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Monday, December 07, 2009
2009, In My Words
2009, where has it gone? Heck, where has the decade of the aughts gone? Haven't we still not yet decided upon what to call the decade (the aughts, the naughts, the zeroes, the ohs, the two thousands, the....)? And in just a few short weeks it will be relegated to the history books. Many will argue that it has been an ignominious decade for the United States but I'll leave that one to the political, cultural, and sociological pundits. Before we go off the so-called rails already, I'm here to discuss the world of craft brewing and most will agree that it's been a good one for the industry of craft brewing and many of those involved. If I tried to take on the whole of the decade at this point, I'd probably never get around to sharing it with you. I'm closing out my second full decade of drinking this stuff that we think of as better beer in a year that has seen some ups and some downs. Between the world economy in general and the resource markets specific to beer brewing, 2009 brought more price fluctuations, industry expansion, and contraction than in the past. Some breweries/brewpubs made it and grew larger (some, much larger), while others didn't fare so well based on raw material costs, real estate market turmoil, and industry competition that is growing a bit more fierce. There will be plenty of others who will weigh in with industry analysis, so I think that I will leave that mostly to them...those that cover it more completely and intelligently than do I. Over the next few days, I will be sharing the Year 2009 with you in the voices of those who bring you the beer, the bars, and the written words. I'm beginning here today with my own perspective on 2009. It certainly was the year, in my opinion, when craft beer and events began filling in around the country in spots that once were lain barren and thirsty. With "popping of the caps" (states' ABV restrictions) and customer demand, it has become easier to find a beer dinner in Florida, homebrewing resources in Utah, and strong beer tastings in Alabama and South Carolina. Collaborations were as common as just about any other trend in the industry. This doesn't seem likely to subside any time soon. And, why should they? They're a fun insight into creativity and possibilities that beer embodies. Now I'll get a bit more personal. My 2009 went a little something like this: ~New Year's Eve/Day on a self-made NYC Beer-Hopping Tour, January '09 -->what in beer's name did this mean?: It meant finding a handful of new beer joints in NYC and enjoying a blistering-cold New Year's Eve with my wife and getting started in Philly at Local 44's grand opening on New Year's Day with a little hair of the dog -->read back links: 1/6/2009 (New Year's Eve in NYC, part 1 of 2) & 1/2/2009 (Local 44 debuts) ~Annual Beer & Hockey trip to Pittsburgh, February '09 -->what in beer's name did this mean?: It was only 2 guys for this year's trip but we still made the most of it with visits to Church Brew Works, Fatheads, and the new Hofbräuhaus. This coming February should be quite a story when we again head to da 'Burgh for the last Flyers/Penguins game in the Igloo. -->read back links: 3/25/2009 ~San Francisco Beer Week, February '09 -->what in beer's name did this mean?: A 10-day Beer Week in my second favorite city/region proved exactly what I expected them to prove. That they are one of strongest and most vibrant beer regions in the country. Unfortunately, I could only stay for half of the Beer Week's festivities. Good thing, probably, since I had my own hometown Philly Beer Week to prepare for less than a month after SFBW. -->read back links: 2/26/2009 (part 1 of 3) ~Philly Beer Week, March '09 -->what in beer's name did this mean?: It reinforced the meaning behind Philly being the first in the country to hold a 10-day extravaganza showcasing the best of what's around. Simply, there is no other region as deeply rich in the combination of brewing, importing, retailing, neighborhood pubbing, homebrewing, event-throwing, and personalities. -->read back links: 3/22/2009 (an index to writings and pictures) ~San Francisco Redux, June '09 -->what in beer's name did this mean?: That I just cannot get enough of my second favorite city/region in the U.S. A successful week of work rewarded each night with some of the best beer the region has to offer. A Magnolia dinner (one of the cities best breweries, imo) at Incanto in the Noe Valley was one of the highlights of the week, as was a meetup with beer writers and homebrewers at the house of author, Brian Yaeger. -->read back links: 6/29/09 (part 1 of 6) ~Ommegang BCTC, July '09 -->what in beer's name did this mean?: Just another year of great Belgian-inspired brewing at one of the country's most picturesque brewery locations. -->read back links: 8/5/09 ~New England Tour, Ebenezer's, & HomeBrewChef (2 Paxton dinners this year), August '09 -->what in beer's name did this mean?: It meant a gastronomical affair of the decadent hosted by