To Your Health?

A copy of the 1964 book, The Drinking Man’s Diet, led New York Times food writer Mark Bittman to write a column titled The Drinker’s Manifesto. It’s a response to the inflated warnings about the effects of drinking on one’s health.

The Centers for Disease Control flatly says that drinking too much is “dangerous,” and can “lead to heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, motor-vehicle crashes, and violence.” Bittman responds: “Many of these dangerous effects are indirect and can be mitigated: If you don’t have sex or get into a car after drinking, you can’t possibly get pregnant or in a car accident. (One thing about drinking alcohol, though: It can cause bad judgment.) The more direct ones, like heart disease and breast cancer, have so many risk factors that drinking may perhaps be discounted, especially in moderation. And there’s evidence that drinking ‘the right amount’—which is less than “too much”—can be good for you.”

The CDC also says that excessive alcohol consumption causes 88,000 deaths a year and “costs the economy about $224 billion.” However, Bittman points out that obesity-related illnesses cause somewhere around 112,000 deaths, and cost maybe a trillion dollars—and you don’t see any health warnings on a bottle of Coke.

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The Friday Mash (Seven Years’ War Edition)

On this day in 1756, Prussia’s king Frederick the Great attacked Saxony, beginning the Seven Years’ War. The conflict, which took place on five continents and involved most of the world’s powers, is better known to English-speaking North Americans as the French and Indian War.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Germany, where the Mallersdorf Abbey’s Sister Doris has been a master brewer for nearly 40 years. She’s one of Bavaria’s few “ladies who lager”–and Europe’s last beer-brewing nun.

Beer historian Tom Acitelli credits a 2002 cut in the excise tax for the profusion of small breweries in Great Britain. He also credits a 1976 beer tax cut for America’s small-brewery boom.

NASCAR’s Jeff Gordon is a wine lover, but he also has a taste for good beer. Gordon recently showed up at Dogfish Head Artisan Ales, whose 61 Minute IPA really impressed him.

For years, Mexico’s brewing industry had been dominated by two large corporations, but change is slowly coming, thanks to the federal government’s efforts to curb monopolies in key industries.

Iowa officials are pondering what to do with the 150-year-old beer caves underneath I-380 in Cedar Rapids. The forgotten caves were exposed by this summer’s heavy rains.

Barrel-aged beer is becoming more popular, and brewers are looking beyond traditional bourbon barrels. Now they’re starting to age their beer in barrels once used for Scotch, rum, and wine.

Finally, the growth of microbreweries might give rise to a new breed of wholesalers. Yarmouth, Maine-based Vacationland Distributors specializes in craft breweries, especially those that have grown beyond the state’s maximum for self-distribution rights.

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Beer…By the Numbers

  • Breweries operating in the United States as of June 30: 3,040.
  • Breweries in planning in the U.S. as of June 30: 1,929.
  • Workers employed by American craft breweries: 110,273.
  • Cost of one (legal) marijuana joint in Washington State: $2.71.
  • Cost of one bottle of Bud Light in Washington State: $0.90.
  • Most overpriced beer in the National Football League: $8.50 (53 cents an ounce) at Ford Field, Detroit.
  • Average cost of a bottle of beer at a Detroit-area grocery store: 98 cents (8.2 cents an ounce).
  • Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A) colleges that sell beer in on-campus stadiums: 21.
  • Publicly-owned stadiums that sell beer at FBS games: 11.
  • U.S. craft-beer exports in 2009: 46,000 barrels.
  • U.S. craft-beer exports in 2013: 282,500 barrels (about $73 million worth).
  • Number of beer tents at this year’s Oktoberfest in Munich: 14.
  • Capacity of the Schottenhamel beer tent, Oktoberfest’s largest: 10,000.
  • Nepal’s annual beer sales: 84 million bottles.
  • Number of breweries in Nepal: 6.
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    New Belgium: In the Beginning

    New Belgium Brewing Company turns out 800,000 barrels a year at its Fort Collins, Colorado, location. It’s operating at max capacity there, and is building a second plant in North Carolina that will make it a true national brand.

