Rare Form unveiling 'relatively' good beers

Screen shot 2016-08-15 at 10.07.13 AMYour average craft brewery tends to release its new brews one at a time. The Rare Form Brewing Company, however is in ... rare form, so to speak. It plans to release three new "extremely limited" offerings simultaneously.

At 1 p.m. Saturday, August 27, Rare Form will be introducing two beers in what it calls the "Family Tree" line, as well as a Karass porter.

The Family Tree line stems from Rare Form's one-year anniversary beer called Dark Tropic, a coconut porter aged in sour dark rum barrels. A small amount of that beer was left in both of the barrels in which they were aged. That added branches to the "family tree," and, say the brewers, "each barrel embarked on two different paths, leaving a small amount of beer from its previous aging. Over a year later, we’ve created two beers that are accumulations from blends of every barrel-aged sour produced by Rare Form. Thus creating Family Tree 1 and Family Tree 2."

• Family Tree 1: Dark Tropic > Wee Plaid > Table Beer (spontaneously fermented) > blended with Table Beer 4.8% abv

• Family Tree 2: Dark Tropic > Wee Plaid > Plum Love > blended with Table Beer 6.6% abv

• The rye barrel aged Karass Porter is "inspired by one of the great Troy authors (*), Kurt Vonnegut. This robust porter is a part of our Karass.” (Vonnegut coined the term in his novel "Cat's Cradle" to refer to a network or group of people somehow spiritually linked.) The beer was aged in fresh rye whiskey barrels from Yankee Distilling Company of Clifton Park, bottled at 7% abv.

Rare Form Brewing Company is located at 90 Congress Street in Troy. Phone: 326-4303.

Screen shot 2016-08-15 at 10.46.08 AM(*) The reference to the late novelist (1922-2007) as a "Troy" author might be considered by some to be a bit of a stretch. Vonnegut, who lived in Glenville, Schenectady County, while working as a technical writer for General Electric, did set some of his stories in the fictional city of Ilium, which many people took to be Troy (the Roman name for ancient Troy was Ilium), but some insist was based on Schenectady even though Schenectady is referenced as a place separate from Ilium by various characters in Vonnegut's "Player Piano," "Cat's Cradle," and "Slaughterhouse-Five." Let the debate continue.


Ommegang yeast in Nine Pin's latest cider

Co-op beverage creations seem to be popping up everywhere.

I recently wrote about several collaborations between breweries in New York State and counterparts in two southern states. But, closer to home the latest product is a new hard cider that’s a three-county local effort.

The product, called The Lion’s Share, is manufactured under the label of Nine Pin Cider Works of Albany from a blend of apples from Samascott Orchards of Kinderhook, Columbia County, that is fermented with a proprietary Belgian yeast from Brewery Ommegang of Oneonta, Otsego County.

The Lion’s Share debuted this week at Nine Pin’s tasting room, 929 Broadway, at a suggested retail price of $12.99 for a four-pack of 12-ounce cans.


Explaining the Northern/Davidson brewery sale

RegulationSeveral of my readers have expressed confusion about the sale of the Davidson Brothers Brewing facility in Queensbury to an Oneonta beverage distributor and brewery owner, Northern Eagle Beverages Inc., citing what they see as a possible violation of the state's "three tier" or "tied house" rules that regulate cross-ownership of businesses in the beverage world.

I checked with William Crowley, spokesman for the State Liquor Authority (SLA), to sort out the confusion. Here is his response:

"What you and your readers are referring to is the commonly known as the 'tied house' laws, which can be found in Sections 101, 105 and 106 of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Law.

"In a nutshell, New York’s tied house laws prohibit (1) New York manufacturers (breweries, distilleries, wineries, cideries) and wholesalers from having a financial interest in a retail business (restaurants, bars, grocery, and liquor stores) no matter where the retailer is located; and (2) New York retailers from having a financial interest in an alcoholic beverage manufacturer, no matter where the manufacturer or wholesaler is located. The tied house law does not, however, prohibit a manufacturer from having an interest in a wholesaler, or vice versa.

"For example, Anheuser Busch (Budweiser) operates a brewery (manufacturer) in Baldwinsville, NY. In addition they also have a New York wholesale license to distribute beer throughout the state. This is not a tied house violation as these provisions only prohibit wholesalers/manufacturers from having an interest in a retail business. Consequently, Anheuser Busch could not have an ownership interest a stand-alone bar, restaurant, liquor store, etc.

"Northern Eagle Beverage holds a wholesale license in New York State, while Davidson Brothers Brewing holds a manufacturing license (micro-brewery), consequently there are no tied house issues here. While, as you may know, Davidson Brothers also operate two licensed restaurants, they do so through a statutory exception that allows micro-breweries to operate restaurants owned by the brewery at or next to their brewery. 

"Notwithstanding this exemption in the law, micro-breweries with adjacent restaurant licenses are considered manufacturers under the ABC Law. The tied house laws would, however, prevent Davidson Brothers from having a financial interest in a restaurant that was not part of the brewery."


An old ski event, a new beer emphasis

There have been a few changes in the annual Albany Ski and Snowboard Expo, scheduled for November. Let’s put it this way: Telling you what is being retained would be simpler — “… Ski and …” about covers it.

