August 2012

The Friday Mash (Trinidad and Tobago Edition)

Fifty years ago today, Trinidad and Tobago gained its independence from Great Britain. This Caribbean island republic is the birthplace of calypso, steelpan, and soca music, chutney, and the limbo. A cold beer would go well with any or all of these.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Hyde Park, New York, where the Culinary Institute of America’s American Bounty Restaurant celebrates its 30th anniversary with a special black ale brewed by Tommy Keegan of Keegan Ales.

Craft beer in Kyrgyzstan? Writer Chris Rickleton, who lives in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, reports that the local beers aren’t bad at all, and that a couple of micros are open for business.

Three Portland, Oregon, women are planning to write a book titled Hop in the Saddle, a bicyclist’s guide to beer touring their city.

Now that Goose Island is part of the Anheuser-Busch family of beers, they will be available in all 50 states. The high-end Goose Island beers will continue to be made in Chicago.

The Yeastie Boys, a brewery in New Zealand, is a pioneer in open-source brewing. Bottles of its Digital IPA contain metallic blue QR codes which enable customers to brew their own versions of the ale.

Joshua Justice of the Houston Press lists the ten ugliest labels on beers sold in Texas. Some of the labels Justice can’t stand appear on bottles of very good beer.

Finally, iPhone users can play a new game that features bottlecaps from Michigan breweries. When you touch a bottlecap, the game gives you information about that brewery, including its location and a social media contact.

The Canned Craft Beer Pioneer

Ten years ago this November, Dale Katechis, the founder of Oskar Blues Brewery, made what was then considered a risky move. Katechis decided to make Oskar blues the first craft brewer to can all of its beer. He started with a tabletop machine to create a hand-canning line that sealed one can at a time. This year, Oskar Blues is on track to turn out 90,000 barrels this year–all of it in cans.

Tom Rotunno, a senior editor at CNBC.com, talked about Oscar Blues with Katachis, who explained how mountain biking influenced his decision to switch to cans:

I didn’t really set out to start canning beer in order to align it with the outdoor industry, but it was an obvious arena and we felt like we could market our beer based on its portability. I’ve always been an entrepreneur and a risk taker and someone that lives by the moment. Life is short and we might as well have a good time while we’re here. I tend to have some of my best moments, or be most fulfilled, when I’m outdoors on two wheels on a mountain bike. So once we started to align marketing efforts with both parts of my life, it just made sense.

It made financial sense, too. Oskar Blues has posted seven years of consecutive double-digit growth, and is one of the three “Biggest Momentum Gainers” on the Brewers Association’s list of the top 50 craft brewers.

50 States. 50 Beers. One President.

This is an election year, and Martin Cizmar of Willamette Week decided to mark the occasion with a “President of Beers” competition featuring “the flagship craft beer” from each of the 50 states. Beer distribution laws being what they are, Cizmar and his friends engaged in creative lawbreaking to obtain beers not legally available in Oregon. He explains:

It wasn’t easy. Favors were called in from friends back East and hundreds of dollars were spent to buy and ship cheap lagers available at the grocery store in their native land. And we bootlegged–a lot.

Some of the beers we sampled for this project were smuggled out of their home state as “live yeast samples.” One was mailed as a “tap handle” while another came stuffed inside a teddy bear.

Cizmar has assembled a 12-person tasting panel, which will give each beer a score between zero and 100. The beer with the highest average score will be declared the President–no recounts, no hanging chads. Over the next few weeks, the scores will be posted on Willamette Week’s website, with the winner announced on October 3.

A Beer Festival in Utah

Despite Utah’s tough liquor laws, you can hold a beer festival in that state. This past weekend, some 4,000 people attended the City Weekly Beer Festival in Salt Lake City. They were able to choose from nearly 90 beers from 23 Utah breweries. The biggest legal problem was a ban on one-price unlimited sampling. Organizers solved that by switching to a token system, similar to that used at many festivals in other states.

The Friday Mash (Pliny the Elder Edition)

On this day in 79 B.C., Mount Vesuvius erupted, wiping out the towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing more than 15,000 people. Its most famous victim was Pliny the Elder, the naturalist whose writings about hops earned him recognition from the Russian River Brewing Company. The brewery’s renowned double IPA bears his name.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Morgantown, the home of West Virginia University, which has reclaimed the number-one spot in the Princeton Review’s ranking of top party schools. WVU also ranks first in the “Lots of Beer” category.

You can’t win ‘em all. Olympic athlete Nick Symmonds came up six seconds short of the world record for running the Beer Mile, in which contestants chug a beer before the race and at each quarter mile.

Australian scientists have found that feeding brewer’s grain to cows can reduce their methane emissions by at least 15 percent. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, and cows burp up a lot of it.

