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Category Archives: The Ontario Beer Revolution

The Ghost Tour

“Such is the uncertainty of Human Life we know not the moment we may be called off – the hand that guides this pen may ear another day be stiff and cold” – William Helliwell. April 7, 1837

These were the words of William Helliwell on finding that a maltster that he previously employed, Thomas Woodly, was burned to death in a barroom fire. William Helliwell was the brewer at Todmorden in the Don Valley and he was typically a very brave man. In 1837 in Toronto, people were acquainted with death in a way that is removed from us now. He had lost members of his family on several occasions and in 1832 lost several acquaintances to contagious disease that gripped the city. It wasn’t until the death of Thomas Woodly that he began to realize that he might not live forever; this despite surviving a truly gruesome brewing accident in 1834.

Writing history is difficult, especially if you’ve got source material like the Helliwell Diaries. It’s a biographer’s dream. There’s no need to ascribe any characteristics or intention to the man’s actions because he’s written everything down. He even copied his correspondence by hand. The level of detail is not worthy of Samuel Pepys, but William fared pretty well for a provincial lad from Upper Canada.

The difficulty, then, is in writing the other 16 chapters of your book. It’s hard not to think of William Helliwell as a character; a kind of archetypal pioneer figure slogging through knee deep mud to get to Yonge Street. But he isn’t a character. He was a man. It would be like, to take a modern example, thinking of Jim Koch as the protagonist of a Don Delillo novel. It would exploit some marvelous Jungian memetic structures and create a wonderful base for thematic exploration, but Jim’s just this guy, you know?

In writing Lost Breweries of Toronto, I harnessed two of my greatest skills: monomaniacal drive to research effusively and sitting motionless for hours at a time. No one could have written this book before now. I don’t mean to say that I’m singularly brilliant: I mean to say that the technological resources didn’t exist. The Globe is all archived online from 1844 to the present day. To get correct details of Toronto’s 19th century breweries, I’ve have to comb through half a dozen search strings for each chapter to turn up information: Literally hundreds of disparate articles of dross to find an additional detail; to create another avenue of inquiry. I once spent three hours researching a bear for this book. It amounts to a sentence in the finished version.

If you’ve read Ian Bowering’s book The Art and Mystery of Brewing in Ontario, you will appreciate how long that research must have taken. I believe that he wrote that in 1988, which means that he did it all manually. I can’t even imagine. If you’ve read that book you know that most of it reads as a list or chronology more than anything else. Alan Winn Sneath’s book Brewed in Canada also has a chronology.

Those were more or less the starting point. Mining those two chronologies for data I created a spreadsheet. Using the spreadsheet I created profiles of each brewery. I intentionally avoided using secondary sources where possible because I don’t trust anyone to get the details right. Many of the secondary historical sources conflicted with each other. I used contemporary accounts and guides to Toronto, obscure legal records and first hand accounts, newspaper advertisements. I was able to source quotes from some of the late Victorian brewers. In one incredibly lucky instance I discovered an entire manuscript that was written by William Copland. I discovered the existence and location of three breweries no one seems to have known about. One of them was on the block I live on at Davisville in midtown Toronto. One of them was basically on the site of Bar Volo.

William Helliwell created a difficulty. We know everything about him. That sentence above is a young man realizing that he’s not going to live forever. He’s not a research subject: he’s a man with hopes and dreams and fears. He was clever and observant and detail oriented. He was desperately in love with his young wife. The poetry he wrote her was, from a critical standpoint, awful, but it was enough to win her heart.

The realization that you come to writing history is that you have to stick to provable information. The dozens of other brewers that feature in the book cannot possibly allow for the same level of detail. In culling information from every possible source, you begin to build up pictures of these people in your head. Some of them spring to life more readily than others.  The difficulty is knowing where to draw the line. The respect I’ve tried to accord them is not to assume motivations where they are not obvious; not to ascribe characteristics. It is the respect they are due.

Lost Breweries of Toronto has all the information that you’d expect of such a book: “This brewery was here and the brewers where such and so and it existed from then until then and they made X. X was 6.7% alcohol in 1897. Phew, that’s a strong beer.” Don’t worry. There’s plenty of that.

Mostly though, I ended up writing a book about Toronto. I wrote about the larger social context the breweries existed in. I figured out how all of the brewing families were intermarried. I tried to uncover how the capital from brewing built our city and how that history was more or less whitewashed in the name of Toronto the Good.

I stared for what must be days at fire insurance maps from the 1880’s and 1890’s; At this city’s growth and expansion through maps of acreages and geological surveys and maps of sprawling Victorian redbrick and maps of annexed towns. As I walk around Toronto now, I catch myself thinking of streets that no longer exist and buildings long since gone and taverns that no one has thought of in generations. The geography has changed, but the soul of the place is one that we continue to grow into.

All I’ve done is use beer to explain that.

 

In Which I Realize I Have An MPP

(Editor’s Note: I once had an aunt who wrote letters to politicians. I believe she once lambasted Prime Minister Chretien over the rise in the price of a head of cabbage. It seems that the frivolity of subject has skipped this generation even if the letter writing impulse has not.

My MPP is Eric Hoskins. I met him once at an announcement of funding for the Ontario Craft Brewers. I don’t know who your MPP is, but I’m sure that they would appreciate hearing from you on the current debate about deregulation.)

Hello, Minister!

I am emailing you because I’m one of your constituents. I am periodically greeted by your smiling face when I check the mail and receive flyers. I am also Canada’s only national beer columnist, with Sun Media. I see the beer industry from a lot of angles. I work with brewers of all sizes and I have just written a book about the history of beer in Ontario.

I’d be writing to you as my local MPP, but you’re also in charge of Economic Development, which is a nice bonus.

I recently had Forum Research conduct a poll for me because I wanted to understand the mood of the province with regards to deregulation of The Beer Store. It turns out that people under 45 seem to be largely in favour of having beer sales in convenience stores. Rather than waste your time quoting numbers at you, I’m going to try and explain the history of the thing. It’s quite a niche subject, if I’m honest, so please don’t feel I’m being patronizing if I over explain.

The Beer Store is an outdated model. There was a time in the early 1980′s when it was perfectly adequate. When The Beer Store started in 1927, they didn’t have anything to do with retail sales to the public. They were meant to be a distribution system that the brewers in the province could take part in as a sort of co-op. It was partially owned by the participants. Over the decades, breweries consolidated and took each other over. In 1941, The Beer Store got into retail. By 1980, there were about three large brewers left. They owned the entirety of The Beer Store amongst them. This was alright because they were the only ones making beer. It made sense.

