Thursday, 31 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Some effective advertising in today's beer photo:

As Matt at My Beer Pix says, " …yes, I bought a bag of chips, wouldn’t you?"

Economist on British Pub Culture

The Economist has a write-up on British pub culture, which laments its decline over a three day pub crawl:
A common fantasy of oppressed British office workers is to give it all up and run a pub somewhere, but a few minutes chatting to a landlord will discourage all but the most incorrigible optimists. They paint a gloomy picture of their industry.

Trade has fallen since the ban, they say, which is just another in a long line of iniquitous changes that are slowly driving pubs to the wall. Statistics back them up. The British Beer and Pub Association reckons 27 close every week, a figure that has risen sharply over the past few years.

The picture is of The Sherlock Holmes, a pub in London that I have walked past, but looked sufficiently cheesy that I shunned it.

Beerlao Plans "Spontaneous" Marketing

Howard sends in a story from The Wall Street Journal on a "Soviet-trained female brewmaster... trying to turn an obscure Laotian lager into the world's next great cult beer." True to a product of a system of socialist planning, the brewery is planning a strategy to engineer "spontaneous" marketing:
Beerlao's marketing manager, 47-year-old Bounkanh Kounlabouth, fears that promoting Beerlao too aggressively will scare off its grass-roots following. Instead, he would rather follow Corona's example of becoming an "accidental" brand. "We don't want to undermine Beerlao's word-of-mouth appeal, so for us it is better to let it grow naturally."

Mr. Bounkanh spends much of his time trying to engineer such an "accident." Because he is relying on foreign tourists to spread the word about Beerlao, he is promoting the brand heavily in Laos. "We won't let the competition get a foothold," Mr. Bounkanh says.

Good luck with that, Mr Bounkanh. More worrying is Ms Sivilay's evident refusal to drink her own beer:

Ms. Sivilay says these days she rarely needs to taste a beer to see if it is any good. "I smell it and see how the head settles in the glass to judge whether it's a good beer," she says. "The tourists seem to like it though."

Of course aroma and appearance are important, but I don't think you'd ever hear Jim Koch or Sam Calagione saying they don't need to bother tasting their beers...

UPDATE: I see Maureen Ogle has commented on the story as well.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo, featuring The Sunspot in Knoxvile, comes from Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit:

The taking of the photo was "followed by a discussion of beer and the Commerce Clause." As everyone knows, all the world's most complex issues can be sorted out over a sufficient quantity of beer.

Review: Ushers Founders English Ale

Ushers Founders English Ale from Thomas Hardy Burtonwood Limited
Rating: B

Appearance: Pours a red/ruddy color, clear, with a nice tan head. Little retention, but nice lacing.

Smell: Rich and malty, with roasty and sweet caramel notes. Herbal and spicy hops beneath.

Taste: Toasty and roasty malts, with some caramel sweetness on the middle, on a backbone of earthy English hops. Not bad. Balanced, but tilted toward malt. Slightly nutty as it warms.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body, good carbonation. Clean finish, unobjectionable aftertaste.

Drinkability: A nice malt-focused English beer, sessionable at 4.7% abv, but could be quite filling.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo, from Stonch's beer photo contest. Taken in "La Mort Subite" a bar in Brussels, by Paul Marks.

British Beer Sales Down

According to the British Beer and Pub Association's quarterly beer barometer, "sales are down 4.5 per cent compared with the same quarter last year, while the fall in pubs is a massive 10.6 per cent."

The BBPA said the figures added weight to concerns over pub closures, rising prices and shrinking consumer confidence...

However sales in supermarkets and shops had continued to rise, with a 3.8 per cent increase.

The BBPA shows its political savvy in the release, emphasizing over and over the hit to the government's coffers:

"This is hitting Britain's brewers and pubs hard. It's also creating a large hole in the Chancellor's pocket with the Treasury's tax take also down. This must call into question the Government's planned beer tax escalator. Where's the logic in taxing more when you're taking less?..."

It estimated the fall in sales had led to Chancellor Alistair Darling collecting £88 million less in beer duty and VAT than in the same period in 2007...

"Falling tax revenues show it's time for a rethink."

Given Darling's recent increases of the duty on beer, it looks like cross-price elasticity of demand at work: consumers are substituting home drinking for pub drinking, to avoid mark-ups.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A friendly Whole Foods beer expert in today's beer photo from My Beer Pix:

The Whole Foods in my home town of Coral Springs is still the best place to get beer in town, and the service has always been helpful!

Review: Little Creatures Pale Ale

Little Creatures Pale Ale from Little Creatures Brewing Company
Rating: A-

Presentation: Cute logo of a cherub holding a foamy mug on label and the cap, comes in a 12 oz bottle.

Appearance: Poured into a Leffe glass, appears a hazy amber color, with a one finger off-white head. Lively carbonation, but mediocre head retention and little lacing.

Smell: Aroma is reminiscent of a proper American Pale Ale, something I haven't tasted in too long, living on the other side of the Atlantic. Resiny, juicy hops on top of ale fruitiness. Citrus and pine both come to mind, though the former is more dominant. A bit of candy/sweet malt underneath.

Taste: Sweeter and maltier than I was expecting, based on the aroma, but balanced with a solid bitterness at the back of your tongue. Very well balanced. On the palate, hops are more earthy than citrusy. Faint biscuit notes emerge as it warms. Juicy hops at the middle, before a clean finish.

Mouthfeel: Lively carbonation. Medium body, but not syrupy. Velvety texture. Very long finish, but clean and refreshing.

Drinkability: This is a highly drinkable beer, the best Australian beer I have had to date and a breath of fresh air for me, personally. Very refreshing, sessionable.

Beer Still Beverage of Choice

According to a recently released Gallup poll, beer has regained a double digit lead over wine as Americans' beverage of choice for the first time since 2002:


According to the poll results, "the shift back to beer from wine in recent years has occurred mostly among Americans between the ages of 30 and 49," but as Maureen Ogle has pointed out, brewers still have major work to do in the youngest demographic, where beer continues to decline:


Sunday, 27 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo hails from Munich, from Stonch's beer photo contest.

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo, taken by Jon Fravel:

Great photo!

