Venezuela is a deeply-divided country, and the division extends to that country’s beer industry. Last year, the two biggest brewers, Polar and Regional, were running short of raw materials. Both appealed to the administration of Nicolas Maduro to release foreign currency that would allow them to import hops, barley, and tin.
Regional’s request was granted, Polar’s was denied. Maduro, a socialist, has publicly castigated Polar’s owner as a prime example of the evils of capitalism. The family that owns Regional is extremely rich as well, but it has cooperated with Maduro and his predecessor, the late Hugo Chavez.
Polar has publicly accused the government of discriminating against it. Many other businesses, local and foreign, make the same accusations in private: “play ball with the government and all will be well, speak out and harassment may follow.”
High oil prices—Venezuela is a member of OPEC—provided Chavez with plenty of access to foreign currency, but the recent collapse in crude prices has caused the supply to dry up under Maduro. Polar officials fear that the Maduro is trying to strangle the corporation by cutting off its access to dollars.
As a young man, Antonio Fernandez fled the tiny Spanish town of Cerezales del Condado to escape that country’s civil war. He wound up in Mexico, and became the general manager of Grupo Modelo, Mexico’s largest brewery. Modelo is best known in the United States for its Corona brand, which Fernandez is credited for promoting.
In Mexico, Fernandez amassed a fortune. He died in August, leaving behind an estimated $200 million or more. Like a number of other Spanish emigrants who who got rich in Latin America, Fernandez carried out philanthropic work in their hometowns. Fernandez’s will left part of his millions to fund the restoration of Cerezales del Condado’s church and other improvements to the town.
Fernandez died childless, but had 13 siblings. Now, as the lawyers go through his will, they’re finding that he’s left something to all of his many nieces and nephews.
On this day in 888 A.D., the Vikings began a siege of Paris after the city’s ruler, Count Odo, refused the invaders’ demand for tribute. The siege was the most important event in the reign of the then-French king who has an appropriate name for this day after Thanksgiving: Charles the Fat.
And now….The Mash!
We begin on YouTube, where a sunbathing woman texted a neighbor, asking him to send over a beverage. The neighbor obliged, delivering a can of beer to her by mini-drone.
Now that Oklahoma voted to allow full-strength beer sales in stores, a Tulsa newspaper called on state lawmakers to scrap other “puritanical anachronisms” that are still on the books.
Chicago welcomed its first contract brewery, Great Central Brewing Company. Next year, it will open a taproom offering a variety of Chicago-brewed beers.
An alliance called No Patents on Seeds has called on Carlsberg to give up its three patents on mutant strains of barley. The strains provide new enzymes to develop “more distinctive”, flavor-stable beers.
Lifelong friends Collin Poseley and Eggie Foust have created Craft Beer: The Board Game. It takes five minutes to learn, and it can be played while inebriated.
The rapper Ludacris, an Atlanta native, has opened his long-awaited Chicken & Beer restaurant at Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. Its menu is “Southern to the core”.
Finally, Ayla Bystrom-Williams, the owner of Honeymoon Brewery, beat out 13,000 competitors and won a $200,000 Miller Lite “Tap the Future” award. She’s one of the country’s few black female brewery owners.
Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune attended the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer, which recently took place in Chicago. His takes on the 14th edition of this event:
- The beer is good, and getting better. He rates 20 percent of the beers “genius”, and another 60 percent “good to very good”. The “undrinkable” beers likely sat in the barrel too long.
- John Laffer, the co-founder of Off Color Brewing in Chicago, has emerged as a star. He’s an alumnus of Goose Island Brewing Company’s barrel-aging program.
- Festival-goers didn’t shun Goose Island on account of it having been taken over by Anheuser-Busch. If the beer is good, they want it.
- It’s possible to brew bad sour beer. The style “requires layers and nuance.”
- The best thing about the festival is discovering new beers. One, in particular, was Peach Climacteric from Colorado-based WeldWerks Brewing. Co-founder Neil Fisher was amazed that attendees knew so much about his new brewery. fisher said, “You guys have a very connected beer culture here.”
On this day in 1928, The Walt Disney Corporation released the animated short “Steamboat Willie”, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon. It was directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks. Disney considers this release to be Mickey’s birthday.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in England, where pub companies warn that the price of a pint is about to jump. Factors include inflation, higher costs of doing business, and the introduction of the living wage.
Game of Thrones actor Jason Momoa showed off his axe-throwing skills in an Instagram video. What makes his performance even more impressive is that he drank a beer immediately before he hit the bulls-eye.
FIFA, the world-wide governing body of soccer, is negotiating with officials of host country Qatar over whether beer will be served there during matches at the 2022 World Cup.
Effective January 1, 2019, Labatt will discontinue the 50-year-old tradition of issuing free beer for life to company retirees. The Canadian brewery is now owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev.
Travel blogger Emmanuel Marshall used Innis & Gunn IPA as currency to pay for transportation and lodging on his 5,000-mile trip from Scotland, the home of Innis & Gunn, to India.
