Jay Brooks has a secret to share: America’s most-decorated brewery is the Firestone Walker Brewing Company, in Paso Robles, California. Firestone Walker was named Brewery of the Year in the mid-size category in 2007, 2011, and 2013. It also won that title in 2003 for Nectar Ales, a label it acquired from the former Humboldt Brewing Company. And it won a fifth GABF award: it went to brewmaster Matt Brynildson when he was with SLO Brewing, which now bears the Firestone Walker name. And if that weren’t enough, Firestone Walker won five Brewery of the Year awards between 2004 and 2012 at the World Beer Cup.
The brewery is named for its founders, Adam Firestone and David Walker, whose operation uses a system of linked barrels based on traditional brewing methods in the English town of Burton-Upon-Trent. Firestone, who’s a member of the famous tire-making family, grew up in California’s Central Coast wine region, but he turned his attention to brewing. His homebrewing experiments led to Firestone Walker’s flagship beer, Double Barrel Ale. The Walker half of the operation is Firestone’s brother-in-law David Walker, a transplanted Englishman who wanted better beer choices.
Firestone Walker offers brewery tours, and has added a tasting room with a restaurant. There’s also a Firestone Walker restaurant, which serves all of their beers, in nearby Buellton.
Last year, at the Great American Beer Festival, “JDirty,” who’s really beer writer Jay Brooks, and BIG Trox recorded a rap video on the festival floor. Even if rap isn’t your
cup of tea pint of ale, Ludwig guarantees you’ll like it.
Speaking of Jay, congratulations are in order for the publication of his book, California Breweries North.
And now…the Great American Beer Festival Rap!
Hat tip: Jay Brooks, keeper of the Brookston Beer Bulletin, who says:
Here’s an interesting video on craft beer by a Jeremy Williams entitled Craft Beer–A Hopumentary. What’s cool about it is that it features Ron Lindenbusch from Lagunitas, Craig and Beth from City Beer Store, Andy French from Southern Pacific Brewing, Zeitgeist, and homebrewer Nathan Oyler. My favorite factoid: craft beer represents 7% of the market, but employs 50% of the employees in the industry.
Twenty-two years ago today, Mount Pinatubo experienced the first of a series of eruptions. Those eruptions expelled so much particulate matter that temperatures fell by nearly 1 degree Fahrenheit world-wide, reducing the demand for beer.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Spain, where a beer commercial has locals up in arms for an unusual reason: the actors committed the culinary offense of adding onions to paella.
Will the summer of 2013 be the summer of shandy? The beer and lemonade mix, first created for German bicyclists in 1922, has gained a following in North America.
First, Buffalo Wild Wings, now World of Beer. The fast-growing chain of beer bars is brewing its own-label beer. It’s a Belgian ale called C’est La Vie!
Jay Brooks posted an unusual infographic about the brewing process in his Brookston Beer Bulletin. It cites the various names given to beer in the process from grain to glass.
Now that craft brewers have revived oyster stout, what’s the next step? Lobster beer, of course. Redhook Brewing Company’s Black Lobstah Lager is made with New Hampshire lobsters.
Blair Robertson of the Sacramento Bee reports on his road trip to Chico, where he toured Sierra Nevada’s brewery and got to talk beer with famed brewmaster Steve Dresler.
Finally, former Philip Morris CEO Bill Howell passed away at the age of 85. Howell was the man who convinced millions of American men to drink a new beer called Miller Lite.
West Coast writer Jay Brooks took exception to a recent column in the New York Times about the proposed buyout of Grupo Modelo by Anheuser Busch-InBev. He concluded that the correspondent, Adam Davidson, knows little about the brewing industry and its history.
In a blog post on the Brookston Beer Bulletin, Brooks first addresses Davidson’s “sure, the industry is competitive, look at all the brands on the shelves” argument. His response: “saying they’re on equal footing is the economic equivalent of pretending that employees and employers have equal bargaining power, as most economic textbooks continue to insist.”
