Southwest Brewing News August/September 2012 : Page 1
NEW MEXICAN BEERS CANNED GETTING in the Southwest By Bev Blackwood II (From Top, Counterclockwise) Point The Way IPA cans make their way to the filler heads after a rinse at Golden Road Brewing in Los Angeles, Calif. PHOTO BY AND COURTESY OF CAMBRIA GRIFFITH/GOLDEN ROAD BREWING. Blonde Bombshell flows into waiting cans on the Southern Star Brewing canning line. P HOTO BY BEV BLACKWOOD II. Empty Sympathy For The Lager and Weisse Versa cans await their turn on the PHOTO BY BEV BLACKWOOD II Karbach Brewing Company canning line. canned American beer wasn’t craft beer. But that’s changing. at Their Peak By Tammy Pluym C anned beer hardly seems like a brave new world, until you insert the word “craft.” Until recently, beer in a can had been anathema to the craft beer drinker. The primary reason for this was that only “macro” brewers were able to put their beer into a can economically. Canning lines for beer were the exclusive domain of industrial brewers like Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors. In short, in the past Crafty Canning With the advent of small-scale canning systems and Dale’s Pale Ale from the Oskar Blues brewery in Lyons, Colo., craft beer found its way into cans. Meg Gill, president and co-founder of Golden Road brewing in See Canned p. 4 Event Calendar ................................... 2 From the Editor ...................................3 Queen of Quaff ....................................3 Best of Show ......................................6 Directories & Maps .........................12-15 Arkansas .......................8 Oklahoma ......................9 N Mexico/SW TX .......... 10 Souther California ....... 16 San Diego .................... 17 S/C Texas .................... 19 Nevada ........................20 N Texas ....................... 21 C Arizona ....................22 S Arizona .....................22 N Arizona ....................23 i (L-R) Kaylynn McKnight, Darren Krehoff, Nathan Zerbe and Jeff Erway of La Cumbre Brewing Company in PHOTO BY TAMMY PLUYM Albuquerque, N.M. invested all of their time, money, and brewing m expertise into the business e and it’s already paying off. a As Jeff Erway says, “This A brewery was an all-in bet for br us.” Their biggest problem us. seems to be keeping up with see the immediate and growing demand for their brews. dem The Erways worked most 2010 getting the brewery of 20 ready for the grand opening in December. Along the way they Decem their first child in October, had the appropriately named Miles. appropr Needless to say, 2010 was a busy Needles f In the mile-high city of Albuquerque, located in an ther industrial section near two other breweries/taprooms, you’ll find “New Mexican Beers at Their Peak.” The official ng slogan of La Cumbre Brewing Company says it all, and customers wholeheartedly agree. Opening less than two years ago, La Cumbre has already earned respect in the craft beer industry worldwide and enjoys great popularity and success in New Mexico. Jeff and Laura Erway own and operate the brewery and taproom and have See La Cumbre p. 5
Getting Canned In The Southwest
Bev Blackwood II
Canned beer hardly seems like a brave new world, until you insert the word “craft.” Until recently, beer in a can had been anathema to the craft beer drinker. The primary reason for this was that only “macro” brewers were able to put their beer into a can economically. Canning lines for beer were the exclusive domain of industrial brewers like Anheuser- Busch, Miller and Coors. In short, in the past canned American beer wasn’t craft beer. But that’s changing.
With the advent of small-scale canning systems and Dale’s Pale Ale from the Oskar Blues brewery in Lyons, Colo., craft beer found its way into cans. Meg Gill, president and co-founder of Golden Road brewing in Los Angeles, who worked at Oskar Blues says, “Oskar Blues continues to lead the way and has become the second largest [craft] brewer in Colorado, one of the fastest growing breweries ever in craft.” When it came time to open Golden Road, cans were the natural choice for them. “[It’s the] best package for the beer, for the region (outdoors California lifestyle) and the styles we are filling it with.” She also says their beers are “fresh styles that need to be consumed quickly that fall apart in glass bottles, like wheat in weiss beers and hops in IPAs.”
Dave Fougeron, the owner of Southern Star Brewing Company in Conroe, Texas chose cans over bottles when he started his brewery in 2008 for a variety of reasons. “Our in-package air is negligible.” He notes “Very little oxidation in the package. Of course, impenetrable to light, hard to break.” Besides that, there’s also a local aspect to the decision. Southern Star’s cans are literally made just up the road at the Ball Company’s Metal Beverage Packaging Division. “I like the fact that our cans are made in Conroe.” Smiles Fougeron, “I like knowing that a little bit of the money stays in the area.”
