More About That Big Beer Merger

Bob Pease of the Brewers Association has sobering news for craft beer lovers. In a New York Times op-ed earlier this month, Pease warned that the coming merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller will have an impact on your local beer selection that you hadn’t expected.

The problem is rooted in the three-tier system of liquor regulation, which forces craft breweries to sell their beer through distributors. In some states, the law allows big breweries to own distributors. Making matters worse, the distribution industry has undergone consolidation, and many areas of the country are served by a handful of distributors.

A-B, which controls 45 percent of the U.S. beer industry, has been particularly aggressive, buying five independent distributors—a move that has led to a Justice Department investigation. The brewery also compensates its distributors using a formula that in effect penalizes them for handling craft brands rather than A-B brands. That, too, is being investigated.

Pease hopes that the when the Justice Department gives final approval to the InBev-SAB merger, it will take steps to keep the beer market competitive. He points out that in 2013, it prohibited A-B InBev from interfering with independent distributors that sold Mexico’s Modelo beer. Pease urges Justice to give craft brand distributors similar protection, require A-B to reduce its stake in distributors, and bar compensation systems that favor A-B’s own brands.

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Have You Ever Said This?

Thrillist’s Lee Breslouer has compiled a list of Things You’ll Never Craft Beer Fans Say. Some examples:

  • About popular beer: “Who the hell is Pliny the Elder?”
  • About hoppy beers: “How many IBUs does this have again?…Even a little bit of hop flavor is good enough for me!”
  • At a bar: “What’s the lightest beer you’ve got?”
  • About internet beer culture: “There are people who know more about beer than I do, and I’m okay with that.”
  • In general: “I wish they sold this in 30 packs.”
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The Friday Mash (New Albion Edition)

On this day in 1579, Sir Francis Drake claimed a land he called Nova Albion (better known as modern-day California) for England. Nearly four centuries later, Jack McAuliffe opened New Albion Brewing Company in Sonoma, California. That started America’s craft beer revolution.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Detroit, where Stroh’s Beer was last brewed more than 30 years ago. Pabst Brewing Company, which owns the Stroh’s brand name and original recipe, has made a deal with Brew Detroit to revive the “European-style pilsner” with 5.5 percent alcohol by volume.

A new Colorado law will allow grocery stores to sell full-strength beer, along with wine and spirits. However, grocery chains are upset that it will take 20 years for the law to take full effect.

With summer looming, Gawker’s Alan Henry offers a tip for travelers staying in cheap hotels. Those old-school air conditioners that sound like jet engines are great for chilling beer in a hurry.

Japanese ballparks don’t have peanuts or Cracker Jack, but they do have biiru no uriko aka beer girls. These young women, who carry 30-pound kegs, work for beer companies, not ball clubs.

Breakthrough or April Fool’s joke? Karmarama, a London firm, has designed glassware for MolsonCoors’s beer called Cobra. It calls the glass “the biggest innovation in pouring since gravity”.

During the 1950s the U.S. government studied the effects of an atomic bomb blast. It found that beer a quarter mile from Ground Zero was “a tad radioactive”, but “well within the permissible limits of emergency use.”

Finally, Special Ed’s Brewery in California learned a lesson in branding. The public objected loudly to its use of slogans such as “Ride the Short Bus to Special Beer” to promote a new beer, and labeling a beer ” ‘tard tested, ‘tard approved”.

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Beer on the Appalachian Trail

If you’ve ever hiked the Appalachian Trail, or seen the film A Walk in the Woods, about the last thing you’d associate with hiking the AT is craft beer. However, Allyson Hester not only hiked the entire length of the Trail, but also found breweries at least within hitch-hiking distance.

One such brewery is the year-old Lazy Hiker Brewing Company in Franklin, North Carolina, a community that caters to passing hikers—especially those taking a day or two off from the Trail.

Farther north in Virginia, the Devils Backbone Brewing Company offers hot breakfast to hikers, and is in the process of getting the required permits to offer primitive camping. It also has an outdoor bar with mountain views and an enormous patio with an oversized fire pit.

