March 2011

The Friday Mash (Knuckleball Edition)

On this day in 1939, Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro was born. Niekro didn’t invent the knuckleball, but was one of the best pitchers ever to throw one. He won 318 games (including a record 121 after the age of 40), struck out 3,342 batters, and compiled an ERA of 3.35. Toast-worthy statistics indeed.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in the archives, where a 1988 edition of Celebrator magazine described Schaff-Brau Feuerfest Edel Bier as The most expensive beer in the world. The price? Five bucks. (Hat tip: Andy Crouch of BeerScribe.com.)

La Crosse, Wisconsin-based City Brewing Company is about to buy the Memphis brewery that made Schlitz, Stroh’s, and Coors before making non-alcoholic beverages. City Brewing is at capacity in both La Crosse and Latrobe, Pennsylvania, and needs more capacity.

Flying Dog Ales has filed suit against the Michigan Liquor Control Commission over its decision to ban the sale of Raging Bitch IPA on account of profanity on the label. The brewery argues that the commission’s decision violates its First Amendment rights.

All for one and one for all at the Riverwest Public House in Milwaukee. It’s the city’s first co-op bar.

Poland’s beer is underappreciated, according to Mattie Bamman of EuropeUpClose.com. She offers some recommendations, along with tips on how to pronounce Polish brand names. Maryanne, who’s Polish American, can’t understand why people have problems with those names.

Finally, we’re not sure how they managed this, but St. Arnoldus Brewing Company in Lake Mendota, Wisconsin, will hold a release party this evening for the first-ever beer brewed without yeast.

Greg Hall Moves On

The Internet has been–pun intended–all atwitter over Goose Island Brewing Company’s acquisition by Anheuser-Busch, and most of the commenters have taken a dim view of what’s happening. Time Out Chicago located Goose Island’s brewer, Greg Hall, who explained why the deal is good for the brewery and for himself.

Now Hall is looking forward to a midlife career change. He told Time Out: “I’ve already done the beer stuff. I’ve created a new style in bourbon stout, I’ve brought wild fermentation beers to a food community and the masses, and there’s gotta be at least a dozen Goose brewers working as head brewers around the country and I’m terrifically proud of that. Now it’s time for something else.”

May It Please the Court…

As you probably know, Denver’s Wynkoop Brewing Company hosts an annual Beerdrinker of the Year competition. From the many entries submitted, the brewery chooses three finalists whom it flies out to Denver to appear before a panel of judges. These guys–and gals–dress the part, wearing black robes and even wigs, befitting the seriousness of these proceedings.

After due deliberation, Wynkoop’s panel of judges rendered a verdict in favor of Phil Farrell of Cumming, Georgia. It certainly helped his cause that he delivered one hell of a closing argument. Jack Curtin has posted a transcript (with permission, of course), on his blog, Jack Curtin’s Liquid Diet. In his argument, Farrell explained how to ascend to the highest level of beer geekdom. And in the process, he offered this unique festival tip:

When in doubt, wear home colors on the road and road colors at home. At your home festival (where everyone knows your name), feel free to show off all the great places you’ve been over your Beer Career by wearing shirts, hats, coats, etc from exotic places. It’s fun to show off. On the road, your local BFFs (Brewer Friends Forever) would appreciate the added publicity of their logos visible to festival attendees.

I think we’ll do that for the next festival.

Writers Pay Homage to The Beer Hunter

Today would have been the 69th birthday of Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter. Members of the beer community will remember him in many different ways, one of them being Issue Number 139 of The Brewing History Society Journal. The issue is not available online (for the time being, you’ll have to go to England and buy a paper copy), but the society has posted the introduction by Pete Brown on its website. Brown sums up Jackson’s legacy in these words:

In the end, rather than making us throw in the towel and say ‘What’s the point?’ Michael’s writing inspires us to try harder. We can never match what he did, never have anything like the same impact, but we can explore and develop the themes he created.

The contributors to Issue Number 139 are an all-star group: Jeff Evans, Martyn Cornell, Tim Webb, Zak Avery, Carolyn Smagalski, John Richards, John Keeling, and Mark Dredge.

“Proud of British Beer”

Not to be outdone by their Yankee cousins, Britain’s Society of Independent Brewers has produced a short film about their country’s craft beer culture. It features brewers, both large and small, hop and barley growers, maltsters and industry suppliers. It’s worth a look, especially if you’re a Yank.

