Piney River Brewing Company

Posts Tagged ‘canned craft beer’

Honey, I Shrunk the Piney River Cans

In The Beer on October 12, 2016 at 10:11 pm

Today was a cloudy, rainy day on the Piney River Farm; not too different from the cloudy, rainy night in 2011 when Piney River first canned craft beer in the Ozarks. Today’s first–12 ounce Piney River cans.

Those of us that have been canning beer on the Farm are still trying to adjust to these smaller cans in our hands, but we’re doing what many of our consumers and our distributors have asked us to do by putting our beer in a smaller can.

Waaay back in 2011 when Piney River was the first microbrewery in the state to can beer at their brewery, we were following suit with the 16-ounce pint can like our craft beer brothers and sisters in the Midwest—Tallgrass, Surly, Sun King. We’re in the Show Me state, why not show our customer a true pint? Plus, it was perfect—the Piney Pint.

Back then, there wasn’t much canned craft beer on the shelves in 2011 and 2012 or even 2013, but now canned beer is growing by leaps and bounds, and breweries that were once only bottling their beer are now canning it, too. Twelve-ounce cans are easier to source, plus, if you were a brewery already packing 12-ounce beers, it only makes sense to continue that in a can form. And now, it’s easier to find 12-ounce cans on the shelf here in the Ozarks than it is possible to find 16-ounce cans on the shelf.

I even had a conversation with a fellow brewer that packaged beer in 16-ounce cans and started packaging certain beers in 12-ounce cans for grocery stores. He thinks that it will ultimately lead to the demise of his 16-ounce canned beers.

Our distributors were also asking for 12-ounce cans from Piney River. For those distributors that sold 12-ounce/6-packs and 16-ounce/4-packs, they felt like they could sell more cases of 6-packs than 4-packs. Truly, a case of 6-packs equals four purchases to be empty the case, and a case of 4-packs require six purchases to empty the case. Plus, we’re hearing about this issue that the consumer can’t generally do the math that even though a 4-pack usually costs less than a 6-pack, all the consumer sees is 6 beers versus 4 beers.

And while we love floating down the Big Piney with pint of Piney in our koozie, we have heard from some of you that your 16-ounce beer gets warm before you finish it. Can we suggest here that you drink just a wee bit faster, perhaps? Just an idea….But never fear, your warm beer concerns have also been heard!

So, raise those Piney pints high in the air (or save them for your beer collection); either way, they are going away.

Today, we canned Piney River’s Black Walnut Wheat in 12-ounce cans, and that will be followed up by 12-ounce versions of all of our core beers in the coming weeks. Depending upon your distribution market and the stock of 16-ounce beers your distributor has in place, you will see 12-ounce 6-packs of Piney River beer in your favorite drink-buying place very soon or shortly down the road.

In the upcoming months, you will also see us release “Raise a Ruckus” (an Imperial Stout) and 2017 Mule Team Imperial IPA in 12-ounce 4-packs. We thought 10% ABV might be a little more easy drinking in the smaller sized can, and we can keep it at a good price point, too.

Four brands will remain in 16-ounce cans until we run out of the blank pounders. Masked Bandit IPA and Old Tom Porter are two brands you already know well. Two new Piney River offerings in 16-ounce 4-packs will be River Access Ozarks Lager and Aux Arcs Dry-Hopped Saison.

Same delicious Piney River beer. Same commitment to quality. Same love of what we do…just in a smaller package and lots more of them.




The Behind the Scenes Peek at Our First World Beer Cup Win

In The Beer on April 15, 2014 at 9:36 pm

I need to preface this blog post by saying that I feel like anything I write here is going to seem much less dramatic than Piney River’s first big win at the Great American Beer Festival.  Even in those moments after we won Gold at GABF last October, I remember thinking, “There will never be another moment like this one.”  There’s only one first time.

Shortly after the 2013 Great American Beer Festival, we were contacted to participate in the largest beer competition in the world–the World Beer Cup.  Also put on by the Brewer’s Association, the World Beer Cup is an international stage for the winning beers.  Gold, silver and bronze “cup” awards are given based on blind taste judging from a panel of judges–mostly from around the world.  A World Beer Cup is held for two years because the competition is only held every other year,  and this year, the World Beer Cup was scheduled to be held in Denver on Friday night following the Craft Brewer’s Conference.

Again, we entered the maximum number of beers–this time it was four styles.  In February, Brian and I sat at the dining room table with four packs of freshly canned beer around us.  We made our selections and sent our beers to Denver about a month ahead of the competition.

