Industry News

The Friday Mash (Piggly Wiggly Edition)

One hundred years ago today, the first Piggly Wiggly grocery store opened in Memphis. It was the first true self-service grocery store, and the originator of such supermarket features as checkout stands, individual item price marking, and shopping carts.

And now…The Mash!

We begin at sea, where part of the sixth annual Brews by the Bay will be held tomorrow. Festival venues are Cape May, New Jersey; Lewes, Delaware; and the ferry connecting those two towns. It’s the only multi-state beer festival we’re aware of.

Edinburgh’s Innis & Gunn latest release is “Smoke & Mirrors”, whose ingredients are said to make the drinker more likely to tell the truth. The brewery has sent a bottle to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

Liquor laws left over from the repeal of Prohibition are a case study in how government regulations can stifle entrepreneurship, then leave entire regions playing catch-up when they’re finally relaxed.

What makes breweries’ flagship beers disappear? The reasons include waning brand loyalty, competition from newcomers, and consumers’ changing tastes.

Researchers at Indiana University found that that if you really want a beer and want it right now, the source of your craving may be a pea-sized structure deep inside the right side of your brain.

English illustrator Tom Ward has created a series of beer mats depicting fictional bars from the movies. The collection includes the Hog’s Head Pub from Harry Potter and The Prancing Pony from Lord of the Rings.

Finally, Suzanne Schalow and Kate Baker have found success with Craft Beer Cellar: small, selective stores with hundreds of beers and knowledgeable staff. Schalow and Baker have learned that “craft” and “local” don’t equal quality.

The Significance of Snoop Dogg v. Pabst

The legal battle between rapper Snoop Dogg and Pabst Brewing Company might sound like tabloid material, but the case is putting the spotlight on financing deals that have become increasingly common in the craft beer industry.

Snoop Dogg contends that his agreement to promote Colt .45 contained a “phantom equity” clause: if Colt .45 were sold, he’d become a 10-percent owner of the brand. Pabst, which owns Colt .45 and numerous other brands, was sold last year. Pabst’s new owners told the judge that the sale changed “control” of Colt .45, but not its ownership—which was, and still is, Pabst. The case will be tried before a jury this fall.

Marketwatch.com’s Jason Notte urges would-be buyers of craft breweries to do their homework or else face the possibility of a similar lawsuit. He points out that a number of craft breweries, some of them worth hundreds of millions of dollars, have legal obligations to meet in the event of a sale. For example, employees own a substantial number of shares of New Belgium Brewing Company, whose estimated valuation well over $1 billion. If New Belgium is ever sold, its employees are in line for a big payday.

At least New Belgium’s ownership structure is straightforward. That isn’t the case of some other craft breweries, which are part of larger holding companies, controlled by private equity funds, or both. If those breweries have outstanding agreements like the Snoop Dogg contract, there are tricky questions as to what transactions would trigger the obligation to pay—and who actually has to write the check—after a sale occurs.

Which brings us back to Snoop Dogg. Notte observes, “Snoop’s case against Pabst could set a precedent for how breweries in those umbrella portfolios are treated, and how they can treat their employees, investors and contractors, in the future.”

The Friday Mash (Great Fire of London Edition)

Three hundred and fifty years ago today, the Great Fire of London broke out. The blaze, famously described in the diaries of Samuel Pepys destroyed most of the city’s buildings, including St. Paul’s Cathedral and countless pubs.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Winnipeg, where a man dressed as a hockey goalie broke into a store and made off with some beer. It wasn’t even Canadian-brewed beer; he stole Budweiser. Speaking of the King of Beer, a man wearing a Batman costume swiped two 18-packs of Bud from an Upstate New York store.

Alan McLeod, the keeper of A Good Beer Blog, found a 200-year-old classified ad for a homebrewing machine that made beer without mashing. That sounds too good to be true, and probably is.

According to a poll of more than 100 college basketball coaches, Bob Huggins of West Virginia is the coach they’d most like to have a beer with. University of Kansas coach Bill Self finished second.

Miller Genuine Draft is a dying brand. A Milwaukee Record journalist visited a dozen bars in the city. Nine didn’t carry MGD; one bartender laughed at him, and another was offended that he even asked for it.

