Mar 29, 2012

Why aren't beers as good when they get popular?

I came across this article on (read it here) today, and had some thoughts about it. There is something I see more and more often in the beer committee that sort of drives me nuts.

Jim Koch

There seems to be this sort of "want it both ways" attitude that beer geeks seem to want. They want craft beer to become more and more popular, and mainstream, but when it does, they start to hate it. Jim Koch wrote about this a while back, that I posted on my blog titled "The Paradox of Popularity (The Paradox of Popularity on the Beer Czar) where he discusses much of the same issues. Beer people call themselves "Beer Advocates" and say they want to promote the craft beer industry and educate people that there are more choices then "fizzy yellow beer" the "Big 3" crams down our throats. Yet, when a craft brewer starts to make it big, like Sam Adams, Dogfish Head, Sierra Nevada and the like, the craft beer community tends to turn their backs on these "sell outs" complaining of a drop in quality, changing recipes, and even how its just "not cool anymore".

This write up about Oberon being overated sparked a lot of these same issues, and displayed them to me pretty clearly. First off, let me just say, Oberon is one of my favorite, ( I even wrote about it here) it not my all time favorite summer brews. Its a crisp, refreshing, drinkable, enjoyable beer, that I am glad we get here in Arizona. The author even writes about when he use to drink it, it was "new and refreshing and exciting" Its no longer new, and I would argue, its never been exciting, but its still every bit as refreshing, why not like it anymore. If all you want is new and exciting, that will always be there, but a good beer is a good beer, and always will be. Oh, and calling it a "sort of" craft beer? It was a craft beer when it was new and exciting, why is it not anymore? Craft beer has to do with the ingredients, and process, not output. One more thing, if someone wants to put an orange in their beer, so what? Let them. If someone wants to paint "Hello Kitty" on their Ferrari, they can, I don't have to like it, and I don't have to do the same, but so what? Its their beer.


One of my personal hero's
I think the mistake a lot of us make, it making a connection between quality, and popularity. Just because something is popular, doesn't mean its the best, or even good. If that was the case, Bud Light would be the best beer, McDonald's would be the only place to get a burger, clearly, and thankfully, that isn't the case. Just because Oberon maybe Bells best selling beer, its not their best, and I am most of the fine folks at Bells would agree. Margaritaville isn't Jimmy Buffetts best song either...

So what, lots of people love Oberon, doesn't mean we have to stop loving it. Its still the same beer it was. If some hipster can't stand the thought of sharing a good beer with the uneducated masses, that is their prerogative, but please, don't try and sell us on the beers quality, and taste or lack of, when all you liked about it was that it was new, and refreshing, and cool, and you were the only one drinking it. So, raise us a glass of Oberon, hell, even drop a slice of orange in it if you want, and lets greet summer with smiles, and many many pints of this old, unexciting, but still very much refreshing golden orange beverage!!!

Mar 22, 2012

Dark Horse, Marshall Michigan

Hello! First off, let me apologize for being absent as of late. A combination of computer problems, sickness, and the unexpected news that there is going to be another little Beer Czar arriving in the fall has made things a little busy around here! Alas, we are back, and ready to go!
So check out the latest installment from our intrepid report in Mich, Uncle Gary. His latest stop on his whirlwind (and at this point, probably slightly blurry) tour of Michigan Brewery's finds him at Dark Horse Brewing in Marshall Michigan!!!

Keeping Up With Demand A Priority For Dark Horseby Gary Morrison

Dark Horse Tap Room
The first question I asked Travis Glenn, the taproom manager of Dark Horse Brewing Company in Marshall, Michigan, was: “What is the height requirement for your job?”

It is an understandable question. When you walk into Dark Horse’s tap house your eyes are immediately drawn upwards where almost 4,000 ceramic mugs hang from hooks on rafters.

That's a lot of mugs!!!
“Those are our members’ mugs,” said Travis who sometimes has to stand on his toes to reach a mug. “Not all are on rafters. We ran out of room so about 20 are on the walls.”

The hanging mugs and the brewery’s eclectic look that includes walls adorned with posters and vintage advertisements and its food menu may help draw customers, but it’s really about the beer.

Aunt Linda with her Tres Blueberry Stout
Dark Horse is well known for its selection of fine beers. Its Bourbon Barrel Plead the 5th Imperial Stout is listed 38th on's best top 50 beers of 2012. However, my wife Linda would insist that Tres Blueberry Stout with flavors of chocolate and light blueberry taste is a top reason to visit Dark Horse. I like IPAs and was drawn to Crooked Tree IPA, a high octane beer with big hops balanced with tons of malt that gives this beer a huge body.

At the time of my visit, the menu listed 18 beers with nine available on tap. Those beers not on tap were either seasonals or were beers percolating in the taproom’s brew house almost ready to go on line.

Regulars Dave and Linda Smith
Dark Horse’s varied selection of beer has made local residents Linda and Dave Smith avid drinkers of craft beers.

“We come here quite a bit,” Dave said. “We just enjoy the freshness of the beer.”

Linda Smith was not a craft beer drinker when she first visited Dark Horse. It was not her style, she said, but now she is a convert.

“I asked for a Bud Light or something close to that,’ she said. “The server said: ‘I don’t think I can help you.’”

VIP Lounge
To accommodate customers who want a quieter environment to drink their beer, Dark Horse owners added an upper level VIP room to the taproom.

VIP members have to be beer club members. The room is also used for corporate and private events as well and an additional entertainment venue.

Dark Horse got its start in 1997 when Bill “Wacky” Morris bought a garage and opened a C-store that grew into three stores and a restaurant in the area. Soon after, his son Aaron joined the fold and suggested they open a brew pub. After experiencing some growing pains, Bill and Aaron (along with Aaron’s wife Kristy and brewer Brian Wiggs) converted Dark Horse to the brew pub that it is now with a few exceptions.

The original seven-barrel system was capable of putting out almost 6,200 barrels a year, Bill said. But it was not enough to keep up with demand that includes distribution to nine states and the country of Denmark.

“Some bar owners from Denmark happen to visit us one time and like our beer,” Bill said. “They now order 400 barrels from us at a time. They use plastic barrels and ship those to us that we fill and ship back.”

To meet growing demand, the owners bought an adjacent building and added a new brewing area with a 20-barrel system, Bill said. The original system is still in full time use and is used to produce all the beers for the taproom as well as test beers that may or may not hit the market. The new system is used to meet its distribution demands.

Initially, their goal was to brew 8,000 barrels a year. Now they are surpassing 9,000 barrels and have the ability to pump out 15,000 barrels, Bill said.

The Dark Horse compound now includes the taproom, brewery, general store, skate shop, and tattoo parlor. In the works are a motorcycle shop, creamery, candy shop, and distillery; but no winery, Bill adds.

“Aaron began brewing beer in his bathtub,” Bill said. “We were originally a restaurant that sold our beers and other beers.

“Now we just sell our beer,” he said. “Our customers come first and we make sure that we don’t run out of what they want.”
If you would like to check out Dark Horse (tell them Uncle Gary sent you....), they are located at...
511 S. Kalamazoo Ave,
Marshall, Michigan 49068
Phone: 269-781-9940

Office: 269-558-4915
Fax: 269-558-4624
General Store:269-558-4909
Taproom 269-781-9940