“Ask Your Doctor if Beer is Right for You”

Most news stories about beer and health emphasize how unhealthy beer is. But for most of human history, that wasn’t the case. In fact, our ancestors used beer as medicine. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology found that before modern medications were developed, the sick were treated with beer and alcohol-containing herbal cocktails. He points out that alcohol relieves pain, stops infection, and kills bacteria and parasites in contaminated water. Alcohol also helps the digestive system break down food.

McGovern has found ancient texts that describe therapeutic cocktails. Prescriptions in ancient China and Egypt medical papyri called for wine or beer as a “dispensing agent,” with a varying mixture of herbs depending on the patient’s ailment. In addition to dissolving the herbs, alcohol made the mixture more palatable. Then, as in Mary Poppins, a spoonful of sugar helped the medicine go down.

Whether these ancient remedies actually worked is still up for debate. However, the bark of certain trees has yielded the key ingredients in aspirin, the anti-malarial drug quinine, and the cancer drug Taxol. And scientists are investigating substances in modern-day beer that might be valuable sources of medicines.

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The Friday Mash (Peanuts Edition)

Sixty-five years ago today, the Peanuts comic strip, written and illustrated by Charles Schulz, was first published. Peanuts became one of the most popular and influential comic strips in history.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Philadelphia, the final stop of Pope Francis’s American visit. Local writer Don Russell, aka “Joe Sixpack,” takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the history of papal influence on brewing.

Israel now has 32 craft breweries. One of them, located in the hills of Galilee, uses chickpeas and dates in its recipe for a gluten-free beer.

Eastern Michigan University can’t win for losing. It latest effort to draw fans for its struggling football team—beer sales—resulted in a $3,000 loss. And yes, EMU lost the game.

After “some extensive field research,” Brent Nunn of the Dallas Observer has compiled a list of ten dumb things light beer drinkers say about craft beer.

Samuel Adams announced that it will introduce a series of nitro-conditioned beers early next year. The first three nitro offerings will be a white ale, an IPA, and a coffee stout.

Two Belgian scientists are making lager beers more diverse by cross-breeding yeasts. The new strains not only ferment more quickly than commercial strains, but are delicious as well.

Finally, blame global warming for pumpkin beers showing up on shelves before Labor Day. For example, persistently hot weather forced Rogue Ales to harvest its pumpkins weeks earlier than last year.

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How the GABF Came to Be

Last night, the 34th Great American Beer Festival came to an end. There wouldn’t have been a 34th GABF, or even a first one, had it not been for Charlie Papazian—and, perhaps, an event called “Beer and Steer”.

Beer and Steer, organized during the 1970s by Papazian, was annual beer party, held in the foothills above Boulder, Colorado. Homebrewers and beer enthusiasts gathered there each year to swap beers and recipes, and enjoy roasted meat and good company. Partiers brought down snow from higher elevations to keep the beer cold.

Each year the party grew more elaborate and more popular, forcing Papazian and his fellow organizers to limit it to 400 attendees.

The experience Papazian gained from Beer and Steer proved invaluable when he founded the American Homebrewers Association. He invited industry professionals to the National Homebrewers Conference, turning a low-key competition into an industry event. Papazian next launched the GABF, which gave aspiring craft brewers an opportunity to meet professional brewers and learn how to scale up their own operations while maintaining quality.

The Friday Mash (1,500th Blog Post Edition)

We aren’t beginning the Mash with a historical reference because we’re too busy celebrating a milestone. Today’s Mash is the 1,500th post on “Ludwig Roars.” Now excuse us while we refill our pint glasses.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in the West Bank, where the Taybeh Brewery hosted its 11th annual Oktoberfest. The brewery poured a non-alcoholic beer for festival-goers from neighboring Muslim towns.

Anheuser-Busch InBev’s planned takeover of SAB Miller has advertising agencies worried. Less competition could mean less advertising. That, in turn, could affect the sports industry’s bottom lilne.

