May 2010

L.A. Times Article on “Beervana”

Mary Engel is a beer lover who just went to Nirvana. Oops, we mean Beervana. Her new hometown is Portland, Oregon, and her article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times travel section celebrates the city’s craft beer culture

You probably know that Portland has more breweries than Munich, and that its beer has become a major tourist attraction. But get this: according to a government study, microbrewed beer draws more visitors to Oregon than the state’s highly-regarded wineries.

Why do microbrews get a 12-percent market share–four times the national average–in Oregon? Here’s Engel’s take:

Portlanders are passionate about fresh, local food, whether vegetables, cheese or beer made from just-picked hops. Fueling Oregon beer mania is the abundance and variety of hops planted here. Beer’s other key ingredients are plentiful as well: top-quality water, barley for making malt and a laboratory that is one of the nation’s two main producers of brewer’s yeast.

Maryanne and Paul went to Portland a year and a half ago, and that trip was worth not just one but two articles in All About Beer magazine. They can’t wait to go back.

Thailand’s “Beer Bottle Temple”

Drinking alcohol is inconsistent with the Buddhist belief system, but that didn’t stop a group of monks in Thailand from building an entire temple out of used beer bottles.

The construction project began in 1984, when the monks started gathering bottles. The project not only attracted tourists, but also resulted in a flood of donations. A million and a half green Heineken and brown Chang bottles later, the “Beer Bottle Temple” became a reality.

The Daily Green, which ran the story about this temple, said that the interior “draws every last bit of light in and reflects it throughout, creating a warm glow unmatched by electrical lighting. Imagine how a stained-glass church looks–now imagine the incandescence of an entire building arising out of glass, with reams of sunlight stretching from wall to wall.”

And the monks’ work continues. They’re still collecting bottles, which they plan to use to build more shelters and temples.

Bah, Humbug!

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario rejected the label for Samichlaus beer because “Samichlaus” means Santa Claus in English–and thus the label violates an obscure rule against advertising beer to children. The commission took action after receiving–here we go again–a “single complaint from a private person.”

Some accuse the commission of being a Scrooge. The importer of Samichlaus points out that the figure depicted on the label looks more like an old fisherman than the Jolly Old Elf. Some observers also note that Ontario has approved advertising featuring “cute giraffes, cartoon trucks, little birds and colourful hobgoblins.”

The Friday Mash (Buddy Poppy Edition)

When we say “Memorial Day,” what comes to mind? That first trip up north. Firing up the grill. The Indy 500 and the NBA playoffs. And, of course, plenty of beer.

But wait. On our last beer run, we were reminded why Americans celebrate Memorial Day. A frail but proud World War II veteran was selling “buddy poppies” outside the store. We’re pleased to report that he had plenty of takers.

And now…The Mash!

Stephen Rich, who blogs at Definitive Ale, explains why we say “Cheers” and clink glasses before taking a drink.

The Pabst Brewing Company has been sold. The new owner is C. Dean Metropoulos, a billionaire who has turned around such brands as Duncan Hines, Armour, and Jiffy Pop.

The owner of three pubs in Victoria, British Columbia, has commissioned the Phillips Brewery to brew an ale honoring poet Robert W. Service.

Pete Brown treats us to video of the Guv’nor, Brian Blessed, along with his impressions from a tour of the Greene King brewery.

Evan Rail, the author of The Good Beer Guide: Prague and the Czech Republic, has re-launched his Beer Culture blog. He’s an engaging writer, so his blog ought to be worth a visit.

Finally, from the Sticker Shock Department. According to The Mirror, the Coach and Horses in London’s West End serves the most expensive pub beer in the UK: a pint of Leffe blonde, which will set you back £5.80.

Beer Rant of the Year (And It’s Only May)

Ludwig, Maryanne, and Paul appreciate a good rant. Actually, they savor them. One of the best they’ve run into in quite some time comes courtesy of Jay Brooks, the keeper of the Brookston Beer Bulletin. Brooks let fly at the authors of the latest diet book, Eat This, Not That, after they wandered out beyond their depth and offered some addle-headed beer recommendations.

Last year, the authors named Sierra Nevada Stout their worst beer. This year, they handed out that distinction to another Sierra Nevada product, Bigfoot Ale. Why? Two reasons: calories and carbs. Period. And that got Brooks off and running. After ticking off a list of well-regarded craft beers with an even higher caloric content, he lays waste to the authors’ main argument:

What’s the one thing all of those beers have in common, including Bigfoot? You don’t drink them the same way you do the [mass-market] beers that they compare them to….You can’t really compare them because they’re not made for the same purpose or use. It’s apples and oranges while the Eat This, Not That authors can only see beer as one interchangeable commodity. To them, all beer is the same, only the calories change.

