Three years ago Mike Hess, a former financial planner whose clients included uber San Diego craft brewery Stone Brewing Company, decided to take a leap into the world of San Diego craft beer. Tonight he was presiding over a five-course San Diego Beer Week tasting dinner at the beachy chic Paradise Point resort’s Baleen restaurant along with chef Amy DiBiase.
Add one more to the list of San Diego craft beer overnight sensations.
Hess’s Grazias Vienna Cream Ale (a mash-up of Austria’s second largest city Graz and the Spanish word for “thank you”) might be a new kid on the block, but its innovative, malt forward, Nibble hops balanced taste and creamy smooth texture was an instant Beer Week hit — and a tasty snapshot of San Diego’s take-it-or-leave it craft beer culture. (It didn’t hurt that DiBiase paired it with her cocoa nib crusted venison carpaccio.)
Your beachside oyster shack may just have lager to offer, but if you’re bringing your own beer to the oyster table, you might discover some really amazing combinations when oysters and beer get together. We asked our crew of beer experts about their favorite beer pairings for oysters, both the just-shucked raw kind and grilled and fried options.
Craft’s strong year off-premise has continued through the beginning of autumn. In the October 6th four-week scan data released by the IRI group on October 18th, craft volume accelerated, showing a 17.6% increase from the same period a year ago. That raised craft’s year-to-date volume increase up to 16.4%, up from 15.2% this summer. Craft retail dollars also increased by 20.0% for the period versus a year ago, and are up 18.7% year-to-date. All beer volume has recovered slightly from the summer, and is now down only -0.3% in volume YTD in the IRI numbers, up from being down -1.1% YTD in the June/July numbers.
Unlike gains during the summer, this month’s growth occurred without price cutting, as the price per case of craft in the IRI data increased 45 cents from the previous month, up to $34.12 during the four week period. Overall YTD prices are up 2.0% from the previous year, about a point above the U.S. inflation rate of 1.2% through September. The total beer category saw a slight price increase during the month of 16 cents versus the previous month, largely driven by the growing market share of craft and domestic super premium, and declines in the lower priced domestic premium and domestic sub-premium categories. Overall beer case prices are up 2.9% year-to-date.
Beer makers, big and small, are tapping into consumer willingness to experiment beyond traditional brews.
Bored with Budweiser? Crack open a new vanilla bourbon-flavored lager from the market leader’s “Project 12” limited edition 12-pack, which debuted Monday and is available through the end of the year. Other twists on the traditional Budweiser lager within the pack (four bottles each of the three flavors): a darker, slightly stronger brew and a hoppier one made with Pacific Northwest hops.
Or if you prefer holiday spices, Blue Moon Brewing, which is owned by competitor MillerCoors, has a new Gingerbread Spiced Ale in its brewmasters winter sampler pack, out Saturday. ..
Seasonal and limited-edition beers are not new, but, typically, smaller, independent craft breweries have been the ones more likely to release them. Boston Beer Co., the largest U.S. craft brewery, has its own gingerbread-flavored beer, the Merry Maker stout, in individual 22 oz. bottles, and the cinnamon, ginger and orange peel-infused Winter Lager, in six packs and a winter variety pack, on the way to stores now.. Also just out, the brewery’s Utopias, a blended and barrel-aged “extreme” (read: very high alcohol) beer — only 12,000 bottles were made and each sells for $199.