To explain. Last year, a craft beer garden was so emphatically received by event-goers that the organizers decided to redirect their marketing emphasis. So, when it the 55th annual event is held from November 4 through 6 at the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in Albany it will go under a new title, “Northeast Ski & Craft Beer Showcase.”

Admission to the craft beer and cider garden will be $10, sold in addition to the $10 general admission fee ($8 general admission if purchased in advance). It will include a sampling area for the brews and light foods.

Participating brewers have not yet been announced, but last year the list included 1911 Hard Cider, Adirondack Pub & Brewery, Brewery Ommegang, Brooklyn Brewery, Brown’s Brewing Company, Captain Lawrence Brewing Company, Cider Creek Hard Cider, Druthers Brewing Company, Empire Brewing Company, Ithaca Beer Company, Keegan Ales, Lake Placid Brewery, Olde Saratoga Brewing Company, and Saranac Brewery.

America On Tap events set for Troy, Saratoga Springs

Screen shot 2016-07-25 at 4.36.14 PMThe event organizing company America On Tap has released the initial list of its New York State beer festivals for the coming fall and winter.

The earliest in the Capital Region will be "Troy On Tap," which will have a new location for its Saturday, September 17, event -- the Sage Colleges. That event will begin with a VIP early start from 1 to 2 p.m. and the rest of the crowd will be welcomed from 2 to 5 p.m.

General admission is $35 for three hours of beer sampling and a souvenir glass, VIP tickets $55 for the extra hour of beer sampling, plus food vouchers, a tasting glass, and an event hat. Tickets are available online at a $10 discount that runs until August 1. Use the discount code TENOFF.

Then, during "Saratoga Beer Week," the 6th annual "Saratoga Beer Summit" will be held on Saturday, February 25, at the Saratoga City Center. It will be split into two sessions, 1 to 4 p.m. (VIP admission at noon) or 5 to 8 p.m.

Tickets are available online now, with prices going up as certain dates are reached: $35 until January 1, $40 until February 25, $40 at the gate, and $60 for VIP tickets. For "Troy On Tap," the event planners promise "more than 100 releases from some of America’s best craft breweries." For the "Saratoga Beer Summit," they promise "over 150 releases."

Other America On Tap festivals are scheduled for Cooperstown, Oneonta, Utica, and Beacon. Go here for connections to festivals scheduled nationwide.

Brew pub chain planning Colonie Center venue

Screen shot 2016-07-18 at 3.04.15 PMAs so often happens when a business pulls out of a large space, that area eventually becomes home to more than simply one entity.

The former Sears Auto Center at the southwest corner of the Colonie Center shopping complex is the latest local example. A chain restaurant called BJ's Brewhouse -- sure to cause some initial confusion with the nearby BJ's Wholesale Club to which it is not related -- will be created inside the 28,000 square foot footprint.

The same sort of transition -- from auto repair center to restaurant -- is being worked on at two former auto centers in Maryland by parent company Seritage Growth Properties, which also owns the Sears store at Colonie Center.

The BJ's Brewhouse chain has locations in 22 states, but the Colonie venue will be only the second in New York State. The other is in Nanuet, Rockland County.

Its drinks menu lists 11 "always on tap" beers, plus a lineup of other year-round and seasonal brews; a variety of standard spirits, and a line of house-brand soft drinks. The beer program is overseen by Cornell University grad Alex Puchner, who carries the title of senior vice president of brewing operations. He has been with BJ's since its founding in 1996, after having brewed for the Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach breweries in California.

Foodwise, BJ's offers such beer-friendly dishes as deep dish pizzas, salads, sandwiches, pastas, steaks, baby back ribs, and shareable appetizers.

NYS entries so-so at U.S. Open Beer Championships

Screen shot 2016-07-24 at 3.20.53 PMNew York State entries took only eight of the 324 awards handed out by judges in the just-completed 2016 U.S. Open Beer Championships in Oxford, OH, and two of them were for root beer.

Domestic and foreign breweries sent in nearly 5,000 brews -- no word on how many in total were from New York -- presenting nearly 100 different styles in a competition that included professional breweries and award-winning home-brewers.

Firestone Walker Brewing from Paso Robles, CA, was named "Grand National Champion" by winning three gold medals (for its Union Jack IPA, Double Jack, and Parabajava), one silver medal and a bronze. Melvin Brewing from Jackson, WY, placed second and Cigar City Brewing from Tampa, FL, third.

In addition to the serious awards, the judges -- from the U.S., England, and Canada -- selected a top 10 list of what they thought were the most creative names among the brews. They were, in order from No.1 : Wit or Wit Out You; Tall, Dark and Mandarin; Shitnit; Big Booty Golden Ale; Sexapeel; Bolshevik Bastard; You Bretta Run; Guava the Hutt; There Gose My Heart, and Toxic Sludge Black IPA. Two of those were from Long Island brewers -- Shitnit by Port Jeff Brewing, and Toxic Sludge by Blue Point Brewing, which walked off with a trio of awards.

