May 24, 2013

The Magical Listical Tour | Lazy, Ass-Kissy, Effective and Odds on Bad for Beer Writing.

Roll up WE'LL RUIN EVERYTHING YOU READ, roll up for the listical tour.
Roll up TO MAKE OUR IMPRESSION RATES SUCCEED, roll up for the listical tour
The Magical Listical Tour is waiting for your clicks today,
Waiting for your clicks to pay, your clicks pay.
Yesterday a tweet of mine came full circle. (Twitter is useful.)

Bill Night went on to post at the New School Blog: PISS AND VINEGAR: 10 REASONS I HATE LISTICLES. Don't worry, there is no list, but Bill points out that it's lazy, effective and ass-kissy. On the internet, that trio is a cat pic away from having all Four Horses of the Apocalypse. 

On how the air of authority masks a lack of content:
What's wrong with making lists?  Nothing at all.  But the listicle format is so easy to churn out that many paper publications and blogs end up full of vapid, uninformed musings, conveniently shrink-wrapped into easy-to-skim numbered lists.  Slap a number on it--and a superlative like "best" or "top"--and suddenly whatever you thought of just now takes on an air of authority.  An ordered list might have some meaning if there was some data behind it, but the lists we are constantly assaulted with are nothing more than a bunch of things that happened to catch someone's attention recently.
On the proliferation of sucking up:
I think another part of the appeal is that you get to kiss a lot of asses at one time with a listicle.  In these times of social-media log-rolling, listing 186 beers will get your article 186 Facebook thumbs and Twitter retweets just from the breweries themselves.  Some percentage of the breweries' followers will go on to share the links, then you re-tweet those as they come your way, and now your listicle is bouncing off the walls of the social media echo chamber.
One thing that Bill missed and Jeff Alworth mentions in the comments is the nature of page views and impressions. Advertisers pay for number of impressions and so if you can break a piece up in 5 pieces you get five impressions instead of one. Farhad Manjoo explains all of this in a Slate article and why there is no technological reason for this type of web pagination. Slate, you will note, breaks articles across multiple pages but does have a single page link on the bottom left of page 1 on every post. Slate was also the publisher of a piece on Hops Ruining Beer. (I put that on a single page for you.) Many on the web were calling the author of that post lazy. Thirteen hundred words is not lazy. Not list lazy.

So what to do about multipage posts that are 5, 10 and 25 clicks long? I used to skip them de riguer. Enter Deslider, a webpage that parses multi-click website slideshows and presents them on one page. Now it doesn't work on The Phoenix New Times standard two page minimum click type of article but it did work for a piece on 25 Breweries to Watch. Compare the original to the deslider version.

Hat tip to Matthew Elliot for pointing out this web tool.

May 23, 2013

The Blast and the Beerious | Guest Tapping at Sleepy Dog Pub and Bistro

Just a quick note to let you all know that I am joining the beer pouring circus again tonight at the Sleepy Dog Pub and Bistro in THE GILBERT, home of beer fearing politician and AZ State Senate President, Andy Biggs. You may have seen my other pouring events documented here and here. No fancy photoshop this time, but the theme is Matt Weber's favorite movie franchise the Fast and the Furious!


I know what you are thinking. "Butthole" does sound disparaging, but note the British spelling of theater as theatre. We are looking at a fan of the stage here and of course butthole doth disparage the grand proscenium. Matt is playing the thespian in the tradition of Vin Diesel and The Rock. He hath pulled the wool over mine own eyes and yours too! He loves that flick!

Come on down and let's talk Fast and Furious. Our cast tonight:
  • Me as Vin Diesel.
  • ASHer Greg "Happy Hour Guy" Garcia as The Rock.
  • James Swann as an explosion.
  • Hop Head Fred as another explosion in slow motion.
  • Matt Weber as The love interest.
  • Jeff Prior as Another love interest.
  • Sleepy Dog's Belgian Trippel as a car that we all desire.
  • Firestone Walker Wookie Jack as a black car we all desire.

As per tradition I will be driving in late across the entire freaking valley and I will limit my glassware breakage to 1 pint glass.