The problem is that they got arrogant. In February of 1985, they locked out the workers and shut The Beer Store down for a month. They forgot that they were not entitled to the support of the public. I can tell you that beer is a luxury good. No one really needs beer. Brewers depend on the public more than the public depends on them. If you’re a brewer of any size and you don’t listen to your market, you deserve what you get.

The problem is that since 1985, the market has changed immensely, but the structure of The Beer Store has not. Molson Coors is partly American owned and Labatt is owned by a Belgian/Brazilian consortium. The Beer Store, a system designed to serve the public of Ontario and sanctioned by the provincial government, is not even partly owned by Canadians.

Now, if I’m you, I’m thinking to myself, “Sure, but the jobs are onshore and they’re not going anywhere.” You’re right. Those jobs are important and retaining them is good.

However, currently there are something like 100 breweries active in Ontario. If the projections I’m seeing are correct (and I’m using actual declaration of intent from the breweries) we’re going to have something like 200 by the end of 2015. Some of these include the Ontario Craft Brewers, but realistically, 150 of those breweries will have no lobbying interest acting on their behalf.

There are going to be more breweries in Ontario than there have ever been. The high point was 155 at the time of Confederation.

The problem that we’re going to face as a province is that there is no shelf space for these 200 breweries. The LCBO is not obligated to stock their products. If you take a walk through the Summerhill LCBO in our riding, you’ll see that the beer section is stocked completely to the gills. I grant you that it’s a flagship store, but if you cast your mind back five years, it was not that way.

The Beer Store naturally claims that they’re doing a great job. They are doing a great job for extremely large brewers. The logistical system they have in place ensures that the very large foreign owned brewers do not have to compete against each other in convenience stores for the market. Even given that advantage, their sales figures are dwindling year over year. Simply put, they own a distribution system that is massively to their advantage and as Ontarians we have allowed this because up until 30 years ago, they were the only brewers.

But if you look at distribution from a small brewer’s perspective, it’s ludicrous. Let’s say that you’re a brewer based in Owen Sound. There’s an LCBO that is not obliged to stock your product. There are two Beer Stores and to get shelf space in them, you would need to pay a listing fee for the SKU and then a shelving fee for each location. It comes out to around $3000 to be able to sell beer in your hometown. It’s not equitable for a number of reasons, including the fact that you’re paying the money to a business your competition owns. The largest breweries will have their brands prominently displayed. Craft breweries could sell beer in The Beer Store in their hometown and no one would ever know they were there.

Oddly enough, the layout of the 200 breweries in the province of Ontario is going to more or less duplicate the map at Confederation. Before rail, every small town had their own brewery. With craft beer, there’s a locavore tendency against globalization. That’s kind of nonsensical since most of the ingredients that go into making beer are shipped very long distances, but people don’t think about it that much.

This means that across the province of Ontario there are start up businesses that don’t have a reasonable avenue of sale to the public. There are going to be 200 of them. That’s a lot of jobs, and these businesses are going to grow and expand. There will naturally be a period of levelling where some of the lower quality ones are jettisoned from the market, but on balance 150 survivors might not be unreasonable.

The Beer Store could have addressed this. They could have adapted to the market at any point since 1985 when we started to have craft beer in Ontario. Currently they are attempting to dictate to government and to the people of the province of Ontario what is best for us. They have once again forgotten that they’re meant to be serving us and not the other way around.

We’re in a situation where there’s massive economic growth to be had. Failure to change the existing situation will actively hamper small town business in Ontario.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest what should happen. I don’t know that it should be convenience stores or grocery stores. I don’t see why we couldn’t allow a separate co-op for Ontario Brewers (people quote NAFTA at me on that. I have not read NAFTA. It is long.) If all else fails, we could always nationalize The Beer Store. All I know is that something has got to give.

One of the reasons I’m taking the time to write this to you is that, as MPP for St. Paul’s, you’re fairly likely to be around for a while. It’s a liberal stronghold. I appreciate that the Liberal party seems to have come out against change recently.

I don’t think that this is an electoral issue. It is demographic. Something like 50% of people under 45 are buying their beer at the LCBO. Breweries are cropping up all over the province. The writing is on the wall, especially when you consider how badly you have to perform as a monopoly to lose 50% of your potential clientele over 25 years. This isn’t going away and the citizenry are going to get vocal. No matter who is in charge, something’s got to happen.

I don’t know what you’ll be able to do with the information, but the good news is that as an electoral issue, it’d be a soft landing. 70% of citizens would be fine with the grocery store or convenience store. That number is going to increase if the PSA The Beer Store is running keeps getting airplay.

Thanks for your time. I hope I’ve provided some context for the issue.

On Mediocrity

In undergrad, a friend of mine adopted a principle that allowed him to spend more time playing cards than doing coursework. While he was very interested in doing his best when it came to the courses pertaining to his major, he viewed elective courses as something of an intrusion into his spare time. As a result he would aim for a balance between the highest mark that he could possibly get and the lowest amount of effort that would allow him a respectable grade. He called it “The Gentleman’s C.”

I am not sure that it served him well subsequently, but we always had a fourth for euchre.

I’ve been thinking a lot about The Gentleman’s C in recent months because I’ve noticed something interesting: Given enough time, everything, regardless of its quality will end up with a mark somewhere between 3.25 and 3.75 on Untappd. For those of you who don’t know, Untappd is an application that lets you check in the beers that you are drinking and give them a score out of five. It’s generally fairly pointless and ultimately gameifies the consumption of alcohol by giving you badges. That’s very probably a bad thing in the long term.

I think that this has to do with the sheer quantity of beer being made across North America at the moment and the amount of enthusiasm that the market is seized with. In terms of criticism it’s difficult because there’s only so much meaningful output that any one person can create. In Ontario at the moment there are so many new breweries that I think it unlikely that anyone has eyes on all of them.

Understand this: As little as thirty years ago, it would certainly have been possible for a single critic to have tried every beer in production in North America. It would not even have taken all that long to do it. Possibly less than a year. It was not as though there were fourteen new kinds of session IPA hitting the market each week.

