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Beer vs Craft Beer…. Yep, I’m angry again.

Posted by on 7:56 pm in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Beer vs Craft Beer…. Yep, I’m angry again.

 

The impact that the type of beer brewed by local establishments is having on multi-national beer companies is evident. From the buying of these smaller operations by the big guys to the potential limiting of available hops (not that many of us had a shot at getting them in the first place) by intercontinental producers… this conversation has taken an interesting turn. One that I find contextually interesting.

I’ve noticed that most folks refer to two kinds of malt based beverage brewed with water, yeast, and sometimes hops. These are “beer” and “craft beer.” I even recently read a thread on the book of faces about moving “craft beer” to another category, I believe it was “independent beer.” “Beer” being used to refer to the mass produced, internationally shipped, light lager category. And really everything else falling into “Craft,” “Independent,” “Nano,” or some other sub category of “Beer.”

At first glance this seems to refer to the fact that the product produced on a smaller scale and presumably with more hand contact and care is different, or special, or for some reason… needs a qualifier. Innocent enough, right? Meh… Me no thinks so. Why do the big guys get to own beer? We should own beer…. They should have to qualify. They’re going to co-opt anything we use anyway, right? Flip the script. Let’s co-opt them.

As history has it and as I’ve been told, beer is rumored to have been started in small local establishments, not multi-national companies. And, I’m making and assumption here, when Paul Revere, Van Gogh, or the King of a random African kingdom wanted to imbibe a sip of tasty beverage, they just said, “let’s go grab a beer” (or something to the same effect). They didn’t qualify with craft, handmade, or independent… It was simply beer. I like to think we still make the real stuff in the small establishments. I don’t need a qualifier to tell me what I like to drink is good, and I’m certainly no elitist that needs a title. Beer and our craft didn’t come from the elite, so why does it need to be elevated now.

What I make is beer. What is mass industrial produced is something else… call it macro beer, call it industrial beer, call it crap, call it … just don’t leave it at “Beer.” We don’t need a licensed professional to tell us what’s good… We’re beer drinkers. We know what’s good when we taste it. We already give too much thought to who we are, what we want to be, and more than anything, the burning question everyone wants to answer first (because first is apparently best)… HAVE WE REACHED SATURATION?!??!!

So here’s my two-part proposal

1) Let’s stop worrying about what we are called and worry more about ensuring we make and/or imbibe only in quality product (not just big barrel aged limited edition only available at the brewery products). I can honestly say as a brewer this matters more to me than what anyone, anywhere calls our industry.

2) Let’s focus more on what we refer to the big beer as… it’s not ok to just call it “Beer”… That’s our term, we own it. They are co-opting that. They are mass, industrial, production line, cheap, lite, beer… but they are never just “beer” in any conversation or thought.

 

Finally, this only works if we all work together. Everyone committed to the same thing. We are beer… not some elitist organization in some tower of Craft than can only be sipped if you know the source of every ingredient. Now, I’m not saying that we make beer more approachable or dumb it down for attraction. That is the job of Masshole Beer. Our beer is quality and core. It’s edgy and constantly changing. It’s local and cared for. That’s beer. Just beer. Beer.

Change the Script. Keep the Story Interesting

Posted by on 2:06 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

We get asked A LOT about saturation of the brewing industry here in Pittsburgh. Those of you who know us on brew day in the garage know that we spend an inordinate amount of time watching all sorts of brewing related youtube, podcasts, and movies. In fact, I think we may be close to the end of that universe! This has some great benefits in learning and inspiration. However, it’s also very revealing on the state of the growing brewing industry. It’s no secret that there are more homebrewers turning pro than ever. When you start listening to all of these stories, something becomes very apparent. While we are not at a saturation point in breweries, in my opinion, the story has a real chance of becoming stale. New is only new, as long as the model continues to reinvent itself.

