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Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Election day

Bush v. Kerry. Lone Star v. Sam Adams Boston Lager.

It's one way to look at the election today.

It's actually pretty telling. Both aren't great beers, but while Lone Star is basically a bland lager dressed in a tough guy Texas getup, Sam Adams attempts to broaden the beer drinking horizon but carries with it an air of superiority and snobbery.

Sounds familiar enough.

Luckily as a beer drinker you aren't limited to those two brands. In politics, no such luck.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Online beer tasting

Saturday I participated in a tasting of Chimay Blue over the internet with a bunch of folks who post over at Realbeer.

Check out the chat to see what we thought.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Heavyweight's big beers

Nice treatment of Heavyweight brewery, a small brewery in New Jersey putting out some big beers. I've never had their offerings, but I've heard the name, and they are supposed to make some impressive, big, beer geek kind of beers like gruit, which contains rosemary, sweet gale and yarrow as spices, rather than hops.

Envy

Check out this beer cellar! Holy happy tastebuds batman, that's full of A LOT of good beer.

Courtesy of beer advocate member kp.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Teaching your palate

The Chicago Tribune is featuring a nice little article on what you can do to rev up your palate. (reg. req., use bugmenot).

It's a nice, non-condescending, non-dumbed down ease in for beer n00bs. It quotes my old pal Brian Brandt at Sam's, and features some of the tastings offered at Goose Island and the Maproom. Ah, good times.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

And... We're back

Well, let's hope so. I apologize. Law school took its toll, but I'm going to try and get back in the saddle here. There may not be every day posting, but at least a couple times a week things will be updated with new and exciting beer news, reviews, analysis and adventure.

So... a lot happened in the beer world in the meantime. I don't remember all the crazy things, but some of the bigger news is:



And on a more personal note, I went to the Magnolia Pub and Brewery and had some outstanding cask conditioned beers. And it's just a short bus ride away. Most excellent, and worthy of a write-up in the future. I've also found a store with an excellent (and pricey) selection of Belgian beer treats, and it's owned by da mayor. San Francisco is looking up in terms of beer, though it's still not quite the same as Chicago. Still on the to do list is the Toronado, which looks to be within walking distance.

Ok well that's a start, check back for more soon.

Monday, August 09, 2004

Tasting notes: Spaten Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest is still more than a month away, but the weather in San Francisco is cool enough at times to remind me of the start of autumn. Safeway had Spaten's Oktobefest Ur-Märzen and despite the exposed green bottles, I decided to give it a try.

The beer poured a wonderfully clear copper color with a slightly off-white head. The nose was full of grain and sweet malt, with a touch of toastiness and a hint of nutmeg spice.

The beer itself has a very crisp, clean and rather straightforward flavor. The beer hints at being sweet, but leaves off more bready. There's a toastyness that reminds me of the nutmeg. I found a slight note of alcohol in the slightly bitter, crisp finish. The beer has a medium-bodied, tight mouthfeel with a healthy dose of carbonation, both of which add to the pinpoint focus of the beer.

I'm still not as well versed in lagers as I think I am in ales, but this was an excellent beer. I need to get some new words because lagers always make me think round, like the flavors sort of all swirl around and combine to a very subtle, full flavor.

This Oktoberfest is an enjoyable beer, and I look forward to sampling more (perhaps a horizontal tasting) when the season draws a bit nearer.

Friday, August 06, 2004

Russia 'civilizes' advertising by restricting beer messages

Further tightening restrictions on beer, which has recently been blamed as a major source for the country's ills, Russian lawmakers unanimously approved a bill that would substantially limit the advertising of beer (reg. req., use bugmenot).

The law, if approved by the Federation Council and signed by President Vladimir V. Putin, would ban all advertisements for beer on television and radio from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., starting Jan. 1. It would also restrict the content of those shown overnight to exclude images of people and animals and prohibit, among other things, slogans creating the "illusion that drinking beer is important for the achievement of social or other success."
No images of people or animals in advertising? So what do you see, 30 seconds of a bottle?

Anyway the restrictions seem very Russian: very tough and unlikely to actually work. They'd rather ban speech (even if it's advertising) than follow some of the other suggestions like raising the drinking age from 18 to 21 or raise taxes on beer.

The report also says the restrictions could hurt professional sports and television as about 10 percent of the $1.5 billion spent on television commercials comes from breweries.

Then there's the hidden agendas and politics that could be influencing the decision:
Some detect the hidden hand of vodka distilleries fearful of beer's relentless growth, or that of the Russian Orthodox Church and other conservative voices that blame the ubiquity of beer advertising for the prevalence of under-age drinking. Others said the Parliament needed a populist distraction from an unpopular measure to replace social benefits - including free transport and health care - with cash payments, a proposal the Parliament also approved on Thursday in a third and final vote.