Ebenezer's in Maine and The Home Brew Chef (Sean Paxton) of California. It also meant beer tripping through Portland, Maine, and Burlington, Vermont making for one of the best beer trips in recent memory. -->read back links: 9/21/2009 (an index to a 6-part series) ~Hawaii, October '09 -->what in beer's name did this mean?: it meant a whole bunch of stuff that I still haven't shared with you. Suppose this now goes to the top of my New Year's Resolution List. -->read back links: STILL UNDER DEV'T ~The Running of Two Marathons (Pittsburgh, Philly) & TRAINING, May & November '09 -->what in beer's name did this mean?: I did a lot of talking about how moderate beer drinking can go just perfectly fine with an athlete's training plan (although, I use the term 'athlete' very, very loosely). For me, that meant a can of Oskar Blues Mamma's Little Yellow Pils the night before the Pittsburgh Marathon in May and a pint of cask-conditioned Yards ESA the night before the Philadelphia Marathon in November. Following up each was Church Brew Works EKG IPA and another cask-conditioned Yards ESA after Pittsburgh and Philly, respectively. -->read back links: 4/28/2009 (a marathon beer-drinking guide to Pittsburgh) & 5/9/2009 (and a post-marathon wrap-up) & 11/25/2009 (a Philadelphia Marathon wrap-up) ~Somewhere around 340 Postings by year-end -->what in beer's name did this mean?: Not much really. Certainly not meant to be boastful...because I would trade 340 postings of empty ether for 1 posting of substantial value. (hopefully, I'm somewhere in between?!) But it is worth noting that in addition to everything else in my life, I continue to be a contributor to the Philadelphia Area Voice of Beer Writing (PhAVoBeW?! Let's work on that acronym!) That is something of which I will be unabashedly proud. -->read back links: eh, how about you begin with this one? It's about The General Lafayette and one of the most commented on of the year. ~Speaking of The General Lafayette and Running -->what in beer's name did this mean?: In addition to conducting a Beer Run during Philly Beer Week, I conducted a few others during the year as well. All more proof that responsible beer drinking can be an important part of active lifestyles. -->read back links: Here's one at "my local" that you can look back on ~Back into Platelets/Plasma -->what in beer's name did this mean?: Nothing really, except maybe that Lew does it too? and, it calls for a nearly-mandatory night or two off from the action. -->read back links: 10/24/2009 (an explanation of my distractions) ~Concerts: Jimmy Buffett, Elton John/Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, The Killers, The Cat Empire -->what in beer's name did this mean?: Saw and heard some great musical acts. Only confirmed that Citizens Bank Park still has the best arena craft beer selections around (included in these venues were the Spectrum, that Camden New Jersey ampitheatre, and Nokia Theatre in NYC.) -->read back links: couldn't track anything down that I wrote about music and craft beer, though with this past weekend's activities in NYC, that may change in the next week or two ~Miscellaneous Writing -->what in beer's name did this mean?: Like I had more time in my schedule (!), but I began taking on some extracurricular writing in the form of a press release for Artisan Homebrew and a Brewsletter for Exton Beverage. The content for Exton Beverage can be found both at the front counter at the distributor as well as online at http://www.extonbeverage.com (a free account required). Are you reading this and have an interest in me doing some craft beer writing for you? mailto:Bryan@BrewLounge.com. -->read back links: 10/13/2009 (Press Release) and 11/15/2009 (Grand Opening) It's probably only fair that I fess up and talk with you about what I dropped the ball on after the New Year's Ball of 2009 dropped. Two things come immediately to mind. I had planned to do a series of Bartender Profiles. I have a list, I've checked it twice and even have some Q&A scripts ready to roll. I just never got around to pulling it off. I've since seen a couple of other sources of food and beverage writing take this on...It won't stop me from still doing it, I just need to dedicate some time to it. And, that dastardly links table that I said I would do to organize all of the other wonderful sources for beer and beer-related information. Where is that anyway? It's not like it's all that big of a deal---I've got the list and and content. Content has never been an issue for me, it's the darned technical side of these things, like, uh, coding! We'll see; I know it's somewhat important and it's been such a while since I've done any sort of administrative cleanup around this Brew Lounge hangout...it's probably about time, eh? And, what is time anyway? Be well all of you. Enjoy New Year's Eve. Party hardy rock 'n' roll and be safe. See you 'round the watering hole. Tomorrow: A look back and forward with (chosen in random order) Maureen Ogle, Carolyn Smagalski, Mike Scotese (Scoats), Jim Wiggins, and Nick Johnson.