We have our fair share of wiseasses in the craft brewing community, and for this, we are thankful. We work in an industry full of big personalities, creative entrepreneurs and alcohol, which is a perfect recipe for April 1. On April Fools’ Day our inbox fills up with prank press releases, and each year these announcements get more and more creative. The only downside: These tales are not true (but really, someone should make helium beer). Below are five of our favorites. Enjoy…
Ska and Oskar Blues litigate over the letters “ska”
The craft beer industry has recently been rocked by in-fighting over trademarks — and the lack thereof — and it appears that Ska Brewing Co. and Oskar Blues Brewery are the latest two who will be fighting it out over a name.
“We wanted to get out in front of this with a press release because we know it’s going to shock a lot of people,” said Ska President and Co-Founder Dave Thibodeau. “People think of our two breweries as being very close, but just because we’ve partnered with them on a lot of things doesn’t mean we’re going to roll over when they infringe on our rights.”
According to Thibodeau, the spat centers on Oskar Blues’ use of the word “ska” within their name. “They’re using our whole name. It’s right in the middle of their name, like we wouldn’t notice as long as they put an ‘O’ at the beginning and an ‘R’ at the end. Well, we’ve noticed now.”
Thibodeau says he and his business partners were sitting around one day drinking Dale’s Pale Ale, Oskar Blues’ popular canned pale ale, when they realized what was going on.
“Once we figured out what those guys had done, we didn’t want to let another day pass without paying some lawyers,” said Thibodeau. “Obviously bringing lawyers in immediately is the only way to resolve any conflict, so we hired a bunch of them. Hopefully they did too.”
According to Oskar Blues spokesperson Chad Melis, there is no copyright infringement. “What is a ‘ska?’” said Melis. “Is that an acronym? What does it even stand for? First they copy our whole canning idea, then they make an IPA that’s as tasty as ours and now this? It’s redonkulous.”
Still, both breweries say that the legal spat won’t cool their widely-known bromance.
“That’s what we got the lawyers for,” said Thibodeau. “I’m going up there next week to hang out. If I can cross the ‘ska’ out of their name anywhere I will, but yeah, we’ve got some rides and other fun stuff planned. You can’t let this legal stuff get in the way of a good time.”
Stone Brewing releases Stone Cr(He)am Ale, infused with helium
This is what happens when a beer-obsessed scientist has free rein to create beers that push the boundaries of the craft beer industry and science alike — a beer infused with helium. Wait, what? Is that even possible? Yep. And not only did Stone Brewing Co. do it first, the company did it with a cream ale and double dry-hopped it to add that extra tropical, bitter goodness one would expect of a lupulin-obsessed craft brewery. Mind blown? Starting today (April Fools), Stone Stochasticity Project Cr(He)am Ale with Helium is available in 16-ounce cans at retailers, restaurants and bars in select markets nationwide.
The beer is the brainchild of Stone Quality Assurance Supervisor Rick Blankemeier. He came up with the idea for a helium-infused beer after playing around with nitro beers and thought, “What would happen if helium was added to a beer?” The idea was presented to Stone Brewmaster Mitch Steele, who at first assumed it couldn’t be done. After a brief science lesson from Rick, Mitch decided it was worth a try and the beer would be perfect for the Stone Stochasticity Project.
“I think Mitch thought I had been drinking too much of the beer when I went to him with my idea of a helium ale,” said Blankemeier. “I’m really pleased with this beer. The hop aroma punches you in the nose, and there is a slight tingle in the back of the throat that is unique to this brew. The ale provides the drinker with a distinctive sensory experience.”
“This beer is tasty and very strange, but in a good way,” explained Steele. “I’ve never experienced the tingly feeling in the back of my throat that the helium addition provides. I think our fans are really going to like this, and we look forward to brewing other unique beers for the Stochasticity Project.”
