April 2017

A Six-Pack of Beer Travel Articles

It’s that time of the year to plan for summer travel. In case you haven’t decided where to visit, we’ve rounded up six articles on promising beer destinations.

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The Friday Mash (Emerald City Edition)

Fifty-five years ago today, the Century 21 Exhibition aka the Seattle World’s Fair opened. It was the first World’s Fair in America since World War II. Surviving structures from the fair include The Space Needle, the Seattle Monrail, and Seattle Center.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Boston, where Daradee Murphy unveiled a novel strategy for tackling the Boston Marathon’s infamous “Heartbreak Hill”: beer instead of water as her hydration drink of choice.

Once a hot trend, black IPA lost its mojo last year. However, Bryan Roth of All About Beer magazine says that the style is down but not out: several breweries are rolling out new versions.

Sierra Nevada Brewing Company has announced the dates and cities for Beer Camp on Tour 2017. This year Beer Camp collaborative series will feature six domestic and six overseas craft breweries.

Five years ago, a startling archaeological discovery in modern-day Turkey provided evidence that it was beer, not agriculture, that led human beings to abandon their hunter-gatherer ways and begin living in communities.

Vijay Mallya, India’s “King of Good Times”, is under arrest in England. Mallya, who inherited United Breweries of Kingfisher beer fame, faces fraud and money-laundering charges in his home country.

The former head of a global recruitment firm says it’s time to get rid of the “beer test” for new hires: it leads to poor hiring decisions, discriminates against non-drinkers, and makes the workplace less diverse.

Finally, women’s advocacy group FemCollective is sponsoring an all-female beer festival in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. FemAle will highlight female beer experts and brewers from across the country, and men as well as women are welcome to attend.

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Jim Koch Sounds the Alarm

Boston Beer Company jump-started America’s craft beer movement and made its founder, Jim Koch, a billionaire. But in a recent op-ed in the New York Times, Koch warns craft’s run might be coming to an end.

Koch calls industry consolidation the number-one culprit. In 2008, federal antitrust regulators not only approved the MillerCoors joint venture, but they also gave the green light to InBev’s acquisition of Anheuser-Busch. That left two brewing giants in control of 90 percent of America’s domestic beer protection. Making matters worse, the federal government allowed the big brewers to buy craft breweries—and then fail to disclose that they were the new owners.

Those mega-mergers resulted in higher beer prices and pink slips for American workers, as well as consolidation among distributors. Today, in most markets, more than 90 percent of all beer is controlled by distributors who depend on either A-B InBev or MillerCoors for most of their volume. Those distributors have considerable power regarding promotion, shelf space, and marketing support for the brands they handle—and they have an incentive to give preferential treatment to craft brands the big brewers now own.

According to Koch, the key to saving American craft beer is stricter antitrust enforcement. He names China and South Africa as countries whose regulators imposed strict conditions on big brewery mergers to protect their domestic economies.

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Here Comes Zero IBU IPA. Seriously.

It sounds like a contradiction in terms, but Richmond, Virginia-based The Veil Brewing Company has released a zero-IBU India pale ale. It’s called IdontwanttoBU, and it’s brewed with Citra and Mosaic hops.

International Bittering Units measures the concentration of isohumulones, a bittering compound, in beer. Because isohumulone is created when the alpha acids in hops break down during the boil, “zero IBU” IPAs are designed around the concept that hops added post-boil don’t count toward IBU measurement.

Several other breweries are releasing their own zero-IBU IPAs, and there is talk of the brewing community eventually recognizing them as a new beer style.

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April 14 (Space Shuttle Edition)

On this day in 1981, Space Shuttle Columbia completed its first test flight. The Space Shuttle program ended on July 21, 2011, when Atlantis completed the 135th and final flight. Atlantis is now on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex in Florida.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Cobb County, Georgia, where the Atlanta Braves’ new ballpark, SunTrust Park, will serve “Chopsecutioner”. It’s an India pale ale that has been aged on Mizuno baseball bats.

Fox Sports Network mixes drinking and driving—sort of. It has compiled a gallery of NASCAR cars sponsored by beer companies over the years.

Stoney beer, a historic name in western Pennsylvania, is making a comeback. One of the new company’s owners is the great-grandson of William Benjamin “Stoney” Jones, for whom the beer is named.

Fans of the West Michigan Whitecaps in Grand Rapids voted “beer cheese poutine” their top ballpark snack. It features pork, beer cheese, and green onions over waffle fries.

Somerville (Massachusetts) Brewing Company has taken breakfast beer to the next level with Saturday Morning Ale, a Belgian-Style ale iinfused with Cap’n Crunch cereal’s Crunch Berries.

Prepare to be mesmerized! BusinessInsider.com has posted a time-lapse video of 12,400 gallons of Sierra Nevada’s Bigfoot barleywine fermenting over a six-day period.

Finally, Henrik Zetterberg of the Detroit Red Wings delivered a classy apology to an Ottawa Senators fan whose beer he spilled with his stick during pre-game warmups. Zetterberg went to the Wings’ bench, autographed a hockey stick, and presented it to the fan.

