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.

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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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Iowa’s First Craft Brewery

It’s caucus day in Iowa, a perfect time to pass along a story from beer historian Tom Acitelli. It’s about Millstream Brewing Company, located in Iowa’s Amana Colonies.

Millstream was founded in 1985 by Carroll Zuber, who wanted to replicate the beers he’d enjoyed in Germany, and James and Dennis Roeming, who owned a restaurant in Amana. At the time, craft beer was a novelty in the nation’s midsection and a new brewery’s prospects in that region were dicey. Case in point: the Dubuque Star Brewery, which Joseph Pickett, Sr., bought in the 1970s. He upgraded Star’s equipment and released innovative beers—including one made with Iowa corn—but couldn’t survive industry consolidation.

But Pickett’s influence lived in through Millstream. He helped design both the brewery and its beers. Millstream took a big risk, specializing in lagers; Schild Brau (“Schild” is German for shield, an amber lager), remains the flagship of the brewery’s 15-beer lineup.

Millstream changed ownership in 2000, a year during which craft brewing endured a shakeout. The current owners—spouses Tom and Teresa Albert and Chris Priebe, a former Dubuque Star brewer and Millstream’s brewmaster—recently celebrated 30 years in business, and invited the former owners to join in the celebration.

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What is Barleywine?

Last weekend, the annual Great Alaska Beer & Barleywine Festival took place in Anchorage. So it’s a good time to ask this question: What is barleywine? Veteran beer journalist Jay Brooks is here to help.

Brooks takes us back to the third century B.C., when Armenians drank a beverage called oinos krithinos, Greek for “barley wine.” But that beverage bears no resemblance to what was served in Anchorage because it was unhooked. Hops wouldn’t be introduced to beer for another thousand years.

Modern barleywine is thought to have originated in 15th-century England. Hops made the style possible, because an unhopped strong ale would go sour very quickly. Hops enabled strong ales to, in Brooks’s words, “age so gracefully and be enjoyed many months later.” Some brewers believe that a beer shouldn’t even be called a barley wine until it’s at least a year old, when the beverage has developed a complex taste profile.

Strong ales were known by a number of names–”strong ale” in particular–during the 19th century. The name “barley wine” took hold in 1903, when the Bass Brewery used that phrase to describe No. 1, its Burton-style strong ale.

Brooks notes that barleywine shares one characteristic with wine from grapes: It is something to enjoy slowly. Because barleywines are rich and sweet, Brooks says they make good dessert beers. He suggests pairing them with creme brulee, dark chocolate, or strong blue cheeses. And since their high alcohol produces a warming sensation, the dead of winter is the perfect time of the year to enjoy them.

Spain’s Hidden Beer History

Jonathan Carlyon, a professor at Colorado State University, had a friend from Spain who was spending a year in Fort Collins. At first the friend drank only wine, but Carlyon introduced him to the local craft beer. That experience, along with CSU’s creation of a fermentation studies program, led the professor to study the beer of ancient Spain.

The beer, called Caelia, was brewed extensively in Iberia from around 3,000 B.C. until the Romans conquered the peninsula and made wine the beverage of choice. It was a lightly-carbonated drink, made by women using a fermentation process similar to that of bread-making. Carylon describes the beverage as “like a beer juice, compared to the beer made today”.

Carylon found literary references to beer in everything from the Bible to accounts of the Roman Empire’s difficulty conquering an ancient Spanish city of Numancia. Before every battle against the Romans, the Numancians drank Caelia, contributing to the Romans’ view of them as ferocious fighters. (Tired of the heavy casualties they were taking, the Romans laid siege to Numancia and starved its inhabitants.)

Thanks to the Romans, Spain is considered a “wine country.” However, craft beer has won a following there. As for Carylon, he’s working with the CSU fermentation program to re-create Caelia in Fort Collins.

The Friday Mash (Glass Houses Edition)

Eighty years ago today, in Toledo, Ohio, the first building to be completely covered in glass was completed. It was built for the Owens-Illinois Glass Company. The “Glass City” is also known for Jamie Farr and his beloved Tony Packo’s Cafe and Toledo Mud Hens.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Hollywood, where Golden Globe Awards host Ricky Gervais opened the show with a beer in his hand, and then proceeded to offend much of the audience with his jokes.

George Lenker, “The Beer Nut,” criticizes the Bavarian government for ordering a brewery to stop marketing its milk stout as beer because that beer didn’t comply with the Reinheitsgebot.

The Washington Post’s Ryan Ermey rated the top cheap beers, based on three criteria: alcoholic content, can design, and taste (“if you insist”). His top pick? Genesee Cream Ale.

Constellation Brands, which plunked down $1 billion to buy Ballast Point Brewing Company, will invest another $1.5 billion to build a brewery in Mexicali to meet growing demand for Mexican beer.

An iconic Pacific Northwest beer is coming back. The Red Hook Ale Brewery announced it will be making Rainier Pale Mountain Ale and other Rainier beers.

Nielsen NV and BARTRENDr have found out fans’ favorite brands of beer and liquor in every NFL city. Everclear didn’t make the list—even among fans of the awful Tennessee Titans.

Finally, brewer Chris Reynolds was given a chance to taste some of Alexander Keith’s IPA that was bottled in the 19th century and recently found underwater. Reynolds described the taste as “a little tree fruit note, a cherry note in there somehow—certainly a lot of sulphu,”.

The Friday Mash (Jam Session Edition)

On this day in 1956, The Million Dollar Quartet—Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash—got together at Sun Studio in Memphis. Years later, tracks from of this impromptu jam session were released as albums in the UK and, later, in the U.S.

