Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Brewery Spotlight: Border Brewing

“We’re trying to bridge the gap between beer drinkers and beer lovers.”

Eric Martens leaned back against the couch in his taproom, crossing one leg over the other, ankle to knee. Around him hung photos of Royals players, drawings of KC skylines and other local art. More than most other breweries in the area, Border Brewing embraces the full culture of the Crossroads. The first Brewery/Taproom in KCMO, Border sits a stone’s throw from Grinders and has recently built a side patio to accommodate their overflowing First Fridays crowd.

“We’re set to release our Experimental IPA #4 sometimes next week,” he continued.  “It’ll be a hazy IPA, with floral, piney notes instead of the usual citrus.” Border has 10 taps available, 4 of which are IPAs. The latest IPA available is their Experimental IPA, something they are continually playing around with. Border is a veritable IPA laboratory if nothing else. It’s easy to be, since they don’t yet bottle, and for now, that’s much to their credit. Everything in their tap room is less than 2 months old. This is important with IPAs especially, since their flavor profile tends to change with each passing day.

Eric said that is the next stage, however, for the brewery. They are currently looking for avenues of distribution. First on the list is to simply start having bottles of favorites for sale inside the brewery. Next, they’ll have to look at expanding their space in order to bottle or can for mass markets. It seems a logical next step considering how busy this brewery gets, and one a lot of KC consumers are waiting for.

Homebrewing since 2006, Eric and Border Brewing’s success has been a long time coming. He received a degree in chemical engineering from K State but found a love in the science of brewing. With his wife, Tracy, they opened the doors of Border in February of 2015. Now they have their main brewmaster, Kelly Wing, and together they continue to push the boundaries of beer making. Many fans are aware of Border’s #Webrewforyou campaign which happens 3 or 4 times a year and takes a survey from their fans on which beer they should make next. Eric chuckled when he recollected past winners.

“Sometimes I’m really surprised at the concoctions we come up with that people love and vote for. We’ve had some interesting beers.”

Their next “Brew For You” campaign will begin again this fall, either in September or October. It only takes roughly 4 to 6 weeks for a beer to go from vote to tap, and the quick turn-around definitely cultivates brand loyalty.

Beyond the chosen beer, Border is planning on releasing their Rye IPA this fall and their Imperial Coffee Stout this winter. The Imperial Coffee Stout is Border’s beer made in partnership with Blip Roasters in the West bottoms, and this year will be the first year it is bottled. When I asked about the likelihood that Border could experiment with a sour beer, Eric agreed that it was in the works. “It’s hard,” he said, “maintaining the line between catering to craft beer drinkers and also to the casual beer drinker.” However, if you’re a sour beer aficionado, just be patient and you shall be rewarded.

So come on over to Border one of these evenings for a cool beer on their new patio. Eric admitted he probably won’t be the one behind the bar anymore since they’ve gotten busier, but they employ some excellent staff who’ll help you pick out which beer would suit your pallet. In the future, this blog will post upcoming events from keg tappings to Milk Stout Float nights. Keep an eye out for the best that this brewery has to offer!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Macro Beers Suck...Revisited

The fact that macro beers suck and why they suck is something I've talked about in depth before on the blog. But I've been hearing a new thing from a few craft beer drinkers lately when I bash macros (which I do at every chance possible). They say, "Macro brews aren't bad beer, you just don't like the flavor."

This seems to be the new "enlightened" craft brewer viewpoint these days. However, this idea that macro beer is good beer (and it's just not my "thing") is just plain wrong. And legitimizing the macro brewer's operations in this way is bad for the craft beer business. Because of market changes, macro brewers will do anything they can to squash independent craft brewers. Craft beer drinkers need to push back against the macro brewers at every turn if we want our favorite craft brewers to stay in business. The absolute wrong thing to do is to write off macro beer as fundamentally good because of faulty logic.

