“We won a bronze medal in the other strong beers category,” Brewmaster Dan Kahn said, adding the win was for the Very Noddy Lager brew. “It was in a category with 44 other beers.”
The World Beer Cup boasts that 3,330 beers in 90 different styles were entered into 2010’s competition from 642 breweries in 44 different countries. The sheer volume of competition makes Buckbean’s win, as well as that of Sparks’ Great Basin Brewing Co., that much more impressive.
Great Basin Brewing Co. won a bronze medal for its Whoop-Ass Witbier in the Belgian Witbier category against 47 other beers.
“It isn’t just a name,” Kahn said. “It is the largest beer competition in the world.”
This success of taste and sales by small microbrews is indicative of an industry trend. The Brewers Association, which represents craft beer makers, reports on its website that the craft brewing industry grew 7.2 percent by volume and 10.3 percent by dollars in 2009, compared to 5.9 percent by volume and 10.1 percent by dollars in 2008. While small brewers are doing well, the large beer makers are suffering. The Beer Association reports that the industry as a whole was down 2.2 percent in 2009, and the Wall Street Journal reported in January that the decline was the largest since the 1950s. Craft brewers are defined as those that produce fewer than 2 million barrels annually.
Part of the brewery’s success is Kahn’s ability to picture why someone would choose to drink a Buckbean beer and what they might be eating while they drink it.
“I pretty much always think about the type of food beer can go with,” Kahn said. “I used to be a chef as well and I like to think about the food beer pairs well with.”
In addition to thinking about rounding out a meal with a good beer, Kahn also takes the seasons into consideration.
“A dark, strong beer like the Very Noddy Lager makes sense to brew in the winter time,” Kahn said, explaining that it is thicker whereas a summer beer would be lighter and more refreshing.
It’s Kahn’s attention to detail and experience — he studied brewing science at the University of California, Davis and has been a brewmaster since 1993 — that has helped Kahn and Buckbean co-founder Doug Booth find success in northern Nevada.
“We’ve definitely been growing over the last two years,” Kahn said. “We need to. As a small company, at our size we can’t afford not to grow.
“It also helps that our type of beer is becoming more popular in general,” Kahn added, explaining that he believes people prefer smaller breweries instead of one larger corporation.
“About 20 years ago, only 1 1/2 to 2 percent of beer sold in this country was craft beer and now it’s bout 6 percent,” Kahn said. “It’s grown three to four times in 20 years and the number of breweries in the country have easily doubled in that time.
“The number of breweries is just back to where it was before prohibition,” Kahn added.
Kahn said the success of local, small businesses depends on locals who buy from those places.
“The more we support local business, the better off everybody is,” Kahn said.
Support from the community has helped Buckbean achieve two year in business as of April.
“In June, it will be our second ‘canniversary,’” Kahn said, explaining that Buckbean uses cans to store its beer, which helps prevent the product from being degraded chemically.
“It sort of cuts both way,” Kahn said. “People don’t expect to find good beer in a can. Using cans is a education process. The can give you better protection from light. The can also gives you better protection against oxidation.”
Kahn explained that both can cause the beers quality to be compromised.
“Oxygen is pretty corrosive, and the things in beer are very delicate,” Kahn said.
In addition to strongly supporting a quality assured product, Kahn said Buckbean is committed to the community. The brewery actively supports area nonprofits as well as sports team, artist and art events such as Artown as well as charities.
For more information about Buckbean Brewing Company, visit www.buckbeanbeer.com.
For more information about the World Beer Cup, visit www.worldbeercup.org.