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.

The Friday Mash (Fab Four Edition)

Fifty years ago today, The Beatles occupied the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The Fab Four still hold the record for most Billboard number-one hits with 20; and, with more than 600 million records sold world-wide, remain the biggest-selling band of all time.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Houston, where Whole Foods’ Post Oak location will brew its own beer. Other grocery chains sell own-label beer, but they contract out the actual brewing.

A layover might be an opportunity to enjoy a pint at one of America’s best airport beer bars. All nine are outposts of local craft breweries such as Harpoon, Schlafly, and Rogue.

Kudzu beer? The invasive Southern plant is among the “foraged ingredients” that have found their way into new beers. Kudzu, by the way, is said to impart a fruity flavor.

Anheuser-Busch InBev is celebrating this summer’s World Cup in Brazil by introducing Brahma Selecao Especial. Its recipe includes barley grown on the Brazilian national team’s training field.

Old Style beer will be sold in Wrigley Field this season after all. The Cubs’ concessionaire plans to sell it, along with Goose Island, at the park’s concession stands.

Brooklyn Brewing Company founder Steve Hindy wrote a New York Times op-ed calling for reform of franchise laws that keep small breweries from getting their beer on the shelves.

Finally, scientists at Johns Hopkins University have created the first synthetic yeast chromosome. Since the yeast genome consists of 16 chromosomes, there’s still plenty of work to be done.

The Friday Mash (Genuine Bell Edition)

On this day in 1876, Scottish-born inventor Alexander Graham Bell was granted a patent for an invention he called the telephone. Ironically, Bell considered the phone a distraction from his real work as a scientist and refused to have one in his study.

And now…a busy signal!

We begin in Philadelphia, where a beer garden will open across from the Liberty Bell. Philly has other good “hop spots,” and USA Today’s Marla Cimini will show you around.

Almost 600 types of barley seeds have been added to the Svalbard Seed Vault in Norway. This ups the chances that survivors will be able to enjoy a post-apocalyptic beer.

In India, architecture students from Bangalore and Spain used thousands of beer bottles to construct a classroom. The bottles eliminate the need for artificial light inside.

Stone Brewing Company plans to open a second brewery in the eastern U.S., and it appears that Greensboro has been found worthy as a site to brew Arrogant Bastard and other ales.

A London-based start-up company has a remedy for job stress. Desk Beer offers Friday deliveries of local craft beer–provided, of course, the boss approves.

If you plan on some beer hunting, Lindsey Grossman of Paste magazine suggests eight beer-related apps for your phone. They include a “fairly addictive” game called Micro Caps.

Finally, after being served three ales he couldn’t stand, Johnny Sharp unleashed a rant titled “Am I The Only Man in Britain Who Hates Craft Beer? You may find his writing an “acquired taste.”

The Seven Ten Deadly Sins

He doesn’t want to nitpick. Really. However, John Thompson of the Baltimore Post-Examiner would like to call your attention to ten things bars, restaurants, breweries, and maybe even you are doing wrong with beer.

Thompson wants better menus, preferably available online, and knowledgeable servers. But his main concern is glassware. He faults bars for not finding alternatives to the ubiquitous shaker glass or worse yet, chilling glasses before filling them–with ice-cold beer. And in his perfect world, the glassware would be “beer clean”: properly washed, rinsed, and sanitized. If the bubbles aren’t clinging to the sides of the glass, then it’s beer clean.

The Friday Mash (”Going Once, Going Twice” Edition)

On this day in 1765, James Christie reportedly held his first auction in London. The company he founded has become an art business and fine arts auction house which, every year, sells billions of dollars worth of paintings and other valuable works.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Kano, Nigeria, where police enforcing Sharia law destroyed more than 240,000 bottles of beer that were confiscated from supply trucks and Christian shopkeepers.

In Florida, beer in standard 64-ounce growlers remains illegal thanks to bottle laws passed many years ago. Oddly, it’s legal to sell beer in 32- and 128-ounce containers.

Remember Todd Ruggere, the man who drank a beer in every town in Massachusetts to raise money for cancer research? His next stop is Connecticut, which has 169 towns.

New Belgium Brewing Company is rolling out its tenth year-round beer: Snapshot Wheat, an unfiltered wheat beer with citrusy aroma from Target hops. It checks in at a sessionable 5 percent ABV.

LiveScience’s Stephanie Pappas explains the science behind a common party foul: the foam explosion out of a bottle of beer when you tap it. The tap creates waves which, in turn, create bubbles.

