Craft Beer 101: Stout vs. Porter

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Here at Thorn Street Brewery, we are often asked about the differences between stouts and porters. While the answer is relatively simple, the history of how porters became stouts is much more complex.

To start things off, all stouts are porters, but not all porters are stouts. Let’s take it back to the late 18th century when the first mass produced beer , porter, was born in London. At the time, London was in the middle of the Industrial Revolution and being that there was a big enough population of beer drinkers in the city, it was able to sustain industrial sized breweries with the new technologies. The brown ale that was being produced at the time began being influenced by the tastes of porters, seamen and dock workers, and they preferred a mix between the three main styles at the time: old ale which was stale or soured, new ale which was brown or pale ale and weak ale, often referred to as mild ale. This robust blend was the world’s first porter, and was named after the people who loved to drink it.

Stouts came about because beer drinkers began wanting stronger porters which were often referred to as stout porters. Here’s what’s interesting though, porters all but disappeared during WWI (1914-1918) while stouts survived. The British government was worried about alcohol consumption during the war so they passed a bunch of laws making beer harder to get, more costly and also more watered down. ABV took a serious nose-dive during the war with porters going from about 5% ABV to just under 3% ABV. Stouts got the same watered-down treatment, but because they started out at a higher ABV, they only ended up falling to about 5%, or what porters were pre-war. Soon people were drinking stouts more and more with the only people still drinking porters being an older generations who enjoyed the lower overall ABV. Stouts continued in popularity while porters completely died out until the 1970s when home brewers in both England and the United States began toying with the forgotten beer style and unsurprisingly added their own creative twists to the brew.

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Today if you ask brewers what the difference between the two styles of beer is, you might get a few different answers. It’s generally accepted that stouts are often darker than porters and tend to make use of roasted barley. But there is also a lot of overlap between the two styles. Here at Thorn Street Brewery, we offer both porters and stouts and although they are both dark in color, they have distinct flavor profiles. Castaway Coconut Porter is an American style porter infused with toasted organic coconut. The malt flavors of dark caramel, chocolate and coffee blend withe the coconut for a slightly sweet, robust flavor. Our Santo’s Coffee Stout is an oatmeal stout that is brewed with roasted coffee beans from Santo’s coffee, across the street from our brewery. This robust beer uses the notes from the coffee to play off the dark caramel and chocolate malt used in the brewing process. Interestingly enough, although stouts in the 17th/18th century were the stronger brothers to porters, our porter is stronger than our stout, clocking in at 8.3% vs. our stout’s, 6.1%.

Next time you are in, grab a taster of both and see how different, or similar you think the two styles are.

 


Baja Bound: Craft Beer Across the Border

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With San Diego sitting atop the craft beer throne (Sorry, Portland), it’s not surprising that our dear friends across the border have also been brewing up their own delicious, craft beer. That’s right, Tijuana is in the middle of a craft beer and gastronomic boom. TJ has long been known for being the place for 18 years olds to get blindly drunk while cheap Tequila is poured down their throats by some dude at Coko Bongo on Avenida Revolucion. However, in the last 5 years, not only has a thriving gastro-district emerged, but Tijuana has also become a city known for its high-quality and creative, craft beer.

We recently had the pleasure of heading down to Plaza Fiesta, in Tijuana, where 9 (and growing) craft beer tasting rooms reside along with a plethora of other craft beer bars. Plaza Fiesta was, until recently, a cluster of night clubs and punk rock bars known for their booming music and cheap drinks. How did the craft breweries begin their invasion of the Plaza? Tijuana is a notoriously hard city in which to get a liquor and beer license and a loophole was found at Plaza Fiesta. Since the walls and structures in the Plaza are somewhat less than permanent, craft breweries began “sharing” the clubs’ liquor licenses and pouring out of their back rooms.  This basically allowed these narrowly connected businesses to operate under a single liquor license. Over the last year or so, these bars began getting busier and busier with craft beer drinkers and not only did the breweries set up their own, more permanent, tasting rooms, but the bars themselves started serving all kinds of craft beers from Baja to American brands. Now, when heading down to Plaza Fiesta, there are more craft beer tasting rooms and bars in one spot than anywhere else in Tijuana.