Despite its unique and unexpected ingredient, Stone Stochasticity Project Cr(He)am Ale with Helium is an easy-drinking session beer with light notes of toast and an effervescent floral, spicy and strong hop character from the addition of Helga hops. Helium is introduced to the beer via a widget that activates when the can is opened, streaming helium into the beer. The result is a very smooth mouth-feel and a tickle that produces a curious effect on the drinker, unlike any other beer.
Cask Brewing Systems releases self-refilling beer can
On April 1, Cask Brewing Systems, the North American creator of the first micro-canning equipment and a leading innovator in canned craft beer, is announcing the release of its new Self-Refilling Beer Can (SRBC). The SRBC is a unique Cask invention that enables consumers to refill empty beer cans with the beer that was originally packaged in the SRBC. The can has the potential to significantly change the canned craft beer segment.
“We’ve been providing innovative equipment to craft brewers since the 1980s,” said Cask President and Founder Peter Love. “We’ve also been helping craft canners since 2002, but this may be the most innovative thing we’ve ever done. For years, we’ve touted the fact that aluminum cans are infinitely recyclable. Now we can say they are infinitely refillable.”
The can was developed at Cask’s brewing research laboratory with the help of Professor Phelyx, a Denver micro-canning scientist.
“This can has incredible benefits for craft brewers,” Phelyx said. “The Self-Refilling Beer Can allows breweries to increase their beer production without having to actually produce more beer.”
To create the SRBC, Phelyx and Cask experts first created a unique resealing mechanism called the Lid Occlusion Lock (LOL) that reseals an opened can when the consumer gently rubs the can’s opening with their finger. Once the lid is resealed, the beer drinker then lightly shakes the can to activate the In-Can Brewing System (ICBS) that then “rebrews” the original beer
that was packaged in the can.
“Perfecting the ICBS was the crucial step in creating the Self-Refilling Beer Can,” Phelyx noted. “Once we were able to make that work, the Self-Refilling Beer Can went from a dream to a reality.”
In addition to providing a lifetime of craft beer to consumers, the SRBC has other benefits.
“It will quickly shrink the packaging costs for our customers,” said Cask’s Jamie Gordon, “and eliminate any waste from dented cans prior to filling. It could eliminate the need for beer can recycling, too.”
The initial response from retailers to the SRBC has not been favorable. “The lost sales alone would be devastating to my industry,” said Ron Vaughn, of Colorado’s Argonaut Wine and Liquor. “We don’t want to see it in the market.”
Beau’s All Natural announces nothing of interest today
Beau’s All Natural Brewing Co. will release zero new beers today, the Eastern Ontario brewery announced early this morning. In fact, the folks at Beau’s intend to do nothing innovative or award-winning for the duration of the day. The announcement oddly punctuates a seven-year history that includes 78 different beers released, more than $450,000 in donations to charity, community and the arts and 60 plus awards for brewing, sustainability and marketing excellence.
The interesting, unique organic ingredients typical in Beau’s diverse range of beer styles will remain in storage today, brewers have stated; they have absolutely no plans to brew or package any tasty Lug Tread Lagered Ale. Instead of filtering 30,000L of beer as usual, brewer Kevin will be working on his backspin moves in anticipation of a killer breakdancing showdown later today with production planner Phil Beauchesne (who ironically will be practicing the worm). And while the newly renovated tap room and retail store onsite at the brewery will remain open, staff will be using the larger, open-concept space simply to take super-big steps and measure their strides.
The creative department’s vibrant, dynamic office will remain shuttered for the morning as well. “We figure we might play some Catan or something,” offered up Beau’s Creative Director Jordan Bamforth, whose team garnered both Platinum and Gold Awards at Mondial de la Biere in 2013, as well as an Applied Arts Award last year in the Wine-Beer-Spirits category. “Otherwise [designer] Eddy’s got a copy of Season 2 of Everyone Loves Raymond, we could always make a dent in that,” Bamforth added.Instead of filtering 30,000L of beer as usual, brewer Kevin will be working on his backspin moves in anticipation of a killer breakdancing showdown later today with production planner Phil Beauchesne (who ironically will be practicing the worm).The boisterous, cowboy-hat-sporting Special Events Lead Frazer Hadwin will similarly not be speaking with representatives from any of the exciting 2014 music and art festivals that will serve up Beau’s beers this summer. “Just nothing in my appointment book this morning — totally weird,” said Hadwin. “Especially considering how busy my tomorrow looks!”
