Beer in the Time of Coronavirus

“I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection.”

-Leonardo da Vinci

Ringing in New Year’s 2020, many of us were taking the opportunity to metaphorically transport ourselves back in time, reminiscing of an age most have only lived through the pages of school books. No one was quite prepared for the day that we would wake up in a Twilight Zone-esque world, feeling as though history had repeated itself in a terrible fashion. A pandemic had taken the nation, and the entire globe, by storm. As the world scrambled to respond to an already progressed onslaught, many were left to fear not just for their present, but their future.

As the nation became divided by labels of “non-essential” and “essential,” many in the hospitality industry waited with baited breath to hear on which side of the coin they would fall. The Craft Beer industry was hit particularly hard as it navigated an unprecedented event in modern times as, at least by history standards, a fledgling sector. This is, of course, not to take away from the hardships of all other industries. If one should take little away from this, it should be that each struggles differently, not necessarily less. Even the experiences and hardships in the craft beer community itself took varying shapes, as new local orders were put in place and contamination levels rose.

Many breweries and craft beer bars were forced to close their doors: some for a time and others, faced with the reality of an already uncertain future and now complete lack of revenue, permanently. For those fortunate enough to reopen or continuously operate, this meant pushing creative minds to the limit and switching strategies. Those that served food became pick up/delivery and some were forced to change their offerings based on supply limitations. Beer was offered to-go only. No longer could a patron sit for hours with open pints of beer, letting their fancies dictate their next beverage choice. Instead, everything became immediate and calculated, assuming the brewery even had the resources to completely revise their production and packaging style on a moment’s notice.

As devastating as it was for the entities themselves, one cannot ignore the individuals that make up this amazing community and the tribulations they have encountered as a result of the world coming to a screeching halt. The craft beer industry includes so many: from the owners, some of whom have put their entire life savings into their business, the brewers with their passion on the line, the distributors who are stuck in the middle, to the beertenders who are finding themselves struggling to make ends meet, and beyond.

Amber, a beertender at a Missouri brewery, says that it was a strange time, especially at the beginning where, “I did not work at all the first few weeks except for a couple times. Doing curbside pick up only at those times.”

When I spoke to Kate, a beertender from Hawaii, in early May, she was also suffering from the adverse effects of a quickly- changing economy. “My shifts got cut without notice. We can’t get unemployment because the state is having a hard time processing so many claims. Only 60% have been paid out. I also haven’t received my stimulus check. So I have been living on savings.”

A brewer at a production brewery in Iowa, Jaime, said that, while the workload did not change much, many other things did. “We switched to 100% canning so we were brewing less but our time [was] spent canning more since that takes longer. Another thing that was different was that we started wearing gloves during the whole work day. We’d also sanitize any shipments we got. Really, more work for less product. [I was] lucky as one of the few salary employees I still had a job, but anyone who was hourly got let go- so all our service staff.”

On the distribution side, the story was just as grim for Carolynn of Hawaii, “I got ready for work on Monday, the week of Saint Patrick’s Day, also known as hell week. Usually, I have to trade cars with my friend. He has a truck, so I can bring restaurants and bars jockey boxes, cases of cups, banners, pendants, and other Saint Patrick’s Day items. That Monday, I instead was asking my accounts if they would like me to order their usual order or if they would like me to run down their inventory and we can wait and see what’s going to happen…The best day was Saint Patrick’s Day. Usually, I participate in [the parade.] This year, I slept in. My phone never rang asking where I was. The parade was cancelled at the absolute last minute…Bars were empty, so not only did these bars lose out on money, we, the distributor, had to pick up all the extra product that they would usually sell through. When we pick up outdated product, we then have to pay a third party to dump the kegs. There has been many inquiries as to who pays now since it’s not the brewery’s fault and it’s not the distributor’s fault that these kegs went bad. Someone’s gotta pay somewhere.”

And what of the businesses, such as bars, that rely on such distributors and other suppliers? Claire, a craft beer bar owner in California, says, “It’s been hard, not being a brewery or a restaurant, just a bar…This is a pretty overwhelming situation…I’m grateful that our employees have received unemployment. I was able to apply for a PPP loan…It’s been really hard because we had just hired three new part time employees before this and I don’t think we will have the volume or funds to bring them back right when we reopen. So it will just be our staff of four again. We have lost tons of inventory. Distributors aren’t even picking up empties or wasted beer so I can even get my keg deposits back. I can’t find the correct cleaning supplies for when we do reopen: they are currently out of stock…And the restaurant next door got broken into and robbed two nights ago.”

As difficult as it has been, Claire was still hopeful. “We know [the community] is thirsty and will support us when we reopen with whatever new guidelines we are given.” She adds, “it’s easier knowing, as a business owner in the beer community, I’m not alone and many other businesses are experiencing these things as well.”

With the many changes on all levels of the craft beer experience, it is not surprising that even the consumers felt the difference. Kelli from Georgia told me that most of her favorite craft brew hangouts were shut down, leaving her to rethink her options, especially in regards to to-go and local options. “I’ve started moving away from buying beer from the grocery stores, and have moved towards buying them at a craft beer bar in downtown. I wanted to support them and they have a really good selection of craft beer. I went there a couple of times for a drink before all of this started. I haven’t really gone to the individual breweries for a growler or anything. I’m keeping track of them, though, to see when they will reopen.”

As the days of quarantine have turned into months of social distancing and the shelves have slowly started filling back up with toilet paper, so too has the craft beer community begun to reopen and rebuild.

