Get ready for IPA Day! Vote for your Favorite Local IPA! And more IPA fun!

Hey, it’s another great excuse to line up a pint or three [aka, a day that ends in -y]: Thursday, August 6 is the 5th Annual IPA Day! The hoppy celebration of the venerable and mega-adaptable India Pale Ale was spawned by “beer evangelists and social media personalities” Ashley V. Routson [aka the Beer Wench] and Ryan Ross in 2011. They deemed it “an opportunity for the entire craft beer culture to combine forces and advocate craft beer through increased education and global awareness…[focusing on an] illustrious style [that] represents the pinnacle of brewing innovation with its broad spectrum of diverse brands, subcategories, and regional flavor variations — making it the perfect style to galvanize craft beer’s social voice.”

Some writers have argued that “the IPA era is over,” but numbers [like ball] don’t lie: in its “Year In Beer: 2014” report, the Brewers Association noted that “IPA is up 47 percent by volume and 49 percent by dollar sales, accounting for 21 percent volume share of craft and 23 percent dollar share of off-premise beer sales. Additionally, the style was the number one entered category at the Great American Beer Festival®.” “Everyone expects it to slow down, but it’s shown incredible growth,” noted BA economist Bart Watson.

So we’re prepping a two-tier celebration for IPA Day. First: a B&C poll to determine our readers’ Favorite Local IPA. There are 10 contenders [we haven’t included pale ales or double/imperial IPAs]:

After you vote [limit one per customer; the ballot will close on Sunday], we’re looking for your input for a Big Picture IPA post! On 8.6.14  in the late, lamented Providence Phoenix, we crowd-sourced a piece titled “Hail to the hops: Beers to savor on IPA Day,” asking beer industry folks to choose their current and all-time favorite IPAs [plus a double/imperial hop bomb], and the best Rhody-made IPA. We’ll be hitting ’em up again for their 2015 selections [check your inboxes] — and invite you, dear reader, to play along. Send your faves [with brief descriptions re: why you chose them] to bottlescansclaphands@yahoo.com [please don’t post ’em in the Comments section or on Facebook; we want to share ’em en masse in next week’s post]. One other guideline: it will better serve the residents of State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations if your choices are readily available in our little corner of the US, which will make it easy [and fun!] to assemble a mix-a-six [or 12].

OK, get voting and e-mailing! The post[s] will run on Tuesday and/or Wednesday!

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

“Craft” beer volume hits 11 percent in 2014

On Monday, the Brewers Association, which reps “small and independent American” beer makers, released its 2014 report on craft brewing growth, and the news is no surprise: better beer is still on the rise. Craft volume — 22.2 million barrels — grew 18% for the second consecutive year, while the total US beer market increased .5% [a slight uptick from a 1.9% drop in ’13]. Craft brews now account for 11% of suds consumption — double digits! — up from 7.8% in ’13 [it was 4.4% in ’09]. Dollar-wise, craft rang up $19.6 billion — 19.3% of the $100+ billion beer market, and a 22% boost over ’13. At year’s end there were 3464 breweries [up from 2768 in ’13; 46 are “non-craft”]: 1412 brewpubs, 1871 micros, and 135 regional craft companies [with a workforce of 115.5K], with 615 new businesses and only 46 closings. And Rhode Island did its part, welcoming Brutopia, Crooked Current, Tilted Barn, and Whaler’s to the 401 craft family. The BA predicts the increase will continue to surge this year [and they note that “numbers are preliminary”; the list of the top 50 craft brewing companies and overall breweries by volume sales is due on March 31]. Bart Watson, the BA’s chief economist, says “craft brewing is part of a profound shift in American beer culture” and that brewers are on a path to “achieve their ambitious goal of 20 percent market share by 2020.”

