Monday, 30 June 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

An interesting angle on today's beer photo.

Review: Williams Gold

Williams Gold from William Brothers Brewing Company
Rating: B

Those who know me will understand why I saw this and had to buy it. Label indicates that it's brewed with seven different malts, and suggests vanilla, fruit, grapefruit and orange.

Appearance: Poured into a CAMRA nonic pint glass, displays a honey/apple juice color. Not quite clear. Nice two finger head that leaves nice lacing, but has average retention.

Smell: Light biscuit notes and floral hops. Fresh, green hops that suggest pine. Not particularly fruity, but I might just be able to agree with the vanilla note suggested by the brewery.

Taste: Citrus rind, herbal hops. Hops are fresh and oily in character. Mineral finish. Does not come across as "light," despite the low alcohol content.

Mouthfeel: Slightly oily mouthfeel, light-medium body, finishes on a bitter note, with a lasting aftertaste. Carbonation is right for style, but I wouldn't mind a bit more.

Drinkability: Fairly drinkable, good overall. At only 3.9%, potentially sessionable.

Serving type: bottle

Brewing in Japan's Long Tail

A friend sent in a story on microbrewing in Japan from Currents & Crossroads (no direct link) on microbrewing Japan.

The market for craft beer has grown rapidly in Japan in the thirteen years since it legalized microbrewing, and the country already boasts “craft brewers who can hold their own with the best that the United States and Europe have to offer.”

According to the New York Times, in Japanese microbrews “…you'll notice more subtlety in the flavors; while a beer may smell citrusy and hoppy, the bitter hops flavor fades after the first sip, and the sweet malt flavors step forward. You notice multiple flavors of caramel, fruit, ginger, and other spices, all playing off each other. Subtlety is the hallmark of the better Japanese microbrews.”

What is driving the sales? Like many other "long tail" products, the key is technology lowering search costs. From the Currents & Crossroads story:
While other microbrewing ventures have tried and failed to establish themselves in Japan in the past, today’s successful microbrewers are all online – and selling largely to an under-40 crowd. That's vital, IHT says, “because they're wired into the Internet and their I-mode phones, allowing growth in a way that wasn't possible 10 years ago.” Word-of-Taste, Too Social networking is boosting sales as well. "When you go to a beer festival, you see more and more young people," says Terasaki Akio, a co-owner of Ushi-Tora, a stylish bar specializing in Japanese craft brews in Tokyo. "When one person finds this thing they want, they want to share that. One person knowing this will bring in more people."
What does this imply for microbrewing in general? Are social networks, whether in the form of homebrew clubs and beer festivals that accompanied craft beer's beginnings in the U.S., or digital BeerAdvocates of today, a prerequisite for selling beer in the long tail?

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A lovely shot of a Leffe in today's beer photo by flickr user josefstuefer.

Technology Helps Prevent Tap Waste

The wonders of technology never cease to amaze. First refrigeration allowed even those of us living in Florida to enjoy cold beer at any time, now the installation of flow meters between keg and tap will cut down on wasted beer:
Beer, especially draft (or beer served from kegs), is a leading profit maker for restaurants. While draft beer generates average gross margins of over 85 percent, it is also plagued by huge losses due to wastage and theft. Since draft beer is served directly out of kegs containing nearly 2000 ounces, restaurant operators have no visibility or control over how much beer is being poured. While the lack of visibility allows negligent bartenders to get away with poor pouring techniques, it also enables the cunning ones to make extra cash in tips by giving free beers away. After years of agony, and millions of dollars lost, technology has come to the rescue of restaurant owners.
The system measures the number of ounces of beer flowing through the hose and sends the data to the company's servers.
The system is also tied in with the restaurant's cash register to monitor beer sales. When restaurant operators log in to the bevManager system via a regular internet browser, they can monitor the quantity of beer poured against revenue collected at the cash register in real time. Losses, if any, are identified immediately.
While a few bartenders may be unhappy about the new way of doing things, less waste should mean savings that can be passed onto the consumer, whether in lower prices or better facilities and service.

I wonder if this was inspired by the KegBot project that circulated around a while back, and got some press coverage. Inspiring to see someone taking a great idea made possible by technology and figuring out how to turn it into a business which benefits consumers and businesses.

