The Friday Mash (Hair Edition)

On this day in 1968, the musical Hair opened on Broadway. Notable songs from the “American Tribal Love-Rock Musical” include “Aquarius”, “Easy to Be Hard”, and “Good Morning Starshine”.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Chelyabinsk, Russia, where a mechanic named Andrey Eremeev persuaded the beer store in his apartment building to let him run a pipeline from a keg in the store’s refrigerator to one of the taps of his kitchen sink.

Theater Cedar Rapids has added beer to its improv comedy classes. According to its education director, beer helps relieve inhibitions that can kill a performer’s creativity.

In Hastings, Nebraska, temperance advocates picketed the Do the Brew beer festival. The protesters, dressed in period garb, were actors promoting the upcoming Nebraska Chautauqua fest.

Israel’s Herzl Brewery made a beer that people might have enjoyed when Jesus was alive. It tasted a bit like honey and berries, but it was flat and cloudier than what we drink today.

Six years ago, Greg Avola and Tim Mather launched Untappd. The app now has more than 3.2 million users, and is so successful that both men quit their jobs to manage Untapped full time.

Frances Stroh has written a book about the Detroit-based brewery’s rise to national prominence in the late 1800s and its downfall amid consolidation and the city’s economic demise.

Finally, Utah liquor regulators may revoke a Salt Lake City movie theater’s liquor license for showing the R-rated film Deadpool. State law forbids a licensed establishment to show nudity. Deadpool star Ryan Reynolds donated $5,000 to the theater’s legal defense fund.

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Goose Island and the Domino Effect

Five years ago, Goose Island Beer Company announced that it would be acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev. John Hall, Goose Island’s founder, stayed on as an A-B InBev employee. He was put in charge of the company’s craft and import division. That division, now called High End, followed the Goose Island precedent and began buying craft breweries. There are now eight in High End’s portfolio.

There was another member of the Hall family to Goose Island: John Hall’s son, Greg. He left Goose Island after the sale and opened Virtue Cider on a farm in Michigan. Demand for the cider overwhelmed Virtue’s inefficient packaging equipment. Greg Hall wound up selling a controlling stake in Virtue to A-B InBev. The deal also allows Virtue to save on capital expenses; it uses Goose Island’s bottling and kegging operation in Chicago and thus doesn’t have to buy its own equipment.

Jason Notte of Marketwatch.com recently spoke with the Halls just a few weeks before the fifth anniversary of the Goose Island sale and discussed “life afterward, the changes that have occurred in both the craft beer and cider markets since and what the sale meant to Virtue Cider and other A-B InBev High End offerings”. The interview is on the lengthy side, but definitely worth reading

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The Friday Mash (Boomer Sooner Edition)

One hundred and twenty-five years ago today, at high noon, thousands of people took part in the Oklahoma Land Rush. Within hours, Oklahoma City and Guthrie had instant populations of 10,000.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Tumwater, Washington, once the home of Olympia Brewing Company. Today, it’s the home of a cluster of legal marijuana growers and processors—including one of the state’s largest.

Peru’s Cerveza San Juan beer brand has replaced the roaring jaguar with barnyard animals on its cans. The reason? The brewery is calling attention to the big cat’s endangered status.

Officials have reinstated beer at the University of Missouri’s “Tiger Prowl”, where graduating seniors eat barbecue, get free merchandise, and get ready to say goodbye to their classmates.

Anheuser-Busch InBev has acquired its eighth craft brewery, Devil’s Backbone of Roseland, Virginia. Established in 2008, Devil’s Backbone has won multiple Great American Beer Festival medals.

The Vietnamese love beer, and craft brewers have begun to enter the market. One new craft is the Pasteur Street Brewing Company, whose founders include Vick’s Florida native John Reid.

Forbes magazine’s Tara Nurin explores “pay-to-play” in beer distribution. Even after a high-profile crackdown in Massachusetts, she says it’s “a common yet whispered business practice”.

Finally, Don Russell aka Joe Sixpack takes us back to the bad old days of Prohibition’s “needle beer”: speakeasy owners injected alcohol into near beer—which was still legal in the 1920s. One customer, who sampled the stuff, compared it to 44-D cough syrup.

