Archive for the ‘Not Coolness’ Category

Shortened hours for Bele Chere Weekend

Posted Jul 25, 2013 in Beer, Events, Goings on, Not Coolness

As you know, it’s Bele Chere Weekend and that, unfortunately, means shortened hours at Bruisin’ Ales. We are open 12:00-5:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and regular hours on Sunday, 12:00-4:00 p.m. So, please do drop by, but drop by in the afternoon.

Loss, mourning, and the business of being in the beer business

Posted Aug 27, 2010 in Goings on, Miscellany, Not Coolness, People, Rants

This post probably doesn’t belong here. At least the beginning part, where I apologize for slacking on the blog among many other things for personal reasons. You see, it’s been tough around here at the humble storefront with a spring/summer of traveling back and forth to care for, give support to, and simply love an ailing family member. That person was Jason’s mother, Susie. She got sick earlier this year and passed away a few weeks ago on August 9. (Some of you might know that Jason also lost his father and mentor only last September.) Needless to say, it’s been a difficult process doing everything we can to keep this place open with smiles on our faces, without a corporate system to back us up, a big staff, and government time to use (not abuse) like the Family Leave Act. It’s been a rough year for us here. It’s even harder as a small business owner.

We publicly want to thank a multitude of awesome people, especially Mike Guarracino, who is The Best Employee on Planet Earth. We often joke that it’s unfair he wins Employee of the Month all the time (because he’s our only employee), but seriously, in our time of need, this one amazing person has kept Bruisin’ Ales functioning with open doors. Without his flexibility, understanding and completely unselfish nature, we could have lost many days of business through emergencies, visits and other random happenings that occurred throughout the year. We hope that we are at least two-thirds the employers to him that he is as an employee to us. He gives 100% all the time. We realize how lucky we are. (Also, please note, he shaved his head this week, so now, both Mike and Jason have shaved heads and beards with dark hair. Jason is the tall one; Mike is the one with the bike and the dogs you all love so much.)

Others to thank: Terri Lechner and Jason Martin: Our oldest and dearest friends in Asheville—who helped paint the interior of the humble storefront in the colors of Belgium—also came in to help clean-up and keep the shelves full. Sophie Thompson: The daughter of friends, she helps us out in summertime with cleaning, glassware, folding t-shirts, sweeping and other random stuff. Sophie and her dad, Tom, came in for a few hours during the funeral week to help Mike stock. Rebecca Bedingfield: Bruisin’ regular, she ran errands for me while I was out of town, helped stock, made people laugh and helped a very heated crowd (from a sweltering A/C unit) survive the Duck Rabbit tasting the other week. Scott Witherspoon: Customer turned great friend, he’s weathered a couple Saturday hours, helping make recommendations to people. If I’m forgetting anyone, it’s not on purpose. My brain is fried. Just know how very thankful we are for everything that everyone has done to help us through.

The day after Jason’s mom’s funeral, I got a message from Joe at Blatz Liquor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Blatz Liquor folks are our comrades—a small, independent beer store in downtown, just two years our junior. I banter with them a lot on Twitter and while many people think that indie beer stores compete with each other, we really don’t. The truth is, we all recognize how difficult it is to be competitive in this business and regularly support each other. Solidarity, if you will. We are a tough bunch, doing what we love, following our passion for beer in a world where corporate megastores and groceries want to crush us. That’s the long and short of it. You probably know where I’m going with this: Blatz Liquor is closing today.

From August 14:

Today it is with great sadness that I must announce the closing of Blatz Liquor.

For 2 years we have worked as hard as possible to bring the biggest and best beer selection to downtown Milwaukee. We have gained an awesome group of regular customers and an even better group of friends. Sadly with some increases in monthly costs and a leveling in sales its just too much for the already slim profit margins to handle. It breaks my heart to have to do this, since day one at Chicago Ave. Liquor I had planned on opening a store downtown that catered to all the beer geeks and people that enjoy a glass of wine or a mixed cocktail like myself. I’ve sacrificed emotionally, physically, financially and loved every second of it.