Sustainable Craft Beer and Brewing Green

From Digg comes a link to a post on "sustainable beer," profiling several craft brewers who are attempting to produce "green" beer. Specifically mentioned are New Belgium, Steam Whistle, Long Trail, Sierra Nevada, and the Brooklyn Brewery. Several points stands out.

First, most if not all of the measures listed seem to make economic sense independent of "green" concerns, even if the author of the post doesn't realize it. For example, the author states "The 'spent mash' from [Steamwhistle's] brewing is sent to area farmers as cow feed" - I would be shocked if they were just "sending" it to the farmers, chances are they're selling it and making money off of it, as they should!

Breweries use incredible amounts of water and electricity to heat it, which in areas with tiered pricing, or strict waste water guidelines can prove expensive. Unsurprisingly, many of the breweries mentioned are recovering their waste water, steam, or powering the breweries through some form of alternative energy.

Furthermore, most of the brewers mentioned are based or distributing in areas in which being green is a selling point for consumers who would read a post titled "Guilt-Free Beer Guzzling" and think of their carbon footprint before their waist line. Again, from the brewer's perspective the bottom line has as much to do with the measures being taken as the "morality" of green.

German brewers have long recaptured the carbon dioxide produced by fermentation to reintroduce to the beer during packaging, while still complying with the Rheinheitsgebot (if it came out of the beer and you simply but it back in, it's not an "added" ingredient), does this count as being "green?" What about Guinness selling its leftover yeast to make Marmite - let's give them some credit for "reusing" their waste products.

I'm also a little bit puzzled by the last line, which gives lambics an honorary mention: "Instead of brewing with an industrial kettle, this beer is crafted by allowing giant barrels of hops to sit outside during the wild yeast season and letting nature take its course. Truly, a naturally-brewed beer." There's so much wrong with this sentence I don't know where to start.
  • Fermentation does not take place in the kettle, and it certainly doesn't take place by fermenting "barrels of hops."
  • Generally, the barrels don't sit outside, but uncovered inside the brewery.
  • I was not aware that there was a "yeast season."
  • Does the fact they're in wooden barrels made from killed trees rather than "industrial kettles" make it any more green?
As far as I know, the fermentation process of yeast going on inside an "industrial" brewery is just as "natural" as that taking place outside. Most lambic breweries have a house yeast which has inhabited their barrels and walls for years, and developed with the brewery, not intrinsically different from the "house yeasts" of other brewers. What makes one more "green" than the other?

That said, if you need to confirm that your beer is "green" before you drink it, go right ahead - but I won't let such concerns keep me from enjoying my beer. I'll save the green beer for St Patrick's Day.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A glass of Gouden Carolus is the subject of today's beer photo.

Cask Ale Gaining Popularity in the U.S.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, British style cask ale is gaining a foothold in the U.S.:
B. United International Inc., a Redding, Conn., importer now sells cask ales to 40 bars in 12 states, twice the number in 2002. Brooklyn Brewery, in Brooklyn, N.Y., made 6,500 gallons of cask ale last year, more than triple the figure five years ago.
For uninitiated Americans who have not yet had an opportunity to sample, cask ale is served warmer than Americans are accustomed, and pumped out with a hand pump, rather than flowing freely from the pressure of its carbonation as in typical kegged beer. This means it is also "flatter" than kegged or bottled beer.

The growing popularity of cask ale has not been without casualties:
At Titanic Brewery & Restaurant, a Coral Gables, Fla., brewpub, a brewer had to go to the hospital after striking his finger with a mallet during tapping. Cornwall's in Boston says it stopped serving cask because its barrels kept blowing up, spewing sweet, rodent-attracting liquid all over the floor. Mark Posada, co-manager of Dublin Sports Pub & Grill in Dublin, Calif., says repeatedly pulling down the hand pump gave him "a little workout."
Having lived in the U.K. for a while now, I can tell Mr Posada how British bartenders seem to deal with that issue problem: just... serve... very... slowly...

Thanks to Howard for the news tip.

Beer and Presidential Politics, pt 2

Continuing the discussion of beer in presidential politics, the accompanying story to the beer recipes discussed earlier examines the the role of beer in campaigning:
“It’s nice to pose and kiss the baby and pose with the factory workers, but boy, it really gets a reaction when they knock back the beer,” [John Schlimm, author of The Ultimate Beer Lovers Cookbook] said. “The beer has become the new baby.”
The question of which candidate you would rather "have a beer with" has become a classic amongst pollsters. Despite the fact that President Bush had not had a drink since 1986, a 2004 "Zogby/Williams Identity Poll found that 57 percent of undecided voters would rather have [had] a beer with Bush than with Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.)" No word whether the President's drinking buddy ratings have fallen along with his job approval numbers.

