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 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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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 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 (Istanbul Not Constantinople Edition)

The Four Lads once asked the musical question, “Why did Constantinople get the works?” Their answer: “It’s nobody’s business but the Turks’” Eighty-four years ago today, the Turks changed the city’s name to Istanbul. They also changed the name of their capital to Ankara.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Cincinnati, where Listerman Brewing Company is hosting Starkbierfest, a family-friendly version of Munich’s Lenten tradition where potent doppelbock takes center stage.

Yards Brewing Company is brewing a special beer for the popular TV show “Walking Dead.” No humans have been eaten in the brewing process, which involves smoking goat brains.

Colorado governor John Hickenlooper has installed craft beer taps at his official residence. The first keg he tapped was Silverback Pale from Wynkoop Brewing Company, which he founded.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Fortune magazine writers tried MillerCoors’s new Fortune beer and gave it a thumbs-up–and not just for its name.

While visiting Belgium, Jay Brooks discovered a new organization, the Belgian Family Brewers. Its members have been brewing for at least 50 years, and have been family-owned all that time.

Purists are up in arms about it, but three Seattle-area homebrewers have developed the PicoBrew Zymatic, a “set-and-forget” system that can be controlled from one’s laptop.

Finally, Florida craft brewers learned that campaign cash trumps free enterprise. The State Senate president admitted that he’s against legalizing half-gallon growlers because a big beer distributor is a major contributor to his party.

A Victim of Its Own Success

Release parties can be a great way for a brewery to draw attention to their flagship products. Sometimes, however, a party can be the victim of its own success. Joey Redner, the owner of Cigar City Brewing in Tampa, has a cautionary tale to tell.

For the past five years, Cigar City has hosted Hunaphu Day, which celebrates the release of Hunaphu’s Imperial Stout. Last year, it drew a big crowd that blocked entrance to neighboring businesses. To avoid a recurrence, the brewery made this year’s Hunaphu Day a ticketed event. The tickets, which cost $50 each, sold out. However, thousands of party-crashers showed up, preventing ticket-holders–one of whom drove 18 hours–from getting any Hunaphu.

Redner apologized for what happened, and tried to make it up to Hunaphu lovers by offering free beer in his tasting room the next day. He also decided to get out of the release party business, telling, “This year they got WAY around my pitiful efforts. I am acknowledging defeat. That was the last Hunahpu Day. The beer will go into distribution next year and hopefully spread out among many accounts it will get to consumers more fairly.”

The Friday Mash (Happy New Year! Edition)

It’s been a horrible winter in much of the country, but take heart: today is the first full day of spring. Today is also the first day of the astrological year, being the first full day under the sign of Aries. So break out the noisemakers and funny hats, and order yourself a beer.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Bend, Oregon, which has 80,000 residents and 11 breweries. The breweries issue visitors a “passport” that they can get stamped as they sample their way through town.

Esquire Network’s Brew Dogs are trying to brew the world’s most caloric beer: an imperial stout made with maple syrup and bacon, served with a scoop of beer ice cream and a sliver of bacon. It weighs in at over 525 calories.

According to Outdoor Life magazine, empty glass beer bottles may help you survive in the wilderness. You can make sharp tools out of them, and even use them to start fires.

The Session #86, moderated by “Beer Hobo” Heather Vandenengel, will focus on beer journalism. She invites you to discuss the role of beer writers and talk about your favorites.

In Boise, fans filed suit against the city’s minor-league hockey team after seeing a YouTube video showing that a $7 large beer contained the same amount of beer as a $4 “small” beer.

The environment is a high priority at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s new North Carolina plant, whose interior decor will reflect the natural beauty of its surroundings.

Finally, conservative commentator Phyllis Schlafly has asked federal trademark regulators to deny Schlafly beer a trademark because she doesn’t want her family associated with beer. Her nephew Tom’s Saint Louis Brewery has brewed Schlafly beer since 1989.

Go Blue!

This morning, Paul got an email from the University of Michigan Alumni Association about fellow U-M alum Ron Jeffries, the founder and brewmaster of Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales.

When Ron started out ten years ago, he thought his beers would win immediate acceptance, but now he admits, “I was completely wrong. Very few consumers were thinking about the type of beer we were making. For the first few years, it was hard to sell enough beer to stay in business.”

Adding insult to injury were the emails he received from some customers: “Hey, just letting you know–your beer is sour. I think you got a problem at your brewery.” Jolly Pumpkin still gets the occasional “your beer is sour” email, but his beer has won a national following. Ron credits his success in part to other breweries who have taken a chance on sour beer: those who enjoy it eventually get around to trying his product.

Speaking of his product, we’re breaking out an Oro de Calabaza Thursday evening when the Wolverines tip off against Wofford in the NCAA tournament. Go Blue!

Want to Start a Brewery? Read This First

Collin McDonnell and his business partners are successful brewery owners. Their California-based HenHouse Brewing Company is not only up and running, but has raised enough capital to graduate from nano- to microbrewery status. But it wasn’t–pardon the pun–all beer and skittles for the three entrepreneurs. Drawing from his experiences in the industry, McDonnell has some advice for would-be brewery owners.

To begin with, the old joke that “brewing is 90 percent cleaning and 10 percent paperwork” isn’t a joke. It’s true. You need to be a clean freak. You also need to be patient and methodical, and not easily bored. Basic handyman skills help immensely; and if you have training as a electrician or a welder, all the better. And brewery work will change the way you drink beer: instead of simply enjoying your pint, you’ll be analyzing everything about it.

McDougall also reminds that a brewery is a business, which means complying with laws and regulations, managing finances, and pitching your product to bars and restaurants. Assuming, of course, that you’ve raised enough capital to get your brewery open to begin with.

Finally, McDougall warns that brewery work will consume all of your time–fermentation doesn’t care about your plans for the weekend–and the pay isn’t great either. Having said all that, he promises that if you love the art of brewing, all the hassle will be worth it.

The Friday Mash (Ale and Pi Edition)

Today is Pi Day, an annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant. It’s celebrated today because Americans write the date as 3/14; and “3″, “1″, and “4″ are the three most significant digits of pi in decimal form. Ludwig recommends a beer, preferably a Real Ale, to go with your pi.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Boston, where Jim Koch invited survivors of last year’s Marathon bombing to his brewery, which is again brewing a special “26.2″ ale to raise funds for those injured last year.

A company in Canada plans to brew a “recovery ale” for athletes. It’s called “Lean Machine”; and it has 77 calories, 0.5 percent alcohol, and contains nutrients, antioxidants, and electrolytes.

Jonas Bronck’s Beer Company has tapped into New York tradition with an egg cream stout. An egg cream contains milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer water–but no eggs.

A Wisconsin lawmaker has introduced a bill that would create a state Beer Commission. It has the backing of the state’s breweries.

Charlie Papazian, head of the Brewers Association, has decided to discontinue the Beer City USA competition because it has “served its purpose.” Grand Rapids won last year’s competition.

investor C. Dean Metropoulos, who bought Pabst Brewing Company four years ago, is reportedly considering a sale of the company, which could be worth as much as $1 billion.

Finally, John Verive, a food writer for the Los Angeles Times, explains why the classic tulip glass is the only glass you’ll need. It’s versatile, supports the beer’s head, and holds in its aromas.

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