Last January, I started a blog about craft beer made right here in Boone County. I love craft beer and love my hometown Columbia, so it was a no-brainer to write about that for the social media classes I was taking. Doing a beer blog is fun. You get to go to beer festivals, visit beer pubs, try all the latest beer releases, talk beer with other craft beer lovers, etc. It’s living the life. My wannabe life. But not my life.
My life centers around my family. My husband, two grown kids, a parade of foster kids and more animals than are strictly necessary. My husband and a smattering of kids have issues with short-term memory. In my husband’s case, it’s due to traumatic brain injury (TBI). With the teenagers, it could be physiological or it could be age-related dementia. Doesn’t really matter. Life becomes an adventure when you’re the only one who remembers what you said two minutes ago. When I’m sleep-deprived, even my brain checks out for a while and then reality becomes entirely subjective and a subject of contention. Sort of like Donald Trump’s world.
Living with TBI is expensive and eats up the money which could otherwise be spent on beer. So I’m changing the focus of the blog to cover the frustrations, weirdnesses and irrational pleasures of living with possibly brain-damaged people. However, I’m not going to just leave the beer lovers in the dust (yes, the two followers I’m not related to, I’m talking to you). I’m still going to post cool beer info and write about beers I’m enjoying, just not all the time. To start off, here’s a list in no particular order of my favorite beer sites I’ve discovered in the few months I focused exclusively on craft beer:
Zythophile, by Martyn Cornell – all about British Beers
Remember House Bill 2054? It seemed like such a good idea last month. This bill would have made growlers of fresh beer available at retailers possessing liquor licenses like grocery and convenience stores. What a difference an amendment makes.
Like many of you, I follow local breweries on Twitter and started to see postings calling to defeat the bill. Turns out there was an amendment made to the Senate version of the bill which made it harder for small brewers to compete in the market. The Missouri Brewers Guild had this to say about the bill:
“February 29, 2016. The Missouri Small Brewer’s Guild stands in opposition to Missouri Senate Bill 919, currently scheduled for a Senate floor vote. The bill would allow brewers the ability to provide branded refrigerated coolers to retail accounts, putting small brewers at a disadvantage to their larger counterparts in terms of market access for their beer, with beer drinkers seeing less variety of beer at retail.”
Now, I live in Columbia, where the major grocery stores have installed large walk-in coolers to house their beer, so I wasn’t sure how much impact branded coolers would have. To find out, I emailed Jeff Schrag of Mother’s Brewing Company in Springfield. Jeff is president of the Missouri Small Brewers Guild. He explained that “the main reason that this hurts is that it opens a door what was previously closed and locked. No purchase of refrigeration by a supplier or brewer. Period.”
The text of the bill now states that breweries could rent to retailers coolers which “may bear in a conspicuous manner substantial advertising matter about a product or products of the brewer.” And “no retail location may have more than one unit.” As Jeff pointed out, mega-brewers like InBev would be in a position to lease branded coolers to retailers throughout the state and control what beers went into them – or how much microbreweries would have to pay to buy space for their beers. “Things like this will lead the beer aisle to look like the soda aisle. How many soda makers are in the aisle at your local grocer vs how many brewers in the beer section vs how many wineries?”
Jeff speculates that large breweries getting control of coolers would lead to more pressure on small brewers in the future. “In most countries where InBev sells, they have a huge market share (80% to 90%) and no pesky craft brewers to deal with. They want to turn the USA that way too.”
SB 919 made it through the Senate and had its second read in the House on March 7, 2016. Time is running out to stop it. Act quickly to #KilltheBill:
Bur Oak Brewing Company is just to the left of the middle of nowhere. Despite that, it’s surprisingly easy to find. Take the 133 South exit off Interstate 70, turn right onto the outer road and turn left onto Trade Center Drive. It’s the second nondescript gray building among several nondescript gray buildings off to the left of the road. The door opens into a room designed to make you think you’re in the wrong place, but turn right, go through another door and you’re in the cozy bar, all wood and amber lighting.
The actual brewery is right behind the bar and that is where home brewing clubs and fans of artisanal beer gathered on February 20, 2016 for the MO Home Brew Mashup sponsored by Bur Oak Brewing. Clubs from across the state – including The Wort from Columbia and the MU Fermentation Science Club from MU’s Columbia campus – competed to brew a good Belgian Ale. Teams had a set variety of ingredients to choose from and had to complete their brewing within a few hours. I love to drink good beer but know nothing about brewing. Here is what I learned about brewing contests:
Brewers like to talk about their work with anyone who’s interested. They want to share their craft.
