December 2015

The Wednesday Mash (Year-End Clearance Edition)

Ludwig is on Christmas break, and won’t be back until January 4. In the meantime, Maryanne and Paul are filling in for him.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Richmond, Virginia, where it’s been a banner year for craft beer. Four new breweries and a meadery have opened their doors; and Stone Brewing Company will start up next spring.

Anheuser-Busch is giving Bud Light cans a makeover. Alissa Walker of Gizmodo.com says the can’s new design signals an end to the brand’s frat-boyish “Whatever” campaign.

Responding to a new Indonesian law banning beer sales in convenience stores, Diageo is brewing a non-alcoholic version of Guinness to be sold in that country. It’s called “Guinness Zero.”

More than 30 Arizona breweries are collaborating on an all-female-brewed beer. It’s a red IPA, and proceeds from its sale will go to Go Red for Women, an American Heart Association charity.

Despite Zimbabwe’s economic collapse, people are finding solace in beer. Observers say that bars in the capital city, Harare, are packed with holiday revelers.

Manhattan resident Leif Nelson has sued Miller Brewing Company for falsely representing that Foster’s is brewed in Australia. Brewing operations were moved to Texas in 2011.

Finally, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania found that people drink more on days when they exercise more. Perhaps they’re drinking to extend the “buzz” that physical activity brings.

Best Cities for Beer Drinkers

What is America’s best beer city? SmartAsset.com compiled a list based on five criteria: total number of microbreweries and brewpubs; number of micros and brewpubs per capita; the breweries’ average Yelp score; number of bars per capita; and the average price of a pint of draft beer.

The number-one city—Portland—is somewhat surprising because it’s the one in Maine. What tipped the scales in favor of the “other Portland” was its brewery density: one for every 3,882 residents. Rounding out the top ten: Asheville; Portland, Oregon; Billings, Montana; Denver; Seattle; Wilmington, North Carolina; Missoula, Montana; Pittsburgh; and Cincinnati.

Blair Schiff of KUSA-TV in Denver suggested the the most beer-friendly cities have gloomy weather. However, that doesn’t explain why the Mile High City ranks fifth despite having 300 sunny days per year.

Looking Ahead to 2016

Julia Herz of CraftBeer.com asked state brewers’ guild executives what craft beer lovers can look forward to in 2016. The trends they mentioned include session, lager and “easy drinking” beers; the revival of classic styles, some of them in barrel-aged versions; and “farm-to-keg” brewing.

Several guild executives mentioned beer festivals. Phil Platt of Minnesota Craft Brewers expects to see more “festivals in a box”: “festivals (from out of town) with a formulaic approach to their events…but no real connection to the local community.” Rob Caputo of The Brewers of Indiana Guild agrees with Platt. He also points out that proceeds from traveling festivals don’t necessarily stay in the community, and urges festival-goers to choose events that directly benefit local organizations.

In a similar vein, Paul Leone of the New York State Brewers Association warns of “festival fatigue,” saying “[p]eople will grow tired of uninformed volunteers pouring samples, and gravitate towards festivals where the brewers pour the beer.”

The Wednesday Mash (Countdown to Christmas Edition)

Ludwig is on Christmas break, and won’t be back until January 4. Maryanne and Paul will be filling in for him. In the meantime, Ludwig left a plate of cookies, his heartiest Season’s Greetings, and an early version of…

The Mash!

We begin in Chicago, where Patti Wetli of DNAInfo.com takes us back to the Great Chicago Beer Riot of 1855. Hundreds of armed Germans stormed the city’s courthouse to protest the enforcement of liquor laws they considered anti-immigrant.

Queen City Q, a Charlotte-based chain of barbecue restaurants, has taken Anheuser-Busch products off the menu in protest of A-B’s allegedly pressuring distributors to stop handling craft beer.

Long Island’s Barrage Brewing Company has released two beers for Seinfield fans. They’re infused with Snickers and chocolate babka, foods that starred in the sitcom.

In Montreal, some cab drivers are competing with Uber by selling beer and cigarettes to passengers. Those sales are illegal, but the cabbies argue that Uber’s business model is illegal, too.

TravelPulse.com has compiled a scorecard of major U.S. airlines’ craft beer selections. Alaska and Delta Airlines lead the pack, Spirit Airlines ranked last, and Southwest Airlines showed the biggest improvement.

A federal appeals court has upheld an Indiana law that requires convenience stores to sell beer at room temperature. Liquor stores, which bar under-21s from entering, are allowed to sell cold beer.

Finally, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Beer Camp will return next year. The first stop on this six-city national tour will be Tampa on June 4. Sierra Nevada and 30 regional breweries will also brew a series of collaborative 12-packs.

More Acquisitions News

Reuters reports that New Belgium Brewing Company has hired the advisory firm Lazard Middle Market, which has worked with other craft breweries exploring a possible sale. According to people familiar with the matter, New Belgium’s valuation could exceed $1 billion, the price Constellation Brands paid for Ballast Point Brewing Company.

Meanwhile, Anheuser-Busch announced that it has acquired Arizona’s leading craft brewer, Four Peaks Brewing Company. Known for its Kilt Lifter Scottish-style ale, Four Peaks becomes the sixth brewery in A-B’s craft division, The High End.

The Friday Mash (Xanadu Edition)

On this day in 1271, Kublai Khan of “stately pleasure dome” fame renamed his empire “Yuan,” officially marking the start of the Yuan dynasty of Mongolia and China. The yuan is modern-day China’s monetary unit.

And now…The Mash! 

