The Friday Mash (Earthquake Edition)

Today is the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, which killed more than 60 people in the San Francisco Bay Area. Because it occurred minutes before Game 3 of the World Series, it became the first major earthquake to be broadcast on national television.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Melbourne Beach, Florida, where a house inspired by beer bottles is on the market for $2.95 million. And it’s built to withstand hurricanes.

Louiville mayor Greg Fischer wants beer to join bourbon as a tourist attraction. He’d also like a bourbon-barrel beer festival and the revival of Kentucky common beer.

Are you a beer aficionado? James Grebey of Buzzfeed.com has compiled a list of 21 warning signs. Warning sign #6: You have a very, very deeply held opinion about pumpkin beer.

Now that legal marijuana is gaining momentum, economists are looking at legalization’s effect on the beer industry. Some think higher spending on pot will mean less spending on beer.

The Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project is blowing the whistle on Boston-area bars that take bribes from breweries. The practice is illegal, but violators are rarely punished.

Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones, wants to brew beer in Detroit. He bought a 100-year-old former General Motors building, part of which will house his own brewery.

Finally, scientists have discovered that fruit flies love brewer’s yeast. A gene in the yeast releases a fruity smell that attracts the flies which, in turn, spread the yeasts to new habitats.

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The Friday Mash (Anchors Aweigh Edition)

On this day in 1845, the Naval School–later renamed the United States Naval Academy—opened in Annapolis, Maryland, with a class of 50 midshipman students and seven professors. Since then, the entire campus has gained recognition as a National Historic Landmark.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Australia, where a feral hog stole three six-packs of beer, got snorting drunk, and got into an altercation with a cow. The hog was seen the next morning sleeping off a nasty hangover.

It’s October, which means the pumpkin beers are flowing. If you like them, Playboy magazine has done you a favor. After tasting a slew of them, they’ve ranked America’s best pumpkin beers.

At last week’s Great American Beer Festival, the Brewers Association unveiled its beer and food pairing course. The five-unit course is free of charge, and you can download the course materials.

Watch out for yellow jackets. This is the time of the year when they feast on anything sweet—including your half-finished can of beer. Swallow one, and you’ll be in a world of hurt.

Sometimes distribution can the a bane of craft brewers. On its website, Clown Shoes Brewing tells a horror story about its relationship with its distributor in Georgia.

There’s a YouTube video of Alfred the cat, who appears to be polishing off a beer. Experts caution against serving beer to felines—unless, of course, they’re beer-drinking lions.

Finally, even though beer consumption at this year’s Oktoberfest was down 15 percent from last year’s, everyone had a good time in Munich. The Daily Mail has a photo essay of the festivities.

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Beer States, Ranked

These rankings come courtesy of Ben Robinson, Andy Kryza, and Matt Lynch of Thrillist.com. Before calling the roll of the states, the authors explain their criteria: “Quantity and quality are both important, but quality’s a bit MORE important. If you’re a small state turning out a disproportionate amount of great beer, it did not go unrecognized. We also gave a boost to states who played a historical role in American beer as we know it today.”

Heading the list is Oregon (”Even the ‘crappy’ breweries by Portland standards would bury most of their peers”), followed by California (”San Diego…the most dominating beer city in world history”), Colorado (”Beer is everywhere. Everywhere is beer”), Michigan (which “some of the best damned breweries in the country”), and Washington (”home to more than 200 breweries, highlighted by greatness”).

We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the bottom five: Nevada, North Dakota, Rhode Island, West Virginia, and coming in dead last, Mississippi.

The Friday Mash (Razor Sharp Edition)

On this day in 1698, Tsar Peter I of Russia decided to Westernize his country by imposing a tax on beards for all men except the clergy and peasantry. That tax would have killed Russia’s craft brewing industry, had one existed at the time.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Texas, whose residents insist that everything is bigger. The Austin Beer Works lived up to that reputation by selling 99-packs of its “Peacemaker Anytime Ale.”

