Friday, November 7, 2014

You Label Me, I'll Label You(r) Beer


I totally judge a beer by it's label & packaging. Just today I was grabbing lunch at City Market trying to decide what/if any craftbeer would be coming home with me.  I realized while browsing the large format section that I had skipped over several beers that are known to me to be excellent based on peer reviews, but I continue to pass them up because I find the labels/artwork/marketing to be weaksauce.

Am I alone? I don't normally order a beer based on tap handle at a bar so it is tough for me to explain this phenomenon. In my "real job" I'm drawn to marketing, and always have been. Things need to be aesthetically pleasing. Burlington Beer for example is just killing it with their labels, I would drink anything in those bottles!
I really love the simplicity, where less is more, much like Maine Beer Company, and even Hill Farmstead. I would rather see a hand written post it note on a beer then some of the labels I saw on the shelf.

I know that we should not "judge a book by it's cover" but there are some that just never make it into the basket for this reason. Obviously content is king, but for this beer geek I would suggest adding a little time and thought to your marketing strategy when it comes to designing your labels, and logos.


Thursday, September 11, 2014

Community vs. Competition | Beer People are Different

I had a conversation just the other day with someone at work regarding this, and today had the chance to speak to VPR about it.. Naturally it seemed like a good time to write about it as well.

It's simple really, in a previous post (I know they are few and far between) I wrote about the Vermont "beer bubble" and when/if it would ever burst. We have indeed lost at least one brewery since then, but I think we have gained like 7 more so we are still doing just fine don't you think?

In any case it got me thinking. My day to day includes working with/for business that are cutthroat, and fiercely compete against each other like nearly all industries. Bidding against each other, fighting for airtime, print space, and digital market-share. However, that doesn't seem to exist in relation to breweries. Instead, there is a bright, growing, and vibrant community of like minded ass kicking people.

For whatever reason, brewers and breweries seem to live outside the box of conventional thinking when it comes to marketing and selling beer. Why is that? How does it continue to grow and be immensely successful while going against the most basic of business principles? Could it be as simple as supply and demand? Make good beer, people will drink it? Or is there some unknown factor here, something un-tapped (pun TOTALLY intended). I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Not all breweries are created equal, and this community doesn't exist everywhere in this industry but I would argue that overwhelmingly brewers come together more frequently then going at each other. Years ago I had a beer called "Collaboration vs. Litigation" that was a shared effort between Avery Brewing Company and Russian River Brewing Company. That beer speaks volumes to me in this community vs. competition discussion. They both had a beer called "Salvation" and instead of going to the courts to duke it out, they simply opted on a collaborative path. That would NEVER happen in any other industry. 

Just go to ANY beer event. I don't care if it's a huge festival, or an event at a local watering hole. Whenever beer people get together, it's a good time. 

Community locally in Vermont is always a source of pride, but wherever you go in the beer industry brewers are always sharing a beer, talking shop, and enjoying themselves. You rarely run into any negative energy (with the exception of over excited enthusiasts on occasion). Overall the vibe is just outstanding. I have made life long friends and relationships via this industry, and I'm just an outsider looking in. A lover of the craft, and delicious suds. 

Perhaps more folks should think about collaborating over a beer, and enjoying the company. Usually the results are very good.

I apologize in advance for the two to three months it will take before my next blog, in the meantime check out my friends writing. They do it better, and more often than me anyway!

If My Coaster Could Talk

,,,and my boy Jeff Baker's column over on the Burlington Free Press. 



Thursday, July 17, 2014

10 Things to Expect at the Vermont Brewers Festival

For the first time in years I've decided to opt out of the Vermont Brewers Festival. I'll be taking my talents to Maine for the Sierra Nevada Beer Camp Tour festival instead and I could not be happier about it. I for one feel good about sharing this with out of towners, I can get most of the great beer here on the regular (although I admit I really want the Four Quarters Brewing Company Whiskey Sour & the Prohibition Pig Pappy Van Winkle barrel aged stout.)

However, those of you going this year are surely in for a treat. It is always a good time! If it is your first time attending here are 10 things you can expect, and if you can't make it, 10 things you will miss.

  1. Lines, really long lines. Especially at Lawson's, Alchemist, and Hill Farmstead. Also, at the bathrooms.
  2. People wearing completely DUMB pretzel necklaces
  3. A gorgeous view of Lake Champlain, and if you are lucky a beautiful #BTV sunset
  4. Bros, lots of bros.
  5. Beards.
  6. Smiles, laughing, and people having a fantastic time!
  7. Sadness, disappointment. People who did not pace themselves, or had one too many Magic Hat Meatwhistles.
  8. At least one person trying to go for a swim
  9. People who only have #9
  10. Stupid hats
Have fun, drink responsibly, enjoy our fine city and gorgeous waterfront. Cheers!

Drink #VTbeer 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Economics? Darwinism? When Will Vermont Beer Slow Down?