The other New York medal winners:

Rye/Roggen Beer -- Gold medal, Rastafa Rye Ale, Blue Point Brewing, Patchogue, Suffolk County  

Robust Porters -- Silver medal, Asylum Porter, 42 North Brewing of East Aurora, Erie County  

Gose -- Silver medal, Gose, Blue Point Brewing 

Belgian Witbier -- Bronze medal, Beach Beer, Port Jeff Brewing, Port Jefferson, Suffolk County  

Hard Root Beer -- Bronze medal, Jed’s Hard Root Beer, F.X. Matt Brewing Company, Utica, Oneida County  

Non-Alcoholic Root Beer -- Silver medal, Saranac Root Beer – F.X. Matt Brewing

Go here for the full list of all awards.


Crossgates closing only latest for World of Beer

Any time a pub or restaurant quietly closes and doesn't announce plans for a renovation, reopening, or anything else, that is not a good sign.

So, one must assume World of Beer, the chain tavern in Guilderland's Crossgates Mall, is gone from this market. As evidence, the doors are locked, the phone doesn't work, the website, Facebook page, and Twitter account haven't been updated in months.

When Times Union food blogger Steve Barnes tried to find out what is going on, he was stonewalled, saying, "An employee at the mall’s information desk told me the closure was sudden and they have been instructed to say that World of Beer is 'closed temporarily.' A World of Beer staffer who emailed me wrote, 'We can’t get an answer as to when or even if it will reopen'.”

WOB, which leans heavily on its 500-beer selection and live musical performances in its marketing, has opened more than 70 locations in 20 states since its first spot debuted in Tampa, FL, in 2007. The Crossgates location opened its doors in June 2014. However, its closure shouldn't be a shock. My research reveals that in the past 18 months or so, abrupt closings of WOB locations have taken place in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood; in St. Petersburg, Land O Lakes, and Jacksonville Beach, FL; in Austin and Dallas, TX; in Columbus and the Cleveland suburb of Lakewood, OH; in Milwaukee; in the Seattle suburb of Renton; in Denver, and in Ann Arbor, MI. And, that's what I found in less than 10 minutes of searching.

Most of the shuttered spots had been open only about two years on average. As recently as six months ago, CEO Paul Avery didn't say anything about closing any locations when he bragged in an interview with the industry website Brewbound:

"2015 was an excellent year of growth for World of Beer, as we have not only met but exceeded our goal of robust growth and in adding quality franchise partners. ... Last year’s success has set us up for another promising year, and we look forward to expanding the World of Beer brand to new markets nationwide and overseas in markets such as China, India and the Philippines.”


Plattsburgh Brewfest tickets going fast

If you plan to be in the Adirondacks the first week in August, you may want to consider taking in the Plattsburgh Brewfest.

That event is scheduled for 2 to 6 p.m. Saturday, August 6, on the Plattsburgh City Beach. While VIP tickets already are sold out, general admission reservations still are available online at $35.

The brewfest will feature local, regional, and national beers, ales, ciders, and local wines. Last year, more than 30 vendors were on hand, and that number should hit 40 by event time. The day also will offer live music and sampling of local foods along with the craft beverage tastings. Designated driver tickets include food sampling tickets and non-alcoholic beverages. No children, persons under 21, or pets will be admitted.

The City Beach overlooks the City of Plattsburgh, Lake Champlain, Valcor and Crab Islands (site of sea battles in both the both Revolutionary War and the War of 1812), as well as the Adirondacks and the Green Mountains of Vermont.

Davidson brothers selling their brewery, sort of

Screen shot 2016-07-22 at 10.00.48 AMScreen shot 2016-07-22 at 10.02.18 AMDuring my many years in the newspaper business, one of the most enjoyable chores was writing headlines. In most of my journalistic stops, we often tried to outdo each other with wit, whimsy, and wackiness.

One of my favorite headlines, written by someone else, was on a story about the country music stars The Statler Brothers. It said, "Statler Brothers ain't neither," referring to the facts that no one in the quartet was named Statler, and none of them were related.

So, out of habit I was trying to find an entertaining way to break the news to craft beer fans that things are changing in Queensbury. I failed, thus the semi-straightforward label on this posting.

Rick and John Davidson, founders and owners of the Davidson Brothers Brewing Company, have agreed to sell their three-year-old brewery on Route 9 in Queensbury to Northern Eagle Beverages Inc., according to an announcement made today by the purchaser.

However, that does not mean the Davidsons are out of the business. They'll retain their Glens Falls restaurant and original on-site brewing operations at 184 Glen Street, near the Glens Falls Civic Center.

Northern Eagle Beverages, located at 41 Browne Street in Oneonta, was founded by Lou Hager Jr. in 1986. In addition to being a beverage distributor, it owns and operates the Cooperstown Brewing Company. That facility, incidentally, isn't in Cooperstown. It is located at six miles south at 110 River Street in Milford.

"We have worked very closely with the Davidsons over the past couple of years on the brewing side of the business," said George Allen, president of Northern Eagle, said in the announcement. "As a distributor we have carried their beers since 2012, so I think we are comfortable with each other."

He also said his company will add lagering tanks, a canning line, and non-alcoholic beverage lines to the brand's portfolio.