Blessed are the Beer Dorks

Jay Hinman has a good essay posted on the subject of beer geekdom:
Let’s give the fanatic his due, though. It is he (and even sometimes she) that is helping bring incredible beers into the restaurants of America. It is he who has glorified the ultra-hopped India Pale Ale, and helped prod brewers nationwide to new tongue-scorching heights. It is he who has helped move craft beer acceptance into the near-mainstream, just as the punk rocker propelled his hallowed bands out of the local, scene-based ghetto and into mass acceptance.
To me, beer geeks are the "mavens" described in Malcolm Gladwell's book The Tipping Point. The disproportionate effort they put into researching and processing information about the subject which they are passionate about has positive externalities for society as a whole. If we didn't do it, who would?

Friday, 25 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo, of a bar in Bamberg, from Stonch's beer photo contest.

Review: Bishop's Tipple

Bishop's Tipple from Wadworth and Company Ltd.
Rating: B-

I'll freely admit it was the name that caused me to pick this one up.

From the label:
This Wiltshire Strong Ale was first brewed to celebrate the inauguration of George Reindorp as Bishop of Salisbury. A golden brew with an intriguing aroma from the delicate Saaz and spicy Styrian Goldings hops. The flavour is full but this is well balanced with hop bitterness, to give a clean finish and make for easy drinking.
Appearance: Golden amber in color, quite clear, with a thin one-finger head. Lively carbonation and a good bit of lacing, though the head itself fades away.

Smell: Delicate, floral hop aroma. Some spiciness as well. Malt is understated in the nose. Light caramel notes emerge as it warms. Delicate is the right word.

Taste: Solidly bitter. The combination of English ale fruitiness and continental hops like Saaz is a bit surprising at first, but never constitutes an identity crisis. Especially out of the bottle, the classification on BA as a bitter seems a bit of a puzzle. Bit of a metallic note toward the end.

Mouthfeel: Light-medium body, lively carbonation. Long finish, but the aftertaste is a bit wanting, simultaneously watery and astringent.

Drinkability: I must have been living in the UK too long, looking at 5.5% abv and thinking that's a lot. Still, fairly quaffable and worth a try.

The Dark Knight Arrives in the UK

The Dark Knight premieres in the UK today and I'll be heading out to see it.

BX Beer Depot in Florida celebrated the (earlier) premier in the United States in style, with custom "Dark Knight Ale" and "Joker Weizen" and costumes, in a promotion with a local radio station.

The recipes both sound great! I wish I could sample it before heading out to the movie myself!

"Dr Strangegrain" or, "How I learned to stop worrying and love the maize"

Alan questions the prejudice against corn common in most craft beer circles:
Corn is, folks, and corn should be more than the flakes in your breakfast bowl. As I mentioned, I understand that there are two ways to get corn into beer. The most common is through glucose or corn sugar which is derided as an adjunct gone mad in American macro lagers but praised in Belgian tripels when, as I learned from Al Korzonas in his useful Homebrewing, Volume 1, simply combined with a little fructose to make candi sugar. This sort of addition of corn gets you a little more alcohol and a little less body but not much flavour - and certainly not the creamed corny goodness that is at the heart of Spotted Cow. Flaked maize is more like rolled barley or oats, a raw grain product that leaves plenty of unfermentables to add flavour. That is what I think I am tasting in that brew...
If corn can make a fine whiskey, why not a beer?
Why not indeed? I'll admit I'm guilty of this prejudice myself. Aside from those mentioned by Alan, what are some examples of beers in which corn is a decidedly good thing?

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo, from the Rogue Ales Public House in Portland, via My Beer Pix:

Apparently they've instituted a "no cell phones" policy in the bar! I have been to the Rogue Public House in San Francisco and enjoyed it a lot.

Review: Brakspear Oxford Gold

Brakspear Oxford Gold from W.H. Brakspear & Sons plc
Rating: B

This is a beer that is quite proud of the fact that it is is organic! I count ten times that it mentions the fact on the label...

Appearance: Honey in color, appropriate for a beer with a bee on the label. One finger attractive white head. Not quite clear. Attractive.

Smell: Fresh, light, almost lagery aroma at first when cold. Target and Goldings hops specified by the label. Underlying honey/candy malt notes and hints of "wet towel" if that makes sense, but not in a bad way.

Taste: Herbal hops dominate, on top of a sweet "honey" malt backbone. Not sure whether this is better off categorized as an English Pale Mild Ale (as it is on BA) or a bitter.

Mouthfeel: Lively carbonation, medium body. Slightly more syrupy than I might prefer. Bitter, hops aftertaste.

Drinkability: Refreshing and quaffable. At 4.6% abv, sessionable.

Stump Cooler for Craft Beer Camping

If you happen to be going camping this weekend, here's one way to keep your beer cold, via Lifehacker:


Is that Shiner Bock in the picture? What are the others? Looks like Blue Moon and something from Smuttynose...?

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A nice collection of glassware for today's beer photo, from Stonch's beer photo contest.

Big Brewers "Get Crafty"

According to The Wall Street Journal, big brewers are fighting back against the growing craft beer market by "getting crafty" themselves, producing more "craft-like" styles and failing to mention of who is doing the brewing:
The major brewers generally avoid using the parent company's name on the labels for their craft beers. Anheuser-Busch Cos., for example, lists Green Valley Brewing Co. as the maker of its Wild Hop Lager, an organic beer. Sunset Wheat from Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co., is owned by SABMiller PLC. Blue Moon Brewing Co. is a 100%-owned subsidiary of Molson Coors Brewing Co., but the parent company isn't mentioned on its beer labels.
Thanks to the advertising and distribution muscle behind them, "retail sales of craft beers made by those companies or their affiliates grew at nearly three times the rate of independent craft brews" in the first eight months of 2007.

Opinion is divided within the craft brewing community as to whether these "faux" craft beers produced by the big boys will cannibalize market share, or grow the market:
"Any brand put into the marketplace with an intentional lack of affiliation with the brewery brewing it, I consider that a faux craft," says Tom McCormick, executive director of the California Small Brewers Association. "It's intentional deception."
On the other hand,

Some craft brewers say the giants' move into the category is a good thing because they're bringing new legions of craft drinkers into the fold. Even if the independent brewers' market share falls, they may enjoy higher sales and profits as the category grows. "Go Blue Moon," says Greg Owsley, chief brand officer at Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co., the maker of Fat Tire Amber Ale, a leading craft beer.

I tend to side with Mr Owsley - let the consumer decide. While some truth in labelling would be nice, more competition to impress beer drinker's palates can never be a bad thing.

Thanks to Howard for the tip.

Great Beer Haiku

A particularly good haiku today, over at Beer Haiku Daily:

Often, my thirst can’t
be quenched by water or pop.
The job needs a beer.

Indeed!