My numbers are bogus here, but follow me on the concept. There are something like 3000 breweries in Canada and the USA. I think we can safely give those breweries an average of five brands a piece, although in practice I suspect it to be higher than that. This means that there are something like 15,000 brands of beer being brewed in North America (excluding Mexico because I don’t know enough about that to wrap my head around it.)

At one beer a night that would take you 41 years. Even were you to dedicate your entire life the process and call it 8 three ounce samples a night, you’re never going to catch up with the growth forecasted and you’re going to zeno’s paradox yourself right into oblivion.

(edit: kudos to astute reader David Horatio Ort, who kindly pointed out that my bogus math was three times as bogus as it ought to have been.)

For that reason, there’s a significant tendency in criticism to focus on the absolute best of the best. It’s impossible to have context for everything, so why wouldn’t you focus on the things that you know you’re going to like and be able to review positively? If you try something you don’t like why would you waste your time reviewing it? Many people I’ve talked to are pleased to simply not write about things that they don’t like or things that are poorly made. I do it myself. I’ve got books to write and I’d prefer to recommend good things in the column than excoriate bad things.

With that huge and ever expanding number of beers out there, I think that we’re probably doing a disservice to people who read about beer by accentuating the positive when we should really be eliminating the negative with extreme prejudice. If a beer is simply not very good, then we should probably be telling the public that.

Untappd is a poor substitute for reality. Not everything is worth 3.5 stars out of 5. There’s some rough work being pulled at the fermenter and I’m seeing that increase rather than decrease. There are beers being launched into the world that are uninspired and really serve no purpose other than being something to market. There are some woeful mediocrities out there that deserve nothing but scorn. I don’t mean mass market brands from the big guys. I mean small craft beer producers who are more interested in a marketing strategy than a quality product. Brewers whose grasp has exceeded their reach.

The directory over at Mom n’ Hops is telling me that there are 184 breweries and brewing companies open or in planning in Ontario. When I started writing about beer in 2010, I think we had something like 35 in Ontario. For that reason, you wanted to be a bit gingerly. It was a big deal when someone got a new product on a shelf. You wanted to be a bit supportive even if the product was mediocre because at least it meant there was choice.

Choice is no longer a problem, but mediocrity is becoming one. Average is going to get you lost in the shuffle. Aim for something a little higher than a Gentleman’s C, folks. Just existing is for plankton.

The OCSA vs. The Status Quo

The second of the studies that the Ontario Convenience Store Association released in August is a good deal more broad in scope than the first. It is entitled An Economic Analysis of Increasing Competition In Retail Liquor Sales in Ontario. It is also written by Dr. Anindya Sen from the University of Waterloo. If you really like reading economic papers, you can download it by clicking the title.

I am going to attempt to explain the gist of the paper as best I can given my limited understanding of the economic model employed between pages 18 and 24. I think I get most of it, but if there are any economists out there, you might want to lean in on this one.

This paper is intended as a study to provide information on the possible effects of partial privatization of alcohol sales within the province of Ontario. It is an attempt to provide substantive academic research into the problem. This is something of which I am generally in favour. Too often we argue on internet forums about the likely effects of privatization without any real research to point to.

The initial findings which guide the study are as follows:

1)      The vast majority of the money the LCBO makes is on markup, which is generated in their capacity as a wholesaler. (This is usually true with specific amounts based on product type. Here is a link to the current pricing structure.)

2)      Comparatively speaking, federal excise and federal and provincial ad valorem taxes typically make up a smaller percentage than the markup,

3)      Based on empirical evidence, increased market competition is significantly correlated with an increase in per capita gross income, net income and government revenue generated by the provincial liquor authority.

The arguments that follow are largely based on the concept of consumer and producer surpluses and it basically goes like this:

Say you’re standing in the LCBO at Summerhill, checking out all the groovy new craft beers and thinking about what to drink this weekend. For the purposes of this argument, you’re all about buying a bottle of Panil Enhanced because it looks interesting and you liked the Bariquee that came in last year. You check the price tag and it is $15.00. The absolute most that you’re willing to pay for a single bottle of beer at retail is $16.50. That measure of $1.50 difference counts as your welfare based on consumer surplus.

Now, on the other end of the scale, Panil is trying to sell their beer for as much money as they reasonably can. It’s good beer and they feel they deserve to be paid a premium for it. I don’t know exactly what price the LCBO is buying Panil Enhanced from the importer at, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that it’s about $6.50 a bottle. That’s more than the $5.00 the importer would have taken at a minimum. Their producer surplus is $1.50.

All this means is that the system works tolerably well towards an equilibrium between consumer surplus and producer surplus at $15.00. Also, you go home with a bottle of Panil Enhanced and everyone’s happy.

If you could remove some of the markup that the LCBO adds as a wholesaler from the equation and keep the producer surplus the same, your consumer might suddenly be paying $13.50 for that bottle of Panil, creating additional consumer surplus.

Without competition, there’s no compelling reason for the LCBO to change the equilibrium point in the model. They would make less money in markup, and, because the product is cheaper, the province would take less PST. “Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it,” said Publilius Syrus. You’ll pay $15.00 for Panil Enhanced because it’s worth that to you.

There is also a concept here that you should understand that is called Deadweight Loss that’s associated with a monopoly on various products. Since a monopoly allows the retailer to charge the most beneficial price for themselves, some consumers are not able to afford Panil Enhanced at all, resulting in a loss of market utility. They have frowny faces.

Dr. Sen is essentially arguing that the LCBO voluntarily enter into a position in which they are creating their own retail competition.

Theorize that some kinds of alcoholic beverages are available for sale at convenience stores. The study assumes that convenience stores would be allowed to accept a lower markup, resulting in decreased cost to the consumer. For this the convenience store would pay some of the markup as licensing fees. As a result of that move, the majority of rational consumers would shop at the convenience store. This would in turn result in lower sales at the LCBO, which would force them to lower their prices.

This would lead to a significant reduction in government revenue due to the loss of markup and ad valorem taxation. The good news is this: The lowered costs to the consumer mean that the people who counted as Deadweight Loss and could not afford Panil Enhanced at all can now do so and that the people who were experiencing mild consumer surplus on their $15.00 bottle are now paying $13.50 and those suckers are doing backflips of joy in the streets, let me tell you. “Whoopee hoo,” they yell “I’m gettin’ enhanced tonight.”

