Welcome to Denmark, America’s 51st State?

We’ve been in Denmark now for a few days and are just beginning to get the lay of the land. European travel usually feels like travel but here, with the complete proficiency in English, it takes different door knobs, toilets, and electrical outlets to remind you that you’re not in the states. The other eerie thing that keeps you in an American mindset is the absolutely surprising amount of American craft beer we’ve encountered here. We’ve visited a half-dozen or more beer bars and while we’ve only found local Danish craft beer on tap at half of those, we’ve seen a Great Divide Brewing (Denver) tap handle at each of them! If I wanted to seemlessly drink Titan IPA or Oak Aged Yeti, I’d be fine here. We’re also seeing a lot of Flying Dog and the occasional Sierra, Pizza Port, and Anchor. It’s a little weird frankly.

We’re off to Roskilde today, both for the Viking Museum and for a visit to another American brewing abroad (to continue the American theme), followed by a few days in the countryside (and maybe an escape from America). But not before reconnecting with a few American brewers later tonight. I’m curious to see what they drink…

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Goodbye Extreme Beer Festival, Hello Denmark…

So another Extreme Beer Festival is now behind this. This event has grown in many ways and yesterday’s sessions were an impressive onslaught of unusual flavors and approaches to the ever expanding definition of beer. The panel discussion was filled with interesting ideas that I look forward to reviewing when it’s posted online, including a distinction between extreme beer and imperialization of styles. It was also good to see a lot of friendly faces from around the country.

It’s hard to think that I now have to pack for Denmark as I leave for Copenhagen this evening. It should be a fun trip, even in February, with a few beer-related stops thrown in for good measure. Things will probably be quiet here for a little while but perhaps I’ll even employ Twitter to offer some thoughts while in Denmark, we shall see…

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Night of the Barrels and a Bill Brand Tribute…

Attended the third annual Night of the Barrels tonight at the sixth annual Extreme Beer Festival and had a great panel discussion. To start it off, we had a brief toast to the memory of Bill Brand and a few folks, traveling to Boston today, had not yet heard the news. We’ll do it again tomorrow and I look forward to another day promoting craft beer. Cheers and good evening folks.

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Craft Beer And The Recession and Sam Adams No Longer Qualifies As A Craft Brand?

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel is one of the first publications to print numbers for the beer industry’s performance in 2008 and things are about on par with where industry experts expected. Sales of craft beer, as defined by Beer Marketer’s Insights, totaled 9.45 million barrels in 2008, a 5-percent increase over the previous year. As the Brewers Association’s total craft beer production number for 2007 was 8,071,241 barrels, BMI likely includes several larger near-craft brands excluded by the BA. The craft segment again beat the overall industry, which turned in a healthy gain of .5-percent. Craft sales enjoyed double-digit growth rates in recent years.

I haven’t seen the BMI numbers yet but a few highlights from the report include a 1.1-percent increase in sales by Sierra Nevada Brewing, a 3.5-percent drop for Miller Lite, which now becomes MillerCoors’ second best-selling brand after Coors Light, and Budweiser dropping 6.1-percent.

Perhaps of greatest interest is that the Boston Beer Company finally went through the magic 2 million barrel mark after posting a monster 8.5-percent increase. With this achievement, Boston Beer and the Brewers Association and its members are going to have to seriously discuss how to handle a “macro craft” brewer. Boston Beer’s numbers include the Twisted Tea line of products, which it could argue should be subtracted from its beer totals for purposes of sneaking in under the Brewers Association’s below 2 million barrel definitional requirement. Boston Beer remains a craft brewer under it’s own definition, which as you may recall defines “small brewer” as one with an “annual production of beer less than 2 million barrels or annual production of beer exceeds 2 million barrels and the brewery was founded as a Craft Brewer and continues to satisfy the other Craft Brewer defining criteria.”

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The Massachusetts Brewers Guild’s ‘UltiMAte’ Beer Dinner…

I’ve received several notices in the last few weeks about an upcoming event hosted by the Massachusetts Brewers Guild. The Guild, which is an organization that began operations in early 2008, is comprised of more than twenty Bay State breweries and brewpubs and is designed to help promote the efforts of local craft brewers.

While the Guild has been pretty quiet for the past year, having held some meetings and done a little public outreach, its efforts appear to be ramping up. The Guild’s website is a little sparse right now but it does contain some information about its first big event. On February 28th, the Guild will hold a beer dinner at The Exchange Conference Center near the Harpoon Brewery in Boston. The event will include several limited release beers (maybe even Harpoon’s new UFO White?), a beer sampling hour with hors d’oeuvres, and a four-course meal with beer pairings.

While I certainly applaud the formation and development of the Guild and support its mission, it’s difficult to tell who the organization is targeting with its first major event. At $125 per person and with business casual attire recommended, this can hardly be considered an effort to appeal to the general public. The price for the event, with the modest details presented to date, seems extraordinarily high, even before recalling the poor present state of the economy (multiples higher than Extreme Beer Festival ticket prices and even higher than the $95 wallop that gets you a ticket to the SAVOR event in D.C.). Perhaps the event will serve as a fundraiser for some other needy organization (other than the Guild itself), I cannot yet say. More likely, there will be a few comped tickets handed out and a lot of wholesalers and retailers chatting each other up with their respective brands in hand.

With this said, I look forward to hearing more about the event and how the Guild plans to promote craft beer and craft brewers in the Commonwealth (especially whether it plans to produce a guide to state breweries, as has been done successfully by many other city and state brewers guilds).

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