Monday, 29 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

"M@" suggests a super geeky beer photo of the day:

I'll see his #include <beer.h> and raise:
$> cd /pub
$> more beer
If you have any suggestions for this beer photo of the day feature, feel free to email me at the contact address on this page.

Vote on an Important Beer Question

Charlie Papazian is giving his readers (via the Tampa Bay Examiner) a chance to vote on a question of some controversy to beer lovers: "does it matter who makes the beer you buy?"
  • Does it really matter that Blue Moon is made by MillerCoors?
  • Does it matter that Pilsner Urquell is made by SABMiller?
  • Does it matter the beers like the following are owned by the Belgian/Brazilian global brewing corporation called Inbev:
    • German brewed Becks and Diebels Altbier,
    • Belgian brewed Hoegarden and Leffe,
    • English brewed Bass and Boddington,
    • Australian brewed Castlemaine XXXX,
    • Irish brewed Murphy's Stout
    • Canadian brewed Labatt,
    • and likely soon Budweiser?
Currently the "yes" answers are running a combined 63%, but what do you think? Isn't quality the final arbiter, regardless of origin? (via Fark)

Kid Rock Beer Coming Soon

From the makers of Donald Trump vodka and Willie Nelson bourbon, you can now look forward to buying Kid Rock-branded beer starting next Spring. Details on the beer have not yet been announced, but for some reason I find myself imagining a cross between Colt .45 and now-defunct novelty beer Bootie Lager, served in a paper bag.

Pass! (via Instapundit)

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

An epic beer in today's photo:

Rugby Players Like Their Beer

Rugby players are a tough bunch, and at least in the antipodes they love their beer. A survey of players in the National Rugby League, which is considering an alcohol ban at its sporting events, found that only 21 of the 40 players surveyed would continue playing if beer was banned at games.

According to one "prominent player:"
"I love a beer, so I'd never agree to something like that. I don't think it would be fair to punish every player in the comp because a few of them get into trouble. A lot of us like a beer and can have a few after a game without losing the plot. You can't punish every player in the competition for the actions of a few blokes who get out of hand."
The man has a point. (link via Fark)

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A classic combination in today's beer photo:

German Teen Causes Flood of Beer

A German teen is in trouble for flooding a Dusseldorf arena with beer:
The now 15-year-old allegedly broke into the LTU Arena with a friend and opened three taps in the VIP seating area in October 2006, when he was just 13-years-old.

Some 1,400 litres of pilsner soaked through several layers of the stadium and through a conference room until it reached the parking garage, causing extensive damage, LTU Arena spokesperson Rainer Schüler told The Local on Monday.

"The stench was overwhelming and it took a year before we were able to use the conference room again," Schüler said, adding that the boys were easily found thanks to clear images on surveillance videos.
Getting that smell out of carpet can take some effort - I can't imagine what 1,400 litres of pilsner did! (via Fark)

Review: Bell's Kalamazoo Stout

Bell's Kalamazoo Stout from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Rating: A-

Appearance: Pours an absolutely opaque brownish/black into the glass. One finger dark khaki head, with decent retention. Not much lacing.

Smell: Seriously roasty - stale coffee, dark chocolate. A little later, almost like an iced latte. I'm not picking up on the licorice, which is a good thing as anise is not one of my favorite flavors. More burnt aromas come out as it warms.

Taste: Best tasting stout I've had in a while. Bitter cocoa dominates. Sweet middle, like sweetened iced coffee. Finishes crisply and dry. Warming - would be a great winter beer. Again, I'm not getting the licorice?

Mouthfeel: More medium than full in body (a bit surprisingly, given how dark this beer is), smoothly carbonated - almost milky in consistency and the way it coats your mouth.

Drinkability: Very solid beer. I'm so glad Bell's is now distributed in Florida.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A great photo of Matilda in today's beer photo:

For When a Normal Bottle Opener Won't Do... can go straight to overkill with this crowbar opener:

Review: Bell's Oberon Ale

Bell's Oberon Ale from Bell's Brewery, Inc.
Rating: A-

Appearance: Amber in color, hazy as you would expect from the style. One finger white head, little retention - surprisingly so, actually, since wheat beers are usually quite foamy. Not much lacing.

