Miller High Life

The Friday Mash (Inauguration Day Edition)

Eighty years ago today, Franklin D. Roosevelt took the oath of office, beginning his second term as president. Roosevelt was first the president to be inaugurated on January 20 under the 20th Amendment. Previously, presidents were sworn in on March 4.

And now…The Mash!

We begin at the University of Leuven in Belgium, where scientists have found that brewers “tamed” beer yeasts by reusing them until they adapted to the brewery environment. In fact, brewery yeasts couldn’t survive if reintroduced into the wild.

At age 87, former Australian prime minister Bob Hawke drank a beer while watching the Aussie cricket team take on Pakistan. In college, Hawke set a world record by drinking a yard of ale—that’s three pints—in 11 seconds.

John Laffler, the co-founder of Off Color Brewing, has a confession to make. He’s a fan of Miller High Life, which he describes as light, crisp, technically perfect, and very consistent.

Singer Ed Sheeran dropped 50 pounds in 12 months after giving up beer. Beer is back in Sheeran’s diet, but perhaps he’s switched to these low-calorie offerings.

This year’s 10th annual Philadelphia Beer Week will be part of a year-round celebration called “Philly Loves Beer”. Organizers hope the new format gives local breweries greater exposure and draws more visitors.

Refocusing on daytime business, Starbucks has dropped evening beer and wine sales. However, alcohol may eventually return to the chain’s high-end “Roastery” locations.

Finally, bad craft beer is becoming more common. Reasons include lax brewing standards, under-trained brewers, and intense competition that tempts breweries to bring faulty beer to market rather than dump it.

The Real Champagne of Beers

For years, the advertising slogan for Miller High Life was “The Champagne of Bottled Beers”. However, there’s a beer with a much stronger claim to the word “Champagne”, and it’s been around twice as long.

“Deus”, which is Latin for “God”, is brewed in Buggenhut, Belgium, by the Bosteels Brewery. This brewery was founded in 1791, and has been in the family—seven generations in all—from the beginning. Deus is, stylistically, a Brut des Flandres or a Biere de Champagne. It’s even packaged in 750-ml Champagne-style bottles.

Bosteels brews Deus as strong blonde ale, then sends it to Epernay in France’s Champagne regionAfter fermentation the beer is bottled, then placed in a cellar for nine months, with each bottle rotated by hand once a week. This process allows the yeast to naturally carbonate the beer, giving it the fine bubbles characteristic of Champagne.

After cellaring, the yeast sediment is removed in a process called degorgement. The bottles are stored neck down to allow the yeast to settle near the cork; then the necks are flash-frozen, and the bottle is uncorked. After the yeast plug is removed, a new cork is placed on the bottle. And voila! Champagne-like beer.

What Do Those Symbols on Beer Labels Mean?

Breweries are among the oldest businesses in the world, and their beer labels are full of symbols from their storied histories. In MentalFloss.com, Nick Green explains the symbolism behind 20 well-known beer labels.

One of the most common sources of symbols is the brewery’s own history. The eagle on the Yuengling label and the horn on Stella Artois’ harken back to the breweries’ original names. The hometown coat of arms is another source. That’s why there are lions on the Amstel and Modelo Especial labels, and a key on the Beck’s label. Dos Equis resurrected Aztec leader Moctezuma II for its label, and Guinness appropriated the Brian Boru harp.

Green’s article has some other fun facts. Bass’s red triangle was issued Trademark #1 by the British government; until 1908, the text of the Budweiser label was in German; and legend has it that Miller High Life was called “The Champagne of Beers” because it was released a few days before New Year’s Eve.

Finally, there’s Rolling Rock’s mysterious “33”. People have offered numerous explanations, but no one knows for sure how and why that number wound up on the label.

The State of Beer in America

John Tierney of The Atlantic looked at America’s “Beer World”, and summed it up this way: “It’s a world in which up is down, little is big, and there’s no Blue Moon on the horizon.” He goes on to say, “It’s a world in which old standbys are faltering (case sales of Miller High Life were down almost 10 percent in 2013 from the prior year). Mexican labels are dominant (Corona, Modelo, and Dos Equis, account for three of the top four imported beers). And a craft-beer company founded only 20 years ago is coming on strong (”Bartender, pour me a Lagunitas”).”

Tierney makes an interesting point about craft beer’s still-small share of the market. For the most part, these brands haven’t found their way into convenience stores and gas stations, which account for a large fraction of the nation’s beer sales.

The Friday Mash (Gold Rush Edition)

On this day in 1848, James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill near Sacramento. That discovery attracted hundreds of thousands of “Forty-Niners.” By necessity, these early settlers developed a style of beer known as “California Common,” better known as steam beer.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Boulder, Colorado, where a brewery got called for illegal procedure after the NFL learned that it had released a “Brett on the Broncos” ale honoring the AFC champions.

The Washington Post has put together a chart that links beverage choice and political views. The most Democratic beer is Milwaukee’s Best, the most Republican beer is Coors Original.

The maker of Jelly Bellys has added a new Draft Beer flavor to its lineup. Inspired by a Hefeweizen ale, it has a wheaty taste. And no, it doesn’t contain any alcohol.

Ohio lawmakers are considering whether to raise the maximum allowable ABV in beer from 12 percent to 21 percent, which is the state’s maximum ABV for wine.

From Paste magazine comes the Cheap American Beers Bracket. The magazine’s staff picked Miller High Life number one, but readers made Pabst Blue Ribbon their champion.

“Beer,” by Luke Bryan, currently tops the country music chart. The last number-one country song with “beer” in its title Billy Currington’s “Pretty Good at Drinkin’ Beer,” in 2010.

Finally, organizers of tomorrow’s Beer Dabbler Carnival in St. Paul, Minnesota, are attempting to set a new world record for world’s largest snowball fight. Over 7,000 are expected to take part.

Beer…By the Numbers

  • Estimated worth of the U.S. craft-brewing industry last year: $10.2 billion.
  • Increase over 2011: $1.5 billion (14.7 percent).
  • Increase in U.S. brewery count over that same period: 18 percent.
  • Millennial Generation’s share of total craft beer consumption: 33 percent (they’re 26 percent of the total adult population).
  • Baby Boomers’ share: 35 percent (they’re 37 percent of the total).
  • Annual economic impact of the U.S. brewing industry: $246.6 billion.
  • Wages and benefits paid annually to brewing industry workers: $79 billion.
  • Combined advertising spending on Natural Light, Busch Light, Busch, Miller High Life, and Keystone Light in 2012 : $6.9 million.
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev’s advertising spending on Bud Light Platinum: $32 million so far.
  • What a bottle of “premium” beer costs this season at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.: $9.75.
  • What it cost in 2008, the Nationals’ inaugural season: $6.50.
  • Hard cider’s share of the U.S. beer market in 2012: less than 1 percent.
  • Growth in hard cider sales from 2011 to 2012: 84.5 percent.
  • Average price of a case of hard cider: $35.
  • Average price of a case of craft beer: $33.
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