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Now, we are admittedly guilty of contributing to this repetitive story of two guys who were homebrewers, had a few friends that liked their beer, and made the moves to try and brew on a saleable scale. There are minute differences in each of these stories across the country, but this narrative seems to be very dominant. The small guys struggling to become something against the oppressive local gov’t or big guy brewers, and yes, this is all very true. But it is not unique to the brewing industry. This is small business. This is reality of building something you’re passionate about. IT is a struggle… that we all go through. No one starting, continuing, or rebranding a brewery has it easy these days. It’s a symptom of our success.

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What we don’t hear, is a lot about the beer, the product, and what is being reinvented. Yes, everyone will tell you they are all about quality first. We say it. I’d be concerned if your pitch was, “We make crappy beer, but hey… we’re making beer close to where you live.” At some point, someone has to really step up and put this up-and-comer narrative on the bookshelf and start talking about what is really going to keep brewing, beer, and this amazing industry new to the consumer. We certainly don’t want to become Pop music where everything sounds exactly alike. We all don’t need chalk board menus, a barrel program, dog friendly atmospheres, or to focus on the same popular style of beer (apparently the milky NE IPA as of today). These are all great things, and they fit certain breweries, but we need to work to prevent the cookie cutter brewery operation.

https://www.ted.com/talks/shekhar_kapur_we_are_the_stories_we_tell_ourselves?language=en

There was just an article in a local blog about what we love and don’t love about the press that Pittsburgh is currently getting. It highlights some great ideas. Press and noise are only as good as the foundation it’s built on and the true growth and differentiation it is creating. Here in Pittsburgh, we get a lot of press for an amazing Food and Beverage industry… but who is going to come here? We can’t support these amazing establishments alone. What is the foundation that is going to let us grow and succeed? As the brewing industry, what happens after you’ve fought the fight and are no longer the new guy? What do we talk about then? We’re not there yet in most cases… and maybe, just maybe we’re talking about the fight and being the new guy just a bit too long.

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Brewing is here. The industry is great. We have a lot of new comers. We have some great established pros. Now what? CoStar has been around for almost 5 years. We’ve had some great press, but I’m also tired of telling the little guy story. Answering questions about expansion. Talking about what we “could” do if we just found the money. Forget it. I’m making a pledge to start telling our story differently. We’re here. We’ve been here. You probably can’t find our beer or haven’t heard of us…. And that fine. We’re going to focus on our beer and finding new and interesting things to do with it.

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So what should you expect? Well, a number of things. If you are a connoisseur of beer, expect a good product. Don’t expect to hear stories and blogs about our expansion or build out. We’ve been fighting that fight for almost 5 years. It’s stale. Just know that there will be an announcement when our doors open, if they open. End of story. If you are currently in the brewing industry, expect to hear from us. The only way we can grow and experiment and create is through collaboration and talk. We’ll be in contact. Yes, we’re small but we have ideas and we have a great community here in Pittsburgh. If you’re thinking about getting into brewing, awesome. Welcome. Glad to have you. We’re here to help you in as many ways as possible. But please come to us with ideas about beer and ways to run your brewery that are new. We’re far more excited to see ideas and new things than the “We’re going to try and do what you guys are doing. Can you tell us how you did it?” The Answer, “Hard work, lots of failure, and trying new things at every dead end…” Tell your story, talk about who you are, not how you fit in or what you want to become. Discover your brand first, then talk about it. This is just a start, but in my humble opinion is leaps and bounds to keeping things fresh and new and honest in our amazing industry.  

New and exciting isn’t new and exciting if everyone is telling the same story or doing the same thing. Let’s get weird.

Pointless Ranting of a Idiot Brewer

Posted by on 1:09 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

The 90’s punk and grunge movement may have looked crass, uneducated, ignorant, and dirty to the outside, but I’ll argue that it was a more elevated society than we live in today. Going back to the music of the day vs. today is all one needs to do. I recently watched a documentary in the brewery where a supposed subculture/anti-establishment group was followed. In that documentary, they droned on about how “cool” they were. How “punk” they are. How others should aspire to be them only to be shut out… WHAT? I got pissed. Now I feel that I have to put a few ideas there only tangentially related to beer.