This primary season, "Clinton... fared well in the alcohol department:"
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) did a shot and drank beer in New Hampshire... [and] we heard repeatedly about the overseas trip she took with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), among others, to Estonia in 2004 during which she called for a vodka-drinking contest.
Whole lot of good it did her. Maybe next election cycle Hill should try a power hour?

Friday, 27 June 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

One keg, two keg, red keg, blue keg.

Beer and Presidential Politics, pt 1

Howard sends in some fun beer recipes from The Hill for each presidential hopeful. The recipes were offered by John Schlimm, author of The Ultimate Beer Lovers Cookbook. For each individual, he has crafted a dish and a beer cocktail to accompany it.

On the Republican side:
  • For John McCain, a cheese steak sandwich with a "Red, White, & Blue," which actually sounds quite nice
  • For Cindy McCain, classic beer dip with a "Grand Dame," made with what appears to be half the liquor cabinet. I would have expected something named an "Ice Queen." The "Grand Dame" recipe calls for "beer draft foam" - it should call for Budweiser specifically, I'm sure!
On the Democrat side:
  • For Barack Obama, an elitist hummus wrap with "The Big O" or a "Dr. B"
  • For Michelle Obama, spice cake with a "Fire & Ice"
  • For Hillary Clinton, "Blazing Hot Wings" with a "Hoot & Holler"
  • And for Bill Clinton, "Squirrel Dinner for Two" with a root beer float (funny, I thought the Clintons' dish by now would be "toast")
Obviously some equal opportunity humor, but with the exception of the spice cake and the wings, I think the Republican recipes sound tastier!

New Beer Labeling Regulations Proposed

From a friend who works on the Hill comes a story from CQ Weekly (no link available) on a proposed labeling law that would require that "distillers and brewers put notices on any bottles that may include even trace amounts of allergens such as wheat (a common ingredient in beer), eggs, milk or fish bladders (sometimes used to clarify wine)."

A coalition of alcohol trade groups argued against the change, saying that at most they should be required to say “processed with” rather than "contains," in cases like isinglass.

Also in the pipeline are regulations which would require nutritional information on beer (calories, etc) like already required on other food and beverage products. Like alcohol percentage labeling requirements, which are inconsistent from state to state because of disagreement on their actual effect, there is disagreement on the newly proposed rules as well. Some fear that "nutrition" information on beer would suggest that it is "nutritious" and would encourage irresponsible drinking, while others suspect that consumers would limit their consumption if they realized how many calories they were consuming. I have personally found that most people are surprised how few calories, not how many, are in a serving of beer.

In general, I tend to think providing the consumer with more information and allowing them to make an informed decision is a good thing, but additional labeling regulations on top of what is already required to be crammed onto a small paper label. On the other hand, labeling beer like every other beverage could make it less marginal as a beverage choice. What do you think?

Concern Over InBev Takeover in Missouri

According to The Economist, locals are up in arms over InBev's hostile takeover attempt to buy Anheuser-Busch. The reaction has been vocal:

Missouri's politicians, from the lowliest alderman to the governor himself, are up in arms. Its Republican senator, Kit Bond, and its Democratic one, Claire McCaskill, have put aside differences and are asking the Justice Department to step in. The governor of Missouri, Matt Blunt, has ordered state agencies to do all they can to block the dreadful move...

Patriotic beer-lovers have mounted a campaign to keep Budweiser in American hands. Websites appeared overnight once news of the bid broke and have so far collected around 70,000 signatures on electronic petitions. Yard signs and bumper stickers have sprouted, and on June 14th protesters marched to Busch stadium, one of the many fruits of Anheuser-Busch’s 150 years in St Louis.

In my view, while it would be nice to see A-B's St Louis tradition maintained, this should be a business issue rather than a political one. Thankfully, it looks like it will remain that way. While beer is important, it's not a national security issue and there's still plenty of competition in the industry, so federal regulators will likely not have a say.

BeerAdvocate Magazine

I finally received the latest issue of Beer Advocate magazine, a few weeks late due to international shipping. As usual, it is full of interesting and informative stories.

