued and inventoried in a database somewhere so…at the end of the season what has been the biggest seller?

GM
You would be correct, we catalog and inventory every food item in the stadium.   Canned and Draft beer are the highest sellers in the park. Canned comes in first! I believe that people just love to hold a giant canned beer. 

ITBAN
The Minor League baseball experience is known for some great promotions that make the games a lot of fun for a whole family. Besides drinking beer at "Beer Around The Bases" and watching some good baseball, what fun promotions do the Boulders have on tap for other games this season? And what’s the wackiest promotion or fan night that you guys have ever done?
Beautiful Provident Bank Park

GM
One of the best parts about this level of baseball is having fun promotions and theme nights. This year we are bringing back our popular 80's Night, Western Weekend, and Disco Night, as well as adding some new ones like a "Stooge-fest" as an ode to the Three Stooges and a "Middle Child Appreciation Night". 
In 2012, we did "A night of RODS" when Alex Rodriguez was first suspended for the BioGenesis scandal. Each on-field promotion had a "rod" theme to it, we sold pretzel rods, and gave out vouchers for a game in 2015, the year A-Rod was allowed back in baseball. Fans are starting to actually redeem them this year!

ITBAN
The Boulders have only been playing since 2011 but they have made quite a bit of noise. They have routinely finished near the top of the league in attendance, they were Division Champions in 2014 and had the Manager of the Year. They also won the best of 7 “Parkway Series” (Palisades Interstate Parkway/Garden State Parkway) over the New Jersey Jackals and captured a league championship. That’s a pretty high bar for a team that has only been playing for 4 years. What are the expectations around the ballpark this year?

GM
Of course when you are the defending champions, the goal is to successfully repeat. While that is one of our primary goals, the biggest expectation for us has always been to be a premier destination in the Lower Hudson Valley and Northern New Jersey regions. We offer so much more than just great baseball and I think this Craft Beer Fest will help showcase that.

ITBAN
In 2011 former New York Mets player Howard “HoJo” Johnson signed with the Boulders to play two games alongside his son Glen. Is there anyone else that has worn the Boulders uniform that the avid or casual baseball fan might know by name?

GM
While some people may think Independent Baseball doesn't have many "name" players, fans in our area will recognize former Mets pitcher Bobby Jones, who is our pitching coach for the third straight year. We are also very fortunate to have Rockland County native, and former New York Yankee catcher, John Flaherty as a part owner of the team. He and his family attend games regularly. That being said, our players are very friendly with fans and become household names in this area very quickly.
What a waste of beer!

ITBAN
Okay…before we let you go, tell us a little bit about the beers that you like to drink.

GM
I am a craft beer drinker. I usually find myself drinking IPA'S (Goose IPA, Red Hook IPA). In the summer time though, I tend to lean more towards summer ale's and LandShark. There is something about a hot summer day and a ice cold LandShark that makes me happy!

ITBAN
Thanks for taking some time to talk with us. We looking forward to covering Beer Around the Bases next weekend on May 16th!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Lookin' for #WhalezBrah? The BeerExchange.io is where you will find them!

The Beer Exchange fills a community need.


Tell someone not in the craft beer community that there is an "underground trading market for beer" and they'd likely think you're pulling their leg. Craft Beer imbibers want to try every beer they can but lack of production or distribution prevents some of the best and rarest beers (#whalezbrah) from making it out of the region they are brewed in. That was until the last few years when the beer trading market exploded. Craft Beer fans, whale chasers and the various shipping companies are all reaping the benefits. The Beer Exchange is a great website and app that fills a community need. The website and app are both user-friendly and constantly evolving to make trading easier.

InTheBeerAndNow™ had the pleasure of speaking with Mark Iafrate, the founder of The Beer Exchange (BEX).



ITBAN
We put a couple guys on the case but have yet to uncover any Dead Sea Scrolls or cave drawings indicating beer trading before the Modern Era. Until that happens it seems that the birth place of modern-day beer trading would have to be traced back to the posting boards of beer websites. What was your first beer trade? Walk us through it from the inception to pouring the first beer.

MI
Hahaha I’m imagining FT:ISO posts on cave walls now. Well it took me a while to really get into trading, mainly because I was never all that concerned with hunting down whales. We have such a great selection of local beer here in the North Carolina area, not to mention a solid distribution from out-of-state breweries. If there was something I really wanted to try, I was usually able to sample it at events or bottle shares. One of the perks of having friends with great beer cellars!

