Is there beer in Las Vegas? Yes, and no…

Is there beer in Las Vegas? Yes, and no…

I recently returned from a trip to the Sin City and was a bit surprised and disappointed that there’s not more beer there. The craft beer scene has not really changed that much over the last 5 years. There’s several decent breweries and brew pubs, but they are not seeing the growth that seems evident in other areas.

I get that there’s a bunch of distractions…gambling, shows, music, reefer, and hookers, but why not more small breweries? Ok, I’ll hazard a guess. It’s hard to compete with free…

If you go to a casino and put $20 down, chances are you will get a free drink. And in places like Main Street Station, downtown near Freemont Street, that might be a craft beer.

Ellis Island casino is another place where gambling and quaffing go side by side. Strangely, the 4 Queens hotel and casino have a brewery, but they don’t share freely with the gamblers. Several other casinos are in the same shape with great multi-tap bars but no overflow or even regular flow onto the casino floor.

I’ll shout out to Tenaya Creek, Hop Nuts, and Banger Brewing, who are continuing to provide some craft beer in Vegas.

I decided to head out to to Death Valley, where I heard there was a new brewery.

Sight seeing on the way! Seven Magic Mountains.

A brewery called Death Valley Brewing? Seriously way out there in the desert, they are in Tecopa, CA. Not even in Nevada, but making craft beer in the most hostile of environments! Also, best logo ever, “When you are dyin’ for a cold one!”

 

It gets better. They told me about another brewery a couple of miles away, Tecopa Brewing, where they only have one beer available at a time due to the small size of the system and only having one fermentor. As soon as they put a beer on tap, they start the next one. Problem is, they always sell out before the next one is ready! 30 gallon system… don’t ask me how that works. This place has hot springs. Most places that’s pretty cool, aka let’s go check out the hot springs and get rejuvenated. Not so much here. Might get cooked! Remember, it’s Death Valley! Or close enough to count. The “season” is in the winter. The water is too hot in the summer to bathe in or use to make beer. It’s kinda a ghost town, if you know what I mean… But they persevere and do the best with what they have.

Hanging with Westley the Brewer!

Then there’s getting there. Google took me down a single track gravel and sand road through the desert in my nice compact rental car. Bastards!

4-wheeling in a rental car in Death Valley…

Actually, it was kinda fun. I’ve always joked that the best 4×4 vehicle is a rental car since if you get stuck, they will bring you a new one! Probably need phone service for that though. I met a camera crew at Death Valley Brewing, and they said they came down the same road. The guy said his buddy was driving and was going 60 to 70 mph. I said, well, you kinda have to to keep up out of the sand. We had a beer and a laugh!

They also have a mug club there, and the mugs are glass skulls. It *is* Death Valley!

It was was a three-hour drive each way. Fortunately, I broke it up with a couple of side trips. First, on the way there, I went ATV driving in the dessert with ATV Adventures. Great folks, check them out. Then I stopped at the saloon for a ghost hot dog and some beer. On the way out, I circled around to Pahrumph for a little gambling. A day well spent, and I didn’t die!

Eat my dust!

Huck was here!

InBev’s The High End vs. Brewers Advocates Independent Craft – Thoughts on Independence Day…

InBev’s The High End vs. Brewers Advocates Independent Craft – Thoughts on Independence Day…

People are talking about the new “Independent Craft” label offered up to brewers by the Brewers Association. You can only use it if it you meet the BA’s craft brewers definition, have a valid TTB brewers notice, and sign a license agreement. If so, they can freely display it on their advertising and packaging.

The new Independent Craft logo. (Image courtesy of the Brewers Association.)

They quietly released it through craft beer news folks, and it was received by many craft beer aficionados favorably…mainly because, in today’s confusing craft beer market, it’s hard to tell which beers are true craft and which ones are fake craft, or no longer independent.

