April 2012

Hell’s Bell’s

Larry Bell, the founder and majority owner of Bell’s Brewery, is thinking of selling the nation’s 13th largest brewery. Not that he wants to cash out, but business and family considerations might force him to.

Bell told John Liberty of the Kalamazoo Gazette: “We, as a family, have to soon figure out what’s going to happen. Unfortunately, the way this thing is structured, this company is structured, it’s not sustainable. I’m not set up estate-wise to guarantee it can be handed over to the kids. We’ve been trying to work on that.”

Bell’s 26-year-old daughter, Laura, is the brewery’s director of marketing. His 24-year-old son, David, lives in Washington, D.C., and helps with Bell’s-related events in the area.

Buy Me Some Peanuts and…Beer!

It’s taken a while, but local craft beer has gotten into the lineup at major league ballparks. The staff of FoodRepublic.com has noticed this trend, and assembled a slideshow of beer offerings at 12 parks.

While we’re on the subject of ballparks, Ludwig wants to why the song lyrics refer to “peanuts and Cracker Jack” when peanuts are one of the ingredients in Cracker Jacks. At least both pair well with beer.

The Friday Mash (”Eek! A Mouse!” Edition)

Thirty-one years ago today, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center introduced the computer mouse. The prototype mouse was invented in 1963 by Douglas Engelbart. Unfortunately, Engelbart’s patent for the device expired before it was widely used in personal computers.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in ancient Mesopotamia which, thousands of years ago, was the beer capital of the world. Back then, the royal well-to-do drank their brew out of straws. Don’t scoff. They also invented writing, irrigation, and the clock.

Don’t drink and gamble, please! Players from countries with the highest per capita beer consumption wind up the biggest losers in casinos.

Admit it. Back in the day, you drank 40-ouncers. Craft breweries are appealing to nostalgia–and to your evolved taste in beer–with high-class malt liquor. Some are even sold in brown paper bags.

The ballot has been finalized for the 2012 Beer City USA competition. There are 31 cities on the ballot; and with an expanded choice of locations this year, write-ins aren’t allowed.

Go figure. Alabama regulators gave the thumbs-down to Founders Dirty Bastard ale, even though Flying Dog Raging Bitch ale and Fat Bastard wine are legal.

Bonobos, a clothing manufacturer, is selling denim pants made from recycled beer bottles. Priced at $135 a pair, they’re not for people on a beer budget.

Finally, someone must be buying Mr. Beer homebrew kits. Coopers, an Australia-based brewery, bought Mr. Beer in a multi-million dollar deal. Homebrewing supplies account for 30 percent of Coopers’ revenue.

Polish Tradition, Yankee Ingenuity

Krebs, Oklahoma, a town of about 2,500, is an unlikely place for the revival of long-lost beers. But that’s exactly what’s happening with Gratzer, a beer style native to Poland. Gratzer means “from Gratz,” the German name for the modern-day Polish town of Grodzisk. It was a clear, smoky, golden wheat ale; and, a century ago, when Poland wasn’t an independent country, it was considered a Polish national beer.

Commercial production of Gratzer ended in 1994, but the brewing team at Krebs’s Croc Brewery rounded up the beer’s distinctive ingredients–which include wheat malt smoked over oak, and a yeast strain not available in America–and started producing Gratzer. It’s part of Croc’s Signature Series, which also includes a revival of the German Gose style.

Beer…by the Numbers

  • Estimated value of craft beer exports: $23.4 million.
  • Average cost of a cheap beer in China: 1.87 yuan (30 U.S. cents).
  • Cost of a Budweiser in China: 6.13 yuan (98 U.S. cents).
  • Mexico’s per capita beer consumption in 1900: less than 1 liter.
  • Its per capita consumption a century later: 51.8 liters.
  • “Citizen Beer Blogs” on the Beer Bloggers’ Conference list: 1,416.
  • Citizen beer blogs outside the U.S.: 459.
  • Beer sales at U.S. convenience stores in 2011: $16.7 billion.
  • Increase over 2010: 1.3 percent.
  • Convenience stores’ share of U.S. beer sales: 17 percent.
  • American craft breweries’ exports in 2011: 110,000 barrels.
  • Increase over 2010: 86 percent.
  • Goose Island Beer Company’s expected production this year: 230,000 barrels.
  • Increase over 2010: 81 percent.
  • States into which Goose Island will expand this year: 9.
  • The Top 50 Breweries of 2011

    The Brewers Association has released its list of the top 50 breweries (by production, not quality or reputation of beer) for 2011. And once again, Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin is out with his annotated version of the list.

