Friday, May 30, 2014

Remembering Jack Joyce

When the news that Jack Joyce had passed away at 71 reached me, I was surprised and saddened.  Surprised, because the last time I saw him he was typically high-energy and appeared indestructible.  Saddened, because he was a true Oregon original and the craft beer world has lost a legend.  [See this very nice Allan Brettman piece in the O for an understanding and bio of Jack]

So, I'll take a minute here to tell a story of Jack.  When I first arrived at Oregon State, I was asked to be the faculty advisor to the economics club.  I thought it would be fun to take the club on a trip to Newport to check out Rogue.  Given my Beeronomics bent, this was a perfect example of my schtick: let's use economics to understand the business of craft beer. 

I e-mailed the business office at Rogue, hoping to get 30 minutes with someone.  Instead what I got was a personal invitation from Jack, who ended up hosting us and entertaining us for hours: he made sure we were fed and supplied beverages (both beer and non-alchoholic drinks), spent about 2 hours sitting down with the group of us (about 10 in all) answering any and all questions we had and then took us over to the distillery where we spent another hour or so.  He was typical Jack: gruff, entertaining, outspoken...and altogether likeable.  About a week later I got a hand written letter from him thanking me for the visit.  His act of extraordinary generosity sticks with me to this day.

What I came away with from that meeting was just how much Rogue Brewing Co. is a company in his own image.  A company that does things its own way for better or worse.  Unconventional in every way and yet surprisingly successful - they have been pioneers in the early craft beer scene and continue to be with their in-house hops and malting operations and the like.  Jack really was a Rogue and Rogue really is Jack.

So this weekend  I'll raise a glass of Rogue beer in honor of Jack Joyce: Rogue and Legend.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How IPA Conquered the World explained by The Economist:
The beer that craft brewers like making the most is IPA. Artisan beermakers in America adopted old recipes from Britain for their IPAs but gradually began to adapt the brews to their own tastes. The heavy use of hops allows them to show off their skills in blending different flavours. Some parts of America, like Britain, have an excellent climate for growing top-quality hops. The bold flavours and high alcohol content create a beer that has a distinct style and bold taste, yet can come in many shades. The passion for hops in American craft beers has taken on the characteristics of an arms race, as brewers try to outdo each other in hoppiness.
If no brewer in America can pass up the opportunity to make an IPA, the same is true elsewhere. As the craft beer revolution has spread beyond America, so has the taste for IPA. Britain is undergoing a brewing revival alongside a foodie revolution, based on local produce and artisanal methods. Much the same is happening in other rich countries around the world, where breweries are springing up to serve up craft beers. Indeed, IPA has come full circle. Many British craft brewers are using new IPA recipes imported from America for their brews but again adapting them for local palates. IPA may not yet have displaced lager as the global tipple, but it is at least battling for bar space with mainstream beers.
None of this is particularly new or enlightening, except for the fact that to Economist readers it might just be both.  For it is a truly global magazine and while the USA is awash in IPA, they style is still just catching on in other parts of the world.  It is almost completely nonexistent in Brazil for example and in the UK, the new upstart brewers who are going all-in on hops like Dark Star, Thornbridge and the global marketing phenomenon that is Brew Dog, face resistance from the traditional craft brewers that have been doing milds and bitters for centuries.  My favorite part o fthe UK craft beer scene is the slow coming together of these two forces in craft beer as breweries like Fuller experiment withe more hops while breweries like Dark Star try and perfect the perfect bitter.