Scientists at Rockefeller University have found that beer pong players expose themselves to numerous icky bacteria. The good news is that college-aged players have strong enough immune systems to cope with them.
Finally, the San Diego Union-Tribune named the five beers that put the city on the craft beer map: AleSmith Speedway Stout, Ballast Point Sculpin IPA, Green Flash Le Freak, Karl Strauss Red Trolley, and Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale.
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.
On this day in 1960, Dr. Jane Goodall saw chimpanzees creating tools in a national park in Tanzania. It was the first time anyone had seen animals do that, and it exploded the long-standing belief that humans were the only species capable of tool-making.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Norcia, Italy, where last week’s earthquake destroyed the historic Basilica of St. Benedict. Sixteen years ago, American monks acquired the basilica and set up a brewing operation to raise funds for its restoration.
Last year’s freakishly warm winter grabbed the attention of hops farmers in Washington State’s Yakima Valley. Fearing that global warming will bring on more such winters, they’re looking for ways to use less water growing the hops and less energy drying them.
An Israeli start-up called Glassify is selling beer glasses with an embedded microchip in the base. The chip can link to a smartphone app and send demographic information back to breweries, while offering consumers product promotions in return.
Texas authorities are looking for Achilles Salazar, a forklift operator who stole 719 twelve-packs of Dos Equis beer—$90,000 worth—from the distributor he worked for. A law-enforcement officer described the size of the heist as “most unusual”.
In Colorado, a driverless truck delivered a load of beer from Budweiser’s Fort Collins brewery to Colorado Springs. The truck was operated by Otto, a company owned by the ride-sharing company Uber.
Long Root Ale is the first beer to use kernza, the trade name for a type of wheat that originated in Asia. Because kernza is a perennial, it’s easier on the environment because farmers don’t have to plow up their land and re-plant the crop every year.
Finally, ten years after the Big Buck Brewery in Auburn Hills, Michigan, closed its doors, a local beer distributor bought the 50-foot-tall bottle that stood outside the establishment. It will be be transported to the distributor’s headquarters and repainted as a Bud Light bottle.
Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito stirred up a hornets’ nest by saying that “consumers are a bit tired of choice.” Bob Pease, the president of the Brewers Association, was quick to respond.
Pease pointed out that the 2016 Great American Beer Festival attracted a sellout crowd of 60,000, who sampled more than 3,800 from 780 breweries; and that the ability to choose from that many alternatives is “a central value of our democracy and a core tenet of ‘being American’.”
The BA head also asserted that Brito’s comment smacked of self-aggrandizement. He said that A-B InBev entered the craft beer market by acquiring a portfolio of craft breweries, and is about to use its economic power to push its brands onto store shelves and tap handles—and push out truly independent brands. Pease observed, “That’s reducing choice all right—but not based on beer lover demand.”
Peace also suggested that consumers will rebel against A-B InBev’s attempt to limit their choices. A recent Nielsen survey found 58 percent of American craft beer drinkers want even more flavors to choose from, and about 65 percent said they drink more craft beer specifically because craft offers more variety.
Sixty years ago today, Elvis Presley received a polio vaccination on national television. That single event is credited with raising immunization levels in the United States from 0.6% to over 80% in just six months.
And now…The Mash!
We begin on the Formula 1 racing circuit, where in the early 1980s, Gordon Murray’s inventive pit crew rigged up a fuel system using pressurized beer kegs that could pump 30 gallons of fuel into a car in just three seconds.
A North Carolina judge was convicted of bribery after offering a deputy sheriff two cases of Bud Light in exchange for his wife’s text messages. The judge later upped his offer to $100.
Two employee-owned breweries, Harpoon Brewery and Odell Brewing Company, have collaborated to brew a beer called EHOP. It’s an oatmeal pale ale.
Vietnam’s government will sell off two state-owned breweries which have a 60-plus-percent market share. Vietnam, with 93 million people, is one of Asia’s top beer-drinking countries.
This week, Britain’s smallest pub—which has room for just three—is offering free beer, but there’s a catch: you can’t use your mobile phones inside the pub.
Indianapolis-based Central State Brewing has something for Harry Potter fans: a sour ale called “Polyjuice Potion”. Its ingredients include plums, elderberries, and “magical bits and bobbles”.
Finally, Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery is making two beers to be enjoyed with single-malt scotches from Highland Park, a distillery in the Orkney Islands. The beers are Rune, a golden oat ale; and Sköll, a roasty ale.
In the last couple of months, MarketWatch.com’s Jason Notte has seen disquieting trends in the craft beer industry:
Notte doesn’t think these developments mean the craft beer bubble has burst. He writes:
“If anything, it all begrudgingly recognizes that the players in all tiers of the beer industry have found themselves in the same predicament: Running a business in an environment where constant growth isn’t a given and where big decisions are often followed by unintended fallout.”