11 November 2014

Into the Woods with #goodbeerbuckshot

Written by Jake Koeneman

I needed this. Since I first went hunting with my dad as an eight year old, autumn nights in the Wisconsin woods have always reminded me of the first time I looked up and saw more stars than I could possibly imagine existed. These moments where I can just stop, look at the sky, and reflect provide the calm that I often forget I need. Life is very busy right now and I needed the chance to step away for a couple of days.

When Michael Kiser of Good Beer Hunting texted a few weeks ago and asked if I was interested in attending the third Good Beer Buckshot weekend at Camp Wandawega in Wisconsin, I was excited. Once I saw the rough agenda, I wasn’t sure how anyone would survive the weekend. I confirmedmy reservation without hesitation and blocked off my calendar for October 10-12.

On Monday of camp week, we got our sleeping assignments and the final details for the weekend. It was here and it was go time. The week at work was crazy and I did not have the chance to really look at the details until Thursday. However, I kept coming back to the closing line of the email “you’re going to have the best time.”

Once I got some breathing space on Wednesday, I read the recaps of the 2012 and 2013 #GoodBeerBuckshot weekends and let those be my guide for packing. On Thursday, I re-read each of them again. I read them once more on Friday for good measure. Each time I read the 2013 recap, I paused at two statements:

1) “An event that’s not ‘held’ as much as it is conjured by the very men in attendance — their good wills and collaborative spirits providing all the strength necessary for an amazing time. “

2) “Each man finds his own way throughout the day — joining a small faction of adventure seekers for awhile. Then going off alone in a canoe for some all-too-rare silence out by the lake’s other shores.”

A great time, conjured by the collective spirits in attendance, with time to share beers but also plenty of time to make our own adventure: YES.

I left Friday afternoon from Indianapolis and immediately realized that I had plenty of blankets, beer, bourbon, and mead from New Day Craft, but little in the way of toiletries. I pledged to stop at any Wal-Mart or Meijer I could find that was closest to camp to get last minute supplies and headed north. Making my my way around the Chicago suburbs at rush hour, I started to notice the first wave of tweets marked with #Goodbeerbuckshot. Turning to the west just north of the Wisconsin state line toward Lake Geneva, it was impossible to miss the incredible sunset. It was one of those times where you smile and exhale as deeply as your lungs will allow, and then exhale a little further. I tweeted a quick picture of the sunset over the rolling hills, but it could not do the sky justice. I parked my car as darkness fully engulfed camp. As I stepped out of the car to meet Michael, the bonfire was alight, spirits were high, and the table was set for an amazing weekend.  It was perfect.

Friday night is acclimation. For those of us that were there for the first time, it was a hell of an introduction. Jon Barley and Paul Schneider of Solemn Oath described the beers they brought, including one they made exclusively for the weekend. Max and Michael thanked everyone for being able to make it, and the night progressed from “how did you get invited?” to conversations focused on industry trends and life outside of the beer industry. As the night faded further into darkness, everyone headed to their sleeping accommodations as they saw fit. Most heed the advice to not celebrate Friday in spite of Saturday, some do not.

Saturday is exploration. I was was one of the first to rise Saturday and was greeted with one of the most amazing scenes I have ever witnessed. Two steps out of my tent on a bluff was the mirror-still lake with fog rising and reflecting the early fall colors. The crisp air and the view were the perfect preview to the day. As coffee was brewed and more guys rose from slumber, discussions ranged between employment and speculating on who was using the rope swing at 1am the night before.

When breakfast rolled out of the kitchen at 9:30a courtesy of the Longman and Eagle crew, the stage for the day was further set. Breakfast consisted of  hand rolled burritos filled with Foie Gras, lime cabbage, potatoes, refried beans, and eggs. Oh, and the beans, potatoes, and eggs were all cooked in the rendered duck fat from the Foie Gras. After breakfast, the day rolled along seamlessly. While one group was opening bottles at the picnic table, another was throwing hatchets at a wooden target, and still others were in boats out on the lake. I took a rowboat out on the lake for some time to reflect. It was incredibly peaceful until my less than graceful exit from the boat once back on shore resulted in a wet shirt and spilled beer. Lunch was a pairing of amazing smoked meat prepared by Cleetus Friedman of Fountainhead and beers from Penrose in Elgin.

