The Basics of Home Brewing

 

If you are a beer lover, you may have considered brewing beer at the comfort of your home. It’s not only economical; it’s also a great hobby that you could share with your friends. And by the end of your project, you’ll be welcomed with a cold glass of your very own beer.

Purchase a starter kit

As you begin to explore the art of brewing beer, getting a starting kit would be your best option. This kit contains all the supplies and equipments which are needed for home brewing, plus, detailed instructions also come with the package. This is especially recommended for beginners as you’ll be provided with everything you need for this project.

Prepare the ingredients

Surprisingly, beer involves a simple process. It’s basically just water with malt.

Most of the time, the ingredients needed in brewing are included in the home brew starter kit. As you master the art of brewing beer, you can start experimenting and add in hops, grains and malts. These could provide an added flavor to your beer.

Brewing the beer

Brewing beer is easy, especially if you’re using a starter kit. Follow these steps and start brewing your own beer.

Brewing – This process takes about 2 hours.

Start off by cleaning and sterilizing your equipments. Dissolve the brew in 2 to 4 liters of hot water then add in 1 Kg of dextrose or sugar. Then, put 10 liters of cold water in the fermenter, add the hot mixture and mix it well.

Top it up to 23 liters. When the temperature reaches below 30°, sprinkle it with brewer’s yeast.

Fermenting – This process takes about a week

This is where the magic happens! After adding the yeast, you can now seal the fermenter. Remember to partially fill the airlock with boiled, cooled water.

Allow the brew to ferment for a week, letting it stay at about 20 to 22°. Once you notice that the brew clears and the airlock stops bubbling, set aside for 48 hours. After this, you beer is ready for bottling.

Bottling

Make sure to sterilize all the caps and bottles. Add 1 tablespoon of sugar to each bottle. Fill the bottles, leaving 40mm from the top.

Cover the bottles and tilt each bottle for a few times in order to dissolve the sugar. Keep them in a warm place for about 5 days, then transfer them to a cooler place and let it stay for another 5 days. Leave it alone for another week. After this, you are free to enjoy your very own beer.

‘Tis the Season for Winter Craft Beers

We’ve made a list and checked it twice of some of this year’s most anticipated winter seasonals. The flavors and smells indicative of the winter months—cinnamon, spruce, allspice, gingerbread and smoke—are on display in these craft beers that will bring a new dimension to your holiday table. Here’s a list of some great beer to check out this holiday season:

1. Samichlaus

The king of Christmas beers, Samichlaus is the highlight of the holiday season for many beer enthusiasts. It is a rich, aged doppelbock brewed at the Austrian brewery Schloss Eggenberg.

2. Samuel Adams Winter Classics Mix Pack

This mix pack contains a variety of beers. This makes it a nice way to try some unusual beer for beer lovers who are just discovering craft beer. Though it can change from year to year the mix pack often contains Boston LagerOld Fezziwig AleWinter LagerHoliday PorterBlack Lager, andCranberry Lambic.

3. Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale

How do you say Merry Christmas to a hop-head? With a six pack of Celebration Ale from Sierra Nevada. Besides have a pretty significant bitterness at 62 IBUs, this beer is also dry hopped which raises the hops in the aroma and flavor.

4. Samuel Smiths Winter Welcome Ale

Samuel Smith’s Winter Welcome is a traditional winter warmer and in many ways has served as the modern benchmark for the style. It is big in flavor and alcohol. Though maltiness dominates it does have a good bit of balancing hops as well as hints of apples and caramel.

5. Odell Brewing Co. Isolation Ale

Odell Brewing brews Isolation Ale as their winter seasonal. This beer is packed with hops character without a lot of the bitterness. It’s a bit unusual as a wintertime beer in that it does not carry the huge, dark malt flavors of many of the others.

6. Avery Brewing Old Jubilation

This is one of those examples of artful, adjunct free beers. Avery brews some pretty amazing beer using only the four traditional ingredients.

Old Jubilation certainly fits in the winter warmer category. With heaps of malt and 8% alcohol, this complex and tasty beer will make a welcome addition to your holiday bar.

7. Bush Noël (Scaldis Noël in the US)

This is how the Belgians make a winter warmer. This beer is rich with lots of malt. Though malt dominates, the complexity from the wilder yeasts Belgians tend to use plus the unusual practice of aging this beer with hops flowers in the vats for four to six weeks, gives this brew unique flavor and character.

8. Schlafly Christmas Ale

If you’re looking for a beer with all of the traditional yuletide flavors, this is it. Schlafly adds cloves and orange peel to this medium bodied ale. This beer says “Christmas” in a very straight forward way.