The Consistency = Quality Fallacy

The argument saying that macro brewers' beer is good is what I call the Consistency = Quality Fallacy. The argument goes like this:
  • There is no way to objectively measure whether a flavor of beer is good or bad. All measures of quality of flavor are subjective and thus cannot ever be fairly ranked from good to bad. 
  • Because there is no way to objectively measure the quality of the flavor of a beer, the only way to measure the quality of a beer is by it's consistency from batch to batch.
  • Macro brewers have amazingly consistent products. 
  • Thus, macro beers are high quality, good beers.

But what about Twinkies and 40s? 

Twinkies and OE 800--a
match made in heaven. 
This argument, on the surface seems to make perfect logical sense. But here's another way to think about this argument: consider the Twinkie. If our only measure of quality is consistency, then Twinkies surely must be the best cakes ever made. And yet, I don't think I've ever heard anyone in my life refer to a Twinkie as a high quality cake (not even sure if I've ever heard someone actually refer to them as "cakes" at all).

More to the point, I commonly hear this argument applied to Bud Light, Miller Lite, and Coors Light. But no one seems to ever apply the argument to Natural Light, Busch Light, Keystone Light, or any other number of 2rd Tier macro brews. Certainly no one is applying this logic to Olde English 800 or other 40s. Yet these beers are all brewed by the exact same brewers at the macro breweries with the same amazing consistency from batch to batch. So they must also be good beers according to the argument, right?

If we can all agree that OE 800 is not good beer and Twinkies are not good cakes, then the pure logical argument that Consistency = Quality just doesn't work. Even though the argument makes sense, you have to accept the assumption that humans have no way of determining what tastes good and bad. This really is a silly assumption. While we may have our differences in taste (and there are some definite outliers), the vast majority of people can agree pretty broadly on what tastes or smells "good" or "bad."

So if macro brews are bad beer, why do so many people drink them? 

If you hadn't noticed, in America we're primarily driven as consumers by marketing and price. The macro brewers have spent literally trillions of dollars over the last 100 years convincing you that their products are good (and lately that craft beers are bad) and that you should buy them. This is especially evident during the annual macro brewer marketing circle jerk known as the Super Bowl.

Macro brewers have also used their massive political lobbying clout and various forms of legal and illegal market manipulation as a means to be the only beers you can buy. This peaked in the 1970's when we had fewer than 100 breweries in the US (as compared to over 4000 today). And even today, when you walk into a liquor store outside a major metropolitan area in the Midwest, you're lucky if you can find Boulevard Wheat or New Belgium Fat Tire hidden amongst the floor to ceiling stacks of Bud, Miller, and Coors products.

So not only has the public been brainwashed to believe macro brews are good and our options are limited on what you can buy, but also macro brews are cheap. Most people don't want to spend $2/bottle for actual good beer made from high quality ingredients and using traditional brewing methods. Macro beer is "good enough." This isn't a ringing endorsement for macro beers being good beers--it's just that they're not bad enough to dissuade most people from buying them.

Why does it matter anyways? 

Anheuser-Busch InBev is hurting. Global beer sales are dipping while craft beer sales are surging. This means that the macro brewer's market share is shrinking dramatically and has been for years. In the face of their shrinking market and shrinking market share, the macro brewers are desperate to keep turning a profit and to keep the shareholders happy. If the shareholders aren't happy, then top management heads roll. In the past 10 years the only play that ABI has had to boost it's profits is acquisitions. But with the merger of ABI and MillerCoors, there are no more major acquisitions to be had that regulators will approve.

Without any potential for future acquisitions and no reasonable outlook for an expanding overall beer market, macro brewers have to take back market from craft brewers. They will do this with whatever means they can. And with their economic and political might, they will certainly damage the craft beer market.