So, today I mourn also the loss of my comrades. That last part just about sums it up. This business comes with many sacrifices. We’re lucky we live in a town where supporting local businesses is a top priority, however, that attitude or practice doesn’t trickle down to everyone. When Sam’s Club sells certain beers at our cost and the groceries sell beer at a no-profit margin and megastores like Total Wine or World Market kill us with bulk pricing, that essentially negates certain brands we, and other stores like us, could and would otherwise carry. I cringe when I hear someone say, “This is 25-50¢ less at whereever-it-is.” The truth is, independent beer stores like ourselves are not trying to rip anyone off. We are just trying to make a living doing what we love. Here’s a trade secret: Beer has the lowest profit margin of all things alcoholic. Here’s another fact: Unlike a lot of other indie stores, we sell only beer. And, there it is.

We opened this store because we love beer, beer people, and want to provide a great selection of hard-to-find rare goodies in addition to a hard-to-beat selection of imports and American craft beer from across the country. It’s not an easy business; it is a difficult business. But, like Joe, we love every second of it. So, when I send out a Tweet or post to Facebook the friendly advisory to “support your local, independent beer store today”—I mean ALL of the indie retailers, yours, across the country, not just Bruisin’ Ales.

Join me today by dropping in to your local indie beer store and buy a beer in honor of Blatz Liquor. Let’s hope that their closing is not a sign of things to come in these questionable economic times. I know we hope to be here for a very long time.

And if you’re in Milwaukee today, go visit them for the big, closing bash. We’ll be there in spirit.

What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise” —Oscar Wilde

Thoughts on Sam Adams possibly losing their small brewer status and what it means locally

Posted Jun 17, 2010 in Beer, Breweries, Goings on, In the news, Not Coolness, People, Rants, The Beerlanthropy® Project

There’s hub-bub all over the Interwebs this week about the very real possibility of Samuel Adams (Boston Beer Company) losing their small brewing status, thereby subjecting them to higher excise taxes along with the nation’s macrobreweries. The issue is real, and it is a problem, but thankfully there are bills in the Senate and House that will hopefully pass with aggressive campaigning. There is H.R. 4278 (which I am, personally, trying to get Rep. Heath Shuler to co-sponsor, so far with no response) and S. 3339 being backed by Sen. John Kerry (MA) and Sen. Mike Crapo (ID). While it’s more important for breweries and brewery representatives to write in support of these bills, it can’t hurt for we, the consumers, in BeerCity, USA to send off letters of solidarity with Asheville’s regional breweries that pump a lot of money back into our local economy.

The Brewers Association defines a small brewer as producing less than 2 millions barrels per year. Anything over that is a macrobrewery status. These laws haven’t been overhauled since 1976, way before the craft beer revolution even started. As Samuel Adams approaches the 2 million barrel mark (projected for 2012), it’s high time we ALL pay attention to this matter. Samuel Adams may be the first to hit this landmark and they certainly they won’t be the last. Other small brewers with high-growth potential will also likely have to deal with this issue sooner than later, especially with craft beer sales increasing and macro sales decreasing. Understand that craft beer still only makes up approximately 8% of total beer sales in the country, and while that number seems small, it is exactly the reason for a need to overhaul this bill.

My personal issue with this is semantics. Samuel Adams will always be a craft brewer to me. While it’s just my humble opinion (and one I know does not match up to even the Brewers Association’s terms), I use the terms micro- and macro- to refer to size, i.e. production/barrel output. I always refer to craft beer as an art, i.e. hand-crafted ales using no adjunct fillers, made by real people who have a passion for beer. Jim Koch and Samuel Adams helped to single-handedly revive craft beer back in 1984. (The photo above is Koch way back when with his first cases of Samuel Adams. Photo: Boston Beer Co.) To call them anything other than craft is an insult to industry.

