Blog Entries

Cold Glass

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Category: General Blogs

A green market recently started in the New York City neighborhood   where I live and while I’ve really enjoyed having it every Sunday, I have to say there were some products I just didn’t see myself ever buying there. One of them was dairy. Each Sunday the upstate New York based Ronnybrook Farm Dairy sets up a stall at our Market, like it does at many others across NYC. It’s a cute little stall brimming with milk, yogurts, creams, butter, etc. But having always bought all this at my supermarket I just didn’t see the reason to start getting it from the green market. After all, why change a good thing? Also, to be honest, I just didn’t trust it. Especially in the warmer weather, just how cold can they keep dairy in a farmer’s market stall all day?

But a couple of weeks ago, for no real reason other than I just had a few extra minutes to kill, I found myself again at their stall and took a closer look. And before I knew it, I had grabbed a quart of Ronnybrook’s milk in one of its old-time glass bottles, along with some yogurt, and was lugging it home. I really didn’t expect much. I figured it was worth trying, but I’d never do it again.

As the next Sunday rolled around, my bottle of milk and yogurt having run out days before, I was eagerly awaiting my next trip to the Ronnybrook stall. What had changed my mind? For those of you who regularly buy glass bottles of milk this will of course be preaching to the choir. But if you haven’t, I highly recommend it for several reasons. One, it’s damn cold, colder than any cardboard container of milk I’ve ever had. And that makes a huge difference. Second, the milk just tastes better. I don’t know if it’s the fresh, straight-from-the farm thing, or the way they process it, or the glass bottle again, but it just tastes great. And third, I don’t know if I’m old enough to remember drinking milk from a glass bottle as a kid, but the whole experience brings up some kind of nostalgia for me. Everything from twisting off the round lid, to the feel of the bottle in my hand, to noticing how the white liquid fills up less and less of the bottle every time I reach for it—it all just feels right.

And then there is the extra interaction with the Ronnybrook salesman at the stall every Sunday. Pleasantries are exchanged, and I even return the used bottle for $1.50 off my next one—how much more green can you get?

Coincidentally, the day I was writing this came news that the only bright spot in the carbonated soft drink market in the U.S. these days are sales of soda in glass bottles! That’s right—sales of soda in glass bottles rose 2.6 percent for the 52 weeks ended April 13, while plastic bottles fell 0.8 percent and aluminum cans fell 1.9 percent, according to Nielsen. Part of the reason, says The Wall St. Journal, could be that glass holds special appeal to millennials, baby-boomers and Hispanics. Lo and behold, glass is shattering its reputation as a package whose time has past. Its best days may very well lie ahead!

Wine 101

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: wine

One topic that we continue to cover is wine education as it relates to the changing tastes of consumers.  

Comedians often joke about the protocol for ordering wine at a restaurant. A diner might pretend to know what exactly they are looking at when skimming a book of wines from around the world—which to most means very little—and then just narrowing down the choices solely by how much they’d like to spend and whether the company at the table prefers red or white. Then there is the ritual of tasting the wine at the table and the presentation of the bottle. How do you know if a wine has turned for the worse? And is it really okay to send a wine back if you are not happy with it, bad or not?

I recently attended the London International Wine Fair (LIWF) and sat in on an interesting discussion in the “Speaker’s Corner” led by Tim Wilson, managing director of the Wilson Drinks report called, “10 Things You Probably Don’t Know about the U.K. Drinks Market.” The talk took a holistic view of the key trends and tipping points across beer and spirits as well as wine with results based on primary consumer research, market data and independent analysis.

There were many interesting facts and figures that Wilson shared; he pointed out to the audience that many consumers confuse grape varieties with wine regions. While this is a U.K.-specific tidbit, I suspect the same would hold true in the United States. Wilson suggests that there needs to be more education done not only by the producers and distributors of wine, but also by the retailers where there is a cohesive approach to what is being advertised and then how consumers find that advertised wine.

Even I found myself confused over the characteristics of grape varieties at a recent wine tasting held at Suze in London’s Mayfair. The restaurant holds wine tastings for groups led by ThirtyFifty, a company that offers tasting and education events to demystify wines and help consumers get more out of their wine drinking experience.

That evening we tasted six wines (some blind, to see if we could identify the grape or region in which the wine was from) including wines from France, Argentina, California, Italy, Australia and Chile. I was surprised by the overall knowledge of the group of 10 women who were able to pinpoint where the wine was from. Though no one got every one correct, the group faired well, using the cheat-sheet that was provided.