I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that Brian and I had more than one conversation about the possible “huge year” that we could have with a GABF gold followed by a World Beer Cup win.  Was it possible?

We arrived in Denver last Monday evening.  We attended our first Craft Brewer’s Conference (CBC) in San Francisco in 2011.  Over the past four years, we’ve watched the conference more than double in size.  The trade show floor has grown too large to leisurely walk through.  But the quality of the programs and the access to industry tools and information is unparallelled.  Although we get up early and stay up way too late every night, Brian and I really enjoy taking a vacation from our day jobs to attend the CBC.

Most importantly, we get to be with “our people“.  The longer we are in the industry, the more people we know.  Sometimes we only see these people once a year, so it’s sort of like a mini-family reunion–with lots of beer!

cbc 2014 denvercbc 2014 mile highcbc 2014 stringdusters

Some highlights of the week–Great meal and craft beer at Euclid Hall.  CBC opening reception at Mile High Stadium.  Canarchy at Star BarThe Infamous Stringdusters in concert at the Ogden Theatre hosted by Oskar Blues Brewery.  Interesting seminars on everything from dissolved oxygen in your beer (yes, this is something we do worry about) to forecasting sales of seasonal beers.  We even got to see Andy  featured on the trade show hall floor in the You Tube I made of our labeling machine in action labeling cold, wet cans coming off our Wild Goose canning line.

Friday night and the World Beer Cup Gala rolled around really quickly.  This time there were no dreams of winning gold while sleeping the night before.  No “signs” on the trip to Denver.  Again, we found ourselves sitting amongst a bunch of folks from California.  Charlie Papazian had his tuxedo on.  The lights dimmed.  The awards ceremony began.

cbc 2014 wbc gala 2cbc 2014 wbc gala 1

Four-thousand seven hundred fifty-four beers from 1,403 breweries representing 58 countries were included in the competition.  (This was a 21 percent increase over the 2012 World Beer Cup.)  Stiff competition.

I’ve always teased Brian about being an immediate gratification kind of guy, and that’s exactly what we got on Friday night.  American-style wheat beer was the first category.  Bronze and silver were announced and popped up on the large screens in the ballroom.  “And the gold goes to…”

“Float” was all that Chris Swersey was able to say before Brian was whooping and jumping up out of his chair beside me.

Things were moving in slow motion for me.  I remember hearing Brian start getting rowdy, but I sat and watched our name fill the screen.

There it was “Float Trip Ale” in large print with “Gold” right next to it.

High fives.  Hugs.  And then we were standing next to Paul Gatza getting ready to walk on stage for a photo with Charlie Papazian.  AGAIN!

world beer cup award by hess

As we left the stage, there were arrows pointing us back behind some curtain where our actual award engraved with our name was given to us.  Andy Sparhawk, the craft beer coordinator at the Brewer’s Association, came running over to us, eyes as big as saucers.  Andy was the one that asked back in October last year, “What will you do if you win?”, referring to the possibility of a GABF award.

Andy, Brian, and I had an “Oh my god, how is this possible?!” moment together.  More high fives and yelling.  This is the stuff dreams are made of !

This time, Brian had the shakes.  He went to get us celebratory beers, and he couldn’t hold the glasses still.  As we weaved our way through the crowd to get back into the ballroom, our friends from The Public House Brewery in Rolla were on a back row with high fives and hugs.

Hey Brian--It's a World Beer Cup GOLD!

Hey Brian–It’s a World Beer Cup GOLD!

When we got back to our seats, one of the ladies from the California group, said, “You freaked us out.”  Then she wanted to know exactly who we were.

That was the only award for Piney River that night.  But as we know, one is all you need.

Two hundred twenty-six breweries went home with one award that night.  Twenty-six breweries won two awards, and one brewery won three.  Twenty-eight percent of the awards went to breweries outside the US.  We saw World Beer Cup awards go to breweries from all over Europe, and also to breweries in Asia, Australia, South and Central America.

We were there to witness our friends from Mike Hess Brewing in San Diego as they received their first major award–a World Cup Gold for Rye beer.  Mike Hess Brewery started out as a nanobrewery, and we first met the Hess family in 2011 at the San Francisco CBC.  Mike Hess recently put in a larger brewhouse and canning line.  I got to yell, “Gold, baby!”  Brian ran up and high fived the whole crew on their way to the stage.  After the ceremony we all went to the top of the hotel and celebrated with a bottle of champagne.

Cloud 9--it's somewhere near the top of the Hyatt Regency in Denver

Cloud 9? It’s somewhere near the top of the Hyatt Regency in Denver.

