Beer Business Daily broke this unexpected news and I posted it over at The Beer Yard because that’s how we roll.

September 29, 2015 – Beer Business Daily: Dogfish Head Gives NY Investment Firm 15% Ownership

BEER BUSINESS DAILY TODAY

Yesterday Dogfish chief Sam Calagione shared the following news with employees. They’ll give New York-based LNK “a modest 15% ownership position.” One more for the private equity succession plan camp.

“Today, I am excited to announce that Mariah and I added a new asset as external support to Dogfish Head – LNK Partners,” he wrote. “You are likely thinking, who or what is that? Well, they are an incredibly smart and experienced group of people who have worked with companies of all sizes and styles like Levi’s, Performance Bicycle, Gatorade and Calvin Klein [and Panera] to help those guys achieve their goals in their respective industries. LNK is making an investment to own 15% percent of our company.” As we reported via large news outlets earlier this year, Dogfish has “accepted a number of meetings over many years in order to better understand the plays that other craft breweries could or would be making.

“But while these conversations happened, our talks have always been prefaced by our steadfast desire to remain a family-controlled and family-led company. We remained firm in that position no matter who was sitting at the other side of the table pitching us their deal and we still do today. We went into our introductory meeting with LNK as if it would be our only, but rather found that the result was a robust and thoughtful dialogue about Dogfish’s solid and unique position in the craft beer industry. We walked out of the meeting thinking perhaps we should rethink those original assumptions. …”

“THREE DEAL BREAKERS”: “During the process of getting to know each other, the value in partnering with LNK became clearer, for while we have been approaching our world through the lens of craft, they could bring different exposures and experiences to help adjust that focus,” Sam wrote. “In so doing they could provide the food for thought we had yet to sample. As the possibility of a partnership continued to crystallize for us, all that remained was their agreement around our three deal-breakers. 1.) acceptance that this would not be a path toward IPO, majority ownership or any other position that would be counter to our commitment to remain a family-controlled and family-led company, 2.) alignment in holding holy to our off-centered culture as an ideal to be treasured, and 3.) acceptance that we will always choose smart growth over fast growth. End of story. Not only did LNK get on board with our priorities, but they respected them; they were energized around them.”

Bottom line, this means that at the “Dogfish Board of Directors level there will be one representative joining who will bring some diversity of thought and experience to that group. Additionally, they will be acting as thought partners for Mariah, Nick and I to challenge us, provide sounding board and offer other best practice advice. We contemplated whether filling our voids could be just as easily achieved through the work of a rock solid consultant but in the end Mariah and I agreed that allowing LNK to take a modest 15% ownership position would provide the skin in the game that would align us to winning.”

David Landau, Managing Partner at LNK, said Dogfish is a “rare combination of a great management team and a great brand.”

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GABF 2015

This is my report as posted on the Beer Yard site late Saturday afternoon:

Saucony Creek Gold Medal Tops List of Local GABF Medal Winners for 2015
Seven breweries in the tri-county market served by The Beer Yard won medals during the 2015 Great American Beer Festival Awards Ceremonies in Denver this afternoon, including a Gold for Saucony Creek Brewing’s X-Reserve Ale 05-15 Peach and Ginger in the Fruit Beer category. That Gold keeps alive a three year streak in which new breweries in the area have brought home a medal in its first time at GABF (following Neshaminy Creek in 2013 and Barren Hill Tavern in 2014).

Three other Eastern PA breweries brought home a total of four Silver Medals, including two for Iron Hill from its Lancaster location (Russian Imperial Stout, the IH beer that seems to attract them like a magnet) and its Philadelphia location (The Cannibal, the Belgian Strong Ale Speciality category). Those wins kept alive Iron Hill’s perfect streak of winning at least one GABF medal every year since it opened its doors in 1994. A Silver for Sly Fox Grisette kept another streak alive; that beer has won Silver, Gold and now Silver again in the last three years. The fourth Silver went to Stoudts Brewing Co.’s Oktoberfest.

A Bronze went to Susquehanna Brewing Co., a first time winner, for its Goldencold Lager. New Jersey’s Flying Fish Brewing won a Bronze for its Red Fish Bitter (which took Gold in 2014) and to bring the region’s total to seven medals in all, a far cry from the 15 won at GABF 2014 or the 13 in 2013.

