Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Motion 414--getting leveled by the playing field.

The Wisconsin government recently inserted into the state budget a motion that makes significant changes to the ways that Beer is allowed to get from the brewer to the retailer.  Much of it is meant to shore up the role of the second tier, aka, the wholesaler/distributor.  Unfortunately, state brewers were not invited to the table, and they are scared as to the ways their business will be impacted by the new rules of play.  Super-duper unfortunate is that the likes of Furthermore Beer (see below) wasn't even considered as a living, breathing entity.  The motion literally writes Furthermore Beer out of the game if we don't make some changes.  Furthermore Beer will of course opt to change rather than die, so change we will. Nevertheless, its is odd that by passing the legislative process was more important than nurturing the craft brewing, an industry that has both economic legs and popular support.    

What is Furthermore Beer?
As a brewer by trade, I have always consider my business to be a brewing company even though we started out lean and mean without an actual brewing facility--we use Sand Creek Brewing Company to get the job done. As it happens, the Federal Government says that if a business does not own stainless steel, then it cannot be a brewer. Instead, it must sell its product as a wholesaler.  So, Furthermore Beer holds a wholesalers permit that allows us to buy our beer from our contracted producer, and then resell it to retailers or distributors as we see fit.  We began doing so by self distributing our product until such a time that it was clear that more capable, established distributors could do a far better job at hauling beer around the state.  Unfortunately, one aspect of Motion 414 will force the DOR to fine Furthermore Beer to the tune of $10,000, sieze profits made from doing business in what is today a lawful manner, and revoke our wholesalers permit IF we do not have 25 or more retail customers.  Well, recognizing the strength of the established second tier, we gave up all of our retail accounts and now only have 5 distributors in WI to whom we sell beer.  One option we do have is to sever ties with one or more distributors and take back the retail accounts.  Aside from 
having to buy back the territorial rights at a cost greater than the DOR fine, this would force us to move in a direction that runs counter to that which the company needs to move.  Paradoxically, it also undermines the intention of the motion--to limit supplier encroachment in the realm of the distributor.   

Furthermore has been very grateful for the relationships it has established with its distributors, from helping us see the market through their eyes to offering their backs to actually move the beer.  They have allowed us to grow in sales, and to crash on their couches.  My concern with Motion 414 is not the degree to which it strengthens their position in the market, but the degree to which it could push me out.

Aran Madden

Friday, March 18, 2011

It’s a task many of us would long for: drinking beers from around the world all day long.  But for the 50 judges at the Beer World Cup, it’s a daunting task to taste, analyze, and rank thousands of beers.  If you don’t know the basics of this competition, here’s the quick rundown.  Beers are judged by a set list of criteria created by the Brewer’s Association.  The beers are judged in 2 rounds: the 1st to see if there’s anything inherently wrong with the beer and/or if it’s good enough to keep thinking about, the 2nd to decide which brews deserve a medal.  So who knows what they thought when our oddball little beers came across the table to them?

Well, actually, we do.  We participated in the BWC in April 2010, sending the 8 beers that we made at that time in for judging, and we’re thinking that it might be interesting for you to know what they made of us.  If you’ve ever been to one of our tastings or talked with us at a beer festival, you know that we’re fully aware of our quirkiness.  We understand that you might not love all of our beers, but we do believe that we have at least one brew that’ll make you smile and want more.

The Good News

Four of our beers made it through to the medal round, but we unfortunately came home empty-handed.

While others may disagree, the judges commented on the subtlety of the peat smoke in Three Feet Deep, calling it very drinkable.  If it’s been a while since you’ve had it, maybe it’s time to try it again and see for yourself. 

My favorite description was in regards to the aroma of Oscura: “cigar box.”  Not entirely sure about that, but we agree with their assessment that Oscura has strong coffee notes and is well-balanced.  One of the three judges actually wanted more coffee, but we’re thinking it’s darn refreshing as is.

Because Thermo Refur seems to taste different from sip to sip, it should be no surprise that on that day black pepper was the dominant flavor.  They loved the color and the frothy head.  They loved the spiciness of the pepper.  According to one of the judges, it was immensely drinkable and a pleasure to drink the beer.  Don’t be afraid of the beets and the pepper and the funky yeast; we promise, it all makes sense in the glass.

