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California winemakers are bracing themselves as new tariffs from China could result in exponentially decreased export sales.
China will impose a 15 percent tax on imported products from the United States, including wine.
“The tariffs, in response to ones President Donald Trump ordered on Chinese products earlier on Thursday, could put a real dent in Wine Country revenue growth,” Lynn Doan writes in Bloomberg. “China’s thirst for imported wine has increased 2.5 times in the past five years.”
Wassail wasn’t only the first all-cider bar in New York City — it was one of the most acclaimed spots in town. The design was “upscale tavern,” with rich woods and a gorgeous white marble bar top. It offered dozens of obscure ciders on tap and hundreds more in bottles. The New York Times’s restaurant critic Pete Wells gave its all-vegetarian food menu a glowing review, noting, “After circling back again and again … I’ve fallen under cider’s spell, and Wassail’s, too.”
Yet Wassail whimpered to a close earlier this year, just two-and-a-half years after it opened.
If a single, high-quality cider bar couldn’t cut it in the largest, wealthiest, most food-obsessed city in the country, how exactly can cider expect to enter the American mainstream?
For some reason, craft cider just can’t get a foothold in the market the same way craft beer has over the last few decades. There are currently around 6,000 breweries in America, raking in nearly $100 billion per year. The thirst for interesting craft beer is relentless and seemingly unstoppable. Every weekend in countless cities, beer geeks line up outside breweries to buy cans of juicy New England-style IPAs. Every September, over 60,000 beer nuts attend the Great American Beer Festival.
Meanwhile, there are around 500 American cideries, reeling in less than a billion dollars a year, and that’s if you include perry (pear-based cider) and sake (rice wine).
It really doesn’t make much sense. Cider is a perfect fit for this era. In a way it’s more hand-crafted than beer, often using foraged, completely local fruits. While beer geeks obsess over sour beers, many ciders are made from the same wild yeast inherent on their skins, causing tart and complex products similar to the best wild ales. Gluten-free everything is on the rise, yet cider can’t manage to fully catch on with that lame hook. What gives?
“You have to remember, cider has only been reintroduced to the U.S. as a major beverage on a large scale in the past couple of years, since around 2011 or 2012,” Luke Schmuecker, a partner in Vermont’s Shacksbury Cider, says.
It wasn’t always that way. Cider was once the drink of America, from the pilgrims — cider equipment was actually aboard the Mayflower — well into the 1800s. Back then we were an agrarian country and what grew particularly well on the East Coast was apples. (His name was Johnny Appleseed for a reason.)
Unfortunately, during the Industrial Revolution, settlers starting expanding west into areas more fit for barley, rye, and corn. People’s tastes also started to change, especially those of lager-loving Europeans who emigrated to more densely-populated urban areas.
“If you were cool and sophisticated, you drank beer — or, if you really wanted to be cool, Madeira,” explains Schmuecker. “Cider started to be thought of as a ‘poor farmer’s beverage.’”
Shacksbury’s tasting room opened in 2017 in a historic building that formerly housed a creamery. Credit: Shacksbury Cider
The ultimate death knell was Prohibition. The beer and whiskey industries were (eventually) able to recover from it, but cider wasn’t for one distinct reason: There were fewer cider apple trees left standing.
You see, the best apples for making cider are known as “spitters,” as in they are so bitter in taste, you immediately spit them out. If temperance nuts hadn’t burned these cider apple trees down, then farmers uprooted them to make way for dessert apples and other fruits. It can take years if not decades for newly planted cider apple trees to become viable, making many modern farmers loath to invest.
Most cider-makers I talked to agreed that the craft cider industry is about 20 to 25 years behind where craft beer currently is. That puts us back in, oh, 1995 or so, when there were fewer than 1,000 breweries and few people even knew what “IPA” stood for.
“In order to get to where beer [currently] is, drinkers need to understand what cider is and its place at the table, and we’re just getting started,” Burk says.
Schmuecker also believes that lack of consumer understanding severely hurts cider’s popularity and growth. He loathes the term “hard cider,” as all cider is inherently alcoholic or “hard.”
Of course, here in America, “cider” is sometimes used to refer to that jug of unfiltered apple juice the overall-clad guy at the farmer’s market sells you. In Europe, a much better cider market, there is no confusion. There, “cider” is always a fermented alcoholic beverage.
“The most accurate name comes from Germany, where they call it ‘apfelwein’ or apple wine,” Schmuecker says. “That at least gives you an understanding of what you are drinking. The problem is in the U.S., cider is made like wine and sold like beer.” Indeed, you’re more likely to find cider in the beer aisle or as one of the taps at a beer bar than in a wine shop or fancy restaurant.
