April 29, 2013

Rock Bands, Taxis and the Three Fates

It turns out there is a shortage of cool rock band names according to the Wall Street Journal. It seems hard to comprehend until the facts are laid out. Think of all the commercially successful bands that you liked and wrote on your Trapper-Keeper. Now add the horribly short window of your reign of coolness. Think of all the DJs, YouTubers, Guitar Heroes and Karaoke "stars" too that now get online and publish to My Space and Apple Garageband.

Some stats:
  • A company called Rovi tracks about 1.4 Million artists names;
  • Rovi adds an average of 6,521 new names a month; 
  • Top band variant names are Bliss (keep this one in mind), Mirage, Gemini, Legacy, Paradox and Rain.
Money quotes:
"Every other name is taken," Mr. Jones explains. "Think of a great band name and Google it, and you'll find a French-Canadian jam band with a MySpace page."
The available supply of punchy one- or two-word band names is dwindling. So, many acts are resorting to the unwieldy or nonsensical.
Among more than 1,900 acts expected in March at the South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, are bands with the names And So I Watch You From Afar, and Everybody Was In the French Resistance...Now! The f-word is part of 100 band names in a media database maintained by Gracenote, a unit of Sony Corp. that licenses digital entertainment technology.
It's a real problem with C&D's and legal challenges coming from big companies as well as competing bands both new and old.

Scottsdale Fate
Is there reason for the beer world to take caution? With 2500 or so breweries and 1000's more in planning it seems like there is plenty of room for creativity. The Brewery Collectibles Club of America tracks 2250 or so US breweries. BeerMe lists 14,157 breweries and 41,753 beers. There are also untold thousands of homebrewers bandying about their monikers on bottles and online. So why is it then, that we have a Fate Brewing Co here in Scottsdale and there is also one in Boulder? The beer world is starting to see C&D letters from other industries. Who can forget the Monster / Vermonster controversy? Or the Santan / Sam Adams glassware bout? Will we see brewery names like strongly encrypted passwords or long phrases like those at South by Southwest?

Imagine 1337@l3Wl_lrk5 or Tortoise Brand Pot Scrubbing Cleaner's Brewing or some phrase from Ipsum Lorem Brewing. Maybe we should ask taxi drivers. From the WSJ article.
Boulder Fate
"A band name should pass the taxi-driver test: You shouldn't have to tell him twice"
Speaking of taxi cab driver advice, Stan Hieronymus re-tweeted some craft beer advice from ESPN's Darren Rovell.
Fate No More
If I'm cabbing in Phoenix, it's generally the "to home" leg. It would be uncommon for me to catch a lift from the Sky Harbor airport and say, "To Fate". Phoenix isn't much of a cab town, so I'm curious if I'd end up in Scottsdale, back at passenger departures or at Bliss at what was once formerly Johnny Chu's Fate.

April 22, 2013

Chow Bella Continues Phoning It In | Misses Top Local Stories

This is by no means the first time. We've chronicled the problem before. In a week where we lost Dr Dave Conz, the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild hosted a Springfest in Tucson, Four Peaks had its 16th Anniversary Festival and Ed Sipos announces the pre-sale of a landmark book, Brewing Arizona | A Century of Beer in the Grand Canyon State, here is what the New Times chooses to write about in the beer world.

The Elephant Poop Beer: This was blog fodder everywhere and passed around social media. It has no relation to anything going on in the beer world here, but if you're going to write about it why not get a take on it from Cartel since it is a beer brewed from coffee and those guy make beer and coffee. In any case, you might want to link back to your own bad selves since Zach Fowle wrote about Mikkeller Beer Geek Brunch Weasel. Zach, the strongest link in your chain, wrote about the civet cat poop beer in 2010.

The Bud Bowtie Can: Another non-story which you chose to make a story. Bella, you're being hipster while invoking hipster. Here's an idea. How about getting some press over to Dapper + Dash, the local bowtie purveyor. They're smack dab in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign. ($1600 to go with 50 or so hours left.) They've done craft beer events with Tempe Handlebar and Four Peaks. You blew it. You could have re-directed Bud bowtie ire into local good.

Beer Brain Science: Hello? Beer For Brains? Are you guys writing for people that aren't on facebook? Another re-cycled presser and a blown opportunity.

