SYNEK beer dispenser unveils design, new website, eyes summer release


I wrote about this for many months ago, and this announcement came today. Thought I would share, as this does look like an interesting product. Here’s the press release from SYNEK:

(St. Louis, MO): SYNEK (‘sin-eck’) is pleased to announce the release of the final dispenser design and new website, The final design is a result of over six months of meetings with industry experts and breweries to make the necessary changes to the original prototype shown during the 2014 Kickstarter campaign. The reveal video showcases the final design of the dispenser in several different settings, displaying the versatility of the unit.

“We believe that SYNEK could have the same impact on beer that Keurig had on coffee,” said Steve Young, Founder. “Brewers engage more customers, distributors save on shipping costs, retailers fit more product on shelves, and customers access more brands than ever before.”

Unlike bottles and cans, SYNEK bags can be filled from any tap, giving access to an unlimited variety.  The dispenser is self-refrigerated and pressurized, which extends the shelf life well past growlers. In addition to the aesthetic changes, the new design includes several functional improvements to the original prototype, including: improved insulation, cooling, and the ease of interchanging bags.

“It sounds like a beer lover’s fantasy: all around the country, everyone could have beer dispensers on their kitchen counters next to their coffee machines, spouting cold bitter brews into eager glasses throughout the day.” –Time Magazine


SYNEK is a portable countertop beer dispenser that can be filled from any tap. The St. Louis based startup company ran a successful $650,000 Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in the summer of 2014 wherein they pre-sold thousands of units in over 40 countries. They currently have 1,200+ brewery partnerships in those countries, a number growing daily. They have also received recognition from local and national startup competitions including: the St. Louis Startup Challenge and Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest competition. Learn more at

Craft Beer is Hitting it Out of the Park

brewery district great americanMy friend Kory warned me that Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati had basically constructed a shrine to craft beer. No, it’s more like a grand temple.

As we walked into the park recently to attend a Reds-Cubs tilt, he motioned to his left and said, “The craft beer booth is down there.”

Booth? Temple.

This thing is 85 feet of tap upon tap upon tap (60 in all), under a sign reading, “Brewery District.” Some of the offerings include draft versions of Cincinnati’s own Christian Moerlein Over the Rhine, Lexington, Ky.’s West Sixth Amber, Blank Slate Lesser Path, Rivertown Seasonal Alt, Great Lakes Burning River and more. Rows of red-lit barrels sit behind the bar and there is even a big fake grain silo to make you think at a glance there’s an actual brewery nearby.

At nine bucks each for a 16-ounce size pour, it does seem pricey, but it isn’t so bad when you consider that across the concourse they’re getting $7.50 for a Bud Light. (Of course, the large 24-ounce pour at $13 does seem a bit much. Heck, you can almost get two growlers filled for that price at your local brewery.)

But the point is that until recently, you couldn’t get a craft beer at many stadiums to save your life – well, unless you consider Beck’s or Stella Artois to be craft beers. It was almost all corporate light – along with maybe an occasional Labatt if you’re in Detroit.

The recent Craft Brewers Conference, held last month in Denver, offered some statistics to explain why something like the Brewery District would happen at a Major League park. You ready?

In 2013, overall beer sales were down by 2 percent. Craft beer sales, meanwhile, saw an 18 percent increase. Think about that. Studies have shown beer drinkers are moving toward distilled spirits in big numbers – not surprising, considering what beer had become until recent years – but the craft beer movement is simply on fire.

0428141755b(1)Last year, 15.6 million barrels of craft beer got quaffed, which is 2.3 million more than in 2012. And as of the end of 2013, 2,768 craft breweries – including brewpubs, microbreweries and regional craft breweries – were in business, including 413 new breweries that opened. Of those new craft breweries, there were 65 in California alone.

But the figure that jumped out at me was the number of craft breweries that are in the ramping-up stages of opening. That number is an astounding 1,744. No, that it is not a misprint. You’re talking about a projected nearly four times as many new breweries in 2014 as in 2013. If that number is reasonably accurate, and even a large percentage of them actually opens this year, you’re looking at roughly 60 percent growth.