9. Young’s Winter Warmer

Young’s beers are always solid beers and generally excellent examples of style. Their Winter Warmer is a middle of the road warmer. This would be a good beer to have on hand if your some of guests might not be up to the challenge of some of the bigger beers that I’ve listed above.

10. Your Local Brewery

OK, so this is not a specific beer but I cannot let this opportunity pass on my personal mission to get more people to drink local beer. While I’ve listed some popular beers here that can help you celebrate the season – and there are many, many others – do not overlook that brewery that’s making great beer just a few miles or perhaps even just a few blocks from you. Personally I have two local breweries that make perfectly wonderful winter brews and stopping in for a fresh pint is always a treat. While you should head to the good beer store to stock up on some great seasonal brews you should also stop at the local brewery and see what they’ve whipped up.

(source: http://beer.about.com/od/beerrecommendations/tp/10WinterBeers.htm)

 

Why Are IPAs so Popular?

Four Reasons Why IPAs Are so Popular

  1. They taste good.
  2. They’re “advanced.”
  3. They have lots of flavor.
  4. Science!

IPAs Taste Good

It is important that Conley has separate entries for taste and flavor. It might interest you to know that they are not quite the same thing. Along with sight, smell, touch and hearing, taste is one of our five senses. Our taste buds recognize sweet, salty, sour, umami and bitter.

Bitter is certainly a major factor when tasting an IPA, as the style employs an increased amount of hops which can add what is often described as evident, bracing and even aggressive bitterness. Since everyone has slightly different tastes, what may be evident bitterness to one craft beer drinker may be bracing to another.

IPAs Are “Advanced”

While bitterness of an IPA has a lot to do with a person’s individual perception, we also know that tastes can change over time. You may not have enjoyed the first highly-hopped IPA you tried, but over time, perhaps you grew to really enjoy a bracingly bitter IPA—or not, that’s ok too!

Human taste is pre-wired from the time we’re born. For example, innately we like the taste of sweet things as children, but perhaps do not take to sour or bitter flavors right away. But as we grow up and try new things, our brain figures out that not all sour and bitter flavors are bad, such is the case with IPAs.

Experts believe that our sense of taste helped ancient humans choose what types of things were good to eat. To the human mind, a sweet taste translates to calories and energy, which is good for a hungry little hunter-gatherer. However, sour tastes may mean that the food has become rancid or is potentially poisonous.

IPA beer quote

Bitterness in beer is not bad, and actually often provides a refreshing balance. Wouldn’t beer be boring if it was just sugary sweet? So perhaps enjoying an IPA does signify a state of advanced beer appreciation. Being able to sense not just the bitterness of an IPA, but the more nuanced contributions hops add to a beer, such as aroma and flavor happens over time.

In a nut shell, beer drinkers are not pre-wired to like IPAs, you learn to like them, so in a weird way it can be a craft beer badge of honor to order one.

IPAs Have Lots of Flavor

While taste is one of our five senses, flavor is considered a synthetic sense, where a mix of stimuli come together and our brain works to recognize, record and recount a certain flavor. Taste plays a role in flavor, but all of the other senses work in cooperation to create flavor too.

When you drink an IPA, you experience a lot of different components, but your taste buds can really only tell you if what you are experiencing is sweet, bitter, sour, salty or umami. In this case, there might be some sweet and bitter, but when the taste of an IPA is paired with the aroma and golden color, you sense flavors like grapefruit, pine, roses, etc.

Science!

Each drinker’s personal taste is as unique as the fingerprints on their condensation-covered glass—it’s totally subjective. What one may like about the flavor of an IPA may be different from what another may or may not like about the style. I love IPAs, but do I love every IPA I try, not necessarily. Science is certainly a major player in the IPA discussion, from hop variety development, all the way to personal flavor perception.

Appropriately, Conley finishes with the obvious answer of, “They’re popular because damn, they’re tasty.” Does that mean that all examples of the style are tasty to everyone—no. Each of us has a unique set of tastes, both inherited and learned. Some will never like the bitterness of an IPA, and some will decide they do. Luckily, there are plenty of IPAs out there to test and train your taste buds.

 

Oskar Blues Goes Big in NC Debut

Hey, if you open up a new brewery, you might as well open it up big, right? That’s what is happening at Oskar Blues, where they’re planning to take a run of Ten FIDY Imperial Stout — the first batch made at its new Brevard, N.C. facility,  as far as it can go.

