For as long as people have been drinking beer and wine, beer has been regarded the inferior beverage. Wine is “classy,” it takes time to craft and age, a refined palate to appreciate, and is often paired with fine food. Beer is less expensive, often comes in a can, and you can find it anywhere. But, with craft beer now taking the center stage – even in Wine Country – many connoisseurs are heading out to explore hoppy drinks.
Last October Anheuser-Busch InBev acquired a minority stake in the popular consumer rating/review website RateBeer.com. This acquisition has raised a lot of questions and controversy around special interest and conflict of interest among breweries and press. There have been a lot of streams on Facebook where people are sharing concerns about what will happen to the RateBeer Best Festival. And locally, people who knew the folks from Ratebeer, the questions are, “why are we finding this out now if this acquisition occurred back in October, just before the Ratebeer Best Awards Festival.
After the dust has settled and the shock factor is subsiding, people are wondering, “what does this mean for RateBeer now” Many pillars of the craft beer community have spoken and the general consensus is many craft beer drinkers, industry professionals, and brewers just cannot support RateBeer any longer. Here are some thoughts from craft beer lovers and supporters from both our local area and across the U.S. RateBeer is utilized all around the globe by beer lovers and breweries to promote the beers people are enjoying along with reviews and ratings to share. Here is an insider look at what some craft beer supporters are concerned about with the recent news:
“The minority stake sale of RateBeer to AB Inbev is disappointing. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Joe Tucker and what he has accomplished over the years. That being said, AB Inbev is a company with a lengthy history of bad business practices and one that will do whatever it takes to destroy the competition. We must continue to be educated about, and supportive of, the businesses that support innovation and growth within the industry, not stifle it. Unfortunately, RateBeer is now among the AB Inbev family and I cannot continue to support it.” says Greg Coll, General Manager at Fogbelt Brewing and creator of Black and White Beer Ball an Ales for Autism fundraiser.
“I think the premise of journalistic integrity and ethics should be applied here, for sure.
At the end of the day, Joe has used RateBeer as a platform for dialogue amongst the community, facilitating discussions on how ‘big beer’ has actively hindered the industry. In my opinion he should have been completely transparent about the deal when discussions began, and if for some reason that was not allowed due to legal reasons, then that should have also been fully disclosed as soon as possible.” expressed Jeff bull, home-brewer and craft beer aficionado.
Betsy Pence from North Carolina is a craft lover, she comes out once a year to visit Russian River Brewing Company (RRBC) to get her Pliny fix. She expressed concern about the recent news of AB-InBev acquiring a minority stake in RateBeer.com, here is what she thinks, “ Talk about a conflict of interest! It’s causing a huge stir on the East Coast. Why can’t AB-InBev just stick to making shitty beer for the rednecks and college kids and stay out of the craft beer industry?!”
Dogfish Head Brewery owner and head brewer, Sam Calagione writes, “We were troubled by the announcement last week that ZX Ventures, which is fully owned by the global conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev, has purchased a portion of RateBeer. We believe this is a direct violation of the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) Code of Ethics and a blatant conflict of interest. The SPJ’s Code of Ethics includes a section called ‘Act Independently’ and includes the following guidelines:
- Avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived. Disclose unavoidable conflicts.
- Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and avoid political and other outside activities that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.
- Be wary of sources offering information for favors or money; do not pay for access to news. Identify content provided by outside sources, whether paid or not.
- Deny favored treatment to advertisers, donors or any other special interests, and resist internal and external pressure to influence coverage.
- Distinguish news from advertising and shun hybrids that blur the lines between the two. Prominently label sponsored content.
It is our strong opinion that ABI’s ownership of RateBeer, and other properties positioned to cover the craft brewing community like October and thebeernecessities.com is in direct conflict with multiple guidelines listed above.”
At the end of his statement, Sam shared this, “To our fellow independently-owned brewers, we encourage you to join us in this effort to ensure consumers continue to get the best and most accurate information about their beers. For everyone else, we encourage you to shift the sharing of your beer opinions and reviews to another platform that remains loyal to the principles of journalistic integrity. America’s Independence Day is just around the corner. Support the indie craft brewing movement!”.
Bear Republic fully backed Sam’s statement and posted one of their own including the the very same information, “Along with other independently owned breweries, we have respectfully asked RateBeer to remove anything pertaining to Bear Republic from their website effective immediately.” As a family/independently owned company for twenty years, their opinion holds a lot of clout in the craft beer world. Bear Republic is asking their consumers to please utilize a different platform for their beer reviews and ratings.