Smell: White bread, orange blossom honey, and just a hint of banana. Complex and very nice.

Taste: Very refreshing and balanced. Citrus (orange) hops, a little spice (clove?) and bready malt. Slightly buttery in the middle, finishes clean and dry. Excellent.

Mouthfeel: More spritzy than you would guess from looking at it, somewhat creamy. Body is somewhere between light and medium. Very crisp.

Drinkability: Refreshing while still complex, and well-balanced, this is an exceptional summer beer. Recommended.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A great photo of a great wheat beer:

Oktoberfest Slideshow

Yahoo has a nice slideshow up of Oktoberfest pictures for your perusal:

Indian Brewers Under Pressure

Between rising input costs and increased competition, Indian brewers' profits are being squeezed:

"From a two-player market, we now have three new entrants vying for their slice of the pie. Overall industry profitability is probably negative or barely positive," said Vivek Chhabra, regional director, South Asia, Asia Pacific Breweries .

The company, in which Dutch brewer Heineken has a stake, launched 'Tiger' beer in India earlier this year.

"Barley prices have gone up and beer prices have gone up as a result so this year we are seeing some slowdown in sales of beer," said Nupur Sharma, analyst at Euromonitor.

While the Indian beer market is still experience double-digit annual growth, barley prices have increased 19% over the past year and India's low per capita consumption of two liters/person (leaving much room for growth) has attracted new entrants. Given the quality of the Indian beers I've had, more competition in the market can only be a good thing...

Review: Maximus

Maximus from Lagunitas Brewing Company
Rating: A-

Appearance: Slightly hazy, deep honey in color. One finger, off-white, almost yellow-tinted (?) head, which leaves some lacing.

Smell: Resiny hops, sugar cookie, and citrus. The combination is almost Christmas-y, somehow. More floral notes as it warms.

Taste: Quite bitter (citrus, grapefruit rind) but well-balanced. Perhaps a tad on the sweet side, but not in a bad way - the somewhat metallic/astringent finish, is rounded out by that bready sweetness.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, somewhat creamy. Lingering aftertaste.

Drinkability: As a double IPA, not something you want to session, but quite drinkable and enjoyable for the style - and at 7.5% abv, more drinkable than most.

Beer Thief Update

A couple of more items for the continuing series on beer thieves, this time both from the northern plains:

Dealing With the Election

Jonah Goldberg has found a way to deal with election cycle stress:
I have concluded the best way to deal with the election roller coaster is to commit yourself to cocktail hour.
Or, if you prefer, grab a beer.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

More seasonal fun in today's beer photo:

Review: Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier

Hofbräu Oktoberfestbier from Staatliches Hofbräuhaus (Hofbräu München)
Rating: C

'Tis the season for Oktoberfest, might as well open up the appropriate beer. This wasn't available when when I visited the Munich Hofbrauhaus around Christmas last year.

Appearance: Very clear, golden in color. Thin head, with mediocre retention and no lacing.

Smell: Grainy, almost adjuncty, with some "green" and spicy hops underneath. I was expecting a lot more malt from this style. You might be forgiven for thinking this was supposed to be a pilsner.

Taste: Surprisingly sweet on the palate. A bit of cooked vegetable or sweet corn - can't be adjunct, due to the rheinhetsgebot. Alcohol comes through a bit strong, considering it's just 6%.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body, actually quite creamy. Lingering aftertaste.

Drinkability: Not very impressed with this one. I was expecting something more malty and polished. Not recommended.

Pub Sign Tradition Dying

The tradition of the distinctive British pub sign, rooted in the historical needs of a largely illiterate population to recognize the most important building on the street, may be dying:
There are only 30 independent pub chains and breweries left which still order individually-painted signs in Britain.

Inn and tavern signs, which often have historic importance to an area, have instead been replaced by the logos and brand names of major pub chains.
This quote just leaves me speechless:
More boozers are also opting to replace old-fashioned signs with more modern artwork such as The Victoria in St Werburghs, Bristol, which swapped its image of Queen Victoria with Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, 34, in 2002.

