BBC16 Sponsor Rogue Ale Introduces A Revolution In Fire, Wood and Spirits

Rogue Ales is one of our BBC16 Premier sponsors.  Rogue’s marketing wizard, Clare Goggin Sivits will also be sharing with us her skillz on social media and increasing your followers.  This is an awesome guest post from Rogue showing the passion and commitment it takes to execute Rogue’s Rolling Thunder Barrel Works.  Enjoy!


At Rogue’s Rolling Thunder Barrel Works, the 2,000 Year Old Art Of Hand Crafted Coopering is Burning Hot.

Chances are, you’ve never met a real cooper. (Sorry, but your friend Cooper doesn’t count.)

So let’s take care of that now. We’d like to introduce you to Nate, the cooper at Rolling Thunder Barrel Works in Newport, Oregon.

Nate is one of the few true practitioners of the barrel making arts. These days, most oak barrels in the United States are made in factories. But coopers like Nate, who can hand craft a whole barrel from start to finish? They number in the dozens.

With Nate as our guide, here’s how some funny shaped pieces of Oregon White Oak become barrels for aging Rogue Ales and Spirits.

Assembling the Staves and Raising Skirts

Staves are the pieces of wood that give a barrel it’s round, bulging shape. Since each Rolling Thunder Barrel is unique, Nate numbers the staves. That way, if he ever needs to take the barrel apart he knows how to put it back together.

The practice of numbering staves dates back to the days of the Roman Empire.

Assembling the staves, the first step in barrel making.

When all the staves are put together and hooped at one end, the barrel is called a skirt. The French call this part of coopering, mise en rose, or raising the skirt.


Toasting and Charring

These two steps may be the most important part of coopering. Barrel aged spirits such as whiskey, get two-thirds of their flavor and most of their color from the wood of the barrel.

Toasting. The fires are started in small metal buckets called cressets.

Nate places the skirts over small fires to toast the insides. Toasting caramelizes the wood sugars and brings out the flavors. The level of toast varies depending on what flavors we want to emphasize during aging.

Charring is more intense. Nate lights the barrel on fire with a blowtorch and lets it burn for about 45 seconds.

Charring is one of the most dramatic parts of coopering. Old timers called it, “45 seconds of hell.”

Seconds later, the flames are leaping several feet into the air.

Knowing when to stop is critical. Nate slowly counts down the seconds (not always to 45) and when the char smells right to him, he puts out the fire.

Nate dampens the flames with water and closes the top with a piece of wood.

Just as toasting adds flavor, charring gives a barrel aged spirits color and that familiar smoky taste. The char also filters out unwanted flavors and impurities.


The metal rings that hold the staves together are called hoops. The length depends on what part of the barrel it’s designed to fit. Hoops that slip over the middle are longer than ones on the end.

Nate hoops the barrels twice. The first time to bend the wood while it’s toasting, the second time to hold the heads in place.

Nate pounds the hoops into place with a cooper’s hammer and a driving iron.

Getting A Head

For our coopering ancestors, this was the most difficult piece of the barrel making puzzle. Without heads on both ends, a barrel won’t hold water, beer, spirits or pretty much anything else.

It wasn’t until around 350BC that the Celts of Central Europe figured it out. This was the Iron Age and humans finally had tools that were sharp enough and precise enough to make the cuts that allowed them to put heads on barrels.

This was their breakthrough, a groove cut into the ends of barrels to hold the heads in place. It’s called a croze.


The strange contraption Nate is operating is called a crozer, it cuts the grooves that will hold the barrel heads in place.


Nate measuring a croze. He’s got to match the shape of the heads perfectly to the croze or the barrel will leak.

The croze allows the cooper to loosen one end of the barrel, slip in a round piece of wood called the head, and hoop everything back together. Precision is critical. The head and the croze must fit perfectly or the barrel will leak.


After shaping the head with a rounding saw, Nate double checks his work.

The Bunghole

Yes kids, bunghole is a legitimate word in the cooper’s vocabulary. It’s the hole where spirits and beer are poured into the barrel.

Nate drills the hole in the widest stave. Now comes the fun part, sealing the wood around the bunghole with a tool called the bunghole cauterizer.

Feeling squeamish yet?


Nate heats up the cauterizer with the blow torch.


And shoves it into the bunghole, creating a waterproof seal in the wood surrounding the hole.

After some sanding and other finishing touches, he’s done and another Rolling Thunder Barrel heads off to our ocean aging room to age one of our Rogue Ales and Spirits in the salty air of Yaquina Bay.

Nate hand crafts one barrel per day. A barrel factory out east can churn out hundreds of barrels in one shift. With the odds so clearly stacked against us, why do we bother making our own using these old fashioned techniques?

The answers are DIY and terroir.

Do It Yourself

DIY is at the heart of the Rogue Revolution. It’s why we grow our own ingredients at Rogue Farms in Independence and Tygh Valley, Oregon. It’s why we floor malt our barley and rye in small artisan batches at the Farmstead Malt House, and why we bought a used coffee roaster to roast our own malts.

Doing it yourself means we really know what’s going into our beers and spirits. We have an emotional connection to what we grow, and how our crops are crafted into ingredients.


The hop harvest at Rogue Farms in Independence, Oregon.


Flipping our floor malt by hand at the Farmstead Malt House in Tygh Valley, Oregon.


