Saturday, June 27, 2009

"But Mommy, I Want 90 IBUs Now! Waaaaaah!"

Folks, I have to get up on the soap box for a minute, so indulge me if you will. We are starting to develop a problem, and I think I may be partly to blame. The good news is that it isn't too late to right the ship. What I am talking about here is our current appetite for new beers. It is insatiable. As more and more new beers pour into our market, we Atlanta area residents are jumping all over each new entry like a pack of hungry jackals on a fresh carcass. Except in this case, the carcass is usually awesome beer, and people generally behave pretty politely around each other when they get their hands on them. Here is the problem. Before we have even gotten close to picking the first carcass clean, another one drops out of the clear blue sky, and we rush over to that one and start grawing away on it. the first one is still warm for Christsakes.

How, you may ask, am I to blame for some of this? Well, I got just as caught up in it as everyone else, and paid so much attention directing our customers to new items, that I became part of the problem. "What problem?" you may me wondering. "I love all of these new beers. Keep 'em coming," you could be thinking. Or, "What? It isn't over is it? Oh god! Say it isn't over! I need new beer to live! Damn it, Jim. I'm a doctor, not a house plant!" This is where someone slaps you and says, "Get a hold of yourself man!" If you are a man, that is. If not, I doubt anyone slaps you. If they do, that is not cool at all. In fact, I don't really think slapping a lot of hysterical people is a good idea in general. Just let 'em go. Why are they your problem all of a sudden? Who are you to judge who needs to get slapped? What if what they are freaking out about actually is that important? Hell, maybe you should hear them out, get hysterical yourself. I mean, if it's that important, I'll hear you out. Just as soon as you put the knife down. Slowly....That's it....

The situation in the beer world in Atlanta right now looks great on the surface, but underneath that veneer, things are not so pretty. Like Michael Jackson's face. Before he died. Sorry, not a fan. What, too soon? Whatever. Hey, what was Michael Jackson's favorite college football team? Bringham Young (say it out loud if you don't get it). You want more MJ jokes? I got 'em, and they get more offensive than that last one. OK. Some other time. Moving on....

The beer situation is precarious right now because we are getting downright spoiled rotten. This market is looking great to all of these new breweries flooding the market. I mean, they can't lose. For now. What about all of those breweries that came here last year? The year before that? How about 2006? Remember how "new" those beers tasted back then? How about people doing business in our area before the 6% law changed in '04? Well, I think it's time to revisit some of those old brands. If we continue to only chase after the newest beers, the craziest odd-ball batches and special releases, we are weakening the foundation upon which we built such a market to be attractive to breweries who make those beers in the first place. Once breweries start showing declining sales, steeply declining sales, after 1-3 years in GA, the future will suffer. Word travels fast in this business. These people all know each other, and there is a beer event about every 1.8 seconds somewhere in the U.S. I just made that up, but there are a lot. If the Atlanta market starts getting the reputation for : "Yeah, it's great for about 18 months, but by then, 10 more breweries had come into town. My sales went through the roof and then into the basement in a year and a half," then the plethora of beers we are enjoying now will slowly start to fade. The beers we used to buy, just a few waves of news ones ago, will not just sit on the shelf like a forgotten toy, abandoned by a spoiled child that gets a shiny new one every week. They will take their beers and go somewhere else, talking bad about us, about you, everywhere they go.

Dark news for sure. However, I don't think it's too late to save the patient. If we do two important things, collectively, we can keep the staus quo that we are all loving so much right now.
  1. Use your wallet to speak your voice. Start buying some of those older favorites every once in a while, and see if you aren't pleased to revisit those flavors. I am not saying go back to when you drank crappy beer, and I am not saying do it all the time. Just break out of the spoiled-rotten, gotta-have-new-beer-or-I-am-going-to-throw-myself-on-the-floor-and- start-crying rut. In fact, you just might realize that the one you really love, like in a sappy movie, was right there in front of you the whole time. Do it for the people who believed in us before it was a no-brainer. I mean, selling craft beer in Atlanta is like shooting fish in a barrel these days. The folks who are coming here now, great breweries mind you, are not exactly taking much of a chance or getting creative with their growth strategies. This is the fastest growing market for craft and import beer in the country. And we are just throwing money at these people, who are really just following the leaders. How about some love for the leaders already. Give props (and sales!) to the innovaters and risk-takers.