The remains of what appears to be a nearly 300-year-old brewery have been discovered on the campus of William and Mary. It made small beer for the college’s colonial-era faculty and students.

Are beer enthusiasts getting too fixated on ratings? CraftBeer.com’s Chris McClellan, who watched a feeding frenzy ensue when a top-rated beer arrived at a store, thinks they have.

A deconsecrated church, an ex-funeral home, and a military base are among Esquire magazine’s 14 strangest brewery locations in America.

Gizmodo.com’s Karl Smallwood explains why beer is rarely sold in plastic bottles. They contain chemicals that ruin the beer’s taste; and they allow carbon dioxide to escape, making the beer flat.

Archaeologist Alyssa Looyra has re-created a beer from a bottle found near the site of the Atlantic Beer Garden, a 19th-century New York City hangout. It’s “a light summer drink.”

Finally, the Leinenkugel Brewing Company took the high road when it discovered that Kenosha’s Rustic Road Brewing was already using the name “Helles Yeah.” CEO Dick Leinenkugel showed up and bought the name for a few cases of beer, some pizza, and an undisclosed sum of money.

To Your Health?

A copy of the 1964 book, The Drinking Man’s Diet, led New York Times food writer Mark Bittman to write a column titled The Drinker’s Manifesto. It’s a response to the inflated warnings about the effects of drinking on one’s health.

The Centers for Disease Control flatly says that drinking too much is “dangerous,” and can “lead to heart disease, breast cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancy, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, motor-vehicle crashes, and violence.” Bittman responds: “Many of these dangerous effects are indirect and can be mitigated: If you don’t have sex or get into a car after drinking, you can’t possibly get pregnant or in a car accident. (One thing about drinking alcohol, though: It can cause bad judgment.) The more direct ones, like heart disease and breast cancer, have so many risk factors that drinking may perhaps be discounted, especially in moderation. And there’s evidence that drinking ‘the right amount’—which is less than “too much”—can be good for you.”

The CDC also says that excessive alcohol consumption causes 88,000 deaths a year and “costs the economy about $224 billion.” However, Bittman points out that obesity-related illnesses cause somewhere around 112,000 deaths, and cost maybe a trillion dollars—and you don’t see any health warnings on a bottle of Coke.

The Friday Mash (Macbeth Edition)

On this day in 1040, King Duncan I of Scotland was killed in battle against his first cousin and rival Macbeth. Seventeen years later, King Macbeth was killed at the Battle of Lumphanan. The Three Weird Sisters entered the picture 500 years later, courtesy of William Shakespeare.

“Double, double, time and trouble, fire burn”..and now The Mash!

We begin in Dodger Stadium, where Anheuser-Busch InBev will unveil a new beer aimed at Latino beer drinkers. Montejo, from A-B’s Mexican subsidiary, will be released throughout the Southwest.

Beer-fueled violence in college towns is nothing new. In 1884, a beer riot took place in Iowa City after local authorities put two men on trial for violating Iowa’s new prohibition law.

Pete Brown reports that underage drinking has fallen off sharply in Britain. His explanation: parents downing a few at home have made drinking less appealing to their children.

It’s Shark Week, a perfect time for a Narragansett, which has been called “the Forrest Gump of Beers” because of its association with celebrities, artists, sports teams, and politicians.

Blonde ales have acquired a “training-wheels beer” reputation, but Jay Brooks thinks they’re underappreciated. He calls them “light and refreshing” and perfect for a hot August day.

Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post ranked the beer selection at major-league ballparks. Seattle’s Safeco Field has the best selection, while Yankee Stadium has the worst.

Finally, brewpubs aren’t dead after all. An All About Beer story by Brandon Hernandez profiles restaurants that reinvented themselves as brewpubs and experienced an uptick in business afterward.

Today’s Debate Topic: Is Your Beer Overrated?