The government does cider no favors, either, in how it limits sale and distribution. In Connecticut, for instance, you can’t sell cider in grocery stores. Until recently, New York didn’t even have a classification for cider — producers simply had to choose if their cider was a “wine” or “beer.” Meanwhile, the TTB says if you make a cider that is too carbonated (seriously), it has to be taxed like wine.
Some cideries have simply learned to accept these harsh realities in order to be more fluid in who they try to sell their product to.
“We feel that consumers now think of drinking from sensory experiences,” David Rule, the vice-president of Austin Eastciders, says. “They don’t think in categories. They think about what we call ‘usage occasions.’ ‘What am I going to do with that drink?’ I don’t think many people today are going, ‘I want a vodka cocktail tonight’ or ‘I want a light beer today.’ The truth is, most everybody buys wine, most everybody buys beer, most everybody buys spirits. They just just buy them at different frequencies.”
Rule feels his company’s cider can appeal to everyone, even though it’s one of the more seemingly “beer-like” ciders around, accessibly packaged in cans. He appeals to wine lovers by showing how cider’s production methods are similar, and how it likewise offers tannins, astringency, and is great for food pairings. He thinks a cider like Austin Eastsiders’ Blood Orange can appeal to cocktail drinkers (“It operates like a Mimosa in a sensory experience,” he says.) And beer fans might like Hopped or any of his fruited ciders.
He thinks one of the key reasons cider hasn’t quite taken off is that for so long the only cider available was a super-sweet version, something people couldn’t possibly drink all night long the way they drink beer or wine. Even worse, he believes, is the scourge of faux-cider nonsense like Redd’s Apple Ale.
“I’m not sure if these sweet ciders are good or bad,” Peter Yi, who formerly operated Wassail in NYC, says. “Time will tell. There were once a lot of sweet wines made with blackberries and cherries and peaches. Remember Riunite? All those disappeared after a while, though.”
“Similarly, right now, there’s a feeding frenzy for sweet cider. But I feel the future of hard cider is going to be dry,” Yi says.
Peter Yi (far right) opened Brooklyn Cider House in 2017. He previously operated Wassail, an acclaimed, now-shuttered Manhattan cider bar. Credit: Michael Tulipan
Yi is banking his entire life on being right about that. A few months after Wassail shuttered, he opened a massive new cider bar across the river in Brooklyn, called Brooklyn Cider House.
Yi had been in the wine business for nearly 25 years. A few years back he was in San Sebastian, Spain tasting through Txakolí, a local Basque wine, when a friend invited him to visit a local cidery.
“It was a lively atmosphere. Like a celebration,” he explains. “I sat down and had this incredible experience with Basque cider and food. Everything finally clicked. Wow, this is such an incredible beverage! At that moment, I knew, it was something so extraordinary, I had to be involved with it.”
Returning to America, he completely uprooted his life. He sold off his wine collection and house. He convinced his sister Susan to quit her job as a schoolteacher and join him. They bought land in New Paltz, N.Y., just 90 miles north of NYC. They planted ancient cider apple trees that had grown in the days before Prohibition.
Yi also wanted an urban warehouse-type space in Brooklyn — where he’s originally from — to sell the cider just as it had been sold to him in San Sebastian. He found that space on Flushing Avenue in Brooklyn, right on the dividing line between the hip neighborhoods of Bushwick and East Williamsburg.
“It’s the whole experience I’m selling,” he explains. “If I just produced the cider, it would be very difficult to sell. Unless I sell the experience too. Then, after you try it a few times, you’ll finally understand it. It’s kind of like wasabi. If you just tried to sell wasabi in a foreign land without Japanese food and soy sauce accompanying it, you wouldn’t understand it. But you put wasabi in the right setting, and people get it. That’s what we need to do with cider.”
Rule likewise thinks the experience of drinking cider with others is crucial for cider’s ultimate growth. “The success of taprooms in the beer business has shown that people want to actually meet the people that make the stuff,” he says, “And learn more about it.”
Austin Eastciders has a taproom they just opened late last year. They call it the Collaboratory as it’s a place they use to educate drinkers, having to continually explain to people that they aren’t a brewery per se. Still, Rule continues to be amused by the brand’s fans who cheekily tweak them on social media.
“We’ll get people that check in to the taproom,” he explains. “And they’ll note, ‘Finally found my favorite beer company.’”
Meanwhile, Shacksbury, in the rural northwestern Vermont town of Vergennes, has become a bit of a destination for cider enthusiasts. Angry Orchard opened its Walden, N.Y.-based orchard to the public in the fall of 2015. There, in the Hudson Valley, it hopes to better explain cider to visitors, elevating the experience from the typical Angry Orchard six-packs you might find in the supermarket.