World's biggest beer merger closer to reality

Screen shot 2016-07-21 at 3.02.09 PMFrom Reuters news service

Anheuser-Busch InBev and SABMiller on Wednesday received approval for their $107 billion merger from federal antitrust regulators after the companies agreed to unload beer assets and preserve competition from independent craft brewers.

The Department of Justice approval comes with a number of stipulations and is notable after the regulatory authority derailed several recent mega-mergers over antitrust concerns.
The Belgian brewer will make concessions beyond its publicly stated offer to sell SAB's stake in MillerCoors, its U.S. joint venture with Denver-based Molson Coors, as part of the deal. AB InBev will also have to curb its use of incentive programs to limit competition.

Go here to read "How America's two signature beer companies became expats"

Reuters previously reported that the DOJ was investigating AB InBev's practice of financially rewarding beer distributors for selling more of its own beer than its competitors. Craft beer companies had vocally objected the practice, which they argued hurt their ability to sell.

"Independent distributors that sell (AB InBev's) beer will have the freedom to sell and promote the variety of beers that many Americans drink," Deputy Assistant Attorney General Sonia Pfaffenroth of the Justice Department's Antitrust Division said.

The world's top two brewers hold such brands as Budweiser, Stella Artois, Miller and Pilsner Urquell.

Go here for the rest of the story.


St. Lawrence turning off the taps, and the lights

A lineup going defunct
A lineup going defunct
Even in the midst of relentlessly upbeat news about the booming New York State craft beer industry, there can be an occasional sour note.

In this instance, it is the announcement from a St. Lawrence County brewer that it is shutting down operations.

St. Lawrence Brewing Company, which opened in Canton in 2013, closed its tap room Wednesday, then announced it will cease production by the end of the month, citing slow sales and increased competition. It didn't help that a trio of regional development agencies recently called in the low-interest loan that originally helped the brewery open.

According to officials, $290,000 still is owned on a loan of $375,000 made by the St. Lawrence County Industrial Development Agency, the North County Alliance, and the Adirondack Economic Development Corporation. That means the brewer aid back only about $85,000 in its three years of operation.

"Despite our efforts, we've been unable to maintain a sales volume to sustain operations in a rapidly changing and increasingly competitive market," brewery owner Kenneth M. Hebb said in a Facebook announcement. "Unfortunately, we've had to close our doors. We'd like to thank you for your support of the brewery over the last three years. The people we've met, the good times we've had, and most importantly, the friends we've made have been our most valuable assets."


State seizes, closes Schenectady’s Bier Abbey

Seizure signs in the windows
What happens when a bar runs up a tab it wouldn’t allow for a customer? It gets seized and shuttered by the state.

That, in a nutshell, appears to be what happened to The Bier Abbey in Schenectady, which on Tuesday was taken over by the state Department of Taxation & Finance for nonpayment of back taxes totaling nearly $700,000.

The owner of the four-year-old Belgian-style pub, located at 613 Union Street, is a Connecticut resident named George S. Collentine, according to tax records. Local media have so far been unable to contact him to comment on the situation.

James Gazzale, a tax department spokesman, said Tuesday, “We did seize the business today. “Seizure is always a last resort.” Gazzale said the department tries to do before seizing a business. It issued a $692,068 tax warrant against the pub back in May. Gazzale said the bill, which is for taxes owed dating back to 2015, now is up to $698,597.


Beer Institute reveals new ingredient labeling plan

Consumers who like to know what sorts of ingredients they’re putting in their bodies when they eat and drink have been frustrated for years by brewers who don’t want to reveal that sort of information.

That may change because of new, voluntary labeling from the Beer Institute announced today. Brewers participating in the “Brewers’ Voluntary Disclosure Initiative” will provide beer buyers with information now absent from the majority of beer bottles and cans: such things as calories, carbohydrates, fat, protein, and beer serving size, as well as a date of production or “freshness” date.

It will retain the alcohol by volume percentage listing, which most beers currently divulge.

Brewers will be able to adhere to the new, voluntary labeling in detail, or tell customers to go to a particular website or scan a bar code to ascertain their ingredients lists.

In its announcement, the Beer Institute also said, “Member companies, including industry leaders such as Anheuser-Busch, MillerCoors, HeinekenUSA, Constellation Brands Beer Division, North American Breweries, and Craft Brew Alliance, have agreed to follow these standards. These companies together produce more than 81% of the volume of beer sold in the U.S. … Consumers are increasingly interested in knowing more about the products they purchase. According to a recent survey conducted by the Harris Poll on behalf of Nielsen, 72% of beer drinkers think it’s important to read nutritional labels when buying food and beverages.”

The Beer Institute, founded in 1862 as the U.S. Brewers Association, is a national trade association for the American brewing industry, representing both large and small brewers, as well as importers and industry suppliers.


Shmaltz goes where no brewer has gone before

Captain Kirk  in 'The Trouble With Tribbles'
If you know the answer to the question, “Who put the Tribbles in the quadro-Triticale,” you might be a trekkie.

That was the central question in the iconic “The Trouble With Tribbles” episode in the second season of the original “Star Trek” TV series, in which the fuzzy little creatures got into a grain supply that was critical to feeding an entire planet.

