Reinheitsgebot

The Friday Mash (Vermont Edition)

On this day in 1791, Vermont was admitted to the Union as the 14th U.S. state. It is only one of three states that had previously been an independent republic; the others are California (very briefly, and unrecognized) and Texas (1836-45).

And now…The Mash!

We begin in Chicago, where the Field Museum has teamed up with Off-Color Brewing to re-create a purple-corn beer brewed by Peruvian women a thousand years ago during the Wari Empire.

In Europe, drought conditions resulted in last year’s hop harvest being one of the worst in decades. The resulting scarcity drove up prices, which hit small breweries especially hard.

Franchised beer bars may be coming to your town. Growler USA has two locations in Oregon and North Carolina each with more than 80 taps, and plans to open ten more this year.

“Endless Slogans”, an ad for Toronto-brewed Boneshaker Unfiltered IPA, pokes fun at beer ads by mocking every ad cliche from sexual innuendos to bad puns.

A German environmental group has alleged that the country’s most popular beers violate the Reinheitsgebot because they contain trace amounts of glyphosate, an ingredient used in herbicides.

Celeste Beatty is one of the few African-American women to own a brewery. Her Harlem Brewing Company’s beers will soon go on sale at 39 Wal-Mart stores in New York State.

Finally, Anheuser-Busch InBev finds itself in “investor purgatory” after reporting disappointing earnings last week. A-B InBev’s sales are–pardon the pun–flat, and currency volatility has upped the cost of sales.

Making Sense of the Reinheitsgebot

The Reinheitsgebot, aka Germany’s beer purity law, turns 500 in April. The law is familiar to beer lovers but, according to Joe Stange of All About Beer magazine, is widely misunderstood. To begin with, it wasn’t the first German law that regulated ingredients. It wasn’t called a “purity law” until 100 years ago, and it was more concerned with keeping beer and bread affordable—and curbing brewers’ use of wheat, which bakers needed—than with keeping beer pure. It didn’t apply across Germany until 1906; and when it did, the law killed many regional beer styles. And the law has been tweaked since 1516.

All that said, the law remains on the books, and is known in English as “The Provisional Beer Law”. Even though it no longer bans the importation of non-Reinheitsgebot beer, thanks to various free-trade laws and treaties, a German brewery still can’t market non-compliant products as “beer”.

On a recent trip to a Munich beer bar, Stange deliberately ordered a non-compliant beer, a milk stout brewed by the bar’s parent company, a brewery called Camba Bavaria. The barman explained to Stange that it wasn’t available due to “legal troubles with the Reinheitsgebot”.

Stange contacted the brewery for an explanation of the “legal troubles”, which began with the milk stout. According to the brewery: “officials told them (1) they can’t call it beer, since it has lactose (milk sugar); (2) they can’t call it ‘milk’ anything since there is no milk in it; (3) they can’t call it Klim Touts [‘milk stout’ spelled backwards] either, by the way, because don’t be cheeky; and oh (4) you’ll have to go ahead and pay taxes on it as if it were beer, even though we say it’s not beer, because ‘milk stout’ is clearly an established international beer style, even though you can’t call it that.”

The Friday Mash (Glass Houses Edition)

Eighty years ago today, in Toledo, Ohio, the first building to be completely covered in glass was completed. It was built for the Owens-Illinois Glass Company. The “Glass City” is also known for Jamie Farr and his beloved Tony Packo’s Cafe and Toledo Mud Hens.

And now….The Mash!

We begin in Hollywood, where Golden Globe Awards host Ricky Gervais opened the show with a beer in his hand, and then proceeded to offend much of the audience with his jokes.

George Lenker, “The Beer Nut,” criticizes the Bavarian government for ordering a brewery to stop marketing its milk stout as beer because that beer didn’t comply with the Reinheitsgebot.

The Washington Post’s Ryan Ermey rated the top cheap beers, based on three criteria: alcoholic content, can design, and taste (“if you insist”). His top pick? Genesee Cream Ale.

