2016, The Year of No.

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There’s a small nugget of business wisdom that we’ve come to hold sacred around here:

If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”.

It’s the central lesson of a very short post by CD Baby founder Derek Sivers, and became our de facto motto of 2016. While we celebrated the close of 2015 with a sprawling list of numerical accomplishments, we celebrate the close of 2016 – the year of no – with a look back on the benefits of focus and reduction.

Given the infinitely open-ended nature of brewery ownership, opportunities of every shape and size present themselves on a perpetual basis. On top of the constant temptation to take on new projects and events of their own, breweries are bombarded with an endless stream of invitations and requests. As wide-eyed 23-year-olds with a newly operational brewery on our hands, we were kids in a candy shop. The world was our burrito.

We quickly developed the symptoms Sivers identifies in his first sentence of Hell Yeah – we were over-committed and too scattered. His solution:

When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than “Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!” — then say “no.”

When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to really throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say “HELL YEAH!”

Over the course of 2016, we took that advice to heart. We turned down a lot of things. We scaled back our distribution to bars and restaurants. We made less one-off beers. We stripped down our frequent and varied string of events, including our monthly food truck roundups. We even shed the brand identity we’d had since before we opened.

In turn, we threw ourselves completely into the rare things that made us say “HELL YEAH”: we focused on our taproom experience, solidified our entire line of flagship and seasonal beers, planted the seeds for our upcoming farmhouse ale series, made Beer + Yoga the best it could be, and revamped our brand identity to create something more iconic and long-lasting. Paring down our entire operation to only that which is absolutely essential has increased efficiency, decreased clutter, and provided us all with a lot more peace of mind.

A lot of the things we’ve said no to, it’s merely us saying not yet, so that at some point down the line we can say hell yeah to them as well.

Thank you for saying hell yeah along with us.

5 Albums We Played The Hell Out Of In 2016

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Two years ago, a small personal project cataloguing our most-played albums of 2014 kicked off one of our favorite traditions. We gave it a second go-round in 2015, and we’ve now found ourselves at the end of another year. We don’t necessarily assert that these five albums are the best albums of the year, as authoritative lists like that are best left to music blogs and magazines. They are merely the ones we played the hell out of – a glimpse into an important part of our company culture: our collective soundtrack.

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1. Bayside – Vacancy [2016]

Following a messy divorce and a subsequent stint living in the motel pictured on the album’s cover, you’d think Bayside frontman Anthony Raneri would be writing far darker music than Vacancy. Make no mistake, Vacancy is dark as hell. But the pained, broken, and lonely thematic material is not delivered somberly; instead, it is on the backs of sweeping and theatrical melodies. Over catchy, anthemic arrangements, Raneri examines with raw and pleading honesty the position he’s found himself in and everything that led him there. His impressive vocal range and crisp enunciation add to the Broadway-style flare, weaving and snarling amongst big, soaring, Built To Spill-style guitar riffs and anthemic major-key hooks. In the end, the glimmer of hope still shines through, finishing with the straightforwardly-titled “It’s Not As Depressing As It Sounds”.

I’ll be the first to admit that Vacancy isn’t wildly innovative. It falters when it leans too heavily on formulaic pop-punk compositions. But Bayside’s genre-bending seventh album is certainly varied enough to warrant regular listenings, making for an experience that’s as enjoyable as it is reliable.

If you’re only going to listen to one song: Pretty Vacant [3:12]

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2. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo [2016]

We’ve all been made well aware by this point of how Kanye West feels about Kanye West. He’s a neurotic and unpredictable narcissist who’s seemingly morphed into a caricature of himself via his constant string of high-drama media outbursts and bizarro-world commentary. Taking cues from both the highly polished maximalism of 2009’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and the gritty, industrial minimalism of 2013’s Yeezus, The Life of Pablo feels like a manifestation of his volatile public persona: a glitchy, messy and unpredictable collage of sound.