While there is such a thing as Triticale — it’s a hybrid of wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale) first bred during the late 19th Century in Scotland and Sweden, the “quadro” part of the name was made up for the TV show.

I dredge up all this trivia because a new ale brewed with Triticale (the real stuff) is being released in honor of the 50th anniversary of the original “Star Trek.” It’s called, predictably, “Star Trek Golden Anniversary Ale -– The Trouble With Tribbles.” It’s a product of the always-imaginative folks at Shmaltz Brewing Company in Clifton Park. According to their tongue-in-mug description of the American Blonde Ale (5% abv):

The official label
“The Triticale should contribute flavor more distinct than wheat but less spicy than rye. Light Carastan malt will give some residual sweetness in the form of very light toffee. A dose of Munich will add a slight bready quality. Wheat malt will add a slight crisp character. Mashing at a moderate temperature will give this beer a medium body. In keeping with the intergalactic theme, hopping will be comprised of Comet, Galaxy, Polaris, Aurora and Admiral (Kirk) hops. Admiral and Comet will be used in the boil. Galaxy, Polaris and Aurora will be used as flavor hops contributing floral, mint, pine and tropical fruit flavors.”

Star Trek Golden Anniversary Ale will be available to trekkies and others attending the “San Diego Comic-Con” later this month where the new film “Star Trek Beyond” will debut, at the “Star Trek Las Vegas” convention in August, and at “select stores” in various places.


Fledgling Otsego Co. brewer opening tap room

In this age of new craft breweries popping up on farms and street corners with astonishing regularity across New York State, getting a foothold in the market usually can be a trying experience.

But, apparently that is not so for the Red Shed Brewing Company of Cherry Valley.

Less than a year after opening, the Otsego County operation’s four brews — Jessica’s Ale, Otsego Ale, Geordie Boy Brown Ale, and Cherry Valley Smoked Porter —- can be found in more than 10 bars in Cooperstown, Oneonta, and elsewhere across Otsego County. The porter is a one-off product, fermented in a bourbon barrel sourced from the nearby Cooperstown Distillery.

To top off that early success, Red Shed right now is preparing for a soft opening of its new tap room on Friday, July 15, with a grand opening to follow shortly.

Red Shed is located at 817 Butterbowl Road in Cherry Valley, about an hour’s drive west of Schenectady and a half-hour’s drive southwest of Oneonta. Phone: 518-309-2259.


‘Belgium Comes to Cooperstown’ on tap

The 18th annual “Belgium Comes to Cooperstown,” billed as a “beer, music, food, and all-things-fun fest,” will return to Cooperstown the long weekend of August 5-7.

About 3,000 people typically attend the event by Brewery Ommegang, the maker of Belgian-style brews that will be a focal point of the celebration of all things Belgian, along with handcrafted foods, live music, on-site camping, and fireworks.

The festivities are scheduled to begin on Friday at 6 p.m. with a multi-course beer-pairing dinner for VIP ticket holders. The festival grounds will open at noon on Saturday for patrons holding camping tickets. Tastings will begin at 2:30 p.m. for VIP ticket holders and 3 p.m. for general admission. Tastings will end at 7 p.m. Live music is scheduled from 3 p.m. to midnight. On Sunday morning, breakfast will be served from 8 a.m. until noon.

The brewery will be closed to the public on Friday and Saturday of that weekend, reopening for regular service on Sunday. VIP tickets, priced at $275, include the five-course beer pairing dinner, two nights of camping on the brewery grounds, and additional access to the beer tasting on Saturday afternoon. General admission tickets for Saturday’s tasting event cost $110 and general admission with camping on Saturday night costs $125. All tickets are available online.

Brewery Ommegang is located at 656 County Highway 33, Cooperstown. Phone: (607) 544-1800.


New Columbia Co. brewer opens tasting room

The new Suarez Family Brewery, located in Columbia County about 10 miles from Hudson, has just opened its tasting room.

The husband-and-wife team of Dan Suarez and Taylor Cocalis Suarez plan to brew three categories of beer. They also will be offering growler refill services.

The mom-and-pop operation’s website is extremely minimal, and the Facebook page contains scant info. BUT, the Suarezes have promised to increase the frequency of updates.

Tasting room hours: 4 to 7 p.m. Wednesday, noon to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Phone: 514-537-6464. 

The Suarez Family Brewery is located at 2278 Route 9 in Livingston. Phone: 518-537-6464.


Push resumes for KY election-day alcohol sales

From NKY.com

FRANKFORT, KY -- A proposed law would allow Kentuckians to buy alcohol on election day for the first time since at least the 1930s.

State Rep. Arnold Simpson, D-Covington, next week will discuss before lawmakers in Frankfort a bill he’s tried to get passed in some form or another for four years to make alcohol sales legal on election day.

Kentucky is one of only two states that still bans alcohol on election days, with South Carolina being the other, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States (DISCUS). The laws trace back to the early 20th Century when saloons also served as polling places. ...

