In the current All About Beer, historian Tom Aciatelli takes us back to 1986, when recently-laid-off geologist John Hickenlooper drove to Berkeley, California, to visit his brother. The two paid a visit to Triple Rock Brewery and Alehouse, and Hickenlooper realized what his next career would be.
Two years later, Hickenlooper and his partners opened Wynkoop Brewing Company in what was then a gritty section of Denver.
A quarter century ago, brewpubs outnumbered microbreweries by a substantial margin (the opposite is true today). Brewpub owners faced serious challenges, including finding the money to get started, overcoming Depression-era liquor laws, and persuading customers to pay more for a product they were not familiar with.
Hickenlooper was a notable success in his industry. He started or invested in 11 brewpubs. Later, he embarked on yet another career, that of a public official. He got elected mayor of Denver, and is now governor of Colorado. When he first took office in 2011, he made sure the craft beer flowed at his inaugural party.
Charlie Papazian, who writes about beer on Examiner.com, resurrected a 1982 article from Zymurgy magazine about early efforts to legalize brewpubs. It was written by Tom Burns, then at the Boulder Brewing Company. Burns moved to Michigan, where he fought to change that state’s restrictive laws. Unfortunately, Burns passed away before Michigan became the “The Great Beer State” with more than 150 microbreweries and brewpubs.
At the heart of Burns’ article is America’s three-tier distribution system. He conceded that legislators had reasons to ban “tied houses”—they didn’t want breweries to monopolize the retail market—but argued that the laws were so inflexible they made impossible for a small brewery to sell its beer at retail.
Burns, who was an attorney, urged the craft-brewing community to lobby state legislators. He argued for a narrow exception to the three-tier system—allowing breweries to sell their product, on premises, at retail–and offered some useful talking points. Brewpubs are local businesses, which hire local people. They counter the trend toward industry concentration. They help preserve traditional beer styles, and led to the creation of new ones. And they encourage the consumption of beer, a beverage of moderation.
The strategy worked. A generation later, brewpubs are legal in all 50 states.
On this day in 1919, the 18th Amendment, which ushered in national Prohibition, became part of the U.S. Constitution. The 14-year-long ban on “intoxicating” beverages, which meant anything with more than 0.5 percent alcohol, had a profound effect on the United States—an effect that persists to this day.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Rhode Island—one of two states that didn’t ratify the 18th Amendment—where Narragansett Beer has launched a four-beer series honoring H.P. Lovecraft, the master of horror fiction who lived in Providence.
In the San Francisco Bay area, the latest trend is “activity bars”, which offer giant basketball Plinko games, oversize Jenga sets, and bowling alleys along with local craft beers.
According to CBS MoneyWatch’s Kim Peterson, plunging gas prices is good news for breweries. The average motorist stands to save $700 this year, some of which might be spent on beer.
Newcastle Brown Ale is back at it, sponsoring a Super Bowl “ambush ad” and inviting other non-“official” brands to join in. Last year’s ad featured an extended rant by actress Anna Kendrick.
Caveat emptor. Fortune magazine’s Brad Tuttle names five “imported” beers that are brewed in the United States: Kirin, Beck’s, Foster’s, Killian’s, and—believe it or not—Red Stripe.
Pennsylvania’s Snitz Creek Brewery is incorporating a local specialty—Lebanon bologna—into one of its beers. Snitz Creek has also brewed beers using local pretzels and opera fudge.
Finally, Anheuser-Busch offers another reason not to over-indulge. In this year’s “Up for Whatever” Super Bowl ad, a Bud Light drinker gets pulled into a life-size Pac-Man game after a night out. Imagine running from Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde while fighting a hangover.
On this day in 1974, President Richard Nixon signed a bill lowering the maximum speed limit to 55 miles per hour in order to conserve gasoline during the OPEC embargo. The unpopular “double nickel” stayed on the books for more than 20 years.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Hawaii, where Kona Brewing is celebrating its 21st birthday by releasing a series of Hawaii-only beers. First in Kona’s Makana series is Aina Brown Ale, brewed with taro root.
New York City’s two largest beer distributors plan to merge. The merger threatens the existence of the city’s 13,000 bodegas, which are small, mostly minority-owned convenience stores.
Craft beer is gaining ground in South Korea thanks to new laws. For years, the country’s beer market has been dominated by two large brewing companies.
