- The Year In Beer 2012

Each December 31st we all pause to reflect on the year that is coming to a close.  We rewind, we reminisce, we celebrate, and we try to package it all into some meaningful moment in life.  So as the ball drops in Times Square, I wanted to sum up the year in beer 2012.

You’ll notice we’ve dropped the term “craft beer” in our title (more on that later), and I’ve decided not to use a countdown format this year.  It all just seems more meaningful if I’m not trying to rank the importance of this years topics and trends instead of just “talking beer.” 

Today I bring you the events, trends and topics that defined The Year in Beer 2012….

The growth of beer itself has become a big story, but that story continues to manifested itself in almost pure stainless steel form.  From small to large breweries, it seems like everyone is expanding capacity, expanding their footprint or making the big move and opening a whole new brewery.  Most recently Oskar Blues managed to turn around their new Brevard NC facility in just months and nailed an opening date of 12/12/12.
image Even though Oskar Blues got their start much later, they managed to open their doors ahead of the all-new facilities being built by both New Belgium and Sierra Nevada in the Asheville, NC area.  New Belgium’s announcement came in April and Sierra Nevada in January…yet both are slated for a 2013 ground breaking (New Belgium on-line in 2015).  Not to be outdone, Lagunitas Brewing decided to open a new facility in Chicago (also aiming to open in 2013), Victory works to open their new Parkesburg, PA facility, Sly Fox opens the doors in Pottstown, PA, Smuttynose worked to complete a new brewery at Towle Farm, BrewDog built a new 100HL brewery and just days ago Avery announced their new 30,000 square foot brewery coming to Boulder, CO. 

Honorable mentions go to Stone as they open a new packaging hallSurly as they continue to search for a new brewery location, Pizza Boy as Terry Hawbaker returns to PA and they work to build a new brewery, DuClaw as they negotiate a new brewery location, Iron Hill as they plan to open in Ardmore and our very own Breaker Brewing as they rapidly close in on opening their new Wilkes-Barre Twp. Brewery & taproom.
It would likely be easier to highlight the breweries that did NOT expand this year as it seems everyone has hit maximum capacity and everyone is buying stock in stainless steel….but here are a few:  Weyerbacher is almost done with their expansion, and other breweries from coast to coast add space, add tanks and add brewing equipment.  Case in point Maui Brewing (here), Naked City (here), Heavy Seas (here), Bullfrog (here), Summit (here), Odell (here), Otto's (here), Sweetwater (here), Ithaca (here), The Alchemist (here), Thirsty Dog (here), Founders  (here), Breckenridge (here), Funkwerks (here), Westbrook (here), Thomas Creek (here), Caldera (here), Stevens Point (here), Captain Lawrence (here), Twisted Pine (here), Cigar City (here), Brew Works (here), Jolly Pumpkin (here)…and MANY more.  So you get the idea right?….good beer is booming and our brewers now have the capacity to make us even more.

As our existing breweries map out their growth, some newbies join us and open their doors across the country.  Seems like every week I’m reporting on a new brewery opening it’s doors and here are JUST a few:  Fate Brewing, Gravity Brewing, West Seattle Brewing, Atom Brewing, Yellow Spring Brewery, High Hops Brewery, Ringing Rocks, Twisted X, Burlington Beer, 3 Stars Brewing, Push Craft, Berthound Brewing, Grand Rapids Brewing and literally hundreds more.  To all the new breweries out there we say welcome and best wishes for a successful venture.

We would be remiss if we didn’t wish many of our breweries who celebrated significant anniversary's in 2012 a Happy Anniversary. Again just a few… Sierra Nevada (30)--see video below, Rogue (25), Goose Island (25), Deschutes (25), Great Lakes Cleveland (25), Schlafly (21), Great Divide (18), Weyerbacher (17), Firestone Walker (16), Stone (16), Iron Hill (15), Ommegang (15), Terrapin (10)…and of course many more…

Stone Brewing also managed to pack two milestone events into one year…not only celebrating their 16th Anniversary but also celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Stone Ruination AND bringing to a close the end of an era as the Stone Vertical Epic series comes to an end with 12.12.12.  Our pal Mitch Steele gave us a great hint when we interviewed him in Sept when he said “think Belgian Christmas Ale” for 12.12.12’s style…so we did.  For 12 years Stone has been producing a special beer released to coincide with the year/day and month leading up to an epic vertical tasting on 12.12.12.  I’m both sad to see the series end but thrilled that our beer community can (and did) support a venture that took close to 12-years to pay off!  As you enjoy your vertical tasting session, be sure to raise a glass to everyone at Stone who had the foresight, vision and persistence to see this 12-year venture to its’ conclusion.

