The Friday Mash (Wednesday Edition)

It’s Thanksgiving weekend, which means that Ludwig, our beer-drinking lion, is spending quality time with his pride. His first stop is, of course, the Detroit Lions game at Ford Field. Then, after he and the other lions feast (on zebra and all the trimmings, of course), he’s going to take a long nap. He’ll be back next Friday with the regular edition of…

The Mash! 

We begin in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where The Field hosted its annual Pub Debate over whether marijuana should be legalized. The debate was conducted under British parliamentary rules, and both drinking and heckling were encouraged.

Chris Bosh of the NBA’s Miami Heat hosted a block party for his neighborhood. Bosh, an avid homebrewer, included a growler of his beer with each invitation.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has launched the Alpha Hops Society. For a $250 annual fee, members will receive a quarterly release of small-batch experimental brews.

Last month’s mega-merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller has put midsize brands such as Carlsberg and Heineken in a squeeze between a goliath with one-third of the industry’s market share and a growing craft sector.

The “Flux Capacitor” is back from the future. Treadwell Park, a beer hall in Manhattan has installed the device, which lets bartenders control the carbonation and temperature of each beer.

Here’s evidence that beer pong can be educational. Alex, from, hosts a two-minute video in which he uses the game to explain the solar photovoltaic effect.

Finally, beer, then whiskey. Rhonda Kallman, co-founder of the Boston Beer Company and a craft beer legend, has started a new venture, the Boston Harbor Distillery. It makes whiskey out of—you guessed it—Sam Adams beer.

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How Oskar Blues Managed Growth

Can a craft brewery get the funds needed to expand without its independence? Dale Katechis, the CEO of Oskar Blues Brewery, found an answer. Instead of selling out to a larger brewery, he brought in Fireman Capital, a private-equity firm in Boston. Katechis met Dan Fireman while developing a succession plan for his brewery, and concluded that Fireman would make a good business partner. He said, “It was refreshing to meet someone who understood the heart and the soul of this business was and knew how important the heart and the soul is to it. Sometimes, it isn’t the best business decisions that are the heart and the soul.”

Oskar Blues used some of Fireman’s cash to acquire Perrin Brewing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Katechis was introduced to the brewery by Keith Klopcic, a co-owner of Oskar Blues’s Michigan distributor. Perrin had gone from zero to 14,000 barrels in two years, and had a distribution network in place; however, it “wasn’t into packaging.” After taking over the brewery, Katechis introduced a canning line. Cash flow doubled within three months, and Perrin is expected to grow substantially. Klopcic is in charge of Perrin, which will remain independent of Oskar Blues.

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Ballast Point Cashes In for $1 Billion

No question about it. Acquisitions are craft beer’s number-one story in 2015. Today brought news that Constellation Brands, which owns Corona, Modelo Especial, and other Mexican beers agreed to buy San Diego-based Ballast Point Brewing Company. The price tag: $1 billion, or roughly $6,000 a barrel based on Ballast Point’s current-year production.

Constellation’s CEO, Rob Sands, found Ballast Point attractive because its beers are so profitable. Sculpin IPA typically sells for several dollars more than other brands of India pale ale, and Ballast Point’s revenue per barrel is nearly 25 percent higher than the craft beer industry’s average.

Ballast Point beers are currently available in 30 states. Constellation, which has relations wish large retail chains such as Kroger Company, intends to take the brand national.

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The Friday Mash (Fantasia Edition)

Seventy-five years ago today marked the premiere of Walt Disney’s Fantasia. The animated film opened to mixed reviews, but it is now considered one of the classic animated films of all time.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Great Britain, where a 2002 law granting excise tax breaks caused a proliferation of breweries. The country has more than 1,300, and ranks first world-wide in breweries per capita.

Football fans will soon see something new in Bud Light commercials. The National Football League has changed its rules to allow the use of game footage involving active players.

In Oregon, the craft brewing and newly-legalized marijuana industries have something in common: a proliferation of start-up businesses.

Guinness will soon become an all-vegan beer. The brewery will stop using isinglass, a by-product of the fishing industry that’s used to clarify the beer and make yeast settle faster.

Boston-area entrepreneur Adam Oliveri has started a boutique beer distribution business. His Craft Collective has already signed distribution contracts with 16 craft breweries from the Northeast.

How dangerous is a “beer belly”? Depends on one’s fat distribution. Otherwise slim people with a beer belly run a much greater risk of serious health problems than obese people with one.

Finally, San Diego Beer Week isn’t just an opportunity to taste great beer. It also gives new breweries a chance to introduce themselves. More than half of San Diego County’s 115 breweries are less than three years old.

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Climate Change Disrupts Cantillon

In late October, the Cantillon brewery in Brussels allows its spontaneously fermenting sour lambic beers to cool in the open. This year, however, unusually warm temperatures have forced the brewery to pour away three batches of beer and to temporarily halt production until cooler weather arrives.

Ideally, lambic should cool at between between 26 and 46 degrees Fahrenheit. However, nighttime temperatures in Brussels stayed in the 50s, was much too warm for the beer.

Jean Van Roy, who heads the century-plus-old family business, said that his grandfather used to brew from mid-October until May. In the last 20 years, however, Van Roy has seen the brewing season steadily shrink. Last year, his staff didn’t start brewing until November 10.

The Friday Mash (College Football Edition)

On this day in 1869, host Rutgers College defeated the College of New Jersey (now known as Princeton University), 6-4, in the first-ever intercollegiate football game. How much beer was consumed before and after the game is lost to history.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Richmond, Virginia, which is floating $23 million in bonds to finance the construction of a second plant for Stone Brewing Company.

