May 2015

The Friday Mash (Little Rhody Edition)

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago today, Rhode Island became the 13th and last of the original colonies to ratify the U.S. Constitution. Even though the state ranks last in area, it has the longest name of any U.S. state: “State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.”

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Hamburg, Germany, where the Astra brewery has installed a billboard that uses facial detection to detect one’s gender If a woman passes by, it plays her an Astra commercial.

Last November, Whole Foods Market added a Criveller brewing system to its store in Houston. A month later, it started brewing beer at its store in Emeryville, California.

Dock Beer, a golden saison by Dock Street Brewing, will be aged with an extra ingredient: nonstop music by Wu-Tang Clan, whose bass notes will move the yeast around.

A 2012 law raising the ABV cap on beer has kick-started craft brewing in Mississippi. Hank Sforzini of Paste magazine names five of his favorites.

A man who has been paralyzed for 13 years can once again enjoy a beer, thanks to a mind-controlled robot arm developed by Caltech and its partners.

Finally, Dick and Nancy Ponzi needed another business to generate income for their planned pinot noir winery. That business was the 31-year-old BridgePort Brewing Company, Oregon’s oldest craft brewery.

Tasting the Wares at “Chicago Crap Beer Day”

Thalia Hall, a music venue in Chicago, decided to have some fun at the expense of this year’s Chicago Craft Beer Week. It hosted “Crap Beer Day” where, for a $10 cover charge, festival-goers could buy $1 bottles and cans of brands such as Schlitz, Mickey’s, Hamm’s, Old Milwaukee, and Lone Star. In other words, the beers we drank in college because that’s all we could afford.

Crap Beer Day, in turn, inspired the staff of Chicago Reader to take part in a blind taste test of the $1 beers. The panel’s comments were, predictably, brutal. One beer smelled like “a dirty dishcloth that’d been sitting out wet for two days.” Which was an improvement over the beer that smelled “like skunk spray.” A panelist said that another beer “might be a good palate cleanser if you accidentally drank some bong water.”

The tasting’s hosts sneaked a craft beer into the lineup: New Glarus Totally Naked. The verdict? It “still drinks fine long after it should’ve been pulled from the shelf and dumped.”

America’s Top Beer Cities

This “Top” list is a cut above the ubiquitous Internet slideshow article. Thrillist’s Andy Kryza has drawn up a list of America’s top 16 beer cities. For each city, Kryza gives a short description, along with its major breweries, beer bars, and “tradition.”

For the record, the top five are Portland (Oregon, that is; its Maine namesake ranks 14th); San Diego; Denver; Seattle; and Chicago.

Paul’s favorite line: “Like a breakdown of Jimmer Fredette’s college stats, it’s impossible to NOT talk about Asheville’s size in a conversation about its beer scene.” He loves obscure sports analogies.

The Friday Mash (Pac-Man Edition)

Thirty-five years ago today, Namco released the classic arcade game Pac-Man, which became a staple of 1980s popular culture. Over the years, Pac-Man machines have gobbled up some 10 billion quarters, making it one of the highest-grossing video games of all time.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in the Atacama Desert in Chile, where the Atrapaneblina brewery relies on water collected from fog nets to make its Scottish ale. The brewery’s name is Spanish for “fog-catcher.”

Better late than never for this article. John Hendrickson of Esquire magazine had an interesting interview with Blue Moon brewmaster John Legnard at this years South by Southwest.

With summer just around the corner, Meghan Storey of CraftBeer.com has assembled a slideshow of the best seasonal beers in your part of the country.

Yet another reason to consider San Diego for a beer vacation: craft breweries are opening south of the border in Tijuana.

Kalamazoo has so many breweries that the city and a tour company have teamed up to offer downtown craft beer walking tours.

Mary Elizabeth Williams of Salon.com says that beer ads are becoming less sexist. SABMiller and Heineken want to broaden their appeal beyond young men getting sloshed on Saturday night.

Finally, the shape of your glass can influence whether you wind up having too many. Straight glasses and those with the amounts marked are less conducive to over-indulging than curved and unmarked glasses.

How the Civil War Affected Beer

The American Civil War, like many wars throughout history, proved to be longer than anyone imagined.

By mid-1862, the war had become one of attrition, and the United States needed money to win it. One way of raising it was to impose the first-ever tax on beer. The tax was $1 a barrel, or about $23.40 in today’s money. In 1865, the last year of the war, the U.S. took in more than $3.7 million ($865 million in today’s money). The war ended, but the beer tax lived on—except during Prohibition—and, since 1991, has stood at $18 a barrel.

The beer tax led to the formation of the United States Brewers’ Association, a powerful trade group whose number-one priority was to keep the tax as low as possible. The USBA’s influence diminished after the war, and disappeared altogether in 1986. However, it provided the template for the modern-day Brewers Association, the craft brewers’ trade association.

The Civil War came on the heels of heavy German immigration to the U.S. The Germans brought with them a love of lager beer; and they started dozens of breweries, especially in the Midwest. During the war, many German and German-American men joined the Union Army, where they introduced their fellow soldiers to the joy of beer-drinking. Increased demand for beer, combined with greater automation in the industry, led to the a wave of brewery openings after the war. In 1873, the U.S. brewery count peaked at 4,131.

How Craft Beer Became “Craft”

Q. Who invented the term “craft beer”?

A. According to beer writer Stan Hieronymus, Vince Cottone, a beer columnist for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, first used the phrases “craft-brewing scene,” “craft brewery,” and “craft brewing” in the manner they’re thought of today. Cottone’s readers knew what he was talking about, but it took a while for the phrase “craft beer” to establish itself.

