February 2013

The Friday Mash (QWERTY Edition)

One hundred and forty years ago today, E. Remington and Sons in Ilion, New York, began production of the first practical typewriter. Even though few of us use typewriters anymore, the familiar “QWERTY” keyboard design, invented in 1874, is still with us.

ASDF…The Mash!

We begin in Massachusetts where Todd Ruggere, a Waltham resident, is drinking a Sam Adams in each of the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns. He’s raising money for cancer research.

We all know that higher-gravity beers are able to conceal hop bitterness. With that in mind, Jay Brooks recently posted an original gravity to hops ratio graph on his Brookston Beer Bulletin.

In 1953, an Aussie named Bob Hawke set a world record by downing a yard of ale–more than two pints–in 11 seconds. He was later elected that country’s Prime Minister. Coincidence?

Good news for beer lovers in Manhattan. The Hudson River Park Trust will open a 6,000-square-foot beer garden overlooking the river at Pier 62. It will serve craft beers and specialty food.

Kegasus, the beer-guzzling centaur that advertises the Preakness InfieldFest, will likely be scratched from this year’s race. But there will be live entertainment, and plenty of beer.

Pro tip: it’s not a good idea to drink to excess before designing beer labels, because you might come up with something like this disturbing Belgian ale label.

Finally, congratulations to Warren Monteiro, a writer, beer traveler, and homebrewer from New York City, who was named Beerdrinker of the Year at the Wynkoop Brewing Company.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Days until Founders Brewing Company releases Kentucky Breakfast Stout at its tap room: 28.
  • What Founders charges for a 12-pack of KBS: $62 (includes the $5 charge for a release ticket).
  • Highest reported bid on eBay for a release ticket: over $500.
  • Beer brands owned by AB InBev and SABMiller: 210.
  • Countries in which those brands are headquartered: 42.
  • Number of monks at St. Sixtus Abbey in Vleteren, Belgium: 21.
  • St. Sixtus’s annual production of Westvleteren 12: about 4,200 barrels.
  • Price of a six-pack of Westvleteren at the abbey: $27 U.S.
  • Percent of Myanmar’s males who call themselves “drinkers”: 50.
  • Percent who say they have five or more drinks daily: 25.
  • Germany’s beer consumption last year: 82.3 million barrels.
  • Percent of that beer that was served with cola and juice: 4.5.
  • Estimated cost of the Michigan Brewers Guild’s Winter Beer Festival: $175,000.
  • Cost of the beer itself: $90,000.
  • The Guild’s profit margin on the festival: 30 percent.
  • Lawsuit Alleges A-B Waters Down Its Beer

    Anheuser-Busch has another problem to contend with: class-action lawsuits accusing the brewer of watering down its beers. The lawsuits, which demand millions of dollars in damages, allege that A-B added water to the beer before bottling it, thus reducing its alcohol content to less than what is advertised on the label.

    Josh Boxer, the lead attorney in these lawsuits, says that the allegations are based on information from former employees at A-B’s 13 U.S. breweries, some of whom worked in high-level plant positions.

    A-B has called the claims “groundless,” and said its beers fully comply with labeling laws.

    What if Prohibition Never Happened?

    The latest Examiner.com column by Charlie Papazian poses an intriguing question: what if the 18th Amendment, which imposed national Prohibition, never became law?

    If Prohibition never happened, we wouldn’t have had bathtub gin or speakeasies, the U.S. Treasury would have continued to take in millions in excise taxes, and gangsters like Al Capone would have been forced to find some other industry. And millions of Americans wouldn’t have had to break the law to enjoy an adult beverage.

    But Papazian also sees a downside to Prohibition never happening. Lawmakers might not have outlawed “tied houses.” That, plus inevitable consolidation of the industry, could have created a barrier to entry so high that small breweries would struggle to survive. Without distributors, small brewers would have little chance of getting their product on the shelves and into bars. And if big brewers pushed huge quantities of cheap beer, a backlash leading to high taxes and tough restrictions might have occurred.

    The ultimate question Papazian asks is, “If there was no Prohibition would we have today’s 2,400 small breweries?”

    Battles Brewing Over Beer Names?

    Here’s another sign that the craft brewing industry is experiencing growing pains. With more than 2,000 breweries doing business in America, unique beer names are getting harder to come by. As a result, brewery owners are finding out–sometimes the hard way–that someone is always using that name and thus owns the trademark. While most disputes over beer names are resolved without a lawsuit–the copycat brewery simply chooses a new name–some say that tougher competition for market share has made people less cooperative.