The jagged pile of audacious boasts, however, is layered with admissions of deep insecurities – especially when it comes to family. As Rolling Stone‘s Rob Sheffield notes, Kanye “hides behind the douchebag mask” so not to be seen as “a restless husband (“FML”), a guilt-ridden son (“Wolves”), a manipulative phony (“Real Friends”), a distant dad (“Father Stretch My Hands, Pt. 2″) and all the other things he worries he is.” The man-child prodigy we all love to hate still has quite a bit of soul-searching to do, and he continues to give us a deeply personal front row seat.

If you’re only going to listen to one song: Waves [3:02]

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3. Cubicolor – Brainsugar [2016]

Two Dutch producers and a British vocalist make up the deep house trio Cubicolor, whose unique flavor of electronic music comes to life in their debut album Brainsugar. It’s quiet and atmospheric, the kind of soundtrack best suited for a peaceful late night drive or a foggy early morning. Lush compositions of gently pulsing rhythms form the liquid undercurrent upon which haunting tenor vocals float. Layers of smooth, clicking percussion, spacious and meandering piano arrangements, dark, textured synths and rich basslines paint a cavernous yet elegantly muted landscape. Like its title would suggest, Cubicolor’s first go-round is an immersive and cerebral experience.

If you’re only going to listen to one song: Falling [4:30]

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4. Classixx – Faraway Reach [2016]

The level of esteem with which we’ve held Classixx’s first album Hanging Gardens (2013) certainly made for high expectations concerning their sophomore release. Moving in a more pop-focused direction but still retaining the bouncy, retro world-beat vibes present on Hanging Gardens, Faraway Reach features an ensemble cast of vocalist collaborators (from Passion Pit’s Michael Angelakos to T-Pain) to round out the sun-drenched tropical house melodies. Their signature effervescence returns in full technicolor, gliding to and fro through cascades of blips and pings – the musical equivalent of rainbow Dippin’ Dots, minus the brainfreeze.

If you’re only going to listen to one song: Safe Inside (ft. Passion Pit) [4:03]

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5. Band of Horses – Why Are You Ok [2016]

By all standard technical metrics, Band of Horses’ newest release Why Are You Ok is a mediocre album. It’s a bit over-simplistic, relying on many of the same sonic cliches that made many of their previous albums so homogenous. But to bring this back to beer for a moment, Why Are You Ok is like a well-made pilsner: what it lacks in innovation, it makes up for in accessibility. The theme of home is woven throughout the album, a fitting topic for an album that excels within its own four walls. The few boundaries that it does push are Band of Horses’ own, amplifying all of the best elements from their previous work and wrapping them up in a more polished package than we’ve seen from them in the past (as with any project involving Rick Rubin). It’s a simple, sweeping indie rock crowd-pleaser soaked in reverb, warmth, and nostalgia, and that’s all it needs to be.

If you’re only going to listen to one song: Solemn Oath [4:00]

Honorable Mentions: Our Individual Picks

ASA’S PICK: Lord Huron – Strange Trails [2015]

Strange Trails is an Americana epic with all the flow of a classic movie. Melodies and hooks resurface in multiple places and forms, popping up in reprises and callbacks that feel like theme songs for its many characters and locations. The soundscapes recall the pastoral deciduous vistas of Hudson River Valley School-style paintings, a folktale Odyssey winding through field, stream, and prairie.

If you’re only going to listen to one song: La Belle Fleur Sauvage [5:41]

MATT’S PICK: Various Artists – Anjunadeep 08 [2016]

Another year, another Anjuna family pick from me. Even though it was released only a few weeks ago, the Anjunadeep 08 compilation has already received heavy air time. Producers James Grant and Jody Wisternoff spent the better part of the last eighteen months building one of the most eclectic compilations to date. The result is deep, danceable, and vibrant, a two-and-a-half hour journey will surely move you (or get you to move).

