How Many of These Beers Have You Enjoyed?

Last month, Food & Wine magazine asked 21 members of the craft beer community to rank the most important craft beers of all time. Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune decided to follow up with his own top 25.

What makes a beer important? Noel elaborates:

To me, the definition is simple: It’s one that either changed consumer tastes or how breweries approach making beer. Some of the beers below have influenced both drinkers and brewers. Others hew more in one direction than the other. Others find their power in the brand or the package even more than the beer.

Noel agrees with much of the Food & Wine list, but also take several exceptions. You might, too.

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Don’t Smoke ‘Em, Even If You’ve Got ‘Em

Last summer, Draft magazine published its complete guide to “Festiquette”: 30 rules for making your beer festival experience, and everyone else’s, better. The rules include “Eat breakfast”, “Don’t pee on random surfaces”, “Don’t break up”, and—people have actually tried this—“Don’t lie and say you own Draft magazine to get into VIP”.

After a bad experience at this year’s Arizona Strong Beer Festival, Draft has added Rule 31: “Leave the cigars at home”. The magazine’s staff contends that smoking cigars is not only a tacky exercise in conspicuous consumption, but it also ruins the purpose of a festival—namely, tasting and enjoying beer—for others. As they put it, “We liken people who light up at beer festivals to people who microwave fish at work: Sure, you’re allowed to do it, but by doing it, you’re creating discomfort for the people around you.”

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The Friday Mash (Gold Record Edition)

Seventy-five years ago, the first-ever gold record was presented to Glenn Miller for “Chattanooga Choo Choo”. The song was originally featured in the film Sun Valley Serenade (1941).

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Cincinnati, where Urban Artifact is brewing a beer made with yeasts from the historic Union Terminal, which is now a museum complex. The brewery added sour cherries to add tart fruitiness to the beer, a 7% ABV bock.

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan, Brewery Ommegang has you covered. It will release three beers whose labels bear the sigils of the Houses of Lannister, Stark, and Targaryen.

Alex P. Davis, who runs the Library Alehouse in Santa Monica, doesn’t think beer lovers should stand in line to taste rare beers such as Pliny the Elder IPA because so many world-class beers are available without the wait.

Despite being the capital of one of Mexico’s poorest states, Oaxaca City has become destination of hipster tourists—many of from other Mexican states. And it’s developed a lively craft beer culture.

TheMotleyFool.com explains how Anheuser-Busch InBev and MillerCoors are exploiting the three-tier system to keep craft products out of bars and stores. Rather than fight A-B, Craft Brew Alliance entered into in a production and distribution deal with the brewing giant.

Rochester, New York, is the nation’s unofficial Tater Tots capital. Local journalist Will Cleveland has a few pointers on pairing beer with the tots—and yes, any beer from the Genesee family is a good choice.

Finally, The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has appointed Theresa McCulla as historian to oversee its American Brewing History Initiative. McCulla, who will receive a Ph.D in American Studies from Harvard, also holds a culinary arts diploma.

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Some Politics With Your Beer?

Portland, Oregon-based Jeff Alworth started his blogging career on a site devoted to ending Republican Party dominance in his state. However, Alworth realized that people needed a respite from the ugly, polarized politics of our time, so he started blogging about beer. As he puts it, “politics divide, beer unites.”

With the election of Donald Trump as president, Alworth fears that political divisions will find their way into beer bars and breweries will feel compelled to take sides. He warns that beer and politics have become entwined in the past. For example, the Sons of Liberty planned the Boston Tea Party in a tavern, and Adolf Hitler led an unsuccessful revolt from a Munich beer hall.

As for present-day America, Alworth writes:

I don’t know where we’re headed. I really don’t want to sacrifice the world of beer and the physical spaces of pubs as refuges of camaraderie and community. But we have entered a moment when it seems like everything has political valence. It is certainly conceivable that we’ll have to take sides as beery folk. I’d love this to be my last post on politics on this site for the next four years—and still hope it will be. We’ll see.

The Friday Mash (Georgia Bulldogs Edition)

On this day in 1785, the University of Georgia opened its doors. UGA is the first state-chartered university in the United States, and is the birthplace of the American system of public higher education.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Massachusetts, where the state’s top liquor regulator is “ready to put everything on the table” in an effort to modernize the liquor code. That includes lifting Draconian limits on the number of licenses a community can issue.

Craft beer—sort of—is on the shelves at Wal-Mart. Its brand name is Trouble, it’s apparently contract-brewed by Genesee Brewing, and it got panned by a panel of Washington Post staffers.

Jake Tuck of Eater magazine explains “beer poptimism”: a growing appreciation of beers that are “unassailably popular, widely accessible, and highly quaffable”. Yes, that means macro brews.

In Bishkek, the capital of Krygystan, two women have opened a craft brewery called Save the Ales. Much of the beer sold in that country consists of bland imports and watery local products.

A startup called Colorado Craft Distributors aims to serve “small but special” breweries looking to get their beer into liquor stores, bars, and restaurants along the state’s Front Range.