“We don’t want our consumers to feel like they are being deceived or misinformed in any way and do not want to be a part of something that allows us as a brewery to manipulate what is being said about our company and our beers, when it’s supposed to be a 100% consumer based and user-generated platform.”
Brewbound.com posted an article announcing that the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) – one of the most popular “basket list” beer festivals has banned all large beer companies from being able to buy a spendy sponsorship for the event. This means that all Ab-Inbev, Miller-Coors, and even Lagunitas will not be able to be a sponsor who is granted premium access and placement at the event. GABF is following the Brewer’s Association’s definition of a craft brewery when determining who will be allowed to be a sponsor. The Brewer;s Association (BA) defines a craft brewery as:
“a small (less than 6 million barrels), independent (less than 25 percent owned or controlled by an alcoholic industry member that is not themselves a craft brewer) and traditional (a majority of beer volume is made using traditional or innovative brewing ingredients; FMBs are not considered beers).”
This is a BIG deal. This marks a huge shift in the craft beer industry. People in the industry in many capacities are sharing their concerns and expressing that they will not support RateBeer.com any longer. What does this mean for you, the consumer and beer reviewer? Well, any craft supporter has a decision to make, now that RateBeer is a part of the “big beer” family, will you support them?
As a craft beer writer and lover myself, my first thought was, “I hope their website will get a face-lift out of the deal” and it did, it is much better and more user friendly, but I will no longer look to RateBeer for beer news or post reviews on the site.
WOOT! I am beyond excited for two reasons: I can imagine how important this moment is for Natalie and Vinnie Cilurzo, opening their new brewery completely, 100% on their own without investors, and also, this is less than one mile from my house! I’ll just have to figure in a nice walk before going there so I can work off the calories of my beloved Blind Pig IPA before I drink it there! 🙂
The town of Windsor is thrilled to welcome them and they say they expect to be opening around Fall of 2018. Stay tuned for more details. In the meantime, here are some photos in my article on Sonomamag.com of the ground breaking ceremony a couple of weeks ago. Thanks to my wonderful husband, Tim who made many sacrifices and went down to take photo and video for me (there may or may not have been beer drinking involved for him :))
Russian River Brewing Co., russianriverbrewing.com, 725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404, (707) 545-2337, @RussianRiverOfficial
Food + Wine Dinner Series: Trione Vineyards & Winery welcomes food and wine lovers to an intimate dinner series held on May 13th and 14th from 6-8:30pm. The winery features estate library wines and new releases paired with a farm-to-table menu prepared by local chefs of Peloton Culinary & Catering. This is a 3-4 course meal presented in a beautiful setting in the Old Stone Building overlooking the stunning vineyards of Alexander Valley. This is the perfect gift for mom, grandma, wife, or special person. The dinner is limited to 30 guests, the cost is $100 per person all inclusive. To purchase tickets please call the tasting room at 707.814.8100.
Santa Rosa Downtown Market: Visit the Wednesday night market for artisan food items, delicious street food, artwork, fun, and a wine and beer garden! May 10th, and 17th – 5-8:30pm in downtown Santa Rosa on 4th Street. Note: 4th Street will be closed early, park on 3rd or 5th and walk over.
Cooperage Beer & Yoga: Every Sunday get fit and drink beer with Cooperage Brewery from noon-1pm. It’s only $12 for a nice workout followed by a cold, delicious brew. They are also releasing a new beer each week, so there will always be a new surprise on for you to choose from! This will happen every Sunday for as long as people keep signing up for it! This is certainly the best drop in yoga deal around.
Beer & BBQ at the Coop: Cooperage is having Camacho’s Southern Style BBQ on May 12th for your grubbin’ pleasure. Belly up to the bar with some fantastic beers, play some cards against humanity or connect four, and enjoy the day.
Live Music at Local Barrel: Every weekend starting at 5pm.
For more beer events, read my full article on SonomaMag.com here.
On April 15th (just before tax day!) forget about your tax wows and head to the Barlow for the inaugural IPA 10K and Beer Mile Invitational in Sebastopol. This event is put on by Destination Races, the half marathon race experts who started the Wine Country Half Marathon in the heart of Dry Creek and Alexander Valley’s as well as Oregon, Santa Barbara, Oregon, Washington, Virginia, and Canada. Destination Races decided to trade in the grapes (just for this event) for HOPS. After all, this is beer country too now.
Racers will begin their morning at the Crooked Goat Brewery with a sip of beer before they head off for a nice, scenic 6.2 mile run through the loops of the Barlow and the rural outer edge of Sebastopol. Runners will finish at the Barlow for a beer, music, and food festivities. While the IPA 10K is exciting for runners, it’s the post-race Beer & Music Festival and Beer Mile that generates the most buzz from beer enthusiasts.
