Raise a Glass to Santa Claus

The legend of the man we call Santa Claus stems from Nicholas of Myra, a bishop of a small town in Greece during the 4th century. Nicholas was known for protecting children and, at least once, saving them from human traffickers.

Nicholas became St. Nicholas and, eventually, Santa Claus. In addition to becoming the patron saint of children, he became the patron of brewers. Santa Claus fell out of favor during the Protestant Reformation in favor of darker figures such as Krampus. But during the 19th century, Christmas regained its jolliness and Santa was on his way to becoming the jolly, pipe-smoking man in the red suit.

Advertisers have used Santa Claus to hawk a variety of products—including beer. The latter didn’t sit well with neo-prohibitionists, who persuaded policy makers to declare Santa off-limits to beer ads. The brewing industry fought back, and successfully argued that the bans violated the First Amendment. Ironically, many of the same states that banned products like Bad Elf India Pale Ale allowed a strong German lager named Samichlaus—can you guess what that means in English?—to be sold.

Maryanne, Paul, and Ludwig wish all of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Beer Traveling Back to the 1850s

Carillon Historical Park, in Dayton, Ohio, provides an opportunity to taste beers from the 1850s. One of the park’s 30 buildings houses the Carillon Brewing Company, which uses historically accurate, mid-19th-century techniques. Visitors can enjoy traditional German food and other offerings at the brewery’s restaurant; while eating, they can watch employees and volunteers feed the fires, ladle the beer, and fill the barrels.

Carillon’s ales, made using techniques that predate refrigeration and mechanization, have a traditional sourness that some will consider an “acquired taste.” (Those who like the beer can buy growlers to take home.) The brewery’s flagship product is a coriander ale made from an 1830s recipe. Another Carillon beer, a porter, is made with malt hand-roasted over the fireplace coals; and because yeast strains vary seasonally, it will taste different throughout the year.

The Friday Mash (Hail Fredonia Edition)

One hundred and ninety years ago today, Benjamin W. Edwards rode into Mexican-controlled Texas and declared himself ruler of the Republic of Fredonia. Edwards is not to be confused with Rufus T. Firefly.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Germany, where the Bayern Munich football team treated Ingolstat’s players to sausages and beer. Ingolstat upset Leipzig, enabling Bayern to move into first place in the Bundesliga.

A former NASA biologist has developed a genetically engineered strain of yeast that makes beer glow under a black light. His “fluorescent yeast kit” contains genes from a jellyfish.

MobCraft Beer, a Milwaukee brewery that lets the public vote on new products, was was heavily criticized after “Date Grape” was one of the finalists. The brewery has apologized for the sexual assault reference.

Writer Jay Brooks tells the fascinating story of the Americas’ first Western-style brewery. It opened near Mexico City in 1544, with a team of brewers imported from Flanders.

Country music artist Sunny Sweeney’s song “One More Christmas Beer” celebrates family dysfunction. Sweeney says that the lyrics are inspired by actual events.

Next month, Chicago’s Field Museum will start serving PseudoSue, a pale ale brewed by the Toppling Goliath Brewing Company. The ale celebrates “Sue”, the museum’s beloved T-Rex skeleton.

Finally, Colorado’s craft brewers are engaged in soul-searching. This year, they’ve had to contend with Anheuser-Busch’s takeover of Breckenridge Brewing Company and a legislative battle over selling full-strength beer in grocery stores.

The Friday Mash (Heisman Trophy Edition)

On this day in 1935, the Downtown Athletic Club Trophy, later renamed the Heisman Trophy, was awarded for the first time. The winner was halfback Jay Berwanger of the University of Chicago who, despite being a number-one draft pick, never played pro football.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Wisconsin, where you’ll get a beer chaser with your Bloody Mary. The state’s taverns have a long-standing tradition of serving chasers with cocktails.

The Jewish Museum of Montreal has joined forces with a nearby craft brewery to re-create a beer brewed by brothers Ezekiel, Moses, and Benjamin Hart in 1796.

Is there a beer aficionado on your Christmas list? Forbes magazine writer Tara Nurin can help you. She’s written mini-reviews of 18 worthy beer books.

The latest gizmo for beer snobs is That Ultrabeer Thing, a vibrator that emits ultrasonic waves that break up carbon dioxide bubbles, creating a creamy foamy head.

