April 2011

Required Reading for Festival Fans

Don’t let $4-a-gallon gas get you down: it’s time to start planning your summer beer travels. To get you started, Esquire magazine has asked Evan Benn to choose nine of America’s best beer festivals. The Great American Beer Festival is an obvious choice, but some of his other picks might surprise you. And to keep them a surprise, we won’t reveal them. You’ll have to look at the slideshow.

The Friday Mash (Mike Royko Edition)

Fourteen years ago today, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Mike Royko died of a brain aneurysm. Royko, who grew up in Chicago, began his career covering that city’s colorful politicians. He was also fond of the Cubs, 16-inch softball, and having a few beers at the Billy Goat Tavern.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Tacoma, Washington, where a bar has stopped holding goldfish races after the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals complained that drunken customers impaled swallowed the fish.

France’s Interior Ministry has banned riot police from drinking alcohol with their meal. Other government employees can still have beer, wine, or cider with their lunch.

In Fort Collins, Colorado, nine local brewers joined forces and created a beer to celebrate American Craft Beer with. The beer, which will debut May 16, will check in at about 6 percent ABV

John Miller of the Wall Street Journal wasn’t impressed with the non-alcoholic version of Hoegaarden, describing it as “akin to a watered-down lemon Fanta.” Ouch.

Don’t expect to find Taedonggang beer from Pyongyang, North Korea, on the tap list at your friendly local. Earlier this month, President Obama issued an executive order that further restricts the entry of North Korean goods into the United States.

Attention ladies! Ashley Rouston, the Beer Wench, has compiled a list (with photos) of the 20 most eligible bachelors of craft beer. Topping the list was Noah Regnery, the head brewer at Pizza Port Brewing Company.

Finally, if you’ve been invited to tomorrow’s royal wedding, don’t expect to find beer at the reception. The royal family has deemed it inappropriate for such a prestigious occasion. We can only imagine what Slats Grobnik, the character created by Mike Royko, would say about that.

New Yorkers, Rejoice!

Good news for beer drinkers planning a visit to New York City. Beer halls are making a comeback despite land scarcity and a still-struggling economy. Good news for commuters, too. Soon you’ll be able to buy a growler of local beer at Grand Central Terminal. And good news for the nostalgic. Drinks America has launched the Rheingold Retro Can. No word on whether the company plans to revive the Miss Rheingold competition.

“The Bus Came By and I Got On”

Beer and oysters make for a classic pairing, and 50 lucky people from the Portland, Oregon, area rode the Oyster Bus to the Hama Hama Oyster Company in Lilliwap, Washington. The three-hour ride to and from Lilliwap was made bearable by music, an offbeat version of “Let’s Make a Deal,” and plenty of local microbrewed beer. (Did we mention that the trip started at 9 am? Lisa Morrison, who went on the trip and lived to write about it, was careful to point that out.) By the way, she lifted the headline quote from a Grateful Dead song.

Craft Beer South of the Border

American craft brewers face daunting challenges, but they’re–pardon the pun–small beer compared to those facing their Mexican counterparts. To begin with, two huge brewing companies, Grupo Modelo and Cuauhtemoc Moctezuma, have a stranglehold on the nation’s beer market. Worse yet, many of the nation’s bars and restaurants are contractually obligated to pour one company’s beer in exchange for equipment and discounts. (Those practices, which were commonplace a century ago in this country, were outlawed after the repeal of Prohibition.)

Nevertheless, craft beer is gaining a toehold in Mexico’s $15 billion beer market. The country’s microbrewers association has 16 members; that’s not many for a country of 110 million, but it’s a start. Mexicans are increasingly willing to adopt foreign trends. And young fans are using social media to promote craft beer and persuade retailers to start carrying it.

Hmm. Have Mexican craft brewers thought of marketing their beer to American spring breakers?

