Thursday, April 28, 2005


I recently met a revolutionary of sorts. No, he doesn't have plans to take down any governments straight away, but his ideas are revolutionary nonetheless. Bruce Nissen is president of Fox Barrel Cider Company, a brand new micro-cidery in Colfax, California. Bruce and partner Sean Deorsey, the "Cidermaster," have created a product of the highest quality in their ciders. These English-style dry ciders are made using freshly pressed juice from apples and pears.

Bruce brought me some samples of their hard apple and pear ciders with the hope that I might convince someone higher up on the BevMo food chain to carry it in our Greater Sacramento area stores. I have sampled both the apple and the pear, and I am absolutely astounded at the complexity and roundness of these ciders. A few descriptors: fresh, natural, crisp, refreshing, and most importantly, real apples and pears. Other ciders I've tasted just don't hold a candle to these.

And that's where the revolution comes in. These guys make world-class ciders from real ingredients without any fillers, sweeteners, or other junk. And they're small. Smaller than small. They don't have the budget to advertise much. They're getting the word out the old-fashioned way: word-of-mouth. That's revolutionary. And I'm going to do everything in my power to get these ciders in my store. That's for sure.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Screw Corporate America! (And I'll Have a Bud Light, Please)

I've gotta get something off my chest. In the last 5-10 years, there seems (to me) to have been a significant increase in anti-corporate thinking and clamoring, especially among people 18-35. I mean, wishing bad things on the fat cats is nothing new, but these days people hold marches and rallies dedicated to this general anti-corporatism (as I will call it).

As usual, I feel caught in the middle of the debate. I mean the anti-corporatists have some good points. Any company which has become so large and spread out that it has no ties to any local community has no vested interest in taking care of the communities of its customers. Also, big companies tend to look more and more at profit as the only thing that really matters, especially when they go public. Corners are cut, quality suffers, service suffers, and often their employees suffer.

On the other hand, I think any company has the right to sell us as much crap as they can if we're dumb enough to buy it. It's up to us, the consumers, to arm ourselves with knowledge and information about the company's policies, products, track record, and behavior in the communities where it operates.

Sometimes I really can't believe the absolute garbage we'll let companies push on us. I mean, apparently, a slick TV commercial is all it takes for some people to buy something. Let's look at the food and beverage industry: Kool-aid, Chips-Ahoy, Corona, Burger King, Kraft "Cheese" Slices (cheese is not supposed to be orange or sticky), Budweiser, Fruit Loops, Wonder Bread, Coors Light, etc. This has been going on for decades, but it still amazes me.

I encounter, on a fairly regular basis, people who would consider themselves to be anti-corporate, or maybe they would say they shop with a social conscience. They prefer to shop at thrift stores, mom-and-pop stores, etc, over Wal-Mart, Target, Macy's, or JC Penney. They prefer a meal at a local, family-owned restaurant to one at Applebee's, Outback, or Chili's. They try to dress in clothes that weren't made in sweat shops or by companies that pollute the environment. They prefer the local arthouse cinema to the multiplex 28-screen theater.

But what do so many of these "consumers with a conscience" order at the bar or buy on their way home from work? A beer made (or at least owned) by a HUGE corporation. Take your pick: Budweiser, Miller, Coors, Corona, Heineken, Guinness, Tecate, Newcastle, Foster's, Molson. You think any one of the companies that own these brands gives a shit about quality? Craftsmanship? Values? Community? Family? The Earth? And if you're thinking that these brands aren't really all that big, you need to know that breweries are getting bought up all the time by the biggest handful of beverage conglomerates. Note: It's happening with wine and spirits too.

So what's the answer? I've seen bumper stickers and t-shirts like "Think Global, Drink Local" and "Support Your Local Brewery" and I think they're great. But I like supporting small craft-breweries in far flung places too! I think the answer (whether you're buying beer, wine, food, clothes, or whatever) is to seek out products made by people who take chances, have imagination, and believe in what they do. Support family-owned businesses whenever you can. And if you are a drinker of any of the beer brands listed above, reach out and try something new. (Warning: trying Pacifico instead of your usual Corona is not trying something new. They're both made by the same huge brewing conglomerate). Experiment with one or two of the styles of beers I listed in the previous post. With all that amazing variety, you're certain to find something for you. And, even better, you'll feel good knowing that you're supporting a small group of people who put in a lot of hours for very little money because they love what they do. Cheers.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Why Drink Dumb Beer?

US: Double IPA, Scotch Porter, Imperial Stout, Vienna Lager....

THEM: Crisp. Clean. Budweiser.

US: Oatmeal Stout, American Pale Ale, German Hefe-weizen, Belgian Dubbel, Märzen....

THEM: Miller Lite. Great taste, less filling.

US: Baltic Porter, Chocolate Stout, English Bitter, Barleywine, Strong Ale, Belgian Tripel....

THEM: Coors Light. Rock on.

US: Czech Pilsner, American Wheat, Amber Ale, Brown Ale, Rye Beer, Rauchbier, Lambic, Saison, Witbier, Milk Stout, Altbier, Schwarzbier, Doppelbock, Cream Ale, Gueuze, Scotch Ale........

Everything else in our society is being dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. Why drink dumb beer?