“The LCBO in the short run is worse off, because of lowered sales and profits generated by its own stores” says the study. “However, it is quite possible that overall LCBO net revenue and transfers to the province will actually increase. Recall that in this model, convenience stores must also transfer their markup revenue to the province. Since they charge a lower price (compared to the LCBO), the total amount of liquor sold is obviously more than the quantity sold by the LCBO as a monopoly retailer. Otherwise, the LCBO would have earned these higher profits as a monopoly retailer by setting a lower price.”

Got that? Convenience stores charge a lower price and the LCBO charges a lower price but ideally the increased volume of sales that results from the decreased prices bridging two sales channels might theoretically increase once you take the additional taxation revenue into account.

I agree completely with Dr. Sen’s finding. That’s exactly what would happen given those conditions.

Those conditions will be met on the day that hell freezes over.

The model depends on a simplified version of the system as it currently exists which thinks solely about the benefit in terms of consumer surplus. The issue is that since the LCBO’s profits and the general tax revenue from the LCBO and Beer Store make up approximately 1.5-2% of the annual provincial budget, the real world also has to take the consumer into account as a citizen who benefits from services derived from that revenue.

The ignored cost implications are staggering. The LCBO’s reduced profitability would probably result in a decreased operational budget and therefore a decrease in staffing. Think about the amount of work that would have to be done in order to figure out what the decreased price structure would look like.

Think about the fact that you as the OCSA are pitching this fanciful study whose empirical data analysis does not account for demographics or trends in the marketplace and a conclusion section which contains a woefully large number of conditional statements. If I’m the government, I’m shutting you down because the LCBO is a guaranteed cash cow in a time of economic uncertainty and you are offering a potential 5% – 9% theoretical increase at some point in the future if everything goes right and there are no unforeseen eventualities.

Peace, order and good government means that “if” and “maybe” and “should” don’t get a seat at the table.

On a final note, consider the main precept of the OCSA model: additional sales. Additional sales mean additional consumption. If the core tenet of your model hands your opponent a social responsibility argument to beat you about the head with, you can’t be surprised when you lose.

So You Want To Be A Brewer: Lazarus Breakfast Stout

The nice thing about planning an event like the Feast Of St.John for Toronto Beer Week is that I’ve managed to create a certain amount of context for myself over three years or so that I’ve been writing about beer. I’ve collaborated on beers with a number of breweries, frequently with pretty good results. I have never really understood whether that is because I have some idea of what I’m doing or possibly just because I pick really talented people to work with.

If you don't make it a Great Lakes day, you will make Troy Burtch sad. That would be monstrous.

If you don’t make it a Great Lakes day, you will make Troy Burtch sad. That would be monstrous.

It’s hard to believe that the first of these collaborations was almost three years ago now. The original batch of Lazarus Breakfast Stout was brewed in Mid-November 2010. It was before I was working for Sun Media, if that gives you any indication of the time span. In that time period Project X at Great Lakes for which the beer was originally brewed has ceased to happen on a routine basis. The experimental brews that developed out of it have become the “Tank Ten” series. The fruits of Project X resulted in Great Lakes becoming the best brewery in Canada this year at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Mike Lackey has not yet been awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace through Zymurgy, but I’m sure that as soon as they found one, he’ll be considered.

A few facts, gentle reader, about Mike Lackey:

Mike Lackey’s brewing prowess is not actually attributable to his beard, as I may previously have indicated. The truth is that Mike Lackey was actually barrel aged for the first six years of his life, receiving his meals through a specially drilled bunghole. His first language was not English, but rather the nearly imperceptible hum of cerevesiae. It is the great tragedy of his life that he has never been able to reproduce by mitosis. The beard is only window dressing.

It’s no wonder he’s done so well.

This time around, it seriously occurred to me as we stood there talking about his various projects (He’s creating a beer concept called SMASHASS) and my various theories (food and beer pairing should be derived from scientific first principles) that we’re getting old. We talked about some of the new breweries that are popping up and what we thought their chances were.  We talked about how much more stuff there is now. In November 2010, when we first worked together, there were about 50 Ontario breweries, many of whom were doing very little. According to Mom and Hops today? 137 active and in planning.

The smell that comes off a wort with this percentage of dark malt is pretty hypnotic.

The smell that comes off a wort with this percentage of dark malt is pretty hypnotic.

This batch of Lazarus sort of reflects the changes. Originally, I brought the idea with me because I really liked Founder’s Breakfast Stout and I really liked Oaxacan Mole sauce. I continue to like both of those things, so the ingredients have not changed. It’s still an oatmeal breakfast stout with a really significant amount of roast and dark malt. It still has cinnamon, chocolate, and ancho chili. It still gets a half pound of coffee in the whirlpool (you avoid the leeching tannins that way.) The main difference this time around is that the alcohol content is a little lower. Originally, we think Lazarus was supposed to be 7.0% alcohol and near 50 BU’s. We lost the sheet after the first batch, so we were going from the second version, which we had already tweaked.

Here’s an important tip to all you well meaning lugs out there starting your own brewery: Don’t lose the freakin’ sheet. It’s black box crash test time. Without the sheet, if people criticize you for inconsistency, you deserve the rich, velvety, lambasting you get. Don’t be a chump: keep the sheet. Laminate it. Put it in a safety deposit box.

We decided that we’d rather have more beer at slightly lower alcohol. The flavour isn’t really dependent on the alcohol in this beer, but rather on the vast number of elements that contribute flavour. I don’t really think anyone is going to feel cheated if the beer drops to 5.5% alcohol. The novelty is the Oaxacan Mole thing.

Mike and I discussed briefly whether the nice folks at Aztec in Vista, California borrowed the idea for the beer for their Noche De Los Muertos. We figure that they probably arrived at theirs independently and that it doesn’t matter since the label is so cool. I actually got to try their version at the San Diego Zoo while holding a python. I like ours better, but I’m biased.

Once you add the coffee in the whirlpool, the rolling foam gets darker and darker. I love that part.

Once you add the coffee in the whirlpool, the rolling foam gets darker and darker. I love that part.

In terms of the Feast Of St. John, one of the great things is that Lester Garcia at the Wallace Gastropub has actually inserted mole sauce into the menu. I’m not sure exactly what the food pairing is going to be for the Lazarus Breakfast Stout, but I do know that I’m finally going to get to put it together with the thing that inspired it. Actually, the awesome part is that Lester’s version of the mole sauce is lighter in colour than a Mole Negro, so we’re going to get a fantastic range of flavours. His version incorporates a lot of fennel seeds, so it’ll be really interesting to see how that interacts.

