March 29, 2018 0 comments
With the news that R. Shea Brewing is formalizing a new lease at Canal Place, owner Ron Shea is getting closer to his dream of establishing a Brewery District around downtown Akron. With Missing Falls Brewing Company settling into the same building just a few steps away, Thirsty Dog and Aqueduct Brewing located over on Grant Street, and soon-to-open Akronym and Lock 15 breweries up at the north end of downtown, there will be enough critical mass needed to shape such a district, which the city appears to be ready to certify and sanction.

I’ve always thought a brewery district of some kind would be a great idea for Akron; the only question was where would it be located, and who would take the initiative to make it happen. Clearly, Shea has long demonstrated the hard work, vision and creativity to see it through—and what we are seeing develop is the happy (or hoppy) result.

To be honest, though—a lot of these breweries are not within walking distance of one another, although the 6 are roughly within a square mile. Aqueduct and Thirsty Dog are close neighbors, but almost a mile from Canal Place, where R. Shea and Missing Falls will be located. Akronym will be almost a mile north on Market, and Lock 15 will be about 1/3 mile north of that, at North and Howard streets. They will all fit nicely on a map, but visiting more than two at a time will require some serious hiking boots.

Hopefully, some smart person will come up with a business plan that includes a 15-passenger van shuttling people between all these breweries—then drop them at the Northside Marriott to sleep it off. If the city designates a district, maybe it could help the breweries subsidize such a service, with an official “Brew Trolley” (Brolley?)—who knows?

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February 1, 2018 0 comments

It's only been a few weeks since we released our first title of 2018, Danish Beer and Continental Beer Gardens. Now IBN has followed up with another pocket classic, Secrets of the Mash Tun: or The Real Causes of Failure in Producing Good Ale or Beer.  First published in 1847, this guide was written for small brewers and home brewers during a period when science was becoming more appreciated for its contributions to the brewer's art. This is not a reproduction, but an all-new edition, freshly re-designed and typeset, including Publisher's comments and a helpful record-keeping section at the back for home brewers.

With simple explanations, useful advice and a common-sense approach, it offers today's small-scale brewers a handy manual of practice and a fascinating insight into our beer-brewing past. It's just the kind of handy reference you would like to add to your homebrewing bookshelf, or sit back and enjoy with a cold ale, next to a mid-winter fire.

Available via Amazon: HERE
Via Amazon UK: HERE
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January 26, 2018 0 comments

Having lived through America’s Craft Beer Revolution—and being a beer drinker before it even began—I can appreciate a thoughtful and objective look back on its impact and significance. That’s exactly what this article, which appeared in both The Atlantic and Citylab, provides. Derek Thompson does a nice job in briefly describing the beer landscape that used to exist in America and how crafty beer appeared at just the right moment to take advantage of changing tastes at first, and then economic circumstances later.

While a lot of beer drinkers and beer writers focus on cultural issues, style developments and personalities, Thompson does a nice job describing the Craft Beer Revolution’s economic impact, and how the expansion of local breweries and jobs has come during a period of industrial and retail consolidation. It seems like an anomaly, but fits in perfectly during an era when the Great Recession sparked innovation, forced many people to become new entrepreneurs and boosted interest in local production.

Changing tastes play their role too—and the article explains how the traditional three-tier system shaped the brewing industry for so many decades. All in all, it’s a solid read and a concise, accurate place to start if you want to get a helpful grip on U.S. beer history.

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January 22, 2018 0 comments
Just before the end of the year, my wife and I managed to complete the 2017 Summit Brew Path, thus winning the commemorative T-Shirts which are awarded to all those who manage to complete the brewery tour. I imagine our approach was like many other folks; hitting the “easy” destinations close to home and finishing up with those brewers which were located further away—like Wadsworth Brewing Co. in Wadsworth and Madcap Brew Co. in Kent. Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we were able to knock off all three Canton-area breweries (Canton, Royal Docks and Scenic) which set us up for a fine finish.

It’s pretty clear that the whole Brew Path effort—led by the local Convention & Visitor’s Bureau—was a great success, with almost 20,000 of the passports printed as a result of great demand. At least 2,600 people managed to get every stamp from the 14 official stops on the tour. All the breweries reported significant increases in sales as a result of the program, and it was also a great way to bring beer drinkers together—I don’t think we stopped at a single place where we didn’t meet someone else who was coming in to get their Brew Path passport stamped, too.