Some of the highlights from this issue:
  • A pointer to beer writer Ron Pattinson's delightful blog, where he exercises his passion for "debunking beer style myths" and is something of a historical beer detective
  • A nice style profile of saison
  • An interview with the surprisingly young founder and brewmaster of Short's Brewing Company in Michigan
  • And a feature on cooking with beer, and beer/food pairings, complemented by interviews with chefs
It's a great magazine. If you are a fan of craft beer, you should consider subscribing!

Iceberg Beer and Global Warming

Alan at A Good Beer Blog posts on the Greenland Brewhouse, which brews with water from melting icebergs "broken off the main inland ice" and "specially selected by local fishermen, who tow them to the brewery." So far, their beers have received decent reviews, and I'd love to try one.

This isn't the first (nor is it likely to be the last) beer to pride itself on its unique water source. Dogfish Head's Pangaea is brewed with water from Antarctica. I have to wonder, though: water is pretty heavy and bulky. How much carbon dioxide is pumped into the atmosphere transporting premium water to the brewhouse, or transporting the beer that is being widely sold solely because it's made with water that is environmentally pristine and "free from pollutants?" In this particular case, the answer seems to be "plenty:"
Due to some different laws about the bottles, the brewery has to ship the beer in huge tanks to Germany, where the beer is bottled and exported to Denmark.
According to the story, the Greenland Brewery " is very much aware of the global warming." Well, sure, their marketing gimmick is threatened by it, anyway.

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Tragedy Outside Munich!

A spill of 200 crates of wheat beer in Bavaria "formed a slippery beer puddle that disrupted traffic for over an hour - but caused no injuries."
Bottles crashed onto the highway flooding it with foamy wheat beer and disrupting traffic for 90 minutes... The brewery suffered losses of some €10,000 in the beer tragedy.
Oh, the humanity! (Link via Fark)

Beer at Market Prices

A friend sent me this post on the Freakonomics blog about a bar in Germany where the "market prices" of the beers available are adjusted dynamically according to supply and demand.

I have discussed this possibility before, and it is great to see that it is actually being implemented somewhere. Imagine the possibilities:
  • Could you "sell short" a new beer after tasting it and finding it to be a stinker, thus profiting from your good taste?
  • Apparently it is possible to "pick up a breakfast bargain or take advantage of a lunch time sell-off." Would the effect of this for the bar be to spread out demand, and therefore reduce peak requirements for service? For example, if prices are highest at the peak of the lunch hour rush, and price-sensitive consumers respond by coming a half hour earlier or later, the bar may be able to get away with fewer servers.
  • Presumably, this would encourage freshness - beers that would otherwise have low turnover would become progressively cheaper, encouraging demand to drain the keg before spoilage occurs.
  • Since taxes are often a percentage of the sale price, I am curious how the bar calculates its tax liability. It may require some computing with each sale.
  • Speaking of computers, I'd imagine it would be too complicated (both legally and practically) to have patrons actually buying and selling, so how would you implement the system? A program which adjusted prices downward by a fixed percentage after periods of low sales, and vice versa?
The addition of market incentives (unsurprisingly) seems to open up all sorts of possibilities for efficiency! What other implications are there for such a pricing scheme? Would you go to such a bar?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A Lagunitas IPA sign "somewhere in the East Village" provides today's beer photo.

Bocks are "All About the Malt"

In this The New York Times feature on bocks, the author and his brave associates tasted 25 bocks, mostly from Germany and the U.S. (aiy, the perils of being a journalist!) in an attempt to disprove the notion that "bock" is synonymous with "dark" and that, were that the case, it would not be a bad thing.

Like many beer styles, bocks have a long and rich history:

The term bock dates back centuries, at least toward the end of the Middle Ages, when the Hanseatic city of Einbeck became well know for its strong, malty lagers. In Bavaria, where the style was particularly valued and eventually duplicated, the beer was called Einbeck, rendered in the local dialect as Einbock, and later simply as bock.

Bock also means billy goat, which became the symbol for this style of beer. That’s how the story goes, anyhow, and we’re sticking to it.

In beer tastings that I have run, I try to introduce the variety of beer flavor by showcasing different beers whose flavors focus on hops, malt and yeast, respectively. One of my showcase "malt" beer is without fail a delicious German doppelbock, which has an interesting history of its own:

As with so many beer styles, we have monasteries to thank for doppelbock, in particular the devout monks of St. Francis of Paula.

