Press Clips: Finch Beer in Flux; Another Chicago Recall; White Labs Eyes January Asheville Opening


Finch Beer Closes Brewery, Abandons Brewpub and Moves to Partner Brewing

Chicago-based Finch Beer Co. will reportedly close its original brewery on Elston Avenue, leave the brewpub it launched in June and begin partner brewing with a yet-to-be-named Windy City brewery, according to the Chicago Tribune.

“An opportunity came up for us that solves a lot of the strategic challenges we’ve had,” Finch Beer Co. partner Jeff Bergau told the Tribune.

“This is all part of a bigger strategy,” he added. “We’re investing in growth.”

An auction of Finch’s 15-barrel brewhouse, 30-barrel fermentation tanks and canning line is scheduled for Tuesday, January 10.

As for The Finch Kitchen brewpub that opened in the wake of the Breakroom Brewery’s closure, chef and restaurateur Matthias Merges is reportedly pulling out of the project, citing “a toxic work environment.”

The brewpub will instead partner with another yet-to-be-named brewery, according to Jeff Piejak, one of the founders of Breakroom, who still leases the space.

Finch’s five years of existence has been tumultuous, with production growing to 10,200 barrels in 2015 while promises of building a brewery on the Chicago River — and later in Long Grove — never coming to fruition. Earlier this year, the brewery’s original investors forced out its namesake founder Ben Finch and changed the name of the company from Finch’s to Finch.

Citing data from market research firm IRI, the Tribune reported that sales of Finch beer dropped 64 percent by the end of November versus 2015.


Off Color Brewing Recalls Bottles of Troublesome

Last week, Chicago’s Off Color Brewing announced a contamination issue involving 400 cases of Troublesome gose that were bottled and distributed in its home city in early October.

“Well, this is embarrassing,” the brewery wrote on Facebook. “After taming the wild side of our brewery for over three and half years, a wild yeast made it into one our regular beers. Don’t worry, we have see no evidence the wild yeast has spread beyond the 400 cases of Troublesome bottled in early October distributed only in Chicago.”

The issue involved bottles of Troublesome dated “Bottled on 10 OCT 2016.” Off Color is offering fresh beer to those who return damaged product to the brewery’s bottle shop or the original purchase location.

In its description of Troublesome, Off Color wrote of the process in making the beer:

“Most brewers spend a lot of time and effort keeping lactobacillus out of their breweries; it was the first thing we brought in (it still has to stay in the corner though). We blend together two different beers to make Troublesome. The first is a somewhat uninteresting wheat beer and the second is an overly acidic & funky beer fermented solely with lactobacillus. We blend the two beers together with coriander and salt at the tail end of fermentation to create a mild, lemony tartness and a fuller sensation of mouthfeel. And yes, it’s hard to make.”

Troublesome, indeed.

surly brewing logo

Surly Names New Brewmasters

The fallout from Todd Haug’s acrimonious departure from Minnesota’s Surly Brewing is ongoing. Earlier this week, Surly named Jerrod Johnson and Ben Smith as the co-head brewers, according to the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Both had worked under Haug at Surly.

“Neither of us are alpha-male competitive types,” Johnson told the Star Tribune, “so instead of competing over who would get the job, we told [owner] Omar [Ansari] we would just really like to do it together. We learn from each other, just like we learned a lot from Todd.”

Ansari finally gave his side of Haug’s sudden departure to Indiana’s Three Floyds Brewing Co, saying he had a deal with the brewmaster that he thought was fair but was negotiable.

“When the chef leaves the restaurant, the recipes don’t go with him,” Ansari said.

Haug had kind words to say about his replacements — “I leave behind a great and capable production staff” — but not for Ansari — “I built, recipied, named, mentored, branded Surly’s beer and brand, and the owner couldn’t get together any type of plan to retain me. I quit Omar, not my job.”

Meanwhile, Ansari dismissed rumors that he would sell Surly.

“That will never happen while I’m here,” he told the paper. “The idea has always been to keep this a family brewery.”

Also of note, Surly is adding new tanks this month that will double its capacity to about 200,000 barrels a year.


