Beer is more fun to drink than to read about, but reading about it is still pretty great. Here are the six best things I read about beer this year.
“Introducing Jester King 2016 SPON — Méthode Gueuze” by Jeffrey Stuffings
In this blog post, Jeffrey Stuffings, the founder of Jester King Brewery in Austin, Texas, meticulously and transparently documents his brewery’s three year-plus journey making its first traditional lambic– and gueuze-inspired spontaneous ale. Together with Jean Van Roy of Cantillon, Stuffings coined the designation Méthode Gueuze to describe this type of beer when it’s made outside of its traditional home in Brussels and the Pajottenland. The post is a revelation, and Méthode Gueuze is certain to be a moniker and method adopted by many other spontaneous ale brewers in the years to come.
“When Did Rarity Start to Equal Greatness in Beer?” By Aaron Goldfarb
In this piece for PUNCH, Goldfarb mines the Wayback Machine to track the evolution of BeerAdvocate’s “Top Beers” list, beginning in 2001. In that year, the top-rated beers—Chimay red, Ayinger doppelbock—would these days be considered tragically unhip. By 2005, exceptionally rare beers like Three Floyds Dark Lord and Russian River Pliny the Younger were already dominating the list, and the correlation between rarity and praise as only gotten stronger since then, leading to fifteen-hundred dollar black market bottles.
“Foraged Beer: The Latest Trend in Craft Brewing” by William Bostwick
There were plenty of foraged-ingredient beer trend pieces this year, but William Bostwick’s in The Wall Street Journal was one of the earliest—and the best. Bostwick tracks how small breweries like Scratch and Fonta Flora are leading the foraged beer charge with ales reflecting extreme sense of place and inspiring bigger players like Deschutes and Dogfish Head to make commercial-scale examples.
“What ‘Selling Out’ Is Actually About” by Jacob McKean
This point-by-point takedown of a Serious Eats piece called “What ‘Selling Out’ Allows a Craft Brewery To Do” by of Modern Times Beer in San Diego gives an independent brewers perspective on the hot topic of craft brewery acquisitions. McKean convincingly argues—with anecdotal but specific figures, dollar amounts, and examples—why many of the claims posed in the original Serious Eats article and in other pro-Anheuser-Busch InBev pieces range from tenuous to flat-out false. His conclusion is unequivocal: “Selling to a macro-brewer is the fastest, simplest way to turn equity in a craft brewery into cash. That’s the only reason to sell to them. Anyone who claims otherwise is full of shit.”
“Attempting to Understand the Reinheitsgebot” by Jeff Alworth
2016 marked the five-hundredth anniversary of one of the most misunderstood tenets of beer—the Bavarian “beer purity law,” or Reinheitsgebot. Jeff Alworth, writing in All About Beer, expertly unpacks and demystifies much of the bullshit and misinformation surrounding the decree while tracing its impact on brewers, beer styles, and drinkers over the last five centuries.
It’s no secret that craft beer is dominated by white males. But just how homogeneous is it? In this post on his personal blog, beer writer Bryan Roth compiles statistics on craft drinkers’ race, gender, and income and ultimately criticizes the Brewers Association—the leading trade organization for the craft beer industry—for not doing more to advocate for a greater inclusion. Turns out the Brewers Association was listening—in November the BA’s craft beer program director, Julia Herz, responded with a six-point plan to better track and advocate for increased diversity among its members.