Arguably the most complex brew in the brewery’s seasonal lineup, the Ten FIDY Imperial Stout will be made available in all 32 states where Oskar Blues is distributed thanks to the increased capacity.

And apparently there is room for more. On top of their consistent growth and plans to potentially push into three more states, the announcement includes a mention that a new late winter/early spring seasonal is in the works. Hey, if the space is there, use it.

Release is below.

BREVARD, NC – Oskar Blues is pumped to announce the release of the first batch of the award-winning Ten FIDY Imperial Stout from the East Coast brewery. This much-anticipated seasonal brew is now fermenting in the tanks at both the ColoRADo and NC locations. It’ll be released at parties at both Tasty Weasel Tap Rooms and distributed to all 32 states where Oskar Blues is sold.

Less than nine months after the first North Carolina brew bubbled, the brewers have recreated all seven of Oskar Blues’ regular line-up of beers, finishing with the much-anticipated, highly-coveted Ten FIDY (10.5 percent ABV).

This supremely full-bodied seasonal, that has bulldozed beer connoisseurs, will be available at your favorite watering hole or retailer earlier than ever  this year—in September—thanks, in part, to the new(ish) brewery. Following the successful release of our spring seasonal, GUBNA, the FIDY will be available until February 2014 (or until it sells out), making it a perfect holiday gift beer. Stay tuned, as Oskar Blues plans to brew up a brand new seasonal in 2014 to be sold between the GUBNA and Ten FIDY releases!

The Brevard Ten FIDY release party takes place on Thursday, August 29, 2013, at the NC Tasty Weasel. Come taste the first NC FIDY, plus another special Ten FIDY tap. The night includes a chili cook-off with brewery judges (bring extra chili to share), music from This Mountain, a rockin’ folk band from East Tennessee, Ten FIDY corn hole, and special T-shirts featuring the “First in FIDY” license plate.

Western North Carolinians who visit the brewery will be among the lucky first tasters of this uniquely crafted brew, with its inimitable flavors of chocolate-covered caramel and coffee that hide the hefty 98 IBUs underneath a smooth blanket of malt.

The Longmont Ten FIDY release party will happen on Friday, August 30, 2013, at the ColoRADo Tasty Weasel Tap Room. The night’s offerings will feature a vertical tasting of FIDY from years past, plus a barrel-aged FIDY, a firkin of FIDY Pale, and a Nitro Smidy. Because if its hefty ABV, FIDY is uniquely cellarable and gets bought up and stored by beer geeks nationwide. The nectar becomes even more smooth with age.

An Asheville Ten FIDY release party will take place at Barley’s Taproom & Pizzeria on Tuesday, September 3, 2013. Keep an eye out for other bars and restaurants celebrating the return of this boundary-busting brew.

Oskar Blues’ Ten FIDY has been showered with accolades that almost stand up to the size of this behemoth-in-a-can, including:

  • “The biggest, baddest, boldest beer in a can” from Celebrator Beer News
  • “2008 Beer of the Year” The Denver Post
  • “100 Rating” – Ratebeer.com
  • “A-Rating” – Beeradvocate.com
  • Gold Medal – 2010 and 2012 World Beer Championships
  • “Top 51 Beers” – 2011 Beer Magazine

Ten FIDY is a super-strong beer that takes strength to make. This brew is made with an enormous amount of two-row malt, chocolate malt, roasted barley, flaked oats and hops. Ten FIDY’s nearly 5000-pound grain bill is just short of 50 percent specialty malts, which are packaged in 55-lb bags and loaded into the mills by hand. The many bags of oats are poured directly into the mash tuns. The oats and rice hulls have to be lugged up 20-odd stairs to the top of the brew-decks.

“Brewing Ten FIDY is unlike any of the other beers we make. We have to mash-in two batches just to get one kettle filled because we only take the most concentrated wort from each mash. It’s a very time consuming and labor intensive process. This is part of how we make Ten FIDY so unique, rich, and complex,” says Brevard head brewer Noah Tuttle.

Ten FIDY is packaged in 12-ounce CANS and sold in 4-pack carriers, as well as on draft at craft beer retailers, growler fill shops, restaurant, bars and more.

About Oskar Blues Brewery

Founded by Dale Katechis in 1997 as a brewpub and grill, Oskar Blues Brewery launched its craft-brewed beer canning operations in 2002 in Lyons, Colo. It was the first American craft brewery to brew and hand-can its beer. Today there are more than 200 craft breweries canning beer. The original crew used a hand-canning line on a tabletop machine that sealed one can at a time. Oskar Blues Brewery in Longmont packaged 59,000 in 2011 and grew to 85,750 in 2012 while opening an additional brewery in Brevard, NC, in late 2012.