Growth-Small_HR

Those numbers have an asterisk: in 2014 the BA tweaked its “Craft Brewer Definition,” which includes the word “traditional” [a “brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation”] as well as “small” [six million barrels or less] and “independent” [“less than 25 percent…is owned or controlled…by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer”]. The BA explained, “The idea that brewers who had been in business for generations didn’t qualify as ‘traditional’ simply did not cohere for many members…The revised definition removes the subjective assessment by Brewers Association staff of whether adjuncts ‘enhance’ or ‘lighten’ flavor in a particular beer.” That revision opened the door to the likes of Yuengling — the fourth-largest US brewer in ’13 — plus August Schell [#28], and Narragansett [#49], which had been excluded due their use of adjuncts — specifically, corn — in the brewing process [check out Schell’s impassioned response to BA’s pre-tweak definition]. So those numbers got a big boost from the new “craft beer” companies — and their inclusion inspired mucho debate over what the phrase means these days, with many pundits encouraging the use of one word: beer.

But even without the revenue from Pottsville, PA, New Ulm, MN and our own “Hi, Neighbor!,” the BA report is a reason to be very cheer[s]ful. And we know that everyone who visits Bottles & Cans is doing their part to make those numbers climb even higher in 2015.

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!!!

The Rhode Island Brew Fest: By the numbers

We were happy to see the Rhode Island Brew Fest release its beer list a few hours ago. It gave us the opportunity to break it down, and an excuse to put off heading outside with the shovel…

Sixty breweries [including three ciderists and one meadery] will share 228 different samples of liquid goodness at the Pawtucket Armory on Saturday, January 31. [See below for a few notable new releases; we cited other highlights  in our January 13 entry on the Fest.]

Fourteen of the Ocean State’s 16 breweries will be representing, pouring 57 varieties. Here are the details, with styles added when they’re not part of the beer’s name on the #RIBrew beer list — extra value from the Bottles & Cans desk!:

Brutopia: Never Ender [IPA], Valhalla [amber ale], First Coast [Belgian double IPA], Munk [Belgian-style abbey ale]

Bucket Brewery: 9 Men’s Misery [IPA], Park Loop Porter

Crooked Current: Kickback American Wheat, Immortality Pale Ale

Foolproof: Barstool Golden Ale, Backyahd IPA, La Ferme Urbaine Farmhouse Ale, Shuckolate Stout, Raincloud [Robust Porter], Revery Imperial Stout

Grey Sail: Captain’s Daughter [double IPA]; Leaning Chimney [smoked porter], Flying Jenny [extra pale ale], Maryanne’s Ginger [spice ale], Flagship [cream ale]

Narragansett: Lager, Light, Coffee Milk Stout, Lovecraft Honey Ale

Newport Storm: Hurricane Amber Ale, RI Blueberry, India Point Ale, Winter Porter, Spring Irish Red Ale

Proclamation Ale: Tendril [“not quite an imperial IPA”], Derivative [American pale ale], Anniversary [Belgian dark strong ale with plums; some details from brewer Dave Witham: “The keg I am bringing to the RI Brew Fest is the base beer. It’s the only keg I have of it, because the rest of the beer got put into whisky and bourbon barrels at the brewery. 2 whiskey barrels full are aging and 1 bourbon barrel with brett and another 40 lbs of plums”], Harper [sour beer with apricots], Plattelander [saison]

Ravenous: Blackstone Pale Ale, Bienvenu Red Ale, Coffee Milk Stout

Revival: Fanny Session IPA, Conga [imperial IPA], Burnside Pale Ale, White Electric Coffee Stout, Elder Strong Cocoa Stout, Zeppelin [Hefeweizen ale]

Tilted Barn: Half-Mile IPA, First Harvest Pale Ale, Raffi Coffee Oatmeal Stout, Winter Sol [brown ale]

Trinity Brewhouse: Barleywine, Russian Stout, IPA, Gingerbread Man, Tommy’s Red, Scotch Ale

Union Station: Citra Big Ass Down [IPA], Providence Pale Ale

Whaler’s: American Strong Ale, Hazelnut Stout, White IPA

Of the 171 offerings at the New England/national tables, there are some new entries: you can get a first taste of session brews from Oskar Blues [Pinner Throwback IPA], Green Flash [Jibe], and Heavy Seas [CrossBones]; take a virtual getaway from the snow with Baxter’s Window Seat, a new seasonal porter made with coconut and almond; Sierra Nevada will showcase its new Nooner Pilsner and one-time-only Hoppy Lager; and Founders will unleash its Black Rye. You can see the complete list here; it notes that beers are subject to change. And that’s true, here’s a change now: Stone will bring Enjoy by 2.14.15 and Smoked Porter with Vanilla Bean to vie for your attention with Bourbon Barrel-Aged Arrogant Bastard Ale and Double Bastard. And check out the floor plan too.