On a more positive track, the New Times enlisted Minerva Orduño Rincón, the founder of Muñeca Mexicana handcrafted food to write about Mexican Beers, "3 Tips for Avoiding Beer Tragedies of the Mexican Variety". It's a topic that needs some attention given that almost all Mexican traditional or inspired restaurants seem to feel the need to automatically include 5 or 6 Mexican macro offerings at the expense of something that actually makes sense flavor-wise.

Unfortunately, the piece relies on snark and humor. We only get hints about what the actual story should be:
I would love to be able to share more on the new crop of Mexican micro-breweries working to develop Mexican beer to include more variety than the pilsners and lagers brought by German and Polish immigrants to Mexico during the 19th century, tasty as they are. Sadly, these beers, including the awesomely named Cervecería Minerva are not readily available in the United States.
That, is in fact, the real story we want to read about. How about an actual discussion about the duopoly that is Mexican beer? Provide some insights on how the regional breweries were gobbled up by Grupo Modelo or Cervecería Cuauhtémoc-Moctezuma/FEMSA. There is nothing wrong with Negra Modelo, Pacifico, Corona, or Tecate in context, but please provide that context. Minerva write that piece please. We'll get you some Mexi-craft beers. We know people.

Finally, Zach continues to write cogent pieces on new releases. He provides context, history and makes reviews interesting. It's not easy work, beer reviews. Most come off as dry or pretentious in the tasting notes. As an old guy, I didn't need so many 80's references in his last piece on the Class of 88, but alas today's newest drinkers were born in the 90's. There is always a place for a Fred Eckhardt reference in a Barleywine review. Some day maybe someone at the NT will also appreciate Fred is also a Sake expert.

Update: Great sounding beer and Chinese food event. Forgets to list beer pairings in a beer pairings? Is a poop reference de rigueur for beer stories now?

April 18, 2013

Bite My Shiny Metal (gl)Ass | Are We Headed for a Growler Showdown?

In December, I stopped by a Prescott brewery for a visit and noticed that they were selling and filling Hydroflask growlers with the brewery logo. From a distance they look ceramic because of a charcoal powder coating, but they are double walled stainless steel. I asked someone behind the bar about them and let them the know according to the law, growlers had to me made of glass. That law is Title 4 of the Arizona Revised Statutes and it was the law that opened growler fills to retailers and bars. It states plainly:
4-244.  32
c) A Bar, Beer And Wine Bar, Liquor Store, Beer And Wine Store Or Domestic Microbrewery Licensee Who Dispenses Beer Only In A Clean Glass Container With A Maximum Capacity That Does Not Exceed One Gallon And Not For Consumption On The Premises ...
We joked about how stupid the law was. I even told him that liquor agents were specifically asked about stainless steel and ceramics at a distributor's Q&A and the agents held firm to the letter of the law. He shrugged and that was the end of it. I'm hoping that I did not come across as a smug flatlander, but I have to admit that I marveled at the seemingly under-the-radar nature of rural Arizona. 

I've known one other Arizona brewery to fill stainless containers in the North Country. I suspect others are filling for a few customers. I know that every brewery has an interest in allowing their use. It seems silly that the law precludes us from using the vessel of choice for brewers across the world. They may have used glass lined tanks in Latrobe or the old A-1 Brewery, but these days stainless fermentation tanks are industry standard. The material of the vessel can't be a health and safety issue. I defy anyone to tell me how ceramic is materially different than glass in terms of packaging and why the state has an interest in specifying one over the other.

One only need look at the success of the can in brewing and look at the glass strewn highways and parks of the state to realize that the stainless steel growler is going to be a  necessary part of outdoor living in Arizona. I guarantee that you will not see shards of steel from a broken hydroflask on the banks of Woods Canyon Lake. No one is going to abandon the metal husk of a growler on a picnic table.

Yesterday things got interesting. I saw a post on Instragram. A valley brewery is selling the shiny metal versions of the hydroflask. I was told that people are getting them filled. There is absolutely no way that the practice will go unnoticed given the brewery's size and the scope of their social media outreach.

So what is going on here? Has there been an enforcement agreement? Is this a test case? An act of civil disoBEERdience? A miscommunication?

I'm unable to get answers from my usual channels. I am headed to the brewery to find out.

Advice: Buy one. Get it filled. This growler will last you a lifetime. You will save about $8 in shipping. You will hand it down to your children like an heirloom (or lose it like a pair of sunglasses.) Don't expect everyone to honor filling it. If at such time the state mandates that they cannot be filled where you bought it, then fill it with homebrew. At some point the law will be changed to something clear and rational.

