Random Beer Thoughts: January 2021

After exclamations of joy about surviving 2020 we got into 2021 and January was more of the same in many ways (and even worse in a few). I didn’t really expect life to dramatically change from an arbitrary flip of the calendar, but was hoping there would be a little clearer light at the end of the tunnel. What can you do. I am going to do my best to keep chugging forward with some Hoppy Boston content this month, but I seriously considered a month away from the blog and might take it sooner rather than later, life is just too crazy right now. When Hoppy Boston starts to feel like all work and no fun I will take a little break and recharge. Regardless, I hope to keep posting these thoughts/links articles going forward.

One article from me this month was a ranking of the best beers I reviewed in 2020. I was pretty proud with the diversity of beer styles and breweries represented in this list, I’ve always aimed to cover more than just NEIPAs from hype breweries so it was nice to see that play out well over the course of the year.

A big topic of discussion this month has been Dry January, where a group of drinkers take the month completely off from booze. While some people are strongly in favor of taking a break from alcohol, especially after the holidays, there has been some push back to the concept this year with so many breweries struggling. Hop Culture looks at the health benefits of a month off, while Andy Crouch has a nuanced take that focuses on every one of us assessing our relationship with alcohol. I don’t personally take part in Dry January, but I do think it is important to find appropriate limits to drinking so that a fun hobby doesn’t turn into an addiction. I have re-assessed my drinking multiple times in my life, cutting back in my 20’s with graduate school and then cutting way back when I became a dad, and I am always assessing how much I drink and how it impacts any other parts of my life.

Another big recent story is the fallout at Boulevard Brewing. First, a post on Reddit describing sexual harassment and a culture of sweeping things under the rug went viral. This was followed by more stories coming out, showing a long standing problem, and upper management admitting that they knew about the issues and did nothing. I am done with Boulevard, maybe if it was a single issue and they said/did all of the right things afterwards I would give them the benefit of the doubt, but it is clear that there were widespread issues that were ignored and I will not support Boulevard again. Unfortunately, I doubt it will make much of a difference, many people still support Founders after everything there. I don’t think we will see real change in the industry until we get to a point that these stories hurt the bottom line in a substantial way.

Bearded and Brewed has an article on checking date codes when you buy beers. I’ve mentioned before the importance of clearly coded beers, and many bottle shops (along with too many breweries) struggle to keep only properly fresh beer for sale. I know checking dates can be a pain, especially when they aren’t clearly marked on each can, but it’s much better than drinking old NEIPA.

One more highlights of 2020 article: The folks at Craft Beer Cellar asked a group of their employees to each pick a brewery that really stood out for them in the past year. Many great choices on this list.

Looking forward we have a few beer trends to watch on 2021 articles. Josh Bernstein has a list of trends that he sees in the industry, many resulting from the the ongoing pandemic. Hop Culture asked a number of beer writers to name the beer industry trends they are watching in 2021.

After a long fight between craft breweries and distributors Massachusetts has finally passed a law allowing breweries to break away from their distributors. This is good news for small breweries, in the past many have been stuck in contracts with distributors who don’t actively promote their brands, or even distributors who were pushing illegal pay-to-play tactics.

Toni Boyce has an article on the barriers to entering the brewing industry, especially for people of color. If brewing, or any other industry that has issues with diversity, wants to improve they are going to need to find ways to lower some of these barriers to help build a more diverse workforce.

Lots of great sports going on right now, and the local winter pro teams both have craft beer collaborations out. Jack’s Abby has a partnership with the Celtics, while Harpoon has brewed beers with the help of the Bruins. Stay tuned to Hoppy Boston for an upcoming review of one of these releases!

After 18 years in business Cape Ann Brewing has decided to shut down the business and their Gloucester brew pub. Cape Ann was one of the longest tenured Massachusetts breweries, but the pandemic was probably the major factor leading the owners to close shop.

Hill Farmstead has decided to take a break for the winter, shutting down their operation until the spring brings in some nicer weather. With everything going on this probably makes sense, but the ability to shut down for a few months is a luxury that many breweries probably can’t afford.

Article Fifteen Brewing is moving to Rockland, and opening a substantially larger brewery.

Edible Boston has a profile of Homefield Kitchen and Brewery, their mission to connect farmers with customers, and their strategy for helping their business survive the pandemic.

Jack’s Abby recently shared terrible news, the passing of long-time employee Cam Crown at a very young age.

Grey Sail has installed a system that captures the CO2 used in the brewing process and re-uses it to carbonate their beer, reducing the carbon footprint of the brewing process. It would be great to see more breweries install similar systems that help make the brewing process more sustainable.

That’s it for this month, thanks again for reading the blog and liking/commenting/sharing posts on social media. Hopefully this winter will fly by and nice weather and more normalcy will follow in the spring.

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