Like a lot of us, they also really enjoyed Fatty Boomabalatty but weren’t really able to say why.  It received high marks in the Belgo-American category but was too big and dumb to ace the test.

The Other News

While our four other beers didn’t fare quite as well with the judges, there’s something worth noting about them regardless.

The Fruit Beer category must have some stiff competition because the Fallen Apple comments are pretty complimentary.  The appley, earthy aroma was appealing as was the tart, tangy flavor.  One judge referred to the nice balance and mix of textures, which made me immediately think about the tingly yet creamy mouthfeel of this beer.  September is too far away!

Did you know that Makeweight smells like pears, apples, esters, and (a personal favorite) freshly baked bread?  Who doesn’t want to drink that?  They hit on the sweet banana and caramelly malt, but they didn’t seem to get the hops as much as we would have liked.

For fans of Knot Stock, it’s almost funny to read the feedback because they seem surprised that you can taste the pepper.  One judge did mention how well it would pair with food, and we couldn’t agree more.  Who’s ready for a burger?

Disappointingly, the judges drinking Proper seem to have gotten a bad bottle of beer and weren’t able to appreciate our smooth, malty friend.  Oh well.  You know how good it tastes.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hollander Beer Dinner, Wednesday.

Downer Avenue

One of my favorite aspects of the beer biz is a beer dinner.  I'm looking forward to Cafe Hollanders take on the flavors of Furthermore.  Pairings between a dish and the accompanying beer may be one of contrast, pulling out flavors that otherwise blend into the background.  They can be like with like, focusing on bridging food with the liquid.  Or a chef may just take an inspired chance. I always find these events to be a learning experience with the beers that I already think I know inside and out.  Please join us if you are in the neighborhood.  Promises to be great.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Eat Mo' Beer!!! A Guide to Pairings.

Time to put our money where our mouth is. Weʼre always telling people how well our
beers pair with food, so we thought it time to officially offer some suggestions on
Furthermore Beer and food pairings.

There are two schools of thought when it comes to pairing drinks with food.
Complementary pairings lead to pouring brown ale with nutty cheese, porter with
chocolate. But amazing things also happen when you contrast your beer and food. It
may sound odd at first, but classic duos such as dry stout with oysters or IPA with curry
work because of the interplay of flavors. Both types of pairings can be successful, so
experiment with both the buddy system and the frenemy. Above all else, drink what you
like. Donʼt worry if your favorite combination shouldnʼt make sense. As long as youʼre
enjoying it, weʼre happy.

Its mild, malty nature allows Proper to play nicely with others. Cumin and
coriander match nicely with Proper, so go Middle Eastern, Indian, or Mexican.
The light hops allow it to sooth your mouth alongside more fiery fare, such as
Cajun dishes. You could also make this your default drink for fish-fry and never
need another beer. Proper is an all-around good guy with cheese plates. For
dessert, think butterscotch sundae or a malted milkshake. Really, whenever you
want a beer, Proper is there for you.

Of all our beers, Knot Stock calls out for food. Reminiscent of freshly ground pepper
on a salad, it adds that same biting spice. From robust salad to pizza, soft pretzel to
stir-fry, Knot Stock enhances almost any dish. Itʼs the perfect friend for a Bloody
Mary or a burger. For cheese, head towards the earthy, salty side of things: Feta
or Pecorino, but donʼt forget Gouda and Cheddar. At the end of the meal, a
salted toffee pudding makes for a whimsical play on salt-and-pepper.