The first trade was actually an in-person one here in Charlotte. I honestly don’t really remember what it was for exactly; but it did spark the addiction. Most of my initial interactions were done through Instagram because one, I was already on there, and two, I wasn’t a huge fan of using online forums. Nothing against them, but for me it was just a pain to keep up with all the threads and miscellaneous conversations. Not to mention all the other BS that can go on when you start a public conversation on the internet. Sometimes you just have too many people chiming in where it isn’t necessary, and that can get real annoying real quick. 


ITBAN
So, after doing a few beer trades, what was the “A-ha Moment” when you said to yourself “I design web and mobile applications for a living...a website and mobile app to facilitate beer trades is a no brainer?”

MI
Well you said it! For my day job I work for a mobile software company designing web and mobile apps. Like most people, I assumed there was a dedicated place for trading beer, but everything that was out there just didn’t cut it. 

I started doing basic sketches and writing down some ideas. I sat on the idea for months and just let it develop in my head and on paper. I finally decided to pull the trigger and get the ball rolling back in late 2013. I honestly just thought it was a good idea and was tired of not having a dedicated place to trade. I had most of the resources to get it off the ground myself, and I knew people who could help with the parts I wasn’t able to handle. There was no real reason not to go for it. 

ITBAN
You are one of 3 co-founders of BEX. Whose idea was it to create BEX? Who are the other two guys and what roles do each of you play?
Mark (in his favorite shirt) at Sourfest with friend Justin.

MI
Well like I mentioned I came up with the idea, got the functionality and design together and then set out to find Rethesh, my technical co-founder. He’s an experienced IT guy here in Charlotte and has some experience in the startup world. We met up after work one day and talked about the idea over some beers. He isn’t hugely into craft beer, but he loves building software and liked the idea so he agreed to come on board.

He’s the one responsible for the development execution and making sure the system works from a technical perspective. Most people don’t understand how difficult it is to architect a system that not only works well now, but scales well into the future as you grow. He’s much more “behind the scenes” but anyone who uses BEX has enjoyed the fruits of his labors.

Luke, on the other hand, is a huge beer guy like me. His role is much more community focused and he helps do a lot of the marketing, including overseeing our Ambassador Program. He and I are the ones you’ll see out at events, talking about beer, and actually trading on the site. 

The truth is, the three of us all do about 1,000 different things each. Anyone who is familiar with the life of a startup knows that your title doesn’t mean much, and it’s all about getting stuff done. Sure we have a couple areas where we specialize given our respective talents, but at the end of the day we all share in the day to day responsibilities. 

BEX founder, Mark Iafrate.

ITBAN
We know there are some ads on the website so that must bring in some money but other than that is there anyway you guys make money from BEX or is it mostly a labor of love?

MI
Right, the ads contribute some money but not a lot. We also have a Premium Membership that costs $5 per month (or $55 per year), and comes with some special features, functionality, and perks. There’s also the store where we sell some branded merchandise, but that only brings in a tiny bit too since we need to pre-purchase the inventory. All in all we actually lose money every month (and none of us pay ourselves anything). For anyone who’s started a company before, that’s completely expected.

Now that we’re getting bigger, our job is to figure out a sustainable business model that will grow with us. The good news is we believe we figured something out that will do just that. It still doesn’t change anything, our job is to make BEX awesome and solve a problem for our community.

ITBAN
There are a few other beer trading platforms that we assume you are aware of; BottleTrade and the BeerXChange (whose name is VERY similar to yours). Have you ever had contact with the guys that run those services? Are you fighting with them to be the go-to platform for beer trading or are you just happy to be making it easier for beer geeks to facilitate trades?

MI
I’m a huge fan of competition. It makes our team work a lot harder and in the end, that’s better for our users and the community at large. All that being said, I’m confident in what we have. I haven’t had any contact personally with the guys from Bottle Trade, but I’m sure they’re good guys. I’ve tried using their platform and I just don’t see it being something I’d go back to.

The BeerXChange founder is Chris and he’s an awesome dude. I’ve gone back and forth over email with him a few times and don’t have anything bad to say about him. He’s another passionate craft beer person who’s working on his own app. It’s true what they say: “great minds think alike.”

There will always be a lot of places to trade. Some people are all about Rate Beer or Beer Advocate. Others will keep to trading on Instagram, Facebook, or Reddit. I’m cool with that. I just know I really prefer trading on BEX, and thats because it was designed for trading. Everything else has been tweaked or hacked to make trading possible but  we’re doing it the other way around. That’s why we, and so many others, enjoy trading on BEX. 

