Joe Sixpack

The Friday Mash (Boomer Sooner Edition)

One hundred and twenty-five years ago today, at high noon, thousands of people took part in the Oklahoma Land Rush. Within hours, Oklahoma City and Guthrie had instant populations of 10,000.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Tumwater, Washington, once the home of Olympia Brewing Company. Today, it’s the home of a cluster of legal marijuana growers and processors—including one of the state’s largest.

Peru’s Cerveza San Juan beer brand has replaced the roaring jaguar with barnyard animals on its cans. The reason? The brewery is calling attention to the big cat’s endangered status.

Officials have reinstated beer at the University of Missouri’s “Tiger Prowl”, where graduating seniors eat barbecue, get free merchandise, and get ready to say goodbye to their classmates.

Anheuser-Busch InBev has acquired its eighth craft brewery, Devil’s Backbone of Roseland, Virginia. Established in 2008, Devil’s Backbone has won multiple Great American Beer Festival medals.

The Vietnamese love beer, and craft brewers have begun to enter the market. One new craft is the Pasteur Street Brewing Company, whose founders include Vick’s Florida native John Reid.

Forbes magazine’s Tara Nurin explores “pay-to-play” in beer distribution. Even after a high-profile crackdown in Massachusetts, she says it’s “a common yet whispered business practice”.

Finally, Don Russell aka Joe Sixpack takes us back to the bad old days of Prohibition’s “needle beer”: speakeasy owners injected alcohol into near beer—which was still legal in the 1920s. One customer, who sampled the stuff, compared it to 44-D cough syrup.

One Thumb Up

Don Russell, who writes the Joe Sixpack column for Philly.com, 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.

Red States, Brew States

The one and only Joe Sixpack (real name: Don Russell) has come up with an interesting analysis of the upcoming presidential election. For each of the states he computed the number of breweries per square mile. In 2008, Obama carried 24 of the 25 states with the highest brewery density. His opponent, John McCain, carried 21 of the 25 states with the lowest brewery density.

This year, most of “battleground states” are in the top 25, which bodes well for the president’s re-election chances. It also explains why he has focused so much on beer drinkers on the campaign trail.

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.

Who is Pliny the Younger?

The latest column by Don Russell, a/k/a “Joe Sixpack,” is about his early-morning run out to the Philly ‘burbs to taste the world’s top-rated beer, Russian River Brewing’s Pliny the Younger. A ten-ounce glass of this 11% ABV triple India pale ale set him back $8, but he proclaimed it to be worth every penny.

You might be wondering who Pliny the Younger was, and why a beer was named after him. Pliny, whose real name was Gaius Minor Plinius Caecilius Secundus, was a Roman writer, lawyer, and military man who died in the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D.

The beer community honors Pliny because he’s said to be the first person to mention hops in his writing. Like many such claims, this one is somewhat debatable. Martyn Cornell, The Zythophile, took a hard look at what Pliny wrote. Regarding Pliny, he handed down a mixed verdict. Although he found t “somewhere between possible and probable” that the lupus salictarius Pliny wrote about was the wild hop plant, he finds no evidence for other parts of the Pliny legend–including the claim that he and other Romans used the plant for medicinal purposes.

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