The Friday Mash (Aspirin Edition)

On this day in 1899, Bayer AG trademarked the name “Aspirin” for its synthetic version of salicylic acid. Aspirin, an anti-inflammatory drug, is one of the world’s most widely-used medications: 40,000 metric tons are used each year.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Kentucky, which is best known for snow bourbon. However, a lively craft beer scene has emerged. Fourteen breweries have opened in the Bluegrass State since 2011.

CNBC is bringing back its Most Loved Beer Label contest. For the next week, citizens can nominate labels. The network will reveal the finalists on March 23, and voting will wind up two weeks later.

In Malaysia, non-alcoholic beer for Muslims is unacceptable to the chief halal certifier because he objects to the word “beer” to describe the drink.

Jay Brooks has published an ale-themed parody of Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and Ham. The closing lines are, “I do so love craft beer at home! Thank you! Thank you, Sam-Cala-Gione!”

CoolMaterial.com created a flowchart to guide people who can’t decide what their next beer should be. The first question is, “Are you looking to get drunk and don’t care about taste?”

Beer festivals attract people dressed as court jesters, ballerinas, superheroes, and even giant chickens. MLive.com’s John Serba offers five ridiculous, but practical costume suggestions.

Finally, Eleanor Robertson stirred up a hornets’ nest with an op-ed condemning craft beer. Robertson hates its taste, can’t stand beer snobs, and would rather talk to her friends than her beer.

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Why Iceland Banned Beer Until 1989

Twenty-five years ago, Iceland’s parliament voted to legalize beer—which had been prohibited since 1915. It was strange enough that a European country still imposed prohibition so late in the century, but what made it even stranger was that wine and liquor had been legal for decades.

An article posted last Saturday in the BBC News Magazine explained what happened:

When full prohibition became law 100 years ago, alcohol in general was frowned upon, and beer was especially out of favour–for political reasons. Iceland was engaged in a struggle for independence from Denmark at the time, and Icelanders strongly associated beer with Danish lifestyles.

Simply put, beer was unpatriotic—just as drinking tea was in America in the years leading up to the Revolution.

At first, Icelandic prohibition applied to all alcoholic beverages. In 1921, however, parliament bowed Spain’s demand that it allow wine imports or else face a boycott of its number-one export, salted cod. In 1933, the same year the U.S. repealed Prohibition, Iceland re-legalized alcoholic beverages—with one exception: beer stronger than 2.25 percent alcohol. Since beer was cheaper than stronger beverages, lawmakers were afraid that legalizing it would result in a substantial increase in alcohol abuse.

Support for the beer ban started to wane in the 1970s, when Icelanders spent “city breaks” in other European cities and discovered pub culture. In 1979, parliament allowed Icelanders who’d visited foreign countries to bring beer home. Public opinion swung in favor of legalizing beer, and lawmakers saw legal beer as a source of tax revenue.

Beer prohibition ended on March 1, 1989. Every March 1, Icelanders celebrate Bjordagur, or Beer Day.

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Beer…By the Numbers

  • U.S. alcoholic beverage sales in 2013: $174 billion.
  • Beer’s share of U.S. alcoholic beverage sales: 48 percent (craft beer accounts for 7 percent, non-craft for 41 percent).
  • Spirits’ share of U.S. alcoholic beverage sales: 34 percent.
  • Dollar value of Bud Light (America’s #1 seller) sold in 2014: $5.95 billion.
  • Dollar value of Coors Light (America’s #2 seller) sold in 2014: $2.36 billion.
  • Dollar value of India pale ale sold in 2014: $547 million.
  • Increase in IPA sales between 2013 and 2014: 50 percent.
  • Increase in craft beer sales between 2013 and 2014: 20 percent.
  • Sweden’s brewery count: 145.
  • Its brewery count in 1988: 7.
  • San Diego County’s brewery count in 2014: 97 (up from 37 in 2011).
  • Brewing industry’s impact on San Diego County’s economy: $599.4 million (up from $299.5 million in 2011).
  • Beers served at last weekend’s Michigan Brewers Guild Winter Beer Festival: 1,035.
  • Breweries represented at that festival: 103.
  • Breweries represented at the Guild’s first Winter Beer Festival in 2006: 21.
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    The Inspiration for American Saison Beers