Rogue Brewmaster John Maier roasts his own malts at the Rogue Brewery in Newport, Oregon.

Rolling Thunder Barrel Works is the newest phase of the DIY Revolution and our dedication to reviving heritage, hands-on, artisan ways of making beer and spirits.

Terroir: Wood Is Also An Ingredient

Remember what we said about where barrel aged spirits get their flavor?

Wood is as much of an ingredient as anything we put in our beers and spirits. So it was important to us that the wood in our barrels share the same terroir as our other ingredients.

That’s why we craft our barrels with Oregon White Oak harvested from the Coast Range, just an hour or so from our Brewery and Distillery in Newport. Rolling Thunder Barrels share the same Oregon terroir as our water, barley, hops and other Rogue Farms crops.

At Rogue Ales and Spirits, we’re dedicated to saving the terroir of Oregon hops, barley, beer and spirits, one acre and one barrel at a time.

Do you want to see the Grow Your Own Barrel Revolution for yourself? Rolling Thunder Barrel Works is open daily for tours. For more information visit us at


Register for BBC16 and get to know even more about Rogue this year!

Let’s Have a Beer … in Jacksonville, Fla!

Where?  Craft beer popularity continues to grow all around the Sunshine State, and although the Tampa area may get the most attention, it’s time to take a look at the craft beer movement in Jacksonville that’s been steadily gaining steam. After all, Jacksonville (known as “Jax”) is home to eight craft breweries, a macro brewery, three established brewpubs, and at least two more breweries in the works. Jacksonville is the largest city in the US in terms of square miles. It’s home to the Jacksonville Jaguars and the St. Johns River, one of only two northward-flowing rivers. And, nearby Jacksonville Beach provides the area with a laid-back, yet eclectic, beach and surfing scene. Generally, Jax is divided into different named sections. And, although they are separate municipalities, the cities of Jacksonville Beach and Orange Park are generally  included in the Jax craft brewery mix, too.

So, let’s take a tour of what Jacksonville has to offer the craft beer enthusiast, beer traveler, and the craft beer newcomer alike. Each brewery is quite different from the other, and there’s something here for everyone!

If you’re just getting to know the Jax breweries, you might want to start with an online visit to the Jax Ale Trail. AnIMAG1321aletrailshirtfront award-winning initiative of area tourism bureau Visit Jacksonville, the Jax Ale Trail provides an overview of the local breweries in an interactive way. Pick up your Jax Ale Trail Passport at any of the eight participating breweries or the downtown visitor center, and as you visit each brewery, get that passport stamped. Obtain four stamps, and you’ll earn a specially-designed Jax Ale Trail koozie. Get all eight, and you’ll be rewarded with a logoed t-shirt.

One of the best ways to get to know the local Jax craft breweries up close and personal is to “hop on” The Brew Bus on a Friday or Saturday for a public tour of three breweries at a time. As a Beertender and Tour Guide for The Brew Bus-Jacksonville, I get to talk about beer and the breweries, in addition to making regular visits … and, doing some tasting. It’s all part of the job (really, it’s work; but, yeah, it’s a pretty cool gig). The tours offer riders a way to get to know the breweries and sample beer from each. You’ll also enjoy several of Brew Bus20160217brewbusday Brewing’s own beers (brewed in Tampa) on the bus!  By the way, Brew Bus Brewing earned a medal at Great American Beer Festival (GABF) 2015, for its You’re My Boy Blue blueberry wheat ale, and was one of two Florida breweries to do so (more on the other one in a bit). The Brew Bus tours visit each of the Jax eight craft breweries on a rotating basis, and there are always new beers to try. So, buckle up, and let’s get this tour rollin’…..

Riverside and San Marco Breweries

Just outside of downtown Jacksonville across the river are the Riverside, Five Points and San Marco areas, several of the “hottest” parts of town, featuring walkable sidewalks lined with shops, restaurants and bars.

IMAG1291boldnewcityJaxBOLD CITY BREWERY   Riverside is home to Jax’s “oldest” and largest craft brewery, Bold City Brewery. Inspired by the city’s moniker “Bold New City of the South,” the brewery urges everyone to “Be Bold.” Walk into almost any local bar or restaurant around town, and you’re likely to find at least one of the three Bold City core beers: Killer Whale Cream Ale, Duke’s Cold Nose Brown Ale, Mad Manatee IPA.

Duke’s Brown Ale (6%), a mildly nutty brown with a touch of caramel and chocolate, is

highly recognizable and extremely popular around Jax. The Duke’s label features a likeness of the family’s late beloved pet boxer, Duke. If a refreshing, lighter beer with no hop bitterness is more your style, check out Killer Whale Cream Ale (5.5%). It’s a go-to beer for many, and goes with anything. You can always find Killer Whale watching over things at the brewery. The Mad Manatee IPA (6.5%) offers a hop bite along with floral and citrus flavors. And, note the artwork here: it’s a tribute to the Florida manatee and its struggles with boats.