Constellation Brands, which plunked down $1 billion to buy Ballast Point Brewing Company, will invest another $1.5 billion to build a brewery in Mexicali to meet growing demand for Mexican beer.

An iconic Pacific Northwest beer is coming back. The Red Hook Ale Brewery announced it will be making Rainier Pale Mountain Ale and other Rainier beers.

Nielsen NV and BARTRENDr have found out fans’ favorite brands of beer and liquor in every NFL city. Everclear didn’t make the list—even among fans of the awful Tennessee Titans.

Finally, brewer Chris Reynolds was given a chance to taste some of Alexander Keith’s IPA that was bottled in the 19th century and recently found underwater. Reynolds described the taste as “a little tree fruit note, a cherry note in there somehow—certainly a lot of sulphu,”.

The Friday Mash (Charlie Hustle Edition)

Thirty years ago today, Pete Rose, the Cincinnati Reds’ player-manager, broke Ty Cobb’s record for most career hits with his 4,192nd hit. Rose would play one more season, his 24th in Major League Baseball, before retiring.

And now….The Mash! 

We begin in Reno, Nevada, where restaurant owner Bill Wall won this year’s Best in the West Nugget Rib Cook-off. Wall says his secret to success is “just a lot of cold beers and a little bourbon.”

Texas’ alcohol regulators have ruled that bars and grocery stores can’t sell “crowlers” of beer to go. The 32-ounce containers are cans, and state law provides that only brewers can sell canned beer.

NFL Hall of Famer Mike Ditka has built an empire selling everything from steaks to children’s clothes. Now he’s teaming up with South Loop Brewing Company to produce Witka beer, a witbier to be served in his restaurant chain.

Windhoek, the capital of Namibia, is one of Africa’s leading beer destinations. The country’s first European settlers were Germans, and the Reinheitsgebot is still honored there.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin have pinpointed the origin of Saccharomyces eubayanus, aka lager yeast. In 15th century Bavaria, ale yeasts used by the monks “intermarried” with other strains and eventually created a stabilized hybrid.

Wild hops grow in Park City, Utah. The hop plants, descendants of those brought to the town by immigrants, will be used by Wasatch Brewery in a special-release beer.

Finally, why did the Kroger Company pay $26 million for 19 cases of Miller Lite beer? The answer is Ohio’s liquor code, which requires retailers to have an “agency contract” with the state. Kroger and other chains are paying top dollar to acquire those contracts from smaller stores.

The Friday Mash (Dartmouth Edition)

On this day in 1790, Dartmouth College was founded by Reverend Eleazar Wheelock, with a royal charter from King George III, on land donated by royal governor John Wentworth. There’s no truth to the rumor that the first kegger on campus took place that evening.

And now….The Mash!

We begin on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field. Last Sunday, frigid temperatures at the Atlanta Falcons-Green Bay Packers game caused beer lines to freeze up and fans to complain.

Brewpubs are opening in Beijing. The first ones were opened by expatriates, but homebrewers and brewing school alumni have stepped in, and are making beer that appeals to local tastes.

According to scientists at the University of Sapporo, beer contains humulone, which is effective in fighting a virus that causes respiratory diseases such as pneumonia. The virus is especially nasty in the winter.

For decades, Guatemala’s dominant beer has been Gallo, from the family-owned Cerveceria Centro Americana. However, a beer war has broken out now that Anheuser-Busch InBev has entered the market.

The NBA’s Utah Jazz have are off to a horrible start this season, but their bear-suited mascot turned in a highlight-film performance against a Houston Rockets fan who poured beer on him.

Germany has asked UNESCO to put the country’s Reinheitsgebot on the intangible cultural heritage list. The German beer purity law celebrates its 500th anniversary in 2016.

Finally, Rajan Zed wants Asheville Brewing Company to find a new name for its flagship beer. Zed contends that “Shiva India Pale Ale” disrespects his Hindu faith. The brewery, which has spent 15 years building the brand, won’t rename it.

Why Homebrewing Matters

The next time your friend tells you about the beer he–or she–is brewing, listen up. According to Dave Conz, a professor at Arizona State University, homebrewing leads to innovation and is good for the soul as well.