    In an All About Beer article titled “The Most Influential Brewery You Probably Never Heard Of”, Jeff Alworth introduced his readers to a French brewer named Daniel Thiriez, who has been making farmhouse ales since 1996 at his brewery in Esquelbecq, France. Alworth credits Thiriez’s version of saison as the inspiration for those brewed in America.

    First, however, Alworth discusses Dupont, which he says is to saison what Pilsner Urquell is to pilsner. Dupont, which was instrumental in reviving the style, made its version with “a finicky strain of yeast” that most other brewers don’t want to deal with. The beer has “a stiff mineral profile, strange esters, herbal hops, explosive effervescence and a desert-dry finish.”

    Even if they could replicate Dupont–a fiendishly difficult job–American brewers wanted something different. They preferred versions with less assertive, more familiar esters. That is the kind of beer Thiriez makes. The yeast he settled on is Wyeast 3711, the “French Saison” strain. It’s a strain well known to American brewers, who began using it in their saisons.

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    The Friday Mash (Dating Game Edition)

    Seventy-five years ago today, Martin Kamen and Sam Ruben discovered carbon-14, a radioactive isotope. It’s the basis of the radio-carbon dating method that determines an object’s age. However, bartenders still have to use ID cards to determine the age of their customers.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Barlioche, a Patagonian resort town that has become the craft beer capital of the Andes. It’s home to 15 breweries, which join forces for a beer festival in December.

    Last weekend, more than 100 people played whiffle ball in the snow in a Milwaukee-area park. Leinenkugel Brewing Company hosted the tournament to promote its Summer Shandy.

    Experts aren’t sure why this happens, but recipients spend more on beer when food stamps are distributed on the weekend—even though the stamps can’t be used to buy beer.

    The Brew Kettle, a Cleveland-area brewery, is rolling out an ale for Cavaliers basketball fans. “All For One” session IPA will be available at the brewery and at Cavs’ home games.

    Hellboy, the character created by comic-book artist Mike Mignola, turned 21, and Rogue Ales celebrated his big birthday by releasing Hand of Doom Red Ale. It sold out in a hurry.

    This month’s “Session” asked beer bloggers the question “Festivals: Geek Gathering or Beer Dissemination?” Joan Villar-i-Martí, who blogs from Barcelona, has rounded up the best responses.

    Finally, thousands of whiskey barrels have found their way to craft breweries. Now, Heavy Seas Brewing Company has returned the favor, sending its brewhouse tanks to a distillery.

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    Which Colorado Breweries Are Takeover Targets?

    Colorado has some 225 breweries, and the Denver Post’s Eric Gorski is asking the (much more than) $64,000 question: Which of these breweries is going to be acquired? Recent activity suggests that the most attractive takeover targets are breweries that turn out more than 40,000 barrels a year. Colorado has a number of those.

    However, the owners of Colorado’s top five breweries insist that they’re not selling out. Oskar Blues Brewery said that it’s going to be a buyer, not a seller. New Belgium Brewing Company’s founder sold her shares to brewery workers, and the company is 100-percent employee owned. Odell Brewing is “not on the market.” Left Hand Brewing is committed to staying independent. And Breckenridge Brewing says it had no intention of selling out.

    Despite the breweries’ denials, Gorski maintains that an acquisition is not out of the question. He says, “If the recent industry upheaval shows anything, it’s this: Don’t be surprised by anything.”

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    Hot Beer for a Cold Evening?