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We drove down to TJ from San Diego on a recent Friday night and parked in the Cinepolis parking lot at the Plaza Rio. This large, guarded parking lot is a great place to stash your car if you are driving, but another easy way to do this would be to Uber down to the border, walk across and then Uber or taxi to Plaza Fiesta. That skips out on the driving altogether and allows you to take full advantage of all the cross-border, craft beer love. Once parked, we walked across the street to the bustling craft beer gallaria and hit up Cerveceria Insurgente for our first beers of the night. Their tasting room is hipster-cool with exposed brick painted over in white and a thumping beat from music that holds strong to its TJ club roots. Their delicious Witbier with cayanne called, Tiniebla, was a great way to kick off the night.  Their small tasting room is attached through the back door to Paralelo 28, a craft beer bar and brewery right underneath Cerveza Fauna, yet another tasting room. From there we hit up Border Psycho which had a delicious double IPA called Perversa and definitely had the most creative tap handles of the night…

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Other tasting rooms that should be visited are Templo Ramuri, Mamut, Madueno, Cerveza Legion, Ludica and Silinius. With more tasting rooms and craft beer bars popping up all the time in Plaza Fiesta, this list will be growing and we can’t wait what it will looks like a year or two from now. Also, keep an eye out for future collaborations between Thorn Street Brewery and a Baja craft brewery…that’s all we can say for now, but we are extremely excited for the future, cross-border brew!

Finally, you can’t go to TJ without getting some of the best street tacos…anywhere. To be fair, most of the taco carts and shops are delicious, but on this trip we were introduced to Tacos El Franc, and their adobada street tacos have been haunting our dreams ever since. This place was packed at 10 pm with families and locals. You usually have to wait for a table in this bustling taqueria, but they turn over fast and the service is quick. It’s only a short walk from the Plaza, so it’s a perfect intermission when craft beer tasting at the Plaza.

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So, start planning your cross-border beer adventure today! Grab a few friends and head down on a Saturday, or, if you would rather have a guided trip in TJ or beyond, you can book a private tour through  Jaunt, a local company that specializes in customized tours, or Let’s Go Clandestino, a Baja tour company specializing in craft beer and craft food destinations.

Buena salud!


Strange Bedfellows: Surprising Food and Beer Pairings

It goes without saying that beer is the perfect accompaniment to nearly any salty and rich food, from pizza, to burgers, to smoked BBQ. Because of the growing popularity of craft beer, there are now more styles of beer than ever for people to choose from, opening up a whole new world of flavors with which to pair. Here at Thorn Street Brewery, we love to play around with beer and food pairings from savory to sweet, so we thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the more unique beer and food pairings out there…

Donuts and Beer

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This is one of our favorite unexpected pairings we have here at TSB. We are incredibly lucky to collaborate with North Park artisan bakery, Nomad Donuts, and have now put on three donut and beer pairings so far, all to a sold out house. Not only do we pair each donut with a taster of our beer, but they use beer in the making of the donuts too. Their creativity ranges from using our Barrio Mexican Lager in the glaze on a churro cruller to a malty Agave Amber ale whipped into a honey goat cheese filling. Sweet pairings are where the maltier beers really sing. Not that IPAs can’t pair well with sweets, but the toasted malts lend themselves to sweet exceedingly well. Porters and stouts are hits with nearly any kind of donut and a coffee stout with a classic glazed donut can hardly be beat. Grab a dozen of your favorite donuts and an array of beers for a true Sunday Funday with your friends.

Cheese and Beer

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This may not be one of the more shocking pairings on this list, but what is surprising is just how well beer pairs with cheese. In fact, we believe that beer pairs better with cheese than wine does! Sure we might be biased, but the carbonation of the beer as well as the bitterness of the hops does a superb job of cutting the fattiness of the cheese. The malt flavors pair well with the nuttiness of many cheese and a nice oatmeal stout tastes amazing with a bit of bold stilton. We often host pairings with local artisan cheese shop, Venissimo Cheese, where guests are taken through a culinary adventure of rich cheese and craft beer. Check out their shop in North Park which is inside Bottlecraft and have your own beer and cheese tasting any day of the week!