From our beer dinner vault: Grapefruit Quinoa Spinach Salad with Thyme (Sapor,
Minneapolis), Knot Stock Fish and Chips (The Bank, Spring Green)

Using the peatiness of Three Feet Deep in place of smokiness in your food
makes for a delightful pairing. Soy-glazed salmon and portobella mushrooms
meats are hearty enough for the smoke without overwhelming your mouth. Or
play off the oyster stout pairing with Oysters Rockefeller. Three Feet Deep needs
a hearty cheese, like Blue or Cheddar. With desserts, itʼs delicious with sʼmores
and dried fruit, but is also surprisingly fantastic with dark berries, like blueberry

A like-with-like home run: Rogue Creamery Smoked Blue with dried fruit compote (The
Happy Gnome, St. Paul)

We were longing for a good breakfast beer, and so Oscura was born. The natural
direction to go with this coffee lager is breakfast of most any variety. The roasty notes
of both the coffee and the malt are especially delicious with the sweet, baked end
of the brunch spectrum. But the distinct bitter notes of that coffee and the
refreshing nature of the brew also love molasses, so Oscura is a great barbecue
beer. Get cute with dessert and serve biscotti or coffee cake. An Oscura float is an
iced-latte-loverʼs dream come true.

As good as it sounds: “Beer with Breakfast” Coffee-rubbed Sirloin, Hash Browns, a
Sunny-side-up egg, and Oscura mole (The Bank, Spring Green)

Well, really, who doesnʼt like Fatty Boombalatty? The fruitiness of a Belgian white
with a touch of IPA bitterness opens up a wide spectrum of flavor choices. Fatty
loves rich seafood dishes and just about anything earthy and salty. Charcuterie
and pickles, truffles, grilled brats, even sushi -- the ideas keep coming. The lush
body and hint of spice allow it to highlight the nuances of all but the mildest of
cheeses. Play up the banana notes for dessert with bread pudding.

A favorite: Seared Sea Scallops with Royal Trumpet Mushrooms, Spiced Quinoa,
and Kalamata Olive Remoulade (Native Bay, Chippewa Falls, WI)

Whenever youʼd drink sparkling wine, think of Fallen Apple instead. Start the meal
off with a glass of this bubbly and a variety of delicately flavored small plates. Like
Champagne, it goes well with fried foods because the acidity and crispness cut
through all that yummy fat. And like apples, itʼs a good accompaniment to pork,
duck, and a variety of cheeses, from hard and salty to rich and creamy. Itʼs great
with desserts as well because of its inherent sweetness, so go with a spicy treat
like carrot cake or gingerbread.

Two cheesy show stoppers: Uplands Pleasant Ridge Reserve or Fromager dʼAffinois

While Makeweight canʼt quite decide where itʼs from, it does know how to work well
with food. The mouth fills with Belgian yeast and warming alcohol, so itʼs at its best
with something equally complex. Roasted meats, stews, and legumes are a no-
brainer, but the aromatic and bracing hops complement hearty seafood dishes as
well. Like a good pale ale should, Makeweight matches nicely with an aged
Cheddar or a mild Blue. Bittersweet chocolate tart or spice cake are enhanced by
the caramel notes, and sweet brioche will love the yeasty notes.

A happy memory: Patagonia Toothfish with Bacon, Sweet Potato Puree, Roasted
Garlic, Wilted Frisee, and Pomegranate Beurre Blanc (The Happy Gnome, St. Paul)

Hopperbolic is outstanding with spicy cuisines, from Indian curries to Thai noodle
dishes. Beware, however, because hops make everything taste spicier. Just
tame the heat a bit, and youʼll have a balanced, mouthwatering duo. The slightly
sweet citrus notes make it a go-to for salads and seafood. A crab salad with
avocado will need little else with a Hopperbolic by its side. Its hoppy bite
enhances fresh goat cheese, and its grassiness matches well with tangy sheepʼs
milk cheeses. With desserts, highlight the herbaceous notes of the beer with
lemongrass, ginger, or jasmine.

Oh, Thermo Refur, what do we do with you? Do we play up the earthy, somewhat
sweet beets? Or the spicy black pepper? Or the funky, sour notes of your wild
yeast? Letʼs combine them all and go alongside some roasted meat, such as
lamb or beef. Perhaps some roasted root vegetables, though we should go easy
on the beets. Let the beer be the star because Thermo Refur is not a supporting
cast member. Use a more docile beer for your cheese plate. A little dark
chocolate for dessert will go a long way, perhaps with something unexpected and
salty. Bacon and cherries with dark chocolate, oh my!

If it could only be one bite: Caramel Truffle with Grey Salt (Gail Ambrosius, Madison)