I’m told that Lazarus will also be available as part of the tap takeover at Bar Hop on the 19th of September. That’s going to be a fun day. See the Michael Jackson movie and then go try your own beer on tap at a takeover hosted by Great Lakes and Bellwoods. Sometimes you’re given a reminder that you really don’t have the right to complain about your job.

How much more black could it possibly be? None. None more black.

How much more black could it possibly be? None. None more black.

Fun With Numbers: Doom and Gloom Edition

The other day, I got a haircut.

This is not news in and of itself, even though I’m relatively pleased with the haircut.

During the smalltalk that goes along with a haircut, I mentioned that I write about beer. It turns out that the stylist had intended at some point last year to open a craft brewery in the city of Toronto. It turns out that he had the funding all ready to go and even had a brewer lined up. There’s always money to open a craft brewery in Toronto, he said. In the states, it’s the only growth industry, he said. The secret is opening with one good brand, he said.

I realize that an anecdote isn’t data, but this is where we are now. There’s money going begging and a guy who cuts hair for a living could open a craft brewery.

Now, as it turns out, the guy was fairly knowledgeable about beer and knew some Toronto contract brewers. I don’t mean to denigrate the guy’s willingness to start a new career but five years ago, this would not have been enough to get investors on board. Venture capitalists would have been leery of entrusting funds to any startup brewery.

Five years ago, the brewing industry landscape in Ontario was a great deal different.

In 2008, there were 38 breweries in Ontario. One off brews were a thing reserved for cask festivals like Cask Days at Bar Volo. Creemore was still independent, Amsterdam was still downtown, IPA was a gleam in the beard of Mike Lackey and nanobrewing sounded like something out of a Michael Crichton novel.Operational Breweries

As you can see here, we have actually just this week hit 100 operational breweries and brewpubs. Number 100, near as I can reckon it, was probably Lake Of The Woods in Kenora, Ontario who poured their first beer yesterday. There were three others this week.

For the purposes of full disclosure, I should point out that I have used the Mom and Hops directory and then combed through the websites of these companies in order to find their first year of operation. I have included contract breweries as breweries. Also, the data does not include breweries which fall under the same umbrella. Brick and Waterloo are counted separately as are Creemore, Six Pints and Mad and Noisy.Small Breweries

This is a graph showing the number of Ontario breweries added each year. You’ll notice that last year we had 22 and that we have 22 so far this year with six months to go. There are 25 additional breweries in some form of planning stage that are not yet operational. We might actually double the number of openings this year because I can guarantee that there are breweries slated to open that aren’t on the Mom and Hops radar yet. It’s possible that within two years the number of breweries in Ontario will have doubled.

It’s not just in Ontario, either. The Brewer’s Association claims 2,360 operating members as of March 2013 and 1250 breweries in planning as of April 1, 2013. That means that in 2012 they added about 360 breweries or about a fifth as many as they already had. If you want to see where they’re laid out, the New Yorker has a pretty nifty map.

The growth in the case of Ontario specifically and in North America generally is parabolic in nature and there are some problems with that. I sincerely doubt that there’s a brewery out there whose future business planning is not predicated upon the idea that they will grow and flourish. Confidence is the key to Capitalism, after all. The problems are that customers are a finite resource and the amount of beer consumer is dropping annually in both Canada and the U.S. If you look at the craft beer market segment, it is booming. There’s more reportage on the subject than ever before and experts are getting interviewed left and right.

The thing about parabolic growth is that we’ve seen it as recently as 2007 and it usually doesn’t end well.

Look at the pretty tulips.

Look at the pretty tulips.

I suppose I could use just about any example from Tulips to the South Sea Company to Housing to Bitcoin, but it’s probably easiest just to post the explanatory graph.Bubble Graph General

Coincidentally, I don’t know if you know this, but there’s a movie coming out called Drinking Buddies. It stars Olivia Wilde and Ron Livingston and is set partially in a craft brewery. It is a romantic comedy. If the heavily tattooed brewers that you know seem all PUNK RAWK and a little bit edgy, it’s worth pointing out that a romantic comedy isn’t.

I’m worried, you see, that movies are the death knell for popularity. They get released at the height of a trend. Look at the popularity of break dancing following the release of Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Similarly, the popularity of skateboarding (although resurgent in the mid 90’s) took a real hit after being featured in Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol. Movies cash in on trends. The cash in part makes me think that we might be hitting the greed portion of the mania phase of the above bubble graph.

When you add to this the fact that the LCBO doesn’t have shelves for all of this stuff and that privatization in Ontario is pretty much a pipe dream for the time being (I still haven’t seen a serious study on that, by the way), it becomes pretty clear that (and I wish I could do a Sean Bean impression here) Winter Is Coming.

So, if you’re an existing brewery, you’re going to want some cash on hand. If you have an onsite store at your brewery, promote the hell out of it. If you’re a start-up brewery and you’re already brewing, for God’s sake do something interesting to differentiate yourself a little (bamboo beer doesn’t seem so silly now, does it?)

And, if you gave me a haircut about a week ago, you might want to wait a couple of years and see how the market shakes out before launching a new brewery in Toronto. Also, thanks for the nifty haircut.

Hoppy Beers and Monoculture in Ontario

I want to suggest something to you, and it may be something that has crossed your mind if you’re a brewer in Ontario. I think that we’re all aware that large brewers are, if not faltering, then experiencing a period of contraction. This is probably as the result of the ascendance of craft beer in some small part, but it also has to do with shifting preference in packaging and with the economic recession from 2008 to the present. So craft beer is taking off. Why not buy a few bottles of really interesting beer instead of a 24 of lager that might be indistinguishable from its competition?

That’s the important bit: many mass produced lagers are as like their competition as it is realistically possible to be. It’s (and I borrow a term from Jason Tremblay who posted about this on Bartowel.com) a monoculture.

Tremblay went on to suggest that the current growth of craft beer is on the back of hoppy pale ales and IPAs. This seemed somewhat suspect to me, so I decided to crunch some numbers. I like a bit of data-centric research periodically, so what I’ve done is taken two snapshots of LCBO product lists based on their API data and broken down those snapshots into stylistic preference. The first is the earliest record I have access to: January 1, 2011. The second is from April 19th, 2013.