Other tri-state medals were won by New Jersey’s Spellbound Brewing in Mt. Holly (Silver), Delaware’s Mispillion River Brewing in Milford (Bronze), and two other Pennsylvania brewers, Bronzes by Pittsburgh’s Church Brew Works and Bloomsburg’s Marley’s Brewery & Grill (beers from those breweries are not currently available in this market). Those wins make the overall tri-state record 1 Gold, 5 silver and 5 Bronze, a total of 11 in all. In 2014, breweries from the region came home with 18 medals in all.

Recent recurring GABF medalists which are missing among this year’s crop include such familiar names as Troegs, Dogfish Head, Fegley’s Brew Works and Yards.

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A-B will acquire LA’s Golden Road Brewing by the end of the year (Updated: video added)

Beer Business Daily just reported the deal. I have a brief excerpt from their article up over at The Beer Yard site and will add more there–and here– when other news sources check in.

Here’s the promised followup: a video on the deal from A-B.

And more: BBD’s Harry Schuhmacher interviews Golden Road’s Meg Gill.

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From the distant past: my first Celebrator Beer News story ever

While doing some online research for a story I am writing this weekend for Ale Street News (one of two due Monday; the first is finished except for a bit of last minute editing where I always find Something), a search brought up the below as a source–a good one, since it has the info I needed. Since the retrospective posts I’ve made in recently weeks were well received, I decided this was worthy of  second-time-around treatment as well. If you like this sort of thing and this is the sort of thing you like, let me know and I’ll dig up more old posts. Or maybe I’ll just do int anyway because I can.

THE BOOK & THE COOK 2000

ROASTING MICHAEL JACKSON IN PHILADELPHIA
Baste Gently, Do Not Stir, Do Not Bruise

By Jack Curtin

        They came to praise Caesar, not to bury him. About as impressive a list of beer industry luminaries as you’re ever likely to see except inside any Denver bar during GABF gathered in Philadelphia March 3 to ostensibly “roast” Michael Jackson, but more pointed remarks have been expressed at a typical Quaker meeting than were hurled at the world’s foremost beer writer during a three-hour banquet at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology.

Oh, there were the expected jokes about excessive beer consumption and the sometimes less than perfect mental state that such admirable activity can result in at the end of a long working day, plus a bit of gentle chiding about a wardrobe that even he acknowledges is somewhat eccentric, but most roasters understandable inclinations to express their affection and appreciation for all that Jackson has done for the brewing industry around the world turned the evening into a lovefest rather than full-scale ribbing. “I expected this to be more of an ordeal than it turned out to be,” said the Great Man with characteristic understatement at evening’s end.

The Michael Jackson Roast marked the tenth anniversary of Jackson’s participation in The Book & the Cook, Philadelphia’s annual celebration of food and drink. Jackson hosts a Friday night dinner at the Museum and a day-long series of tutored tastings there the following day during the final weekend of B&C each year. Recently, he’s also added a Sunday evening dinner at the city’s best beer bar, Monk’s Cafe, to his schedule and this year’s event was an historic all-lambic feast. The Museum, an extraordinary setting for a celebration of extraordinary beers, holds some of the oldest references to beer in the world, written in Sumerian on cuneiform tablets (proceeds from the Friday dinner benefit the Museum’s Sumerian Dictionary Project), and houses a variety of beer-related artifacts from ancient Mesopotamia.

Celebrator Beer News publisher/editor Tom Dalldorf served as master of ceremonies for the event and got in some of the evening’s best shots, at both the guest of honor (“We have carefully chosen the order of speakers according to who works best sober, slightly buzzed or totally blotto. Michael, of course, will speak last.”) and the roasters themselves (American Brewer publisher Bill Owens was introduced as “The Andy Warhol of beer.”). He also obligingly wore a kilt, thus making himself the, you should excuse the expression, butt of as many jokes as was Jackson.

Most speakers’ comments centered around a first meeting with Jackson or his impact on their brewing lives. Anchor Brewing’s Fritz Maytag recalled the early days “when I thought my brewery was the only interesting small brewery in the country and how wonderful it was when I found out Michael thought that as well.” And All About Beer’s Dan Bradford noted that “beer writers can only follow Michael Jackson, there is no other model. He created the vocabulary and the content of what we do.”