He’s not finished. Not by a long shot:

That so many people are duped into believing the sacrifice to drink light beer is worth it for their health continues to amaze me and may be one of the greatest lies ever perpetrated my marketing.

Wait. There’s more:

Calorie or carbohydrate-counting may be fine for some people (though I can’t for the life of me come up with a reason why) but applying it to beer is utterly ridiculous and without merit. If following their advice is what passes for healthy living, I’m happy to die sooner having lived a fuller, more enjoyable life. Life’s just too short to drink low-calorie beer.

Amen, brother.

Still More Festival News

Because without festivals, there wouldn’t be a Beer Festival Calendar:

The Brewers Guild of Indiana has chosen its replicale for this summer’s Microbrew Festival. It’s a Bavarian Dunkel/Schwarzbier.

Stephen Rich, who blogs at Definitive Ale, says that if you’re going to catch one beer festival in Canada, it should be Mondial de la Biere, which takes place June 2-6 in Montreal.

Bryan Kolesar of The Brew Lounge has a report, with plenty of photos, on his visit to the Brandywine Valley Craft Brewers’ Festival, held earlier this month.

The Illiana Mayfest earned thumbs-up from festival-goers. Seventeen breweries from Chicagoland and northern Indiana took part in this inaugural.

On the “Tavern Beer Trail” in Oshkosh

Fancy a tavern crawl? A group of six beer lovers in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, regularly take time out to “ride the tavern beer trail”, visiting three taverns for an evening dinner and brews.

These beer trail riders were, in turn, inspired by Lee Reiherzer, who started a blog about Oshkosh’s rich brewing history. One name of note uncovered by Reiherzer is Theodore Mack, the first African American brewery owner in American history. Mack’s People’s Brewery operated from the 1930s to the 1950s, and that is the kind of information that might help you in a pub quiz.

Countdown to Philly Beer Week

Philly Beer Week gets underway on June 4 and Don Russell, a/k/a Joe Sixpack, says he’s already logged close to 500 events. And by his count, 88 brewers–including Jim Koch, Adam Avery, Tomme Arthur, Rob Tod, and Sam Calagione–are scheduled to put in an appearance. One Philly pub, the City Tap Room, has boosted its tap-handle count to 60 in anticipation of Beer Week; and another, the Memphis Taproom, will observe No Repeat Week, with more than a hundred different kegs of beer.

Update. Stop the presses! Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer has run across a Philly Beer Week press release which puts the number of events at 865. One that grabbed his attention is The Forum of the Gods, featuring the aforementioned Jim Koch (Boston Beer Company), Phil Markowski (Southampton Publick House), Tom Kehoe (Yards Brewing), and Wendy Yeungling (D.G. Yeungling & Son), with Joe Sixpack moderating.

Beer Hunting in Vietnam

Andy Crouch, the Beer Scribe, and his brother, Myk, are back from a round-the-world trip during which, we gather, many beers were consumed. Andy’s latest blog entries introduce us to Vietnam’s beer culture. He’s embedded plenty of video, much of it starring the local brews, typically light- and dark-colored lagers that earned generally good marks.

Their journey began in Saigon (many locals still refuse to call it “Ho Chi Minh City”), where they visited an outpost of the Hoa Vien brewpub chain as well as the Lion Brewery–a choice that Ludwig applauds.

Part Two took place in the small town of Hoi An, where they quaffed one of the local brands at the Sleepy Gecko pub.

The final installment found the brothers in Hanoi where, at one establishment, all the lights were out and the hostess had to wake up from her nap to show them to a table.

Update on Palestine’s Taybeh Brewery

Last October, we linked to a British newspaper story about the West Bank’s Taybeh Brewery. This week, Roger Cohen of the New York Times paid a visit to the brewery and wrote an op-ed about it. Your local micro’s start-up problems are–pun intended–small beer compared to Taybeh’s:

The second intifada of 2000 cut Taybeh staff from 15 to zero by 2002. Hops, yeast and barley no longer reached them from the port of Ashdod. Sales in Israel collapsed. Jordan, to the east, became inaccessible. Soon the Israeli wall-fence started going up, cutting off Jerusalem to the west. Hamas in Gaza meant an end to sales of alcohol there.

Cohen’s op-ed also contains a link to video taken in the West Bank.

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