Tomorrow night we say “goodbye” to 2015, so I thought we’d glance back over our shoulders for a second. There were a lot of interesting things that happened in the craft community in the last 364 days.
On July 1, our state law to allow sale of 64 oz bottles – known as growlers – of draft beer to go finally came to fruition after years of back-and-forth in the capitol. Where we had been allowed to sell 32 oz and 128 oz growlers, some bizarre reasoning prohibited the bottle size in between. 64 oz, by the way, is craft industry standard elsewhere in the country that allows draft to go sales.
A sad casualty in the Georgia amendment to the growler issue was the annual Brew Your Cask Off party at Sweet Water Brewery in Atlanta. From what I could gather out of the lengthy, droning lawer-ese of the bill, with regards to tasting rooms at breweries there would now be limitations on ounces available per guest for sampling. This meant that Sweet Water, for the time being, couldn’t sell tickets to BYCO as it exceeded the sample limits. And I was really looking forward to my fourth year in a row as an invited brewer, too.
Craft sales continue to climb and it’s become an immediate threat to the UltraMegaChuggaCorps brewers; so much so that their new recourse is to buy out the very threats they knew were coming. Just in the last two weeks, A-B Inbev – the world’s largest beverage company – bought up Breckenridge out of Colorado and Four Peaks out of my home state of Arizona. To me, it’s like watching an episode of Star Trek where The Borg, already very powerful and possessive of a hive mind, consume and assimilate everything in their path. I can only hope that these acquisitions aren’t part of a more sinister and greedy plot to ruin craft brewing from within.
Here are my top five from ’15. Hopefully you were able to try, buy or cellar some of these. 5 – Smuttynose Finest Kind IPA. 4 – Rogue Anniversary Imperial ESB. 3 – Pensacola Bay Conquistador Dopplebock. 2 – Evil Twin Even More Jesus Imperial Stout. 1 – Stone Xocoveza Spiced Milk Stout.
Okay, let’s get set to ring in the new year with something strong, sophisticated and tasty. The final trend in 2015 has been a return to classic, old world beer styles. Brawny and sour are two categories that have seen the most requests as of late and New Belgium Brewing has one that suits both sensibilities. Their latest Lips of Faith Series is a Blackberry Barley Wine. Brewed with beer ingredients to a wine-like strength, this is one of the first I can recall made with fresh berries. Its pretty garnet color is topped with a micro-bubble head that leaves wide patches of lacing. Juicy blackberry greets the nose along with scents of bready malt and Brach’s Hard Orange candies. Tart berry flavors plus caramel and leafy hops wash over the palate with a slick, medium-bodied feel. The finish will stay with you well into the new year.
Can’t wait to see what’s coming in ’16! For now, I’ll sit right here on the precipice and sip this fine little item from New Belgium.