We lovers of craft beer can help stem the tide though. Don't ever buy macro beer. Explain why their beer sucks to those who don't understand. Promote craft beer whenever you can. Introduce macro drinkers to craft beer however you can. Give them a unique beer that's totally different from a macro light lager that could expand their understanding of beer. Maybe a sour beer, or a coffee or chocolate stout. Or hand them an easy drinking lager brewed by a craft brewer which are becoming much more common. Andy please don't give into faulty logic.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Brewery Spotlight: Stockyards Brewing

Located in the old Golden Ox lounge, the aesthetics of Stockyards Brewing will confuse anyone not familiar with the old steak place. Those of us who are from KC will marvel at how Stockyards Brewing was able to re-purpose a seemingly ancient motif. It may be strange in an industry that currently takes "Industrial Hip Interiors" as gospel, but it's nice to see a brewery that's warmer and full of character.

Stockyards Brewing officially began in 2012 by Greg Bland, who moved to KC in 2010. He brewed beer out of a small place he had in the West Bottoms while taking business management classes at Siebel Institute in Chicago. He met Micah Weichert, then head brewer for Gordon Biersch, and not too long after, the idea for Stockyards was born.

Today, Greg is affectionately known as the Trail Boss. He handed me his business card one warm afternoon day as we sat around the bar drinking beers. Sure enough, it had the name “Trail Boss” written just underneath his name. Each of the heads of this brewery take their names from the 1800's Cattle Trail. So, the Trail Boss is the head while Micah is the “Point Man,” or Second in Command. Melissa, their Bar Manager, is called the “Night Hawk” since this was the person back in the day who monitored the livestock while the other wranglers were sleeping. Their bartenders are called “Keg Wranglers.”

“We wanted something different,” he told me as we sipped our beer. “We wanted to encompass the spirit of this place.”

Spirit, indeed. The guys talked to Bill Haw, Jr. and Sr. and officially opened Stockyards Brewing on April 15, 2016. It was very important to them to keep the original motif intact. Greg stated emphatically that he didn’t want to tear up the historical building, but to keep the history alive, and it appears to be to their credit.  

Their beers range from a Cerveza to their West Bottoms IPA (a fan favorite) to their Brunch Stout. Micah said that he searched high and low for some new and different ingredients to make more interesting beers. Last November, Stockyards released a Smoked Imperial Pilsner, which was a huge hit. Their Anniversary Beer is one of their newest releases (as of this writing) and is also a favorite.

Coming soon, they have a collaboration with Kelly’s of Westport for Kelly’s 70th anniversary. The Irish Red will be named after County Clare, the ancestral home of Kelly’s founders, and will be released at Kelly’s afterparty of KC Irish Fest. Stockyards and Kelly’s have teamed up with the HALO Foundation, and proceeds from this beer will go to fight childhood homelessness. To learn more about this foundation, check it out here: https://haloworldwide.org/

On the horizon is Stocktoberfest, their “festival beer” this fall. That’ll be released the first Friday of September.

So come on down and enjoy some Stockyards beer. They also feature a Cider courtesy of nearby Cinder Block Brewery, for those with sweeter tastes. They even have a fabulous cocktail list. If you have a non-beer drinker in the group, have them order a Nitro Coffee. Very soon, they’ll be open for “all day happy hour” from 4-10 on Tuesdays which will include $4 drafts.

Go to their website and check out the calendar. Stockyards has a ton of live music including Blue Grass Thursdays, not to mention DJs and local acts. Every First Friday, they either have a new release or they tap a new keg. Their space is available for rent for groups 80-100, so keep that in mind for your next family reunion. Open until 10:00, this is one of the only places to grab a great drink in the evening in the West Bottoms, so come do yourself a favor and check out the atmosphere and flavor of this new local favorite.