The state doesn’t need to worry as much about people buying votes with liquor but does need to worry about the loss of both tax revenue for the state and business revenue for restaurants and liquor stores, said Simpson. "Most jurisdictions have done away with this prohibition. We need every dollar in taxes we can generate and permit businesses to work.”

The Kentucky Alcoholic Beverage Control does spot checks on the primary and general election days to ensure businesses are compliant, said spokesman Nathan Jones. The state law bans alcohol sales on the days of the primary and general elections when the polls are open. It also requires businesses to keep alcohol under lock and key. ...

Simpson will speak before the Interim Joint Committee on Licensing and Occupations on Friday, July 13 ... .

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The bill has died in committee each of the previous four sessions.


MA partners making beer-based whiskies

Berkshire's spirits line.
Two Massachusetts adult beverage makers are teaming up to create a pair of craft beer-based whiskies.

Berkshire Mountain Distillers Inc., located in Great Barrington, and the Boston Beer Company, brewer of Samuel Adams, on Monday announced their collaboration in a multi-year project.

The two brews -- Samuel Adams Boston Lager and Samuel Adams Cinder Bock -- will be triple distilled in Great Barrington, then barrel-aged in wood. The collaboraters said because whiskey aging is a very complex and multi-faceted process it is difficult to pinpoint an exact release date. The projected timeline is for 2015.

Representatives of both companies tasted several beer styles and their distilled products from trial distillations before deciding which Samuel Adams brews to use. The two brews have markedly different taste profiles. The hopes are to create two whiskies just as different from each other.

"There are many parallels between making spirits and brewing beer," said Jim Koch, founder of Boston Brewing. "Marrying the two not only makes sense, but will also produce a drink that beer- and spirits-lovers alike can enjoy."

Berkshire Mountain Distillers was created in 2007. It produces Greylock Gin, Ethereal Gins, Ragged Mountain Rum, Ice Glen Vodka, Berkshire Bourbon and New England Corn Whiskey in the Berkshires' first legal distillery since Prohibition.

The Boston Beer Company was founded in 1984 and has become an iconic craft brewing brand. It brews more than 50 styles of beer.

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Drinking scene rejiggered in Kansas

TOPEKA, KS -- The Jayhawk State's drinking scene is in the midst of major changes.

Under a bill signed into law by Governor Sam Brownback, changes effective July 1 include:

• Liquor stores will be allowed to offer free wine, beer and liquor tastings as of Sunday, July 1.

• Dinner railway cars can obtain a liquor license. State Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, said the measure was aimed at luring a Nebraska dinner train business to operate between Baldwin City and Ottawa.

• Drinking establishments may offer "happy hour” specials. Previously, could offer special drink prices, but those charges had to last all day.

• Micro-distilleries will be allowed to to sell and serve their products on their premises.

Another provision of the law, that went into effect on May 31, allows visitors at wine tasting festivals to taste samples and buy bottles of those same wines at the event. Previously, wine tasting visitors had to go to the individual wineries to purchase those same wines.

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BeerTender means draft beer at home

Local temperatures may still be bouncing around erratically, but the calendar says it's spring and we're nearing the outdoor dining season.

Going outside, however, doesn't mean you have to give up cold draft beer or settle for purchasing a half-keg or keg. Take this item from Krups, better known for its coffee making equipment.

The Krups BeerTender keeps beer at 37.4°F, an optimal drinking temperature in the minds of most people. The appliance is designed for indoor use, but the drafts can quickly be delivered outside.

The BeerTender is compatible with Heineken, Heineken Premium Light and Newcastle Brown Ale. It features an LED temperature indicator, and keeps the beer for up to 30 days after tapping. It also has a removable tap, a nice security feature to prevent underage would-be drinkers from sneaking a glass.

A package, priced at $149.99, includes the BeerTender, a large stainless steel drip tray and five draught tubes. It's available online or at major stores' appliance departments, such as Macy's. 

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Table-top beer taps a growing trend

One of several types of table taps.
From Nation's Restaurant News

Personal beer taps installed at restaurant tables not only brew up excitement for guests, but they also are helping boost beer tabs, operators say.

In addition, the pay-per-ounce dispensers encourage guests to linger longer rather than bar-hop, while allowing managers to monitor guests’ drinking and remain compliant with liquor laws.

Rob McGovern, general manager of Park Avenue Tavern in New York, said the restaurant’s six booths equipped with table taps make the operation’s lower level a popular private-party space and after-work spot.

“People really like the novelty,” he said. “They’re pretty wide-eyed when they see it.”
... Much of the activity in pay-per-ounce alcohol technology centers on on-table beer taps at casual restaurants. 
According to advocacy group The Beer Institute, beer sales at restaurants rose 9% in 2011 to $23.6 billion, accounting for about 24% of total beer sales in the United States.

At Park Avenue Tavern, the 50-cents-per-ounce price gives the restaurant a premium -- a pint of beer suddenly costs $8 -- and helps cut down on waste, McGovern said.

[Go here for the full article.]

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Tempers flare over Genesee Brewing project

• From democratandchronicle.com

ROCHESTER -- A group of Genesee Brewing Co. executives, labor leaders and city officials stood in November inside a partly boarded-up industrial building, saying that by April it would be home to a $2.6 million combination microbrewery, restaurant, visitor center and gift shop.