Craft Beer Continues to Outpace Expectations

Craft beer industry posts double-digit growth, Boulder’s Brewers Association reports

Contribution by Alicia Wallace

Lindsay Kleinsasser enjoys a pint at Oskar Blues’ Tasty Weasel Tap Room in Longmont this past March. (Jonathan Castner / Camera file photo)

The craft brewing industry is sustaining its torrid growth pace by notching double-digit gains in sales and volume for the first six months of 2013, according to a report released Monday by the Boulder-based Brewers Association.

Dollar sales and volume for craft brewers — defined as “small, independent and traditional” — were up 15 percent and 13 percent, respectively, through June, according to the nonprofit trade association. During the same period last year, sales and volume were up 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively.

If the pace continues, it would be the fourth consecutive year of double-digit sales and volume growth for the industry, which has seen volume sales increase every year since 1969 and dollar sales grow since 1997, officials for the Brewers Association said.

“To sustain double-digit growth year after year is not to be taken for granted,” said Julia Herz, craft beer program director for the Brewers Association. “But the craft beer revolution is on.”

The sales growth comes amid a continued swelling of the craft brewing ranks.

Through the first half of 2013, there were 2,483 craft breweries in operation in the United States, a more than 20 percent increase from the first half of last year. Additionally, there were 1,605 breweries in planning at the end of June.

The brewery boom has been felt locally, with new operations popping up throughout Boulder County.

Four weeks in operation, Louisville’s Twelve Degree Brewing has been four-and-a-half years in the making.

“Craft beer fans like to sample and experiment, so I think the idea of lots of small breweries — each with its own personality and style — is a very good thing,” Jon Howland, Twelve Degree’s founder, said in an e-mail. “I’m a big fan of Belgium’s beer culture and that’s the situation over there. Almost every little town has its own brewery and, in many cases, more than one.

“It’s really exciting to see this happen in the U.S.”

Craft breweries account for 98 percent of U.S. breweries, officials for the association said.

“More breweries are currently operating in the U.S. than at any time since the 1870s,” Paul Gatza, director of the Brewers Association, said in a statement. “With each new brewery opening, American craft brewers are reinforcing the (United States’) position as the world’s most diverse brewing nation.”

Overall beer sales fell 2 percent through the first six months of the year, according to the Brewers Association report.

Leading the craft segment’s charges are the continued growth among established brewers within the industry, Herz said.

“The majority of new brewers are not at the volume yet,” she said.

Longmont’s Oskar Blues Brewery, the largest brewer in Boulder County, on Monday reported a 38 percent growth in volume for the first half of 2013, outpacing the craft industry by 25 percentage points.

Fueling the growth was the opening of a Tasty Weasel Taproom and brewery in Brevard, N.C., said Chad Melis, an Oskar Blues spokesman. Oskar Blues opened the additional brewery to increase capacity and to more easily supply the East Coast.

The boom in new craft brewers can help all within the industry, Melis said.

“I think there’s increased competition, but for us I think we’re still a pretty small industry,” Melis said. “As more and more people are opening up breweries, we’re able to tell our story through other people … I think it’s continuing to draw attention to quality beer.”

App Will Direct Sports Fans to Shortest Beer Line

It’s the classic sports spectator’s conundrum: You’re at the game and want to get another beer, but you’re worried you’ll miss too much action while in line behind fellow fans who also share equal affection for both booze and ball.

For fans of one team, however, that ultimate first-world problem will soon become a thing of the past.

When the San Francisco 49ers unveil Levi’s Stadium, in Santa Clara, Calif., for the 2014 season, their new home will come with all sorts of built-in tech extras. For instance, a high-speed mobile infrastructure will allow fans to watch highlights and surf the web without their connections being jammed by tens of thousands of other fans trying to do the same.

The new stadium’s most impressive innovation, however, will tackle another problem entirely. Yes, as recently reported by Yahoo Sports’ Rand Getlin, a stadium-specific app will allow fans to track the shortest beer and bathroom lines in real-time to most efficiently plan excursions away from their seats:

Someday we’ll all tell our kids about the bad old days when we actually had to wait in line for five minutes to buy a beer. And you can rest assured that Mashable‘s intrepid San Francisco-based sports reporter will get right down to Levi’s Stadium once it opens to test out this important technological breakthrough firsthand.

In the meantime, tell us what you think about this app in the comments below.

