Taking Stock of Beer Lands at Outside Lands

Craft beer milestones are usually marked with dollar signs, percentages and the number of new breweries. We have the Brewers Association to thank for collecting and dispersing this data in shiny pie charts and graphs. They illustrate a great story in simple, straightforward terms, but they don’t tell you where craft beer is finding new niches, broad exposure and courting new fans.

In San Francisco last weekend, while serious beer fans were toasting Toronado’s 25th Anniversary, an even bigger event for local craft beer, in the grander scheme of growth, was taking place in Golden Gate Park. Organizers of the Outside Lands music festival finally carved out a place for craft beer at the event. Heineken’s exclusive contract was over and Beer Lands was born. It was the last piece in a puzzle of San Francisco centric gourmet food and beverage options for thousands of attendees, and by the end of the three day festival, it was clear that demand wildly exceeded expectations.

Dave McLean, brewmaster and owner of Magnolia Gastropub & Brewery, was tasked with organizing the details of Beer Lands in partnership with festival organizers and Best Beverage Catering. In addition to the main beer sponsors, Heineken and Sierra Nevada Brewing, McLean invited 13 other breweries to pour alongside his own: 21st Amendment, Anchor Brewing, Bear Republic Brewery, Drake’s Brewing, Firestone Walker, Iron Springs Brewery, Linden Street Brewery, Lost Coast Brewery, Mad River Brewing Company, North Coast Brewing Company, Pacific Brewing Laboratory, Speakeasy Ales & Lagers, and The Bruery.

Beer Lands was located at Lindley Meadow, right next to the festival’s entrance, near three food trucks, the Sutro Stage, and The Barbary, which featured comedy and variety acts. Overall it was a good spot for festivalgoers to grab a beer upon entrance, or to hang out during lunch or a dinner break, but if you needed a quick beer during a big show, it was a hike to get there. Heineken and Sierra Nevada occupied key locations near the big stages. That’s what you get for six figure sponsorship deals.

The Beer Lands t-shirt made for servers. Brewers couldn’t serve the beer due to CA ABC regulations. Once it’s sold to a distributor it can’t touched by the manufacturer, but a few brewers and representatives were in attendance talking to customers.

If you’ve never been to Outside Lands, then you should know that the main organizers place a high priority on event staging (making the whole place look cool), and the Beer Lands tent was no exception. Reclaimed barn wood and sheets of polished copper trumped ugly jockey boxes, typically used for serving beer at festivals. Signage was also carefully crafted to look sharp and professional, which displayed the brewery names and festival prices.

Dave McLean standing in a sea of kegs. A large trailer was set on the ground and covered in reclaimed wood. Holes were made for tap lines.

The beer wasn’t cheap, think baseball park prices, but that’s to be expected at a major festival serving above average beer. One-dollar tickets had to be purchased first, then exchanged for beer. Attendees could buy one ticket, or packs of ten, which they used to get a 4 oz taste or a full pint. Most of the beers were priced at $3 for 4 oz pours and $9 for a pint. The Bruery’s Mischief and North Coast Brewing’s Pranqster were the only exception. Mischief was priced at $6 for 4 oz and $15 for a pint, while Pranqster was $6 for 4 oz and $12 for a pint. The two-tier pricing structure allowed people to try new beer without the burden of high cost.

Here’s what the breweries offered:

Sierra Nevada Brewing

Outside Lands Saison
Kellerweis

Heineken

Newcastle Summer
Amstel Wheat

Pacific Brewing Laboratory

Squid Ink
Nautilus

Drake’s Brewing

1500 Pale
Amber

21st Amendment

Hell or High Watermelon
Back in Black

Linden Street Brewery

Urban Peoples’ Common
Burning Oak

Mad River Brewing

Extra Pale
Jamaica Red

Lost Coast Brewery

Great White
Downtown Brown

Anchor Brewing

Steam
Summer

Bear Republic

Racer 5
El Oso

North Coast Brewing

Scrimshaw Pilsner
Pranqster

Firestone Walker 

Pivo
Double Barrel Ale

Magnolia Brewery

Proving Ground IPA
Kalifornia Kolsch

Iron Springs Brewery

Chazz Cat Rye
JC Flyer

Speakeasy Ales & Lagers

Big Daddy
Payback Porter

The Bruery

Mischief
Humulus APA

Although the prices may have turned some people away, consumption was off the charts compared to what organizers expected. At the start of day two, Dave McLean said they already poured 75% of the beer they expected to serve during the entire three-day festival. A massive pile of empty kegs was waiting to get picked up and a few breweries were rushing to supply more. By Sunday afternoon, most of the beers mentioned above were gone or replaced by others. A few breweries were completely wiped out, including Pacific Brewing Laboratories and Anchor Brewing.

