The too many SKUs blues; a beer style flow chart; Redhook and Miller Lite lore; and more

skus-1Here’s our Saturday dive into this week’s beer archive. Perhaps one of these links will inspire a question for the Ask Bottles & Cans Big Giveaway

Beer Blues, Too Many SKUs, by Jack Kenny @ The Beverage Journal [“Retailers can’t invent shelf space.”]

Decide What Style of Beer You Want To Drink with This Flow Chart, by Patrick Allan @ Lifehacker [“You spend all week stressing about stuff, don’t stress about your beer.”]

Give me cheap beer, or give me sobriety. Just stop this craft beer ‘revolution,’ by Eleanor Robertson @ The Guardian [“Craft beer is easy to hate. Most of it tastes bad. Beer snobs are phenomenally irritating, often even worse than the narky farmers’ market set or the paleo herd.” The writer is from Australia.]

LHIPA-2013-6-pack Redhook finds a home between beer snobs and Bud Light, by Jason Notte @ MarketWatch [“Redhook Brewery is the U.S. beer industry’s middle class. Founded in 1982 in an old transmission shop in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, Redhook went from a craft beer pioneer to a scorned outcast with little to lose.”]

Miller saw the Lite and figured out how to sell it, by Phil Rosenthal @ The Chicago Tribune [“What Miller and ad agency McCann Erickson did invent with Lite in 1973 was a market segment that didn’t really exist.”]

Beer-maker Anheuser-Busch wants to sell more pricey beers, by John Kell @ Fortune [“Much of the beer company’s growth strategy in the U.S. and markets abroad focus on ‘premiumization,’ a strategy in the alcohol market to more aggressively promote brands with higher price points, and also when innovation occurs, command a lofty price when new ales and spirits hit liquor stores.”]

The Bottles & Cans 100th post Big Giveaway!

On Wednesday we promised a Big Giveaway on Friday to celebrate our 100th post [which will drop on Monday], and here we are. We’ve spent waaaay too much time musing on how to give away the Big Giveaway [well, a small giveaway, but it’s semi-rare and semi-valuable]: a local beer quiz [too easy with the Google]; a follow-us-on-Twitter-and/or-sign-up-for-e-mail-alerts random drawing [though we would like to reach another round number — 200 — on the Twitter, hinthint, and we always welcome new B&C subscribers]; a scavenger hunt in massive snowbanks throughout the state [too needle-in-a-haystack-y]…

beer-askBut we’d really like to get the Ask Bottles & Cans! feature that we launched on Wednesday rolling in a big way, and we’re chagrined to say that the response has been a bit underwhelming. Perhaps our thousands of readers already know everything about the Rhode Island beer industry! Maybe we’re wasting the hundreds of hours we spend at the Bottles & Cans desk! Nah, say it ain’t so!

So let’s forget the quiz, the follow-us campaign, and the scavenger hunt, and let’s get the two-way flow going. Here’s the pitch [again]: “Do you have a question about the Rhode Island beer industry? Want to know the inspiration behind a local brew’s name? Wondering why you can’t get more than 72 ounces of beer at local breweries? Ask away and we’ll try to get the answers. Hit the comment link at the bottom of this item and/or send your inquiry to”

Send your burning questions our way, and over the next few weeks we’ll share the elucidation and enlightenment and edification — and a boatload of local beer lore — with Rhode Island [Craft] Beer Lovers from Woonsocket to Westerly, from North Smithfield to Narragansett, from Cumberland to Charlestown [allrightallrightwe’llstop]. We’ll put all the correspondents’ names into a 4-Way IPA box and announce the Big Winner on Monday. [US residents only; apologies to our global visitors from Ukraine, Brazil, Spain, Georgia, Mexico, Korea, India, Finland, Nigeria, Poland, Anguilla, Japan, Belize, France, Ireland, United Kingdom, Puerto Rico, Chile, Hungary, Jamaica, Germany, New Zealand, Greece, The Netherlands, Philippines, Canada, Hong Kong, Australia, Bulgaria, Sweden, South Africa, Costa Rica, Serbia, Argentina, Paraguay, Russian Federation, Bahamas, Barbados, and Austria.]