The Hess crew celebrating GOLD!

The Hess crew celebrating GOLD!

Once again, we are fortunate to receive a huge honor for an extremely Ozark-centric beer.  Float Trip.  A “float trip” is a quintessential Ozark experience.  We’ve made a world class beer that celebrates something that we all love to do in the Ozarks.  Even better–this beer is a great beer to drink when you’re on a float trip!

Yeah, it’s still insane here at Piney River, but the time of our lives just keeps getting better and better.

cbc 2014 wbc award

Piney River Brewing received their gold award at the 2014 World Beer Cup held in Denver on Friday night.  Shown here, left to right:  Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder, and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association.

Piney River Brewing received their gold award at the 2014 World Beer Cup held in Denver.  Shown here, left to right: Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder, and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association.

Piney River Brewing Wins Gold at the World Beer Cup®

In The Beer on April 13, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Piney River Brewing Company in Bucyrus, MO claimed a gold award in the 2014 World Beer Cup, a global beer competition that evaluates beers from around the world and recognizes the most outstanding brewers and their beers.

Gold, silver and bronze awards in the competition’s 94 beer style categories were presented April 11, 2014 during the World Beer Cup award ceremony at the Hyatt Regency in Denver, Colorado.

Piney River Brewing was awarded a gold award in the American-style wheat beer style category for its Float Trip Ale, a wheat-based blonde ale featuring pale wheat and malted barley with balanced, light hop bitterness and a smooth finish.

“We are truly honored to receive this gold award which recognizes our little brewery for brewing the best American-style wheat beer in the world,” Brian Durham, co-founder and head brewer at Piney River Brewing Company, said.

Float Trip Ale has been brewed since the brewery opened its doors in March 2011. In May 2013 the brewery began packaging the beer for distribution in kegs and 16-ounce pint cans. The beer highlights the Ozark experience of “floating” in a canoe, kayak, raft or tube on a Missouri stream.

“Around the world, people of all ages enjoy activities on streams, rivers and lakes, but in the Ozarks we are known for using the term ‘float trip’, which describes what many men, women and children do every year in the Ozark National Scenic Riverways,” Durham said, explaining that the brewery seeks to highlight the Ozarks with its beer.

Durham noted that when he and Joleen, his wife and brewery co-founder, decided to start a craft brewery in the Ozarks, they planned to package their beer in outdoor and river friendly aluminum cans.

“It was only natural that we highlight the quintessential Ozark experience—a float trip—with one of our beers,” Durham said. “Joleen and I love floating, and we developed this beer as something that could be enjoyed all day long while floating or doing anything fun in the Ozarks.”

Piney River Brewing is located on the Durham’s 80-acre farm, operating out of a 70-year old barn. The brewery was founded in 2010 with a 10-gallon brewing system. Today the brewery has a seven-barrel brewhouse which turned out 1,100 barrels of beer in 2013. In addition to draft beer, the brewery cans all of their beer in 16-ounce aluminum cans. The brewery has distribution in Central and Southern Missouri and Arkansas.

Last October, Piney River Brewing received a gold medal for their Old Tom Porter, a brown porter style beer, at the Great American Beer Festival—a national competition.

“We are thrilled to again shine the spotlight on our brewery and the beer that we’re brewing right here in the Ozarks,” Durham said. “To receive the top award for one of our beer styles at national and international competitions within less than one year’s time is a huge recognition for us.”

The Float Trip Ale was brewed by Lucas Clem and Amber Powell, the two full-time brewers at the brewery. Four additional part-time employees also work at the brewery.

“I cannot say enough about our brewery team and their commitment to quality,” Durham said. “Our mission at Piney River Brewing has always been to brew high quality beer that celebrates the Ozarks, and this World Beer Cup gold award for Float Trip is the realization of our brewery’s mission on an international stage.”

World Beer Cup winners were selected by an international panel of 219 beer judges from 31 countries. Regarded as the “Olympics of Beer Competition,” the World Beer Cup saw an impressive field of 4,754 entries from 1,403 breweries in 58 countries.

Presented by the Brewers Association, the World Beer Cup has been held every other year since 1996, to celebrate the art and science of brewing by recognizing outstanding achievement. For more additional information, visit the World Beer Cup website.

Piney River Brewing received their gold award at the 2014 World Beer Cup held in Denver on Friday night.  Shown here, left to right:  Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder, and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association.

Piney River Brewing received their gold award at the 2014 World Beer Cup held in Denver on Friday night. Shown here, left to right: Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder, and Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association.