Until then, flaunt your pair of steel family jewels.

April 17, 2013

Last Dave Conz Interview | It's Never Too Late to Learn or be Inspired by Dr. Dave

Yesterday afternoon, I re-tweeted a condolence for Dr David Conz, who we learned passed away on April 12. It happened to catch the eye of James Spencer of Basic Brewing Radio. James had just finished editing an interview that he recorded with Dave on March 29.

It's a small world that we live in.

I've posted the links to the podcast below. It's good to hear his voice again and see the world through his eyes one last time.

April 18, 2013 - David Conz Tribute
A conversation with the late David Conz, Arizona State University professor and friend to homebrewers and good beer. Introduction by Rob Fullmer, president of the Arizona Society of Homebrewers.

April 15, 2013

We Have Lost Dave Conz

On Friday, we lost a great man, Dr David Conz. Dave was a warm, personable and engaging figure that moved between intellectual and social circles as freely, easily and simply as a smile. When I met Dave, he was introduced to me as Dr Beer, an Arizona State University (ASU) professor with a CV of varied disciplines that defied logic, that is, until you met and spoke to him. He made it all make sense. His intellectual pursuits led him to sit comfortably between areas of knowledge and learning--an area where he could be a teacher and a student at the same time.

Dave and I had an affinity in looking at beer as a lens through which the world could be better understood, though he obviously stated it much more clearly than I ever hoped to. We were not close friends, but that was only a limitation of time. He is someone that I saw my own potential in. I wanted to treat people like he treated people. I wanted to understand things like he did. Over the years, we discussed a great many projects. This was the year that we were going to push forward. This was the year that our close work would further cement our bonds.

Dave began a class at ASU that he one day hoped to turn into a program: BIS 402, The Cultural and Chemical History of Beer
“This interdisciplinary course traces the development of beer from ancient cultures to the multinational mega-corporations and craft homebrewers of today. We will examine the social, cultural, legal, biochemical, physiological and business dimensions of beer throughout history while integrating students’ areas of concentration. The class will feature expert guest lecturers, field trips to local breweries, and an optional hands-on, at-home (off-campus) “lab” component where students will have the opportunity to make, bottle, analyze and sample their own batches of beer (off-campus).”
It was a wildly popular class and the students that I met were fascinated with the scope and depth of the materials that their professor presented. Notably, the beer industry took interest and anecdotally, I know of many direct hires from the graduates of this class. There were placements at Sierra Nevada, Santan Brewing and Crescent Crown to name a few. I had the pleasure of guest lecturing a class on the beer culture in Phoenix that included segments on urban planning and adaptive re-use.

You'll note in the course description above, that "off-campus" is used a few times and this speaks to the uneasy relationship that ASU has with beer. Dave's passing has, for the foreseeable future, placed the class and program at an end. Many are vowing to bring the program back, but that will be a discussion for another time.

I will remember Dave as a colleague and a friend and someone that will continue inspire me for as long as I live. So too will every one of his friends.

Last night, the beer community met at one of Dave's local favorites, Taste of Tops. As many as 100 packed into the small bar and there were easily 80 raised glasses for round of drinks bought by the Arizona Craft Brewers Guild. Among the brewers, homebrewers, distributors and beer fans were many of Dave's colleagues and students. There were also representatives of the many sides of Dave, the friends that knew him as:

The Drummer
The Biodiesel Scientist
The Dancer
The Poet
The Traveler
The Professor
The Motorcycle Mechanic
The Sociologist
The Pilot
The Philosopher
The Lover
The Skater
The Vegetarian
The Chicken Farmer
The Homebrewer

We will all miss him.

UPDATE: My friend James Spencer recorded an interview with Dave on March 29.

April 11, 2013

Brewing Arizona | A Web Found Sneek Peak

Will this be the cover of the Ed Sipos book, "Brewing Arizona"? You can catch up with Ed at these the following events and ask him:
April 20: Arizona Craft Brewers Guild Springfest, (Tucson, AZ)
May 18: Ameri-Can Canned Craft Beer  Festival, (Scottsdale, AZ)
I ran across a design blog post in February (see below) and ever since it's been difficult to contain my enthusiasm for the book release. I've read the manuscript (more than once) and have been dying to talk about it. It's going to be a great moment when more people know the history of brewing in our state. Some of the very same challenges and opportunities exist today as they did in Territorial times. I think there are going to be some surprises in the book for some people that remember the 1990's craft beer boom. The pictures of the A-1 Brewery are simply outstanding.