You can help by writing Rep. Heath Shuler. Personally, I’m frustrated that his office has not even acknowledged my letter in over three weeks when I tagged it “response requested.” I will march down to his College Street office if need be. Perhaps if you, my fellow beer drinkers, would inundate him with the same, we can get some representation from North Carolina’s most vibrant beer city and encourage him to co-sponsor H.R. 4278. Will you help?

The Brewers Association has a great resource guide from which you can pull information (and remember to add personal touches). A copy of my letter is below:

Representative Shuler,

My name is Julie Atallah and I am the co-owner, with my husband, of a small downtown Asheville business called Bruisin’ Ales. We are a beer-only retail store, specializing in hand-crafted brews from around the country and specifically Asheville and Western North Carolina. Our store has been rated the number three beer retailer in the world by RateBeer Best 2010; named one of the “Top 10 Bottle Shops in the U.S.” by Imbibe Magazine; and voted “Best Beer Store” in the MountainXPress “Best of WNC” reader poll. More recently, Asheville breweries and the local beer scene was showcased in a travel feature by Imbibe Magazine.

I am writing you today to draw your attention to H.R. 4278, sponsored by Representatives Richard Neal and Kevin Brady, both members of the House Ways & Means Committee. H.R. 4278 was introduced in December, 2009. (Senators John Kerry and Mike Crapo introduced S. 3339 in May, 2010.) The legislation will reduce excise tax for the nation’s small breweries from $7 to $3.50 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels of beer produced. It will also provide a tax reduction from the current rate of $18 per barrel to a reduced rate of $16 for the first 2 million barrels for small brewers that produce less than 6 million barrels. In summary, the bill gives a small excise tax break to the nation’s smallest brewers which employ people in communities throughout America.

The small brewer tax rate was established in 1976 and has never been updated. Since then, the annual production of America’s largest brewery increased from about 45 million to 107 million barrels. The ceiling defining small breweries is 2 million barrels. Along with the Brewers Association, we support raising this ceiling to 6 million barrels to more accurately reflect the intent of the original differentiation between large and small brewers in the U.S.

Consumer demand for the bold and innovative beers brewed by America’s small brewers has grown significantly in recent years. But beer produced by small, independent brewers still represents less than 5% of the beer sold nationwide. As small businesses, small brewers face many economic challenges. Because of differences in economies of scale, small brewers have higher costs for production, raw materials, packaging and market entry than larger, well-established, multi-national competitors. Furthermore, efforts to increase state taxes for all brewers continue to threaten jobs and their economic stability.

This legislation would help create jobs for America’s 1,500+ small breweries. Nationally, small and independent brewers employ nearly 100,000 full- and part-time employees and generate more than $3 billion in wages and benefits and pay more than $2.3 billion in business, personal and consumption taxes. These brewers are vital, small businesses in communities across the country, typically employing 10 to 50 employees. This is especially good for Asheville, an area where many jobs depend on tourism and seasonal travel. These jobs could be created locally and year-round.

A few reasons why this bill is important locally:

  • Local craft beer is a vital part of Asheville culture.
  • Asheville now has nine breweries in a population of approximately 78,000. We have more breweries per capita than any other city in the nation, both large and small. There are even more state and regional craft breweries that contribute to the local economy.
  • Local breweries pump a lot of money into the local economy while supporting many community organizations, events and non-profits.
  • In 2009, Asheville brewers created the Asheville Brewers Alliance to organize the voice of the industry here in Western North Carolina.
  • Asheville was recently voted “BeerCity, USA” in a poll by Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewers Association. The poll was held online nationwide and we beat beer meccas like Portland, Oregon. While just for fun, the poll clearly shows the passion our community has for its local breweries and their products. This is the second year in a row that Asheville has tied or won the poll. As a result, we have a new spring beer festival called Beer City Festival on Roger McGuire Green this Saturday, June 5.
  • The number of beer travelers coming to Asheville is staggering. Craft beer provides entertainment and enjoyment to many. Tourists are coming to our city for reasons other than the outdoors and usual tourist sites.