As plans for next year are being finalized, Ohio beer blogger Rick Armon was invited to sit in on a meeting at the Convention Bureau with a number of participating brewers. The meeting was set to provide feedback and generate ideas for the 2018 Brew Path, and while most all the feedback was positive and enthusiastic, the only complaint was made about the color of the T-Shirt prize that was awarded. Patrick Armistead, co-founder of Two Monks Brewery, was definitely not a fan of the brown, poo-colored shirt.

“Don’t make it a crappy brown T-Shirt,” he suggested.

Ignoring options for urine-yellow and boogar-green shirts next year, it’s likely that a new type of prize will be awarded in 2018.

With an additional five or six new breweries being eligible to be added to the Brew Path in 2018, it’s possible that a two-tier prize level will be used—making it possible to offer some form of recognition to folks who can’t manage to visit every one of the breweries on the new, expanded list. Like last year, additional breweries will be highlighted in the passport as places to visit, but not made official stops if they were not open by the start date of March 10.

This brew trail marketing concept has really taken off, not only just here in Ohio, but nationwide as well. As previously noted, it’s a wonderful way to bring the beer community together, and provides a great economic boost to our local brewers. Wherever you are, if there’s a program like this in your area—get your book and go get a brew!
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January 20, 2018 0 comments

We’ve just added a new title to the IBN History of Brewing Series—Danish Beer and Continental Beer Gardens, is an all-new, expanded edition of a classic early-20th century book by Dr. Max Henius. Originally developed as an extended lecture for American brewers, this new edition highlights many of the “best practices” used by Danish brewers and surveys continental attitudes regarding beer drinking culture. It includes a new introduction, an all-new interior layout and additional matter at the back of the book, including subject updates and additional information that adds further context. Presented in a slightly larger format (7” x 10”) than our first two titles due to the many illustrations, most of which were photo-edited to maximize their reprint quality.

“As usual, we refuse to just scan-and-copy an old book and charge an exorbitant price for a reprint,” explained M.A. Schweitzer, who edited this edition. “We essentially created an all-new book, improving the images, adding extra material and providing some relevant context for modern readers.”

Available on Amazon
List Price: $8.59
7" x 10" (17.78 x 25.4 cm)
58 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1983657023
ISBN-10: 1983657026
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January 16, 2018 0 comments
Spoetzl is Texas' oldest independent brewery.
Living here in Ohio, it should be no surprise that I am partial to many of our great Midwestern brewers, like Great Lakes, Hoppin’ Frog, Thirsty Dog, Platform, Bell’s, Short’s and Rhinegeist. They all make great beers—even though it is inevitable that there will always be hits-and-misses from time to time. Nobody’s perfect.

That said, one American brewer I would like to celebrate for their high level of consistency and quality is the Spoetzl Brewery of Shiner, Texas. The oldest independent brewery in Texas, they are widely distributed, and generally easy to find in major markets throughout Ohio.

Originally named "The Shiner Brewing Association," (SBA) The Spoetzl Brewery was founded in 1909 by German and Czech immigrants who had settled around the central Texas town of Shiner. Unable to find the type or quality of beer they had enjoyed in their home countries, they began to brew their own. They remain one of the oldest independent breweries in the U.S

Shiner Brewing Association - 1909
Personally, I have sampled a wide range of their beers, though strangely enough, their standard Shiner Premium lager, I regularly enjoy their Bock beer, Bohemian Black Lager, Cream Ale, Oktoberfest and Holiday Cheer—the last two being seasonals. Their Strawberry Blonde is excellent as well, and their 2015 Birthday Beer, a chocolate stout, was one of my all-time favorites. Sadly, the birthday beers change every year, and I’ve not had it since.

The German and Czech heritage must run strong throughout Spoetzl’s brewing tradition and methods, because what I enjoy most about their beers are that they are always true to style—Bocks, Oktoberfests and Cream Ales always taste the way you expect them to…no extra hops, wrong hops, or other strange flavors distracting from a job well done. So many American craft brewers fall to the temptation to try to “improve” on classic styles, or somehow “reinterpret” them--and the result is usually a big fail.

The other thing I would commend them for is the ability to just “get it right” when it comes to taste and balance. It would be easy to get into trouble with more creative recipes like Shiner Prickly Pear, Ruby Redbird, or their Holiday Cheer, but the brewery always manages to get consistently great results, using just the right amount of ingredients that complement the underlying beer without overwhelming it. That’s not easy—evidence that their brew masters have a well-tuned palate. Maybe a little common sense, too.

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