A blog post by Bryan Roth delves into the economics of beer-buying decisions. Roth wonders whether price will become a bigger factor in what craft beer drinkers buy.
Outside the United States, non-alcoholic beers are growing in popularity. Reasons include anti-alcohol laws in Muslim countries, fear of a DUI arrest, and better-tasting products.
Is your local beer bar serious about beer? Thrillist’s Dan Gentile tells you what to look for. For example, bubbles on the side of your glass means the glass is dirty.
Finally, Argentina’s Andes Brewery offers a a “Message in a Bottle”. Andes bottles are imprinted with QR codes which, together with a mobile app, allow a person to record a video and assign it to a specific bottle. The recipient scans the QR code and plays the video back.
During the late 1800s, German immigrants brought the tradition of beer gardens to America. The Germans viewed beer gardens as socially beneficial; they allowed all ages and classes to come together, and drunkenness and belligerence were verboten. However, mixing children and alcohol gave temperance advocates one more reason to lobby for Prohibition. When alcohol was re-legalized, male-dominated bars were far more common than beer gardens.
But family-friendly beer gardens are making a comeback. Many states allow chaperoned minors in bars, and some establishments are even offering play group and birthday party packages. Moms with children represent a business opportunity, because they come in during working hours when business is slow.
However, some adults resent the presence, and have complained—often vociferously. One beer garden proprietor, who sides with the parents, thinks the complainers suffer from the Kid Multiplier Effect: they perceive the presence of ten kids for every one actual kid they see.
In 2005, when Maryanne and Paul toured the state researching Michigan Breweries, most of the establishments they visited were brewpubs. Now a solid majority are microbreweries. It turns out this is a national trend.
Sometime during 2013, the number of micros exceeded the number of brewpubs; and, since the middle of 2012, more than three-quarters of newly-opened establishments are micros. Bart Watson, chief economist at the Brewers Association, identifies three reasons why this is happening.
- First, a number of states, such as South Carolina, have passed “pint laws” that allow breweries to breweries to sell full pints of their beer on-premise.
- Second, the growing popularity of food trucks makes it possible for customers to enjoy something other than salty snacks at their local brewery.
- Third, a brewery owner doesn’t have to enter the restaurant business, which eats up capital and poses additional challenges. Running a brewery is hard enough.
Bar trivia, the American version of the British pub quiz, has enjoyed a surge of popularity in recent years. One of the more successful trivia quizmasters is Geeks Who Drink, a Denver-born group that was founded in 2006 and now operates in 31 states.
Daliah Singer of 5280, The Denver Magazine, caught up with GWD’s head, John Dicker, to find out how what made the games so popular and what he drinks to jog his trivia brain. It certainly helps that GWD has a full-time editor who’s a six-time Jeopardy champion.
Daniel Hartis, who lives in Charlotte, is the author of Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing In The Queen City and the recently-published Beer Lover’s The Carolinas. Last week, he talked beer with fellow blogger Jim Dedman. Hartis credits the grass-roots Pop the Cap movement in North Carolina, which successfully lobbied state lawmakers to lift the 6-percent ABV limit, for the growth of craft beer in that state. Later, South Carolina passed similar legislation, and amended its liquor code to allow breweries to serve pints.
The author admits that his first experience with craft beer didn’t go so well. When he moved to Asheville to go to college, he asked the server at a pizzeria to bring him a pint of the establishment’s most popular beer. It was, of course, an IPA. He said, “I’d like to tell you it opened up a whole new world for me, but I thought it was disgusting and abrasively bitter.”
Hartis also said that breweries and beer bars are opening so fast in the Carolinas that he’s already thinking of a second edition of the book. It might hit the shelves as early as a couple of years from now.
Paste magazine has posted what it calls “the first installment in a series of beer-soaked road trips.” It runs the length of legendary Route 66, which extends from California to Illinois and crosses eight states.
James Stafford, your designated driver, for this trip, has arranged for a stop in each state to sample the local beer. The first stop is the Bonaventure Brewing Company in downtown Los Angeles. Stafford has to cheat a bit in Kansas, because Route 66 runs through a tiny corner of the state, but the detour is worth it: Free State Brewing Company in Lawrence. The journey, 2,500-miles long, ends in Chicago at the Revolution Brewery Company.
The votes have been counted in the annual “Great American Beer Bars” competition, and the five regional winners, announced earlier this week on the Brewers Association’s CraftBeer.com site, are:
Ludwig offers his congratulations to these fine establishments.