Why does it matter? There are two reasons. First, since the beginning of craft beer, the large brewers, using the power of their distribution networks, have attempted to limit, and in some cases destroy, the burgeoning craft beer industry. Recently, that has extended to purchasing popular regionally situated breweries. They say it’s to expand their market. Some feel they are doing it to avoid or prevent the diminishing sales of their primary brands, which could cause a write-down of the goodwill generated by purchases on their balance sheet.  Here’s a good article about that: http://goodbeerhunting.com/blog/2017/5/5/watch-the-hands-not-the-cards-the-magic-of-megabrew. This weekend there was some Goose Island beer one my friends bought for $5.99 a six pack at a c-store. The bad news for big beer is that this person usually drinks the Sliver Bullet. Bought the “craft” beer because it was cheaper…

Others feel it’s just good hard business practice to beat down the competition. In Texas Holdem, it’s common practice to go all-in against a smaller stacked opponent to force them out of a hand. Many craft brewers believe in a more community approach. It’s common for small brewers to share items if one brewer has enough and can help a fellow brewer out without material damage to themselves.

We’ve all read stories about pay-for-play and sure, both sides do it. It’s more of a China vs. the dissidents kind of thing in those contests. The tank rolls forward and there’s 30 different package styles of Bud Light or Shock Top on the shelves and two lonely local craft brewers sideways in the corner at the Walmart. The BA action is intended to make it more of a David vs. Goliath sort of thing by providing weapons. I’m pretty sure folks won’t be checking Miller Lite for the label, but there are many times seeing some sort of confirmation it’s a “real” craft beer would be helpful. There’s the added bonus for new craft beer enthusiasts to be sure they are actually drinking craft beer.

Secondly, we are not talking about Budweiser purchasing craft breweries. They were arguably the first brewery purchased. Once the deal was done, cost-cutting measures were taken and continue to be taken. The company is based in Belgium and controlled by Brazilians. We can’t say if the austerity measures will continue with the purchases of additional breweries, but there have been incidents. Goose Island Bourbon County Brand Stout comes to mind…

One party that took offense to the new badge was The High End, InBev’s corporate division that owns and controls the purchased breweries. Some evidence of their control is this video that came out almost immediately after the debut of the independent craft label.

Six Viewpoints from the High End.

Not to get personal, but these six brewers from around the country were summoned by their overlords to gather together and make this slick film about their reactions. Interestingly, Walt Dickenson, of newly purchased Wicked Weed, speaks of the invading beers from across the seas and they are the ones making the film. He also goes on about a civil war, and again, that’s the battle. The logo may help the smaller army win.  Felipe sounds like he might be one of those foreign invaders. I have friends and followers all over the world, so I’m not picking on his nationality, just being observant.

I get the feeling David Buhler thinks he knows better than the rest of us what is good about and for beer. I’m not sure that’s what he was going for, but it sure came across as pretentious.

Then there’s Garrett Wales…your little bottles don’t mean shit to him. Kinda says it all, doesn’t it?

The craft beer world is moving towards a complete separation, with major distributors dominating the market and small beer stores and brewpubs being the best model going forward. It’s not clear that the breweries that have been purchased are no longer making good beer. It is apparent that they are a clear and present danger to breweries that want to expand beyond a local footprint. The farther away the consumer is from a particular brand, the more difficult it is to find shelf or tap space when distribution is so controlled by the big guys.

Hurrah for stores and bars who keep their selection to the best beers available. I, for one, believe that the Independent Craft Label is a great tool to help us decide what to buy, tap, and drink.

On this Independence Day, join the fight and get yourself some yummy “Independent” Craft Beer! Don’t let the aliens win! Wait, that was the “other” Independence Day movie…

Huck was here!

Is there beer in Damascus, Virginia? Yes, and fireworks nearby as well!

Is there beer in Damascus, Virginia? Yes, and fireworks nearby as well!

I made my annual (at least) trip to Damascus, Virginia on my birthday this year. My real birthday, June 21st, not Huck’s (April 7, 1933). He’s a lot older than the actual me…

I was accompanied by my granddaughter and we made use of the wonderful outdoor activities while we were there. There was a bunch of riding on the Virginia Creeper Trail, as well as hiking on the Appalachian Trail. We found a playground and train cars to play on in the town park.