As of June 18, 2020, after a vexatious ninety-four days of being shut down, Claire was finally able to reopen her craft beer bar, though not without some modifications. “We have rearranged the bar to practice social distancing, created a sanitation procedure, self screening tool for employees, and are wearing masks. We are excited, but nervous also. We are able to only bring back 1/2 of our staff to start but plan to rehire them back as we can. This is new for all of us serving and [for] customers. Also, our state just tossed a mandatory mask order…not sure how this will impact bars yet. Our new motto is slow and steady wins the race.”

While most of the hard work of rebuilding rested (and for many, still continues) on the shoulders of the employees, there were a few outside sources that helped to bring about positive change. When asked, Jaime said that, “One of the only decent things that came out of it was some of the distribution and product handling laws changed a bit. Before, due to our license, if we wanted to sell cans or bottles from our taproom, we had to sell it to the distributor and buy it back, so the beer had to leave the building then come back. With the new law, we could just transfer it electronically and the beer just moved from the main cooler to the to-go cooler. It also allowed us to do beer delivery.”

Another one of these outside sources is the support of local communities. Many consumers, such as Kelli, have begun venturing back out into the world and subsequently, back into the breweries and craft beer bars. Kelli says it makes her extremely happy to do so, and she certainly isn’t the only one. “Surprisingly, we are busy and have sold a ton of crowlers,” Kate told me, “Seems like people are coming and having a beer just trying to be normal again. I’ve seen my regulars…I get emotional knowing they’re okay. People are adjusting to having to be social with other humans again. I have seen random fights, extreme gratefulness, and horniness”

While these experiences with what many are calling the ‘new normal’ can often seem like a post-apocalyptic social experiment, “Everyone is just really happy to be out again,” in Amber’s opinion. She expressed great joy in her role at her brewery and, “giving people a place to feel normal for a moment and enjoy a great beer and great food. I feel work is starting to calm out again, kind of. Not back to normal but definitely not as hyped as it was when we first reopened with all of this. It’s been an honor being a part of the [brewery] fam, especially through a time like this. We really have an amazing crew. We’ve been sticking together and making it through!”

One facet of the craft beer community that is brought up over and over again by the people that are immersed in it is the sense of family. Beer is thicker than blood, or some proverb like that. This connection is perhaps the reason the craft beer industry has proven so resilient throughout the years, and this time is no exception. The ingenuity that these businesses showed in such troubling times is unlike anything I have ever personally witnessed before, though perhaps we wished a bit too hard during our New Year celebrations and brought a little of the 1920’s to present day. It is a comfort to know that whether the breweries are being shut down due to Prohibition or Coronavirus, the community I love will endure. Even if we have to switch to producing ice cream and vehicle bodies (learn your history, people!), we will adapt and, in some cases, even thrive.

However, this is not a COVID-19 Cinderella story. While the fortitude of the community cannot be understated, neither can the tribulations. Carolynn brought up a valid point. “I’m happy to report that we did not get furloughed or laid off during this time. But what we did do was work extremely hard, not get hazard pay, take a pay cut, put our health and, in turn, the health of our families or quarantine mates at risk, as well. I am happy to report that no one in my company has come down with COVID-19.”

So, what next? Just as this pandemic is not over, neither is the work. We are called to courage, to strength, but also to compassion. While we have to get through this-and we will- it lightens the load if we get through this together. Life gives us cruel trials, but it also gave us this community and this family. We will not dim our light. We need to take care of each other and ourselves. Our mental well-being is just as important as our physical health. We have to make ourselves a priority. But beyond that. We need to support our local businesses. As the world reopens, resolve to visit more small businesses. Tip. Everyone is working really hard. Give donations or, even better, your time to local causes to help those in the community that are struggling. Take precautions and be considerate of those around you. But, most importantly…be kind. To yourself. To others. We are all just doing the best we can.


Industry Inspiration: Craft Beer Girls Beer & Body

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
– Coretta Scott King

For a number of years now, I have been fortunate enough to be part of the craft beer community. As I’ve mentioned so many times previously, there is something special about this community and its people, an overwhelming sense of acceptance and passion (and compassion) that I have never come across before or since.

While I am now fully immersed and engaged in this world, it certainly wasn’t always this way. When I first became interested in craft beer, I was very timid in regards to this crowd. The breadth of their knowledge and ability to discuss in-depth topics like yeast strains or style requirements resulted in me feeling very much out of my element.

As many of us do, I turned to the internet for answers. Being a Type A personality, I research when I feel inadequate regarding a topic. So I researched. But even that made me feel lost. There were so many differing opinions and technical verbiage,etc. that my head was spinning by the third article.

That is when I stumbled upon Craft Beer Girls Beer & Body. This group, originating on Facebook as a forum for women who share a passion for craft beer, welcomed me with open arms. It was as simple as a request to join and my entire outlook on the craft beer community was turned upside down.

I began, as I often do, as a quiet observer but soon became an active participant. It was hard not to engage though, to be honest, I could not really fathom what I was witnessing. I saw hundreds of different posts from women that ranged from a question about a beer they were thinking of sampling to someone posting a story about a mental health issue they were battling. As this was the internet, I kept waiting for a bully, a snide comment, or a troll. But, time and time again, without fail, I scrolled through dozens of uplifting and encouraging comments. Not a single negative or even slightly vicious comment to be found.

This was not just my first impression but has continued to ring true throughout my time in the group. Being both impressed and intrigued, I decided to ask the founder, Kate Christensen, about the origin of Beer & Body.