First, let’s put this on the table: Beer and music, in my humble opinion, are the catalysts to change thinking. Let’s be honest, a few beers and the new ideas flow a bit more free as do the words to express them. Many of these words and ideas gave birth to the punk movement and songs of the 90’s. At least in my experience, that’s where I came from. But I also think there are two greater catalysts to change thinking and actions…

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Education: Education doesn’t all mean book learning. Education can be self-teaching (Thank you Howard Zinn). Looking for that nugget of knowledge. The truths according to you. Today, we are force fed so much information as knowledge but not given the time to question it and truly learn it. You wouldn’t want to fall behind would you? You’d be an outsider. Sometimes you have to use the work FUCK. Sometimes you have you slam your fist. I know it’s not appropriate in the boardroom… wait, what the fuck? My advice: Pick up a book/pamphlet/documentary that you are uncomfortable with. React to it. You’ll be better off.

Stop right here quick and watch this: Click Here

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Political awareness. How many political activists really exist today? I don’t see a single idol or public figure truly inciting unrest with questions. No one is screaming “FUCK AUTHORITY” in a very real way (Thank you Pennywise). Why would they? They are benefiting from the control of the upper class aren’t they? Or, they have been force fed that the establishment is bigger than them. From my currently perspective, we have more figureheads singing/talking about how they got dumped or how much liquor they can drink and still fuck than who’s pulling their strings. Yep… I said it. Kanye, you ain’t hard or world changing. You’re simply a distraction for the machine to keep moving on. My advice: Turn it off… all of it. At least for a weekend here and there. Get away and develop your own thoughts or at least be with your originality… then come back and see if anyone will champion them for you… and if not, get campaigning killer.

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I guess I just don’t feel like there are any real change agents on the ground anymore. There isn’t anyone running from a local pub to upset an FDIC institution (Thank you Sons of Liberty). Yeah, I hear the “look at me”s with enough money to get their message out. “I’m anti-establishment and an outsider” messaging while in a red, white, and blue suit on a mainstream media station paid for by commercials isn’t as anti as you want it to be. I feel like the kids have given up. But even more, I feel like we’ve narrow their paths through what some will have you believe are “progress.” Better grades, faster technology, more educations… and don’t get left behind or you’ll be homeless. How can a kid stop and think these days? And now I’m guilty.

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But maybe this is all just point of view. In the 90’s I was within this punk movement. I grew up. I got old. I’m now a part of the mainstream society whether I like it or not. I’m viewing this issue from a full time job and home ownership. I see the mainstream and convince myself I don’t have time to look for the alternative… no I’ve convinced myself that they don’t exist.

Now let’s go back to beer. Cheers.

What is Pittsburgh Beer?

Posted by on 1:56 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

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What is Pittsburgh beer? That’s a question that continuously rolls through my head. As we brew, as we taste, as we meet beer drinkers, and as we read beer forums it’s hard to ignore a few trends. Some of these include the downgrading of the homebrew turned pro, the idea that Pittsburgh beer is somehow inferior due to a lack of national focus (outside of a few fellow brewers), that Pittsburgh is oversaturated, that certain people will only respect a brewery when someone outside the Pittsburgh community tells them at it is good. I call horse shit.

As some may know, one of our brewers completed a Doctoral degree in Information Systems and Communications with a focus in marketing. And of course this had to do with beer in Western PA. The long and boring title is, “COLLECTIVE BEER BRAND IDENTITY: A SEMIOTIC ANALYSIS OF THE WEBSITES REPRESENTING SMALL AND MEDIUM ENTERPRISES IN THE BREWING INDUSTRY OF WESTERN PA.” What the hell does that mean? Not much. It means that I looked at the communal brand identity of western PA breweries in 2013 to discover what Western PA brewing meant to someone on the outside who was looking at all of our websites. The concept was that each region of the US as a specific “brand” of beer. We often hear about the Vermont IPA, or the Colorado mountain influence, or the Asheville weirdness. What are we, if we are anything?