Monday, June 19, 2017

2017 KC Nanobrew Festival

This Saturday is the annual gathering of all things homebrew. What started in a backyard is now a huge festival with over 100 participants and almost 2000 fest goers. This year the beer menu is over 300 unique and one of a kind beers. Don't delay this sells out every year. Ticket information can be found here. http://www.kcnanobrews.com/2017-kc-nanobrew-festival/

Every year I try to help you go seek out some of the best homebrewers out there and also some of the up and comers

Schu's Nanobrew Recommendations:

If you love the Hoppy Beers you are in good luck. There are so many hop varieties and styles for homebrewers to experience with you shouldn't have any trouble finding a beer to please your palate. There will be plenty of trendy New England style / Hazy beers. Two that you should try is Tim Ryan's (Cracking Cask) Cloudy Delight. Cloudy Delight is a NE IPA, Double Dry hopped with Citra hops served from a cask. The other is Jeremiah Fiegl's (Schematic Brewing) #UnicornFarts. Drink it for the name alone. If you are a hater of hazy beers, Dave Hukill (divergent ales) is back with his classic IPA, Sly Fox. If you love the dank, Michael Wells (Eye for an Eye) is doing a Grateful Dead theme and will be offering. Jerry's Hemp Pale Ale. Finally go find the Jackalope and get a selfie with it and while you are at it try Jackalope Tears Black IPA from Kevin Thuringer (Lost Dakota).

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Hate Hops that's okay there are lot of malty easy drinking lagers to try instead. Brian Smith (Headbangers Brew) always makes a great Helles. Bart Campbell (Helpful Boxer) will be serving Do-Re-Mi Vienna Lager. The boys from Middle Ground Zymurgy and Tapwork (Mac and Devin) will have a tasty Kolsch called Circadian. Tony Diplacito (Orgination) has a wonderful Munich Dunkel. Finally go check out the array of Lagers that Matt and Rusty (Ales vs Lagers) have. I'm firmly on #TeamLager.

Are you into Belgian Beers? Scott Akerson (Copperleaf) has one of the best named Saisons at the festival, Le Mauvis oeil De Forest Whitaker. Richard Cartwright (9 Foot Brewing) will have a wonderful Belgian Golden called, Le Seducteur. Courtney and Brandi Servaes (Servaes Brewing with Critter) will be serving a Kiwi Tart Table Saison. David Stuck (Libre) makes a great saison called Do me a Solid. Finally you can never go wrong with Chris Roberts (Red Crow) Isabelle, a perfect Belgian Blonde.

Plenty of Dark beers on the menu. Brian and Andrew Jones (Rusty Tin) have been making a name for themselves and will have several Dark Beers but Sloppy Secounds Dry Stout is one of their best. Long time Nanobrew participate Matt Berkley (Two Matts) will have a Barrel Aged Tropical Stout that I'm looking forward to trying. Steve and Erica Williams (Williams NKC) will have a coffee and vanilla stout called Morning Woodie. Named after everyone's favorite drinking buddy Woodie Bonds.

Want to Pucker up at the fest? There is going to be some excellent sour beers to go try but honestly head to these three tents first. Jonathan and Pippin Williamson of Sandhills Brewing, Grant Waner of Underground Fermentation, and Andrew Grumke of Medley Ale Works make the best sour beers out there in our homebrew community. They also love to talk all things sour, not to be missed.

Looking for something different and creative? Rick Borkowski (Sharkey's) will be having a beach party and will have lots of tropical radlers, Looking forward to try Ferdinand Del Dulce by Jim Dore (Beer Farm). Taylor Jones (Trip Six) will have a lot of different hoppy beers but I've got my eye on that Watermelon Liberty Wheat. Robert Rys (Supernatural) will once again have his multiple award winning Jalapeno Ale but this year it will be served out of a Firkin. I always enjoy the ciders that Cole Bolte (FAKECidery) makes. Really looking forward to having not one, but two soon to be open Meadery's, Kaw Point and Celtis. Finally myself (SchuBrew) and Jon Morman (Six foot Six)  are competing to serve the biggest beer at the fest. Jon is serving an 18% EIS-Barleywine and I'm serving a 19% Barrel Aged EIS-Quad with cherries called Absurd.

Again there are over 300 beers to choose from and the quality level of homebrewers seems to get better every year. So I would encourage you to look through the menu and try some things you know you will like but also try some things you have never had. Who knows you might find something new you might love. https://untappd.com/v/kc-nanobrew-festival/6127020

What beers are you looking to try?