Kate explains that Craft Beer Girls Beer & Body sprang from her personal enjoyment of craft beer. “[I] grew up south of Cleveland, Ohio and my dad loved Great Lakes Brewing.  He got me into craft beer. I was a teacher and decided, after moving for my husband’s career several times, I wanted to do something I loved,so I started working at a brewery to learn more about craft beer. I just knew I loved it and it was something I was interested in learning more about.  I also like the laid-back vibe of the brewing world.  It’s a [lot] of hard work, and long hours but it’s a community that will accept you as you are.  I’m not a formal person and I’m super goofy (or so I think), so I needed to be in a community that could give me that daily.”

Kate adds, around the same time she began working in a brewery, Beer & Body was born. “I really just wanted a fun space for women who had craft beer in common.”

Beer & Body began as two sub-sections. The first is beer-centered, naturally. The second, however, is a fitness group that encompasses the “Body” part of the name. While this may seem counter-intuitive, Kate explains, “The fitness page really was a driving force [because] so many fitness groups or accounts (Instagram) were just not relatable for me.  I had a trainer tell me I couldn’t drink craft beer and workout.  So I felt like if I posted about drinking beer and working out, there could be some judgment.  I wanted a place for me and a place for other craft beer loving females to post real sweaty selfies and ask questions about real life things that we could all relate to.”

After those groups became increasing popular, sub-groups were created for each state. “The ladies wanted to meet their local B&B ladies so it was natural to create all the state groups to make it easier to connect.” 

From there, the momentum was unstoppable. Today, there is a sub-group for just about any topic one might want to discuss. Kate expresses, “I just want ladies to know it’s a whole community for them.  I encourage them to find our subgroups too and join one that they are interested in.  The subgroups are smaller, more intimate, and awesome for extra positivity, fun, and ideas in whatever it is you are interested in. Everything from Homebrew group to Books&Beer book club.”

Having a community that one can call their own within an even broader community is important, and has brought about a much fuller experience for me, personally. And while the craft beer community as a whole is very accepting and strives for equality, it is still difficult as women to get our foot in the door or to feel connected in this very male-dominated demographic. It can be frustrating and even lonely at times. Being able to turn to this group of well over 20,000 women is refreshing, not only for the feeling of connection, but for the variety of backgrounds and viewpoints these ladies bring to the metaphorical table.

I reached out for some specifics of what these wonderful women think of the group and what causes them to continue their participation. Overwhelmingly, the answer was the same: the community and the sense of acceptance. Many expressed that they felt they were able to be truly authentic and not fear judgement or shame. Some of the ladies explained to me that they were uncomfortable discussing beer with their friends because they did not drink and looked down on her. She commented it was freeing to be able to discuss her passions with people that understood. Personal stories were shared with me about acts of kindness from complete strangers to one another just because they saw a need and didn’t hesitate to step up. Again and again, the same words were used: support system, community, sisterhood. Kate echoes this sentiment, as well, when asked what her favorite thing about her creation has become: “The friendships, consistent kindness, support and real sense [of] team and community. We have THE best ladies ever!”

While this group continues to rapidly expand, Kate has a clear prerogative for the future. “We have to always remember to stay with our basics. I want it always to be a fun and safe space for craft beer ladies to share their lives and build friendships. Right now, we are focusing on BeerFriendships more than anything.  We are working on building the state groups and getting our ladies connected and into breweries together…If it’s in person or on Faceboook, it doesn’t matter. Bringing JOY to the lives [of] our B&B girls is #1 priority always.”

Beer & Body is also expanding past Facebook. The website is:   

This provides some wonderful information about the group but also a section of beer related shops- all owned and supported by members of Beer & Body. For instance, BrewerShirts provides logo apparel and Babe and The Beard offers other Beer & Body products.

Beer & Body can also be found on Instagram: @beerandbodycraftbeergirls  and each state has their own account. Beerandbody(state abrev).

While I used to scoff when anyone would use the phrase “found my tribe,” admittedly, since Beer & Body, I can’t help but say I get it. I honestly believe that a strong sense of community leads to a strong sense of self. I have grown as a person because of and along with these ladies. Especially in the age of the internet which seemingly divides so many, it gives me such hope to find examples of individuals building each other up in such genuine and meaningful ways.

So here’s to you, ladies.



“The best teamwork comes from men who are working independently toward one goal in unison”
-James Cash Penney

Since time immemorial, the human race has banded together in pursuit of common objectives, some of these based in survival and others based in truly living. Beer is one example of how, occasionally, it can be both.

Over the years,  brewers and drinkers alike have endeavored to create and consume quality craft beer, resulting in the craft beer culture we know today. One of the key pillars of this environment lies in independence. In fact, in some ironic sense, it depends on independence.

I was fortunate enough to be able to converse with Julia Herz, Craft Beer Program Director at the Brewers Association, regarding this facet of the craft beer community.  She emphasized how important independence is and has always been, commenting that it is  “a true part of the fabric of our country.”

But why should this matter in a beverage?

Turns out, quite a few reasons. Julia explains to me that “small businesses drive so much of our economy” and that craft breweries are far from an exception.  Sure, consumers help keep local breweries afloat and successful by being patrons and helping these businesses become profitable enough to sustain themselves and continue to make their product, but Julia says that it actually goes the other way, too. She asserts that craft breweries help stimulate entire communities with their outreach. Between events, fundraisers, and other programs, local craft breweries tend to take a vested interest in their consumers, far beyond that of a typical business transaction-centered relationship. In fact, the Brewers Association estimates that, in 2016, breweries donated approximately 73.4 million dollars!

While that number is pretty staggering, there are other reasons besides money to value craft breweries, specifically those independent and locally owned. Quality, variety, and passion come to mind. But, more importantly, trust. When I walk into a brewery, I can have confidence in the beer that I order. In most cases, I can literally look up and see where the drink in my hand was produced. If I speak with the brewer, they can tell me exactly what ingredients were used, how much, and from where. And I can hear the passion behind their words. I know that this is not just some mass-produced product, this is their little beer baby. There is an understanding that, upon handing me this beer, it is someone’s proud creation and I should cherish it for the rest of my life.