Brooklyn Cider House likewise seems like it’s becoming many Brooklynites’ favorite “beer company.” Set in a beer-mad area just a few blocks away from both Interboro Spirits & Ales and Kings County Brewers Collective, I visited all three spots on a recent Saturday. Each was absolutely packed with locals — though, if anything, the Cider House had the more diverse crowd.
“I think in the U.S. we are looking at a slow build,” Schmuecker says. “I’m always wondering if there will ever be a cider that gets people so excited they line up at our tasting room in Vergennes [to buy cans]. I don’t know, maybe a hazy, New England-style cider?”
Or, maybe, cider will always be a niche drink.
“It’s a very challenging beverage, something you don’t get right off the bat,” explains Yi. “Most people try some and are like, ‘Uh, it’s O.K.’ Because they don’t get it! It takes time. It’s an acquired taste. Once you get it, though, it’s just an incredible product. A life-changing product.”
At the Union des Grand Crus de Bordeaux, a series of tastings held earlier this year, the 2015 Bordeaux vintage inspired strong reactions. Bursting with ripe fruit and structure, these wines are regarded as the region’s best since 2009 and 2010.
Or, to put it less delicately, people are freaking out about the 2015 Bordeaux.
You might be saying, “O.K., but so what? I can’t afford good Bordeaux.” That’s the best part. Several bottles from this exceptional vintage are under $50, and some for less than a twenty.
First, let’s talk about vintages. A vintage is the year in which the grapes were picked. Simple as that. But what’s not so straightforward is how every year can vary wildly.
Like any crop, grapes are subject to every whim known to Mother Nature: temperature extremes, frost, winds, snow, rain, sleet, too much sun, not enough sun, humidity, wildfires, you name it.
Bordeaux was battered by spastic weather in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014. It decimated vineyards and impeded the development of really excellent grapes. Harvests were small and grape quality varied enormously.
The 2015 growing season, however, was magical. Consistent heat and no rain in May, June, and July made for happy grapes. Then, August rains cooled things down. Of course, the region is large and various appellations experienced slight differences, but the bottom line is that great weather — for the first time in years — resulted in small berries with thick skins, ripe tannins, and amazing concentration of flavor.
This is why people are flipping out. The 2015 Bordeaux wines are sexy and delicious. Balanced. Well-structured. Delicious.
And the prices are incredible manageable. From $19 for Château de Chantegrive (50 percent Merlot, 50 percent Cabernet Sauvignon) from Graves, to $195 for Château Canon St. Emilion Grand Cru (70 percent Merlot, 30 percent Cabernet Franc), there is something for every budget.
Consider investing in two bottles of a 2015 grand cru — drink one now, take notes, and burn that taste memory into your brain. Cellar the other for 10 years. These are lush, beautiful wines that will only get better with time.
Five to Try
These knockout 2015 grand cru Bordeaux are all less than $50. All prices via Wine-Searcher.com.
Scotch is… confusing. If you’re new to it, trying to pick Scotch whisky is like trying to figure out which estranged relative to talk to at that big, terrifying family reunion.
The Macallan, fortunately, is one Scotch it’s easy to love immediately. Not a peat monster, no caramel coloring (though the distillery is probably haunted), Macallan produces both great entry-level Scotch (like the Macallan 10 and 12) and some of the most coveted bottles for serious collectors. (Prices vary from around 50 bucks to hundreds of thousands).
No matter how much you have to shell out, or how much you plan to imbibe, here are 10 things you should know about Macallan Scotch Whisky.
Macallan Exists Because a Schoolteacher Wanted to Get You Sauced.
If only all teachers were like this. Alexander Reid, both a barley farmer and schoolteacher, founded The Macallan Distillery in 1824, a year after the Scottish Excise Act legalized distilling. Reid started early, and small — the first whisky Macallan ever produced came out of a woodshed and just two pot stills. By 2013, the company announced plans to build a 100 million pound production facility.
Macallan Is an O.G. Single Malt.
It’s easy to get confused, but the term “single malt” doesn’t mean a whisky was made in one barrel (though there is “single barrel” whisky). It just means your malt whisky was made at one distillery. Macallan was one of the first distilleries to recognize the marketability/flavor/general sexiness of single malt, which the company really started publicizing in the 1970s. That seemed to work out for them: Along with Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, Macallan makes up one third of the entire world’s single malt whisky market.
Macallan’s a Speyside Whisky. Which… Means What?
The basics of Speyside are pretty simple, and you can use them to buy whiskies according to your palate and intimidate your friends over drinks. Speyside is an incredibly prolific subdivision of the Highlands region, roughly broken down into two types: lighter, heathery, grassy whiskies (like Macallan), versus richer, fruitier, sweeter whiskies. Think fruitcake, but you actually like it, and it gets you drunk enough to endure family holidays.