The 5 Best Beer Marketing Gimmicks

As the Craft Beer Industry continues to carve out a niche in today’s beer-lover landscape, the big beers push, pull and drag to use their heavy advertising dollars to stand out.  Is this good taste?  What I mean is – the focus on many of the more recent advertising tools have been geared towards gimmicky ad ploys with very little attention to taste, quality and product.  In a $196 billion industry that encompasses 85% of America’s alcohol market, it can be exceptionally difficult for beer brands to stand out. It appears innovation, technology of color-coded-temperature-sensitive cans have pushed aside the true root of great taste and quality inside the can.  Either way, some concepts (and commercials) have been entertaining and it’s fun to watch the top breweries battle for best-of-show ideas using scientists and engineers – not to improve their product but instead how to make it stand out in a crowded beer cooler.  Enjoy.

Below are five of the craftiest marketing ploys in the big beer industry today and how their looks, functions and overall appeal affect prospective buyers.

“My Bud Light” labels

5 of the Craftiest Marketing Ploys in the Big Beer Industry image budlightlabel1
Photo from Daily Finance

Looks: For a while Bud Light’s labels sported a special feature. The small white space below their logo resembled a dog-eared notepad and encouraged the drinker to “make your mark” by doodling with a key or coin.

A fancy splash graphic played up the side of the label, complementing the curvy aesthetic of the brand name’s border and making us wonder how the little notepad looked so dry. And when inscriptions were made, the paths left behind a metallic outline reminiscent of scratch-off lottery tickets.

Function: The obvious function behind the label is to scrawl your name onto your beer and avoid confusion with other partygoers. The makers also recommend leaving your phone number on the bottle for that good-looking someone across the bar. One commercial for the special beers even shows two guys leaving behind Buds with a suggestive “party” and their address on the side, of course followed by a successful gathering of every attractive woman in their apartment building.

Overall appeal: The “My Bud Light” labels definitely had something going for them. In a world where people use hair ties and defaced labels to keep track of their beer in the crowd, it’s smart to fashion a feature that lets them write their names on it.

But this gimmick is now a thing of the past, as it must not have drawn the response that Budweiser had hoped for in a limited run several years ago. Or perhaps the “limited time only” was meant to be a part of the appeal in itself.

Coors’ cold-activated can

5 of the Craftiest Marketing Ploys in the Big Beer Industry image coors1
Photo from buba69

Looks: These Coors cans use color to their advantage. What better hue to associate with your brand’s ice cold beer than blue? It’s a common theme in the beer industry (see Bud Light, Labatt Blue, Pabst Blue Ribbon), the color being synonymous with the super chilled temperatures we Americans love our beer served at.

Function: The purpose is evidently to show the consumer that “this beer is cold”. The cans utilize a simple chemical reaction by printing the mountains with thermochromic ink. When the liquid inside gets below a certain temperature, the exterior dye changes from transparent to blue.

And they’re reminiscent of the temperature-activated, color changing charms of days past: 70s mood rings, and those wondrous plastic spoons from the cereal boxes. It’s a nostalgic touch that brings us back to that naïve amazement of our childhood and subconsciously works in the Coors brand’s favor.

Overall appeal: But, then again…what do we have hands for? Must we forsake our sense of touch and wait for the beer to tell us when its contents are ready to sip?

Coors has even gone as far as punching out a little “window” to exhibit the effect of their cold-activation to passersby. It all seems pretty silly to me, but this novelty seems to turn casual beer drinkers on to the beverage.

Miller Lite’s punch tab

5 of the Craftiest Marketing Ploys in the Big Beer Industry image punchtab1
Photos from shane o mac and Dirty Beer Hole

Looks: There’s not much to look at here. The punch tab is merely an opportunity for an extra hole in the top of your average Miller Lite can. They’ve added a little instructional graphic on the side to give you the right idea, in case you missed the plethora of advertising on the box you pulled it from.

Function: This product’s design is mundane but touts the special advantage of a smoother pour. The commercial invites drinkers to punch the top out with the tool of their choice, including but not limited to drumsticks, wrenches, baseball trophies and carabiners.

What could always be done with a can opener or set of keys is now made just a little bit easier by the fine folks at Miller. This must be an attempt at inspiring more tasteful shot-gunning practices for the next generation of reckless college kids… right?

Overall appeal: To be fair, I can see why this little feature works for Miller. Anyone who’s bored a makeshift can hole (for whatever purpose) knows it’s an extra bit of fun with a visceral charm of its own. So if you can give people that added amusement by etching another punch-able spot into your can and potentially boost your sales from the tactic, why not?