Well…at least for the rest of the pint.

While I have always believed that no one should be ashamed of what they drink, I do think everyone should know what they are drinking and be able to make an informed choice. So does the Brewers Association. The Brewers Association, which is a “membership organization dedicated to promoting and protecting small and independent craft brewers in the United States,” says that, unfortunately, making educated decisions based on face value is becoming harder. Whereas, in the past, one could make an educated choice simply by examining the beer bottle or can, these days, it has become a little trickier. This is in part to what is referred to as “craftwashing.”

Craftwashing is when a larger beer producer (think Anheuser-Busch InBev, MillerCoors, etc.) either mimics labeling to appear like an independent brewery or purchases a smaller company, keeping it “formally independent” but not truly independent. This means, even if a consumer looks at the label, they may not find proof of the parent company, and make the purchase believing they are supporting a small business, instead of a multi-million dollar corporation. And some people are quite content and don’t feel the need to know; we all have a right to spend our hard earned wages as we wish. However, the problem with these practices is that it muddles the information that a consumer uses to decide what they want to purchase. It is inherently deceitful in that it is an omission of all the proper facts. This also “skews the marketplace,” according to Julia, which is a large concern, as it diminishes the amount of opportunities and shelf/tap space for locally-owned/smaller breweries.

Julia reveals that brewers and consumers alike have been pushing for a definitive standard for quite some time. In late June 2017, their wish was granted. The Brewers Association introduced the #seektheseal movement, as well as the Independent Craft Brewer Seal which brewers can obtain and display both on their brewery entrances and their bottles/cans.

Julia explains that, to obtain usage of the seal, a brewery must meet certain credentials. The Brewers Association does clarify for their usage what a “craft brewer(y)” should be and the business must provide proof they fit this definition in that they are (among other factors) small, independently owned, and licensed. The seal depicts an inverted beer bottle to represent how the “U.S. craft beer movement has turned beer on its head worldwide.”

The seal accompanies the campaign’s slogan,

“That’s Independence You’re Tasting.”

To date, Julia reports that approximately 4,000 U.S. craft breweries participate in the #seektheseal movement and proudly display the seal. For perspective, she elaborates, this represents about 85% in volume of craft brewed beer. In fact, the movement already had over 400 participating breweries within the first day. Talk about traction!

While this is very good news for both brewers and consumers alike, the movement won’t stop there. It can’t stop there. As a consumer, it is our responsibility to #seektheseal.  Julia suggests several ways to do this. We must first prioritize what the Brewers Association stands for, which is “certified, independent, craft.” Choosing those breweries that furnish the seal is the best way to live out that priority.  The Brewers Association also proposes, for those social media savvy beer lovers, taking a photo of your seal and posting it to Instagram with the tagline of #seektheseal. This allows others to inquire into the campaign, become more educated themselves, and to also know what you stand for. Besides beer consumption, Julia notes that visiting the breweries themselves is a wonderful way to not only show your support, but to become more knowledgeable. “Tour the breweries,” she encourages, “Take a beer-cation.” I like the sound of that-as did an estimated 30 million people in 2017!

So while it might sound scary and a little like Big Brother brewery edition is taking over your right to choose certain aspects of your livelihood, there is quite a bit of silver lining. With so many people choosing independence and becoming more vocal about it, both in their online posting and their offline activities, craft breweries are thriving. If we continue to #seektheseal and do our part, we can continue to keep the craft alive and well and take back our independence in regards to choice. By empowering ourselves, we can empower the whole craft beer movement. You just have to take a stand or, in this case, a seal.

Julia, her enthusiasm evident in her voice, ends our conversation on this note, “It is the greatest time in history to be a beer lover.” And I couldn’t agree more.


To find more information on #seektheseal:


*All information/statistics/quotes taken from Julia Herz directly and/or Brewers Association website. All photos used in this article are property of Brewers Association and used with permission*

Brewery Spotlight: Pizza Boy Brewing

Peanut butter and jelly. Bacon and eggs. Oreos and milk. The food world’s power couples. Arguably, however, one of the prime courtships is fated to be pizza and beer. At Pizza Boy Brewing, they couldn’t agree more.

Offering a wide variety of both glorious fixtures, this 10,000 square foot location is quite the destination and houses both a brewery and a restaurant, Als of Hampden. Serving up so much more than just pizzas, the restaurant menu ensures that no one leaves hungry and the brew menu allows any palate to find hoppiness- I mean, happiness.

This happiness doesn’t just come from the products themselves, but from the people that create them.

“I think the most unique thing about our brewery is- though we do brew MANY IPA’s- our range of styles and unpretentious approach to beer. We enjoy having lots of fun: making fun of ourselves, laughing at the absurdities of the industry (and its patrons at times) and, lately, we’ve been having a blast with our labels and paying homage to some of our favorite things.”

This lighthearted attitude translates very clearly into both the labels and delicious brews inside. For instance, my favorite, their Michael Meyer’s Lemon IPA, is both entertaining in design and delightful in flavor.

Michael Meyers Lemon
How cool is that??

As Terry mentioned, Pizza Boy is known for their astounding array -as well as quality- of IPAs.  Even though IPAs are a style I am still acquiring a taste for myself, every IPA I’ve had from Pizza Boy is wonderful. They are crisp and clean, with an evenness I haven’t found in many of that style. And, of course, that hop bitterness one expects of an IPA. Terry says of Murren River, his current favorite, “it’s a classic West Coast style IPA, my favorite IPA style, and really screams Citra, one of my favorite hops.”