  2. Help grow the number of craft beer drinkers in the Atlanta area. When there is a finite number of people buying craft beer, then there is a ceiling to this Shangri-La we are currently experiencing. Want it to continue? You can't do it alone, and neither can I. We, those of us who have helped create this market, can't be counted on to be the sole supporters of it indefinitely. That is not rocket science people. It could be your neighbor, it could be a co-worker (if you still have a job right now), it could be the friendly person who wants to start up a conversation in a bar. Maybe the next time you have company over for dinner, do a beer sampling. There is certainly no shortage of info on pairing beer with food. Clearly you know how to use the internet. Blow your friends' minds with some well chosen beers for that next backyard bbq. It won't cost that much. I mean, not everybody drinks as much as you do. Invite some curious associates to the next beer fest in Atlanta (again, the internet). There are two big ones in October. Hopefully the temp in GA does not still resemble the surface of the sun by then.
That is it. Off the soap box now. Thanks for listening. I hope that you will think about these issues, and take them to heart in some way. The ultimate goal of this mentality is to preserve the great situation that we have now, and not revert back to the dark ages. I appreciate your time. Have a great weekend. If you are free Saturday, there is an oak-aged cask of Red Brick Peachtree Pale Ale at the Mall of GA store. It tasted great when we had one at Metropolis last month.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Everybody In The Pool!

Everywhere I go these days people are talking about spending the day by the pool. This Sunday is the first day of summer, so I guess it's fitting. Personally, with the way the temperature is right now, you will not catch me outside without one thing: a foul mood. Sunscreen can shove it. Beach balls and pool parties can take a hike. The only reason that I would be outside in this type of weather is because I am on my way back inside. I have not been outside since 10:30 this morning, and I was pretty unhappy with the temperature then.

These guys in the picture are pretty sweet though. I bet the girls just line up for a date with these studs. I guess for them it's not a party until everybody laughs at you, not with you, and then gets sad, because you are just that pathetic. Look at the guy standing up with his clothes on. That's right, he's talking to a girl. He isn't afraid of them. Rock on pool dudes.

Hey listen, since there is no room to cool of with these guys, I have a better idea. Why don't you head on down to a nice air-conditioned Taco Mac for a big cold glass of Red Brick Solstice Roggenbock. This is the 3rd in our series of 30th anniversary beers, and it is perfectly suited for the season. Light enough to refresh, and flavorful enough to remind you that American craft brewing is truly where it's at these days. The new-ish Red Brick slogan "Beer From Around Here" say it all too. Reduce your carbon footprint, and do something to combat global warming. Drink local beer, and feel all green about it. Anyway, the beer is great, and I hope it is a part of your weekend too. See ya.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Who's Your Daddy?

Wow, sorry for the long hiatus. This is supposed to be a slow time in the restaurant/beer business, but don't try to tell me that. Between weekend beer events and my actual job, there has barely been time to squeeze in weekday beer events. As expected, I prevailed. Here is a brief recap. The actual behavior of some of the participants has been omitted to protect the guilty.

Last week we went to visit our store in Chattanooga during Riverbend. That is the 11 day fair/concert/street party the city of Chattanooga throws every year. We picked a Thursday in order to hang out with some regulars, assuming they would congregate on pint night. Turns out most of them bailed based on the sheer amount of drunken weirdos that come out the hills during Riverbend. Apparently Riverbend is good time to play "Redneck Bingo". Basically, the rules of Redneck Bingo are if you spot a characteristic that typifies redneck-ery, you get a letter. First one to "Bingo" wins. Spotting a mullet is like the free space in the middle of the Bingo card. Pregnant lady smoking? That's a letter. Any type of shirt with sleeves cut off? Letter. Confederate flag on any piece of clothing? Yep, that's a letter. If you spotted the guy wearing the high-top shoes, Alan Jackson t-shirt, and drinking from a bottle of Evan Williams in broad daylight, you almost won the game on that guy alone. You get the picture. Don't get me wrong, I love Chattanooga. These people don't live in Chattanooga. There were plenty of regular folks around too, but they aren't fun to look at or make fun of behind their backs.

