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GABF 2018 – It was huge, and it’s over.

The Great American Beer Festival just keeps getting bigger. More than 800 breweries poured more than 4,000 beers for approximately 62,000 people attending the festival last week in Denver. The enormous convention center setting took on an atmosphere of part circus, part beer-geek Disneyland and part over-sized carnival. Even the pretzel necklaces took it to a new level; instead of wearing a string of pretzels around their neck many participants had a large BAG of pretzels clipped to their necklaces.
For many brewers, particularly the winners, the highlight was Saturday when 280 breweries collected 306 medals in 102 categories. There were 8,496 entries from 2,404 breweries. View the 2018 winners or download a PDF list of the winners.

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Why we’re shutting down our discussion board

We’ll admit it. realbeer.com has been stuck in the aughts since . . . the aughts.

It’s time for change, and you will see that in the coming months.

Meanwhile, the most obvious change will be that we are closing the discussion board. We fondly remember the evening of Oct. 9, 2006 when 3,062 visitors were congregated here. It saddens us that we hear echoes now when we stroll through empty forums. That and practical considerations are why we decided to shut the doors.

We hope when we are done remodeling you’ll find new ones you want to open. For now if you want to get to the forum you can head to http://discussions.realbeer.com/forum.php — but we’ll be taking that down in a little under a month.

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Bank forecloses, Green Flash sold

During a week in which it closed two brewing facilities, Green Flash brewery has been purchased by a new investor group. The company’s principal lender foreclosed on the San Diego brewery, then sold it to a group of investors called WC IPA LLC.

The announcement of the sale comes just a week after Green Flash closed its Virginia Beach brewery 16 months after opening the East Coast operation. Only a few days later it closed it Poway barrel-aging facility, Cellar 3.

Former Green Flash Brewing Company CEO Mike Hinkley will continue to be part of the leadership team of the new company.

“After a general slowdown in the craft beer industry, coupled with intense competition and a slowdown of our business, we could not service the debt that we took on to build the Virginia Beach brewery, and in early 2018, the Company defaulted on its loans with Comerica Bank,” Hinkley wrote in a note to Green Flash shareholders. “While we took substantial efforts to recapitalize the Company over the past several months, both before and after the bank default, we were ultimately unable to close a transaction.”

A press release stated the Green Flash and Alpine breweries will continue to operate in San Diego and Alpine, respectively. But Green Flash Brewing Company and Alpine Beer, which Green Flash purchased in 2014, will be dissolved.

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Smaller breweries drive craft growth

The number of operating breweries in the United States grew 16% in 2017 and smaller breweries generally fared better than large ones. Total beer sales declined 1% for the year, while craft (as defined by the Brewers Association) beer sales grew 5%. Microbreweries, meaning ones that made 15,000 barrels or less, and brewpubs delivered 76% of craft growth.

“Growth for the craft brewing industry is adapting to the new realities of a mature market landscape,” Brewers Association economist Bart Watson said in a press release announcing the 2017 statistics. “Beer lovers are trending toward supporting their local small and independent community craft breweries. At the same time, as distribution channels experience increased competition and challenges, craft brewer performance was more mixed than in recent years, with those relying on the broadest distribution facing the most pressure.”

Craft Beer Sales 2017

Small and independent breweries account for 98% of the breweries in operation. They exemplify what has become known as “the long tail.” In fact, the smallest 75% of breweries make less than 1% of the beer.

“Beer lovers want to support businesses that align with their values and are having a positive impact on their local communities and our larger society,” added Watson. “That’s what small and independent craft brewers are all about. The ability to seek beers from small and independent producers matters.”

Craft breweries produced 25.4 million barrels in 2017 and the value of retail sales grew 8% to and estimated $26.0 billion, representing 23.4% market share.

Breweries continue to open at a faster rate than the market is growing, with 997 new one operating in 2017. About 2.6%, or 165, of breweries closed, but Watson warned that number may increase along with growing competition. “It’s hard to know what a long term rate may be,” he said in a conference call.