Forbidden to eat during the 40 days of Lent, they brewed a particularly rich and nutritious beer, a sort of liquid bread, to sustain them through Easter. The monks called their beer Salvator, for Savior, and to this day doppelbocks can be identified by the distinctive “ator” names they go by. The monks eventually secularized their brewery, Paulaner, which continues to make Salvator among many other beers.

According to one version of this story I have heard, the monks sent a barrel to the Pope for his approval. During the long overland journey to Rome, the beer had spoiled, so when the Pope tasted it, he gushed over the pious resolve of the monks to subsist on the foul stuff for a full forty days. I can only imagine the cheers and clinking of glasses when word reached the monastery that the Pope had given his seal of approval to the plan!

My two favorite doppelbocks are Ayinger Celebrator and Andechser Doppelbock Dunkel. As for weizenbocks, Aventinus is a classic. I have yet to try a decent eisbock.

California "Stealth Tax" Magic

A friend who works on the Hill tipped me off to an attempt in California to pass what Americans for Tax Reform calls a "stealth tax" on flavored malt beverages.
The proposal in question reclassifies flavored malt beverages as “distilled spirits” rather than “beer” as designated by current code. Various groups have launched this campaign to change the way in which flavored malt beverages are regulated, and subsequently taxed, based on the false premise that doing so will reduce underage drinking.
According to Americans for Tax Reform, "reclassification would result in a whopping tax increase on flavored malt beverages from 20 cents to $3.30 and prevent over 35,000 stores that currently sell flavored malt beverages from doing so."

For its next trick, I suppose, California's Board of Equalization will make black white and up down. As brewing giant Diageo rightly points out in its lawsuit to stop the change, "malt-based flavored beer is not a distilled spirit and has been taxed as beer for decades." The proposed change has even been parodied in The Onion.

I have somewhat mixed feelings on this issue. Most "flavored malt beverages" are not of a particularly high quality anyway, and I prefer more traditional beer, but in addition to the Zimas and Mike's Hard Lemonades of the world, many fine flavored craft beers would be taxed out of reach as well. This is a blatantly dishonest attempt at revenue collection, and would be akin to using a chainsaw to perform brain surgery.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Some delicious looking Guinness cupcakes for today's beer photo by flickr user spinphase:

Recipe here.

Review: Tesco Bière Blonde

Tesco Bière Blonde from Brasserie Saint Omer
Rating: D-

Someone left this in my refrigerator after a party I hosted, and it's setting off all kinds of warning bells. Apparently it's contract brewed "Exclusively for Tesco" by Brasserie de Saint Omer.
  • Green bottle? Check...
  • Grocery store own-brand? Check...
  • Not only that, discount grocery store brand? Check...
  • 2.8% alcohol? Check...
  • Corn and caramel coloring on the ingredient list? Check...
Am I a masochist for opening this? At least it's only a 25cl bottle! How bad can it be?

Appearance: Poured into a Leffe blonde glass, shows a golden straw color, with a one finger white head that fades astonishingly quickly. Does not look super effervescent. Filtered clear.

Smell: Corn and DMS dominate. Some French and Belgian beers have a "farmyard" aroma but this is not what that is supposed to mean! Smells like canned corn. No trace of hops in the aroma.

Taste: Not as bad as the aroma, mercifully. Light, corn & grain flavors dominate, with a bitterness that is reminiscent of tonic water. Tastes like there was just one early (cheap) hops addition in the brewing process. It's like they mixed the liquid at the bottom of a can of corn into a glass of tonic. Not as bad as some macro lagers, but objectionable to be sure. At 2.8% ABV might be useful as a thirst quencher, but Gatorade is healthier and water would taste better.

Mouthfeel: Super light body, like sparkling mineral water except it doesn't taste as good. Carbonation is average. Lingering aftertaste of over-boiled bitter hops and over-extracted grain.

Drinkability: I now understand why it comes in a 25cl bottle. Even that is more than I want to drink.

The brewery's other products don't seem to have fared much better in Beer Advocate reviews. I suspect the guys who put together this Youtube "commercial" for Bière Blonde put in more effort than Tesco's ordering and QA guys did when arranging this contract brew.

Alabamans Attempt to "Free the Hops"

The plight of Alabama beer drinkers has received attention in the media, but so far attempts to change the state's draconian beer laws have gone unsuccessful. Alabama, home-brewing beer has long been a Class A misdemeanor, with a penalty of up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine. It’s another Class A misdemeanor to sell or distribute any beer with more than 6% alcohol content. That puts off-limits 85 of the 100 top-rated beers in the world, as ranked by
In order to change this, beer-loving Alabamans have joined together to form Free the Hops and lobby for legal changes.

