What’s Hot In Craft Beverage

June had me returning to the Texas Restaurant Association’s annual TRA Marketplace show. It’s the 2nd biggest restaurant association show in the country – and well worth going for restaurant pros in Texas and in other areas.

Education is always worth while. You’ve got to invest in yourself within your industry and chosen communities to best serve yourself and your clients.

This year I presented three different sessions, 2 of which were What’s Hot in Craft Beverage.

Some of my fine colleagues in the Craft Beverage Garden, TRA 2016

Some of my fine colleagues in the Craft Beverage Garden, TRA 2016

For the What’s Hot sessions I ran through some insight on the various beverage categories, with an emphasis on alcoholic ‘craft.’ While I usually don’t use the word craft in beverage, it can hold some meaning for industry pros.

Here’s some of the insight I shared.

2016 Trends in beverage include: House made (everything), beverage and food pairings, in-house made ice cubes, smoked & grilled, bubbly, tea, creative garnishes and ingredients, tasting menus, fermented drinks (i.e. kombucha).

  • For Beer: count on seeing more of sours, ‘session’ (lower alcohol), canned choices including Crowlers, nitro pushed, and growler stations.
  • In Wine: aging in spirits barrels, alternative packaging choices, red blends, the growth of specific varietals.
  • Spirits will give us: more than 900 (projected) distillers, whiskey, gin, vodka and rum running forward + herbal liqueurs and house made cocktails with fancy ice cubes and lower alcohol choices.
  • Cider: it’s still holding with big growth in the UK that the US, though still moving upwards in the US.
  • Mead: keep enjoying the honey explosion! Small batch honey will feed this tasty beast.
  • Sake: The nightlife scene is seeing more popularity here and the popularity of Japanese foods in North America will fuel this progress.
  • In Alcohol-Free: watch for fancy and artisan ‘craft’ sodas with root beer, ginger beer and orange leading the way, mixers including tonics are growing, and various ‘waters’ are pushing upwards.

So what’s a beverage drinker to do? Enjoy whatever you wish, responsibly. There are choices for us a’plenty, and business a’plenty of the beverage businesses.

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Remarkable Marketing

I find this to be a head scratcher:

MillerCoors Makes Manly Pitch With New Hard Cider Brand” – watch the ad courtesy, Ad Age.

The article states:

“Hard cider is one of the hottest sectors in the alcohol business, but MillerCoors thinks the category is still missing some testosterone….Smith & Forge is going after the common man. MillerCoors sees opportunity in the fact that cider purchases skew far less male than beer.”

In the world of quality I think MillerCoors is world-class. Flavor is different from preference so remove any bias based on your own preferences. Why not focus on flavor instead of gender? Why not make an equally female savvy ad (if you can call the ad savvy…it is clever and fun) for the same product, delivering equal time to the worlds most oft-forgotten beer and cider drinkers: women.

Aside of this, the piece, which is *almost* non-gender oriented, stills screams ” Beer Is For Men, Cider Is Not.” Enter: Gender. WTH.

Time to blow the lid of gender, beer & cider

Time to blow the lid of gender, beer & cider

Who has ever said that beer is masculine? That Cider is not masculine?  The wrong thinking has pervaded here because the already 70%+ of the beer drinking market that is male will be hard pressed (get it?!) to get past all the other gibberish we’ve been slowly force-fed to the end that men must like beer.

Interesting point: That apparently “A Boston Beer spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.” What exactly did they want Boston beer to comment on? Oh – how about this, from the author:

“She said that ‘while Angry Orchard in and of itself might feel masculine,’ the brand’s ‘design techniques,’ such as its ‘whimsical tree’ and color scheme, ‘lean a little bit away from the masculine side.’ “ [attributed to Rita Patel, director of new product development at MillerCoors]

This is the wrong thing for one brand to say about another – to assume they think they know what the entire consuming body thinks. No, Rita, don’t do it. In fact, I’d like to have a cider or beer with Rita and other powers that be at MillerCoors to learn exactly where they think they are coming from – cause me thinks it ain’t the consumer. (Rita – call me anytime here)

The merry-go-round goes round…and round…and round…to the same tired music with the same wrong-headed thinking on all accounts.