A 3,800-year-old poem honoring Ninkasi is also a recipe for Sumerian beer. Brewers have replicated the beer, which tastes like dry apple cider and has a modest 3.5 percent ABV.

Organizers of the Skanderborg Music Festival in Denmark have found an alternative to sleeping in hot tents: giant beer cans that offer a bed with pillows, shelving, a fan, and other amenities.

Jake Anderson, a goalie for the University of Virginia hockey team, was given five-minute major penalty and ejected from the game after chugging a can of Keystone Lite during the second intermission.

Québécois travel writer Caitlin Stall-Paquet takes us a beer-focused road trip through Gaspésie and the Bas-Saint-Laurent. The attractions also include museums, cathedrals, and rock formations.

Finally, Portland beer writer Jeff Alworth, who spent two years traveling and tasting beers, has written The Beer Bible. The 656-page book is accessible, but at the same time, an in-depth exploration of the heritage behind the beers we drink today.

Brooklyn: Ghosts of Breweries Past

Once upon a time, Brooklyn, New York, was a claimant for the title of the nation’s brewing capital. During the 1850s, Meserole Street was “Brewers Row,” with at least a dozen breweries; and the brewery owners built grand homes for their families on Bushwick Avenue.

Two breweries, Schaefer and Rheingold, dominated Brooklyn—and the New York area’s brewing industry–in the 20th century. Then came Prohibition, labor unrest, and industry consolidation. Both breweries closed in 1976, though Schaefer is still brewed under contract by Pabst. Today, little remains of the Schaefer and Rheingold brewery complexes. The last of the Schaefer buildings are being demolished to make way for Brooklyn’s modern-day growth industry: housing.

A small-scale brewing revival might be coming. Braven Brewing, whose beers are brewed upstate, hopes to acquire space in Brooklyn and open for business next year. And Steve Hindy, the founder of Brooklyn Brewery, is already looking for new facilities in the borough, even though the brewery’s current lease doesn’t expire until 2020.

The Heyday of Genny Cream Ale

Fifty years ago, there were Americans who drank ale, and there were breweries that catered to their thirst for that style. For a while, the top-selling ale in the U.S. was Genesee Cream Ale. Rochester New York-based Genessee Brewery introduced it in 1960 as a middle ground between two other “Genny” products: Dickens Dry Ale, which proved too dry for most beer drinkers; and the more-robust 12 Horse Ale.

At one point, Genny Cream Ale accounted for one-third of the brewery’s production, about 1 million barrels in all–quite an accomplishment for a brand distributed almost exclusively in the Northeast. Before it faded, Genny Cream Ale set the standard for cream ale, which is one of the few beer styles that originated in the United States.

Comic Book History of Beer

Comic books have become mainstream, even for those over 21. That trend inspired three men—illustrator Aaron McConnell, writer Jonathan Hennessey, and professional brewer Mike Smith—to write The Comic Book Story of Beer.

This 173-page book covers 9,000 years from the beginnings of agriculture—necessitated by brewing, they maintain—and explains the economic, cultural, and scientific facets of beer. There are factoids you might not know, such as covered beer steins were invented during the Black Death, when piles of bodies on the streets attracted flies, or that the Vienna Lager style of beer was born out of a 19th-century act of industrial espionage.

Although the authors want to educate their readers, they also want the learning to be fun. They use little Lego men breaking things apart to explain how enzymes break up sugar molecules and little “yeast-bots” to depict fermentation, and their depiction of the malt-roasting process is based on a story by Dr. Seuss.

The Comic Book Story of Beer will be available next month.

The Friday Mash (Social Security Edition)

Today is the 80th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s signing of the Social Security Act. More than 50 million Americans, most of whom are retirees, receive Social Security benefits. That number will grow as members of the Baby Boom generation reach retirement age.

And now (can I see some ID, please?)….The Mash! 

