1. What does Dave Rowland do when an unfortunate event gives him an opportunity to change his career path? He and his father David Rowland, both avid home brewers, turn their passion into a reality and open SoMe Brewing Company located in York, Maine. At Journey to the Beer Store we were excited to talk with Dave and learn more about SoMe Brewing Company. Yes, we will learn more about the name, where you can find SoMe Brewing Company beers and what would be in Dave’s dream six pack.

    The name of your brewery is SoMe brewery. How did you come up with the name? Does the name have any special meaning?

    My wife Jen is responsible for that. We thought “Southern Maine Brewing Company” was too bland and could be confused with the “Maine Beer Company” up in Freeport. So she suggested we shorten it to Some as a play on Southern Maine. I loved it as well because it reminded me of the Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First Bit.” My friend and graphic designer Kevin came up with the logo and it sealed the deal. Some people call it “So Me” and others just “Some. Legally it’s “Some”, but as long as you’re talking about it, we are happy.

    How did you get into brewery business?
    I had been a Social Studies teacher for many years. In June of 2011, my position was cut due to massive cuts in our budget. This started me down a “what to do with my life” road.  It had always been a dream to open a brewery when I was home brewing. I think every home brewer thinks that at one point or another. When I lost my job, it was everyone’s first suggestion. “Be a brewer. It’s all you do and talk about.” Well, it’s not that easy. As time went on, and my Father and I brewed more and more, we started looking into it in earnest. Through a series of unfortunate and fortunate events, we were able to get the funds together to make it happen. Next thing we knew it was real and my Father and I, were partners in a new brewery! Truly a dream realized.

    You have some great names for your beers like Whoopie Pie Stout, Box the Compass, York Gold, Snow Day, Kitchen Sink, etc. Who comes up with these great names?
    Whoopie Pie Stout was my wife again. She came up with the idea, I created the beer. The rest are all me. Other than beer, I’m deeply into music, history, and outdoor sports. So, they all are mostly rooted in that. Occasionally though, something just sounds cool, and we go with it.

    What is your most popular that you brew?

    Being barely 4 months in, our most popular is by far “Crystal Persuasion.” It’s an Imperial Pale Ale. It is 100% Crystal hops and clocks in at around 8% abv. It’s got a very unique flavor and hop profile. I for sure thought it would be a “beer nerd” beer, but it seems everyone across the board likes it. The connoisseurs love the complexity, and the novice loves the approachability of this “hoppy” beer. I certainly didn’t do this on purpose, but I’m more than psyched it worked out this way!

    Where can people find SoMe Brewery beers beside at the brewery?

    Right now, you can find us on tap at Cornerstone in Ogunquit and Roberts Maine Grill in Kittery. We are waiting on our labels and we will start bottling in 22oz Bombers very soon. Upon which you will see us at 7/11 in Kittery, which has a GREAT selection, Tully’s in Wells, and a few other local spots in York. Our tasting room is the place to be if you want some variety. We always have 6 beers pouring.

    Collaborations in the craft beer world are becoming more popular lately. If you could do a collaboration with any other brewery what brewery would that be and why?

    Dream collaboration? I’d have to say with Lake Placid Pub and Brewery. Chris and those guys taught me about great local craft beer. I “grew up” drinking their beers and owe them a lot for helping shape my pallet and teaching me what “local” tastes like.

    If you could go on a beercation anywhere in the world you go and why?

    Right now, I’d say over to Belgium. I’m very into Sours and Belgian yeast.

    If you could have a dream six pack what six beers would be in it?

    This is a tough one. Right now, probably something from Petras, like an Oud Bruin. Maybe an old Kate the Great from Tod Mott. Victory’s Yakima Glory. A Stone Enjoy By. A Heady Topper and maybe one of the many Sours from Russian River. That was really tough.

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  2. The craft beer industry is growing in the United States and also globally. One of the areas where the craft beer industry is growing globally is the England. With the England craft beer scene growing as it is, we thought at Journey to the Beer Store it would be great to interview Graham, the co-owner of one of England’s newest breweries and best brewery, Pressure Drop Brewery. Graham, Sam and Ben opened Pressure Drop Brewery in 2012. Since they opened Pressure Drop has been considered one of England’s best craft breweries.  This February rateabeer.com rated Pressure Drop Brewery one the world’s best newest breweries. We interviewed Graham who is 1/3rd of Pressure Drop Brewery’s ownership team, about England’s craft beer scene and learned more about Pressure Drop Brewery.  If you are ever in London go check out Pressure Drop Brewery.

