Joe Pappalardo, a writer for Esquire magazine, recently went on a quest to drink every beer poured at the two-day Great GoogaMooga beer festival in Brooklyn, New York. Fifty-four beers in all.
By his own admission, Pappalardo violated basic tenets of hardcore beer reviewing: drink full beers instead of tasters; don’t review products served at festivals; and don’t get wasted. With that in mind, he presented his work as “visceral impressions of the beers” and “a chronicle of my deteriorating condition.” The latter might explain the amusing typos in the article, such as Coney Island Brewing Company’s “1-galleon still.”
Pappalardo’s “deteriorating condition” also might have inspired the following rant about India pale ales: “I once wandered the galleries of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy. The paintings on the walls radiated power, grace and drama. Slices of incalculable living history. Yet, staring at dozens of them, room after room, all I could see were just another image of a dead saint or Madonna. That’s how I feel about IPAs now. Smutty Nose could have one that cures cancer and I’d dump it into the grass after a mouthful.”
A visit from a homebrewer friend proved shocking to Adrienne So. Her friend couldn’t finish a pint at a Portland, Oregon, brewpub because it was too hoppy for him. That’s when So, who writes about beer for Slate magazine, realized she had a problem. “In fact, everyone I know in the craft beer industry has a problem: We’re so addicted to hops that we don’t even notice them anymore.”
How did this happen? So explains that hops distinguish craft beer from the national brands, offer craft brewers an easy creative outlet, and allow beginning brewers to hide flaws in their beer. But, from a consumer’s standpoint, beers overloaded with hops are a pointless gimmick. So advises brewers to ease up on the hops and shift their focus to new strains of yeast and local, craft-malted barley.
It has become a British stereotype that Real Ale is “for old men with beards.” And that stereotype rankles Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile. He admits to being in his sixties and to having a beard, but goes on to say: “I’ve been drinking cask ale since the 1970s, when I was a young man, without a beard (and with much more hair on my head). And at that time, vast numbers–half or more–of CAMRA members were under 30, like me, and like the organisation’s founders, who had been in their mid-20s in 1971 when the Campaign for the Revitalisation of Ale kicked off.”
He adds that this phenomenon is not limited to Real Ale: “Of course, people’s pleasures actually barely change from their youth as they pile up the years and wrinkle like a shar pei, which ought to be obvious, but seems not to be. You might add on a few more likes, such as malt whisky and Frank Sinatra, neither of which I really understood until I was well past 25, and lose a few of the stranger ones, such as wearing brown corduroy and too-tight tanktops, but pretty much all of the things I enjoyed when I was just out of university I still enjoy now.”
Cornell takes Real Ale marketers to task for their apologizing for the age of their customers, something that the makers of other products don’t do. Point taken.
We’ve had nasty weather this week, but it pales in comparison to conditions atop Mount Washington, New Hampshire, on this day in 1934. The world’s strongest-ever wind gust, 231 miles per hour, was recorded there.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Oregon, where lawmakers may designate Saccharomyces cerevisiae as the official state microbe. It’s also used to make bread, cheese, and craft distilled spirits, all popular Oregon products.
Mystic Brewery in Chelsea, Massachusetts, is honoring Red Auerbach, the legendary Boston Celtics basketball coach, with–what else?–a Rauchbier. Back in the day, Auerbach lit up a cigar to celebrate a Boston victory.
The Sly Fox Brewing Company is the first American brewery to use topless cans. Just pull the tab up, then then peel the lid away, to expose a 1.75-inch-wide opening that allows you to enjoy the beer’s aroma.
Many craft brewers have branched out into spirits, and some familiar names–including Ballast Point, Rogue, and Dogfish Head–have been awarded medals by the American Distilling Institute.
The Four Seasons Resort in Vail, Colorado, has joined forces with Crazy Mountain Brewing, a local micro, to offer “Brew and Renew” treatments. They include foot soaks, body wraps, scalp treatments, and full body scrubs.
Finally, Paste magazine has compiled a list of ten music-inspired beers. It includes “Brother Theloneous” Belgian-Style Abbey Ale; “Smoke on the Water” Porter; and–wait for it–”Dark Side of the Moose,” a dark ale brewed in Wales.
Chuck Sudo of Chicagoist reports on a recent event that reportedly left less than a happy afterglow. Last Saturday, the Chicago Beer Festival took place at Union Station. Festival-goers were sold “unlimited sampling” tickets for $40. Unfortunately, the Illinois Happy Hour Law prohibits fixed-price all-you-can-drink events, and the State Liquor Commission informed the producer, Drink Eat Play, of the law. Drink Eat Play tweaked its pricing policy, informed ticket-holders by email, and even offered refunds.
Here’s where things gut ugly. The Chicago Beer Festival’s Facebook page accused an unnamed “competing beer festival” of ratting it out to the Liquor Commission. Chicagoist staff concluded that the festival pointed the accusing finger at Red Dog Events, producers of the American Beer Classic, which will be held later this year at Soldier Field. However, Red Dog denied any involvement with the commission, and wished the Chicago Beer Festival the best.