That scuffed building remains in the same state four months later. And Genesee’s owner, North American Breweries, is saying it may pull the plug on its plans.

" 'Threatening' is not the right word," North American Breweries CEO Rich Lozyniak said Thursday during a news conference, a day after Rochester’s Preservation Board voted to nominate 13 Cataract St. for landmark designation. North American’s brewery plans include demolition of 13 Cataract.

"We want to do this really badly," Lozyniak said, "but if we’re going to spend the next year in court, two years in court, we have much better opportunities within our company to invest."

The Preservation Board decision was made without discussion. But afterward, the board said the century-old Cataract building fits the criteria for landmark consideration.

[Complete story here.]

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Coor to try iced non-tea in UK

We're several centuries away from dependence on Great Britain, but that doesn't mean we don't look to them for guidance in some things. At least, Denver-based Molson Coors is.

The brewing company is about to introduce an iced tea-flavored beer to the Brit market to see it it meets consumer acceptance before trying it in the United States.

It's a daring move, but a necessary one since the company's UK sales have been in a three-year decline.

Coors Light Iced T, according to the UK business publication Daily Finance, will sold in aluminum cans similar to conventional Coors Light. It will have an alcohol content of about 4%. It will contain no caffeine and thus, no actual tea, just tea flavor. Given UK history, that seems like sacrilege of some sort.

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Changes for Farm Breweries, Wineries, Distilleries

ALBANY -- Governor Andrew M. Cuomo may not be the poster boy for grocery stores that would like to be able to sell wine, something he has dismissed out of hand, but he may have won some friends among the state's craft brewers, winemakers and distillers.

Cuomo today proposed legislation that would create a "Farm Brewery" license. It would allow craft brewers who use products grown in the state to operate in a similar fashion to the state's wineries which have flourished under the 1976 Farm Winery Bill, leading to increased demand for locally-grown farm products as well as expanded economic development and tourism.

He also proposed legislation to exempt Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries from the current costly tax filing requirement.

"These bills provide a boost for breweries, farmers, wineries, and communities across New York State," Cuomo said. "This legislation will give our state's growing craft beer industry the tools needed to create jobs, promote agriculture, and encourage environmentally friendly economic development across New York State."

His bill to promote the economic growth of the craft brewery industry includes:

Increasing Retail Outlets for New York Products: The legislation would allow Farm Breweries to sell New York State-labeled wine at their retail outlets. In addition, Farm Wineries would be permitted to sell New York State-labeled beer for off-premises consumption.

Allowing Farm Breweries to Open Restaurants: The legislation would allow Farm Breweries to obtain licenses to operate restaurants, conference centers, inns, bed and breakfasts or hotels on or adjacent to the farm brewery.

Increasing Tastings: The legislation would allow both Farm Breweries and Farm Wineries to conduct tastings of New York State-produced beer and wine at their premises.

Selling Related Products: The legislation would allow Farm Breweries to sell beer making equipment and supplies, food complementing beer and wine, souvenir items, and additional products similar to those allowed under the Farm Winery statute.

To hold a Farm Brewery license, a producer's beer must be made primarily from locally-grown farm products. Until the end of 2017, at least 20% of the hops and 40% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in the state. From January 1, 2018, to December 31, 2022, no less than 60% of the hops and 75% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in the state. After January 1, 2023, no less than 90% of the hops and 90% of all other ingredients must be grown or produced in the state.

The beer manufactured under these guidelines would be designated a "New York State labeled beer." The legislation is modeled after the 1976 "Farm Winery Act," which spurred the growth of wine production in the state, including the creation of 237 farm wineries and tripling the number of wineries, which in total now have hit the 316 mark.

Also today, the governor proposed exemptions for Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries from a costly and burdensome tax filing requirement. Currently, all beer, wine, and liquor wholesalers in the state are required to report sales made to restaurants, bars, and other retailers. However, because Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries are small, often family-owned operations, they have struggled to afford the costs of complying with this annual reporting.

According to the Governor's Office, "The burden imposed on them by this filing requirement outweighs the benefit received by the State Tax Department, as purchases from Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries account for a very small percentage of the state's total beer and wine sales. These businesses are already required by law to maintain sales records which the Tax Department may obtain upon request, making the additional mandatory filing requirement not necessary."

Here is some of the pertinent reactions to the proposals:

• Dean Norton, New York Farm Bureau president: "We've seen tremendous growth opportunities for our farmers from alcoholic beverage license categories that are specifically linked to locally produced farm goods – from the growth of farm wineries to the relatively recent trend of farm distilleries. This is an opportunity for local farmers to bring New York back to being the premier hops growing state that we once were, creating added value markets and new jobs in our State."

• Dennis Rosen, State Liquor Authority chairman: "This legislation will provide a significant benefit to local farmers, by helping to create a sustained demand for their products. Ultimately, by providing incentives for farm breweries to expand, these businesses will become, much like farm wineries, destination locations that will promote economic development and tourism within their communities. This bill will boost agriculture and breweries, as well as create jobs and increased economic development across New York."