I look forward to the day the phone rings and someone with some impact from the largest and most influential breweries call and ask, “So – what does the consumer think?” of us. That’ll be a red (apple) letter day.

p.s. and who precisely is the common man??

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Inaugural Beer Dinner Menu

Wow! Everyone at last nights inaugural Women Enjoying Beer & Kaleidoscope beer dinner event had a ball. Forty one people came to enjoy, learn, nosh, and savor beer and food together. And that they did!

Wes and the kitchen staff did a stellar number on the 5 courses, Amber and Elle were excellent servers, and our hosts were perfectly lovely. And of course – the guests make the party. Linens on the table, fresh (low profile) flowers accented the elevation of beer to the dinner table, and positive comments aplenty during the evening.

Here’s the menu we reveled in. When we get some pictures ready we’ll post them as well – because you know – a picture is worth a thousand tastes!

Course 1

Southern Oregon Brewing Pinup Porter paired with smoked salmon and caper spread on toasted baguette rounds with lemon juice, cream cheese, Tabasco, fresh cracked pepper and chives

Course 2

Widmer Brothers Hefeweizen paired with Tricolor salad made of mixed greens, walnuts, apples, Gorgonzola cheese, honey vinaigrette and cracked pepper, garnished with a solitary orange section

Course 3

Walkabout Brewing Jabberwocky Strong Ale paired with Cellentani pasta combined with Italian sausage, mushrooms, sauteed onions and garlic topped with Parmesan and basil

Course 4

Ninsaki Quantum Pale Ale partnered with Kaleidoscope’s signature offering – PIZZA! – an elegant pie with hand tossed delicious crust layered with said lightly fried eggplant, mozzarella, marinara topped with Parmesan and fresh basil

Course 5

Wyders Pear Cider – a total surprise for people – paired with an amazing pear simmered in honey, cloves, wine, star anise, and bay leaves, cooled and dipped in melted chocolate and rolled in almonds drizzled with pear syrup.

Incredibly scrumptious!! Many thanks to all who partook and enjoyed. When shall we do this again?

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Gluten Free & Vegetarian Beer & Food Tasting Menu

Last night was another lively Women Enjoying Beer monthly meet up. The women filled the special side room at Standing Stone Brewing Company to participate in the gluten free and vegetarian beer and food event.

Fresh veggies are gluten free & vegetarian

Of course, we all learned more – and we did in fact have 2 individuals in the group who are Celiac – gluten intolerant, however severe or mild. For omnivores, it’s a non concern. However for the 2 – 3.2 million people in the states who are afflicted, it’s a big deal. Especially if you want to enjoy beer.

Hopefully it makes omnivores appreciate the myriad choices that are available with no restrictions.

The format this time was to pour small taster glasses full of each of the four beverages and then serve the foods, passed around family style (remember – this is extremely social!). Then each person can taste the food with a bit of each beverages as they wished. It was enlightening for all of us.

Beverage Menu

One interesting thing per gluten free guidelines is that in order to be labeled Gluten Free it has to be less than 20ppm (parts per million) gluten. Curious – since there still maybe residual gluten from processing. So severe cases need to be cautious and do a little bit of research perhaps first.

Gluten Free choices

Clearly ciders are not beers. That said, there’s a terrific selection and variety available, no danger of gluten in them and they provide a nice choice alternative.

Food menu

  • Lisanatti Almond Cheeses
  • Fresh seasonal melons – mmmmmm! Great with the ciders
  • Hummus with garlic, cilantro and warm spices like cumin and cinnamon
  • Veggie shooters in a taster glass with bleu cheese dressing

The beers most certainly tasted remarkably different with the foods than the ciders. So it was great to be able to talk about complementary flavors as well as contrasting flavors.

There are plenty of ways to accommodate. And with approximately 1 in 133 Americans being Celiac, there’s an enormous opportunity to make high quality beers and ciders to serve these folks.

Big opportunity – kind of like thinking about properly addressing the female beer consumer, eh?

Cheers to a tasty and gluten free adventure!