It’s also worth mentioning that the current capacity of craft breweries in operation is not at 100 percent – there is plenty of room for production growth in existing operations. Five reasons for optimism the Craft Brewers Association cited include:

  • Growth in craft barrels and the percentage is  rapidly accelerating
  • Large retailers are coming around
  • Legislators are recognizing value of local craft breweries
  • New states are discovering craft beer
  • The capacity pipeline is keeping up with growth

You gotta believe InBev and MillerCoors execs somewhere in big corner offices are pacing the floors. Might be time for them to break the seal, because it seems pretty clear this craft beer thing isn’t going away.

This post was originally published by

Craft Beer Extravaganza returns for Thunder Over Louisville

beer pourFor the seventh year, Buckhead Mountain Grill and Rocky’s Italian Grill in Jeffersonville will bring a bevy of brews from around the country to the Thunder Over Louisville celebration on Saturday, April 12.

Local favorites Bluegrass Brewing Company and Falls City will be on hand to share their wares at the Thunder Craft Beer Extravaganza, along with Indiana’s Daredevil Brewing, Sun King and Upland. Top national breweries such as New Belgium, Stone Brewing, Sierra Nevada, Oskar Blues, Bell’s, Founders and more will also have booths at the festival.

Attendees will have more than 50 craft beers in all of which to partake, and the festival of course includes a ringside seat in Jeffersonville for the much-anticipated annual fireworks and aerial display, not to mention an appetizer and dinner buffet, including non-alcoholic beverages.

This craft beer festival is a family-friendly event; there will be arts and crafts for kids. Meanwhile, for the adults, brewers, brewery reps and distribution reps will be serving at the event and will be available to talk “beer” throughout the day. Admission includes a Tasting Card that entitles attendees to one sample of each brewery’s flagship or session beer; additional samples and full-size pours will also be available for purchase. (Liquor and wine will be available, as well, for non-beer drinkers.)

Gates open at 2 p.m., and the festival will be open until just after the fireworks end.  Adult admission is $85 per adult, while kids 6-12 years old are $25 (kids under 6 are admitted free); tickets can be purchased online, or by calling 812-284-2919 or 812-282-3844. The Thunder Craft Beer Extravaganza is held at the Buckhead Mountain Grill located at 707 W. Riverside Drive, Jeffersonville, rain or shine.

This post was originally published by Insider Louisville.

Garrett Oliver Inspires in Lexington

Photo courtesy Aussie1962.

Photo courtesy Aussie1962.

Brooklyn Brewery brewmaster Garrett Oliver believes your first pint of the night at any pub should always be local.

Hard to argue that.

When in Lexington, Ky recently for the Craft Writing Symposium, Oliver said he settled in at a local watering hole the night before and did just that. The next day, the brewer, author and all-around beacon of energy talked to the nearly-packed auditorium at the University of Kentucky about brewing, writing and, most importantly, people.

In fact, the title of his presentation was “Beer is People,” and he quickly had everyone in the audience convinced it was true. He talked about what makes good beer writing and also about writing his first book, The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food, along with the challenge he faced in getting it written.

People, he said, look to see what’s going on in the world by getting online and searching. They have become aggregators, he reasoned, and “they are picking the loudest voices.”

To that end, Oliver, clad in a plaid shirt and buttoned black jacket, said people will assume that “if you don’t say anything, you aren’t doing anything.”

Well, he’s doing things. This is a guy who is a thriving author and, clearly, speaker. His first piece of advice to those who write about beer is to write more like wine writers do; in other words, talking about the chemistry is not appetizing.

While beer writers often wax feverishly about IBUs (International Bittering Units), he said, you rarely read a wine review that prattles on about tannin units.

The term IBU, he said, “doesn’t sound delicious.”

And so, he suggested writing about beer the way one writes about sports.

“Flavor is an action in time,” he said, later adding, “beer is not chemicals, it’s people. If you write about chemistry, you’re missing the entire story.”

Instead, the story is “in the diversion of an intended path.” The questions to ask the subject of a story, Oliver said, are: What did you intend to do, and what did you sacrifice?

This, he reasoned, is because most brewers don’t set out to become brewers.

Oliver, who at 51 appears far younger, has worked in many other fields, including in the rock music industry – he said he once took the Ramones bowling, in fact. But brewing sneaked into his life and unintentionally became his passion. He joined Brooklyn Brewery in the early 1990s, and the book came about 10 years later.