    How did you and your partners get into the beer business?

    Sam and I are old school friends who both started to get into drinking good beer at the same time. I met Ben when we were interning at a brewery together to learn the ropes. We teamed up in 2012 and started brewing in my garden shed on a Braumeister 50 litre system. We started off brewing once a week, then went to twice a week, then we got a small premises to brew out of and started brewing every day. This went on until we got our 5BBL kit installed in our current location in June 2013.

    You brewery was named by rateabeer.com as one of the top new breweries in the world. How has receiving this recognition changed things for you at the brewery?

    The RateaBeer award has changed things a little, mainly with regards to international enquiries. We've had quite a few enquiries from people around the world wanting to import our beer. At the moment though we're so small we struggle to have enough beer to supply the local market. The award was for new breweries so by definition we're just starting out as a business, while it's nice to get recognition and increased interest, we want to concentrate on establishing ourselves before we expand.

    How did you and your partners get into the beer business?

    We brew a range of styles of beer. We currently have 6 beers in our portfolio, four ales and two wheat beers. The full list is Pale Fire (Pale Ale), Stokey Brown (Brown Ale), Bosko (I.P.A.), Street Porter (Traditional Porter), Wu Gang Chops The Tree (Foraged Herb Hefeweisse) and Freimann's Dunkelweiss (Dark, Smoky Wheat Beer). We use American and New Zealand hops for the ales, except for Street Porter which is brewed to a more traditional recipe.

    You have some great names for your beers. Who comes up with the names for your beers?

    The names of the beers come from lots of different sources Pale Fire and Bosko are literary references, Stokey Brown is named after Stoke Newington, the area of London where we first came up with the recipe. Wu Gang Chops The Tree gets a lot of attention for the name which is an ancient Chinese myth along the lines of the Greek tasks of Sisyphus. It comes from google searching ideas around the foraged herb ingredient of the beer. There are three of us and we all have to agree to a name for it to get used, this tends to filter out some of the more extreme ideas!

    What is your most popular beer that you brew?

    Our biggest selling beer is our pale ale Pale Fire. We have to try and keep a stock of it at all times, which is not easy as we gain more customers. It's a good problem to have!

    How much beer will you be brewing this year?

    Hard to say how much beer we'll brew this year. We currently brew around 1600 litres a week. This may need to increase a bit as we continue to establish ourselves.

    The craft beer industry in the United States has grown significant in the last 10 plus years.  What is the craft beer scene like in England currently?

    The craft beer scene in the UK is really starting to get exciting. It's not as niche as it was a couple of years ago, so lots more places are offering interesting and local beers to their customers. There has been a boom in the number of breweries and it seems to have prompted larger breweries and supermarket chains to start taking notice. It's an exciting time.

    The craft beer industry in US is currently in a canning craze. Has the craft beer in cans craze reached England yet? If it has will we see Pressure Drop beers in cans soon?

    Yes a few breweries are canning their stuff in the UK. It's an exciting development that will no doubt broaden the appeal of craft beer to even more consumers. We'd love to can our pale ale, but I think it's prohibitively expensive for us at the moment.

    If someone was coming to England for a vacation and wanted to try a Pressure Drop beer  where can they go to find one?

    In London we have a good number of customers in our local borough; Hackney. There are a number of pubs, bars and shops where you can get our stuff in Hackney, but also further afield in London and the UK more generally. Best thing is to check our website www.pressuredropbrewing.co.uk where we try to keep an up-to-date map of outlets.

    If you could go on a beercation where would you go and why?

    Our brewery is on Bohemia Place. I think I'd like to go on a beer pilgrimage to Bohemia and try some lovely unfiltered lagers!

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  3. Last night I made my way to Lowell Ma for Navigation Brewing Company first beer release event. The first beer that Navigation Brewing Company released is a Pale Ale.  At the event people got to taste the Summer Ale & Double Porter which could be a future offering by Navigation Brewing Company. Co-owners Bob Johnson and PJ Mercier are doing some great work. Navigation Brewing Company will be a brewery to watch.