If you’re only going to listen to one song: Yotto – Edge of Affection [5:10]

BREWHOUSE PICK: Thrice – To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere [2016]

Thrice returns from a five-year hiatus to deliver their 9th full album, To Be Everywhere – a forceful and dynamic adventure across the veteran band’s ever-changing musical spectrum. Punishing guitars, melodic bass, and powerful political lyrics, fall under a blanket of ambient harmonies, the type of complexity we’ve come to expect from such a diverse and longstanding group.

If you’re only going to listen to one song: The Long Defeat [4:11]

The Complete Winter Lineup

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Longstanding members of this most prestigious group of blog readers may be able to harken back to a time before our quest to complete our lineup of twelve seasonal beers. Each of the last three seasons saw the completion of their own individual lineups, leading us to the finish line this winter: returning favorite Mammoth will this year be joined by our new winter pale ale, Kaizen, and ultra-creamy coffee milk stout, Deep Breakfast.

Named for the philosophy of perpetual improvement, Kaizen aims to winterize our normally soft, juicy pales with a resinous blend of Pacific Northwest hops and biscuity malt. A character of pine, resin and grapefruit lend balance to a base of fresh-baked bread.

A long-forgotten one-off reenters the astral plane as Deep Breakfast joins the winter lineup. This silken, creamy milk stout features an exceptionally high coffee content, making for an experience more akin to cold brew than beer.

The ground trembles once again with the return of Mammoth, the behemoth heavyweight of our seasonal double IPA family. With intense mandarin orange, pineapple and mango flavors and a lightly resinous finish, Mammoth remains a formidable opponent in its eternal battle against the leviathan octopus, Akamai.

Mammoth will be available on draft in the taproom tomorrow, with Kaizen and Deep Breakfast following suit on December 7th.

BG Hackathon v2.0

hackathon-logo-bannerWith our sights set on creating a few useful tech upgrades, we attacked the past weekend’s Hackathon with some serious nerd fervor and indeed delivered. Our second annual 24-hour project blitz – the follow-up to last year’s inaugural event – yielded three deliverables: a major overhaul to our digital menu platforma brand new tablet-based guestbook system, and a whimsical pair of ‘brewery tours’ using a mix of drone, steadicam, and VR footage.

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Project #1: Upgrade the Menu Board

The menu board upgrade began by analyzing our current menu board, with which there were some glaring issues: it was easy to get lost in all the lines and numbers, and there was no differentiation between groups or categories of beers. And when the draft list became slim (which has occurred more often than not in recent months), the landscape became barren.

The new design is cleaner, simpler, and more adaptable. It retains the general aesthetic of the previous draft list, while increasing legibility and impact. Catch the new setup in a few weeks once we implement the changes and iron out the kinks.

Project #2: Tablet-based Guestbook

Given that our weekly newsletter is our primary form of communication for alerting you all of brewery goings-on, having an easy way for taproom guests to sign up in person is a critical addition. To achieve this, we designed and built a BG Guestbook web app (and a handy iPad stand) where patrons are able to create guestbook entries, snap a photo, and peruse previous checkins. We’ll be debuting the BG Guestbook this Saturday at the Beers of the Burgh festival.

Project #3: Drone / Steadicam / VR Brewery Tour

This project was more about trying some new things, using some cool tech, and generally goofing off. We procured a cheap Google Cardboard VR headset, brought our drone pilot / video whiz friend Cory in on the action, and quickly whipped up together some new media. See the video Cory put together above, and check out the 360° VR shot of the brewhouse here.

After a successful second iteration, we look forward to building upon the BG Hackathon model in coming years. After all, while brewing beer will always be our most obvious function as a brewery, experiences like these make us who we are. We’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone that participated and provided feedback – we’ll be back at it next fall.

A Simpler Brew Gentlemen

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As a company that exists to provide meaningful experiences, the creation of an impactful brand has always been a priority. This creative process requires a huge amount of time, thought, strategy, and resources – brands are dynamic and require constant tweaks and updates.