Writing the book, he said, was a diversion to be sure, one he honestly didn’t know if he was up for.

“Brewing is hard,” Oliver said. “Writing is really, really, really hard.”

But it was nevertheless a diversion from the intended path that needed to be taken. He realized this after a friend asked him a simple question: Do you want to be sorry now or sorry later?

The difference is that if you choose to be sorry now, you “write the book, do the work, and descend into hell.” If you choose to be sorry later, that simply makes you the person who isn’t willing to take it on.

“Sorry later,” he said, “lasts forever.”

All in all, it was a most inspiring presentation, and one that will stick with me, not just as a writer, but as a human being in general. And if you get the chance to hear Oliver speak, take advantage. Remember: Sorry later lasts forever.

This post was originally published by

Sam Adams ‘Mystery Man’ Feels the Craft Spirit

sam rebel ipaSitting in a sports bar sipping a beer on a recent afternoon, I was approached by a guy who asked me if I’d ever tried Samuel Adams’ new Rebel IPA.

Immediately, I knew I was going to get a free beer, and maybe even some free merch. I told him that I had just had one a couple days earlier, and that I very much enjoyed it. He offered to buy me a Sam Boston Lager, but I responded that, “I’d rather have another Rebel IPA.”

Beer bought, and he also gave me a hat and a really cool keychain/bottle opener. But instead of moving on to the next guy, he actually talked with me for a while, possibly because I told him I am a beer blogger.

The conversation we had inspired me to write this because, honestly, this guy was more than just a brand ambassador sent down from Boston to convert taste buds. He came across as being very sincere and enthusiastic about the product Sam Adams produces.

I promised him I wouldn’t use his name so that his PR department wouldn’t be upset; honestly, I think the Samuel Adams PR department should let employees like this talk publicly more often. He was certainly more convincing than a press release.

But before I share a few of the things this Mystery Man said, I’ll recount a conversation I had a couple of years ago with another brand ambassador of sorts. Actually, I have always referred to her as “Miller Lite Girl.”

Miller Lite Girl was blond, pretty, thin, very sweet and was maybe a day or two over 21. Most importantly, she obviously knew very little about beer. No foul there; she was young and was probably just working her way through college, and walking around buying Miller Lites for guys in bars was just another way for MillerCoors to win over brand loyalty.

When she walked up to me and started talking, I engaged her in conversation, asked her name, etc., so she sat down for a moment to chat (I talk to everybody, it’s just what I do). When I found an opportunity, I said, “Can I buy you a Bud Light?”

Caught off guard, she looked down at her Miller Lite jacket and said, “Um, I can’t drink a Bud Light. I’m a Miller Lite girl.”

I assured her I was just joking, so she laughed, got me a free beer and was on her way. But my point is, there is a big difference between a field marketer and someone who has made a career in the beer industry.

And now back to the Samuel Adams Mystery Man, for comparison. He informed me he had been in the beer business for more than a decade, and that he had worked at breweries and as a distribution rep, working with a wide variety of brands and beers over the years.

As we talked about craft beer and the fact that some view Samuel Adams as having too large of a production level and brand presence to be considered “craft,” Mystery Man grew animated, almost excited.

He reiterated several times that CEO Jim Koch is dedicated to quality ingredients and putting out the highest quality beers as possible.

“We are holding the shield for craft brewing,” Mystery Man said, when talking about beer snob critics.

Rebel IPA is a testament. Brewed with five different West Coast hops – Cascade, Simcoe, Centennial, Chinook and Amarillo – it’s got a hoppy flavor profile without going over the top, at 45 IBUs. In other words, it isn’t trying for the hop orgy experience, it’s just a really nicely balanced IPA with a nicely bitter, citrus quality that is good enough to satisfy a craft beer enthusiast while also potentially building a bridge to those interested in crossing that line.

Interestingly, Rebel IPA represents a fairly big departure from the relatively buttoned-up Sam brand, with a bright red, splashy logo and tap handles that are made to look like spray paint cans. They even rattle when you move them. The change looks like a pretty clear attempt to appear as one of the more daring craft breweries. Maybe it’s a way for Sam to improve its image with the beer snobs who view the brand as no longer being small enough to be “craft.”