Dogfish Head Involved in Trademark Dispute

Delaware-based Dogfish Head Brewery is trying to prevent a New York City business called Dogfish Accelerator from using the “Dogfish” name, according to The New York Post.

In a lawsuit filed in the New York Eastern District Court, the brewery claims the accelerator asked for a sponsorship deal in 2013, which the company denied. Dogfish Head, founded in 1995 by Sam Calagione, asked the incubator to stop using the name.

Dogfish Head had also previously blocked the New York company from registering the name with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The accelerator, which reportedly “finances films and ‘media rockstars,” denies ever asking for a sponsorship, the Post reported.

Newark Moves Toward Allowing Microbreweries and Beer Gardens

The city of Newark, DE, doesn’t allow microbreweries, beer gardens and distilleries within its city limits. That may soon change as city leaders are pushing for a zoning change to allow small-scale production of alcohol and sales in certain districts through a special-use permit, reports the Newark Post.

The Newark City Council is now taking the matter under consideration.


White Labs’ Asheville Facility to Open in January

San Diego-headquartered yeast production company White Labs will open its new facility and headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina, in January, according to the company’s website.

“Ultimately, the facility will be ramping up operations in three phases with all construction ending in late spring 2017 (fingers crossed, you know how construction plans unfold),” the company reported on its website.

How far along is the project? White Labs has just begun to move its yeast propagation equipment into the space.

“Once production begins in January, we will be producing a limited amount of yeast from this location and likely still shipping most of our supply from San Diego,” White Labs said.

White Labs’ tasting room and restaurant likely won’t be open to the public until late spring.

In the meantime, the White Labs is hiring staff for the Asheville facility

almanac cans ipa

Almanac Beer Co. Stops Canning Beer, Focuses on Barrel Aging

Just six months after starting to can of its beer, Almanac Beer Co. said it would cease production of the aluminum-packed beer offerings in its” Fresh Beer” lineup. The San Francisco-based beer company will instead focus its efforts on a barrel-aging program and a soon-to-open taproom.

“After a thoughtful and difficult decision, Almanac is announcing the end of our canned Fresh Beer line and associated draft products,” Almanac announced on its blog on December 9. “This includes San Francisco IPA, Saison Dolores, Craft Pilsner and Mandarina. We loved these beers and we are sad to see them go. However, we’ve realized through this process that Almanac’s heart and soul is brewing barrel-aged beer and our resources are best served continuing to build and expand our extensive oak program.”

In May, Almanac introduced the Fresh Beer line of four year-round beers as part of a collaboration with Speakeasy Ales & Lagers.

An opening date has yet to be announced for the taproom, which the brewery says “will finally provide a comprehensive Almanac experience — one that seamlessly melds our passions for California-sourced ingredients into exceptional beer and seasonal cuisine.”

Drizly Bear Logo

Drizly Suspends Service to Kansas City

After announcing it would begin offering home delivery of alcohol to the Kansas City, Missouri, area last week, Boston-based Drizly quickly suspended the service after questions arose as to whether it complied with the city’s liquor laws.

“We’ve become aware that while at the state level Drizly is compliant, the delivery aspect of our business and how it pertains to specifics of The City of Kansas City’s liquor codes require further review with our counsel and the city,” Drizly co-founder Justin Robinson told The Kansas City Star in an email. “We always err on the side of caution. As we re-review local regulations, we’ve suspended our home delivery option prior to any orders being placed today.”

Kansas City laws prohibit alcohol deliveries unless a person has made payment in-person at a liquor store — which defeats the purpose of ordering from home through the app.

Last week, Drizly began service in Ohio and Connecticut, touting that its service is now available in 40 cities in the United States and Canada.


Rock Bottom Logo (PRNewsFoto/Rock Bottom)

Rock Bottom Logo (PRNewsFoto/Rock Bottom)Rock Bottom Logo (PRNewsFoto/Rock Bottom)

Rock Bottom Brewery Closing in Seattle

The Seattle location of Rock Bottom Brewery will close for good at 5 p.m. on New Year’s Eve, according to the Seattle Post Intelligencer.

Rock Bottom head brewer Josh Dalton told the PI that the closure was due to the property owner wanting to redevelop Rainier Square.

Dalton has reportedly brewed several beers to commemorate Rock Bottom’s final days.

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