I am providing you with a link to the Harvard Study on the Economic Impact of H.R. 4278.

Can I count on you, Representative Shuler, to consider supporting and co-sponsoring H.R. 4278 from BeerCity, USA?

Thank you for your time and consideration of this bill. I am available to discuss this with you any time at your Asheville office with members of the Asheville Brewers Alliance. Of course, you are always welcome to make a stop at Bruisin’ Ales.

Yours, in locally-produced craft beer,

Julie Atallah
Bruisin’ Ales
66 Broadway Street
Asheville, NC 28801

phone: 828/252-8999
fax: 828/252-8991
twitter: @bruisinales

Soap Box: Molson-Coors needs women beer drinkers in marketing & target groups

Posted Apr 15, 2010 in Beer, Beer and Health, Breweries, Coming Soon, In the news, Not Coolness, Rants

Yesterday, it was announced the macro giant, Molson-Coors, is producing a bottle-only “clear beer” targeting women beer drinkers. As most of the stories are coming out of the UK, it’s unclear at this point whether this product will only be in the European market or if it will rear its ugly head on US shelves. It’s part of Molson-Coors’ Bittersweet Partnership, a business unit that monitors its “female-oriented beer activity.” (Whatever the hell that means.) Several sources cite that beer (in the UK) is seen as a “man’s drink” and that women are so totally obsessed with calories and having their beer spiked, that this is the type of product they are looking for. Good grief, are you for real, Molson-Coors? Do you have a clue? Have we learned nothing from the crap that was Zima? Have you heard of the Brewers Association? Can I come over there and run a target group for you? I lived in London. I like it there. Just pay my travel expenses.

First off, let me say this: This is utterly offensive. It’s stereotyping, it’s sexist, it’s wrong. I actually had a dream about this last night (in the strange scenario that I was having a heated conversation over said beer with Prince at Luella’s BBQ, but my weird dreams are a whole different story, and never mind that I’m heartbroken that didn’t actually happen). Here’s a quote from MetroUK:

‘Women have more taste receptors and are more receptive to bitter flavours, so there is an opportunity to launch a more challenging beer for women,’ said survey spokeswoman Kristy McCready. … ‘The research indicated it was a myth that women want light fruity beers, which made us sit up and rethink our approach.’

So, women want more than light fruity beers, so you’re going to make a low-calorie clear beer? Huh? With that quote, spokeswoman Kristy should be fired. Like, now. Today. Yesterday even.

The beer will only be served in bottles, not draught, because of the drug-tampering issue. I don’t see how this is helping any beer education as beer should be consumed out of a glass, regardless of the packaging. All this falls under a push in the UK with a new group called Dea Latis—which according to Marketing Magazine, is the Celtic goddess of beer and water—that will aim to “bring beer to women.” Dea Latis is even backed by CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale). I see the irony in this being called “beer-water” (Dea Latis); I have a hard time believing that this product falls in the category of “real ale.” Truth be told, I despise Dea Latis already for perpetuating the myth that women don’t like beer.

What I’d like to see is someone, like Pete Brown, tackle this nonsense in the UK just as he has over the neo-prohibitionists. I’d love to see CAMRA rip Molson-Coors a new one. Women drink beer. Women like beer. We don’t need some pansy-ass special marketing ploy to make us drink it. And we don’t need a crappy macro brewer to make another misguided crappy product targeted to women because you have crappy ideas, a crappy marketing department and a crappy approach to women beer drinkers everywhere.

The best part? The beer is yet unnamed. So, have at it, women beer drinkers. What would you name this misguided product?