The Beer and Music Festival will open for runners and their guests at 9:30AM and the general public at 11:30AM until 2:30PM. There will be fourteen craft breweries sharing their beers, The band stage, sponsored by Lagunitas will be open throughout the festival and the race awards will be announced at 11AM.
The Beer Mile Invitational is a race around one block of the Barlow with professional runners competing for prize money. Each runner must consume a 12-ounce beer every ¼ mile lap in the “chug zone”, and keep it down. The world record in the beer mile is 4 minutes and 34 seconds by Canadian Corey Bellemore. Prior to the professional heat, participating breweries will sponsor a 4-person relay team in which each team member consumes a 12-ounce beer, then runs a quarter mile and consumes another beer, before his or her partner can proceed with the same routine. The winning team receives the Golden Growler award filled with their favorite beer.
Do you have what it takes to step into the “chug zone” and join a relay team?
The event is the brainchild of Matt Dockstader, founder of Destination Races, based in Sonoma, California. “As a former partner in a brewery in Colorado, the IPA 10K is the type of event I wanted to bring to fruition… I see this event as a natural extension for Destination Races, as it reflects the incredible growth and ingenuity of the craft beer industry.”
Registration for the IPA 10K is open now, click here for information or to register. Registration is $70 and includes a participant running shirt, a bottle opener finishers medal, an event beer tasting glass, and beer tasting tickets. Registration to the Beer and Music Festival is just $30.
The Barlow, 6780 Depot St #110, Sebastopol, CA US 95472
Brewers made the trek from all over Northern California to pour their beers at the opening gala for SF Beer Week in San Francisco. Mayor Ed Lee was there to lead media and bloggers in a toast with the SF Brewers Guild Collaboration Ale: New Frontier. Sonoma County breweries came in full force with new beers, brewers and owners pouring, and ambassadors educating the patrons.
Russian River Brewing Company brought Pliny the Younger, enough to last until about 8:30PM and the line never died down, much like the line outside of the brewpub in Santa Rosa.
New England-Style IPA’s were all the rage with Bear Republic Brewing and Sonoma Springs bringing in two of the best, well made “Juicy IPA’s” of the night.
With brewers and beer geeks from Sonoma County coming down for the fun, the North Bay was hugely represented at this San Francisco event.
Third Street Aleworks shared their Cossack Imperial Stout as a special brew. This beer is now available at the taproom in 22 ounce bottles for a limited time, just for SF Beer week.
SF Beer week is still in full swing for ONE more day, click here to find official beer week events in and around the Bay Area.
Sonoma County breweries have the following events and releases happening:
Third Street Aleworks – Cossack Imperial Stout available in 22 oz bottles until they last
Crooked Goat Brewing – Tap takeover at La Vera Pizza all week long.
Santa Rosa Beer Passport – A collaboration between Visit Santa Rosa and Santa Rosa breweries. Pickup your beer passport at any of the participating breweries, Brew, Wilibee’s, or the Welcome Center and receive a prize for visiting each brewery. For more details and a list of participating breweries, click here.
Cheers and enjoy all of the beer week fun while it lasts!
SF Beer week is one of my favorite times of the year; it’s my birthday and I get to enjoy copious amounts of amazing beers from all across the Bay Area and beyond. Beer week is an action packed week filled with beer dinners, beer pairings, educational seminars with brewers and brewery owners, sensory seminars with hops, tap takeovers at various bars and gastropubs throughout the Bay Area, and many events at the source- at the breweries. There are hundreds of options with over 100 breweries in the greater San Francisco Bay Area and the North Bay, we have a lot to choose from.
So how do you pick what to do? As a seasoned beer traveler and planner, I highly recommend you sign up for the itinerary on sfbeerweek.com first. This will allow you to look at each of the events that brewers chose to list and what the San Francisco Brewers Guild are promoting. Find something you like, you simple click, “add to my itinerary”. It’s a great way to be able to check out what you’re interested in each day.
Secondly, these events fill up fast so if there is a need for a reservation or to purchase tickets, do it now. There are over 100 breweries out there and even more restaurants who will be hosting dinners and tap takeovers, but there are even more beer lovers who wish to attend. Get in where you want to get in.
Buy your tickets for the SF Beer Week Opening Gala NOW. Friday, February 10th at 6PM is quite possibly the best beer event in Northern California and you want to be there. This event is well attended by all of the breweries and they have saved their special brews to be showcased that night, for you. Don’t let them down! Get your tickets.