Miller Lite’s vortex bottle

5 of the Craftiest Marketing Ploys in the Big Beer Industry image millervortex1
Photo from Dawn Huczek

Looks: In case you couldn’t tell, Miller is big on the beer gimmicks. Here’s their vortex bottle – a subtle design integration that can be seen through the neck of the bottle in just the right light. Since it may not be immediately noticeable, they give you a reminder on the bright blue strip that reads “vortex bottle” and “specially designed grooves” close to the pouring end.

As long as the drinker isn’t sitting in a dimly-lit bar, this minor redesign may be noticeable and just enough to pique a curious patron’s interest.

Function: Miller claims that their reworked bottle “create[s] a vortex as you’re pouring the beer” and is meant to “create buzz and excitement and give consumers another reason to choose Miller”. But very little from the giant’s mouth on how the tool actually works.

And that’s because it doesn’t do much. We’d expect such a well-touted device to give us an added benefit, such as a quicker pour or better head retention. But recorded user tests and a great deal of written banter tell us that the vortex is pretty worthless when it comes to actual function.

Overall appeal: At first glance (assuming you’re in a bright room) this is a pretty alluring product design. The spiraled pattern on the inside of the beer is interesting and leaves many people curious. But it may also leave them disappointed, as after brief inspection you can tell how silly the vortex design really is.

Big beer’s faux craft beer

5 of the Craftiest Marketing Ploys in the Big Beer Industry image fauxcraftbeers1

Looks: I’ve saved the best (or most deceptive) marketing ploy for last. The big beer companies have all begun producing “craft beers” of their own under the guise of entirely different brands, and I’m clumping them together to save a mouthful.

I must say, they get an A+ for looks. These seemingly craft brews sport deliberately artisanal label designs, playing off the artsy, earthy and offbeat feel of many real craft brands.

Function: The purpose of these brands is, of course, for big beer to get their foot in the door to the now booming craft beer market. Since average consumers and longtime drinkers of domestic light beers are now flocking to the craft section of their local stores in droves, the multinational brewers don’t want to miss out on this increasingly lucrative business.

Overall appeal: The appeal with these beers is huge. For one, they taste much richer and have significantly more body than a watered-down light beer, offering an exciting new experience to people who are used to drinking crap. They’re often slightly cheaper than the real craft beers on the shelf (due to the manufacturing and shipping advantages these big brewers possess), and the bottles themselves are attractive.

But as more people are paying attention to and caring about where their beer comes from, they’re discovering that these brands aren’t quite the real deal. An important aspect of the craft brewing community is, in fact, community. Microbreweries and small owners alike stress the importance of identity, quality and mutual benefit, and many of their consumers take this to heart.

Any other crafty marketing ploys worth mentioning? Share them with us in the comments below.

The 20 Craft Breweries Taking Over America

The number of craft beer makers in America is growing at record speed. More than 400 new craft breweries opened their doors in 2012, according to the Brewer’s Association. Craft brewers still make up only 6.5% of the total beer market. But enthusiasts are confident that number will continue to grow. This past week, the Brewers Association released its list of the top craft breweries in 2012, based on sales volume. We put together some information on the top 20, which beer lovers should keep on their radar. Share some of your favorite breweries with us in the comments section below.

20. Firestone Walker Brewing Co.

Location: Paso Robles, Calif.

About: The brewery was founded in 1996 by a pair of brothers-in-law. It’s now a four-time World Beer Cup champion.

Beer buzz: Firestone Walker’s Parabola Imperial Stout is coming out this month. The beer is a doozy at 13 percent alcohol by volume and is noted for its “bold bourbon, espresso and tobacco aromas.”

19. Great Lakes Brewing Company

Location: Cleveland, Ohio

About: The brewery was founded in 1998 by Daniel and Patrick Conway. It jumped from producing 1,000 barrels of beer its first year to 125,000 barrels annually today.

Beer buzz: The company’s Burning River Pale Ale has won a gold medal at the World Beer Championships eight times. The name hails from the infamous 1969 burning of the Cuyahoga River.

18. Long Trail Brewing Co.

Location: Bridgewater Corners, Vt.

About: The brewery got its start in 1989 in the basement of a woolen mill. It’s focused on environmentalism and gives its used grain and hops as a feed supplement to local dairy cows.

Beer buzz: The company has an interesting story behind its 5.5 percent Pumpkin Pale Ale: “During colonial times malted barley would be in short supply so the colonial brewers would use a wide assortment of whatever organic ingredient was handy. Pumpkin was in abundance so it was one of the most common of the random ingredients.”

17. New Glarus Brewing Co.

Location: New Glarus, Wisc.

