Friday, August 28, 2015

NPR Rides Craft Beer Coat Tails

Yep, venerable ol NPR is trying to cash in, so to speak, on the Craft Beer bandwagon.

Interesting that they chose sours to focus on.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Friday Profile: Tapping into Community's Love of Craft Beer - Mike Okupinski

This week we put a very familiar face from the craft beer community in the spotlight, Mike Okupinski, co-owner with Ed Buffington, of The Community Tap, Greenville's first all-craft beer retailer.

Mike, whose first introduction to real beer was courtesy of his older brother at a Pennsylvania music festival where he learned that he liked porters, left his day job, as we say, in 1999 to fill what he saw as a need in Greenville for a spot dedicated to offering craft beer to a growing population of folks who appreciated this new phenomenon. 

I got to know the Tap before I even lived here. Combining visits to relatives and research on a possible retirement location, we explored Greenville back in 2012 and, being serious craft beer fans already (our CA hometown was less than 10 minutes away from Lagunitas and Russian River Brewing), we learned right away that this was the place where we were sure to find beer we liked. It's been that way ever since.

Ed, seen here at the chalk board, and generally known as the "wine guy," keeps a select inventory of small vintage wines, many of which are bio-dynamically grown. He'll be happy to explain what that means.

One of his and Ed's early challenges (besides weird SC alcohol laws) was to acquaint people with this new thing called a "growler," which had first been introduced in Telluride, CO, at a music festival the year before. Basically, it's a glass container (tho' metal ones are now available) in the popular 32 oz. or 64 oz. sizes, which is carefully filled from a tapped keg, sealed and taken home to enjoy later.  Until the pint law came into effect in 2010, that was the core of the business, since until that time only small tastes could be offered.

I don't recall my first meeting with Mike but I'm fairly certain it would have been at one of the tasting events the Tap is known for. Certainly it was in their previous location, couple doors down from where they are now.

The original taproom before the 2014 move.

These days I most often see Mike pouring tasting samples, either at the Tap during one of their almost weekly tap takeovers, or at one of the many craft beer festivals happening around our town. 

One of such festivals is their own, The Community Tap Craft Beer Festival. 2015 marked their third annual event and I can tell you from personal experience, despite the unfriendly weather, that it was an eagerly anticipated and well attended event. It may have even sold out. Anyway, here are some typical shots of Mike in action, captured over the past year, some with the assistance of his wife Anna (also the Operations Manager for the store):

Mike is well known as a people person, another reason for Tap's success.

With Todd Hamrick, Anderson Valley regional rep, for a very popular AVBC tap takeover.

Mike knows his beer and always takes the time to describe a beer's characteristics.

Their Third Annual Craft Beer Festival, at the Downtown Airport.

Looking to the future, Mike anticipates continuing to do the things that have made the store so successful, only more of it. Adding private and corporate events, even out of state ones, are part of the plan and possibly even adding another space.
Fund raising event, this one for BreastFest.

Everyone likes a bottle share, and the chance to find a new beer to try and tap in.

Tap's new dinner series featured Founders Brewing's beers with Scott Olin, (center), Sales Rep, presiding. Food by GoodLife Catering.

As Mike says, "it's a great industry and a pleasure to own a [craft beer] business in this growing, developing city."

As a member of this growing population, I'd like to say that it's a pleasure having The Community Tap as part of our craft beer community and making it possible to try some of the best beers being made today. 

I'll drink to that. Cheers!

Also, thanks to Anna Okupinski for her assistance with the in-store photos.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hoppy IPA Day, 2015

Yep, it's the day to celebrate all that's citrusy, piney, dank and delicious in my beer of choice: IPA. Join the celebration, I'm sure there's one for you.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Quest's Erin Gregory Handles the Events - Friday Profile

 From the day Quest opened, Erin Gregory's smiling face has caught my attention. So I decided to subject her to my Profile Questionnaire (actually done in person) in order to find out why she always appears to be really enjoying herself.

 If you've been to any of the many musical or fund raising events at Quest (and who hasn't?), you've most often seen her behind the bar, slinging those pints to an eager crowd, or taking the time to describe the various beer styles currently on tap.