There’s an additional benefit for Southern Star as well in having their packaging manufacturer just up the road - technical support. For all the outward simplicity of the can, it’s a technically challenging package to master. “Our tolerance is .4 of a micrometer,” Fougeron comments as he points to the rim of a freshly canned Bombshell Blonde. “You’ve got all these variables, that if one of them goes out, you’re screwed.” Packaging manager Joe Hague keeps a close eye on the filler as it runs. “I’m checking [the sealed cans] about every hour,” Hague notes. Despite the technical Complexity, Fougeron wouldn’t trade his cans for a bottle. “When you fill up, in the time it takes to transfer from the fill head to the seamer, the CO2 is breaking out and the lid goes on top, squashes that head out and you're not having to shoot water into it or disturb it like traditional bottling lines. Amazingly enough, I think that's what contributes to having less in package air,” Fougeron adds.
Canning is a Craft
The equipment for canning isn’t cheap, but it’s cheaper than the traditional rotary bottle fillers, hence the surge in popularity. Where the real expense and challenge lies is in the package itself. Cans are ordered by the truckload and are pre-printed for the beer they will eventually contain. That means a truckload of cans for every beer a brewery makes and more importantly, warehouse space to store them. “Four truckloads of cans take up a lot of room,” remarks Fougeron, his eyes glancing over the floor to ceiling stacks of empties lining the back of Southern Star’s brewery. Lids are even pricier, running over $13,000 a pallet.
Getting around those costs has even spawned a new business, The Can Van, which has been used by Monkey Paw Pub & Brewery in San Diego, Calif., brings the canning line to the brewery. Jenn Coyle, CEO for The Can Van remarks, “One of our core objectives is to help small breweries conserve working capital, as well as to get higher utilization of the equipment by using it among a number of breweries.” It’s also a way to get a “toe in the water” for the brewery that’s not sure about canning. “By sourcing blank cans and labeling them in small quantities,” observes Coyle, “we allow brewers to test out the market without committing to the expense or storage of a full order of pre-printed cans.”
Even so, the biggest issue with canning may still be perception among consumers and the industry. “Ultimately I think in people’s minds, a can doesn’t have the same quality as a bottle does,” notes Brock Wagner, the owner of Saint Arnold Brewing in Houston, Texas whose product has always been in bottles and has no current plans to move to cans. “If we put cans out, a lot of the sales would just cannibalize our bottles and I think the bottle is a better package. There’s no incentive for us to do it,” he adds.
But the rationale for cans often isn’t about perception; it’s about choices, as Brad Farbstein, the owner of Real Ale in Blanco, Texas notes. Their flagship beer, Firemans #4 is being offered in cans for the first time this year. “The cans are intended to provide a package that is more conducive with the Texas outdoor lifestyle,” Farbstein states. “It also offers our retailers an option to sell our beer in venues where cans are the only options.”
The recent move of major craft brewers like Sierra Nevada into cans, coupled with the increasing number of craft breweries canning has raised the profile of the package to new heights. Ultimately, that’s a good thing according to Meg Gill of Golden Road. “Sierra Nevada and New Belgium cans are helping us all,” she opines. “The consumers now are much more educated than they were even five years ago,” Gill shares. Cans are the most recycled form of packaging, are lighter in weight and more durable than glass, making shipping easier and are light-proof, fending off one of beer’s most dreaded foes. What remains to be seen is whether craft beer in cans will shift the consumer perception that quality can’t be found in a can, when in fact, it can.
Read the full article at http://swbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Getting+Canned+In+The+Southwest/1139090/121331/article.html.
New Mexican Beers
at Their Peak
In the mile-high city of Albuquerque, located in an industrial section near two other breweries/taprooms, you’ll find “New Mexican Beers at Their Peak.” The official slogan of La Cumbre Brewing Company says it all, and customers wholeheartedly agree. Opening less than two years ago, La Cumbre has already earned respect in the craft beer industry worldwide and enjoys great popularity and success in New Mexico.