And to get our game show verbiage on, here’s what you’re playing for: a Russian River Damnation, 2011 vintage. Corked bottle, 12.68 ounces [375ml], Batch 074, 7.75% ABV, a 98 score at Rate Beer [based on 1378 ratings] and a 92 score at Beer Advocate [based on 3309 ratings]. Only available in CA, OR, CO, and Philly. As they advise, it has been aged in a cool, dark place. Here’s the label copy: “In the great beer producing country of Belgium, there is a tradition among some brewers to name their brews something unusual. Often the name is curious, sometimes diabolical, and occasionally just plain silly. Damnation is a hand-crafted Golden Ale with an exquisite bouquet of fruit and spice with mouth filling notes of citrus, malt, cedar, and earthy hops. The smooth dry finish lingers until your next sip. Damnation is refermented in this bottle to create its fine carbonation. Spent yeast cells form a thin layer of sediment in the bottom of the bottle, adding more complexity and flavor. Pour slowly, allowing the natural yeast sediment to remain in the bottle.” Not a bad Big Giveaway, right? To paraphrase the Arrogant Bastard slogan, “You are worthy!”

OK, start typing and get your ask on, and you might win a nice free beer. [Oh, and send us tips for Beer To Go and Beer On Tap, too.]

Ask Bottles & Cans! / Bottles & Cans asks you; plus, an Alpine update

beer-askWe’re closing in on our 100th post and, like many people, we have an inordinate fondness for round numbers. So in the run-up to The Century Mark on Monday, we’re going to look back, look forward, and announce a Big Giveaway on Friday. [Well, a small giveaway, but it’s semi-rare and semi-valuable.]

Today we’re launching a new feature: Ask Bottles & Cans! Do you have a question about the Rhode Island beer industry? Want to know the inspiration behind a local brew’s name? Wondering why you can’t get more than 72 ounces of beer at local breweries? Ask away and we’ll try to get the answers. Hit the comment link at the bottom of this item and/or send your inquiry to

And we’d like to ask for your input re: the fine establishments that are listed in the Beer On Tap and Beer To Go sidebars. If there’s a better beer store or bar that should be added, please let us know. Bigger’s not always better: we want to include everyone who is stepping up their beer game. [Note: we know a few places that should be on the list, but they don’t have sites to link to. When we’re in update mode, we’ll figure out a way to get them represented.]

alpine• Hop to it: If you want to be the first in line for a taste of the goodness from Alpine Beer Company, then shovel the driveway [again!] and get ready to head to Stevie D’s in Cumberland [401.658.2591] and Chomp in Warren [401.289.2324] for Hoppy Birthday, and Loie Fulller’s in Providence [401.273.4375; beer TBA]. The Alpine may start flowing on Thursday, but contact those fine establishments for specific ETAs. When we get more log destinations we’ll share ’em on Twitter @BottlesCansRI.

• And let’s raise a glass to George Harrison, who would have been 72 today:

More pure hoppiness: Alpine Beer Company debuts in Rhode Island


Last week, beers from San Diego’s Ballast Point Brewing Company returned to the Rhode Island market. [Get thee some Sculpin! Yes, it’s pricey; yes, it’s worth it!] This week, more liquid gold from that corner of the country will have locals lining up at better beer bars, when the Alpine Beer Company makes its local debut.

Alpine was started by firefighter/homebrewer Pat McIlhenney in 1999. For three years he contract-brewed at AleSmith Brewing Company, starting with McIlhenney’s Irish Red, and opened his own shop in Alpine, CA [about 30 miles northeast of San Diego] in 2002. Alpine quickly established its rep, winning medals at the Great American Beer Festival in 2003 [a bronze for Mandarin Nectar] and 2004 [silver for Irish Red]. They expanded in 2009 and added a pub in 2010; in November, Alpine was acquired by Green Flash Brewing Company, the hop-crazed outpost in San Diego which had produced some of Alpine’s beers since 2013.

A story in the San Diego Reader noted, “Alpine Beer employees 20 people, making it a relatively small operation, especially compared to Green Flash, which is home to 107 employees. That total will grow when their East Coast brewery in Virginia Beach, Va. opens in 2016. Green Flash’s larger, more traditional business structure was an attractive asset to McIlhenney, in that it will allow his employees to have access to its new owners’ benefits, healthcare packages, 401k, and additional perks his small business was incapable of offering. From a product standpoint, the acquisition stands to significantly increase production capacity for Alpine’s highly coveted but scarcely available beers from 1500 barrels a year.”

