Politics and Beer in Venezuela

Venezuela is a deeply-divided country, and the division extends to that country’s beer industry. Last year, the two biggest brewers, Polar and Regional, were running short of raw materials. Both appealed to the administration of Nicolas Maduro to release foreign currency that would allow them to import hops, barley, and tin.

Regional’s request was granted, Polar’s was denied. Maduro, a socialist, has publicly castigated Polar’s owner as a prime example of the evils of capitalism. The family that owns Regional is extremely rich as well, but it has cooperated with Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.

Polar has publicly accused the government of discriminating against it. Many other businesses, local and foreign, make the same accusations in private: “play ball with the government and all will be well, speak out and harassment may follow.”

High oil prices—Venezuela is a member of OPEC—provided Chavez with plenty of access to foreign currency, but the recent collapse in crude prices has caused the supply to dry up under Maduro. Polar officials fear that the Maduro is trying to strangle the corporation by cutting off its access to dollars.

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The Friday Mash (“John Brown’s Body” Edition)

On this day in 1859, militant abolitionist leader John Brown, who had led an unsuccessful raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, was hanged in Charles Town. Brown is the only person in American history who was executed for committing treason against a state.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Riverside, California, where a liquor store owner set fire to a competitor’s store because the competitor was costing him business by selling cheaper beer. He faces arson and conspiracy charges.

A Wendy’s restaurant in Houston is offering beer-infused hamburgers. The burger alone costs $5.29; a combo with fries and a drink is available for $7.19.

Belgium is asking the UN’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s to recognize its brewing and beer drinking culture as an “intangible heritage” deserving of official recognition.

Anheuser-Busch has randomly seeded 37,000 golden cans of Bud Light in multi-can packs. People who find the cans will be be entered in a drawing, with the top prize being Super Bowl tickets for life.

Thrillist.com is out with its list of the most iconic beers brewed in every state. According to the authors, the list includes both old standbys and “instant classics”.

Buffalo entrepreneur Ken Szal has run a successful pedal pub business. Once the Coast Guard signs off, he’ll offer pedal pontoon boot tours as well.

Finally, major brewers are reacting to tighter regulations and health consciousness by stepping up production of alcohol-free beer. They’re also working on improving the taste of those beers.

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Tiny Spanish Town Gets Millions in Beer Money

As a young man, Antonio Fernandez fled the tiny Spanish town of Cerezales del Condado to escape that country’s civil war. He wound up in Mexico, and became the general manager of Grupo Modelo, Mexico’s largest brewery. Modelo is best known in the United States for its Corona brand, which Fernandez is credited for promoting.

In Mexico, Fernandez amassed a fortune. He died in August, leaving behind an estimated $200 million or more. Like a number of other Spanish emigrants who who got rich in Latin America, Fernandez carried out philanthropic work in their hometowns. Fernandez’s will left part of his millions to fund the restoration of Cerezales del Condado’s church and other improvements to the town.

Fernandez died childless, but had 13 siblings. Now, as the lawyers go through his will, they’re finding that he’s left something to all of his many nieces and nephews.

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The Friday Mash (Viking Cruises Edition)

On this day in 888 A.D., the Vikings began a siege of Paris after the city’s ruler, Count Odo, refused the invaders’ demand for tribute. The siege was the most important event in the reign of the then-French king who has an appropriate name for this day after Thanksgiving: Charles the Fat.

And now….The Mash!

We begin on YouTube, where a sunbathing woman texted a neighbor, asking him to send over a beverage. The neighbor obliged, delivering a can of beer to her by mini-drone.

Now that Oklahoma voted to allow full-strength beer sales in stores, a Tulsa newspaper called on state lawmakers to scrap other “puritanical anachronisms” that are still on the books.

Chicago welcomed its first contract brewery, Great Central Brewing Company. Next year, it will open a taproom offering a variety of Chicago-brewed beers.

An alliance called No Patents on Seeds has called on Carlsberg to give up its three patents on mutant strains of barley. The strains provide new enzymes to develop “more distinctive”, flavor-stable beers.

Lifelong friends Collin Poseley and Eggie Foust have created Craft Beer: The Board Game. It takes five minutes to learn, and it can be played while inebriated.

The rapper Ludacris, an Atlanta native, has opened his long-awaited Chicken & Beer restaurant at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Its menu is “Southern to the core”.

Finally, Ayla Bystrom-Williams, the owner of Honeymoon Brewery, beat out 13,000 competitors and won a $200,000 Miller Lite “Tap the Future” award. She’s one of the country’s few black female brewery owners.

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Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer Fest: A Review

Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune attended the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer, which recently took place in Chicago. His takes on the 14th edition of this event:

  • The beer is good, and getting better. He rates 20 percent of the beers “genius”, and another 60 percent “good to very good”. The “undrinkable” beers likely sat in the barrel too long.
  • John Laffer, the co-founder of Off Color Brewing in Chicago, has emerged as a star. He’s an alumnus of Goose Island Brewing Company’s barrel-aging program.
  • Festival-goers didn’t shun Goose Island on account of it having been taken over by Anheuser-Busch. If the beer is good, they want it.
  • It’s possible to brew bad sour beer. The style “requires layers and nuance.”
  • The best thing about the festival is discovering new beers. One, in particular, was Peach Climacteric from Colorado-based WeldWerks Brewing. Co-founder Neil Fisher was amazed that attendees knew so much about his new brewery. fisher said, “You guys have a very connected beer culture here.”
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The Friday Mash (Mickey Mouse Edition)

On this day in 1928, The Walt Disney Corporation released the animated short “Steamboat Willie”, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon. It was directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Disney considers this release to be Mickey’s birthday.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in England, where pub companies warn that the price of a pint is about to jump. Factors include inflation, higher costs of doing business, and the introduction of the living wage.

Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa showed off his axe-throwing skills in an Instagram video. What makes his performance even more impressive is that he drank a beer immediately before he hit the bulls-eye.

FIFA, the world-wide governing body of soccer, is negotiating with officials of host country Qatar over whether beer will be served there during matches at the 2022 World Cup.

Effective January 1, 2019, Labatt will discontinue the 50-year-old tradition of issuing free beer for life to company retirees. The Canadian brewery is now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Travel blogger Emmanuel Marshall used Innis & Gunn IPA as currency to pay for transportation and lodging on his 5,000-mile trip from Scotland, the home of Innis & Gunn, to India.

Scientists at Rockefeller University have found that beer pong players expose themselves to numerous icky bacteria. The good news is that college-aged players have strong enough immune systems to cope with them.

Finally, the San Diego Union-Tribune named the five beers that put the city on the craft beer map: AleSmith Speedway Stout, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, Green Flash Le Freak, Karl Strauss Red Trolley, and Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale.

Counterpoint: Quitting Drinking is Not Healthy

Paul Mulshine, who loves both a good beer and a good debate, contends that abstaining from alcohol is an unhealthy decision. He cites a study published in the journal Health Psychology which found that physical activity and drinking alcohol—beer in particular—complemented one another.

Stanton Peele, the psychologist who sent Mulshine a copy of the study, cited the example of Cy Young-winning pitcher Bob Welch, who gave up drinking and wrote of his recovery in the book Five O’Clock Comes Early. Welch died of a heart attack at age 57. Peele contends that the only worse decision Welch could have made would be to take up smoking.

Peele also told Mulshine of studies showing that even heavy drinkers have lower heart-attack rates than abstainers. “The reason is not hard to deduce. There are just four sources of calories for the human body—protein, fat, carbohydrates and alcohol. Of the four, only alcohol has a positive role in the prevention of heart attacks”.

The 19 Types of People You Meet at Beer Festivals

Matt Lynch of Thrillist.com has compiled a taxonomy of the stereotypical people one meets at a beer festival. His list of the 19 usual suspects include these:

  • The Guy Who’s a Little Too Excited About His Pretzel Necklace. “He came prepared. Three different sizes of pretzels and a baggie of trail mix dangling from the bottom that may or may not have some string cheese taped to the back. He’s constantly puffing out his chest as if to say ‘I made this’. He will be very sick of pretzels in an hour.
  • The BeerAdvocate Review Come to Life. “It’s not normal to say ‘mouthfeel’ that many times in one day, OK?”
  • The Brewery Groupie. “Hoodie? Check. Pins? Check. Talking to the brewer like he’s an old friend and holding up the line for everyone else? Check”.
  • The Bro Brigade. “They’re decked out in their finest North Face apparel, ready to alternately brag about their finance jobs and about all the rare beer they’ve bought on the resale market because who has time to actually wait in lines at releases.”
  • The Parent(s) Who Scored a Babysitter. “The kid’s like a year old. They have five free hours and they’re drinking like every booth just announced it was almost out of beer. They will really hate tomorrow.”
  • The Friday Mash (Road Atlas Edition)

    Ninety years ago today, the first numbering system for U.S. highways was approved. The 21 numbered highways in the initial group included U.S. 60, which ran from Chicago to Los Angeles; it was later renumbered and became the famous “Mother Road”, U.S. Route 66.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin at the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston, where hundreds of fans lined up to buy bottles of limited-edition “Big Hapi” beer, brewed to honor now-retired Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz.

    Beer aficionados reacted furiously to TV food and travel personality Anthony Bourdain’s comments likening the clientele at a San Francisco beer bar to the “(expletive deleted) Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.

    A court in Stuttgart, Germany, ruled that breweries can’t use the word “bekömmlich”—“wholesome” in English—in their advertising because European Union regulations prohibit health claims in alcohol ads.

    Dogfish Head Craft Brewery will start canning its beers later this month. Brewery CEO Sam Calagione is now convinced that canning technology can deliver a consistent, high-quality product.

    The YouTube channel Celebrities in Golf Carts is trying to bridge the generation gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials with a new sport called Beer Pong Golf.

    Dissatisfied with local distributors, Massachusetts’ Night Shift Brewing created its own distributorship. It’s offering breweries friendlier contracts, more personal attention, and deliveries of fresher beer.

    Finally, in 1987, a Heineken retailer spread the untrue rumor that Mexican brewery workers urinated in containers of Corona Extra beer. That resulted in a lawsuit, and a public statement denying the rumor. Ten years later, Corona surpassed Heineken as America’s number-one imported beer.

    Beer…By the Numbers

  • Oklahoma’s share of the nation’s 3.2 percent beer consumption: 56 percent (On Tuesday, Oklahoma voters approved sales of full-strength beer at grocery and convenience stores).
  • Second-place Utah’s share of the nation’s 3.2 percent beer consumption: 29 percent.
  • 3.2 percent beer’s share of national beer consumption: 3 percent.
  • U.S. beer imports in 2005: 26.5 million barrels.
  • U.S. beer imports in 2015: 31.3 million barrels.
  • Craft beer’s share of Brazil’s beer market: 0.8 percent.
  • Annual growth in craft beer sales in Brazil: 40 percent.
  • U.S. craft beer sales in 2005: 6.9 million barrels.
  • U.S. craft beer sales in 2015: 21.9 million barrels.
  • Increase in craft beer sales in 2015 over 2014: 12.8 percent.
  • Increase in craft breweries in 2015 over 2014: nearly 40 percent.
  • Number of beers £5 can buy in Denmark: 1.09.
  • Number of beers £5 can buy in Vietnam: 10.9.
  • Belgium’s brewery count in 2009: 127.
  • Its brewery count in 2015: 199.
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