Sales Manager Jamie Kaufman has asked his team of nearly a dozen friendly, service-oriented sales reps to take it easy as well, with no tap takeovers or tasting events at the nearly 1,000 restaurants and pubs across Ontario that serve Beau’s Lug Tread. Kaufman is planning on an uninspired April 1 himself; he expects to visit a local, family-run hardware store to purchase a bathtub plug. Toronto Sales Rep Rob Morra will keep a low profile, spending the better part of his day trimming his epic mustache and watching classic Wilford Brimley online.
Beau’s All Natural Co-Founder Steve Beauchesne, who will spend a quiet morning at home, commented on the surprisingly uneventful day for the fast-growing, busy Eastern Ontario craft brewery. “I thought we should let a little slack in the rope. It’s got to be about time for Beau’s to take some time to reflect now, right?” Beauchesne was then directed to his own living room, a space where he was told people “sometimes relax.”
Beauchesne notes that despite the unusual lull today, tomorrow things will be in full swing again, as Beau’s gears up for spring and their 10th beer release of the year on April 3: an innovative, unique and inspired Mexican Spiced Ale called Channel Ocho, brewed with chipotle, real cinnamon sticks, whole cloves and cocoa.
Innis and Gunn craft barrel-aged bottles
Innis and Gunn, Scotland’s craft beer that oak-ages all its beers before bottling, has taken the bold decision to bottle its flagship beer, Original, in solid oak bottles. The founder of the Edinburgh-based brewer, that has made a name for itself as a pioneer of oak-aged beers, had the epiphany after an acorn fell on his head during a woodland walk with his dog Woody.
“It was quite incredible,” said CEO Dougal Sharp. “In that moment, I knew exactly what I needed to do — it was a calling. We’re exploring new frontiers here, going where no other brewer has gone before: putting our best-selling beer in solid oak bottles and letting it mature on shelf! To be honest, anyone these days can release a beer matured in oak barrels, so this is really ground-breaking stuff.”
He added: “This is definitely not a foolish whim. Like a fine wine, and some may even say me, Original is a beer that improves with age and this way consumers can decide how much of the oaky character they want from their beer. Innis and Gunn is dismissed by many as not being truly ‘craft’ so all I can say is ‘back at ya!’”
Commenting on the environmental impact of moving to wood, Sharp said: “This is a really positive step in lowering our carbon footprint. Think about it, in one fell swoop this will cut right back on road haulage and shipping because we will use the great British canal network and float the bottles over to Sweden, Canada and the United States. Think how nicely chilled they’d be after a few weeks’ crossing the Atlantic!”
In designing the bottle, Sharp bought a lathe and taught himself the art of woodturning by watching videos on YouTube. “This is a wonderful skill to learn but it took some time, as you can imagine, to create a bottle identical in size and appearance to our glass one. The oak tree that the children liked to climb in the garden had to go but they understood it was for a greater cause. They’re now helping me with the oak nursery we’ve planted behind the office. And ‘wood’ you believe it, we’ve discovered that the saplings like the sound of The Proclaimers … Sunshine on Leith is their favorite!”
The bottles, which will be available in all markets from February 29, 2015, will be lovingly made by hand by every member of the Innis and Gunn team in Edinburgh. “We’ve now trained up everyone in the company in the art of modelling these bottles,” Sharp said, “and will be producing them by hand from our head office. They’ll have their work cut out as we sell over seven million bottles of Original every year but this project is too important to ax. We’ll also be running bottle-making courses as part of our events program, so guests can make and take away their own.”