Breweries in Portland, Maine, are asking customers to rank the beers they’ve been served. It’s their effort to promote ranked-choice voting, aka instant-runoff, which will be on the November ballot.

Stephen Wilmot of the Wall Street Journal warns that the recent slowdown in craft beer’s growth won’t help the big breweries. One major reason is that wine and spirits—bourbon in particular—are growing even faster than craft.

Finally, a British brewery is celebrating the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl’s birth with a beer brewed using yeasts scraped off of Dahl’s armchair. The beer will be served at the premiere of a stage adaptation of Dahl’s The Twits.

Devil’s Backbone Catches Hell

On Saturday, the fifth annual Virginia Craft Brewer’s Festival will take place at Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company amid controversy.

Devil’s Backbone is being acquired by Anheuser-Busch InBev. This means it will no longer qualify as a “craft brewery” making it ineligible to compete in the Virginia Craft Beer Cup, even though its Schwarzbier is a three-time Best of Show winner. In fact, this year’s awards ceremony was pulled from the festival, and will take place at a different venue.

The A-B deal also means that Devil’s Backbone will no longer host the Virginia Craft Brewer’s Festival. The state’s Craft Brewers Guild has decided to stage the 2017 event at a location to be determined. Meanwhile, Devil’s Backbone will host a new event as part of next year’s calendar of festivals and parties. The brewery says that it won’t conflict with the Craft Brewer’s Festival.

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.

Big Wins for Small Brewers

As expected, the U.S. Justice Department has approved the merger between Anheuser-Busch InBev and SAB Miller. However, MarketWatch.com’s Jason Notte reports that the Brewers Association, which represents craft brewers, won major concessions from the government:

  • A-B, which sells 10 percent of beer through company-owned distributors, can’t acquire any more distributors.
  • A-B  can’t require independent distributors to drop competing brands, and can’t offer incentives that would reward distributors for giving A-B brands preferential.
  • Any future craft brewery acquisitions by A-B must first receive Justice Department approval.

Notte attributes the craft brewers’ win to the Brewers Association’s paying more attention to government relations. The BA has hired a full-time lobbyist in Washington; and, earlier this year, it flew craft brewery executives to the capital to ask members of Congress for tax relief.

According to Notte, state capitals will become the next battleground, now that states–even thouse as small as North Dakota–have enough craft brewers to form a trade association. Some of the issues these associations will raise include bars selling tap handles to the highest bidders, supermarkets putting distributors in charge of choosing their inventory, and limits on the number of liquor licenses.

Will Craft Lager Be Mega-Brewers’ Next Headache?

Unless you live in New York or southern California, you’ve probably never heard of House Beer. But House founder Brendan Sindell and his business partner have big plans for their beer. Really big plans. They want to beat Anheuser-Busch and SABMiller, and Coors at their own game: making lager in large quantities. And they plan to do so by making a better-tasting lager.

Despite craft beer’s rise in popularity, the overwhelming majority of beer sold in the U.S. is still lager. Some craft breweries, such as Sierra Nevada, have added a lager to their lineup, but most of their product is ales, India pale ale in particular.

House’s business model is different from that of craft brewers. It will offer just one beer, its lager. Its current production in 8,000 barrels a year, but it plans to expand rapidly, targeting customers in metropolitan areas starting with Chicago and Austin.

A panel of beer enthusiasts at CNBC tasted House beer, and found that it was better than the leading domestic and imported lagers. “[T]here’s none of the sour bite that accompanies a northern European lagers or pilsners. House is a lager beer that’s equal parts tasty and quenching without any of the flavor drawbacks that accompany mega-lager-brewers. It’s not as bitter or watered-down as some mega-brands are.”

The Friday Mash (PG-13 Edition)

On this day in 1984, the Motion Picture Association of America added “PG-13” to its film rating system. The new rating was created after parents and advocacy groups complained about the amount of violence in some PG-rated films.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in South Carolina, where a 20-year-old law forbids breweries to donate beer to non-profit organizations. This law—which state liquor agents are aggressively enforcing—effectively prevents small breweries from taking part in festivals.

In Las Vegas, Pub 365 plans to offer a rotating selection of 365 craft beers, including beer cocktails and a rare beer menu called the Unicorn List. Seasonals will make up one-fifth of the selection.