Empty kegs at the end of Beer Lands Day #1, estimated at over 100.

Beer Lands is a clear example of craft beer’s surging popularity and growth. It also represents a big milestone for craft beer on a local level. Dave McLean use to hang out in parking lots before Grateful Dead shows drinking craft beer served by underground merchants on skateboards. It’s where he acquired a taste for good beer and was inspired to brew. That’s when mega brewers dominated music venues. Now they’re using noisemakers to attract people to their booths (no joke), because craft beer has crashed the party and people are demanding it.

The downside of corporate sponsorship is that all beer had to be served in Heineken cups.  

Bay Area Breweries Collect Over One Hundred Fifty State Fair Awards

For some Californians, summer doesn’t truly arrive until the onset of the State Fair in Sacramento, where thousands of people flock to the Magical Midway, Livestock Pavilion, Giant Slide and drool over sugar laden elephant ears. While these visitors are getting an overdose of fatty food and carnival rides, some people are in the throws of serious competition. There are animals, art and technology exhibits, just to name a few, being judged and awarded.

Breweries from around the state also vie for awards and bragging rights during the commercial craft brew competition, which takes place before the Tilt-A-Whirl’s inaugural spin. Brewers send in their best samples to be judged in numerous categories according to the Beer Judge Certification Program Style Guidelines. The results were recently announced and Bay Area breweries collectively received 162 awards. That’s quite an accomplishment and some people might be surprised by the results.

It should be noted that some breweries don’t participate and the number of sample submissions varies greatly between brewers. As for specifics, unfortunately the number of submission and participating breweries isn’t available. A wine competition press release was issued, but not for beer (Grrrr…).

The following list is organized alphabetically by brewery. If you would like to see the results in their entirety, head over to the California State Fair website.

Congratulations to the winners!

 

21st Amendment Brewery

  • 2nd, Gold, Drunken Monk, Belgian Strong Light Color
  • Silver, Mr.Poom’s Thai’d House Ale, Spice Herb Vegetable/Winter Beer
  • Silver, Red Giant, Wood Aged Beer
  • Silver, Amber Waves, American Pale Ale
  • Silver, Gigantes IPA, American IPA
  • Bronze, Hendrick’s Imperial Stout, Russian Imperial Stout

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Bear Republic Brewing Company

  • Gold, Hop Rod Rye, Specialty Beers
  • 3rd, Silver, XP Pale Ale, American Pale Ale
  • Silver, Red Rocket Ale, American Amber Ale
  • Silver, Peter Brown Tribute Ale, American Brown Ale
  • Silver, Racer 5 IPA, American IPA
  • Silver, Racer X Double IPA, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, Big Bear Black Stout, Stout – Dry, Sweet, Foreign & American

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Blue Frog Grog & Grill

  • Gold, Blonde, Blonde Ale
  • Silver, DIPA, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, IPA, American IPA

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Devil’s Canyon Brewing Company

  • Gold, Silicon Blonde Ale, Blonde Ale
  • Honorable Mention, Gold, Deadicated Amber Ale, American Amber Ale
  • 2nd, Silver, Full Boar Scotch Ale, Scottish Ales
  • Silver, California Sunshine Rye IPA, American IPA
  • Silver, Lager Diabla, Light Lagers
  • Bronze, Kaleidoscope Black Ale, Specialty Beers

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Drake’s Brewing Company

  • Honorable Mention, Best of Show, Gold, Drakonic, Russian Imperial Stout
  • 1st, Gold, Drakonic, Russian Imperial Stout
  • 3rd, Gold, Denogginizer, Imperial IPA
  • Gold, Drake’s IPA, American IPA
  • Silver, Drake’s 1500, American Pale Ale

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El Toro Brewing Company

  • 2nd, Gold, El Toro Yo Barleywine, Barleywine
  • 3rd, Silver, El Toro Poppy Jasper Amber Ale, English Brown Ale
  • Silver, El Toro India Pale Ale, American IPA
  • Silver, El Toro Deuce Imperial IPA, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, El Toro Oro Golden Ale, English Pale Ale
  • Bronze, El Toro Negro Oatmeal Stout, Stout – Oatmeal

