March 2012

The Friday Mash (Major Medical Edition)

Today is Doctors Day, a day set aside to honor physicians. It marks the date in 1842 on which Dr. Crawford W. Long of Jefferson, Georgia, administered ether to a patient before removing a tumor from his neck. The patient said he felt nothing and wasn’t aware the surgery was over until he awoke.

And now….The Mash!

What would Jesus brew? They’re answering that question in Wilmington, North Carolina, where church-based homebrewing teams are facing off in the Heavenly Homebrew Competition of Churches for Charity.

Opening Day is almost upon us, and that happy prospect inspired the New York Times’s Eric Asimov to write about baseball and his favorite springtime beer–namely, porter.

In the Southwest, “beer run” refers to someone who grabs a case of beer at a convenience store, then walks out without paying. El Paso, Texas, the nation’s beer run capital, reported 2,876 such thefts last year.

Jeff Alworth, who blogs at Beervana, has a troubling thought. Young men aren’t joining monasteries; so if the monks can’t replenish their ranks, could we face the extinction of Trappist ales?

Watch out, beer bloggers. Boak and Bailey, who also blog, have figured you out. They’ve arranged you on a spectrum, and only three of their seven blogger categories are labeled “We like.”

Someone with GIF skills, and access to behind-the-scenes footage of Star Wars, invented a scene in which Princess Leia hands Luke Skywalker a beer. If you’ve blown up the Death Star, you’ve earned one.

FInally, Pete Brown isn’t a doctor, but knows a misdiagnosis when he sees one. He recently gave British anti-alcohol campaigners an earful over their blaming beer for an increase in liver disease.

On Tap: NYC Brewing History

On May 25, the New York City Historical Society will open an exhibit called Beer Here: Brewing New York’s History. Running through September 2, it will survey the social, economic, political, and technological history of beer in New York City from the 17th century to the present.

The exhibit will explore such topics as the nutritional properties of colonial beer, and early New York brewers in the Revolution era; innovations in infrastructure, and the importance of access to clean water; large-scale brewing in 19th-century New York and the influence of immigration; the influence of temperance groups and the impact of Prohibition; bottling, canning, refrigeration, and other technological advances; and New York City’s breweries in the age of mass production.

After all that education, museum-goers will need some liquid refreshment. The Historical Society is happy to oblige. The exhibit concludes with a small beer hall with a selection of favorite New York City and New York State craft brews.


Yesterday the Brewers Association released figures giving us a snapshot of the craft beer industry. Once again, they tell a happy story.

In 2001, craft beer volume rose by 15 percent, or nearly 11.5 barrels, compared to a 1.32-percent decrease for the beer industry as a whole. Craft beer’s share of the market rose to 5.68 percent, up from 4.97 in 2010; and actual dollar sales of craft beer rose to $8.7 billion, compared to $7.6 billion in 2010.

Now…on to Beer2K. At the end of 2011, the nation’s brewery count stood at 1,989, with 1,938 classified as craft breweries. Assuming that the craft brewery count keeps growing at the 2011 rate (a net change of 213, or 17.75 per month), Ludwig calculates that the 2,000th American craft brewery will open its doors on Saturday, April 14.

Where Prohibition Lives On

It has been nearly eight decades since the 21st Amendment repealed national Prohibition, but a number of American communities continue to ban alcohol. There are 200 “dry” counties across the country, and numerous communities in “wet” counties are themselves dry. Most of these are in the South and border states, where many residents consider alcohol sinful. In fact, anti-alcohol sentiment goes back to the Civil War. Many southerners argued that they lost the war, but were still morally superior to booze-drinking Yankees.

Lingering Prohibition caught the attention of the BBC, which reported Williamsburg, Kentucky’s vote to approve the sale of alcohol in restaurants. The business community argued that lifting prohibition would create jobs and attract tourists. Church leaders countered that condoning alcohol was not only immoral but would create social problems. Both sides agreed, however, that Williamsburg has a problem with drugs like methamphetamine and Oxycontin, which are even more profitable than the region’s legendary bootleg whiskey.

Increase Your Word Power

An actor playing Ben Franklin offers more than 200 colonial-era synonyms for “drunk”:

The Friday Mash (Rocket Science Edition)

One hundred years ago today, Wernher von Braun, the greatest rocket scientist in history, was born in Germany. He was the architect of NASA’s Saturn V launch vehicle that propelled Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin to the Moon on July 20, 1969.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Grand Rapids, Michigan’s craft beer capital, where the city’s Public Museum plans to add a brewing history exhibit.

All About Beer magazine’s Brian Yaeger wandered into the cinematic archives and dredged up the 1985 film Beer starring Loretta Swit and Rip Torn. Here’s his review.

Soon it will be easier for brewery startups to raise capital online. The U.S. Senate approved the CROWDFUND Act, which will allow businesses to raise up to $1 million through government-approved crowd-sourcing portals.

