Pennsylvania Liquor Laws Enter the 21st Century

High on the list of beer travelers’ pet peeves is Pennsylvania’s “case rule”, a law that forbids distributors—who have a near-monopoly on beer sales in the state—to sell quantities of less than a case. That restriction will soon end, as Governor Tom Wolf said he will sign a bill allowing sales of six- and 12-packs and growlers.

Earlier this year, the governor signed legislation that makes it easier to buy wine. It also authorizes a study of the privatization of the state’s alcohol-distribution system.

The Friday Mash (Tool Time Edition)

On this day in 1960, Dr. Jane Goodall saw chimpanzees creating tools in a national park in Tanzania. It was the first time anyone had seen animals do that, and it exploded the long-standing belief that humans were the only species capable of tool-making.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Norcia, Italy, where last week’s earthquake destroyed the historic Basilica of St. Benedict. Sixteen years ago, American monks acquired the basilica and set up a brewing operation to raise funds for its restoration.

Last year’s freakishly warm winter grabbed the attention of hops farmers in Washington State’s Yakima Valley. Fearing that global warming will bring on more such winters, they’re looking for ways to use less water growing the hops and less energy drying them.

An Israeli start-up called Glassify is selling beer glasses with an embedded microchip in the base. The chip can link to a smartphone app and send demographic information back to breweries, while offering consumers product promotions in return.

Texas authorities are looking for Achilles Salazar, a forklift operator who stole 719 twelve-packs of Dos Equis beer—$90,000 worth—from the distributor he worked for. A law-enforcement officer described the size of the heist as “most unusual”.

In Colorado, a driverless truck delivered a load of beer from Budweiser’s Fort Collins brewery to Colorado Springs. The truck was operated by Otto, a company owned by the ride-sharing company Uber.

Long Root Ale is the first beer to use kernza, the trade name for a type of wheat that originated in Asia. Because kernza is a perennial, it’s easier on the environment because farmers don’t have to plow up their land and re-plant the crop every year.

Finally, ten years after the Big Buck Brewery in Auburn Hills, Michigan, closed its doors, a local beer distributor bought the 50-foot-tall bottle that stood outside the establishment. It will be be transported to the distributor’s headquarters and repainted as a Bud Light bottle.

BA Fires Back at Carlos Brito

Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Carlos Brito stirred up a hornets’ nest by saying that “consumers are a bit tired of choice.” Bob Pease, the president of the Brewers Association, was quick to respond.

Pease pointed out that the 2016 Great American Beer Festival attracted a sellout crowd of 60,000, who sampled more than 3,800 from 780 breweries; and that the ability to choose from that many alternatives is “a central value of our democracy and a core tenet of ‘being American’.”

The BA head also asserted that Brito’s comment smacked of self-aggrandizement. He said that A-B InBev entered the craft beer market by acquiring a portfolio of craft breweries, and is about to use its economic power to push its brands onto store shelves and tap handles—and push out truly independent brands. Pease observed, “That’s reducing choice all right—but not based on beer lover demand.”

Peace also suggested that consumers will rebel against A-B InBev’s attempt to limit their choices. A recent Nielsen survey found 58 percent of American craft beer drinkers want even more flavors to choose from, and about 65 percent said they drink more craft beer specifically because craft offers more variety.

The Friday Mash (Get Vaccinated! Edition)

Sixty years ago today, Elvis Presley received a polio vaccination on national television. That single event is credited with raising immunization levels in the United States from 0.6% to over 80% in just six months.

And now…The Mash!

We begin on the Formula 1 racing circuit, where in the early 1980s, Gordon Murray’s inventive pit crew rigged up a fuel system using pressurized beer kegs that could pump 30 gallons of fuel into a car in just three seconds.

A North Carolina judge was convicted of bribery after offering a deputy sheriff two cases of Bud Light in exchange for his wife’s text messages. The judge later upped his offer to $100.