"It is just a purely emotional reaction by populist deputies," Mr. Krivoshapko said in a telephone interview. "If they were really interested in the health of the nation, they would find a way to restrict vodka."

There is no question, though, that demand for beer, which was in scarce supply in Soviet times, has surged. Per capita consumption of beer has doubled by volume since 1998, when it was more or less equal to vodka and other hard liquors, reaching 52.5 liters last year, or about 14 gallons, according to industry figures cited by Mr. Krivoshapko.

For many Russians, beer is seen as little more than a soft drink, which is why it is not uncommon for people to drink beer in the morning and why beer was not even included when restrictions on alcohol advertising, including a ban on vodka commercials on television, were first adopted in 1995.
Basically what it sounds like is Russians have a drinking problem.

Previously: Russia puts limit on beer sales (Fifth item).

Real ale: up or down?

In the wake of the GBBF, Reuters UK is running an article saying young people are starting to rediscover real ale and other well-crafted brews, while the BBC has a more pessimistic take, saying that almost two-thirds of the 18-34 crowd in England haven't even tasted a real ale before.

So which is it? Are young people getting their tastes back and looking for good beer and food, or are they falling for the marketing and downing lagers (bad lagers, mind you) like it's no tomorrow? Perhaps things are looking up in America, as the Reuters articles suggest, while still showing signs of trouble in Britain.

Say what you want about CAMRA, but they are trying to prop real ale up in Britain, much to the benefit of its citizens. The BBC article mentions campaigns to persuade pubs to have more guest beers, offer samplers of unfamiliar beers, and have supermarkets and bottle stores highlight beers based on region and style, much like they do with wine.

Where I really should have been this week

Forget this moving to San Francisco for law school stuff. The Great British Beer Festival was where I should have been.

Pale Rider made by the Kelham Island Brewery in Sheffield, England, was declared the best beer in Britain.

I've seen some rumblings online about the second place, which went to Greene King IPA, which many say is a rather uninspired beer.

It looks like Smuttynose won for best American cask beer at the festival for the second year in a row, this time for their Smuttynose IPA.

All that real ale makes me thirsty.

Weird legal wrangling in Coors-Molson merger

Lots of inside baseball in this Canadian Financial Post story about how Coors spurned a law firm that won the company a huge victory over Molson in arbitration about 10 years ago, and instead went with the firm Molson had retained in that same arbitration. Interesting to see how political this business gets.

In other merger news, Ian Molson, a cousin of Molson chairman Eric Molson and former deputy chairman of Molson Inc., registered his intentions to make a hostile bid for Molson in an attempt to outmaneuver Coors. Fun stuff.

New life for old brewery

A Pabst brewery in New Jersey that has been closed for 18 years is being torn down to make way for a housing development and shopping center.

Of note is that Pabst is the nation's fourth largest brewer and doesn't actually own a brewery anywhere. It just contracts with others to produce its *cough* stellar lineup of beers, which include Pabst Blue Ribbon, Old Milwaukee, Schlitz, Lone Star, Pearl, Colt 45 and Stroh's.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Beer pour as art form

Apparently the Australians take their pint pouring seriously, and I commmend them.

There's nothing better than a perfectly poured pint, with a small, lasting head that touches the top of the glass, and nothing worse than getting a beer that isn't filled to the top of the glass or has too much head. I hate getting stiffed on beer, and we don't have laws in America about filling glasses up like they do in England, so bartenders really play fast and loose.

The regional finals competition involved pouring two glasses of Stella Artois, one Hoegaarden and a bottle of Cascade Premium, whatever that is. I think they need some more challenging beers.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Hashers?

I've seen the name in Chicago but never knew what it was until now — the Chicago Hash House Harriers are a group of people who run around the city doing weird things (reg. req., use bugmenot) then drinking a lot of beer at the end.

"I like running. I like beer. It struck me as ingenious to combine the two," said Dawn Klingensmith, a 30-year-old freelance writer who runs with the Chicago Hash House Harriers.
It does sound brilliant, although I don't think I could really get into the frat boy-esque afterparty. Maybe if you combined running with good beer....

I guess there are groups doing this sort of thing all over the country.

Protesting the closure of a historic brewery

More news from Scotland — workers at Scottish & Newcastle's Fountain brewery in Edinburgh, have started a drive to boycott S&N beers during the massive summer festival in the city.

Leaflets and beer mats will be distributed in pubs throughout the city, urging customers not to buy any S&N products, which include John Smith’s, Newcastle, Strongbow, Fosters, Kronenbourg, McEwan’s and Bulmers, produced under its Scottish Courage arm.

