May 2011

The Friday Mash (Forever in Blue Jeans Edition)

On this day in 1873, dry goods merchant Levi Strauss and his partner Jacob Davis were awarded a patent for copper rivets to reinforce their blue jeans. Their heavy-duty jeans, which were originally designed for soldiers and workingmen, became popular among teenagers during the 1950s and are now a world-wide symbol of American culture.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Germany, where beer bikes are on the loose. Lance Armstrong wouldn’t recognize these contraptions, which are the size of minibuses and seat up to 16 merrymakers who pedal while a bartender serves them beer from a huge keg.

Celebrity chef Bryan Voltaggio has teamed up with Flying Dog Ales to create a beer that pairs with smoked food. It’s called Backyard Ale, and debuted at Volt, Voltaggio’s restaurant in Frederick, Maryland.

Admit it. You’ve seen the “Beer. Helping White Guys Dance Since 1842″ poster. And you chuckled. That slogan will get put to the test later when The Great American Techno Festival debuts in Denver the same week as the Great American Beer Festival.

Pabst Blue Ribbon’s owners are moving the brand’s headquarters to Los Angeles. Is that a good move? Not according to marketing professor Kelly O’Keefe, who thinks Pabst will lose its Midwestern identity.

If the San Jose Sharks win the Stanley Cup, beware of defenseman Douglas Murray. He might try to re-design the famous trophy. At Cornell University, Murray and his classmates invented a hands-free, three-spout beer keg tap, which he markets when he’s off the ice.

Lebanese entrepreneur Mazen Hajjar has founded a microbrewery that exports to 16 countries. It’s called 961, after Lebanon’s international dialing code, and brews a lager, a red ale, a witbier and a porter.

Finally, Advertising Age magazine looked at recent innovations in beer packaging. The gimmicks are cheesy, but according to Harry Schumacher of Beer Business Daily, they “break through the clutter” and get customers to pay attention.

Award-Winning Beer Writing

No, not this blog…at least not yet. We’re referring to The Stonemason’s Story by Milton Crawford, which last month took home the first-ever Bombardier Prize for the best piece of writing on beer and its role in society. The stonemason is a modern-day Englishman, but his story is a rumination about life in the Middle Ages, when workingmen consumed nine pints a day and life contained pleasures and wonders we nowadays miss out on.

Over a pint (of course), the stonemason explains to the pub landlord what we’re missing:

We need food, sleep and shelter. But we also need to feel part of something that is bigger than us. We scoff at the middle ages. We laugh at how ignorant and filthy the people must have been then. But just think: that cathedral is still standing and how many buildings that are being built now will still be standing in eight hundred years’ time? We can learn a lot from them if we stop and think about it a little.

Is Pale Ale Getting Its Mojo Back?

Pale ale was the style that put Sierra Nevada on the map and introduced millions of Americans to craft beer. In recent years, it’s been eclipsed by India pale ale and IPA’s bigger, more imperial brothers. However, according to Greg Kitsock of the Washington Post, reports of pale ale’s death are exaggerated. Victory Brewing Company, spotting an “unoccupied niche,” has added Headwaters Pale Ale to the lineup; and, at the other end of the country, Widmer Brothers Brewing Company, famous for its unfiltered wheat beer, brought out Drifter Pale Ale a few years ago.

We have it on good authority that summer will eventually come. Really. When it does, you’ll be looking for alternatives to high-gravity beer. Perhaps it’s time to give pale ale another try. Who knows? Maybe you’ll fall back in love with it.

What Happens in Vegas…

Las Vegas is one of the few places where you can buy a beer any hour of the day, any day of the week. Soon it will be the world’s only place where you can attend a beer festival any weekend of the year.

Caesars Entertainment and Patrick Gagnon Signature recently announced that starting October 6, the Las Vegas International Beer Fest be held Thursday through Sunday. The festival, which will be held near Flamingo Boulevard and the heart of the Strip, will feature 500 beers from 100 microbreweries, along with a brewer’s conference, a cooking demonstration, live bands, and beer games.

Organizers believe that they will attract more than one million festival-goers during the festival’s first year.

Update #1 (5/23): The opening day of the festival will be October 13.

The “Beer Goddess” Talks About Writing

There are plenty of good beer writers out there, and one of the our favorites is Lisa Morrison, The Beer Goddess. Earlier this year, her book, Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest hit the shelves. It’s described as “a suds-soaked adventure through the 115 key breweries and brew pubs in Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.”

Lisa sat down with to talk about the process of writing her book. One challenge–and every author has gone through this–was getting the publisher on the same proverbial page as she was. The publisher, Timber Press, wanted each chapter to begin with a “distribution map,” with little dots representing each place beer was brewed. She said she had a better idea: “I managed to talk them out of that idea and into my idea of very simple, hyper-local maps featuring favorite pub crawls instead. I don’t know about others, but when I am traveling, I want to know how to string together some great beer places without having to drive.”

