Well, whatd’yaknow? It’s official! The New York Times DealBook blog reports today that Anheuser-Busch InBev will finally be purchasing the other half of Grupo Modelo for a cool $20.1 billion. I use the word “finally” because this was being considered way back in 2008. But a good deal just takes time, right?

Back in July 2008, Grupo Modelo’s stock price was hovering just below the 50 mark. Last month, its price was double that, and the recent rumors of a sale have boosted it even higher. Years ago, there was sabre-rattling over remaining independent, which most folks chalked up to trying to inflate the eventual sale price. The numbers you need to know, according to DealBook’s Andrew Ross Sorkin, are that A-BInBev “will pay $9.15 for each share of Grupo Modelo, a 30 percent premium to the company’s closing share price on June 22 before the deal was first reported. The brewers said the deal would create a company with combined annual revenue of $47 billion with operations in 24 countries and 150,000 employees.”

Because Grupo Modelo also had a 50% stake in Crown Imports, LLC (which handles importing, distributing, and marketing in the US), it will sell its half to its joint venture partner, Constellation Brands. Interestingly, they’re rolling up Dirección de Fábricas, a bottle manufacturer that mainly supplies Grupo Modelo, into the corporate structure.

Despite drastic wealth disparity within Mexico, its economic strength is only growing due to its geography and position as an emerging Western market, based on external desire for its natural resources (oil) and steady internal consumer demand. The World Bank predicts steady growth over time and a closing of the income gap within the country. From a brewing perspective, if you combine that demand with the aggregation of related goods and services (as in, bottle manufacturing), and you have another fine example of Carlos Brito’s continuing quest to make A-BInBev the leanest, meanest brewing conglomerate in the world.

What does this mean for the price of your Corona this summer? Hard to say, but you can rest assured that A-BInBev is dogged in its aggressive approach to maintaining top billing in an ever shrinking global industrial brewing market.

First, let’s talk pubs.

My good friend Velky Al over at Fuggled has been conducting a series of guest pieces around pub culture, asking writers (including myself) to pontificate on their local and what it means to them. You can check out my take here, or view the entire lineup thus far here. It’s been a pleasure reading perspectives from across the globe regarding the fabled public house, and, as with all of Fuggled, it’s certainly worth taking the time to read (preferably with pint in hand!).

Second, we get to some housekeeping.

I’ve gone ahead and made some updates to the Beer in Virginia page, as well as tidying up links and other things around the blog to make it a touch less cluttered. You may not notice a huge difference, but what you find should be somewhat helpful and relatively accurate. As always, feel free to visit the About page and drop me a line if you’ve got some info you’d like to see updated.

You’ve got to feel sorry for Jim Koch.

He straddles the line on a lot of things. He’s considered a pioneer in the beer industry from his early days of building Sam Adams, but somehow a sellout due to his success (which didn’t just happen overnight). The Boston Beer Company’s operations have been criticized for the practice of contract brewing, then in a way vindicated by the same success that resulted from that strategy.

Lately, there has been concern around the Brewers Association and defining “craft” beer. In an effort to salvage the wreckage of a leaky definition, the barrel capacity for “craft” breweries creeps higher and higher to retain the membership and support of the nationally distributed breweries that aren’t quite pumping out Anheuser-Busch quantities yet.

But regardless of your opinions on wordsmithing as it relates to the Boston Beer Company and its peers, Samuel Adams knows how to make good beer, and reliably so.

Perhaps this recent whinging has played into their latest marketing maneuver, the cleverly titled Small Batch Series.

As I write this, I sip their Tasman Red, a self-styled “Red IPA.” Is it more of an Imperial Amber? Could be, but I don’t really care to open that can of worms. I’ve mostly gotten out of the practice of posting beer reviews, partly because there are so many nowadays and also because you likely won’t read them anyway. But since you’ve come this far in the post, I shan’t disappoint.

Tasman Red is a crystal-clear, deeply ruby-colored beer with a profuse amount of foamy head that exhibits remarkable retention. It’s incredibly well balanced despite some roasty malt traits and generous hopping. Think Black IPA, only red and not so damned bitter and divergent in flavor.

