The biggest story last month was the controversy surrounding Trillium, including their decision to cut the pay of some long-time employees. The story has continued to evolve over the past few weeks. Trillium put out another statement that finally addresses all of the accusations and shows that the brewery is making significant changes in the way it pays some employees. Beervana has an in depth look on the whole situation, including views from a number of current and former employees. The Mass Brew Brothers also have an article detailing what breweries and consumers should learn from the Trillium controversy.
Another big story this month was the failure of DME Brewing Solutions and Newlands Systems, a Canadian company that manufactures brewing equipment. A large number of breweries had put down substantial deposits on new equipment, and it looks like they will never see the products or get their money back. This is a huge blow to a small business, both the loss of the deposit money and the loss of potential revenue from the beer that would have been produced on the new equipment. Hopefully none of the effected breweries is put into dire financial shape by this.
The most interesting piece I read this month was J. Nikol Jackson-Beckham’s story on Thomas Jefferson’s Unsung Brewer. I am a history buff, so a well researched article on a person responsible for developing some of the earliest brewing traditions in this country was fascinating.
The Brewer’s Association generated a ton of controversy this month when they changed their definition of a craft brewer to accommodate the changes in Boston Beer Company (the parent company of the Sam Adams brand). It seems that the growth of Boston Beer’s hard tea and seltzer brands, and the concurrent decline in their beer brands was threatening their status as a “craft brewer” (a term that the Brewer’s Association defines), so the BA changed the rules to keep it’s biggest member. The Brewer’s Association is a trade and lobbying group, so consumers are free to define craft any way they want, but even some brewers were perturbed at the way the BA continues to bend over backwards for Boston Beer.
The owners of Craft Beer Cellar, the locally based franchise of bottle shops, has been embroiled in a number of legal controversies recently, including lawsuits with a former franchisee and the website GlassDoor. In response they have now established a Go Fund Me page for their legal fund.
Beer This Week ran a poll to determine the Top 25 Favorite Beers in Maine. No surprise that the list is dominated by hoppy beers. Lots of great choices here, and it is nice to see a variety of breweries making an appearance.
Lots of other Best of 2018 lists are starting to pop up, many of which are not worth sharing for various reasons. Vinepair’s best beers of 2018 includes a number of local offerings. Hop Culture’s top 15 breweries of 2018 only includes one from New England, but they make a very good choice. Hop Culture also picked some trends to watch in 2019.
The Full Pint has predictions on craft beer for 2019. I agree with many of these, but think Dan is premature in predicting the decline of both Brut IPA and hard seltzer, I think there will still be a strong market for both this year.
Brewery Openings: Just a couple this month, which means I probably missed a few with the craziness around the holidays. Mighty Squirrel has opened a spacious new taproom in Waltham. Flying Dreams has opened their second location, a full service taproom in Marlborough.
Most beer is vegan but one exception is milk stout, which is brewed with lactose derived from cow’s milk. Winter Hill Brewing’s Jeff Rowe missed drinking milk stout’s now that he is vegan, so he developed a vegan milk stout brewed with coconut milk.
Are you overwhelmed by all of the craft beer choices available at your local bottle shop or bar? Carla Jean Lauter has a solution, just stick to the classics. While I love trying new beers, and try some with every stock-up run I am also making a concerted effort to include old favorites as a portion of purchase.
Beervana has an awesome profile of Maine Beer Company. I love how MBC refuses to chase trends, still making clear-ish hoppy beers in 500 mL bottles while so many other breweries focus on cans of heavily opaque haze. Do what you do and do it exceptionally well is usually a good motto for a small business.
The Worcester Business Journal has an interview with David Fields from Wormtown Brewery as the brewery prepares to expand into Connecticut.
Jim Vorel from Paste Magazine recently wrote an article claiming that the American stout, the version without adjuncts, super-high ABVs, or barrel aging, is dying. Good Beer hunting responded with a counter-point, claiming that the American stout is still going strong. While I love the big stouts aged in bourbon barrels, and even some pastry variants, I really enjoy some moderate ABV, rich and malty American stouts and hope that they continue to be a strong local beer style.