The State of Beer in America

John Tierney of The Atlantic looked at America’s “Beer World”, and summed it up this way: “It’s a world in which up is down, little is big, and there’s no Blue Moon on the horizon.” He goes on to say, “It’s a world in which old standbys are faltering (case sales of Miller High Life were down almost 10 percent in 2013 from the prior year). Mexican labels are dominant (Corona, Modelo, and Dos Equis, account for three of the top four imported beers). And a craft-beer company founded only 20 years ago is coming on strong (”Bartender, pour me a Lagunitas”).”

Tierney makes an interesting point about craft beer’s still-small share of the market. For the most part, these brands haven’t found their way into convenience stores and gas stations, which account for a large fraction of the nation’s beer sales.

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The Ultimate Beer Festival?

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company is taking its Beer Camp on the road this summer. Called “Beer Camp Across America,” it will be a series of festivals to be held in seven cities, starting in Sierra Nevada’s hometown of Chico, California, and winding up at the brewery’s new plant in North Carolina. Sierra Nevada has invited every craft brewery in the country to pour at these events. It has also joined forces with other craft brewers to create a 12-pack of collaborative beers. These, too, will be available at the festivals.

Proceeds from Beer Camp Across America will go to the California Craft Brewers Association.

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The Friday Mash (Champions Day Edition)

This day in 1936 was Champions Day in Detroit. It celebrated of “the most amazing sweep of sport achievements ever credited to any single city” including the rise of boxer Joe Louis, and the first-ever championships won by the Detroit Tigers, the Detroit Red Wings, and the Detroit Lions. Yes, the Detroit Lions, who have driven generations of fans to drink.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Canada, where Miller Brewing Company and MolsonCoors appear headed to court over distribution rights for several Miller brands that Miller wants to reclaim.

Shandy has become one of the fastest-growing segments of the beer market. It’s popular among women, moderate drinkers, and those looking for refreshment and willing to try new tastes.

Don’t throw out that can of beer that sat in your fridge all winter. Mother Nature News has seven uses for it, including killing slugs and fruit flies, highlighting your hair, and polishing furniture.

Scientists at the University of Wisconsin have confirmed the ancestral homeland of the yeast used in lager beer. It’s Patagonia, of all places. The yeast found its way to Bavaria 500 years ago.

Is the craft beer industry growing too fast? Attendees at last week’s Craft Brewers Conference warned about quality problems with some new breweries’ beers.

Beer aficionados hate Corona, and it costs as much as some national microbrews, but sales keep booming. The secret is marketing, which associates the brand with sun, sand, and surf.

Finally, our sports desk has learned that Flying Dog Ales will host Sprint for the Spat in Baltimore’s Fell’s Point. One of the highlights will be–this is not a typo–a 0.10-K race. A spat, by the way, is a baby oyster.

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Jonathan Buford’s Reward

The story reads like a screenplay rejected by the studios as far-fetched. Jonathan Buford, the owner of a window-cleaning business, watches Brew Masters on television. Inspired by Sam Calagione, the show’s star, he starts brewing. With the help of a beverage store employee who home-brews, Buford teaches himself how to make beer. Really good beer. Those who try it are so impressed that he decides to go commercial. His brewery runs into the inevitable delays in opening, and Buford faces foreclosure and bankruptcy.

Then comes the magic moment. To his surprise, Buford learns that RateBeer.com has named his brewery, Arizona Wilderness Brewing Company, the world’s best new brewery. The honor makes him an instant celebrity in the business.

Eric Benson of Esquire magazine interviewed Buford in Arizona, and discovered that his brewery’s unexpected fame was only part of the story. Buford loves the wilderness–hence the brewery’s name–and makes extensive use of local ingredients such as tangelos, caraway seeds, and the very rare white Sonoran berries.

News travels fast in the beer world. Arizona Wilderness has become so popular that people line up for hours to try one of Buford’s beers. And for now, that’s the only place you can find them.

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Building a Beer Collection

If you’re thinking of starting a bottled-beer collection, William Bostwick of the Wall Street Journal <a href=”http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303725404579461450502784062″>will get you started</a> with these six selections: Deschutes The Abyss, Alaskan Brewing Company Smoked Porter, Hair of the Dog Adam, Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza, Ommegang Three Philosophers, and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot.
Bostwick also tosses out this fun fact: Alaskan Brewing’s founder, Geoff Larson, came up with the idea of Smoked Porter while enjoying a plate of lox with a neighbor who cured salmon.
If you’re thinking of starting a bottled-beer collection, William Bostwick of the Wall Street Journal will get you started with these six selections: Deschutes The Abyss, Alaskan Brewing Company Smoked Porter, Hair of the Dog Adam, Jolly Pumpkin Oro de Calabaza, Ommegang Three Philosophers, and Sierra Nevada Bigfoot. Bostwick also tosses out this fun fact: Alaskan Brewing’s founder, Geoff Larson, came up with the idea of Smoked Porter while enjoying a plate of lox with a neighbor who cured salmon.
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The Friday Mash (Apple Edition)

On this day in 1976, the Apple I–the ancestor of the computer on which this blog is published–was created by Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs. It went on sale three months later for $666.66 because Wozniak “liked repeating digits” and besides, it represented a one-third markup on the $500 wholesale price.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in North Carolina, where the Mellow Mushroom restaurant chain had to close down its Beer Club after liquor regulators ruled that the club illegally “incentivized guests to drink”

Certified Cicerone John Richards, who’s based in South Carolina, introduces us to ten of the best beers you probably never heard of. (Hat tip: Joanna Prisco, ABC News).