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Pennsylvania earmarks $704,985 for beer projects

The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board has awarded grants totaling $704,985 to 13 projects to increase the production of Pennsylvania-made malt and brewed beverages and enhance the Pennsylvania beer industry through promotion, marketing, and research-based programs and projects.

“Brewing beer is an important industry to Pennsylvania’s economy that is growing,” Governor Tom Wolf said in a press release announcing the awards. “These grants build on the bipartisan efforts to modernize our beer laws and support the industry to create job opportunities from the farm to the brewery, pub and grocery store.”

The projects include:

– $127,500 for “Pennsylvania Pursue Your Hoppiness,” which will identify “beer trails” where tourists can visit multiple regional microbreweries, and to develop a statewide “brand identity” for the state’s breweries.

– $136,154 to Penn State for two projects, one studying the effect of fungicides on hops and the other improving hops-drying techniques to preserve their aromatic compounds.

– $10,000 for Hops on Lots Pittsburgh, which turns vacant properties into hops farms to supply local breweries.

– $7,147 to the Montgomery County Planning Commission for two “matchmaking events” in 2018 to connect interested farmers with local brewers in order to strengthen Montgomery County’s role in the local brewing economy.

The entire list.

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Fuller’s buys Sussex craft brewery

Fuller Smith & Turner — the oldest brewery in London and operator of an international brand — has purchased Dark Star Brewing in Sussex. Terms of the sale were not revealed.

“The deal means we will continue to do what we do, but gives us huge opportunities to brew more one-off small batch beers hand-in-hand with exploring the export market and expanded bottle and can formats,” said Dark Star managing director James Cuthbertson.

This follows Fuller’s acquisition of cider makers Cornish Orchards in 2013 and George Gale & Co. in November 2005. Fuller’s managing director Simon Dodd said the acquisition was part of the same strategy.

He said the company had “been looking at similar opportunities to invest in and work with young, exciting companies that have a similar ethos and commitment to quality as Fuller’s.”

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Stone Brewing sues MillerCoors to defend ‘Stone’ mark

Stone Brewing co-founder Greg Koch

Stone Brewing has filed suit in federal court, charging brewing giant MillerCoors with trademark infringement in marketing Keystone Light beer.

MillerCoors revamped Keystone Light packaging last April, emphasizing the word “Stone” on the side of its cans. “Keystone’s new can design overtly copies and infringes the Stone trademark,” Stone stated in the lawsuit. In a social media campaign and in advertising at various websites Keystone is referred to simply as Stone. “Such mass advertising broadcasts the infringing ‘Stone’ name beyond Keystone’s immediate social media audience to the general public at large,” the suit says.

Stone also posted a four-minute video featuring co-founder Greg Koch.

“You can end all of this right here and now by one simple move that reinforces your brand that you’ve built,” Koch said in the video. “Put the ‘Key’ back in ‘Keystone.’ Stop using Stone as a stand-alone word. It’s ours.”

As well as asking for the court to stop MillerCoors from using “Stone” in connection with the sale and distribution of the Keystone beer, Stone Brewing is seeking damages and profits from the sale of the rebranded Keystone products.

“This lawsuit is a clever publicity stunt with a multi-camera, tightly-scripted video featuring Stone’s founder Greg Koch,” Marty Maloney, MillerCoors media relations manager said in a statement. “Since Keystone’s debut in 1989, prior to the founding of Stone Brewing in 1996, our consumers have commonly used ‘Stone’ to refer to the Keystone brand and we will let the facts speak for themselves in the legal process.”

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Charlie – and you know who we mean – is retiring

The godfather of American homebrewing has an exit strategy. The Brewers Association announced that Charlie Papazian will step down Jan. 23, 2019, on this 70th birthday.

Papazian and Charlie Matzen, both school teachers at the time, founded the American Homebrewers Association in Boulder, Colo., in 1978. Papazian started the Great American Beer Festival four years later. And the following year, the Association of Brewers was organized to include the AHA and the Institute for Brewing and Fermentation Studies to assist the growing number of new breweries. In 2005, the Association of Brewers and the Brewers’ Association of America merged to form the Brewers Association. Papazian served as its president until handing over the title to Bob Pease in 2016.