Ontario Regulators Nix “Smashbomb” Beer

Add another beer to those the Liquor Control Board of Ontario finds objectionable. The board recently rejected a new listing for Smashbomb Imperial IPA, finding that the name would upset Ontarians at a time when Canadian troops are fighting in Afghanistan and Libya, and that “smashed” and bombed” are slang terms for drunkenness. Ironically, Smashbomb carries a mild (for the style) alcoholic punch–6.2 percent ABV–and is more hop bomb than high gravity.

Smashbomb still might finds its way on the shelves someday. The LCBO is working with the Flying Monkeys Craft Brewery to come up with a tamer label that could pass muster.

The Friday Mash (Boomer Sooner Edition)

At high noon on this day in 1889, the Oklahoma Land Run began, with thousands of would-be settlers racing to stake their claim to America’s best remaining unoccupied public land. Those who campaigned to open the land were referred to as “boomers,” while those who entered Oklahoma ahead of the official opening were called “sooners.” Both names came together in the title of the University of Oklahoma fight song.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, where Niagara College has launched a program in brewmaster and brewery operations. Slackers beware: the curriculum includes chemistry, microbiology, and the mathematics of finance.

Yes, there’s an app for that. If you have an iPhone, you can download an app that locates places where Abita beer is sold. The beer is available in 46 states.

Your beer could stay fresh longer, thanks to scientists who’ve identified the chemicals that make stale beer taste bitter. They recommend adjusting the beer’s acidity when it’s produced, and always keeping it cool.

John Lee of the British newspaper The Independent toured the breweries of Portland. Not all 40, but enough of them to find out that not all Americans drink Bud, Miller, and Coors.

Claustrophobic drinkers will want to avoid the world’s smallest bars. One of them is The Rake, located inside London’s Borough Market. The publican there is Glyn Roberts, who also blogs at Rabid About Beer.

The Table Tender, a computerized beer dispensing system, allows customers to pour their own beer–up to a pre-determined limit, which does away with the need for a real person to cut off someone who’s had too much. We assume that a real person still has to check ID.

Finally, we have a winner! This year’s champion in the Washington Post’s Beer Madness competition is Exit 4 American Trippel from Flying Fish Brewing Company.

4/20

April 20 is unofficially National Smoke Pot Day, which is an appropriate time to learn about beers with cannabis-themed names. Jesse Hughey of the Dallas Observer offers his favorites, the most blatant of which is Dark Horse Brewing Company’s Smells Like Weed IPA. Because that ale is only served at the brewery, federal and state regulators haven’t gotten the chance to reject the name on a label. However, regulators did force Mt. Shasta Brewing Company to drop “Legal Weed” from its beer (which was brewed in Weed, California; it’s now called Lemurian Lager). They also gave a thumbs-down to Lagunitas Brewing Company’s The Kronik, which was renamed “Censored.”

If You Must Drink and Drive….

If you love driving fast cars, drinking beer, and playing video games–and if you have an extra $6,000 or so lying around–you might enjoy an Octane 120 Beer Arcade.

The arcade–which you can’t take out on the highway–has a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a kegerator behind the seat, an extra tap in the dashboard so you don’t have to get up to refill, and a cup holder. There’s a 1080p Full HD projector up front. and you can attach your PS3 directly to it. There’s also a fully integrated gaming PC with 200 racing and arcade games built in.

Now comes the bad news: the beer costs extra.

America’s Oldest Bar

In 1967, Charlie Papazian used to hop a train that took him from his New Jersey home to New York City, where 18-year-olds could legally drink. One of his watering holes was McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan. An older, wiser, and definitely more famous Papazian recently paid the venerable establishment a return visit.

“Venerable” is an understatement. McSorley’s is at least 150 years old (the exact year of its establishment is in dispute) and is the oldest still-existing licensed establishment in America. It’s also one of the most old-school establishments: it enforced a “men-only” policy until 1970, when a federal judge laid down the law ordered it to serve women. The menu has changed little over the years, the floors are covered with sawdust, and beer is served in ten-ounce glasses.

Papazian says: If there is only time for one beer in New York City–my recommendation would be to have it at McSorley’s Old Ale House.”

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