Stuart Carter, the president of Free the Hops, counters that most of the higher-alcohol beers do not appeal to teenagers. They’re thicker, more complex, often more bitter. They’re also considerably more expensive. To him, craft beers have nothing to do with getting drunk. They’re all about flavor. To prove his point, Carter has been known to offer lawmakers an illicit taste of a Yeti Russian Imperial Stout, with 9.5% alcohol content.

It looks like used engine oil – black, thick, sticky. It will glue your lips to the glass,” he says.

The first taste you get is the bitterness. Then you taste coffee. Then dark chocolate. Then caramel, with a hint of plums or raisins. The aftertaste is pancake syrup,” Carter says. “You give it to these legislators and the look on their face is priceless.”

Free the Hops' new Montgomery chapter had its first meeting last Thursday and the momentum appears to be building. Good luck, Alabama!

Monday, 23 June 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo of the day is of the Brick Store Pub in Decatur, Georgia.

Vietnamese Beer Drinkers

A big "xin lỗi" to all Vietnamese beer drinkers...
Anheuser-Busch is launching Budweiser in Vietnam as it extends its expansion in Asia.

The St. Louis-based brewer on Monday announced an import and distribution agreement with Gannon Distribution Co., making Budweiser available in Vietnam... Initially, Budweiser will be available in bottles and cans in upscale bars, restaurants and supermarkets in Ho Chi Minh City and in select chain outlets across Vietnam.

That's not entirely fair, greater choice for consumers is always a good thing. I just get double IPA-bitter sometimes that craft beer will take another decade to make inroads in the same market!

Beer Sales Declining in Anglosphere

Coinciding with a longstanding decline in beer sales in the United States, two news stories today show that the same downward trend is occurring elsewhere in the Anglosphere as well.

In the United Kingdom, beer sales have tumbled to their lowest point since 1975 in gross terms. Per capita, the decline should be even more precipitous. The chief executive of the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers blames the decline on an "economic situation where you have a perfect storm of the smoking ban, credit crisis and loss of consumer confidence," but those factors explain neither the longer term trend nor the similar situations elsewhere. Certainly not helping matters is the new duties on alcohol pushed through this year, which raised the tax on a pint of beer by 4p, resulting in a situation in which "brewers earn just 0.7p profit on each pint they sell, while the Treasury receives 33p."

Meanwhile, in Canada the National Post reports that in the last ten years beer has fallen from 52% to 47% of alcohol consumed, losing ground mostly to wine, and red wine in particular. In the United States, craft and import sales have remained strong while overall beer sales have declined, and in this story we see something similar in Canada, where imports have doubled their market share in the last decade.

Is the economic situation really to blame, as the quoted British lobbyist claims? I think not. Why the simultaneous long-term decline in the UK, US and Canada?

I would hazard a guess that at least part of the puzzle lies in the fact that all three nations were settled primarily by immigrants from north of Europe's "vineyard line," above which grape vines do not grow and beer (or mead, but that's another story) was traditionally the alcoholic beverage of choice. As globalization and economic integration progress, consumers are afforded greater choices from outside their own region and quite understandably they do not always prefer exactly what they had grown accustomed to due to historical happenstance. If this were the case, one would predict an increase in consumption of (both literally and culturally) imported products during times of greater economic integration. Therefore the same theory predicts the increasing popularity of wine and imported beers in the Anglosphere, and increasing beer consumption in, for example, China, where consumption has risen 40% since 1997.

On the flip side, during periods of dis-integration and isolationism, one would expect a return to more traditional and local products. Of course, these variables aren't independent: if you subscribe to the idea that economic integration spurs growth, then there would be a concurrent wealth effect since more expensive (exotic, imported) products would be favored during periods of expansion and cheaper (traditional, local) products during periods of contraction. This related effect would do a better job of explaining the strong growth in craft beer sales.

Any thoughts or historical (counter)examples to this line of argument? Unfortunately Prohibition confounds a study of Great Depression alcohol sales in the U.S., but what happened to relative sales of wine and beer in the U.K. during the same period?