Mystery Man also noted that Sam Adams is up against the brewing giants, the same as any small craft brewery. But the fact Sam Adams may be the biggest of the rest doesn’t mean they are trying to do the same to smaller craft brewers, he suggested. They just want to make and sell good beer.

What I came away with was that Mystery Man wasn’t just toeing the company line – he clearly meant what he was saying and believes in what is going on in Boston.  I’m glad I talked with him, because while I try just about every new Sam Adams beer, I don’t buy a lot of it (well, until Rebel IPA came along). Now I may re-think that.

Also, at no point during the conversation did I have the urge to buy him a Bud Light.

This post was originally published by

Craft Beer vs. ‘Crafty’ Beer: What’s the Difference?

craft beer“Craft beer.” It isn’t just a buzz word for beer geeks; it’s an actual designation that refers to beer produced by a brewery using certain types of ingredients and in specific quantity limits. But with the rise of craft beer’s popularity comes a few blurry lines.

Hey, no one is going to mistake Bud Light for Dogfish Head 60 Minute IPA. But if you’re newer to the game, sometimes those blurry lines aren’t just blurry because you’ve had four Arrogant Bastard Ales; sometimes it’s a bait and switch game played by the dreaded big brewers and distributors to steer would-be connoisseurs off the path to beer enlightenment.

The result is that a lot of people become interested in trying craft beers, even if it’s just for the sake of being able to tell people, “I really like craft beer,” but they don’t always know what the hell a craft beer really is.

The Craft Brewers Association called this “Craft vs. Crafty” – meaning that these other beers are trying to be crafty and fool us – and even created a handy infographic to help people tell the difference. But for those who don’t know where to begin, so-called “crafty” beer can be a stumbling block.

I was in a sports bar with a limited beer selection a couple of years ago, and there were three middle-aged, upper middle-class men sitting next to me. One wore a gray button-down, another wore a dark-colored sweater and the one in the middle was wearing a dark blue blazer.

I overheard blazer guy say, “Do you have Bass Ale on draft?”

“No, we don’t, sorry,” the 20-something bartender said.

“I only like to drink craft beer,” Blazer responded.

“We have Sierra Nevada,” the bartender said. “We also have Sam Adams Boston Lager.”

“I’ve never had those; can I try them?”

beer - blue moon

Photo by Randy F.

Blazer tasted both, made a couple “yuck” faces, and then ended up ordering a Blue Moon, complete with orange wedge and the whole schmear. I stopped myself from chuckling as they sat there talking about their golf games, and after they left, the bartender came over to me and said, “What a bunch of douchebags.”

Hey, it happens. And I shouldn’t make fun, because I was drinking a Miller Lite at the time – but the point is, I knew what I was drinking. That kind of corporate light beer is easily distinguishable from craft beer, even for the uninitiated. It’s those blurry-line-straddlers that can trip you up.

How do you spot one of these “mockrobrews” (as we used to call them in the early 2000s)? Well, it isn’t always easy. Some of them are downright camouflaged. Take Henry Weinhard beers as an example; those started popping up in my local Kroger a year or two ago, and I thought, “Hey, is this a new craft beer I somehow missed?”

And then I looked at the label, which said the beer is brewed in Oregon, and that’s when I knew something was fishy. You see, most small craft brewers in Oregon don’t have distribution power that will get them into Kroger stores on a national level. That? That is the work of a Megabrew. And yes, Weinhard is owned by MillerCoors and is being marketed as a lighter version of “craft” beer that is palatable to the masses.

You know, guys like Blazer.

The point here is that a craft beer that travels from, say, Indianapolis to Louisville, is an exotic craft beer to the beer geek. That sort of distribution is the result of a lot of hard work and lost sleep, and the small profit made from the sale of that beer goes to a guy running a small brewery who is trying really hard to feed his family while chasing a dream.

Similarly, the local brewery down the street with a three-barrel system and a small tap room that gets distribution to a handful of bars in its own city is what the beer snobs will choose every time, and for good reason: That’s about supporting your local economy.

Plus, that beer isn’t diluted to make it all things to all people; your mom might not like the imperial IPA at your favorite local brewery, but she might not be the target audience, you know? That stuff was brewed with the real thing: hops, malts, barley. And it was done in such a way as to make it distinctive and interesting.