Beer Marketing 2.0

Facebook's ad targeting seems to be getting more clever by the day. This ad appeared in my feed recently:

It points to Carling's iPint application for the new iPhone. Useful? No. Relevant? Yes. It was one of the first Facebook ads I've ever clicked on.

The Carling "iPint" app already has some competition to contend with, although "iBeer" is receiving mixed reviews. Amazing that two "virtual beer" applications are already available... at first I thought they were one in the same! Anyone with an iPhone want to compare the two and share the results? Which one is more "real?"

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A couple of nicely poured glasses of ale in today's beer photo by flickr user sdrewc:

Beer Truck Overturned

A tractor trailer full of beer overturned on a highway exit ramp in Tennessee yesterday:

Cases of beer spilled from the truck and covered a grassy area near the ramp.

The ramp is now open, but traffic is moving slowly through the area, as authorities continue cleaning up the mess.


I'm sure they won't have any trouble finding volunteers for the clean-up. No mention in the story of what kind of beer the truck was carrying.

(Photo is of a different incident)

Maureen Ogle on the Merger

Maureen Ogle has a great post up that touches on what the A-B/InBev merger means to craft brewers.

According to Maureen, author of Ambitious Brew, the big American brewers made a costly long-term error in targeting their marketing almost exclusively to the young male demographic:
First, mainstream brewers have, whether inadvertently or not, infantalized beer and beer drinking...

Second, the more beer is infantalized... the less seriously it’s taken, and the more impact the mainstream brewers’ target message has, and the more Americans are inclined to dismiss beer as a serious beverage, and the narrower the audience for beer and the more inclined mainstream brewers are to target their core audience of young men, and -- you get my drift.
Craft brewers, by focusing on the beer itself rather than the audience, have avoided the demographic trap of a shrinking young male cadre. According to Ogle, the big guys can't afford to ignore the craft segment any longer.

As they recognize this fact, they are likely to make big moves into the the craft segment (as well as imports, which the A-B/InBev deal in part presages). I am looking forward to Maureen's next post in this series...

Small Brews Not Weak Beer

Small craft brewers are increasingly asserting their influece with distributors, a reflection of their growing importance in the beer marketplace, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Larry Bell yanked the beers made by his small Michigan brewery out of Chicago, where they enjoyed a loyal following, rather than see the rights to market them there sold to another distributor. He worried that his specialty beers would get lost among the distributor's mass-market brands...

The maneuver is perhaps the most audacious in a string of recent efforts by small-batch "craft" brewers in the U.S. to try to assert more control over how their beer is sold as they gain in popularity -- and clout. The craft brewers are using this new influence to stir up changes with beer distributors. Other brawls have erupted in New York and Texas.
As usual, government and regulation lie at the root of the problem:
Under laws that date to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, beer generally must be sold through distributors. Producers like Bell's Brewery sell the brew to a distributor, which marks up the price and trucks it to a bar, restaurant or store, which then sells it to a consumer.
Good for Mr Bell and the other craft brewers struggling to expand their businesses while dealing with a dense thicket of regulation and distribution networks dominated by brewing giants. Thanks to Howard for the tip.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

For today's beer photo, a couple of Spanish beer bottle caps, from Stonch's beer photo contest.

Chocolate Connoiseurship Lessons for Beer

Chloé Doutre-Roussel is one of the world's most prominent experts on chocolate. She is the author of The Chocolate Connoisseur, a book which comes highly recommended. In an interview with The Guardian, she gives some tips for connoisseurship which are quite transferrable to appreciating beer:

1 Go for plain, dark or milk. Chocolates with flavourings or fillings or decorations taste mainly like whatever flavouring or filling or decoration has been used and will teach you nothing.

Flavored beers, whether honey, licorice or fruit tend to be disappointing.

2 Be ready to spend a little more than on your usual bar. As with wine, cheese or olive oil, fine products are more expensive. Expensive doesn't mean good, but good is seldom inexpensive.

Enough said - you get what you pay for, for beer as much as for chocolate. If you can't get over paying more than $10 for a six-pack, you'll be doomed to drink MGD forever.

3 A tasting will enlighten you only if you compare similar products. So, for instance, taste 2-4 bars of plain dark chocolate from Venezuela or, even more acutely, from one region of Venezuela, such as Sur del Lago. Compare dark and milk chocolate only if they're made by the same brand with the same beans (Mangaro milk and dark from Michel Cluizel, for instance). Or bars made through similar processes - those begun from the bean, from cocoa liquor, from melting bulk chocolate; http://www.seventypercent.com/ is a good place to go for more advice.

You will learn more about the nuance of beer comparing different American IPAs against one another, for example, than you will comparing an American IPA against a Belgian Dubbel.

4 Ethical values. You are exploring the world of chocolate (taste, texture, style), not trying to save the world. Organic/fair trade chocolate is only a very small part of chocolates you can explore.

Organic and "green" beer are over-rated, drink what tastes good!

5 Healthy chocolate. All chocolate made from the basic ingredients - cocoa beans, sugar, cocoa butter, lecithin, and natural vanilla - is healthy if eaten in moderation.

Increasingly the evidence shows that moderate drinking is healthy. Doutre-Roussel maintains a shockingly petite figure despite eating a ridiculous amount of chocolate on a daily basis. The key? Exercise and awareness - key if you want to avoid your passion for craft beer leading you to a beer belly.

6 Check sell-by dates and the temperature of the store. You can never be entirely sure, but you can reduce the risk of buying stale chocolate, or chocolate that has suffered from variations in temperature, by not buying in a shop kept at more than 23C.

Like good chocolate, beer should be kept fresh and stored properly: cool, out of bright light, and (depending on the style) not for too long.

The comments on tasting are useful as well, though I will let you read and draw parallels yourself.

The State of Australian Beer

Alan at A Good Beer Blog links to an exceptionally amusing opinion piece in the generally amusing Australian. The author bemoans the fact that "most of Australian beer is mystifyingly, unspeakably, irredeemably crap:"
It can be a tough thing for a nation as self-consciously beer-loving as ours to face up to, but drink most Australian beers and you just know, deep in the darkest chambers of your broken heart, that the average polecat is capable of brewing something better in its bladder. This explains our obsession with cold beer: the colder it is, the less you can taste it.
He goes on to point out that to demand quality beer is not to sacrifice machismo. After all:
...the Czechs, who gave us the unparalleled gift of pilsner, are probably the greatest brewers of them all, yet still found time to manfully shrug off fascism, communism, Neville Chamberlain and a shortage of vowels.
Great stuff!