Expanding the Piney River Beer Reach

In The Beer on March 19, 2014 at 10:36 pm

It’s taken a while, but finally we can say that we’re trying to quench the thirst for craft beer in Southeast Missouri!

Last Friday Bluff City Beer in Cape Girardeau sent a big old’ truck to Piney River to pick up a plethora of Piney Pints.

And the people of Southeast Missouri rejoice!

Let me take you back…a long way back. Brian and I have good friends in SEMO. They have wanted our beer since day #1. Then, Rodney Edwards at Grellner Sales (our first distributor) suggested we talk to his friends, the Bess family, in Cape when we were ready to expand our distribution. Meanwhile, our friends in SEMO were showing up at the brewery and bootlegging growlers and cases of Piney Pints back to their friends who were becoming Piney River fans. Piney River was expanding its reach, but so far no SEMO.

What you may not know is that if Brian didn’t live with me here in the heart of the Ozarks, he would probably live in SEMO. Why? Duck hunting. I will not pass up a wild duck breast and those rice fields are pretty, but I need trees and hills. So Brian dreams of skies filled with ducks and drives a little ways East to find it. And since we started the brewery Brian’s been pretty passionate about getting Piney Pints in all the blinds in SEMO.

Last May it was our great privilege to host Kathy Holloway and her husband, Keith, and David Bess from Bluff City Beer at the brewery. We talked hunting, fishing, raising boys (Kathy & Keith have two boys) and, of course, beer. Talking with them was like talking with friends. And as a small, family owned business, once again we had that great feeling about doing business with another longtime family owned business.

We wanted to get Piney Pints to SEMO last year, but then we had this little beer called Float Trip Ale come along, and we couldn’t make enough, but ALL YEAR LONG we were thinking about SEMO.

Finally this spring were were able to include Bluff City in our 2014 planning and brewing. We can’t send draft, but we have sent Piney Pints to the rice fields, duck blinds and Current River canoes and kayaks in SEMO. There is a great and growing love for craft beer in SEMO, and at Piney River we are all about growing the beer palates of our fellow rural Missourians in the Eastern part of our great state.

Drink up SEMO friends! We’ll make more! And raise a glass to the Bess family and Bluff City Beer for their support of locally brewed beer!


Celebrating Craft Beer in the Ozarks–Piney River Style

In Beer Events, The BARn, The Beer on March 2, 2014 at 10:53 am

It was in March of 2011 that Brian and I cracked open the doors to the BARn for the very first time. Somewhat to our surprise, folks showed up! We filled growlers, we poured pints, we sampled the beer that we were brewing after work, sometimes after midnight, on our Sabco Brew Magic 10-gallon system. The “system” for serving beer that first year at the BARn included a table across the middle of brew house floor and picnic tables and camp chairs located out in front of the BARn.

A year later, we had a bar built in the upstairs of the BARn. Pallets of grain were stacked around the Advantec covered floor, we had seating for 30 (not counting the camp chairs). Friends provided some tunes. Black Walnut Wheat came back (for good) on draft. The First Aleiversary was born.

Then came the 2nd Aleiversary in March 2013. Was that really just one year ago? The first live music was planned and performed at the BARn (thank you, Barak Hill, Jody Bilyeu and The Taylor’s). We featured some special beers–Hot Date Ale and Low Water Bridge IPA. Mike and Julie Anderson never knew that they could handcrank so many potatoes for their Irish nachos.

The middle of March is coming around again, and we are so excited for our 3rd Aleiversary! So many of you are planning to join us on March 15th. We know the Aleiversary is something that is anticipated by many, and we are anticipating the opportunity to give back to you for your great support of Piney River brewing throughout the year.

All hands on deck! Our great staff will ALL be here on the 15th to take care of you…from parking to pints, we’re going to make sure you’ve got plenty of libations to celebrate with us all day long. The BARn will be open from 12 to 7 p.m. that day.

Food! Mike and Julie Anderson of Huggins will be back with delicious smoked meats, and an electric potato slicer for their famous Irish Nachos. Plus, they have a great new trailer that they will have in front of the BARn for serving all of their foods.

Music! Live music has become a regular part of Saturdays at the BARn, and we are so excited to welcome back two bands that have been a fun part of our Saturdays in the past year. The Farethewells from Salem and Deep Fried Squirrel from Springfield will be here with original tunes, covers and taking requests. Banjos, fiddles, upright bass–Brian and I know that the BARn was made for these sounds, and we regularly watch in wonder when the magic is happening on a Saturday at the BARn.