WIsconsin politicians are concerned that a trade agreement between the U.S. and the European Union might force American producers to find a new name for “Oktoberfest” beer.

Tailgate heaven! Texas Tech alumni Jane’t Howey and Sheryl Estes, have created “boxGATE”, a structure made from shipping containers and fitted out with everything fans need.

He hasn’t quit his day job as CEO of Bell’s Brewery, Inc., but Larry Bell plans to attend all 81 Chicago Cubs home games this season–which is the 100th season of baseball at Wrigley Field.

Joel Stice of Uproxx.com has compiled a slideshow of the 20 best fake brands of beer in popular culture. The brand seen most often is Heisler, which has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows.

Finally, San Jose’s Hermitage Brewing Company has become Silicon Valley’s craft beer incubator. It contract-brews for a number of local micros, some of which don’t yet have the capital for their own facility.

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Prohibition: The Hidden Story

Monday was National Beer Day, which celebrated the return of 3.2 beer in 1933 after 13 years of Prohibition. Ginger Johnson of Women Enjoying Beer used that occasion to acquaint us with 12 things you may not know about the “Great Experiment.” One of which is that the expression “Great Experiment” was coined by Senator William Borah of Idaho, not Herbert Hoover.

Prohibition didn’t outlaw drinking, and the Volstead Act contained enough loopholes that people found legal ways to get their hands on alcohol. As for illegal ways, the federal government was woefully unprepared to enforce the law (and some states and cities were not inclined to help Uncle Sam enforce an unpopular law). The result was speakeasies and “blind tigers,” which had the unintended effect of attracting women, who were generally not welcome in pre-Prohibition saloons. And speaking of women, there were far more of them who belonged to anti-Prohibition organizations such as the Women’s Organization for National Prohibition Reform than the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, which was instrumental in making Prohibition the law of the land.

As Paul Harvey would say, “now you know the rest of the story.”

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Meet The Bjergso Brothers

Last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine ran an article titled A Fight is Brewing, by Jonah Weiner. It is about Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso and Mikkel Borg Bjergso, who are identical twins who both entered the brewing business–and who can’t stand each other’s company.

The name Mikkel might sound familiar. That is because he’s the founder of Mikkeller, the brewery named after him. It’s called a “phantom brewery” because it contracts out 100 percent of its production. The business model allows him to turn out a wide variety of beers–well over 100 last year–and to be creative in his selection of ingredients. Jeppe, too, owns a phantom brewery. It’s based in Brooklyn, and you might already have guessed its name: Evil Twin. One of Evil Twin’s beers is called Bozo, a not-too-subtle dig at super-high-gravity beers made by people like his brother.

But the brothers’ feud isn’t the main focus of the article. Weiner followed the brothers on their brewery travels in both the U.S. and the Continent. The highlight was Brouwerij Boon, where Weiner and Mikkel met owner Frank Boon, the man credited with saving the lambic style.

The Friday Mash (Fab Four Edition)

Fifty years ago today, The Beatles occupied the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The Fab Four still hold the record for most Billboard number-one hits with 20; and, with more than 600 million records sold world-wide, remain the biggest-selling band of all time.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Houston, where Whole Foods’ Post Oak location will brew its own beer. Other grocery chains sell own-label beer, but they contract out the actual brewing.

A layover might be an opportunity to enjoy a pint at one of America’s best airport beer bars. All nine are outposts of local craft breweries such as Harpoon, Schlafly, and Rogue.

Kudzu beer? The invasive Southern plant is among the “foraged ingredients” that have found their way into new beers. Kudzu, by the way, is said to impart a fruity flavor.

Anheuser-Busch InBev is celebrating this summer’s World Cup in Brazil by introducing Brahma Selecao Especial. Its recipe includes barley grown on the Brazilian national team’s training field.

Old Style beer will be sold in Wrigley Field this season after all. The Cubs’ concessionaire plans to sell it, along with Goose Island, at the park’s concession stands.

Brooklyn Brewing Company founder Steve Hindy wrote a New York Times op-ed calling for reform of franchise laws that keep small breweries from getting their beer on the shelves.

Finally, scientists at Johns Hopkins University have created the first synthetic yeast chromosome. Since the yeast genome consists of 16 chromosomes, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

Beer of Kings?

When the folks at HBO went looking for a craft beer partner for their popular fantasy series Game of Thrones, they made the right call. The call went to Brewery Ommegang and, as it turned out, several brewery employees–including the company’s director of marketing–were fans of George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire novels, on which the TV series is based. So began Ommegang’s Game of Thrones series.

Ommegang agreed to produce two themed beers per year. The first two were Iron Throne, a golden ale, and a stout called Take the Black. On Monday, the brewery released Fire and Blood, the third in the series. Inspired by Daenerys Targaryen and her three dragons, it’s a a Belgian-style red ale–the blood–brewed with anchor chilies–the fire, of course.

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