San Francisco’s ReGrained is collecting spent grain from three local breweries and turning them into susatinable granola bars. The company’s slogan is “Eat Beer”.

A market analysis firm has found that beer sales are “underperforming” in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington. Recreational marijuana is legal in all of those states.

Finally, the stereotypical craft beer drinker is a bearded white male. However, craft customers are becoming more diverse, and the industry is making efforts to get customers of color to drink their product.

The Friday Mash (Road Atlas Edition)

Ninety years ago today, the first numbering system for U.S. highways was approved. The 21 numbered highways in the initial group included U.S. 60, which ran from Chicago to Los Angeles; it was later renumbered and became the famous “Mother Road”, U.S. Route 66.

And now…The Mash!

We begin at the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston, where hundreds of fans lined up to buy bottles of limited-edition “Big Hapi” beer, brewed to honor now-retired Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz.

Beer aficionados reacted furiously to TV food and travel personality Anthony Bourdain’s comments likening the clientele at a San Francisco beer bar to the “(expletive deleted) Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.

A court in Stuttgart, Germany, ruled that breweries can’t use the word “bekömmlich”—“wholesome” in English—in their advertising because European Union regulations prohibit health claims in alcohol ads.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery will start canning its beers later this month. Brewery CEO Sam Calagione is now convinced that canning technology can deliver a consistent, high-quality product.

The YouTube channel Celebrities in Golf Carts is trying to bridge the generation gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials with a new sport called Beer Pong Golf.

Dissatisfied with local distributors, Massachusetts’ Night Shift Brewing created its own distributorship. It’s offering breweries friendlier contracts, more personal attention, and deliveries of fresher beer.

Finally, in 1987, a Heineken retailer spread the untrue rumor that Mexican brewery workers urinated in containers of Corona Extra beer. That resulted in a lawsuit, and a public statement denying the rumor. Ten years later, Corona surpassed Heineken as America’s number-one imported beer.

Beer, Hospitals and No “Double Jeopardy”

Candida Moss, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, reminds us of Christianity’s role in bringing us beer. Catholic monks didn’t invent beer or create beer culture, but out of necessity they brewed superb ales—including Westvletern 12, which has been rated the world’s best. Centuries ago, St. Benedict instructed monks to be good hosts, and to support themselves from the fruit of their labor. Brewing beer was a way to comply with both. Originally the monks made beer as a way to avoid contracting dangerous water-borne illnesses. But in the 17th century, the Paulaner monks of Bavaria starting brewing beer especially for consumption during the Lenten fast, when eating was prohibited. The monks’ tradition lives on in the form of Starkbierzeit, Munich’s Lenten festival.

Moss adds that Christianity deserves credit for the concept of the hospital as an independent institution. Here again, the monks get credit; they started caring for the sick at their monasteries; and in Egypt, they make the health care available to monks available to all. In addition, Moss traces the Anglo-American legal concept of “double jeopardy” to the Church. In the 12th century, King Henry II of England tried to pass a law allowing his courts to try members of the clergy who had already been tried in ecclesiastical courts. Thomas a Becket, who was later made a saint, argued that there could be only one judgment for the same act. Henry took exception, and his knights murdered Becket. Afterward, the pope not only condemned Henry but also his effort to inflict double punishment on the clergy.

The Friday Mash (Neptune Edition)

One hundred and seventy years ago today, astronomers Urbain Jean Joseph Le Verrier, John Couch Adams and Johann Gottfried Galle collaborated on the discovery of Neptune. Now that Pluto has been demoted, Neptune is the most distant planet in our solar system.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Jacksonville, Florida, where an over-eager liquor control officer charged a 17-year-old girl with the crime of underage possession of alcohol. Her offense? Moving a cup of beer on a beer pong table at a Jaguars tailgate party.

Terrorist attacks in Europe have forced Oktoberfest organizers to beef up security this year, and many would-be attendees are avoiding the celebration out of fear of an attack in Munich.

Rutgers University ended its school-sponsored football tailgate parties after athletics director Pat Hobbs was seen chugging a beer onstage. Drinking on the job is a no-no at RU.

The new season of Shark Tank begins tonight. Leading off are the inventors of Fizzics, an in-home tap that re-creates the mouthfeel and aroma of freshly-poured draft beer.

Long Island’s Blue Point Brewery is serving up history in the form of Colonial Ale. It was made using a recipe written by George Washington in a military journal in 1757.