ITBAN
Where do you see TheBeer Exchange.io in the next 3, 4, 5 years? Is there an end game here? Have you ever had any interest in someone in the industry wanting to partner with or buyout TheBeerExchange.io?

MI
Haha…that’s quite a ways out! We’re big into being nimble and agile, so our product roadmap and plans don’t extend much further than a few months. However, we do have long term goals and plans.

Mainly, we want to be the easiest way for people to find and acquire the beer they want. That means improving the trading system in general. It also means providing better ways to search for beers and trading partners, determine the value of beers, and discover new beers. We also want to be the best way for individuals to manage their own cellars.

There is a lot we have planned, but at the end of the day, when someone wants to find a beer they normally can’t find, I want them to think of using BEX to get it. If the best way to accomplish that is through a partnership or industry buyout, so be it. However BEX is our baby, and we’re not going to do anything that puts the community we helped build in jeopardy. 


ITBAN
Alright, let’s lighten things up a little bit and talk beer over business. You just got back from Cigar City’s Hunahpu Day Festival. Had you been before? If so, how have you seen it change over the years and which has been your favorite experience?

MI
Haha “Cigar City Sucks! Cigar City Sucks!” No but seriously this year it was a top-notch experience. This was my third year and after last year’s issues, they really stepped up their game. My hat is off to the Cigar City people.

The first year I went was fun because you had to get there super early to get in. I was in line at around 5:30 AM or so and we were all drinking by 7:30 or 8:00. It was a bit tougher once inside because you needed to pay for beers, but a lot of the people who were there were true craft beer fans. That’s something special. 

Last year they meant well and had good some good ideas, but crapped the bed on execution. Going to a festival-style release along with pre-sales I think is a great idea. However, you can’t have an oversight that allows people to photo copy tickets. It really put a damper on the day and some of the backlash was justifiable, but the real blame should be on the people who copied tickets. 

This year it was great! We (my father and I) didn’t have to wait long to get in, there were plenty of great breweries serving awesome beer, and the lines were short. Not to mention getting your Hunahpu at the end was extremely easy. That is the kind of event I’ll go back to. 

ITBAN
What other beer festivals have you been to and could you give us a little color as far as the differences you’ve noticed and which ones you like best?

MI
I’ve been to a bunch. I place festivals into three categories. Some are just craft beer fueled drunk-fests. The ones that you can tell are there to make some company money and that’s about it. Nothing special, no real theme, just all you can drink beer. This is where you see a lot of people looking for something to do and decided to get wasted outside at a festival. Not really your die-hard craft beer drinkers. I try to avoid those. Not because I am against getting drunk (I’m all for it, in fact), I just can find betters ways to spend my money. 

Then you have local festivals highlighting what’s in the area. These can be a blast, especially if the breweries all decide to serve their year round or seasonals along with a special beer for the event. Usually not very expensive, but also not offering much out of the ordinary for seasoned craft beer people. I end up going to one a year maybe, but that’s it. 

Then you have the really well-done festivals. The ones that have either a) breweries you can’t normally try or b) beers that are rare or not normally available. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with enjoying your go-to local beers, but if I’m paying money to go to a festival, I want it to be an experience. Events that have beers I’m not always drinking are usually the biggest factor for me, and then I take into account the music, food, people, etc.  

ITBAN
We are gonna assume that you have a beer cellar or at least a collection of beers that you are aging. What was the first beer that you decided to age and have you cracked it open yet? What else is in your beer cellar right now? And what are your top 3 prized whales in there?
Mark likes one thing more than beer...Kelsey.

MI
Hmmm. The first one I decided to age. I think I decided to do a three year vertical of Event Horizon by Olde Hickory. I’ve been doing that vertical for some time so it’s kind of an ongoing project. In fact, I’ve done that with a good number of beers - some local and some not-so-local. I wrote an article a little while back on aging for Craft Carolina [http://www.craftcarolina.com/blog/2015/3/7/cellaring-beer-to-age-or-not-to-age] talking about it. It’s a fun hobby but can really consume time, money, and space. 

I have a large variety of beers including some verticals of some of my favorite “whales”. I also have a few bottles of 1989 Thomas Hardy Ale which is a fun beer to break out every now and then. Also have some nice Cantillons I’m holding onto for special occasions. 

The top beers though? That’s tough. I’d say the top three (based on my enjoyment, not ratings) are:

- Verticals of Hunahpu’s Impartial Stout
- Some older barrel-aged variants of Westbrook’s Mexican Cake
- The 1989 Thomas Hardy Ales

ITBAN
One thing we like to ask everyone that we meet in the community is: What are your Desert Island Beers? If you were limited to just 4 or 5 different beers, which would they be? Also, top 3 breweries, in your humble opinion, right now

A Beer Exchange bottle share at Good Bottle Co. in Charlotte, NC.

