Tröegs Hop Knife Harvest Ale: Tröegs defies yet another law of the Universe.

Next up, Troegs Hop Knife Harvest Ale:IMG_3604

OK, sheeple, listen up. Beerbecue uncovered Troegs’ Nugget Nectar mind-control project. Beerbecue exposed Sierra Nevada Hoptimum’s secret hop collider under Chico, CA. And Beerbecue busted Troegs Perpetual IPA’s blatant defiance of the laws of thermodynamics and the theory that time is finite. Nobody took me seriously. Hopefully, this time you’ll listen.

Sure, Hop Knife looks innocent enough. However, the small print on the neck label reveals that Troegs uses a HopCyclone to create an “inward spiral of hop dispersal during fermentation”. Fair enough. But when I asked them on Twitter whether the HopCyclone spun clockwise or counterclockwise there was only damning silence.

See, in the Northern Hemisphere, free moving objects apparently deflect to the right due to the Earth’s rotation, and to the left in the Southern Hemisphere. It’s known as the Coriolis effect. Don’t ask me. Some shit about conservation of momentum and differences in the rotational velocity of the Earth.

Or, if you're a poli sci major: Witchcraft.

Or, if you’re a poli sci major: Witchcraft.

In the case of liquid and air in the Northern Hemisphere, when opposing currents or pressures meet, there is a rightward deflection and sometimes a resultant equilibrium-seeking counterclockwise cyclonic flow (like a Northern Hemisphere hurricane). This effect gets stronger the further one gets from the equator. Thus, any differences in currents in a Troegs fermenter should create a counterclockwise cyclone. Ohhh, but not Troegs…

OK, so the little martini olive looking thingie at the end is Hershey, PA's latitude...Oh, fuck it.

So if the little martini olive looking thingie at the end is Troegs’ latitude and the frat letter to the right of the 2 is…Oh, fuck it.

Troegs’ silence is a clear admission that they have figured out how to create a clockwise rotating cyclone in the Northern Hemisphere, thus violating the laws of physics in the name of imparting more hop character. Beerbecue demands that Troegs comes clean, shares this secret with the world, and sends me more Hop Knife so that I might recreate this clockwise cyclonic flow down my pie hole.

It pours clear amber with a beautiful, fluffy white head. It smells like its going to be a juicy, hoppy love affair. And it is. It’s chocked full of bright and ripe citrusy, tropical, and resinous hops. It kinda has a fall/harvesty malt backbone with some lightly sweet caramel, but this beer is all about hop harvest, people. Get some while it lasts.

The Haybag: It was a very good beer. Now stop bothering me while Nashville is on.

Five Barbecue Lessons Learned this Summer: Putting the “becue” Back in Beerbecue

I realized recently that beerbecue is in danger of having its name revoked for for want of barbecue posts. I aim to remedy this.

The Haybag, a vegetarian, bless her heart, got me a new 18.5″ Weber Smokey Mountain for our anniversary. I shall call him Darth Smoker.

IMG_3327

Now, I smoked me plenty of meats this Summer. We even had the First Annual Beerbecue Invitational. And if this blog is good for anything (and the jury is still out on that) it’s that readers can learn from my stupidity. Thus, the Five Barbecue Lessons Learned:

Lesson #1: The Weber Smokey Mountain is the pig’s knuckles.
The Weber Smokey Mountain (WSM as the kids like to call it) has serious cult following and vast amounts of Intertube space dedicated to its glory, including the inimitable Virtual Weber Bullet. If you’re thinking about a charcoal smoker, get a WSM. They hold a low temp well, they’ll smoke for 15+ hours without a charcoal change, and they crank out awesome BBQ.

Sure, you could get a similarly-sized XL Big Green Egg, but most small countries couldn’t even afford one of those. Comparatively, with the money you save on a WSM you could: (1) Buy an 8 ball of cocaine and blow up two cows with an RPG at a Cambodian firing range (airfare not included); (2) buy round-trip airfare to Cambodia and blow up one cow with an RPG; or (3) pay for three weeks of a toddler’s daycare in Northern Virginia.

Looks like you live to moo another day, cow.

Looks like you live to moo another day, cow.

