Yankee Brew News February/March 2011 : Page 1
Thomas Transformed By Jamie Magee ILLUSTRATIONS BY HANS GRANHEIM ccording to the National Restaurant Association’s poll of 1,500 food and beverage professionals, “Locally-produced wine and beer,” and food/beer pairings known as “beer dinners” will be hot trends in 2011. According to Food & Wine , “Vintage Beers” and “Brewer Collaborations” are the beverage trends to look for in the new year. The predictions by the Na-tional Restaurant Association are amus-ing, and those of Food & Wine show a basic knowledge of beer but are last year’s news. For a more focused look, the following observations of brewers, restaurateurs, importers and event organizers offer special insight and tell a different story. Basically, Good Beer Rules When you ask Phil Bannatyne, proprietor of the Cambridge Brewing Company brewpub, in Cambridge, Mass., his prediction is basic. See 2011 p. 4 PHOTOS COURTESY OF THOMAS HOOKER BREWING CO. INSIDE Event Calendar ....................................... 3 The Alehouse -Townsend’s .................. 9 Tasting Panel ........................................ 10 Beer Cooks ........................................... 12 Homebrewing ........................................ 18 Book Review ......................................... 19 Guest Tap .............................................. 20 Maps & Directories ..........................22-27 Tasteless Panel ..................................... 46 State by State News E Massachusetts .......................................14 Boston ........................................................16 W Massachusetts ......................................28 Maine ..........................................................30 New Hampshire .........................................32 Connecticut ................................................34 Vermont ......................................................36 Rhode Island ..............................................38 New York ....................................................40 New York City ............................................42 For all of the brewing accolades mounted on the walls of Thomas Hooker Brewing Company, perhaps the brewery’s big-gest accomplishment lies in the building itself. Once a drab, tired unit in a silent business park, the facility now has a pulse and an energy that brings enthusiasm to the brand and to the town of Bloomﬁ eld, Connecticut. “We wanted to build a location where people could come and be a part of our story,” said Curt Cameron, Hooker’s lead partner. “At ﬁ rst this location looked ugly — it was some kind of manufacturing facility, but then it looked just right.” Scenes of the transforma-tion are striking (see inside collage) . Cameron has experience with trans-formations. Before Hooker, he opened two successful Connecticut liquor stores with extended craft brew selections. “The stores were called New England Beverage Company,” Cameron said. “We specialized in a wide variety of wines, beers and spirits from around the world. We had one of the better beer selections in the state. At our store in Orange, we had about 500-600 beers b you could buy b as singles and a mix your own o six-pack. Folks F loved it. It I was there that I became fa-m miliar with the H Hooker Brand.” su The stores were so successful, an investment group made Cameron an See Hooker p.8 Transformations
Beer: What to Look for in 2011
According to the National Restaurant Association's poll of 1,500 food and beverage professionals, "Locallyproduced wine and beer," and food/beer pairings known as "beer dinners" will be hot trends in 2011.
According to Food & Wine, "Vintage Beers" and "Brewer Collaborations" are the beverage trends to look for in the new year.
The predictions by the National Restaurant Association are amusing, and those of Food & Wine show a basic knowledge of beer but are last year's news.
For a more focused look, the following observations of brewers, restaurateurs, importers and event organizers offer special insight and tell a different story.
Basically, Good Beer Rules
When you ask Phil Bannatyne, proprietor of the Cambridge Brewing Company brewpub, in Cambridge, Mass., his prediction is basic.
"At the risk of sounding unprophetic, I don't have any compelling insights into trends. The only trend I see is that people are trying and appreciating everything from historical session beers to sours to the latest hop bomb. I think craft beer continues its upward sales swing because quality continues its upward swing across all style spectrums. If we make better beer, more people will drink it!"
The Rise of the Mild
Bruce Forsley, Shipyard Brewing's Director of Sales and Marketing, in Portland, Maine, sees the development of small beer, also known as mild or "session" beer, as something to watch for.
"We've been collaborating with an individual on a line of small beers that is still in a test market stage," Forsley said. "The core growth of our business is really falling into categories that are crossover beers that consumers coming from mainstream domestic products are able to get into. This is clearly where the volume is coming from, and we really hope that trend continues."