Girl Scout Cookies and Beer

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Cookies and Beer? We certainly thought so and put the duo to the test at our recent Girl Scout Cookie Pairing, hosted at the brewery. Coconut and caramel Samoas accompanied our Castaway Coconut Porter, tart lemony Savanna Smiles paired with a crisp, citrusy Tropic Daze IPA and we elevated the often over-looked shortbread cookie, Trefoil with our Belgian, Hipster’s Wit. Each flavor in the cookies can be paired with the complimenting flavors in the beer and once again the pairings of sweets and beer were a delightful surprise.

Ice Cream and Beer

Ice cream floats have been around for a long time with a favorite summer refreshment being ice cream scooped into root beer or Coca-Cola. But another pairing that is a true delight is ice cream beer floats. Top a bold porter with a scoop of rich, vanilla bean ice cream, or a dollop of peanut butter ribbon ice cream in a coffee stout. Even hoppy, tropical, IPAs can get in on the ice cream deal when topped with a lemon or passionfruit sorbet. At your next picnic grab a few pints of your favorite ice cream and a few 22s in a variety of styles and treat your guests to this surprising, sweet combination.

Pickles and Beer

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We couldn’t just play the sweet card here and although the saltiness of the pickle is an easy pick to go with a delicious beer, the two pair so well together we had to give them a shout-out. Possibly this match made in heaven has to do with the fact that both items are fermented and share flavor characteristics of tartness, sour notes and other complex flavors. Furthermore, pickles can even be made with beer as in the case of Farv’s Pickles here in San Diego. He uses a hoppy pale ale to brine the pickles in, lending a slightly bitter yet tart pickle that is down-right addicting.


Is Craft Beer Really Dead?

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The Reader recently declared that “Craft is dead.” No, this doesn’t mean that people have stopped drinking IPAs and your favorite craft brewery is going to be shut down, but it does raise questions about what makes craft beer “craft.” Recently with all of the drama surrounding 10 Barrel Brewing’s proposal for an East Village location, local craft beer enthusiasts began campaigning for people to start making a delineation between craft beer vs. what they are calling, indie beer.

Craft beer’s widely accepted definition, outlined by the Brewers Association, states that breweries must be small, independent and traditional. This all sounds well and good, but small is relative. Everything is small compared to Budweiser, which produced 16 million in 2013. Because craft beer is considered 6 million barrels a year or less, brewing companies can still be considered craft and also be one of the 10 biggest beer companies in the world, like Boston Beer Company, which makes Sam Adams. They produced 4.1 million barrels last year, still keeping them craft, though they are on pace to max out the 6 million barrel limit in another two years.

Furthermore, the definition of craft breweries being independent seems to be somewhat of a moving target with the recent sales of craft brew pioneers like Lagunitas to Heineken, Ballast Point to Constellation and even Saint Archer Brewery to MillerCoors. These beers are all sold under the “craft beer” tagline, in craft beer bars and are happily consumed by most craft beer aficionados. Does calling these not-so craft beers, “craft,” muddy the waters? Most people probably don’t care. But for the people who do, it’s just another thorn in the side of the truly craft beer community.

With the sale of SABMiller to Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI) moving along at a steady pace, there is a certain amount of growing unrest in the craft beer community surrounding the idea of one giant beverage company to rule them all. Here are three issues that could arise from this merger:

1. 58% of global beer profits would be represented by the new ABI, creating a beverage behemoth.

2. Negative effect on the availability and pricing of hops and barley and other supplies

3. ABI would become the major supplier for independent distributers. This would allow them to pressure their distributers to only distribute ABI beers, further limiting the already small number of distributers in any given area.

On February 16th, the bi-partisan House Small Brewer’s Caucus, made up of 206 members from 43 different states, wrote a letter to the Department of Justice urging them to review the proposed SABMiller/ABI merger. Rep. Paulsen from Minnesota stated that “The proposed merger should be fully reviewed to ensure that an unfair advantage cannot be leveraged over our nation’s small brewers. If craft brewers are disadvantaged, it’s ultimately the consumer that will suffer from higher prices and less choice.”

