The latest Examiner.com 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?”
Jim Galligan, who writes about beer and other adult beverages for MSNBC.com, 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.
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.
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 Examiner.com. 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.
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 Examiner.com.
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.
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.”
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 RateBeer.com’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.
Because if cabin fever hasn’t set in, it soon will.
The Brewers Association has announced a preliminary list of speakers at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference in San Francisco.
Speaking of San Francisco, Lucy Saunders loves good food and craft beer, and she found plenty of places with both in the City by the Bay.
Craft beer in tropical paradise? Might not be a good idea. Ask Charlie Papazian, who gagged on a couple while traveling. He blames hot weather, which is death to fresh beer.
Less than four years after South Carolina lawmakers lifted the ABV cap, good beer is pouring into the state. And much of it is brewed inside the Palmetto State.
Finally, Nelson County, Virginia, has joined the Brew Ridge Trail. It has three breweries, and its partner, Albemarle County, has several more.
Same day. Different Mash.
“Johnny Fullpint” at The Full Pint gives us a preview of the inaugural Chesapeake Oyster and Beer Festival in Maryalnd.
Award-winning beer writer Pete Brown tells us that in spite of a rash of closures and an indifferent government, the British pub isn’t going to die. That said, the venerable British pint glass could be getting a makeover because it is often used as a weapon by drunken pub-goers.
This August, Charlie Papazian will be in Maine to lead another edition of The 2010 Art & Science of Beer. It’s a series of presentations, meals, and beer tastings.
Attention Indianapolis Colts fans: your Super Bowl party isn’t complete without Indiana-brewed beer. And they’re getting easier to find at your local liquor store.
Men’s Health magazine named MGD 64 the best beer to drink. John Foyston, who writes for The Oregonian, has something to say about that.
Finally, Wynkoop Brewing Company has named its three finalists for the Beerdrinker of the Year award. The national finals are February 27.
Last month, we mentioned Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s plans to celebrate craft brewing’s pioneers by brewing special beers in collaboration with them.
Here are the details.
In March, the brewery will release the first of four beers at Anchor Brewing with Fritz Maytag. The other pioneers are Jack McAuliffe of the departed, but certainly not forgotten, New Albion Brewery; and veteran beer writers and homebrewers Fred Eckhardt and Charlie Papazian.
Speaking of McAuliffe, he’s now living in San Antonio where he’s been recovering from a serious auto accident (hat tip: Jack Curtin and McAuliffe’s sister, Cathy).
Ken Grossman, Sierra Nevada’s founder, explained why he’s doing this series:
We wanted to pay tribute to the original pioneers who helped me and hundreds of others get started….Few people in the craft-brewing world have accomplished more than these guys, and we thought it might be fun to get the original crew together and make something special.
Cheers, Ken. That was very classy of you.
If you want more information, Sierra Nevada has created a special website for these beers.