    As another Siberian Express rolls across North America, an ice-cold beer might be farthest from your mind. It was also the farthest thing from 18th-century Americans’ minds. In an article in The Atlantic, Jacob Grier reminds us that in those days, heated ale drinks were staples of home and tavern life. They provided warmth on chilly nights and nutrition when meals were scarce.

    There are numerous reasons for the popularity of heated ales back then. Lager beer hadn’t made its way across the Atlantic. Ales fermented quickly without refrigeration, and they offered a sweetness that could be enjoyed at higher temperatures. Ale was a source of nutrition, and often contained food items such as berries or milk. And people actually believed that the human stomach acted like a cauldron.

    Now that breweries are reviving beers from long ago, Grier wonders whether someone will take a big risk and roll out a hot ale. Perhaps the harsh winter we’ve endured has provided the motivation.

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    The Friday Mash (Not Mr. Met Edition)

    On this day in 1872, the Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in Manhattan. With more than two million works in its permanent collection, “The Met”—not to be confused with baseball mascot “Mr. Met”—is one of the largest art museums in the world.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Turkey, where security guards red-carded a fan for trying to smuggle beer into a soccer stadium. A whole case of bottles, in an outfit he’d designed for that purpose.

    The latest trademark fight pits New Belgium Brewing Company and Oasis, Texas Brewing Company, both of which brew a beer called “Slow Ride”. New Belgium filed its mark ahead of Oasis, but Oasis’s beer hit the market first.

    Vietnam’s robust drinking culture—there is no word for “hangover”—is raising concerns about health as citizens grow wealthier. A glass of beer costs just 30 U.S. cents.

    Screenwriter and director Matthew Vaughn says that Guinness provided the inspiration for Kingsman: The Secret Service. Over pints, Vaughn and comic book maestro Mark Miller came up with the idea of an old-school spy movie.

    The popularity of IPA and other craft beer has forced Iowa lawmakers to revisit the definition of “beer”. Beverages with 5 to 8 percent ABV currently exist in a legal twilight zone.

    An Austin, Texas, company has developed a product called Kube, which combines a high-quality portable sound system and a beverage cooler. It’s designed to be used at parties and outdoor events.

    Finally, Empire Brewing Company is collaborating with China’s Jingwei Fu Tea Company to brew Two Dragons beer. It starts out mellow and woody, and finishes with a sweet tea-like taste. Empire hopes to export it to China.

    The World’s Youngest Cicerone

    Angela Steil is only 21 years old, but she’s earned certification as a Cicerone and will be working as the in-house beer sommelier at Gravity, a beer-focused restaurant in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

    Steil is the world’s youngest Cicerone. Attaining that status is no easy task, regardless of one’s age. Only half of those who take the exam pass it. It requires memorizing a huge material of material—the syllabus is 19 pages long—and includes tasting portion in which one has to identify specific off-flavors of beer. Steil’s test preparation included marathon flash-card sessions, videos, “every book they mention,” and innumerable blind flight tastings.

    Steil’s next goal is to achieve Master Cicerone status, which is so difficult that only seven people have qualified so far. However, she has plenty of time to acquire the knowledge needed to get there.

    When Brewpubs Were a Novelty

    In the current All About Beer, historian Tom Aciatelli takes us back to 1986, when recently-laid-off geologist John Hickenlooper drove to Berkeley, California, to visit his brother. The two paid a visit to Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse, and Hickenlooper realized what his next career would be.

    Two years later, Hickenlooper and his partners opened Wynkoop Brewing Company in what was then a gritty section of Denver.

    A quarter century ago, brewpubs outnumbered microbreweries by a substantial margin (the opposite is true today). Brewpub owners faced serious challenges, including finding the money to get started, overcoming Depression-era liquor laws, and persuading customers to pay more for a product they were not familiar with.

    Hickenlooper was a notable success in his industry. He started or invested in 11 brewpubs. Later, he embarked on yet another career, that of a public official. He got elected mayor of Denver, and is now governor of Colorado. When he first took office in 2011, he made sure the craft beer flowed at his inaugural party.

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