    What makes New Belgium’s story even more amazing is how and where it began. Hillary Jones of Bizjournals.com explains:

    Jordan and then-husband Jeff Lebesch launched New Belgium in 1991 after taking out a $60,000 second mortgage on their home. They brewed the beer in the 12-by-22-foot basement while Jordan raised a baby and worked four days a week as a social worker.

    On the fifth day of the week, Jordan would round up customers’ beer orders, pack up the family station wagon and drive around making deliveries. At night, she finished up the day by making posters to advertise New Belgium.

    Jordan said she wasn’t afraid of taking risks, and if the brewing business didn’t work out, she’d go back to her day job. She never had to.

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    Uncle Sam’s Beer Label Czar

    Meet Kent “Battle” Martin, who for years has been America’s beer label czar. Martin, who works for the Tax and Trade Bureau, a section of the U.S. Treasury Department, has been variously described as a workaholic, eccentric, and tightly wound. That, and a law onto himself. In his career at the U.S. Treasury’s Tax and Trade Bureau, he’s passed judgment on some 30,000 labels.

    The brewing community respects Martin’s work ethic and dedication to his job, and acknowledges that regulation has to be consistent. Nevertheless, some of his decisions have become legendary. The labels he’s rejected include these:

  • The King of Hearts, which had a playing card image on it, because the heart implied that the beer would have a health benefit;
  • Pickled Santa, because Santa’s eyes were too “googly” on the label, and labels cannot advertise the physical effects of alcohol;
  • Bad Elf’s “Elf Warning” about operating toy-making machinery while drinking the ale, which was deemed confusing to consumers;
  • A label that featured a hamburger, because the image implied there was a meat additive in the beer; and
  • “Adnams Broadside” beer, which touted itself as a “heart-warming ale,” another prohibited health-benefit claim.
  • And there’s the story of Vaune Dillman, who wanted to market a beer called “Legal Weed.” Battle not only objected to what looked like a reference to marijuana—Weed is an actual town in California, where Dillman brews his beer—but he also took offense that Dillman called him “Mr. Martin,” not “Battle,” which he prefers to be called.

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    The Friday Mash (America’s Cup Edition)

    On this day in 1851, the first America’s Cup was won by—you guessed it—the yacht America. The “Auld Mug” is currently in the possession of Larry Ellison’s Team Oracle, which will defend it in 2017. That’s quite a ways off, so Ludwig suggests that you pass the time by filling your mug.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Oslo where, according according to GoEuro’s researchers, a 12-ounce bottle of beer costs $4.50–more than four times what you’d pay in Dublin or Warsaw.

    Craft beer is so popular in Michigan that the State Police created a fake brewery, with “microbrews” like “Responsible Red” and “Designated Driver Dark,” as part of their latest anti-drunk driving campaign.

    The Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry is 26 years old and one of the NBA’s top players, but he still got carded at the local California Pizza Kitchen. Many of us share your pain, Steph.

    You might prefer a beer brand because of marketing, not because it tastes better. Participants in a recent blind taste test were only slightly better than random at distinguishing among popular lagers.

    Men’s Journal magazine has compiled the ten best beer commercials, starring, among others, The Most Interesting Man in the World, the Budweiser Clydsedales, and the Red Stripe Ambassador of Wisdom.

    The polls are open at CraftBeer.com’s annual Great American Beer Bars competition. Voters are asked to choose one establishment from ten nominees in five regions of the country.

    Finally, it’s a Great British Beer Festival tradition to show up in costume, like the gent with a Viking hat, those guys dressed up as priests, and a man who came as Prince Harry…Wait a minute, that was Prince Harry!

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    What Countries Drink the Most?

    At FiveThirtyEight.com, Mona Chalabi crunched the numbers from the World Health Organization to find out which countries are home to the biggest drinkers.