The big draw that day was The B-52's. Not my cup of tea, but hey, it was free. The area around the stage (which is actually in the water) was your basic county fair kind of thing: beer tents, Porta-Johns, various types of food on a stick, etc. We had already eaten some great pizza at a new brew pub there called The Terminal, so I didn't have room for the Pork-On-A-Stick. Really wanted one though. The beer at The Terminal was good (I had a Mai Bock & an IPA), but once we got to Riverbend, that was it for craft beer. Budweiser it is. What? I like Budweiser. You can be a hater if you want, but just take a long look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself one question: "Am I a Bud hater because it's cool to be a Bud hater?" No, don't look at me. Look in the mirror and answer yourself. If you really are a Bud hater, that's OK by me. I'm not here to judge. All I'm saying is that if you stick your nose up in the air at a cold Bud on a sultry Tennessee night, you are forgetting one important lesson about beer drinking that I learned from one of the all-time pros: Pinkies on the glass people. It's beer. Stop acting fancy, put your pinkie down, and drink some god damned beer already.

OK, so the big deal all day was who the surprise band was going to be after the B-52's were done. Earlier in the week we heard it was going to be The Beastie Boys. See, Bonnaroo was starting the following day or something, so every musician in the world was on their way through Chattanooga, allegedly. Once we got to town, the rumors had changed to Phish being in town, staying right down the street in fact! Then a bunch of tie-dyed kids starting showing up and wandering aimlessly around Chatty-town. It was looking like there was something to this rumor after all. But the Budweiser reps, who put the whole Riverbend thing together it looked like, were sure that Jimmy Buffet was the surprise act. Wow! Beastie Boys, Phish or Jimmy Buffet? These are 3 of the top drawing acts in the country right now. The tension was thick. As the B-52's put the finishing touches on "Love Shack" (what did you think they would close with? Duh!), everybody was on the edge of their seats. And then the surprise was....the lights came on and they kicked everybody out. Surprise! Nothing. No Sabotage, no Margaritaville, no Fluff Head. You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here, etc.

Either way, we had fun. I think Marie learned how to do the Stanky Leg dance, so that was a plus. Our cab driver was so crazy that we kept calling him, and only him, all night wherever we went. Hollywood Howard. Want to hear about the web site he's working on? No. Trust me, you don't. Unless you too live in your mother's basement, and a computer screen is your only contact with the outside world. If that is you, I have Hollywood Howard's business card at the office. Call me. I'm definitely going back next year. Gotta get a Pork-On-A-Stick and see how that web site is coming along.

Alright, here is the important info for you beer drinkers out there. On Friday we are releasing our 3rd and final 30th anniversary beer. Atlanta Brewing Co. made Red Brick Solstice Roggenbock for us, and I can't wait to try it. Their Helles Bock is great this year, and this style is similar, with the addition of rye malt. It is going to be thirst quenching, but still full of flavor. All GA Taco Mac stores will have it, and I will be at Metropolis with some of the ABC guys. I may head over to Decatur after happy hour if I feel like it. We'll see. The name you ask? Sunday is the first day of summer, aka the summer solstice. Roggen means "rye" in German. What else happens Sunday? It's Father's Day! Let's make sure you thank that guy that's been putting up with you for all these years. Let's face it, being your dad hasn't exactly been a picnic. Remember when you did that one thing that time? Yeah, you remember. That was awesome.

Did I say picnic? Yes, the July beer dinner is Matt & Fred's Big Picnic. This will seat 60+ people on the mezzanine at Lindbergh. The beers are from all over. Matt made an incredible picnic-themed menu, and I picked beers to go along with them. It is usually the other way around. This is going to be a very casual affair, where we are not going to hush everyone between courses to talk about the beer and the food. We are just going to sit you down and feed you tons of great food and beer. We will be available if you have any questions about the offerings, but no formal speaking breaks, you dig? We have two surprises up our sleeves for this event. If you think you can figure one out by looking at the menu (Eric), there might be a curve ball in there you didn't think about. Either way, the excitement for this dinner is building. We are capping it at 66 people, and we are just over 40 now. Go to and click on "Beer Dinners" to view the menu and make reservations if you are interested.