Lesson #2: Size may not matter, but people dig the fatty.
My BBQ is good. Sure, I’ve flubbed my ribs a time or two. I’m human. But let me tell you something: You can deftly smoke a Boston Butt for 10 hours and some spare ribs for six like a BBQ zen master, but invariably you’ll get just as many compliments (sometimes more) on a fatty that you threw on as an afterthought for two hours. Fatties get a lot of flak from the BBQ fascists on the forums, but they’re crowd-pleasers. So flatten out some sausage, wrap just about anything with it, then wrap it in bacon. People love that shit.

Lesson #3: To foil or not to foil.
At what point, if at all, should you foil your butt (giggles)? This is the subject of much debate. Butts have a lot of fat. If you’ve kept the temp reasonable, it’s not gonna dry out. I only foil in one of two instances: (1) I don’t want the bark to get any darker (bark is the yummy crust that forms on the outside of your BBQ that is a mix of heated dry rub and fat emitted from the meat and some other sciencey BS that happens to the outer layers of meat when cavemen cook). (2) Sometimes toward the end of or after the plateau if I’m freaking out about finishing before the hungry throngs revolt. However this may or may not speed things up, especially because to do it you have to open the smoker and let heat escape. But at least it looks like you’re doing something to finish it faster (Hushed whispers, “Just think how long we’d be waiting if he didn’t wrap it in foil. He’s a genius”.)

I’m not going to touch the foiling ribs debate. It’s too heated. I only do it to save the bark, or if I have to finish them in the oven. Some people swear by it. Some people swear about it. Just remember when developing your own foil policy, the point is not for the ribs to fall of the bone, just come clean from the bone.

Lesson #4: Smoke2D2 makes a great salmon smoker.
With the arrival of Darth Smoker, Smoke2D2 had to prove himself or get kicked to the curb. He has performed admirably as a salmon smoker, holding 160-170 degrees like a champ. More on that, along with a smoked salmon recipe later.

Lesson #5: Still haven’t found a better beer with pulled pork than Rodenbach Grand Cru.
Period.

The Haybag: Lesson #6 appears to be yet unanswered…How many times will I have to save your sorry ass before you realize that I should always make BBQ sauce?

ribsIMG_3336IMG_3322 IMG_3549IMG_3337

Beach Brewing Hoptopus Double IPA and Chincoteague’s Dirty Little Lies

Next up, Hoptopus Double IPA from Beach Brewing Company:

hoptopus

Beerbecue vacation beertography: 25% worse than usual.

We grabbed Hoptopus on our family vacation to Chincoteague Island. I’m not naming names, but somebody forgot to pack the beer cooler.

Of course, Chincoteague is known for its wild ponies. But it’s also infamous for its preternaturally abundant mosquito population. Now, I’ve lived in and visited places known for their mosquitos, but Chincoteague mosquitos don’t mess around. In fact, I’m convinced the island’s inhabitants are enslaved into a sick symbiotic relationship whereby the mosquitos spare locals in exchange for telling potential visitors such complete bullshit as: “oh, the ‘squitos haven’t been bad this year on account of there not bein much rain.” Indeed without such a detente, Chincoteague locals would spend all summer limping around in a languid, anemic, malaria-ridden state.

By comparison, the ponies are less impressive…at first glance. Depending on who you ask, these ponies gone wild are either descendants of domesticated horses that (1) escaped from a sinking Spanish ship or (2) were placed there by their owners as part of an early-American livestock tax avoidance scheme. Most people find the former theory more congruent with marketing the romantic notion of the wild Chincoteague Ponies, however, as a tax attorney, I’m kind of in love with the idea of a 17th Century horse tax-shelter scheme.

Luckily horse tax breaks are a thing of the past.

Luckily horse tax breaks are a thing of the past.

They’re disappointingly short, scruffy, and bloated from their low-nutrient salt marsh existence. But if you think about it, they’re the product of years of natural selection in harsh conditions. In fact, to improve the stock, they once released an Arab Stallion into the heard…a breed known for being war horses, carrying 300 pounds for 100 miles in one day,  and general badassedness. It died. They also released some Mustangs…wild/feral horses known for being sturdy, hardy, and a symbol of American grit. Dead.

Pictured: Iris the Pony reaping the rewards of natural selection.

Pictured: Iris the Pony reaping the rewards of natural selection.