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Faultline Brewing Company

  • 1st, Gold, Stout, Stout – Oatmeal
  • 2nd, Silver, Kolsch, Kolsch & Cream Ale
  • 2nd, Silver, Hefeweizen, German Wheat & Rye
  • 2nd, Silver, Oktoberfest, Euro Amber Lager
  • 2nd, Silver, Doppelbock, Bock
  • 2nd, Silver, Belgian Blonde, Belgian Strong Light Color
  • Silver, Best Bitter, English Pale Ale
  • Silver, Dunkleweizen, German Wheat & Rye
  • Silver, Pale Ale, English Pale Ale
  • Silver, India Pale Ale, American IPA
  • Silver, Belgian Abbey, Belgian Strong Dark Color
  • Silver, Irish Red, Irish Red Ale
  • Bronze, Golden, Blonde Ale
  • Bronze, London Porter, Porter – Robust/Baltic
  • Bronze, Belgian Tripel, Belgian Strong Light Color

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Heretic Brewing Company

  • Honorable Mention, Best of Show, Gold, One Nut In The Grave, Specialty Beers
  • 1st, Gold, One Nut In The Grave, Specialty Beers
  • Gold, Evil Cousin, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, Worry, Wood Aged Beer
  • Silver, Evil Twin, American Amber Ale
  • Silver, Shallow Grave, Porter – Robust/Baltic

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Hermitage Brewing Company

  • Gold, Citra Single Hop IPA, American IPA
  • Silver, Maltopia, Scottish Ales
  • Silver, Hoptopia, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, Ahtanum Single Hop IPA, American IPA
  • Silver, Coastal Fog IPA, American IPA
  • Silver, One Door Sour Ale, Sour Beers
  • Bronze, Ale of the 2Tun, Russian Imperial Stout
  • Bronze, Ale of the Imp, Imperial IPA
  • Bronze, Coastal Fog Pale Ale, American Pale Ale
  • Bronze, Coastal Fog Amber Ale, American Brown Ale
  • Bronze, Ale des Dieux, Belgian & French Ale

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Jack’s Brewing Company 

  • 2nd, Gold, Jack’s Double IPA, Imperial IPA
  • 2nd, Gold, Hardwood Pale Ale, American Pale Ale
  • Gold, Jack’s IPA, American IPA
  • 3rd, Silver, Boys of Summer Wheat, Kolsch/Cream Ale
  • Silver, Jack’s Hefeweizen, German Wheat & Rye
  • Silver, Penalty Shot Porter, Porter – Robust/Baltic
  • Bronze, Grid Iron Amber, Amber Hybrids
  • Bronze, Anniversary Ale, Bock

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Magnolia Brewery

  • 1st, Gold, Blue Bell Bitter, English Pale Ale
  • 2nd, Silver, Sara’s Ruby Mild, English Brown Ale
  • Silver, Weekapaug Gruit, Spice Herb Vegetable/winter Beer
  • Bronze, Prescription Pale, American IPA
  • Bronze, Big Cypress Brown, English Brown Ale

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Marin Brewing Company

  • Honorable Mention, Best of Show, Gold, Pt Reyes Porter, Porter – Robust/Baltic
  • 1st, Gold, Pt Reyes Porter, Porter – Robust/Baltic
  • 1st, Gold, Cuvee Roge’, Sour Beers
  • 2nd, Gold, Hoppy Holidaze, Spice Herb Vegetable/winter Beer
  • 3rd, Gold, Quad, Belgian Strong Light Color
  • 3rd, Gold, Airporter Chocolate Porter, Specialty Beers
  • 2nd, Silver, Orange & Black, Fruit Beer
  • Silver, San Quentin’s Breakout Stout, Stout – Dry, Sweet,Foreign & American
  • Silver, White Knuckle Double IPA, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, Old Dipsea Barleywine, Barleywine
  • Silver, Bourbon Barrel Old Dipsea Barleywine, Wood Aged Beer
  • Silver, Marin IPA, American IPA
  • Bronze, Marin Hefeweiss, American Wheat/Rye
  • Silver, Marin Abbey Special, Belgian Strong Dark Color
  • Bronze, Mt Tam Pale Ale, American Pale Ale
  • Bronze, Tiburon Blonde, Belgian & French Ale
  • Bronze, Tripel Dipsea, Belgian Strong Light Color
  • Bronze, Saison De Revolution, Belgian & French Ale
  • Bronze, 21 Year Old Ale, Od Ale
  • Bronze, E.S.Chi, Spice Herb Vegetable/winter Beer

