February 2016

New Pricing Structure for Dark Lord Day 2016

Tickets for this year’s Dark Lord Day at Three Floyds Brewing Compay, will set you back $200. The reason? Three Floyds has switched to all-inclusive pricing. It’s a concept inspired by Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing, which had been plagued by large crowds and disappointed attendees at recent release parties for its Hunaphu’s Imperial Stout.

Those who buy a ticket for Dark Lord Day will be given a four-pack of Dark Lord Imperial Stout, plus a bottle of a Dark Lord variant; admission to the afternoon festival, which features beer from dozens of breweries; a tote bag; and $40 worth of food and drink vouchers. Three Floyds hopes that the new system will shorten lines and make life easier for festival staff.

Tickets go on sale this Saturday.

The Friday Mash (All That Jazz Edition)

Ninety-nine years ago today, The Original Dixieland Jass Band recorded the first-ever jazz record, for the Victor Talking Machine Company in New York. The band later changed “Jass” to “Jazz” and went on to record many classics, most notably the “Tiger Rag”.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Royal Oak, Michigan, where the late Glenn Frey of the Eagles grew up. The Roak Brewery threw a party in Frey’s honor, and brewed a English golden ale called “Lyin’ Eyes” for the occasion.

A beer spa is now in business in Sisters, Oregon. Hop in the Spa, which is partnering with Deschutes Brewing, offers “microbrew soaks” and “hops on the body” treatments.

Ultra-marathoner Jesse Weber employed an unusual strategy for going the 50-mile distance. Along the way, he stopped for a Pabst Blue Ribbon–after fortifying himself with cookies and a quesadilla.

Victory Brewing Company and Southern Tier Brewing have formed a joint venture which, they hope, will allow them to stay independent and stay competitive in a consolidating industry.

Bay area rapper E-40 has released his own brand of malt liquor, which checks in at 10% ABV. Deadspin.com’s Patrick Redford tried a bottle (a 40-ouncer, of course) and gave it a resounding thumbs-down.

World of Beer is looking to hire three people for what it calls “the internship of a lifetime.” Interns will get to travel, drink, and share their adventures with the world—and get paid for it.

Finally, Louisville’s Against the Grain Brewery & Smokehouse has teamed up with Hi-Five Doughnuts to create a new beer called “Mmm…D’oh! Nuts.” The doughnuts and vanilla glaze—a gallon’s worth—created a smoky beer with a root beer-like sweetness.

Up and Coming Beer Cities

Not long ago, you had to hop on a plane or take a road trip to find a city that’s rich in good beer. For most people in North America, that’s no longer the case: cities large and small have significantly stepped up their beer game.

Thrillist.com correspondent Meredith Heil has identified “ten untapped beer cities poised to blow up”. Four of the ten—Birmingham, Durham, Louisville/Lexington, and Memphis—are in the South, craft beer’s last frontier. Birmingham’s presence on the list is especially remarkable; it wasn’t that long ago that homebrewing was illegal in Alabama and archaic laws imposed an ABV cap on beer.

Salt Lake City is another surprise. Even though Utah eased some of its restrictions on alcohol, serving flights of beer is still a no-no and there’s a 4-percent limit on beer sold in stores. Brewers have to be creative to survive in that environment.

And we’re happy to see Toronto get a mention. It’s one of our favorite road-trip destinations, and we’ve been partial to Canadian beer ever since we cracked open our first Molson Export Ale. The city is highly walkable, and some of our best memories involve sipping pints on long summer evenings.

George Washington and Beer

Happy Washington’s Birthday, everyone! Those of a certain age remember it being an actual federal holiday, and a day on which people lined up outside stores in hopes of buying heavily marked-down TV sets.

Earlier this month, I ran across an article on Mount Vernon’s website about George Washington and beer. Even though he did little brewing himself, he loved beer, especially if it was strong and hoppy. He bought plenty of it to treat voters when he ran for a seat in the Virginia House of Burgesses, and served it to his guests at Mount Vernon. At first, he bought his beer from both local and English brewers, but bad experiences with imported beer during the 1760s contributed to his growing belief that America should become self-sufficient.