In Maine, the AT winds through eight national forests and two national parks. Near the northern terminus is the Kennebec River Brewery, where hikers can spend some downtime with their “trail family” before heading home.

Hester offers these words of wisdom to would-be hikers: “No single can tastes better than the one you lugged for miles up a mountain summit to enjoy while watching a magical sunset”.

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The Friday Mash (Apple II Edition)

On this day in 1977, the Apple II, one of the first personal computers, went on sale. This PC, whose original list price was more than $5,000 in 2016 dollars, remained in production until 1981.

And now…The Mash!

Serious Eats magazine is hosting the Great American Beer Brawl. Visitors to the website are invited to vote for one of seven cites—or cast a write-in vote for a city not nominated by the magazine staff.

If you’re looking for a new summer beer, or an alternative to ubiquitous hoppy IPAs, give saison a try. The style pairs well with food; and it’s complimented by summer flavors like citrus, arugula, and fresh herbs.

Global Beverage has released three high-gravity beers in honor of the video game Mortal Kombat X: Sub-Zero Imperial IPA, Raiden Imperial Saison, and Scorpion Imperial Stout.

Wal-Mart has joined the craft beer party. A brewery in New York State is contract-brewing four private-label beers for the giant retailer. They’re available in nearly half of Wal-Mart’s stores.

Grow Pittsburgh is planting hop rhizomes in the city’s vacant lots. The hops will be harvested in the fall and used to make a local beer. Part of the proceeds from the beer will be donated to the community.

The Belgian Brewers’ Association has released a set of 60 beer emojis in order to “move the classic beer mug aside” for iOS and Android users. They’re downloadable on iTunes and Google Play.

Finally, Jack Horner, the paleontologist who inspired the Jurassic Park film series, credits the Rainier Brewing Company for advancing his work with dinosaurs. In 1979, the brewery donated 100 cases of Rainier beer to Horner and his research team.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Increase in imported beer sales, by volume, in the U.S. in 2015: 9.9 percent. Mexican brands were largely responsible for the increase.
  • Increase in Mexican-brewed beer sales, by volume, in the U.S. in 2015: 14.2 percent.
  • Years since the founding of the Campaign for Real Ale: 45.
  • CAMRA membership in May 2016: 179,118.
  • World-wide compound average growth rate for the beer industry between 2008 and 2014: 1.8 percent.
  • Compound average growth rate for Africa’s beer industry between 2008 and 2014: 6.4 percent.
  • Compound average growth rate for Asia’s beer industry between 2008 and 2014: 4 percent.
  • U.S. Brewery openings in 2015: 620.
  • U.S. Brewery closings in 2015: 68.
  • Washington State’s current brewery count: 307.
  • Microbreweries’ share of Washington State’s brewery count: 71.7 percent (220 in all).
  • Industry-wide average price of a case of beer $22.50.
  • Average price of a case of Heineken beer $28.50.
  • Length of Heineken’s contract with Formula 1 racing: 5 years.
  • Estimated amount Heineken will pay F1: £100 million ($145 million
  • The Friday Mash (Casey at the Bat Edition)

    On this day in 1888, the poem “Casey at the Bat” was first published in the San Francisco Examiner. You probaby remember that the mighty but overconfident Casey let two pitches go by for strikes before swinging at—and missing—the third strike, which led to “no joy in Mudville”.

    And now…Play Ball!

    We begin in Cleveland, where the Indians recently staged a “$2 Beer Night”. One creative group of fans built a 112-can, 11-level-high “beer-a-mid”. Major League Baseball offered a one-word comment: “Wow”.

    In Madison, Wisconsin, the Black Marigold wind ensemble commissioned composer Brian DuFord to write a suite of movements inspired by the area’s craft beers. One local craft will brew a special beer for Black Marigold.

    SodaStream, which sells machines that carbonate water, now offers an instant-homebrew device called the Beer Bar. Adding a package of “Blondie” concentrate to sparkling water produces a three-liter batch of 4.5-percent ABV.