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Moylan’s Brewing

  • 1st, Gold, Hell’s Export Lager, Light Lagers
  • 1st, Gold, Hopcrak XXXIPA, Imperial IPA
  • 3rd,Silver, Moylan’s Wheat Ale, American Wheat/Rye
  • 3rd, Gold, NDR CAL IPA, American IPA
  • Honorable Mention, Best of Show, Gold, Hopcrak XXXIPA, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, Wet Hopsickle, Wood Aged Beer
  • Silver, Moylander XXIPA, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, Hopgarten Pilsner, Pilsner
  • Silver, Chelsea Moylan’s Porter, Porter – Robust/Baltic
  • Silver, Ryan Sullivan’s Imperial Stout, Russian Imperial Stout
  • Silver, Moylan’s Chocolate Porter, Spice Herb Vegetable/winter Beer
  • Silver, Dragoons Dry Irish Stout, Stout – Dry, Sweet,Foreign & American
  • Silver, Octoberfest Marzen, Euro Amber Lager
  • Silver, Hopsickle Imperial XXXIPA, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, White Christmas Winter Beer, Spice Herb Vegetable/winter Beer
  • Silver, Orange & Black Congrats Ale, Fruit Beer
  • Silver, Moylan’s Special Bitter, English Pale Ale
  • Silver, Celts Golden Ale, Blonde Ale
  • Silver, Old Blaney Barleywine, Barleywine
  • Silver, Tipperary Pale Ale, American Pale Ale
  • Bronze, Danny’s Irish Red Ale, Irish Red Ale
  • Bronze, Pommegranate Wheat Ale, Fruit Beer
  • Bronze, Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, Scottish Ales

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Pizza Orgasmica & Brewing Co.

  • Silver, Orgasmica Triple I.P.A., Imperial IPA
  • Silver, Orgasmica I.P.A., American IPA
  • Silver, Orgasmica Chocolate Imperial Stout, Russian Imperial Stout
  • Silver, Orgasmica Kolsch, Kolsch & Cream Ale
  • Silver, Orgasmica Four Grain Hefeweizen, German Wheat & Rye
  • Silver, Orgasmica Pale Ale, American Pale Ale
  • Bronze, Orgasmica Amber Ale, American Amber Ale
  • Bronze, Orgasmica Golden Ale, Blonde Ale
  • Bronze, Orgasmica Porter, Porter – Robust/Baltic
  • Bronze, Orgasmica Peach Pale Ale, Fruit Beer

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Pyramid Breweries

  • 1st, Gold, Pyramid Curveball Blonde Ale, Blonde Ale
  • Gold, Pyramid Outburst Imperial IPA, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, Pyramid Hefeweizen, American Wheat/Rye
  • Silver, Pryamid Apricot, Fruit Beer

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Ruth McGowan’s Brewpub

  • Honorable Mention, Gold, Citrus Wheat Ale, Spice Herb Vegetable/winter Beer
  • 1st, Gold, Cloverdale Ale, American Amber Ale
  • 2nd, Gold, Monster Brown, American Brown Ale
  • Gold, Floyd IPA, American IPA
  • 3rd, Silver, McGown’s Dry Irish Stout, Stout – Dry, Sweet,Foreign & American
  • Bronze, Caroline’s Blonde, Blonde Ale

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Sonoma Springs Brewing Company

  • 1st, Gold, Uncle Jack’s Kolsch, Kolsch & Cream Ale
  • 3rd, Silver, New Bavaria Roggen, German Wheat & Rye
  • Silver, Daedalus, Wood Aged Beer
  • Bronze, Lil’ Chief, American Pale Ale

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Speakeasy Ales & Lagers

  • Gold, Payback Porter, Porter – Robust/Baltic
  • 3rd, Silver, Scarface Imperial Stout, Russian Imperial Stout
  • Silver, Big Daddy IPA, American IPA
  • Silver, Double Daddy, Imperial IPA
  • Silver, Prohibition Ale, American Amber Ale

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Strike Brewing Company

  • 1st, Gold, Strike Brown, American Brown Ale
  • Silver, Strike Blonde, Blonde Ale
  • Bronze, Strike Porter, Porter – Brown
  • Bronze, Strike Wit, Belgian & French Ale

