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.”
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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”.

The 19 Types of People You Meet at Beer Festivals

Matt Lynch of Thrillist.com has compiled a taxonomy of the stereotypical people one meets at a beer festival. His list of the 19 usual suspects include these:

  • The Guy Who’s a Little Too Excited About His Pretzel Necklace. “He came prepared. Three different sizes of pretzels and a baggie of trail mix dangling from the bottom that may or may not have some string cheese taped to the back. He’s constantly puffing out his chest as if to say ‘I made this’. He will be very sick of pretzels in an hour.
  • The BeerAdvocate Review Come to Life. “It’s not normal to say ‘mouthfeel’ that many times in one day, OK?”
  • The Brewery Groupie. “Hoodie? Check. Pins? Check. Talking to the brewer like he’s an old friend and holding up the line for everyone else? Check”.
  • The Bro Brigade. “They’re decked out in their finest North Face apparel, ready to alternately brag about their finance jobs and about all the rare beer they’ve bought on the resale market because who has time to actually wait in lines at releases.”
  • The Parent(s) Who Scored a Babysitter. “The kid’s like a year old. They have five free hours and they’re drinking like every booth just announced it was almost out of beer. They will really hate tomorrow.”
  • The Friday Mash (Road Atlas Edition)

    Ninety years ago today, the first numbering system for U.S. highways was approved. The 21 numbered highways in the initial group included U.S. 60, which ran from Chicago to Los Angeles; it was later renumbered and became the famous “Mother Road”, U.S. Route 66.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin at the Samuel Adams brewery in Boston, where hundreds of fans lined up to buy bottles of limited-edition “Big Hapi” beer, brewed to honor now-retired Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz.

    Beer aficionados reacted furiously to TV food and travel personality Anthony Bourdain’s comments likening the clientele at a San Francisco beer bar to the “(expletive deleted) Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.

    A court in Stuttgart, Germany, ruled that breweries can’t use the word “bekömmlich”—“wholesome” in English—in their advertising because European Union regulations prohibit health claims in alcohol ads.

    Dogfish Head Craft Brewery will start canning its beers later this month. Brewery CEO Sam Calagione is now convinced that canning technology can deliver a consistent, high-quality product.

    The YouTube channel Celebrities in Golf Carts is trying to bridge the generation gap between Baby Boomers and Millennials with a new sport called Beer Pong Golf.

    Dissatisfied with local distributors, Massachusetts’ Night Shift Brewing created its own distributorship. It’s offering breweries friendlier contracts, more personal attention, and deliveries of fresher beer.

    Finally, in 1987, a Heineken retailer spread the untrue rumor that Mexican brewery workers urinated in containers of Corona Extra beer. That resulted in a lawsuit, and a public statement denying the rumor. Ten years later, Corona surpassed Heineken as America’s number-one imported beer.

    BA Fires Back at Carlos Brito

    Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito stirred up a hornets’ nest by saying that “consumers are a bit tired of choice.” Bob Pease, the president of the Brewers Association, was quick to respond.

    Pease pointed out that the 2016 Great American Beer Festival attracted a sellout crowd of 60,000, who sampled more than 3,800 from 780 breweries; and that the ability to choose from that many alternatives is “a central value of our democracy and a core tenet of ‘being American’.”

    The BA head also asserted that Brito’s comment smacked of self-aggrandizement. He said that A-B InBev entered the craft beer market by acquiring a portfolio of craft breweries, and is about to use its economic power to push its brands onto store shelves and tap handles—and push out truly independent brands. Pease observed, “That’s reducing choice all right—but not based on beer lover demand.”

    Peace also suggested that consumers will rebel against A-B InBev’s attempt to limit their choices. A recent Nielsen survey found 58 percent of American craft beer drinkers want even more flavors to choose from, and about 65 percent said they drink more craft beer specifically because craft offers more variety.

    The Friday Mash (Blowout Edition)

    One hundred years ago today, Georgia Tech defeated Cumberland University, 222-0, in the most lopsided college football game of all time. Tech coach John Heisman had an incentive to run up the score: back then, football rankings were based on margin of victory, not strength of schedule.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Asheville, North Carolina, where Catawba Brewing has honored a native son, author Thomas Wolfe, with a beer called Wolfeman Kolsch. Its ingredients include hops grown in western North Carolina.

    Even though the economy has improved since the Great Recession, beer sales at bars and restaurants have stayed flat. Factors include competition from brewery taprooms and growlers.

    Two more non-beer companies are rolling out their own beers: Vice Media and the clothing company Patagonia, Inc.

    In the UK, the brewery count has topped 1,700. An industry analyst says that some of the country’s craft breweries are attractive acquisition targets.

    Some in the brewing industry oppose legal marijuana for fear of losing market share. However, that hasn’t happened in Colorado and Washington State, where recreational pot is legal.

    Entrepreneur Josephine Uwineza plans to open a brewpub in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda. It will not only be Rwanda’s only women-owned brewery but also the country’s first-ever craft brewery.

    Finally, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals raised eyebrows by claiming that beer is healthier than milk. PETA contends that beer can strengthen bones and extend life, while milk is linked to obesity, diabetes, and cancer.

    The Friday Mash (James Dean Edition)

    Sixty-one years ago today, James Dean was killed in a traffic crash in California. He was 24 years old. Dean became the first actor to earn posthumous Academy Award nominations for Best Actor, for playing Cal Trask in East of Eden and Jett Rink in Giant.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Denver, where Brent Doeden aka “Captain Earthman” suffers from inoperable brain cancer. Doeden, who’s been vending beer at Colorado Rockies baseball games since the franchise’s inception, is a cult figure at Coors Field.