“We are all here today because of Charlie Papazian,” Pease said in a press release. “His influence on the homebrewing and craft brewing community is immeasurable. Who could have predicted that a simple wooden spoon, ingenuity and passion would spawn a community of more than one million homebrewers and 6,000 small and independent U.S. craft breweries.”

Many the brewers who joined what has become known as the craft beer movement learned to make beer in homebrew classes Papazian taught in Colorado in the 1970s. Still more learned from reading The Complete Joy of Homebrewing, following is advice to “Relax. Don’t worry. Have a homebrew.”

In the BA press release, Papazian says, “I had a playful vision that there would be a homebrewer in every neighborhood and a brewery in every town. But what I did not imagine, couldn’t imagine, never considered, was the impact that craft brewing would have on our culture, economy and American life.”

He will spend his final year at the BA completing many projects, including a craft brewing history archive project. The archive will house 40 years of craft beer history in the form of more than 100,000 publications, photographs, audiotapes, films, videos, and documents — including 140 video interviews of the pioneers of American craft brewing — and will be accessible to researchers via the BA. He will also deliver the keynote address at the AHA’s 40th annual National Homebrew Conference, Hombrew Con, in Portland, Ore., in June.

The BA inveites brewers and homebrewers are invited to share their well wishes and Charlie Papazian stories on the AHA and BA Facebook pages.

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City of Portland yields to local brewery

The city of Portland has abandoned an effort to take away a local brewery’s right to using an iconic logo. Old Town Brewing secured the exclusive rights to use the leaping deer logo found on the city-owned Portland, Oregon, sign in 2012.

The city hired a private trademark attorney and spent four years contesting Old Town Brewing’s exclusive rights. The Oregonian reports city officials announced Portland will no longer seek to secure the trademark for use of the logo on beer, wine and liquor products.

In exchange, the Old Town brewery will allow the city to license the image for certain local alcohol-related uses such as festivals, events and advertising for local trade organizations. Old Town Brewing will not allow use of the logo on any alcohol-related products or packaging.

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Smuttynose Brewing to be sold at auction

Smuttynose Brewing Co., founded in 1994 and the largest craft brewery in New Hampshire, will be sold at bank auction March 9 unless a buyer is found before. The company employs 68 people and generates more than $10 million in revenue a year.

The sale includes the Smuttynose brand, its facility on the historic Towle Farm in Hampton and Hayseed Restaurant located next to the brewery on its 13-acre site. The brewery is capable of producing 75,000 barrels a year, but in the last year it has been running at 50% capacity.

“The company’s financial models were based on 20 years of consistent growth but the explosion of microbreweries has led to changing dynamics in the marketplace,” Smuttynose owner Peter Egelston said in a press release. “This dramatic shift occurred just as Smuttynose committed to a major infrastructure investment with the construction of the new production facility. As the turmoil in the marketplace stabilizes, Smuttynose, a trusted brand with strong consumer loyalty, can regain its footing with a major infusion of capital.”

Egelston stressed that the company is open and will conduct business as usual.

Lead lender Provident Bank is managing the auction process. “Smuttynose Brewing Company has been a valued customer and an important part of our community. Provident Bank is committed to working with the company during these challenging financial times to produce the best outcome for everyone involved,” Provident Bank President Chuck Withee said.

Egelston, along with partner Joanne Francis, is also owner of the Portsmouth Brewery, a brewpub located in downtown Portsmouth. It is not part of the sale.

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Guinness debuts non-alcoholic lager

Guinness begins rolling a non-alcoholic lager in Ireland this month. Pure Brew has been developed at Open Gate, Diageo’s experimental brewery at St James’s Gate in Dublin. Pure Brew will be available in 250 pubs in Dublin to start, nationwide beginning in March.

Unlike other non-alcoholic beers, Pure Brew is a fully-fermented beer. Most others are full-strength beers with the alcohol eventually removed through evaporation, a process many maintian also removes flavor. Pure Brew is the result of two years of experimentation, has been developed using a special yeast strain so that it is a fully fermented beer.