My beer week recommendations:
Russian River Brewing Co. – February 3rd. Well if I didn’t mention this then you would think I didn’t know anything about beer because anyone who knows beer, knows that Russian River Brewing Company is releasing the long awaited triple IPA, Pliny the Younger. It’s released once a year for two weeks and they do it in conjunction with beer week. They will be releasing this delicious beer on February 3rd at the pub. The brewers will be bringing it to the opening gala as well, so there should be plenty of chances for you try it.
St. Florian’s Brewery 4 Year Anniversary – February 11th from 12-8PM, they’ll be serving up great eats from various food trucks and vendors, as well as pouring new beers, and there will be live music. More information to come, but this is a good one to get on your list if you find yourself in the North Bay.
Social Kitchen’s Friday Morning Beer Brunch – February 11th from 10:30AM-2:30PM. I LOVE this place, I love the atmosphere, I love the food, and I love the beer. I also really love brunch, it’s my favorite meal of the day and I feel like it does not get the chance to make an appearance as often as it should, so why not indulge on a Saturday?!
Monk’s Kettle: United Sours of America – February 11th from 11Am-11PM.
The Monk’s Kettle is a super cool beer bar and I couldn’t think of a better place to spend a little time sipping on one of craft beers latest favored beer style.
12-5PM. Have you ever been to Swann’s? It’s AH-MAZ-ING! It’s a hole-in-the-wall little spot that you squeeze into, sit at the counter, and are served by all men who have worked there for generations. They serve fresh food daily and when they run out, it’s out. It’s so worth it, and paired with beer, well, duh.
Ale Arsenal’s Alvarado Street Tap Takeover – February 11th from 3-8PM.
Alvarado Street is putting out some incredible brews, this is surely not going to be a disappointing way to spend some time.
Almanac Beer Co.’s Stonefruit Night – February 11th from 3-11PM.
They will be hosting a series of events throughout the week, enjoy a walk down memory lane with the folks at Almanac as you taste through countless vintages of their special sours.
I have enjoyed many Smog City beers down in the smoggy city of angels and I cannot wait to try this lineup!
WHAT’S ON DRAFT: Little Bo Pils, Hoptonic IPA, Sabre-Toothed Squirrel, Coffee Porter, My Tai Hop-T IPA with Coconut, Chip Shot Coffee Porter, Cuddlebug, Bourbon O.E., Buzz Worthy, Benny And The Bretts, The Nothing, Infinite Wishes, AND MORE!
Alpha Acid Brewing Company IPA Day – February 12th 1-6PM.
Because, well, duh. Single, double, and triple IPA’s will be flowing. Nuf said.
Join in on the fun at the Rare Barrel in Berkeley. These two breweries blow my mind on their own, I cannot wait to see what they’ve come up for this!
Social Kitchen’s Brett Fest – February 13th from 4-11:30PM.
6 bretty beers tasted side-by-side. Yes, please!
Here are the beers:
- Day Day’s Tripel Double: Belgian Tripel, brewed with rye, aged in red wine barrels for 6 months with Brettanomyces Trois Vrai. Further aged in stainless for 10 more months.
- Raps on Brett: Our beloved Belgian golden ale, Rapscallion, conditioned in keg with the Brettanomyces Amalgamation blend from Yeast Bay laboratories.
- Cloud Cover: Belgian wheat ale conditioned in keg with the Brettanomyces Amalgamation blend from Yeast Bay Laboratories.
- (name still TBD): Belgian dark strong aged in red wine barrels for 13 months with Brett Claussenii.
- The Rice is Right, Beersel Blend: Jasmine rice Belgian Tripel keg conditioned with the Brettanomyces Beersel blend from Yeast Bay Laboratories.
- The Rice is Right, Lochristi Blend: Jasmine rice Belgian Tripel keg conditioned with the Brettanomyces Lochristi blend from Yeast Bay Laboratories.
Dear Mom I love Calicraft – February 15th from 4-9PM.
This just sounds intriguing and I have not been here before, so I’m gonna check it out. Sours, IPAs and secret stuff.
If you have not yet tried the beers from this brewery out of Texas, then get here to try them.
Fogbelt Brewing End of Beer Week Brunch – February 19th from 10Am-2PM.
Brunch will be served until 2PM for those who need a little help with the beer week hangover. I can’t wait, they do a great job in the kitchen and have some killer beers coming out, so I will be parking myself there for the afternoon!
So you have some official SF Beer Week events and my recommendations. There are many unofficial events going on in Sonoma County, so check back with me and I’ll keep you up to date with deets.