If I’m to assume that the stars of the show are the Topaz and Galaxy hops hailing from Tasmania, they’re akin to good actors:  they make their presence known, impress while they’re in the limelight without hamming it up, and don’t linger too long so as to become obnoxious. Complexity and balance are evident throughout, and to top it all off, even the label’s artwork draws you in.

So, if you’re not too hung up on a brewery’s capacity and what it means to produce a “craft” beer, I’d recommend giving this one a shot within a reasonable amount of time before the hops fade. If you are preoccupied with the definition, then, I dunno… start a nanobrewery?

A guy once told me he saw the phrase “There are no windmills in Fort Collins” on a bumper sticker.

I wasn’t sure if he was full of shit, so I Googled it. No results. Now, I still can’t accurately determine whether this individual is indeed full of said shit, but I can take the gist of what he was saying about Colorado’s own New Belgium Brewing and run with it.

He’s from North Carolina, a state in which New Belgium has been distributed for quite some time, so what does that tell you? But the fact that the brewery has expanded into Virginia should also tell you something. It should tell you that as craft beer’s slice of the overall beer market’s pie grows, there will be some big winners.

Set aside your opinions of an environmentally-friendly organization shipping its product from the Rockies to the Appalachians. There’s another reason New Belgium’s entry into the Virginia beer market should be astonishing: their method of expansion.

When New Belgium decided they wanted their product on the shelves of beer stores in Virginia, they didn’t write pleading letters, make a slew of persistent phone calls, or draft emails at two-thirty in the morning begging distributors in the commonwealth to carry their product. No, they walked into this state with a team of experts, asking those distributors one question, “what can you do for us?”

One has to realize that the game has changed since the days of yore. A “craft” brewery such as New Belgium can indeed have the upper hand in negotiations for getting their beer to market. They scout their prospective targets, research the hell out of it, listen to distributor after distributor pitch a gimmick as to why they would be the best suited to carry such a mighty brand, and then deliver. These guys do their homework. Brands can have cachet. And as long as people keep buying, they’ll keep brewing.

No longer is it just the guy down the street with a mash paddle and a dream. It’s serious business, and the craft breweries that are thriving on a larger scale have figured that out. Trust me, before this thing went down, people were rolling out the red carpet for these guys. There were meetings all over town here in Richmond, and among the people who are legally entitled to be the middleman, the anticipation was high. Everyone knew it would be a cash cow, but the problem with that is the heifer needs a lot of attention because it wants to keep growing.

Fact of the matter is, customers had a relative target date as to when they’d be on the shelves in Virginia. Demand was there. It was just a matter of time before the brewery dictated the terms of the arrangement.

Maybe there are no windmills in Fort Collins because they’ve got no need to tilt at them. In a quixotic twist of fate, they’re now calling the shots.

I had it all typed up and ready to go, but something was keeping me from pulling the trigger…

Now that World Beer Festival Richmond has been canceled for 2011, I don’t know if it’s even worth posting. I’ll let you be the judge of that.

In 2009, All About Beer magazine announced, somewhat furtively, that they would be bringing their renowned World Beer Festival to Richmond that summer. When I heard the news, I drifted back to my time wandering the Durham Bulls Athletic Park, enjoying rare beers at timed tappings and soaking up all the information I could, a truly unforgettable experience. The excitement in Richmond was palpable. The small but growing beer scene around town became electric with the thought of rows upon rows of stands offering exotic and interesting brews from faraway lands. And all this, right in our own backyard.

We had arrived.

Naturally, we set up a tasting to celebrate. It was originally planned to coincide with the festival. The idea, aside from bringing together the usual suspects from around town, was that the tasting would have also served the purpose of offering out-of-town participants and the All About Beer crew a chance to join us and see what Richmond’s beer scene was truly all about:  homebrewers, commercial brewers, distributors, retailers, beer lovers, and weirdos. An eclectic cast, to say the least.