Forsley noted that, "As a segment of the beer industry, we're up nine percent while the beer industry overall is down two percent. We know that we're drawing consumers from the major domestic brands. These consumers - these first-time consumers in our category - are looking for beer that is easy to consume, consumer friendly, a little bit sweet and a little bit lower in alcohol."
Dan Shelton of Shelton Brothers Importers agreed.
"My opinion is that the big beers that have been the staple of beer-geek Top 100 lists (imperial stouts, "quads" and barley wines) are losing their luster. Perhaps it was necessary, in order to wean people away from the industrial lagers that were crushing the American beer scene, to throw something unmistakably, decidedly "other" at beer drinkers - stronger, darker, sweeter beers. But tastes are evolving from that early, brutish phase. More and more knowledgeable folk are turning to sophisticated beers of character that burn much lower, with less alcohol. Session beers make you smarter and healthier."
The Dark Side
Pat Dakin, Head Brewer at the Norwich Inn, (Jasper Murdoch's), in Norwich, Vt., is also looking for things to be on the mild side.
"I'm seeing and feeling something I've been hoping for. I think the pendulum from everything as hoppy as possible and as strong as possible is swinging back a little bit, and I think the appreciation for session beers is moving up the ladder. I think the realization of what they can be is changing from something that's just 3-1/2 percent alcohol by volume, small in the mouth and lightly hopped."
Dakin has a "Dark" take on the "Mild" trend.
"One of my favorite beers that I make at the Inn is a dark mild, and I use it as an educational beer. If somebody isn't sure what they want after I've gone through the list of what's there, and they say, 'Well, I don't like dark beer,' I then tell them, 'You have to have a taste of the dark mild,' before I'll pour them a full glass of anything else. And in the end, people are practically shocked to find out that there can be a dark beer that's very drinkable; that you can sit down and have three or four with your friends and not feel bloated and/or a little loopy."
Counting on the popularity of dark beer, but with a little more alcohol, the Boston Beer Company, of Boston, Mass., more commonly known as Samuel Adams, is going to introduce in March an addition to the Longshot category of one-offs based on recipes developed by homebrewers. This particular beer, Blackened Hops, is by homebrewer Rodney Kibzey. The folks at Boston Beer Company described this as, " … a perfect combination of deep roasted malt character and citrusy hop bitterness. Rodney found that combining debittered dark malts and citrusy hops yielded a surprising and unique flavor for this brew. Its black color hints at roasted malt and coffee flavors, but it's the big hop character that really steals the show. Packed with citrusy and piney American hops, this beer has a big flavor and clean bitterness."
Perhaps a Sour Market?
According to Shelton, the future is turning sour. When asked to pick the next trend in beer, his answer was simple.
"The short answer is that the market is turning sour," Shelton said. "People who not many years ago would have been happy to drink artificially flavored and sweetened fruit beers are now asking for "real" sour beers - Cantillon Lambic and Gueuze, sour reds from not only Belgium, but from Italy, Switzerland, Norway and the U.S. There are sour beers coming here from all over the world, and people love them."
Phil Leinhart, Head Brewer at Brewery Ommegang, in Cooperstown, N.Y., is also betting that the market goes sour.
"Well, we're going to continue with some new brands. In fact, we're going to be coming out with a new beer that should be on the shelves in the second quarter brewed with Achouffe yeast, our sister brewery in Belgium. It will be the first time that an Ommegang production brew will be brewed without the Ommegang yeast, so that's kind of exciting. We're working on some sour beers - Brettanomyces beers - for the third quarter."
Leinhart noted that sour beers are not something new, but are drawing much more attention than before.
"Sour beers have made quite a splash, similar to the popularity of hoppy beers. The style, of course, has been around for a long time. However, it seems to be new to consumers. I think, most people, when they fi rst taste them, are reminded more of wine than a beer. Our new sour beer might be on the lower end (of alcohol by volume) at around five or six percent, but there are not very many weak Belgian beers."
When asked just how popular these beers are going to become, Leinhart said, "Already you see more and more sour beers on the market - more and more brewers getting into it. I don't know if it's going to go on forever, but it's a fact that the volume of those styles of beers has been growing."