This gets right down to the heart of the issue and why people are warming up to the “indie beer” label. If things keep moving the direction they are right now, then craft beer will be watered down by breweries bought out by Big Beer, and distribution could be strangled for truly independent breweries. That’s why independent brewers want to stand out now. So that consumers are aware and know where their dollars are going and whose pockets they are lining. Also, knowing that the beer you are drinking on tap at your local watering hole is there because the bar manager or owner tasted a really great craft beer and put it on, not because their distribution company told them to what to pour.

We will see if indie beer catches on. Right now it’s a pretty small subset of San Diego beer lovers that are passionate about this change in name. But being that San Diego is one of the major craft beer cities in the country, and therefore the world, we wouldn’t be surprised if this trend continues forward. So to answer the questions, no, craft beer is not dead. It is however, changing, adapting and specializing, just as it has always done.


Can’t-Miss Taco Tuesday Deals in San Diego

Taco Tuesday is a revered day in San Diego. With so much fantastic Mexican fare in America’s Finest City, we have a high standard for not only the quality of food but also the value of the meal-deal. So we thought we would put together an insider’s list of our favorite places to go on Taco Tuesday. Here at Thorn Street Brewery, Taco Tuesday is a great family night because kids eat free with the purchase of parental tacos from 4:30-9 pm, from the Famoso food truck. Not only do they have delicious tacos, but they also serve up the best churros on either side of the boarder. Yeah, we said it…better than Baja. Without further ado, here are our picks for the best Taco Tuesday spots in San Diego:

South Beach Bar and Grill (OB)

This restaurant and bar sits at the West end of Newport Ave in Ocean Beach, overlooking the famed OB pier. They have 13 different tacos to choose from and on Tuesdays these tacos are only $2.75 each. They are well sized (2 is sufficient for most) and filled with fresh fish, shrimp, carne and more. This place does get busy on a Tuesday and will often run a line out front of patrons waiting to get inside for their taco fix.

Deal: All tacos $2.75 (excluding lobster), all day Tuesdays

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Home & Away (Old Town)

For tacos with a little something extra, look no further than Home & Away. This craft beer bar not only has award-winning, house-smoked pork and chicken tacos, but for Taco Tuesday, they have a killer deal too. From 3 pm-12 am you can get any taco for $2, along with $2 Pacificos and $2 Tequila shots.  Ay, Caramba!

Deal: $2 tacos, $2 Pacificos, $2 Tequila shots

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Amorcito Corizon (North Park)

This small Mexican bistro in North Park, is fast making a name for itself in a neighborhood that is stocked with superior taco shops. But this is about the Taco Tuesday deals and this is where Amorcito Corizon pulls ahead. For only $5 you get a trio of street tacos in all their authentic greatness and they usually have a beer special on where you can get Mexican beers for $1 or $2 depending on the week!

Deal: 3 street tacos for $5, beer specials

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Puesto (Downtown, La Jolla)

Puesto is known for their fresh twist on classic Mexican cuisine and the beautiful atmosphere they provide in their two restaurants. At the downtown location, they are in the recently renovated Headquarters building by Seaport Village. Pick any day of the week to sit inside (or out) of their gorgeous restaurant to enjoy their inventive cocktails and tacos created by their chefs, but Tuesday is the day for deals and Puesto does not disappoint. They offer $2.50 gourmet tacos, $3 Dos Equis and $6 hand-crafted Margaritas every Tuesday 3 pm to close.

Deal: $2.50 tacos all night, $3 Dos Equis all night, $6 Margaritas 3-5 pm

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Oscar’s Mexican Seafood (Hillcrest/La Jolla)

You don’t get much more authentic or highly rated than Oscar’s. Regularly on the list of Yelp’s 100 places to eat this year, this taco shop is known for their fresh seafood and generous portions. Their taco tuesday deal stands out too as a fabulous value with their crisp, fish tacos only being $.99! Not only that, but another must-try is their fresh fish ceviche which is a deal every day at $4.50.

Deal: $.99 fried fish tacos

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What’s Behind Peyton Manning’s Love Affair with Budweiser?

A lot has been said about Peyton Manning’s well-placed plug for Budweiser at the end of last week’s Super Bowl 50. When asked what his plans were for after the game, Manning said, “I’m going to drink a lot of Budweiser tonight, Tracy, I promise you that.” To add to that, he spoke with CBS This Morning on the following Monday and said, “I’ve had a few Budweisers and it’s been a special night.”

