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Draft Beer Not People: The local scene ponders Beer Wars

Blue Mountain Brewery’s Full Nelson pale ale meets beer, cheese and bacon soup at Mockingbird. Staunton, VA

Y’all ever get to wondering?  Like how come pregnant ladies aren’t supposed to eat peanut butter or brie cheese? Is there anything cuter than baby sea otters?  Why are we still clinging to the metric system?  And how did that delicious frothy beer make it to the glass in front of me?

How does that work? And how do consumers decide what beer to buy?  A group of citizens from Rocktown decided to find out.  Last Thursday night we made the drive south to our sister from another mister city of Staunton to see if we could find some answers.  If you aren’t from around here (and we know who you are because you don’t know how to pronounce Staunton, nor will I teach you because it’s our way of identifying people who aren’t from around here) then you don’t know that Mockingbird has gotten to be a pretty big deal.

Owner Wade Luhn has brought all things local under one charming and chic rooftop.  Supporting Shenandoah Valley food producers in the restaurant and area musicians in the music hall, Mockingbird is an ideal venue for community gatherings.  Every third Thursday Mockingbird holds a free admission film night presented by Transition Staunton Augusta and Staunton Green 2020.  This particular Thursday the film selection was Beer Wars and featured a brewer’s dinner with the folks from Blue Mountain Brewery.  Matt Nucci, Taylor and Mandy Smack: the Blue Mountain team drove over from Nelson County to talk about beer, eat good food, watch the movie and discuss their personal hop battles.

Beer Wars (2009), directed by Anat Baron is a wakeup call for consumers of beer.  If you want your craft brewing small business loving blood to get boiling, definitely rent this one asap (fyi: it’s a watch instant on Netflix).  Check out the preview:

Beer Wars Movie Trailer

One particularly scary thing about the film is the rate at which the big three (Anheuser-Busch (InBev), Miller and Coors) are buying up breweries just for use of their name!  Feeling threatened now that many Americans are looking to small owned, quality breweries for their drinking choices, the big guys are fighting back.  Not only are they buying up small craft breweries, they are also creating their own “craft beer” labels and putting them on the shelf next to real microbrews.  Can we talk for a minute about Blue Moon?  I have seen so many, particularly ladies, who love to drink Blue Moon.  Here is a video extra from Beer Wars address the myth that Belgians are behind this one:

Beer Wars Movie, Blue Moon Clip

It’s not a craft beer people!  Nor, for that matter, is Shocktop.  And just because you put a pair of shades and a mohawk on an orange slice doesn’t make it cool.  Help fight the stupid by taking these wannabees out of the hands of friends and replacing them with a nice Abita Purple Haze, a lovely Allagash White, or a refreshing Lost Coast Great White.  Hoegaarden is a great alternative, even though InBev has the distribution rights on that one too! ARGH can’t win!!!

Beer Wars also challenges those who claim to enjoy drinking one of the big three (who are actually now the big two following the merger of Miller and Coors).  It makes me want to submit certain friends to a blind beer test like they did in the film and see if they can actually tell the difference.   It’s served ice cold so you can’t taste how bland and yellow it is.  Now some of those same misguided friends may also say, “whatever my wallet is tight, I want to get my drink on for a lower price.”  Taylor Smack says wrong: as most craft beers have a higher abv you are getting more buzz for your buck when you buy one of his six packs.

It seems like Virginia is at least is winning some battles, if not the war.  Blue Mountain Brewery may not be able to get into major grocery chains like Martins or Harris-Teeter after being elbowed out by big beer.  But their persistence and DIY style has made them attractive to restaurants and groceries specializing in the eat locally movement.  Nucci and the Smacks grow their own hops in the front yard of the brewery and people drive out to Nelson County (which is pretty much out of the way of anything) to enjoy the patio and scenic mountains.  Every time I’ve gone, the place has been packed! Taylor says ultimately he would like continue to expand, but never let it get away from hands on.

The meal was $35 and paired four beers (Blue Mountain Classic Lager, Full Nelson

Blue Mountain Brewery’s Dark Hollow Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout meets dessert at Mockingbird. Staunton, VA

Virginia Pale Ale, Pumpkin, and Dark Hollow Bourboun Barrel Aged Stout) with four courses.  I particularly enjoyed the non-traditional Pumpkin.  Taylor Smack told the audience he wanted to stick with a more natural pumpkin flavor, steering away from the brewing trend of adding nutmeg, ginger or other spices found in pumpkin pies.  I found it to be a refreshing twist on the style.   Dark Hollow is well worth the trip to Nelson County, big on that bourbon flavor but doesn’t drown you with it.

It was a great night and exciting to listen to the shocked comments of an audience who had just learned the truth about beer.  It definitely inspires one to question before you sip.

As to my original thoughts from the beginning of the article: does one really want to get pregnant if one can’t enjoy peanut butter, brie or an amazing beer?  Hmmm … that whole motherhood thing still is not compelling enough.

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3 Comments

  • Reply Jenni-Firkin October 24, 2010 at 6:19 pm

    I was so depressed when I saw Beer Wars. Perhaps I’d have been less so had I been able to watch it while drinking good beer . . .

    • Reply Real Beerwife of VA October 24, 2010 at 6:24 pm

      It is sad. I imagine you have seen some crazy things in the Virginia Beer War.

  • Reply Real Beerwife of VA October 24, 2010 at 6:38 pm

    I just had to share one more. Sam Caligione of Dogfish Head was prominently featured in the film. He was such an endearing “dude” who truly has fun at work. Here is another segment from the film in which he shares an example of the ridiculous and costly lengths big beer goes to.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VstFCjiW5ss

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