As for the beer, I had it at the end of a day of corralling 2.0 at the beach (which included such fun games as Catch the Seagull; Put Every Fucking Cigarette Butt in my Mouth; and Ooh, Daddy, Let that Wave Get Me…No, Daddy, Don’t Let the Wave Touch Me!) Sucking the snot from a dead Rhino’s nose would have been refreshing after that. I also had it after a Heady Topper, which for a beer is like peeing at a Wrigley Field trough urinal next to John Holmes. But it’s pretty good. It’s huge with a caramel maltiness and resinous hops. The bitterness is substantial (as the 108 IBUs would suggest), and before I even made it to the store counter I was cautioned by at least two people about how hoppy it is. But it’s nothing that the jaded palate of a hop-head can’t handle. It’s not the most complex Double IPA, but sometimes tangling with a Hoptopus is all you need.

The Haybag: I gave you one job! You’re lucky we found Hoptopus.

Top 3 Reasons the Haybag Thinks Green Flash Road Warrior IPA is a Patrick Swayze Tribute Beer

Next up, Green Flash Road Warrior Rye IPA.

road warriorThe Haybag can be best described as Patrick Swayze Crazy, and she considers Dirty Dancing to be his Magnum Opus. This affects me, too, unfortunately. For I have “had the time of my life” more than any other man. I have seen the director’s cut, the director’s commentary version, and VH1 pop-up version. When I hear the album, I know which song goes with which scene. And the other day after unflinchingly answering a trivia question about the movie’s “I carried a watermelon” line, I had executed 2.5 fist pumps before I realized my male co-workers were all blankly staring at me in disgust.

disappointed turtleNow the Haybag is convinced that Green Flash Road Warrior is a posthumous tribute to Patrick Swayze. I tried to convince her to write about it, but she thinks blogging is a supreme waste of time. So, a summary of her thesis on the matter is all you Haybag fanboys are going to get. So, I give you the top three reasons the Haybag thinks Green Flash Road Warrior IPA is a Patrick Swayze Tribute Beer:

1. “The rye of your life” line on the label.
Any reference to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” requires little explanation. Who could forget the forward-thinking prescience of Baby and Johnny? They shook things up at the Summer of ’63 Kellerman’s Final Dance by dancing to a ditty with an 80s synth bass line that would have been sung by a then 16-year-old Jennifer Warnes and an as-yet undiscovered, college-attending Righteous Brother.

seems legit2. Road Warrior is clearly a reference to Roadhouse. 
Roadhouse is a movie so manly that men use it to justify sitting through other Patrick Swayze movies. But who could argue with its allegory. Patrick Swayze confronts a force of evil strong enough to defeat Sam Elliott’s mustache…a mustache so glorious, its defeat clearly represents a redemptive Christ-like martyrdom, which ultimately fuels Patrick Swayze’s triumph over evil. Quite simply, it’s one of the finest American films ever made.

roadhouse3. The beer’s dark amber that hints of red is clear nod to Red Dawn.
Of course, Red Dawn includes Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey battling invading Soviets in 1980s rural Colorado. This essentially makes it a sequel to Dirty Dancing, except Baby and Johnny are operating under their noms de guerre, Toni and Jed. The movie has rightly been called “a Republican wet dream manifested into a surrealistic Orwellian nightmare”. But quite frankly, Red Dawn taps into the deeply held belief of all American men: Given access to a decent sporting goods store, we can surmount any obstacle…including mounting a relatively successful armed resistance behind enemy lines against the world’s second largest military.

red-dawn

As for the beer, Road Warrior is a beast. It’s big and malty with a spicy rye kick, yet still chock-full of juicy citrus and resiny hop character. Unfortunately, it’s near the end of its release window (available May-August); but if you like big hoppy beers and the union of rye and hops, this is a must have.

Me: Yes, dear.

Westbrook Gose: From Goslar to South Cackalacky.

Next up, Westbrook Gose:IMG_3122

Gose (pronounced “Go-zuh”) is a wheat beer of German origin that is brewed with coriander, salt, and lactic acid bacteria. What? Spices and bacteria in German beer!? I know. I know. Leave your jackboots in the closet, Klaus von Reinheitsgebot. Gose enjoys an exception to Germany’s beer purity laws. And if there’s anything we should welcome with German purity rules, it’s exceptions…especially in light of their newfound comfort with nationalism…

german fans

When is the next invasion of Poland planned?!

