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
Just because the rain won’t let up doesn’t mean that should keep you inside! There are so many great events coming up in April and May in Sonoma, here are a few you should put on your radar.
St. Florian’s Brewery hosts Trivia Nights: The third Thursday of each month at the brewery in Windsor.
Cooperage is combining Yoga and Beer: get your workout in and then enjoy a nice cold one! Every Sunday in Santa Rosa.
Ping Pong Palooza: Palooza Gastropub hosts weekly Ping Pong Tournaments outside at 6:30 p.m. each Tuesday. Eat, drink, and play ping pong with friends and your whole family. All levels welcome. Prizes will be awarded. April 18th, 25th, and May 2nd from 6:30-8:30pm in Kenwood. There is no cost to play.
Damnation Returns to RRBC: The popular Belgian Strong Golden Ale from Russian River Brewery will once again make an appearance at the pub in Santa Rosa in April.
Passport to Dry Creek: Visit 45+ wineries around the beautiful Dry Creek Valley. Wineries will host vineyard tours, prelude lunches and dinners, and then the grand event is a two day wine event featuring the valley’s best wines paired with excellent food dishes created by local chefs. Visit Fritz Winery, Mill Creek, and Dry Creek Vineyards to try my favorite chefs food: Peloton Culinary & Catering. Tickets are still available, for more information or to purchase yours, click here. April 29th and 30th.
Ping Pong Palooza: Palooza Gastropub hosts weekly Ping Pong Tournaments outside at 6:30 p.m. each Tuesday. Eat, drink, and play ping pong with friends and your whole family. All levels welcome. Prizes will be awarded. May 2nd from 6:30-8:30pm in Kenwood. There is no cost to play.
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 3rd, 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.
Since the dawn of beer, there’s been many ways to serve and store the beloved brew. In historic descriptions of beer drinking, beer was served from communal bowls and ceramic pots. Medieval monks in Europe stored beer in barrels and, after years of trial and error and shattered glass, it was first bottled in glass in London, England, over 400 years ago.
In 1935, after the American Can Company finally managed to figure out how to develop a container that could prevent the fizzy drink from chemically reacting with tin, beer was canned for the first time. By the end of that year, other companies like Pabst and Anheuser-Busch had followed suit and over 200 million cans were produced and sold.
Fast forward some 80 years and larger vessels like growlers and crowlers are now used to package the craft beer of our time.
Find out the difference between each vessel and what local beer lovers and brewers think: READ THE FULL ARTICLE HERE ON SONOMA MAGAZINE
No big bash is complete without a good guacamole dip! We all want to indulge but don’t necessarily want to pay the prince the next day after we have eaten EVERYTHING on the tables because all the sides and snacks just looked too good to pass up… this is great with healthy-style “chips: Serve with lettuce chips, carrots sticks, or celery instead of chips!
Use these healthy chips instead of salty tortillas to cut on calories, to save for more wine or craft beer!
- 6 ripe avocados, peeled and cubed
- 2 ripe but firm tomatoes, diced
- 1/4 small red onion, minced
- 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped
- Juice from 2 limes
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A dash of Cayenne Pepper
Soak the onions in the lime juice and set aside. Mix avocado up and mash with a fork, add in tomatoes, cilantro, and onions and lime juice and mix well so flavors blend. Add season, stir and serve.
Fogbelt Brewing Company turns three this year, and the Santa Rosa brewery certainly have a lot to cheer to: a series of great events, an ever busy taproom, a phenomenal chef serving up seasonally inspired dishes and, of course, loads of fantastic beers. To celebrate their anniversary, Fogbelt is inviting all beer lovers to a big birthday bash on February 11th.
It’s “Younger” Time!!
Pliny the Younger is to beer loving adults like Santa Claus is to children under 10.
We make our plans for the day or days we will wait in line, make lists of what we will bring to occupy our time, and tell all of our friends how excited we are for the time to finally come. Well it’s almost here, on February 3rd, a week before SF Beer Week, the amazing hoppy- Triple IPA will come back to us.