Beer played a role in the American Revolution. General Washington needed large quantities of beer because both his officers and soldiers demanded it. In February 1780, when the Continental Army was holed up in winter quarters in Morristown, New Jersey, the beer supply ran out and morale plummeted. Fortunately, Washington’s aide-de-camp was able to buy some, and the sated soldiers were once again determined to see the revolution through.

After the war, Washington followed a strict “buy American” policy. His favorite provider was Robert Hare, Jr., of Philadelphia, whose porter he enjoyed. Unfortunately, Hare’s brewery burned down in 1790. That disaster taught Washington a lesson: hedge against future shortages by hoarding large quantities.

The Friday Mash (Emancipation Edition)

One hundred and fifty-five years ago, Tsar Alexander II issued a proclamation that freed 23 million Russians from serfdom. The emancipated serfs gained the rights to marry without their owner’s consent, to own property, and to operate a business.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Maple Grove, Minnesota, where the owner and manager of a tavern were charged with transporting alcohol into the state for resale. That’s a felony in Minnesota.

Here are the a new video game called “Drink Beer, Neglect Family.” Players assume control of a depressed father who performs various feats of drunkenness while trying to dodge pop-up photos of his relatives.

Adam Teeter of Vinepair.com lists the nine biggest mistakes people make when buying craft beer. They include drinking nothing but IPA, and thinking that only high-gravity beers are legitimate crafts.

CNBC is once again sponsoring a Battle of the Beer Labels. The network will select 64 labels those submitted by breweries, and invite viewers to vote in a “March Madness”-style tournament.

In Montana, tavern owners and craft breweries put aside their disagreements over alcohol regulation—at least for the time being—to push a state-wide “Buy Local Beer Here” campaign.

A Wisconsin jury didn’t buy the defense offered by John Przybyla in a DUI trial: the alcohol in his system came from the beer-battered fish he’d eaten for dinner. The DUI conviction was Przybyla’s tenth.

Finally, a British marketing company mined thousands of Twitter tweets and Facebook posts for “emotional keywords”, then fed those keywords into a supercomputer that created a beer recipe which best expressed the emotions. It’s a cream ale.

Distribution: Beer’s Next Battlefront?

Last week, Massachusetts’ liquor regulators slapped the state’s largest beer distributor with a 90-day license suspension. The distributor’s offense: paying some $120,000 in bribes to a dozen bars in return for their devoting tap handles to the brands the distributor carried.

Beer journalist Jeff Alworth contends that the practice of paying bars to carry its brands is hardly limited to the distributor that got caught. What made that case stand out was the distributor blatantly bought tap handles. More subtle corruption is harder to detect because state liquor regulators don’t have the resources to monitor every transaction between a distributor and a bar.

According to Alworth, the recent merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller may lead to even more cheating with respect to beer distribution: “Large companies like [Anheuser-Busch InBev] are already making a big play to control distribution. Smaller companies are going to become desperate to get their beer to market. As more and more breweries come online and more and more consolidation happens at the top, the opportunities to cheat will grow.” While this story won’t dominate the media, Alworth predicts that “it will be one of the most important dynamics driving what happens in beer in the coming years.”

Reviving the Founding Fathers’ Beers

Last Thursday, Bo McMillan wrote a column in All About Beer magazine which featured “presidential beers” that have been revived by modern-day breweries. Perhaps the best-known beers are Yards Brewing Company’s “Ales of the Revolution”. Production began in 1999, after Philadelphia’s City Tavern asked Yards to brew a series of authentic colonial-era beers. Yards not only used the same ingredients as the colonials did, but also brewed the beers using bricked-in kettles and open flame. Ales of the Revolution are available at City Tavern, and at select stores in the Philadelphia area.

Starr Hill Brewing Company, located 30 miles from Monticello, is brewing an ale inspired by Thomas Jefferson’s notes on brewing. Jefferson used hops and grain grown at Monticello to brew his beer; and because barley was scarce, he used corn instead. Monticello Reserve Ale is the historical site’s official beer.

Robbie O’Cain, Starr Hill’s brewer, is working on an even more authentic version of what was served at Monticello when Jefferson lived there. Brewers of that time didn’t understand the fermentation process, and the original Monticello beer was likely a Virginia wild ale brewed from resident microflora.