Police Looking for Beer Vandal

What a waste!
The hunt is on for vandals accused of putting eggs and [pouring] beer in mailboxes in the city of Two Rivers...
I suppose this is in some way the opposite of being a "beer thief," but just as reprehensible!

Orkney Under Fire

An outfit called the Portman Group, funded by the drinks industry to persuade us to drink less - stop laughing at the back - hired PIPC, a global management consultancy, to go through 485 alcoholic drinks and see how many transgressed its rules about linking drinking with violence, sex appeal, etc. Among 32 miscreants they identified Skull Splitter. So management consultants solemnly decided that people buying a bottle with a rather fanciful Viking depicted on it were more likely to commit mayhem than someone drinking, say, Wifebeat . . . sorry, Stella Artois.

The brewery refused to back down and is being taken to the Portman Group's independent complaints panel, which is manned by “ordinary people” - a teacher, a vicar, a lecturer and so on. This is no guarantee of common sense, because of the sort of ordinary people who push themselves forward for such jobs. Meanwhile, I am told that if I, or you, or that guy shouting to himself on the top floor of the bus, care to make a similar complaint, the same, solemn procedure will be put under way. Automatically, and no matter how frivolous it may be. A busybodies' charter.

The tyranny of the technocrats continues apace, liberty losing to lawsuits. (via Fark)

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day


Budweiser American Ale, Coming Soon

Some of the first beer-related news I noticed upon my return to the U.S. a couple of weeks ago was the television advertising for Budweiser American Ale, which should be showing up on store shelves this week.
Anheuser-Busch's move is part of its strategy to innovate off of core brands Budweiser and Bud Light, which is also a lager. The value of those brands is one of the reasons Belgian brewer InBev cited when it said this summer it would buy Anheuser-Busch for $52 billion.

The push to spin new products off staple brands comes at a time when large, domestic brewers, including No. 2 player MillerCoors LLC, are going after drinkers who are increasingly snubbing big-name brands. These drinkers are looking for more variety and niche products, often from craft brewers.

MillerCoors had hoped to release a trio of craft styles of top-seller Miller Lite nationally this fall, with an ale among them. But the company has since backed out of that, saying it needs to rethink the effort.

“All the big brewers are looking for ways to break into the craft business and ales are obviously a big part of the craft success, so why not?” said Eric Shepard, executive editor of trade publication Beer Marketer's Insights.
So far, reviews are fairly positive, the new brew garnering a B+/worthy rating at BeerAdvocate. I'll post my own review as soon as I get my hands on a bottle.

While many craft beer connoisseurs worry that the macros' entry into the craft segment might squeeze out smaller and higher quality producers, I tend to think the marketing and wide distribution of the macros' products will whet consumer appetites and bring more drinkers into the craft beer fold - and more choice and competition can only be a good thing for consumers.

It Drink Pretty Good, Don't It?

A friend of mine sent me this priceless YouTube clip of what passes for debate in our state legislatures on alcohol-related issues a while ago, and now that Lew Bryson has posted on it as well I thought I'd move it up in the posting queue:

Alabama State Representative Alvin Holmes' immortal words on the Free the Hops' efforts to lift the state's 6% abv cap have apparently become something of a cult phenomenon:
"Yeah, what's wrong wit de beer we got? I mean, the beer we got drink pretty good, don't it? Now, I ain't never heard nobody complain about the beer we have. It drink pretty good. Budweiser... What's the name of some of them other beers? Budweiser and what else? Miller? Coors, huh? It drink pretty good, don't it?"
For more information on Free the Hops, visit their website - maybe the momentum of this viral video can be harnessed to break through the political impasse on this subject:
Seventy-five years after Prohibition, beer aficionados in Alabama are fighting for the right to brew and chug as they please. That's raised the ire of Southern Baptists, who frown on alcohol in any form. As they jockey for advantage in the Legislature, one side quotes Scripture. The other cites One talks morality. The other, malt.
Between MADD, teetotal religion and a broken political system, it's no wonder debate on this issue is stuck at the Alvin Holmes level.