The class also consisted of using our sense of smell to try and identify fruit essences. (I proudly was the only one who distinguished raspberry.) But my wine knowledge wasn’t as impressive I have to admit, and I learned how not all wines fall into their stereotype. While there are general characteristics of a particular grape, Zinfandel for example, that isn’t a definitive box.

My favorite wine of the night was St. Hallett Garden of Eden Shiraz Barossa Australia, 2010. All of the wines we sampled were under £13 (about US$20) with the least expensive being £7.49.

The industry continues to work on wine education, but there is still a lot to be done. But as the millennial consumer experiments more with different wines, the entry-level courses are sure to become a bit more advanced.

Savor & the City

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beer, brewing, craft beer, hops, alcohol, brew

The Brewers Association traded the Beltway for Broadway for the sixth edition of Savor, its craft beer/food pairing extravaganza, hoping the one-year detour to the Big Apple would boost craft’s profile in the eyes of the largest media market in the U.S. and, arguably, the world.

The annual rite of late spring had made its home at Washington, D.C.’s National Building Museum—save for its inaugural edition, which was at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium.

“Being in New York puts craft brewers on center stage,” Brewers Association craft beer program director Julia Herz told Beverage World during the event at Manhattan’s adjoining Metropolitan Pavilion and Altman Building. “In D.C. we had Brewers on an amazing stage, but New York is a great home for a year and we’re reaching a different audience.”

The organization already had hosted 6,500 at the Craft Brewers Conference (CBC) in the nation’s capital in late March and decided one event in the first half of 2013 in the District was enough. Savor had provided an opportunity for brewers to meet with their legislators, but CBC fulfilled that objective this year.

 “Why not come to the biggest media and food market?” Herz added.

Missing from last month’s event were the National Building Museum’s stately, atrium-style high ceilings and towering columns, but the classy, low-lit cocktail party vibe was still intact at the New York venue. As was the foodie’s paradise of culinary creations prepared under the direction of chef Adam Dulye, designed to pair with everything from a pilsner to a Russian imperial stout.

But despite New York City’s cred as a media and gastronomic center, the city still lags behind cities like Portland, Ore, Philadelphia and Chicago when it comes to being considered a “beer town.” That’s been gradually changing, especially with the efforts of established locals like The Brooklyn Brewery—the No. 11 craft brewer in the country this year celebrates its 25th anniversary—and Sixpoint Brewery. And a few new ones are opening in the city each year. Additionally, distributors like Manhattan Beer and L.Knife-owned Union Beer have been leading wholesalers of craft. New craft-centric beer bars seem to be opening every month as well; a local organization has created the Good Beer Seal to recognize such destinations.

Still, New York’s been a tricky market, especially when you consider how much competition there is for the drinker’s attention. And, of course, space isn’t something that’s in particular abundance in New York City.

Many craft breweries outside the region—including larger, established ones like Savor supporting brewery New Belgium—have yet to enter the market.

John Bryant, co-founder of Spokane, Wash.-based No-Li Brewhouse had considered the market, but has been hanging back, largely because of packaging issues.

“We were looking at New York and we were advised early on that the 22-ounce bottle package, which is what we’re in, wasn’t really relevant to the city,” Bryant explained as he poured from those same bottles of No-Li’s Jet Star Imperial IPA and Wrecking Ball Imperial Stout. “The were saying a lot of the smaller stores, up and down the street, are carrying six-packs, but they weren’t doing a lot of 22s on the shelf….But we’ve since been learning that with the 22, people are actually starting to experiment more.”

Bryant said he hoped Savor would attract a new level of attention. “Savor is in the capital of media, food and culture,” he said. “Boston’s great and North Carolina’s great, but New York’s where trends start.”

Eugene, Ore.-based Ninkasi Brewing Co. isn’t available in New York either, but part-owner and founding brewer Jamie Floyd was sampling Believer imperial red ale and Tricerahops imperial IPA, with an eye on the bigger, national picture. “It’s kind of more for the broader, national exposure,” Floyd revealed. We also spend a lot of time as a company working on food and beer pairings.”

As for entering the New York market, “We never say never,” Floyd said. “We’ve talked about it but we’re not looking for East Coast distribution at this point. We’re in the process of a $20 million expansion right now and that will allow us to continue to fill in more of the West Coast.”

One West Coast brewery that is available in the city is Hood River, Ore.-based Full Sail, though it took about 24 of the company’s 26-year history to finally get there. Founder and CEO Irene Firmat was pouring a pilsner from Full Sail’s LTD series and its Pub Series extra special bitter. “[Savor] is a celebration of beer and food and taking seriously, but still having a whole lot of fun,” Firmat said. Full Sail’s Savor participation extends back to the first edition in D.C. back in 2008. So which host city does Firmat prefer?

“I’m a native New Yorker,” she said, “so I’m a little biased.”

Farm to Bottle

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Category: General Blogs  |  Tags: beer, brewing, craft beer, hops, beverage, alcohol, brew

Craft brewers across the country have been known for their embrace of all things local and that dynamic has manifest itself further in New York City with the launch of Brooklyn Brewery’s Greenmarket Wheat. The brew, inspired by the Belgian wit style, is the result of Brooklyn’s collaboration with non-profit environmental group GrowNYC, which, among other activities, helps build community gardens and runs New York City’s best-known greenmarket in Union Square. The effort involved working closely with New York State farmers and malters.

The collaboration is result of New York Gov. Mario Cuomo’s 2012 Farm Brewery License legislation aimed at expanding the growth of craft breweries and increasing demand for locally grown products to brew beer across the state.

Greenmarket Wheat, which is brewed from 70 percent New York State-grown wheat and barley and packaged in a 750 ml cork-finished bottle, will be available on Wednesdays and Saturdays at the Union Square Greenmarket and at Riverpark, chef Tom Colicchio’s restaurant where the beer was first poured during an unveiling event Wednesday afternoon. There are also plans to sell it at Whole Foods locations and other restaurants in the city interested in serving Greenmarket Wheat.

During Wednesday’s launch event, Brooklyn Brewery co-founder and president Steve Hindy described the path to making Greenmarket Wheat a reality.

“There is a demand for local produce, locally produced products and locally grown commodities and foods, but seven years ago you couldn’t get the grain to make this beer,” Hindy said. “Things have changed in the meantime thanks to the work of GrowNYC and the wonderful greenmarkets. [The markets are] such an incredible addition to the community in New York. There are people I see on Saturdays at my greenmarket whom I don’t otherwise run into. It’s not just a great place to buy your vegetables and your greens and everything else, it’s a great place to run into friends and it really creates a sense of community…The greenmarkets bring the bounty of New York to New York City and with this beer we’re supporting farmers upstate who are growing grain and providing a market for them.”

Hindy credits famed graphic artist Milton Glaser, who designed Brooklyn Brewery’s logo, as well as the iconic “I Love NY” logo, with bringing the brewery and GrowNYC together on the project. Glaser is a regular at the city’s greenmarkets and was also on hand at the unveiling.

“I’ve seen the city change so much in my time and one of the great changes in the city in terms of quality of life is the curious intersection of brewing and farming,” Glaser said. “Saturday morning is the time that my wife Shirley and I go out to start our day by going to the greenmarket…It’s a fabulous way to start our day and has so much improved the quality of civic credibility and comfort…I appreciate both the opportunity to continue to work for the Brooklyn Brewery and the greenmarket because of the common purpose of making feel good about being here and affectionate towards one another.”

Greenmarket Wheat uses raw wheat from North Country Farm in Watertown, N.Y., wildflower honey from Tremblay Apiaries in Chemung County, N.Y. and pilsner barley malt from Valley Malt in nearby Hadley, Mass. Malting only recently returned to the region.

“Throughout history there have been maltsters in any community where people grew grains and people drank beer,” noted Valley Malt owner Andrea Stanley. “And recently has that disconnect gone farther and farther away from where many of us live. And so in 2010 when we wanted to start using local grains in our home brewed beer, we found out that the closest malt house was in Wisconsin and we needed to grow a railroad car worth of grain if they were going to malt it for us. We decided that maybe we would step forward and maybe reconnect this part of our local food system.”

Right now, Brooklyn Brewery’s Hindy said, supplies of Greenmarket Wheat are only limited by the availability of local ingredients. “Really the only thing that’s going to prevent us from selling a lot of the beer is ensuring that we can get enough grain to brew it,” he said.

Brooklyn Brewery vice president and brew master Garrett Oliver says he hopes to be able to eventually boost the already high percentage of local ingredients used.

“We’ll keep the label saying 70 percent,” Oliver said, “but I’d like to be able to get to 80 percent, 90 percent and eventually 100 percent New York State-grown ingredients.”