Sleepy Dog Pub & Bistro
1451 E Williams Field Rd, Gilbert, AZ 85295
Phone:(480) 963-1805

May 20, 2013

Gregory Fretz of Phoenix Ale Brewery Passes at 44.

The Arizona beer community was stunned with the news of Gregory "Fretzy" Fretz passing on Saturday. Word spread from the beer tents at the Amer-CAN Canned Craft Beer Festival that Fretzy passed in his sleep after after a battle with throat cancer. It was a shock, to say the least, since Fretz had been active all during American Craft Beer Week including an open house at Phoenix Ale Brewery on Thursday. The open house announced  the operational partnership with Sonoran Brewing Company. After the festival, industry and fans gathered at the nearby Praying Monk to remember and to hear the words of others. Chuck Noll of Crescent Crown led the crowd with a moving tribute.

Fretzy had been in the beer industry since 1994 with long stints at Pyramid and Deschutes Brewery before co-founding Phoenix Ale Brewery with George Hancock. Gary Fish, President of Deschutes credits Fretzy with developing the Arizona market for brands like Black Butte Porter. Fretz was able to get Deschutes everywhere across the state and he also secured handles in some of Arizona's most iconic destinations including the El Tovar Hotel in the Grand Canyon and at (then) Bank One Ballpark.

Greg Fretz was the namesake for an unfiltered English pale ale and an unfiltered wheat with the pale ale serving as the company's flagship. Fretz was also the driving force behind the Phoenix Brewers Invitational Beer Festival held last December. It will be impossible to separate American Craft Beer Week, the Phoenix Brewers Invitational, AmeriCAN and of course Fretzy's Ales without out thinking of his gravelly voice and ebullient manner. Fretz was able to talk about his treatments with just about anyone and provided comfort to those that knew someone battling cancer. Such is the role that he played in my life.

This is a particularly difficult spring for the beer community as Arizona has lost Professor David Conz in April.

Greg is survived by his wife and two children. Arrangements and memorials have yet to be announced. Our thoughts are with them.

EDIT: Fretzy's wife Stacie has announced a fund to support the family in this dire time.
Greg was the kind of person that would say a few kind words, smile and buy you a beer if he saw that you were down. Please consider sending a few bucks their way.

May 15, 2013

Expand my what?

A pallet outside of a palate expansion emporium.

"Stop drinking fizzy yellow stuff. Expand your pallet!!!!" - Source, the google.

I often see "craft beer" as a rallying point to expand one's experience in terms of flavor. Seven times out of ten*, it seems that I'm being literally asked to enlarge the wooden skids in my figurative warehouse (wherehouse / were-house).

A portable platform on which goods can be moved, stacked, and stored, esp. with the aid of a forklift.
palette - paillasse

The roof of the mouth, separating the cavities of the nose and the mouth in vertebrates.
A person's appreciation of taste and flavor.
taste - savour - savor - flavour - flavor - relish

A thin board or slab on which an artist lays and mixes colors.
The range of colors used by a particular artist or in a particular picture.

There seems to be a natural tendency for this plea to be followed with hit-you-over-the-head descriptions of beers that are barrel aged, bourbon and hop bombs. Presumably, expanding your palate involves detecting the obvious.

Here's another thought. Expanding your palate could also mean improving your sensory on very subtle flavors and the language used to communicate them to others. I'm pleased to see that two valley beer writers have done just that in recent days. Alyssa is relating here experiences on the low numbered BJCP styles (1, 2, 3) brilliantly while Zach smiths out Sunbru's delicate flavors here.

Fizzy yellow stuff. Can you taste the green apple? Sulphur? Cereal? Corn? Expand it man, expand it!

*Made up stat.

May 3, 2013

The Session #75 | Business of Brewing

In this installment of The Session, Chuck Lenatti of AllBrews asks that we reflect on the Business of Brewing. He makes that observation that anyone that has brewed has probably considered going pro and he asks that we provide insight to those considering taking the leap. I facetiously tackled some of this in an April Fools post, but that was as much a poke at myself than at anyone else.

