June 2011

The Friday Mash (Mr. Zip Edition)

On this day in 1963, U.S. Postal Service introduced ZIP (for Zone Improvement Plan) codes. To get Americans to use the newfangled numbers, the Postal Service introduced a cartoon character called “Mr. Zip.” He’s moved on to advertising heaven, but ZIP codes are still with us.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Frederick, Maryland, where new state laws have allowed the Flying Dog Brewery to bring back brewery tours. The tours are popular, so it’s a good idea to plan ahead.

Will session beer catch on in the U.S.? Perhaps, but Andy Crouch warns that it faces major cultural hurdles. Being goal-oriented, Americans don’t like settling in for hours at a time at a pub.

What do The Turtles, Bob Dylan, and Dr. Dre have in common? All three can be found on the list of Top Ten Songs in Beer Commercials, compiled by Ciaren Thompson of Spinner.com.

If you live, work, or find yourself in New York City, beer gardens aplenty are waiting for you. Amarelle Wenkert of Black Book magazine offers some of her favorites.

In Ottawa, Ohio, Larry Wagner plunked down $740 for a can of beer. The cash went to a good cause–the struggling Putnam County Fair–and Wagner got a neon sign along with the beer.

A 170-year-old bottle of beer found in a shipwreck was contaminated by salt, and contained no yeast cells needed to reverse-engineer the brew. Scientists hope for better luck next time.

Finally, Appalachia’s tobacco farms are giving way to a variety of crops including truffles, wasabi, shiitake mushrooms, and last but not least, hops. Draft magazine takes a look.

Beer…By the Numbers

Annual beer sales in the European Union: over €110 billion ($155 billion).
Percent of European-brewed beer that is exported: 17.
Average price of a case of beer at a supermarket $20.34.
Annual sales of private label beer at supermarkets: $23.6 million.
These beers’ share of the beer market: .086 percent.
Cost of a beer at a West Virginia football game this fall: $6.
Division I schools, besides West Virginia, that sell beer in the stands: 19.
Germany’s per capita beer consumption last year: 102 liters per year.
Its annual per capita beer consumption 20 years ago: 141 liters.
Coors Light’s sales growth from 2009 to 2010: plus 1.1 percent.
Budweiser sales growth over the same period: minus 7.3 percent.
Projected size of this year’s Canadian barley crop: 7.7 million tons.
Average crop over the past five years: 9 million tons.
Unofficial maximum ABV for “session beer” in Britain: 4% (ABV).
Unofficial maximum in the U.S.: 4.5% or 5%, depending on who you ask.

Best Beer Commercial Songs

What do Dr. Dre, The Turtles, and Sammy Davis, Jr., have in common? All three–along with Bob Dylan, The Chemical Brothers, and Chris Isaak–are on the list of the Top Ten Songs in Beer Commercials. The list, along with the commercials themselves, can be found in an article by Spinner.com’s Ciaran Thompson.

Reviving Cincinnati’s Brewing Heritage

A story we’re following with interest is the construction of the Christian Moerlein Lager House on Cincinnati’s riverfront. This two-story establishment, which could open as early as November, will feature a 6,500-square-foot microbrewery, two outdoor beer gardens, and a hops garden. It will have room for more than 1,100 customers.

The project was conceived by Greg Hardman, who acquired the Christian Moerlein Brewing Company and aims to revive the city’s brewing heritage. Hardman has bought the rights to more than 60 beer brands original to Cincinnati including Burger, Hudepohl, Hudy Delight, Little Kings, Top Hat and Windisch-Mulhauser. Many of these brands date back to the 19th century. Hardman told Cincinnati.com, “I envision everyone saying: ‘You have to go to Moerlein Lager House. They have every single brand of beer that was brewed in Cincinnati.’”

Hardman has launched a worldwide search a brewmaster, who will not only have access to Hardman’s Cincinnati beer recipes but will also will be free to create new Moerlein-owned lagers. These traditional beers will pair well with the food menu, which will specialize in dishes unique to 19th century Cincinnati.

Crunching the Numbers

Got your thinking caps on? Good. Because here comes a two-part question: (a) how many homebrewers are there in the United States, and (b) how much beer do they brew?

Paul Gatza and Gary Glass of the American Homebrewers Association tackled those questions in a column on Examiner.com. Gatza says: “I would start with a guess of 750,000 homebrewers making beer at least once per year, who average around 4 five-gallon batches per year. 20 gallons x 750,000/31 gallons per barrel = 483,000 barrels of homebrew a year. I think a good working number is half a million bbls of homebrew per year.”

Charlie Papazian of the Brewers Association adds some perspective. He notes that “500,000 barrels is 0.25% of all the beer enjoyed in the United States. It’s a whisper, but a very loud whisper.” Papazian also describes Gatza’s estimate of 750,000 homebrewers as “aggressive,” and offers half a million as a conservative figure.