We begin in Japan, where a local firm has teamed up with an Amsterdam-based renewables company to develop eco-friendly plastic beer bottles. They’re made from plant sugar rather than fossil fuels.

As competition grows more fierce, breweries are hiring artists, graphic designers, and even branding firms to create packaging that wins shelf space and attracts customers.

“Beer before whiskey” is risky, but not for the reasons you think. People drink faster as intake increases, whatever the beverage; and whiskey’s higher alcohol content compounds the effects.

Last weekend, Vancouver’s Storm Brewing unleashed its Glacial Mammoth Extinction beer. It’s Canada’s first beer above 25 percent ABV, and it isn’t cheap: a bottle will set you back C$1,000 ($730 U.S.).

Craft brewing’s success has created a problem: a shortage of cans, especially the 16-ounce cans that many crafts prefer to distinguish their product from national-brand beer.

Debrett’s, a British etiquette authority since 1769, has published a guide to proper beer-drinking. Among other topics, it covers proper pouring and tasting and how to behave decorously at the pub.

Finally, James Grugeon of Brisbane, Australia, is crowd-funding a brewery with a social purpose. Half the profits of his Good Beer Company will be donated to a conservation society trying to save the endangered Great Barrier Reef.

Why Good Beer Might Start Costing More

Bryan Roth, who blogs at This Is Why I’m Drunk, delved into the economics of craft beer prices. The analysis starts with the assumption that inelastic pricing exists in the beer market. In other words, when the price of beer goes up, drinkers are still willing to pay for it.

Inelastic pricing is more prominent with respect to craft for several reasons. Some craft drinkers are willing to pay more to impress others with their taste in beer. A related, and more common, reason is that many craft drinkers are willing to pay for the experience of trying a new beer—especially if it’s hard to find. In addition, those switching from macro to craft do so with the understanding that the latter will cost them more. Finally, craft drinkers are influenced by the decision of their peers, who have come to accept the high cost of the product.

Roth also points out that geography significantly affects beer prices. Portland, Oregon, is awash in craft beer. And because the supply is so great, breweries that charge too much for their beer—especially if the beer itself is of lower quality than the competition—could find themselves out of business.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • U.S. brewery count as of November 2015: 4,144 (the highest total on record).
  • Previous high brewery count: 4,131 (set in 1873).
  • California’s brewery count: 600, as of December 3, 2015.
  • Percent increase over last year: 18.
  • Rate at which new breweries open in California: 2 per week.
  • U.S. sales of Guinness beer in 2014: 2.4 million barrels.
  • U.S. sales of Guinness beer in 2006: 3.3 million barrels.
  • UK households expected to buy beer online this month: 1 million.
  • Increase over December 2014: 200,000.
  • Flavored malt beverages’ share of the beer market: 3.25 percent.
  • Growth in flavored malt beverage sales over last year: 9.5 percent.
  • Years since Dogfish Head Brewery opened: 20. (At the time, it was America’s smallest brewery.)
  • Dogfish Head’s curret rank, by sales, among craft breweries: 13th.
  • Number-one selling Snow beer’s share of China’s beer market: 23 percent.
  • Number-two selling Tsingtao beer’s market share: 18 percent.
  • Genetically Modified Yeast: Brewing’s Future?

    Five centuries ago, German brewers used a hybrid strain of yeast, and wound up making lager beer—which attracted a world-wide following. They didn’t know it was a hybrid because they didn’t know what yeast was, let alone what role it played in the brewing process.

    Today, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison are developing hybrid yeasts. They accomplish this through the use of plasmids, or circles of DNA that can manipulate DNA in cells. The plasmids express a natural protein that allows two different species of yeast to “mate.” (This isn’t possible with industrial yeasts, which are incapable of producing spores that can be bred into new hybrids.)

    The UW scientists believe they can produce a large amount of hybrid yeasts, which in turn will produce new flavors of beer. And, they say, they can generate new hybrids within a week.

    The Friday Mash (Jam Session Edition)

    On this day in 1956, The Million Dollar Quartet—Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash—got together at Sun Studio in Memphis. Years later, tracks from of this impromptu jam session were released as albums in the UK and, later, in the U.S.

    And now…The Mash! 

    We begin in London, Ontario, where Lewis Kent has become the first Beer Miler competitor to turn pro. The 22-year-old University of Western Ontario student signed a deal with Brooks, a shoe company.

    Good news for Star Trek fans. Shmaltz Brewery is releasing the latest beer in the officially-licensed Vulcan Ale series. It’s a red session IPA called The Genesis Effect, and unlike Romulan Ale, it’s legal.

    Stung by feminists’ reaction to Bud Light’s #UpForWhatever ad campaign, Anheuser-Busch InBev plans to air woman-friendly spots for its beer during next year’s Super Bowl.

    George Washington loved his beer—porter, in particular, and occasionally brewed his own. A notebook Washington kept while he was a 25-year-old officer in the Virginia militia contains a recipe for “small beer”.

    Journalist Dina Mishev got over her aversion to beer, at least for the time being, after hitting the Bend Ale Trail. The Trail has 16 breweries, all within walking or biking distance from one another.

    In Milwaukee, Pabst Brewing Company’s 126-year-old bottling plant is being converted into apartments for college students. Unfortunately, the amenities won’t include free Blue Ribbon.

    Finally, Dogfish Head Brewery claims the distinction of having brewed the hoppiest beer on record. Hoo Lawd, an India pale ale, checks in at 658 International Bittering Units. Most IPAs fall in the 40-60 IBU range.

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