Don Russell

The Friday Mash (Sports Illustrated Edition)

On this day in 1954, the first edition of Sports Illustrated hit the stands, with Milwaukee Braves slugger Eddie Mathews on the cover. Although the magazine is most famous for its swimsuit supermodels, some of the nation’s top sportswriters have written for it.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in London, where the Great British Beer Festival is underway. In case you missed it, this year’s Champion Beer of Britain is 1872 Porter from Yorkshire’s Elland Brewery. gears up for fall semester with a list of America’s 25 best college bars. The picks are based on several criteria, ranging from number of taps to late-night food.

In Washington, beer geeks and history buffs gathered to taste Christian Heurich’s original beer, first brewed in 1891. Heurich’s brewery, D.C.’s last survivor, closed in 1956.

There’s an app for that. Pivo offers translations and phonetic pronunciations to help you order a beer in 59 different languages. “Pivo,” by the way, is Czech for beer.

Founder Sam Walton frowned on drinking to excess, but his heirs are planning to step up beer sales at Wal-Mart in states where they’re legal in supermarkets.

A beer brewed for Ontario golfers is coming to the province’s golf courses, bars, and liquor stores. It’s called–you guessed it–Triple Bogey Lager.

Finally, Don Russell has a gig to make us jealous: beer ambassador to Lithuania, where he attended festivals, gave TV interviews, and introduced the locals to American brews.

One Thumb Up

Don Russell, who writes the Joe Sixpack column for, saw the documentary Crafting a Nation. He gives it something less than a rave review. On the positive side, Russell calls the film “well-researched, beautifully photographed and set to the meaningful strum of an acoustic guitar.” He praises it for presenting craft brewers as hard-working businessmen who overcame money woes and regulatory red tape to make a high-quality, local product.

However, Russell points out that Crafting a Nation “manages to almost completely miss the key attraction of craft beer: It tastes good.” It wasn’t until the 73-minute mark that he saw anyone actually taste a beer. Russell is also disappointed that the craft brewers portrayed in the film were, almost without exception, white, male, and bearded. Worse yet, they seemed to speak in the same platitudes–including the hoariest of beer ad slogans, “live life to the fullest.” The latter prompted Russell to write, “I swear, you could take any 30 seconds of this film, add Clydesdales, and you’d have a Budweiser commercial.”

About Those Black Crown Super Bowl Ads

By now, you’ve likely seen Budweiser Black Crown on the shelves at your local supermarket. You probably know the Black Crown story as well: it was the taste-test winner of the beers created for Budweiser Project 12. And you’re no doubt aware that Anheuser-Busch, Inc., has forked out millions for air time during the Super Bowl to promote this new brand.

Donald Russell, who blogs as Joe Sixpack, has an interesting explanation for A-B’s decision to promote the new brand during tomorrow’s big game. He quotes from an email he received from Grant Pace, the ad man who created the famous Bud Bowl series of Super Bowl commercials. Pace explains that the ads are intended to “drive conversation”:

Sarah Palin drove conversation, love her or hate her. When she stopped being interesting to both sides, she faded. Same with beer. They’re fine if you love the new products or hate them, but don’t be quiet about them. Don’t say that Budweiser isn’t doing stuff, isn’t innovating, isn’t sitting still.

Perhaps, But it remains to be seen whether craft beer drinkers actually like Black Crown, and like it enough to switch brands.

The Friday Mash (Victory at Sea Edition)

On this day in 1885, Chester Nimitz was born. Nimitz was Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet, and led the U.S. Navy to victory over Japan, in World War II. The best place to raise a glass to America’s last five-star admiral is at Oktoberfest in Nimitz’s hometown of Fredericksburg, Texas.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Boston, where the makers of Samuel Adams beer are preparing a special 26.2 Brew for the Boston Marathon, which takes place Monday, April 16.

In South Korea, the latest trend in licensed establishments is the self-service pub. Customers grab a table, select one of the 100 or so beers in the coolers, and settle their tab at the end of the night.

It’s not too early to make summer travel plans. The Forbes Travel Guide has some suggestions: its list of top ten brewery tours worth a visit.

The village of Melonsby, England, recently lost its mobile library, but the Black Bull Pub is trying to fill the void. It’s lending books to pub patrons, who can enjoy a book with their pint.

What are the top three top-selling imported beers in the U.S.? The answer: (1) Corona, (2) Heineken, and (3) Modelo Especial. The latter brand has posted double-digit sales growth for the past 17 years.

Curious about those bubbles in your beer? Don Russell, a/k/a Joe Sixpack, has 16 things to know about foam.

Finally, Rob Dunn of Scientific American magazine, has written an intriguing blog post titled “Strong Medicine: Drinking Wine and Beer Can Help Save You from Cholera, Montezuma’s Revenge, E. Coli and Ulcers”.

Rating Beer Before Existed

A recent column by Don Russell, a/k/a “Joe Sixpack,” takes us back to the 1970s, one of the darkest times in American brewing history. Why, then, would one want to go there? Because several informal taste tests from that era were won by beer from regional breweries. The most famous such event was conducted by Chicago journalist Mike Royko in 1973. Royko, who never minced words, wrote that most domestic beer tasted like it had been run through a horse. After getting an earful from readers, he assembled a panel of judges to taste a variety of domestic and imported beers. They awarded first prize to Point Special, from the Stevens Point (Wisconsin) Brewing Company–putting that brewery on the national map. And what beer finished last? Hint: many of its advertisements feature the brewery’s iconic team of horses.