Oliver Hughes of Dublin’s Porter House Brewing Company, Ireland’s first brewpub, remember how local journalists, no matter what they were told, regularly reported only that his Oyster Stout “made you good between the sheets” and how he and his staff groaned one afternoon when told a journalist was on the line, until informed “he says his name is Michael Jackson.” “I have never seen our brewer move so fast before or since,” laughed Hughes. Ale Street News’ Tony Forder remembered when Jackson’s Great Beers of Belgium was blessed by a Cardinal in New York and “Michael suddenly became less digressional, more coherent, even remembered names,” before presenting him with a pair of Saint Michael undershorts flown in from England.

The highlight of the evening was the presentation by Sam Calagione of Delaware’s Dogfish Head Brewery, who offered a short story in the style of Raymond Carver (“Michael told me last year that Carver was his favorite American writer”) about Jackson’s life in an alternate universe wherein he passes a sobriety test in very impressive and very funny fashion.

Other roasters included freelance beer writer Stephen Beaumont; Vanburg and Dewulf’s Don Feinberg; Merchant du Vin’s Charlie Finkel; Anthony Fuller of Fuller, Smith and Turner brewery in London; Malt Advocate’s John Hansell, Brooklyn Brewery’s Steve Hindy; Beers International’s Richie Stolarz; Dr. F. G. Hoepfner of Germany’s Privatbrauerei Hoepfner; Carol Stoudt of Stoudt’s Brewery and the aforementioned Owens.

Copyright (c) 2000 Jack Curtin (originally published in Celebrator Beer News, April-May 2000)

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The beat goes on: MillerCoors gets Saint Archer

From this afternoon’s Craft Business Daily:

Saint Archer Joins Tenth & Blake

Well, it seems the rumors are true. Chief Scott Whitley just sent notice to MillerCoors distributors and partners that San Diego brewer Saint Archer would join Tenth & Blake. Tenth is taking a majority interest.

Not surprisingly, Saint Archer will reportedly operate “as a separate business unit of Tenth and Blake under [founder] Josh’s continued leadership. They’ll have access to the resources of Tenth and Blake, and MillerCoors, to help realize their long-term aspirations. In the short term, we’ll focus on ensuring Saint Archer has the capacity to support its strong growth, as well as ways of working together on items ranging from procurement to sales and distribution. For now it’s business as usual for Saint Archer.”

The note started:

“I’m excited to announce that Tenth and Blake has agreed to acquire a majority interest in San Diego-based Saint Archer Brewing Company.
“Founded in one of America’s most competitive craft markets, Saint Archer is one of California’s fastest-growing breweries, thanks to a visionary entrepreneur, a gifted team of brewers, and a community of skateboarders, surfers and artists who have helped build the brand.”
Saint Archer co-founder Josh Landan said they’ve “always wanted to get great beer into more people’s hands.” He will continue to lead the brewery. “We were fortunate that brewers big and small were interested in partnering with us, but Tenth and Blake was the clear choice. Tenth and Blake shares our passion for putting great beer first. Joining Tenth and Blake allows us to keep doing what we love right here in San Diego, but now with more resources to innovate and grow. With Tenth and Blake’s help, we hope to one day be a national brand.”
Scott’s note continued that Saint Archer is a “great partner for Tenth and Blake as they make award-winning beers that complement our current portfolio—ranging from session ales to big beers, led by a Blonde Ale, a Pale Ale, a White Ale and an IPA.” Scott is “especially excited about the cultural fit between our companies, born from a shared goal of brewing high-quality beers that are flavorful, approachable and that appeal to a broad range of consumer palates.”

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Lagunitas going global in joint venture with Heineken.

No, this is not a takeover, not an acquisition, not a sale.