    Wil Fulton of Thrillist.com makes the case for why flip cup is a better drinking game than beer pong. One advantage: it’s easier to cheat, which—like in Monopoly—is an integral part of the game.

    The Michelada is one of Mexico’s popular new drinks. It consists of beer, lime juice, spices, sauces, and other ingredients in a salt-lined glass. It has some similarity to a margarita.

    To combat “flagship fatigue”, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company will release three new ales next year: Sidecar Orange Pale Ale, Tropical Torpedo, and Golden IPA.

    Los Angeles has light rail transportation, and you can spend a day pub-crawling along the Red Line, which runs from Union Station to North Hollywood.

    Candidates aren’t the only ones running negative ads this fall. Miller Lite responded to a Bud Light spot with this slogan: “Bud Light says raise one to right now so why not raise the right one?”

    Finally, ultra-runner Karl Meltzer set a new record for running the length of the 2,190-mile Appalachian Trail: 44.9 days, 22 hours 38 minutes. His routine on the AT included ending the day with a couple of brews. Meltzer celebrated the end of his trek with a pepperoni pizza and—you guessed it—a beer.

    Drinking Game for Tonight’s Debate

    Tonight’s presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is expected to draw the biggest audience in American debate history. That means an awful lot of drinking games will take place, even though it’s only Monday. And, because both candidates enter the debate with historically high negatives, there’s all the more incentive to drink.

    Beer writer Jeff Alworth, who blogs at Beervana, has suggested a drinking game that is out of the ordinary. Starting with the choice of beverage:

    This is, however, no time to fool around with dainty potables that have only been lightly fermented. An event like this requires distilled beverages, strong and brutal.

    Alworth also suggests not drinking until ten minutes into the debate, to make sure you take in what is actually happen, and then start drinking heavily. He also departs from the usual formula–take a drink if a certain word or phrase is spoken–and instead drink to the awfulness of the moderator’s questions, the candidates, and our two major parties.

    Now on a roll, Alworth concludes with this boozy peroration:

    Drink when you notice the anxiety that this election seems to be a metaphor for … something. Drink when your mind lapses back to earlier elections (2008 for Dems, 1980 for Republicans) and you remember thinking, “Is America the best damn country in the world, or what?” Drink when you grow irritated they’re not talking about the issues you care about. Drink when you realize they’re not talking about those issues because Americans don’t care about them. Drink to douse your gnawing apprehension, drink to encourage your hope. Drink for liquid courage. Drink for comfort. Drink for good old Teddy Roosevelt–man, we could really use the old Rough Rider right now. Drink to drink.

    If you manage to survive tonight’s debate, the second in the series take place Sunday night, October 9. Cheers, everyone!

    The Friday Mash (”Old Ironsides” Edition)

    On this day in 1812, American frigate USS Constitution defeated the British frigate HMS Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia. That victory earned her the nickname “Old Ironsides”; and an Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.’s 1830 poem of that name saved her from being decommissioned.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Bosnia, where an online post about homebrewing has, in just five years, grown into a flourishing craft-brewing industry—in a country where fruit brandy, not beer, has been the national beverage.

    Pyongyang, North Korea, is playing host to its first-ever beer festival. It was organized to promote Pyongyang-brewed Taedonggang beer, which is named after the Taedong River.

    Twenty years after the last shakeout in the craft beer sector, writer Lew Bryson sees another one coming. The good news is that the industry will rebound, and emerge stronger than ever.

    The Australian spreads Vegemite and Marmite are made from brewer’s yeast extract. Native Australians are using them to make homebrewed beer in towns where prohibition is in effect.

    Stone Brewing Company plans to open a beer-centric hotel across the street from its brewery in southern California. It will offer rare beer tappings along with room-service growlers.

    Bob Beamon, whose Olympic long-jump record set in Mexico City still stands, offered a free beer to any athlete who broke his record at the Rio Olympics. No one came close.

    Finally, MLS Soccer magazine has the rundown on where beer is sold at pro soccer matches. Germany is one of the beer-friendliest countries; you can drink in the stands at a Bundesliga match.

    The Friday Mash (“Be Prepared” Edition)

    On this date in 1907, Sir Robert Baden-Powell set up the Brownsea Island Scout camp on the south coast of England. That nine-day event—we assume that no beer was served to campers—was the foundation of the Scouting movement.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Scotland, where the Innis & Gunn brewery has released a “Vintage” beer that is meant to be aged. One bottle has been put inside a time capsule, which is not to be opened until 2116.

    Old Style beer will return to its La Crosse, Wisconsin, birthplace. The brewery will make an Oktoberfest-style version of the 114-year-old brand for the city’s annual Oktoberfest U.S.A.

    After winning his third Tour de France, Britain’s Chris Froome celebrated in style. In the Tour’s final stage, he handed out bottles of beer to his teammates.

    According to the libertarian magazine Reason, state beer laws continued “a slow creep in the right direction.” However, many bad laws remain on the books.

    The Smithsonian has posted a want ad for a beer historian/scholar. This three-year position, funded by the Brewers Association, will pay $64,650 plus benefits.

    Some breweries try too hard to be original, and wind up giving their beers awful names. Thrillist.com calls out some of the worst offenders.

    Finally, Jim Vorel of Atlanta magazine criticizes Terrapin Brewing Company for selling a majority interest to MillerCoors—and then keeping mum about the transaction on social media.

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