The Friday Mash (Autumnal Equinox Edition)

Just after 5:00 this morning, Eastern time, the autumnal equinox took place; and you probably missed it. Ludwig is willing to forgive you for being such a sleepyhead, but on one condition: that you have a seasonal beer this evening. Being German American, he recommends an Oktoberfest.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Chicago, where Melanie Gravdal gave her townhouse extra curb appeal by offering $1,000 in beer at the bar across the street to the person who buys it.

In the Pittsburgh area, two breweries are trying to revive Fort Pitt Beer. Problem is, there’s only one trademark and both breweries claim it.

Did you miss Zwanze Day? If so, add it to your 2012 calendar. That’s the day a special lambic from Cantillon gets released at 21 sites world-wide, ten of them in the U.S.

Some experts think declining beer consumption is aggravating Europe’s economic woes. When people drink less, bars and restaurants let workers go.

Goodbye to all that. Britain’s Good Food Guide has banned the word “gastropub”, which it finds unpalatable in these tough economic times.

In Seattle, the Redhook Ale Brewery celebrated its 30th birthday in style with an 80s concert starring Tom-Tom Club, The Psychedelic Furs, and Devo.

Finally, “Joe Sixpack,” who calls Philadelphia America’s best beer-drinking city, also thinks his hometown’s bratwurst can’t be beat. Especially, Ludwig adds, during football season.

The Friday Mash (WWW Edition)

On this day in 1969, the first-ever computer-to-computer link was established on ARPANET, the precursor to the Internet. The first message transmitted was supposed to be the word “login,” but the system crashed after the “l” and the “o” were transmitted.

And n…

I knew that would happen.

We begin with the frugal Dick Yuengling, Jr.. He drives a 2002 Ford Taurus–which he bought used–and refuses to spend money get it washed. But his cheapness has certainly helped his brewery survive.

The Lemp home and brewery in St. Louis, said to be inhabited by ghosts of deceased family members, is on the “Ten Scariest Places in America” list. What better place for a Halloween haunted house?

Martyn Cornell gives Michael Jackson credit for inventing beer styles. Before Jackson wrote The World Guide to Beer in 1977, nobody used the phrase “beer style.”

Don Russell, a/k/a Joe Sixpack, urges you to build a bar in your home. Your friends will thank you, and you’ll never have to worry about getting busted for DUI.

Craft beer earned a seat at the table at The French Laundry, a Michelin three-star restaurant in California’s wine country. Ashley Rouston, The Beer Wench, describes her once-in-a-lifetime experience there.

Finally, what do you look for in a beer glass? Lew Bryson offers his criteria, and comes to the defense of the much-maligned shaker pint.

The Friday Mash (Happy Birthday Edition)

A year ago today, Ludwig launched “Ludwig Roars,” the Beer Festival Calendar blog. So pour yourself a virtual beer (it’s on the birthday boy), and join Maryanne and Paul who’ll lead us in a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday to Ludwig Roars.”

Thank you. And now…The Mash!

We begin with Don Russell, a/k/a Joe Sixpack, who calls the roll of beer-related saints.

Ilan Klages-Mundt of finished a two-week apprenticeship at Fuller’s Brewery. He also attended the London Brewer’s Alliance Beerfest.

For the first time since Prohibition, Guinness Foreign Extra Stout will be sold in the United States.

Josh Noel of the Chicago Tribune reviews the own-label beers on the shelves at your local Trader Joe’s.

Another collaborative beer is on the way. Called Bitch Please, it will be brewed jointly by Three Floyds Brewing Company and Scotland-based BrewDog. The beer will use seven different malts and an all-New Zealand hop mix.

Genetically engineered beer might be coming to a bar near you. Scientists have identified 20 barley proteins, 40 proteins from yeast, and two proteins from corn. Tweaking these proteins might improve beer’s flavor and aroma.

Finally, we couldn’t resist one more Great American Beer Festival story. Ashley Rouston, a/k/a The Beer Wench, handed out a slew of awards to those who showed up in Denver. Few of them appeared to be camera-shy.

From the Department of Bad Beer

Mediocre. Asia’s emergence as the number-one market for beer moved Don Russell, a/k/a “Joe Sixpack,” to assess the state of Asian beer. His verdict: not much to write home about.

Bad. Luke McKinney, writing at, tried five awful beers for breakfast, then wrote scathing reviews of all five. (Hat tip: Bryce Eddings of

Very Bad. You might not recognize his name, but if you live in New England, you might have drunk August Haffenreffer’s infamous Private Stock Malt Liquor. Sold in 40-ounce bottles, it was called “Green Death” and “Haffenwrecker.” Wilt Chamberlain hawked the stuff in the 1970s and, more recently, the late rapper Notorious B.I.G. sang about it.

Really, Really Bad. In his novel Roy and Lillie, Loren Estleman describes the beer brewed by the legendary Judge Roy Bean: “[H]e was impatient with the process of fermentation and insisted on serving the beer green, with hops and the odd drunken spider floating on top and a taste bitter enough to cause lockjaw.”

One for the Record Books

What do you do to stave off late-summer boredom? If you’re Don Russell, who writes the weekly “Joe Sixpack” column at the Philadelphia Daily News, you write about oddball records involving beer.

At one end of the scale–pun intended–you’ll find epic feats of gluttony, topped off by Andre Rene Roussimoff, a/k/a pro wrestler Andre the Giant, downing 119 bottles of beer in six hours. That record is likely to stand for all time because the Guinness Book of Records no longer accepts beer-consumption records.

At the other end are feats of skill, including John Evans of the UK, who balanced 237 pints on his head (Ludwig thinks he might also own the record for largest hat size); and a group of Dutchmen who built the largest-ever beer pyramid: 63,365 cases.

Russell even offers a lesson in physics. He found out why women are able to carry more beer steins than men. You’ll have to read the explanation for yourself.

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