Market Watch’s Jason Notte writes that craft breweries are resorting to a tactic they once despised: establishing sub-brands for beers that may not fit the character of the brewery’s core business.

Starting next year, beer bikes will be banned from Amsterdam’s city center. Locals complained that the bikes, packed with bachelor partiers, have turned downtown into a drunken theme park.

The Washington Post’s Fritz Hahn has noticed a trend: the 16-ounce shaker pint is giving way to smaller glassware. It’s makes craft beer appear cheape, and it’s a more responsible way to serve high-gravity styles.

Thieves made off with two refrigerated trailers packed with 78,500 bottles of SweetWater Brewing Company’s beer. Police recovered some of the beer in a nearby warehouse—which, ironically, was a shooting location for the 1977 bootleg beer classic, Smokey and the Bandit.

Finally, Untappd, Inc., now offers “Untapped For Business”, which allows retailers to publish beer lists, share their menus with consumers, and notify customers that rare or sought-after beers are going to appear on store shelves.

The Friday Mash (Apple II Edition)

On this day in 1977, the Apple II, one of the first personal computers, went on sale. This PC, whose original list price was more than $5,000 in 2016 dollars, remained in production until 1981.

And now…The Mash!

Serious Eats magazine is hosting the Great American Beer Brawl. Visitors to the website are invited to vote for one of seven cites—or cast a write-in vote for a city not nominated by the magazine staff.

If you’re looking for a new summer beer, or an alternative to ubiquitous hoppy IPAs, give saison a try. The style pairs well with food; and it’s complimented by summer flavors like citrus, arugula, and fresh herbs.

Global Beverage has released three high-gravity beers in honor of the video game Mortal Kombat X: Sub-Zero Imperial IPA, Raiden Imperial Saison, and Scorpion Imperial Stout.

Wal-Mart has joined the craft beer party. A brewery in New York State is contract-brewing four private-label beers for the giant retailer. They’re available in nearly half of Wal-Mart’s stores.

Grow Pittsburgh is planting hop rhizomes in the city’s vacant lots. The hops will be harvested in the fall and used to make a local beer. Part of the proceeds from the beer will be donated to the community.

The Belgian Brewers’ Association has released a set of 60 beer emojis in order to “move the classic beer mug aside” for iOS and Android users. They’re downloadable on iTunes and Google Play.

Finally, Jack Horner, the paleontologist who inspired the Jurassic Park film series, credits the Rainier Brewing Company for advancing his work with dinosaurs. In 1979, the brewery donated 100 cases of Rainier beer to Horner and his research team.

The Friday Mash (T and A* Edition)

* No, it’s not what you think. Get your minds out of the gutter!

On this day in 1927 the Ford Motor Company ended production of the Model T automobile, which sold 16.5 million models beginning in 1909. Production of its successor, the Model A, began five months later.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Philadelphia, whose city parks will become venues for “pop-up” beer festivals this summer. “Parks on Tap” will send beer and food trucks to the parks; there will also be live music and games.

Anheuser-Busch InBev is introducing a 100-plus-year-old Mexican beer, Estrella Jasilico, to the U.S. market to compete with Corona. Mexican beer imports to the U.S. rose by more than 14 percent.

Whale vomit is the latest icky ingredient in beer. Australia’s Robe Town Brewery used it to make Moby Dick Ambergris Ale. Medieval doctors used ambergris; today, it’s an ingredient in perfume.

Before the Cuban Revolution, La Tropical was the country’s oldest beer. Miami businessman Manny Portuondo plans to bring the brand back to life, this time on the other side of the Florida Straits.

Carnival Cruise Lines’ biggest ship, Carnival Vista, is the first cruise ship to have an on-board brewery. Brewmaster Colin Presby sat down with USA Today to talk about what he’s serving.

The Phillips Brewery in British Columbia has responded to drones by recruiting bald eagles to drop-deliver beer. Budweiser executives must be asking themselves, “Why didn’t we think of this?”

Finally, chemists at the Complutense University of Madrid have created an app that can tell you when a beer has too much of a “stale” flavor. The disk and app look for furfunal, a polymer that imparts a cardboard taste to over-aged beer.

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