And Pizza Boy has more to offer than just IPAs. For instance, this delectable Belgian style aged with Brett named Whatever, Forever.  Keeping with the common standard, this brew is crisp and clean. It pours similar to a champagne- and there is plenty to celebrate!

Whatever, Forever by Pizza Boy

Even aside from the caliber of the brew, it is obvious that there is passion behind each beer. When asked about his craft beer love story, Terry told me,
“I grew up on Yuengling, not what most people think of craft beer these days, but certainly in the late 80’s to early 90’s it was; they let me know beer could have flavor. Then one day while moving out of an apartment in Ohio another guy was moving in and brought 2 big jugs of liquid in. When I asked him what they were he said ‘homebrew.’ I still didn’t know what he was talking about, then he said ‘it’s beer!’ I was shocked and amazed you could make beer at home so much so that, after I moved, I bought myself my first homebrew kit and the rest is history. It’s a fascinating process that never ceases to amaze me. Brewing is the perfect combination of science and art, how could I not love it?”

 I am far from the only one noticing their passion for the craft, however. Pizza Boy was recently invited to and attended the 2018 BXL BeerFest in Brussels, Belgium. This festival boasts sixty breweries from ten countries and each brewery must meet certain standards to be in attendance.


Terry says of his adventures at BXL, ” BXL BeerFest was a blast. It was humbling to be invited, to pour my beer in the company of the greats like Cantillon, Drie Fonteinen, Jester King, and so many more. I also met so many new, talented brewers like Beerbliotek from Sweden, Brauerei J. Kemker from Germany, Boundary Brewing Cooperative in Belfast, and L’Ermitage Nano Brasserie in Belgium. To me, this fest embodied the real spirit of brewing. It was so well organized and everyone was incredibly nice. Food was amazing, as well. It was truly an honor for me to represent myself and Pizza Boy, showcasing our beer to the world.”

Terry and his team exhibit the epitome of the universal theme of the craft beer world: there is a beer for everyone and a place for everyone in the craft beer community.

“As a brewer there’s a LOT of things I wish consumers knew about beer but really it’s all about what YOU like, what YOU enjoy drinking and that’s all that matters. My brewery? The only thing that matters to me is to constantly strive to do better, I want people to trust me and trust our brand, to really know we care about what we’re making…I brew for our local customers. Sure, our beer is distributed statewide and I listen to their wants and needs too, but I see my locals everyday. I try to do my best to brew something for everyone.”

And there truly is something for everyone.

So if you’re lucky enough to get that chance, snag a can or , even better, snag a seat at Pizza Boy!



To learn more about Pizza Boy Brewing, visit:

To learn more about BXL BeerFest, visit:

Brewery Spotlight: Saxony Hills


Tradition is the fabric that binds most communities, especially small ones, together. It is the assurance that, no matter the storms, our roots are firmly planted. However, without change, tradition somehow doesn’t mean as much. We can get so focused on protecting our roots that we forget to grow, the very reason for our roots at all. And at Saxony Hills, Brewmaster Mike Mills understands the importance of keeping the roots sturdy and the branches tall.

Starting even with the name, Saxony Hills springs from tradition. According to Mike, the brewery gets its namesake from “a state in Eastern Germany known as Saxony, or Sachsen. The state has a town in it called Altenburg, meaning ‘old town’ which is where many of the East Perry County natives originally came from. They are said to have chosen this area because of how much it reminded them of their native country.”

The brewery itself embraces its (more recent) history. Built in 1980, the building was once Citizen’s Electric. The tap room and brewhouse are located in what used to be the company warehouse. Even though they have made it their own, there are still subtle nods to this past, including keeping the old loading bay door and a collection of old signs, which ties it all nicely together.

2018 140

The beers also beckon to their birthplace’s ancestry. Mike says he wants to bring some old-world German beer styles back to a predominately German community. (And he would certainly be the one that could do it. Mike has been homebrewing since age 21 and professionally brewing since age 23, even attending the World Brewing Academy’s Siebel Institute. He tells me he has also sampled his fair share of early brand craft beers in his younger adventures of following the band Phish coast to coast.) However, Mike also says he doesn’t want to limit the creative spectrum and wants to evolve and grow with his styles. His favorite beer currently on tap is the Sweet Georgia’s Brown, which is a brown saison with peaches and aged in oak chips that were soaked in Hemman Winery’s apricot wine. Mike says of Sweet Georgia’s, “I love how refreshing the peach brown Saison is and, at 4.4%, you can afford to have more than just a couple and not feel like you need a V8.” This beer is my favorite as well and also has a solid foundation in history. “Saison means ‘season’ in French. This is a style of  beer that was brewed by the seasonal workers throughout the winter months to not only give them something to do, but it was also used as a big part of the workers pay and diet as a result.”
(I don’t blame them- much of my wages end up in beer anyway!)


Why so much emphasis on history and tradition? Mike says it isn’t just Saxony Hills, but all those in the craft beer world that hold that in their core values, and with good reason. “The beers we craft brewers are creating have a story to tell that is centuries old in most cases. We really aren’t the new kids on the playground, we are the wise young ones who listened to- and appreciated- the lessons of the old timers’ understanding of why beer was the way it was, and we not only remake it, but we remake it with modern equipment, ingredients, and unbridled creativity, as well as a better scientific understanding of how and why we do what we do.”

Mike does add that there is something to be said for bringing traditions into the modern era to make them your own, however. “What makes crafting traditional styles of beer in a modern day setting so great is that we can take different aspects to create different beers to suit different people’s preferences. There is a craft beer out there for every beer drinker willing to try something new and I think that is one thing that keeps me passionate about the craft beer industry: it is an evolving creative outlet that draws inspiration from many other art forms, which makes it not only boundlessly creative, but also accessible to anybody who appreciates thinking outside of the status quo.”

