February 2011

Will Fast for Beer

Legend has it that during Lent, Munich’s Paulaner monks fasted by drawing all of their nourishment from doppelbock. This sounds like an 18th century version of Supersize Me, except that the monks partook of a better product.

How tough was such a diet? Beer blogger J. Wilson intends to find out. He’s teamed up with Eric Sorensen, head brewer at Rock Bottom-Des Moines, to collaborate on a commercial-scale batch of his bock recipe. It’s called Illuminator Doppelbock, and checks in at 6.67% alcohol by volume and 288 calories per 12-ounce serving.

Wilson’s beer-only fast begins on Ash Wednesday, March 9, and runs through Holy Saturday, April 23. To get him through the penitential season, Wilson will call on the services of a doctor and a spiritual advisor. And, hopefully, a designated driver.

1,701 Breweries…and Counting!

According to the Paul Gatza of the Brewers Association, there are 1,701 operating breweries in the United States, a nine-percent increase over a year ago. The nation’s brewery count is higher today than in any year since 1905. Gatza adds that there is a much wider variety of beer styles now than there was a century ago, and believes that the quality of today’s beer is better as well.

American Craft Beer Week

Circle May 16 through 22 on your calendar. Those are the dates for the sixth, and biggest-ever, American Craft Beer Week. The event, described as “The Mother of All Beer Weeks,” provides a platform for craft breweries to salute their supporters and form a connection with their communities. Last year’s ACBW attracted 341 breweries that hosted 621 events at multiple retailers in 45 states, and the Brewers Association expects an even bigger celebration this year.

Check out the lineup of events on the ABCW website.

And check out the Brewers Association’s video. It’s free, but you have to provide your own beer and snacks.


The Friday Mash (Float Like a Butterfly Edition)

On this day in 1964, 22-year-old boxer Cassius Clay scored a victory by TKO over heavyweight champion Sonny Liston. Clay, who later that year changed his name to Muhammad Ali, became one of the greatest legends in the history of sports–and one of the few to be recognized the world over.

Being a devout Muslim, Ali abstains from alcohol. However, Ludwig has granted you permission to toast “The Greatest” with a brew.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Boulder, Colorado, where the local school district offers a course in beer appreciation. It’s led by a veteran of Colorado’s craft beer industry.

Spring training is around the corner, and writer Charlie Vascellaro tells you where to find good beer near Cactus League ballparks. He also explains why baseball is responsible for Bell’s beer’s availabIlity in the Grand Canyon State.

The Harp, a pub located in Covent Garden, London, was named CAMRA’s National Pub of the Year.

Lights, camera, action! Draft magazine chooses ten actors who could play leading brewers.

Green beer? Not the kind served on St. Patrick’s Day, but the kind made in eco-friendly breweries in Calgary, Alberta.

Now that craft beer is making inroads in Ireland, can proper beer festivals be far behind? The Dublin-based Beer Nut reports on the inaugural Winter & Cask Ale Festival, held earlier this month in Cork.

Finally, if you’re going to Mardi Gras, Jeremy Labadie of BestOfNewOrleans.com has a long list of establishments that serve good beer in the Crescent City.

Beer Cities: The Magnificent Seven

Esquire magazine weighs in with its choice of America’s seven best beer cities. Like many other such lists, this one is guaranteed to stir up controversy. The magazine’s picks are Chicago, Denver, New York, Philadelphia, Portland (OR), St. Louis, and San Diego. Which leaves out an awful lot of cities, including these: Asheville, Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington.

Chicago: “City on the Drink”

Chicago is famous for both its politics and its bar culture. As you might expect, the two are connected, but hold that thought for a moment.

Bill Savage, a professor at Northwestern University, who also serves as Thursday night bartender at Cunneen’s on Devon, has written a book entitled “City On The Drink: Work, Ethnicity, And Bar Culture In Chicago.” Bryan Simpson of The A.V. Club sat down with Professor Savage, who explained that before Prohibition, thousands of immigrants worked in factories, steel mills, or the stockyards. After work, they went to bars populated by their ethnic group; the bar was “part of the process of assimilation and acculturation, but also of maintaining an ethnic immigrant identity.”

Nowadays, however, taverns have fallen out of favor with city officials, who favor establishments that serve food over those who specialize in alcohol. Which brings us back to the Lager Beer Riots of 1855. Mayor Levi Boone, who was elected on an anti-immigrant platform, jacked up the price of a liquor license by 500 percent and enforced a city ordinance against drinking on Sundays. The result was a confrontation between the police and beer-loving German and Irish immigrants. That was followed by political organizing, which resulted in Mayor Boone’s defeat and, more importantly, the beginning of political activism along ethnic lines in the Windy City.

An Abandoned Brewery Tour?

Being from the Detroit area, we’re all too familiar with abandoned buildings, factories in particular. In fact, some consider these derelict structures an art form. We mention this because NileGuide.com’s Rachel Greenberg recently contributed an article (with photos) about seven abandoned breweries that are “open” for exploration.

The seven are Dixie Brewing, New Orleans; Stella Artois, Leuven, Belgium; Eylenbosch, Schepdaal, Belgium; Barenquell-Brauerei, Berlin; Hamm’s, St. Paul; Iron City, Pittsburgh; and Pfeiffer (where else?), Detroit.

Needless to say, they don’t offer guided tours, let alone beer samples. Still, you should make arrangements ahead of time. These breweries are private property, and a visit could prove hazardous.

Michigan: The Great Beer State

For years, Michigan has suffered from a terrible economy, with high unemployment and a list of bankruptcies headed by General Motors. Despite all that, the craft brewing industry keeps growing. The Great Lake State now ranks fifth nationally in the number of breweries, with more than 80 in operation and several more about to open. Craft beer has found its way into bars and grocery stores, and distributors have become more willing to handle it.

Many of the leading craft breweries have ambitious expansion plans. Perhaps the most impressive story of all is that of Grand Rapids’ Founders Brewing Company. When we visited the brewery in 2005 for our Michigan Breweries book, its production was in the range of 4,000 barrels a year. This year, Founders expects to produce more than times that amount; and is facility could someday be turning out 150,000 barrels a year–a few thousand shy of the Bell’s Brewery, which has ranked number one in production for many years.

Craft beer accounts for 4 percent of the Michigan market, a considerably smaller market share than in California, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, the only four states ahead of it in the number of breweries. Which means there’s plenty of room for more breweries and further expansion.

Does 8 Equal 5? Discuss.

The way the Oakland A’s have been playing, fans need a couple of large beers to get them through the game. But there’s a problem: the $8 large cup of beer sold at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum holds only slightly more beer than the $5 cup. See for yourself:

Getting #slizzerd

During the last few days, we’ve seen a number of Twitter tweets with the hashtag #gettngslizzerd, and wondered what that was all about. Here’s the story: A woman who handles social media for the Red Cross mistakenly tweeted this on her work account: “Ryan found two more 4 bottle packs of Dogfish Head’s Midas Touch beer…when we drink we do it right #gettngslizzerd.”

What could have been a major embarrassment turned into great publicity for both the Red Cross and Dogfish Head. The brewery re-tweeted the #gettngslizzerd tweet to its followers, some of whom directed donations to the Red Cross; bars offered to buy pints of Dogfish for customers who could show they’d donated blood; and HootSuite, which the Red Cross twitterer had used to send out her tweet, pledged a donation of its own.

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