MI
Good question! To make it interesting I’ll go with stuff that’s somewhat local and avoid all the whales (that just seems like a cop-out). I’m thinking for these that I’ll be drinking the same beers over and over again, so might as well have some variety….

NoDa Brewing Hop Drop n’ Roll - Fantastic local West Coast style IPA.
Olde Mecklenburg’s Mecktoberfest - I can drink this beer for days.
Westbrook’s Gose - This isn’t necessarily “to style” for a gose but it’s a great summer beer and fun to drink.
Triple C’s The Dude Imbibes - This is a really underrated local, barrel-aged sweet stout. 
Wicked Weed’s Black Angel Cherry Sour - Fantastic dark sour beer

It’s impossible to say what the top three breweries are, but I will give you some breweries I think are making a splash right now, tough. 

Carton Brewing out of New Jersey is really making some quality beer. Love their branding and they have some interesting beers (Regular Coffee) mixed with solid offerings like Boat BeerWicked Weed out of Asheville is expanding and making some killer beers, including some really well-done sours. I’m also a big fan of Jack’s Abby - I still don’t think I’ve had a bad beer from them. 

ITBAN
You are based out of Charlotte, North Carolina. What is the beer scene like down there and what would you like to see in the Charlotte beer scene in the future?

MI
The beer scene here is unbelievable. I’ve traveled to a lot of different places and Charlotte has one of the best I’ve ever experienced. It’s still really underrated but you have a fantastic diversity in beers and breweries. Anyone that lives in this area is spoiled rotten when it comes to access to quality beer. I’ll encourage any beer love to make a trip down - tons of local options, great out-of-state distribution, and lots of fun stuff to do. 

As for the future, I imagine a time when every single bar and restaurant has some local options on tap. We’re not there yet, but making good progress. 

ITBAN
The Beer Exchange is a free service to those who want to use it but you do have an "Ambassador Program and a "Premium Membership. Can you tell us a little bit about those?

MI
For sure. The Premium Membership [http://thebeerexchange.io/gopremium.htmlis a way for users to support BEX while also removing ads and unlocking special features and functionality. It’s not required by any means, but we find more experienced traders tend to upgrade after a while.

The Ambassador program is separate and is made up of our most supportive and vocal users. They work to spread the word about BEX, encourage other beer enthusiasts to sign up, help new members get started, and in general promote an asshole-free environment. Anyone can apply by filling out the form on our site [http://thebeerexchange.io/ambassadors.html].

ITBAN
Thanks for taking the time to visit with us and tell us a little bit about TheBeerExchange.io. We are definitely fans of your website and mobile app. You have a great user interface and you make the process of trading beer fun and easy. Before you go, do you have any of that awesome BeerExchange swag for the guys in the office?

MI
Swag? You know it! We'll send it out your way. Cheers!
All of this is available on The Beer Exchange website.




Saturday, March 21, 2015

A Few Beers with...Dangermuffin


Thursday night InTheBeerAndNow™ had the pleasure of kicking back with 
organic sandblasted roots rock jam band Dangermuffin. They had just driven 13-hours 
straight in their van, all the way from Folly Beach, South Carolina

We've embedded a clip of the band performing "Homestead" at the bottom of the post.


Lead Guitarist Mike Sivilli - a Newburgh, NY native.

Before they hit the stage for a set in the soon to be snow-covered Northeast we had a few beers (and bourbon) and talked tunes and beer before they played an excellent set of new music (from their album Songs for the Universe), old favorites and a couple covers. "Steve and Mike like beer and you can quote me on that," said drummer Steven Sandifer.
Drummer Steven Sandifer
Lead Singer Dan Lotti - Winner of Songwriter's
Hall of Fame
2005 "New Writer's Showcase."

Sandifer joined the band in 2008 and has been touring nonstop with DangerMuffin ever since. Lead singer Dan Lotti currently resides in Asheville, NC which is home to newly-expanding Wicked Weed Brewing but it should been noted that Dan does not drink. The autobiographical song "What's in a Bottle" from their debut album entitled Beermuda (we'd like to vacation there) is an ode to the struggles that can come along with looking for things "in a bottle." Touring constantly, being away from loved ones and sleeping in a different bed every night can surely lead someone to seek solace in the bottle, amongst other things. Nobody said it was gonna be easy...in fact, "it's a long way to the top if you wanna Rock-n-Roll."