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But first, how the hell does this relate to my original questions. Well first, through this examination, I was able to prove a Western PA beer identity. So maybe those who don’t have faith in the current state of beer in Pittsburgh would just prefer a different brand of regional beer. Unfortunately and fortunately, I don’t think Pittsburgh beer is trying to be an imitator. It seems that Pittsburgh is where beer comes to be beer, not try to be the next xxx scene. In our humble opinion, this is a very good thing.

Secondly, part of that freedom for beer to be beer is the ability of the homebrew to turn pro brewer. As someone who has completed a ton of education, I can firmly say that it has the ability to educate the creative process out of a profession. Thank God we have homebrewers turning pro brewer! Yes, mistakes will happen, but without mistakes and experimentation, how will we grow! I know there are those people saying that these mistakes should be ironed out as a homebrewer, and again, horse shit. Any pro brewer that says they don’t make mistakes is lying, however, I will concede that as a pro brewer and the pressures that come along with that, it’s harder to dump a questionable experiment. Some mistakes encountered on a pro brewing set up can’t be replicated with a homebrew set up… and I say, welcome mistakes… but also, pro brewers, be humble and learn and dump the mistakes for the good of us all!

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So, back to what is Western PA brewing. I can’t say for certain that this still holds true as brands develop and change over time, but as of the publishing of my dissertation in 2014, (Direct quote from the conclusions section so I apologize for the dense nonsense)

“On first examination of the regional brand identity of the western PA brewing industry, two themes emerge as dominant for the region, religion/myth/fable and traditional brewing. These themes are communicated through fantasy and offer in a way that allows the identity of the region to be read as a story. The storybook-like quality of the religion/myth/fable theme creates a platform for the imagination as the ideal is presented. This is reinforced by the evidence that the ideal/new and ideal/given are prevalent in this communal identity. The ideal is a platform to separate the viewer from reality and present close framed elements for reference and association to a dream like place. The western PA breweries are places that nod towards traditional brewing and the roots in the German traditions; however, take those traditions and infuse a modern story tale that occasionally hints at the region of western PA.

The prevalent themes are traditional brewing and religion/myth/fable; however, it cannot be ignored that this list goes deeper and the taxonomy must be fleshed out. It is apparent that the breweries of western PA present their webpages as resources for information followed by a tool for reinforcing consumption or a consumerist theme. The western PA brewing industry focuses on their identity as a part of the western PA geographic region as the fifth most important and prominent theme. The themes of technology, nature/organic, and history/tradition round out this taxonomy as the least prominent themes, but still are present to add depth to the regional identity. The lack of focus on nature/organic and history/tradition shows that this industry is fairly young, with very little in the way of generational roots or processes that encourage ecofriendly activity.”

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So what you say? Well, if nothing else, Pittsburgh does have a brewing scene and an identity. Whether you like that identity or not is another story. The other choice is to take the words given to be by some sage soul who I cannot remember, “You don’t have to like something to appreciate it.” But you should respect it. If everyone made the same beer and everyone was educated the same, and everyone brewed on the same system and with the same ingredients and never made a mistake, I for one, as a brewer, would be out. That’s boring. That’s not beer.

Pittsburgh beer is Pittsburgh beer and I can honestly tell you, every brewer in the city is proud of what we are doing, and what we creating. We’re growing and I hope no one ever comes to me and says, “Now Pittsburgh is there, I could imagine having this beer in Colorado/Portland/Asheville etc…” because then I’d just go to one of those cities and drink their fabulous regional beers!

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And anyone who wants to bore themselves stupid and read a 300 page dissertation on how communal brand identities are created through shared signs and symbols and gain a little insight into the 2013 brand of Western, PA, just email us. I’ll gladly send you a copy as the first one to actually read that monster.

Feature in Pittsburgh Magazine

Posted by on 6:21 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Check out a great article by Hal B. Klein and photography by Cory Morton! They make us look better than we are… Thanks guys!

costar-man-mar16http://www.pittsburghmagazine.com/Pittsburgh-Magazine/March-2016/Tiny-but-Mighty-The-Garage-Brewed-Beer-Thats-a-Big-Hit/

Response to an Ass-Hat

Posted by on 1:49 am in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Bh2caGxCcAAXQOyWe tried to hold our breath… we couldn’t. We apologize in advance.