Beer! This is the best part of the Aleiversary, the opportunity to craft new beers for everyone that comes to celebrate craft beer in the Ozarks with us. Throughout the day on March 15th we will be tapping some special beers. We plan to have to some special cask ales that will be cracked throughout the day, some kegs of beer on tap, and we have brewed a large batch of “Mule Team”, an Imperial India Pale Ale, that will only be available at the BARn on March 15th. We will have kegs of it on tap, and we are doing a special packaging run of it, and four-pack pints will be for sale, too. Brian and I have dreamed of making Mule Team for a long time, and we’re very excited to have this beer on draft for the Aleiversary and package it for you to take home, too!mule team labelI keep telling folks that we plan to double, if not triple, the population of Bucyrus on March 15th. We hope there’s a little green grass peeking through the front yard of the BARn that Saturday. Mike and Julie will be parked in front of the BARn, and we will have a “cash only” beer tent outside to serve up beer. We have more picnic tables on order that will be out front, and you’re welcome to bring camp chairs and pop up canopies for your own party at the party. The Farethewells are the first band up, and Deep Fried Squirrel will close the party down. There is no charge to attend the Aleiversary, and it’s family friendly. We’ll have Andy’s Root Beer on tap until we run out of it. If you need a place to stay while at the Aleiversary, may we recommend Almoos’t Heaven Bed & Breakfast in Success and Boiling Springs Resort in Licking.

We can’t wait to celebrate 3 years of craft beer in the Ozarks with you in just two weeks!

3rd aleiversary


How We Canned Our Version of Fall in the Ozarks

In The Beer on November 18, 2013 at 10:52 pm

Around our house there’s one thing that’s synonymous with autumn–sweet potatoes. We eat them regularly, baked until the sweet juices inside bubble up and spill out.

A sweet potato doesn’t really need anything on it to eat it, but I like mine with a couple of pats of butter. Brian adds a little brown sugar. Andy adds brown sugar and cinnamon.

I don’t have a lot of time to bake, but I do enjoy making homemade pies. There was a time when I would make all kinds of pies, try new recipes, whip up a fresh peach and raspberry pie or blackberry pie on a whim. My favorite pie to make is my Maple Bourbon Pecan Pie, complete with pastry leaves on the edges instead of the traditional fluted crust. And, yes, I make my own crust, too.

Several years ago, shortly after the local sweet potato harvest, our friends Charlie and Marian McKinney gave us some sweet potatoes. One was a GIANT sweet potato, well over a pound. I decided I would use that potato to try my hand at a Sweet Potato Pie.

Brian and Andy were sold! They declared Sweet Potato Pie to be the king of fall pies, no need to ever bring a pumpkin pie to the Thanksgiving dinner again. So, around our house, we don’t eat pumpkin pie. We eat Sweet Potato Pie.

You already know where this story is going…fast forward a few years. We were experimenting with small batch brews for an autumn beer last year. Once again, we drew on flavors that we know, foods that we love. Our beer recipe development included time with my dog eared Sweet Potato Pie recipe. Sweet Potato Ale was born.

sweet potato aleWe first served Sweet Potato Ale at beer festivals and in our tap room last fall. Craft beer lovers in the area were very excited about a fall beer made with sweet potatoes instead of squash.

So, this year, in early August, we became the first microbrewery to put a sweet potato beer into a can.

sweet potato ale canUnfortunately as I’m writing this, there are some shelves that are already empty of Sweet Potato Ale, and they will not have it again until next fall. However, there are still lots of stores and bars and restaurants that will have our fall seasonal available through Thanksgiving.

Sweet Potato Ale is not sweet. But it is a very drinkable beer that can be enjoyed by many. In addition to a slight flavor of roasted sweet potato, hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla are also present, just like you would find in my Sweet Potato Pie.

I won’t hold out on you any longer. If you want to have a little Piney River that you can eat and drink this Thanksgiving, here’s my Sweet Potato Pie Recipe.

Sweet Potato Pie

Makes one 9-inch pie, Adapted from a Joy of Cooking recipe

Wash two large sweet potatoes.Pierce potatoes with a paring knife.Place potatoes on aluminum foil or in a pan lined with aluminum foil.Roast potatoes in a 350 degree oven for about 3 hours until sugars inside potato bubble up and come out of the pierced skin and potato is tender to the touch.After the potatoes cool, peel them.Mash the potato with a fork or a food processor.You will need 1 1/3 cups of cooled puree for the pie.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Place a pie crust in a 9-inch pie pan, building up a fluted rim for the crust.Place pie crust in the oven to warm while you mix the pie ingredients.The pie crust should be hot to the touch.