**This post is the opinion of a female craft beer drinker.**

Truth in labeling: ABV, calories and the like

Posted Feb 24, 2010 in Beer, Beer and Health, Breweries, Goings on, Limited Release, Not Coolness, Rants

I started the day with a little shout to Twitter this morning regarding North Carolina not getting any Bell’s Batch 9000 in bottles. The reason being that North Carolina requires the ABV (alcohol by volume) to be printed on any beer over 6.0% abv. The brewery’s southeastern rep replied to inquiries stating:

“To wait for the beer to finish fermenting to get the finished abv then have the packaging produced then submit the label to the TTB for approval was really not an option.  It would have taken too much time to wait for the beer to finish fermenting, get the packing produced, and hope there would be no problems with TTB label approval.”

In other words, the brewery didn’t want to wait on the product for a final ABV measurement and had the labeling printed and readied while the beer was in the tanks. Further, it was suggested that NC needs changes to the labeling requirements. That, I agree with, but not in the sense that these folks are talking about. They’re saying ABV should not be a requirement, because it isn’t in some states. The truth is, Batch 9000 finished with a final gravity of 12.5% abv, according to BeerAdvocate. That’s a full 2.5% below the legal limit cap in North Carolina. Clearly, someone had a clue that the beer would make it under—just not the exact ABV, but the law says the beer’s printed alcohol by volume must be within .20% of what it is. (Batches will always vary slightly.)

You can’t fault Bell’s for wanting to streamline the bottling process. Tank time is a precious commodity in the craft beer world and as the old saying goes, time is money. However, as someone who promotes and sells a lot their product, it feels like a slap in the face to know that Bell’s purposely excluded this product from our market. While no one has said as much, the fact that labels were printed with no ABV on them, immediately excludes the product from NC. And before everyone gets riled-up, let me state for the record: 1) I’m not bashing Bell’s, the brewery (other than being a miffed retailer over the sales losses of a beer I could move, and quickly); 2) Bell’s is a well-run machine of consistency; and 3) I love most, if not all, of their beers.

What this whole thing is, is a greater problem with “truth in labeling.” You hear that term a lot these days over MSG, wine, even vitamins. I think there should be uniform labeling requirements for beer across the board. A consistent packaging method for both the producer and consumer. I have never understood the arguments for why beer should be different. I just went into our wine cabinet and pulled out at least nine different bottles of wine from California, Argentina, France and Italy. Every single one of those has an ABV printed on it. Not only does this tell me how strong the beverage is that I’m drinking—it lets me decide whether or not I should have it. Beer has the most varied ABV’s in its craft, from kinderbier (with none or barely detectable ABV) to BrewDog’s newest, Sink the Bismarck at 41.0% abv. To not have this information printed on the label seems irresponsible at best.

I opened up questions to other folks, who mostly agreed with me. And there are other reasons to include health-related information on the labels. Some people need it for diabetes, gluten-free diets, caloric counts, etc. Be advised, there are some breweries, such as Dogfish Head and Rogue that do print this information on their website as well as this handy guide. But none of these really help you in a situation where you’re not immediately hooked into the web. Here are some comments from other beer drinkers:

@mikegeorger: @bruisinales Should be something like this on either the bottle or packaging

@mygothlaundry: @bruisinales They should have calories on there too as well as ABV. I wanna know when 2 beers should be my entire daily intake.

@beercentric: @bruisinales Excellent point. Myself, being diabetic and managing love of beer and need of insulin, that number is important!

@cutefont: @bruisinales I think the abv should be on the label. Drives me nuts when its not. I like to know it. Makes a difference to me

@hookedonwinter: @bruisinales I like when a brewery lists as much information as possible. OG, FG, hops, grains, everything!

@ruinationpress: @bruisinales @hookedonwinter should be easy to measure FG and THEN print labels…quality first, not sales .#commonsense

Really, there seems to be no excuse as to why truth in labeling is not a big issue for this industry. “Organic” labels have been redone, there are other FDA requirements for certain things. Is there really any reason we can’t get an ABV printed label on every beer? And maybe some of that other stuff above while we’re at it?