The Friday Mash (“Rhapsody in Blue” Edition)

On this day in 1924, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” premiered in New York at a concert titled “An Experiment in Modern Music.” Paul Whiteman and his band performed the work, with Gershwin playing the piano.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Zalec, a town in Slovenia’s hop-growing region. The city plans to spend €170,000 ($190,000) to build Europe’s first-ever “beer fountain”. For €6, visitors will be able to buy samples in a commemorative mug for three 10.5-ounce samples.

Craft beer is hard to find in Las Vegas. The reason? State laws which, until recently, allowed brewpubs only to sell directly to customers and imposed hefty license fees on brewpubs.

David Forde, a UK-based executive of the Heineken Company, thinks we should be drinking less because excessive drinking will create a backlash. Heineken’s latest ad campaign is “Moderate Drinkers Wanted”.

Some scientists believe that beer was the reason why our ancestors switched from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural existence. Beer was more nutritious than beer and, unlike water, was free of pathogens.

New Belgium Brewing Company has narrowed its list of sites for a second brewery to two: Asheville, North Carolina; and the Philadelphia area. The final decision should be made by June.

USA Today’s panel of beer experts have chosen 20 cities for its America’s “best beer scene” competition. Until February 29, you can vote for your favorite—but only once per day.

Finally, Forbes magazine’s Breanna Wilson went to the 16-room Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware. The inn doesn’t sell Dogfish Head beer onsite because it wants guests to wander the town’s restaurants—one of which is Dogfish Head Brewings & Eats.

Homebrewers Respond to Bud’s Super Bowl Ad

During Super Bowl 50, Anheuser-Busch Inbev ran an ad called “Not Backing Down”, in which it asserted that making Budweiser is “NOT A HOBBY.”

Gary Glass, the director of the American Homebrewers Association, wasted no time firing back at A-B. His post on the AHA’s blog, contained this rebuttal:

The hobby of making beer is usually done in small batches at home by passionate beer lovers. Budweiser is made in massive automated factories (not what I would consider “brewed the hard way,” as suggested by a Budweiser ad aired during last year’s Super Bowl)—it’s actually about as far from a hobby as you can get. As homebrewers, we brew beer because we love beer with full flavor and by brewing beer ourselves we can hone in on the flavors we like most. And beyond that we can experiment and create new beer flavors that no one has tried before. Budweiser is the antithesis of homebrew: beer that’s made to be as light in flavor as possible and to never change.

Making Sense of the Reinheitsgebot

The Reinheitsgebot, aka Germany’s beer purity law, turns 500 in April. The law is familiar to beer lovers but, according to Joe Stange of All About Beer magazine, is widely misunderstood. To begin with, it wasn’t the first German law that regulated ingredients. It wasn’t called a “purity law” until 100 years ago, and it was more concerned with keeping beer and bread affordable—and curbing brewers’ use of wheat, which bakers needed—than with keeping beer pure. It didn’t apply across Germany until 1906; and when it did, the law killed many regional beer styles. And the law has been tweaked since 1516.

All that said, the law remains on the books, and is known in English as “The Provisional Beer Law”. Even though it no longer bans the importation of non-Reinheitsgebot beer, thanks to various free-trade laws and treaties, a German brewery still can’t market non-compliant products as “beer”.

On a recent trip to a Munich beer bar, Stange deliberately ordered a non-compliant beer, a milk stout brewed by the bar’s parent company, a brewery called Camba Bavaria. The barman explained to Stange that it wasn’t available due to “legal troubles with the Reinheitsgebot”.

Stange contacted the brewery for an explanation of the “legal troubles”, which began with the milk stout. According to the brewery: “officials told them (1) they can’t call it beer, since it has lactose (milk sugar); (2) they can’t call it ‘milk’ anything since there is no milk in it; (3) they can’t call it Klim Touts [‘milk stout’ spelled backwards] either, by the way, because don’t be cheeky; and oh (4) you’ll have to go ahead and pay taxes on it as if it were beer, even though we say it’s not beer, because ‘milk stout’ is clearly an established international beer style, even though you can’t call it that.”

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