Sudo had less than kind words for ticket-holders who complained loudly about the new pricing policy. He pointed out that a person could still drink 60 ounces of beer–much of it high-gravity–over a three-hour period. He also observed, “This could be the moment where beer festivals jump the shark.” That, however, is as much an overreaction as the angry messages festival-goers posted on Facebook.
Canadian beer writer Stephen Beaumont was taken aback when a Toronto Globe and Mail wine critic called the price of Samuel Adams Utopias ($115) “exorbitant,” “stratospheric,” and comparable to “Rolex watches and Prada purses.”
Beaumont pointed out that the same critic described a bottle of Balvenie 17 Year Old Double Wood ($168) as merely “expensive,” and made no comment about the price ($189) of 15 year old Nikka Miyagikyo. He also did some number-crunching. A bottle of Utopias contains 12 servings–two ounces, given that it has twice the alcoholic content as the average wine. Thus a serving of Utopias costs about $10, “about what one might pay for a glass of ho-hum wine in a restaurant.” Beaumont contends that critics still have a double standard when they compare beer to other beverages.
Last week, New York Times correspondent Clay Risen wrote about craft brewers’ affection for 750-ml “bomber” bottles. However, the big bottles have been the subject of considerable debate.
On the “pro” side, bomber bottles give the beer greater prestige–why should a beer with exotic ingredients hide inside anonymous six-pack-size bottles?–and beer drinkers are willing to pay for high-end beer that’s packaged and sold like wine. On the “con” side, they cause sticker shock, some drinkers regard them as trappings of beer snobbery, and the bottle has to be consumed in one sitting.
About 3.5 percent of craft beer is sold in bomber bottles, but some of the top brands are available only in this format.
West Coast writer Jay Brooks took exception to a recent column in the New York Times about the proposed buyout of Grupo Modelo by Anheuser Busch-InBev. He concluded that the correspondent, Adam Davidson, knows little about the brewing industry and its history.
In a blog post on the Brookston Beer Bulletin, Brooks first addresses Davidson’s “sure, the industry is competitive, look at all the brands on the shelves” argument. His response: “saying they’re on equal footing is the economic equivalent of pretending that employees and employers have equal bargaining power, as most economic textbooks continue to insist.”
He then responds to Davidson’s characterization of A-B InBev being “on the cusp” of a monopoly by saying that ABI has been a de facto monopoly with one or two others for decades, all but controlling the marketplace. As for Davidson’s statement that we are in “the very early stages” of industry consolidation, Brooks points out that “the global beer world has been dominated by an ever-shrinking group of very large conglomerates for at least the last three or four decades.”
Finally, Brooks offers his prediction of what will happen next:
As always happens, the two parties will hammer out a compromise that was probably the deal everybody wanted in the first place, but this way both parties look good in the public eye. The [Justice Department] will look like they’re being tough on big business and are protecting the public while ABI will look good because they were able to get the deal done, and their share price will shoot up.
The latest Examiner.com column by Charlie Papazian poses an intriguing question: what if the 18th Amendment, which imposed national Prohibition, never became law?
If Prohibition never happened, we wouldn’t have had bathtub gin or speakeasies, the U.S. Treasury would have continued to take in millions in excise taxes, and gangsters like Al Capone would have been forced to find some other industry. And millions of Americans wouldn’t have had to break the law to enjoy an adult beverage.
But Papazian also sees a downside to Prohibition never happening. Lawmakers might not have outlawed “tied houses.” That, plus inevitable consolidation of the industry, could have created a barrier to entry so high that small breweries would struggle to survive. Without distributors, small brewers would have little chance of getting their product on the shelves and into bars. And if big brewers pushed huge quantities of cheap beer, a backlash leading to high taxes and tough restrictions might have occurred.
The ultimate question Papazian asks is, “If there was no Prohibition would we have today’s 2,400 small breweries?”
Forty-two years ago today, the NASDAQ stock exchange was founded by the National Association of Securities Dealers. Once the home of lowly over-the-counter stocks, it’s now the exchange where companies like Apple, Google, and Microsoft are traded.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Britain, where health officials would like the beverage industry to disclose the number of calories in their products. They hope that people will drink less to avoid getting fat.
Add the Morrow Royal Pavilion in Henderson, Nevada, to your list of beer landmarks to visit. It’s made from recycled beer and liquor bottles–more than half a million of them.
The latest environmentally-friendly innovation is The Crafty Carton, a paper growler that holds one quart of beer and, according to Foodbeast.com, is suitable for origami.
Here’s a beer pairing we’ve never seen before. Dr. Greg Zeschuk, a video game industry veteran and craft beer aficionado, chooses the right beer style for the genre of game you’re playing.
World of Beer, which serves craft beer in a tavern-like setting, could be coming to your town. The chain has 36 locations in 11 states, and company CEO Paul Avery wants to take it nationwide.
Glyn Roberts, The Rabid Barfly, unleashes a rant about people who decide to go on the wagon during January, which is the quietest time of the year for British pubs.