Monthly Archives: December 2012

Dead Frog turning the corner?

Subsequent to Erik’s post last week, I wanted to share a few notes we made after visiting Dead Frog for a Brewery tour last summer.  As Erik mentioned, we both grew up in Langley and so desperately want Dead Frog to succeed.  The biggest problem I’ve had with them is that I don’t like their beer very much.  Some of their one off seasonal releases and their Nut Brown Ale, when fresh, are just okay, but then I actively dislike the rest of their lineup.  I’d lost interest in them completely until I saw them on The Big Decision. Shortly after we saw the episode we were contacted by someone at Dead Frog for a free brewery tour.  We gladly accepted and here’s a few things we noticed:

  • Brewery tours are not normally free and have been sold on Groupon for the past six months at least.  We were joined by thirty others on our tour, all through Groupon.
  • Our tour was conducted by Dead Frog owner Derrick Smith and tasting was done in the Dead Frog boardroom.
  • Derrick told us that The Big Decision deal fell through and that they didn’t really need the money (maybe because they now contract brew for Steamworks and Double Tree? Note: don’t try Double Tree, terrible stuff).
  • We were told the show was overdramatized, no confirmation on if the tears were real or if their financial statements were actually a picture of a puppy. Check out the episode here if you haven’t seen it.
  • Derrick told us he thought high ABV beers and super hoppy beers were a fad that would pass, and that session beers were where it’s at.
  • He mentioned that they sold ten times more beer in the summer months than in the winter months (probably because of their light session beer lineup).
  • They import a container of custom bottles from China per month.  These bottles are not reused and are all crushed.
  • Dead Frog does not sell much draft beer and they are not focused on the draft market.
  • They have gone through many, many brewers, recently including Graham With now of Parallel 49 (who is crushing it there).
  • They were getting a lot of good feedback from the crowd, mostly from girls raving about the Pepper Lime Lager (I despise this beer).
  • They were proudly displaying their Canadian Brewing Awards, Gold and Silver in the fruit category 2012.
  • The Dead Frog brand was developed by a marketing company for memorability, no story behind it.  (Doing it froggy style! Get it? it’s like sex).
  • When tasting (from bottles, not draft), we found all of the beers had very mild flavours and super low hop profiles.  Only beer I enjoyed was Nut Brown Ale, which was much fresher than I’ve ever had it before.
  • They had a banner that said “Best beer in the universe” on the wall.  This upset me and also goes to show there may be a reality distortion field in place.
Dead Frog owner Derrick Smith conducting the tasting

Dead Frog owner Derrick Smith conducting the tasting

Not many positive points in there, but those are my honest observations and opinions of Dead Frog and the tour.  I can’t say I’m a huge fan right now, but I can see signs of them turning the corner.  The statement by Derrick Smith that Erik reposted and the subsequent note by new brewer Tony Dewald are chock full of promising signs.  I did enjoy their new Fearless IPA and Winter Beeracle, much more so than any of their beers to date.  I don’t share the enthusiasm of others in thinking they are great beers, but they are definitely an improvement.  Here’s where I hope Dead Frog take this:

  • The Brewer – Sounds like Tony has already sunk his teeth in and made some changes.  I hope they take it farther and give him enough control to make beer that doesn’t just satisfy beer geeks, but blows us away.  I’m not going to stake out liquor stores for Fearless IPA like I would Driftwood Sartori, why not shoot for the moon?
  • The Beer – Dead Frog currently sells three lagers and a mandarin orange ale that are all very similar in taste.  Trim it down to one light beer and make it great.  Make the pale ale a true northwest pale, up the malt flavour in the nut brown, add an IPA to the lineup, and mix it up with creative seasonals.  Sounds like they have plans to revamp the product line, here’s hoping it’s good stuff.
  • The Package – Importing custom bottles (clear bottles no less!) from China and crushing them is not so good for the environment and can’t make economic sense.  Switch to the standard brown bottles (better for the beer), get a bottle washer, and buy back used bottles from the LDB.  Your brand isn’t your bottle, it’s your beer.
  • The Message – “Doing it froggy style!” doesn’t mean anything and “best beer in the universe” is clearly a lie.  A dead frog isn’t all that appealing to begin with, but it’s probably too late to change that.  They can still tell a great story about the beer, the brewer, the Smith family running the business, their plight against the big guy, or anything else real and true.  People want to support their local brewery.
  • The Craft – Get to local events wherever possible, produce crazy cask beer, get back into the draft market and make a beer worthy of the Alibi Room or St. Augustines.  Beer nerds will spread the word about good beer and the pub is a great way for someone to try your beer with low barrier to entry.  Pubs matter, get back in them.
Rachel amongst the grouponers at Dead Frog

Rachel amongst the grouponers

So yeah, I think it’s great that Dead Frog are publicly stating their ambition and willingness to change.  I have high hopes and look forward to seeing what comes from this.  Judging by Fearless IPA and Winter Beeracle, they just might be turning the corner.