      Last week a certain TV reality star felt the need to express his viewpoint that craft beer is bound to fail and that we are on the verge of the bubble bursting. He expressed his opinion that 60% is not good beer along with a state of uncleanliness within these craft establishments. And finally, it is an industry driven by a greed to make money. This is the short version for your reference.

                To start, I’m not going to give this ass-hat the satisfaction of having his name needlessly glorified. If you don’t know who it is, you’ll have to look it up yourself. Secondly, I respect that these are his opinions and everyone is entitled to their own opinion and to express it however they want. I think that Julia Hertz’s response was well stated and done in a professional and respectful manner. We, however, reserve the same right to express our opinion in the manner we choose and when it comes to criticizing our industry, our response is guttural and raw… So here it is.

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                Get out of our yard you big liquor funded, reality star, capitalizing on other’s misfortune ass hat. What in the world makes you, a self-proclaimed craft cocktail expert, think you are even close to qualified to critique craft beer? Have you ever brewed a batch? Have you ever spent 12 hours in a steaming hot brewery, hand milling malt and lifting 5 gallon bucket after 5 gallon bucket, all the time trying to ensure the most stringent sanitary standards, only to produce 30 gallons of a craft product that you are proud of and not making a single dime off of? I didn’t think so… so get out. You purport the glories of one of the largest liquor conglomerates in the world on your show… which only aligns you with the sort of thing we are fighting… huge, money hungry, conglomerates gobbling up everything in sight as this is the only way you can survive… kind of like you do to bar owners who just need a little help. I don’t have the proof, but I’d be willing to bet my brewery that those companies are somehow in your pocket.

                I can say that we, here at CoStar, have a FANTASTIC relationship with the local craft cocktail scene with some of them being our biggest supporters. How dare you taint that relationship, pitting craft cocktails and mixologists against craft beer. As a self proclaimed bar and alcohol expert, you have a responsibility to support all craft and little guys business… or at least be responsible in expressing your opinion… as this are what makes your traveling circus possible. SO, along with all of the amazing points and facts and data that Ms. Hertz presents… take this… get out. We don’t need you. Your lame attempts to stay relevant have failed and now you’re name won’t even echo in our history books over here at CoStar.

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                For further reading and opinions refuting this ass-clown’s irrelevant opinions, see our BLOG entry about Saturation or the most recent article in the Trib Review by Chris Togneri.

                Then End…. Now back to my beer, my porch, my rocking chair, and my shot gun. Stay out of my yard.

Inspiration?

Posted by on 5:08 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

What is inspiration? According to someone named Webster, inspiration is, “something that makes someone want to do something or that gives someone an idea about what to do or create : a force or influence that inspires someone.” Karl Marx once said, “Everyone has a goal which appears to be great, at least to himself, and is great when deepest conviction, the innermost voice of the heart, pronounces it great. … This voice, however, is easily drowned out, and what we thought to be inspiration may have been created by the fleeting moment and again perhaps destroyed by it. … We must seriously ask ourselves, therefore, whether we are really inspired about a vocation, whether an inner voice approves of it, or whether the inspiration was a deception, whether that which we took as the Deity’s calling to us was self-deceit. But how else could we recognize this except by searching for the source of our inspiration?” This is probably a proper place to start this examination.

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I was recently asked in an interview for an up-coming article in a favorite Pittsburgh publication, “Where do you find your inspiration?” I was stumped and hence provided what I recount as a very poor answer. I believe it was along the lines of, “I’m inspired by what I drink from other breweries around the country.” Well, no shit Sherlock.

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Grandma Moses was quoted in her obituary as saying, “I’ll get an inspiration and start painting; then I’ll forget everything, everything except how things used to be and how to paint it so people will know how we used to live.” Looking back, I think this properly explains my answer. In brewing, we have a habit of getting lost. In the science. In the art. In the process. But more than anything, in the end product. Sometimes tracing the inspiration back is a futile task. I’ll start brewing; then I’ll forget everything, everything except the brewing process.