We talked with drummer Steven and guitarist Mike about the craft beer scene in Folly Beach, SC...a quiet beach town that gets hopping during the summer months. It was formerly the home to Folly Beach Brewing which has since closed. There isn't a thriving beer scene in Folly Beach but the guys say there are a few spots that serve a decent range of craft brews and get good crowds. The gentleman told me that Jack of Cups (which replaced Folly Beach Brewing) is a great spot with a free jukebox and an impressive collection of beer on the menu. It regularly gets pack with locals and visitors looking to sample some of the many local South Carolina beer offerings.

South Carolina is home to 21 breweries last time we checked, with the most widely known and distributed ones being Westbrook Brewing and Thomas Creek Brewing.

South Carolina's Westbrook Brewing is celebrating
their 4th Anniversary with this luscious Imperial Stout
(trades, anyone?)

InTheBeerAndNow™ gives our thanks to Dan, Steve and Mike for taking a few minutes before the show to have a few drinks and talk South Carolina and beer. Dangermuffin is constantly touring so check them out of you get a chance. They will probably be playing somewhere close to you very soon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Have No Fear...@TheBeerWench is Here! Our exclusive interview with craft beer's own, Ashley Routson.


The craft beer community definitely has its share of over-the-top personalities and colorful characters that always keep things interesting. InTheBeerAndNow™ (ITBAN) was lucky enough to get some time to chat with one of our favorites; the self-made social media craft beer superstar…and author…and Pink Boots Society member...and new Bay Area District Manager for Green Flash Brewing Company……..Ashley Routson, @theBeerWench (on Twitter and Instagram). 


@thebeerwench - Always on the job!



ITBAN:
According to Instagram you have been @thebeerwench for 183 weeks but you have been blogging under that persona since much earlier than that. What made you decide to take on the persona, if we can call it that, and does it pre-date your emergence on the blog and social media or did it start with www.thecolumbuswench.wordpress.com?

@thebeerwench:
The Beer Wench "persona" was technically born on February 7, 2008 with my first blog post "Welcome to the Bauhaus." And to be completely honest, I really wanted to start a wine blog, but I chickened out and opted to write about my second favorite beverage at the time––beer. I was intimidated to blog about wine because I was young, poor and thought that the wine writing world was a little too pretentious and pretty scary.

When I started my beer blog, I was working at a Columbus-based advertising firm called Young Isaac. The president and founder of the company was a huge inspiration to me and, ultimately, my blog. He was a master of personal branding and a fantastic leader. He was the one who inspired me to start blog––and inspired me to develop my own persona.  The @TheBeerWench Twitter handle was developed shortly after the blog was started. If there is any one platform that I attribute the success of my blog and persona to––its Twitter. And my claim to fame is that I beat all the beer people and breweries to Twitter––which meant that I was able to establish myself on that platform before others joined.

ITBAN:
Can we call @thebeerwench a persona? Is she someone different from Ashley or are they one in the same? If not, how are they different?

@thebeerwench: Technically, we are one in the same. My voice is my voice––when you are talking to @thebeerwench, you are talking to Ashley. Both Ashley and @thebeerwench love pizza, both love dying my hair and both love drinking beer. If anything, I do feel a little restrained when it comes to posting content. My audience is mostly made up of beer lovers, so you very rarely see me post anything else. But having said that, there are multiple facets of my personality that fans of @thebeerwench on Instagram will never see unless they know me in person or follow me on Twitter or Facebook. My posts are extremely tailored on Instagram (all beer and food), semi-tailored on Twitter, and pretty much a free-for-all on Facebook.

ITBAN:
What was it and when was it that you realized that building your own brand on social media was a smart thing to do? Was it your own idea or did some encourage you?

@thebeerwench: As I mentioned before, I learned the importance of self-branding from my previous employer, Artie Isaac. But I didn't really understand what I was doing when I was doing it. I was just a girl who wanted to explore the world of beer (and food). I had no idea what this persona would turn into and I had absolutely no expectations for it. It wasn't until I started to get invited to events and offered free samples of beer that I began to see the power of a personal brand.  So many people ask me what the secret to my success has been––and I really can't give them an answer. Everything was trial and error for me. Nobody else was doing what I was doing, so I didn't really have any mentors or prototypes to follow. I had to learn it all myself. Which was both a blessing and a curse.

ITBAN:
One of our big themes and motivations behind InTheBeerAndNow is the concept of “fermenting mindfulness." To us, drinking a craft brew is the essence of a mindful activity; the proper glass, the color, the smell, the sound, the look, the taste…it involves all of our senses. What are some of your favorite things about the ritual of mindfully enjoying beer?