Packaging Innovation
This year saw some really exciting packaging innovations in the beer world.  First off Stone revolutionized the world of fresh and hoppy IPA’s by creating a new distribution paradigm with their “Enjoy By” IPA series.  Creating limited sized batches of fresh hoppy IPA’s with the Enjoy By date as the main feature of the label and shipping them each time to a specific and limited market was brilliant…but getting the distribution chain to cooperate with the distribution speed necessary to support this venture was miraculous.  Once again my hats off to everyone at Stone and the only thing that leaves this venture falling short for me is that Northeastern PA has not seen a drop of it yet.   Hint hint!
Cans have been all the rage for years now, but leave it to our pal Dale Katechis at Oskar Blues to take it further.  Of course the one brewery that lead the campaign for great beer in cans also lead the way with a specialty screw-top bottle-shaped can for their two Sun King collaborations Chaka and The Deuce

As imageif that wasn’t enough, Oskar Blues released what I’m proclaiming “package of the year” with their Dale’s Pale Ale 19.2oz Royal Pint CansDale Katechis himself was nice enough to send me samples of both packages, and let me tell you that they both simply feel great in your hand, and what could be better than 19.2 ounces of Dale’s Pale Ale in your hand.  As Dale himself said, “Booya!”

Honorable mentions in the imagepackaging arena go to our pal Shane Welch for the slim can he used for his Sixpoint Resin and in a surprising move I’m handing out two honorable mentions to none other than Anheuser-Busch.  First for their Bowtie shaped can (details here too) but more importantly, the can package I think will revolutionize beer can packaging in the future…their Open Ended Can.  This new package has a lot of potential, especially as it  eliminates the need for glassware on the go without forcing you to drink out of a small can or bottle opening.  Watch out for further adoption of this design coming soon.

Go WESTY Young Man
While this may not be the most amazing event of the year, what 2012 recap could conclude without some mention of the recent frenzy to buy what is regarded by some as the “best beer in the world,” Saint Sixtus Westvleteren XII.  Approved for sale in the U.S. a year ago, we followed along with the state-by-state sale locations announcement, the frenzy to buy it and of course the subsequent eBay debacle.  I’ve been asked a hundred times about this beer over the years, and while I do consider it to be a great beer, I personally don’t think ANY beer is the “best beer in the world.”  If you get a chance to try or buy some, enjoy it.  If you think the price is too high and the bottles are too rare to make it worth the work, I’d say then you and I agree.

Craft Versus Crafty

As I mentioned above, I decided not to use the word “craft” in this year’s title.  It was a tough decision for me and an even more difficult stance for me to take.  Recently the Brewers Association wrote a press release “calling out” the large breweries who were pretending to be small craft breweries in their marketing and brewing efforts.  The press release was called “Craft vs. Crafty” and it even included a grid showing off who is “craft”, who is “small” and who is “independent” in an attempt to show that drinkers DO care about who brews their beer.

I’ll admit reading this press release, I couldn’t help but feel the Brewers Association was behaving more and more like the very large marketing machines that they were complaining about…and while I absolutely understand the argument and the importance of the argument to the industry, I can’t help but think we are leaving the high-road position and heading toward the mud.

Now don’t get me wrong, I know the big guys control close to 90% of the beer market in the U.S. and the little guys fight for the remaining 10%, and even knowing that whether it is won or lost, this battle will lead to the end of many small breweries in the U.S.  So yes I know the future of “craft” beer may hang in the balance, but it’s my opinion that we underestimate both the power of the movement and the intelligence of the consumers.

As someone who gets asked over and over again what beer to drink, people are astounded when I reply that while I can recommend a good beer or two, people shouldn’t listen to me at all.  As a beer drinker I’m continually horrified when a beer “expert” tells you what to drink or better yet, when these same “experts” declare what is the best beer in the world or even the worst beer in the world.  In my opinion, no one should listen to anything we say, and instead go try a beer or two… and here’s a novel idea….Decide for Yourself!

