Charlie Papazian

The Fight to Legalize Brewpubs

Charlie Papazian, who writes about beer on, resurrected a 1982 article from Zymurgy magazine about early efforts to legalize brewpubs. It was written by Tom Burns, then at the Boulder Brewing Company. Burns moved to Michigan, where he fought to change that state’s restrictive laws. Unfortunately, Burns passed away before Michigan became the “The Great Beer State” with more than 150 microbreweries and brewpubs.

At the heart of Burns’ article is America’s three-tier distribution system. He conceded that legislators had reasons to ban “tied houses”—they didn’t want breweries to monopolize the retail market—but argued that the laws were so inflexible they made impossible for a small brewery to sell its beer at retail.

Burns, who was an attorney, urged the craft-brewing community to lobby state legislators. He argued for a narrow exception to the three-tier system—allowing breweries to sell their product, on premises, at retail–and offered some useful talking points. Brewpubs are local businesses, which hire local people. They counter the trend toward industry concentration. They help preserve traditional beer styles, and led to the creation of new ones. And they encourage the consumption of beer, a beverage of moderation.

The strategy worked. A generation later, brewpubs are legal in all 50 states.

Remembering the First GABF

Had The Beer Festival Calendar existed in 1982, the listing for the first Great American Beer Festival might have looked like this:


4: Great American Beer Festival, Boulder, CO

The American Homebrewers Association presents the inaugural Great American Beer Festival, which will take place at the Hilton Harvest House in Boulder. This afternoon/evening event will feature more than 45 beers from around two dozen American craft breweries.

Of course, there wouldn’t have been a Beer Festival Calendar or a GABF website back then, because the World Wide Web wouldn’t be invented for another decade. And the term “craft beer,” if it existed at all, wasn’t in general circulation.

For the record, the first GABF drew 850 attendees. One of them was Michael Jackson, The Beer Hunter. Legend has it that when AHA co-founder Charlie Papazian told him about his plan to stage a festival, Jackson famoulsy replied, “That’s a great idea, Charlie. Only what will you serve for beer?”

The Friday Mash (Ale and Pi Edition)

Today is Pi Day, an annual celebration commemorating the mathematical constant. It’s celebrated today because Americans write the date as 3/14; and “3″, “1″, and “4″ are the three most significant digits of pi in decimal form. Ludwig recommends a beer, preferably a Real Ale, to go with your pi.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Boston, where Jim Koch invited survivors of last year’s Marathon bombing to his brewery, which is again brewing a special “26.2″ ale to raise funds for those injured last year.

A company in Canada plans to brew a “recovery ale” for athletes. It’s called “Lean Machine”; and it has 77 calories, 0.5 percent alcohol, and contains nutrients, antioxidants, and electrolytes.

Jonas Bronck’s Beer Company has tapped into New York tradition with an egg cream stout. An egg cream contains milk, chocolate syrup, and seltzer water–but no eggs.

A Wisconsin lawmaker has introduced a bill that would create a state Beer Commission. It has the backing of the state’s breweries.

Charlie Papazian, head of the Brewers Association, has decided to discontinue the Beer City USA competition because it has “served its purpose.” Grand Rapids won last year’s competition.

investor C. Dean Metropoulos, who bought Pabst Brewing Company four years ago, is reportedly considering a sale of the company, which could be worth as much as $1 billion.

Finally, John Verive, a food writer for the Los Angeles Times, explains why the classic tulip glass is the only glass you’ll need. It’s versatile, supports the beer’s head, and holds in its aromas.

What if Prohibition Never Happened?

The latest column by Charlie Papazian poses an intriguing question: what if the 18th Amendment, which imposed national Prohibition, never became law?

If Prohibition never happened, we wouldn’t have had bathtub gin or speakeasies, the U.S. Treasury would have continued to take in millions in excise taxes, and gangsters like Al Capone would have been forced to find some other industry. And millions of Americans wouldn’t have had to break the law to enjoy an adult beverage.

But Papazian also sees a downside to Prohibition never happening. Lawmakers might not have outlawed “tied houses.” That, plus inevitable consolidation of the industry, could have created a barrier to entry so high that small breweries would struggle to survive. Without distributors, small brewers would have little chance of getting their product on the shelves and into bars. And if big brewers pushed huge quantities of cheap beer, a backlash leading to high taxes and tough restrictions might have occurred.

The ultimate question Papazian asks is, “If there was no Prohibition would we have today’s 2,400 small breweries?”

Point/Counterpoint: Macrobrew

Jim Galligan, who writes about beer and other adult beverages for, has a bone to pick with the World Beer Cup. He believes that competition organizers do good work overall; but he questions their decision to award medals in industrial beer categories, which are won by large breweries.

Charlie Papazian of the Brewers Association defends the practice, arguing that a rising tide lifts all boats. He told Galligan, “Winning in a competition is more than a statement of achievement,” he said. “It enhances the image of beer everywhere.”

Galligan wasn’t convinced. He responded:

If a wine lover saw the Miller Lite commercial where they crow about winning four WBC gold medals, do you think he or she would be convinced to put down their wine glass and pick up a mug? Or would they simply think that the world of beer must be pretty lame if Miller Lite is the best of the best? If anything, giving gold medals to industrial light lagers sends the wrong message. It lowers the tide for all brewers.

The Friday Mash (Tax Man Edition)

On this day in 1861, the U.S. government levied the first-ever income tax to fund the Union effort in the Civil War. A year later, the government imposed another war tax: a “temporary” tax on beer. Temporary? Almost a century and a half later, the federal beer tax is still with us.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Toronto, where beer is taxed even more heavily than in the States. It’s also the home of Bellwoods Brewery, whose owners talked their neighbors into growing hops in exchange for free beer.