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  4. The craft beer industry is growing in the United States and also globally. One of the areas where the craft beer industry is growing globally is Italy. With the Italian craft beer scene growing as it is, we thought at Journey to the Beer Store it would great to interview Claudio the owner of Italy’s newest breweries Birstrò. The Birstrò Brew Pub has been open for three months and business has been great. We interviewed Claudio about Italy’s craft beer scene and learned more about Birstrò brewery.  If you are ever in Rome go check out Birstrò Brew Pub.

     How did you and your partners get into the beer business?

    I started like a simple consumer…then I begun to wonder what were the main features of a good beer. My curiosity has been very important. I followed my interest in beer becoming a home brewer and then, after a couple of years, I realized my ideas of a Brewpub

    What styles of beer do you brew?
    I brew both low and high fermented beers…Styles like Golden Ale, Saison, I.P.A., Tripel, Vienna, Pilsner, Altbeer, Christmas beers and many others I will brew.

    What is your most popular beer that you brew?
    The most popular maybe is “Pigneta”, an I.P.A. brewed in an English way, low carbonation and well balanced between hops and malts.

    How much beer will you be brewing this year?

    I don’t really know yet…I opened just three months ago and my production is increasing…We can estimate not over 20000 liters…

    The craft beer industry in the United States has grown significant in the last 10 plus years.  What is the craft beer scene like in Italy currently?

    In Italy the beer market is increasing…After a first growth from the 1990 to 2000, we are now attending a new boom in these last ten years. Mostly in Rome the consume of craft beer is very high.

    The craft beer industry in US is currently in a canning craze. Has the craft beer in cans craze reached Italy yet?

    Not Yet…We see this like a foreign craze, but it seems it won’t infect the Italian craft beer market.

    If someone was coming to Italy for a vacation and wanted to try an Bistro beer, where could they go to find a Birstrò Beer?
    They have to come directly the Brewpub, the first in Rome, because we don’t distribute to anyone.

    If you could go on a beercation where would you go?
    I will go to Bamberg in Germany…

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    What happens when three friends with various different levels of brewing experience and craft beer drinking experience get together to start a business? You guessed it...they open a brewery. Keith Antul, Keith Sullivan and Tom Sutter are in the last stages of opening Medusa Brewing Company in Hudson, Massachusetts. You might recognize a couple of the names of the owners of Medusa Brewing Company. Tom Sutter is the successful owner of Armsby Abbey Restaurant and Bar and Keith Antul is a successful home brewer who had his beers featured at several different breweries in the Massachusetts area. I was lucky enough to catch up Keith Sullivan of the Medusa Brewing Company to learn more about the brewery and what style of beers they are planning on brewing. We also delved into the growth of the craft beer industry, dream six packs and the classic TV show Most Extreme Elimination Challenge.   

    How did you and your two partners Keith Antul and Tom Sutter get into the beer business?

    Tom Sutter began traveling the globe for business about 20 years ago and has since been able to try some of the most important and hard to find beers in the world. He has been an avid home brewer for almost as long and is part owner of the world class restaurant and bar, Armsby Abbey. Tom’s acquired knowledge of the business runs deep and is essential to the success of our business.

    Keith Antul began as a home brewer who quickly transitioned to an all-grain system. He has spent the last 9 years mastering the craft and learning to develop his own recipes. Some of which have been brewed commercially as collaborations at Honest Town Brewery, Haverhill Brewery, and Wormtown Brewing. Keith’s Robust Porter was chosen to be Wormtown Brewing Company’s submission to the 2010 GABF’s Pro-Am competition where it took home the Bronze Medal. It is still brewed and distributed today, and holds a score of 93 (outstanding) on Beer Advocate.

    This is my first venture into the business itself, but I have been drinking and following craft beer for the better half of the last decade or so (my buddy Mark introduced me to Rogue’s Dead Guy Ale and that was it for me). Keith Antul and I used to work together and would carpool to work from Worcester on most days. As you can imagine, a lot of beer talk and brewpub plans were born on these rides.

    How did you come up with the name Medusa for your brewery?