KC Nanobrew Festival Tips to have fun

Eat a big breakfast and lunch before coming. Need a full stomach to soak up all the great beer.

Drink Water. There will be water available. Plan on bringing a water bottle and some gatorade. Try drinking water after every 2-3 beers to stay hydrated and happy

Ask for small pours. You do get a full glass doesn't mean you want a full glass of everything. Small pours will allow you to try more beer.

Talk to the Brewers. Most of the brewers are looking for real feedback on their beer. Be honest but gentle. This year will feature a new app to rate beers that the brewers will get to see. Brewers love to talk about their process. Don't be afraid to ask questions

Talk to others. One of the best part of a festival is meeting new people.

Leave no Trace. We have a beautiful park to enjoy. Let's make sure we leave it better than we found it.

Have a plan to get home. Do Not Drink and Drive. There will be plenty of Ubers around also City Market is a short walk to go get something to eat afterwards and give yourself a chance to sober up.

Have fun don't be an A hole. No one likes an A hole.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Get Ripped - The Big Rip's 4th Annual Brew Fest

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

First Ever! Brew-B-Que

            Like Beer? Of course you do! You visit our site. Like barbeque? Of course you do! You live in KC. Now not to get too hung up on the styles of BBQ around this great country of ours and which are better… I’ve got the perfect event for you! It’s two of KC’s favorite things: Brew and Barbeque, or Brew-B-Que.

            Brew-B-Que is being held out at the Kansas City Renaissance Fest grounds this coming Saturday, rain or shine! Hosting 10 local BBQ foods trucks, 100 brews from 40 local and regional craft breweries, and several distilleries and wineries, it really has something for everyone. The food trucks will be competing against one another for KC’s best BBQ food truck.

While attending the event you can also enjoy live music and participate in fun games and competitions. Some of which will include a stein holding challenge and pretzel necklace design competition.

While this is the first year for the festival, it actually grew out of the idea of another local beer event: Kegs and Eggs. They are excited to bring people out to the Renaissance grounds and have them enjoy the area. Their hopes for the future are to continue to grow the event and possible expand into additional fests. With VIP already being sold out, I don’t see that being a problem!

Tickets are available in 3 versions. VIP (SOLD OUT) GA ($35 in advance $40 day of), and what I really like from this event are DD tickets ($5).
With the VIP access, festival goers will have access to an exclusive VIP Area with seating, private bar, and private bathrooms. They will also be receiving 3-4oz samples from each truck, a commemorative glass, and unlimited craft beer samples.
GA Tickets gain you the commemorative Sample Glass and unlimited Craft Beer Samples. Food from the trucks will be available for purchase.
The DD Tickets get you Water/Soda voucher and Food for Purchase. This is the responsible ideas we at KCBeerBlog enjoy seeing. Great work!
We hope to see you all out there as we plan to have several reps from the site attending. For a list of attending Foot Trucks and Breweris, visit their website: Brew-B-Que | Kansas City

Friday, May 5, 2017

Tour de Bier Next Weekend -- We have the Procrastinator's Special Coupon Code for You!

If you're anything like me (and I assume about 90% of you are since you're craft beer fans), you're a massive procrastinator. I like to think of procrastination not as something negative but instead as creative time management. Why do that thing on your list now when you can just have a beer and sit on the patio now? Well all good things eventually catch up to you and Tour de Bier has done just that for us now--registration for the event ends on Thursday, May 11!

The annual booze-fueled bike ride is coming up next Sunday, May 14! Put on by BikeWalkKC, the bicycle advocacy and teaching organization, and in it's 7th year, Tour de Bier is the premier biking + craft beer event in KC. Instead of being like most of those organized bike rides where you drink beer after the ride, on Tour de Bier, you drink beer on the ride! In fact, the tour takes you by a bunch of our awesome local craft brewers en route. 

