Thursday, November 06, 2008
Can they Can because they Can? News from 21st Amendment
A few weeks back, I once again bumped my love for running up against my love for beer...in that I finished my office work, changed into running clothes, made an hour long run home, and participated in my first ever beer-related webcast. It was conducted by Campbell Consulting on behalf of 21st Amendment Brewery in downtown San Francisco, CA, just a few short blocks from AT&T Park (some of you might "get" that reference). Nico Freccia and Shaun O'Sullivan led the conversation between themselves and a dozen or so of what I figured were beer-related public relations, publishers, writers, bloggers, and the like...I knew some, but not all, of the participants. In other words, people that can help get the word out about the 21A's approach to canned beer. In fact, you can check out the Draft Magazine review over at their site. 21st Amendment, if you haven't heard of the brewery, is growing rapidly. Their canning operation is a partnership with Cold Spring in Minnesota, where Shaun has personally made many trips to ensure quality control over the end product. The beer from 21A can easily be found around the San Francisco Bay Area at better beer bars and retail outlets. By end of year, they're planning to be found in Sacramento and Lake Tahoe as well. Promises to come to the East Coast (for more than a Monk's dinner!) are still hoping to be honored. Canning in a more geographically-convenient location like Minnesota is central to these growth plans. Putting their product into these water-based polymer coated cans is instrumental to ensuring that the beer tastes as it's supposed to. Currently the 'Brew Free or Die IPA' and the 'Hell or High Watermelon Wheat' are the two brands available in cans. They'd like to do their annual Holiday Spice beer in cans, though likely not in time for this year's ski season or swinging holiday parties. Though, on the holiday note (and as a plug), the brewery plans to host a party on 12/5 which will include a pre-prohibition lager that they've been working on. Sounds like a significant departure from many of their current and past styles. What better approach to then do this webcast thing than to get some of said product into the hands of the participants? The package arrived around a week prior to the webcast; plenty of time to chill down the cans of Watermelon Wheat and IPA. So, within approximately 7 minutes of finishing my run, I chugged two tall glasses of water, then poured the can of the 21A's newly-branded Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. The name is as far as they took change. Otherwise, it's still the same as when I first got to know it as one of my favorite summertime, thirst-quenching beers. A good wheat beer, with just a hint of watermelon rind; very nicely done. After a review of the company and some brewing notes about the Watermelon Wheat, Nico and Shaun instructed us to dive into the IPA. They didn't have to ask twice. From the second I popped the top, the hops made their way up to my face; this is an IPA. I wouldn't say "crazy IPA"..."west coast IPA"...or anything like that. Just a well-made, balanced IPA. Perhaps in that case it's not a "west coast IPA?" Throughout the almost sixty minute session (not to be confused with sixty minute IPA), I didn't learn a whole lot that I didn't already know about 21st Amendment or canned beer. I could tell for sure that there were others in the audience who had not previously had the 21A's beer or didn't know a whole lot about them. On the other hand, I did get the rare chance to drink 21st Amendment beer in my east coast home and experience a beer webcast. Hopefully, other breweries will begin to take advantage of this technology in order to get their name, product, and message out there. I lead and participate in webcasts every week in my "day job" and it's nice to join these "webeerinars" from industry folks like those at 21st Amendment. Oh, and the question about canned craft beer in vending machines? Priceless...and ingenious. But, admittedly, not likely. ...Canning good beer is not exactly new, but something that many beer drinkers are just discovering. An article over at Chow.com highlights what other breweries like Sly Fox, Oskar Blues, Surly, and New Belgium are putting in these much-improved cans. If you haven't had a can of beer lately, do yourself a favor and get one from a brewery near you. The ones mentioned above are regional breweries, guaranteeing that there's probably some craft beer in a can being made near you.