Gose originated in the town of Goslar, where the water was known for having high salinity, and the sour character was probably the result of spontaneous fermentation. As production moved to other places, such as Liepzig, salt was added in the brewing process to lend the appurtenant salinity and lactic acid bacteria to achieve the sour (although sourness can be added by a sour mash process). Interestingly, gose almost went the way of the Wooly Mammoth and the Dodo, but it always made a comeback. Currently, it is actually making a resurgence of sorts in the US, with a number of breweries brewing this curious beer.

I’ve heard that if there is a benchmark gose, it’s Leipziger Gose. It’s lightly sour, with light lemon, wheat, and salinity. It’s pretty low-key, but refreshing. Now, what about Westbrook’s crack at the style…straight from Goslar to Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina.

It pours a hazy gold with a bubbly white head that dissipates so quickly and completely that you’ll forget it was ever there. It smells like a wheaty, lemony, and citrusy affair, and like there’s some lactic sourness up in the game. Then you taste it and it’s all BOOM, just like General Stonewall Jackson liked his lemonade.

Why yes sah. Sour as a dickens and served by a slave.

“Why yes sah. Sour as a dickens and served by a manservant.”

Whoa, whoa. OK, so maybe only halfway like General Stonewall Jackson liked his lemonade: Lemony and sour as a dickens. And this is way more sour than any other Gose I’ve ever had. It’s good though. It has a slight salinity to it, maybe a little coriander in the background. But the lemon, wheat, and lactic sour are where it’s at. It’s very refreshing on a hot, summer day. My one complaint would be that the carbonation flags a bit early…but I ain’t mad. It’s 4%, dammit. Just slug it and pour another one.

The Haybag: I may be from South Carolina and from German stock, but this beer ain’t my bag.

Craft Beer’s Ticking Time Bomb: Succession planning

Craft beer has a succession planning problem that nobody ever talks about. I guess it’s not a sexy topic. Beer is cool. Lawyers, bankers, and accountants are not cool. However, almost all craft breweries will face this problem, and it needs to be addressed well before the owner starts looking for the door. To make matters worse, the nature of craft beer culture, business, and ownership exacerbates the problem.

That, and the flying monkeys. But there's not much we can do about those.

…and the flying monkey problem. But there’s not much we can do about that.

Small businesses and the next generation of flunkies
Realistically, most craft breweries are small businesses, nearly all of which are closely-held, if not completely family-owned. Unfortunately, family-owned businesses are notoriously unsuccessful when passed to the next generation. And it could be worse for craft successions occurring as market growth begins to slow, inter-craft competition increases, and craft consolidation begins.

Sure, you could argue that won’t happen, despite decreasing headroom for premium shelf space, an increasing number of players vying for a share, and the expansion of formerly regional breweries soaking up more of that share at lower prices. We could also pretend that people who love beer produce offspring with better decision-making skills. But I assure you…I love and drink a lot of beer, and I also have an aggregate of 65 pounds of “Why the hell would you do that?” wandering my house right now that says you’re wrong.

Shocking, but not surprising.

Shocking, but not surprising.

Hookers & Blow
Everyone is familiar with family-owned business drama worthy of Falcon Crest and little Johnny being more interested in hookers & blow than taking over the business. Certainly, craft beer is not immune to these clichéd problems. But there are other issues more endemic to craft beer that can affect the decision (or indecision) whether to hand the reins over to the kids or transition out of the business another way…possibly even aided and abetted by the Big Beer Boogeyman.

whiplash The trapped child
Actually, little Johnny may be perfectly capable. In fact, little Johnny may have forgone higher education or other job offers to benefit the family business. Further, little Johnny probably has kids, a wife, and a mortgage. Little Johnny is trapped and needs the business. Or at least that’s how his parents perceive it. But even if keeping the business family-owned or passing it on to little Johnny was initially the assumption, it may turn out not to be the parents’ best option…or even feasible.

Undercapitalized beer
Undercapitalization is apparently a rampant problem within craft beer. A major business issue in and of itself, undercapitalization poses a major problem for a successful generational transition. The parent is going to want to transition out in a way that doesn’t leave the parent exposed to the dangers of an undercapitalized business, including the inability of the business to respond to input price increases, macroeconomic changes, and the need to expand to remain competitive. In fact, that last one may have been a major impetus in the sale of Goose Island to A-B InBev.