He then responds to Davidson’s characterization of A-B InBev being “on the cusp” of a monopoly by saying that ABI has been a de facto monopoly with one or two others for decades, all but controlling the marketplace. As for Davidson’s statement that we are in “the very early stages” of industry consolidation, Brooks points out that “the global beer world has been dominated by an ever-shrinking group of very large conglomerates for at least the last three or four decades.”
Finally, Brooks offers his prediction of what will happen next:
As always happens, the two parties will hammer out a compromise that was probably the deal everybody wanted in the first place, but this way both parties look good in the public eye. The [Justice Department] will look like they’re being tough on big business and are protecting the public while ABI will look good because they were able to get the deal done, and their share price will shoot up.
One hundred and forty years ago today, E. Remington and Sons in Ilion, New York, began production of the first practical typewriter. Even though few of us use typewriters anymore, the familiar “QWERTY” keyboard design, invented in 1874, is still with us.
We begin in Massachusetts where Todd Ruggere, a Waltham resident, is drinking a Sam Adams in each of the Commonwealth’s 351 cities and towns. He’s raising money for cancer research.
We all know that higher-gravity beers are able to conceal hop bitterness. With that in mind, Jay Brooks recently posted an original gravity to hops ratio graph on his Brookston Beer Bulletin.
In 1953, an Aussie named Bob Hawke set a world record by downing a yard of ale–more than two pints–in 11 seconds. He was later elected that country’s Prime Minister. Coincidence?
Good news for beer lovers in Manhattan. The Hudson River Park Trust will open a 6,000-square-foot beer garden overlooking the river at Pier 62. It will serve craft beers and specialty food.
Kegasus, the beer-guzzling centaur that advertises the Preakness InfieldFest, will likely be scratched from this year’s race. But there will be live entertainment, and plenty of beer.
Pro tip: it’s not a good idea to drink to excess before designing beer labels, because you might come up with something like this disturbing Belgian ale label.
Finally, congratulations to Warren Monteiro, a writer, beer traveler, and homebrewer from New York City, who was named Beerdrinker of the Year at the Wynkoop Brewing Company.
On this day in 1778, Captain James Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaii is one of only four states that were independent countries before joining the Union. The others are California, Texas, and Vermont, which was a republic between 1777 and 1791.
And now…The Mash!
We begin in Denver where, for the third straight year, Governor John Hickenlooper mentioned beer in his State of the State address. Before entering politics, Hickenlooper owned the Wynkoop Brewing Company.
If you’re in the mood to waste some time, check out SuperBowl-Commercials.org (yes, that’s a real site) and start with a few memorable beer commercials, including one featuring Budweiser’s talking frogs.
The Standard Reference Measurement assigns a number between 1 (lightest) and 40 (darkest) to describe the color of beer. Jay Brooks has posted an SRM chart and other color-related links on his Brookston Beer Bulletin.
The “Big D”–Drewrys beer–might be returning to Indiana. Chicago entrepreneur Frank Manzo has acquired the Drewrys name and is lining up capital for his brewing venture.
Sprecher Brewing Company, which is famous for its root beer, is test-marketing an alcoholic version called Hard Root Beer. It has bourbon and oak flavors, and weighs in at 5% ABV.
Some experts worry that cheap beer is a health problem, and that U.S. beer prices are about to drop because of consolidation and vertical integration in the brewing industry.
Finally, congratulations are in order to Fred Bueltmann, a managing partner at New Holland Brewing Company in Michigan. His book, Beervangelist’s Guide to the Galaxy, will be published this spring.
Author Joe Queenan, whose stock in trade is an irreverant sense of humor, stirred up a hornets’ nest by poking fun at craft beer in the Wall Street Journal. Queenan led off by declaring that beer wasn’t viewed as a suitable topic for conversation but was “simply an ingenious device one used to get hammered.” He also sang the praises of his friend Jack Calvey, a feisty World War II veteran: “My friend Jack orders a Bud Light, and then another Bud Light, and then another Bud Light. He won’t even go as far as out on the limb as a Samuel Adams.”