About: This small-town brewery is owned by Dan and Deborah Clarey. Deborah is noted as the first woman to found and operate a brewery in the U.S.

Beer buzz: The beer’s year-round Spotted Cow Ale showcases Wisconsin’s farmers with “a hint of corn.” Some of its best pairings are noted as steak, bacon and eggs and cheese curds.

16. Alaskan Brewing Co.

Location: Juneau, Alaska

About: The brewery was founded by Marcy and Geoff Larson in 1986, Juneau’s first brewery since Prohibition. The website says its beer still have many aspects of the beers brewed during the Gold Rush era.

Beer buzz: Alaskan’s seasonal Smoked Porter is known for the smoke in its bottles, which allows the beers to age much like wine. After being kept in the bottle for three or four years, it’s said to have “sherry, currant, raisin, and toffee-like nuances.”

 

15. Shipyard Brewing Co.

Location: Portland, Maine

About: The brewery was founded in the 1990s by Fred Forsley and Alan Pugsley. It’s one of New England’s largest microbreweries.

Beer buzz: Shipyard is best known for its Pumpkinhead Pale Ale. Last July, the company started brewing the ale at a second location in Memphis to help it meet the high demand. The fall brew is now packaged in cans as well.

14. Abita Brewing Co.

Location: Abita Springs, La.

About: In 1986, this brewery got its start outside of New Orleans. It now brews more than 151,000 barrels of beer and 9,100 barrels of root beer.

Beer buzz: Abita generated some attention last summer when it started packaging its beers in cans, a tactic most craft brewers don’t yet use. The company also came out with a new 4.4 percent summer brew this season, Lemon Wheat.

13. Dogfish Head Craft Brewery

Location: Milton, Del.

About: Dogfish Head got its start in 1995 by Sam Calagione, named after a city in Maine. The company, which also makes spirits, produces mainly “extreme” beers that often have quirky flavors and are highly alcoholic.

Beer buzz: One of Dogfish’s most notorious brews is its 90-Minute IPA. The beer is 9 percent alcohol by volume and is continuously hopped for a strong IPA flavor.

 

12. Boulevard Brewing Co.

Location: Kansas City, Mo.

About: Boulevard’s first beers were brewed in 1989 by John McDonald and delivered to a local restaurant in the back of a pickup truck. Now, the company distributes its beers in 24 states and is the largest specialty brewer in the Midwest.

Beer buzz: The company recently paired with Farmland Foods to create a new beer brat. The sausages are made using Boulevard’s Pale Ale and Unfiltered Wheat beers and will be available inside the Kansas City Royals stadium.

11. Brooklyn Brewery

Location: Brooklyn, N.Y.

About: The brewery was founded by 1988 by Steve Hindy and Tom Potter. It recently doubled its capacity and is expanding even further this year.

Beer buzz: The brewery’s Brooklyn Blast! IPA uses both English and American hops. According to its website, “Minerally hop bitterness is followed by a shock wave of flavor and aroma. You won’t even know what hit you.”

10. Stone Brewing Co.

Location: Escondido, Calif.

About: Stone Brewing was founded in 1996 in Southern California. Its CEO Greg Koch and President Steve Wagner describe themselves on its website with the taglines “Fizzy yellow beer is for wussies!” and “High priest of yeast.”

Beer buzz: The company’s Arrogant Bastard Ale gets a lot of attention, and the company likes to brag about it. Its described online as an “unprecedented and uncompromising celebration of intensity.”

9. Harpoon Brewery

Location: Boston, Mass.

About: Harpoon opened its doors in 1986, run by college friends Rich Doyle and Dan Kenary. At the time, it was the first brewery to operate in Boston in more than 25 years.

Beer buzz: The company’s strongest beer is the Imperial IPA, at 10 percent alcohol by volume. Its brewed with pale and caramel malts and is said to “pack a whallop.”

8. Matt Brewing Co.

Location: Utica, N.Y.

About: This company has been in business for more than a century. It was founded by a German immigrant and is currently run by family descendants, Nick and Fred Matt. Their main label is the Saranac line of beers.

Beer buzz: The Saranac White IPA is one of the brewery’s core beers. It gives a twist on a typical IPA with hints of orange peel, wheat malt, oats and coriander.

7. Bell’s Brewery, Inc.

Location: Galesburg, Mich.

About: Larry Bell founded Bell’s in 1985. According the website, his first batches were brewed in a 15-gallon soup kettle and self-delivered by employees. Now, the company brews more than 500,000 gallons of beer each year.

