OCB Conference, Part 4: Beer Weeks and Beer Glasses

Afternoon sessions at the OCB conference.

Session 4:

  1. New Canadian Malting Barley Breeding and Innovation Science Cluster, Implications for Craft Brewers and Supply-Chain Management: Managing Your Raw Materials over The Next Three Years
  2. How to Start to Do Business with The Beer Store
  3. Interprovincial Export
  4. Craft Beer Weeks: Insights & Strategies

I am an organizer by nature, so listening to organizers talk about how to organize beer events proved to be irresistible. The panel consisted of Cass Enright (bartowel.com) and Troy Burtch, two of the organizers of Toronto Beer Week; J.P.Fournier, organizer of National Capital Beer Week in Ottawa and Anetta Jewell, one of the organizers of Ontario Craft Beer Week.

Rather than trying to analyse each speaker, here are the important points of organizing your own beer week:

  • Have a mission statement. Give your efforts some focus. What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Consider having some sort of printed material. Toronto Beer Week now has a “passport” listing the names of participating bars (that includes ads from breweries and bars, of  course.)
  • Social media. Do we have to say this? Website. Twitter feed. Facebook page. Pinterest. Just do it.
  • Invite the media. If you don’t know how to write a media release, learn. Find out who the media people are in your area and get in touch.
  • Help the media to help you. But don’t depend just on reporters or the regular beer columnists. Widen your scope: Contact bloggers, food & drink editors, etc.
  • There are advantages to keeping the date generic. Ontario Craft Beer Week starts on Father’s Day each year — this means they can recycle glassware and posters from year to year, since the start date doesn’t change
  • Municipal government: Getting the city on-side is essential, so have your numbers ready. What economic impact will your event have on the city? How many festival-goers will you draw? Outside of beer, how much money will they spend on food, shopping and hotels?
  • Engage the beer community: Get homebrew clubs and beer lover groups involved. Plan events that will help local breweries show off.
  • Keep it fun. Beer drinkers are fun. If you want serious, organize a wine festival.
  • Be patient. Every panellist said an event can take three years to find its feet.

Session 5:

  1. Ins & Outs of Craft Beer Export to the U.S.
  2. Taste & Aroma: Craft Beer Glassware Workshop and Tasting
  3. Understanding Malt: The Soul of Beer
  4. On-Premise Draught Quality

Only one session featured beer tasting, so was there any question which one I would choose? Giulio Accardi and Frank Vechiarelli of Brand Concepts talked to us about glassware. The most important thing is to match shape to style by choosing glassware that brings forward the appearance, aroma or taste that the brewer wants. Of course Belgium has turned this into a national obsession — there are some Belgian bars that will not serve a particular beer if they don’t have the proper glassware in stock. For example, the tall, thin-walled pilsner glass promotes the delicate colour and fluffy head of the Bohemian pilsner. The tulip glass concentrates vapours and therefore promotes aroma.

Glasses are expensive, so take bar owners have to treat their glassware properly:

  • Never take a glass right out of the dishwasher and fill it with cold beer. The result is usually a fractured glass
  • On the other hand, don’t store glasses in the freezer — they are more fragile, and the frost that forms will dilute beer poured into it
  • Don’t stack glasses: stacking causes micro-nicks that can cause overcarbonation due to more nucleation sites, and can cause the glass to eventually break. Instead of stacking, store them upside down on a tray then put another tray on top of those glasses to start another layer.
  • Don’t use beer glasses for pop or milk — the residues can interfere with beer head formation.

Now, what if you’re a brewer and you want to get your logo on some glasses? Lead paints have been used to provide bright colours on glass since Roman times; however, we now realize that lead is dangerous, and there are currently several much healthier options:

Decorators have developed unleaded paints that are fired at high temperatures to cure. They are very durable, but some of the colours are not very bright,

A new technology is UV colour: a plastic design  is applied to the glass and then cured with UV light. On the plus side, it has a full range of brilliant Pantone colours including bright silver, (but not gold), and contains no heavy metals. However it is scratchable, and has long-term durability issues.

Or there is the thermo-chromatic decoration — paint that changes colour with response to temperature. It can be cute watching your design change as the beer cools down the glass, but the number of colours are limited.

You could add metallic gold highlights using a thin micro-layer of real gold, or metallic silver highlights, which are actually white gold, not actual silver, but dishwashers are hard on the metal.

Then there are custom molded glasses embossed with a design. Wow, expensive. The mold alone costs $50,000 to create, with a minimum run of 80,000 glasses.

How about the laser-etched logo in the bottom of the glass? Just make sure not to overdo it — the etching creates nucleation sites, so a large logo can result in overproduction of foam.

Finally, we took a single beer — it happened to be Great Lakes Crazy Canuck, a bitter northwest style pale ale with a piney nose — and poured it into three different glasses: a traditional shaker pint, a tulip glass and a thin-walled pilsner glass. It was surprising how much of a difference the shape of the glass made to both the aroma and the taste. The aroma was intensified by the tulip glass, while the pilsner glass seemed to provide more flavour and mouthfeel. The important point was that the shaker pint glass — the one in which most of our beer is served — came in a poor third in both categories

Final session: The Pioneers

All attendees got back together for the final session, a discussion of the early days of craft brewing in Ontario with Jim Brickman (Brick Brewing, the first microbrewery in Ontario, 1984) and John Wiggins (Creemore Springs, 1987). There were a lot of great stories; my notes consist of some quotable quotes:

  • “It pays to be dumb.” — Wiggins, when asked if he would’ve opened a brewery if he had known all of the problems he would face.
  • “My tactic was to not let them have the beer.” — Wiggins, explaining his strategy of refusing to sell beer to bars that approached him, in order to increase demand for his product, while also ensuring that he didn’t have to drive all over Ontario to deliver beer.
  • “Beer is a myth in the mind of the consumer.” — Wiggins, saying that the brewer must give consumers a story about the beer, and create a myth in the minds of licensees.
  • “Craft beer has to maintain quality in order to maintain an edge of authenticity.” — Brickman, explaining what craft beer must do to continue its high rate of growth

And that was the end of the conference. All in all, a day full of positive energy, as well as useful marketing and business insights for craft brewers in Ontario. I’ll be back next year.

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3 Comments on “OCB Conference, Part 4: Beer Weeks and Beer Glasses”

  1. Canageek Says:

    Why not laser etc the logo into the outside of the glass, so that it doesn’t create more nucleation sites? Also; has anyone looked into making beer glasses out of tempered glass (Better thermal response, excellent shatter resistance) or borosilicate glass (Amazing temperature resistance; I’ve had things at liquid nitrogen temperature inside, then poured hot water on the outside without it shattering, and better durability). They are more expensive, but not much more; pyrex kitchenware is made of one or the other, depending on where or when it was made.

    • Alan Brown Says:

      The etching on the inside of the glass is supposed to create nucleation sites so that there is a handsome curttain of bubles created in the shape of the logo. However, too much etching can produce too many bubbles. The problem with tempered glass is that it does not shatter tyhe same way as regular glass: While regular glass mainly breaks into big pieces, tempered glass shatters into tiny pieces that are hard to find, and can make their way into nearby food and drink.

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