Are you seeing less pumpkin beer on the shelves this fall? It’s because breweries overproduced it last year and demand for the style fell off. Unseasonably warm weather also hurt sales.

Finally, scientists have figured out why the foam on top keeps your beer from sloshing. The answer is “capillary action”, the same phenomenon that enables paper towel to soak up spilled milk and plants to suck up water from their roots.

Tracing Beer Yeasts’ “Family Tree”

Humans domesticated yeasts long before they figured that yeasts even existed. Now a team of geneticists created the first family tree of those yeasts. They did so by examining samples collected from nearly 100 breweries around the world.

For most of history, people made beer at home. Because beer kept for a long time, it was necessary to brew only once a month or so. The long interval gave the wild yeasts in the beer enough time to interbreed with other strains and stay feral. But with the rise of commercial brewing some 400 years ago, brewers made beer on a continuous basis. In an effort to make the beer consistent, they inadvertently changed the yeasts’ genetic makeup. Brewers “backslopped”—that is, they took the sediment at the end of the brewing process and used it to inoculate the next batch. Over time, the yeasts lost the ability to sexually reproduce and acquired genes that helped them digest maltose, a type of sugar found in backslop.

It turns out that brewing yeasts were domesticated in two separate lineages. “Beer 1” emerged in Germany and Belgium around the turn of the 17th century. Those yeasts spread to the United Kingdom and, from there, to North America. Most of the yeasts used in brewing today belong to the Beer 1 branch of the family tree.

About 50 years later, another branch of beer yeasts, “Beer 2,” arose independently. The geneticists who studied them are unable to identify their place of origin. Beer 2 yeasts evolved from yeasts found in wineries, and generally result in beers with higher alcohol content.

It is almost impossible to distinguish a Beer 1 yeast from a Beer 2 yeast based on flavor alone. Beer yeasts can create such a variety of flavors that even two closely related-yeasts can create beer with vastly different tastes.

Higher Zymurgical Education

In the early 2000s Maureen Ogle, a professor at the University of South Alabama, set out to write a history of American brewing. She was surprised by how little had been written about the subject. That has begun to change. The spread of craft beer has led a number of American universities to make brewing studies part of their course offerings.

Meanwhile, other professors are exploring beer’s relationship with American culture, economics, labor relations, and even gender.

Randolph College professor J. Nikol Beckham brewed beer before turning her scholarly attention to it. The only African American woman in her community of homebrewers and enthusiasts, Beckham became interested in the relationship between beer and race. She discovered that during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, some temperance advocates used ugly stereotypes of German immigrants and African-Americans to attack saloon culture. Drinking was portrayed as an affront to America’s dominant culture: white, Protestant, and sober.

Beckham contends that after the repeal of Prohibition, scholars lost sight of the ties between beer and American history. That trend might be reversing itself. One example is the Smithsonian Institution’s search for a scholar. His or her job will include helping the National Museum of American History collect artifacts, and conducting field research for a project on brewing in the U.S., especially during the last 50 years.

The Friday Mash (World Elephant Day Edition)

Today is the sixth annual World Elephant Day, an observance created by Canadian filmmakers Patricia Sims and Michael Clark. Its purpose is to increase awareness of these animals’ urgent plight.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Beaver, Pennsylvania, where local officials want to stop a restaurant from selling beer-infused waffles. The restaurant has a license to sell beer, but some believe the waffles abuse the privilege.

Oh no! A shortage of pumpkin puree might endanger this year’s pumpkin beer releases. The culprits are unprecedented demand and drought conditions in pumpkin-growing regions.

Vice.com’s Ilkka Siren, who grew up in Finland, went home to get better acquainted with sahti, a temperamental—and much-misunterstood style—that Finns have homebrewed for centuries.

History buffs in Golden, Colorado, want to convert the Astor House hotel into a beer museum with brewing classes, tastings, food and beer pairings, and a look at Colorado brewing history.

Defying the Standells’ song “Dirty Water”, six Massachusetts and brewing beer from the banks of the River Charles. The water is treated, of course.

Craft beer is getting more expensive, for a variety of reasons: costlier raw materials, such as hops and water; higher wages; and bigger utility bills.

Finally, Alabama’s craft brewers are crying foul over a proposed regulation that would require brewers to collect the name, address, age, and phone number from anyone who buys carry-out beer. The rule is aimed at enforcing the state’s limit on purchases.

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