June 2012

Ludwig Takes a Vacation

Our beer-drinking lion has been working hard, looking for festivals to post on the calendar and sifting through beer news to find the most blog-worthy stories. In fact, he’s been working so hard that Maryanne and Paul have decided to send over the lion limo and whisk him off for a well-deserved vacation.

Fear not. Ludwig will return, tanned and rested, on Monday, July 9.

The End of the World As We Know It

Stevens Point Brewery’s epic commercial mocking the supposed end of the world predicted by the Mayan calendar:

The Friday Mash (G.I. Bill Edition)

On this day in 1944, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, commonly known as the G.I. Bill. Some 2.2 million veterans took advantage of the law’s best-known benefit: financial aid for those who wanted to go to college. It covered tuition and living expenses…but alas, not beer.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Pennsylvania, where lawmakers are debating an overhaul of its quirky liquor laws. The proposed changes include scrapping the infamous “case law”, which requires customers to buy at least 24 beers per transaction.

Last year, Anheuser-Busch InBev trademarked a number of area codes, presumably for regional versions of 312 Urban Wheat Ale. Now it has applied for marks for more than 40 three-letter symbols for American airports. Critics ask: are ZIP codes next?

In Quingdao, China, drinking and driving definitely don’t mix. IndyCar officials have canceled a race to be held there in August because it would conflict with the International Beer Festival.

Roy Desrochers holds down an enviable job: he’s worked as a professional beer taster for more than 30 years. Desrochers says it takes more time to gain beer-tasting certification than it does to earn a doctorate.

Tyler Hansbrough of the Indiana Pacers is known around the NBA as a “character.” He added to that reputation by chugging a 40-ouncer at a bar. The 40 was inside a brown paper bag.

A consumer research firm in Washington State ran the numbers and figured out who drinks microbrews. Males, those with college diplomas, sports fans, and Westerners are most likely.

Finally, a tree grows in Brooklyn, but hops are growing in the Bronx. The Bronx Brewery has teamed up with the New York Botanical Garden and community gardens to grow them in the borough.

Beer, Then Whiskey

The Boston Beer Company has recently gotten considerable media coverage of its planned acquisition of a distillery in Vermont, which will create two whiskies literally made from Sam Adams beer.

However, beer writer Bryan Yaeger puts the story into perspective, pointing out that a number of craft brewers have branched out into distilling. (On our own Michigan brewery travels, we ran into several establishments that were experimenting with spirits.) Yaeger adds that this trend is older than you might think. In 1993, the Anchor Brewery added a distilling operation, making it a pioneer in that field as well as brewing.

First Microbreweries. Now Micro-Maltsters.

Like the brewing industry a generation ago, the malting industry is dominated by a few large companies. But that is beginning to change. A number of small maltsters, including Massachuetts-based Valley Malt, have opened in recent years.

Getting started has not been easy. The big breweries have been highly protective of their malting process, forcing malt entrepreneurs to track down former brewery employees, plow through obscure instructional materials, or learn the process by trial and error. Slowly but surely, however, the micro-maltsters are reviving an industry that all but disappeared during Prohibition.

The Friday Mash (”Woooooooo. Pig. Sooie!” Edition)

On this day in 1836, Arkansas was admitted to the Union as the 25th state. Famous Arkansans (the accent is on the second syllable) include country singer Johnny Cash, Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton, former president Bill Clinton, and Tusk, the live hog that serves as the mascot for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Portland, Maine, home of an economist’s dream. Brewers and distillers have clustered in a district called Brewer’s Row. Notable residents include D.L. Geary Brewing Company and Allagash Brewing Company.

Erik Lars Myers, who blogs at Top Fermented, is also the frontman for Mystery Brewing Company. Myers explains how he raised $44,000 on Kickstarter.com to help launch his brewery, and explains how it was done.

The Los Angeles Kings won their first NHL title in their 45-year existence. Part of the Kings’ celebration consisted of drinking a bottle of Budweiser, left over from their loss to Montreal in the 1993 final, out of the Stanley Cup.

Kid Rock is scouring Michigan to find a new contract brewer for his American Badass Beer. Michigan Brewing Company, which made the beer, was foreclosed on by its bank and reportedly faces possible eviction.

Have you ever tried beer ice cream? Victoria Johnson of TheAwl.com has a recipe that uses beer and just three other ingredients: sugar, egg yolks, and heavy cream.

They’re not exactly moonshiners, but homebrewers in Mississippi are still breaking the law. Raise Your Pints, which successfully lobbied for a higher ABV cap in that state, is working to get the homebrew ban repealed.