Working at Quest was her first exposure to the craft beer world, up until that time she confesses to have been just a beer drinker.

These days, while still taking her shifts pouring to customers or leading tours, she is the official Events Coordinator, responsible for the excellent music acts that hit the stage on Thursday nights as well as working with local community groups in fund-raising efforts and outreach programs.

One special event in which she participated earlier this year was a Bottle Share to benefit Greenville Craft Beer Week, held upstairs at Barleys,  which also coincided with the birthday of Brook Bristow, Esquire, known to most South Carolinians as the Craft Beer Legal Whiz Kid (that's another story entirely), an event I happily attended. Beers were shared, chocolate cake was eaten and hilarity ensued. Got the pix to prove it!

Chocolate cake courtesy of Bunny Bishop

The birthday boy himself, Brook Bristow, Esq.

And I have spotted her several times representing Quest at the many craft beer festivals in the area, including Asheville. She's always happy to pour you a sample and to very capably describe the beer as well. She admits to not being a brewer but really enjoying  meeting people and the camaraderie, the "friendly competition" found in the industry, on both sides of the bar.

Which is not to say she doesn't have brewing experience.  As her contribution to the Pink Boots Society's International Women's Collaboration Brew Day, Erin joined with some local ladies associated with the industry to brew this year's special recipe, a Red Ale.

(l-r) Caitlin Pierson, Keats Wineland, Courtney Pici, Erin,
Kathy Roberts, Harvin Bedenbaugh

I asked her what advice she would give anyone, especially women, considering
working in the craft beer industry.
"Don't be afraid to try something new.... go for it" was part of her answer. She also cautioned that a newcomer at a startup brewery should expect to wear many hats and help wherever needed, just like she does.

Here's the video clip with the quote:


We'll have lots of opportunities in the coming months to catch Erin at work based on her calendar of upcoming Quest events which include their Third Bottle Release party on Oct. 30 which also fits into the Halloween festivities, a Black Beer Friday on the day after Thanksgiving when all the taps will feature Stouts and Porters, a Kaldi vertical tasting and even some plans for a New Years Eve event, tentatively titled "Brew Years Eve" and still in the planning stages. That'll keep her busy. And us busy, trying out all the one-offs and special cask night beers coming our way. I'm happy to say that I look forward to all that research I'm required to do!

Thanks to Erin for her time, she's a busy lady.


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Beer Battle for Breast Fest

The Community Tap was the site (battleground, as it were) for the first ever Battle of the Beers, a fund-raiser for BreastFest Greenville. The rules were simple: three guys (Bennie, Chris, Chad), each choosing three beers in three categories, total of nine beers to sample.

Participants voted on their favorites in each category, the guy with the most chosen selections wins! All good beers and all for a good cause, the upcoming BreastFest Greenville, scheduled for Oct. 24, 2015.

A list of the beers is available at The Tap's Facebook page. The range was very impressive; from a Belgian Tripel Karmeliet whose recipe goes back to 1679, to a Pennsylvanian Imperial IPA Hop Bomb made by Victory. Surprisingly, my top choice for the evening was a new one for me, a New Belgium/Old Berseel collaboration called Transatlantic Kriek, a wheat ale with sour cherries blended in Colorado with a Belgian-style golden lager. Tart, yet with a slightly sweet finish and of course, cherry in the nose. Delicious.

Some photos of the event, including the eventual winner:

Chris, left; Chad, Bennie, right, getting ready to pour

All proceeds benefit the upcoming BreastFest

First round of Easy Drinkers, two more rounds to go

Cate Tyson (in pink) explains her role as BreastFest co-chair

Cate prepares snacks to accompany the beer choices

Boobie cookies (baked by Cate) were a popular treat

Choosing the favorite beer is a challenge when so many good ones are offered

Cate does final tabulations

Cate announces the winner as chosen by the crowd

And the winner is.... Chris, center, for his inspired beer choices. Congrats!
Very educational evening, I sampled four new beers. Untappd was very busy last night.