Even with unlimited — and responsible — sippling, you can only sample about one-seventh of the tantalizing treats [our math is based on 32 two-ounce pours, aka four pints; your mileage may vary]. So plan ahead. Work the list! [And designate that driver, and/or take advantage of the Brew Fest’s Uber offer].

As we said two weeks ago: The Rhode Island Brew Fest is a  very welcome winter warmer — the Big Beer Event to circle on your calendar during these cold, cold [and now snow-caked] months. You can enjoy the bounty of local brews and chat with their creators! Compare notes and swap ale tales with fellow beerists!! Discover a few new favorite brews to enjoy year-round!! Wear pretzel necklaces!!! Huzzah!!!!

Today around noon @RIBrewFest tweeted, “Get your tickets to session two ASAP. Only a handful remain.” There were at least 10 left when we hit “Publish” at 3:44 pm… Get ’em here!

2014: The year in beer ’round here

We’ll start sharing new beer news on Monday, but let’s take a look back at a very eventful 12 months in our local beer circles. Wotta year!!

JANUARY

Whaler’s Brewing Company of Wakefield gets its license; they open their doors for tastings and growler fills on May 17.

proc_handlesFEBRUARY

Proclamation Ale Company, helmed by former music teacher/musician/stay-at-home dad/homebrewer Dave Witham, debuts at the Rhode Island Brew Fest [get your tix for the 2015 edition, on January 31] and opens for growler sales and tastings. His motto: “Big Beer From a Small State.” He tells us: “I [don’t] want to make middle of the road beers that one would sit and idly drink. I [want] to make beers that grab one’s attention with more extreme flavor profiles and complexity, all while maintaining some sense of balance.” Mission accomplished!

MARCH

Newport Storm’s Cyclone Series, which kicked off in 2006 with Alyssa, an extreme brown ale, reaches the end of the line [and the alphabet] with Zach, an extreme oatmeal stout.

APRIL

The Brewers Association issues its list of the top 50 breweries of 2013 [based on sales], and Narragansett Beer is one of three new additions, ranking 49th.

Placentia, California’s The Bruery, which does everything big [bottles, ABV, styles, flavor, and price] and Spoetzl Brewery, the Texas company [the fourth-largest craft brewery in the US] that makes Shiner Bock [and other brews], come to the Ocean State.

MAY

Narragansett Del’s Shandy is released and sets off a buying frenzy. “When it came to our second ‘Hi Neighbor Mash Up’ collaboration,” ’Gansett prez Mark Hellendrung said, “Given the sessionable style of our Lager, and the growing popularity of shandys, we knew a collaboration with Del’s would create a quintessential summer brew that generations of New Englanders would be thrilled about.”

The state’s fifth brewpub, Brutopia Brewery, opens in Cranston. Brewmaster Sean Larkin adds another notch on his mash paddle, adding to his beermaking duties at Trinity Brewhouse, Revival, and Narragansett [he helms the seasonal and specialty releases].

In the 17th annual [and final] edition of The Best, the readers of the Providence Phoenix select Doherty’s Ale House as Best Bar, Beer Geek; Revival Brewing as Best Brewery; Trinity Brewhouse as Best Brewpub; and High Spirits as Best Liquor Store, Beer Selection.

JUNE

Pawtucket’s Brewery 401, the state’s smallest beermaker-to-be, changes its name to Crooked Current Brewery because Stony Creek Brewery of Branford, CT, trademarked the 401 area code for beer-related use. They declare that their “(401) IPA is produced specifically for beer lovers in Rhode Island,” though the recipe is virtually identical to their CT-“specific” (860) and (203) brews. P.T. Barnum would be so proud!

Newport Storm releases its first-ever mixed box: the 12 Sheets To the Wind Summer Variety Pack.