For the filling, whisk together:

4 large eggs

½ cup sugar

Then whisk in the 1 1/3 cups of puree

Add to the filling and mix thoroughly:

1 cup evaporated milk

4 T unsalted butter, melted

4 tsp lemon juice

1 ½ tsp vanilla

¾ tsp ground cinnamon

¾ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp salt

Pour the filling into the hot pie crust and bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees.Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees and bake until the center of the filling appears set but still quivers—about 20 minutes more.Allow the pie to cool before serving.Serve warm or at room temperature with or without whipped cream.

The sweet potato has long been a staple of American gardens and pantries. After harvest the sweet potato provides diverse culinary options. On the Piney River, we use roasted sweet potatoes in our handcrafted Sweet Potato Ale, inspired by our favorite sweet potato comfort food—the sweet potato pie.


The All True Story of Piney River’s First Trip to the GABF

In The Beer on October 15, 2013 at 10:20 pm

There’s a really good chance you know how this story ends. But beyond the official photo and press release, you really need to know the whole story.

Brian and I decided that we were going to attend the GABF (Great American Beer Festival) this year. We wanted the opportunity to enter our beer in a national competition—mostly to see what kind of feedback we would receive. We have two brewers that are new to brewing and to the industry—Lucas joined our team in January and Amber joined our team in April. We wanted them to get their first taste of “the industry” of brewing, and heck, Brian and I always enjoy hanging with “our people”.

We left Bucyrus as 4 a.m. on Wednesday. There was a lot of talk about sleeping on the drive to Denver, but there was very little sleeping done. We were all too keyed up to sleep. There were soybean fields, corn fields, rolling Kansas hills, a big tom turkey standing on the edge of a cornfield, the world’s largest prairie dog….

We got to Denver, settled in to our hotel rooms and went to a special event at Wynkoop for the GABF attendees. There were some great beers on tap, yummy food, and our St. Louis Cardinals advanced to the NLCS.

Cardinals advance to NLCS.  Surly Pentagram.  Hanging with your peeps at a private party at Wynkoop.  #winning

Cardinals advance to NLCS. Surly Pentagram. Hanging with your peeps at a private party at Wynkoop. #winning

We made our way to Star Bar for a few beers, and Brian and I finally went back to our hotel around 1. Lucas and Amber closed the place down. So much for starting the day at 4 a.m.

On Thursday we drove up to Fort Collins to a VIP event at New Belgium—such a great place with awesome co-workers that really care about taking care of fellow brewers.


We stopped in at Odell where a friend showed us the brand spankin’ new brew house and tap room expansion. Odell Brewing, a family-owned business that started on a kitchen stove, is SUCH an inspiration. (Thanks again, Lynsey!)

Thursday night was our first session at GABF. Each session is 5 hours. I don’t know how many people are at each session, but the GABF was a sell out with 48,000 tickets. That’s a lot of people! We were pouring Black Walnut Wheat, McKinney Eddy Amber Ale, Old Tom Porter, Missouri Mule IPA and Sweet Potato Ale. We sent our beer out in advance, in kegs, and they were already set up and ready to go. I should add here that the Brewer’s Association puts on this event with the help of volunteers. The volunteers are AWESOME. They work their butts off, and everyone that helped the area we were in and at our table was spectacular. I don’t remember all their names, but they were great.

Every session opens with a bagpipe parade.

Every session opens with a bagpipe parade.

The Piney River booth.

The Piney River booth.

The Piney River Crew in the booth.

The Piney River Crew in the booth.

The GABF divides the breweries up according to region. Our booth was in between Nebraska Brewing and Budweiser (St. Louis connection). Rockbridge, Tallgrass, Springfield Brewing Company and Mothers were some of the other beers in our section. There were breweries from all over the US—a lot of representation from breweries in Colorado and California. It was neat to have beers from New Glarus, Surly, Sun King, Three Floyds, Russian River and Elysian available to sample—all under one roof. There were also some lesser known breweries (some even smaller than Piney River) with great beers to sample, too.

Our Sweet Potato Ale was a big hit from the first night. There was only one other sweet potato beer being poured, and the brewery it was from was not pouring it. It was being poured at the Craft Brewers Guild tables. On Friday evening, we had to stop pouring the Sweet Potato so we would still have some for the later sessions. We still ran out of Sweet Potato in the first session on Saturday. Then, the attendees began hitting the Black Walnut Wheat.