    Since his early success in the home brewing community, Keith Antul has been toying with the idea of opening a brewery. The name “Medusa” has stuck through every idea he’s thrown on the table, so the time has come for it to finally become reality. The name was chosen for its very strong presence and iconic nature. It will allow us to be more easily recognized as a brand among the many microbreweries out there today.

    The underlying, and more poetic meaning could be as follows: Medusa was the most beautiful of the Gorgon sisters until she was cursed with the head of snakes; making her so ugly that men turned to stone when looking upon her face. Those opposing ends of spectrum represent the breadth of beer we plan to create at Medusa Brewing Company. Beautiful, enchanting and fruitful beers, to the dark, powerful, and monstrous beers are what you will find at Medusa. Will you be turned to stone at first sip? No promises.

    When will your brewery and taproom be open?

    We are targeting a mid/late summer opening right now. As things progress, we will get a better idea on an exact day.

    What style of beers will you be brewery at your brewery?

    As stated in the previous question about the “name”, this project is going to be all about variety over volume. It’s why we have chosen to outfit our design with the ability to handle over 20 beers at a time. Medusa Brewing Company will build a reputation for handcrafted beer using time-honored methodology and the finest natural ingredients from around the world. The brewpub will have a magnitude of product offerings including, for example: Cream ale, Pale ale, Scottish 80/-, Imperial IPA, Belgian pale, Helles bock, Porter, and Stout. The Brewmaster has experimented with many recipes and found several he believes will have mass appeal based on consumer testing. Future products will include unique seasonal and special one-time brews. We plan on following tradition just as much as we experiment and will offer a barrel-aging program to further enhance the spectrum. You might even find a Sour beer on tap from time to time.

    How much beer will you be brewing in the first year?

    Our goal is to produce 1100 barrels of beer in our first full year (2015). 2014 is difficult to project at the time due to so many different factors.

    Will you be bottling/canning your beer or will it only be available at your brewery?

    We have no current plans to bottle or can our beer at this time. We will, however, be opening with one hell of a growler program.

    The Craft beer industry has had significant growth in the last 10 plus years do you think the industry can sustain this growth?

    We see a lot of young breweries quickly hit their brewing capacity in their early years, so the demand for craft beer has certainly not slowed (and probably never will).  Shortages of ingredients are already being reported today, so I think this is a sign that things will eventually begin to change. It tells me that we have technically begun to approach a somewhat unsustainable rate, but resource availability should naturally begin to balance it out. Until suppliers can catch up, it will be up to the brewer’s and their creativity to push through supply shortages and survive. Could this be called Craft Beer Darwinism? It isn’t necessarily a bad thing; I think that new twists on styles and ingredients will be born from shortages in common ingredients.

    If you could have a dream six pack what would be in your six pack?

    This is one of those impossible-to-answer questions! At the moment, the answer would have to be a six pack of Trillium Fort Point. Since that’s not exactly an option yet, then I suppose I will just “dream” of it.

    If you and your co-owners Keith Antul and Tom Sutter could be a cast members in any TV show in the last 10 years which show would you be on and why?

    It would definitely have to be a comedy; I know that for certain. I think that we would have to be cast to re-dub MXC (Most Extreme Elimination Challenge). It’s the only way that our senses of humor could be aired on television appropriately. I remember that show making almost no sense at all, which is the same thought that I have after most of the stories we come up with in between brewery matters. We are all quite creative, really. Especially Antul.

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    Tom Fennell was not always a brewer and a brewery owner. Before starting Fannin Brewing Company Tom owned a winery. Tom took his knowledge from making wine and used it into making and brewing his own beers. Tom has a great philosophy for brewing his beers and uses local ingredients to make such beers as his delicious Strawberry Blonde. I also talked to Tom about the state of the craft industry, what would be in his dream six pack and what Tom would be doing for a job if he wasn't a brewery owner. If your are ever in the Blue Ridge, Georgia, go check out Fannin Brewing Company and tell Tom that Journey To The Beer Store sent you!

    Before owning a brewery you owned a winery. How did you make the transition from making wine to brewing beer?  
    It was a pretty easy one.  Learning the basics of winemaking helped me a lot in focusing on the sanitary aspects of making alcohol.  Making wine is all about managing the vineyard, essentially you are a farmer. Making beer is really about recipe creation and coming up with something new and interesting. 