Ten brews are pictured on Alpine’s website; five will be available ’round here [“a very small amount” was in the initial shipment to Craft Beer Guild Distributing of Rhode Island]. Two of them are must-haves: Hoppy Birthday [5.25% ABV], an American Pale Ale with a 100 [world-class] rating at Beer Advocate; and Duet [7%], an IPA made with Amarillo and Simcoe hops [98 @ BA]. Also on tap: Alpine Ale [5.5%], an American Pale Ale [82 @ BA]; McIlhenney Irish Red [6%], made with 11 malts and a low hop profile [10 IBUs; 82 @ BA]; and Captain Stout [6%; 84 @ BA; go there to read the chatter on the “Alpine to MA! (???)” thread]. And here’s hoping that Nelson, a “golden rye” IPA [7.1%] made with the Nelson Sauvin hop from New Zealand, is part of the second batch that rolls into 401.

Alpine’s motto is “The Home of Pure Hoppiness” and they boast about “what we are most known for — Killer IPAs!” Seek it out and see if your palate agrees.

And Dave at Proclamation Ale reports: “Select stores within RI will start receiving some of our [Harper] sours early this week…look for em. I’m sure some will hit stock by Tuesday/Wednesday. (No, I can’t tell you where they are.)”

For updates and post alerts, PLEASE follow Bottles & Cans at Twitter [@BottlesCansRI] and Facebook and/or SIGN UP for e-mail alerts at the top of this page. Tell your friends!!!

IPAs keep growing; 17 sought-after brews; silver screen suds; beer apps; and CPA IPA

A scene from 'Beerfest'
A scene from ‘Beerfest’

Celebrate the weekend by sipping a Sculpin from Ballast Point, then settle in with these beery links:

Duh: Craft beer drinkers just love their IPAs, by Jacob Pramuk @ CNBC [“ ‘Everyone expects it to slow down, but it’s shown incredible growth,’ said Bart Watson, staff economist at the Brewers Association.”]

17 of the Most Sought-After Craft Beers in America, and How To Find Them, by Joe Satran @ Huffington Post [The list features many stouts.]

A five-pack of beer apps to find great new brews, by Matt Elliott @ CNET [Beer Boards, Beer Buddy, Beer Citizen, Pintley, and Untappd]

Silver Screen Suds, by Nick Dumont @ the Gaston [NC] Gazette [“I listed four of my favorites (classic movies involving beer and other alcohols) and included their best quotes, drunken moments, and a safe-drinking score (SDS).”]

• And if you’re a CPA in RI, you can get a free IPA by Revival next week, courtesy of Intuit [details here].

For updates and post alerts, PLEASE follow Bottles & Cans at Twitter [@BottlesCansRI] and Facebook and/or SIGN UP for e-mail alerts at the top of this page. Tell your friends!!!

Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione on Budweiser; beer and taxes; beer vs. dementia; and more

samSome links worth following:

Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione Squares Off Against Budweiser, by Matt Allyn in Men’s Journal [“The more they spite us for trying beer outside of the light lager juggernaut, the more we’re going to stand for something very separate from what they’re about.”]

Beer may be about to get cheaper, by Grover G. Norquist and Patrick Gleason @ Reuters [“Between federal, state and local levies, taxes make up, on average, more than 40 percent of the cost of beer purchased in the United States.” Note: the excise tax in Rhode Island is 11 cents a gallon, the 43rd lowest in the US.]

Drink a Beer To Ward Off Dementia: Antioxidant Found In Hops Prevents Oxidative Stress, Cognitive Decline, by Anthony Rivas @ Medical Daily [“For the study, the researchers isolated Xn molecules and tested them on the brain cells of lab rats, finding they were able to neutralize ROS by encouraging the production of neuroprotective molecules.”]

• Off the beer trail, Norm Macdonald mega-tweeted some great tales from behind the scenes of Saturday Night Live’s 40th anniversary show. Scroll waaaaaaay down and work your way up….

• And a few days ago, in anticipation of putting the shovels back in storage, Narragansett Beer tweeted:

Snow or not, only about 5 weeks until we declare that it’s #Summer again. #AllSummerLong



For updates and post alerts, PLEASE follow Bottles & Cans at Twitter [@BottlesCansRI] and Facebook and/or SIGN UP for e-mail alerts at the top of this page. Tell your friends!!!

Plan ahead: hit the Bucket, Newport Storm, and New Hampshire!

88-182-thickboxGot cabin fever? Then get out of the igloo and head to these beery events [weather permitting].

The Bucket Brewery [100 Carver St, Pawtucket] will present its monthly Friday Night Sound Check this week [2.20] from 6-9 pm, with music by Cowboy & Lady — aka Tyler-James Kelly [of the Silks] and Jess Powers [at 7] — beer samples, and free raffles. And the Citizen Wing food truck will be serving their gourmet wings curbside! Admission is $15; if you bring non-perishable food items for the Rhode Island Food Bank, you’ll get more beer! Do it!

