Beer Run

Blair Anthony Robertson keeps up with what's brewing in craft beers

Grog Tag helps label you as a serious home brewer

07/16/2014 5:00 PM

07/19/2014 10:03 AM

If you’re into home brewing or love someone who is, you should know about a product that can give your small-batch bottling effort the style points you might be looking for.

Grog Tag is a company that supplies customized labels that home brewers can affix to their bottles. The standard set-up includes a main label and a neck label to give bottles that polished, I-mean-business look.

At least four things make Grog Tag stand out: 1. You can customize the labels however you see fit, using the art furnished on the website or uploading your own; 2. The labels (made of vinyl) are reusable; 3. The company partners with local artists to get their art on beer labels; and 4. It’s a Sacramento-based company that’s growing rapidly.

It’s the brainchild of Todd Fulton, a home brewer who lives in South Land Park. Fulton has a background in the printing business. One day, he was looking for a way to spiff up his bottles of home brew and started printing his own labels. He took the beer to a family reunion and got plenty of positive feedback.

That’s when he realized he had the makings of a business opportunity. He knew he wanted to produce reusable labels. In 2010, with the help of two business partners, Fulton launched Grog Tag. It’s a user-friendly operation. You go to the website, www.grogtag.com, scroll through the options and pick a style, then decide if you want to use the supplied art or upload your own.

“We see a lot of dog photos,” Fulton said with a laugh.

Pricing starts at $15. Customers tend to buy labels for special occasions such as weddings, anniversaries and parties. It’s also a great gift idea for the home brewer in your life.

Once Grog Tag got rolling, business boomed – locally, nationally and worldwide. In addition to the three partners, Grog Tag has five employees.

“We grew 350 percent last year and we’re on track to do that again this year,” Fulton said. “It’s fun to see a hobby turn into a business.”

Fulton recently expanded to include wine labels.

“Our long-term goal is to get integrated with wineries and breweries and do more custom products,” he said.

Shandies come in handy

I’m writing this on the day after the latest blast of scorching heat. Yes, the mercury climbed to 106 degrees recently. It reminded me of my days growing up in Canada and watching the adults at the golf course quaffing a refreshing beverage called a “shandy.” OK, where I’m from, a scorcher is 85 degrees. But I digress. If you’re parched, you’re parched – and sometimes a shandy is just the thing to cool you down and wet your whistle.

The rules about shandies? There are none. Start with a decent beer – but don’t insult a tremendous beer by watering it down with soda. Then pick a soft drink. The common one I’m used to is ginger ale. But you can take this thing in almost any direction you want. A Hefeweizen and ginger ale? Yup, it works. A coffee porter with grape soda? Ah, no. But a West Coast IPA with citrusy 7-Up? Seems like a natural.

And let’s not stop with shandies while we’re playing around with perfectly good beer. My favorite summer treat whenever I go to Gunther’s is the 50/50 – ice cream added to a fruit freeze (I’m a vanilla-ice-cream-and-lime-freeze guy). I recently attended an excellent pop-up dinner hosted by chef Josh Bieker and his wife, Jade, and was delighted that the evening ended with his version of a 50/50 – he went with a sour beer (a cherry kriek) with cherries and buttermilk ice cream. This beer float was a beautiful thing.

“I got the idea from playing off sour flavors,” the chef told me.

“The fresh cherries and sour cherry beer, combined with the buttermilk, I thought it would be unique.”

Try this concoction at home. You won’t be disappointed.

Suds around the region

Dawson’s Restaurant inside the Hyatt Regency has launched a series of craft beer dinners featuring executive chef Jason Poole’s food and a different regional craft brewery each month. These four-course dinners with beer pairings are on the second Friday of each month.

Back Wine Bar & Bistro has been a great success in Folsom. And now, Jeff and Gail Back are trying their hand at craft beer and food. If their track record is any indication, it’s going to be good.

The grand opening for Folsom Tap House is Saturday and includes specials like half-off wings and a Ballast Point tap takeover. This new pub is at 25005 Blue Ravine Road #140, Folsom.

Sudwerk continues to make headlines, both for its award-winning lagers and for the new ideas coming out of this 25-year-old Davis craft brewery. Now comes word that Sudwerk is canning its first beer, the excellent Dry Hop Lager. As we’ve told you in this space before, canning beer is hot right now and it’s no longer limited to cheap beer. Further, cans are lighter and easier to pack, so they are ideal for camping, trips to the beach and pool parties (no broken glass).

Ruhstaller, which is known for embracing local hops and Sacramento’s rich beer history, is having a little fun with its marketing of canned beer. The brewery has three beers in cans and, with tongue firmly in cheek, is calling these 12-ounce beers “mobile drinking devices.”

About This Blog

Blair Anthony Robertson, The Sacramento Bee's restaurant critic, writes Beer Run. In addition to visiting the area's breweries, restaurants and coffee shops, he enjoys riding his road bike, playing golf and hiking with his dogs. Reach him at brobertson@sacbee.com or 916-321-1099. Twitter: @Blarob.
 

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