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Beer…By the Numbers

  • Brewpubs’ share of American breweries in 2009: 61 percent.
  • Their share of American breweries in 2015: 41 percent.
  • Craft beer’s share of the U.S. beer market in 2016: 12.3 percent.
  • Its share of the U.S. beer market in five years earlier: 5.7 percent.
  • Mexican beer sales in the U.S. in 2016: 22 million barrels.
  • Mexican beer’s share of the U.S. imported beer market: 66 percent.
  • Beer industry’s total economic impact on the U.S. economy in 2014: $252 billion.
  • Total beer industry employment, direct and indirect, in 2014: More than 1.75 million people.
  • Total wages paid to beer industry employees in 2014: More than $78 billion.
  • BrewDog’s imputed valuation: $1 billion (based on what the $263 million TSG Consumer Partners paid for a 23-percent stake).
  • Return on investment for BrewDog’s original investors: 2,800 percent.
  • Annual per capita beer consumption in New York City: 4 gallons.
  • Annual per capita beer consumption in Kiev, Ukraine: 27 gallons.
  • Number of beers at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati: 132.
  • Number of beers at the average major league ballpark: 50.
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    Are Grocery Stores Abandoning Craft?

    Portland, Oregon-based writer Jeff Alworth reports on a disturbing trend in beer retailing. Fred Meyer, his state’s dominant grocery store chain, is scaling back the craft beer selection and giving more shelf space to macro brews and “crafty” beers, the latter being craft labels acquired by big breweries.

    On the surface, Fred Meyer’s decision doesn’t make sense. The chain stands to lose business to competing stores that offer a wide selection of local craft products. However, there are fewer alternatives outside Oregon’s larger cities. Alworth adds that Fred Meyer’s parent, Kroger Company, can improve its profit margin by using its buying power to negotiate low prices and cutting costs by paring its beer inventory.

    Alworth warns that in localities where the big grocery chains dominate and the public isn’t as attuned to craft beer, “crafty” beers such as Goose Island—or even the big national brands—will become customers’ default choice. That’s bad news for small breweries, especially the newer ones.

    The Friday Mash (”Happy Birthday, Internet” Edition)

    On this day in 1969, the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Society issued their first Request for Comments. The publication of RFC-1 is considered the Internet’s unofficial birthday.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Newport, Oregon, the home of Rogue Ales and its famous 40-foot-tall red silo. Opinions differ as how the silo got there, but everyone agrees that the town fathers thought it was an eyesore.

    In Kentucky, you can enjoy local craft beer or bourbon at most of the state’s resort parks. The state plans to offer adult beverages in all state parks which have restaurants and where alcohol is legal.

    Michelob Ultra sales have risen by 27 percent over three years. Jeff Alworth puts the brand’s success in context: light beer still dominates the market, and Michelob Ultra is considered trendy.

    Yes, it’s possible to grow hops in Brazil. Grower Rodrigo Veraldi has been experimenting with the plants, and one of his varieties thrives in the hot, rainy climate near Sao Paolo.

    Bad news for Baltimoreans: National Bohemian is no longer available at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “Natty Boh” enjoyed a brief reprieve last season, but fell off the menu after the first homestand.

    IBU is an important quality-control number for brewers, but it’s not very helpful for beer drinkers. Malt content has a big effect on perceived bitterness, and the average drinker can’t perceive IBUs beyond the 100-120 range.

    Finally, the University of North Dakota’s “Beer Grandma” has passed away. Beth Delano, who has attended UND men’s hockey games since 1947, became famous when the scoreboard video caught her quaffing a beer during a break in the action.

    Caveat Emptor

    Brad Tuttle of Time magazine has a warning for beer drinkers: What you see on the label might not be true.

    One example is deception as to a beer’s provenance. Tuttle mentions beers that are advertised as “Vermont ales” when in fact they’re brewed elsewhere. One brewer of “Vermont ale” is located in Berkeley, California; another is based in upstate New York.

    “American” is a time-honored way to make products more appealing, and Budweiser exploited this tactic to the hilt by renaming Budweiser “America” last year. Problem is, the brand is owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev, a conglomerate headquartered in Belgium.

    Some beers try to pass themselves off as “imported”. Even though they bear foreign breweries’ names, they’re brewed in the U.S. A couple of years ago, Anheuser-Busch got slapped with a lawsuit over domestically-brewed Beck’s beer. A-B didn’t admit fault, but agreed to pay Beck’s drinkers up to $50 in the settlement; and the suit apparently made it more careful about advertising claims.

    “Craft” is another possible source of deception. Here the legalities get trickier: the Brewers Association has laid down criteria for what breweries qualify as “craft”, but the BA’s definition isn’t universally accepted in the industry. That said, the mega-brewers behind Blue Moon (launched as an experiment by Coors Brewing) and Goose Island (acquired by A-B) haven’t gone out of their way to disclose those brands’ current ownership.

    Meet the Barrel Brokers

    Not so long ago, breweries that barrel-aged their beers sent employees down to Kentucky’s bourbon country to buy used barrels from distillers. Under federal regulations bourbon whiskey must be aged in new, charred oak containers. Those used barrels had to find a new home.

    Since then, the popularity of barrel-aged beers has caused a spike in demand for bourbon barrels. And brewers are experimenting with wine, rum, and even tobacco and hot sauce barrels.

    Enter the barrel brokers. Breweries rely on brokers because they vouch for the barrels’ provenance of the barrels, inspect them for leaks and other flaws, and handle the logistics of transporting them from distant parts of the country—even from overseas. Small breweries are especially reliant on brokers, who can fill their orders for small quantities and hard-to-find barrels.

    Barrel brokering is as much an art as a science. The biggest challenge is coordinating the empty dates of the barrels with the breweries’ fill dates. Changing tastes are another challenge. Brokers are not only looking for the barrels breweries want now, but also try to anticipate what barrel-aging trends are on the horizon.

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