@thebeerwench: I actually have an entire chapter in my book dedicated to respecting beer (it's actually called Respecting Beer). Allow me to share an excerpt.......

Excerpt from The Beer Wench's Guide to Beer by Ashley Routson In a perfect world, beer would always be served in the perfect glass at the perfect temperature. The beer would have been perfectly stored and the glass would be perfectly clean. Now, what if I told you that you could easily live in this perfect little world? This chapter will show you how. One important note: there will always be circumstances that trump perfect drinking conditions. Sometimes you need a beer at the beach, in a canoe, or while hiking, biking, camping—I think you know where I’m going with this. Remember that, first and foremost, beer should be fun. Being a stickler about proper glassware can be a good thing, but no one likes a beer snob, or broken glass in the canoe for that matter.

As for my favorite part about enjoying beer, I'm going to have to say its the people with whom I drink it. Craft beer, for me, has always been about the people and the culture.

ITBAN: I can remember going out and buying Pete’s Wicked Ale or Anchor Steam back in the early 90’s (dating ourselves). What are some of your earliest memories of discovering that there was an alternative to Bud and Coors out there? Did you venture out on your own or was there someone that got you into craft beer?

@thebeerwench:
I've had several beer epiphanies over the years––but the two biggest epiphanies were probably with my first IPA, Bells Two-Hearted Ale, and with Dogfish Head's Midas Touch.

Bells Two Hearted Ale won Ashley's heart over.

ITBAN: How would you describe your relationship with beer? You also have a background with wine. If it had to be one or the other which would it be and why?

@thebeerwench: I often joke that my love of beer was born from my love of wine. There is no short way to tell this story, so I apologize for the length of this particular response. Like many college students, I graduated college with no clear path or vision for the future. I received two Bachelors degrees––one in psychology and one in criminology––and my original plan was to go into the FBI. Might sound weird, but I was actually on a strong path in that direction.

So what happened to that goal, you might ask? Depression and anorexia is the answer. This is actually the first time I've ever mentioned the anorexia in a public post or interview and it feels quite liberating to talk about it. You see, I was a super competitive athlete my entire life. As far back as I can remember, I was a swimmer. Swimming my entire life. It was my identity and my entire self-esteem and sense of self-worth was wrapped up in being a swimmer (and an athlete). During my junior year of college, I got hurt––really hurt. I tore my bicep in the weight room. I still tried to swim, doing entire sets with a kick board and fins, until I just couldn't swim anymore.

The real epiphany was during one of my psychology classes. I broke out in tears because I couldn't write. My arm was so fucked up, I couldn't even take notes in class. I quit 2 hours later. Quitting swimming was devastating, but it wasn't the final nail in the coffin. That would come my senior year.

I've always been an over-achiever and as my arm healed, I started getting the itch to compete again. And so, I tried out for the rowing team. Now mind you, I hadn't rowed a day in my life before this moment. After barely a month on the novice squad, I made varsity.  And I busted my ass off to get that spot. I ran and lifted weights outside of normal rowing practices. I pushed my body to the edge––and then over it. My ankle injuries from the past caught up with me. A few months in, I could no longer walk. And then, I found myself getting ankle surgery––just weeks before our competition season started. And that is when the depression and anorexia reared their ugly heads.

I started my senior year at 140 pounds and graduated at 105. I was crippled by my loss of identity. Not only was I no longer an athlete, I was also no longer a star student. My body was broken, I felt worthless, I felt hopeless and then I hit rock bottom.

I know that this is a really long story, but I think its important to know what state of mind I was in when I found craft beer because then you will truly understand how important this beverage is to me. Craft beer saved my soul.  Post graduation, I found myself living at home, substitute teaching during the day and working in a restaurant at night. A geek by nature, I automatically became obsessed with the culinary world. Even though I wasn't eating food back then, I was fascinated with ingredients, flavors and the cooking process. But then, I learned what a sommelier was––and nothing was the same. I ordered some books and immediately started studying to become a sommelier, at the ripe age of 22.

My experience in restaurants and passion for wine ultimately landed me a management position at a restaurant in Columbus, OH. And that was where I learned about craft beer. I'l never forget the first time I tasted an IPA. I was practically speechless. How can beer have so much flavor, depth and complexity, I thought? I was immediately hooked on hops. And then, I discovered Midas Touch––a wine/beer hybrid from DogFish Head. It completely blew my mind. It was at that moment that I realized how amazing, innovative and exciting beer could be––and I haven't looked back since.