From today’s Beer Business Daily:

Lagunitas Enters JV with Heineken Global   

Heineken and Lagunitas are announcing a JV between the two companies.
Few things to stress about this deal: It’s between Heineken global and Lagunitas; it has nothing to do with HUSA. And it’s not an acquisition, but a true, 50/50 joint venture, by DOJ standards.  (And the move wasn’t for capital needs. We understand that Lagunitas has a $190 million line of credit to see their brewery projects through.) 
Tony will continue to run the company. The crux here is the prospect of going global with Heineken. 
OUR TAKE. In our view, this is the most exciting announcement Heineken global has seen in awhile. 
Lagunitas is a superstar. Their 5-year CAGR growth rate is 52.4%. That’s unheard of in consumer product goods. Even on large bases they’ve continued to grow at an impressive rate: They finished 2013 at around 400,420 barrels, and 2014 at more than 600,000. By now, of course, they’re just about national. Just eight years ago, they were 40,000 barrels. 
Their footprints don’t align well at the moment, but putting Lagunitas into the HUSA chain machine would escalate that brand further stateside. 
This is the shot in the arm that Heineken needed to fire up distribs right before convention season. They don’t have a brand like Lagunitas. And they needed a punch: Dos Equis growth is slowing; brand Heineken has picked up a bit, but it’s not on fire; and Newcastle is … Newcastle. 
We bet they’ll try to move Lagunitas to more Heineken distribs as years go on.  
 
We’ve heard that Lagunitas actually got higher offers than the one they took. But this is the best fit, again, mostly for the global imperative. 
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If a monk is chatty, where might he go?

Apparently, Phoenixville.

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Is Founders “craft” identity foundering?

According to an article in this afternoon’s Craft Beer Daily, the new partnership between Founders Brewing Co. and Spain’s Mahou San Miguel could well mean that the popular Michigan brewery will be dropped from the Brewers Association’s list of  craft brewers because “Mahou is not a ‘small’ brewery (the company produced more than 10 million barrels in 2010).” Mahou now has a 30% stake in Founders.

Brewmaster Jeremy Kosmicki’s reaction to all this, as quoted later in the story:

“We sold 30% of our company to another brewery. Yet, if we had sold 90% or 100% of our brewery to a PE firm, which essentially is a bank, then we’re still a craft brewery…[I would] rather be in bed with a brewery than a bank…”

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The Nostalgia Series: Every Day Is April Fool’s Day (Beer Yard 2010 – 2011)

Long ago and far away, when we were young and excited and could all laugh at one another, April 1 was always a special day at the Beer Yard website (as it was and still is for many others), and as part of retelling our craft beer history in the Nostalgia Series, I figured some laughs would be more than appropriate.

This is the final April Fool’s installment. I hope you got a few good laughs out of it all.

Flying Fish Pulls the Plug on Exit Series

Using a high class line of beers to remind people about the Jersey Turnpike was a “truly bad idea,” owner Gene Muller now says

Flying Fish Brewing Co. is exiting its Exit Series of beer.

The brewing program named big new beers from the Cherry Hill brewery after exits on the New Jersey Turnpike, a concept developed by founder Gene Muller.

“I don’t know what the hell he was thinking,” head brewer Casey Hughes acknowledged. “Why would you do that? Who wants to be reminded? Everybody, I mean everybody, hates the Jersey Turnpike.

The end of Exit does not mean Flying Fish will no longer celebrate its home state, Hughes promised. “We are going to honor our cultural and intellectual achievements instead,” he said. “Look for Snookie Double Bitter and The Situation Imperial Barleywine to be released later this year. We will be packaging them in Forties because that just seems right.”

In related news, Stephen Mashington of Yards Brewery in Philadelphia said that the Flying Fish cancellations have made them rethink a planned series which would have been named in honor of exits from the Schuylkill Expressway. “If everybody hates the Jersey Turnpike, they absolutely loath the Expressway,” he said. “And they can’t spell it either. If we went ahead with that idea, I swear I’d start to feel like a red-headed stepchild.”

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World’s Oldest Beer Discovered For Umpteenth Time

This time it’s for real, says U of P scientist as he announces his discovery of reside from goblets once used by Adam and Eve

Scientists and historians around the world were stunned last week by a bombshell announcement from Biomolecular Archeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania.

McGovern, author of Uncorking the Past and a frequent collaborator with Dogfish Head Brewing Company in recreating ancient beverages, revealed that he had discovered residue of “the world’s first beer” at an undisclosed location which he said had been the site of the Garden of Eden. Furthermore, he argued, one of the basic tenets of the world’s oldest story seems to have been distorted over the years.