The beverages aren’t the only area that Mike applies this thinking to. The Saxony Hills menu is one that is ever-evolving and always pleasing. In similar fashion to the brewing styles, Chef Riley also puts his version of a modern twist on classic dishes. While everything I tasted was exceptional, the Bavarian Nachos were my favorite, as well as one of the better fusion dishes I’ve ever experienced. Topped with smoked sausage, sauerkraut, green onions, tomatoes, beer cheese, and a bit of Brewhouse mustard, this dish is a work of culinary art. Even the mustard, which made me a little hesitant, fit perfectly into the dish, allowing for a complex flavor profile. And the pretzel bread pudding with stout sauce for dessert had me (happily) raving for days.

Roots are the foundation on which any strong tree grows, but that isn’t necessarily the way of the craft beer enthusiast. We grow like hops. Like vines, we must keep with forward motion, keeping our faces towards the sun and constantly growing. Never forgetting where we come from but knowing we can only take it along and we cannot stay on the ground forever. Because, like hops, there are many types but, by working together and for something more than ourselves, we can become the very fibers of history and the flower into which it blooms.

“I feel we’re all on our own journey to create something unique and pleasing…it is a joy and an honor to be a part of defibrillating the heart of local beer and what it represents in a community.”


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To find out more about Saxony Hills, visit:



Brewery Spotlight: Charleville


Tucked away between rolling green hills and rich foliage is a hidden gem of Ste. Genevieve county: Charleville. Boasting not only a brewery and a winery, Charleville also provides a B&B, just in case you realize you’re not quite ready to say good-bye to those picturesque views.

Brought to life 15 years ago by Jack and Joal Russell, Charleville has become a family dream. Their son, Tait, is the Director of Operations at Charleville, which is actually a family name itself.

Jack and Joal Russell (who are the sweetest people you’ll ever meet, by the way.)

Tait let me in on a little secret: he hasn’t always liked craft beer. But, just like many of us on the path to craft beer, one day he stumbled into love at first drink. And you don’t forget your first love…or, in this case…loves.
“Easy Street Wheat & 90 Schilling by Odell’s  and Fat Tire by New Belgium when I went to school in Ft. Collins, CO back in 1995… I never liked beer until I tried those!” Tait enthuses.

Since being bitten by the beer bug, Tait got his brewing certificate from the American Brewers Guild and has spent the last thirteen years brewing professionally. He says of his experience in the craft beer world:
” I love the people in our industry, and hands on physical work suits me, I couldn’t live in a cubicle, I like to go and move!  I only wear suits when my wife tells me to, I am a shorts and flip-flops kind of guy!”

Even though these days he is behind the scenes handling operations, sales, and distributions, he maintains his passion for the craft by brainstorming new creations with his talented brewers, Kevin and Don, on their impressively large (30 BBL) system. And the things they come up with…

…are delicious.


When asked what his current favorite brew on tap is, Tait chose Cloud Breaker IPL (India Pale Lager) because “it has all the Qualities of a well made lager but with the Hop intensity of an IPA.  We used Bravo, Centennial and Citra Hops.”
And the rest of the menu is just as enticing. Naturally, once I tried one, I had to try them all. For research. And…quality control. That’s it. Gotta make sure they’re all as good. Spoiler: they are.
For example, the Coffee Stout is so on the nose, it causes you to want to start drinking before 10am just so you can start your day off with it. And the Mango Habanero beer is one of the most balanced pepper beers I’ve ever had. It’s juicy with just a slight heat at the end, which gives a fun kick without causing a four-alarm fire inside your throat.
Their Strawberry Blonde, which smells exactly like a strawberry patch, is even in demand at Busch Stadium!

In fact, it’s all in such high demand that Charleville has expanded to a second location and tap room in downtown St. Louis, Missouri. Amongst the hustle and bustle of the city, Charleville provides a welcoming atmosphere with plenty to do, no matter what day of the week it is. While closed on Mondays, Tuesday- Friday offers a Happy Hour from 3-6pm and trivia every Wednesday night. A delectable food menu ties everything together into a can’t-miss experience!

So whether you are in the mood for a light, crisp beer in a relaxed, rural setting or a brew with a kick in an animated, metropolitan scene, Charleville has something for everyone!


To learn more about Charleville:




Getting Weird With Beer

“The greatness of art is not to find what is common but what is unique.”
-Isaac Bashevis Singer

One of my favorite things about the craft beer community is the acceptance of the strange. While there are always exceptions, for the most part, the community will accept you with open arms (but full hands- let’s be real, we don’t wanna put the beer down.) Beer is a strange discovery as is and can represent and tie together both traditional history and the evolving uniqueness of the world. When it comes to this craft, brewers certainly brew very specific, classical styles and there are certain rules regarding what can pass for a given type. However, there is also more than enough room for having fun and getting crazy by pushing the limits of what could- or should- be possible. In fact, that’s part of the charm. So, today, I’ve picked two of the craziest sounding beers I have found thus far.

Let’s get weird.