“Consumers shouldn’t have to compromise on flavour just because they want to moderate,” lead brewer John Casey told The Irish Times. “With Pure Brew we wanted to give people a taste experience comparable to regular beer.”

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Green Flash pulls out of 32 markets

Green Flash Brewing, which operates breweries on both coasts, announced it will withdraw distribution from 32 states and reduce its workforce by 15%.

“We were doing pretty well close to the breweries, and in some strategic markets we had some strongholds, but we had a lot of territory that was in pretty steady decline,” co-founder Mike Hinkley told Brewbound. “Rather than to continue to fight that battle, we took the resources from out there and brought ’em all into a smaller territory — as much as we could, anyway.”

Green Flash sold only 18% of its beer in the 32 states it will not longer ship to. “We kept about 82% of our wholesale trade business,” Hinkley said. “We were pretty sparse and in decline in that other territory, so reeling it back to strength. Now we can put our sales and marketing resources into a tighter geographic footprint.”

Green Flash will continue to supply Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nebraska, Nevada, Texas, and Utah, Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Virginia from two breweries — the original San Diego location and its second brewery in Virginia Beach. Green Flash also recently acquired a brewpub in Lincoln, Neb., and expects that could be a model for the future.

“If that’s successful, that’ll be the model for how to go to another city,” Hinkley told Brewbound. “And then the 100-year plan is maybe there’ll be 10 Lincolns over the next 20 years of my life. But who knows? I just can’t support all of that territory. I don’t have the resources to compete on that broad a scale.”

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Innovation Brewing can keep name

A federal trademark court has ruled that Innovation Brewing in North Carolina is clear to register its name and branding. Bell’s Brewery in Michigan had argued the microbrewery’s name is too close to two of Bell’s marketing phrases.

In opposing Innovation’s trademark registration in 2014 Bell’s argued Innovation’s name sounded too much like the bigger brewery’s unregistered advertising slogan, “Bottling innovation since 1985.” Bell’s also claimed the word “inspired,” which Bell’s has used on some logos and marketing materials within the phrase “Inspired Brewing,” carries the same meaning as the word “innovation.”

The trademark court found that the slogan in question had not been “used and/or advertised … in connection with a single product (so) that they have come to be associated together, in the mind of the purchasing public” with Bell’s products.

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Mendocino Brewing closes historic taproom

Mendocino Brewing Co., which has a direct link to the beginning of the American craft beer movement, will close its California taproom Saturday and the future of the brewery is in doubt.

Originally located in Hopland and later relocated to Ukiah, the taproom was the first brewpub to open in California and second in the United States after Prohibition. Some of the brewery’s equipment came from New Albion, the first post-Prohibition purpose-built microbrewery.

The closing comes as Mendocino Brewing is in discussion with an investor to help rescue the company, said Michael Laybourn, brewery co-founder who is still a board member. Its Ukiah brewery is located about a half-mile away from the taproom. “If it happens in the right way, he will save the company,” Laybourn said of the investor, which he did not name but said was from Northern California.

The brewery, which opened in 1983, has struggled recently under its chairman and indirect majority shareholder, Vijay Mallya, who bought the company in 1997. Mallya resides in London and is fighting extradition to India on charges of fraud and money laundering, according to news reports.

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Blue Moon creator leaves MillerCoors

Keith Villa, who wrote the recipe for Blue Moon Belgian White in 1995, is retiring from MillerCoors. “While I am stepping away and retiring from MillerCoors, this company will forever hold a special place in my heart,” Villa said via a statement. “Over the last 20 years, I have witnessed the growth of Blue Moon from a local beer that we developed at the SandLot (a brewery that began inside Coors Field in Denver) to a brand that is sold around the world.”

Villa served as head brewmaster and global brand ambassador in recent years, continuing to write recipes for other Blue Moon brands.

According to market research firm IRI Worldwide, Blue Moon Belgian White Ale ranks as the No. 1 craft brand with sales of more than $258 million in grocery and convenience stores.