Two employee-owned breweries, Harpoon Brewery and Odell Brewing Company, have collaborated to brew a beer called EHOP. It’s an oatmeal pale ale.

Vietnam’s government will sell off two state-owned breweries which have a 60-plus-percent market share. Vietnam, with 93 million people, is one of Asia’s top beer-drinking countries.

This week, Britain’s smallest pub—which has room for just three—is offering free beer, but there’s a catch: you can’t use your mobile phones inside the pub.

Indianapolis-based Central State Brewing has something for Harry Potter fans: a sour ale called “Polyjuice Potion”. Its ingredients include plums, elderberries, and “magical bits and bobbles”.

Finally, Brooklyn’s Sixpoint Brewery is making two beers to be enjoyed with single-malt scotches from Highland Park, a distillery in the Orkney Islands. The beers are Rune, a golden oat ale; and Sköll, a roasty ale.

Craft Brewing’s Growing Pains

In the last couple of months, MarketWatch.com’s Jason Notte has seen disquieting trends in the craft beer industry:

  • Craft Brew Alliance’s Redhook brand announced layoffs at its Woodinville, Washington, brewery. The Woodinville plant is contract-brewing for Pabst Brewing Company, but the Pabst business accounts for only 30 percent of its capacity.
  • Stone Brewing Company, headed by fiercely independent CEO Greg Koch, admitted that it had received $90 million in private equity financing and would lend the Stone name to a hotel. It, too, is cutting jobs.
  • And homebrew supply retailer Northern Brewer has agreed to be acquired by than Anheuser-Busch InBev.
  • Notte doesn’t think these developments mean the craft beer bubble has burst. He writes:

    “If anything, it all begrudgingly recognizes that the players in all tiers of the beer industry have found themselves in the same predicament: Running a business in an environment where constant growth isn’t a given and where big decisions are often followed by unintended fallout.”

    The Friday Mash (Strait and Narrow Edition)

    On this day in 1520, Ferdinand Magellan discovered a navigable sea route separating South America and Tierra del Fuego. The treacherous body of water is now known as the Strait of Magellan.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Columbus, Ohio, where Scotland-based BrewDog will have a brewery up and running late this winter. BrewDog is also raising capital by crowdfunding: you can buy shares for $47.50 each.

    It took him 16 tries, but reddit user “boomboomsaloon” finally succeeded in buying beer using a Blockbuster Video membership card as proof of age.

    “It’s like a death in the family”, said Revolution Brewing Founder Josh Deth after he recalled more than 10,000 barrels of beer that didn’t meet his brewery’s quality standards.

    Kirin Brewing Company, Japan’s second-largest brewery, will buy a 25-percent stake in Brooklyn Brewing Company. Kirin will introduce Brooklyn’s beers in Japan and distribute them in Brazil.

    Food blogger Kyle Marcoux aka The Vulgar Chef found a new way to pair beer and pizza. He made a koozie by rolling a square pizza base with pepperoni and mozzarella around a beer can.

    Engineers at University of Colorado have developed a process to make lithium-ion battery electrodes from the sugar-rich wastewater created in the beer-making process.

    Finally, beer writer Josh Bernstein says these six trends will be the talk of 2017: Marzen beers in the fall, the revival of Kolsch beers, juice-like IPAs, milk stouts, coffee beers, and fruited sour beers.

    The Rise of Dick Yuengling

    In 1974, Dick Yuengling was fed up with his father’s refusal to modernize the floundering D.G. Yuengling & Son brewery. He walked away, spending 11 years in exile as a beer distributor. Finally, his ailing father agreed to sell him the business for $500,000.

    Once in charge, he made the needed changes. Over the next three decades, production grew from 137,000 barrels to 2.8 million, putting his brewery in the nation’s top five. Yuengling himself is in the Forbes 400 of richest Americans, with a net worth of $1.9 billion.