Jeff and Laura Erway own and operate the brewery and taproom and have invested all of their time, money, and brewing expertise into the business and it’s already paying off. As Jeff Erway says, “This brewery was an all-in bet for us.” Their biggest problem seems to be keeping up with the immediate and growing demand for their brews.
The Erways worked most of 2010 getting the brewery ready for the grand opening in December. Along the way they had their first child in October, appropriately named Miles. Needless to say, 2010 was a busy Year for them. The brewery and taproom opened to immediate success. Being in close proximity to two other breweries, they – and all New Mexico breweries – work together to ensure they are all successful world-class breweries. They don’t see each other as the competition, and this strategy appears to be working beyond expectations.
Elevating Their Beer
Erway strives to set La Cumbre apart from other breweries by his ‘no compromise’ philosophy of brewing. He develops the “recipe first and the budget later.” He frequently uses imported malt as the base malt in his recipes rather than using cheaper ingredients with small additions of higherpriced malt. This is exemplified in his flagship beer Elevated IPA, a highly hopped American IPA. The base malt for Elevated IPA is an English pale ale malt and there are nine different hop varieties in the brew. This unfiltered beer weighs in at 7.2% ABV with 100 IBUs and is described by Erway as “a dry, well-balanced ale with an obscene amount of hop aroma.” The high quality of Elevated IPA is beyond debate as it earned a gold medal at the 2011 GABF and a bronze medal at the 2012 World Beer Cup. Erway informs, “I’m not a creative brewer. I brew the best beer styles I can. I don’t compromise on ingredients. It’s the best American IPA I can brew.”
Until recently, hopheads could only find Elevated IPA and other La Cumbre brews at the brewery or served at a few fine establishments in Albuquerque. Thirsty IPA drinkers are now able to find the brew in 16-ounce cans in stores. Erway installed the four-head Wild Goose canning line and started it up in the same week. He also put the first four-packs of Elevated IPA on Albuquerque store shelves on the very same day he started up the line.
The long-term goals for La Cumbre are to steadily increase production but to ‘keep it local.’ The brewery produced 1,300 barrels its first year and is on track to sell 4,000 in 2012. This figure includes a projection of selling 540 cases a week in cans. The current brewery location is capable of producing 15,000 barrels per year maximum, and it seems like it won’t be long before they are brewing to that limit. Erway’s vision for La Cumbre is to keep distribution limited to the state. As he says, “When I go to Wisconsin, I want New Glarus. When people travel to New Mexico, they will want La Cumbre.”
The Erways are no longer alone in running the brewery and taproom. La Cumbre already has 14 employees and they are looking to hire four more enthusiastic people. Both were teachers prior to entering the brewing business, so they are good at and enjoy training new people. The employees have a family atmosphere at La Cumbre and describe it as a fun place to work. Erway was forced to relinquish some of his head brewing responsibilities in order to run and grow the business. He has trained new brewers to take over the heavy lifting. A new brewer at La Cumbre is Kaylynn McKnight, and the assistant brewers are Nathan Zerbe and Darren Krehoff. Zerbe is moving on to a brewery in New York, so Erway will be hiring more brewers and assistants soon. The brewery vibe that Jeff and Laura Erway are creating is exemplified in their recent job posting for a head brewer, “The management here is committed to helping bring brewery positions out of the dark ages by truly working with and taking care of the brewery staff in an equitable way that treats the profession as if it is not only a hobby, but truly a skilled trade.”
You will find around 10 styles of La Cumbre beers to choose from on a typical night at the brewery. The regular lineup includes Pyramid Rock Pale Ale, Malpais Stout (silver medal at 2011 GABF), and South Peak Pilsner. Elevated IPA is the most popular and the biggest selling beer in the house beer selection, but right behind it is Jefe’s Hefe. This refreshing brew is a traditional hefeweizen made from 55% wheat, a Durst Pils base, and Andechser yeast. This hefe has a rich and thick mouthfeel with a balance of the expected clove, banana, vanilla and bubble gum flavors and aromas, but is not a ‘banana Bomb’ like some hefeweizens. La Cumbre used to offer an American wheat beer and it was their slowest selling brew. Erway replaced the American wheat with the hefeweizen and it was instantly popular. Not all wheat beers are equally appreciated! Jefe’s Hefe will eventually be the second beer that La Cumbre packages in cans. Soon it will be elevated too.
Read the full article at http://swbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/New+Mexican+Beers/1139091/121331/article.html.