Yuengling — “America’s oldest brewery,” the pride of Pottsville, PA — returns to Rhode Island after a 20-year absence . . . Spencer Brewery,  the first Trappist brewery in the US [in Spencer, MA, about 11 miles west of Worcester], and Michigan’s New Holland Brewing are now distributed in Rhode Island.

brewbusJULY

The Rhode Island Brew Bus hits the road. Owner Bill Nangle says, “We are focusing on the craft of brewing and how it is made. This will not be a booze cruise — we are all about the education of great local beer!”

After more than two years of legal wrangling, Nikki’s Liquors moves to its gorgeous new location on Branch Ave in Providence.

AUGUST

After 18 years — and 1867 batches of brew! — Sean Larkin hangs up his mash paddle at Trinity Brewhouse and goes all in at Brutopia, where he ramps up production of Revival Brewing’s beers; bottles of Zeppelin and Burnside Pale Ale soon follow.

On August 1, Foolproof, Narragansett, Proclamation, and Trinity Brewhouse head north to Sierra Nevada’s Beer Camp Across America fest in Portland, ME, one of seven events in the “largest craft beer celebration in history” to toast the opening of SN’s new brewery in Mills River, NC.

SEPTEMBER

Stevie D’s, the beer bar mecca in Cumberland, opens a second location at the former home of the legendary Lincoln Bar & Grille in Riverside.

Foolproof Brewing Company starts distributing in Vermont.

Tilted Barn Brewery, an offshoot of Matt and Kara Richardson’s Ocean State Hops farm, is licensed as the state’s first farm beer maker. [They share their first batch of brews on November 22.]

OCTOBER

The second annual batch of Narragansett/Autocrat Coffee Milk Stout — six times bigger than the first release that disappeared in a week in 2013 — hits stores . . . ’Gansett expands its reach to Portland, OR and Chattanooga, TN. . . And they reveal their next mash-up: Lovecraft Honey Ale, a partnership with Revival Brewing [which will be released on January 19].

glass_and-Can Grey Sail launches Captain’s Daughter, a double IPA packed with Mosaic hops. You may have heard that it has made quite a splash.

Proclamation Ale announces an expansion; the news is modified and then updated on December 30.

San Francisco’s 21st Amendment Brewery, named after the ratification that repealed Prohibition; British Columbia’s Central City Brewers + Distillers [try their Red Betty IPA]; and Lewiston, ME’s Baxter Brewing squeeze onto local shelves and try to grab some tap handles.

The Providence Phoenix/NewPaper ends a 36-year run; the three-year-old Bottles & Cans & Just Claps Your Hands franchise goes all-digital and mostly-daily @ bottlescansclaphands.wordpress.com.

NOVEMBER

Revival, Grey Sail, Bucket Brewery, Brutopia, Narragansett, Trinity Brewhouse, and Foolproof are medalists at the 18th Annual Great International Beer & Cider Competition [click the link for the categories and winning brews].

Newport Storm’s Annual Release ’14 is most likely the “world’s first snow beer.”

DECEMBER

Crooked Current Brewery is the people’s choice in the 1st Annual Bottles & Cans & Just Clap Your Hands Favorite Rhode Island Brewery Poll.

Foolproof adds New Hampshire to its distro network, and Newport Storm starts shipping to Pennsylvania.

Grey Sail blows out three candles with the release of 3rd Anniversary, a top-notch imperial IPL, and Captain’s Daughter is deemed “a happy find” by the Boston Globe’s Gary Dzen.

The Brewers Association shares a slew of stats and stuff in their report, “The Year In Beer: 2014 Craft Beer In Review.”

Jack’s Abby Brewing may [“nothing is finalized”/keep your fingers crossed] come to Rhode Island in 2015 . . . .

Narragansett Beer prez Mark Hellendrung gives Bottles & Cans an exclusive peek at their plans for 2015.

We’re anticipating another big year of beer and cheer in 2015. Sign up NOW to share the fun!

For updates and post alerts, 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!!!

AND if you have beer news and/or feedback and/or comments, please share ’em at bottlescansclaphands@yahoo.com.