The Name ‘Macallan’ Is Probably Gaelic.
It’s likely a combination of two Gaelic words: “Magh,” which means fertile ground or land, and “Ellan,” a reference to Irish monk St. Fillan, who brought Christianity to Scotland in the 8th century. Again, use this information to intimidate your friends over drinks.
Macallan Is Crazy About Its Casks.
Macallan is the only Scotch distillery that has its own Master of Wood. Yes, giggle for a second, but behind that title is easily one of the most important people behind Macallan’s success. Master of Wood Stuart Macpherson painstakingly sources Macallan’s 200,000-odd oak barrels from oak trees in the U.S. and (mostly) Spain. He has them dried, shaped at a Spanish cooperage, and seasoned with Oloroso sherry, which contributes richness to the final product. The process is about 10 times more expensive than most oak-barrel production. Which is why… bottles like this exist.
The Beautiful Macallan Estate Is Definitely Haunted.
It’s been scientifically confirmed that most buildings in the U.K. are probably haunted, but Macallan’s flagship Easter Elchies estate might definitely be haunted. Roderick Kemp took over Macallan in 1892. Beyond introducing the essential Spanish sherry casks, Kemp, who was supposedly a bit of a difficult boss, is rumored to haunt the estate to this day. Let the boss nightmares ensue.
Some Whisky Is Dyed. Macallan’s Is All-Natural.
There’s something hypnotic about the brown-sugary luster of whisky. There’s also something artificial. Most of us don’t know that, and most of us — consciously or not — tend to judge a whisky’s depth by a color that’s artificially hued. Macallan is one of the few whisky producers that doesn’t use caramel coloring, which is why it seems to pack inordinate amounts of chewy fruit flavor despite a light color. (In case you were wondering, some wine producers douse red wine with something called Mega Purple. Just FYI.)
If You Don’t Want Straight Scotch, Macallan Makes a Tasty Cocktail.
You don’t have to drink Scotch alone, while looking serious, or even wearing a monocle. If you don’t quite like the straight-up flavor of Scotch, you can try a cocktail, including this one created by Pete Canny of The Wayland in NYC. It’s easy to make and full of warming flavors (orange, cinnamon, clove).
For Macallan, at Least, Size Matters.
Not the way, you’d think. Macallan whisky is famous for its self-described “curiously small stills,” among the smallest copper pot stills in the business. The basic concept — and obvious success — of using smaller stills has to do with surface-area contact between alcohol and copper, increasing heat and creating more depth and richness in the distillate. Adding small to small, Macallan uses a tiny “cut” (or portion) of the distillate — 16 percent of the alcohol they’re evaporating — to create the final product. (If you want to get even smaller, you can find copper pot still Macallan decanters online, which are just… adorable.)
A Bottle of Macallan Once Cost as Much as Going to College… Like, Three Times.
A bottle of 1946 Macallan in a specially crafted crystal Lalique bottle sold at auction for $460,000 in April 2017, making it one of the most expensive whiskies ever sold, and/or the best/worst drunk decision ever. The good news: All that money went to a charity dedicated to providing safe drinking water for about 30,000 people.
That Said, Be Careful What You Pay for Macallan.
At a hotel in Switzerland, writer Zhang Wei once paid $10,000 for a shot — a shot—of what was supposedly an 1878 bottle of Macallan. Carbon dating at Oxford later confirmed the entire bottle contained a malt/grain blended whisky, likely from the 1970s, and definitely worth much, much less.
If You Don’t Like Peaty Scotch, Try Macallan.
Some Scotch drinkers like to sit back in a flatulent leather armchair with a Glencairn of peaty Lagavulin looking for notes of Band-Aid. If you’re not that person, try Macallan. Unlike stereotyped (though still delicious) peated Scotches, Macallan rings in delicate but complex, with aforementioned fruit notes, toffee, a naughty prick of nuttiness (that felt gross writing). Macallan 10 Year is easily one of the more popular starter Scotches — approachable but still complex, like that shy girl in every high school movie ever made.
A new bill proposed in Louisiana is shaking and stirring state policymakers.
HB 429, a bill proposed by Louisiana Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, would allow adults aged 19 and 20 to legally purchase and consume alcohol with an earned certificate.
The bill is part of LaFleur’s efforts to lower the drinking age, an issue he feels strongly about. In fact, he thinks 18-year-olds should be able to drink, too.
“It just doesn’t make any sense for people to be going to bars and getting drinks from older guys and having to patrol and regulate that,” LaFleur said in an interview. “It just doesn’t work, and everyone knows it doesn’t work. So why do we bury our head in the sand and say it works?”