Beer and Book Pairings

In a two part series, Amazon's Omnivoracious blog asked some tough questions and followed up with some serious investigative reporting:

For a long time, I’ve wondered why wine and food should have all the fun. Here at Omnivoracious, we also believe in the complementary pairing of books with...beer. Now, please note that we’re not advocating irresponsible reading, but with the current popularity of micro-breweries and the role of beer in the writing of books over the centuries, it seems somehow irresponsible not to pair the two. We’re frankly a little surprised no one’s done it before.

Thus, I took it upon myself to explore the connection between hops and writing chops, going far afield to ask a diverse group of writers what beer or beers would go best with their latest work.

What were the results? Too many to list here, but some of the more interesting choices included:
The Omnivoracious contributor who conducted this informal survey is an author in his own right, and (as it turns out) one with excellent taste in beer:
As for my own books, including City of Saints & Madmen and Shriek, I always recommend the marvelous Belgian dark beers Delirium Nocturnum and Leffe Brun, the Bavarian Aventinus (a wheat doppelbock), Arrogant Bastard, and several others.
Next time you pick up a good book, pick up a good beer with your free hand - cheers!

Forbes Beer Monday: Iron Hill Ring of Fire

I didn't realize that Forbes' "Digital Download" blog had a "Beer Monday" feature. Last week David reviewed Iron Hill's Ring of Fire Porter:
To make Ring of Fire Porter, the Iron Hill guys age a batch of Pig Iron in a Tabasco pepper mash oak barrel. The heat and pepper flavors from the hot sauce mix into the beer -- and the result is an unusual and delicious drink.
Iron Hill may be having issues with over-priming:
After about three twists loosening the wires, the cork shot out of the bottle, ripping the cage out of my fingers, missing my face by a couple of inches, and leaving a small dent in the light fixture on the ceiling...

...the first pour was all foam. Ten minutes after opening, I managed to get some actual liquid into a glass.
But the results seem to be worth it. Both David and the reviewers at BeerAdvocate.com give Ring of Fire an A.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A photo from the Achieving Art exhibition in Dublin. Beautiful shot by flickr user Dogtired. Does this count as meta-art?

UPDATE: Apologies to the photographer, no harm was intended.

More on Vertical Integration

Rogue is not the only brewery vertically integrating its hops supply. Sierra Nevada will be releasing a wet hop Harvest Ale at the end of August, made with hops from its very own Chico Estate, on a separate "Chico Estate Harvest Ale" label.

This begs comparison to the growing popularity of "single origin" chocolate from a particular estate, and vertically integrating "artisan chocolatiers" like Hotel Chocolat, which owns its own cocoa estates. For beer as well as chocolate, vertical integration means less sensitivity to fluctuations in the market price and more control over quality. Like Rogue and Sierra Nevada, Hotel Chocolat still depends on cocoa purchased on the market for most of its production, but more vertical integration seems inevitable as the "artisan/craft" segment matures.

If Chico Estate Harvest Ale tastes anything like Great Divide's fresh hop offering, it is not to be missed.

Economics of Beer and Wine Menu Pricing

Tyler Cowen poses a question to his knowledgeable readers at Marginal Revolution: "why [are] beer prices not listed on menus, while wine prices are?"

Obviously, the situation varies from restaurant to restaurant, and many display tier prices for domestics and imports (American craft beer generally getting tossed in with "imports"), but I have noticed the same general phenomenon. Why might this be the case?

My own first reaction was that the prices for beer in a typical restaurant would display much less variance than the prices of wine, and therefore there's less value in communicating an individual price. My second reaction was that beer drinkers are more price inelastic than wine drinkers, but I'm not sure why that would be the case.

Other reasonable answers from the comments:
  • Restaurants make more of a profit margin on beer than wine, so they want to encourage "impulse buying" of it, by not advertising the price. If you see that the same Sam Adams sitting in your fridge at home selling for $5 at the restaurant, you might think twice.
  • More "brand recognition" for beer, so consumers are more likely to have an expectation for what a given beer will cost
  • Ordering wine at a restaurant serves a signaling function, particularly on dates. Making the prices visible adds value to that signaling (ie "Which wine did he order? The second cheapest? Cheapskate - last date with him!")

What do you think? Any restaurateurs out there want to shed some light?

More Sunday Beer Funnies

Speaking of Colbert's worries that those Belgian "waffle humpers" will change the Budweiser formula... some more Sunday beer funnies, via The Barley Blog:

Cartoon by Ben Sargent, of the Austin American-Statesman.

Colbert on A-B/InBev

Since it has now been taken down from Youtube, here's Stephen Colbert's commentary on the A-B/InBev merger, from the official Colbert Report website:

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Proper Order to Drink Beer

There are two conflicting ordering schemes for deciding when to drink which beer:
  • The first method is to start with lighter, less flavorful beers, before moving on to darker, more intense brews, like drinking white wine before red in a tasting. This avoids ruining your palate.
  • The second method, which has its own merit, is to drink the good beer first. The latter (worse) beer will thus be improved, and you won't mind the lapse in quality:

My advice is to practice a mixture of the two, depending on the beers available and the sort of evening planned.

Beer Photo of the Day

A black and white "Dublin delight" for today's beer photo.

WSJ Guide to InBev Brews

Via Maureen Ogle, the Wall Street Journal has a tasting guide to InBev products, which we'll all be seeing more of now that the merger has gone through.

The import segment of the market is growing, and A-B InBev will want to fill it with as many of its own products as possible, pushing them through its formidable distribution network. The positive point for consumers in this will be more choice.

There is also a silver lining for craft brewers: the more that American beer drinkers are exposed to beers like Hoegaarden, Leffe, and others the broader their tastes will grow and the larger the market for American craft brewers. On the flipside, we'll also be introduced to such gems as "Hoegaarden Rosée"...

Beer's Health Benefits

No guarantees as to whether all the health benefits attributed to beer on this post at Beer Utopia are true, but I sure hope they are!

Better Living Through Science

Back in 1955, a Yale University professor of physiology showed that it is physically impossible to get drunk on beer:

For people to show consistently the “abnormal behavior” which goes with intoxication, the alcohol content of their blood must be 0.15 per cent or higher.

The average alcohol content of American beers is 3.7 per cent by weight. In order for the alcohol blood level to be at 0.15 per cent, there would have to be two and one-half quarts of 3.7 beer in the stomach. But the capacity of the human stomach is one and one-half to two quarts.