I have included only beers produced in North America. I have not delineated between macro and micro. I have included only one SKU per product, which is to say that while there might be different available formats of something like Budweiser, I have listed only the Budweiser brand as a coverall for those SKUs. If a product has listed itself as a Pilsner, I have simply taken the listing at its word. I hear you say “but Lakeport Pilsner isn’t really a Pilsner.”

Well, true. The data isn’t concrete. What it does is paint a picture of the last 28 months.

For January 1, 2011 there are 10837 existing SKUs of which about a thousand are categorized as beer, 571 of which are produced in Canada and 55 were American imports.

There are, by my count, 45 brands of Lager, craft or otherwise, that don’t differentiate themselves into stylistic subcategories. Basic Light beers count for 20 SKUs. Pale Ales count for 18 SKUs. There were only 5 Canadian produced IPAs. From the USA, the numbers are 9/0/2/4 in those same categories.

It should be noted that this does not mean that they were all on the shelves at the same time. Some were seasonals. Realistically, there were as few as three IPAs on the shelf at any one time.

If you fast forward to the present (or near as dammit) There are 20939 SKUs represented on the LCBO Product list (which goes some way to explaining why people aren’t grumbling about selection as much anymore). Of these 1427 are beer, 856 are produced in Canada and 95 are imports from the USA.

The number of undifferentiated lagers has actually decreased by one over the last couple of years: 44. There are now 22 light beers on offer. Pale Ales have grown to 27 SKUs. Canadian produced IPAs have grown to 22. (This is not to say there are this many on the shelves. Some of them were seasonals). From the USA, the numbers are 13/0/4/7.

Just for the sake of argument, I’ll point out that in January 2011, there had been one Double IPA: Garrison. As of April 19th, 2013, there had been nine from Canada and the USA.

So, this tells us that interest in Lager has waned very slightly and that there is almost no growth in light beer. If you’re a craft brewer, this is a good thing. It also tells us that the Pale Ale category has grown by a factor of 1.5 and that IPA as a category has grown by a factor of 4.4. If you include the American SKUs for those categories, there’s comparatively little change in lager. The growth of Pale Ale rises slightly to a factor of 1.55. The growth factor of IPA shrinks slightly to 3.2.

Now, I’ll point out that one of the nice things about the large brewers is that they tend not to brew a great deal for consumption that excludes mainstream sales channels. That is to say that there aren’t a lot of lagers that are sold exclusively outside the LCBO and The Beer Store.

You may wish to consider, however, the total number of small brewers not represented in the LCBO and the likelihood that basically every single one of those brewers has a pale ale. I don’t have a figure for that, but you have to realize that of the now 112 Ontario breweries reported on Mom and Hops’ directory it is probable that 7/10 of them have a pale ale as a continuing brand. Some will also have IPAs.

There are some pretty significant downsides to this. First of all, it’s just massively unsustainable. Secondly, it means that craft brewers are largely competing for the market segment that defines their expansion. Thirdly, the problem isn’t going away. I can think of at least three new pale ales and IPAs hitting the market next month. As smaller breweries attempt to get into the LCBO it’s more vendors competing for approximately the same slice of the pie.

What I guess I’m saying to you is this: If you ever had a good idea for a beer that you thought would work, now would be the time to diversify. Just because everyone else is making a hoppy ale doesn’t mean that you have to. Plus, the increasing number of American craft beer products coming to the LCBO is probably going to make competition even tougher.

If you’re going to launch a new brewery, you’d do well to do something to differentiate yourself stylistically and find something accessible for drinkers that provides value for money and has a novelty factor. It provides craft beer some genetic diversity and might just put some money in your pocket. Launching a non-descript Pale Ale or IPA that can’t compete against objectively better beers is more or less a recipe for bankruptcy.

Keith’s Hop Series

If you’ll recall, I wrote a column early in January about the Hop Mason beer that Keith’s are brewing for pubs in the Prime chain across Canada. The conclusion that I came to was that it was objectively good and that the specs for the beer put it squarely in the realm of English IPA. In addition to this it bore some of the hallmarks of a beer produced by a very large company. It was comparatively accessible and it was aggressively filtered resulting in a much clearer beer than you’d usually see in a craft IPA. It wasn’t exactly a world beater, but it could be said objectively to be a good beer.

On Thursday last week, I received a package from Keith’s with the beers from their new Hop Series. They’re not really IPAs. My understanding is that the BU’s come in way under specification for even an English style.

Here’s the really interesting part: They’re not being marketed as IPAs. Not really.

Rather than going for overwhelming bitterness, they’ve opted to showcase the flavour and aroma of a single hop in each Iteration of the Hop Series. The first two are Hallertauer and Cascade, which would be pretty approachable for the drinkers that they’re trying to reach. Rather than going for bittering, they’ve opted to dry hop the beers pretty aggressively. You get aroma without the sting of bitterness. Furthermore, it’s an all malt product.

You’ll read a lot of reviews if you follow beer blogs where the subject is approached with the intent of suggesting to you that the author is developing a begrudging respect for the product. I’m not going to bother with the pretense. The Keith’s Hop Series beers were pretty good. If offered one, I would not turn it down.

The reason I’m not bothering with the pretense (aside from the fact I knew they were going to do this two months ago) is that it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that large brewers can make flavourful beers if they want to. It’s just that they’ve never seemed to want to before, or at the very least, haven’t quite understood how to approach the problem.

It’s unusual that two separate topics flow into each other this well. You’ll remember my conclusion about Discount Beer February: That in 1993, President’s Choice getting 3% of the beer market in Ontario was a large enough threshold to force large brewers to play their game and that this situation might be relevant to Craft Beer in Ontario 20 years later, given that Craft has about 5-6% of the market depending on who you include.

Usually it takes months for the other shoe to drop.

The thing about the Alexander Keith’s Hop Series is that it’s not simply a beer release. This is going to be an event. There’s going to be mobile sampling across the country through April and early May. They’re actually interested in doing education on the product and on how hops work in beer. They’re taking it to the streets.

Shed your cynicism about large brewers for a moment and look at what just happened. Forget that it’s Keith’s. If I were to exclude the company name and say to you that a brewery with a budget for marketing and education were making a push to introduce the public to single hop beers as an attempt to make flavour the focus of their product, what would you say?

