Bars and Pubs

The Friday Mash (“Long Live the King” Edition)

On this day in 1603, James VI of Scotland becomes James I of England and Ireland upon the death of Queen Elizabeth I. The kingdoms of Scotland and England remained sovereign states, with their own parliaments, but both were ruled by James in personal union.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Vancouver where last week, the Railtown Pub advertised its St. Patrick’s Day celebration with a Guinness glass filled to the brim and literally losing its head. That caught the attention of the Irish Independent newspaper, which called the pour “sacrilegious”.

Now that the Chicago White Sox’s partnership with MillerCoors has expired, the ballclub has formed a new partnership with Constellation Brands, which will open “Casa Modelo” at the ballpark.

While on spring break in The Bahamas, a frat boy used the teeth of a beached shark to puncture a beer can so he could “shotgun” it. His video of the stunt prompted a swift—and angry—backlash on social media.

Portland, Oregon, is about to get a beer bar devoted to session beers. Its name, naturally enough, is Sessionable. The bar will pour 30 beers, all with ABVs ranging from 2.5 to 5 percent.

Neil Patrick Harris, who the spokesperson for Heineken beer, says that he has a Heineken Light tap in his bar at home. He adds that unlimited beer at home “is as awesome as it sounds”.

According to a recent survey, one out of four beer drinkers said they would switch to marijuana if it became legal in their state. If they do switch, brewers will suffer $2 billion per year in lost sales.

Finally, MLive.com asked eight brewery owners in the Grand Rapids, Michigan, area whether the craft beer industry is in a bubble. They don’t think so, but some admit that the market is getting tougher for new entries.

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Iconic Chicago Beer Bars Turn 25

Hopleaf and The Map Room, two of Chicago’s most beloved beer bars, celebrate their 25th anniversary. To mark the occasion, Chicago Tribune beer writer Josh Noel sat down with Hopleaf’s owner, Michael Roper, and The Map Room’s owner, Laura Blasingame.

The establishments that Roper and Blasingame acquired to turn into “good beer” bars were Chicago taverns’ equivalent to Mediterranean and Baltic Avenue.

Blasingame describes she started out with:

When my husband, Mark, walked me up here to show me the building, there was this little window on a door facing Armitage, and I saw somebody’s bloody hand going down it. Literally. There was a fight going on in the back over the pool table. I was appalled. Fighting, smoky, a drop ceiling—just disgusting. All men. No women.

And there were problems outside the bar, too:

We had a part-time gang in the neighborhood, which apparently had one gun among them. They insisted that we “pay rent”—they wanted a case of Miller High Life or something every time they came in. We didn’t want them to feel like they had a piece of the place and intimidating people. So we said, “No, we’re not paying rent.” One day these guys pulled up in a car and got out with baseball bats and banged out all our windows. We got our punishment, but then it was over.

Yikes. But Roper topped Blasingame with these stories:

We bought the place stocked with all the stuff we would never want to sell. There were cases of Boone’s Farm, Ripple and Everclear. One of their most popular things was Everclear in plastic half pints. We ran it like that for a while, opening at 7 in the morning. I didn’t even tell my friends we bought the place because I didn’t want anyone to see it. It was so horrible….

There was a line every morning. It wasn’t people that wanted to drink. It was people that needed to drink. There were a lot of panhandlers in the neighborhood, and the bar sold those little airplane minis for a buck. So anyone who could come up with a buck on the street would come in, down one and go back out.

The kind of people that came in were fairly nasty. Every day at noon—they had a TV and VCR built into the wall—a guy from a video store dropped off a porno movie and picked up yesterday’s. So the old guys would sit there and watch a porno. There were several traditions that ended when I took over. I took the poker machines out—the main revenue source of the place. Some lowlifes came in to sell stuff they’d stolen—like steaks from Jewel.

Slowly but surely, Blasingame and Roper upgraded their bars and the beer they poured. Eventually, they became destinations for beer lovers from Chicagoland–and later, from places farther afield.

“Old school” is the term both owners use to describe their bars: they keep prices reasonable, and attend to details such as keeping beer menus current. They’re single-location establishments in an age where hospitality companies and pub chains are opening beer bars. Now that craft beer has filtered down to bowling alleys and VFW halls, the way to stay ahead of competition is “to be a good bar first and then to have interesting beer.”

Cheers, Michael and Laura, and best wishes for another 25!

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Top of the Morning!

It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and we’re sure you’re marking the occasion with a pint of cheer. If you haven’t decided where to celebrate, Mental Floss magazine is here to help. They’ve listed the best Irish bar in each state.

Public service announcement: Friends don’t let friends drink green beer.

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The Friday Mash (“Sell High” Edition)

On this day in 2000, the Nasdaq Composite stock market index peaked at 5132.52, thanks to investors who bid up dot.com shares to astronomically high prices. Those who didn’t take profits got a nasty surprise: the Nasdaq fell by more than 50 percent by year’s end.

And now….The Mash!

Fittingly, we begin on Wall Street, where big breweries’ stocks haven’t been doing well. According to SeekingAlpha.com, the only company whose shares are trading near their 52-week high is Kirin Holdings Company.

Congress is considering a bill that would cut taxes for small brewers. The bill’s supporters contend that lower taxes would enable breweries to expand production, add jobs, and attract more visitors.