Brooklyn Brewery has made a beer using Saccharomyces carlsbergensis, the lager yeast isolated in 1883 by Emil Christian Hansen, a researcher at the Carlsberg Laboratory in Copenhagen.

Finally, actor Matt Damon, the co-founder of Water.org, has joined forces with the brewer of Stella Artois beer to bring clean water to people in developing countries. Every pint of Stella sold in Britain guarantees someone a month’s supply of water.

Are Growlers Obsolete?

Writing in Draft magazine, Zach Fowle told his readers that he was throwing out his considerable collection of growlers. The reason? They’re a terrible way to serve beer, and breweries are wising up to this.

Many breweries have invested heavily in their packaging lines. The technology keeps oxygen levels low and keeps beer product as fresh as possible for as long as possible. Growlers, on the other hand, are what Fowle calls “a glorified pint glass”; the process of filling it introduces oxygen, which over time makes the beer’s quality deteoriate. Growlers are also a pain for breweries, whose employees spend inordinate amounts of time cleaning and filling growlers. Breweries also get unfair online criticism from customers who inflicted bad beer on themselves by bringing in dirty growlers.

The growler’s replacement might be the Crowler. The Crowler machine is a modified soup canner that dispenses beer into 32-ounce cans. The technology was pioneered by Oskar Blues Brewery, which has sold nearly 1,000 of the devices. The Kroger Company is test-marketing Crowlers at one of its locations in Memphis.

The Friday Mash (National Geographic Edition)

On this day in 1888, the National Geographic Society was formed. The Society’s logo, a bright yellow box, appears on National Geographic magazine, which is published in 40 languages around the world.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Pennsylvania, where the beer police caught up with Travis John Miller, who was selling the contents of his beer cellar on Craigslist. Miller faces a misdemeanor charge of selling alcohol without a license.

Swedish brewer Fredrik Tunedal, who often came home from work covered in malt dust, has released a Shower Beer. Its flavor profile includes a soapy taste, which Tunedal calls “on-point” for his product.

Keurig Green Mountain has partnered with Anheuser-Busch InBev to develop a line of instant beers—and other instant adult beverages—that Keurig owners can make at home.

The CEO of Constellation Brands, which imports Corona and Modelo beer, said that he doesn’t expect President-elect Donald Trump’s trade policy to raise the price of Mexican brands.

Despite a dismal 5-7 record, the University of Texas finished #1 in the country—in beer sales, that is. By season’s end, Longhorns fans spent $5.26 on alcohol for every fan in attendance.

Bart Watson, the Brewers Association’s chief economist, disputes studies showing that beer sales have fallen in states where recreational marijuana is legal. Watson argues that pot is just one of many variables affecting sales.

Finally, in Adelaide, Australia, the woman-owned Sparkke Change Beverage Company is putting feminist messages on cans of its beer. It’s an effort to start conversations in the country’s male-dominated beer culture.

The Friday Mash (Hat Trick Edition)

One hundred and twenty years ago today, Ernie McLea of the Montreal Victorias scored the first hat trick in Stanley Cup play. His third goal, which clinched the Cup, led Montreal to a 6-5 win over the Winnipeg Victorias.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Oregon, where beer writer Brian Yaeger has come to the defense of McMenamins brewpub chain. Its 17 establishments have gotten nasty reviews from some customers.

Spain’s recent boom in craft beer has been good news to the town of Villanueva del Carrizo, which grows 99 percent of the country’s homegrown hops.

A new device being pilot-tested in Britain allows pub customers to avoid lining up for beer. A credit card, a debit card, or Apple Pay will get it to auto-dispense a pint.

In California, the proliferation of businesses selling alcohol—supermarkets, bookstores, and even nail salons—has public health advocates concerned about the potential for abuse.

Bisphenol A (BPA), which is linked to health problems, has been banned from sippy-cups and baby bottles. But it’s still used in beer cans because the government thinks it won’t harm adults

In 2012, Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom ended a 41-year-long ban on alcohol. Last week, the park expanded beer and wine sales to four more of its sit-down restaurants.

Finally, Montreal-based Kris Mychasiw might be the world’s smartest sports agent. He’s turned beer-milers Lewis Kent and Corey Bellemore pro, even though the sport doesn’t yet have a governing body.

Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer Fest: A Review

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.”

Counterpoint: Quitting Drinking is Not Healthy

Paul Mulshine, who loves both a good beer and a good debate, contends that abstaining from alcohol is an unhealthy decision. He cites a study published in the journal Health Psychology which found that physical activity and drinking alcohol—beer in particular—complemented one another.

Stanton Peele, the psychologist who sent Mulshine a copy of the study, cited the example of Cy Young-winning pitcher Bob Welch, who gave up drinking and wrote of his recovery in the book Five O’Clock Comes Early. Welch died of a heart attack at age 57. Peele contends that the only worse decision Welch could have made would be to take up smoking.

Peele also told Mulshine of studies showing that even heavy drinkers have lower heart-attack rates than abstainers. “The reason is not hard to deduce. There are just four sources of calories for the human body—protein, fat, carbohydrates and alcohol. Of the four, only alcohol has a positive role in the prevention of heart attacks”.

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