Charlie Papazian, the founder of the Association of Brewers, first defined “craft brewery” in New Brewer magazine in 1987. Since then, the craft-brewing industry has established three criteria: small (annual production of 6 million barrels or less; independent (less than 25 percent owned by a non-craft brewer; and traditional (flavored malt beverages aren’t “beers”).

That definition didn’t exactly settle the matter. Some in the industry point out that large companies employ craftspeople to brew their beer, and that well-known craft brands are becoming increasingly industrialized. Others find the term “craft beer” rather meaningless.

There’s the even bigger debate over what “craft beer” is. The industry doesn’t define it, but recently pointed the accusing finger at several beers—Blue Moon and Shock Top in particular—as craft beer impostors.

Some enthusiasts have even higher standards. Jace Marti, the brewmaster at August Schell Brewing Company, told Hieronymus that an attendee at last year’s World Beer Cup refused to taste his beers, which had won two medals. The attendee told him, “You shouldn’t be here. It’s adjunct beer”.

The Friday Mash (Mickey D Edition)

Seventy-five years ago today, Richard and Maurice McDonald opened a fast-food restaurant in San Bernardino, California. Businessman Ray Kroc bought out the brothers’ equity, and turned it into a world-wide franchise operation.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Greater Detroit, where Griffin Claw Brewing Company has brewed an amber ale for the Detroit Zoo. It hopes to distribute the ale statewide, with part of proceeds going back to the zoo.

Can Belgian beer help you lose weight? Professor Tim Spector of King’s College London contends that it contains bacteria that keeps people slim. Junk food, on the other hand, kills these bacteria.

Many craft beer lovers hold Blue Moon in low regard. However, investment firm executive Charles Sizemore believes the beer is a winner for MillerCoors: it appeals to high-income casual drinkers who want a beer or two after work.

Munich’s Hofbrauhaus is franchising another American location. The latest is a historic dining hall in downtown St. Petersburg, Florida, which will be given the HB look and feel.

In her ad for [redacted] Beer, comedian Amy Schumer unleashed a snark attack on beer commercials. Fair warning: the video in this link is not safe for work.

The next-to-last episode of Mad Men showed Don Draper in an Oklahoma watering hole, listening to veterans telling war stories while drinking Lone Star beer and other adult beverages.

Finally, YouTuber Dave Hax shows you how to turn a box of tall-boy beer bottles into a picnic cooler. Cut open the top of the box to make a lid, pull all of the beer out, line it with a plastic bag, and put the beer back in. Add plenty of ice…and voila!

No, This Game Doesn’t Require Butterbeer

The generation that grew up reading Harry Potter books has come of age, so it comes as no surprise that someone has come up with Quidditch Beer Pong. According to Emma Lord of Bustle.com, there’s now a Quidditch pong league, “and they are the drinking Aurors” behind this game.

The Quidditch version requires three hoops in the middle of the table, a Snitch, and two bats (yes, you do play defense). In addition, teams are required to choose one of the four houses from Hogwarts Academy. Each house has certain advantages. For instance, Team Griffyndor is given a Resurrection Stone, which allows it one extra cup after its opponent shoots a ball into all ten of its cups.

There are two ways to win: make all ten cups or, as in real Quidditch, shoot a pong ball into the Snitch cup.

Let the games begin!

You Be the Judge

Once in a Blue Moon, lawsuits like this get filed. Evan Parent, a San Diego man, has filed a class-action lawsuit accusing MillerCoors of false and deceptive advertising—namely, by holding out Blue Moon as a “craft beer.”

Much of Parent’s argument rests on Blue Moon being brewed by MillerCoors, which is too big to meet the Brewers Association’s definition of “craft brewery.” Further, Parent contends that the big brewery fails to identify itself on Blue Moon products. He also attacks the MillerCoors trademarked term, “Artfully Crafted.”

The Brewers Association has stayed out of this litigation, emphasizing that it only defines “craft brewers,” not “craft beers.”

The Friday Mash (Coke No Pepsi Edition)

On this day in 1886, pharmacist John Pemberton first sold a carbonated beverage named “Coca-Cola” as a patent medicine. Pemberton, a wounded Confederate veteran who became addicted to morphine, developed the beverage as a non-opium alternative.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Rochester, New York, where North American Breweries is putting Genesee beer, Genesee Cream Ale, and Genesee Ice in retro bottles. The packaging hearkens back to the 1960s, the heyday of the “Genny” brand.

Sad news from North Carolina. Dustin Canestorp, a 20-year veteran of the Marine Corps, has closed his Beer Army Combat Brewery. He blames state franchise laws that effectively tie a brewery to a distributor for life.

Executives of the nation’s big breweries are getting worried about the amount of discounting going on. The beers you’re most likely to find on sale include Bud Light, Budweiser, and Shock Top.

Craft beer has been susceptible to “the next big thing” mentality. According to Allen Park of Paste magazine, trends that “have more than overstayed their welcome” include waxing bottles, session IPAs, and adjuncts.

Craft brewers are scrambling to comply with a little-known provision of the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” which requires breweries and restaurants to disclose nutritional information, including the caloric content of their beers.

City officials aim to make Toronto the world’s craft beer capital. Measures include creating a craft brewery culinary trail and lowering regulatory barriers to brewery start-ups.

Finally, a growing number of craft breweries are making their recipes available to the public. Some, such as Russian River Brewing Company and Rogue Ales, are working with supply shops to develop kits for homebrewed versions of their beers.

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