And now…The Mash! 

We begin in London, Ontario, where Lewis Kent has become the first Beer Miler competitor to turn pro. The 22-year-old University of Western Ontario student signed a deal with Brooks, a shoe company.

Good news for Star Trek fans. Shmaltz Brewery is releasing the latest beer in the officially-licensed Vulcan Ale series. It’s a red session IPA called The Genesis Effect, and unlike Romulan Ale, it’s legal.

Stung by feminists’ reaction to Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever ad campaign, Anheuser-Busch InBev plans to air woman-friendly spots for its beer during next year’s Super Bowl.

George Washington loved his beer—porter, in particular, and occasionally brewed his own. A notebook Washington kept while he was a 25-year-old officer in the Virginia militia contains a recipe for “small beer”.

Journalist Dina Mishev got over her aversion to beer, at least for the time being, after hitting the Bend Ale Trail. The Trail has 16 breweries, all within walking or biking distance from one another.

In Milwaukee, Pabst Brewing Company’s 126-year-old bottling plant is being converted into apartments for college students. Unfortunately, the amenities won’t include free Blue Ribbon.

Finally, Dogfish Head Brewery claims the distinction of having brewed the hoppiest beer on record. Hoo Lawd, an India pale ale, checks in at 658 International Bittering Units. Most IPAs fall in the 40-60 IBU range.

Beer Without Hops? Yes, It Exists.

Today’s beer drinkers take for granted that the ingredients in their pint will include hops. The rise of India pale ale, craft beer’s signature style, has moved hops even more into the spotlight. Breweries are making their beer with new varieties of hops, and some breweries have become known for their IBU-heavy products.

However, some brewers are bring back beer styles that aren’t brewed with hops. Centuries ago, hops simply weren’t available in some parts of the world; the climate wasn’t suitable to growing them, and the cost of importing them was prohibitive. James Sheehan, a homebrewer from England, introduces us to three varieties of unhopped beer.

The Vikings brewed spruce beer, which was found to ward off scurvy on long voyages, and the British Navy prescribed it as well to its seamen. Spruce beers were also brewed in America because hops were scarce. Benjamin Franklin, for one, brewed his own version, which was entirely molasses-based.

For millennia, Northern Europeans have brewed gruit beers, which used a variety of herbs along with honey and fruit. The ancient Scots are known for brewing their beer with heather, which imparts a flavor more like hops than spruce.

Perhaps the oddest unhopped beer of all is sahti, a style that originated in Finland so long ago that metal vessels hadn’t yet been introduced to the brewing process. The ancient Finns heated large rocks in a fire, then threw the blazing rocks into a barrel of mash water. The resulting beer had a roasted taste from caramelized malt, along with a gin-like taste from juniper leaves.

The Friday Mash (One Whale Of An Edition)

On this day in 1820, in the South Pacific, an 80-ton whale attacked the Essex, a whaling ship from Nantucket. Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick–admit it, you read the Cliff’s Notes for that title-is in part inspired by this story.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Leeds, where two men refused to let a rainstorm, or the flooding from that storm, stop them from enjoying a pint in a pub’s beer garden. Their Sunday roast, however, was rained out.

Dogfish Head Craft Brewery’s Sam Calagione has been named executive editor of Pallet, a quarterly magazine aimed at people who “like to think and drink.” Pallet’s subtitle is “Only interested in everything.”

Historians have concluded that the Pilgrims didn’t have beer at the original Thanksgiving feast. That, however, shouldn’t stop you from serving beer with your Turkey Day dinner.

Louisville plans to revive a tradition from more than a century ago: a party to celebrate the release of bock beer. The NuLu Bock Beer Festival will take place next spring.

A beer garden made from shipping containers? It’s coming to the port city of Long Beach, California. Called SteelCraft, it will feature beer from Smog City and other local micros, along with gourmet food.

Samuel Adams Utopias, an ultra-high-gravity (28 percent ABV), and ultra-expensive (suggested retail price: $199) beer is back. The current batch, the ninth brewed since 2002, contains previous vintages going back to 1992.

Finally, Sadie Snyder, a Massachusetts woman who celebrated her 106th birthday, credits beer for her longevity. She had her first beer at age six thanks to her father, who worked in the beer industry.

Founding Fathers of San Diego Beer

San Diego has become one of the nation’s premier beer cities, both for the number of breweries and the quality of beer they produce. Its road to craft beer prominence began in 1989, when two friends in Mission Beach, Chris Cramer and Matt Rattner, founded the Karl Strauss Brewing Company. The brewery’s namesake was Cramer’s cousin, who had been trained in Germany as a brewer before World War II and fled before the Holocaust.

A number of Karl Strauss alumni went on to open their own breweries. Scott Stamp, the original bartender at Karl Strauss, went on to open Callahan’s and the San Diego Brewing Company. Their original cocktail waitress Gina Marsaglia opened Pizza Port Brewery in 1992 with her brother Vince. That same year, the brewery’s original tour guide, Jack White, started Home Brew Mart.

During Home Brew Mart’s early days, a customer named Yuseff Cherney so impressed White with his knowledge of beer that White hired him on the spot. Cherney later became the chief operating officer and head brewer at Ballast Point Brewing Company. At the same time, Cherney was working with fellow UC San Diego student Chris White, a post-graduate biochemistry student who later started White Labs, one of the nation’s premier yeast laboratories.

As for Karl Strauss, the brewery ranks 45th in production among the nation’s craft breweries, even though its distribution is limited to California.

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