While others are pushing for stricter drinking laws in Louisiana following the death of a college student who was hazed at a fraternity party and “forced to drink more than six times the legal alcohol limit,” WWL-TV, a local CBS affiliate, reported, LaFleur believes allowing younger adults to drink will lessen the dangers of “private” drinking by bringing more young adults into the public to drink at bars and restaurants, where they will consume alcohol more responsibly.
“I don’t know why if people need to go drink, why you would not want them to drink in a public setting where you’re subject to criticism and the rules of the restaurant and bar,” LaFleur said.
To obtain the certificate, called the Louisiana Alcohol Consumption Certificate, individuals would have to complete an alcohol education course “in hopes of curbing abuse among recipients,” the report said.
The bill, originally scheduled to be heard Tuesday, has been postponed to be heard next week.
To enjoy buying and drinking wine means we have to willfully succumb to certain fictions. We pretend, for instance, that we know what the juice inside the bottle will taste like. We do so based on visual clues from the words and art we see on the label, or if we previously tasted another bottle of that same wine. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth: Tasting wine is much knottier than that.
Heraclitus famously said that no man has ever stepped in the same river twice; he could just as easily have said that no one has ever tasted the same wine twice. Wine is a living thing, elusive and mysterious. It changes not only from vintage to vintage and from bottle to bottle, but even from minute to minute, according to arcane alchemy involving some of the most complex chemicals in the world interacting with untrustworthy human sense receptors.
But one of the most important aspects of how a wine tastes is, simply, everything we think we know about it. Study after study has proven what most of us already know, on some level: The taste of any given bottle of wine is determined in large part by our own subjective mood and surroundings. The price we paid, especially, is a key variable: The more a wine costs, the more we like it.
If you think that wine labels don’t matter, that they don’t affect the way a wine tastes, think again. What you think about a wine absolutely makes a difference to how much you enjoy it. And labels play a very important role in how you think about what you’re drinking.
All wine labels tell you what’s in the bottle: what grape it’s made from, where it comes from, who made it, how old it is, that kind of thing. There are also often various forms of third-party endorsement, such as medals from various wine contests, or the logo of a well-known importer vouching for the wine’s quality.
Then there are the visual and tactile semiotics of the wine label — the large and small details which the winemaker and the label designer use to try to convey a certain impression of what to expect when you open the bottle. (And remember, what you expect plays an enormous role in what you end up tasting.)
Is the name of the wine some kind of bad pun? Cardinal Zin, say, or Goats do Roam? That’s the winemaker trying to put you at your ease, basically telling you not to be intimidated.
Is there lots of elegant script accompanying a line drawing of a grand chateau? That’s the winemaker telling you to be intimidated, conveying a long and dignified history which you’re probably barely capable of fathoming.
Is the paper for the label especially thick, or the glass for the bottle especially heavy, or the gilding on the label especially ostentatious? That’s an unsubtle signal that this is an expensive luxury product, something truly special, probably worth paying a premium for.
Most wine labels are pretty conventional, and it’s easy to see why. Imagine a bottle of wine with no label at all — just a plain bottle with no markings whatsoever. It just doesn’t feel the same. With something as hard to nail down as wine, a label gives us certainty, safety, something to hold onto. Consider this: Bottles of wine with torn or damaged labels regularly sell at a significant discount, even though that has no effect on the juice inside.
In turn, wine-label conventions have created a counter-convention. If you see a wine label that is particularly outré, if it’s very colorful or cartoonish or hand-drawn or looks like it probably belongs on an obscure craft IPA rather than on a bottle of wine, then there’s a good chance that it’s a natural wine, farmed biodynamically with wild yeasts and minimal intervention. The idea is to make the wine look a bit weird and funky, so that people are less likely to be surprised if and when it tastes that way.
The main job of a wine label, however — and even many wine professionals don’t fully understand this — is to kill that which is most alive in wine, to zero out its inherent uncertainty. The goal is to reduce any given wine to something static and repeatable. If you’ve drunk a certain wine in the past, and you then drink another bottle with the same label, it’s incredibly easy to relax into the fiction that the wine you’re drinking is the same as the wine you drank last time around.
That’s a necessary belief, on many levels. No retailer could ever sell a wine, no sommelier could ever recommend a bottle, unless they were working on the assumption that all bottles with the same label contain basically the same wine.
But of course that’s not true. Even if you pour two glasses from the same bottle, professional judges will rate them differently. The wine you taste when you’ve just opened a bottle is very different from the same wine just a few minutes later — and different still from how it tastes when you’ve moved on from your starter to your entrée, or when you’ve just heard some good news, or when someone makes a comment about a specific aspect of the wine.