    Talk about a hasty departure. A driver in China’s Henan Province was caught on video chugging a beer at the wheel—this, while dragging his IV drip outside the car with him.

    Here’s a new way to evade open container laws. A new invention called the Lolo Lid snaps onto the top of your can of beer, which you can then insert into a medium or large-sized paper coffee cup.

    A Boston Globe editorial called on state lawmakers to make it easier for small breweries to terminate their agreements with distributors. North Carolina passed similar legislation in 2012.

    Finally, the High Heel Brewing Company has come under fire for naming one of its beers after a shoe style and using pink and purple in its packaging. CEO Kristi McGuire said in her brewery’s defense, “We didn’t want to make a gimmick…We didn’t make the beer pink.”

    The Birth of IPA

    According to legend, George Hodgson’s Bow Brewery created India pale ale in response to requests by British troops in India who had become tired of warm, heavy English beers. Turns out there’s more to the story.

    IPA was made possible in the early 18th century by the invention of pale malt. Kilned with coke as fuel, pale malt yielded a beer with a lighter color and a less-smoky flavor. October Beer, one of the beers said to be the precursor of IPA, used 100 percent pale malt in its recipe. The resulting beverage was so strong that it was expected to age for two to three years before serving.

    Here’s where George Hodgson comes in. His business ties with the British East India Company that gave him a near-monopoly in India’s beer market. He shipped his October beer, which was of higher quality than older British brands, to India. There his beer won a following—with the British gentry.

    Honoring the Civil War’s Army Doctors

    On Memorial Day weekend, Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, hosts a Civil War re-enactment. It’s an annual ritual Maryanne and Paul, who enjoy history almost as much as beer. One of the things they learned at the Village was that Civil War medicine wasn’t practiced by saw-wielding hacks.

    Speaking of which, Flying Dog Ales and the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, both located in Frederick, Maryland, collaborated on a beer called Saw Bones Ginger Table Beer, which was released today. “Saw bones” was the derisive term soldiers used to describe army doctors. Table beers, with a light body and low-alcohol concentration, were popular during the Civil War. So was ginger which, according to the museum’s executive director David Price, was used to fight gangrene, dysentery, and other ailments that killed far more soldiers than enemy bullets.

    Price also disputes army doctors’ “saw bones” reputation as butchers. He went on to say that those doctors and other medical personnel set the foundation for America’s modern healthcare system.

    The Friday Mash (T and A* Edition)

    * No, it’s not what you think. Get your minds out of the gutter!

    On this day in 1927 the Ford Motor Company ended production of the Model T automobile, which sold 16.5 million models beginning in 1909. Production of its successor, the Model A, began five months later.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Philadelphia, whose city parks will become venues for “pop-up” beer festivals this summer. “Parks on Tap” will send beer and food trucks to the parks; there will also be live music and games.

    Anheuser-Busch InBev is introducing a 100-plus-year-old Mexican beer, Estrella Jasilico, to the U.S. market to compete with Corona. Mexican beer imports to the U.S. rose by more than 14 percent.

    Whale vomit is the latest icky ingredient in beer. Australia’s Robe Town Brewery used it to make Moby Dick Ambergris Ale. Medieval doctors used ambergris; today, it’s an ingredient in perfume.

    Before the Cuban Revolution, La Tropical was the country’s oldest beer. Miami businessman Manny Portuondo plans to bring the brand back to life, this time on the other side of the Florida Straits.

    Carnival Cruise Lines’ biggest ship, Carnival Vista, is the first cruise ship to have an on-board brewery. Brewmaster Colin Presby sat down with USA Today to talk about what he’s serving.

    The Phillips Brewery in British Columbia has responded to drones by recruiting bald eagles to drop-deliver beer. Budweiser executives must be asking themselves, “Why didn’t we think of this?”

    Finally, chemists at the Complutense University of Madrid have created an app that can tell you when a beer has too much of a “stale” flavor. The disk and app look for furfunal, a polymer that imparts a cardboard taste to over-aged beer.

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