    You have a PHILOSOPHY at your brewery of using local ingredients can you tell us more about this?
    Sure.  I try to use local ingredients whenever it’s possible.  I think this really ties people in to your beer, sort of a terroir treatment that you would see with wine.  I’ve made a Strawberry Blonde called Red Headed Woman with strawberries from a local orchard.  I made a Wheat Wine with Sourwood Honey, a local type of honey only found in Southern Appalachia.  I make two beers Harvest Rye and Moonlight Harvest from grain grown from small farmers in North Carolina.  I love local and so does everyone else.

    What styles of beer do you brew?
    I’ve made 19 different style of beer ranging from, a Golden Ale to a Wheat Wine.  My preferred style is German style beers, lagers, Hefe’s etc.  But I make all kinds.

    What is the most popular beer that you brew?
    By far it’s Hiawassee Golden Ale.  This beer really works year round but especially during the hot Georgia summers.  I have sold beer in a brew pub for over a year. It has been the #1 selling beer every month, beating out the craft commercial we sell as well.

    What would your advice be to someone who wants to get into the beer business (i.e. open a brewery or a brew pub)?   
    Wow, giving advice is tricky!  I have been extremely fortunate in that some current brewers have been very open with me in helping me.  The craft beer business has a wonderfully open environment.  I would say start small and focus on what people like to drink, not what you like to make.  Follow your customers lead, you can’t go wrong.

    If you weren’t a brewery owner what would you be doing for a job?
    I worked in the television business all of my professional life and I really loved it.  Maybe teaching.

    With the industry of craft beer growing as fast as it is, do you think the industry can sustain all this growth?
    Great question!  I saw the cable tv business grow from a bunch of small upstarts to then dominating the television landscape.  I think consolidation of the craft beer business is coming.  I just hope we can all keep our local identity in the process. 

    The craft beer industry is in a canning craze. Will we see Fannin Brewery Company beers in cans any time soon?  
    I have talked about this with my distributor extensively.  My preference is cans because it is better in an outdoor environment and it’s more environmentally friendly.  But the image of a can of beer being poured at a nice restaurant is not the greatest, they like bottles.  I’ll probably go with cans but it’s a tossup right now.

    If you could have a dream six pack what would be in your dream six pack? 
    Wow, great questions.  Let’s see….Spaten Optimator, Augustiner Helles, Bell’s Oktoberfest, Jekyl Hop Dang Diggity, New Holland Dragon’s Milk and Budweiser from the 1800’s before Prohibition.  I think they got it right back then.
    For more information on Fannin Brewing Company check out their website: http://www.fanninbrewingcompany.com/










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    A few months back I had my first Westfield River Brewing Company beer, "Charlie in the Rye" and I really liked it. My next thoughts were how have I not heard of this brewery until now, how can I get my hands on more of this great beer and how can I sample more of Westfield River Brewing offerings? What I found out was that the owner, Sergio Bonavita sold a bar in 2009 and started the process of opening a brewery with some friends. In 2012 Westfield River Brewery was founded and this was the start of the production of some really good beer. I contacted Sergio and the team at Westfield River Brewing to see if he wanted to do an interview (and also to selfishly find out where I could find more of his beer)! In the interview Sergio and I discuss all things craft beer from how he got into the business, to difficulties of getting his beer on shelves and what would be his dream six pack.

    How did you get into the beer business?

    My family has been in the liquor business in various forms since before I was born. I was raised around alcohol and was taught that it was a something to be respected. I developed a love for beer at a young age (16) and was fascinated by how beer was made. I worked at my parents liquor stores through high school and college and after college opened a bar. I sold the bar in 2009 and started the process of opening a brewery.

     What would your advice be to someone who wants to open up a brewery and or brew pub?

    Be thorough in everything you do. No detail is to be overlooked. Be ready to LIVE the business - there will be no distinction between your personal life and your brewery.

    How much beer do you brew in a year?

    We are on project 2000 BBL's this year, up from 500 BBL's in our inaugural year. We are small but growing!

    What is your most popular beer that your brew?