It didn’t take long for the beer blogosphere to fire back. Bay Area columnist Jay Brooks declared that Queenan’s column “packs in more idiotic commentary per column inch than I’ve seen in a long time.” After noting that Queenan’s hometown of Philadelphia has become a craft beer Mecca–a development Queenan isn’t thrilled about–Brooks goes on to say, “Ignorance is indeed bliss, and by your own admission you must be the most blissful man in America.” Ouch.
On this day in 1881, the most famous gunfight in Old West history took place at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. It was fought between outlaws Billy Clanton, Tom McLaury and his brother Frank; and lawmen Virgil Earp, his brothers Morgan and Wyatt, and temporary deputy Doc Holliday.
And now….The Mash!
We begin in Detroit, which hosts the Michigan Brewers Guild’s Fall Beer Festival this weekend. It’s a perfect time to read Bill Loomis’s story about the city’s hard-drinking past.
Not everyone associates “green beer” with St. Patrick’s Day. Roxanne Palmer of the International Business Times updates us about America’s most environmentally-friendly breweries.
This week’s fun fact: the barley genome is almost twice the size of that of human beings. But a new, high-resolution draft of the genome could someday pay off in the form of higher-quality beer.
Does that beer you’re drinking taste nasty? Jay Brooks, who judges beer when he’s not writing about it, explains what causes the ten most common off-tastes in beer.
Actor Will Ferrell, the star of Old Milwaukee beer commercials that ran in cities like Davenport, Iowa, has shot four new–and silly–Old Milwaukee ads that will run in Sweden.
Ohio’s Winking Lizard beer bars will stop serving Bud Light and Miller Light because it has grown tired of the big breweries’ price hikes. Yuengling Light will replace those brands.
Finally, Andy Crouch, who has attended the past 16 Great American Beer Festivals, is concerned that the festival is getting too big. He offers a ten-point plan to improve future events.
No one needs to encourage Jay Brooks to say what’s on his mind, which is what makes his blog, the Brookston Beer Bulletin, so much fun to read. Brooks was in rare form today. His blog post responded to “In Defense of Light Beer,” an op-ed column by David Ryder that appeared earlier this month in the Chicago-Sun Times. Ryder is the Vice-President of Brewing for MillerCoors.
After noting that brewing light beer pays Ryder’s salary, and conceding that some measure of skill is required to it, Brooks turns his wrath on the style:
No matter how difficult they are to make, that still doesn’t excuse their existence, or make them a beer that I’d ever want to drink. To me, they are still an abomination, a science experiment gone awry. There’s no reason to sacrifice flavor to save a mere pittance of calories. Beer is not particularly fattening, especially if you drink it in moderation. The easiest way to reduce your caloric intake of beer is not to choose the latest scientifically engineered slightly lower-calorie beer, but to simply drink less bottles, cans or pints.
Later, Brooks takes aim at Ryder’s assertion that light beer is “widely admired”:
The reasons any product is popular is not that it’s the best one available. Often it’s the cheapest, most available or has the highest advertising budget. Wonder bread may be the best-selling bread in America, but does anyone actually think it’s the best bread money can buy? People drink light beer because they’re bombarded with marketing and advertising, have been tricked into thinking they’re not sacrificing flavor and/or don’t really think (or care) about their choices.
Brooks adds that It took 15 years–and an awful lot of “Less Filling, Tastes Great!” ads–for Miller Lite to reach 10 percent of the market, by which time MIller’s competitors, loath to miss out on market share, introduced their own versions. Light beer now commands a 50 percent market share, and accounts for $50 billion segment of the business. Brooks’s reaction? “That fact, I find to be incredibly sad, frankly. What a great triumph of marketing over common sense and actual taste.”