Professor Conz links the Prohibition-era ban on homebrewing to the consolidation of America’s brewing industry and the dominance of light lager. Once the ban was lifted in 1978, the number of breweries began to grow again, and most of them were founded by DIY homebrewers. (Conz also points out that while Germany’s Reinheitsgebot ensured uniformity and quality, it stifled innovation by prohibiting brewers from trying other ingredients. Belgium, which never had such a law, brews an astounding variety of beers.)

Conz also maintains that DIY activities, such as homebrewing, provide an outlet from the daily grind and a sense of satisfaction, make people more self-reliant, and provide an alternative to our consumer culture. It’s a good way to make friends, too.

Brauereisterben

Brauereisterben, a word that means “brewery death,” was coined by Germans to describe the steep decline in that country’s brewery count–it’s fallen by half in the last few decades–and the amount of beer consumed. In an article in Slate.com, Christian DeBenedetti, the author of The Great American Ale Trail (to be published this fall), explained why German breweries have fallen on hard times.

According to DeBenedetti, the culprit is, ironically, the Reinheitsgebot. Although the law improved the quality of beer at the time–some pretty awful stuff was brewed in the Dark Ages–it made both brewers and drinkers conservative to the point of rejecting foreign styles, not to mention those revived or invented by craft breweries. But there is hope: DeBenedetti points to some German brewers that are breaking Reinheitsgebot mold.

DeBenedetti also bemoans the decline of Oktoberfest. He says, “Once a decorous wedding pageant, Oktoberfest is a hot mess, with cheesy carnival rides and hordes chugging cheap lager as if it were Hawaiian Punch.” Worse yet, Paris Hilton turned up for the 200th anniversary edition of the festival.

The Friday Mash (Walpurgisnacht Edition)

In parts of northern and central Europe, the night of April 30 is called Walpurgisnacht, a holiday marking the ceremonial end of winter. It’s celebrated with a bonfire–Ludwig hopes it’s a roaring one–and plenty of beverages.

So what are you waiting for? It’s Friday, and The Mash is up!

Denver’s Wynkoop Brewery revived a tradition from Colorado’ early days: horse-powered beer deliveries. Two Fridays a month, the brewpub’s Clydesdales will deliver beer to several local establishments.

Watch out, Minnesotans. Woody is on the loose. It–not he–is a 5,000-pound oaken beer barrel on wheels that also serves as a traveling bar. Oregon-based Deschutes Brewery is using Woody to promote its beers in, among other places, the Upper Midwest.

Here’s a consolation prize for those who missed Dark Lord Day. Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin toured the Three Floyds Brewery, and has both a slide show and video to share with you.

Last Friday, the Reinheitsgebot celebrated its 494th anniversary. Betsy Matson’s article in Wired magazine offers some interesting trivia about the famous beer purity law. Did you know that the word Reinheitsgebot didn’t appear in print until 1918? Or that Bavaria insisted on giving the law nation-wide effect as a condition of its joining the Weimar Republic?

And while we’re on the subject of Bavaria, Lufthansa announced that its refurbished Business Lounge at Munich’s airport will have a beer garden with draft beer from the barrel and Bavarian pretzels.

Tomorrow afternoon, the Rock Bottom Restaurant and Brewery in West Des Moines will host the inaugural Farmhouse Ale Fest. The lineup includes Iowa-brewed saisons, farmhouse ales, and Bieres Blanches.

Finally, is money burning a hole in your pocket? Then order the most expensive beer in the world: a bottle of Deus at the Belgian Cafe Bar in Abu Dhabi’s Inter-Continental Hotel.It’ll set you back 190 bucks. Plus tip, of course.

Another Front in the “ABV Wars”

From frost-bitten Wisconsin comes news of yet another attempt to brew a beer with record-breaking potency. Rob LoBreglio of the Great Dane and Kirby Nelson of Capital Brewery have joined forces to brew the strongest-ever beer to comply with the Reinheitsgebot. They’re shooting for 17 percent ABV.

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