The Mini-Micro Brewery
Jimmy Carbone, owner of the beerfriendly Jimmy's #43 in New York City and founder of the Good Beer Seal association of beer-friendly New York City restaurants, pubs, bars and taverns, sees the growth of the mini-micro breweries as something to look forward to this year.
"The big trend that I'm noticing is what I call the boutique breweries. The breweries I'm talking about are even smaller than microbreweries. I see that as a big trend. It's not as much cost to start up, and if you really have a passion for it, you can do it. All of these guys have a great passion for it coming out of homebrewing, but you still have to prove yourself commercially. Some people will say it's less consistent, but you have to remember it's batch to batch. It's like a small batch thing and leisure blending it. Each batch will be a little different. I find that really exciting."
Dakin agreed with Carbone. Dakin is going from brewpub to "boutique." "I'm going to be part of that," Dakin said.
"I'm leaving the Inn at the end of the year, and I'll be opening a four-barrel brewpub in downtown South Royalton, Vt., next year. I think we're going to continue to see both ends of the spectrum. We're seeing a great deal of consolidation in the larger breweries, what we initially thought would be microbreweries, that are now approaching the size of regional breweries. Magic Hat in Vermont is a perfect example. It's been around for a long time and has been involved in consolidation at both ends. Within the last year it acquired Pyramid, and then it and Pyramid were taken over by a larger regional brewery. However, I see an explosive growth in the tiny breweries. I think that's going to continue as long as the beer is good."
Bad beer can burst a bubble Dakin noted.
"You know you run that risk every time there is an explosive growth. You run the risk of what we had in the 90s, an explosion of bad beer. My hope is this time around we know more. It's 20 years later, and the people starting up breweries are starting up for more the right reasons than they did in the 90s. Back then, it was a matter of having this building and people are making money brewing beer, so let's brew some beer and make a lot of money, too. Now, it's a little bit more passion driven. People have access to smaller brewhouse equipment and it makes it more affordable to start up."
Dakin pointed out that there are other things that are happening in our food culture, which feeds into the micro-minibrewery trend.
"The whole think local, buy local and eat local movement ties into that 'boutique brewery' movement directly," Dakin said. "If you're brewing beer on a three-barrel scale, it's not going to travel far. It's the same with food, as it is with beer. There are, in essence, many more markets for that scale of brewing. People are proud to drink local. It gives them almost a sense of ownership. They enjoy drinking something that was made maybe five miles away knowing that (consumers) 20 miles away they can't get it. It makes them feel special."
The Last Call
And so, this year begins with expectations of things getting milder and wilder, smaller and larger, lighter and darker. It's no longer logical to see the crafted beer market as a young market. It's now over 25 years old. As a market, it can't be viewed as monolithic. The effects of truly local brews and regional flavor profi les make that observation obvious.
The economy of size will still drive the major brewers, but only so far. Local breweries will continue to appeal to consumers looking for those special brews and continue to draw mainstream consumers into the fold with the inclusion of less aggressive styles of beers being brewed.
Special events calling attention to craft beers will continue to ride the coattails of the "locavores," Slow Food and farm-totable folks.
This doesn't mean that the megabreweries will take this in stride. The big boys will continue to market alcopops and fl avored malt beverages to the newly enfranchised drinkers.
In short, 2011 will show the continued development of the styles of beers on the market that will cement local loyalty and force the major brewers to increase their brand lines in an effort to take advantage of the demand created by the smaller brewers.
This just might be the year the tail begins to wag the dog.
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Beer%3A+What+to+Look+for+in+2011/632398/59992/article.html.
Thomas Hooker: Transformed
For all of the brewing accolades mounted on the walls of Thomas Hooker Brewing Company, perhaps the brewery's biggest accomplishment lies in the building itself. Once a drab, tired unit in a silent business park, the facility now has a pulse and an energy that brings enthusiasm to the brand and to the town of Bloomfield, Connecticut.
"We wanted to build a location where people could come and be a part of our story," said Curt Cameron, Hooker's lead partner. "At first this location looked ugly - it was some kind of manufacturing facility, but then it looked just right."