“Based on my evidence,” McGovern told his peers at a professional gathering, “the serpent did not tempt Eve with an apple but with a bland and tasteless macro-lager. Adam and Eve had been having a fine old time just lounging around naked and drinking this good craft beer before that; once she had the macro, she became ashamed, started wearing clothes and everything went downhill from there.”

Eve’s donning of clothing was “apparently a sad moment,” McGovern added. “We also managed to piece together fragments of Adam’s diary and he described her as a real fox. The again, he could have just been wearing beer goggles.”

Dogfish Head will attempt to recreate the ancient beverage as they have earlier McGovern discoveries. Owner Sam Calagione admitted that “we will only be able to produce about a single growler because of the rarity of the ingredients, so virtually no one will ever get to taste it. But this is not just a publicity stunt, as I will explain in my book and video about the project.”

Calagione also announced that he hoped to brew the new/old beer in collaboration with the Original Brewer. “We’re in negotiations,” he acknowledged. “The big hang up seems to be whether we’ll do it at our place or His.”

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PLCB Bans “Beers With Difficult Names” From PA Shelves

Brewers have an obligation not to confuse agency inspectors, agency says

A spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board said this morning that “brewers have been abusing the registration system by coming up with names that are too hard for us to deal with” and that a new directive will be issued to solve the problem.

Arguing that the PLCB was blameless in recent raids on Philadelphia taverns and wholesalers wherein beers which were on the registration list were seized nonetheless “because it was just too confusing,” the spokesperson told a Harrisburg radio station that “brewers have an obligation to give their beers clear, simple names that our inspectors have heard before and can figure out, preferably names of one syllable or less.”

Starting in April, he said, the PLCB will reject registration for any beer that doesn’t meet that standard. “If we can’t spell it, we don’t want in Pennsylvania. Why are brewers making so many beers anyway? What about the children?”

Asked how beers from other countries would be treated under the new standards, he added that “actually, we’re also going to be banning foreign beers pretty much across the board. If beer was meant to come from places like Belgium, Germany and England, that would have been written into the original law.”

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The Nostalgia Series: (Liquid Diet “Best of…” 2009)

(Over the years, I have written my account of the beginning of the good beer revolution in this part of the world in many articles and venues. Here’s what I was thinking six years ago. One of a set, collect them all.)

2009: It was fun while it lasted.

It’s time for Uncle Jack’s Annual Local Beer Awards Show once again! Actually, it’s about a week ahead of time, but when you have a major snow storm that kills the whole weekend and gives the staff a lot of free time to write, this is what happens.

We’ve done this like they do the Academy Awards this time around, only without all the self-centered hosts and crap in between the awards. Basically, that means we start off with a biggie or two to reel you in, then slow the pace a bit and steadily build up to the grand finale while you keep looking a your watches. No fair scrolling ahead.

One way we definitely part company with those fancier awards ceremonies: streaking is permitted, even encouraged.

NEW BEER OF THE YEAR – Weyerbacher Zotten. I love this beer. All hail to head brewer Chris Wilson, brewer Dan Hitchcock and production manager Chris Lampe. The brain trust in Easton usually has the wisdom to add the best of its one-off or seasonal brews to the year-round list. If that doesn’t happen with Zotten, Mr. Weirback has got him some serious ‘splainin’ to do.

SORTA NEW BEER OF THE YEAR – Victory WildDevil. There are a lot of people who really don’t get WildDevil; I often get those looks when I say it’s one of my current favorites. Let’s put it this way: they are wrong . Victory scores not just because I find the beer very enjoyable, but also for the sheer genius of taking an old familiar standard and turning it into something quite different. They get points too for reinterpreting their Saisonas Helios.

DRAUGHT ONLY BEER OF THE YEAR – Sly Fox Chester County Bitter. It’s not really draught in the broadest sense, but Cask Ale of the Year was too limited a category and that heading reads better than You Can Only Get It At a  Bar Beer of the Year, dunnit? This long-promised release is  a true cask ale and it’s dead-on perfect. Plus it is in the distribution system, available not just at the two Sly Fox locations but also at those taverns and pubs willing to do the extra work to give their customers a special treat. Also not to be discounted is that this presents ample opportunity for us peons to regularly pester Brian O’Reilly for more real cask releases. What’s not to like?

