Schlitz, “The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous,” returned to its birthplace with what is claimed to be the original formula (gleaned from old notes and interviews with former brewmasters). Schlitz is brewed by Pabst, the maker of another popular retro beer of the past few years, Pabst Blue Ribbon. Schlitz was first brewed more than 150 years ago and was the top-selling beer in the United States for most of the 20th century. The brand died an ignoble death as clueless brewery owners dumbed-down the recipe, eventually making it undrinkable for many of its regular customers. The Schlitz brewery closed in 1981 and the next year the owners sold the brand to the Stroh Brewery of Detroit, which later sold Schlitz and other brands to Pabst.
Iron City Brewing in Pittsburgh is the new brewery formed from the assets of the former Pittsburgh Brewing. The Iron City name harkens back to the original name the brewery was founded under in 1861.
Bear Republic Brewing of California brewed the world’s first 100 percent rye beer, called Easy Ryeder, overcoming the difficulties in brewing with this delicious but notoriously tricky grain.
Micros Merge, Co-Brew, Co-Mingle, Miscengenate, Get Animalistic
Two of the country’s original craft breweries, Oregon-based Widmer Brothers Brewing and Washington-based Redhook Ale Brewery (with a second brewery in NH), merged to form Craft Brewers Alliance.
Magic Hat Brewing of Vermont took over/merged with Pyramid Breweries of Washington. The holding company for the new combined breweries is named IBU (Independent Brewer’s United). IBU is also brewer’s shorthand for International Bitterness Units, a measurement of a beer’s bitterness from hops. Cute name for the new company.
Flying Dog Brewery of Colorado bought Frederick Brewery of Maryland in 2006, and this year, as of January, all the animals were happily making beer in Maryland. The doggie brewery in Colorado was closed in favor of the larger, more modern brewery in Maryland.
We can expect more of these mergers/buy-outs among micros.
Gordon Biersch Brewing of California began brewing beers for sale in Costco stores.
The Sky Didn’t Fall—Hops Didn’t Disappear
The big story at the end of 2007 and into early 2008 was that there was a monster worldwide shortage of hops and that prices would be astronomically expensive for years. Fuggedaboutit.
David Edgar of Mountain West Brewery Supply said: “Germany had a bumper crop, best in decades, so the pressure from Europeans trying to buy U.S. hops (with Euros) is dramatically reduced. The U.S. crop is at least average, so generally it’s been a good year. Willamette (a variety of hops) had all but disappeared a year ago. Now we have reports of A-B offering Willamette to other brewers, kind of flooding that variety back into the market. Some specialty varieties and high-alpha varieties will still be tight. Probably no more extreme $25-$30+ per pound, but maybe instead gravitating toward the $15-$22 range per pound.”
Ralph Olson of Hopunion also said that the hops situation is much better this year, “but I still think the supply is on the light side. By next year we will be out of the woods for sure. This year in the U.S. we put in quite a few acres of hops. This helped out, along with getting a pretty good crop from the established fields.”
And in the midst of all this hops angst, Jim Koch of Boston Beer Co. (Samuel Adams beers) stepped into the picture last February offering 20,000 pounds of East Kent Goldings and Tettnang Tettnanger hops from his brewery’s stocks. Because of the overwhelming number of requests (close to 400) that Boston Beer received, Koch held a lottery to allocate the 20,000 pounds of hops. Ninety-nine breweries shared the spoils. On October 3, after Koch took two trips to Germany for the hop harvest and hop selection, he decided to release another 20,000 pounds of German noble Tettnang Tettnanger hops to help brewers who still had difficulties obtaining hops.