Oktoberfest "Under Attack" from Unlikely Source

Oktoberfest opened this weekend, but according to an article in Der Spiegel it is "under attack from cheap Lederhosen made in China, India and Eastern Europe."
Hans Lehrer, a member of the Munich-based Isargau folk costume society and a former spokesman for the federation, said: “Folk costumes should be made where they’re worn. I’ve got a problem with imported folk dress because heritage refers to one’s homeland. If people buy Lederhosen made in Romania just because that’s cheaper, I’m opposed to that.”

Lehrer said a good pair of embroidered deer-leather short Lederhosen made by a Bavarian tailor would cost at least €600, while imported Lederhosen costs just €150. But it was worth paying the extra money, he added. “A good Lederhose is like a second skin and it will last you your whole life if you don’t get too fat.”

Alexander Wandinger, an expert on Bavarian folk dress, said: “Lederhosen made in India and all over the place may be fine for the Oktoberfest but it has nothing to do with true folk costume.”

Right... I suppose folk traditions being made more accessible and less elite is a bad thing? Blind protectionism, or legitimate respect for tradition? I tend to think the former...

Monday, 22 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A sixer of Mirror Pond Pale Ale, in today's beer photo.

Review: Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale

Sierra Nevada Anniversary Ale from Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.
Rating: A-

Appearance: Poured into a Sam Adams Boston Lager glass, appears a not-quite-clear honey color, with a fluffy light head that exhibits good retention and leaves ample lacing.

Smell: Pine is far and away the dominant aroma, resiny and rich. Some caramel and toast underneath. Not quite as aromatic as Celebration.

Taste: Quite bitter, citrusy hops taking the lead. Distinct grapefruit finish (but not to the extent of Smuttynose!) . Finishes very dry. Flavor profile is a lot like Celebration.

Mouthfeel: Medium body, slightly sticky. Moderately carbonated.

Drinkability: Dry finish improves drinkability. Nice IPA, although I would say Celebration still sets the bar.

Stubbie Expansion Complete!

It's amazing what a difference a year makes! I spent the weekend up in Gainesville, home to my alma mater the University of Florida, and re-visited some of my old haunts.

Far and away the best beer bar in the area, Stubbie Shirt Pub has now expanded next door and serves food. Renamed "Stubbie and Stein's," the decor is now split between the original Australian theme and a German theme in the expansion, currently decorated for Oktoberfest. Food is mostly German, with quite a bit of variety. The already impressive beer menu has expanded as well, leading to much hemming and hawing at our table.

It's great to be a Florida gator, and increasingly great to be a beer-drinker in Gainesville.

France Bans Internet Ads for Alcohol

From the depressingly thick oppressive/interventionist state regulation-files, France has banned the advertisement of alcohol on the internet:
France may be home to some of the world's finest wines but it could be about to join the tiny club of Muslim states that forbid their promotion on the internet...

The Heineken beer company was forced by the ruling last February to block French access to its corporate site. Since then, some of the biggest drinks brands have shut out French visitors for fear of prosecution.
Unsurprisingly, overall alcohol consumption fell by 6% in France between 1999 and 2004, and beer sales fell 10% in the same period. I have had a few visitors from France to this site, I hope my Google ads don't spell trouble!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Saporro's brewery, in today's beer photo:

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Tis the season for Oktoberfest:


Thursday, 18 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

The famous Delirium beer bar in Brussels:

From Stonch's beer photo contest.

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Total Wine & More, Emphasis on the "More"

I visited the Boca Raton location of Total Wine & More today, which has one of the best beer selection in South Florida. When in the area, it's well-worth a visit. I was surprised to see how the selection of beers available in the area has changed in the year I've been living in the U.K. - happily, Bell's is now available, among several others. Needless to say, several new reviews to follow in the next few days!

Beer Photo of the Day

Some glorious hops and Pliny the Elder in today's beer photo:

MillerCoors Donates Brewing Equipment for Education

MillerCoors has donated $100,000 worth of brewing equipment to the University of Wisconsin-Madison to be the cornerstone of a new course in brewing and fermentation science.
"This is a unique collaboration and partnership that will incorporate best practices from our breweries into a program that will develop future brewing and fermentation experts and potential employees," said David Ryder, MillerCoors vice president of brewing and research.
You would think that $100,000 should buy a fairly large brewing system, but according to the Capital Times' article it's only ten gallons - a scale common among more advanced homebrewers, all spending orders of magnitude less on their systems. Well, maybe the mash-lauter tun is gold plated? (via Fark)

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Bartering for Beer

ABC News ended the show tonight with a segment on The Pigs, an Edgefield pub, which allows patrons to barter for beer. The owner accepts just about anything: rhubarb, freshly caught fish, or home-grown potatoes. It all started when the owner decided to give a a hunter two pints for a pheasant. Everything is cooked up in the kitchen and put on the menu by talented (and apparently quite flexible) chefs:

Recently, she has handed over a pint for a brace of pheasant, three mackerel, a kilogramme of potatoes and a kilogramme of fresh fruit.