From February 3-16th the “Younger” will be on draft at the pub and select draft accounts that Russian River has been supporting over the years. That list isn’t available yet, but regardless, if you can make it out here, get out here, and if you are local then you are blessed, so get in line!
Last year RRBC implemented a new policy, they are only allowing customers 3 hours in the pub and a maximum of 3 “Youngers”. This beer is 10.25% so for most of us, 3 is plenty! Then of course they make sure to fill up their beer board with other amazing beers so take your pick after to have the “Younger”. I recommend the taster tray, it’s all 20 beers for $22, it’s such a great way to try all of the Russian River brews!
Some advice from a seasoned “Younger Experience” person:
- Get in line super early in the morning.
- Arrive with your entire group and stay until they check you in.
- Don’t cut in front of others who have been waiting in line, it’s super uncool and very elementary. You will be booed worse than Yasiel Puig at AT&T Park.
- Bring warm weather clothes and rain gear, a chair, umbrella, snacks, extra/external battery charger for your phone, and a game of some sort.
- Eat a decent size, filling breakfast and start your day off right.
- Buy snacks from the business you are standing in front of, get your hair cut, buy product, eat, buy coffee, make a good impression so RRBC looks better to their neighbors.
- Chat it up with your neighbors, meet new people, have fun, it makes the time go by faster.
- Wear comfy shoes.
- Have your food picked out in your mind so that when you get in, you can order lunch or dinner right away. I recommend the wings, New Yorker, Mikey, Excel, grilled cheese, and the caesar salad.
- Don’t be foolish, don’t drink in line, don’t make a “roadie” and get all buzzed before you get into the pub. Just DON’T do it. It’s actually illegal to drink in public and have an open container in the city of Santa Rosa, so just leave it at home and wait until you get in for the awesome beers. An open container ticket can just be bad news bears and totally embarrassing in front of everyone else in line. More than all of the dumb things Yasiel Puig says or does in front of the booing fans.
- Drinks lots of water!!! Normally, you should be drinking 8-10 glasses per day, when you drink high alcohol beer you need more water. Use the 1 to 1 ol’ ratio: 1 glass of water for each glass of beer. You’ll thank me later.
- Take pictures, for some of you, this may only happen once in your lifetime! For those that are lucky enough to come often for the release, help others have a more enjoyable time, offer to take their pictures, move out of their way so they can get a shot of the brewpub or whatever the shot may be.
- Don’t smoke around the crowd of people. Don’t smoke in line. I don’t want cancer and neither does anyone else. You actually need to be at least 20 feet from the buildings according to Santa Rosa city ordinance, so after you get checked in, take a minute, if you must smoke, and walk to the parking lot and do your business.
- Be polite.
- Tip your server. GENEROUSLY. They are working extra hard and putting up with a lot over these two weeks. They’re all KICKASS , treat them well.
- If you do not drink your allotted “Youngers”, don’t give your tabs away to someone else, it’s not allowed, it’s frowned upon and you will be asked to leave if you are caught.
Pliny the Younger only comes out once a year, it’s well worth the plane ticket, the long wait in line, and the miles you’ll need to drive to get here. It’s heavily hopped, has lots of malts, and is high alcohol but it’s always smooth and hop-forward with hints of malt.
As a local, I wait in line every year, sometimes 3-4 times during the two week period. “Younger” comes out around my birthday so I personally feel like it’s a really great gift to me. It also holds a special spot in my heart because in 2013 my “Younger experience” dictated where I was going on my honeymoon. Vinnie and Natalie were mailed a case of Hop Slam and asked to slam one on opening day and after they did, they gave us one. We fell in love with that beer and headed to Kalamazoo, Michigan for a part of our honeymoon to visit Bell’s Brewery. If you see us at the pub, you may just hear my husband tell that story, it’s one of his favorites to tell!