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

I have been saving up bottle caps (no two the same!) to put to a similar use as today's beer photo of the day by flickr user smastrong:

I think it would look great embedded into the counter of a home bar. Does anyone have any other creative uses for bottle caps?

Classic Olympia Beer Ad on Youtube

I happen to know the guy who put together this classic Olympia beer commercial in the 70s:

Some of the stories surrounding the ad are amusing:
All the extras on the bus were post doc geologists and geophysicists from the UCLA lab that I used to be a tech in when I was a working actor trying to enhance my income. Note that the guy at the bar and the guy napping in front of me on the bus is the same person (Ed Ruth) who I had worked with analyzing moon samples from one of the Apollo missions. The spot was shot on Wilshire Blvd, near Westwood, on one of the coldest days of the year. Vega and I were made to look hot by oiling our faces and then spritzing water on us. A best boy rigged a dichroic light on the end of a long pole that he hung out the window in front of me and then shined the light on my face so that it looked like searing hot sunlight (despite the freezing cold air blowing on my water splashed shirt). The commercial aired on all of the televised Dodger games that year (Oly was Dodger Stadium's beer that year), so that whenever I attended a game, I was instantly recognized...and often cheered. It was my "season of fame".
I love the old pop tops, the kind that blew out Jimmy Buffet's flip-flops.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Can your office match this?

If you happen to work for the National Beer Wholesalers Association, your office has a bar, and all "two dozen employees gather there every Friday at 4:30 for 'beer education,' which involves sampling Belgians, pale ales or any other themed liquid buffet."

Beer Photo of the Day

Not a great beer, but a nice photo by flickr user bengrubb nonetheless:

South Jersey a "Beer Wasteland"

Since New Jersey wasn't already having enough reputation problems, now the Philadelphia Daily News beer columnist has taken aim at the Garden State:
There's no getting around it: South Jersey is a Beer Wasteland.

Oh, yeah, there's plenty of BudMillerCoors along Route 70. And there are several outstanding take-out stores.

But try to find a bar that pours double bock or cask-conditioned ale or a West Coast micro. Hell, try to find a Flying Fish, brewed right in Cherry Hill.

"It's true," said Gene Muller, founder of Flying Fish and an advocate of Jersey's beer scene. "We sell more in Philly than South Jersey."

What's the problem here? Excessive government regulation deserves a share of the blame:

...Muller and others believe South Jersey is hamstrung by incredibly expensive liquor licenses. Paying $500,000 for a license is not unusual: Last summer, one in Cherry Hill went for an astounding $1.6 million. (By comparison, you can get a license in Philadelphia for about $65,000.)

Licensing experts point to the real-estate market, speculation and the scarcity of licenses, which are doled out by municipalities, based on population. More than a dozen South Jersey towns (including Moorestown and Haddonfield) are dry, which further inflates the prices in neighboring communities.

Not that Pennsylvania is blameless in the government regulation of beer department, given the case law... Who would have thought the shadow of prohibition would stretch so far?

Friday, 20 June 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A great beer photo posted by Instapundit of The Sunspot Bar in Knoxville, Tennessee:

The Economist on A-B/InBev

On June 11, European brewing giant InBev made an unsolicited offer to buy Anheuser-Busch:
As well as having a neat geographical fit, the two brewing giants would also enjoy better terms when negotiating over the price of hops, barley, glass and aluminium, which have been rising fast. Together they would be better placed to confront flagging sales in the developed world, thanks to a more extensive distribution network. And they would be able to hedge growing but volatile markets in developing countries against the steadier but slow-growing American market.
While the Busch family seems determined to hold off the takeover, they only control 4% of the company's stock. Salvation for A-B may come in the form of making its own offer for Mexican brewer Grupo Modelo, maker of Corona "that would make Anheuser too big for InBev to swallow."

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

The Incredible Shrinking Glass

"Pint creep," the subject of the last "Advocate This" column in BeerAdvocate magazine, was recently written up in The Wall Street Journal:

Two of the world's biggest glassware makers, Libbey and Cardinal International, say orders of smaller beer glasses have risen over the past year. Restaurateurs "want more of a perceived value," says Mike Schuster, Libbey's marketing manager for glassware in the U.S. Glasses with a thicker bottom or a thicker shaft help create the perception. "You can increase the thickness of the bottom part but still retain the overall profile," he says.