I am an observer and student of the business of beer. Let it be known, however,  that I have made in excess of $0.00 selling it or promoting it. I also have an extensive background in opening exactly 0 breweries. I am currently consulting no one on their new East Coast brewery. I will also resort to semantic trickery, leaps in logic and made-up statistics to win arguments. Here is my sage advice:
  • Decide right now if you have the aptitude and the desire for public speaking. No? Then shut up. Hire someone or find a partner that will do this for you. You are making, selling and promoting your business with everything you say, everything that you write and anything that has your name or logo on it. Everything you produce that isn't beer is also a marketing piece for your beer.
  • Have that gift for gab? Maybe also consider shutting up. You might not be as charming as you think. Get an outside evaluation.
  • Do not solicit investments on the internet. There are rules. Google it.
  • Speaking of Google, use it so that you don't run into a trademark issue. 
  • Once you are on a clear track to start up and you're adamant about social media, please note Rule 5.
  • As a start up, a social media strategy is not required. It may also be a time suck. 
  • All of the see-and-be-seen events with the craft beer world, the facebook mugging with other brewers, "the research" in a glass... These things do not write your business plan or cut your floor drains.
  • As a business owner, you are a host. You are trading in hospitality (if you are a brewpub) or your product engenders hospitality (if you are a production brewery). When someone is visiting you, they are coming to your home. Are you not that guy? Find someone to run the front of the house who is.
  • Have an elevator pitch that focuses on the role of your business in the community. Talk about employment, economic growth, sense of community and how your business will be transformative. You are the driver that takes them to the place we all want to go to. Making high quality beer is the gasoline that runs the vehicle. Hat tip to Michael Fairbrother of Moonlight Meadery for that wonderful analogy.
  • You are going to make mistakes. Some of them will be big and it may be embarrassing. You might even compound on the problem by saying or doing something defensively and hastily. Stop. The mistakes and problems are hardly ever the reason you do not succeed. It's often how you respond to the problem that makes a difference.
  • Don't read reviews. Get someone to provide you unbiased and unemotional feedback on a regular basis. If you must respond to criticism, answer directly, provide concise information and supply an opportunity to address it off line. Move on.
  • Ignore quality at your peril.
  • Treat your water. It's not olde tyme beer anymore.
  • Kickstarter. Make it a tiny portion of your business plan if you decide to use it. At best, it's a way to move some t-shirts and show that you can put together a campaign. At worst, it can look like begging.  It's better to use Kickstarter as KickFinisher. Use it as part of the run-up to you opening.
  • Your friends. Your friends are your friends whether you make barrel aged unicorn sunshine or an amber ale. You are not making beer for your friends. You are making beer to stay alive, after that you are making beer for you.
  • Hire a brewer.
  • Hire a brewer.
  • You are far better off partnering with a lawyer, an accountant or a bicycle store owner than another homebrewer.
  • Focus on local. All of your initial resources and challenges are local. Your largest regulatory issues will arise from a municipal inspector, not the state or the federal government. The ultimate hurdle in selecting a site will be gaining neighborhood support. Your customers will not be your friends or family or the beer geeks across town, they will be your new friends and family in your new neighborhood.
  • You are responsible for educating your customers, not Greg Koch, not Sam, not Vinnie. Most of your new customers never heard of these guys, nor do they care.
  • As much as you want it to be, "all about what's in the glass", it's not. In fact, what happens outside of the glass is even more important if your beers are solid. Remember, it's hospitality and differentiating your beers from everyone else.
  • Someone may tell you that your beer sucks. They may be inarticulate, imprecise and rude. They may also be right.
  • Do blind tastings of your beer versus others in the same style. Be brutally honest.
  • Is your brewpub a warm and inviting place? Is the service good? Congratulation you're better off than most other service industries and you have delicious beer. 
  • Every beer has a story. Learn how to tell it.
  • Aspire to be more than a brewer or brewery owner. Be a community leader.
  • The news media loves beer stories that don't involve drinking and b-roll of people drinking. (Really, it's true.) Remember the elevator pitch. 
  • Tired of hearing business advice from armchair brewmasters and homebrewers? Tough. Shut up and smile or hire someone that does it better than you.