Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recap: Amazing Taste Beer Cruise with Buckeye Brewing

Long overdue, I want to fill you guys in on a great day I had a few weeks back, thanks to Buckeye Brewing Company and fellow Cleveland beer blogger, Brewer's Daughter. I was the lucky contest winner and got to go aboard Cleveland's Nautica Queen on September 10th with fellow beer enthusiast and my cohort from MI Summer Beer Fest, the Wolf. The weather was gorgeous and we had something to be pretty excited about - Buckeye had some new releases available for tasting, including their tribute to Cleveland Beer Week!

Let me frame this story by saying that the Wolf has never been to Cleveland, but he was an instant fan after 2 1/2 hours aboard this cruise.

Before boarding the ship, we were handed 5 tickets, each representing one sample of the beer available on board. We were also given a slip of paper. The Amazing Taste isn't just for tasting beers - you also get to compete for sweet prizes like a $150 gift certificate to the Buckeye Beer Engine. Being a competitive person, it was hard to decide which to tackle first - the beers or the scavenger hunt. Lucky for me, they were relatively intertwined.

It didn't take long to run into my newest Cleveland beer friend!
The beers we were sampling were excellent! I was most excited about the Cleveland Beer Week beer. This year it was a German altbier and probably my favorite that I tried aboard the cruise. Another new beer was available - the Hipster, a cream ale. I didn't like this as much - it felt vaguely off-style and a little bland, but there was plenty more to sample and make up for it. Also available was the Hippie IPA, one of there most popular; the Wheat Cloud, a tasty and refreshing Hefe; and the Summer Girl, a German style Helles lager. With the nice weather, all of these beers were nice and refreshing while cruising along the coast of Lake Erie.

To recap the rest of the fun, I have to say that we had a blast completing the scavenger hunt. There weren't too many embarrassing moment (except perhaps having to sing "Pop Eye the Sailor Man" to the DJ in order to enter our name for prizes). The cruise had some tasty appetizers available as well. The Wolf and I made some friends during our cruise who were, like us, beer lovers. Thanks again to our friends for all the extra beers - five tokens wasn't really enough!

Already a Cleveland Fan!
All in all, I have to give a big thank you to Brewer's Daughter, 107.3, Ameriprise Financial, Buckeye Brewing Company, and the Nautica Queen for a wonderful afteroon and a great craft beer experience in CLE.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Truth in Beervertising: An Honest Approach to Beer Marketing

I've got to hand it to Breckenridge Brewing Company. They've created something truly special with their summer campaign for "truth in beervertising". Most craft breweries don't have large advertising budgets. Most of their marketing dollars are spent getting their beer onto the shelves, not onto your televisions and newspapers. But Breckenridge saw the value in pushing their name out to the masses, and did so in a brilliant way.

If you haven't seen the ads, check them out.

Brilliant, aren't they? Being an advertising professional., I dug into these ads a bit more. They were created by the agency Cultivator, who also represents New Belgium and Great Divide. As an advertising partner who clearly knows their stuff when it comes to craft beer, they did an excellent job with this campaign and kept it low cost. To produce the four spots, they only spent $10,000 (a modest production budget, for those unfamiliar) and one day at the brewing facility with Brewmaster and General Manager, Todd Ursy.

The true genius of these ads comes from the honesty. Every craft beer love can probably attest to a time they've rolled their eyes when a macrobrewer tries to claim their beer has a "cold flavor", or even worse, that it will make you popular, attractive, or more fun. Breckenridge concisely cuts through the crap with such delightful deadpan. For craft beer lovers, a lot of the messaging is familiar. Almost a "well, duh" moment. But for anyone who has ever checked a can to see if their beer is cold, these ads serve as a wake up call in a humorous and straightforward way.

So, kudos to Breckenridge for making the investment in TV advertisements. While the spots may be low budget, the real money is spent buying media placements. This spot ran during sports games, local news, and Sunday prime time in the Denver area. Biting the bullet and shelling out the money to get these ingenious ads probably wasn't an easy call to make. But it's time that those who haven't been exposed to truly great beer got an education on the stupid gimmicks they've been buying into. And at least in Denver and the far reaches of the internet, we've got Breckenridge to thank for that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Guest Post: Grey Collar: The American craft beer drinker's ethos

The other night, while sitting on my porch and staring at the moon, I poured myself a Liberty Ale and allowed my mind to wander. Amidst the orchestral notes of crickets and wind, I felt that primal sense of peace familiar to anyone who has taken the time to simply sit and think. In that moment of blissful simplicity, I could not help but smile as I raised my glass and the boquet of northwestern hops filled my senses. The aromatic assault triggered memories of days gone by, my journey to beer, and summers filled with nothing but possibility.

