Beer 511

Exploring Craft Beer and Homebrew in Peru (Country Code 51) and the USA (Country Code 1)

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Lima’s Barbarian Brewery Sold to AB InBev’s ZX Ventures

In a move that caught almost everyone by surprise, the announcement was made early last week that Lima’s Cervecería Barbarian had been 100% acquired by ZX Ventures.

Barbarian was one of Peru’s most visible and successful early craft breweries. A winner of many awards, and headed by a charismatic and friendly trio of friends -Diego Rodríguez, Juan Diego Vásquez, and Ignacio Schwalb-, it was often featured in stories in print and visual media. Barbarian promoted itself as leading the “beer revolution”, and it was in no small part through their efforts that space was opened up for Peruvian craft beer in supermarket shelves and coolers.

ZX Ventures, on the other hand, is an “innovation and investment” group for Anheuser-Busch InBev, the world’s largest beer company. ZX Ventures specializes in bringing AB InBev’s reach into areas hitherto unexplored by the company, such as homewbrewing supplies, beer e-commerce, beer vending machines, and in acquiring and then funding expansion of startups in new markets. It already owned 13 breweries around the world.

AB InBev, for its part, has already had a footing in Peru, since its 2016 acquistion of Ambev Perú and of the Backus & Johnston brewing empire. With the acquisition of Barbarian it garners a foothold in the “craft” market, and one via a company that comes with two successful bars and another on the way, and which has already proved a market for premium and superpremium beers (which Backus itself had already unsuccessfully tried its hand at via its short-lived Abraxas beer.) Under the terms of thedeal, Rodríguez, Vásquez, and Schwalb, along with Barbarian’s 120 employees, will all remain in their current positions and roles.

Not surprisingly, news of the sale sent shock waves through the Peruvian craft beer community.

The immediate realization was that the waters around what is a craft brewer, and thus a craft beer, were about to get quite muddied. The fear being that Barbarian’s strong public identification with the craft beer movement would persist, not only in the company’s self image, but in the eyes of consumers, while AB InBev would use Barbarian’s visibility and reputation, backed by Backus & Johnston’s clout, to choke off market access for craft brewers.

The second was that the craft brew industry needed to get out ahead of this and define what makes a brewery a craft brewery, and thus a beer a craft beer.

The Unión de Cerveceros Artesanales del Perú (UCAP), quickly settled on independence being a key feature, and suggested that breweries place a logo on their social media pages reading “Yo sí soy una verdadera cervecería artesanal” (I am a real craft brewery) and the hash-tag #cervezaindependiente. At the same time many supporters and craft beer drinkers -including myself- followed suit and rushed to add a similar logo to our social media feeds and pages (including this blog), reading “Yo sí tomo verdadera cerveza artesanal” (I drink real craft beer).

The campaign more or less landed with a thud. Many consumers, commenting in FaceBook groups, rejected it, viewing it as sour grapes from a bunch “haters” resentful of others’ success.

The truth is that many members of the UCAP are personal friends and acquaintances of Barbarian’s founders, and in fact, until the morning of the announcement of the sale, Barbarian’s Juan Diego Vásquez was the president of the UCAP. However, because the logo campaign was not preceded nor accompanied by any public statement explaining it, and which could have been used to congratulate the Barbarians, thank them for their efforts on behalf of craft brew in Peru, and to wish them well in the future, the choice of language for the logo came to be seen as pointedly anti-Barbarian.

The UCAP’s members are coming to realize that the sale of Barbarian presents them with the challenge and the opportunity to start the process of formally defining what is a craft brewery in the Peruvian context, something which, as I’ve noted before, has not yet been done very well.

Upcoming releases of Resilience IPA

 

As Resilience Butte County Proud IPA comes out fermentation, breweries all over are preparing release events in the coming weeks, including a number of  breweries around the greater San Francisco Bay Area.

Fieldwork Brewing Company already released their version (hazy, of course!) on December 6th, and Altamont Beer Works in Livermore poured theirs on the following day.

Monk’s Cellar Brewery and Public House, in Roseville started pouring theirs today.

Del Cielo Brewing, in Martinez, and Shadow Puppet Brewing Company, in Livermore,  will each start pouring Resilience IPA at 4 pm on Wednesday, December 12th.

On Saturday, December 15th, Martinez’ Five Suns Brewing will release their version of Resilience in time with their one-year anniversary party, and it seems that Sierra Nevada’s own Resilience IPA will also be on tap on Saturday, at Jack’s Taps in Pleasant Hill.

On Wednesday, December 19th, Calicraft Brewing Company will be having Sierra Nevada’s Resilience IPA on at the Calicraft tap room in Walnut Creek.  However, Blaine Landberg, Calicraft’s founder and owner, has taken thing one step further, and, on the 22nd, will be holding a “Resilience Day” and pouring Calicraft’s own Resilience IPA “5 Ways”: Classic, POG, OPM, Coffee, and 2 firkins!

 

UPDATE (12/12):  I’ve got word that Drake’s Brewing Co., in San Leandro, is pouring Resilience today. New Helvetia, in Sacramento, is doing the same, starting at 4 pm; so is Grillin’ and Chillin’ Alehouse in Hollister.

Danville Brewing Company, in Danville, is releasing its version of Resilience IPA on Thursday, Dec. 13th.

The Bistro, in Hayward, will be serving Resilience starting on Friday, Dec. 21st.