With this beer I thee wed? Many couples are substituting craft beer for Champagne toasts at their wedding receptions. Their beer selections often honor the states the bride and groom come from.

Visitors to Fort Collins, Colorado, can now spend the day beer touring on a bicycle. There are six breweries located along three miles of trails, along with a “bike library” that will rent you one.

Boxed wine has been on store shelves for years, but will drinkers buy beer in square bottles? Heineken is experimenting with them.

Finally, a 1940 ad for Schaefer Bock Beer, which looked like something out of a Dr. Seuss book, inspired the Village Voice’s Eric Sundermann to write a beery version of One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish.

Crimes Against Beer

Garrett Oliver walks a tough beer beat: the nation’s restaurants. And what he sees in some establishments are crimes against beer. At the top of Oliver’s rap sheet is clueless staff. He explains:

[B]eer is the only food or drink where if you go to a restaurant, the average customer knows more about the beer than the house, even if they have only 10 beers on the list. That’s a disaster. Can you imagine if you walked into a steak house and 70 percent of the customers knew more about steak than anybody who worked there?

Other perpetrators on Oliver’s list include bad or dirty glassware, overchilling, and lack of press coverage.

Homebrewers Petition Their Government

Ludwig prefers to keep politics off his blog, but this story was too good to pass up. On the White House’s website, “John L” of Washington, D.C., has started a petition calling on President Obama to release the recipe for his home-brewed honey ale. If the petition attracts 25,000 signatures by September 17, the White House will deliver an official response–perhaps in the form of the presidential recipe.

Update. Someone has filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the recipe.

Pardon the Interruption

After a 450-year hiatus, the Benedictine monks at the Ampleforth Abbey in Yorkshire, England, have resumed the brewing of beer. Even though technology has changed a bit since then, the monks’ beer is believed to be similar to that which they brewed before Henry VIII chased them out of the country during the Protestant Reformation.

The 16th-century monks didn’t leave behind a recipe, but their manuscripts describe the beer’s taste and ingredients in enough detail to allow their modern-day counterparts to reconstruct it. British writer Roger Protz describes the monks’ brew:

It’s a strong, dark beer….It’s got very nice hop character, so it’s not too sweet. Think roasted grains, chocolate and sultanas, backed with that nice spicy taste common to all Trappist beers.”

The Friday Mash (Wizard of Oz Edition)

On this day in 1939, the film version of L. Frank Baum’s classic story, The Wizard of Oz, opened at Loew’s Capitol Theater in New York. The film won six Academy Awards, including Best Picture; and, thanks to its re-introduction to the public on television in 1956, became the most-watched motion picture in history. Ludwig, however, has panned the film for its depiction of lions.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Philadelphia, where the American Beer Blogger documentary has been nominated for an Emmy in Mid-Atlantic region’s Entertainment/Program-Special category.

In an effort to boost sales in a flat economy, some Czech brewers are committing beer blasphemy by brewing Radlers, beers mixed with drinks such as Sprite and lemonade.

Stereotypes die hard, especially when gender is involved. Naomi McAuliffe, writing in The Guardian, calls on British women to demand their pint of Real Ale.

“Craft beer” has earned a place in Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary. Feel free to enjoy it in a “man cave” while compiling your “bucket list.” Both of those terms have also been added.

A “blue moon”–a second full moon in the same month–will occur on August 31. MillerCoors, the makers of Blue Moon beer, will celebrate the rare event with a special-edition Caramel Apple Spiced Ale.

San Francisco’s Toronado beer bar opened 25 years ago today. Russian River Brewing Company will celebrate with a special sour beer, to be served at the legendary establishment.

Finally, here’s your invitation to predict the future. The topic for Session No. 67 will be How Many Breweries in 2017?. Derrick Peterman, who blogs at Ramblings of a Beer Runner, is your host.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Average price of a liter of beer at this year’s Oktoberfest in Munich: €9.35 ($11.50 U.S.).
  • Average price ten years ago: €6.55 ($6.42 U.S.).
  • Licensed breweries in Michigan: 118 (5th in the nation).
  • Brewing industry’s contribution to Michigan’s economy: $133 million per year.
  • Compensation paid to Michigan brewery employees: $24 million per year.
  • Attendance at this year’s Oregon Brewers Festival: 80,000.
  • The festival’s contribution to the local economy: $23 million.
  • Cost of a ticket to this year’s Great American Beer Festival: $65.
  • Tickets sold for this year’s GABF: More than 40,000.
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev’s world-wide market share: 18.6 percent.
  • Runner-up SABMiller’s world-wide market share: 9.3 percent.
  • Increase in Russia’s beer tax this year: 20 percent.
  • Beer tax increases scheduled for 2013-14: 45 percent.
  • Acquisitions in the brewing industry so far this year: 45 (up from 36 last year).
  • Total value of those acquisitions: $35.6 billion.
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