All the produce is then passed on to Mr Abbott who makes up daily specials...

"When we get the good stuff, and it gets on to the specials board, it's brilliant. Someone will say 'that rabbit tasted great' and we say 'here, meet the person who shot it'.

While a brace of pheasant can't beat currency when it comes to liquidity, and pricing must be problematic (both how much beer to award and how to accurately price dishes made from bartered food), I'm sure it has drawn lots of business. Unfortunately, I suspect it won't be long until Alistair Darling notices the potential for tax evasion, or someone gets sick from a funky fish and sues.

Interestingly, both The Telegraph's story and the ABC News segment (perhaps trying to be topical?) claim that The Pigs started the system in response to the credit crisis, but according to the owner they have been doing so for two years. In any case, I wish I'd known about this while I was still in the UK! I'll have to make a trip out to Norfolk next time I'm in the country...

KalamaBrew Shares What's Fermenting

I received some some nice promotional bottle openers in the mail yesterday from The Kalamazoo Gazette, whose KalamaBrew blog does a great job covering the local beer news.

Thanks guys, I'll put them to good use.

Beer Thief Update

Here are two more stories to add to our continuing feature on beer thieves:
The main lesson so far from this series seems to be "don't operate a 7-11 in Michigan."

Mugabe Supporters Know What Matters

Life in Zimbabwe is hard these days, even for supporters of Robert Mugabe's regime, but with the new settlement people are demanding more:
"We need a better life. We need to drink beer every day."
Wow, for once the Zanu-PF is right! (via Fark)

Monday, 15 September 2008

The Virtues of Blind Tasting

Lew Bryson points out that blind tasting is one of the most educational connoisseurship exercises you can possibly undertake. It forces you to set aside preconceptions and expectations, go in with an open mind, and put names to flavors and scents yourself.

I participated in the Blind Wine Tasting Society at Cambridge and learned more about wine than any number of guided tastings or vineyard tours could possibly have imparted. At our weekly tastings, we tasted six whites and then six reds, writing taste notes and making guesses for the grape, country, region and vintage of each. I was never particularly good, but the experience was invaluable!

I've been meaning to do something similar for beer... When I get a chance, I'm planning to get hop pellets of various different varieties from a homebrew shop, have someone else number them, and then add each to a fairly cheap and neutral lager (High Life?). I'll then taste each, write notes, and try to match the variety to the number. A good exercise to "know your hops?" Have any readers done something similar? A hop tea might be simpler, but identification out of context might not be as useful.

Review: Censored

Censored from Lagunitas Brewing Company
Rating: B

Appearance: Color is, unsurprisingly, a rich copper. Almost red-tinted. Thinnish off-white head, with little retention. Some thin lacing.

Smell: Piney hops, with cool and subdued malt behind.

Taste: Caramel and grain, backed up by resinous hops. Well-balanced. Interesting, somewhat fruity finish. Not as much toast/biscuit as I like to see in American Ambers.

Mouthfeel: Creamy with small bubbles. Medium body. Slightly oily.

Drinkability: Quite nice, a good representative of what is for me an under-appreciated style. I'm very curious what the brewery's original name for this beer was, before they had to change it to [censored]!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Review: Fire Rock Pale Ale

Fire Rock Pale Ale from Kona Brewing Company
Rating: B

I'm fairly certain this is my first beer from Hawaii. This beer has traveled a long way, purchased in South Florida.

Appearance: Honey in color, quite clear. One finger head with mediocre retention and some lacing.

Smell: Not as hoppy as I had expected from the style. Both citrusy and herbal. Hints of berry and sour orange juice.