Despite the profitability of the brewery and earlier promises not to close the brewery, S&N decided to close it down by the end of the year.

[Raymond] Wilson [of the Transport and General Workers Union, which organized the boycott] added that the company was not interested in producing local beers and was now focused on the global or UK brands the union hopes the public will boycott.

"They want John Smith’s to be their sole brown beer across the UK," he said.
I don't know all the history of how the Caledonian brewery fits into this mess, but the one thing that's clear is companies like S&N are pushing Britain away from local breweries and historic tastes and basically pressuring them to embrace bland ales and lagers.

All this as the company boasts huge profits.

Edinburgh pub puts kibosh on bar crawls

They call them stag and hen parties, but my understanding is that a pub in Edinburgh has asked large groups of men or women to stop showing up at their pub all at once.

Makes some good sense to me. Nothing worse than being in a nice pub and having a huge annoying crowd show up. They figure it makes more business sense to cater to regulars than to deal with these large groups.

Friday, July 30, 2004

Beer and patriotism, from the Canadian perspective

Forbes recently called out the Molson-Coors merger for hurting America's beer identity. Now the Globe and Mail is looking at the merger from the Canadian perspective, and criticizes the fact that an American company will benefit from the weird Ontario beer distribution laws that make selling beer in that province one of the most profitable places in the world.

All beer in Ontario is sold via a two-tier system to retail outlets unofficially called "The Beer Store," which used to be 100 percent Canadian owned. Canadian beer brands Molson and Labatt combined to own 95 percent of the beer store, with Sleeman owning the last 5 percent, but then Belgian-owned Interbrew bought Labatt, and now Coors is merging with Molson.

Most interesting are the conservative political leanings of Coors versus the financial benefit of the highly-regulated Beer Store:
Coors is a great fan of The Beer Store too. Molson brews Coors Light in Canada, where the beer is one of the best sellers. The Canadian sales alone account for 18 per cent of Coors' pretax profit.

...

Coors, the company, is owned by a famous family of the same name. The family, a founding sponsor of the conservative and powerful Heritage Foundation, is passionately devoted to free enterprise, individual freedom and limited government. Were it American, The Beer Store would make a mockery of their principles. We're sure that Coors would not fight any consumer-led effort to dismantle The Beer Store in the name of greater choice, lower prices and less government intrusion.
If any beer identity exists for nations among the macros, Canada seems to be losing out more than America.

Where beer and politics collide

Doyle's Cafe, a bar in Boston, serves as home base (ny times reg. req., use bugmenot) for democratic political junkies to plan strategies and swap stories.
Doyle's is a throwback to the days when people cared passionately about politics, discussed it face to face — not via e-mail — and recognized its connection to their daily lives. For Mr. Burke, Mr. Jesser and other regulars at Doyle's, having the Democratic National Convention in town is like holding the World Series.
Looks like they serve decent beer too. Obviously the neighborhood pub isn't quite dead.

Beer science

Saw this news release from UC Davis about a new book written by a professor about beer and health.

The book, "Beer: Health and Nutrition," sounds a bit dry, but who knew you could write academic material on beer. Every time I read about Davis' brewing program I wonder what would have happened had I gone to school there. I might have been sucked in and become a yeast science expert or something crazy. Or maybe I would have just been depressed in rural California.

The program does sound cool though:
UC Davis offers both undergraduate and graduate training in malting and brewing science. It is the only top-rated university in the United States with a full teaching program in brewing science, and one of only two in the world to teach the subject in English. The university has a small pilot brewery for practical work. Among the brewing classes offered at UC Davis is a course that addresses, among many other topics, the importance of sensible attitudes toward alcohol.
I wonder how they swing the undergraduate portion of the program. Most kids wouldn't turn 21 until at least their junior year. And how much would that suck to work on a major where you couldn't even taste the fruits of your labor and expertise?

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Are the macros selling out America's beer identity?

That's the tone of this Forbes article, which looks at some of the financials involved in the merger between America's Coors and Canada's Molson, makes some comparisons to the combining of Miller and South African Breweries.

The theme is that these mergers are seeing America lose out on its beer culture, or brewing icons, or something. Craft brewers get a quick mention as competitors to the big guys, but despite the fact that BMC may be the "icons" of American beer, they certainly don't deserve to be considered the "identity" of American brewing. Craft brewers on the other hand have a much better case, as they have revived traditional styles and made beer taste good again.

I would compare the macros to McDonald's as American icons that produce sub-standard product, but I actually think McDonald's has some claim to revolutionizing American culture with its vision of fast food despite what happens to you if you eat too much of it, while these brewers haven't contributed much of anything worthwhile to America's identity or culture.