Therefore, no one can drink enough beer at one time to get intoxicated, according to theory. As for doing it by degrees: beer is destroyed or eliminated in the body at the rate of one-third of a quart an hour. So three quarts would have to be consumed in two or three hours, and this, he said, was “physiologically unnatural.”

The last point would mean two to three pints an hour (of 3.7% abw beer). Of course, most beer these days is a little higher in alcohol, and the drunk driving limit is a little bit lower than it was back in 1955 (.08 - .10, varies by state).

But who am I to doubt a Yale professor of physiology, and what he considers "unnatural?" The Strib concludes that the story (from its archives) "demonstrates that you can be right about all the facts and still come to the wrong conclusion."

Friday, 18 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

An interesting back-lit photo of a tall glass of Erdinger weissbier for today's beer photo.

International Brewers Day

The Brookston Beer Review has declared today to be International Brewers Day!

If you write about beer (or holidays) please consider writing about your favorite brewer on Friday, either as an interview, profile, bio or whatever you think appropriate.

Brewer's Art "Ozzy" Now in Bottles

I'm pleased to see that the Ozzy Belgian Pale Ale from Brewer's Art in Baltimore is now available in bottles. If you happen to live in an area it's distributed in, I would definitely recommend giving it a try. Both the beer and the brewpub are solid A's.

Rogue Vertically Integrating for Hops

From BeerAdvocate news, comes word that Rogue is facing the challenge of the hops shortage by entering into a "strategic alliance with Heritage Hop Growers, the Coleman Family:"
The Rogue Hop Farm is on the Willamette River, south of Independence, Oregon on the former John Haas Alluvial Hop Farm. Four varieties are now being planted on 22 acres with an initial harvest in 2009. The four varieties are Perle, Sterling, Horizon, and Centennial. The hops will be processed and baled on the farm.
While just a strategic alliance for now, it's not hard to imagine the larger craft brewers owning stakes in hop farms, or owning them outright. If brewers move in the direction of vertical integration, it would put them in control of their own destiny with regard to hops prices and would be a sign of the growing maturity of the craft brewing sector.

The brewery plans to release a "fresh hop" product in 2009, which I can't wait to try.

Bud Ad Agency Worried

Despite assurances from InBev CEO Carlos Brito that A-B's marketing budget will be maintained at present levels, A-B's ad agency executives are worried, according to Advertising Age.

We may be getting a first look at the cost cutting measures InBev will bring to A-B:
The executive said he expected his shop's fees to be cut, although he didn't fear losing the business altogether as a result of the ownership change.

One change he anticipates: having to research ad concepts before shooting them [emphasis added]. In the past, A-B has commissioned production on more ads than it may have needed, and it took the finished products into focus groups to decide which ads to run.

Wow, now there's a novel concept! "Measure twice, cut once..."

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Today's beer photo of the day showcases a couple of bottles of Anchor Steam:


Photo by flickr user aquilophoto.

Cellaring of Beer On the Rise

Cellaring beer was the subject of a nice article in The New York Times last month. In it, several beer enthusiasts with their own cellars are profiled, and craft beer is presented as just as worthy of long-term care and attention as wine, without a hint of condescension:

Over time, lambics become more approachable and less tart. As a general rule for other varieties of beer, bitterness and dryness from the hops fade as they age, which allows malty characteristics to come to the forefront.

“You have to know your beer,” said Mr. Sysak, a 45-year-old emergency room worker in Orange County. “Even so, they’ll surprise you. Beers you know can heighten and loosen up over time might seem to be fading one year, but will become more vibrant the next.”

Some of those profiled go to great lengths to keep their beer stored properly:

Like many collectors, Mr. Sysak operates informal cellars in different parts of his house, using a range of temperatures to control each beer’s aging.

A three-door cooler in his garage stays between 62 and 65 degrees — Mr. Sysak never turns it on — making it ideal for most beers he considers appropriate for aging: barley wines, Imperial stouts, strong ales and lambics.

As some of the lambics reach their peak, Mr. Sysak moves them to a vanity cabinet in a bathroom that fluctuates between 57 and 62 degrees, which slows the aging process.

Beers he’ll serve in the next six months, like India pale ales and lower-alcohol beers, go in cooler refrigerators that will retard aging and preserve freshness.

Another (pictured above) uses an abandoned Colorado gold mine he purchased for a cellar.

While I can't quite afford a gold mine and move too frequently to build up much of a collection, I have had "vintage" World Wide Stout, Thomas Hardy's, Bigfoot and Sierra Nevada Celebration, and enjoyed them greatly. A vertical tasting of Celebration was particularly insightful, as it was made clear how the hops balance changes with age.

Rustico's Hopsicles Back on the Menu

Rustico is a wonderful beer bar in Alexandria, Virginia which has just started serving "hopsicles" - frozen beer on a popsicle stick - again, after a year long legal battle. Though it wasn't available when I visited there last, Radley at Reason is a big fan of the Belgian kriek flavor.

Of course, like most good ideas, the government had a problem with it:
Virginia had an old law on the books stating that alcohol must be either served in its original container or immediately after pouring. After a year of negotiation, the "hopsicle" returned to Rustico earlier this month. There's also now a bill pending in the state legislature cementing the legal status of the frozen treat.
It's a good thing Andrew Cuomo is not Attorney General in Virginia, or Rustico would also be in trouble for marketing alcohol to minors.

I'm also curious on the practicalities here - since alcohol lowers the freezing point of water, it must take a colder freezer or a longer period of time to make these things, and they might melt faster than ordinary popsicles for the same reason.

Must... experiment... What other beers would taste great as hopsicles?

Beck's Launches New Art Initiative

Admiral writes in to share news that "Beck's is going to produce 27 million bottles of beer featuring designs by four Royal College of Art students." This is not the first time that Beck's has actively supported art:
The company supported some of the most radical art projects - including the pioneering art organisation Artangel - and funded the ICA's Beck's Futures, the edgy, brilliant and, at times, downright infuriating naughty younger brother of the Turner prize...

[Since 2006] the brewery has been concentrating on its Beck's Fusions and Beck's Canvas series. Fusions is a collaborative programme between musicians and artists, and Canvas involves the commissioning of young artists to design limited-edition labels for Beck's Beer.
A good example of private patronage of the arts.