Taste: Citrusy hops, floral jamaica tea, dry cereal finish. Not bad.

Mouthfeel: Slightly slick light-medium body, carbonation a tad on the light side.

Drinkability: Fairly mediocre APA, but drinkable.

UPDATE: Heh, I just opened the antepenultimate beer from this six-pack and finally noticed that under each cap is a Hawaiian word and English translation, like the "Learn Chinese" phrases in a fortune cookie. Nice touch.

Counterfeit Beer Maker Busted

Via Danwei, Chinese police recently busted a producer of counterfeit beer:
Police in Humen, Guangdong Province busted a fake beer producer yesterday, reports today's Dongguan Times. The article said that the producer replaced the labels and caps of cheap Shanshui-brand beer with those of the more expensive Tsingtao beer, creating three thousand fake Tsingtao beer bottles in a single day. The big photo on the front page shows the water tank which was used to remove the labels.
Maybe they should have been slapping on Snow labels, instead?

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Review: Frankenheim Alt

Frankenheim Alt from Privatbrauerei Frankenheim
Rating: A-

Enjoyed in the Dusseldorf airport during a layover.

Appearance: Enormous, thick head atop a brown, leather-coloured body.

Smell: Clean, almost lagery aroma. Not particularly malty, but with a hint of brown bread and Saaz hops.

Taste: Solid bitterness, caramel and bready malts, continental spicy hops, with a roasty/slightly burnt middle and a very crisp and clean finish. Very nice.

Mouthfeel: Round, medium body. Good carbonation.

Drinkability: Flavourful yet crisp and refreshing as well. Quite well-balanced, and highly drinkable.

SABMiller's China Snow Job

An article in The Wall Street Journal sent in by Howard sheds some light on how Snow has displaced Budweiser as the world's biggest beer brand:

Snow's production was less than one-tenth of its current level six years ago, when the regional brewer started developing a now-extensive national distribution network and began buying competing brewers in the fragmented Chinese market. That helped it tap China's growing ranks of beer drinkers. "Success has largely been driven by the supply side," says Ari Mervis, managing director for SABMiller's Asian and African operations.

Though the Chinese drink less beer per person than Americans or Europeans, China's beer market has been the world's largest for the past six years and is growing 10% a year, according to Euromonitor. Snow's rapid growth illustrates the promise of China's vast consumer base.

But China's price-sensitive mass market produces thin profit margins compared with many other countries. Chinese beer makers have profit margins of roughly $2 per hectoliter, compared with $50 to $80 in Europe and the U.S., according to Mr. Mervis, who says beer prices have barely moved over the past five years. SABMiller says that while Snow accounts for 30% of the brewing giant's global sales volume, it contributes less than 5% to overall profits.

So SABMiller has essentially "bought" Snow's market share, and now needs to make it more profitable, potentially by moving it up-market. Hopefully, working on the recipe will be part of the strategy...

Guinness to Build New Brewery

From Howard, The Wall Street Journal reports that Guinness will be building a new flagship brewery (to replace the St James' Gate facility?) "in the town of Leixlip -- where Arthur Guinness began brewing the dark-brown stout in 1755, four years before moving operations to the capital."
The choice of Leixlip, though historically fitting, was something of a surprise. Recent Irish media speculation had focused on two other suburban Dublin locations.

The deal-clincher appeared to be that most of the brewery will be built on 50 acres of land owned by the Guinness family. An additional 23 acres will be purchased from Kildare County Council.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Whisky as Resilient as Beer?

I've discussed brewing as a recession-proof "vice" industry previously, but it may have company: Michael sends in news that exports of Scotch whisky are up 14% in the first half of 2008, bucking the worldwide economic slowdown.

The growing acceptance of whisky in China has played a large part in whisky's resilience, with total Scotch sales in China rising "dramatically, from just £1m in 2000 to £40m last year." Chivas Regal in particular has gained significant market share through mixing with green tea in clubs and karaoke joints.

Interestingly, the first trip of the BBC's "Box," a shipping container which will be tracked around the world in a year-long feature, will be transporting whiskey to Shanghai. Good to know its contents will be waiting for me when I move to Shanghai in December!