My new found love for craft beer and blogging was ultimately what helped pull me out of both depression and anorexia. In a way, craft beer saved me. It filled the void in my life that was left behind by swimming and school. It gave me a sense of purpose, a renewed self-esteem, and a new identity.

ITBAN:
Thanks for sharing that really personal story! It is not surprising that craft beer saved you…as you may know, there is a Discovery Channel documentary called “How Beer Saved the World.” (watch it here) So, in a sense, beer saved us all and is responsible for us being here today.

This is going to be a tough one but, “Desert Island Beers,” name them:

@thebeerwench:
IPA: Russian River Pliny the Elder (anyone who knows me at all knows this)
Lager: Firestone Walker Pivo Pils
Porter: Alaskan Smoked Porter
Stout: High Water Campfire Stout

Ashley to the rescue! The Beer-Watch babe.

ITBAN:
Our last post was entitled “Craft Beer Community: 99% Asshole Free” based on the semi-famous statement from Sam at Dogfish Head. With big breweries mocking craft beer drinkers in SuperBowl ads, then turning around and snatching up craft breweries for their portfolios, what are your thoughts on our odds of keeping the craft beer community 99% asshole free?

@thebeerwench:
Eh, I'm not entirely certain the craft beer community is 99% asshole-free. On the surface, the craft beer industry looks like one big happy––but the industry is actually a lot more cut throat than people think it is. I'd love to dive more into this, but it's probably best that I don't. When it comes to the community as a whole, which involves the beer fans and beer drinkers, once again––not really 99% asshole-free. But then, I tend to get more critics and haters than most people, so perhaps my perception is skewed. Just try scanning some of the popular beer forums and you will quickly see what I mean about haters in this realm.

ITBAN:
Fair enough. The haters are just jealous. Pay them no mind. One reason the industry “ferments mindfulness” is by being green. Great Lakes, Brooklyn Brewery, New Belgium, Uinta…all have very green practices. What are some mindful trends you think we might see from brewers in the coming years?

@thebeerwench:
I've actually had my finger on the pulse of sustainability in the beer industry for quite some time now. I presented at the very first Great Lakes Water Conservation Conference and worked for an organic brewery for just over four years. Waste reduction, water treatment and recycling, adopting new forms of energy like wind and solar are all great initiatives that I'm seeing more and more breweries invest in.

ITBAN:
It is great to see the industry taking the lead to help make a better tomorrow…ya know, for the kids. Craft beer has also led you to becoming an author. You have a book called The Beer Wench’s Guide to Beer: An Unpretentious Guide to Craft Beer. You gave us a little excerpt from the book already but tell us a little more about what readers can expect when they pick up a copy on Amazon(click here to pre-order)?

@thebeerwench:
In a world dominated by beer books written by middle-aged men, The Beer Wench's Guide to Beer provides a uniquely refreshing, fun and unpretentious (and youthful) approach to one of the world's greatest beverages. Part history class, part sensory training and part cookbook––The Beer Wench's Guide to Beer takes its readers on a whirlwind adventure, exploring everything from beer styles to beer history, ingredients and the brewing process, pairing with food, cooking with beer and designing beer cocktails.

ITBAN:
We can’t wait to get a copy. It sounds like a very fun read. We know you are a big Ohio State fan…so just a touch on Ohio State…Greg Oden…what a bust, eh?

@thebeerwench:
I'm actually not a huge fan of basketball––although, I will watch it during the playoffs. As far as Greg Oden goes, I think you are referring to his NBA career and, to be honest, I don't really care for the NBA at all. But, I could talk to you about Ohio State football for daysssssssssssss!!!

ITBAN:
I bet you could. Ohio native Urban Meyer has done quite a job in Columbus. On a final note, your Twitter bio recently said “Currently Seeking A New Career.” What is next for The Beer Wench and how do I apply for now vacant position?

@thebeerwench:
I left my job at Bison Brewing about 3 weeks ago to pursue other opportunities in the industry. And, as fate would have it..... I landed my dream gig this past week. I'm the new Bay Area District Manager for Green Flash!

ITBAN:
Congratulations on the new gig and thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. You are great for the community. We all look forward to your beer photos, your burgers and pizza and of course, the hair color changes. Thanks again.