Pesky adjectives were another challenge. About those, the author said, “They can kill ya or save ya….When you’re describing a huge number of beers for a book, you start feeling like you’re getting repetitive because you’ve used every damn adjective you can think of. I mean, how many ways can you describe ‘roasty’ without using ‘roasty?’”

Needless to say, she won the Battle of the Dots and fended off adjective fatigue. Her Craft Beers of the Pacific Northwest is now available at, (as well as Powell’s City of Books itself), and better bookstores in the Cascadia region.

A Random Walk Through Seattle

Okay, the walk was anything but random. Geoff Kaiser, who lives in Seattle, ventured out with his wife, Jeanne, and a collection of friends for a beer walk through the Green Lake neighborhood. The lake itself is an attraction, and so are the watering holes located around it. In fact, three of the city’s ten best beer spots are on the route. Making the walk even better was the sunshine and warm temperatures that followed Kaiser and his friends.

A Man’s Home is His Castle

Tito Ingenieri has given the old expression, “a man’s home is his castle,” a new meaning. Ingineri’s castle, which is located near Quilmes, Argentina, is constructed out of beer bottles. Six million of them.

Ludwig doubts that any of his neighbors will attempt to build something like this. Even if the project got zoning approval, which is highly unlikely, Michigan slaps a 10-cent deposit on beer bottles.

The Friday Mash (Famous Detroiters Edition)

Two famous people associated with Detroit were born on this day: heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis (born 1914 as Joseph Louis Barrow), the first African American to become a national hero; and singer/songwriter Stevie Wonder (born 1950 as Steveland Hardaway Judkins), whose many honors include an Academy Award and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Frederick, Maryland, where it’s Beer Week. And, for the first time in 100 years, a beer has been brewed there with locally-grown barley. The beer is Amber Fields Best Bitter, and is on tap at Brewer’s Alley.

The U.S. Army is looking for a brewmaster at Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma. The pay is $22,000 a year and no, you don’t have to go through boot camp to get the job.

Roger Protz, the author of a forthcoming book about Burton ale–a beer even older than Bass–has enlisted the Otley Brewery to brew a modern version of the beverage, which will be released this month.

Would you pair beer and cookies? The owners of South Durham Confection think it’s a classic combination waiting to be discovered.

Attention investors! If it’s liquidity you’re after, Pittsburgh’s East End Brewing Company has a deal for you. Invest $1,000 toward the brewery’s expansion and you’ll get two years worth of pre-paid beer.

If you’ve ever wondered what beers pair best with sliders, Michael Agnew has the answer. Agnew’s a certified Cicerone, so listen up.

Finally, from the Guinness is Good For You Department, we learn that before she goes on stage to sing, Gwyneth Paltrow calms her nerves by downing a pint of Guinness.

Prague Spring

Beer is one good reason to visit Prague and, according to Evan Rail, the author of the The Good Beer Guide to Prague & the Czech Republic, now is is a perfect time to go there. That’s because the Prague Beer Festival opens today and runs through May 27. Not only is the beer cheap–about $2.50 for a half liter–but festival-goers can taste Czech craft beer. In fact, more than 80 beers from over three dozen breweries will be poured at this year’s festival.

The rise of craft brewing is a reaction to industry consolidation which began under Communism and continued as breweries were privatized after the 1989 Velvet Revolution. People got tired of the big brewers’ monopolistic practices and a monoculture of industrial pilasters; and entrepreneurial brewers responded by introducing new styles, such as India pale ale, and bringing back pre-World War II styles such as doppelbocks.

If you go to Prague, venture out of the city center and do a bit of exploring–preferably with Rail’s book in hand–and you’ll find Czech micros waiting for you.

Style Points

The late Michael Jackson finds himself at the center of a lively discussion within the beer blogosphere. The question is whether Jackson invented what we call “beer styles.” Alan McLeod of A Good Beer Blog says that the answer is “yes and no”.

McLeod points out that in 1977, in The World Guide to Beer, Jackson defined “categories,” “styles,” and “types” of beer. As far as McLeod can determine, Jackson used the term “types” to refer to what we call “styles.” He goes on to explain:

[T]hese days the general convention is that 100% of beer brands need to fall into one style or another. There is no room left over for un-styled beer. Back then, by contrast, styles were not all the wedges on a pie graph. They were classic examples arising from groups. And groups related to types. For Jackson, at the outset, “styles” were still something of a hybrid idea somewhere between “type” and a further fifth category which he went on to call “classics”…

What is clear to McLeod is that Jackson’s work laid the groundwork for the development of modern beer styles.

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