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Jews and Brewing History

There is currently a special exhibit, “Beer is the Wine of this Land: Jewish Brewery Tales” at the Jewish Museum in Munich. The story of Jewish beer culture begins in Egypt, where the enslaved Israelites discovered the beverage and later brewed it when they returned to Israel. For a time, beer was considered a universal remedy that could treat everything from snake bites to leprosy.

The Jews’ connection to Germany dates back to the Middle Ages, when they were expelled from most of Europe’s cities. Some German Jews cultivated hops, and most of the hop farms near Nuremburg were owned by Jews. During the Third Reich, the farms were acquired by German owners in what the museum’s director called a “friendly Aryanization”; they were given back to their owners after the war.

Other Jews in the industry weren’t as lucky as the hop growers. One notable exile was Hermann Schülein, who fled to the United States and became the manager of the Liebman Brewery. Its flagship product was a New York icon: Rheingold lager, which was famous for using celebrity endorsers and staging the annual Miss Rheingold beauty competition.

Rheingold production ended in 1976, but the tradition of Jewish brewing in New York is being carried on by the Shmaltz Brewing Company, whose products include eight beers brewed for Hanukkah.

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Ale…You’re History!

Colonial Williamsburg will host a program, “Ales Through the Ages”, during the weekend of March 18-20:

Ales through the Ages offers a journey through the history of beer with some of the world’s top beer scholars. We will explore ancient ales and indigenous beers of the past, examine the origins and consequences of industrial brewing, discover the ingredients brewers have used through time, and share a toast to brewers past!

You can find the full program here.

The Friday Mash (Vermont Edition)

On this day in 1791, Vermont was admitted to the Union as the 14th U.S. state. It is only one of three states that had previously been an independent republic; the others are California (very briefly, and unrecognized) and Texas (1836-45).

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Chicago, where the Field Museum has teamed up with Off-Color Brewing to re-create a purple-corn beer brewed by Peruvian women a thousand years ago during the Wari Empire.

In Europe, drought conditions resulted in last year’s hop harvest being one of the worst in decades. The resulting scarcity drove up prices, which hit small breweries especially hard.

Franchised beer bars may be coming to your town. Growler USA has two locations in Oregon and North Carolina each with more than 80 taps, and plans to open ten more this year.

“Endless Slogans”, an ad for Toronto-brewed Boneshaker Unfiltered IPA, pokes fun at beer ads by mocking every ad cliche from sexual innuendos to bad puns.

A German environmental group has alleged that the country’s most popular beers violate the Reinheitsgebot because they contain trace amounts of glyphosate, an ingredient used in herbicides.

Celeste Beatty is one of the few African-American women to own a brewery. Her Harlem Brewing Company’s beers will soon go on sale at 39 Wal-Mart stores in New York State.

Finally, Anheuser-Busch InBev finds itself in “investor purgatory” after reporting disappointing earnings last week. A-B InBev’s sales are–pardon the pun–flat, and currency volatility has upped the cost of sales.

George Washington and Beer

Happy Washington’s Birthday, everyone! Those of a certain age remember it being an actual federal holiday, and a day on which people lined up outside stores in hopes of buying heavily marked-down TV sets.

Earlier this month, I ran across an article on Mount Vernon’s website about George Washington and beer. Even though he did little brewing himself, he loved beer, especially if it was strong and hoppy. He bought plenty of it to treat voters when he ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and served it to his guests at Mount Vernon. At first, he bought his beer from both local and English brewers, but bad experiences with imported beer during the 1760s contributed to his growing belief that America should become self-sufficient.

Beer played a role in the American Revolution. General Washington needed large quantities of beer because both his officers and soldiers demanded it. In February 1780, when the Continental Army was holed up in winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey, the beer supply ran out and morale plummeted. Fortunately, Washington’s aide-de-camp was able to buy some, and the sated soldiers were once again determined to see the revolution through.

After the war, Washington followed a strict “buy American” policy. His favorite provider was Robert Hare, Jr., of Philadelphia, whose porter he enjoyed. Unfortunately, Hare’s brewery burned down in 1790. That disaster taught Washington a lesson: hedge against future shortages by hoarding large quantities.