The Drink-Along: Bozo Beer| Evil Twin Brewing

Bozo Beer by Evil Twin

Evil Twin is one of those breweries that keeps cranking out new, innovative brews and I am obsessed. So, of course, this one drew me in. The name, for starters, issues a challenge that I couldn’t help but accept. And, at 17.2% ABV, it’s quite a sucker punch. It is a Imperial Stout with “molasses, lactose, chocolate, almond, hazelnut, vanilla bean, cinnamon, oak spiral, chili, marshmallow, muscovado sugar, and coffee” which is SO MUCH. Guys- it’s so much. That being said, it was surprisingly easy to pick out notes of almost all of the individual flavors which is impressive, considering just how much they were able to cram into one drink. Thankfully, for my taste, there was far less of a syrupy molasses flavor than I expected, although there were certainly notes. The chocolate and the chili balanced well, also. In fact, no one ingredient overpowered another.  However, it certainly does not taste nearly as boozy as it is, so do drink with discretion. Or share with as many people as there are ingredients.

So now that we’ve established ourselves as dessert-first drinkers, let’s move on to our entree.

The Drink-Along: Out Of The Lunchbox| The Bruery

Out of the Lunchbox by the Bruery

Just in time for back-to-school, we have liquid peanut butter and jelly sandwich. I am a sucker for this theme in a beer. This was the subject of one of my first homebrews and I can vouch for how tough it is to make a beer that tastes like not only a sandwich, but one that is so iconic. This is not one you can get “close enough.”

The color, first off, is gorgeous. Definitely can discern “jelly” from this. Admittedly, I am not a fan of the initial taste, as it reminds me of a stout which is not the advertised style nor is it a style I feel works with the intended flavor profile. HOWEVER. The after taste is creepily on the nose. The mouthfeel feels exactly like it would after taking a bite out of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, complete with the bread-y flavor and feel. The sweetness of the berry mimics jelly very well and works with the peanut butter. It is incredibly balanced, although I would prefer more peanut butter. That being said, speaking from experience, even getting this much to come through successfully is a win. Overall, the combination of the flavors and mouthfeel in the aftertaste is incredible enough to eclipse the initial taste, making this a slam dunk in my book despite itself.

As we’ve seen (and tasted,) taking chances can lead to surprisingly fun results. Although not all risks come with rewards, even if you end up looking like a “bozo,” the risks are worth taking. Especially in craft beer. So take the chance to sit with the weird kid at lunch, especially if that kid is a beer and tastes like a sandwich.









My Milkshake Brings All The Beers To The Yard…

I don’t know about you guys, but I have never been one to follow fads. I have never been up on the latest fashions or honestly even cared what was popular. Not that it’s a bad thing, it’s just never been my thing. That being said, beer trends have fascinated me from the very beginning of my craft beer journey. It is incredible to me that, in an ever-growing world full of endless possibilities, enough people can still come together to agree on a certain style of beer.  We have previously discussed the beer trend of the New England style IPA. Today, however, we will be looking at a new up-and-comer. The Nitro Smoothie/Milkshake beer.

This is one of the coolest styles I’ve seen in awhile for a multitude of reasons. The first is that it is a nitro beer. Nitro being short for, ya know, Nitrogen. Most beers use carbon dioxide, so this is already a bit different. The main reason for using Nitrogen is to cause smaller bubbles so the head seems thicker and creamier. Which leads us to the smoothie part of the beer. Depending on the brewery, I have seen these referred to as milkshake but, more commonly and perhaps more aptly, as smoothie beers. I have seen so many varieties from Stouts to IPAs, but the main things they have in common are they are brewed with lactose (which adds some body and definitely some sweetness) and they typically have smoothie/milkshake flavors, such as mango or vanilla.

The Drink Along: Whipped |  Stillwater Artisanal and Oliver Brewing collaboration

There are actually several different versions of the Whipped collaboration, including an IPA. However, I chose the style that most called to me: Sour Raspberry Nitro Smoothie Ale. (Most are referring to this as Volume 3, I believe.)

Whipped- Stillwater, Oliver 3.jpg

The first thing that caught my eye was the vintage can design which is, frankly, groovy. The second is the instructions. Shake up and then pour. Well, alright. Typically counter-intuitive to most beers, however this actives the nitrogen and doesn’t make nearly the mess it would with other beers.

Whipped- Stillwater, Oliver.jpg

Just a little mess.

The head on this beer was gorgeous. Full, thick, and creamy. Make all the inappropriate jokes you want but it was impressive.

Whipped- Stillwater, Oliver 2

The major downside is it came out smelling very much like burnt rubber. I have talked with several people who have tried this and haven’t had this issue so it is definitely just the particular batch. It could come from a couple different issues but I won’t really fall down that rabbit hole.  The main thing is it definitely wasn’t kept cold enough (can instructs to keep ice cold) so I will definitely have to get another one…..for science.

While very off-putting at first, I gave it a chance and let the smell dissipate. And I’ll tell you, I wasn’t disappointed. It certainly has a heavier, denser feel than most sour ales and tastes super creamy, as well. It really lives up to the smoothie descriptor. To be honest, it was so close I half expected to accidentally wind up with a raspberry seed in my teeth. The fruit flavor comes through smoothly and very balanced. Surprisingly, even with the added sweetness, the sour aspects came through as well.

Hands down, I think the two most important things to keep in mind when drinking craft beer are to have both an open mind and a decent amount of bravery. Some batches or even entire beers don’t turn out and can have some…interesting…side effects, like a rubber smell. Admittedly, there is also a level of common sense on when to abandon that particular ship for more more flavorful –  I mean, favorable- seas. But, in this case, my bravery was rewarded. I certainly understand why so many people have become enamored with this style and, if anything, this experience has made me even more curious to see what others are doing. And to even try a different batch of this one.

So la la la la the beers are waiting.



Domestic vs Craft Beer

“With but few exceptions, it is always the underdog who wins through sheer willpower.”
-Johnny Weissmuller

With all this talk about craft beer, it is important to realize what allows it to be considered “craft.” It certainly isn’t sitting around whittling birdhouses, so what makes it so special?

