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.

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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.

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.

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