Deadspin’s Will Gordon, who writes about adult beverages, has decided to rattle a few cages with his list of 18 overrated beers. He cautions that “overrated” beers aren’t necessarily bad, but “they’re not as good as their ubiquity on reputable beer menus or their cult status will have you believe.”

After going after obvious targets like Blue Moon, Killian’s Red, and Corona, Gordon ventures into more dangerous territory. He calls Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale “generic strong ale overdosed with vanilla,” and complains that Magic Hat, the makers of #9, “seems to be more interested in marketing than brewing.” He pooh-poohs the idea of waiting in line to buy Heady Topper, which is “only marginally better than Dogfish Head 90 Minute,” and dismisses North Coast Old Rasputin as “not as transcendent as its reputation suggests.”

Gordon’s most intriguing comment is about your local brewery’s flagship ale. He says, “In most cases, the beer that put a brewery on the map way back when—even if way back when was two years ago—has since been surpassed in-house. They may need to keep the sales workhorse around to keep the ship afloat, but the brewers themselves know that they’ve gotten better at their craft since creating that first hit recipe.”

At last count, Gordon’s article has attracted nearly 1,000 comments.

Hops Shortage Looming?

Jeff Alworth, who blogs at Beervana, passed along what he called “an alarming report” from 47 Hops about the supply and cost of hops in the near future.

Given 10-20 percent annual growth in craft-beer production, 47 Hops estimates that the hops industry needs to invest between $500 million and $1 billion in new capacity over the next five years. However, the price of hops would have to double to give hop growers an incentive to add the needed capacity.

Alworth points out that 47 Hops is a hop dealer, and “they seem inevitably to come to a conclusion that supports their business model–get a contract now!” Nevertheless, he thinks its warning should be taken seriously.

Is Sam Adams Too Big to Be a Craft Beer?

There’s been a running debate as to whether Boston Beer Company, the makers of Samuel Adams, is too big to be considered a craft brewery. The debate usually centers around Boston Beer’s production, which recently topped 2 million.

Some, however, contend that Boston Beer has lost the pioneering spirit that characterizes craft beer. Eno Sarris, a baseball statistician, is one of them, and he claims to have the numbers to back up his contention.

Sarris’s exhibit A is Rebel IPA. According to Untappd, it’s gotten an average score of 3.0. In baseball stats lingo, Rebel IPA is below “replacement level,” which means that an Untapped user would be more satisfied with an IPA chosen at random. Sarris adds that mediocre ratings aren’t limited to Rebel IPA. In terms of Beers Above Replacment, Samuel Adams ranks 571st out of 2,673 breweries listed on Untappd.

Sarris’s conclusion about Samuel Adams? “It started a craft beer revolution, and then craft beer’s evolution passed it by.” And the debate continues.

Is Regulation Hurting Craft Brewers?

Matthew Mitchell and Christopher Koopman of George Mason University argue that craft brewing is hamstrung by regulation at every level of government.

At the federal level, brewers need approval for their label art—this step can take 100 days—and depending on their ingredients and methods, their formula might require approval—which could mean yet another 60 days’ delay.

At the state level, brewers face additional, and often redundant, rules. Some states’ criteria for getting a license are so broadly written that they invite arbitrary denials, especially if they let existing brewers exclude competition. Once licensed, craft brewers must contend with more legal barriers–the worst of which is the three-tier system, which requires brewers to sell their products through distributors. On top of that, many states’ franchise laws force small brewers to either stay in unhappy marriages with distributors or pay a huge sum for a corporate divorce.

Mitchell and Koopman also note that regulators don’t have an incentive to look at the combined effect of regulations at all levels. They also believe that regulators are oblivious to the rules’ practical effect: preventing newcomers from challenging existing firms. (Which explains the persistence of the “bootlegger and Baptist” theory of regulation: restrictive alcohol laws hand an advantage to existing suppliers.) The authors also criticize governments’ efforts to “rescue” craft brewers by with targeted assistance, exemptions, and subsidies, contending that those measures are not only ineffective but also create economic inefficiencies.

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