It began in Burlington, Ontario, on a hot August night in 1989. Conditions were perfect for a group of Canadian runners to devise a new workout: swill four beers and sprint four laps. The Beer Mile was born.
Several members of the original crew went on to college in Kingston, and there they drew up the official Beer Mile rules: where beer should be consumed; the quantity and minimum alcohol content; proper disposal; restrictions against tampering or drinking aids; and, most importantly, the one-lap penalty for puking.
Beer Mile organizers also asked competitors to send in the times from their runs—which, due to open-container bans and other laws, often took place in secret.
As word got around, Beer Milers got serious about the event. And times for the event fell quickly. This April, James Neilsen became the first runner to break the five-minute barrier. (Neilsen believes he can get his time down to 4:25, or even 4:20.)
The Beer Mile isn’t on the program for the Olympics, although ex-Olympians have taken up the challenge. However, the first-ever world competition is tentatively scheduled for San Francisco next spring.
Can you believe that Miller Lite turns 40 next year? The beer’s big birthday prompted author Tom Acitelli to tell the story of its origin. One stop on the journey was Munich, where George Weissman, the chairman of Philip Morris–which had recently bought the Miller Brewing Company—asked his waiter to recommend a non-filling beer. The waiter suggested a Diat pilsner.
If you know about German beer, Diat isn’t a low-calorie beer, it’s a low-sugar lager brewed for people with diabetes. Weissman liked the beer, and so did his dinner guest, Miller Brewing’s new president, John Murphy. They decided that America was ready for a light beer.
As it turned out, Miller’s assets included the recipe for a light beer, which originated at the Rheingold Brewery in New York. It was marketed as Gablinger’s Diet Beer, which flopped badly. Meister Brau, which acquired the recipe from Rheingold, marketed it as Meister Brau Lite. That, too, was a failure.
Murphy got the message: “diet beer” doesn’t sell. Instead, he advertised it as “Everything You Wanted in a Beer. And Less.” And, of course, “Great Taste. Less Filling.” He also recruited retired athletes to endorse the beer. Miller Lite became one of the biggest successes in brewing history, and every major brewery responded by rolling out its own light beer.
The “light” movement spread far beyond beer. The makers of everything from soft drinks to barbecue sauce offered lower-calorie versions of their products. Some, such as Coca-Cola, even used the word “diet” in the new products’ names.
As for Miller Lite, one of its recent commercials claims that the beer “changed everything” by making beer drinkers more svelte and thus more attractive. Maybe diet beer sells after all, at least if the dreaded D-word doesn’t appear in the ads.
In case you haven’t looked at the front page of The Beer Festival Calendar, Ludwig decided to take a well-earned vacation. He went to London to watch the Atlanta Falcons-Detroit Lions football game. (The Lions overcame a 21-point deficit and won, so the players and coaching staff really ought to buy him a few cold ones.)
Currently, Ludwig is on a mission to visit every London pub with “Lion” in its name. That’s a tall order, and we’re betting that he runs out of time and money before he runs out of pubs.
With Ludwig out on the town, there won’t be a Friday Mash this week. However, Maryanne and Paul might jump in with a post or two if they find something newsworthy.
On this day in 1931, the George Washington Bridge opened to traffic. This double-decker span over the Hudson River connects Manhattan with Fort Lee, New Jersey–a town now famous thanks to “Bridgegate.”
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Kansas City, where Boulevard Brewing Company will kick off its 25th anniversary celebration with the release of a special ale brewed in collaboration with Odell Brewing Company.
Chef David Chang made enemies thanks to a GQ magazine article declaring his hatred of “fancy beer”. Chang contends that craft beer has too intense a flavor to pair with his food.
Two hundred years ago, in London, eight women and children were killed by a flood of beer caused by an explosion at the Henry Meux & Company brewery. The disaster was ruled an “act of God.”
Why not turn your Halloween jack-o-lantern into a beer keg? All you need is a carving knife, a pumpkin carving kit, a Sharpie, a spigot, and beer—which need not be pumpkin beer.
William Bostwick, the Wall Street Journal’s beer critic, has written a book titled The Brewer’s Tale. In her review, Amy Stewart calls Bostwick “the very best sort of literary drinking buddy.”
In Papua New Guinea, which suffers 1.8 million cases of malaria every year, a brewery packs its beer in a box that contains eucalyptus, a natural mosquito repellent.
Finally, should the Great American Beer Festival give medals for best beer puns? CraftBeer.com’s Atalie Rhodes found these doozies on the list of medal winners. Our favorite is “Dubbel Entendre.”
