Small pours: Beer news that affects your glass

Release me: A few French Broad favorites are now available in the can, just in time for sitting on the grass and watching fireflies. Photo by Max Cooper

French Broad gets canned

Remember that time you were going to buy a bottle of Wee Heavier, but couldn’t spare the next morning to 22-ounces of a strong beer? Or that time you really wanted Gateway Kölsch but couldn’t bring glass on the hike? Well, French Broad heard your trouble and solved it. Just like Asheville Brewing and Oskar Blues in Brevard, French Broad has started canning.

“We’ve tripled our sales in the last four years, and we’re looking at tacking on 20 to 25 percent more volume already,” says owner Andy Dahm. “While we sell a lot of draft beer in downtown Asheville, when it comes to the rest of our distribution territory … we do better with the packaged [bottled or canned] beer.”

In addition to the Wee Heavier and Kölsch, French Broad is also rolling out 13 Rebels in the initial can launch. As for where to find them, French Broad’s current accounts like Greenlife, Earth Fare, Ingles, and of course, the beer-centric retailers, will carry the cans right away. However, Dahm said their hope is that the cans will eventually bring them to new stores and new territories.

“I would love to see Asheville’s breweries bringing money in from outside the city,” says Dahm. “When you look at our town, and its wage-based issues, why try to get tourists up here [for the beer] when we can get that beer to them?”

A couple of beer bills

While French Broad’s cans may be making the biggest splash at the grocery store this week, expect other big changes to the way beer in general is packaged. House Bill 829, sponsored by Rep. Chuck McGrady of Henderson County, just passed the Senate and was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory on June 12.

Dubbed the “Growler Bill,” this change to the law allows restaurants, grocery stores and other retailers to fill and sell growlers — 32- or 64-ounce containers of beer. Up until now, only breweries could fill growlers on premise.

The change is generally seen as good news, since it has the potential to make craft beer more accessible. However, there could be issues regarding the use and sanitation of draft equipment at retailers that don’t specialize in beer. Dirty draft lines and improper filling procedures can quickly have a negative impact on beer flavor, and brewers will have to weigh that risk versus the reward. 

House Bill 610, known as the, “In-Stand Beer Sales Bill,” was signed at the same time. This change permits vendors to sell beer in the stands at professional sporting events where the venue has a capacity of at least 3,000 people.

This is a big shift from the previous law, which only allowed in-stand sales at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte. Locally, the biggest impact is likely to be seen at McCormick Field, which seats about 4,000.

Just Brew It

Before Beer Week is too far in the rearview mirror, let’s take a minute to celebrate the homebrewers who took part in the Just Brew It festival. As with any beer event where there are more than 100 brews, it’s tough to pick a winner. Heck it’s tough to even try them all.

Luke Waterson’s Sour Trunks was my best in show.

The beer started its life at Noda Brewing in Charlotte, where Waterson and a bunch of other homebrewers collaboratively brewed a big batch on the professional equipment. Waterson took his share and pitched “the dregs of a few bottles of beers like Cantillon and Rodenbach” into the wort, hoping it would sour, and sour fast. He got lucky. In just two months, the beer transformed dramatically into a crisp, sour summer ale.

It’s safe to say this delicious beer may never be recreated. However, instead of hoarding it, Waterson drove 2 1/2 hours to share it with old friends, new friends and complete strangers who love beer. In my book, that definitely deserves an award.

A few local breweries also picked their favorite beers, which they’ll brew commercially at some point in the following year:

Burial Beer: Wabba Wabba Geh Back (soured saison) brewed by Matt Kane
Oskar Blues: Patersbier brewed by Bart Roberts
Sierra Nevada: Funky Blackberry Stout brewed by Gabe Hinkley
Southern Appalachian: Big Red American Amber brewed by Bernie Kessel
Wicked Weed: Uh, huh, huh! (saison) brewed by Mark Conti

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