I'm currently watching the #creationdebate (you can follow me on twitter to see my views on that) and the the Darwinian "survival of the fittest" concept has me considering beer, obviously. Especially here in Vermont where the beer is seemingly unending and breweries continue to open and succeed at a breakneck pace. We have more breweries per capita as compared to any other state, and a new brewery opens nearly every month in Vermont. Many more coming down the pipe in 2014. 

It's been far too long since I've written anything, beer related or otherwise. There are so many great beer bloggers/writers out there, and my peers usually have it covered. I'm looking at you Jim, and Jeff. However, I feel compelled to start a discussion that could just be the elephant in the room for the Vermont #craftbeer scene.

When does is end?

I'm not sure on the sales, success or otherwise of many of these new breweries but as far as I know they are all still brewing beer and doing well enough to keep the doors open. We all know just how well the bigger and historically successful breweries like Magic Hat and Long Trail are doing. We also know that the craft beer community has embraced Hill Farmstead, and the Alchemist making some of the most prestigious beer lists worldwide on the regular. Putting Vermont on the beer map, a must visit for enthusiasts, a great place for a beercation. And what about some the newer breweries? Lost Nation, Drop-In, Grateful Hands, among others all seemingly killing it. (tangent: Lost Nation Gose is the best beer you may have never had, and Drop-In is a really cool spot to visit.)

In the coming months Four Quarters Brewing, Infinity Brewing, Burlington Beer Company, Queen City Brewery, Prohibition Pig, and many others will open to potentially serious fanfare. As many as 11 breweries are in planning to open this year!

The demand is always outpacing the supply, people like to drink, and Vermonters love craft beer. However, I can't help but wonder when it will all come to a head. Will it? Is more always better? What brewery are you most looking forward to in the coming year?

Curious to hear your thoughts, I'm not looking to see anyone fail. I'm a sometimes home-brewer myself, and would love to work in the industry and do something I'm truly passionate about, something that I really love but for now that is just not possible. So instead, I'll drink to a great year and future for #VTbeer. Get out and try something new at your favorite watering hole.


Monday, June 10, 2013

Get a drink at the Winooski Motor Speedway this Summer

Yep, you read that right. And I'm quite frankly just as surprised as you. However with the addition of The Mule Bar the 'newsk ('noosk?" has become the hot spot to get a drink, and catch a race (well, sort of). I wish I could find the guy that made that Winooski Motor Speedway shirt, priceless and he deserves a shout out. Anyone? (update! Thanks Dave & Michelle, the artist is Steve Hadeka and you can purchase the shirts here!

Winooski, always a good spot for a cheap drink (CK's, McKees, Donny's) but has recently blown up into an all out craft beer experience. Surrounding the worlds oddest rotary the lineup of of good eats, and great beverages has really come a long way from the days of 38 Main (more on that later).

A few months back, The Monkey House announced a revamp of their draught lines (over 20 now!) and have had a ton of great beers on tap, including for all of you out of towners Hill Farmstead. Love this bar, way back in it's infancy it was where I had one of my first legal beers. Win. Only gripe is they charge a cover virtually every night, and generally the music is simply not my bag. I'm a "here for the beer" type of guy. I'd drink more and spend more to not have a cover.

If you start early get the Bloody Mary at Sneakers. If you hit Our House for dinner they typically have at least one seemingly out of place great beer (good eats protip: get the 3 Little Pigs, you won't regret it!!) Just up the hill the former food truck sensation Misery Loves Company opened up shop this summer, there you will also find great beer and cocktails. The food is great as well, but I prefer it out of big red. RIP.

A standout drinking spot, actually doesn't even offer beverages but you can't argue with BYOB and Thai! could but don't, it is the exact right combination of pure joy. Just recently enjoyed some take in Heady Topper, and random "fridge beers" from a buddy (follow him @shanem13 on twitter.) though I assure you he is not as interesting as me! Just kidding homie, cheers! Hops and Thai are a killer combo that I assure you will make your palate sing with happiness. Don't expect glassware to be very fancy though!

Recently the fine people from Three Penny Taproom in Montpelier, VT decided to lay the cornerstone to the first turn at the speedway and opened up The Mule Bar. Formerly a Vietnamese spot (apparently a decent one, but never tried). Prior to the Mule the last suds served were at 38 Main, a dive bar I really enjoyed back in the day.Lots of fun nights there when my good friend @amybtv (follow her on twitter) lived in pre-traffic circle hell Winooski.

The Mule has 16 lines of ever changing pure joy. Not to mention a killer bottle list, just ask the fine folks there (yep talking about you Andrew and Michelle) will hook it up. Beer not your thing (why are you on my blog??) They have an ever expanding thoughtful cocktail menu as well. I haven't tried the food yet, but if it's anything like TPT then I'm sure it's outstanding. For me though, it's all about the beer. They run through kegs quick so the list changes often be sure to check them out on Facebook to stay up to date.