The October 10 Friday Mash contained an item about a new beer and food pairing course offered by the Brewers Association. The course, which you can download for free, co-authored by chef Adam Dulye, the Association’s culinary consultant and Julia Herz, the Association’s craft beer program director.
It’s constructed as a five-day-long introduction to craft beer, pairing beer with food, and how to pour and present beer at the table. In addition to lectures and suggested readings, instructors guide students through two tasting sessions of beer styles and a food pairing session.
Daniel Hartis, who lives in Charlotte, is the author of Charlotte Beer: A History of Brewing In The Queen City and the recently-published Beer Lover’s The Carolinas. Last week, he talked beer with fellow blogger Jim Dedman. Hartis credits the grass-roots Pop the Cap movement in North Carolina, which successfully lobbied state lawmakers to lift the 6-percent ABV limit, for the growth of craft beer in that state. Later, South Carolina passed similar legislation, and amended its liquor code to allow breweries to serve pints.
The author admits that his first experience with craft beer didn’t go so well. When he moved to Asheville to go to college, he asked the server at a pizzeria to bring him a pint of the establishment’s most popular beer. It was, of course, an IPA. He said, “I’d like to tell you it opened up a whole new world for me, but I thought it was disgusting and abrasively bitter.”
Hartis also said that breweries and beer bars are opening so fast in the Carolinas that he’s already thinking of a second edition of the book. It might hit the shelves as early as a couple of years from now.
Today is the 25th anniversary of the Loma Prieta earthquake, which killed more than 60 people in the San Francisco Bay Area. Because it occurred minutes before Game 3 of the World Series, it became the first major earthquake to be broadcast on national television.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Melbourne Beach, Florida, where a house inspired by beer bottles is on the market for $2.95 million. And it’s built to withstand hurricanes.
Louiville mayor Greg Fischer wants beer to join bourbon as a tourist attraction. He’d also like a bourbon-barrel beer festival and the revival of Kentucky common beer.
Are you a beer aficionado? James Grebey of Buzzfeed.com has compiled a list of 21 warning signs. Warning sign #6: You have a very, very deeply held opinion about pumpkin beer.
Now that legal marijuana is gaining momentum, economists are looking at legalization’s effect on the beer industry. Some think higher spending on pot will mean less spending on beer.
The Pretty Things Beer & Ale Project is blowing the whistle on Boston-area bars that take bribes from breweries. The practice is illegal, but violators are rarely punished.
Jason Momoa, who played Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones, wants to brew beer in Detroit. He bought a 100-year-old former General Motors building, part of which will house his own brewery.
Finally, scientists have discovered that fruit flies love brewer’s yeast. A gene in the yeast releases a fruity smell that attracts the flies which, in turn, spread the yeasts to new habitats.
The votes have been counted, and USA Today announced the winner of the “Best Beer Town” competition. The winner, as determined by online voting, was Grand Rapids. The surprising runner-up was Tampa. Rounding out the top ten: Asheville, Bend, Fort Collins, San Diego, Portland (ME), Portland (OR), Denver, and Burlington
Jay Brooks recently wrote a column in the San Jose Mercury News about the season we refer to as “fall.” That word is a short form of the 17th-century English phrase, “fall of the leaf.” Fall is also the harvest season—Germans call it Herbst, a derivative of the Old Norse word for “harvest”—and it’s the time of the year to bring in the hops and barley crops.
This is where where John Barleycorn takes the stage. During the 16th century, a folk tale about him made its way around England. Brooks describes it as “an allegorical story of death, resurrection and drinking. The main character, the eponymous John Barleycorn, is the personification of barley, which is attacked, beaten and eventually dies–or as we prefer to think of it, grown, reaped and then malted.”
The most famous modern version of this song was recorded by Traffic, co-founded by Steve Winwood and Dave Mason and featured on their 1970 album, John Barleycorn Must Die.
Breweries from western states, Colorado in particular, win a disproportionate number of Great American Beer Festival medals. Some observers believe western breweries win more medals because they make better beer. Others believe that their proximity to Denver gives them an advantage: it’s a lot easier to ship beer from Boulder than, say, New Jersey.
Bart Watson, the chief economist for the Brewers Association, offers a different explanation: Western breweries simply enter more beers. Watson calculated the number of expected medals per state, which is determined by both the number of beers entered and the categories in which they competed. (The second factor is important because it’s much harder to win a medal for an IPA than for a less-popular style such as dark lager.) He then compared the number of medals actually won to the expected number.
Watson discovered was that the actual medal count was very close to the expected number. From that, he drew two conclusions. First, no region of the country can claim it makes significantly better beer than others. And second, distance from Denver doesn’t keep states from winning medals; however, it does limit the number of entries. Which gets us back to the argument about proximity to Denver.