    Our most popular beer is Charlie in the Rye. It is a Rye IPA which is hopped with Chinook and Flaconers Flight. Dry-hopping lends citrusy tones and the rye holds strong in the body. The beer is great, but some people just buy it because I decided to put a picture of my dog Charlie on the can. People love the can and get a pleasant surprise when they try the beer.

    How many states is Westfield River Brewery Company currently in? Do you plan to add any new states this year?

    We are only in Massachusetts and until recently were only in Western Mass. We have no plans to expand to other states, but are hoping to cover more territory in Eastern Mass in 2014. It all depends on our production capabilities.

    What is the most difficult part about getting yours on shelves and into bars?

    Fighting the giants. Many large craft breweries can afford full time reps whose only job is to market the products. They spend all day just selling that ONE product. As a one man operation, I cant be everywhere at once - brewing, selling, delivering, and marketing could all be full time jobs. Even if we do get our beer into bars and on shelves, there is always someone from a bigger brewery who is ready to take it off. The only way to ensure you will keep your beer on tap or in a good shelf location is to create demand for it. The retailer will never get rid of a beer which their customers want.

    The craft beer industry has had a significant amount of growth in the past 12 years? Do you think the craft beer industry can handle this growth?

    I do. It really comes down to the consumer, and they are buying "full body macros" less and less every year. Products like Bud, Miller HIgh Life, and Michelob are way down. I think it is a result of those drinkers moving over to craft beer. The people that drank those beers liked flavor and they find it in abundance in craft beer. We cant do much about light beer drinkers, but I guess you cant win them all.
    In terms of whether or not we can keep up with demand as brewers, they answer is definitely yes. The people I have met in the brewing world are some of hardest working and creative people around. If people want our products, we will all find a way to get I to them. 
    If you could have a dream six pack what six beers would be in your six pack?
    Charlie in the Rye - I know its mine, but I really like it.
    Rogue Dead Guy
    Berkshire Brewing's Coffeehouse
    Modelo Espesial - I love this in the summer - brings me back to my youth
    Limbo IPA - just tried it and it was great
    Stone Enjoy By

    Thanks Sergio for a great interview...and if you are looking to try some of Westfield River Brewing Company's great beer you can check out the Craft Beer Cellar in Westford, MA. You can also check out their website at: http://westfieldriverbrewing.com and use the "finder tab" to find your beer!


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    Back East Porter cans released in October

    BLOOMFIELD, CT- October 17, 2013 – Back East began canning their fourth beer, the Porter, this month.  With the addition of the Porter, Back East’s full year-round line-up is now available in six-packs of 12 ounce cans.  The gold-medal winning Porter is the latest beer to be canned by Back East, joining the Golden Ale, flagship Back East Ale, and the Misty Mountain IPA.  Back East is the only brewery in northern Connecticut to can their beers.
    Back East Brewery Co-Founder Tony Karlowicz says, “We’re very excited to be offering Back East in cans.  For us, the decision to can these beers rather than using bottles was a no-brainer.  Cans protect beer from ultra-violet light and oxygen, have a higher recycling rate, are lighter to ship, don’t shatter, fit better in refrigerators and on shipping pallets, and are just all-around more convenient for consumers”.  To help consumers understand more about this decision, Back East has put together an educational (and funny) YouTube video, showing the Top 10 benefits of cans.  This video is now available on Back East’s website.
    Back East Brewing Company is a Craft brewery located at 1296A Blue Hills Avenue in Bloomfield, CT. Founded by cousins Tony Karlowicz and Edward Fabrycki, Jr., Back East opened in July 2012 and is currently distributed on draft and in cans throughout the Greater Hartford and New Haven markets.  Back East Brewery’s tap room is open to the public and Back East offers brewery tours.  For more information about Back East Brewery, please visit www.backeastbrewing.com.

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  9. Slumbrew  the Brewing Company that brew Flagraiser IPA, Happy Sol, Lobstah Killah and many other great beers recently announced that they are coming out with Holiday Day Beer called Slumbrew Yankee Swap! We at Journey To The Beer Store are excited every time Slumbrew announces they are coming out with a new beer. Below you will find a brief description of Slumbrew Yankee Swap from Caitlin and Jeff Owners of Slumbrew!