Pro tip--read the book before the ride!
And if visiting operating breweries wasn't enough for you, the ride is a historical brewing tour of the city as well. This year BikeWalkKC has teamed up with local beer writing legend Pete Dulin to totally revamp their historical tour. Pete is arguably the most knowledgeable person today about the history of brewing in Kansas City. So much so that he literally wrote the book on it with his recently released Kansas City Beer: A History of Brewing in the Heartland. Pete is going to be at on hand at the after party as well to chat it up about history after you've finished the ride. 

So, if you love riding bikes, drinking beer, and learning about brewing history, then this is definitely the event for you. Think you're not up to hang with the spandex clad ironmen and women? Never fear, this is not a bike race--it's a casual ride that's designed for fun and cruising at your own pace. I will be there riding probably wearing something completely impractical like lederhosen. And yes, I will be taking the shortest ride offered, especially if I'm wearing lederhosen. And with nearly 800 people signed up for the ride, you won't be alone no matter what you wear!

Event Details

Date: Sunday, May 14
Time: 8:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Tickets: $50 (unless you use our coupon code down below!) - Registration Ends on May 11
Info: Website // Facebook // Twitter

Like I said, Tour de Bier is not a bike race. The only gold you'll be seeing is the gold in your tulip glass along the route. It's planned to be as easy going or hardcore as you like. The courses available on the ride are 18 miles, 38 miles, and 48 miles. Ride start times are:
  • 50 Miles: 8:00 a.m.
  • 35 Miles: 9:00 a.m.
  • 17 Miles: 10:00 a.m.
All of the rides start at Knuckleheads Saloon in the East Bottoms and end at the same location for the after party. The shorter ride takes you across the Heart of America bridge to North KC, back up through the West Bottoms and Crossroads and back to Knuckleheads. The 38 miler continues from the Crossroads down to Westport and Waldo before looping back. The big 48 miler goes all the way down to Crane Brewing Co in Raytown (a fitting reward for the hearty).

Along the course are stops at important brewing sites of KC's past. The historical tour is is self guided with a detailed map and guide provided by the organizers and signs along the route. In addition to the historical stops, there will be stops at participating breweries as well. Complimentary samplings will be available at each of the brewery stops for you.

And most importantly (if you're anything like me) there will be roving support & gear wagons. I'm not much for long distance bike racing, so if I get a flat or my chain snaps in two, I usually call someone to come pick me up rather than fix my bike on the side of the road. However, your entry fee gets you access to the course support crews who will help you if anything happens and get you going again.

Here's an overview of what your entry fee gets you:
  • Lunch & 2 beers at the after party at Knuckleheads
  • Live music at the after party
  • Games at the after party provided by 90.9 The Bridge
  • Rest stops with food, snacks, and water along the course
  • Beer samplings at breweries & history sites
  • Roving Support & Gear wagons for help on the course
  • Souvenir maps with self-guided tour information

The profits of the ride all go to benefit BikeWalkKC's education and advocacy work. If you're into biking, keeping kids safe, getting people off their diabetes meds, or just generally living in a cooler, nicer city, go check out their work. Or better yet, get a membership while you get your Tour de Bier tickets! 

The Drinks And Eats

Tour de Bier After Party at Knuckleheads

Breweries Visited on the Ride:
The Big Rip Brewing Company
Brewery Emperial
Cinder Block Brewery
Crane Brewing Company
Green Room Burgers & Beer
Kansas City Bier Company
Torn Label Brewing Company

Food at the After-Party: 
Jerusalem Cafe
Knuckleheads Saloon
Pie Hole
Local Pig's Pigwich,

Drinks at the After Party: 
Pours from Boulevard Brewing Company and Tallgrass Brewing Company served by the VeloWagon

And Finally--A Coupon Code Just for You!

As if you thought I forgot...KC Beer Blog has your hook up for 10% off your tickets this year to Tour de Bier! Just enter the coupon code BeerBlog17 at the checkout and you'll get 10% off your ticket price. See you there!