@thebeerwench
No prob! Thank you!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Craft Beer Community: "99% Asshole Free"



Okay 1%, you know who you are. Time to cut that bullshit out! Sam Calagione, the ever-present founder of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery made that 99% statement a few years back and for the most part it still holds true today. The craft beer community (other than a few trademark infringement tiffs here and there) tends to genuinely root for their brethren and live with a "there's plenty enough to go around" attitude that has led to ginormous growth, spurred innovation and lead to some excellent collaborations.

It is not just the industry that's asshole free...it is the patrons and supporters of craft brews as well. The fans! The Imbibers. Get two craft beer believers together and they will surely have plenty of notes to compare and one-upping "one time I got my hands on a..." stories to last all night. Even with beer festivals popping up like daisies, you rarely hear or see any skirmishes at these events where, well, there is a lot of drinking going on. The people who brew, sell, market and enjoy craft beer have created a wonderful "open to all" community in the true sense of the word. The question that remains to be seen is 'does the bloom come off the rose?"


 According to Ian Mount's NYT article "Craft Beer Is Booming, But Brewers See Crossroads" By any measurement, craft beer has been on a great run since it took off in the mid-1980s. The number of brew pubs and regional and microbreweries jumped from 1,521 in 2008 to over 3,200 in 2014, according to the Brewers Association, a trade group that defines craft brewers as those that produce fewer than six million barrels a year and are less than 25 percent owned by a large beverage maker.


The rumblings of AB's takeover of Goose Island is a distant 5 years ago now and by most accounts it has been successful for both business and imbibers. Distribution has blown up for Goose Island and that means they sell plenty more beer but getting your hands on more than one or two (if that) Bourbon County Stout on release day has become a lot more difficult in some parts of the country. Big Brew has seen this success and they have snatched up some of our favorite brewers. It is kinda like when your favorite band hits it big; you are happy that they have the deserved success but you're kinda pissed that you'll never see them at a small local club again.


The next few years of craft brew will be interesting for sure. What percentage of the seemingly endless number of mirco (and nano) brewers that are breaking ground daily will be able to make cost, let alone profit? It has felt like a bubble for a while now and we all know what happens to BUBBLES. Will there be enough to go around for everyone? Time will tell. Our mission, as The Imbibers (I like that word) is to do what we can to support our favorite beverage, drink local and make sure the community remains "99% asshole free." 


We would love to hear your thoughts! 
inthebeerandnow@icloud.com
Twitter: @inthebeerandnow

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Now talking @harpoonhelps and #FermentingMindfulness @harpoon_brewery video feed is crystal clear http://t.co/ngAJ6CzhTT #craftbeer



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Watch @Brewbound talking up #craftbeer living InTheBeerAndNow™ http://t.co/WFHMbXHNAQ ⬅️link to live feed. http://t.co/Bxq7gQO09z



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Sensory Basics by @OdellBrewing http://t.co/xbjfuwCZu1 #craftbeer #FermentingMindfulness



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RT @BrewStuds: *Breaking* Memo leaked today by #SudKaiser employee shows planned announcement: ACQ of a #Colorado #craftbeer brewery http://t.co/GiABe5wqbu



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Monday, February 23, 2015

Well, this leaves more for us!!! 🍺 http://t.co/ORPKGSA6We Hat tip: @shumpgulion #craftbeer



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RT @mybeerbuzz: Shmaltz Brewing Announces 2015 Craft Beer Release Schedule #craftbeer #beer http://t.co/xwL9PYJCEv @ShmaltzNYC http://t.co/G33UIuETYW



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“@BeerAdvocate: Top 250 New Beers. How many have you tried? http://t.co/XTLOpZIhxZ #beer” #craftbeer #FermentingMindfulness @tjmags3



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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Thirsty Trout Porter - @darkhorsebrewco #craftbeer #InTheBeerAndNowHe was a wise man who invented beer. Plato



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RT @AdventuresnBrew: Adventures In Brew is out! http://t.co/LH0p8PCAMD Stories via @inthebeerandnow




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February 21, 2015 at 11:58PM

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Breakfast Stout - Long Ireland Beer Co. ...and yes, that is a Buddha atop a fudge brownie slathered with vanilla frosting and surrounded by chocolate brownie goldfish #InTheBeerAndNow #craftbeer #fermentingmindfulnessHe was a wise man who invented beer. Plato



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How To Find The 17 Most Sought-After Beers In America http://t.co/q5VVJxysAC via #InTheBeerAndNow #FermentingMindfulness #craftbeer




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February 21, 2015 at 09:45PM

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@bolerosnort out of Dirty Jerzy. Do you know how they got their name? (I do) ⭐️ if you know. #craftbeer #fermentingmindfulnessHe was a wise man who invented beer. Plato



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