Speaking of beer dinners, I just want to say that last night's dinner with Spaten was off the chain! Matt made all of these incredible German dishes, and the beers were a great match. Who is not happy with a glass of Optimator and a plate of weiner-schnitzel? Especially with 41 other people all saying "weiner-schnitzel" after a bunch of beers. Good times.

OK gang, that is it for now. Hopefully you have figured out the Twitter thing for your beer updates at the stores you like to frequent. Once I get out from under the mess I am under at my desk I will link those here. Dare to dream Fred! Otherwise, get out there this weekend and raise a toast to yourself, Red Brick, 30 years of Taco Mac, and dear old dad. Cheers.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Wave That Flag. Wave It Wide And High!

The United States haven't felt all that "united" in the last, entire lifetime really. We severely need something that we call all get behind. Since I usually have a beer in front of me, I think it is apt to say that "I am behind beer". Simple logic, that's all. So, let's all pull together and, at least while we are drinking beer, put all of that other crap aside.

On that note, this is your reminder about the Ommegang 2009 Inauguration Ale (aka Obama-gang, until the pesky Feds stepped in!) getting tapped tonight at two in-town locations, and tomorrow at two stores up north (equality!). This beer was made at Ommegang in up-state NY, in the same town as the Baseball Hall Of Fame, to honor our commander-in-chief. Roll down the bunting and strike up the band! Somebody kiss a baby! That makes apple pie sound like a bunch of commies. Tonight I will be at Metropolis for happy hour, and then heading over to Decatur around 6:30. Tomorrow I will start at Johns Creek and work my way to Old Milton. But hey, you can start without me. I won't be offended. I will be with some folks who rep the brewery, so if you have questions, well, you've got our schedule. We also have Duvel Green being poured at the same time. In case you didn't know, a Belgian company owns Ommegang. Hey, just like Budweiser! Now that's patriotic. (Those of you who did not know that Belgians own Anheuser-Busch now, please refer to the "newspaper" or the "internet" when you get back to the rock you live under. And while you're there, check out who owns Miller and Coors.) These are small kegs, and not cheap either, so they may or may not live to see tomorrow. I do not know.

I may have to split by 7:30 tonight though. In another bout of chest-beating patriotism, I need to watch a bunch of Canadians, Russians and Eastern Europeans play hockey for a city that has been decimated by foreign competition and corporate greed. Go Red Wings!

If we bump into each other in the next few days, I will tell you about my trip to New Orleans and the Abita Brewing Company last weekend. What a great town. I've never smelled anything like it! No, seriously, it is a great place. If you like trouble, and lots of it. If the word "behaves" is used to describe you-ever-then stay away from New Orleans. If you never, ever, like a red, white and blue swaddled Toys R' Us kid, want to grow up, then New Orleans is the place for you. Decadence. It's the American way.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Are You A Pro?

OK, by now everyone should know that the store-specific Twitter accounts are your source for all beer arrival updates. I hope that you are all as happy as we are with the initial response to this. I have been at some stores lately and found customers walking in the door, already knowing about some new specialty beer or rare item that they are going to order. I am going to stop asking them how they know about these things already, because the answer is always the same: Twitter. Once I get caught up with some projects this week, I am going to link every store's Twitter address on this blog so that you can one-stop-shop so to speak. I will never be confused with a tech-savvy member of society, but I will admit that these applications are pretty cool.

The future of Fred's Beer Page is not much different than the past: I will keep you folks posted on special events, my beery adventures, and beer-related news. This may include new arrivals, and those inclusions may be frequent. It is the store-specific arrivals that I am no longer posting.

In lieu of that, take note of:
  • Do not miss these kegs next week! Four kegs each of the rare Duvel Green and Ommegang's 2009 Inauguration Ale (aka Obama-gang) are in GA for four Taco Mac stores to feature. Tuesday you can get these beers at Decatur or Metropolis, and Wednesday at Johns Creek and Old Milton. Not sure what I am talking about? Please give the rest of the world the address to the cave you are living in, or a brief description of the rock you live under. If you just arrived from outer space, please taste these beers before you annihilate our planet. Thanks.