It's curious that such a simple thing -- a pint of ale -- can incite reminiscence of an entire lifetime's accomplishments. As I sipped it, I began to think in more general terms, or rather what it is that people do to make a living. Musing over the stereotypes of blue- and white-collar designations, I struggled to understand whether or not the distinction applies to the realm of craft beer. Sure, there will always be people with more money than others, and of course there will always be those who work harder than others. However, I began to notice a commonality in the two classes – each being perfectly capable of enjoying the “finer” things in life. Often times I've found myself lost in conversation over a pint at Founders, still coated in grain dust after a shift at Siciliano's, while my companion has only just left an office cubicle. We don't discuss our social status, or net worth, but simply revel in the appreciation of a finely crafted ale.

While I sipped my Liberty Ale I realized something. We that choose to drink craft beer -- the ecclectic many, the renaissance people, the purveyors of craft and expression -- we are people who have committed ourselves to seeking out and admiring what others have worked so hard for us to enjoy. With each bottle poured and pint savored, we make a silent oath to ourselves and to others: we will find decadence every day, even in something so simple as a well crafted beer. The color of one's collar is not important in this world, as we are all equal and free in our pursuit of whatever it is that brings us joy. The society created is a true melting pot of cultures, creeds, and all other forms of classification that are almost otherwise ignored the moment a conversation about beer perks up.

As I finished my pint I could not help but feel truly grateful to be involved with this “grey collar” society. The passionate and heartfelt people who comprise it are some of the most wonderful people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. My pint emptied, I smiled, for in this world there is no shortage of possibility. I look forward to having more enthralling conversations, and seeing all of you fellow beer enthusiasts out and about.

This guest post comes to us from Doug Dorda a friend for many years and the one who introduced me to the world of craft beer.The picture to the left was taken on an epic brewery touring day with Doug and some other good friends.With his massive influence on my own love of beer,it was only a matter of time before he merited a guest post on Beerific!  Aside from being a beer geek, Doug is a home brewer and is employed at Siciliano's Market in Grand Rapids, Michigan This post, borrowed with permission from the Siciliano's blog, The Buzz, was the inspiration for Beerific! I hope you enjoyed.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Guest Review: The India Spruce Pilsner by Shorts Brewing

A guest review from friend of the blog, Ryan, contributor for Cleveland Hops.

When Emily first asked me to do a guest post on her blog, I decided that I wanted to do a beer review.  Being that Emily is a Michigan girl, and I am an Ohio boy, I thought, why don’t I review something from a Michigan brewery?  Furthermore, why not review something from a brewery that only distributes in Michigan?  If you know me, then you probably know where I am going with this.  Yes, I am talking about Shorts Brewery in Bellaire, Michigan.  Shorts is known for creative, unique beers.  Whenever I am in Michigan, I always pick up as many Shorts beers as I can.  Some of my favorites from them include:
  • Uber Goober Stout: An oatmeal stout brewed with peanuts.
  • PB&J:  For this brew, Shorts takes their fruit ale, The Soft Parade, and blends it with Uber Goober Stout to form a beer that tastes like peanut butter and jelly.
  • Strawberry Short’s Cake: Fresh strawberries, lactose, and biscuit malts form the basis for a golden ale that tastes almost exactly like its name would lead you to believe.

Another favorite of mine from Shorts is the beer that I am about to review, their India Spruce Pilsner.  The following is a description of this beer from Shorts:

This Imperial Pilsner, fermented with local, hand-picked blue spruce tips is the quintessential symbol for Joe Short’s love of hops and craft beer. The spruce presence, rooted in historical brewing practices, is enormous and gives the beer a refreshing quality reminiscent of gin. This beer is impressively light bodied, considering the immense spruce flavors and the prodigious additions of hops.

The beer was poured at about 50o into my Dogfish Head Signature Glass.

Appearance: The beer pours a nice shade of gold with a minimal but existent head.  As the head leaves us and I take a few sips, sticky lacing remains on the glass.

Smell: Holy moses…I smell pine, lots of pine!  It’s almost as if I am bringing the Christmas tree up from the basement.  Is the heavy pine scent in this beer a bad thing?  Well, it could be if the scent was solely pine; fortunately, the pine was accompanied by the smell of lovely citrus hops.  The best words I can use to describe this smell are, in the words of Outkast, “so fresh and so clean clean.” 