    The Friday Mash (Five and Dime Edition)

    On this day in 1879, Frank Woolworth opens the first of many Woolworth stores in In Utica, New York. He unwittingly inspired the Marx Brothers’ routine in which Rufus T. Firefly suggested that Chicolini be given “ten years in Leavenworth, or 11 years in Twelveworth”; and Chicolini responded, “I’ll take five and ten in Woolworth.”

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Florida, where a 45-year-old law, passed as part of a turf war among big brewers, has the unintended effect of banning the sale of growlers. Lawmakers are trying to fix that.

    FirstWeFeast.com has compiled a list of 12 celebrities who ought to be spokespersons for craft beer. They include Kat Dennings, the cast of How I Met Your Mother, and, of course, President Barack Obama.

    You can buy a beer at many college basketball arenas, including seven of the 20 largest. Beer sales can bring in money through concession revenues, added ticket sales, or both.

    Beer and video games have always gone together, but an arcade fighting game called Beercade goes one step farther. It rewards the winning combatant with a cup of beer.

    To celebrate their city’s Beer Week, the San Francisco Brewers Guild has rolled out “Green Death”, a malt liquor inspired by the 50s-60s version of Rainier Ale. Paper bag not included.

    Don’t expect Anheuser-Busch to advertise this anytime soon. According to a nationwide survey, beer is the favorite beverage of underage drinkers and Budweiser is their favorite brand.

    Finally, if you have a ticket to tomorrow’s Winter Beer Festival in Grand Rapids, John Serba of MLive.com has some friendly advice: dress warmly for 33-degree temperatures and snow flurries.

    Yes, We Can

    The movement toward craft beer in cans took a big step forward. The Boston Beer Company announced that it will can Samuel Adams Boston Lager.

    In his Brookston Beer Bulletin, Jay Brooks points out that company CEO Jim Koch once strongly opposed canning his beer. In fact, Article VI of Samuel Adams’ “Beer Bill of Rights” decreed: “Beer shall be offered in bottles, not cans, so that no brew is jeopardized with the taste of metal.”

    What caused Koch’s change of heart? The answer is the “Sam Can.” According to a company press release, “The new can design–the result of two years of ergonomic and sensory research and testing–aims to provide a drinking experience that is closer to the taste and comfort of drinking beer from a glass.” The Sam Can will hit the shelves early this summer.

    Anchor to Build Second Brewery in San Francisco

    Today’s San Francisco Chronicle reports that Anchor Brewing Company plans to build a second brewery. The new brewery, which is expected to open by the end of 2016, will be part of the San Francisco Giants’ Mission Rock development project south of AT&T Park. It will occupy what is now Pier 48 with production and distribution facilities, a restaurant, museum and other attractions. Once the new facility is operational, Anchor’s capacity will increase from 120,000 to 600,000 barrels a year.

    Update. Stan Hieronymus reminds us that in 2010, he wrote a blog post which noted that when Fritz Maytag ran Anchor, he capped production at roughly 100,000 barrels.

    Battle for the Last Beer

    Have you seen this commercial for Tiger beer?

    The Friday Mash (Penny Wise Edition)

    February 15, 1971, was Decimal Day in Britain. From that day forward, the pound sterling was worth 100 pence; and shillings, half-crowns, florins and other charming coinage passed into British history.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Australia, where that country’s governing body for cricket is combating the dreaded beer snake created by fans stacking thousands of cups through the grandstand.

    John Schreiber of Manhattan Beach, California, has come up with beer pairings for Girl Scout cookies. For example, Thin Mints call for an old ale, like North Coast Brewing Old Stock Ale.

    Jay Brooks has posted a new Periodic Table of Beer Styles at his Brookston Beer Bulletin. Credit for the table goes to a Reddit user named “Delirium Tremens.”

    Something old, something new. The Epiphany One Puck will recharge your phone with a cold beer. The devices uses a Stirling engine, which turns heat disparities into energy.

    NerdWallet.com scoured the country for the city with the cheapest beer. It’s Carlsbad, New Mexico, where a six-pack of Heineken costs $7.25. Most expensive? New York City, where the same sixer carries a $12.63 price tag.

    Why has Sam Adams Alpine Spring been on the shelves for weeks? Jim Koch, Boston Beer Company’s CEO, explains that “in New England, we tend to look forward to next season.”

    Finally, Bavarian glassmaker Spiegelau, with help from Sierra Nevada and Dogfish Head, have developed a glass designed for drinking IPA. Its ridges at the bottom bring out flavor by creating more foam.

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