After putting in a consistent effort to solidify an identity, making a more substantial shift becomes an all-encompassing undertaking. Everything the former brand  has been incorporated into – any object, product or piece of media that’s been put out into the world, be it physical or digital – is immediately rendered obsolete. There’s also the risk of sacrificing recognizability, something that’s taken hard work to establish with customers. And, with so many internet lists of high-profile trainwreck rebranding projects available for our collective amusement, it’s clearly a gambit capable of being royally botched by organizations of any shape and size.

All challenges aside, rebranding is a breath of fresh air and introduces a new toolset with which to work. This revision replaces the logo we’ve used since we opened in 2014. As Creative Director, this is a pretty big milestone. Building a dependable brand is a necessity as we prepare for continued growth.


Over the past year, our visual style outpaced our former logo. The logo required a drastic update, but needed to maintain enough similarity to the previous design to stay recognizable. It also had to be versatile enough for a wide variety of applications: displayed on screens of all sizes, printed on merchandise and packaging, incorporated into our physical location, and more.

We set out to revise our logo with three major goals in mind:

Create a standalone emblem, an asset we’ve desired from day one but were never able to figure out.

Update our wordmark, maintaining the feel of our previous typography and more clearly asserting our company colors of orange and charcoal gray.

Simplify our name from The Brew Gentlemen Beer Company to Brew Gentlemen.

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bg emblem color-01The BG emblem, created for use as both a standalone icon and alongside the wordmark as part of the overall logo, incorporates a number of our design standards: symmetry, center alignment, uniform line weights and spacing, and a heavy use of horizontal and vertical elements.

True Gentlemen spreadOur new wordmark is based around the font True Gentlemen, which I created as a bolder, more geometric alternative to our former logo’s Libel Suit typeface. True Gentlemen contains an iconic B and G that could be used for the adjoining emblem, and incorporates a cleaner and more structured look that falls more within our existing visual style.

As for simplifying our name to Brew Gentlemen, that just seemed like a prudent maneuver. It’s cleaner.

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Since our initial decision to start a brewery, Matt and I were never able to settle upon a logo that fit our overall brand identity. The issue resurfaced time and time again, but nothing ever felt complete. A lot of imagery seemed too forced. Ideas never seemed to resonate. After two years of operation under our belts, however, we’ve learned a lot about the visual elements that make us who we are. By simplifying and expanding upon these qualities, we’ve finally found our logo.

As we grow into our new look, we hope that it enables us to better represent the experiences that we built this company to provide.

Cheers,

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Asa Foster
Co-founder & Creative Director, Brew Gentlemen

The Complete Fall Lineup

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In order to both a.) keep things simple and b.) continue our focus on hop-forward beers while leaving ourselves some room to play around, we’ve standardized each season’s lineup to include a pale ale, a double IPA, and a wild card. With the wild card slot firmly taken by returning seasonal favorite Mexican Coffee, newcomers Tree Star and Kabuto arrive this year to complete the fall seasonal trio.

Mexican Coffee is our answer to the cooler temperatures and shorter days of fall. A creamy and full-bodied oatmeal stout aged on coffee beans, cinnamon, and vanilla, Mexican Coffee has been the subject of oh-so-many inquiries – the two most frequent being “Why can’t I taste the peppers?” and “when does it come back?”, and the respective answers being “because there aren’t any peppers in it” and “right now.”

Tree Star is the newest addition to the pale ale column, joining predecessors Overgrowth (spring) and Shoshin (summer). It has a more pronounced malt base, adding a light nuttiness to complement a lush hop character of watermelon candy and Asian pear.