Selling Craft Beer

Greg Koch, the CEO of the Stone Brewing Company, has a produced a six-minute sales pitch aimed at bar owners. Koch compares an establishment’s tap handles to real estate, and says that devoting them to craft beer puts that real estate to its best and highest use. Here’s the video:

The Friday Mash (Dance Fever Edition)

On this day in 1374, one of the first outbreaks of St. John’s Dance swept what is now Aachen, Germany. Victims experienced hallucinations and began to jump and twitch uncontrollably until they collapsed from exhaustion. Manic dancing is said to have killed thousands over the span of several centuries. Moral of the story? Avoid dancing. Drink beer instead.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in St. Petersburg, Russia, where Pete Brown arrived after sailing from England to Russia aboard a ship carrying imperial stout. Brown made the trip to rekindle interest in the style.

Paul O’Connor of the Winston-Salem Journal has good news for travelers. He discovered that the Great American Beer Desert–that vast area west of Asheville, North Carolina–is shrinking

Last August, Hawaii’s Kona Brewing Company flipped the switch ona 228-kilowatt photovoltaic system, which means that the Sun will produce 60 percent of the electricity for the brewery and pub.

Charles Kenny, writing in Foreign Policy magazine, offers a politically incorrect argument: “beer in particular, and the beer industry that surrounds it, may be as good for growth as excess sobriety.”

Martyn Cornell describes, in hilarious detail, the worst beers he’s ever tasted. As bonus picks, he adds a couple of American beers from the 1990s that, he says, were not just bad but stupid to boot.

Another reason to enjoy a beer at the ballpark: your beer cup might attract a foul ball. Hey, it happened to a gentleman at Fenway Park the other night.

Finally, a pop quiz.
Q. Where is the world’s largest pub?
A. Brisbane, Australia. The historic Eatons Hill Hotel has been upgraded (at the cost of A$30 million), and has a capacity of 7,500. The hotel also has 100 tap handles, so you’ll have no problem avoiding dancing.

What’s Brewing in Japan?

A trip to a Tokyo beer bar reminded Mark Garrison, who writes for Slate.com, that “Japan’s craft beer is “little known globally, but alarmingly good.” Not only are the country’s micros–which weren’t legal until 1994–turning out high-quality versions of popular European and American styles, but many of them are also experimenting with Japanese flavors such as ginger, yuzu, or even fist-sized Uramura oysters.

Garrison also uncovered a major cultural difference between Japanese micros and those here in the States:

American craft beer has roots in home brewing. Scratch the surface of many successful American craft brewers, and you’ll uncover early horror stories of batches lost to infection and weeks of work and money literally gone down the drain. But in Japan, most craft beer is made by sake brewers, with full command of sanitation, fermentation, bottling, and aging.

Because it got off to a late start, Japan’s beer culture is, by Garrison’s estimation, about 15 years behind America’s. Craft beer lovers outside major cities get their beer through a combination of mail ordering, festivals, and brewery visits.

ERA Meets IBUs

People enter the world of brewing from all walks of life but Chris Ray, a relief pitcher for the Seattle Mariners, could be the first to go from professional baseball to professional brewing. Ray has been a homebrewer for several years–a craft he picked up while in the minor leagues–and he’s planning to open a commercial brewery in the future.

Recently, Ray got the chance to brew a batch at the Fremont Brewing Company. His beer. Homefront IPA is being aged over maple–in the form of bats provided by the Louisville Slugger Company–and will be ready next month. It will be available at Safeco Field, where the Mariners play, as well as select beer bars and grocery stores. Proceeds from the beer, along with the bats used in the aging process, will go to Operation Homefront, an organization that helps soldiers and their families in times of need.

Liquid Literary Inspiration

Surely you’ve read George Orwell’s Animal Farm in school, but your teacher probably didn’t tell you that the classic novel was inspired by jugs of mild ale. From 1936 to 1947, Orwell lived in Wallington, England, and the Plough was his local pub.That establishment is now closed but Irene Stacey, the landlady in Orwell’s day, is still alive. Stacey, who is 94 years old, recently told her local paper, the North Herts Comet, about Orwell and his friends. She even posed for a photo with one of the Plough’s salmon-pink china mugs.

This story caught the attention of Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile, who once headed the North Hertfordshire CAMRA branch and worked at the Comet during the 1970s. Cornell provides the likely source of Orwell’s ale: Simpson’s Dark Mild from nearby Baldock. He points out that Wallington had a “Manor Farm”; and that in Nineteen Eighty-Four, an old man reminisces about mild ale to Winston Smith. Cornell also wonders whether it was one of the Plough’s beer mugs that Orwell praised in his classic essay, The Moon Under Water.

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