You can see this possible cover and a few others that may or may not make the cut at the housedesign llc blog. Good affordable design is something that all breweries have access to now unlike the 1860's (and let's be honest, even the 1990's).

April 3, 2013

Hey Chow Bella, Let's Avert the Slow Motion Disaster That Was Last Year.

Hey remember last Spring when you, the Phoenix New Times Chow Bella Blog, created a 100 Tastemakers list and posted a new entry every day leading up to their "Best Of" picks?

That's coming up again for you. I have some advice.

I'm probably the only freak who followed day-by-day to see who from the beer world would be on that list. I've held on to my disappointment in you for a year.

Here is that complete list for anyone interested but let me save my readers some trouble. There were no beer people on the list or at least their beer side was not acknowledged (more on that later). Disclaimer: I have a few friends on the list, I happen to agree with many of the choices. I was happy to learn about the folks that I do not know. Little did I know it, but The Tastemakers list was a sign of disaster to come.

You can make the argument that it's a food blog. Then why have folks on it where wine figure so prominently in their background and no beer personalities? Why have two 2 mixologists and ignore that there are some 35 breweries in the state? Arizona has breweries that have won Great American Beer Fest and World Beer Cup Medals. Our breweries employ 1600 workers and are part of an industry that has many more thousand beer-centric front line professionals. Surely there is room for a brewer, distributor professional or a Cicerone server on that list of 100.  The beer community does beer dinners you know. They collaborate with chefs. Some of them are homebrewers. You could mention that.

Chow Bella, don't do this for me. Don't do this for your beer friends or for any other reason than this--your beer credibility sucks and you need to do something about it.

Bella, you have a blind spot and you don't even know it. The Tastemakers list was the tell that you're over your head. In June, you listed Cartel's Jason Silberschlag and we couldn't be happier. Except this... at the time of your writing, Jason was hip deep OPENING A BREWERY and YOU DIDN'T MENTION IT. In July we noticed, that you eliminated some beer categories from the popular vote. All that did was encourage folks to nominate breweries for Best Sports Bar and so on. See, people (readers and ad-clickers) that take part in you poll like beer.

Bella, you have a Certified Cicerone on your staff. He is your best beer resource is he is relegated to the sidelines. All that you have your Cicerone do is beer reviews. Did you know that a core discipline of a Cicerone is to talk about food and beer pairings? Beer and food pairings in restaurants, imagine! See how you could work that into your blog? He's not going to make some of the rookie mistakes I've seen your other writers make. Maybe you should let him edit a story if it involves beer. Maybe if a place features beer, wine and cocktails, you should ask your reviewers to reflect on all of the beverages and not just cocktails.

That your Cicerone works at a beer bar isn't going to bias his opinions on restaurants. I've heard this is your concern--a conflict of interest. You should note that his place of business does not even serve food. Perhaps you're afraid he'll do what tastemakers do and challenge the ancient thinking on beer and dining. Maybe he'll write about the crappy beer list at one of your favorite places. (You know it's crappy too.) Maybe you're going for hipster thing wherein you're so cool you have a beer guy but you don't even acknowledge beer exists in restaurants. That's for you to work out I guess. Alas, you are not alone when it comes to misrepresenting beer. I'll give you some credit. I think the Republic is just lazy.

Bella, you need to do this for you or you'll end up handing out another brewing award to a place that doesn't actually brew beer. You put those business owners in a horrible position of having to accept an award they knew was the  result of your willful igonorance.

April 2, 2013

Evo, Ovo, Cervisia

My friend Evo Terra is a seriously interesting man. It's probably a crime that he has not been mentioned in this blog before. Last October, he subsisted on a diet of sausage and craft beer losing 18 pounds. In April, he began his quest to eat nothing but eggs and craft beer for 30 days.

Evo is a hop head. An IPA man. He's asked me about egg and beer pairings and I regret to inform him that wheat beers, lighter Belgian styles like wit are the classic pairings.

Fortunately, just about every beer that he likes will overpower the egg and I'm sure he's fine with that.

Cheers Evo! Please stay downwind of me.