Cheers,

Chris

Dead Frog Take 2

Dead-Frog-Fearless-IPA-Bottle-ShotOver the years we have written about Aldergrove’s Dead Frog Brewery numerous times. Often we have critiqued their work and on occasion we have provided praise for a job well done.  Lets face it, Dead Frog is far from the best, but they are located in my hometown, and as such Dead Frog matters to me.  Although Chris has made the move to the big city, and I too am making my way out of this distant suburb, we are both Langley boys at heart and we want to see Dead Frog succeed.

Since appearing on CBC’s The Big Decision, the fate of Dead Frog has been up in the air.  Although stating that they were not in as much financial trouble as the show made it seem, the brewery was not at capacity, and the beer quality continued to decline.  How much light fruit lager can the market handle anyway?

The launch of Steamworks’ bottle line, which is brewed at Dead Frog’s Aldergrove brewery further indicated that all was not well at Dead Frog.  A successful brewer looks to expand, not lease out underutilized production capacity.

But things may be changing. On December 4th, Derrick Smith, now the sole owner of Dead Frog posted this:

It’s been a while since I posted, a lot of things have changed here and I’d love to tell you about it.

First off I’m sure everyone wants an update on The Big Decision and what’s happening with the ownership here. I’m happy to report that Dead Frog is 100% owned by my wife and I for the first time in 5 years. We bought out our previous partners and passed on The Big Decision deal in order to have the freedom to brew the beer we want to and to build the company based on the vision it was founded on.

Before the buyout and passing on The Big Decision we sat down with the key staff here and talked about the direction we wanted to take and what we wanted to create. The resounding response was we wanted make the amazing beer with no limits on what we can create. This wouldn’t have been possible in our partnership at the time and wouldn’t have been possible if we accepted The Big Decision so we chose the third option, own the company 100% ourselves. It wasn’t easy to make happen but it was the best thing for the beers we create and the people who create it.

The first thing we did was put together a new brew team and gave them the go ahead to create the best beer possible with the best ingredients they could find and all the time they needed. The first beer the new brew team put out was the Fearless IPA. We’re ecstatic with the beer and it’s receiving great reviews from the Craft Beer community. The reviews and reception of the Fearless mean the world to us here and helps motivate us to keep upping the ante and bringing amazing beers to the market.

We’ve got a second beer from the new brew team hitting shelves this week, The Winter Beeracle. We’ve put out the Christmas Beeracle in the past but this is a new name and new recipe. It goes along with the new direction of the company and is a big, bold, true Winter Warmer. It’s got a strong malt base with a hint of sweetness, and 7.5% alcohol with nice warmth to beat the cold.

We’re working on more new brews and we’ll get them out as soon as they’re ready. It’s an exciting time here; this is the first time that we’ve had the resources and opportunity to create anything and everything we can think of. Our plan is to keep putting out great beers in established styles like the Fearless IPA and Winter Ale, and to start putting out cutting edge styles that will wow the craft beer world.

We’re also planning a relaunch of Dead Frog for Spring 2013. The relaunch will be a complete reintroduction of Dead Frog that includes revised recipes, new packaging, and some new 341ml brews.

Cheers to everyone who enjoys our beers. We are happy to be able to focus 100% on making the best beer possible and hope you come on the ride for the next 6 months.

If anybody has any questions or wants more information give me a call on my cell phone at 604-835-2754 or email me at derrick@deadfrog.ca.  I’d love to hear from everyone.

Cheers!

Derrick Smith

Maybe there is hope for Dead Frog after all.  It appears this local brewer is stepping up to the plate and will now start to make a positive contribution to BC’s growing craft beer movement.