So, why have I not been in touch in a week? Well, last week was short based on Memorial Day. Then I was in Washington D.C. over the weekend for a beer event called Savor. This was a pretty dressed up beer festival sort of atmosphere, with some nice little foods next to the beer stations. It was all in the National Building Museum, which was a great venue. The breweries there were all top-notch, which was nice. Some festivals are more quantity than quality, and this one was not overly crowded either. Somebody still felt that it was appropriate to fart freely, which reminded anyone within a 15 foot radius that we were still just at a beer event, in case you were feeling "fancy".

Thanks to Expedia, we got a deal at the Willard InterContinental. Nice digs. The bar specialized in mint juleps. Everyone seemed to be in on the deal, too. Blue-blooded Washington insiders sipping sweetened bourbon heaping with crushed ice and fresh mint. It looked nice, but I had a festival to go to that night, so liquor was not on the afternoon menu for Fred. Plus, we had a few beers with lunch at RFD, which is owned by the Brickskeller people. Bell's Two-Hearted and Anderson Valley Amber tasted great. OK, I had a bloody mary, too. Sorry. Flying makes me thirsty for spicy daytime cocktails.
After the event ( we were all over town. I visited an old friend who bartends at a place called Sova (I had a Parisian Side Car-don't know what was in it, but I looked pretty sophisticated!). Then we went to some old, stylish restaurant that had many separate rooms, multiple bars, garden seating, etc. Listen, when you're all beer- and Side Car-ed up, you need to pick a place with fewer options for getting lost. I know the employees must laugh watching customers like me wander aimlessly around the cavernous restaurant looking for the bathroom, which is in the basement! This was just amusing enough to the Lagunitas guy and I, that we figured Grand Marnier snifters were a good idea. That's how it starts. Someone has a bad idea, but presents it in such a way that you think it is a good idea, and your enthusiasm convinces that person that it actually was a good idea all along. Sometimes those ideas are your own, other times, you're the accomplice. Then there was that other place over there, and we drank all of that other stuff there, get the picture. Drinking with my friend from Lagunitas is like playing basketball with Michael Jordan back in the day. You might be on the same court, but you will never be on the same level.
So between the short week and the weekend out of town, here I am again. "But it's Friday already!" you say. True. But, there is another Sierra Nevada Beer Camp beer in Atlanta. It is at Manuel's Tavern on N. Highland, which just happens to be 3 blocks from my house. Sorry, but I spent last Monday and Tuesday "researching" this beer (black IPA? India Dark...? Totally delicious...) extensively. I have one conclusion after my research: I hope there is still some left next week. This week is short too, because I am headed to New Orleans for 2 days starting tomorrow. We visit Abita on Friday, having dinner at NOLA Friday night, and then left to our own mischief all day Saturday. Once we get back on Sunday, we are headed straight to V-High for the end of Summer Fest. Monday is an office (i.e. hang over) day, then the two Duvel Green/Obama-gang days. Up next day is Thursday, and we head to Chattanooga for Riverbend (you can Google that if you want). Rough? Remember, "When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro." If you know that quote, without having to use Google, I will be impressed. If you have to use the internet, feel free. Just don't blame me when your conscience calls you out and the shame sets in. The one last week was too easy. If you think you know this one, be prepared for a few follow-up questions. That takes us to next Friday. I will be driving home from Chattanooga that morning. The weather prediction for the inside of my vehicle that morning: foggy. For those of you who forgot, in between these dates I actually have a job to do. Feeling sorry for me? Didn't think so. Worried about me? Please. Stand back, I'm a professional.

FYI- The July beer dinner looks awesome. The menu will be available soon, but you can reserve spots now if you like. This one will be less formal, but with more courses (and TWO surprises!). If you came to the Christmas dinner, it will be like that, but with a picnic theme. If you hate having fun, then you definitely want to avoid Lindbergh on 7/21.

That's it for today. Have a great weekend, and I will see you all soon.