However, All About Beer’s support for the inaugural festival seemed to be, shall we say, less than adequate. The festival was ultimately postponed for the summer of 2010. The reason given? It was stated that the festival organizers needed more time to plan something truly spectacular, and they didn’t want to rush putting on an event that wouldn’t live up to the standards that World Beer Festival is known for.

I get that. Why put on a half-assed festival? That’d be bad for everyone involved. Disappointed festival goers, injured reputation for World Beer Festival, and a bowl of sour grapes for everyone.

They did, however, send their main man and festival organizer to the tasting. He passed out some plastic tasting glasses from Columbia’s recent staging of World Beer Festival, and some t-shirts with logos, then he was gone. It looked like positive outreach to the Richmond beer community, despite the festival having been put off a year.

So in 2010, All About Beer planned to do it right. They teamed up with a local charity, and an alternative weekly newspaper in town. They offered a tasting at Capital Ale House reserved for members of the media, hoping to educate them, and thus, their readers, about the variety and wonders of beer. They took out ads announcing the festival. Daniel Bradford even made it to Richmond once or twice to say hello.

I worked that year’s festival, pouring sips of beer for patrons at a furious pace, all the while babbling about styles, attenuation, brewery history, and whatever else beer-related that came to mind. I met a host of local people I’d never seen before, raving about beers they had tried or just raving in general. Overall, working the festival was a great experience, albeit a grueling one.

The response to last year’s World Beer Festival in Richmond was a mixed bag. Many newcomers to the beer fold seemed satisfied, their tickets to one session (or both) helping them reach or exceed their desired level of intoxication. But the VIPs, the guys shelling out an extra $35, seemed underwhelmed by most everything except the air-conditioned bathrooms. Some said the festival opened doors to them that they didn’t know existed, while others said they’d seen it all before. There were also grumblings among certain industry types that the festival was poorly organized, and that mismanagement of the event caused them a lot of grief.

Fast-forward to 2011. Less than two months before the festival, there’s been little effort on All About Beer’s part to make the public aware. No one is in the loop on what they’ve got planned; distributors don’t know what’s going on, the public doesn’t know what breweries will be on hand, and it doesn’t seem like many movers and shakers have been contacted to help make it all happen. They’ve also hired new guns tasked with organizing the whole thing. Though they haven’t had much of a presence in town, they’re now making their rounds to either gauge or try to ratchet up the level of support. They talk to distributors, bloggers, and seemingly anybody willing to grant them an audience.

It appears to have minimal effect. The reaction is neutral to cold. The support network just isn’t there this time around. Why?

Why, with a growing army of beer lovers pledging their allegiance and paychecks to “craft” beer, attending the ubiquitous beer dinners and tastings that were, only years earlier, a thing of lore… why is there a lack of support for this festival in Richmond?

You might not be able to find anyone that will openly admit it, but for various reasons, this year’s festival was met with a lot of skepticism from industry types in this town. This may be inching out on the bough of speculation, but I’m willing to bet that most of it stems from feeling cheated, the feeling that All About Beer is bringing their festival to Richmond, playing by their rules, and when they’re done, they just pack up and leave.

So anyway, there I am, at the end of April, sitting at Mekong with the gents from All About Beer, imbibing our favorite beverage and discussing the upcoming festival. These guys want to know how they can make this year’s festival better than last year’s, ways they can improve the overall experience. They’ve invited several bloggers (and perhaps other online media types) to join, but only a few actually assemble. Their PR person doesn’t show. Tacitly, they would also like support from the local online community in promoting the festival.

It was openly admitted by the organizers of World Beer Festival that they sometimes have difficulty getting involvement from breweries. That’s not the first time I’d heard this refrain thrown around regarding the festivals. Now, I can’t say for sure, but it could be the demands and requirements that breweries must meet to dole out samples of their products to the public under the auspices of All About Beer. Some individuals more knowledgeable than myself may be able to speak to that.