To best grasp what craft beer is, it may be easier to first understand what it is not. Non-craft beers that are brewed in a particular country and circulate throughout are considered “domestics” while those brewed outside and have to be brought in are called “imports.” The imports category can have many different types under its umbrella so, for now, we will focus on domestics.

Domestic breweries tend to be extremely large scale and considerably older than most craft breweries. This is because most of the domestic beer companies that are still around are those few that survived Prohibition.  They are also, generally speaking, cheaper than the majority of craft beers. Examples of this are Miller, Coors, and Budweiser.

This all sounds great, so why even bother with craft brews?

Like most things, just because it sounds good on paper, doesn’t always make it true in execution. The first and biggest strike against them is that most only produce American Lagers, which is not an issue if that is the style you like all the time. But, for most people, the same thing gets boring after awhile. After Prohibition was repealed, a few brewers felt the same way and decided to try something different. From there, craft beer was born and, today, hundreds of varieties are available.

While craft breweries tend to stay small, there is a certain appeal to that. The breweries are able to stay more customer-centric and keep a decisive level of quality. It also allows for more creative brewing, creating styles and variations of styles that would be much more difficult on such a large scale as most domestic producers. The number of styles adds to the inclusiveness of the craft beer world, leading to the phrase of “there’s a craft beer for everyone.”

At the end of the day, it boils down to preference. And no judgements here if domestics are your jam. Be proud of the beer you like. However, personally, I see it as the difference between Wal-Mart and the local mom and pop shops. I know that one is cheaper and more convenient, but the other is going to be run with passion and personal motivation.

And I personally choose passion.







Brewery Spotlight: Minglewood

“A couple more shots of whiskey, I’m going down to Minglewood.”
-Grateful Dead


The sun was shining as I strolled down the sidewalk and up to the doors of Minglewood Brewery. The outside architecture hinted at the past stories of this river town building constructed in 1891. Suffice it to say, this building has seen some sights.  This historically registered establishment was originally home to a Masonic temple, then a well known local music store and, most recently, is the residence of Minglewood Brewery.

As I enter, I catch my favorite Blues Traveler song floating on artisan pizza-scented air that fills my nose and causes my stomach to rumble. Humming along, I take a seat at the bar, a gorgeous wood installment that is reminiscent of dark driftwood. In fact, the entire brewery is a stunning blend of dark wood, brick, and Edison lights.


A friendly bartender takes my order and, after,  I take a moment to glance around, participating in my favorite sport of people watching. The strangest sight catches my attention. I notice that, unlike anywhere else, hardly anyone is on their phones. Instead of growing another digital appendage, everyone is interacting with each other, content just conversing and laughing in the comfortable atmosphere that is the brewery. There’s a couple clearly on their first date who are breaking the ice over a gigantic Bavarian pretzel and house-made beer cheese. At the next table, a girl snarls her nose up at her friend offering her a beer, emphatically stating she does not like beer. Her friend, rolling her eyes, pushes it her way with a “Just try it.” The girl reciprocates the eye roll and takes the tiniest of sips. And then a big gulp. “You know, that’s really good. Is that what beer is supposed to taste like?” she asks.  A bit further down, there’s a group of businessmen who are making it very clear they’re excited that their boss chose to have their meeting at a place with beer on tap and rugby on television.

A smiling server brings me out of my own thoughts by placing a pizza in front of me. I notice three things immediately. One, that pizza is the best looking pizza I think I’ve ever seen. Two, not only is she smiling, but all the servers and bartenders are too, even while they’re briskly walking around. Which makes me and everyone they interact with smile. Three, did I mention that pizza, though??? It’s a taco on a pizza! Not to mention, made with grain from the beers: Bonus!



Of course, this glorious meal would not be complete without a beer. While the tap offerings are all in close but delicious competition with each other for my ‘favorite,’ the Satellite IPA wins out today. While IPAs are typically not my go-to, this version of a New England style IPA is perfection, easily my favorite example of the style. Stuart Matthews, owner of Minglewood, agrees. “[New England IPA] is a style that’s growing in popularity despite its non traditional hazy appearance.  But the tropical fruit aroma and low bitterness has made it my go-to beer as of late.  And my number one selling beer as well.” And he isn’t exaggerating. Stuart tells me that the first couple batches of the Satellite sold out in just a few hours and demand has only increased.


While being one of the first to successfully bring this style to the area, it is far from the only aspect that makes Minglewood stand out. “The most recent thing that makes Minglewood unique is that we’re the first brewpub in the state to deliver beer with our pizza.  We have a phone app and customers can order from our website.  It’s city wide in Cape Girardeau.  Only on weekends as of now.” And if that isn’t enticing enough, they also can beer directly off the tap at request that can be taken home in an insulated brown bag designed specifically to fit.


And if you don’t think that’s the best name ever, you’re just wrong.

Minglewood certainly has a wide array of offerings. The variety and flavor of their artisan pizza menu is enough of a head turner on its own, but when paired with beer that is made with precision and passion, they just can’t go wrong. Nor do they intend to. Unlike some businesses that get comfortable and lax after their first few years, Minglewood has made it clear they’re just getting started. With new styles of beer being expertly brewed all the time and their evolving relationship with the local community, they strive to prove that everyone has a place in the craft beer world, even if you’ve never experienced craft beer before.

“If you’re not familiar with craft beer and you’re willing to expand your pallet, then there’s a Minglewood beer for you.”

And you better believe I will be back for Minglewing Monday.


And yes, I did, in fact, finish that entire pizza by myself.




* Credit where credit is due to Stuart Matthews for providing some of the lovely photos for today’s blog*