Scenes of the transformation are striking (see inside collage).
Cameron has experience with transformations. Before Hooker, he opened two successful Connecticut liquor stores with extended craft brew selections.
"The stores were called New England Beverage Company," Cameron said. "We specialized in a wide variety of wines, beers and spirits from around the world. We had one of the better beer selections in the state. At our store in Orange, we had about 500-600 beers you could buy as singles and mix your own six-pack. Folks loved it.
It was there that became familiar with the Hooker Brand." Successful, an investment group made Cameron an offer he couldn't refuse. After that process, while he was looking for the next thing, an attorney friend suggested that he might want to buy the Hooker brand.
The brewery had started out on Bartholomew Ave in 1997 as the Trout Brook Brewery and Pub. Craft beer veterans remember those gritty beginnings. Though niceties such as inspired woodwork and leather couches made the factory building somewhat hospitable, Trout Brook was not a comfortable place to visit, have hampered its success as a brewpub.
The Thomas Hooker brand was introduced in 2003. Management hired award-winning brewer Paul Davis, who helped build the brewery and focus its product line.(Davis has moved on to other opportunities, such as Prodigal Brewing in Effingham, N.H.). But while the beers were great and garnered a good reputation, the state's attitude towards its own beers needed transforming. For all the progress of the craft brew movement to that point, Connecticut did not really have a brand popular enough to create enthusiasm across the entire state.
"We compared Connecticut to other New England states and found that all those states had some pretty prevalent brands," Cameron said, "but Connecticut, for some reason, did not."
Cameron's ultimate goal was to make Thomas Hooker become "Connecticut's Brand," just as it says on the label. (As the brand is named after Hartford's founder, there's quite a historical tie-in). Hooker is well on its way to becoming that now with positive distribution agreements in place and statewide exposure.
"We've been on a pretty steady growth pattern since we built the brewery in 2007," Cameron said.
At the same time as Cameron was immersing himself in the distribution end of the business, a new home for the brewery needed to be found. After scouting many properties and ruling out Hartford as too expensive tax-wise, the Bloomfield site was bought, just four miles from downtown Hartford.
Sweat equity has transformed the building and its location. Cameron thanks the talents of his partners and his friends, as well as Bloomfield town officials, who, he said, have embraced the brewery.
Friday night open houses and Saturday tastings have been so popular at Thomas Hooker that the brewery has taken over its tenant's space, expanding the facility by 4,000 square feet. Plans call for building not just an improved visitor experience, but also better offices for the staff. Cameron is excited about the new space.
"We attract all sorts of people to these events: students, senior citizens, professional organizations. The crowd is full of everybody, young and old," Cameron said
Inside the brewery, visitors are able to mill about the 20-barrel Pub Brewing system, the bright beer tank and eight 50-52 barrel fermenters. The expansion will give Hooker room to expand its brewing capacity to four brews a day along with the addition of a whirlpool, a new hot water system, seven more 50-barrel fermenters, another bright tank and a redundant glycol chiller system. An upgrade to the bottling line will increase its speed to 100 bottles a minute.
Charity and civic involvement are a big part of the new Thomas Hooker. In the brewery, Cameron works with the Oak Hill organization, which is a network of group homes around the state serving developmentally challenged individuals.
"We have teams from various homes come and work at the brewery making boxes, six packs and packing variety 12-packs," Cameron said. "They've become an integral part of the operation, and the occasions when they are at the brewery are moving. These people are very proud of the work they do."
Additionally, funds are raised at each open house for Village for Children and Families, a Hartford organization that serves families and children in need. Cameron knows a lot about this organization, as he was adopted from there. Thomas Hooker visitors have raised over $30,000 for that organization. While Cameron has nursed Thomas Hooker though its move from Hartford and the tough economic times of the past few years, he's still looking ahead and has even more plans for the brewery, his customers and even his future customers.
"I love it when people say they don't know our beer or they didn't know the brewery was here," Cameron said. "That's great, as at that point, we've got them hooked."
Read the full article at http://ybnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Thomas+Hooker%3A+Transformed/632402/59992/article.html.