A-B/InBev Reaction and the Rational Voter

Art Carden at the Mises Institute blog has some comments on InBev's purchase of Anheuser-Busch:
The public reaction to the takeover exhibits the voter biases identified by Bryan Caplan in his 2007 book The Myth of the Rational Voter: anti-market bias, anti-foreign bias, make-work bias, and pessimistic bias...
He goes on to enumerate and explain each fallacy in more detail. In the end, as he points out, the consumer will benefit:
The $70 per share price offered by InBev suggests that the company feels they can better satisfy consumer wants by combining the companies and rearranging their inputs, so much so that they were willing to pay a premium for Anheuser-Busch stock. InBev's shareholders may very well be incorrect. Only time will tell, and time's message will be crystal clear on the new company's balance sheets and income statements.

Sybeeritic Now on Alltop

A feed for Sybeeritic is now included in the beer category of Alltop!

Featured in Alltop

Alltop is a sort of "anti-social aggregator," which allows you to "explore your passions by collecting stories from 'all the top' sites on the web" while avoiding the tendency of social aggregators to promote self-reinforcing, self-similar stories with little diversity. Check it out.

China Beer Fact of the Day

The world's most populous country produced 22 per cent of the global beer supply last year, versus 20.6 per cent the year before, the study commissioned by German hop trader Joh Barth and Sohn showed...

Russia, Ukraine and Vietnam also saw robust growth in the beer sector.

Meanwhile, production in Germany declined 2% on the year.

(Link via A Good Beer Blog)

Beer Thief Leaves "Liquid Trail"

James Taranto points out that "you can only rent" beer, but I don't think that's the kind of "liquid trail" police had in mind when they identified this beer thief:

Police say a man busted out the rear passenger side window of the vehicle and removed 11 cans of beer from a cooler in the trunk of the car, according to the complaint.

Officers said they were able to track down a suspect by following a trail of water that had dripped off the cans, the complaint said.

The trail led to a residence on Rock Lake Drive, according to the complaint.

The suspect is wanted on charges of destruction of property and petit larceny.

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

Who said there was no good beer in China? This bar showcases a ton of Belgian beer (比利时啤酒) at ridiculous prices.

Update on House Small Brewers Caucus

Earlier, I profiled the House Small Brewers Caucus and promised to look into what they have been working on of late. I received an email update from them today and thought I'd pass along what I learned:
  • The caucus recently met with Charlie Papazian, President of the Brewers Association. Topics discussed included the hops shortage and how small brewers are coping.
  • The caucus has written a letter to the TTB in support of a recent petition to exempt the commonplace/traditional addition of fruits, sugars, and spices from the TTB's formula approval process.
  • The caucus is also looking into issues such as being able to ship small quantities of home brew through the mail for the purposes of competition, but as alcohol regulation remains very much a state issue, there is a limit to what the caucus can accomplish on this issue.
If you have any input on these issues, or other issues related to craft- or homebrewing, contact information for the caucus is available on its website.

SABMiller Sees Opportunity in Rivals' Merger

SABMiller, making lemons into lemonade, believes "InBev’s takeover of rival Anheuser-Busch will give it an opportunity to build on its MillerCoors venture in the US."
The InBev takeover could result in “significant disruption” of Anheuser’s operations [as costs are cut] , SABMiller said yesterday. Anheuser is MillerCoors’ biggest competitor in the US...

Imara SP Reid analyst Warwick Lucas said Anheuser held more than 50% of the US beer market. With such a dominant position, the chances of it growing market share were slim, so it had little option but to cut costs.

“This deal is good news for SABMiller” in the US, Lucas said.

Thanks to "Leedy" for the tip.

Ontario's Beer Monopoly

Life is tough if you happen to be a beer drinker in Ontario, where you can only buy beer at "The Beer Store:"

Six out of 10 people think The Beer Store is a government entity similar to the Liquor Control Board of Ontario, according an independent survey for a review of the distribution and sale of alcohol in Ontario.

In reality, the retail chain responsible for just over 80 per cent of beer sales in Ontario "is essentially a private monopoly" owned by the province's three largest brewers, Labatt, Molson and Sleeman, the provincial study noted.

Who pays for this government enabled private monopoly? The consumer, of course:

A 24-pack of popular brands, such as Coors Light, is regularly priced at $36.95 in Ontario, at least 25 per cent more than in such markets as Quebec and New York State, where beer is almost always on sale.

A Beverage Alcohol System Review recommended opening the beer market to more competition, but lawmakers refused.

As usual, the road to this particular hell was paved with good intentions, and to this day the owners of The (Monopoly) Beer Store insist that they "uphold the founding principles of what was originally a co-operative, ensuring access to all brewers and brands."

Why do I call this a failure of government rather than a failure of the market? The only reason the monopoly is able to exist is because competition has been restricted:

Convenience store operators have long wanted to take over beer and wine sales, partly to help offset declining sales of tobacco... [and] restaurant, bar and hotel owners, would love to be able to sell booze for "off-premise" consumption.

Until the market is freed, it won't work: the problem here is not an excess of capitalism, but rather a dearth of it! To this end, some people have decided to do something about it. Like Alan at A Good Beer Blog, I've signed the petition and would encourage you to do so too.

Fear and Loathing in St Louis

Like the attempted sale, thwarted for political reasons, of port management rights in the U.S. to Dubai Ports World, the sale of A-B to InBev has attracted more than its share of hyperbole and scaremongering:
“We were betrayed,” said Mr. Liszewski, who was still not sure he could believe the news that the company had agreed to be sold. “The good Lord was sold out for 30 pieces of silver. We were sold out for $70 a share.”
“They promised us this wouldn’t happen," Liszewski, a Teamster, went on to say. The "they" he referred to was the Busch family, who have not owned a controlling stake in the company for years.

Why so upset? Is it good old fashioned patriotism at work? Not quite... a good chunk can be attributed to self-interested fears that the new bosses will have less patience for the special interest groups (like the Teamsters) who have spent years digging in, and who might lose out in the cost cuts that are sure to come.

Still, according to The New York Times "the idea of the brewery belonging to foreigners seemed unfathomable to many:"
As Opal Henderson, a 78-year-old auto salvage yard owner, put it, “Why can’t those foreigners just stay at home and leave us what we have?”

“It stinks,” Mr. Lucas [a 51 year old auto mechanic] said. “Augie would be rolling in his grave if he knew about this.”
Yea, those damned foreigners, investing in the United States - unlike, say, Adolphus Busch or Eberhard Anheuser (good American names, both)...

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A nice sunset in today's beer photo:

Photo by flickr user tkemp.

Beer and Civilization

Via Instapundit comes a George Will column on the role of beer in the foundations of civilization.