Trappist Beer in Unlikely Places

On one of my last days in Cambridge, I took this amusing but unfortunately low quality photo on my cellphone:

You can't really see it, but the the workman on the right it sitting on a Trappiste Rochefort crate!

Beer and Lipstick

Sarah Palin's lipstick has gotten a good bit of attention, and as a self-proclaimed "hockey mom" I'm sure she's a beer-drinker, but Charlie Papazian points out that to mix the two would be a beer faux pas!
Lipstick is NOT a political issue - it's a beer foam killer... Any lip decoration no matter what color will quickly ruin the foamy beer head.
A good example of how to focus on the important issues in this heated election season. Thanks, Charlie! (via Maureen Ogle)

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Back in the U.S.A.

I arrived back in Florida tonight after a long day traveling and celebrated with filet mignon, key lime pie, and a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale. I don't think I could have come up with a better way to escape airport hell! A beer review from the Dusseldorf airport will be posted shortly...

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

One of my favourite Belgian IPAs, De Ranke XX Bitter, in today's beer photo:

Mongolian Craft Brewing

The Marmot, Korea-blogger with marital ties to Mongolia, might be interested in Alan's recent post on a Mongolian microbrewery. Chinggis Brewery is apparently the (only) place to go for a beer-lover in Ulaan-baatar.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Review: Soproni

Soproni from Brau Union Hungária Sörgyárak / Soprony Brewery
Rating: C+

Sampled in the Budapest airport after missing my flight and cooling my heels to wait for the next one...

Appearance: Very golden in color, quite clear. One-finger white head, with decent retention and some lacing.

Smell: Flinty mineral character and adjuncty corn. Little in the way of hops in the nose.

Taste: On the whole, fairly light. Balanced bitterness, but slightly astringent aftertaste. Slightly spicy, continental hops. Mild bread note.

Mouthfeel: Quite creamy mouthfeel for the style, surprisingly so. Makes me wonder whether they might be using beer gas for this lager, instead of CO2, or if it's just a characteristic of the beer.

Drinkability: Decent for the style, but not very distinctive.

Welcome Home to America Beer?

I'll be arriving back in the U.S. on Thursday night after a year in Old Blighty and I am looking forward to pouring a good American craft beer to celebrate my return. The question is, which beer to choose?

I figure it should meet the following criteria:
  • it should (of course!) be American-made
  • it should be quintessentially American, stylistically
  • it should not have been readily available in the UK (this eliminates, for example, Sierra Nevada Celebration and Anchor Liberty, which I was able to track down in Cambridge)
I am open to suggestions! I have a couple of possibilities in mind, but I'd like to see what others might put forward.

Beer and Civilization Haiku

I recently posted on the connection between beer and the dawn of civilization. Now there's a beer haiku to go with the theme:

In the beginning
We came together for beer.
It still sustains us

Monday, 8 September 2008

Back from Budapest

Apologies for the light posting: I was in Budapest this past week for something work-related, and will be moving back to the other side of the Atlantic later this week.

Packing up to move is, as usual, a horrific experience. I'm looking at the collection of beer glasses I've accumulated over the last year and trying to decide whether I should ship them home or not. Having already dropped >£100 on shipping less fragile items, I am hesitant.

Anyone have a favorite method of protecting/shipping glassware?

World's Largest Beer Brand Now Chinese

The Chinese beer market has long been extremely regional, with only Tsingtao cutting across provincial barriers to become a true national brand. Now it has competition:
SABMiller's Chinese beer brand, Snow, is set to sell 10bn pints this year - overtaking Anheuser Busch's Bud Light to become the world's largest beer brand.

The company entered the market in 2002 with a Chinese joint venture partner and invested heavily in the country's only mainstream national beer brand sold across all the provinces - overtaking Tsingtao Breweries in 2006.
I'm actually quite surprised to hear this, as Tsingtao has a respected tradition, and long-standing distribution networks (alcoholic beverage distribution in China is notoriously corrupt and fragmented). Economies of scale backed by foreign capital, coupled with aggressive distribution, may explain part of Snow's success:
But despite Snow's growth, profitability for SABMiller is low. Snow accounts for 18% of its global beer volumes, but less than five per cent of profits.