Reviving the Founding Fathers’ Beers

Last Thursday, Bo McMillan wrote a column in All About Beer magazine which featured “presidential beers” that have been revived by modern-day breweries. Perhaps the best-known beers are Yards Brewing Company’s “Ales of the Revolution”. Production began in 1999, after Philadelphia’s City Tavern asked Yards to brew a series of authentic colonial-era beers. Yards not only used the same ingredients as the colonials did, but also brewed the beers using bricked-in kettles and open flame. Ales of the Revolution are available at City Tavern, and at select stores in the Philadelphia area.

Starr Hill Brewing Company, located 30 miles from Monticello, is brewing an ale inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s notes on brewing. Jefferson used hops and grain grown at Monticello to brew his beer; and because barley was scarce, he used corn instead. Monticello Reserve Ale is the historical site’s official beer.

Robbie O’Cain, Starr Hill’s brewer, is working on an even more authentic version of what was served at Monticello when Jefferson lived there. Brewers of that time didn’t understand the fermentation process, and the original Monticello beer was likely a Virginia wild ale brewed from resident microflora.

The Friday Mash (“Rhapsody in Blue” Edition)

On this day in 1924, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” premiered in New York at a concert titled “An Experiment in Modern Music.” Paul Whiteman and his band performed the work, with Gershwin playing the piano.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Zalec, a town in Slovenia’s hop-growing region. The city plans to spend €170,000 ($190,000) to build Europe’s first-ever “beer fountain”. For €6, visitors will be able to buy samples in a commemorative mug for three 10.5-ounce samples.

Craft beer is hard to find in Las Vegas. The reason? State laws which, until recently, allowed brewpubs only to sell directly to customers and imposed hefty license fees on brewpubs.

David Forde, a UK-based executive of the Heineken Company, thinks we should be drinking less because excessive drinking will create a backlash. Heineken’s latest ad campaign is “Moderate Drinkers Wanted”.

Some scientists believe that beer was the reason why our ancestors switched from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural existence. Beer was more nutritious than beer and, unlike water, was free of pathogens.

New Belgium Brewing Company has narrowed its list of sites for a second brewery to two: Asheville, North Carolina; and the Philadelphia area. The final decision should be made by June.

USA Today’s panel of beer experts have chosen 20 cities for its America’s “best beer scene” competition. Until February 29, you can vote for your favorite—but only once per day.

Finally, Forbes magazine’s Breanna Wilson went to the 16-room Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware. The inn doesn’t sell Dogfish Head beer onsite because it wants guests to wander the town’s restaurants—one of which is Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats.

Making Sense of the Reinheitsgebot

The Reinheitsgebot, aka Germany’s beer purity law, turns 500 in April. The law is familiar to beer lovers but, according to Joe Stange of All About Beer magazine, is widely misunderstood. To begin with, it wasn’t the first German law that regulated ingredients. It wasn’t called a “purity law” until 100 years ago, and it was more concerned with keeping beer and bread affordable—and curbing brewers’ use of wheat, which bakers needed—than with keeping beer pure. It didn’t apply across Germany until 1906; and when it did, the law killed many regional beer styles. And the law has been tweaked since 1516.

All that said, the law remains on the books, and is known in English as “The Provisional Beer Law”. Even though it no longer bans the importation of non-Reinheitsgebot beer, thanks to various free-trade laws and treaties, a German brewery still can’t market non-compliant products as “beer”.

On a recent trip to a Munich beer bar, Stange deliberately ordered a non-compliant beer, a milk stout brewed by the bar’s parent company, a brewery called Camba Bavaria. The barman explained to Stange that it wasn’t available due to “legal troubles with the Reinheitsgebot”.

Stange contacted the brewery for an explanation of the “legal troubles”, which began with the milk stout. According to the brewery: “officials told them (1) they can’t call it beer, since it has lactose (milk sugar); (2) they can’t call it ‘milk’ anything since there is no milk in it; (3) they can’t call it Klim Touts [‘milk stout’ spelled backwards] either, by the way, because don’t be cheeky; and oh (4) you’ll have to go ahead and pay taxes on it as if it were beer, even though we say it’s not beer, because ‘milk stout’ is clearly an established international beer style, even though you can’t call it that.”

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