Bold City launched in 2008 when mother and son duo Susan and Brian Miller decided to say goodbye to their “day jobs” at an insurance company and pursue a life of malt and hops. Brian had also homebrewed since 2002 and realized his true calling.  When you drive up to the brewery, you may not immediately know what it is. Situated in a warehouse next to railroad tracks, the brewery now houses the biggest tanks in Jax. The 20-barrel IMAG1021boldcitykillerwhalebrewhouse is complemented with these big boys: three 40-barrel fermenters, one 80-barrel fermenter and, one 120-barrel fermenter. Keeping those tanks company are three brite tanks, holding 40, 80 and another 120 barrels in each. The brewery took delivery of those 120’s last year. Look outside, and you’ll see the brewery’s two grain silos, the only ones in town. Demand for Bold City beer is high, as the brewery produces reliable and consistent beer, enjoyed by both craft newbies and regulars.

Bold City started canning its beers onsite in July 2013, and the three core beers are readily available in virtually every local grocery and liquor store. In addition to the Jax/North Florida area, the distribution also extends to Tampa, Sarasota, Daytona, Orlando and Gainesville.

If you want to taste the beers “at the source,” visit the Bold City tap room, open Thursday to Saturday. The tap room is reminiscent of a cozy inn.  It offers the core beers, plus additional house beers such as Archie’s Rhino Rye Pale Ale (one of my favorites), named after the white rhino at the Jacksonville Zoo. Be on the lookout for Roxy’s Finest Imperial Cream Ale, 1901 Red Ale (a roasty, smoky red ale named after the Great Fire of Jacksonville in 1901), Big John’s Apricot Wheat, Fritz Hefeweizen, Secret Stout, and seasonals like Oktoberfest or Pumpkin Ale. Every so often, the brewers release a few surprises, such as cask beers or special treatments of Killer Whale or Duke’s (the almond coconut version last fall was a special treat). An onsite kitchen staffed by LaBodega features Cuban and finger foods. Stop by when one of the local bands plays in the brewhouse, and your feet will be tapping right along with that beer. “Firewater Fridays” are hugely popular once-a-month IMAG1719boldcityglasscoastersfoot-stomping nights when local band Firewater Tent Revival appears. And, if you’d like to get a look at how the beer is made, take a brewery tour on Saturdays between 2-5pm.

In late 2015, Bold City announced plans to expand operations by building a new, smaller brewhouse and tap room in downtown Jax on Bay St. Anticipated to open in Fall 2016, the new digs will feature a 3-barrel brewhouse and will produce small and experimental batches.

All of the Jax breweries are active in charitable events, and Bold City is no exception.  The brewery regularly hosts events onsite and is a sponsor or featured brewery at other local fundraisers (many for animal welfareIMAG3062boldcitycans groups), such as the recent Toast to Conservation at the Jacksonville Zoo, which included the above-mentioned white rhino, Archie.

You’re sure to have a fun time at Bold City Brewery!

Next up, we only have a very short trek to our second brewery stop ….

INTUITION ALE WORKS  Literally just over the tracks in the Riverside area is Intuition Ale Works, founded in 2010 by local entrepreneur Ben Davis, who applied his coffee and wine background to the craft beer biz. Here’s another large production brewery that hasn’t had a shiny storefront, but it’s what’s inside that counts. The first time I visited, I drove right by. And, inside, Intuition has been producing a combination of popular core beers, one-offs, and its annual celebrated February release of the highly sought-after Underdark Imperial Stout (there’s even an annual all-day blockbuster of a party). The 2016 version of Underdark was aged in whiskey barrels.

The tap room is cozy and comfortable, and the bartending staff is friendly and knowledgeable. It’s always a popular stop on the bus. Find one of the 20 beers on tap on one of the two chalkboards on either side of the tap room. The four core beers are tried and true, and the brewers always seem to release new beers that are a bit out of the ordinary, from saisons to barrel-aged. Stop by the tap room on One-Off Wednesdays for a special treatment of one of the core beers or a special release.

In February 2012, Intuition was the first brewery in the state to start canning its beers on its current 10-barrel system. The brewery has regularly canned four of its main beers, which are available just about everywhere in IMAG2024intuitiongrowlerglassthe Jax area: Jon Boat Coastal Ale (lager-like golden ale that’s a go-to lighter beer), People’s Pale Ale (citrusy and hoppy pale ale), I-10 IPA (a hoppy IPA featuring four hops), and King St. Stout (an oh-so-smooth imperial stout that’s one of my favorites here). Recently added to the canning line is Easy on the Eyes (citrusy Session IPA). Intuition’s beers are regularly found on draft all around town and are distributed throughout Central and North Florida.

The tap room offers a variety of house beers, and at any given time, you’re likely to find a kolsch-style ale, several Belgian ales,  black, red and brown ales and others. Recently, Intuition tapped Knothead Alt, a malty, easy to drink altbier that I enjoyed so much I made a point of bringing it to the attention of the riders on my bus tour last weekend. Another new tapping you’ll want to try is the Wheelhouse Dark Brown Ale, a toasty and nutty ale made with rye for a bit of spiciness.

And, when Intuition throws an anniversary party, it does so on a grand scale. For its fifth anniversary all-day party last November, in addition to featuring two bands and food trucks, Intuition offered  just under 50 house beers on tap, including core beers, special treatments, familiar re-releases and more.

Lately, hIMAG3063intuitioncansowever, the big news surrounding Intuition Ale Works has been the construction of its new brewery and tap room in downtown Jacksonville, adjacent to the sports complex and Veterans Memorial Arena. Work is underway, and when completed, Intuition will move its operations to the new location (over 20,000 square feet of leased space). With the new location also comes an increase in brewing capacity, in the form of a new 30-barrel brewhouse. The brewery will be neighbors with Manifest Distilling, also under construction on the property. An opening by Fall of this year is anticipated, much to the joy of sports fans and concert attendees (including yours truly). Get ready for that Sixth Anniversary party, because it promises to be one major event. And, about that shiny storefront? I don’t think anyone will have any trouble finding it.