These “crafty” pretenders, well, they’re using what the Brewing Association calls “adjuncts,” which are lesser ingredients such as corn designed to water down the beer for less discerning beer drinkers like Blazer.

Here’s a quick take on some of the obvious brewers churning out fake craft beer.

Blue Moon: Created by MillerCoors to fool the masses into thinking they have good taste, this wretched take on a Belgian white ale screams “amateur” to beer geeks. Don’t be caught dead with this in your grasp.

Leinenkugel : Falls on the aforementioned blurry line because it actually has a long history of brewing in Wisconsin. But it was bought out in the 1990s and continues to make fruity pseudo-beer for your sister’s sorority parties. Even beer amateurs should know better.

Shock Top: owned by Anheuser-Busch, it’s just a sad copy of Blue Moon with a mohawk. Nothing to see here.

Magic Hat: Another would-be craft brewer that is owned by a mega-corporation. Or maybe two; hell, I lost count. It is now in the business of brewing candy-flavored beer and suing small, local breweries.

Goose Island: Was bought by Anheuser-Busch in 2011, and now much of the beer it releases is contract brew; Goose Island was in pretty good craft standing until that turn of events. It’s still debatable as to whether quality has fallen off as much as image, but it sure isn’t what it once was.

Kona, Widmer and Red Hook: These are the three heads of the Craft Brew Alliance. The so-called Alliance is looked down upon by beer snobs in part because combined together they exceed the max production requirement set forth by the Craft Brewers Association and in the process gains a distribution advantage, and in part because Anheuser-Busch owns a big chunk of it. Like Leinenkugel, however, the brands have long histories in their respective territories, so it could be easy for a craft beer newcomer to be fooled.

Pyramid Breweries: Owned by the same folks who bought Magic Hat, North American Breweries. Was a Great Northwest favorite and probably still is, but it has sold out. Reminds me, I have some Pyramid stickers I need to peel off my guitar case.

Hell, even Unibroue sold out and is now owned by Sapporo, a gi-normous Japanese company, creating some beer-snob consternation, even though I’ve not heard any inkling that the beer quality has suffered. And there are plenty of others – just refer to the infographic.

At the same time, plenty of these beers can be fine “gateway” beers, if you will; say you enjoyed that Game Changer ale you had at Buffalo Wild Wings? (Psst. It was brewed by Red Hook!) Heck, then you may be ready to go to your local brewery and try a nice, big APA. The pace you set in your journey to enjoying craft beer is up to you.

Just know that if you say you love craft beer and a beer geek sees you drinking a Kona, well, the state of your beer-drinking dignity is in your own hands. Literally.

This post was originally published by

Craft Beer Takes Over Louisville

louisville beer - brewfest craft beer week

Photo courtesy of Louisville Independent Business Alliance.

I’m now blogging for, a site you must check out. Here’s my first piece, about the forthcoming Louisville Craft Beer Week celebration:

On Friday the 13th, beer will take over Louisville, Ky. That’s the beginning of Louisville’s annual Craft Beer Week; more than just a beer event, it’s a city-wide celebration of the beverage that proves the existence of happiness.

Jennifer Rubenstein organizes the capstone event, the Louisville Brewfest, where 14 local brewers and other vendors (there will also be wine and bourbon on hand) will present their wares at Slugger Field, the city’s AAA baseball stadium on Saturday, Sept. 21.

Rubenstein said the first Brewfest happened five years ago as an independent event. “We were hoping for 500 people, and 1500 showed up,” she said. “We knew we had something good going on.”

Louisville Brewfest will also include a “brewseum,” a collection of artifacts from the city’s beer history … Read the Full Story.

More Fun (and Beer) at Fireside Bar & Grill

fireside bar - louisville beerMy pal Rob and I like to hang out every so often at Fireside Bar & Grill in Sellersburg, Ind. It’s family owned and operated, with a cozy atmosphere and good comfort food.

And even though there are a limited number of taps, there is always an interesting selection that rotates often. In addition, general manager Lauren Smith likes to bust out fun themes and specials.