Brewing attracts a friendly crowd – not trying to out-do each other with beer knowledge but to compare notes and share experiences. So if you’re flashing back to the 80’s wine scene where every party was “Mean Girls” paired with a pinot noir, relax. This is a beer event. It’s louder, happier and foam mustaches are chic.
People get up close and personal, peeking into boiling mash and chatting with the brewers.
Brewers take beer breaks instead of coffee breaks during the boil.
Brewers smell the hops in the packets before they add them to the brew. I don’t know if that’s a requirement, but they all did it.
Boiling hops fill a brewery with a warm, toasty scent. It’s a nostalgic smell, like turkey roasting, bread rising or your grandpa’s pipe tobacco.
Brewing is very physical: stooping, stirring, hovering, measuring, lifting, pouring, scooping and lots of standing around sipping beer.
There is such a thing as Brewer’s butt. Like Plumber’s butt, only it’s not under your sink so it’s not as in-your-face.
Nothing boiled over and nothing blew up, which was mildly disappointing.
So who won? I don’t know! These brews will be sampled and a winner picked at the Missouri Beer Festival on Saturday, April 23rd 2016. Happily, the festival is in Columbia, at the Columbia Expo Center. The Missouri Beer Festival runs from 1-5 PM and costs as little as $25 if you buy tickets in advance. Your favorite local brewers will be there. Your favorite beer lovers will be there, too. You should come!
Bur Oak Brewing Company has a couple of Columbia Tap Takeovers scheduled in March:
Yes, I like chocolate. But I’m tired of chocolate wine, chocolate stout, chocolate you-name-it for Valentine’s Day. This year, I’m going with Bur Oak Brewing Company’s fruity and floral wheat beer, Lily.
The sunny color and thick white head are as fancy as lace on a valentine card. But the
aroma – oranges and a touch of lavender – will transport you to the lavender fields of Provence and frankly, I’ll take France over chocolate any day.
Bur Oak Brewing recommends pairing Lily with salad, shrimp, glazed salmon and cheesecake – all great for Valentine’s Day. As you can see, I opted for chocolate-dipped strawberries (I’m not anti-chocolate). The orange and raspberry flavors in the brew perfectly complement the sweetness of the berries.
Bur Oak brewed Lily as a summer beer, but don’t wait. You deserve flowers for Valentine’s Day.
If House Bill 2054 makes it through the Missouri Legislature this year, you’ll be able to buy a fresh growler even if the breweries are closed. Two articles from experts on the proposed law explain the current law and the efforts to change it. Alex Wilking wrote about last year’s effort led by State Rep. Robert Cornejo, R-St. Peters and State Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Glendale. The article in Feast Magazine , “Growler Sales in Missouri Bars Could Become Legal, Thanks to New Push”, noted that beer lovers could only buy growlers at the brewery or at a limited number of restaurants. The article explained the bill was designed to expand the use of growlers to retailers with liquor licenses who could then add taps and establish growler “filling stations.” Craft beer aficionados could buy their beer at grocery stores, bars or even convenience stores which were licensed to sell liquor.
Although gridlock in the legislature left the bill hanging at the end of the 2015 session, Aaron Banks, aka the MidMo Beer Guy, writes in his Growler Beer News that the bill has been reintroduced this year. Banks has been an ardent supporter of the legislation, even creating a petition in 2014 to gather signatures to push through the bill. He recently tweeted that he has continued his work and now has over 700 signatures on the petition. Banks is concerned by rumors that AnheiserBuschInBev may be sabotaging the bill by modifying it http://bit.ly/1Q4ImSK .
Here’s what you can do to make growlers easier to find:
Doing the math, if I got a nice little mini-buzz from drinking a suitably small glass of Alien Gold yesterday, then I should probably sit in the recliner if I’m going to drink the bottle. There’s about three servings there. Or better, I’ll invite friends over and share. Because Alien Gold is definitely worth sharing with good friends. A nice, clear golden ale with a hint of cherry. The fruit is subtle and doesn’t overpower. It’s fizzy, it’s fun and it has a cool alien on the label – what more can you ask?