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:

 

Beerbecue Exposé: Food Babe advocates tetrafluoroethane in food

The Food Babe is in the news again. About a year ago she made some outlandish claims about beer ingredients and why you should be afraid to drink the stuff.heston

She is back in the limelight again, demanding that big brewers disclose the ingredients in their beer (which they really already do). You can find an excellent rundown of her hackery at Brookston Beer Bulletin.

Suffice to say, she is clearly more interested in self-promotion and click-baiting than truth. Interestingly, she appears not to know (or care) what high fructose corn syrup is. Perhaps worse, she is unable to differentiate between what is IN beer and what is merely used in the process of making beer (never touching it). One such highly irresponsible claim is that beer contains propylene glycol.

facepalm

OK, Food Babe Army, put down your organic pitchforks and gluten-free torches. There is no anti-freeze/airplane de-icer in beer. Apart from the fact that it is generally considered safe anyway, propylene glycol never touches the damn beer!

To control the temperature of fermenting beer, fermentation tanks have a cooling jacket (especially for lagers, which generally ferment at lower temperatures than ales and have to chill out in a second conditioning phase). This self-contained jacket encircles a fermentation tank and cycles a food-grade glycol and water mixture through to maintain the temperature of the beer inside the tank. BEER INSIDE THE TANK. GLYCOL OUTSIDE THE TANK.

Sorry, I only do magnifying glass research.

Oops. Sorry, I only do magnifying glass research.

Interestingly, Food Babe has never corrected this glaring oversight. So, I can only assume that she knows something I don’t. There must be propylene glycol in beer. And it must follow that fridges impart refrigerant (tetrafluoroethane) on food. Hold up. Tetrafluoroethane can cause asphyxiation when inhaled, blindness with eye contact, and frostbite with skin contact. Food Babe wouldn’t advocate something that dangerous, would she?

Wait for it, Charlton.

Wait for it, Charlton.

Holy shyte! Her 4.6-out-of-5 star rated Food Babe’s Parfait Porridge recipe has been a little slice of oat groat, muesli, and chia seed heaven for the Food Babe Army since August 2011. But the instructions state, “Let mixture sit in fridge overnight or up to three days in fridge.” Human sacrifice! Cats and dogs living together! Mass hysteria! Who can I trust anymore!!??

No, Charlton. I'm employing reduction ad...oh, nevermind.

No, Charlton. I’m employing reductio ad…oh, nevermind.

Tell Food Babe on Facebook and Twitter to stop advocating the ingestion of tetrafluoroethane. Think of the children!

Eerie Brewing Co. Misery Bay IPA

Next up, Misery Bay IPA from Eerie Brewing:

misery bay

Eerie Brewing likes historical references for its beer names. I like grossly distorting history for the sake of beer reviews. Seemingly, this is a match made in heaven.

Misery Bay is a reference to the Battle of Lake Eerie, the biggest naval battle of the War of 1812 (also known as the Everybody Wins Except the Indians War). British North America (Canada) got to keep the Queen of England on their currency and continue pretending they are more than just cold Americans. The Americans wrote their National Anthem, got to think they won a second war of independence, and convinced the Brits to stop being insecure, passive-aggresive twats about American growth. And while the Brits for years after gnawed their fingernails about defending Canada from another American incursion, during the war they were so busy dicking around with Napoleon that they could fill in the English Channel with the number of fucks they didn’t give about skirmishing with Americans.

warof1812

Actually, everybody just realized that the reasons for bickering had become largely irrelevant. So, everyone started playing nice again and got their stolen game pieces back…well, except for the Indians. They became inconvenient in this new scheme, and thus no longer had backing to frustrate United States western expansion. Pesky Indians. Although, they did get some sports teams named after them…

Lucky Indians.

Lucky Indians. They catch all the breaks.

Misery Bay IPA is a pretty ubiquitous-tasting IPA. There’s some citrus and pine floating around, but nothing big. It doesn’t offend. It doesn’t astound. The only interesting thing about it, really, is that the hops have a distinct mint character. Do what you will with that little nugget.

I should note that this review is representative of my new outlook on the beer review portion of beerbecue posts. Starting several weeks ago, I decided to only include funny stuff and impressions that I think will help you decide whether you want to drink it. Like anyone reads this blog anyway…

The Haybag: Oh, great. You’re finally going to include funny stuff. Are you starting next post?