Taste: Wow…the pine from the smell is definitely not playing around; it’s here and it means business!  While the pine is definitely the dominant flavor, hops and lemon bitterness poke their heads to truly compliment the pine.  The finish is quite bitter, and the pine flavor lingers on the tongue for quite a while.  The flavor of this beer is incredibly unique, and I have to say that I absolutely love it.

Mouthfeel: Medium bodied with a level of carbonation that was spot on for the imperial pilsner style.  I just love how the pine is deciding to hang around a little while longer on my taste buds!

Overall, this is a remarkably unique beer.  I am not sure that it is something that you could enjoy multiples of in a session, however. While the 7.1% ABV is barely noticeable, I believe that the pine flavor would get the best of you in the long run.  Regardless, this beer is an innovative take on the imperial pilsner style, and its fresh taste is something that I wish I could enjoy year-round.  Let me put this idea out there.  While many of us could not see an imperial pilsner making a suitable cold-weather beer, allow me to play devil’s advocate. Certainly, this beer could be very refreshing on a warm, summer day.  However, the smell and taste of pine immediately reminds me of a Christmas tree.  I think it would be interesting to drink a beer like this around Christmas time.  Sure, it is most definitely a far cry from our beloved winter warmers, but who says being different is a bad thing?  From my experiences with Shorts Brewing, I can attest that being different is where they shine! 

Ryan is a Clevelander and has been one of the many in the area who are instrumental in bringing the local craft beer community here. He is a high school math teacher and a marathon runner when he isn't pursuing his love of delicious ales. In addition to this wonderful guest post, Ryan is a contributor for Cleveland Hops. You can read some of his other writings here and here.

(Side note: I'm still completely down for the count with mono. If you are interested in doing a guest post for Beerific, please let me know!)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Left out on IPA Day? Boo!

Just a real quick update to let everyone know that I'm a bit out of commission at the moment, on the most untimeliest of circumstances. I've got mono and will have to keep away from beer for a while. Today's been torture, reading everyone's tweets, posts, and blogs about how great IPA Day it. I've got to hand it to @thebeerwench - it's great to see our amazing craft beer community rally behind such a fun event across the country. I'm celebrating in spirit.

On a slightly related note, if anyone is interested in doing a guest post while I'm down for the count, it would be greatly appreciated.

Cheers (hopefully soon)!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The 14th Annual Michigan Summer Beer Festival: A Recap

A bit of the Short's Brewing Co's set up in the "Back Forty"
I’m a Michigander originally and have been attending the Michigan Brewer’s Guild’s winter beer festivals since I could drink beer. This year, I decided to make it a priority to get to the Summer Festival because these events are truly a blast. They allow both amateur and expert beer lovers alike a chance to get a taste of everything Michigan has to offer, all in one setting. Considering the limited distribution and availability of some of these breweries, it’s truly a treat to be able to experience them all together. This was my first summer fest, and it won’t be my last.

Held in Ypsilanti, Michigan, the festival hosts over 60 Michigan breweries large and small. Well known breweries like Bell’s, New Holland, and Dark Horse have nice long lines and lots of special beers on tap. At this particular event, there were six separate Dark Horse tables to accommodate the brews they brought. Alongside these breweries are start-ups like Odd Side Ales from Grand Haven, or brew pub restaurants like Big Rock Chop House. I won’t lie; you’re likely to find a few “dud” breweries mixed in with the great craft beer here. I personally wouldn’t waste a token on someone like Schmoz’s if you can have Short’s instead.
Uh oh, my beer is gone!

It was a hot day Saturday. I arrived about an hour early and was let in within 5 minutes of the start time, despite being somewhat deep into the line. Each ticket affords you 15 three ounce pours, although it’s up to a brewery if they’ll give you a bit more. There was also a lot of great local food at this festival, from some of the breweries as well as other well-known restaurants. It’s important to have a full stomach at an event like this. Since it was about 90 degrees outside plus humidity, I was glad to see ample water stations as well. But let’s get back to what really matters: THE BEER. I have included a full list of what I tried, with links available if possible. I had a few favorites, which I will speak to more now.

Jolly Pumpkin was a favorite of my companion (let’s call him The Wolf). It was hard to get The Wolf away from the Jolly Pumpkin tent, honestly. I think he spent about a third of his tokens there. I can’t really argue with him, though. Jolly Pumpkin has really got a knack for great sour beers.  The Biere de Mars Grand Reserve was a personal favorite of mine at this festival, and a nice change from their white ale, which had originally been my favorite brew of theirs.

