Due to the pandemic, this year’s event was held entirely online. However, although there was no pro-am component this year, the commercial beers competition was indeed held, and brewers across the country held their breath as they watched the online feed of the awards ceremony, and waited to learn if they’d earned one of the coveted medals.
Below are the medals won by breweries “local” to me -meaning in a wide circle drawn around the San Francisco Bay Area, roughly from Chico in the north to Fresno in the south, and east to the state line.
Congrats to them all! The full list of winners can be viewed HERE.
An small brewery in Illinois finds itself in the midst of a shitstorm thanks to its owners online postings.
The story was first caught by A Good Beer Blog, who preserved and tweeted the screenshots, and followed-up on by PorchDrinking.com. Following the story, one finds oneself bearing witness one big WTF? moment in a year already abundant in them.
It turns out that Natalie White is one-half of the team behind a place called Steam Hollow Brewing Co. in Manteno, IL., and that that post is but one of several in the same vein.
If that were not bad enough, a few days later, the couple proceeded to become involved in a verbal altercation #BLM demonstrators. In a since-deleted FaceBook post the Whites claimed that they “were trying to cross a busy road and had a car of people yelling behind us. A few quick seconds of conversation as the cross light changed, we were called racist, etc.”, but admit to being “sarcastic”. The protesters, on the other hand, have argued that it was the Whites who started the incident.
To make matters worse, in defending themselves, the Whites doubled down on the conspiracy theories:
How could they even think that that could ever be counted as effective damage control?
Unsurprisingly, the backlash has been immediate. Not only are they being eviscerated pn social media, but as reported by PorchDrinking.com, even the Illinois Brewers Guild has been quick to put distance between themselves and Steam Hollow: “Steam Hollow is not a member and the views expressed by the owners do not reflect those of the guild.” BreweryFinder.org, an online brewery directory, has stated stated that Steam Hollow has been “permanently removed from our directory”, and even Steam Hollow’s distributor has apparently stopped doing business with them.
At a time when emotions are running high and even government officials and managers in large corporations are being taken to task for what they say in public -and even in private- , it boggles the mind that the White’s could think that the “private views” they stated on very public social media platforms would not rebound on to their business.
To paraphrase something I said regarding the similar case of 12 Rounds Brewing in Sacramento a few years ago:
At the same time I can’t but think what a rookie, dumbass move … when one is in a business that depends on making people feel welcome and included. And, especially in one in which so much depends on the brewers’ reputations and the customers’ relationship to them. In that sense, [they’ve] reaped what [they] sowed.
This morning one of those “Your Memories” things popped up on my Facebook feed. It was from five years ago, when I joined my wife in New York City for a few days while she was there on a more extended stay.
The specific “memory” was of our visit to the Heartland Brewery and Rotisserie at the Empire State Building.
We had gone out walking in midtown Manhattan and went up to the top floor of the Empire State Building, only to turn around, put off by the high price of admission to the observation deck. Back at ground level, was passed by Heartland, noticed it was a brewery, and decided to go in out of the cold and to make the most of the evening.
The place was one of those where they’ve gone a long way to make the venue feel old-timey when it obviously isn’t, but it was nice enough. Friendly and warm. Packed with tables and booths, it was obvious that the beer was produced somewhere else, but that’s no matter.
We didn’t order any food, so I can’t comment on that, but I recall the beers all being quite solid. They were all classic styles -pale ales, a stout, a heffeweizen, amber, and so on. I remember particularly liking the stout and the heffeweizen. Not bad for my first taste of NYC local beer!
From what I see online, that location is now closed, but Heartland –an employee-owned company– still maintains two locations near Times Square.
I do hope in plying that touristy area, they’ve kept up the quality of their brewing. However, since they’ve won a few medals at the New York State Craft Beer Competition in recent years, there’s no reason to think they haven’t still got it.
On my recent visit to Durham, North Carolina, Fullsteam Brewery was one of my obligatory stops.
The brewery is located in a slightly decayed area near downtown Durham, that likely due to the availability of empty real estate, has found new life as a hub of the local food and drink scene. It’s hard not to suspect that the presence of Fullsteam and of a well-liked BBQ joint nextdoor has had a big hand in that.
Fullsteam’s public area is divided into three spaces: a front area, as soon as one walks in off the street through the barn door; a larger area with more seating and a small stage; and the space where the bar itself is located. All three are comfortable, friendly spaces, accented with quirky post-industrial touches such as a wall of dials, library card catalog cabinets, and other odds and ends. Behind a glass wall at the back, one can view the brewery proper, with its assortment of fermenters and the brewhouse with which Fullsteam pumps put 8,000 bbl a year.
I first encountered Fullsteam Brewery on a visit to Durham, NC, in 2016. I sat down at the bar, and as I had limited time, I told the server I had time for only one or two, and asked him to serve me the beer he thought I should not walk out without having tried. He started to go into the usual “Well, what do you like drink?” exchange, but stopped himself and served me a bottle of First Frost Foraged Persimmon Ale. Thus began my love for Fullsteam.
Every Fall, Fullsteam’s network of foragers fans out and gathers ripe persimmons, which the brewery then processes and freezes. That fruit is then used to produce the following year’s First Frost, a complex, fruit-forward 13% abv ale fermented with Canadian and Belgian Abbey yeasts, Crystal and Magnum hops, and Belgian candy sugar. It is, frankly, one of my absolute favorite beers.
The rest of the brewery’s lineup are no slouches, either. Featuring ingredients such as North Carolina barley and sorghum, local berries, paw paws, hickory shells, and chocolate and coffee from local purveyors, those brews reflect Fullsteam’s mission to create beers that evoke and celebrate the farms and produce of the South.
On my recent trip to North Carolina we made it a point to venture out to the town of Saxapahaw, on the shores of the Haw River, to visit a brewery I had long been desirous to know: Haw River Farmhouse Ales.
Haw River Farmhouse Ales is located in a corner of the century-old building of the historic Saxapahaw Spinning Mill. The building is shared with a music venue, a coffee shop, an artisanal butcher (try the braunschweiger!), and the Saxapahaw General Store, which serves as a general store cum souvenir shop cum restaurant cum meeting place for motorcyclists, bicyclists, and other visitors who venture down the country lanes to Saxapahaw.
Haw River Farmhouse Ales is tucked into a 3000 sq ft space on the lower level at the west end of the building. There you’ll find the taproom, and visible through a set of windows behind the bar, the 10-barrel capacity brewhouse.
The Haw River brewery is not a big one, but they do a lot with what they’ve got. The brewery displays a sense of place by tucking its outside seating between the remains of thick concrete walls and by incorporating elements in the taproom that give a nod to the building’s industrial past.
That aesthetic extends to the beers, which often feature local ingredients – North Carolina-grown grains, berries, and muscadine grapes, locally-roasted coffee, and even Carolina Reaper chiles!
That combination produces some really nice beers. One, I have mentioned previously: the 2018 Saxy Machismo quadrupel with ancho chiles and habaneros.
On this visit I tasted several others, of course. My two favorites were JavaQue and Hiverna,
JavaQue is a velvety smooth 7.1% abv cream stout, infused with Peruvian coffee, smoked malt, and bacon from the butchery next door.
Hiverna is an 8.2% abv Winter Harvest Saison brewed with winter squash and sweet potato, and finished with Sichuan peppercorns, coriander, and cinnamon. It was a good, solid, saison which finished really nicely, with those spices not overpowering anything else but lingering after each swallow
Haw River Farmhouse Ales is well worth checking out should you find yourself in the Durham or Chapel Hill area.
Haw River Farmhouse Ales 1713 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Rd, Saxapahaw, NC