Beer buzz: The company’s fruity Oberon Ale is one of its most well-known, coming out during the spring and summer. The brewery also produces an exclusive “remarkably drinkable” double IPA in the winter called Hopslam, which packs a punch at 10 percent alcohol by volume.

6. Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Location: Petaluma, Calif.

About: The company was founded by a team of brew fans from across the nation in the mid-1990s. Its owned by Tony Magee and now also operates a brewery in Chicago.

Beer buzz: Lagunitas’ brews are known for their tongue-in-cheek descriptions. The company’s Maximus IPA contains “flavor so hoppy it threatens to remove the enamel from one’s teeth.”

5. Deschutes Brewery

Location: Bend, Ore.

About: Deschutes got its start in 1988 by Gary Fish. The company encourages the public to drop by the breweries in Bend and Portland to meet the “beer-obsessed folks” behind the brews.

Beer buzz: The Mirror Pond Pale Ale earned a gold medal at this year’s International Brewing Awards. The beer is the company’s recommended starter for beer beginners and is known for being brewed “unmistakably right.”

4. The Gambrinus Co.

Location: San Antonio, Texas

About: The company started as a beer importer when it was founded in 1986 by Carlos Alvarez. It now owns craft breweries including craft breweries including Trumer Brauerei Brewery and BridgePort Brewing Company.

Beer buzz: BridgePort’s Blue Heron Pale Ale was named for Portland’s official bird. It ranks high on maltiness and low on hoppiness.

3. New Belgium Brewing Co.

Location: Fort Collins, Colo.

About: New Belgium got its start in Jeff Lebesch’s basement in 1989 with his Abbey and Fat Tire beers. Lebesch no longer works at the company, but the craft brewery continues to be successful.

Beer buzz: Fat Tire, an amber ale, remains one of the brewery’s most famous beers. It has sweet and caramel malts and a “flash of fresh hop bitterness.”

2. Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

Location: Chico, Calif.

About: Ken Grossman founded Sierra Nevada in 1979 near his favorite hiking grounds. He started with the Sierra Nevada Stout, which has kept the same basic recipe since.

Beer buzz: The company releases speciality Beer Camp brews each year. The beers are developed during a literal “beer camp” by some of Sierra Nevada’s biggest fans and released as solely on-tap specialties.

1. Boston Beer Co.

Location: Boston, Mass.

About: Boston Brewing is most famous for being the creator of Samuel Adams. The beer was first released in 1985 by Jim Koch, who came from a family of five generations of brewmasters.

Beer buzz: The company’s most famous brew remains the Samuel Adams Boston Lager. But it has a fleet of more than 20 other beers, including the Grumpy Monk Belgian IPA and Blueberry Hill Lager.

Craft Brew Continues to Surge

Craft brewing continues to surge, producing 15% more beer and $1.5 billion more sales.

Craft brewing is clearly outpacing the rest of the beer market, producing 15 percent more beer in 2012 than the year before while the total U.S. beer market grew by only 1 percent, according to the annual report released today by the Brewers Association.

In total, craft brewers produced 13.2 million barrels in 2012, a 1.8 million barrel increase from 2011.

Craft breweries now make up 6.5 percent volume of the total beer market, up from 5.7 percent the year before. And craft beer also makes up 10.2 percent of the total U.S. beer market for a total of $10.2 billion in sales, up from $8.7 billion in 2011 or a 17 percent increase.

“Beer is a $99 billion industry to which craft brewers are making a significant contribution, with retail sales share hitting double digits for the first time in 2012,” said Paul Gatza, director, Brewers Association in a press release. “Small and independent brewers are consistently innovating and producing high quality, flavor-forward craft brewed beer. Americans are not only responding to greater access to these products, but also to the stories and people behind them.”

The industry defines a craft brewer as being small, independent, and traditional.

Specifically, the craft brewery’s annual production must be less than 6 million barrels and at least 75 percent of the brewery should be owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member who is themselves a craft brewer.

In 2012, there was an 18 percent increase in the number of U.S. operating breweries, with the total count reaching 2,403. The count includes 409 new brewery openings and only 43 closings. Small breweries created an estimated 4,857 more jobs during the year, employing 108,440 workers, compared to 103,583 the year prior.

“On average, we are seeing slightly more than one craft brewery per day opening somewhere in the U.S., and we anticipate even more in the coming year. There is clearly a thirst in the marketplace for craft brewed beer, as indicated by the continued growth year after year,” added Gatza. “These small breweries are doing great things for their local communities, the greater community of craft brewers, our food arts culture and the overall economy.”

The Brewers Association said it won’t have state-specific statistics until May.