Don’t forget the rules: The video is free, but you have to bring your own food and beverage:

Proud of British Beer from Society of Independent Brewers on Vimeo.

What’s a Nanobrewery?

We’ve seen quite a few stories about microbreweries going over the 15,000-barrel mark which, until recently, was the Brewers Association’s ceiling for a micro. But we’re also seeing a proliferation of tiny microbreweries. Really tiny ones, which are called nanobreweries.

The BA hasn’t come up with a definition of a nanobrewery, but author Lew Bryson has taken a stab. In the latest edition of Pennsylvania Breweries, Bryson defines a nano as “a really tiny production brewery… I’ve set my own arbitrary top limit of a 100-gallon brew size, about 3 barrels.” Bryson also notes that almost all nanos are one- or two-person operations that are not their owner’s primary employment.

Being so small, these breweries fly under the proverbial radar. However, Bob Batz, Jr. of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has tracked down several nanos in Pennsylvania. He’s also located a nanobrewer in San Diego who tracks other nanos on his blog.

The Friday Mash (Free State Edition)

Today is Maryland Day, the 377th anniversary of the landing of settlers at St. Clement’s Island in the Province of Maryland. It acquired the nickname “The Free State” in 1923 after legislators refused to pass a state law enforcing national prohibition. Ludwig plans to celebrate with a Flying Dog Gonzo Imperial Porter, which is brewed in Frederick, Maryland.

And now…The Mash!

One of today’s top brewing trends is collaboration beers, and some of the biggest breweries have joined forces to produce limited-edition, high-end beers.

The roster of collaborators includes Three Floyds Brewing Company and Sun King Brewing Company, whose ale is part of a lobbying effort in Indiana. State law bars breweries making over 20,000 barrels a year from operating a taproom, and Three Floyds is about to go over the limit–unless it’s changed.

Lagunitas Brewing Company, which has maxed out its 100,000 barrel capacity, is about to undergo a big expansion that will up its capacity to about 600,000 barrels. That’s how much number-two craft brewer Sierra Nevada currently makes.

Idaho’s Grand Teton Brewing Company is the latest to brew a beer made entirely from in-state ingredients. Jon Abernathy of The Hop Press names a few other “strictly local” breweries.

What’s the best beer bar in the world? According to Massachusetts-based newspaper reporter Norman Miller, it’s Ebenezer’s Pub in Lovell, Maine. Its sister establishment in Brunswick has a name that caught Ludwig’s attention: The Lion’s Pride.

Here’s more evidence that craft beer is going mainstream. The associate editor of The Atlantic interviewed Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione. Before you read it, can you guess what three people Sam would put in the Beer Hall of Fame?

Finally, some claim that St. Benno, the patron saint of Munich, is also the patron saint of bock beer. Not so fast, says About.com’s Bryce Eddings, who did some research and found no connection between Benno and bock.

Seen in Our Neighborhood


A brewpub under construction in our neighborhood? Nah, just a sign with letters missing.

Draft Magazine Debunks Cellaring Myths

Sooner or later, you’re going to bring home a few bottles of beer to put away for that “special occasion.” And when you do, you’ll probably wonder what will happen to your beer while it sits in your cellar. To alleviate your concerns, Draft magazine’s Beer Editor invited “Dr.” Bill Sysak to answer these five questions:

  • Can you “age out” all of a beer’s off flavors?
  • Is it possible to speed up the aging process?
  • Does cellaring work for non-bottle-conditioned beers?
  • Do you really have to wait a year for cellaring to make a difference?
  • Should you cellar beers weaker than 6% ABV?
  • The good doctor’s answers will debunk the cellaring myths you’ve heard. And, perhaps, encourage you to buy a few more bottles to put away for that “special occasion.”

    Going Rogue

    The anniversary issue of Beer Connoisseur contains a profile of John Maier, the brewer at Rogue Ales. Lisa Morrison, who wrote the story, calls Maier one of brewing’s patriarchs, and goes on to explain why. Maier got into homebrewing in the early 1980s, and discovered that he was quite good at it. Good enough to be offered a job at Alaskan Brewing, where he and owner Geoff Larson created Alaskan Smoked Porter. Maier came to Oregon after Rogue’s owner needed a brewer for his new second location in Newport. He’s been there ever since.

    What makes this story so wonderful is the amount of brewing history Morrison packs into the story. Read it and learn the origin of Dead Guy Ale, what were Rogue’s three original beers, and why the brewery moved from Ashland to Newport.

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