Well, last night Rob and I showed up at the bar only to find that three of the taps had kegged out. Luckily, there was plenty of Upland Wheat for Rob, and I became acquainted with Green Flash West Coast IPA, an ale with a big nose but a smoother finish than I expected upon first taste. It’s hoppy, yet not terribly bitter, despite its 95 IBU rating (really??).

Anyway, Lauren chatted with us a bit and told us about Half Price Craft Night every Tuesday. She promised that by tonight the taps would be full again, as she was expecting kegs of Cutters Empire Imperial Stout, Sun King Wee Mac Scottish Ale and Goose Island Matilda, a Belgian strong ale.

And if you go, try the chicken livers.

Beer Drinking on the Decline? Sort of …

louisville beer - wine glassesBusiness First last week reported on the declining popularity of beer, citing a Gallup study that 36 percent of Americans who drink alcohol prefer beer, down from 39 percent a year ago.

The survey also showed that 35 percent of respondents said they prefer wine, and 23 percent prefer liquor. Beer’s popularity is way down from 1992, when it was preferred by 47 percent of people who drink alcohol. Wine drinking is up sharply from 27 percent and those preferring liquor up slightly from 21 percent.


A writer from did some questioning and came up with five possible reasons:

  1. Americans are more aware of their health today. (And yet America’s struggle with obesity doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.)
  2. Lower-class white guys – who traditionally have been the most prevalent drinkers of beer – are getting crushed by the economy.
  3. Liquor ads work (more on this in a moment).
  4. Wine is delicious and affordable, and many Americans only recently realized that.
  5. Tastes just change.

I’m a buyer on reasons 3 and 4, and especially so on No. 5. Think about that Cuervo 1800 Silver ad wherein the guy makes you feel like a total ass if you aren’t drinking the stuff. He even kicks a Patron bottle off the table in one spot. As I noted in a previous post, people are essentially sheep – media profoundly affects their decisions, and most people want to look and act just like the “cool” people act. (On the other hand, the old dude in the Dos Equis commercials is way cooler than that Cuervo jackhole.)

As for No. 4, I think there could be a connection between that and No. 1 – wine is seen as a healthier alternative if you’re going to drink alcohol. And to No. 4’s point, people have come to realize that wine drinking isn’t about snobbery or wealth; one can get a decent bottle of wine for 10 or 12 bucks with a little effort. (Although, I think there may be some appeal to the aforementioned sheep who are simply following the trend.)

But I want to believe more than anything that people are simply beginning to realize that corporate light beer is a low-quality beverage, and rather than switch to the more challenging stronger beers, many are simply moving to a white wine or mixed drink.

Is it possible low-quality beer has created a backlash against the beverage in general to those who haven’t climbed onto the craft beer bandwagon? I’d love to hear what you think. Leave a comment below if you have an opinion on this.

Well, It’s Still Less Filling: Light Beer Falling Out of Favor?

louisville beer - bud light vented can

Don’t look now, but people are starting to pay attention to what’s actually coming out of those fancy new vented cans.

To the surprise of no one involved, it appears American beer drinkers continue to gravitate toward beer that actually has flavor.

According to this USA Today story, a new report shows that people are slowly but surely getting tired of the taste of corporate light beer. In fact, the study showed that in June 2012, 32 percent of those surveyed listed corporate light as their beer of choice. This past June, that number was 28 percent.

In fact, a number of those surveyed specifically said they were getting tired of the taste. In June of 2012, 33 percent said they thought premium light beers tasted “great.” In June of 2013, that number was 30 percent.

As quoted in the USA Today story, David Decker, President of Consumer Edge Insight, said, “After a long period when these domestic premium light brands dominated the U.S. beer industry, many beer drinkers, particularly younger ones, are finding that they prefer the stronger and more varied tastes of imports and craft beers instead.”

I would opine that it’s also trendy to drink something other than Bud Light these days, and as we know, human beings are predisposed to following trends. People purposely wore parachute pants, for crying out loud. And bought Milli Vanilli albums. And with hipsterdom on the rise, it’s either going to be craft beer or PBR for a lot of people.

Even a global machine like the light beer industry is going to fall out of favor eventually; people have slowly but surely come to realize there are more and far better options than the homogenized, mass market stuff.

But hey, at least it’s still less filling, right?