The man sure seems to love his Budweiser. But are these verbal high-fives from NFLs highest paid endorser shameless plugs for big beer or did he generously and accidentally give Budweiser $3 million in “brand recognition value?” On the outside, it doesn’t look good. Not only does Manning owns shares in two AB-InBev distributors in Louisiana, but Bud Light is the official sponsor of the NFL and he has a history of name dropping both Bud and Bud Light in his many years in the NFL.

Let’s say he did not have any self-serving intentions when he name-checked Budweiser as his beer of choice. We can discern that the plug was not for the love of beer itself. Most people in his position who were looking forward to relaxing with a beer would have said something along the lines of “I’m going to drink a lot of beer tonight…” There is no way he (or another player with perhaps better taste in beer) would have said, “I”m going to drink a lot of Sculpin tonight…” It sounds weird and doesn’t make sense when “let’s grab a beer” and the ilk is the usual colloquialism when referring to drinking beer. That leads us to think that he is could be repping for Bud on the down-low, since NFL players aren’t technically allowed to endorse alcohol, or he has self-serving purposes, or is it something a little deeper?

Manning grew up in Louisiana during a time when all you pretty much could get for beer was Bud, Millers and Coors. Budweiser represents the good, all-american boy that he was and still is. It doesn’t surprise us at all that Budweiser is his beer of choice. It’s probably what his revered father drank after games and what he and his brother share when they get together and talk about how good at football they both are. Maybe he named Bud because he wasn’t just looking forward to a beer after the game, he was looking forward to enjoying a beer that reminds him of his roots and helps keep him grounded when he just won the biggest sports game in the United States.

Or maybe not.

Only Manning knows what his true intentions were. One thing is for sure, times are a’changing and people are drinking Budweiser less and less. In 2003 Budweiser sold 30 million barrels of beer but 10 years later, in 2013, they only sold 16.1 million.

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Looking at this graph, it’s apparent that more and more people are drinking better beer. Even in Louisiana, there are now more than 37 breweries and brewpubs brewing high-quality, interesting beers. Little Mannings can now have some choice when deciding which beer to build their traditions around or wax nostalgic about after the big game.

We would love to hear your opinion! What do you think was going on in Peyton Manning’s head when he professed his undying love for Budweiser?


The Mighty IPA

India Pale Ales are some of the most prolific beers on the craft beer market, especially here in San Diego. In 2014, IPAs counted for one in every five beers sold, up 47% from the year before. Although the IPA style of beer has been around for a long time, the hoppy, refreshing beer that we are used to now, is a far cry from the IPA that made its way across oceans, more than 175 years ago.

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In the early 1800s, the East India Company was shipping supplies to British forces overseas, in India, on their way to fill their ships with spices, silks and other valuables from the Far East.  The popular beers to drink at the time in Britain were stouts and porters, both of which were subpar beers to ship across the violent seas, and they often ended up stale, spoiled or infected. Also, the heavy beer wasn’t what was craved in the hot Indian climate, so even if it did arrive unspoiled, it was met with a middling reaction. George Hodgson’s Bow brewery decided that instead of sending a porter, they would try to send what was called an “October Beer.” This strong, pale beer was brewed at harvest time and loaded with just-picked hops to keep a fresh taste even when it was aged, sometimes for years. Apparently the rough, ocean journey matured this beer much like it would taste after 2 years aged, so when it  arrived, it was at peak flavor. The resulting brew was a hoppy success and created a taste for India Pale Ale in India as well as back in Britain.

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Once ice and refrigeration became commonplace in the late 1800s, beer could be brewed anywhere and there wasn’t a need to ship the beer halfway across the world to places once too hot to brew beer. IPAs fell into the British beer background; brewed occasionally but not really focused on. Then in the 1970s, IPAs were brought back with gusto by American craft brewers. They took the English IPA and amped up the hops, the alcohol content and reduced the amount of malts, creating a bold, hop-forward beer that is best consumed fresh.

To get more specific, brewers here on the West Coast have tapped into an even more amped up version of the American IPA, with even higher alcohol levels, more intense hoppy aromas and serious bitterness that is loved by many, but also can be too extreme for some palates. West Coast IPAs are sometimes accused of lacking subtle flavors after the bracing hoppiness that slaps your palate with the first sip. But this slap is exactly what some beer-drinkers love, and one of the reasons that IPAs are one of the fastest growing segments of the craft beer market.

