malt liquor

The Friday Mash (Five and Dime Edition)

On this day in 1879, Frank Woolworth opens the first of many Woolworth stores in In Utica, New York. He unwittingly inspired the Marx Brothers’ routine in which Rufus T. Firefly suggested that Chicolini be given “ten years in Leavenworth, or 11 years in Twelveworth”; and Chicolini responded, “I’ll take five and ten in Woolworth.”

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Florida, where a 45-year-old law, passed as part of a turf war among big brewers, has the unintended effect of banning the sale of growlers. Lawmakers are trying to fix that.

FirstWeFeast.com has compiled a list of 12 celebrities who ought to be spokespersons for craft beer. They include Kat Dennings, the cast of How I Met Your Mother, and, of course, President Barack Obama.

You can buy a beer at many college basketball arenas, including seven of the 20 largest. Beer sales can bring in money through concession revenues, added ticket sales, or both.

Beer and video games have always gone together, but an arcade fighting game called Beercade goes one step farther. It rewards the winning combatant with a cup of beer.

To celebrate their city’s Beer Week, the San Francisco Brewers Guild has rolled out “Green Death”, a malt liquor inspired by the 50s-60s version of Rainier Ale. Paper bag not included.

Don’t expect Anheuser-Busch to advertise this anytime soon. According to a nationwide survey, beer is the favorite beverage of underage drinkers and Budweiser is their favorite brand.

Finally, if you have a ticket to tomorrow’s Winter Beer Festival in Grand Rapids, John Serba of MLive.com has some friendly advice: dress warmly for 33-degree temperatures and snow flurries.

A Story Without Heroes

Last year, Kihm Winship posted a lengthy article about malt liquor on the Faithful Readers blog. If you’re a fan of brewing history, it’s worth reading.

Winship notes that the beverage’s early years were surprisingly innocent. After the Repeal several small breweries, most of them in the Midwest, offered an extra-strength brew they called “malt liquor” and advertised it as the beverage of sophisticates.

Then came the Sixties. The industry was consolidating, and the national brands were crowding out local breweries. The National Brewing Company fought back by launching Colt 45. Its logo, a bucking horse, sent the unmistakable message that it could get you blasted. Somehow, it passed muster with the BATF.

At the time, brewery executives discovered that African Americans drank more malt liquor than their white counterparts. And so the brewing industry’s version of blaxploitation was underway. By the 1980s, any notion of subtlety had gone out the window. Malt liquor ads blatantly appealed to men’s sexual fantasies.

Inevitably, the marketing campaigns created a backlash. The U.S. Surgeon General publicly blasted a new malt liquor called Powermaster, and the descendants of the Indian chief filed suit against the makers of Crazy Horse. Members of the prevention community called for a limit on the alcoholic strength of malt beverages.

Still, Winship thinks that critics exaggerated the evils of malt liquor. He observes that fortified wine, not 40-ouncers, is the number-one beverage choice of problem drinkers; and that urban blacks don’t drink any more abusively than their white suburban counterparts.

In the end, Winship calls malt liquor “a story without heroes”:

Malt liquor is a beer style that requires human engineering to override limits placed by nature. In place of flavor, sociability and a cultural experience, you have a quick ride to intoxication that seems to bring out the worst in everyone, even in the people who object to it. Greed, despair and destruction on one side–lies, bombast and posturing on the other.

The Friday Mash (”Eek! A Mouse!” Edition)

Thirty-one years ago today, the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center introduced the computer mouse. The prototype mouse was invented in 1963 by Douglas Engelbart. Unfortunately, Engelbart’s patent for the device expired before it was widely used in personal computers.

And now…The Mash!

We begin in ancient Mesopotamia which, thousands of years ago, was the beer capital of the world. Back then, the royal well-to-do drank their brew out of straws. Don’t scoff. They also invented writing, irrigation, and the clock.

Don’t drink and gamble, please! Players from countries with the highest per capita beer consumption wind up the biggest losers in casinos.

Admit it. Back in the day, you drank 40-ouncers. Craft breweries are appealing to nostalgia–and to your evolved taste in beer–with high-class malt liquor. Some are even sold in brown paper bags.

The ballot has been finalized for the 2012 Beer City USA competition. There are 31 cities on the ballot; and with an expanded choice of locations this year, write-ins aren’t allowed.

Go figure. Alabama regulators gave the thumbs-down to Founders Dirty Bastard ale, even though Flying Dog Raging Bitch ale and Fat Bastard wine are legal.

Bonobos, a clothing manufacturer, is selling denim pants made from recycled beer bottles. Priced at $135 a pair, they’re not for people on a beer budget.

Finally, someone must be buying Mr. Beer homebrew kits. Coopers, an Australia-based brewery, bought Mr. Beer in a multi-million dollar deal. Homebrewing supplies account for 30 percent of Coopers’ revenue.

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