Session IPA is popular, but opinions vary as to its definition. Draft magazine has published a scale which shows how much these IPAs vary in alcoholic strength and, especially, perceived bitterness.

A few years ago, Emily Hengstebeck and her friends partied together at beer festivals. Now employed by a brewery, she found herself on the other side of the table. She describes what it’s like.

More than 7,000 CraftBeer.com readers filled out a survey asking them what was their state’s favorite beer bar, and why they liked it. Without further ado, here are the winners in each state.

It’s still “Miller Time” in Chicago. According to BevSpot, Miller has a more than 8-percent market share in the Windy City, more than twice the brand’s market share nationwide.

Finally, a Virginia brewery will release a beer honoring Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown winner, at a birthday celebration this month. The horse was nicknamed “Big Red”; the beer is an imperial red India pale ale.

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.

The Friday Mash (Get Vaccinated! Edition)

Sixty years ago today, Elvis Presley received a polio vaccination on national television. That single event is credited with raising immunization levels in the United States from 0.6% to over 80% in just six months.

And now…The Mash!

We begin on the Formula 1 racing circuit, where in the early 1980s, Gordon Murray’s inventive pit crew rigged up a fuel system using pressurized beer kegs that could pump 30 gallons of fuel into a car in just three seconds.

A North Carolina judge was convicted of bribery after offering a deputy sheriff two cases of Bud Light in exchange for his wife’s text messages. The judge later upped his offer to $100.

Two employee-owned breweries, Harpoon Brewery and Odell Brewing Company, have collaborated to brew a beer called EHOP. It’s an oatmeal pale ale.

Vietnam’s government will sell off two state-owned breweries which have a 60-plus-percent market share. Vietnam, with 93 million people, is one of Asia’s top beer-drinking countries.

This week, Britain’s smallest pub—which has room for just three—is offering free beer, but there’s a catch: you can’t use your mobile phones inside the pub.

Indianapolis-based Central State Brewing has something for Harry Potter fans: a sour ale called “Polyjuice Potion”. Its ingredients include plums, elderberries, and “magical bits and bobbles”.

Finally, Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery is making two beers to be enjoyed with single-malt scotches from Highland Park, a distillery in the Orkney Islands. The beers are Rune, a golden oat ale; and Sköll, a roasty ale.

The Friday Mash (Cubs Win! Edition)

On this date in 1908, the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series. Managed by Frank Chance of “Tinker to Evers to Chance” fame, they beat the Detroit Tigers, 4 games to 1. Cubs fans are hoping their team can end their 108-year drought in this year’s playoffs.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Detroit, where Ludwig’s beloved Lions will sell $3.50 beers during Sunday’s game against the L.A. Rams. The way the Lions are playing, fans need a few to get them through the game.

D.G. Yuengling & Son is waging a last-ditch fight against the pending merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller. Yuengling argues that A-B is trying to keep it out of new markets.

German scientists have found that beer causes less liver damage than hard liquor. The reason? Hops may inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species, which can damage cells in the liver.

Ken Pagan, the Toronto-area man accused of throwing a beer can at a player during a baseball game, better have his lawyer warming up. A Canadian attorney discusses Pagan’s legal problems.

Two Copenhagen men have taken the idea of freeze-dried coffee and applied it to four of their craft beers. They’ve created instant versions of a coffee beer, a fruity IPA, a wild-yeast IPA, and a pilsner.

After a church in Canyon, Texas, ran an anti-alcohol ad in the local paper, an establishment called the Imperial Taproom offered a discount to customers who brought in a copy of the ad.

Finally, Fat Head’s Brewery had a very short reign as “Mid-Sized Brewing Company of the Year” at the Great American Beer Festival. Officials revoked the award after concluding that Fat Head’s, which has three locations, had been misclassified.

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.

Why Are So Many British Pubs Closing?

More than a quarter of Britain’s pubs that existed in 1980 have closed their doors. Last year alone, the country lost some 1,100 pubs. What’s behind this trend?

One factor is spiraling real-estate prices, which provides developers with an incentive to convert pubs into houses and apartments. In just the last five years, the average house price has risen by 50 percent.

Another factor was a 2007 law banning smoking in public places.

And then there’s cost. A pint of beer is five times as expensive in a pub as it is in a supermarket. The price discrepancy is due in part to Britain’s tax code, which imposes a higher levy on pub revenue than supermarket revenue; and to higher staff costs in the service industry than in retail.

But there’s some good news for pub lovers. It is now possible to list local pubs as “assets of community value”, which makes development more difficult. Parliament recently scrapped an inflation-linked excise tax on beer, providing some price relief for beer drinkers. Last but not least, Britain’s craft-brewing boom has resulted in a more diverse selection of beer at the “friendly local”.

Hello From Detroit!

For the first time in 31 years, Stroh’s beer will be brewed in Detroit. Pabst Brewing Company, which acquired the Stroh’s trademark and recipes, has contracted with Brew Detroit to make Stroh’s Bohemian-Style Beer. It’s a pilsner, based on a Stroh’s recipe from the 1880s. The beer will be released beginning August 22. At least initially, it will be distributed only in Michigan, which accounts for 25 percent of Stroh’s sales nationwide.

And if you’re in Detroit to try Stroh’s, Draft magazine has a rundown on the city’s top places to enjoy beer. Brew Detroit and several other breweries are on the list, along with a number of beer bars—including one, still under construction, that is made from shipping containers.

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