    The WHO data confirm some stereotypes; for example, France ranks number one in per capita wine consumption, with 370 servings per year. But there were big surprises, too. Namibia ranks first in beer consumption, with 376 servings per person per year—more than 10 percent higher than Germany; and Grenada tops the list of spirits-drinking countries, with 438 servings per person per year.

    Americans drink more beer—249 servings per person per year–than any other alcoholic beverage. However, American drinking preferences have fluctuated over the years. Grain shortages during World War II forced Americans to try rum from the Caribbean (fortunately, creative bartenders developed new cocktails such as the Hurricane); and after World War II, vodka became popular—and it remains the nation’s favorite hard liquor.

    As for beer, it was less popular during the 19th century because innovations such as refrigeration, bottles, and cans hadn’t come into wide use, and the beverage wasn’t as easy to transport and store as it is today.

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    Ballantine IPA Returns

    Beloved by Hunter S. Thompson and advertised as “the manlier brew,” Ballantine IPA was one of the few India pale ales available in the United States before the craft brew movement began. Inevitably, the ale fell victim to industry consolidation.

    Pabst Brewing Company, which now owns the Ballantine trademark, announced that it will launch a new version of Ballantine IPA. According to Jay Brooks, who passed along Pabst’s announcement on his blog, the ale will check in at 7.2% ABV and 70 IBUs, putting it near the upper end of the style guidelines for an English-style IPA.

    Gregory Deuhs, Pabst’s brewmaster, conducted extensive research—including talking to beer drinkers of a certain age–to find out what the original IPA looked and tasted like. After making two dozen five-gallon batches at his home, Deuhs finally came up with an IPA that Peter Ballantine, the company’s founder, would brew today.

    Ballantine IPA will soon be available in six-packs and 750-ml bottles in nine northeastern states.

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    The Friday Mash (Macbeth Edition)

    On this day in 1040, King Duncan I of Scotland was killed in battle against his first cousin and rival Macbeth. Seventeen years later, King Macbeth was killed at the Battle of Lumphanan. The Three Weird Sisters entered the picture 500 years later, courtesy of William Shakespeare.

    “Double, double, time and trouble, fire burn”..and now The Mash!

    We begin in Dodger Stadium, where Anheuser-Busch InBev will unveil a new beer aimed at Latino beer drinkers. Montejo, from A-B’s Mexican subsidiary, will be released throughout the Southwest.

    Beer-fueled violence in college towns is nothing new. In 1884, a beer riot took place in Iowa City after local authorities put two men on trial for violating Iowa’s new prohibition law.

    Pete Brown reports that underage drinking has fallen off sharply in Britain. His explanation: parents downing a few at home have made drinking less appealing to their children.

    It’s Shark Week, a perfect time for a Narragansett, which has been called “the Forrest Gump of Beers” because of its association with celebrities, artists, sports teams, and politicians.

    Blonde ales have acquired a “training-wheels beer” reputation, but Jay Brooks thinks they’re underappreciated. He calls them “light and refreshing” and perfect for a hot August day.

    Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post ranked the beer selection at major-league ballparks. Seattle’s Safeco Field has the best selection, while Yankee Stadium has the worst.

    Finally, brewpubs aren’t dead after all. An All About Beer story by Brandon Hernandez profiles restaurants that reinvented themselves as brewpubs and experienced an uptick in business afterward.

    Virginia is For (Beer) Lovers

    August is Virginia Beer Month, and it appears that the Commonwealth is quite interested in attracting beer travelers. The official tourism site has a Craft Beer section, which includes three beer and food trails: the Nelson 151 Trail, the Red, White and Brew Trail, and the Brew Ridge Trail. Visitor can also go on a “Wolf Pack” tour of BadWolf in Manassas, Wild Wolf in Nellysford and Wolf Hills in Abingdon, or take a color tour with tastings at Blue & Gray in Fredericksburg, Blue Lab in Lexington, Blue Mountain Barrel House in Arrington, and Blue Mountain Brewery in Afton.

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