Dedicated beer drinkers are fighting back, with extra vigilance about exactly how much beer they get for their buck. They are protesting "cheater pints" and "profit pours" by outing alleged offenders on Web discussion boards and plugging bars that maintain 16-ounce pints, in hopes peer pressure will prevail. And they are spreading the word about how to spot the smaller glass (the bottom is thicker).

Of course, the same thing has been happening with other goods for years, and not all bar owners are so unscrupulous:

Portland's Raccoon Lodge recently started serving pints in 20-ounce glasses, up from 16 ounces. The 16-ounce glasses held only about 14.5 ounces, says restaurant manager Lisa Crombie; the 20-ounce glasses hold about 18 ounces. "We just thought it was fair," Ms. Crombie says. "People were paying for a pint, so they should get a pint."
We couldn't agree more, Ms Crombie!

Welcome to Sybeeritic!

At Sybeeritic, I aim to provide beer reviews and news you can use. The name of this blog is a portmanteau of the words "sybaritic" and "beer" because we intend on focusing on the finer things in the world of beer.

Reviews will be posted in the style common at, where I review under the name hunteraw.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Review: Cock N Bull Story

Cock N Bull Story from Concrete Cow Brewery
Rating: B+

One of my favourite beers of the Cambridge Beer Festival this year. Tough call on the style. Brewer describes it as an "amber ale" but is distinctly English, not American... biscuit reminds enough of Fat Tire for me to classify it as an American Amber.

Appearance: orange honey color, thin head.

Smell: biscuit and grain, reminds me of Fat Tire

Taste: fruit, biscuit, solid bitterness but lacking discernible hop flavor.

Mouthfeel: light-medium body, carbonation fine considering it's coming from a cask.

Drinkability: high, this one is quaffable!

Serving type: cask

Reviewed on: 06-10-2008 10:50:22

Review: Alligator American Style Beer

Alligator American Style Beer from Ascot Ales
Rating: C+

Reviewed at the Cambridge Beer Festival.

Appearance: honey color, not quite clear, small head with no lace

Smell: light aroma, ale fruitiness but not the intense "grapefruit, lychee and orange hop flavors" that the brewer-provided description promises.

Taste: what a letdown, after seeing the name I thought a British brewer had attempted to make a true APA but it seems I was mistaken. Little discernible hop flavors.

Mouthfeel: good body, unfortunately probably the high point of this beer.

Drinkability: for all its faults, fairly drinkable

Serving type: cask

Reviewed on: 06-10-2008 10:47:04

Review: New Model Ale

New Model Ale from Ufford Ales Ltd.
Rating: C

"brewed specially for the 35th Cambridge Beer Festival," where I sampled it. Clever name plays off of Cambridgeshire's native son, Oliver Cromwell.

Appearance: golden honey in color, with a small head that fades without lace

Smell: light hops, grain sweetness

Taste: citrusy hops, grainy but light, uninspired

Mouthfeel: light body, undercarbonated

Drinkability: fairly average

Serving type: cask

Reviewed on: 06-10-2008 10:44:05

Saturday, 7 June 2008

A-B Distributors Frustrated by Exclusivity

A friend sent in a Wall Street Journal story on Anheuser-Busch's distributors which unfortunately it doesn't look like I can provide a link to.

A decade ago, Anheuser-Busch Cos. began dangling financial incentives to get beer distributors to jettison rival brands. The campaign, known as "100% Share of Mind," was a big hit, helping the King of Beers tighten its grip on the U.S. market.

But now, some distributors are finding that selling only Anheuser products might not be smart in the fast-changing alcohol-beverage industry.

In the past year, distributors in Texas, Tennessee and elsewhere have decided to eschew Anheuser's incentives and begin selling rival beers...

Those distributors carrying A-B products exclusively have missed out on much of the boom in craft beer sales, while their competitors cashed in.

Now, it sounds to me like the market is becoming more healthy and competitive, and less of an oligopoly. Good news, right? Right:

For consumers, it means greater choice at their local bars and liquor stores. Wall Street analysts say the movement signals a weakening of the St. Louis brewer's clout in the marketplace, as small-batch "craft" beers and imports, as well as wine and spirits, wrest market share from mass-market brews like Budweiser.

Anheuser's exclusive distribution system "was a great business model," but "the consumer environment has changed dramatically," says Bump Williams, general manager of the beer, wine and spirits practice of market-research firm Information Resources Inc.

Times change, and companies need to adapt or die. The distributors are adapting, and A-B will in time, too.