Now, let’s head out for a short drive over to the San Marco area of Jacksonville …

AARDWOLF BREWING COMPANY  burst on the beer scene in early 2013, and its 15-barrel brewhouse produces a wide variety of beer styles, from sours to IPAs to Brown Ales to imperial stouts to barrel-aged and everything in between. In that short time, the brewery has earned eight competition medals, including a Bronze Medal at GABF 2015 (Great American Beer Fest) for its Belgian Pale Ale (malty pale ale with Belgian yeast), and a Bronze at this year’s Best Florida Beer Championships for its San Marco Sour (sour blonde ale). A couple of the most unique beers you’re likely to find in the city just may be Aardwolf’s Lactic Zeppelin, a Berliner Weisse with the funk of Brettanomyces, and Hipster Popsicle, a cherry lime gose.

The building was home to a municipal ice plant dating back to the 1920’s and then a tile factory. Each of these is evident: the interior includes the brick wall from the ice plant days, and the exterior features the brewery nameIMAG3068aardwoftile2 in tile. What about that name, anyway?

The “aardwolf” is an insectivorous, nocturnal mammal native to Africa. The name means “earth wolf,” or as the brewery explains it, “humulus lupulus,” for a hoppy beer connection. Need proof? Take a look at the brewery’s mascot, Alvin, who always is perched over the bar. Alvin is also known to sport apparel coincidental with holidays, so be on the lookout.

While you’re always likely to find a few Belgian style beers on tap, the variety among the 20 or so taps can be intriguing. Add to that a pilot batch released every Wednesday. I can’t really tag a favorite here, although I thought that the White Russian Imperial Stout, with coffee and vanilla, was undeniably worthy of all the positive comments and huge popularity that it enjoyed while on tap (in other  words, it was pretty damn awesome). Another popular brew is the Styrofoam Pony Stout (around 6% ABV), served in the tap room and around town.

While the Belgian Pale Ale is the most popular beer that Aardwolf distributes locally and serves in-house, co-owner Preben Olsen explains that Aardwolf brews a mix of what’s popular and what the brewers like to drink, rather than focus on any particular style, origin, or type of beer. That said, I have found that the tap list has indeed grown with respect to beer styles, and Aardwolf recently introduced a very refreshing Helles Lager that’s sure to keep the “lighter” and more conservative beer drinking crowds happy. If you’re the adventurous beer IMAG2521aardwolfcoasterstype, not to worry: there’s no shortage of beers for your taste buds to experience an array of different styles and flavors.

Aardwolf also brews up some traditional “old world” styles, too. Try The Pen is Mightier, a 4.2% ABV 80-shilling Scottish Ale, for a malty, toasty beer that you can repeat. You can even find a schwarzbier here, the Weltschmerz (easing the “world pain”), a 5.3% ABV, dark, malty and roasty beer that drinks very easy. On one of my recent bus tours, I persuaded one rider to try this beer (the “I don’t like dark beer” type), and as soon as she finished the taste test, her glass was raised for another (love when that happens!). Aardwolf has the IPAs covered for you hopheads, too, ranging from “regular” citrusy, piney IPAs to a session IPA to double IPAs.

Aardwolf’s tap room isn’t a “sports bar” themed type of place, although there is a TV in the back room that is often used for parties. Generally, the tap room is a mix of the modern and the industrial, with a long main bar and ample tables and chairs, along with that ice plant brick wall that holds the beer menu. Behind that is a cozy and quieter separate room, that can be used for private or special events, with plush sofas and a view of the brewhouse. Feel free to bring food with you or order from a food truck on site or one of the nearby restaurants.

Be sure to make a stop at Aardwolf Brewing when in Jacksonville!

Next, we head to the beach! Stay tuned for a tour of the Jacksonville Beach breweries.

A BIG BIG thank you to our JAX resident Cicerone, BBC alumni and craft beer expert @brewnymph who tirelessly traveled and tasted delicious JAX grown beers for this post!

Connections with other bloggers is just one of the many reasons to head south for BBC this year.  With Florida making a giant mark on the craft beer scene in the past few years, Tampa is the ideal place to host for any beer blogger or writer who is looking for new content, great beers and the chance to meet some fantastic people!

Register for BBC16 today

Things are Brewing in Tampa – Get to Know More About Cigar City and it’s New Owner Oskar Blues

As many of us have read in the press in the past 48 hours, Oskar Blues, a past sponsor of the Beer Bloggers & Writers conference, has completed the deal to purchase the highly successful Tampa brewery, Cigar City Brewing, which is hosting a dinner at the upcoming conference.