Crossing the bridge at the Damascus park

The stores in downtown Damascus have lots of great shirts and hiking supplies. Sundog Outfitters even came out to the trail and gave the little one a stuffed bear! Great people in this town. There are several outfitters in town that will drive you to the top of the mountain with your bicycle and drop you off so you can take a 17-mile downhill ride back to town. More hardy riders ride up the 17 miles first then back down. Me, not so much. We rode the other direction for a few miles towards Abingdon and found it to be beautiful and not too challenging. My cup of tea – or craft beer as the case may be. That evening we rode to the edge of town and went for a short hike up the AT. It was the equinox and it was still quite light after 9 pm. As we started up the trail with a 4-year-old, we noticed a hiker in a shelter just up from the road. We went a 1/2 mile or so and as it became darker, we decided to come back while we could barely see to walk. Safety first for the old man and young lady. It would be hard for my son to carry both of us out… When we got back to the hiker in his berth, he commented that he didn’t think we were going to be coming back. No faith in our mountaineering abilities. It gave us a good laugh, though! Off to campfire and then to bed.

As for the beer, Adam the founder/brewer at Damascus Brewing was in  for a bit of a surprise when I showed up at 11:30 am on my bike and requested entry. Always the gentleman, he invited me in and hooked me up with a birthday beer! A fine porter called Beaver Fever. His theme is the best! There are always plenty of styles on tap with beers to suit anyone’s palate. They are just finishing up an outdoor area behind the brewery that’s going to be a fine place to hang out while drinking delicious beer and hearing good music. They are currently open Thursday – Sat with live music. Check it out if you are in the area. Heck, just go there even if you are not in the area because it’s a great place to hang out.

Huck and Adam hanging out

The real reason for the trip is to stock up on some fireworks for Independence Day. If you turn towards Tennessee on South Shady Avenue, in a couple of miles you will arrive at Crazy Herb’s Fireworks. The have a great selection and will show you  videos of the items in action on their handy dandy laptop. These are the real deal, stuff that isn’t available in Virginia. We always put together a great show from the items there. He even hooked me up with a birthday present. Unfortunately, I will have to blow that one up! If you know what I mean…

Huck hanging out at Crazy Herb’s Fireworks near Damascus, Virginia

Huck was there!

 

 

What’s the story on 420 beer?

What’s the story on 420 beer?

Time has passed since marijuana was legalized in Denver. Is anyone there making pot beer? Yes, and no…

Cannabis-infused beer was recently legalized in Colorado, but the law only allows cannabidiol, not the actual THC. That means you can get the benefits of the healing properties of the plant but not the side effect most people are looking for. Dad & Dudes Brewaria are one of the first to make these types of beers.

2015 GABF with D & D serving some cannabis beer…

There are several breweries making infused beer, but if you want all the positive effects you will need to make your own. There’s a couple of ways to do that. Some prefer using alcohol or another solvent to remove the active properties of the plant and adding it after the beer is fermenting. Another method is to add the plant at the end of the boil and let it rest in the hot water, effectively “cooking” it for 20 minutes or so to release the active properties.

There are two major problems in getting actual reefer-infused beer. First, it has to be regulated by two separate entities, the BATF and whatever authority handles the cannabis legalization. Since it’s a federally illegal drug, it’s unlikely the BATF is going to approve any labels for those sorts of beers. The second big hurdle is the cost. Unless you can get your adjuncts for free, a five gallon batch of infused beer would cost several hundred dollars. Imagine what a 10-barrel batch would cost.

So I guess we will just have to wait for someone to figure it out before we can have actual 420 beer!

Here’s a link to our two segments of our radio show this week about 420 beer.

420 beer part 1420 beer part 2

Huck was here!

 

Craft Beer and Politics – Are your reactions worth 1/2 your customers?

Every day I see posts from beer industry folks on brewery or distribution pages concerning politics. Most of the posts are heartfelt outpourings of their feelings about the issues. Some are funny, although usually only to one side of the debate. And 10% or so are down right mean or vulgar or untruthful.

Currently, the country is pretty much divided politically with one half aligned with the democrats and their philosophy and the other half with the republicans and their philosophy. Wait a minute – that’s not right. Only 58% of registered voters voted in the Presidential election. So 30% support D’s, 30% support R’s and 40% DGAF.