Our powerhouse quadrumvirate of seasonal juice-nukes is now complete: Mammoth (winter), Albatross (spring), Akamai (summer), and now, Kabuto. It’s a dank and resinous yet bright and tropical double IPA solely featuring the hop varietal formerly known as Equinox. It has an aroma like a freshly-popped ziplock of sticky-icky that gives way to a fruit-forward burst of guava, apple, and papaya. Kabuto – the Japanese word for the characteristic horned helmets worn by samurai – lends its name to the  kabutomushi, or Japanese rhinoceros beetle, featured in its logo.

Mexican Coffee and Kabuto will be released on draft in the taproom tomorrow, with Tree Star following suit on September 14th.

With three out of four seasonal lineups now complete, here’s our newly updated production calendar:

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The Roundup Wrap-up

After a year and a half of hosting our monthly Food Truck Roundups, we’ve made the decision to bring the series to a close.

Our mission at The Brew Gentlemen Beer Co. is to provide elegant and meaningful experiences through exceptional beer, thoughtful hospitality, and attention to detail. Our continued collaboration with food trucks and mobile vendors is a significant aspect of that overall experience.

Our monthly Food Truck Roundups, which began in December 2014 and ran until June of this year, started with the intention of being a recurring celebration of mobile food in Braddock.

However, roundups are a complex undertaking that require a substantial degree of planning and and all hands on deck in order to run smoothly. To manage this added complexity, we made concessions to our regular service. Proper glassware for our beer, sharp attire for our staff, and a pleasant atmosphere for our customers, to name a few – things that detract from the thoughtful hospitality and attention to detail that we’ve outlined in our mission and continue to strive toward. Reducing this complexity allows our team more bandwidth to focus on growth.

Furthermore, following the borough’s 2016 policy shift disallowing outdoor drinking, we have found that these circumstances (and the resulting logistical hurdles) hinder our ability to provide the best possible experience. Food truck roundups draw a hell of a crowd, and are now frequently hosted by other local businesses and venues that are better suited to accommodate those crowds. As a result, our focus remains set on the impact that mobile food can have on Braddock – a census-designated ‘food desert’ – through consistent availability and high-quality service. We are continuing to work with the borough to be respectful to our neighbors and find a solution that will allow us to have events in the future.

While we will no longer be hosting monthly roundups, our core lineup of mobile food vendors will continue to serve at the taproom during regular hours. Through the hard work and commitment of these small businesses, we will continue to provide food options for our customers and the rest of the Braddock community.

The most up-to-date information regarding mobile food service is available via our taproom Twitter account and our website.

Lou: Ales for ALS 2016

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When we were selected as one of 80 breweries in the country to participate in last year’s Ales for ALS program, we were obviously rather geeked. It was an opportunity to support a cause that we had a direct personal connection to, and the end result was one of the most well-received beers we’ve ever released.

A quick refresher on Ales for ALS: Participating breweries receive a proprietary hop blend (consisting mostly of unreleased, experimental hop varietals) with which to make a beer of their choice. A portion of sales from these beers are in turn donated to the ALS Therapy Development Institute. We decided on a double IPA, because that’s what we do here, and named it Lou.

We’re pleased to announce that the 2016 edition of Lou will be returning to the taproom this week, with $1 from each draft sold going towards the fight against ALS. It’s quite a bit more resinous and herbal than last year’s version, with an intense character of tropical fruit, citrus zest, and pine. Thank you in advance for helping us, yet again, to support a good cause through an awesome program.

Zen Cucumber Octopus.

summer seasonals 2016

The quarterly changing of the guard is upon us once again, with a newly-complete trio of summer seasonals here to fill the void left by the unfortunate but necessary departure of AlbatrossOvergrowth, and Loose Seal. And similarly to this past spring’s lineup, we’ve got two returning favorites accompanied by one new addition to the squad.

In our recent blog post about our second anniversary, we mentioned shoshin, a Zen Buddhist concept meaning “a beginner’s mind” – “having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner in that subject would,”  as Wikipedia so eloquently puts it. After deciding to start a brewery as college students with zero industry experience, we learned very quickly that the only way we’d succeed would be through keeping an open mind and maintaining an insatiable thirst for knowledge.