April 1, 2013

For Immediate Release - Arizona Frontier Brewery Consultants

On behalf of 6 other industry principals, I would like to announce the formation of Arizona Frontier Brewery Consultants. We represent a new kind of company that will leverage new media, new technology and old school strategy. AFBC seeks to identify and monetize your passion. We will create strategic partnerships between beer fans and breweries to propel Arizona Breweries into the National spotlight

I have been hired on as the Public Relations Director for AFBC and I will be the only employee that will not remain anonymous. AFBC is comprised of industry professionals with over 100 years of experience. These individuals will retain their strategic positions working behind the scenes. Our agile strategy will allow us to utilize their existing report-to relations to unknowingly further AFBC goals.

If you are a brewery in planning we can work with your lack of professional brewing experience. Using our Manu-fast Destiny Plan™, our team will leapfrog your company over the brewing process. Our contract brewery partners can help you take your brand concept to market quickly by using our catalog of 15 base styles and combining them with our database of flavor variations. Additionally, we have 3 extreme barrel flavors to blend with your "catch-ily named beer".
Base Styles*
IPA Double and a Half
Russian Imperial Stout
Imperial Stout or Porter
Porter / Stout / Brown (varies by concentration)
BarleyWine II
Extreme Session
Quiet Storm Imperial Blond
Wheat Clean
Gateway Pale/Wheat
Wheat Clovey
Wheat Banana
*We can make any of these in Black

Extreme Barrel Series
Big Oak™
Bourbon Bomb™
Database of Flavors  (sample)
Hoppy Profile
Hoppy Profile Citrus
Hoppy Profile Pine
Hoppy Profile (Wincingly Flavorless Bitter)
Chocolate (ladies)
Chinese Five Spice
Poultry Seasoning (Belgian)
Plate of Shrimp
and many more
In addition to these combinations we can blend with our current clientele to get you flavors of buttered toast, nail polish remover, cabbage and feet.
Flagship? You don't need a stinking Flagship.
All of your beers are Specialty Beers with the AFBC way!
AFBC firmly believes that there is still some mileage left in the collaboration game. We'll pair your second line employees with the second line employees of restaurants, bars, retailers and bloggers. There is a remarkable synergy to be drawn from pairing your keg washers with the dishwashers of the many five star resorts in Arizona. Also consider the 10 fold jump start you will get by having a blogger pre-review her collaboration beer with you.

We have partnered with the Ventura Media Group to do celebrity collaborations. VMG has well placed niche C-listers in music (Stryper), film (Ted McGinley), television (Ted McGinley) and internet (Bad Luck Brian). Ventura Media Group also holds the posthumous rights to Jan Michael Vincent (in pre-negotiation) and Patrick Swayze (ladies).

Our team has gathered together the minimum number of reviewers to qualify for ratings on Rate Beer and Beer Advocate. This team has special access to your Limitless Limited Release Program™. Our distribution network insures that your beers will always be available to the AFBC Tastemakers. We ensure top quality reviews by removing the bottom quartile from the program.
As your inventory becomes scarce, our AFBC consultants unveil the 4-Ounce Growler only program and the "We're gearing up for cans" rumor  Using our real estate team, we'll concoct a second production brewery story.

4 Ounce Growler - Sharable
Many craft breweries are afraid to make sexy woman advertisements. We will go there.

Brand Concept
We will work with your bad pun, Arizona place name or other dog concept and your crappy logo. You need to keep your identity and we're powerless to fix that. We can't compete with your relatives and their "shop" skills.

Beer Tourism
Haven't got the funds to start a brewery or have the initiative or discipline to create a business plan? The AFBC has a Beer Tourism plan that will keep you in the social media spotlight. We'll whisk you to every festival, every event, every conference. We'll let you name drop the kinds of beer that you'll supposedly make. Hypothetical collaborations, yes of course. Our typical campaign lasts about 18 months. You'll drink plenty of free beer and all you have to do is make the occasional homebrew.

Arizona Frontier Brewery Consultants (AFBC), founded in April of 2013 utilizes the experience of 6 industry professionals and everyone that reports to them in their real jobs. Rob Fullmer, the Public Relations Director is their sole spokesman and point of contact. AZBC has no website, it has no Twitter or Facebook accounts. If you have a problem...if no one else can help...and if you can find them...maybe you can hire...The AFBC.

EDIT: This is, of course a hoax in celebration of April Fools Day. Here are some other's I found.

Bonus Edit:
In luck too good to be true, I found that the Papago sign was taken down for a replacement.

I captioned it thusly:

Breaking. The Tohono O'odam tribe of Arizona also known as the Papago tribe C&D @PapagoBrewing. Immediate takedown.
I even got some help form Papago principle Johnny. Screenshots redacted to protect the innocent.