Saturday afternoon captured the essence of camp as I had pictured it. 4 Hands brewery from St. Louis, MO brought multiple versions of their Berliner Weisse fermented to different PH levels for blending. The crew broke up into a few different groups to create unique blends that were then judged. Shortly after the blending was done, a whiffle ball game started that lasted for multiple hours until it was time to help set the table for dinner. Dinner featured multiple beers from Une Annee, a one year old brewery in Chicago, paired with more incredible food. After time for digestion, and some music, the bonfire and bottle share started. As Friday night went, so did Saturday. A number of guys faded out until there was a small contingent left debating who could curate the best tap list with only 12 tap lines while passing around a bottle of bourbon.

As I packed my car on Sunday morning, I had some initial moments to reflect on what had transpired in the previous 48 hours. I met incredible dudes. Guys that execute at an incredibly high level in their chosen career and are willing to put all of the usual guard aside to just be a group of dudes running around a summer camp. The fact that I could actually hit a whiffle ball was a definite bonus. I cannot thank Michael Kiser and Max Whistler enough for their invitation this year and I can’t wait to attend next fall. Cheers to #GoodBeerBuckshot weekend 2014.

02 November 2014

Press Release: Central State and Black Acre Sign Contract Brewing Partnership

November 2, 2014 - INDIANAPOLIS - Central State Brewing, a new Indianapolis Brewery founded by experienced brewer Josh Hambright, is proud to announce a contract brewing partnership with Black Acre Brewing Company. To commemorate the announcement, the teams from Black Acre and Central State brewed a collaboration beer this weekend that highlights the unique approaches of both breweries as well as their partnership.

Central State will be the first brewery in Indiana, joining a small contingent of breweries across the United States, focusing exclusively on fermentation using wild yeast strains with a special emphasis on the Brettanomyces (“Brett”) yeast family. Beers created using Brett are growing in popularity in the United States due to the distinctive flavor profiles they can  produce. Recently a growing number of US breweries have begun to experiment with Brett, but few have committed to incorporating Brett into all their offerings.

“By utilizing Brett, we are able to pursue some really unique ideas that would be difficult in a brewery without that focus. Brett opens up a whole new palette of flavors to paint with that we can use to create unique beers and put innovative spins on traditional styles.” said Josh Hambright, Head Brewer and Co-Founder.

Under the partnership agreement, Black Acre will produce beers for Central State Brewing at their new facility in Irvington’s Coal Factory redevelopment effort. Central State will work with Black Acre to supervise all aspects of  production while maintaining responsibility for all sales and distribution decisions. While producing beer under contract at the Coal Factory facility, Central State will continue to search for a permanent home in the Indianapolis area.

“We are very excited to work with our friends at Black Acre. In our opinion over the past two years, they have really moved into the top tier of breweries in the state and are making great beers. The vision that Justin has for the Coal Factory is amazing and we’re lucky to be a part of the entire vision.” said Co-Founder Jake Koeneman.

Steve Ruby from Black Acre added, "Having known Chris, Jake, and Josh through their involvement in the Indianapolis beer community, as well as Josh for his work at Flat12 and Starlight Distributing, we have no doubt that Central State will be an exciting addition to the brewing scene. Their enthusiasm for craft beer is unbridled and we're looking forward to working with and alongside them."

Dates for the release of the collaboration and launch dates for Central State beers are tentatively scheduled for early 2015. Check Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/CSBrewing) and Twitter (@CSBrewing) for updates about both releases. Further inquiries may be made to Info@CentralStateBrewing.com.

About Central State Brewing
Central State Brewing is a brewery founded in 2014 by bearded friends Josh Hambright, Jake Koeneman, and Christopher Bly in Indianapolis, Indiana. Central State is focused on producing beers of exceptional quality with distinctive profiles using old world and new world techniques.

About Black Acre Brewing
Black Acre Brewing Company is a nanobrewery founded in 2011 by Jordan Gleason, Matt Johnson, Holly Miller, Justin Miller, and Steve Ruby with a focus on making a variety of specialty and seasonal beers. Currently only distributing out of their taproom at 5632 E. Washington St., Black Acre Brewing Company is in the process of building a new production facility at the Coal Factory, anticipated to be operational in 2015. Steve is currently the only owner with a beard.

About the Coal Factory Redevelopment
The Coal Factory encompasses 50,000 square-feet of property on the south side of Bonna Ave. and roughly between Ritter Ave. and Audubon Rd.  It will house Black Acre Brewing Company’s new brewing facility, B’s Po Boy’s second location, existing tenants Playground Productions, Coal Yard Coffee, 5547 Project and Inhabit and many unannounced tenants including a mix of restaurants, retail, artisan food production, art and entertainment offerings, and office space.  