Backed by Fireman Capital Partners, Oskar Blues has secured the acquisition in a still-rapidly-growing industry.  With Both.Oval.Vectorother acquisitions and expansions already ticked off in their plans, including the purchase of Perrin Brewing, Oskar Blues is quickly becoming a major national brand. We ourselves love Oskar Blues in part because they sponsored a visit to their Asheville brewery for our 2015 conference and also sponsored the first-ever BBC in 2010 in Boulder.

cigarcityCigar City Brewing is considered the number one brewery in Tampa for its brewery scene and its beers.  “Cigar City has great beer, a great following and great culture. We see them pushing the boundaries and doing creative things on the beer side and now we have a way to provide them with additional resources,” said Chad Melis, marketing director at Oskar Blues Brewery. “Cigar City will continue to do what they’ve always been doing. You’d be an idiot to change that.”  Via @TampaBayTimes

Cigar City also happens to be our venue for the post-live beer blogging progressive tasting and dining event on Saturday night.  At the conclusion of our 50 minutes and 10 beers worth of exciting live beer blogging, all attendees will be whisked away to Cigar City for tasting and treats, hosted by Visit Tampa Bay.  Cigar City Brewing is not only one of Tampa’s most popular “night out on the town” spots but they also produced 61,000 barrels of beer in 2015 and now with the increased capital and expansion opportunity with Oskar Blues and Fireman Capital Partners, will expand those horizons in the coming months.

This July, you will get the chance to visit Cigar City, get to know the establishment, and indulge in the Tampa Bay brewery scene.  Won’t you join us?  Register Today for the 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference


Tap Into Tampa’s Top Breweries

Not only is this years Beer Bloggers & Writers Conference packed full of great speakers and informative sessions, we also have loads of tasting opportunities coupled with fun excursions in Tampa and beyond planned.  From our hosts at Visit Tampa Bay, we have a post Live Beer Blogging tour arranged that is sure to knock your socks off.
After wrapping up Live Beer Blogging at JJ Taylor, of course you will be thirsty. Hop aboard the Brew Bus for a whirlwind tour of a few of the best breweries Tampa has to offer. Brew brewbusBus is not merely a bus that will whisk you away to the breweries of your dreams (although it is also that), they’re also in the business of making award-winning beers for you to drink while en route. Their “You’re My Boy Blue” took home a silver medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. Each stop along the tour is catering plenty of food to make this event a true Tampa tasting excursion!

Find out more about the Brew Bus!

Stop 1: Cigar City Brewing

cigarcityPerhaps the brewery least in need of an introduction, Cigar City has been at it for seven years now, blending great beer and Tampa history. This tap room is so much more than a spot to grab their best-selling Jai Alai IPA, you’ll find an extensive tap list full of staples, collaborations with other breweries and one-offs you cannot find anywhere else in the world.

Find out more about Cigar City!

Stop 2: Coppertail Brewing


Somewhat of a newbie to the Tampa brewing scene, Coppertail has hit the ground running with their excellent “Core 4” beers and a seriously incredible facility. Confess your sins in an authentic confessional, spend some time on their old-school table top arcade machine or just bask in the aura of massive murals and funky reclaimed décor.
Find out more about Coppertail Brewing!

Stop 3: Ulele Springs Brewery


This brewery is the only one of the bunch on our excursion that is attached to a restaurant, in fact, one of Tampa’s best restaurants. Nestled on the bank of the Hillsborough River, Ulele now occupies a space once home to the city’s water works facilities. Head Brewer Tim Shackton operates a one-man brewing operation with an old-school approach. You will find no artificial preservatives here, just lagers and ales made from nothing but grains, hops, yeast, fresh fruit and local honey.

Find out more about Ulele Spring Brewery!

The 2016 Beer Bloggers & Writers conference chose Tampa as it’s host city not only for it’s awesome beer scene but it’s also the perfect family getaway.  Economically accommodating, and easy to get to, Tampa has something for everyone.  We wanted to offer an environment this year where are alumni and new attendees would have the chance to bring their friends or family (or both!) down South for sunshine, beaches and of course lots and lots of #BayCrafted brews.

Want to join in the fun, listen to great speakers and absorb some beer blogging knowledge?  Get registered today!

About Visit Tampa Bay

The beer industry in Tampa is booming, and as the county’s Destination Marketing Organization, it’s our job to help spread the word of our incredible craft beer scene to our more than 20 million visitors a year. Our Bay Crafted campaign last summer reached 1 million households within Florida. With our breweries making plenty of well-respected “best of” lists we’re excited to watch Tampa grow as a “Beercation” destination.  See how Tampa ranks among the top craft beer destinations in the country for 2016…hint; they are #3 this year!




What’s New With Green Flash? An Exciting Expansion to the East Coast


Green Flash Brewing San Diego has been been home to Green Flash Brewing Company since 2002, and in 2013 they announced their second brewery location in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This summer will mark the opening of a world-class brewing facility that will allow Green Flash to deliver fresh beer to loyal fans along the East Coast. The 58,000 square-foot facility will house a production brewery with the capacity to produce 100,000 barrels annually, a tasting room, one-acre beer garden and more.  Green Flash deigned their facility to share firsthand with residents and visitors alike.

Green Flash Brewmaster Erik Jensen has been tasked with overseeing production on both coasts, which will encompass the full craft beer line up, including hop-head favorite West Coast IPA, Soul Style IPA and award-winning Le Freak. To quench the thirst of local craft beer fans, the Virginia Beach tasting room will offer uniquely Green Flash innovative, experimental brews.

The Green Flash ‘beer first’ philosophy means they are passionate about craft beer, obsessing over every detail of the brewing process, and sharing that passion with others. Green Flash is excited to take part in and make positive contributions to Virginia’s local craft community by continuing to build camaraderie among breweries and further develop the city’s craft beer culture.