Tony Dewald, Dead Frog’s brewmaster, has already made some noticeable improvements, with the release of Fearless IPA and the revamped Winter Beeracle Winter Warmer as proof that things are indeed different.  Although I have yet to try Fearless IPA, I have heard great things from trusted beer geeks.  I am not a  fan of the recently released Winter Beeracle, but it is clear that the quality of this beer exceeds Dead Frog’s previous Christmas release.

I wish Dead Frog great success and look forward to what they come up with in 2013.

Cheers,

Erik

Powell Street Craft Brewery Opening

Powell Street Craft Brewery is opening this Saturday in Vancouver on, you guessed it, Powell Street.  As I understand it, the founder David Bowkett has been at it for over a year, building his brewery and brewing on weekends, whilst maintaining his regular job.  Now his mad dedication is paying off and his labour-of-love nanobrewery is opening this Saturday, December 15th from 1-7pm.  After that, looks like it’ll be open weekends and the occasional evening for growler fills and bottle purchase.  Their first two beers are Old Jalopy Pale Ale and Dive Bomb Porter, available now, with an IPA to follow in January.  Congrats David, I’ll be there on Saturday!  Check out the public Facebook event.

Cheers,

Chris

powell street craft brewery launch

Central City Winter Cask Festival 2013 is coming


Central City
just announced their fourth cask festival in two years (two summer, two winter), establishing them as the de facto best, or at least most consistent, cask festival in the lower mainland.  I went to the last summer cask festival held at Central City and it was excellent.  The upcoming winter edition is going to be on Saturday January 26th from 11am to 6pm at the Central City brewpub in Surrey (right by the Surrey Central skytrain station).  Your $30 admission gets you in, a tasting glass, and three beer tokens, where additional tokens are $1 each (a steal of a deal).  Best call to book your tickets now, these cask festivals sell out fast.

What can you expect? Well, besides getting a bit day drunk (seriously, why do these always start so early?), you can expect some really strong winter beer.  A version or two of Thor’s Hammer barley wine will surely be available, as will many other ~10% ABV beers.  You’ll probably see a lot of winter spice on hand too, cinnamon, nutmeg and the like.  Expect a few one off magical beers too (à la Tofino Spruce Tip IPA last time).  See you there!

central city winter cask festival

Cheers,

Chris

Beer Potluck

A friend of mine had the excellent idea to start hosting beer potlucks.  If you didn’t know, a potluck is traditionally an event based around food. Everyone brings a dish big enough for the themselves and then everybody shares in whatever everyone else brought.  The same principle applies here, everyone brings enough beer for themselves and shares.

You might think this sounds like a bad idea, and I suppose it could be depending on the overall quality of your friends and acquaintances.  In this case, it was great.  There were no greedy bastards drinking everyone else’s beer as fast as they could.  Everyone there was social, convivial, and in the mood to share some quality beer.  Also, considering the event was centered around beer, everyone there was up for a party.

beer potluck fridge

Fridge in living area, full of craft beer

Gavin, my friend who hosted the event, also happens to have created the Bridge Brewing website.  Bridge were kind enough to supply tasting glasses and a few growlers of their beer to help get the party started.  I managed to taste their fresh Black IPA (excellent) and their Northwest Pale Ale (seriously off, something went wrong here).  Anyway, thank you Bridge Brewing.

A few key decisions enhanced the event tremendously.  First, it was stipulated that craft beer only would be accepted, though someone ironically brought a six pack of lucky lager.  Second, they moved the fridge into the living area! The genius of this was immediately apparent, in stark contrast to the overly crowded kitchen of the previous beer potluck.

beer potluck table

Potluck table, opened beer goes here, then help yourself

What did I bring?  Well, I didn’t want to intimidate my fellow party goers with my incredible taste, so I didn’t bring anything too good.  Also, sharing incredible beer with those who might not appreciate it is a crime preventable by both greed and passion.  I ended up bringing three big bottles of decent stuff that had been in my fridge for a while, only because I didn’t want to drink them by myself in one go.  I brought Brooklyn Sorachi Ace, Tree Redwood Wine Barrel Aged Ale, and The Commons Flemish Kiss.

Keys to a good beer potluck:

  • Stipulate craft beer only, shame those who disobey
  • Put the fridge in the living area, really opens up the party
  • Get a brewery to sponsor the event, distracting your friends into leaving you all sorts of leftover beer
  • If you have excellent taste, open the beer you brought first
  • Don’t invite freeloading douchebags
  • Provide snacks, everyone loves snacks

Cheers,

Chris