Regardless, we offer our advice over the course of the conversation, outlining concerns to the representatives from All About Beer along the way. The main issue I raised was the lack of overt and year-round support for the roughly-defined Richmond beer scene. It’s all fine and dandy to shake hands and kiss babies at Mekong every once in a while, but anyone can do that. Some folks, specifically in the savvy beer market, are smart enough to realize when they’re being reeled in.

In short, it would require a true, sweeping commitment to Richmond as a beer town. But how can you help a town that can’t seem to help itself? With the quick demise of the Shockoe Craft Beer Festival, and a much-rumored but yet-to-be-announced homegrown festival to take its place as the River City’s premier beer event, what’s Richmond to do?

The point is, there are several possibilities as to why we’re not having World Beer Festival in Richmond this year. Whatever the reason(s), the festival has been canceled just days after announcing tickets were available for purchase.

So, now that you’ve gotten your refund, what are you up to June 18th?

I should open up more. Really.

The past several weeks have been a blur of activity, some beer related, some not. But rather than ramble on with excuses for lack of blogging, I’ll give you a taste of what’s been on my mind.

First, a new Virginia brewery has formed. Its name is Broederschap Brouwerij. Broederschap means brotherhood in Dutch. This project is less an actual brewery and more of a homebrew collaboration between myself, Velky Al of Fuggled, and James of A Homebrew Log. It began with an email, which became a flurry of emails and months of preparation, and then into Dissolution Dubbel. Read more about the brew day here.

Second, I look around at the beer scene, and it seems like nothing’s happening. I mean, there’s a lot going on, but not much actually happening. You dig? Perhaps it’s just me becoming desensitized, but I feel underwhelmed and even distracted by “beer news” these days. Am I alone in my perspective?

Anyway, I guess what I’m getting at, is that I needed some time away. Although it’s good to be back, I’m not sure what I’m actually adding to the overall oeuvre of craft beer, if I’m just contributing to the general distraction that is a hobby for most, a profession for some, and a passion of mine.

That passion just has a weird way of expressing itself.

David Turley over at Musings Over a Pint was tasked with writing seven things people might not know about him, and then asked others to do the same. I was among the chosen few, so in the spirit of offering up something different on this blog, I thought I’d join in.

  1. I’ve been an on and off musician for quite some time. In my younger days I belonged to an indie rock band called Life Defined. I’m currently involved in an ongoing project called Foreign Fields with my good friend Evan Setzer.
  2. I use the term “zoot” on a frequent basis to describe things that bring me joy. It can be used as a noun, verb, and adjective. It’s featured a lot on my Twitter account.
  3. I’m a huge fan of Virginia Commonwealth University basketball.
  4. The first beer I ever drank (that I can recall) was a sip of Miller Lite.
  5. My first beer epiphany was the now-defunct brewery tour conducted at the Anheuser-Busch plant in Williamsburg, Virginia. It changed my life at an early age and set me on the path to beerdom.
  6. I used to drink Carling Black Label because it was the cheapest beer in the grocery store. In my defense, I was also trying beers like Boddington’s and Franziskaner at the time.
  7. One of my all-time favorite bands is Steely Dan.

Feel free to join this little exercise with a post or comment of your own. I implore you. It’d be great to learn a bit more about the people behind the pseudonyms behind the screen. I just hope I didn’t bore you with details of my personal life, though I tried to keep it beer-related.

Cheers.

Information has come down that Floyd County’s very own Shooting Creek Brewery will be shutting its doors for good. (The link to their website was not working at the time of this post.) Apparently assistant brewer Jason Anderson left the ranks back in the fall, which meant that brewmaster Brett Nichols has been going it alone since that time. It appears that personal matters have caused the farm to be sold and the brewery to be closed.

It’s a shame that this upstart brewery from Southwest Virginia that was beginning to gain steam, even making headway here in Richmond, has to call it quits. In a time of growth and expansion, the closing of Shooting Creek is certainly a setback for Virginia beer.

However, you can still request to get some of the last drops the brewery has to offer around town. Be sure to ask for it by name, before it’s all gone.

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