Finally, 88-year-old Ethel Goldschmidt, of Brooklyn, New York, has started her own beer company. Her flagship beer is Ethel’s Brew, a summertime beer inspired by her 1951 trip to Oktoberfest with her late husband, Burt.

“It’s the Water”

Years ago, when Olympia beer was actually brewed in Olympia, Washington, the brewery advertised it with the slogan, “It’s the Water.” (Ironically, the brewery sold its Olympia facility to a water bottling company, which went bankrupt. But I digress.)

Water is critical to how a beer tastes. Always has been. Bill Chappell, a food blogger for National Public Radio, points out that the chemicals present in water affects not only a beer’s flavor but also the process of fermentation. That’s why, for instance, Burton-on-Trent, England, gained renown for its pale ales: high levels of sulfate made the water ideal for that style.

Breweries that don’t have access to Burton’s famous water mimic its content. That’s also true of a number of other styles that originated in a particular region. And microbreweries building a second plant take pains to ensure that the water at the new site is the same as that used at the original site. They know that consistency counts.

You might be wondering why breweries don’t save themselves a lot of trouble by getting all the additives out of their water. Problem is, “neutral” water isn’t the best environment for yeast. They need manganese, zinc, and other substances to do a proper job of fermentation.

Gods and Monsters

American craft brewers love to rummage through mythology for names for their beer. There are brews named for Ninkasi and Osiris, Dionysius and Odin. The list of legendary creatures includes centaurs, griffins, unicorns, krakens, sirens, and the three-headed dog Cerberus, not to mention Bigfoot and Yeti.

Why do so many beers have such names? Philadelphia Weekly’s Eric San Juan offers a partial explanation: “From Egyptian gods to hidden beasts seen only in fleeting glimpses, we attach a level of EPIC to our brews that no other beverage can match. The idea of Odin’s Beard coffee or Serpent’s Tail orange juice would strike us as silly, but when it comes to beer, it just seems natural.” San Juan adds: “beerlike beverages go back at least 9,000 years, predating recorded human history. In a sense, they have been with us for as long as there has been an ‘us’.”

The Friday Mash (Viking Invasion Edition)

On this day in 793 A.D., Vikings kicked off their invasion of England by raiding the abbey at Lindisfarne. Most people think that the Vikings were bloodthirsty savages who drank ale out of the skulls of defeated enemies. Historians say that isn’t true. Their drinking cups were called “skals” (the origin of the Scandinavian toast, “Skol!”), a word terrified Englishmen thought was “skulls.”

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Hudsonville, Michigan, which until recently was one of the state’s few dry towns. It now has two breweries, White Flame Brewing Company and Pike 51 Brewing Company.

Juxtapoz.com has put together a slide show featuring the 25 best classic beer labels of all time. Also from that site: the 25 best modern beer labels.

The Journal, an Irish publication, staged a Euro 2012 competition–for beers, not football teams. The winner of the 16-country single-elimination tournament was Poland’s Zywiec, which defeated Russia’s Baltika in the final.

It sounds counterintuitive, but scientists have discovered a molecule in beer that may prevent obesity. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the molecule is extremely small and difficult to reproduce.

Check out this classy commercial for a Lithuanian brewery. It uses the interior of an animated watch to depict the steps involved in making beer. (Hat tip: “Dabitch” at AdLand.com.)

Nowadays we take growlers for granted, but in 1905, regulators in Washington, D.C., considered banning them. Temperance groups argued that cheap beer in large quantities was a recipe for disaster.

Finally, a second chance for candidates who lost in Tuesday’s California primary. The Four Points by Sheraton at LAX is looking to fill three positions on its Beer Advisory Board. Any California resident, 21 or older, is eligible to apply.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Estimated value of Bud Light’s brand: $8.37 billion (1st worldwide).
  • Change in value over last year: Up 17 percent.
  • Estimated value of Heineken’s brand: $6.06 billion (3rd worldwide).
  • “Likes” on Heineken’s main Facebook account: more than 6.8 million.
  • Heineken’s rank among breweries in number of “likes”: 1st.
  • Cost of a 12-ounce Heineken at this year’s London Olympics: $6.30 ($9.35 per pint).
  • Average price of a 16-ounce pint of beer at a major league ballpark: $6.56.
  • Medals awarded at the 2012 World Beer Cup: 284.
  • Percent of medals won by American breweries: 73.
  • Percent of WBC judges based outside the U.S.: 67.
  • Cost of a lager in Khujand, Tadjikistan: $0.45 U.S. (cheapest in the world)
  • Cost in Tasiilaq, Greenland: $11.70 U.S. (most expensive in the world)
  • XXXX Gold’s market share in Australia: 12.4 percent.
  • Its market-share rank in Australia: 1st.
  • Second-ranked VB’s market share in Australia: 12.3 percent.
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