One of the best aspects of attending the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) each year is the education and updates on the craft beer industry that are available. This year, I had the opportunity to attend a luncheon put on by the Brewers Association (BA) on day 2 of the festival, which was held at the Denver Marriott City Center in Denver. All beers at the luncheon were from brewpubs, with the majority of the beers having been GABF medal winners the year before. Brewers Association Program Director, Julia Herz mc’d the luncheon, which discussed various industry topics. However the focus was on the influence of brewpubs within the industry.
While Herz kicked off the luncheon, attendees were treated to a wonderful Belgian white from Taps Fish House and Brewery in Brea, California. Soon after the first course arrived, Roasted Beet Salad with fennel, green apples, goat cheese and bacon with vinaigrette. Paired with this was a Vienna style lager from Chuckanut Brewery and Kitchen in Bellingham, Washington, as well as a Belgian Saison from Mckenzie Brewhouse in Malvern, Pennsylvania.
Dogfish Head Craft Brewery founder Sam Calagione, spoke briefly at the luncheon about his brewery’s start as a brew pub and that although they have grown tremendously since their humble beginnings in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, the brewpub remains the heart and soul of Dogfish Head.
While attendees were still enjoying Roasted Beet Salad, Colorado Governor John Hinkenlooper stopped by to discuss the current state of brewpubs in the United States. Gov. Hinkenlooper has a history with brewpubs in Colorado. He started the Wynkoop Brewing Co in the LoDo (Lower Downtown) area of Denver back in 1988 when the area was undergoing a revitalization. He was able to obtain the property the brewery currently calls home for $1 per square foot as a result of the recession at that time.
Herz advised the BA defines Brewpubs as a restaurant/brewery that sells at least 25% of its beer on site, with the beer being brewed primarily for the restaurant and bar. Beer is often available in to go containers, such as Growlers, and distributed offsite where allowed by law. With their beer being brewed primarily for their restaurants, Herz went on to say that brew pubs are truly experts in house beers and that brewpubs helped kick start the craft beer and food pairing movement.
2010 saw a 6.9% increase in brewpubs from 1,015 in 2009 to 1,033 in 2010. What’s amazing is that there were 1,759 total breweries in the U.S. in 2010. That’s means brewpubs accounted for more than 59% of all breweries in the U.S. and were producing an average of 728 barrels. By August of this year, there were 1,829 total breweries, with 760 more known to be in the planning stages.
Bob Pease, BA Chief Operating Officer, discussed current legislation affecting small brewers. Two bills are currently in both the Senate and the house, HR 1236 and S 534. The bills seek to stimulate job growth in the industry and recall rate the current tax structure that has been in place since 1976. Pease advised that originally the Federal Excise Tax was enacted to help pay for the civil war and although it has been revised over the years, it does not accurately reflect the impacts to the small and independent brewer or the large gap between them and the large breweries. The bills seek to increase the current definition of a small brewer from 2 million barrels per year, to 6 million, thus closing the gap with large brewers whos annual production has increased to 105 million barrels per year since 1976. By lowering the excise tax and increasing the barrels per years, revenue for small and independent brewers would increase 153 million in the first year and 865 million over 5 years, with Federal revenue decreasing only 81.9 million over 5 years. All this would increase jobs in the industry by 5,600 over that 5-year period.
Surrounding the great updates on the industry were presentations from each of the breweries whos beers were featured during the luncheon, along with some absolutely incredible foods, truly highlighting Herz’s earlier point that brewpubs know what they’re doing when it comes to beer and food.
Other pairing highlights for me were: Grains of Paradise seared lamb loin, ginger forbidden rice with apricots and raspberries paired with Melange A Trois a Wood aged Belgian Strong Ale from Nebraska Brewing Co; A wonderful pairing of Freetail Brewing Co’s Bandito, a Flanders Red Ale aged in wine barrels with several American Artisan cheeses presented by the American Cheese society, who also gave a state of the union address on the cheese industry in the United States. However, the blst pairing by far was the Pumpkin Bread pudding with Ska Ten Pin Porter caramel and Left Hand Brewing ESB ice cream paired with Turmoil, an American Black Ale from Barley Brown’s Brewpub in Baker City, Oregon and Twilight, a Robust Porter from the La Jolla Rock Bottom. If I could have gotten my hands on seconds and thirds of this pairing, I assure you I would have.