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San Diego IPAs are now taking the world by storm too.  Green Flash Brewing Company started brewing their West Coast IPA over in Belgium last year and Stone Brewing is set to open up in Germany sometime in 2016. Both of these breweries boast a full menu of IPAs and it seems as though American beer, once the butt of international beer-jokes, is making a name for itself back across the pond, thanks to our distinctive IPAs.

Here at Thorn Street Brewery, we pride ourselves in our full range of beer styles we have on tap at any given time. We do, however, have a special love for IPAs with our West Coast style, Relay IPA and hop-heavy, Menace Imperial IPA standing out as local favorites.  February is also an exciting time of year because we release Brother Scotty’s Triple IPA, a delicious, bright, palate-crusher that is surprisingly easy to drink.

Luckily, in San Diego, we have access to a ton of IPAs for hop-heads to enjoy. Here are 5 more IPAs that we love from SD breweries:

Mother Earth Brewing Company – Kismit IPA

Alpine Beer Company – Duet IPA

Rip Current – Lupulin Lust IPA

Stone Brewery Ruin Ten Triple IPA

Duck Foot Brewery  – IPA


The Issue with 10 Barrel Brewing in the East Village

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Recently, 10 Barrel Brewing put forth a proposal to Civic San Diego, outlining their plan to open a brewpub in downtown’s East Village. Within an hour of the filing, there were three oppositions filed by local craft beer enthusiasts. San Diego’s craft beer community is well known for its camaraderie and brewers’ willingness to share their knowledge and ideas with one another, so this immediate negative reaction seems unusual…but 10 Barrel Brewing is not your regular craft brewery. In 2014, it made headlines, and drew criticism, when they sold to AB InBev. Although 10 Barrel is still considered craft by some standards, the fact that it’s owned by a giant beverage company disqualifies it by other standards, like the Brewers Association‘s, because more than 25% ownership is owned by someone other than a craft brewer.

 

The opposition’s point of view is that San Diego has a strong community of independent, local brewers and doesn’t need big beer masquerading as local, craft beer, muddying the waters for consumers. Ironically, with the brewpub format, 10 Barrel’s beer would technically be brewed locally, a coveted title in a city with such a high standard for beer. What’s the real issue here, though? People open breweries in San Diego all the time and most are welcomed and encouraged. Furthermore, this particular building that 10 Barrel wants to remodel is a dilapidated eyesore, in bad need of renovation.

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People should be less worried about AB InBev buying up breweries and more worried about the fact that they have been buying up distribution companies right and left and now own 17.  Then, in October, 2015, the DOJ launched a probe into AB InBev, investigating claims that they have engaged in actions that seek to curb its competition (i.e. craft beer) at the distribution level. There have been reports that AB InBev pushes their acquired distributers to only carry their products, impeding the sales of craft beer also sold by that distributer. Since many states require that alcohol is sold through a distributer, this could be a scary prospect for independent brewers across the nation. If AB InBev were to keep buying up distributers and craft breweries, and then possibly merge with SAB Miller, this beer behemoth could actually wipe out truly craft beer from taps near you. Luckily, California is one of the few states that allows for beer to be sold directly to bars and restaurants by breweries, but other states could be left out in the cold.

 

This is the crux of the 10 Barrel issue for many San Diego craft brewers. It’s not that we don’t want another brewpub in San Diego, it’s that we don’t want a brewpub owned by a company which reportedly plays dirty and actively engages in actions that hurt the craft beer market. AB InBev wants it all. While Budweiser was slamming craft beer and the people who drink it in their much-maligned 2015 Super Bowl commercial, they were also buying up craft breweries and now have 14 in their stable. That’s all well and good, but added to their recent push to buy up distributers, it’s downright scary that they could soon have such a major hold on distribution, along with a bevy of craft beer breweries to fill their taps. We will have to see what comes of the DOJ probe, but independent brewers are wary of AB InBev and their true motives. Nothing against 10 Barrel Brewing either. They took a big payday and apparently get unending money from In-Bev for expansions and upgrades, so they will be just fine no matter what happens in the East Village.