    Our 2013 LIMITED-RELEASE December Holiday Beer:
    "Slumbrew Yankee Swap" is our attempt to showcase Yankee ingenuity. Made with grain including Local Massachusetts Valley Malt and Hadley Sugar Shack Maple Syrup, this Strong Ale will be aged in Rum barrels from Turkey Shore Distilleries in Ipswich MA. We expect this beer to weigh in at 11% ABV.

    Quick question we have is it the Holiday season yet? More information about release date of Slumbrew Yankee Swap coming up!


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    Who would of thought that following your brother to Boulder, Colorado while he attended college would lead to two brothers starting and owning one of the best breweries in the Eastern part of the United States. That is what happened when John Trogner followed his brother Chris to Boulder. In 1997 they opened a brewery in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and since then they have been brewing some great beer. In this interview we talk about Tröegs Scratch Beer Series, dream six packs and if he thinks the craft beer industry can handle this crazy growth and much more.

    How did you get into the beer business?

    The brewery’s roots began in Boulder, CO, where my brother Chris was attending college. I eventually moved there and landed a job at a brewpub while Chris finished school and developed a business plan. Three years later we returned to Central PA with plans to build a production brewery. We founded Tröegs in 1996, and sold our first keg of beer in Harrisburg on July 18, 1997.

    How much beer will you brew this year?

    We produced 44,000 barrels in 2012 and project to be at around 55,000 by the close of 2013.

    Will you be coming out with any new beers this year? If yes what style of beer will it be and what will the name be?

    We are constantly working on new ideas for beers. Our Scratch Series allows us to brew small test batches and gauge the public’s interest. Currently, we are in the process of expanding our packaging room, which will allow us to produce both 12oz. and 22oz. bottles. We’re in the process of adding a canning line, but we’re still working on that. We’re also adding a third line for 375ml and 750ml corked and caged bottles. This will allow us to expand our Splinter Series, our line of limited barrel-aged beers.

    What is your most popular beer that you brew?

    For years, our flagship beers were HopBack Amber and Troegenator Double Bock, each selling about the same volume (HopBack thriving on draft and Troegenator, in bottle sales). However, our newest year-round beer, Perpetual IPA, is poised to become our number one seller by the end of the year.

    Can you tell me more about your Scratch Beer Series?

    Our Scratch Beer Series allows us to experiment with new brewing techniques and use non-traditional ingredients. What started as an idea to kick off our 10th anniversary has developed into more than 100 different limited beers that are typically available only at the brewery Tasting Room. The Scratch Beer Series has evolved into a proving ground for potential year-round or seasonal releases – both Flying Mouflan and Perpetual IPA were first introduced as test batches in the Scratch Beer Series.

    What is the most difficult part about getting yours on shelves and into bars?

    You really need to set the table stakes high and ‘up your ante’. Maintaining quality and consistency is crucial, but so is shelf space. The more competition there is, the more difficult it is to retain shelf space in stores. You need to stay ahead of the curve and remain relevant in the industry without losing focus of what you do.

    If you could have a dream 6 pack what beers would you pick to be in it?

    I can tell you what WOULDN’T be in it – smoked beers! What would be in it would be a hoppy beer straight off the bottling line, a beer with über-fresh yeast, and of course a few session beers.

    The craft beer industry has had a significant amount of growth in the past 10 years. Do you think the craft beer industry can handle this growth?

    When Tröegs first opened in 1996, a lot of non-beer people were getting into the industry, which resulted in a broad spectrum of beer quality. There were some great startup breweries, not-so-great startup breweries, and bad breweries, to use relative terms. So we had a weeding out period from 1996 through 2000. The difference was distribution shut down for most breweries. Most wholesalers wouldn’t take on new breweries during that time, which is part of the reason we only distributed to Central PA. Basically, nobody would pick us up, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Today, even the nano-breweries starting up are way ahead of the startup breweries back in 1996. The technology is different, the awareness is different, the taste buds are different, even the public is different. It’s just a craft-savvy mindset. Today, we have the positive components of consistency, creativity, and caliber of brewing. Wholesalers are also more open to taking on new craft breweries. There’s never been more of an opportunity for wholesale beer than right now. I don’t know how long that window will stay open, but it is here now.

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