Another item from the world of science. Bricks made with five percent spent grain are nearly 30 percent better insulators, and just as strong as traditional bricks. The drawback? They smell of fermented grain.

Finally, some are defending an Amsterdam organization’s policy of paying hard-core alcoholics in beer to clean up city parks. The workers are healthier and better-behaved now that they’re being treated like humans.

The Friday Mash (World Tourism Day Edition)

Today is World Tourism Day, which was created by the United Nations in 1970. This year’s theme is “Tourism and Water.” If you can’t make it to Munich, where some kind of a beer festival is going on, Ludwig recommends that you take a trip to your local brewery and order a beer–which, of course, is more than 90 percent water.

And now…the Mash!

We begin in Bloomington, Illinois, the home of Beer Nuts. The first batch of the snacks–made with just four ingredients–was created 60 years ago by Jim Shirk, whose family still owns the company.

In Texas, a homebrewer recently got a nasty surprise: brewer’s yeast in his intestines caused him to spontaneously brew beer and get him drunk without warning.

A Reddit user who goes by “psychguy” explained why experienced drinkers prefer strong beer: it’s a combination of “taste fatigue” and peer pressure.

Was Jesus a beer drinker? Did He really turn water into beer at Cana? Stasia Bliss of the Las Vegas Guardian-Review cites historical and biblical evidence which points in that direction.

Savvy beer shoppers are finding bargains at their local Wal-Mart. Bloomberg.com found a Los Angeles-area store that sold Coors and Tecate at just pennies over cost.

If M.C. Escher were a glassblower, he might have come up with this: a glass designed to hold two different beers at the same time. The Dual Beer Glass holds two 1/3-pint portions of beer.

Professor Hong Luo at the Unviersity of Buffalo says the key to a good pour is avoiding that “glugging” sound produced by a low-pressure area formed when beer is poured too fast.

Finally, Scientific American magazine has awarded the IgNobel Prize in Psychology to the scientists who studied “self-beer goggles”: people who’ve had a few are more likely to consider themselves attractive.

Top Ten Myths About Craft Beer

“Ding” is a middle-aged Englishman who lives somewhere in the South and provides often-tart commentary about beer on his blog. One of Ding’s classics, which appeared in December 2011, took aim at the top ten myths about American craft beer.

Heading the list of the myths is the belief that one can put any beer in a cask and get a good result. Casks, he contends, bring out the best of a malty, low-gravity beer, but won’t have the same effect with an imperial IPA. He goes on to say that “a huge amount of beer that is being presented in casks…is simply not beer that will showcase the presentation at all well.”

Other myths that Ding wants to debunk include these:

  • Beers from emerging beer countries, like Italy and New Zealand, must be great. Fawning over expensive, ordinary beer is a symptom of a lack of discrimination.
  • British beer is undergoing a massive revolution inspired by American brewers. Despite the publicity given to breweries like BrewDog, most beer poured in the UK is traditional British beer with relatively low alcoholic content.
  • More breweries, and more beers, are always a good thing. The current level of growth of craft beer is unsustainable, and is resulting in a flood of mediocre–or worse–products.
  • All local beer is good. See above.
  • Session beer is gaining popularity in America. Ding draws the session-beer line at 4% ABV, and finds few American beers with ABVs lower than that.
  • In Defense of Corn

    Chris Lohring, the brewer at Notch Brewing in Massachusetts, would like a few words with purists who have made corn “the most vilified grain in all of American brewing.” In defending corn, Lohring takes aim at two myths about it.

    The first myth is that corn–along with another hated adjunct, rice–was added to beer to make it bland. Actually, it was the other way around: big brewers made bland beer because they thought consumers wanted it; corn was “just along for the ride.” Lohring adds that 19th century German brewers used adjuncts out of necessity. North American six-row barley produced a hazier and more tannic beer than the two-row variety grown in Europe. Corn and rice allowed them to produce a smoother, brighter beer that also appealed to the American palate.

    The other myth with corn is that brewers use it to cut costs. That wasn’t the case for German brewers who first used it, and isn’t the case for his brewery–especially because it entails additional steps during brew day that drives up the overall labor cost.

    Lohring adds that many craft brewers use corn to “dry out” big, malty beers such as double IPAs and Belgian beers. Why, then, is corn unacceptable in brewing pale lagers? In his brewing career, he discovered that corn made “entry-level” lagers dryer and sweeter-tasting. Now he’s using high-quality corn to make The Mule, the latest in his brewery’s line of session-strength beers.

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