That, and he's a beady-eyed, greedy sell-out who only thinks of himself, his family, and his employees. Fucking jerk.

That, and he’s a beady-eyed, greedy sell-out who only thinks of himself, his family, and his employees. Fucking jerk.

Not enough debt…wait, what?
Further, and perhaps counter-intuitively, the business might not have enough debt. The disadvantages of being over-leveraged are obvious. But an under-leveraged family-owned business often means too much of the parent’s wealth is wrapped up in the business. This tips the scales in favor of cashing out in a way other than family succession. Because anything other than a major cash-out of the parent’s interest leaves the parent lean in retirement and burdened with business risk.

Personal goodwill
Adding to the problem, craft beer is an extraordinarily personality-driven and relationship-driven business. Craft beer is rife with breweries the owners of which are nearly as prominent as the beer itself, not to mention the narrative of craft beer as a big, happy love-in of personal relationships between owners, suppliers, and the beer-drinking community. Absence of these personal relationships and personalities upon succession, however, can gravely affect a business’ ability to survive in the next generation (or even with a third party), particularly when little Johnny needs to start throwing some craft beer elbows to survive in an increasingly competitive craft beer arena.

sorry i elbowed you Worse yet, a lack of institutionalization often follows from a personality- and relationship-driven business. The business and its operations depend on the person who started the business, rather than other personnel and management. If not addressed, businesses like this are bound to struggle after the owner’s transition out.

Hmm, Stone must be implementing a succession plan. There's a little less Greg Koch and a touch more private equity character in this batch.

*sniff* This batch seems to have a bit less Tom Schlafly and a touch more private equity.

Dithering over the taxman Oh, people love to whine about taxes. And with a maximum gift and estate tax rate of 40 percent, how couldn’t you? Listen, I’m a tax attorney, and I have an LL.M. in tax. Don’t blame taxes. Inaction because of the taxman is worse than the taxman himself. If you start early enough, there are plenty of tools at your disposal to set the succession plan in motion, minimize tax exposure, and continue to control the business until you’re good and damn ready to be put out to pasture: Recapitalizing with different classes of stock and debt, planned gifts with valuation discounts and maximizing the annual exclusion and lifetime exemption, ESOPs, incremental sales at lower capital gain rates, trusts, preferred rates on certain small business stock gain…

However, as with all the other issues above, planning needs to start early. Like 10 years out. Options shrink with each passing year.

meme This is depressing. I need a beer.
And guess what…most of the stuff I talked about above negatively affects the value of a business, too. So, drink up and enjoy our craft beer renaissance while you can. When enough owners develop a sparse gray hackle and start looking for the door…we’re screwed. Although, Goose Island, Schlafly, Boulevard, New Belgium, and Full Sail all cashed-out successfully, or are in the process of doing so. The next big one in line appears to be Bell’s.

Unfortunately, they all have something in common: They’re relatively big craft breweries. It’s going to be much harder for the mid-sized and small breweries to survive succession. It will be interesting to see what happens. Your beer depends on it.

The Haybag: Congrats. Way to make beer boring.

Allagash Avancé: A High Ball Stepper video music review

Next up, Allagash Avancé. This is beerbecue’s first video music beer review. The idea has been bouncing around my noodle for awhile. Based on the reception, there may be more.

Avancé is a strong, sour ale aged with strawberries for three years in bourbon barrels. Three damn years, people. Allgash says it “has the aroma of strawberry preserves and toasted oak. The oak and berries continue their presence in flavor, and compliment the sweet, warm finish.”

When I think of strawberries, I think of their sweetness AND tartness. I also think of their distinct strawberry smell: A little caramel and this slight funk you get when you pass by an unwashed container of them on the kitchen counter…kinda like they’re up to no good. This beer captures that essence well. And it’s sour…quite sour. Oh, and at 10.8% ABV, it brings the heat.

Out of the bottle, this little fella kinda needs to breathe a little. Hey, if you spent three years in a bourbon barrel, you’d be a little cranky, too. Ok maybe you wouldn’t. Additionally, use a glass with a little more open mouth than I used. This beer has a potent nose. It doesn’t need to be concentrated with a highly-tapered glass.

Now, without further adieu, Jack White’s High Ball Stepper and Allgash Avancé: