Brew Biz: Werts and All, Anchors Away to Bikini Bottom’s Graveyard

    You can almost see SpongeBob holding his nose as the now leaky ship Anchor sinks into Bikini Bottom’s graveyard.

    Ken Carman is a BJCP judge; homebrewer since 1979, club member at Salt City Homebrewers in Syracuse, NY. Former member of Escambia Bay Brewers, Clarksville Carboys and Music City Homebrewers. Ken has been writing on beer-related topics, and interviewing professional brewers all over the east coast, for well over 20 years. Opinions here are not necessarily representative of opinions or education presented by the BJCP or their representatives.

By Ken Carman
    Following the downward path powered by bad business decisions that crushed OceanGate’s Titanic tourism sub, Sapporo‘s bad decisions sank beloved Anchor. Sponge Bob probably held his nose and waved as Anchor sank into Bikini Bottom’s Craft beer graveyard.
    I have had a passion for their Foghorn barleywine for a long time, which has nothing to do with “Leghorn” if I am going to continue with these cartoon metaphors. Foghorn, to me (original recipe), was a TRUE Barleywine. Not the more recent poor attempts by other breweries to turn the barleywine style into just another version of a super hopped, ultra bitter, IPA.
    Sometime after Fritz sold the business, I bought a pack of Foghorn. Horrors! I LOATHE that green rubber hose/Band-Aid phenol and this pack had nothing else but that defect in every bottle. It’s almost like watching a Road Runner cartoon and from the start the coyote dies, end of story. Nothing funny about ruining a product because management doesn’t want to do what they should do keep the business afloat. Why it’s almost as if the Japanese concern could have cared less about Anchor and their customers. Continue reading “Brew Biz: Werts and All, Anchors Away to Bikini Bottom’s Graveyard”

Sapporo USA Will Shut Down Anchor Brewing Co.

Update: At 4:44am ET on 7/12/2023, roughly 12 hours after this story was published, Anchor Brewing Company issued a press release announcing it will cease operations and liquidate its business. VinePair will be updating reporting throughout the day.

Today at 9 a.m. local time, employees of Anchor Brewing Co. will gather at the historic San Francisco firm’s plant on Potrero Hill for an all-hands meeting with leaders from its parent company, Sapporo USA. There, they’ll be told that the storied company will cease operation and be liquidated, ending 127 years of production.

A representative for Anchor Brewing Co., Sam Singer, issued a press release early on the morning of July 12 announcing the closure. VinePair first reported yesterday on the imminent possibility that Sapporo USA would shutter the iconic brewery, which it acquired in 2017. Now, America’s first craft brewery and the maker of the Bay Area-born Steam Beer will be sold for parts.

It’s an unceremonious demise for the famous brewery. Anchor and Sapporo USA declined multiple requests for comment in the run-up to this watershed decision. In the release, Singer attributes the decision to a mix of familiar factors: “the impacts of the pandemic, inflation, especially in San Francisco, and a highly competitive market left the company with no option but to make this sad decision to cease operations.”

Current and former workers cite another factor: Sapporo USA’s ownership itself. Over the past few years, they tell VinePair, the Japanese conglomerate’s United States’ subsidiary has been deferring necessary plant maintenance, picking fights with its union, and investing in costly automation equipment in hopes of retrofitting the urban manufacturing landmark into a facility that could handle its lager-based ambitions. A controversial 2021 rebrand caused anguish among workers and drinkers alike who viewed the vivid packaging and slick logo as an affront to Anchor’s singular, artisanal aesthetic. Continue reading “Sapporo USA Will Shut Down Anchor Brewing Co.”

A Beer Judge’s Diary

Our Topic- When Craft Beer is Bad

By Ken Carman
By Ken Carman

    What exactly do you do? Tell the server every beer is crap? Be more sensitive about it? Do what we did, be polite, pay and leave?
    I am not going to tell you the name, or where we were city/village-wise. Please don’t tempt me by guessing: I have no desire to destroy anyone’s business. It’s just a damn shame such places give craft a bad name.
    I had been here once before, but it was closed and the hours didn’t work for me. This time we came into town to buy something else, so…
    We bought the sample tray, filled with an oatmeal stout, a brown, a red, and a fruit Kolsch. We sampled dark to light. We agreed about all 4. The best was the stout, but seemed rather thin, needing more oatmeal. We went down the line and down hill from there: literally and figuratively. Continue reading “A Beer Judge’s Diary”

When Beer Goes Flat

America has fallen out of love with beer, the story goes. Sales are down. Market share is shrinking. Spirits-based drinks are ascendant. And for breweries, a storm is coming.

That story is incomplete, at the very least. A seismic shift really is occurring within the beer industry, which weathered a pandemic that kept Americans out of bars and, before that, withstood the Trump administration’s trade war that put a 10 percent tariff on aluminum imports, and which now faces intense competition from hard seltzers like White Claw and Truly. Today American consumers have the most diverse array of alcoholic options, from the most diverse array of producers, in the country’s history. And while this may be great news for drinkers—especially those who don’t like beer-flavored beer—it may not be for brewers.

The overall business picture of beer is that it’s in decline. But the decline is not a free fall. Beer is still, by far, the most widely consumed alcoholic beverage by volume. In fact, overall alcohol consumption had actually increased in the past couple of decades leading into 2021. So, when alcohol industry analysts say beer is falling, they’re talking about beer losing market share of retail dollars. In 2022 spirit sales amounted to 42.9 percent, and beer accounted for 41.2 percent—its first year in second place.

Beer has actually been losing market share for some time. From 2011 to 2021, for example, Anheuser-Busch InBev—the conglomerate behind Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob, Stella Artois, and more—fell from 46.9 percent of the market to 38.6 percent. But now Americans’ changing taste in alcohol has reached an inflection point, and it isn’t the Budweiser bottle that’s sweating. If your brewery is very large—or, perhaps surprisingly, if it’s very small—you’ll likely find comfortable shelter from the storm coming for the beer market.

It’s the brewers in the middle—the craft-beer makers that have a regional or national footprint, the non-Buds, the non-Millers, what you probably think of as the good beers—that could get soaked.

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Britain’s Cask Ale Is Struggling. Is American-Style Craft Beer to Blame?

Dozens of London pubs have acquired a new decorative feature this summer. On bar tops across the city stand vaguely old-fashioned, totem pole-like objects amid serried ranks of colorful keg fonts. These are handpumps, traditionally used to serve cask ale — for so long a staple in this country. But in many of the British capital’s pubs, they’re now purely for show.

Covid-19 has been hard on cask ale, the “warm” British beer that completes its fermentation in the serving vessel. This is how it acquires its distinctive soft carbonation, a key part of what makes it so enjoyable and such a contrast to keg beer, which generally has carbon dioxide added from an outside source. Cask needs to be drunk quickly, within three days of being breached, because when beer is pumped out of the cask, air enters. Also known as “Real Ale,” a term coined by consumer organization the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) in the 1970s, it’s best enjoyed at cellar temperature, around 53 degrees Fahrenheit, not chilled like keg.

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Of Beer Judges and Bench Judges

Originally published as an Inspection column. These opinions are not officially approved by the BJCP This editorial is the opinion of Mr. Carman, and not the opinion of all the staff or writers here at Professor Good Ales.

Written by Ken Carman

    What does the assignment of Aileen Cannon to the Trump case, after this Trump appointee’s previous Trump case remind me of?
    The kind of potential beer judges who, if honest, shouldn’t be judging an entry in a beer competition because they know the brewer. Also the kind of test taker who might not pass a beer judging test, if they were honest. Example paraphrased question, “Can you judge an entry if you know the brewer?” The answer is obvious, “NO.”
    Beer judging tests are actually quite hard. But the bar should obviously be higher for bench judges than beer judges.
    I have heard some lawyer wannabes compare the written BJCP beer judge test to being harder to pass than the Bar. Once you become a beer judge you are expected to judge according to, and within, the BJCP Guidelines. If you’re judging IPAs but somehow a stout got into the flight you’re not supposed to make it a winner because you prefer stouts. In fact before even judging that entry you need to ask if it was placed in the wrong category, essentially the wrong group of judges.
    Equally, as bench judge, guidelines for getting assigned to any court case should be at least equally tough. If there are no uncompromised judges (like no conflicts) in a circuit then a uncompromised judge should be brought forth from elsewhere. Just letting THEM decide if they’re compromised isn’t good enough. Indeed a beer competition organizer, and/or the judge organizer, has/have the job of making sure Judge Ken doesn’t judge his own beer, and like bench judging one of the highest, most important, ethical calls is to tell the organizer of such conflicts. Continue reading “Of Beer Judges and Bench Judges”

American Craft Beer: Confusing Evolution with The Apocalypse

Written by Steve Body
SO…within the past couple of months, some breweries have failed and some have made some drastic decisions, spurred along by the well-established New Reality of post-pandemic America. Yes, certainly Covid was exactly like a nuclear warhead, planted within an earth fault, exploding and wrecking shit in every direction. MANY business of all types closed the doors for good and some of those – actually a reasonably small number – were breweries. And of course, I read this morning that reaction to this latest couple of Unthinkable Events – The brilliant Lost Abbey scaling back, moving, and curtailing distribution to California only and Anchor Brewing cancelling their iconic Christmas Ale and similarly limiting distribution – constitute Chicken Little screaming that the sky is falling and that “everything’s Changing!!”.

And that part, certainly, is true…but not for the reasons given.

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Jones Creek Brewing: A Disturbance in The Force

Written by Steve Body
Just a few weeks ago, I wrote a thing in The Pour Fool about seeking out smaller, less celebrated (or even downright obscure) breweries, wineries, and distilleries in your own area. Around the Seattle/Tacoma area, names like Top Down Brewing Company in Sumner, Olalla Vineyard & Winery, off state route 16, Wind Rose Cellars, in Sequim, Old Soldier Distillery of Tacoma, and Yoked Farmhouse & Brewery, in Purdy, come to mind.

Many producers like these are punished because they have sinned: they have the audacity to start a business outside the Cluster and breweries and wineries BOTH cluster like mad. There is, for lack of a better term, a Force at work in this. This Force repels people away from the very real fact that, given all the remote breweries being built and started, every year, a few WILL, inevitably, be objectively better than the buzz-worthy ones that inhabit those urban Clusters. It doesn’t happen frequently but it does happen. Breweries in Washington that are not in Seattle suffer tangibly because they are Over There. Some overcome that. Bale Breaker Brewing Company, Iron Horse Brewery, Dwinell Country Ales, and Echoes Brewing of Poulsbo are just a few of my own local examples.

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Deschutes “Symphonic Chronic”: Megaphonic

Written by Steve Body
There is a growing, well, for lack of a better term, “substratum” of US craft beer that’s been labeled “convenience store only”. If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve probably seen some of ’em: tall, 19.2 ounce cans, usually cartoon or otherwise attention-grabbing artwork, and the message “9%” large and unmistakable, there on the front.

As one of those tiresome beer snots who does NOT, like EVER, buy his beer in a convenience store, I didn’t find out about these beers for a very long time. But we were taking one of our frequent day trips around this magical state of Washington, one sunny afternoon in late spring, and found ourselves in a line for a ferry, with maybe an hour to kill. As we were hungry and, on this unseasonably warm afternoon, THIRSTY, I walked out of the ferry lot to a nearby independent market and looked in their beer cooler and…it was like looking through Stargate. A whole new world was there, clearly visible…and a bit frightening.

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The Pour Fool Double Mountain “Go Ask Talus”: Great Beer, Bad Pun

Written by Steve Body
got this sample from the folks at Double Mountain Brewery & Cidery, located in the absurdly, other-worldly gorgeous Columbia River Gorge, in quaint-but-JUMPIN’ Hood River, Oregon, and groaned audibly when I opened it and saw the label.

“What’s wrong?” asked my darlin’ new bride.

“I’ve just been PUN-ished by Double Mountain Brewing,” I replied, proud of myself, with what I felt was a justified twinkle in my eye.

“Why?” she scowled, “What did you do to them?“


I ADORE my wife, in a way that I never expected I was even capable of. But the woman is where Jokes Go To Die; the rocky shoal on which the little boat of humor runs aground. She is inadvertently funny. (Listening to her learn to pronounce “gewurztraminer” was ten days of riotous fun) And wickedly smart but not inclined to whimsy…

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