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Thirsty Bear Brewing Company

  • Honorable Mention, Silver, Weizenbock, German Wheat & Rye
  • 3rd Silver, Broadsword, Scottish Ales
  • 3rd Silver, Cherry Stave, Sour Beers
  • Bronze, Winter Stave, Sour Beers

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Tied House Brewing

  • 1st, Gold, New World Wheat, American Wheat/Rye
  • Silver, Ironwood Dark, English Brown Ale
  • Silver, Alpine Gold, Blonde Ale
  • Bronze, Cascade Amber, American Amber Ale

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Trumer Brauerei

  • 3rd, Silver, Trumer Pils, Pilsner

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Beer Review: Alpha Session from Drake’s Brewing

Photo © Dave McAvoy

Until recently, the craft beer world was involved in a friendly war to one-up each other by creating bigger, bolder, and more extreme beer. Breweries like Samuel Adams and BrewDog produced beers in excess of 25% ABV, which really pushed the limits of beer. Other brewers focused on making the most sour, hoppy or spicy beer possible. Most of them are well suited for sipping or should be shared with others, not for throwing back in succession.

This trend is beginning to change. More breweries are focusing on the lower end of ABV spectrum and are redefining the “session ale,” including Drake’s Brewing in San Leandro. Their Alpha Session, a “Nor Cal Bitter Ale” as they describe it, weighs in at 50 IBUs (similar to many IPAs), but comes in a lighter at 3.8% ABV. Drake’s recently released Alpha Session in bottles around the Bay Area, so I thought it would be fitting to share my thoughts about the beer so you can determine whether or not you should take a few home to enjoy.

The beer pours a clear golden color with a finger of frothy white head forming atop. The head recedes slowly leaving some lace clinging to the sides of the glass. The aroma is full of West Coast hops, with hints of pine, grapefruit and citrus tickling the nose. There’s also an ample malt backbone, which gives the beer some balance. It’s surprising how full the aroma is considering its below 4% ABV.

The taste follows the nose closely in many ways. The first flavors to hit the tongue are a mix of grapefruit, pineapple, and other citrus and tropical hops, with some mild bitterness alongside the caramel and English biscuit malts. Through the middle, the pine and grassy hops jump out, bringing with them a stronger bitterness and a touch of resin. The finish continues the hop forward trend, with more tropical and piney flavors, some good bitterness, and some sweet malts lingering on the tongue. The beer feels a bit lighter than medium bodied with moderate carbonation. It feels smooth and incredibly refreshing with a nice dry and bitter feeling left afterwards.

Bringing the English-style bitter and session ales to forefront of craft beer in America is a trend that I can really get behind, and the Alpha Session is a great example. There is no longer a compromise between having a full flavored beer and something that you can drink all evening long. I really enjoy how much hop flavor and bitterness is jammed into this beer, without cutting down on the smoothness and session-ability one bit. One word of warning though, this beer has a habit of disappearing from your glass quite quickly, only to find out that you’ve had enough beer that catches up with you.

Photo & Video Recap: The Bay Brewed Rock & Roll Beer Festival

Photos © Brian Stechschulte

A sold out crowd of 300 people piled into the depression era Verdi Club this past Saturday for the first edition of The Bay Brewed Rock & Roll Beer Festival. City Beer Store, the San Francisco Brewers Guild and local indie music experts The Bay Bridged hosted the event. Performances by Terry Malts, Extra Classic, Sleepy Sun and Weekend stretched over five hours in that order.

Participating breweries nearly surrounded the dance floor. Members of the SF Brewers Guild, which included Anchor Brewing, Magnolia Brewing, 21st Amendment, Social Kitchen, Speakeasy and the Beach Chalet, occupied one side, while Ale Industries, Marin Brewing, Lagunitas and Drake’s Brewing sat along the other wall.

Festivities got off to a thrashing start with Terry Malts, but the crowd didn’t follow suite until the beer started to take effect and the lights began to dim. Most of the breweries served standard selections, but there were a few exceptions. 21st Amendment brought a keg of Allies Win the War, Lagunitas cracked a few bottles of Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale, and Marin Brewing brought their tasty chocolate Air Porter. A few taps ran dry early, but most of them lasted until nearly the end of the last set.

Overall the event appeared to be a resounding success. The crowd had ample space to roam and jump around, beer lines moved quickly and each performance was outstanding. The Bay Brewed should become an annual event.

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