Good news and bad news from Victory Brewing Company. It’s about to reach capacity at its current facility, but will build a second brewery not far away. The new location will use water with the same mineral composition as Victory’s original brewery.

New York City’s craft beer has gotten oodles of publicity, but Long Island has quietly been upping its game as well. Imbibe magazine’s Josh Bernstein knows where to find good beer on “the Island.”

James Fallows, the Atlantic’s national correspondent, took time out from weightier issues to report on Australia’s craft beer explosion.

Finally, global warming didn’t cause the extreme heat in Columbus last month. The culprit was the Elevator Brewing Company’s Ghost Scorpion Lager, which was brewed with the hottest peppers on Earth.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Cheapest beer in the National Basketball Association: 29.7 cents per ounce (Pepsi Center, Denver).
  • Most expensive beer in the NBA: 38 cents per ounce (United Center, Chicago; Prudential Center, Newark, NJ).
  • People who have “fanned” New Belgium Brewing on Facebook: 400,000.
  • What those fans spent on New Belgium beers in 2011: $50.7 million.
  • New Belgium’s social media investment in 2011: $235,000.
  • Population of Whiteclay, Nebraska: 12.
  • Cans of beer sold in Whiteclay in 2010: 4.9 million.
  • Whiteclay’s distance from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, where beer is banned: 250 feet.
  • Damages sought by the Oglala Sioux Tribe from brewers and sellers of beer: $500 million.
  • India’s per capita beer consumption: 1.6 liters per year.
  • Annual beer sales in India: $4.5 billion.
  • Cost of a mainstream beer in India: 95 rupees (U.S. $1.90).
  • American Homebrewers Association membership today: over 30,000.
  • Number of AHA members in 2000: 8,483.
  • Increase in AHA membership since 2000: 254 percent.
  • Beer “Imperialism”

    Roughly one-third of the beers voted into the top 100 by the community fall into some category of “imperial.” That’s an unintended consequence of an arranged marriage between Sophia Augusta Frederica of Germany and her second cousin in St. Petersburg, Russia, back in 1745.

    Sophia became Catherine the Great, and her favorite tipple became known as “Imperial Stout.” What remains a mystery is how she made her acquaintance with that style. However, Don Russell, a/k/a Joe Sixpack, has a theory. It involves Count Andrei Shuvalov, his friend James Boswell, and Boswell’s friend Dr. Samuel Johnson. Completing the six degrees of separation, we have Henry Thrale, the owner of the Anchor Brewery; and John Perkins and David Barclay, who bought Anchor and made it the world’s largest brewery.

    The Friday Mash (Mass Production Edition)

    On this day in 1958, the Ford Motor Company produced its 50 millionth automobile. It was a Thunderbird. Exactly ten years later, the General Motors Corporation’s 100 millionth automobile, an Oldsmobile Toronado, rolled off the line. In 1968 you could gas up that Toronado for 33 cents a gallon.

    And now….The Mash!

    We begin in Hot Springs, Arkansas, where home brewer Rose Schweikhart Cranson hopes to convert a historic bathhouse into a brewery and distillery. She plans to use water from the springs in her products.

    Miller Brewing Company first used the slogan “It’s Miller Time” in 1971. Its parent company, MillerCoors, will revive the slogan in an effort to bring Miller Lite out of a prolonged sales slump.

    Across the pond, bloggers Boak and Bailey have saved their country’s brewing industry a bundle by identifying the five types of beer drinkers.

    Slate magazine’s Mark Garrison is hot under the collar over bars that insist on serving craft beers at arctic temperatures. Unfortunately, it’s going to take a lot of time–and education–to end this practice.

    In case you missed it, the Brewers Association chose a new board of directors. It will be chaired by Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Artisan Ales, and you’ll find other familiar names on the board.

    Finally, there’s an app for that–namely, buying a pint for a friend in some other city. The Tweet-a-Beer app, developed by South by Southwest Interactive, combines Twitter and PayPal.

    Finally, rye beer has caught the attention of the Wall Street Journal. The Journal’s William Bostwick shares his tasting notes from five notable rye beers.

    21st Century Ice Beer

    The ice beer fad came and went nearly 20 years ago, but a Canadian brewery has come up with an entirely new twist on the style. Quidi Vidi Brewing Company in St. John’s, Newfoundland, uses water from actual icebergs to make Iceberg Beer. Icebergs are plentiful there; they lurk in the cold waters off the coast, and sometimes wander into St. John’s harbor.

    Iceberg Beer has a very light taste because the ice in the bergs was formed from compacted snow, which has no minerals and lots of tiny bubbles trapped inside. Newfoundlanders have known about iceberg water for years. It’s an old tradition to keep a chunk of ice in the freezer and chisel off chunks to put into drinks.

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