HIGH-POWERED MONOLITHIC CORPORATION TAKING OVER (ALMOST) THE ENTIRE DELAWARE VALLEY AWARD – Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant. Now that they’ve finally conquered New Jersey (a strange dream, that, but they made it come true as they do most of the things they set their sights on), it’s almost impossible to not get an Iron Hill brew in these parts—unless you’re in the City of Philadelphia itself, of course. We can only hope that one day the economics will work out and that deplorable situation can be rectified. Meanwhile, go West, young man. Or North. Or South. Or East.

BEST PALATE EVER AWARD – Suzy Woods. Going where no male beer writer dared, Suzie Woods entered and finished second in the first Memphis Taproom Mystery Beer Weekend event in 2008 by a point or two, then won it going away in 2009. Impressive. Pity the poor brewer who might have to try and keep up with the lady. Note: I almost called this the That Girl’s Got a Mouth on Her Award, but decorum prevailed.

BEST ARTISTIC ACHIEVEMENT- Earth Bread + Brewery.
I was very taken with some of the artwork coming out of Philadelphia Brewing Company in 2009 , but EB+B’s new mural across the outside wall (part of the city’s impressive Mural Arts Program and done by local resident Brian Ames) blew me away. It is not only a striking work, the whole project further cements Tom & Peggy’s rep for “getting it.” They’ve made EB+B part of much that is good and special about a city which is lucky to have them. Good neighbors make good beer, or whatever the poet said.

CREATIVE THINKING AWARD – Teresa’s Next Door. When the Main Line’s best beer location brought in Sam Calagione for a Philly Beer Week luncheon last March 10, there was clearly something different about the food as it arrived at the table: every course was off-centered on the plate, a homage to Dogfish Head’s famous slogan. Brilliant and subtle.

PERSONALITY WE WILL NEVER REPLACE. – Gary Bredbenner. His was one of the most familiar faces in the crowd on the local beer scene, most famously at the Grey Lodge Pub, where he almost seemed to be part of the ambiance. To many, he was just that funny, happy little guy who always had a pint, maybe two, in his hand. If you read all the online remembrances after his sudden, tragic death in October, you now know that a very special part of our communal heart is gone forever.

THE LEW BRYSON DELAYED GRATIFICATION AWARD – Dan Bengel. Mr. Bryson, who currently holds the title of America’s Most Beloved Beer Writer (© Jack Curtin’s Liquid Diet 2009)—a honorific he has asked be retired, which is under consideration at the very highest levels of management here at Liquid Diet (the voting is going to be close and your input is invited)—has still not finished his online account of a six-day trip to the Czech Republic after nearly five years. I figured he was setting a record I’d never see topped. Big Dan Bengel, however, is, as best I can tell, currently somewhere early in the early morning of Day Three in his report of a ten-day (Two week? Who can remember?) trip the Usual Suspects made to Belgium in the Spring of 2008. At this rate, he will eventually blow away Bryson’s questionable accomplishment with ease.

CLEVEREST MARKET EXPANSION AWARD – Philadelphia Brewing Company. How do you open, say, the Pittsburgh market if you’re a Philadelphia craft brewery? Well, you can go out and visit with various wholesalers there, seeing what’s the best deal you can get, then work out shipping. Or you can clap your former operations manager, who’s relocating to the Steel City, on the back, buy him a truck and rent him space in a Pittsburgh warehouse, taking advantage of the Pennsylvania law which allows a brewery to open two additional facilities anywhere in the state. It’s even easier if you rent that warehouse from a shipping company which has a location right outside Philadelphia so they can move fresh beer westward for you weekly. Somebody really ought to game the system like this….oh, wait.

WEBSITE OF THE YEAR – Suzy Woods. She does a super job covering the Philly bar scene and often makes me laugh out loud at some of her antics, but this award is mostly because, as the days dwindled down to a precious few, Ms. Woods gave in, foreswore her strange love of the Brown and redesigned her site into a bright, clean readable venue which is a joy to the eyes, abandoning I’ll Have Another Stout as its name in favor of the simpler, says-it-all Beerlass.  Gotta admit, that old site, it done give me headaches.