Meaningful community involvement has been important to Green Flash from day one, and they already held Treasure Chest Fest, the largest fundraising initiative supporting breast cancer research, at the future site of the Virginia Beach brewery. Funds from the first two VA Treasure Chest Fests held benefited local breast cancer charity Susan G. Komen Tidewater, and they will continue to support and host this annual event.

Now, the time is nearly here— this summer the Green Flash team will raise an inaugural pint glass of fresh beer in Virginia Beach. They hope you will join them at the opening, stay tuned for details and stay connected with Green Flash Cheers!

The Beer Bloggers & Writers conference is thrilled to have Green Flash on board as a sponsor this year.  We look forward to meeting their team as they host our Kick off Reception dinner in Tampa on Friday.  If you want to know more about these guys, be sure to attend this pre-dinner reception.

Have you completed your BBC registration?  Come to Tampa for beers, beaches and blogging!  This year is shaping up to be a fantastic conference with a good number of bloggers and writers already signed up.  If you need another reason to attend, please note that we have a pre and post conference excursions to Jacksonville and St Pete Clearwater.  Two craft beer boom towns that you do not want to miss getting an insiders only tour of.

To learn more about Green Flash, check them out below!


Beer Economics with NBWA Chief Economist Lester Jones

BBC16 Will Offer Beer Economics Crash Course With NBWA Chief Economist Lester Jones

The National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) is a non-profit trade organization that represents America’s 3,300 licensed, independent beer distribution facilities.

Lester-Jones-BarNBWA Chief Economist Lester Jones will be in Tampa to offer BBC16 attendees a crash course in beer economics, drawing from more than 20 years of experience in applied economics to present beer writers with a better understanding of the demographics, marketplace trends and economic forces at work in today’s beer industry.

We caught up with Lester ahead of the conference to ask him a few questions about his job and the issues he’s tracking in 2016:

Q: Why did you decide you wanted to study the economics of beer?

A: Beer is a great product. It has been around for thousands of years – it’s amazing how far back beer reaches into our culture, our history and our economy. In the United States today, there are thousands of brewers and importers. Thousands of distributors, hundreds of thousands of places to buy beer and more than 90 million consumers. It is a diverse industry with many different products. There is a ton of data to track, analyze and report on every day.

Q: What does your job entail?

A: I collect, analyze and comment on economic data that impacts the beer industry — from distributors to brewers, retailers and consumers. And even suppliers like barley growers and can and glass manufacturers. It’s a very dynamic industry — the extent of people it actually involves and how many lives it impacts is quite amazing.

Q: Why did you decide to join NBWA?

A: Figuring out how it all works at the federal, state and local level and how all the components work together is a challenge. In brewing, they are in charge of producing, shipping and branding their beer. It’s the distributor’s responsibility to help sell and distribute the beer into retail, which is more dynamic, more complicated and more challenging from a logistics standpoint.

Q: What do most people not know about the economics of the beer industry?

A: Thousands of brewers and importers are creating thousands of brands, and those brands come in different packages — bottles, cans and kegs. That translates into more and more stock-keeping units (SKUs), which increases the complexity of the beer distribution business. The United States is the best beer market in the world, hands down, because of all this variety. But it comes at the expense of operational and logistical complexity. The beers that consumers see on shelves come through a complicated distribution system. That’s the beauty of the independent, three-tier system — it gives people all of this variety from all these brewers and importers.

Q: What are some of the sources you consult for your research?

A: I start with government data, including Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and U.S. Census data. The Census tells you how many people are out there, including age and demographics such as the number of millennials, the number of Hispanics etc. That provides insights into the reasons why brands are purchased and consumed. Job, employment and wage data from the BLS are important because that’s where people earn money to spend on products like beer. I also work with NBWA’s members to generate data on the state level. So it’s a mix of federal and state data, along with industry data collected from our members.

Q: What are some of the key industry issues you’ll be tracking throughout 2016?

A: There are so many avenues to explore in 2016 when it comes to the beer market. First and foremost, we are now six years into an economic recovery, and signals are showing that we have a great macro-economic environment for the high-end craft and imports side of the business to continue to grow. Many of us are waiting to see when the trickle down will come to the premium and below-premium segments of the industry. Is 2016 the year? Also, with more than 6,000 permitted breweries in 2015, how many will we see in 2016? Mergers, consolidations and JV deals across the industry (in all three tiers) also will be front and center.

Q: What are you most looking forward to at the BBC16 in Tampa?

 A: Exploring the Tampa beer market and “off-the-record” time with beer bloggers.

To learn more about the National Beer Wholesalers Association and America’s independent beer distributors, visit

For additional updates, subscribe to The Daily Brew newsletter, follow @NBWABeer on Twitter, watch NBWA videos on YouTube, and like NBWABeer on Facebook.

Don’t miss out on Lester’s presentation.  Register for BBC today!

The Best of Tampa for Beer Lovers (and Bloggers)



So you’re heading to Tampa for the 2016 Beer Bloggers Conference but you’re not sure what to expect…not to worry!  The experts over at Visit Tampa Bay have rounded up the best of what Tampa has to offer for beer lovers.  Here is their list of recommendations.