Rock Bottom Brewery & Restaurant in Campbell will hold a release party for Resilience IPA, in conjunction with the Santa Clara County Firefighters union, on December 28th.

 

Brewing Community Unites for Camp Fire Relief

In response to the terrible Camp Fire in northern California, which has destroyed thousands of homes and leveled entire communities -continues to burn as this is written- Sierra Nevada Brewing Company stepped forward with a proposal to brew a beer and donate all sales to fire victim relief efforts.

Similar collaboration benefit brewing efforts are not new to the California craft brewing community. Last year, after the devastating fires in Sonoma County, Russian River Brewing Co. enlisted dozens of craft breweries to brew Sonoma Pride beer. Their efforts helped raise over $1M for Sonoma fire relief.  Similarly, just a few months ago, after the Carr Fire, five Shasta County craft breweries teamed up to raise funds by  brewing Shasta Strong IPA.

This time, Sierra Nevada’s founder and CEO, Ken Grossman got the ball rolling with this message on Facebook:

Many of you have asked if we will be brewing a fundraiser beer to support Camp Fire relief efforts. The answer is a resounding “yes.”

We are proud to announce that we’ll be brewing Resilience Butte County Proud IPA and donating 100 percent of sales to Camp Fire relief. In addition, we are also asking every brewery in America to brew Resilience and do the same.

I’m sending a letter to brewers across the country, inviting them to join us in a collaboration brew day on Tuesday, November 27. We are working with malt and hop suppliers to provide raw ingredient donations to all participating breweries and are asking those breweries to donate 100 percent of their sales, as well.

We know that the rebuilding process will take time, but we’re in this for the long haul. Our hope is to get Resilience IPA in taprooms all over the country to create a solid start for our community’s future.

Thank you to each and every one of you for your support. We’re right here with you and we’ll get through this together.

– Ken

The response from the always close-knit brewing community has, of course, been tremendous and hundreds of breweries in California and further afield have signed on.

Some of the Bay Area breweries that are participating are Danville Brewing Company, Del Cielo Brewing, Shadow Puppet Brewing Company, Ghost Town Brewing,  Russian River Brewing Co., Altamont Brewing Company, Almanac Beer Co., Anchor Brewing Co., Drake’s Brewing Company, 21st Ammendment, Morgan Territory, ….

There is a growing list of participating breweries on the Sierra Nevada webpage.

In addition, the recipe for Resilience Butte County Proud IPA has been made available to homebrewers via the AHA, and homebrew supply retailer MoreBeer! may (emphasis on may) be releasing a homebrew ingredient kit.  Homebrewers, who of course cannot sell their beer, are encouraged instead to make a donation for Camp Fire relief via the Golden Valley Bank Community Foundation.

“Celebrator” turns 30!

Wow! The Celebrator is turning thirty!

Established in 1988 as the California Celebrator, and now officially titled Celebrator Beer News, it has indeed been a fixture of the California craft beer community.

I have personal fondness for the Celebrator going back to the mid- to late-1990s, when I started homebrewing.   The local homebrew supply store –the now long-defunct Fantastic Fermentations in Pacheco, CA– always had copies on hand.

In those days when the internet was barely getting going and websites were mostly hosted by universities and government institutions, the Celebrator was about the only way a regular guy like me could find out about and keep up with the craft beer scene, read interviews with brewers, or read features about breweries.

Much of it was almost incomprehensible to me –I had yet to have tried many of the styles mentioned and had little idea of where the breweries talked about were located– but I read every issue cover to cover and soaked it all in.

The folks at the Celebrator are marking this occasion with a 30th anniversary bash during SF Beer Week, on Feb, 17th.

Cheers to them! To the Celebrator! And, thank you!

Musings on 12 Rounds’ CEO Resigning

Today, Daniel Murphy, co-owner and founder of Twelve Rounds Brewing Company in Sacramento, announced on the brewery’s FaceBook page that he is stepping down as CEO of the company and that he and his wife, Elle Murphy, will be divesting from the brewery.

As you may recall, Murphy drew much public ire (and some support) when he criticized the Women’s March on Washington on his personal FaceBook page, saying he was “disgusted” with those who supported that “divisive event.” That drew attention to previous posts on his page in which he reportedly made anti-gay and anti-Muslim statements and accused President Barack Obama off being some sort of crypto-Muslim and a promoter of hate. Those posting led to calls for a boycott of Twelve Rounds, and protests outside the brewery.

Although early newspaper reports stressed that the taproom was full, and that many there expressed support for Murphy’s views, or at least his right to express them, it seems that that early surge did not hold up. Sure, he had many expressions of support from out of state, but out-of-state supporters don’t pay the bills. People in the taproom do, and Murphy had clearly alienated his home constituency. Despite an apology from him, the incident cost him clients and, ultimately, tap handles as bars and restaurants around town declined to serve his beer or to be associated with the Twelve Rounds brand.

From what I’ve seen, the response on social media to his and his wife’s divesting from Twelve Rounds has, by and large, been one of “Seeya!”.

Although I have no sympathy for his views, I feel bad for the Murphys. Opening a brewery is no easy or short process. It takes years of work and dedication. They poured their hearts and treasure into starting the brewery, and now they’re having to step away from it.

At the same time I can’t but think what a rookie, dumbass move on his part, to lambast Muslims, gays, feminists, and liberals (In California!) 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, Murphy’s reaped what he sowed.

I just hope that the brewery can shake off the controversy and that the workers and partners that remain can make a go of it.

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