On Saturday, Forbes dropped a story about Barrels & Sons Brewery, or Sons Beer, an upstart company in Napa Valley bent on creating one of the world’s best pilsners. According to the article, it's already America's "hottest" somehow. Straight forward enough, right? Wrong! In the parlance of our unfortunate times, you won’t believe what happened next!
Actually, in the parlance of reality, you totally will: The article – headlined “Three Sons Of Famous Fathers Launch A New Brewery And Produce The Hottest Pilsner On The Market” – quickly became the subject of vocal scorn on social media. And nothing was off limits. As the article circulated, people took to mocking both the J. Crew handsomeness of the “sons of famous fathers” in question, the author’s own breathless, purple prose (his Twitter handle is fittingly @TheLuxeWorld), and eventually the facts of the story themselves, which are really the worst part in all of this.
Which brings us here. Why? Why were they being mocked so vigorously? To make a world-class pilsner is far from an ignoble pursuit. How did these three random people seemingly unify divisive factions of the beer industrial complex in utter contempt? If we can't unite around fighting the "Armada" of wine and spirits, this lightning rod certainly will.
Well, for starters, these aren’t just any “famous” sons (as teased by the headline). These are the sons of booze industry royalty, a Busch included! From Forbes:
“Carlo Mondavi, Jacob Busch and Elliott Taylor are best friends, and the sons of some of the most well-known names in the business. Mondavi, 37, is the son of vintner Tim Mondavi and grandson of legendary Robert Mondavi; Taylor, 27, is the son of restaurant builder Ronald Lee Taylor; and Busch, 28, is the son of Peter W. Busch and part of the legendary Budweiser brewing family.”
As such, Anheuser-Busch is intoned lovingly throughout the article. And depending on when you came of drinking age, that dynasty either has some merit (the Busch family were long-regarded as a true American brewing family until Augustus IV ceded the company to foreign investors) or it jars with your current understanding of the reputation of the Belgian/Brazillian conglomerate. It's a double-edged sword.
Take this quote from Jacob: “I have all my eggs in this basket and really believe that we will do well, just because of our ambitions, our authenticity and our goal of making friends. Like my Grandfather August Busch Jr. always said, ‘making friends is our business.’ That’s what I want to bring back into the community in Napa and eventually throughout the U.S.”
This hardly bears recording, but the thought that a Busch could be in the business of "making friends" or "authenticity" at all unsurprisingly provoked a number of BA-defined craft purists to write off our tragic heroes. Strike one!
Strike two: the company has essentially committed itself to one beer style, and then went on the record flubbing the brewing science of said style.
As Taylor put it: “It is a very complicated brew protocol and is a thick binder worth of pages to follow the actual procedure of this brew. We have one of the longest lager pilsners on the market and our total start to finish time from batch in to rack out is just under 30 days, which is extremely long for a lager.”
Except, it’s not “extremely long.” Here’s our own Blake Tyers, also a brewer at Creature Comforts, who was taken aback by the claim:
“You can definitely make a lager in 30 days or less, but it’s extremely ignorant to say that is ‘extremely long,’” he says. “Lager is German for ‘to store.’ These are beers that got their name from the longer fermentation and conditioning time. Thirty days is certainly not extremely long, I would say it’s probably average and even leaning on the side of quick. One of my favorite pilsners is Heater Allen pilsner and it has a 2-month maturation time.”
Perhaps, though, this was the most offensive claim championed in the piece, embodied in a quote attributed again to Taylor: “We started thinking that every American lager or pilsner beer brand is no longer owned by American’s anymore.”
In a way, this stands as a romantic rebuke of dad’s dealings with Belgian giant InBev. But in a much more real way, it stands as a patently ludicrous observation. The two largest craft beer companies in the United States, Yuengling and Boston Beer respectively were built, and still ride on the backs of, their flagship lagers (Yuengling Lager and Sam Adams Boston Lager respectively). Both companies remain independent, distinctly American institutions. Never mind the fact that every third trend piece of the past 11 months has been headlined, “Is Pilsner the New IPA??????” Blake chimes in again: "Hilarious. This past weekend Maine played host to the Pils and Love Fest, a festival featuring a massive list of mostly American made pilsners."
At least some found solace in their modest goals of 4,000 barrels in year one.
It's hard out there for a dynasty.
— Dave Eisenberg
Three Sons Of Famous Fathers Launch A New Brewery And Produce The Hottest Pilsner On The Market [via Forbes]