We begin in North Korea, whose government is looking for foreign investors for a brewery in Wosnan. The country’s leader, Kim Jong-un, wants to turn the port city into a tourist attraction.

Jim Koch, the CEO of Boston Beer Company, blames high U.S. corporate taxes for acquisitions that have left foreign firms in control of 90 percent of America’s brewing industry.

The oldest known receipt for beer is a more than 4,000-year-old Sumerian tablet in which a scribe acknowledges receiving approximately 4-1/2 liters of Alulu the brewer’s “best beer.”

At New Belgium Brewing Company, Kim Jordan is turning over her CEO duties to another woman, Christine Perich, the chief operating officer. Jordan will head the brewery’s board of directors.

The Los Angeles Times’s John Verive decodes seven words—clean, dry, phenolic, creamy, hot, soft, and light—that are often found in reviews of craft beers.

White Bull beer, a symbol of South Sudan’s independence, is on the endangered list. Armed conflict has left White Bull’s brewer short on foreign currency it needs to import fuel and materials.

Finally, “Biscuit,” who works at the Sun King Brewery in Indianapolis sneaked “Tom Brady Sux” next to the “born-on” date on 20,000 cans of Wee Mac Scottish Ale. His future work will have to be approved by his higher-ups.

“Pop the Cap” Turns 10

Ten years ago today, North Carolina’s then-governor Mike Easley signed House Bill 392, which did away with the state’s 6-percent ABV limit on the alcoholic content of beers. The antiquated ABV cap was repealed because of a grass-roots lobbying effort called “Pop the Cap”.

Since 2005, the number of breweries in North Carolina has almost quadrupled. The craft brewing industry has an estimated $3.8 billion impact on the state’s economy, and employs more than 26,000 workers. Beer drinkers can also enjoy doppelbocks, double IPAs, and imperial stouts which formerly couldn’t be sold because of the cap.

A Short History of the Beer Can

In the past few years, hundreds of craft breweries began canning their beer. It wasn’t an easy decision because canned beer was associated with national-brand lagers, and canning equipment was an expensive investment for small breweries.

Even though canned foods date back to 1813, it took more another century, and then some, for a brewery to successfully put its beer in cans. In 1933, the American Can Company invented a can that was strong enough to hold a pressurized carbonated liquid lined with a coating that prevented metallic tastes from flavoring the beer. Two years later, the Kreuger Brewing Company test-marketed two of its beers in Richmond, Virginia.

Kreuger’s cans were a success, but there was plenty of room for improvement. The early cans were made of heavy steel coated with a thin layer of tin to prevent rusting. Those gave way to aluminum cans, first used by the Hawaii Brewing Company in 1958. Nowadays, cans are made out of an aluminum alloy, which is even lighter weight and more resistant to rusting.

The beer can’s shape also changed over time. Early cans looked like cylinders with flat tops and bottoms. The next generation of cans had cone tops, which became popular with small breweries because they were easier to fill and could be sealed with the same crown caps as glass bottles. By the late 1950s, however, cone-top cans were replaced by cylindrical cans with flat tops and bottoms.

Opening canned beer has gotten easier as well. The original flat-top cans required a device called a “church key”, which punctured a triangular hole at the top of the can, out of which a person could drink, and a second, smaller hole on the opposite side to let air into the can and allow the beer to flow. In 1962, the Pittsburgh Brewing Company released a can with a “zip top,” a small flat tab riveted to the center of the can’s top that could be pulled back to puncture the can. Three years later, a pull ring, similar to those used in cans of pet food, replaced the flat tab. However, the discarded tabs created an environmental problem. In 1975, Reynolds Metals Company solved it with a “stay-tab,” which is now standard technology in beer and pop cans worldwide.

Canned craft beer has several advantages: it can be hermetically sealed; it cools faster than bottled beer; and it’s friendlier to outdoor activities. As for the belief that canned craft beer tastes of metal, that has long since been debunked.

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