light beer

The Friday Mash (”Happy Birthday, Internet” Edition)

On this day in 1969, the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Society issued their first Request for Comments. The publication of RFC-1 is considered the Internet’s unofficial birthday.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Newport, Oregon, the home of Rogue Ales and its famous 40-foot-tall red silo. Opinions differ as how the silo got there, but everyone agrees that the town fathers thought it was an eyesore.

In Kentucky, you can enjoy local craft beer or bourbon at most of the state’s resort parks. The state plans to offer adult beverages in all state parks which have restaurants and where alcohol is legal.

Michelob Ultra sales have risen by 27 percent over three years. Jeff Alworth puts the brand’s success in context: light beer still dominates the market, and Michelob Ultra is considered trendy.

Yes, it’s possible to grow hops in Brazil. Grower Rodrigo Veraldi has been experimenting with the plants, and one of his varieties thrives in the hot, rainy climate near Sao Paolo.

Bad news for Baltimoreans: National Bohemian is no longer available at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. “Natty Boh” enjoyed a brief reprieve last season, but fell off the menu after the first homestand.

IBU is an important quality-control number for brewers, but it’s not very helpful for beer drinkers. Malt content has a big effect on perceived bitterness, and the average drinker can’t perceive IBUs beyond the 100-120 range.

Finally, the University of North Dakota’s “Beer Grandma” has passed away. Beth Delano, who has attended UND men’s hockey games since 1947, became famous when the scoreboard video caught her quaffing a beer during a break in the action.

The Friday Mash (World Anesthesia Day Edition)

On this day in 1846, William T.G. Morton first demonstrated ether anesthesia at the Massachusetts General Hospital. Each year the medical community honors this breakthrough with World Anesthesia Day. If ether “isn’t right for you”, we suggest having a beer instead.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Iowa City, where the informal University of Iowa “Beer Band” has suspended itself—at least for the time being—after townspeople complained abou X-rated song lyrics.

Beer author John Holl interviewed Dr. Chris White, the founder of yeast provider White Labs. Topics include sour beer, brewer education, and White’s new facility in North Carolina.

Chicago restaurateur Rick Bayless is introducing genuine Mexican-style beers. He’s opened a brewpub, and has also formed a brewing partnership with Constellation Brands .

Years ago, graphic designer Harvey Shepherd fell in love with beer packaging. He’s turned his avocation into the recently-published Oh Beautiful Beer: The Evolution of Craft Beer and Design.

Business consultant Chip Martella has good news and bad news for craft brewers. The dreaded industry shakeup has arrived, but a scrappy craft brewer can still succeed in this environment.

Carla Jean Whitley of AL.com details the revival of brewing in Alabama. Now that lawmakers have eased many Prohibition-era restrictions, the state’s brewery count has risen to 28.

Finally, declining sales of American light beer have forced breweries to rethink their advertising strategies. Their new ads will stress product quality, and will carry more woman-friendly messages.

Light Demand for Light Beer

The craft beer community is—excuse the pun—all atwitter—over a Bloomberg Businessweek article, “The Slow, Watery Death of Light Beer in America”. Devin Leonard, who wrote it, observed that with national-brand beers like Budweiser “in terminal decline” in America, light beers from the same brewers will inevitably follow them.

That’s not only happening, Leonard says, but it’s happening even faster than expected. Light-beer sales in the U.S. fell by 3.5 percent in 2013, and it’s expected that sales will fall to a ten-year low next year. The last year light-beer sales increased was 2009, thanks to the introduction of Bud Light Platinum—which itself suffered a steep drop in sales afterward.

An Anheuser-Busch InBev spokesman, quoted in Leonard’s article, believes his company will weather the storm by rolling out—and aggressively promoting—products such as Bud Light Lime Straw-Ber-Rita. Whether they can compete with craft beer, imports, and newcomers such as cider, remains to be seen.

The Friday Mash (Smokey the Bear Edition)

On this day in 1944, Smokey the Bear made his debut. He has appeared on radio programs, in comic strips, and in cartoons. The federal government, which owns the rights to Smokey, has collected millions in royalties and used them to educate people about forest fire prevention.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, where booze is a no-no and the young and fashionable are gravitating to alcohol-free beer.

If you missed the Beer Bloggers Conference, New Orleans writer Nora McGunnigle has a full report. She was impressed by the welcome given by local brewers Sam Adams and Harpoon.

The Princeton Review has released its list of top party schools, and the University of Iowa is ranked first, followed by UC Santa Barbara, Illinois, West Virginia, and Syracuse.

The summer has been cold and wet in much of the country, but weather doesn’t fully explain light beer’s drop in popularity. A growing number of drinkers are getting tired of its taste.

Fort Collins, Colorado’s “other” major craft brewery is the Odell Brewing Company. Although it’s the nation’s 33rd-largest, and about to get much bigger, it remains a low-key operation.

The U.S. Postal Service hopes to get badly-needed revenue by shipping beer and other alcoholic beverages. First, Congress has to repeal a 1909 law making it illegal to send booze by mail.

Finally, Martyn Cornell, The Zythophile, serves up five facts about India pale ale you might not have known. Fact number one: a century and a half ago, people drank their IPA ice-cold.

Lites Out!

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.”

Beer…by the Numbers

  • Size of the U.S. “light” beer market: $50 billion.
  • Years since Miller Lite debuted: 37.
  • Cost of an 11.2-ounce bottle of Kate the Great: $8.
  • Bottles of Kate the Great sold to the public: 15,000.
  • Loans given by Jim Koch’s “Brewing the American Dream” program: 129.
  • Borrowers who have defaulted on their loans: 5.
  • Total amount of defaulted loans: $22,000 (2.3 percent of program money loaned).
  • Beer’s share of Canada’s alcohol market in 2010: 45 percent.
  • Its share in 2000: 52 percent.
  • MolsonCoors’s stock price (ticker symbol: TAP) as of yesterday’s close: $41.84.
  • What MolsonCoors paid for Central European brewery StarBev: $3.54 billion.
  • StarBev’s production last year: 11 million barrels.
  • Years since Budweiser sales increased in the U.S.: 24.
  • Budweiser’s sales growth outside the U.S. in 2011: 20 percent.
  • Revenue of Budweiser’s parent company, ABInBev, in 2011: $39.1 billion.
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