    As usual, expansion and consolidation have resulted in changes to the list. Newcomers include Ninkasi Brewing (#44), Blue Point Brewing (#46), Bear Republic Brewing (#47), Lost Coast Brewery (#49), and Narragansett Brewing (#50).

    Breweries dropping out of the Top 50 are the Straub Brewery; Independent Brewers United, which was merged into North American Breweries; Kona Brewing Company, which is now part of the Craft Brewers Alliance; and Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom, which were combined into CraftWorks Breweries & Restaurants (#40).

    April 20 (4:20 Edition)

    Today is 4:20, an unofficial holiday celebrating the use of marijuana. Legend has it that 4:20 originated with a group of California high school students in the early 1970s. Why do we mention marijuana on a beer blog? Because Paul is old enough to remember signs in college-town bars that read “Keep Off the Grass…Drink Schlitz.” And he still prefers beer.

    And now….The Mash!

    We begin in Monmouth, Oregon, which was dry from its founding in 1859 until 2002. A local minister warned of disaster if townspeople allowed alcohol to be sold, but little has changed in the past decade.

    An infographic making the rounds of the Internet makes the case (no pun intended, really) for craft beer in cans. (Hat tip: Jack Curtin.)

    Evan Benn, who writes about beer at, among other places, Esquire magazine, has hit the stores and lined up the best beers of 2012. These are definitely not the same-old, same-old.

    The May edition (number 63!) of The Session will be hosted by Pete Brown. This month’s topic is open-ended: “The Beer Moment”. Brown asks, “[W]hat comes to mind? Don’t analyze it–what are the feelings, the emotions?”

    Cor blimey! “Exclusive pouring rights” at the London Summer Olympics have been awarded to Heineken, which forked out £10 million ($15.6 million U.S.) for the privilege.

    Joe Stange, the Thirsty Pilgrim (and the author of Around Brussels in 80 Beers) has an update on the beer scene in the Belgian capital.

    Finally, a brewery in Calgary is taking advantage of the Canadian government’s decision to phase out the penny. It’s offering to exchange a growler full of beer for a growler full of the soon-to-be-obsolete one-cent pieces.

    Appalachian State: Not Just a Football School

    Being an alum of the University of Michigan, Paul couldn’t resist the headline. (He also can’t get over the Wolverines losing their 2007 home opener to Appalachian State. It was one of the biggest upsets in the history of college football.)

    Appalachian State, located in Boone, North Carolina, had the foresight to establish a fermentation science program and build the Ivory Tower Brewery. Since then, two craft breweries from the West–Sierra Nevada Brewing Company and New Belgium Brewing Company–have announced plans to build a second brewery in western North Carolina. The new plants will give ASU graduates more opportunities to work in the brewing industry and stay close to home. A proverbial win-win-win.

    Not apropos of anything: the ASU Mountaineers will get a rematch with Michigan in Ann Arbor on August 30, 2014.

    How Not to Succeed in Business

    Last week, BeerPulse.com, which calls itself “the world’s #1 beer news website,” ran a story about a would-be beer baron’s less-than-auspicious entry into the brewing industry. His name is Ronald Cika, a Florida-based real estate broker who reportedly owns a tiny start-up called Fumducker Beer. The name alone ought to tell you where this was headed.

    Fumducker sent a press release to PR.com, which said that the brewery was looking for a “national partner” to handle its line of beer. The company claimed that it “has developed a strategic and targeted marketing plan which, with the right Partner, could increase market share to $100,000,000 annually.” As Beerpulse noted, market share is measured in percent, not dollars; and besides, the only craft breweries whose annual revenues top $100 million have been around for quite a while.

    Not to be deterred, Fumducker sent another press release which announced “its strategic partnership plans” with Pabst Brewing Company. Which came as news to Pabst, which evidently had never heard of Fumducker. However, Fumducker heard from Pabst, and retracted the press release “at the request of their general counsel.”

    It’s also worth mentioning that Beerpulse was unable to verify any current beer sales or recent product introductions from Fumducker.

    “Save Water, Drink Beer”

    Chris Young performing “Save Water, Drink Beer” at the Academy of Country Music 2012 awards show:

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