The problem is that there’s no real way to analyze that kind of complexity. So while the liveliness of wine is a large part of why millions of people love it so much, the conversation about wine — both written and spoken — invariably simplifies it to the point at which the wine label effectively becomes the basic atomic unit. If two bottles have identical labels, then they, and their contents, are considered identical, interchangeable, fungible.
That white lie is the thing that allows us to talk about wine, to treasure a bottle we haven’t opened, to be able to associate certain memories with certain names. It’s a mental shorthand, without which we’d be effectively incapable of navigating the world of wine at all.
Still, it’s important to remember that the map is not the territory. And the label is not the wine.
The Brewers Association released its 2018 Beer Style Guidelines yesterday, with three extremely noteworthy category additions: “Juicy or Hazy Pale Ale,” “Juicy or Hazy IPA,” and “Juicy or Hazy Double IPA.”
Yep, you heard me. New England-style IPAs, deliciously juicy and hazy as a fever dream, are finally, officially recognized by the country’s leading craft beer organization.
But there’s more to the BA’s new designations than bottom-line benefits and bragging rights. Sure, the BA may seem behind the times by only recognizing NEIPAs now. And, yes, not calling any of them “NEIPAs” is silly; Andy Sparhawk’s comprehensive explainer of the new categories employs the phrase “New England-style IPAs” precisely because it’s a helpful descriptor.
Ultimately, these classifications are meaningful because they protect cultural achievement. Creating a new beer style as creative, crowd-pleasing, and durable as these is a big deal. The new codifications acknowledge the creativity, popularity, and durability of these new beer styles.
Regulations are important. Designations like these protect the work of talented American brewers who are absolutely, no-hyperbole changing the global face of beer. I’ll call these brews hazy or juicy or Susan, so long as they stick around.
RIP, Reddit’s Beer Trading Post
One of the internet’s leading forums for buying, selling, and swapping craft beers is no longer. Today Reddit banned its beer-trading community, r/beertrade, in accordance with site policy prohibiting “the use of Reddit to conduct transactions.”
For the uninitiated, Reddit is a) insane, b) addictive, and c) a network on which users with screen names like 316nuts share information and opinions. It’s divided into channels called “subreddits,” one of which was the trading post in question, r/beertrade.
Despite myriad flaws, Reddit provides a really fascinating sociological litmus. I feel confident that the sort of people who trade beer on the internet are hardly going to be deterred by a rule saying they can’t trade beer on the internet. Jim Vorel at Paste predicts traders will relocate to r/beer, or other sites like BeerAdvocate.com and Instagram (where a lot of trading already occurs). I agree.
Digital beer trading might go elsewhere, but it’s not going anywhere. To cite a film that absolutely no Reddit beer trader has seen, wild hearts can’t be broken.
The Most Depressing Thing About Beer Foam Art Is How Many Likes It’ll Get
In technological news, a company called Ripples introduced a machine that makes beer foam art. It uses 3-D printers to transcribe pre-set images or text onto beer foam in 11 seconds (!) via edible, malt-based ink (?). You can also submit custom images using an app.
The internet (obviously) noticed this wildly inessential product development. “Step Aside, Latte Art. Beer Foam Art is In,” Food & Wine declares. “Just When You Thought a Pint Couldn’t Get Any Better, Beer Foam Art is Here,” crows the Ottawa Citizen. Vice MUNCHIES soberingly adds, “Beer Foam Art is Here to Make Your Bartender’s Life Hell.”
Like my fellow wet blankets at Vice, I believe we should strongly oppose beer foam art. In addition to depleting financial and technological resources, 3-D printing your beer foam degrades what’s in the glass. The scores of people who will inevitably request their head read “YAS!” are undoubtedly more interested in posting it on Instagram than enjoying what lies beneath.
That’s the rub, isn’t it? This whole operation is so clearly designed for social media impact, not joy IRL. It sort of makes me want to trash my phone, move to an island, and get all my news from empty seashells. Until then, I’ll just ‘gram my hazy IPAs like a normal person.
My first and only trip to Chianti was a disaster. Mechanical issues, delayed flights, and endless rebooking lines delayed the arrival of an already short trip by almost a full day, landing me in a gray, rainy Florence shortly before sunset. I lamented the sights (and glasses of wine) that I was missing through the foggy, winding car trip into the heart of Chianti, which culminated in a stomach-upending climb into a hilltop village.