This is where I come down firmly with the Craft vs. Crafty argument.  Drink what you like…keep an open mind…try all different styles of beer…try a beer from a large brewery….try a beer from a small brewery…and try a beer from a local brewery… and Decide for Yourself!  In the end YOU Decide what you like and You Decide who you want to give your money to.  I want the small craft breweries to thrive as much as the next beer lover, but I want them to do it from a position of strength and not from a position of charity where we hand them our money as part of the war against the big guys.  If we assume people will or people should support small breweries just because of who they are and not because of what they produce, then we’ve all forgotten what happened to the auto industry in the 1970’s.

Drink the beers you love and support the people who you feel deserve your support and your hard earned beer money.  I’m confident that support will likely go to small craft breweries for most of us, but do it for the right reasons and lets end the “us versus them” and “small versus big” dialogue and get back to just loving good beer.

As the year comes to an end I always like to bid you a Happy New Year and a wish that your 2013 will be even better.  Over the last year has grown in a way I myself never expected.  As we gain more and more readers, follower and fans, I’m continually amazed not only at how much people love great beer, but how many cool people I’ve met along the way.  We crossed over 1-million page views in September 2012, and believe it or not we’re well on our way toward 2-million already.  Our daily traffic is amazing, and our follower, friend and fan counts continue to grow rapidly.  We’ve also launched a mybeerbuzz App in the Android market place and even more social media activity on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and others to help you keep in touch.

In 2012 we took a major step toward ensuring the future of by opening our sponsorship opportunities to local and non-local sponsors.  The response has been overwhelming, however the process of securing advertisers and securing the financial stability of the website has also become a considerable challenge.  Balancing the time requirements of the website itself with the time requirements of the sponsorship building activities, all while trying to provide fair pricing has not been easy…so I will take this opportunity as well to remind everyone what a great value our sponsorship opportunities are and how large our audience is.

Our radio show has kept pace with the website and it continues to grow (and grow, and grow…).  In 2012, the WILK Friday BeerBuzz has welcomed great guests like Jim Koch from Samuel Adams, Garrett Oliver from Brooklyn Brewery, Dale Katechis from Oskar Blues, Mattson Davis from Kona, Matt Brynildson from Firestone Walker Brewing, Mark Carpenter from Anchor Brewing, Jamie Bartholomaus from Foothills, Bill Covaleski from Victory , Jaime Jurado & Fred Maier from Susquehanna Brewing, Chris Trogner from Troegs Brewing, Dave Hartmann from Long Trail, Pete Kirkwood from Shawnee Craft, Bill Moore from Lancaster Brewing, Jeremy Cowan from Shmaltz Brewing, Spike Buckowski from Terrapin, Mitch Steele from Stone , Dan Kenary from Harpoon, Brett Porter from Goose Island, Jimmy Mauric from Shiner, Brian O’Reilly from Sly Fox, Leo Orlandini from Lion Brewery and many more.

In 2 years, we’ve managed to not only win a Pennsylvania Association of Broadcasters Award but also a Pennsylvania Associated Press Award.  My thank you to Nancy Kman, John Webster, Joe Thomas and everyone else at WILK and Entercomm who make it possible to have so much fun every Friday and of course my thank you to all of our great guests.

As we say goodbye to 2012, I’m excited to see what will come next in 2013 as turns 5-years old in April and the WILK Friday BeerBuzz turns 3-years old in May.  Stay tuned as I suspect there will be some celebration in store.  On a personal note I want to thank my pal Mitch Steele from Stone Brewing.  It was really cool to receive an autographed copy of Mitch’s new IPA book but I was blown away when I saw my name in the acknowledgements.  Thank you Mitch!

To all of our listeners, readers, fans, followers and friends I say thank you and I wish you all happiness and great beer as we continue our mission to bring good beers and good people together….

About Bil Cord

Founder, owner, author, graphic designer, CEO, CFO, webmaster, president, mechanic and janitor for Producer and Co-host of the WILK Friday BeerBuzz live weekly craft beer radio show. Small craft-brewer of the craft beer news sites and one-man-band with way too many instruments to play.

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