    To put it mildly, Yuengling is a hands-on CEO. A self-styled “production nut”, he sometimes runs machinery himself. It’s a running joke at the brewery that everyone on the organization chart reports directly to him.

    Yuengling’s lone-wolf approach to business comes with a possible downside: he’s 73 years old, and the brewery is becoming too big for him to manage himself. There’s another problem. Like King Lear, he has daughters and will eventually have to hand over control to one of them. Succession has proved the ruin of many family businesses.

    Why Some Breweries Skipped the GABF

    Even though they’re well regarded and have a following, some breweries passed on this year’s Great American Beer Festival. Their reasons include the high cost of travel, the limited impact of GABF on sales, and the difficulty of getting the word out at such a heavily-attended event.

    Some breweries that skipped the GABF poured instead at fringe events during festival weekend. Those events attracted aficionados of certain styles, such as sour beers and beers made with wild yeasts or locally-found ingredients. The more intimate, laid-back atmosphere enabled brewery representatives to talk to attendees and further build their brand.

    The Friday Mash (Cubs Win! Edition)

    On this date in 1908, the Chicago Cubs last won the World Series. Managed by Frank Chance of “Tinker to Evers to Chance” fame, they beat the Detroit Tigers, 4 games to 1. Cubs fans are hoping their team can end their 108-year drought in this year’s playoffs.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin in Detroit, where Ludwig’s beloved Lions will sell $3.50 beers during Sunday’s game against the L.A. Rams. The way the Lions are playing, fans need a few to get them through the game.

    D.G. Yuengling & Son is waging a last-ditch fight against the pending merger of Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller. Yuengling argues that A-B is trying to keep it out of new markets.

    German scientists have found that beer causes less liver damage than hard liquor. The reason? Hops may inhibit the formation of reactive oxygen species, which can damage cells in the liver.

    Ken Pagan, the Toronto-area man accused of throwing a beer can at a player during a baseball game, better have his lawyer warming up. A Canadian attorney discusses Pagan’s legal problems.

    Two Copenhagen men have taken the idea of freeze-dried coffee and applied it to four of their craft beers. They’ve created instant versions of a coffee beer, a fruity IPA, a wild-yeast IPA, and a pilsner.

    After a church in Canyon, Texas, ran an anti-alcohol ad in the local paper, an establishment called the Imperial Taproom offered a discount to customers who brought in a copy of the ad.

    Finally, Fat Head’s Brewery had a very short reign as “Mid-Sized Brewing Company of the Year” at the Great American Beer Festival. Officials revoked the award after concluding that Fat Head’s, which has three locations, had been misclassified.

    Beer, Hospitals and No “Double Jeopardy”

    Candida Moss, a professor at the University of Notre Dame, reminds us of Christianity’s role in bringing us beer. Catholic monks didn’t invent beer or create beer culture, but out of necessity they brewed superb ales—including Westvletern 12, which has been rated the world’s best. Centuries ago, St. Benedict instructed monks to be good hosts, and to support themselves from the fruit of their labor. Brewing beer was a way to comply with both. Originally the monks made beer as a way to avoid contracting dangerous water-borne illnesses. But in the 17th century, the Paulaner monks of Bavaria starting brewing beer especially for consumption during the Lenten fast, when eating was prohibited. The monks’ tradition lives on in the form of Starkbierzeit, Munich’s Lenten festival.

    Moss adds that Christianity deserves credit for the concept of the hospital as an independent institution. Here again, the monks get credit; they started caring for the sick at their monasteries; and in Egypt, they make the health care available to monks available to all. In addition, Moss traces the Anglo-American legal concept of “double jeopardy” to the Church. In the 12th century, King Henry II of England tried to pass a law allowing his courts to try members of the clergy who had already been tried in ecclesiastical courts. Thomas a Becket, who was later made a saint, argued that there could be only one judgment for the same act. Henry took exception, and his knights murdered Becket. Afterward, the pope not only condemned Henry but also his effort to inflict double punishment on the clergy.

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