Craft Pilsner Comes of Age

From the beginning of the craft beer movement, pilsener has been a pariah style because of its association with light lager beer that dominated the American market. Brewers reacted to pilsener by making ales, the hoppier the better.

Today, pilsener accounts for a lowly 1 percent of the craft beer market. That, however, is about to change. In the past year, top-tier breweries such as Founders Brewing Company and regional players such as Captain Lawrence Brewing Company have added the style to their lineup.

The new pilseners are inspired by European classics, but many have a distinct American accent. For example, Founders’ PC Pils is brewed with Centennial, Cascade, and Chinook hops rather than floral European varieties. For American drinkers accustomed to hoppy beers, that eases the transition to pilsener.

Pilsener also responds to increased demand for beers that carry a lighter alcoholic punch than American IPAs. There are times—such as on the beach or while golfing—that call for an alternative. And Pilseners are low-maintenance; their appeal is to those who simply want to enjoy a beer, not analyze and review it in depth.

The Friday Mash (Carnegie Hall Edition)

On this day in 1891, Music Hall in New York City—later known as Carnegie Hall—staged its grand opening and first public performance. The guest conductor that day was none other than Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

And now (cue up the music)…The Mash!

We begin in Bozeman, Montana, where Amy Henkle’s Happy Dog Beer Company is brewing “beers” for dogs. They don’t contain alcohol or hops; instead they’re a supplement to be poured on top of regular dog food.

Thirty-five years ago, Knoxville hosted a World’s Fair. Several city residents have teamed up to brew a beer celebrating the fair. It will be available through October, when the fair closed.

Sacramento Bee correspondent Blair Anthony Robertson wonders why new breweries price their beer at world-class levels. High prices result in disappointed customers and ruins the brewery’s goodwill.

If you hold bottled beer by its base, you’re holding it wrong. You should hold it by the neck to prevent the beer from getting warm—just as you should hold a wine glass by the stem.

When a Finnish brewery released a 100-pack of its beer, rival brewery Nokian Panimo one-upped it with a 1,000-pack of Kaiseri beer. To buy one, you need 2,160 euros ($2,350)—and a truck.

Researchers in the UK have found that beer is a more effective pain reliever than generic Tylenol. Having three or four beers—resulting in a BAC of .08—reduces pain by up to 25 percent.

Finally, today is Cinco de Mayo. The Chicago Tribune’s Josh Noel prepared for it by drinking Mexican beers in an effort to find out why they’ve become so popular. The answer is a “complex mix of demographics, marketing, history and nostalgia”.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Participants in the 2016 American Homebrewers Association Big Brew event: more than 12,000.
  • Establishments that hosted Big Brew events in 2016: 483.
  • Cities on this year’s Sierra Nevada “Beer Camp on Tour”: 8.
  • Breweries collaborating with Sierra Nevada on this year’s event: 12.
  • Beer’s share of Boston Beer Company’s beverage production in 2010: 88.9 percent.
  • Its share of Boston Beer Company’s beverage production in 2016: 57.2 percent.
  • Twelve-ounce beers in a “keg” (half-barrel) of beer: 165.
  • Growlers in a keg: 31.
  • Beer stores in Whiteclay, Nebraska (population 9) last year: 4.
  • Beer stores in Whiteclay today: 0. Their licenses were revoked by the state.
  • Cans of beer sold in Whiteclay last year: 3.5 million. Most are bought by Native Americans living on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, which is dry.
  • Japan’s legal drinking age: 20.
  • Japanese brewing industry’s recommended minimum age for actors in beer commercials: 25.
  • Mexican beer’s share of the U.S. import beer market: 70 percent.
  • Mexican beers among the 7 top-selling brands in the U.S.: 2 (Corona Extra and Modelo Especial).
  • The Friday Mash (Mutiny on the Bounty Edition)

    On this day in 1789, crewmen led by Fletcher Christian seized control of the HMS Bounty from its captain, William Bligh; and set Bligh and 18 loyalists adrift. Bligh survived, and then began the process of bringing the mutineers to justice.

    And now…The Mash!

    We begin at the 2017 Craft Beer Conference, where Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe rolled out the red carpet for breweries. The governor said he personally recruited Stone, Deschutes, Ballast Point, and Green Flash to come to the state.

    In Birmingham, England, Anheuser-Busch came under heavy criticism from city officials after the company’s guerrilla marketers were caught handing out free beers to homeless people.

    Tony Gwynn, Jr., is working at AleSmith Brewing Company, which released a pale ale to salute his father’s .394 batting average in 1994. The younger Gwynn is concentrating on a session IPA.

    Draft magazine correspondent Brian Yeagar visited a couple of the world’s most-remote breweries. One is in Ushuaia, Argentina; and the other is on Easter Island, some 2,300 miles west of South America.

    Fair warning: If you use swear words inside a Samuel Smith pubs, the landlord has the power to cut you off—or even ban you—under the brewery’s zero-tolerance policy for cursing in its establishments.

    In Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, golfer John Daly showed he hasn’t changed. Daly entertained fans by teeing off with a beer can instead of a golf ball, then finishing off the can’s contents afterward.

    Finally, the Brewers Association is cracking down on sexist beer names. Under the BA’s terms of service, brewers of offending beers will no longer be allowed to advertise that those beers have won a medal at the World Beer Cup or the Great American Beer Festival.

    Trendy Beers: A Bad Business Decision?

    Boston Beer Company’s slumping sales have been a topic of conversation in the craft beer community. Author Jeff Alworth blames the company’s propensity to chase trends. Alworth explains:

    Boston Beer has made a series of decisions that may have resulted in short-term profits–spinning off alcoholic apple juice, tea, and seltzer divisions–but they enhanced the sense that this was a big company as bland and personality-free as Kellogg’s or Proctor and Gamble. No one could ever fault Sam Adams for failing to release new beers, but the ever-multiplying new lines of random beer types (IPAs, barrel-aged beers, nitro cans) has created a brewery with no there there.

    Trend-chasing isn’t limited to Boston Beer. Breweries across the country are scrambling to bring out their versions of grapefruit IPAs, golden ales, and New England IPAs. If the past is any indication—remember the wheat beers of the 1990s?—today’s fad beers stay trendy very long.

    According to Alworth, breweries that specialize in trendy beers fail to establish a connection with their customers. That connection is more important with beer than with other consumer products. He cites four examples—Sierra Nevada, Hill Farmstead, Schlenkerla, and Genesee—each of which has a distinct “personality”. Those personalities are built in collaboration with their drinkers, who expect the beer will embody that personality.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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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