Usually, the argument runs that staying put in one place to wait for fermentation was one of the reasons people settled down, giving up a nomadic way of life. The argument George Will offers, based partly on Steven Johnson's book The Ghost Map, is slightly different and presupposes settled life and urbanization:
To avoid dangerous water [of crowded areas], people had to drink large quantities of, say, beer. But to digest that beer, individuals needed a genetic advantage that not everyone had -- what Johnson describes as the body's ability to respond to the intake of alcohol by increasing the production of particular enzymes called alcohol dehydrogenases...

Johnson suggests, not unreasonably, that this explains why certain of the world's population groups, such as Native Americans and Australian Aborigines, have had disproportionately high levels of alcoholism: These groups never endured the cruel culling of the genetically unfortunate that town dwellers endured. If so, the high alcoholism rates among Native Americans are not, or at least not entirely, ascribable to the humiliations and deprivations of the reservation system. Rather, the explanation is that not enough of their ancestors lived in towns.

Professor Bainbridge disagrees, arguing that wine, which is simpler to ferment and requires no "mashing" to convert starches to fermentable sugars, would have been discovered first. I think Professor Bainbridge is probably correct in pointing out that wines (including fruit wines and mead) likely pre-dated beer, and may have had more to do with the early settling down of nomadic tribesmen, but that seems to be a different point than Will's core claim.

As far as Will's point (and Johnson's) goes, it would follow that the dehydrogenase gene would be selected for most in areas of higher population densities, but we see a ready counter-example in East Asia. Furthermore, while I am sympathetic to any argument advancing beer as a pillar of civilization, it seems to me that according to Johnson's theory drinking beer is less a catalyst of civilization, and more a response to some of its post facto challenges.


Beer Bottle Cannon is "Art"

While only marginally beer related, I can't resist passing this on:

MAKE links to an art exhibition in Paris which includes a nitrogen-powered beer bottle shooting "kinetic sculpture" cannon:
The artist wanted visitors to add a visceral experience of art on top of the usual intellectual one. Green shards pile up as the days pass.
I'm not sure whether that's a deep commentary on the futility of the human existence, or an excuse to turn everyone schoolboy's fantasy into reality and get paid for it.

Forbes on A-B's New World

Forbes has a story up on the A-B/Inbev merger:
"Bud will be our flagship brand and it will provide us with lots of exciting opportunities as we position ourselves in different markets like China and the U.K.," InBev chief executive Carlos Brito said Monday...

In a conference call with journalists, InBev would not give specifics on job cuts, which are widely expected as the two companies seek to centralize operations. When asked about the trimming of jobs, Brito said InBev would back Anheuser-Busch's proposed plan to cut 10% to 15% of its workforce, or around 1,000 jobs, through early retirement and attrition.
(Link via Digg)

Changing of the Guard for American Beer

The Brookston Beer Bulletin notes an implication of the impending sale of A-B to Inbev:
Once the merger of the two companies is finalized, Anheuser-Busch InBev, will be a Belgian company. MillerCoors consists of MolsonCoors, managed from Canada, and SABMiller, which is either a South African or London-based company, depending on your point of view. That leaves Pabst, the fourth largest beermaker by volume, but they do not own a brewery, instead contracting to have all their beer made at Miller’s breweries. So in terms of actual brewers (that is companies that own and operate a brewery) and who are U.S. owned, the biggest one remaining will be Boston Beer, making Samuel Adams as the undisputed biggest American brewer. Way to go, Jim. It also means Yuengling, America’s oldest brewery, becomes number two and Sierra Nevada comes in third.
(Link via Fark)

Monday, 14 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day: Dublin

Today's beer photo comes from a New York Times travel article on Dublin:

There’s nothing wrong with Guinness Stout, but at times it seems to be the only beer in town. For a different taste, head over the Liffey to the Porterhouse (16-18 Parliament Street; 353-1-679-8847; www.porterhousebrewco.com), one of the city’s surprisingly few microbreweries. The savory stouts include Wrassler’s XXXX, based on a County Cork recipe from the early 1900s, and the Oyster Stout, made with fresh oysters, which add a spicy note to the otherwise dry brew. Note: Bartenders don’t expect tips in Ireland, but if you become friendly with one, buying him or her a pint is a welcome gesture.

Top 5 New Zealand Beers

In tribute to my Kiwi friend Hugo who is back in the Antipodes, why not a post on New Zealand's best beers?

According to an ad-heavy "top five" list of New Zealand beers I found on Digg, the best Kiwi brews are:
  1. Speight's Gold Medal Ale
  2. Steinlager
  3. Monteith's Golden
  4. Mac's Gold
  5. and Lion Red
While I have personally never had the opportunity to travel to New Zealand or try any of these beers, I checked the listings on BeerAdvocate and tried to put together a list that may reflect a bit more quality. While there are not too many reviews to go by, there is one clear stand-out brewery: Emerson's. Of the BA "top seven," Emerson's produces the top four, so I've culled out a few to make a more diverse top five:
  1. Emerson's Oatmeal Stout (A-)
  2. Emerson's APA (A-)
  3. Moa Noir Dark Lager (B+)
  4. Monteith's Black (B)
  5. Limburg Wit (B)
Have any of the New Zealanders reading this had the opportunity to try any of the beers in the latter list? How do they stack up against the former?

UPDATE:
Another NZ friend writes in:
I'm a big fan of Emerson's APA, Monteiths in all its glory, and Mac's Gold. Emerson's and Monteiths are true chest-beatingly patrioticly know-you're-at-home beers, with full flavour. Mac's is lighter, served ice-cold and very refreshing (you can get it and Steinlager at GBK). Steinlager is a good drop, one of a few NZ beers that regularly makes it off shore, and that is because it has European qualities - a bit like a Heineken. Lion Red=Rubbish - watch "Once were warriors" and you will find out the kind of people who drink Lion Red. I think you will always find fans of Speights, being the Dunedin student favourite, but it doesn't stack up next to the big three- Emerson's Monteiths and Mac's. Yum, I want some!

Map Helps You Chart a Course to Good Beer

I love technology:
The Beer Mapping Project is a website designed to help you, the beer geek, map out the locations of all your favorite beer meccas: Breweries, Brewpubs, Beer Bars, Beer Stores and even Homebrew Stores. Handy links will guide you to your specific region. From there, the power of Google maps will allow you to drag around the maps and zoom right to your favorite location. The different colored pushpin icons will help you identify the type and location of the brew spot you’re looking for. Don’t know where your favorite hangout is? Check the attached scrolling list of destinations and click and the software will center your map directly on that spot.