06 October 2014

Georgia: A Beer Geek's View

As many of you know, I have now lived in Macon, Georgia for over a year.  If you're not familiar with Macon, maybe you're familiar with its exports - The Allman Brothers Band, Otis Redding and Little Richard to name a few.  Perhaps you're also familiar with some of Georgia's prominent breweries - Terrapin and Sweetwater.  Surely you've eaten Vidalia onions.  But what you're probably not familiar with, is the huge difference between brewery laws in Georgia and Indiana.  I'm here to change that.

In Indiana, we frequently like to lament the lack of cold beer in the grocery store and the "Closed" sign hanging in our liquor store windows on Sundays.  Those things suck, no one is going to argue that.  They quickly become expectations after a short period of time in a state that allows them.  While focusing on the restrictions and the negative, it is easy to forget how good many things are, especially if you like locally brewed beer.

Check out this website, I'll wait.  http://www.brewersassociation.org/statistics/by-state/

While you were perusing that data, I hope that you decided to compare Indiana and Georgia.  I'll point out a few interesting points in case you didn't.  Indiana is 14th in the country in number of brewers - that's impressive!  Georgia, with less than half the number, is 28th.  Doesn't sound too bad until you consider the per capita number.  Indiana ranks 20th* while Georgia ranks 47th.  How can that be?  Atlanta is one of the top 10 largest metro areas in the country!
*Fun Fact: California is 19th

While the answer is complicated, the biggest factor are the laws.  In Georgia, a brewery cannot sell beer to anyone but a distributor.  In fact, they can't even tell you where to buy their beer.  That doesn't mean they don't have brewery tours and tasting rooms, but they operate much differently.  Breweries are allowed to give away up to 32oz of beer per person as samples.  They try to reclaim some of this cost by selling specialty glassware for $10-16 that you can use to consume your samples.  In an attempt to help make sure you don't exceed your sample allotment, they distribute tickets or tokens when you enter.  No alcohol sales means no alcohol sales - you can't buy a six pack to go or fill a growler.  You especially can't sell specialty bombers.  And don't think about asking where you can buy their beer either.

I think you can see how this makes it difficult to start up a new brewery.  Brewpubs have it a little better, as they can serve their beer on premises, but they have a separate set of regulations and still need a distributor to take their beer off-site.  On the consumer end, things are a little more friendly.

Many laws are controlled on a city/county level.  You may have heard that you can drink on the streets of the Savannah riverfront.  A few years back, cities started passing laws for carry-out draft beer in sealed containers (growlers).  Retail establishments started popping up across the state, typically offering 40+ taps, all to-go.  Some cities allowed these growler shops to also sell bottled beer, some didn't.  Up until earlier this year, none of them allowed you to consume a pint of beer in the same place you could purchase beer to-go.  Macon and Warner Robins are now the only two cities in the state in which you can do that.

Of course many cities/counties have Sunday sales and cold beer in grocery stores and gas stations, almost every state besides Indiana does, but it also depends on local laws.  Typically grocery stores and gas stations are not able to apply for hard liquor permits.  Happy hour laws vary by city as well.  Atlanta doesn't allow happy hours, much like Indianapolis, but Macon does.

So what does all of this mean to you, the Hoosier?

Georgia is experiencing a recent surge in craft brewery growth similar to Indianapolis 3 or 4 years ago.  There are a lot of interesting new breweries popping up and some of the top bars in the country are located in the Atlanta area.  Here are my suggestions.

Visit a brewery, it's a good way to get a lot of beer for a reasonable price including a souvenir glass.  No one is measuring out 32oz with a measuring cup, so you'll typically consumer 3-4 pints for the price of the $12 glass.  With that knowledge, only visit one brewery per day, or get a designated driver.

Get growlers of hard to find beer.  Most growler shops will carry the popular offerings from Georgia breweries, but you may also find some rare, one-off type beers from national breweries.  Heck, you can get growlers of KBS, but be prepared to pay a premium.

Visit a well-stocked liquor store.  Package prices are cheap by Indiana standards.  I can already hear Matt's blood pressure rising.  Six packs are rarely over $10-12 and bombers tend to be sub-$10.  Naturally breweries like The Bruery are still expensive, but they're a few dollars cheaper than Indiana.

Most of all, be thankful for the self-distribution laws that allow pints in tasting rooms, reasonably priced growler fills and small breweries to get their beers into a few bars while they are starting out.  Those are the primary drivers in Indiana's craft beer growth, and states that don't have that type of support are struggling much more to gain momentum.

In a follow-up post, I'll share some recommendations on bars and breweries to visit in the peach state.