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Inspiration for CoStar Brewing comes from everything, everywhere. We’ve brewed a Cream Ale inspired by early memories of what Dad used to drink. We draw on experiences from a yearly Mountain Bike trip to Asheville and the western side of North Carolina. Outside of our labor of love, we love the outdoors. We love cooking and finding new, fresh, and local ingredients. We enjoy building things whether out of clay and earth, through a piece of wood, or pen/pencil/paint and paper. We love music. We love craft. And I don’t think this is an uncommon portrait in the Craft brewing community. But you can see, there is A LOT to get lost in here.

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So having said that, I keep coming back to the idea that the inspiration for brewing comes from this idea of getting lost. It’s an addiction. We’re inspired by the opportunity to forget everything we know and obsess over a process of creation. Grandma Moses nailed it. We’re inspired by getting lost and attempting to leave something so you know that CoStar Brewing existed. We did it by hand. We got lost and tried to give you a little bit of an experience from that laundry list of passion. We just hope you enjoy.

What has CoStar Brewing been up to?

Posted by on 3:04 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

This is a question that we get asked every day and it can become a programmed response of, “Not much. Just brewing, trying to make good beer… You know the usual.” And this couldn’t be further from the truth. Being the smallest guy out there and having full time jobs outside of the brewery, we don’t always do the best job of telling our story. It comes in spurts. So what have we been up to over here at CoStar?

First and foremost, the question we get asked more than any other is, “Are you guys going to expand?” The simple answer is, yes, absolutely. The more complex and real answer is, yes, if and when the right time and partners come along…. Or the bank comes through. Ask anyone who has started a brewery. The story has been told a million times so I’m not going to waste your time here dwelling on about the drudgery in the investment and monetary side of opening. The short story is breweries are popping up everywhere and money isn’t grown on trees. And not everyone who has money is the right person to be the investor in a brewery. We want nothing more than to be able to replicate our recipes on a large scale and then swing behind the bar and pour you a pint. We’ll get there, we’re just not in a hurry to be the “Next Big Thing.” We want to do it right which means we can’t answer that first question with any specificity. We have a business plan. We have numbers. We have a CPA and a lawyer. We’ll get there.

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Secondly, while we do focus on doing simple and honest beers as well as humanly possible, we have been allowing ourselves room for some experimentation. We are passionate about the idea of getting a beer right and then pushing it a little bit further. Last year brought us a few pomegranate experiments, a failed orange lager, a failed ginger experiment, two new IPAs that we’re proud of, and our first open fermented Belgian Strong Ale attempt. This last one is in the final stages of aging and getting ready to go in a keg. Assuming that goes well… stay tuned for where it will appear. There is only 5 gallons (Yep, we’re still small and our experiments are even smaller). 2016 is bringing us a new fermenter which will be dedicated solely to lagers so prepare from some new brews, but we have to find the next inspiration.

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We’ve managed to close out 2015 and start 2016 with some pretty good notes. We’ve successfully resurrected Maple Oatmeal Stout. Coffee Oatmeal Stout has been well received with another batch on the way in the next few weeks. Porter has been reimagined and received fairly well and also has a coconut experiment happening as we speak. Deer Creek Maltsters near Philadelphia have dropped off a load of grain recently. (If you don’t know these guys, check them out. Talk about customer service?! What other Maltster will deliver to your door.) So this delivery will be producing some all PA brews including a Pilsner, some Stouts, and a hoppy ale of some sort. The 2016 Barleywine has been aging away and is prepared to be served next to the 2015 at the raucous Hell With The Lid off festival at Kelly’s Bar and Lounge. And as mentioned earlier, we have added a 4th one barrel fermenter as of this week growing our little garage, and honestly has put us at our limits in our small two garage space. And finally, 2015 saw our bar and restaurant partners grow by leaps and bounds. Check out our tap list for where you can find these beers and we apologize in advance for being annoyingly difficult to find.