The problem, for Keith’s at least, is that there are likely unforeseen consequences. I suspect that most of your dyed in the wool craft beer drinkers, if they’re reasonable, will admit that the Hop Series beers are pretty good. I don’t believe for a second that they’ll purchase them in quantity. This means that the success of the Hop Series beers depends on drinkers from other segments of the market. I’m talking generally about people who drink stuff like regular Keith’s or Canadian or Budweiser.

If you’re a Keith’s drinker and you see a new product with the Keith’s logo on it, you’ll probably give it a shot. If the marketing convinces you that the flavour that you’re now enjoying is hops and the educational aspect is enough to display to you that there is a causal effect between ingredients and flavour, what is preventing you, the average Keith’s drinker, from making the small leap to drinking more hoppy beer on a regular basis?

Nothing. That’s what.

If it goes the way I think it’s going to go, this is going to lead to a steady trickle of beer drinkers discovering and purchasing craft products instead of big name beers. I can see no reason that the Hop Series won’t be as successful for AB InBev in Ontario as Creemore and Granville have been for Molson. Hop City is doing the same for Moosehead. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miller wants out of their distribution contract in Ontario so that they can push their Leinenkugel stuff.

So, to sum up: Large brewers are now spending very large amounts of money on making all-malt beers and ensuring through education that they are conceptually accessible to the public. I have to suppose that they’re doing this to take advantage of the fastest growing segment of the Canadian beer market. They know going in, if they’ve done their research, that there is not a huge amount of brand loyalty in the craft market segment. People don’t identify as a Cameron’s drinker or as a Muskoka drinker. They identify as Craft Beer drinkers (an interesting side effect of which is that small brewery imports are now defacto “craft beer”).

They are actually converting their customers to craft beer drinkers. I can’t even pretend to know what the endgame is here. I will make a prediction though: One of the results of this activity is that the craft beer segment is going to expand faster this year than we’ve ever seen before in Ontario.

Discount Beer February – How We Got Where We Are

(Much of the background information for the following comes from Allen Winn Sneath’s excellent book Brewed in Canada. I borrowed Ken Woods’ copy, but you should probably buy your own.)

The DISCOUNT BEER CATEGORY at The Beer Store exists for two reasons:

1)      Canadians didn’t drink enough Amstel in the late 1980’s

2)      You really liked those President’s Choice Decadent Chocolate Chip Cookies as a kid.

Clearly, this is going to take some explaining.

Picture it: Canada in 1992!

Brian Mulroney and his chin share the role of Prime Minister. Kelly Gruber is a sex symbol. Much Music is playing actual videos and the CBC is starting to phase out Beachcombers re-runs. The fine, stalwart, slightly inebriated people of Ontario cry out for cheap beer and their call is heeded by two men: Bill Sharpe and Dave Nichol.

Bill Sharpe had worked for at Pacific Western Brewing in BC and had done pretty well by them. He thought that he could make a go of private label contract brewing and approached Loblaws to gauge their interest. In order to take advantage of the situation, he would need a brewery and he would need financing to purchase a brewery.

He approaches Cott, who already produce the President’s Choice soda brands. They agree to finance the purchase of a brewery located in Hamilton, which until recently had been owned by Heineken and was used to produce Amstel. It was an unprofitable venture unless it was running at the full capacity of 330,000 HL and they unloaded it in 1991. The brewery is christened the LAKEPORT BREWING COMPANY and is operative by June, 1992. It brews a brand called Around Ontario. By September, they have created Laker and Laker Light. On December 11th, they launch President’s Choice Premium Draft.

You have to understand that Dave Nichol was as much of a rock star as a bespectacled, middle aged man with a canine sidekick who’s hawking a line of private label dipping sauces with names like “Memories of Bangkok” can possibly be. Personally, I think it was the chocolate chip cookies that did it. That, or the chocolate fudge crackle ice cream. The thing was that President’s Choice did really well as a store brand. Still does. They have their own TV show.

In 1992, they expanded to beer. The first batch of President’s Choice Premium Draft sold out basically immediately. In a genius marketing move, Lakeport takes out a full page newspaper ad, putatively apologizing to Dave Nichol, but really, capturing the attention of the public. The public ate it up and by June, 1993, Lakeport had 3% of the Ontario Market.

Was the beer any good? In a sense it didn’t matter. Dave Nichol was behind it. Did it matter that Dave Nichol didn’t drink beer? No, because the beer was cheap. At launch, Around Ontario was $5.95 for a six pack. PC Premium Draft was $12.50 a case. That undercut Molson and Labatt by about a dollar a case.

A dollar in price difference, or about eight and a half cents a beer, and suddenly, there’s an entire new category. In the summer of 1993, Molson introduces their Carling brand as a competitor and Labatt brings in Wildcat. The category is now 15% of the total Ontario Beer Market because “Hey. Eight and a half cents, man.”

The next few years are a little like a shell game run by a paranoid schizophrenic.

In 1994, President’s Choice decides to change over to Labatt. Dave Nichol, wheeler dealer that he was, still owned the recipes to Premium Draft, so they start brewing that at Lakeport under the name Dave Nichol. Essentially, there are now two identical beers competing against each other with no real differentiation in price.

In 1995, Cott sells the marketing rights to the Dave Nichol brand to Molson, meaning that Molson is now marketing a beer identical to the one Labatt is marketing. In the same year it sells Molson the rights to the Laker brands. Since Lakeport no longer has any brands to speak of, they launch a range simply called Lakeport, which uses the same recipes that Laker had used.

In 1996, Molson, possibly because they realized how bizarrely incestuous this was getting and decided that discretion was the better part of valour, sold the Laker brands to Brick, acquiring a small percentage of the ownership of that brewery in the process. Since Molson is fighting a battle to consolidate the ownership of their own company, using Brick as a cat’s paw to force Labatt to continue competing in a market segment is sheer Machiavellian genius, if not elegance in its simplicity. This puts Brick in a position where it can start acquiring other brands as well, like Formosa Springs.

In 1998, since the Lakeport Brewery hasn’t been running at full capacity, they go bankrupt. They’re taken over by Alpha Corporate Holdings.

By 2005, the discount category is a really big deal. That year, Brick sees a 325% rise in sales of their Laker brands. Lakeport has about 7% of the Ontario market share. President’s Choice, possibly sensing a shift in the wind, contracts their brews to Brick.

