16 November 2008
I attended the MBAA Philadelphia District meeting this past Friday @ Lion Brewery. For those that don't know, the MBAA is the Master Brewers Association of the Americas. The Philadelphia district includes The Boston Beer Company, Butternut Beer & Ale, Dogfish Head, Iron Hill, Stoudts, Lion Brewery, Triumph, Troegs, Victory, Yards, Yuengling and several others. Their homepage can be found HERE. This meeting included a fantastic (and very detailed) tour of the Lion Brewing and bottling facility, dinner, the MBAA business meeting, a technical presentation on Hop production by HopUnion, a filtration presentation on a new filtration pad by Becopad and did I mention beer? Lion Brewery was pouring all sorts of good beers, including Steg Oktoberfest, Steg Holiday Warmer, Lionshead, Southampton IPA and Lion rootbeer, and Dogfish Head brought up a new bottle of their spirits called Jin (yes that's how they spell it). This is a very interesting group of brewing professionals and more importantly a great bunch of guys to taste and talk beer with. As an admitted beer geek, it was a ton of fun to meet brew masters and brewery staff from many of my favorite local breweries.
Friday's meeting featured a new BECOPAD filtration system. It was an interesting presentation from a technical standpoint but more fascinating from a beer-reality perspective. As somewhat of an outsider to the business of brewing, it was a fascinating reality check-point. We all envision brewing as fun and games and sitting around drinking beer. Not at all. As Andy said, "brewing is a LOT of hard work." There IS a real business here, with real problems, real costs and a lot of real work. Next time your tipping up your pint, take a few seconds to think about how hard it is to create any beer, let alone a great beer. Cheers to the brewers and brewing staff. I've gained a lot of appreciation for your craft over the years, but I certainly have a new appreciation for the hard work that brewing is.
I promised a hop report (provided by David Edgar of HopUnion), and from my outsider's perspective it sounds as though the prices are coming back to middle ground. Not the crazy high prices people were paying last year, but not the crazy low prices of the past. Apparently the flavoring hops pull in a much lower profit margin, and as such are struggling to maintain guaranteed growing space. There are more and more high alpha hops being planted, some for demand but most for higher profit. It sounds like hops have started to regain growing space, however I was surprised to find that more than half of the US hop production leaves the US for foreign breweries. As a consumer I'm excited to see that there is more creativity in hop varieties and that Simcoe is gaining more space to grow and the new Citra hop I mentioned here months ago is now gaining ground. Stay tuned hop-heads as the breweries may be able to afford to build hoppier brews again....and as the prices hopefully stabilize.
This photo shows Andy Tveekrem, District President and Dogfish-Head Brewer conducting the business meeting with Brett Kintzer (Head Brewer @ Stoudts) in the background. I'll continue to add additional posts this week with more details and some posts with photos of the Lion Brewing facility...and I'll end with a Special Surprise photo that I know you will all be excited to see.