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All in all, CoStar Brewing is growing. We’re trying new things. We’re focused on quality before anything else including an expansion. So next time you see us out and ask what we’ve been up to, I apologize in advance for being a very poor story teller. Hopefully the beer is telling our story better than our brewers. Cheers!

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Wall Street Journal Mention for CoStar and Friends

Posted by on 2:49 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

Congrats also to Roundabout and East End Brewing for their mentions! Check out the captions under the 4th photo in the “East End Story” Section!

http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-ace-hotels-latest-outpost-opens-in-pittsburgh-1452523807

I’ll have a “Good Beer”

Posted by on 7:59 pm in Uncategorized | 0 comments

I was recently out at a bar where the mass light lager trend prevails. However, noted a few lone soldier independent full flavor bottles of ale sitting in a tub of ice behind the bar. Now, I’ve been at this game for a good while, and I can usually identify a bottle without having to actually read the label, but this time maybe the light was too low, maybe I had imbibed one or 4 before this establishment, or maybe I was just too lazy. I couldn’t identify every bottle in the cooler. I was forced to ask the helpful bar hand, “What good beer do you have behind that bar?” I immediately regretted my wording. What the hell is “good beer.” What does that even mean? Ugh… Here we go.

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I intended my phrasing of “good beer” to mean of a craft non-mass produced rice and corn adjunct beer, maybe of a local ilk. But how was the bar tender to know that? Everyone drinks their swill of choice for a reason. To plenty of hard working, salt of the earth folk, the light lager is very good beer. To some, good beer is only that which comes out of a rare 750ml bottle. However, I have noticed a distinct trend rising among beer drinkers. To the newly initiated beer drinker, more often than not, “good beer” is high ABV beer. This is exactly what this bar tender assumed.

I asked for “good beer” so I must mean the highest ABV he can find. The bar tender slowly removed about 8 different brands of recognizable and acceptable alternatives to the mass light lagers. However, he only offered two choices. Both double IPAs in the 8% to 9% ABV range. As I previously stated, I may or may not have imbibed 2 or 4 brews before arriving at this particular moment in time. I was not prepared to engage a big beer with a substantial kick for my rear end. I was prepared to sip on a brew, maybe even the same beer for the rest of the night, but I wanted to make it the rest of the night. Not have to make the early call due to a spinning room.

I’m not sure why, but more and more, I see this occurring. From what I’m offered at a bar, to discussions on beer forums, to what’s reviewed in literature, I see that everything that is highly venerated as “good beer” is high ABV. Why can’t the average 5-6% ABV be considered note worthy? When did beer get to be a big swinging hot dog contest of extremes? I for one will always stand by a well done, low to mid ABV, Pale Ale over a huge blown out Belgian or Stout that I can only get through 4 ounces. Not that these big beers don’t have their place. I enjoy sharing and sipping on a rare 750 ml bottle smuggled into the state by a helpful friend. But I also enjoy spending an entire night with my friends sharing and talking beer, which can become a challenge if everything “GOOD”, will knock me on my ass.

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Even as a brewer, I will occasionally find myself trying to push my gravities higher and even neglecting to brew the sub 1.05 SG beers. Like there is something wrong with them or they are less challenging or fun. How absurd! In my head, I know that little session beer is much more challenging to balance. I know that it is harder to brew with restraint and refinement than it is to go balls-to-the-wall. I know this, man! I just need to remind myself to respect the science and art of it all and have fun. It’s not a pissing contest.

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So all I ask is that next time someone asks, “What good beer do you have?” consider the audience and that even the lowly session beer at 3% ABV can be a great beer and an evening maker. That simple Pale Ale can be great beer. All beer deserves respect if done with care and by hand. And let’s spend some time redefining our vocabulary towards beer. I, for one, am swearing off the phrase “good beer.” Beer is good and therefore good is beer… I need to start using my words better. And finally, speak about beer with the restraint it takes to brew it. Respect it. It’s not a contest, it’s a craft.

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