Pro wrestler “Stone Cold” Steve Austin, who chugs cans of beer in the ring, has teamed up with El Segundo Brewing Company. The new beer is called Broken Skull IPA.

A start-up company in Belfast has invented a a beer-making machine called the BrewBot, which takes care of temperature and liquid pumping on its own.

Statistician Dr. Nathan Yau, using the website Flowing Data, figured out the most efficient route for taking a beer-tasting road trip around the continental U.S. The itinerary is 12,299 miles long.

Cara, a Canadian beer bar chain, has rescinded a dress code that forced Bier Markt’s female servers to wear revealing dresses. Some believe Cara was violating Ontario’s civil-rights laws.

South Korea’s exports in general have fallen but its beer exports are strong, partly because Iraqi Kurds and young Chinese drinkers prefer a beverage with a lower alcoholic content.

Finally, struggling presidential candidate Lindsey Graham flubbed his stint tending bar before taking part in a debate in Colorado. Graham, whose father tended bar, served up a pint with 15 ounces of foam.

The Empire Strikes Back

The mega-merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller will give the combined business a 30-percent share of the world’s beer market and control of eight of America’s top ten brands. And, according to Time magazine correspondent Brad Tuttle, it will pose a serious threat to the growing craft beer sector. The big brewers’ campaign against craft is being waged on several fronts.

Big Beer’s first line of attack on craft brewers is “crafty” beers such as Blue Moon and Shock Top. Critics call these products “crafty” because many, if not most, consumers are unaware that they’re made by big breweries.

The big breweries are also buying craft breweries whose products have a following, such as Goose Island, Elysian, 10 Barrel, Golden Road, and Blue Point. Even though there are 4,000 breweries in the U.S., Tuttle points out that strategic acquisitions of key craft breweries make it much more difficult for other craft brewers to succeed.

Advertising is another weapon in the mega-brewers’ arsenal. The craft-bashing Budweiser commercial that ran during the last Super Bowl, poking fun at hipsters who fuss over pumpkin peach ale, is the most notorious.

The big brands still dominate distribution, and the three-tier system isn’t going away anytime soon. In some states, such as Colorado, A-B InBev has bought distributors outright—a practice that may lead to antitrust investigation by the Justice Department.

Finally, consolidation helps offset the big brands’ sagging sales growth by cutting costs. Advertising is one such cost. A-B InBev and SABMiller spend billions on sports sponsorships to promote their brands. Now that the two companies are no longer competing, they’ll have more negotiating power with the sports industry and will demand lower fees for their “official sponsorship” status.

The Friday Mash (Widespread Panic Edition)

On this day in 1938, Orson Welles’s Mercury Theater company broadcast a radio play of H.G. Wells’s novel, The War of the Worlds. Contrary to popular belief, the performance didn’t cause widespread panic, because the audience was so small. It did, however, make Welles famous.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Orlando, where a sports bar called The Basement is helping fans cope with the University of Central Florida’s 0-8 football team. It’s offering free beer during UCF games until the losing streak ends.

PicoBrew, a Seattle-based startup, will market a home brewing system similar in concept to Keurig’s K-Cups. The system, which makes beer in five-liter batches, will retail for around $1,000.

In Georgia, a brewmaster has launched a “government rant” series of beers to protest restrictive state laws. The menu’s fall offering: “Why does the state legislature not want to create jobs by allowing us to do growlers of this IPA?”

Could beer hold the key to stopping the alarming decline in the honeybee population? Scientists have found that placing hops beta acid near a honeycomb improves the bees’ chances of survival.

Louisville’s Against the Grain Brewery will launch a beer honoring pro wrestler Randy “Macho Man” Savage and two other members of the famous Poffo wrestling family. The beer will be called—of course—Poffo Pilsner.

On Thanksgiving weekend, Dark Horse Brewing Company will pour 130 of its beers at the HopCat beer bar in midtown Detroit. It will be the largest single-brewery tap takeover on record.

Finally, an editorial in Monday’s edition of USA Today called attention to the big breweries’ latest effort to thwart craft beer. They’ve been buying distributors in three of the top five craft-brewing states. The U.S. government is investigating these transactions.

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.

The Friday Mash (Gangland Edition)

Eighty years ago today, organized crime kingpin Dutch Schultz and three other men were fatally shot at a saloon in Newark, New Jersey, in what became known as “The Chophouse Massacre.”

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in England, where Cheltenham Racecourse has teamed up with Arkell’s Brewery to brew a beer honoring a famous racehorse named Arkle, whose daily diet included two bottles of Guinness.

This fall, Pawtucket, Rhode Island-based Foolproof Brewing Company is bucking the trend by adding peanut butter to its Raincloud Robust Porter. It’s “as far as you can get” from pumpkin ale.

Niraj Dawar and Charan K. Bagga have put together a graph that illustrates the branding power of the combined Anheuser-Busch-InBev SAB Miller mega-brewing company.

Congressman Peter DeFazio offers yet another reason to drink American craft beer. The Oregon Democrat contends that buying local craft products helps reduce the nation’s balance-of-trade deficit.

“No forests, no beer”, says Matt Miller of the Nature Conservancy. Forests are the home of headwaters streams, where most of the nation’s water supply originates.

Beer, always been a part of Cincinnati’s culture, has enjoyed a renaissance in recent years. Garin Pirnia of Paste magazine offers a comprehensive beer traveler’s guide to the Queen City.

Finally, the Kansas City Chiefs will reward 800 season-ticket holders who are flying to London to see their team play Detroit on November 1. The Chiefs have rented a pub, and will serve free beer Friday afternoon.

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