Though prices rose in the past year, the average price for half a litre of Snow is still only two Chinese yuan - 16p.
For what it's worth, I found Snow undrinkable when I sampled it in Beijing last year. Stories like this make me question why I will be moving to the beer wasteland that is China this December.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Guided Beer Tastings

I hosted a couple of beer tastings over the last year at St John's. When preparing for each, it was a challenge to present as much of the world of beer flavor as possible in as accessible a way as possible.

In order to make beer styles easily understood, I decided to categorize each beer into one of three categories, based upon which ingredient it focuses on: malt, hops, or yeast. I think this is a pretty simple way to guide people to look for particular flavors in the beer they're drinking and to explain where they are coming from. For example, a weizen is yeast-focused, an IPA is hops focused, and a stout is malt-focused. I would progress in a general order from lighter to heavier.

I decided to offer seven "primary" beers with enough for everyone to have a reasonable-sized glass, and then ordered smaller quantities of five more beers which may not be to everyone's taste. At the end of the guided portion of the tasting, I introduced each briefly and invited everyone to sample what sounded interesting (in addition to polishing off whatever was left of the primary beers).

For the primary beers, I offered the followingall ordered from Bacchanalia, on Mill Rd:
I also ordered smaller amounts of beers which I thought people might appreciate an opportunity to taste, but not everyone would like a full glass of, including:
Favorites of those attending seemed to be the Rochefort, the IPA, the hefeweizen and the kriek, while the rauchbier had people talking for days after about "liquid bacon."

For those who were present at one of these tastings, did attending change the way you think of order beer? What would you have liked to have been done differently?

For other readers, what do you think of this approach and categorization? How have beer tastings you've attended been presented? Would you suggest any changes or substitutions to the list for next time?

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Sake Brewer Develops "Super Yeast"

In a slight detour from beer, Japanese sake brewer Gekkeikan has developed a new "super yeast:"
Gekkeikan... has announced the development of a new "super yeast" able to produce cellulosic ethanol from non-edible parts of plants, such as paddy straw and chaff. The super yeast that produces alcohol was created with genetic engineering, by integrating koji mold genes that produce cellulolytic enzymes into sake yeast.
Good progress toward making biofuels economically feasible (via Instapundit).

Monday, 1 September 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

The famous Hofbrauhaus in Munich, in today's beer photo:

I enjoyed my visit there in December. Great photo by flickr user gaina.

Around the World in 80 Beers

Hugo forwards an "Around the World in 80 Beers" promotional email from travel site Kayak:
It's the stuff dreams are made of - going to the world's biggest drinking session with all your friends. Germany's Oktoberfest offers the perfect opportunity...over two weeks of festivities dedicated to that magic elixir of water, hops, malt and barley. Head over to Munich for the biggest party in the world. Don some lederhosen, break out that bratwurst and sing folksongs to your heart's content. Not your style? We've found a few other places where you can cleanse your palate. So come on all you swiggers, swillers and sippers and get thee to a brewery!
The destinations with current specials include Brussels, Prague, Munich, Sydney and Philadelphia.

My flight back to the United States on Zoom Airlines was canceled this week after the airline went bankrupt. Luckily, I was able to find a replacement quickly yesterday on Sidestep, Kayak's American equivalent. Great way to find cheap fares with a fixed date, and highly recommended, although I wish they offered a price calendar feature like Skyscanner, which allows you to quickly see which day is cheapest to fly.

NYT on Session Beer

Leedy writes in with a story from The New York Times on the growing trend among craft brewers to produce more low alcohol, "sessionable" beer:
“We’ve all been saying the same thing for about 18 months now, which is, enough of the high octane.”

Mr. Feinberg imports boozy Trappist and farmhouse ales, but in April he introduced a brew from another Belgian tradition: bières de table.

“When I lived there in the late ’70s and early ’80s,” he said of his time in Belgium, “everybody drank it for lunch, from grandmothers to kids.”

His new import, Brasserie Dupont’s spicy, yeasty Avril, is all of 3.5 percent alcohol. By comparison, the brewery’s more famous farmhouse ale, Saison Dupont, is 6.5 percent.

As Lew Bryson says, low alcohol does not have to mean low flavor!