So if you don't feel like hitting Burlington up I'd suggest giving Winooski a shot, lots of great food, tons of great beer, and the thrill ride of your life travelling around the "round-about" as fast as you can. Parking isn't ideal, but there is a garage across the street somehow people don't realize exists.

Until next time, Cheers!

see you on Twitter! I'm @metallidan

Visiting Vermont Breweries – Magic Hat

Originally posted on the now defunct on 02/07/13

Last month I suggested you take a trip to Hill Farmstead in Greensboro, VT. I hope you got a chance to go, or are planning a day trip! Let me know if you went in the comments below, I’d love to hear what you thought.
Magic Hat - ArtifactoryNext up we keep it local to Burlington and visit the Magic Hat Brewery on Shelburne Road in South Burlington, VT.  I’m consistently surprised by the number of people I chat with who still haven’t visited this local landmark. Magic Hat has been around since the mid nineties and the brewery is a must visit for locals and tourists to the area.
For many beer drinkers, Magic Hat was their gateway to the craft beer scene, their springboard to better beer. They were pioneers of the Vermont beer landscape. So successful in fact, that today they have grown beyond the craft market and are distributed throughout the country and around the world. A truly local success story.
Magic Hat is known for its clever marketing, the graphics are unmistakable and you can spot a bottle of their suds a mile away. Visiting the brewery is no different, they carry on that unique vibe into what they call the “Artifactory.” Here you can come any day of the week and fill up you growlers, sample a few of the beers on tap, and take home a gift for just about everyone in the family including your pets. You will find glassware, clothing, sporting goods, cards, bottle openers, and more. A great place for gifts, and with Valentines Day just around the corner you should stop in, I know I would be happy to get some goods from the brewery!
The “Artifactory” is a great family visit as well, unlike many breweries there is a lot more than just beer, and it’s a really cool space.  They run tours of the facility several times a day so you can get an overhead look at the brewing, bottling, and packaging which is a lot of fun. If you enjoy touring the Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Factory in Waterbury then I’m sure you will find this to be entertaining & educating.
The beer lineup is constantly changing, you can always count on #9 but I recommend seeking out the seasonal, rare, and one offs.  I told you in an earlier post that Heart of Darkness was my personal favorite, but they have many good ones. The staff is always really helpful, so if you aren’t sure just ask! They love chatting beer and will find one that fits your style.
They also have a ton of events throughout the  year, so keep an eye on their calendar for those. I’ve been to a few and they are always a good time (Magic Hat Mardi Gras is next month). If they do “Wall to Canvas” again, go! You won’t regret it. Art and Beer are a perfect pair. So if you are a beer lover, or just a casual fan I would highly recommend taking a trip down rt 7 south to have a taste yourself.
Until next time, cheers!

Visiting Vermont Breweries – Hill Farmstead

Located in Greensboro, VT
Originally posted on 01/10/13 on the now defunct
Looking for something to do this weekend? One of my favorite things to do as a lover of all things craft beer is visit breweries. In Vermont we are lucky to have nearly 30 at last count, according to the Vermont Brewers Association. You don’t have to travel far to find one, no matter where you live in the 802. One of my 2013 resolutions is to visit the ones I haven’t been to as yet, might be a tall order since new breweries are opening up in the Green Mountain State all the time. I have been to about half of them thus far.
One of my favorites is Hill Farmstead Brewery in Greensboro, VT, a great day trip if heading from the Burlington area.  It’s a little over an hour away from my home in Essex, and totally worth the trip. Hill Farmstead has taken the brewery world by storm, and is recognized by as the 6th best brewery in the world, and it is in our back yard. If you haven’t tried any of their beer, you are truly missing out. I keep waiting for them to make a “bad” or “just OK” beer and it has not happened. Everything Shaun touches is gold. He is a gifted brewer.
The brewery itself is located way off the beaten path, on a dirt road a couple miles off the main road (RT16).  It is not hard to find, just look for the parade of out of state cars (especially if you head up on a Saturday where it can be quite busy as beer geeks make the pilgrimage north).  They are open Wednesday through Saturday at noon. This is great place to visit, chat with staff and see the whole operation. Haven’t tried any of their beers? No problem, usually they offer samples. Generous pours 4 for $5 last time I was up. I recommend Twilight of the Idols if you visit during the winter. Also Edward, Susan, and Double Galaxy are favorites but the list changes often and all of his beers are quite good. They fill 2 different size growlers, prices usually range from $7 to $18 plus glassware. Often he has some of his beers bottled as well. Cash only, so don’t make the mistake of bringing plastic. You are miles away from an ATM.  The staff is super friendly, relaxed, and happy to chat beer or answer any questions. If looking for a more personal experience hit them up on a weekday an avoid major bottle releases by keeping an eye on his website. The lines can get long from time to time so so early, and go often.
After the visit, head north on 16 towards Canada to West Glover and get lunch (or dinner) at Parker Pie Company, another hidden gem with a great draft list, and super tasty food. A very unique place, I highly recommend it.