On Friday we traveled to Upslope in Boulder for a special event with Crown Packaging (the place we get our cans from) and Wild Goose Canning (the company that made our canning machine). The labeled Piney River cans went over better than free beer. There’s serious interest among craft brewers in finding a way to do lots of brands without purchasing lots of truck loads of cans. This little brewery in Bucyrus has found a great option for breweries that can.

The very cool Sanitas Brewing logo--a new brewery that cans which we also visited in Boulder.

The very cool Sanitas Brewing logo–a new brewery that cans which we also visited in Boulder.

Saturday morning, about 5,000 members of the industry gathered in a ballroom in the bottom of the Denver Convention Center for the Great American Beer Festival Award Ceremony. Coffee, donuts, beer, bronze, silver and gold medals were awarded for beers in 84 different categories. We entered 10 beers—the maximum number we could enter–so we had 30 chances to win a medal. The possibilities were exciting, but we felt as though we would really just get good feedback to help us learn what to do for future competitions.

The stats for the 2013 GABF competition.

The stats for the 2013 GABF competition.

I had a dream on Friday night that we won a gold medal for McKinney Eddy Amber Ale, but at the ceremony 9 of the 10 categories came and went—including Amber Ale–without a mention of Piney River. Brown Porter, the 74th category of 84 beer categories, was our final chance. Brian, Lucas and I (Amber had to go back to Missouri for a family event) were sitting on a front row in a section with a bunch of people from CA that we didn’t know. But they knew each other because they kept congratulating other CA breweries as they received awards.

The bronze award winner for Brown Porter was announced. It was not us. Down to two chances.

The silver award winner for Brown Porter was announced. It was not us. And at that point, Brian, Lucas and I felt like our medal chances were over. What first time brewery wins a gold medal at the GABF?

Chris Swersey, the emcee, began announcing, “The Gold Medal goes to Old…”

“What?!,” I was thinking. Suddenly time slowed waaay down.

“Tom…,” Swersey said.

I screamed. I was sitting between Brian and Lucas, and suddenly we were high fiving and jumping up and stumbling down the aisle to accept a GOLD medal from Charlie Papazian.

Each of us has specific memories of going to accept that medal. Brian, who remembers walking on air, was tackled by a sales person from one of our distributors. I never saw it. I was just elated, reminding myself not to run to the stage. Lucas remembers feeling a little emotional, kind of teary-eyed.

And there we were. A gold medal around Brian’s neck. The flashes of dozens of cameras. The silhouettes of thousands of people looking back at us on that brightly lit stage. I never saw the red carpet, but Brian said one was there.

I had to snap a photo of all those people looking back at us.

I had to snap a photo of all those people looking back at us.

Piney River Brewing received their gold medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony held in Denver on Saturday morning.  Shown here, left to right:  Lucas Clem, brewer; Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association; Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder and original keg washing queen. Not present, Amber Powell, brewer.

Piney River Brewing received their gold medal at the 2013 Great American Beer Festival awards ceremony held in Denver on Saturday morning. Shown here, left to right: Lucas Clem, brewer; Charlie Papazian, president of the Brewer’s Association; Brian Durham, head brewer and co-founder; Joleen Durham, co-founder and original keg washing queen. Not present, Amber Powell, brewer.

As soon as we walked off the stage, I gave Brian a GIANT hug. I remember thinking, “All that work. All the sacrifices. All days where we went to bed and got up to go to our day jobs in the same day.” I was so proud of Brian. I was so proud of Piney River. And then I started shaking.

I couldn't take a decent photo because I was shaking!

I couldn’t take a decent photo because I was shaking!

Lucas, Brian and I went to get a beer, but the beer stations were dry!!! (We need to time our medal winning a little better.) None of us really remember any of the last 9 award recipients. I was sending texts, tweeting and posting information online. Brian was texting our distributors. Lucas was texting Amber and his family.

By the time we were upstairs in the convention hall, the winners had been announced. Piney River’s booth was a non-stop sea of people. Yes, they were interested in Sweet Potato and Black Walnut, but many people just wanted to try Old Tom Porter. The story of Old Tom Porter would never be the same.

Later that afternoon, one of the judges of the brown porter competition stopped by to say how much they enjoyed our Old Tom Porter, and that even after the judging they finished drinking it. Another judge told us that gold medals only go to technically excellent beers. Brian realized that he no longer cared that he didn’t have formal brewing training and started Piney River as a homebrewer. Just like Paul Gatza from the Brewer’s Association said–when you’ve got a GABF medal around your neck, you can run through walls.