Of course, the streets were too narrow to fit my taxi, leaving me to roll my mercifully small suitcase on uneven cobblestones solo. Clad in a day-old airplane outfit, I was exasperated and ready to turn around and head back to my cramped New York apartment. But as I reached the crest of the hill, the clouds parted to reveal a postcard-perfect sunset over the lush landscape, rainfall still clinging to the sprawling cypress trees. I took a deep breath of cool, damp evening air, and all my frustrations faded. That quiet, peaceful moment is exactly what the Selvapiana Chianti Rùfina 2015 evokes.
With the exception of the traditional Chianti Classico zone, Chianti Rùfina is considered the most consistent and quality-driven subregion of Chianti. Cool breezes tend to create a style of wine with elegance and freshness, which the Selvapiana Chianti Rùfina certainly showcases.
The aromas of this Sangiovese-based wine are fresh and cool, with notes of cranberries, cherry blossoms, basil, and turned earth, like a spring garden accented by morning dew. The palate leans toward the prettier side of Chianti, but it isn’t overly floral in any way. It’s clean and medium-bodied, just the kind of easy-drinking red that could easily find its way onto the Tuesday dinner table. But while it isn’t fussy, it isn’t a simple, throwaway wine either. And next to making the long and possibly exhausting trip to Tuscany, it’s the next best thing to being there.
Finally the world is about to have a wine comedy with the potential of actually being funny – of course there’s Sideways, but the pretension Miles showed throughout the movie became unbearable, and we don’t think Bottle Shock intended itself to be laughed at. Amy Poehler has announced that she will make her directorial debut and star in Wine Country, a film she is creating for Netflix.
According the The Hollywood Reporter, which broke the news, the script was written by Poehler’s longtime friend and collaborator Emily Spivey, who worked with her on Parks & Rec and SNL as well as Liz Cackowski who is also from SNL. The movie will be filmed and set in Napa and based around a 50th birthday party trip that takes place over a long weekend amongst a group of longtime friends. Those friends will be played by a hilarious cast that includes Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, Maya Rudolph and Emily Spivey.
The group announced the news via a hilarious video they released on Twitter:
It's happening—Amy Poehler's directorial debut, Wine Country, is coming soon to Netflix! Starring Amy Poehler, Rachel Dratch, Ana Gasteyer, Paula Pell, Maya Rudolph, Emily Spivey and featuring Tina Fey. Get excited. Get real excited. pic.twitter.com/kZedPmzeVC
Our hope is that this movie is an extended version of the hilarious Catalina Wine Mixer scene from Step Brothers. Wine isn’t meant to be taken seriously, and thankfully with this cast of hilarious women, we can be assured it won’t be. We can’t wait until it’s released.
Ashley Tobin used to come armed to her family’s house. Bottles of Philadelphia Brewing Co., Victory Brewing, Yards Brewing. If it was craft beer from greater Philadelphia, she’d drive it from her home in Eastern Pennsylvania up to Illinois so she wouldn’t have to drink her relatives’ preferred Bud Light Lime.
“A little Pennsylvania for them, a lot of craft for me,” the 49-year-old non-profit manager would say.
But last summer, she stopped. The longtime craft drinker relaxed into some Bud and found she didn’t mind sipping a few, “like iced tea.”
Then, home for Independence Day, she purchased something eyebrow-raising: a case of Miller Lite.
“I think I wanted something that tasted like I remembered. I didn’t spend a bunch of time thinking about it. I walked in, grabbed it and left,” she says, following up with phrases like “sensory overload” and “too much IPA/saison/sour/whatever.”
Tobin is what blogger Tierney Pomone calls a “recovering beer snob,” and she joins the ranks of American drinkers — including me, to some extent — who came of craft beer discovery age somewhere around the turn of the decade. At this point, “micro-brewing” truly penetrated the mainstream for the first time in its 40-year history.
Recovered beer snobs, also known as “geeks” or “nerds,” are generally Gen Xers who’ve spent years swirling and sniffing taster-sized samples, waiting in line for Heady Topper, and posting pictures of their beer hauls. They’ve gone through a lupulin threshold shift that carried them from IPAs to 100-IBU imperial IPAs, and then on to sours because their palates had basically grown numb to anything that didn’t blow it to pieces.
But, as observers predicted, they eventually got tired. They overloaded. They grew up. And they stopped wanting to think so hard about beer.
“I just got burned out,” says former beer blogger Ryan Hudak, who admits he used to exclusively down intense beers because he didn’t understand the subtle nuances of a mellow brew. “After learning more about different styles, I started gravitating toward less extreme beers,” he says. “Rather than buy a bomber of a beer I have to split with four friends because it’s 18 percent, I’m much happier drinking two or three cans of a 4 to 5 percent lager.”
What does this indicate? Palate fatigue is real. Also, it’s not cool to be a cliché who derives his sense of self by showing contempt for anyone who orders anything that’s not over-bittered or barrel-aged. The original generation of craft beer obsessives is (hopefully) gaining perspective. And maturity.