Named to honor that which has guided us since the very beginning, Shoshin is a floral and balanced summer pale ale made with Hallertau Blanc hops. Built to be a bit lighter and more refreshing than Overgrowth, its springtime cousin, Shoshin has a lush character of pineapple and white grape rounding out a dry, cracker-malt backbone.

Garden Party, the first-ever BG seasonal and the subject of oh-so-many taproom inquiries, returns for its third summer. This clean and crisp American wheat beer made with fresh cucumbers is the perfect companion to porch swings, nine o’clock sunsets, and Paul Simon’s Graceland. Serve with a slice of lime for a light touch of refreshing acidity.

Also making a return appearance will be Akamai (Hawaiian Pidgin for “cleverness” or “street smarts”), the double IPA that kicked off a quarterly rotation of juice-nukes that now featuresMammoth and Albatross. This year’s batch of Akamai looks to be even brighter and more tropical than its previous incarnation, dry-hopped with huge amounts of Citra, Simcoe, and Chinook hops.

Garden Party will be released on draft in the taproom tonight, with Akamai following suit on June 15th and Shoshin on June 22nd.

And thus, with the beginning of Shoshin’s rookie year on the Team Summer, we achieve the completion of two out of our four seasonal lineups. Here’s where our production calendar currently stands:

 

Product Calendar (public)

Enjoy the summer, family.

2nd Anniversary Week

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In the PBS Parents Child Development Tracker’s section on two-year-olds, it notes that “two-year-olds enjoy using their senses and motor skills to explore the world and are highly curious about unfamiliar objects, events and phenomena”.

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve weathered our fair share of unfamiliar objects, events, and phenomena over the past two years. We attribute a lot of the successes we’ve had thus far to what the Japanese call shoshin – facing all of these new and unfamiliar things with the mindset of a student and a thirst for new skills and knowledge. We’ve got a long way still to go, but thanks to all of our friends, family, and supporters, we’ve made some pretty crazy progress in two short years. Now it’s time to celebrate, and we’ve got a full lineup of new beers and events.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 18th – HAZY PALES

We’re kicking off our 2nd Anniversary Week with the release of three new hazy pales:

– A new batch of Albatross, our all-Galaxy spring double IPA
Foshomo, an amped-up double IPA version of Momo, our Mosaic pale ale
Foggy Mountain, a new American pale ale with Azacca, Amarillo and Simcoe hops

All three beers will be available on draft and in growlers. Bottles of Foshomo will be released during our Anniversary Bottle Release on Saturday, May 21st.

THURSDAY, MAY 19th – BEER + YOGA

We’ve got a special, slightly-more-energetic-than-usual session of Beer + Yoga for you with a bumping night class complete with DJ.

FRIDAY, MAY 20th – LET’S DO BRISKET

We’re teaming up with Blowfish BBQ and Dirty Dog Cigar Shoppe for an evening of brisket and cigars to celebrate the eve of our anniversary.

SATURDAY, MAY 21st – ANNIVERSARY PARTY & BOTTLE RELEASE

BOTTLE RELEASE • 12PM
At noon, we’ll be releasing three new beers in bottles, as well as a limited number of 2nd Anniversary glassware and t-shirts.

II: 2nd Anniversary Old Ale Aged in Oak Barrels ($15/bottle, limit 4 per person)
Foshomo: Mosaic Double IPA ($10/bottle, limit 4 per person)
The Unknown Unknown: Farmhouse Ale ($10/bottle, limit 4 per person) *
2nd Anniversary Glassware ($15)
2nd Anniversary T-Shirt ($20)

*EDIT: Unfortunately, The Unknown Unknown will not be released until after the 21st.

ANNIVERSARY PARTY • 5PM
Details TBA.

SUNDAY, MAY 22nd – BEER + YOGA

Two Beer + Yoga classes to help you recover from the week’s festivities.