The winning entries ran inside the hall all day on Saturday.  I managed to snap a photo of the screen showing our category.

The winning entries ran inside the hall all day on Saturday. I managed to snap a photo of the screen showing our category.

Our first Piney River toast with our Gold medal winning Old Tom Porter.

Our first Piney River toast with our Gold medal winning Old Tom Porter.

We ended Saturday at the GABF with celebratory beers at Star Bar. It seemed like a good place to round out one of the most amazing days of our lives. On the ride home, I studied the corn fields, hoping to see another old tom. Old Tom didn’t need to make a second appearance. One was all we needed.


More Craft Beer in Cans = More Good Times

In The Beer on July 4, 2012 at 3:00 pm

You probably don’t know this: waiting for your new craft beer cans is like waiting for a baby to be born.  You know the outcome, but it’s painful getting there.

When Piney River Brewing put McKinney Eddy Amber Ale and Missouri Mule India Pale Ale into Piney Pints, we knew that our customers would say, “That’s great.  What about X beer?  When’s X beer going into a can?”

As we’ve told many of you, we have to purchase a half a semi-truck load of one type of can.  That’s no small investment.  Plus, we’re still very much in the “figuring it out/blazing a trail” with craft beer in the Ozarks, especially craft beer in cans.

We originally decided to put our amber ale and our IPA in cans because those are two very popular craft beer styles.  We wanted to make the IPA lovers out there happy with our Missouri Mule India Pale Ale.  And we knew our McKinney Eddy Amber Ale would be enjoyed by craft beer lovers and those that are just learning to enjoy craft beer and want to drink local beer.  Thus, our reasoning behind why we canned those two first.

You, our customers, have spoken loud and clear, you want more choices of Piney pints.

First up, Old Tom Porter….  When we first brewed this beer about a year ago, we thought two things, “This beer is delicious.” And “This one’s going to be named after ‘Old Tom’(the North American turkey, one of our favorite birds around these parts).”  Roasted grains with rich chocolate and coffee flavors were a great way to pay homage to the wild turkey.

Old Tom is beer that our craft beer loving fans love, and we even have a few “big box” beer drinkers that love the Old Tom, too, because they love coffee.  Please note: there’s no coffee in Old Tom Porter.

Piney Pint…Meet Old Tom Porter.

Next up, Black Walnut Wheat….  Recently, one of our distributors asked us, “Why didn’t you can Black Walnut first?”  This time last year, Black Walnut Wheat hadn’t even been discussed as a possible beer idea, let alone brewed!

Remember this blog post?  This is the one where I (Joleen) decided to brew a little beer.  It was an experiment.  Not because I might screw it up, but we were having a little fun with an “experimental” beer that might or might not work out for an Oktoberfest beer festival we were doing.

That beer turned out just fine.  The beer festival attendees blew through that keg of beer in no time, and we continued to make Black Walnut Wheat throughout last fall.

Yours truly with the very first glass of Black Walnut Wheat Ale (sweet wort, prior to fermentation).

Customers would come to the BARn as soon as we opened, slam two growlers down on the counter and say, “Black Walnut Wheat.”  (They were afraid we would run out, and I was kind of afraid, too.)  Weekend after weekend, we would serve every keg of Black Walnut Wheat we had on tap.

We stopped making Black Walnut Wheat in late fall. That didn’t make anyone happy.  The new BARn customer question was, “When are you making more Black Walnut Wheat?”

As soon as we had space in our big brewing system, we made a large batch of Black Walnut Wheat and kegged it all, just in time for the 1st aleiversary of the BARn opening.  You drank all of that batch of Black Walnut Wheat, filled dozens of growlers with it, asked, “When are you going to can this?”

Piney Pint…Meet Black Walnut Wheat.

We started the can making process about eight weeks ago…which is why waiting on cans is like waiting for a baby to be born.  We know what we want the cans to look like.  We know what we want to put in the cans.  We know that you (and our distributors) are ready to receive cases of Old Tom Porter and Black Walnut Wheat.  But creating a can with your design isn’t quite as simple as designing a label that can be slapped on a generic brown bottle.

We received the prototype cans yesterday (these are reasonably close to the final product, handmade more or less, so we can be sure we like the can).  Next up, scheduling these cans to be made at the factory in Mississippi.  The cans are made one day in Mississippi, and they arrive in Bucyrus the next day.  Then something like this:

Would go into cans to find a store shelf near you.

It’s all American, handcrafted beer.  Happy 4th of July to you and yours!