Did Ben Franklin really say that “beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”? No, says Charlie Papazian, who tells us what Franklin really said.

Earlier this year, TheStreet.Com featured ten of America’s best craft beer vacations. After getting an earful from the places left out, TheStreet has added five more destinations, all of them states.

White Sox slugger Frank Thomas was called “The Big Hurt” for good reason: he hit 521 home runs. Now retired, he’s lending his name to Big Hurt Beer, a lager with 7 percent ABV clout.

Budweiser is losing market share among humans, but Kathryn Olmstead, a writer in Maine, discovered that garden slugs prefer it by a 2-to-1 margin over Corona and Molson.

To get you through one of the hottest summers ever, Heineken has a double-walled beer mug that can cool your beer in five minutes.

Finally, an item that got Ludwig excited. He found a a taxonomic classification of over 600 beers with mammals on their labels. It’s organized by animal, just like in biology class.

Crunching the Numbers

Got your thinking caps on? Good. Because here comes a two-part question: (a) how many homebrewers are there in the United States, and (b) how much beer do they brew?

Paul Gatza and Gary Glass of the American Homebrewers Association tackled those questions in a column on Gatza says: “I would start with a guess of 750,000 homebrewers making beer at least once per year, who average around 4 five-gallon batches per year. 20 gallons x 750,000/31 gallons per barrel = 483,000 barrels of homebrew a year. I think a good working number is half a million bbls of homebrew per year.”

Charlie Papazian of the Brewers Association adds some perspective. He notes that “500,000 barrels is 0.25% of all the beer enjoyed in the United States. It’s a whisper, but a very loud whisper.” Papazian also describes Gatza’s estimate of 750,000 homebrewers as “aggressive,” and offers half a million as a conservative figure.

The Friday Mash (New Albion Edition)

On this day in 1579, Sir Francis Drake landed on the coast of what is now northern California. He called the land “New Albion” and claimed it for England. Four centuries later, Jack McAuliffe resurrected the name New Albion as the name for his microbrewery. It only lasted five years, but it changed American beer forever.

And now…The Mash!

We begin near Aix-en-Provence, France, a region we nowadays associate with wine. Scientists have also found evidence that the locals brewed beer 2,500 years ago.

The Heights in Houston, Texas, is the home of Live It BIG’s Beer Camp. Nicholas L. Hall of the Houston Press came home a happy camper, thanks to all the great beer he sampled.

What is “the mysterious Australian Ale”? Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile, concludes that it was most likely “No. 3 grade” Burton Ale, a sweetish, high-gravity beer exported to Australia during the late 19th century.

Dan, who blogs at The Full Pint, runs down the current trends in craft beer. Topping the list: 750ml corked and caged bottles.

Charlie Papazian revs up his time machine and travels back to 1980, where he unearths a Zymurgy magazine article about the Boulder Brewing Company. It’s part of the Small Breweries Revive series at

In New York City, bars are earning the Good Beer Seal. Participating establishments must be independently owned, have 80 percent of its beer consist of craft domestics or special imports, employ a knowledgeable staff that’s committed to presenting beer properly.

Finally, Session #53 has been announced. This month’s host is John Holl, and he’d like to hear from about Beer Redemption–that is, beers that with which you once had a bad experience, but later came to appreciate.

America’s Oldest Bar

In 1967, Charlie Papazian used to hop a train that took him from his New Jersey home to New York City, where 18-year-olds could legally drink. One of his watering holes was McSorley’s Old Ale House in Manhattan. An older, wiser, and definitely more famous Papazian recently paid the venerable establishment a return visit.

“Venerable” is an understatement. McSorley’s is at least 150 years old (the exact year of its establishment is in dispute) and is the oldest still-existing licensed establishment in America. It’s also one of the most old-school establishments: it enforced a “men-only” policy until 1970, when a federal judge laid down the law ordered it to serve women. The menu has changed little over the years, the floors are covered with sawdust, and beer is served in ten-ounce glasses.

Papazian says: If there is only time for one beer in New York City–my recommendation would be to have it at McSorley’s Old Ale House.”

The Friday Mash (For the Boys Edition)

On this day in 1941, the United Service Organizations, Inc., was created. During World War II, the USO presented hundreds of thousands of shows featuring the greatest names in entertainment history. Those shows were brought back to life in the 1991 film For the Boys, which starred Bette Midler.

And now…The Mash!

We begin at the University of California, Davis, which has opened a $20 million winery, brewery and food processing complex. The facility also has earned a LEED Platinum certification.

Jack Curtin reviews Dethroning the King, an account of InBev’s successful hostile takeover of Anheuser-Busch. He points out that A-B committed a series of blunders that led to its being taken over.

Prague’s U Fleku is more than 500 years old, and is the world’s oldest continually-operating brewpub. Charlie Papazian caught up with Ivan Chramosil, who’s been its brewmaster for 40 years.

Evan Hansen of Underground Detroit magazine introduces his readers to lambic. Did you know that a beer with only 10 percent lambic can be labeled “lambic”?

It appears that something Wicked this way will no longer come. Gambrinus Company has announced that it will stop distribution of Pete’s Wicked Ale on March 1.

Martyn Cornell, the Zythophile, has a bone to pick with’s best beer list. Actually, his target is extreme-beer fans, who’ve voted so many high-gravity beers onto the list.

Finally, a quiz question. What do Apollo, Boadicea, Citra, and El Dorado have in common? Time’s up. They’re new varieties of hops.

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