In 2006, the high point of the Buck-A-Beer craze, Lakeport has 11% of the Ontario Beer Market share and two of the top ten brands at The Beer Store.

In 2007, Labatt decides enough is enough and buys the Lakeport Brewing Company for 204 million bucks. That’s a pretty small price to pay for 11% of the market. (To give you an idea, that is 4% more than all of the craft beer market share in Ontario in 2013). They acquire the Lakeport brands and Brava.

In 2008, the Buck-A-Beer craze ends when Ontario raises the minimum beer price to $25.60. This obsoletes the incredibly catchy “Make ‘er a Laker, it’s a buck a beer” radio commercial, which we can all be thankful for.

In 2010, Labatt does something incredibly clever and decides not to sell a brewery capable of producing 10% of the beer in the province to a smaller, hungry rival in Minhas brewing. They do the sensible thing by gutting the brewery and figuratively salting the earth. This prevents anything like this concatenation of circumstances from ever occurring again, since no one really has the capacity to compete. It angers the Teamsters Union, but tactically it’s the best option.

In 2012, the minimum beer price in Ontario is raised to $29.35. There is no convenient way to turn this price into a catchy radio jingle, and for this we owe our thanks to the AGCO.

So, that’s why everyone owns all of the brands that they own even if many of those brands are more or less identical, historically. This sequence of events accounts for approximately 2/3rds of the entire market segment.

Wouldn’t it have been easier to just put down the cookies and enjoy an Amstel?

Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm

It’s hard to know exactly what to make of Ramblin’ Road Brewery Farm. They’re a new brewery in Norfolk County. Part of the issue here is that there really aren’t all that many farm breweries kicking around and there’s not really a concrete definition of what that might entail, at least in Ontario. Is it “we grow some of our own ingredients” or “we produce farmhouse style beers” or “this brewery is actually, physically located on a farm” or some or none of the above.

This image came from Canadian Beer News, partially because I made notes on the Pilsner so long ago that I don't even remember if I took pictures.

This image came from Canadian Beer News, partially because I made notes on the Pilsner so long ago that I don’t even remember if I took pictures.

The concept is a little sketchy. To give you an idea, there was a law passed in New York State in 2012 that suggests that it has less to do with whether the brewery grows its own ingredients and more to do with whether they come from that agricultural area. The percentage of material grown in New York State that must be included in a “farm brewery” beer will increase from 20% (currently) to 90% by 2024. The actual beer that is produced seems of comparatively little consequence in terms of designation. In Ontario, there’s no such guideline.

There is, I think, a mental association that people have developed with a few farm producers in the states that created a certain amount of excitement before the products coming out of Ramblin’ Road were announced. I know that I initially thought, “Oh, so what? Like Hill Farmstead? That’ll be great.”

Ramblin’ Road has sidestepped rusticity in their beers, preferring to start with some easily accessible beer styles. There’s a Pale Lager, a Cream Ale and a Pilsner. Of these, I’ve only tried the Pilsner. It’s not quite saazy enough to be a Czech jobbie and it doesn’t quite have the cracker grain character of a northern German Pilsner. By process of elimination, it’s sort of an American Pilsner and therefore a touch less exciting than I was hoping for, although still pleasingly floral in a mild way.

It is certainly well made. I can’t fault the brewers there. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at having it again in the future. I sat there staring at the glass for a while trying to figure out why you would start out with that range of beers if you were in Ontario of all places where there are now similarly named breweries launching with a shot across the bow like Canny Man.

Then I remembered two things:

1)      Ramblin’ Road is in La Salette and not Toronto.

2)      I’ve seen this work just across the lake in Chautauqua County, NY

I don’t know that if they had started with more interesting beers, people would have gone out of their way to visit Ramblin’ Road. In terms of drawing power, it’s probably better to brew solid popular mainstays and get people to visit from nearby than to bet the brewery farm that people will drive in for barrel aged thingummies. That works in Toronto, but we’ve got semi functioning public transit and something like five million people. La Salette has a post office and a general store and I would bet you that they are both closed on Sunday.

It’s actually a pretty clever idea. Unlike, say, Toronto, where you’ve got a number of craft brewery lagers competing for space on tap with every new thing that comes out, Southwestern Ontario is more or less Lager country and comparatively unchanging. This is kind of clever. If you draw a 150 km radius from the brewery (about two hours of country driving), you’re equidistant to Toronto and the Huron coast. You have the ability to sell all over the place (although making inroads within Labatt heavy London might be a bit of a bear.)

Combine this with the fact that the owner of the brewery, John Picard, has been distributing his fresh roasted, salty nuts all over the province for 30 years, and you probably take a lot of the guesswork out of sales and distribution. I would imagine that also highlights for the brewery the importance of food safety and sanitation, so you don’t get rookie mistakes. Also, consider the overhead on a brewery outside of Delhi. Peanuts.

Now, that’s a wide catchment area; a huge radius. You probably don’t have to go that far afield to sell a lot of well made accessible beer. Southern Tier in Lakewood, NY, makes a beer called Chautauqua Brew that does more or less the same thing: Provides a locally made accessible alternative to macro beers. If I remember the conversation with the brewers correctly, the only thing that outsells it locally is Busch Light.

They are actually growing a wide variety of hops at Ramblin’ Road. According to their representative in a thread on Bartowel, the farm that it’s located on has been growing them for five years. This suggests to me that by the time August rolls around you might start seeing some more esoteric products. Apparently, Norfolk County produces Ginger, Hazelnuts and Lavender. If it were me, I’d take advantage of that in addition to the hops. Plus, by that point, they’ll have had a brisk summer of sales.

The sales will come partly because the beer is solid and accessible, but mostly because they’ve invested wisely in social media and online presence. The logo and design are solid and that, combined with concept that this is a rural Ontario kind of farm thing makes for just a dynamite brand. Plus, whoever is manning their twitter account is doing a bang up job.

I don’t know that their beer will ever catch on with the craft beer wonks in Toronto, but the branding is strong enough that it might actually get on tap in more mainstream environments where tastes aren’t as rarified.  I think that they will probably do exceptionally well in smaller Ontario markets because there’s not a brewery that’s more conceptually representative of rural route, concession road Ontario.

Chances are, if you’re reading my blog, it’s probably not going to knock your socks off. That said, if you want a textbook brewery opening strategy, these guys are good. Hopefully, someday they’ll get around to using the hops they’ve been growing.