1. Beer

We wouldn’t have brought you all the way down here if we couldn’t deliver the good stuff. Cigar City Brewing may be our most well-known brewery, but Tampa Bay is home to dozens of incredible breweries. Coming off a recent Great American Beer Festival win, Brew Bus is opening its brewery and tap room in February in Seminole Heights. Stay in the neighborhood to hit up Angry Chair Brewing, Southern Brewing (also a great spot for homebrew supplies) and, a bit farther south, Ulele Springs and Hidden Springs Ale Works. Down the road from there is Ybor City, home to Tampa Bay Brewing Company, Coppertail Brewing, Cigar City Cider and Mead and Rock Brothers Brewing, which is set to open this spring. We’re also big fans of Six Ten Brewing (don’t miss the delicious CBGB) and Four Stacks Brewing a bit outside of town down in Apollo Beach.

2. Food

We believe good beer and good food go hand in hand. Feel right at home at the Independent Bar and Café – home to some killer sandwiches and an impressive tap and a bottle list pushing 200 options. Mermaid Tavern serves up an incredible “Drunk Grilled Cheese” you can pair with one of 28 drafts, the majority of which feature Tampa Bay/Florida brews. You can expect a solid selection of local brews at Fodder and Shine to wash down authentic Florida Cracker food from a James Beard Award nominated chef. For some high-end fare, walk from your hotel to Anise Global Gastrobar for tapas and a great cocktail, or to Edison: Food+Drink Lab to enjoy their ever-changing and always creative menu and house-bottled cocktails.

3. Activities

You can’t eat and drink the whole time (well, maybe you can), so don some sunscreen, step out from your hotel and on to Tampa’s Riverwalk. More than 2 miles of uninterrupted waterfront, which connects to the famous Bayshore Boulevard for even more space to walk or bike without having to worry about traffic. The Riverwalk connects some of Tampa’s best attractions, like the Florida Aquarium, Tampa Bay History Center, Tampa Museum of Art and Florida Museum of Photographic Arts. If that’s not your thing, go cruising with Coast Bike Share or hit the water with Urban Kai Paddleboarding.

After attending last year’s conference in Asheville, Visit Tampa Bay cannot wait to host such a great group.

Check out the site to find out all you need to know on the craft brew scene in Tampa or watch their Bay Crafted video

Leave us some comments of anything you are planning on checking out at BBC this year.


Petrus Sour Beers Discover the Difference at BBC16

Bavik Super Pils - packshot met elementenThe Beer Bloggers and Writers Conference, hosted in Tampa this year is thrilled to have Petrus Sour Beers as a return partner.  Petrus was not only a huge hit at our European Beer Bloggers Conference in 2015 but the brewery has also been awarded this past year a Gold rating for the Bavik Super Pils (category Lager: German-Style Pilsner) at the Brussels Beer Challenge

Love for brewing is in the genes of the De Brabandere family and you can taste in in any one of the assorted beers you might decide to pluck off the shelf.  An authentic approach to brewing is not a new concept to these guys and the Petrus line of brews is proof of that.  With World Beer Awards given to the Petrus Oud Bruin and the Petrus Aged Pale, it’s no wonder they have an awesome story to share.  Watch The Blending Story Here

The Petrus Sours brand is truly a cool brewing process when you dig in a bit.  Aged for 2 years in giant French oak foeders builds a very complex, wild, fruity sour beer that is unique and as many would attest…extremely tasty.  Beer enthusiasts take the mother brew and can enjoy on it’s own or jump into the blending fun!  See about the Blend HERE

We are thrilled to have Petrus in Tampa this year and meet the crew.  Whether or not you plan to attend this years conference (hint; you definitely should) we hope you start your search to broaden your beer horizon a bit and explore not just the Petrus line of Sour Beers but the entire line of exceptionally fine beers from the Brouwerij De Brabandere.   If you are going to Tampa, plan on spending some time getting to know this fine line of beers and discover the Petrus difference.

Most Influential Beer Brands on the Internet (2016 edition)

Top 20 Most Influential

It’s that time of year again!  With a boom in all things BEER this year, we want to know who is leading the charge as the top 20 Most Influential Beer Brands on the Internet in 2016.

Same as last year, our analysis includes three factors:

  • Alexa Rating: A relatively accurate (though not perfect) indication of a website’s popularity.
  • Facebook Likes: Social media carries a lot of weight in deciphering a website’s influence on the web, therefore, we consider the number of Facebook likes in our analysis.
  • Twitter Followers: The same goes for Twitter as for FaceBook

In 2016, the Zephyr Conferences team again analyzed a total of 85 popular English-language beer-related websites. We allocated from 25 to 1 point for each time a site was in the top 25 of Alexa rating, Facebook likes, and Twitter followers.  The website with the best Alexa rating received 25 points and the website with the 25th best Alexa rating received one point. Combining the score of the three categories provides a maximum possible score of 75. We recorded data on January 4, 2016.

Our top three websites for 2016:

  • Heineken Is our leader again this year and remains the Most Influential Beer Brand on the Internet.  With a total score of 62 points, Heineken is well above the pack with over 20 million Facebook likes.  Budweiser, who ranks #6 this year boasts our second most Facebook likes at just over 13 million.
  • Beer Advocate magazine also stayed in the number two spot, again scoring first with an outstanding Alexa rating of 8,587 (meaning it is the 8,587 th most popular website in the world in terms of visitors that use the Alexa toolbar.)  Additionally, Beer Advocate scored first in Twitter followers with 543,000.
  • New Belgium Brewing took back the number 3 ranking from Dogfish Head this year by a 2 point lead (Dogfish Head scored 45 total points and New Belgium scored 47).