Newport Storm will host a Rhody Beer and Cheese Pairing on Saturday [2.21] at 6:30 pm and Sunday [2.22] at 5:30 at their HQ [293 J.T. Connell Highway]. The sessions feature five local brews served with munchables from Narragansett Creamery. Tix are $15 [$12 with a Winterfest button]; head to the website or call 401.849.5232 to buy ’em in advance.

And if you really want to put your igloo in the rear-view mirror, head north to New Hampshire on Saturday [2.21] for the 4th Annual Seacoast Winter Brew Fest, which kicks off Portsmouth Beer Week [a 10-day bash through March 2]. It’s at the Portsmouth Gaslight Company, and features 32 breweries, most of them from New England [including Foolproof]. Sessions are at 12-3 and 5-8; tix are $50. Check the website for the beer list and more details.

A hoppy history lesson: Presidents and beer


To celebrate Presidents Day, we’ve collected a bit of White House-related beer trivia.

Mark Will-Weber, author of Milt Juleps with Teddy Roosevelt: The Complete History of Presidential Drinking, cites beer-loving chief execs [via the New York Post]:
George Washington: “[H]e loved dark porter [laced with molasses] that was made in Philadelphia.
John Adams: “Adams loved alcohol, starting almost every morning with a hard cider. Then porter beer, rum and copious amounts of Madeira.”
James Garfield: “A friend of Garfield’s — Thomas Donaldson — once noted in his diary that: ‘Garfield…liked beer and drank but little else.’ ”
Grover Cleveland: “Grover mostly drank beer, and lots of it. He and a fellow politician once took a vow to hold themselves to four beers a day. When they found this too arduous a task, they simply switched to larger beer steins.”

George Washington: President & Beer Lover, from Brewed In America by Stanley Baron, via [“ ‘I beg you will send me,’ Washington wrote to Clement Biddle on 20 July 1788, ‘a gross of Mr. Hairs best bottled Porter if the price is not much enhanced by the copius droughts you took of it at the late Procession.’ ”]

wash_beerBonus! George Washington’s homebrew recipe [from the New York Public Library’s manuscript collection]:

To Make Small Beer
Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. — Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask — leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working — Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed.

Obama not the only beer-loving president in history, by Scott Bomboy @ Constitution Daily [“Here’s an Abraham Lincoln quote that could still be true today: ‘If given the truth, [the people] can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts — and beer.’ ”]

BillyBeer  And here’s one about a president’s brother: Billy Beer: The Reason Billy Carter Quit Drinking, by Ethan Trex @ Mental Floss [“Billy Beer drew an enviable amount of national attention when it debuted in November 1977, and Jimmy Carter’s supporters and detractors alike rushed out to buy a six-pack of the novelty cans.”]

For updates and post alerts, PLEASE follow Bottles & Cans at Twitter [@BottlesCansRI] and Facebook and/or SIGN UP for e-mail alerts at the top of this page. Tell your friends!!!

Sour beer; beer makes you look stoopid; and the world’s best beer?

A four-pack of varied beer reads, while waiting for moremoremore snow . . .

Is This Really The World’s Best Beer?, by Will Gordon at The Concourse @ Deadspin [“Many people consider Heady Topper to be the best beer in the world. I’m not qualified to weigh in other than to say the claim doesn’t seem crazy. The shit is seriously spectacular.”]

University of Michigan study finds people holding beer look less intelligent, by Alaina McConnell @ Metro Times [featuring the term “the imbibing idiot bias”]

The World Is Drinking a Lot More American Beer Than It Used To, by Jordan Weissmann @ Slate [“(But) we still spend more than eight times as much money buying brews from the rest of the world than the world spends buying beer from us.”]

Tapped In: The sweet taste of sour beers makes a comeback, by Chris Morris @ Fortune [“Despite the name, not every sour is a lip-puckering experience.”]

And a bonus video:

Recycled Bottles & Cans: Local pros pick underappreciated beers


During a few recent conversations at the Rhode Island Brew Fest and with some beer store folks, talk turned to underappreciated beers. Which inspired us to dig into the Bottles & Cans archive for these words, which ran in the May 30, 2014 issue of the late/lamented/left-a-void Providence Phoenix [the intro and a few replies were slightly tweaked].

We’ve asked our ever-evolving panel of local beer savants to share their taken-for-granted/readily available/often veteran selections. The next time you’re whelmed by the tantalizing new offerings/seasonals/one-offs that are maxing out shelves and coolers, you should mix-a-six [or more] and revisit [or finally try] these time-tested brews.