It’s hard to understand why business and craft beer celebrities would want to risk alienating 30% of their potential customers. The only case where I could see it making sense would be if your market area is so dominated by one camp or the other, it would actually bring people in to your business. Other than that, there has to be some negative fallout to the continued vitriol being spewed on social media.

Here’s s few points to ponder:

  1. No one has ever changed their opinion concerning their political beliefs due to a posting on social media.
  2. Even if you post 100 wonderful things about craft beer in a day, one post bashing Trump or Hillary can cause 30% your audience to unfollow, or even worse, to unfriend you. You might want to check from time to time to see what your numbers are.
  3. If the item you post in the heat of passion turns out to be false, how does that reflect on your postings about your products and events?
  4. Finally, if you react to another’s post, how about sticking to the facts and not make personal insults concerning the other person’s genetic makeup or unusual appearance.  I think disparaging your opponent’s mental capabilities should be off limits as well no matter how accurate that may seem.

Here’s some solutions:

Create separate Facebook pages for your business life and your personal life. Be aware that people can search and determine that your political page is still you.

Better yet, just quit it! Or as those of us who like to interact with cheerful, funny, interesting people like to say…STFU!!

Now I know that many of you have causes that you feel quite strongly about and you do not understand why other people can’t come around to your way of thinking. Might I inform you that you can’t control other peoples feeling and actions. You can only control your reaction.

Think about that for a minute.

There’s 86,400 seconds in a day.You open up Facebook and there’s a meme you disagree with. Perhaps it makes fun of your political, social, or religious beliefs. You are astounded and upset! You drop every thing and attack the person who posted it and get in a long debate. Afterwards, you are still upset for the rest of the day. The result is that you let 300 seconds or .03% of your day ruin 99.97% of your day.

My solution is to unfollow that person or business and move on. Every once in a while I look at my list of folks who I unfollowed and bring them back to see what’s going on in their lives. I find that most of them turn out to be repeat offenders and have to be banished again to the valley of the unread.

Don’t be that person. It’s fine if you want to say yay for the thing I like. Most people won’t excommunicate you for that. Try to avoid hating other people’s ideas and beliefs publicly, though. That’s what bars are for.

In closing, remember the most important advice in this post – STFU! (I know, I know, I’m an offender as well.)

Thanks for your attention…

Huck Was Here!

Hoppy New Year or how to recover from your year of craft beer!

Hoppy New Year or how to recover from your year of craft beer!

Everyone seems to take our hobby to the limit. We have to have the latest, greatest beers. The highest alcohol or IBU’s. All year long we attend festivals, tastings, bottle shares and our favorite watering holes.

Little taste of Utopias.

Little taste of Utopias.

Then here comes the holidays with gift cards and gift beers. Excess is everywhere!

We wake up January 1st and go WTF happened? This year that was kicked back to January 2nd since most of us received an extra day for the holiday.

What happens next? We head to the gym and go on a diet. We hide from all the beers and our beer friends.

Our resolve is tested by the advent of Girl Scout Cookies and the release of Pliney the Younger and Hopslam. What to do?

This year, and some previous years, I decided to go Paleo or low carb. It takes some initial willpower but by day three you are not even hungry. The best way is to mix some greens with your protein and read those labels carefully.

What about beer? I recommend taking a week or two off. Bourbon on the rocks or neat makes a nice nightcap in the meantime. Huckette likes a little tequila with fresh-squeezed lime juice.

To slowly get beer back, there’s always Mich Ultra at 2.6 grams of carbs. Bud Select (1.9), Miller 64 (2.4) and Beck’s Premier Light (3.2) are some others. Unfortunately, most craft beers weigh in around 15 – 25 grams of carbs. The aforementioned Hopslam is 21.7. If you are trying to stay below 20 carbs a day, that’s going to be a deal breaker.

I found this handy list of the carb counts for most beers here!

Additional benefits include weight loss, lower blood sugar, lower blood pressure, all around feeling better, increased energy, and better fitting clothes!

There’s more information at DietDoctor.com. Give it a shot and let me know what you think!

Huck was here!