Here are the Top 20 for 2016:

Rank Company Website Score
1 Heineken 62
2 Beer Advocate 54
3 New Belgium Brewing 47
4 Dogfish Head Craft Brewery 45
5 Stone Brewing Company 43
6 Budweiser 42
7 Bud Light 41
8 BJ’s Brewhouse 40
9 Miller Lite 39
10 Coors Light 34
11 tie Sierra Nevada Brewing Company 29
11 tie BrewDog 29
13 tie Samuel Adams 24
13 tie 24
13 tie Drink Craft Beer 24
16 Untapped 23
17 Guinness 22
18 tie Dos Equis 21
18 tie Rogue Ales 21
18 tie More Beer! 21

Other items to note in our 2016 analysis:

  • We had three ties for 11th, 13th and 18th place on our analysis.
  • There was not a lot of movement from last year and no website moved into or out of our Top 20 list.
  • We still have three craft breweries taking three of the top five spots in the rankings (Dogfish Head, New Belgium, and Stone) and their brands are truly fantastic.  Each has done an outstanding job of developing a strong online presence.
  • The largest leap up was from BJ’s Brewhouse going from 14th in 2015 to 8th position this year.  BJ’s gained over 22k Facebook likes and increased their Alexa ranking from 201,700 to 49,372 – both the largest gains on our analysis.

As with last year, please remember the following.

  1. We undoubtedly made mistakes. Take a look at the data (Most Influential Beer Brands Analysis), which shows only those sites receiving a score, and please provide any corrections or sites we are missing so we can update future versions.
  2. This analysis is a snap shot in time. The stats change daily. We’ll do this analysis again next year.
  3. Deciding what factors into the ranking is arbitrary. We know Alexa rating is biased towards a certain type of site visitor and realize social media plays heavily into these results. We are open to other suggestions but think this is a good start.

Please tell us what you think!  We would love to collaborate with our readers on this report or work to develop a new report that is useful to our community.

Note: If you appreciate the time and effort we put into this analysis, please consider promoting this post on Facebook or Twitter. You can follow Zephyr Adventures or the Beer Bloggers Conference on Twitter and like us on Facebook (Zephyr, Beer Bloggers Conference). Who knows? Perhaps some year we’ll make our own list.

See last year’s results here:


Beer Tourism is For Real

As we all know, there is a lot of buzz about craft brewing and it’s popularity among the masses.  What might not be as obvious is that beer tourism is also riding the craft beer boom, as locals and travelers alike makes plans to visit their favorite craft breweries on a day trip or an entire vacation.

In recent months, Zephyr Adventures conducted three surveys and a workshop about beer tourism. Here are some of the important findings.

Survey of Beer Tour Operators

We conducted a survey of beer tour operators in February 2014 and again in October 2015, with 38 (2014) and 39 (2015) participants.

  • Zephyr Adventures keeps a list of 122 beer tour operators, of which approximately 25% plan vacations and 75% are involved with local day tours.
  • The typical beer tour operator has three years of experience, both owns and operates the company, and hires at least one employee. Half of beer tour operators work full time on their business and half work part time.
  • The typical beer tour customer is male (58%), 31-40 years old, and traveling with friends or as a couple.
  • Beer tour operators estimate that 50% of their customers are fans of craft beer but not experienced, 20% are experts, and 30% are novices.
  • The average beer tour operator has seen growth of 116% in the past two years in terms of revenue and 108% in terms of number of customers.


Survey of Destination Marketing Organizations

We at Zephyr Adventures also conducted an October  survey of Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs), Convention & Visitor Bureaus (CVBs), and similar destination marketing agencies. 54 organizations in North America participated.

  • 81% of the participating organizations are actively promoting their local breweries. (Only 76% are promoting their local museums and historic sites.)
  • 70% of respondents consider beer tourism as important or very important to their region and 98% believe on-site sales are important or very important to their local breweries.

Survey of Brewers Guilds

There are brewery guilds representing local brewers in many nations, almost every state in the US, and in some cities. In December 2015 we at Zephyr Adventures conducted a survey of US brewery guilds. 24 guilds responded.

  • 64% of respondents consider visitation to be very important to their member brewers. (100% consider visitation to be at least somewhat important.)
  • 91% of respondents believe “people are coming to your region specifically to visit breweries”. 50% of respondents said this is happening in “significant numbers”.

Beer Tourism Workshop

On November 18th we conducted a Beer Tourism Workshop with 41 attendees and a great panel of five beer industry participants, headlined by Mariah Calagione of Dogfish Head Craft Brewery and Margo Knight Metzger of the North Carolina Craft Brewers Guild.

The workshop was a fantastic three hours of discussion regarding promoting a local region for beer tourism, promoting individual breweries, working with beer tour operators, and managing a tap room effectively. Via a participant vote and in post-conference surveys, the biggest complaint was not having enough time to discuss this important topic.

Beer Tourism & Marketing Conference

Clearly, beer tourism is booming. To provide an industry gathering place and educational forum to learn about beer tourism, we at Zephyr Adventures are in the planning stages to create a new Beer Tourism & Marketing Conference to compliment our existing Wine Tourism Conference. Stay tuned!

Please contact us or leave a comment here if you have any thoughts to add on the burgeoning beer tourism industry.