“If I think my opinion is so great it’s only because I have trained my palate and had the experiences to be able to make more informed decisions,” says Kyle McHerron, a recovered beer snob. He used to offer poetic evaluations of beer aromas, comparing them to obscure foods and spices. He brought his own beer to parties.
“Now I want to give that to other people as well,” he says. “I usually go the route of politely declining something if I really don’t enjoy it or sometimes not caring at all and enjoying the social aspect of sharing a beer with friends.”
Call it the natural evolution of an explorer. Typically, craft drinkers are the types of people who like to discover things. With that desire for self-education often comes the urge to scoff that they knew that beer before it hit big and it sucks now that it’s sold out to a multi-national brewing outfit.
Rather than generational, this seems to be more of a developmental phenomenon. New craft drinkers (typically but not always younger millennials, whose first beer might come from craft darling Tree House Brewing instead of Budweiser) are still chasing whales and spewing nonsense about shelf turds. And more sophisticated craft drinkers than me probably roll their eyes when I (yes, still) post humble-brag pics of the bottles I lug back from Sonoma County.
But that’s O.K., as long as we eventually grow out of it and refocus on beers that actually, um, taste good. My beer journalism mentor, 59-year-old Lew Bryson, says that, back in the day he and his friends, too, collected beers like so many notches on so many belts.
“Then we got out of it,” he says. “But some people get stuck at a certain point in their personal development, like those who get stuck in the glory days of high school. That happens with beer as well.”
In Bryson’s early drinking days, spotting Sierra Pale at a bar could be a big deal. Chances are the bartender would pour it into a frosty mug or chilled shaker pint. This is how a lot of us learned about the impact proper glassware has on the aroma, flavor, and visual appeal of a beer.
Then came cans and just like that, I sort of stopped caring about the shape of my glasses.
Brian O’Reilly, brewmaster at the East Coast’s first canning brewery, Sly Fox Brewing, says cans match the craft brewer attitude that prescribes taking one’s beer seriously but not oneself.
“More and more, as craft beer becomes available everywhere, there are many places where it’s not necessary to have a glass,” O’Reilly says.
Or, as Bryson says, “Glassware is such a first-world problem.”
Another first-world problem to turn off a portion of serious craft drinkers? Big beer buyouts and the battle over the definition of craft. Some gripe that they can no longer track what’s considered craft so they give up and drink what they like. Others simply see through what they perceive as bullshit.
“I feel like I’ve seen too many breweries tug at the heartstrings of the consumer using the craft/little guy angle,” emails Os Cruz, a former New Jersey beer blogger who hosted numerous bottle shares and frequented Vermont’s cultish Hill Farmstead Brewery. “A lot of romantic ideas are/were used to gain a strong base of followers. Then when a brewery is ready to sell, they remind you it’s a business. They play the side they want as long as it benefits their bottom line.”
Whether it’s craft, local, “crafty,” or imported, today’s drinkers can choose from many thousands of excellent beers, a luxury that leaves many standard-bearers overlooked and struggling to stay relevant and/or solvent. (Think of Smuttynose, Magnolia, Sam Adams, and Sierra Nevada.)
In a parallel effort to make noise heard above the din, a few bars look backward to move forward. After tiring of new breweries with bad beer and old breweries with copycat fad beers like wheat wine and sour IPA, veteran Philly craft beer bar owner Mike “Scoats” Scotese decided to be unique at his newest establishment by, well, doing something different.
“At Bonks, we’re trying to pour beers that you forgot how great they are,” he emails. “There’s so much great old-school beer that we can switch it up often.”
Used to their rare and complicated Russian Rivers and Almanacs, Philadelphians might feel unnerved to walk into a beer bar that trades the sought-after element of discovery for an oldie-but-goodie like Bells Two Hearted Ale. Yet Scoats says almost all of his customers quickly settle comfortably into a surprising night of rediscovery.
As Julia Herz of the Brewers Association says, “A lot of beer drinkers who came of age during the microbrewery movement now look at, ‘Where do I want to land? I want to land in a place that doesn’t stress me out.’”
Drinking beer should be fun, she reminds us. And though the spokeswoman for craft brewers would rather see someone like Tobin pick up Jack’s Abby Munich Helles instead of Miller, she can’t deny Tobin and many of her craft beer colleagues are heeding her advice and remembering that for all of its sophisticated possibilities, to most people, beer represents a simple pleasure.
“Going to see my family, I had a chance to reset and enjoy the moment. It was so freeing to make that choice on my own later in the summer,” Tobin emails. “I’ll still choose a craft nine times out of 10, but I like No. 10, too.”