Colored icons help distinguish location types. Click on a specific beer location icon and another window will open showing you the street address, phone number, web site location and even a user community rating. The Google maps are so powerful; you can zoom in all the way down to the street level and even get a satellite view.
I would love to see something like this integrated into the Beerfly feature of BeerAdvocate.com - in the past I have copied and pasted addresses into Google Maps to get a feel for where they were located. If you can type in the address of where you're staying, and see the best-rated local places pop up, with user reviews show up as pins on the map... what's next? Beer bottles that open themselves?

Ambitious Brew Author on A-B/InBev

Maureen Ogle, author of Ambitious Brew, had an entertaining opinion piece recently in the Washington Post on the impending concluded A-B/InBev deal:

Isn't InBev simply emulating the American way? Brito and his troops are shining beacons of hope and light, in the form of hefty returns for stockholders. They're seeking profit in every purple mountain, fruited plain and amber wave of grain. Brito is precisely the kind of brawler who made America great. If Adolphus Busch, the German immigrant who transformed his father-in-law's no-account brewery into one of the world's largest, were still here, he'd offer the guy a job...

...the InBev bid for Anheuser-Busch is only the latest chapter in the ongoing tale of consolidation, mergers and globalization that is the American brewing industry. This time Anheuser-Busch is the target of an aggressor's hostile takeover bid, but usually, it plays the role of the bad guy.

In 2006, Anheuser-Busch snapped up the Rolling Rock brand brewed at Latrobe Brewing Company of Latrobe, Pa. A travesty, many declared. How dare that nasty corporate giant destroy a Latrobe tradition and move the brewing process to (ugh) Newark? The people of Latrobe (population 9,000; the brewery was a major employer) begged the company not to shut down its plant. The St. Louis brewing titan shrugged, and that was that. It's worth noting, however, that Anheuser-Busch purchased Latrobe from . . . InBev. As far as both parties were concerned, it was just another day on the battlefield.

Thanks to Ally for the news tip. Maureen Ogle's blog, which discusses the brewing industry and its history, can be found here. I had planned on posting this later today, but since the deal has been sealed there seems no reason to wait!

Anheuser-Busch and InBev Seal the Deal

Not yet official, but according to anonymous sources:
U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch Cos Inc agreed to a $50 billion takeover by Belgium-based InBev NV, a source familiar with the situation said on Sunday, creating the world's largest beer maker...

The combined company will be called Anheuser-Busch InBev, said the sources, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity. Anheuser will get seats on the new company's board, the sources said, but it was not immediately clear how many.

UPDATE:
Wall Street Journal coverage here:
The $70-a-share deal marks an abrupt end to what many expected to be a prolonged takeover drama. For weeks, Anheuser showed stiff resistance to a sale. But last week, InBev, based in Leuven, Belgium, drew its St. Louis rival into friendly discussions by increasing its original cash offer by $5 a share...

The combination of InBev and Anheuser, along with the recently formed MillerCoors LLC, would together control about 80% of beer sales in the U.S., the world's largest beer market in terms of profit.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A close-up of a glass of ale in today's beer photo.

Stopping Moderate Drinking Bad for Health?

Via Instapundit, "scientific evidence has long suggested that moderate drinking offers some protection against heart disease, certain types of stroke and some forms of cancer" but could stopping moderate alcohol consumption be bad for your health?
...new research shows that stopping drinking -- including at moderate levels -- may lead to health problems including depression and a reduced capacity of the brain to produce new neurons, a process called neurogenesis.

"Our research in an animal model establishes a causal link between abstinence from alcohol drinking and depression," said study senior author Clyde W. Hodge, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry and pharmacology in the UNC School of Medicine. "In mice that voluntarily drank alcohol for 28 days, depression-like behavior was evident 14 days after termination of alcohol drinking. This suggests that people who stop drinking may experience negative mood states days or weeks after the alcohol has cleared their systems."
I'm not qualified to comment, but doesn't that just sound like withdrawal symptoms?

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A Bamberg pub supplies today's beer photo:


Photo by flickr user Liver Building.

When Brewers Take on Vintners' Airs

An article in The Wall Street Journal (no link available) discussed the recent trend among craft brewers to adapt the techniques of vintners.
In the U.S., winey beers started popping up only a few years ago. Part of the motivation is novelty: In an increasingly crowded field, a distinctive beer can be a big marketing boost for a young brewery. (Most craft brewers remain too small to run campaigns in glossy magazines or buy television spots, so they rely on word of mouth to increase sales.) But selling fancy beer in single bottles is also good business. "Everybody along the [distribution] chain loves the margins on those big bottles," says Randy Mosher, a brewery consultant and instructor at the Siebel Institute of Technology and World Brewing Academy in Chicago.

While some brewers like Dogfish Head are either adding grapes directly or, like Port Brewing, aging their beer in brandy barrels, others are deliberately introducing yeasts which are considered contaminants in wine:

In 2000, [Russian River Brewing] went in a new direction, releasing Temptation Ale, a blonde beer aged in barrels that previously held Chardonnay and thus impart some of the wine flavor to the brew. Mr. Cilurzo, who grew up at a winery in Southern California, said his idea was to take some elements of lambic beers -- including brettanomyces, a wild yeast that adds an earthy flavor to the beer -- and combine them with wine flavors. (Vintners, by contast, go to great lengths to keep brettanomyces out of their wine.)

Today, Russian River has a handful of winey beers, including Supplication, a brown ale aged in Pinot Noir barrels with sour cherries, and Depuration, made with white wine grapes and two types of bacteria. After starting with 40 aging barrels, Russian River now has about 70, and is building a brewery that will have room for 400 (equal to about 9,600 750-milliliter bottles). "It's helped with our brand recognition, absolutely," he says.

I have tasted a few of these beers and have to admit that the results vary. Oak aging in bourbon barrels adds a nice touch of vanilla to a high gravity stout, but I've been less convinced by additions of grape juice, and "wild" yeast beers.

Thanks to Howard for the link.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Beer Photo of the Day

A close-up of some kegs in today's beer photo.

InBev Boosts Offer for A-B

According to The Wall Street Journal, InBev boosted its offer for A-B by $5/share as part of a "friendly deal" that the two sides are negotiating. If the latter part is true, it would be quite a reversal, and is not likely to make the people of St Louis very happy...

Thanks to Hugh for the news tip.