WRITER OF THE YEAR – Lew Bryson. This one is long overdue. Big and bold, foil and friend, Lew is one of the most influential voices in the drinks press (even if one benighted soul sometimes pokes fun at him—I’ll never understand that). The Big Guy is ever-present on the web, breaking news, promoting beer and booze and tilting at his favorite windmill. He’s all over the printed page in a variety of publications as a columnist and feature writer. And and he’s got those great regional beer guides, including a new one on New Jersey (with Mark Haynie) this year and a revised Pennsylvania edition coming next year. Also, you can always hear him coming. There’s a lot to be said for that.

PUBLICANS OF THE YEAR – Brendan Hartranft & Leigh Maida. Maintain the high standards at the great pub they created in 2008? Check. Open a second successful pub in another under-served part of the city? Check. Oh, what the hell, rinse and repeat, and go for a third pub? Check. Do all this while having a baby? Not a problem. This pair was second to multi-location Iron Hill in the “Taking Over the World” category, which pretty much says it all.  We’d urge everybody else in the business to embrace their work ethic and creativity, but then we’d have a great beer bar on every block in the city and…hey, come to think of it, that would not be such a bad thing. Get crackin’, you other publicans.

BEER EVENT OF THE YEAR – Phoenixville PBW Pub Crawl. Yes, obviously Philly Beer Week itself was the big major beer celebration of the year past, as it will likely be every year, but we can’t just retire the award by giving it to the winner every year, can we? Besides, this one-day celebration of good brew was an astonishing success, filling every participating venue to capacity and creating an overflow crowd all along Bridge St., a crowd which was happy, fully under control and a prime example that beer people is good people. Let’s have a hand for organizers Mark Edelson (Iron Hill) and Brian O’Reilly (Sly Fox).

WHOA! We have us a tie on one of our major categories and ain’t it nice that it’s between the two longest surviving breweries in Philadelphia (we have designated Cherry Hill as East Philly for dramatic purposes here; live with it).

BREWERY OF THE YEAR – Flying Fish Brewing Co. – Brewmaster Casey Hughes and his team (lead brewer Drew Perry, brewery/cellarman Lawrence George, packaging supervisor Jim Brennan, package & bottling guys Mike Zarsecke and Dave Kovalchick) followed up 2008’s first-ever GABF medal in 2008 with two more this year, including a Gold for the much-praised Exit 4. The Fish has rolled along, mostly below the radar, from back in the mid-’90s when founder Gene Muller anticipated a world most of us never saw coming and created his brewery as a virtual entity online; these days everybody knows they’re a player in the nation’s best beer region.

BREWERY OF THE YEAR – Yards Brewing Co. Oh, ye of little faith… There were a few doubters as Yards spent the better part of 2008 struggling to get its new brewery up and running but the ever-smiling Tom Kehoe and new sidekick Steve Mashington assured us all would be well, making a down payment on that promise with the release of Yards Brawler last fall, my 2008 Beer of the Year. 2009 has been full steam ahead for what was once The Little Brewery That Could when the city’s craft beer scene crashed into turmoil at the end of the last century. The money guys died and they survived. All the beers are spot on and the big question is whether Philly Pale Ale or ESA is the one Yards beer you really must have to get a proper Philadelphia vibe. Lets hear a shout out for the brewing team (Tim Roberts, Frank Winslow, Mitch Albach and Andrew Rutherford) and the guys who work the lines, stack the cases and do the heavy lifting.

STORY OF THE YEAR – Craft Beer Keeps On Keepin’ On. It’s not just a local story, obviously, but it has been strongly evident in these parts in the across-the-board growth of all our major breweries, the slew of new good beer locations which opened over the past 12 months and the ever-improving taps at so many, many locations that wouldn’t even consider craft beers not long ago. That all this has been duplicated across the nation in the current economic climate is probably as strong an indicator as there is of the strength and potential of crafts. If you must have a local angle, GABF recognition of two of our wholesalers, Origlio Beverage and Muller Inc., was right in tune with the larger story.

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