I was also incredibly impressed with The Livery. The staff was friendly and helpful when I visited their station, which was located on a gazebo overlooking the river. It was the perfect setting to catch a breeze and try their delicious RuneMeister. I can’t say I am incredibly familiar with imperial pilsners, but this one was balanced, with the honey masking the fact that it was nearly 10%. The Wolf and I were taken aback at how refreshing this imperial draft was and were pretty tempted to make a second trip until we remembered we were late for the tapping of Founders’ Blushing Monk!

Me and the Blushing Monk

If there was any brewery I would most identify with, it’s Founders. I spent my twenty first birthday in their tap room and have continued to love them since that time. So when I heard that I might finally get a chance to try the Blushing Monk, a raspberry beer that is often considered the imperial version of their Rubaeus, I was stoked! Blushing Monk hasn’t been brewed since 2007 and it was just released in very limited amounts this month. Founders’ own staff was only allowed two bottles of the stuff – it’s that limited! I have to say, this beer fully lived up to its reputation. If you’re not typically a fruit beer drinker, this certainly isn’t your typical Sam Adams Cherry Wheat. The deep red color warns of its high fruit content, but the taste is incredible. If beer and seedless raspberry jam ever had a love child, it would be this beer. If you come across it – do not hesitate. Buy it immediately. Then mail it to me.

I want to say a lot more about each of these beers, but I think it would be better for you to experience them for yourselves. I have tried to link each of them to their info on or, but some of them are so limited that you might only find them in the tap room or at one of the Michigan Beer Festivals. Hope to see you all there next summer!

Myself with "Chug" of Odd Side Ales and Siciliano's Market and "The Wolf"

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Pros and Cons of Canned Craft Beer

For seasoned craft beer drinkers or even newer folks like myself, it can be hard to get away from the stereotype that good craft beer only comes in bottles. Some craft breweries have caught on to the idea of cans already, but overall, when I roam through my favorite beer shops, its filled with an overwhelming amount of bottles. There are many reasons for this. One reason being that small breweries or new breweries can often find good deals on used bottling line equipment to get production started. This was the case for Arcadia Ales out of Battle Creek, Michigan to name one example, and I'm sure many others. But now, we're starting to see a trend in canned craft beer that I can't deny my excitement for.

There are a lot of arguments regarding the economic impact of bottling versus canning. It is my understanding that if recycling programs didn't exist, bottles would be much more cost effective and would impact the environment quite a bit less. The mining of bauxite, the aluminum ore chiefly responsible for the cans you drink out of, is pretty land scarring. Additionally, it takes nearly twice as much energy to mine and manufacture bauxite into a can as it does to turn silica into a glass bottle. Why am I arguing for cans, then, you ask? Because recycling does exist, and that really changes things.

Recycling programs allow both cans and bottles to be repurposed and turned into new cans and bottles (among other things). That should be old news to all of my readers. What you may not know is that around 40% of an aluminum can can be recycled, while only about 20-30% of a glass bottle can be repurposed. Additionally. the energy savings you accumulate by recycling a ton of aluminum cans is much higher than when you recycle glass. There is nearly 96% energy savings accumulated in recycling a ton of aluminum, while glass only yields around 26%. While recycling only accounts for a portion of can and bottle production, there is a significant amount of energy saved per can.

There are many non-environmental arguments for canned beer. A lot of public areas (where drinking is legal, of course) still prohibit glass bottles. Unless you want to pony up to a case of Natty Light like my roommates, I think you'll be thanking craft breweries for switching to cans when you hit your favorite park or beach this summer. Safety is another factor. Cans aren't danger free, but it's more likely that you cut yourself on broken glass. Plus, I've never heard of anyone breaking an aluminum can over someone's head in a bar fight. You can't easily skunk a beer in an aluminum can, but the light damage to beer stored in clear or green bottles can. Cans are versatile, and they also allow for breweries to get creative with new labels as they adapt from paper versions to printing direct on aluminum.

I can't deny that bottles trump cans in some cases. For example, you can't acheive the same elegance for an anniversary ale or limited edition brew if you store it in a deuce rather than a 750ml bottle. Additionally, many breweries haven't taken the plunge with canned beer yet, so you may not be able to get some of your favorites in a bottle. On the flipside, newer breweries such as Brewery Vivant out of Grand Rapids, Michigan, distribute strictly from cans. You can read their argument (perhaps a little more can-biased that this post) here. The main point I'd like to stress here is that everyone should be open to the idea of craft beer, regardless of its container. Happy drinking!