The first that comes to mind is Long Trail Ale. Sometimes you just want a solid ale that isn’t trying to be anything it’s not supposed to be. Perfectly balanced. One of my go-to beers any time of the year.

Harpoon IPA is one of those beers that gets lost in the shuffle with all the new IPAs and DIPAs coming out. Great hop/malt balance, floral, and has a refreshing aftertaste that doesn’t ruin your palate. It seems today everyone is trying to “out-hop” one another; sometimes you just want a IPA that is true to the style. Harpoon hits the nail on the head. It’s also one of the most approachable IPAs at 42 IBUs.

1] Smuttynose Finestkind IPA: A beautifully balanced IPA that really hits the spot for hopheads. Maybe not the most aromatic or complicated IPAs, but this beer really delivers a great balance of citrus flavors and hop bitterness.

2] North Coast Brother Thelonious: For me this is the quintessential Belgian Strong Dark Abbey Ale, full of flavor and one of the best interpretations of the style.

3] Victory Prima Pils: I can remember trying this for the first time around seven years ago thinking I wasn’t going to like it. I am traditionally not a German Pils kind of guy. The earthy hop notes are phenomenal on this beer, and with a low ABV and malt bill, this beer is dangerously drinkable. This is still one of my go-to beers for the warm weather months.

I think in this day and age consumers are so drawn to the new releases and new breweries in the market that a number of breweries get overlooked [by myself included]. I always look forward to the Stone Enjoy Bys, Founders KBS, etc. releases of the world, but I still tend to go back to old favorites more often nowadays. Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is a prime example.

Smuttynose Finestkind IPA: It has a great citrusy hop flavor, made with a mixture of Simcoe, Centennial, and Santiam. We love the whole Smuttynose line. The guys on the package remind me of the Bartles & Jaymes wine cooler spokesmen from the 1980s. Don’t make that reference to anyone born after 1975, they have no idea what you’re talking about!

Rogue Dead Guy Ale: It’s made in the style of German Maibock. Perfect beer, pairs with anything. It’s not just for Halloween.

Mayflower IPA: A big hoppy beer with a smooth, bitter finish. It’s one of my favorite IPAs.
Our go-to beer when out and don’t see anything we like is NEWCASTLE BROWN ALE.

Harpoon Summer Beer is the quintessential summer beer — a crisp Kolsch. It seems like summer beers have been overtaken by the shandy craze, but I love a beer that is true to style and doesn’t require lemons to make it thirst-quenching. I remember drinking Harpoon Summer since it was first introduced [many years ago] and I still have it in my fridge today.

Stone, Founders, and Dogfish Head seem to have new beers out every week and I feel their roots in the beer world — Stone IPA, Founders Porter, and Dogfish 60 Minute IPA — get overlooked.

Local stuff: Grey Sail Flying Jenny, Foolproof Raincloud [one of the best year-round porters anywhere, in my opinion], Newport Storm IPA [great IPA, never disappoints].

I’m a lager beer drinker to the core, although I do appreciate all the great big craft beers that are coming out. Prior to launching our Bohemian Pils, I drank a lot of different European-style lagers and Pilsner Urquell really struck me as a great beer. It’s the original pilsner, and it’s really a quality, sessionable lager. Our Bohemian Pils is a hoppier style within the pils family, more of a craft style, but the Pilsner Urquell is a great beer that probably misses a lot of people’s radar because of all of the other choices out there.

I think as a whole, Rhode Island beers are underappreciated. The Ocean State is in the midst of a very exciting craft beer renaissance — there are so many fabulous beers available that are produced right here in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, it seems that there are still many accounts that would rather serve an out-of-state craft beer, an import, or a domestic lager rather than consider an offering from a Rhode Island craft brewery. Of course, there are many bars that do see the value in marketing locally produced beer, but I think there’s much room for growth and improvement in giving Rhode Island beer the attention and respect it deserves.

I’ve always been impressed by Sierra Nevada’s beers…not just their popular mainstays, but many of their lesser-known products. For a brewery that has grown to such a large size, the quality and consistency they’ve maintained over the years is quite impressive.

Red Hook Longhammer IPA: Originally called Red Hook IPA, this liquid has been around since 1984. Thirty years old and still drinking great! It now comes in a funky 12-ounce bottle like none other in the market. It is a dry-hopped IPA with a nice blend of bitterness, piney elements, and citrus flavor. At 44 IBUs, you know you are drinking an IPA but you are not paralyzed by its bitterness; at 6.2% ABV, it isn’t over the top but it will deliver you a reasonable amount of what you may be looking for in a beer.