• Darrel Aubertine, Department of Agriculture and Markets commissioner: "This bill will exempt Farm Wineries and Farm Distilleries from burdensome tax filing requirements that have hurt small business here in New York. Our Farm wineries and Farm distilleries are small, often family owned operations, and they have struggled to afford the costs of complying with this annual reporting. Governor Cuomo has made opening New York State to business a top priority of his administration, and this bill will help cut burdensome costs that have been imposed on small farm wineries and distilleries. New York's craft brewery and farm winery industry is an important part of our economy, supporting jobs and tourism across the state, and I look forward to working together to make sure this legislation becomes law."

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What do these beers have in common?

They are part of the lineup Esquire magazine has designated the "Healthiest Beer to Drink." Go here for the details.

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NY seeking a comeback for hops growers

ALBANY, NY -- A bill to help resuscitate the hops growing industry in New York has passed an important step in committee.

S.5078, a bill sponsored by State Senator David Valesky (D-Oneida), on Wednesday made it through the New York State Senate Committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business.

The bill requires that a large percentage of the hops and other ingredients used to brew beer at a farm brewery be purchased within the state. At one time, that was a given practice since in the late 19th Century abut 90% of the nation's supply of domestic hops was grown in New York. The bill has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee for further review. A companion bill is carried by Agriculture Committee Chairman Bill Magee in the State Assembly.

A sharp increase in recent years in the number of small breweries in New York, with even more in the process of development n such places as Saratoga and Schoharie counties, has given rise to a call for more locally-grown hops. A tangible piece of evidence of that demand came when the Northeast Hop Alliance held its convention and seminar in Troy,NY, back in November.

According to the New York Farm Bureau, the agriculture and beer industries in New York already are major job creating engines, contributing more than $4.7 and $1.2 billion into our economy each year, respectively.

“This bill represents a true win-win,” said Julie Suarez, director of public policy for New York Farm Bureau. “The licensing provisions will allow a farm brewer to bottle and sell their products on or off premises and in the wholesale or retail markets. This opens up new and exciting opportunities for farmers to enter the craft beer business and to increase farm related tourism. At the same time, the provisions that require farm brewers to use an escalating percentage of locally grown hops, will stimulate new opportunities for growers. Hop barns once dotted New York’s landscape, and if this bill is enacted, they will again.”

"This legislation is a real victory for the agricultural community and small businesses. In addition to providing new opportunities for farmers through increasing demand for local products used in beer production, it will stimulate agri-tourism much like we’ve seen with farm wineries in New York, and has the potential to create new jobs," said Valesky, the Senate sponsor.

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Fueling up has new meaning at Sunoco

Sunoco is in the process of expanding its "Craft Beer Exchange" program at its APlus convenience stores across the state.

I first reported on the program last summer back when it began as a pilot program in the Buffalo market. (Details here.) Now, it has been expanded to the Albany, Syracuse and Rochester markets.

It offers a rotating selection of up to 12 craft beers available to-go in 64-ounce growlers. Customers also can create their own six-packs from a range of 12-ounce single bottles for $9.99. Selections change seasonally and include beers from such microbreweries as Long Trail, Ithaca, Victory, Flying Bison, Troegs, Red Hook, Smuttynose and Brooklyn.

A complete tap list for all the 50 or so locations across the state is available online.

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Happy birthday, dear Guinness ...

Arthur Guinness
Pssst. See that guy over there on the right? He's responsible for the Irish government's major income stream, something more important than ever now that the economic chaos that has roiled around the world has hit Ireland a rollicking good thwack.

Today is the 252nd anniversary of the founding of the iconic Guinness Brewery at St. James's Gate in Dublin by that fella, a man by the name of Arthur Guinness. At one time, it was the largest brewery in the world.

Guinness Brewery
(Travelpod photo)
Guinness leased the property for a term of up to 9,000 (no kidding) years at an annual rent of £45 per year. That means the lease will come up for renewal in the year 10759 A.D.

The adjacent Guinness Storehouse is Dublin's No. 1 tourist attraction. The converted brewing factory is a seven-story Guinness museum, the topmost of which is home to the Gravity Bar, where visitors can get a free pint of "the black stuff," as the dark Guinness stout is known.

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Even in death, Grandpa was a good host

A drawing of St. Ansegisel
I've been researching and writing my family history off and on for several decades. As more and records, documents, church archives and the like are put online, it has become less tedious to reach back many generations to see my roots.

I recently discovered that one Saint Ansegisel, the Bishop of Metz, France, was my 30th great grandfather on my mother's side of the family tree. He lived from 582 to 641 A.D. He also was known as Arnulf, or Arnold in English.

He earned a mention in this column because of one of the legends/miracles attributed to him, "The Legend of the Beer Mug." The story goes that on an extremely hot day in July 642, after Arnold died at the Abbey of Remiremont where he moved after his retirement, the parishioners from Metz showed up to claim his remains.

"They had little to drink and the terrain was inhospitable," says the story. "At the point when the exhausted procession was about to leave ... one of the parishioners, Duc Notto, prayed, 'By his powerful intercession the Blessed Arnold will bring us what we lack.' Immediately the small remnant of beer at the bottom of a pot multiplied in such amounts that the pilgrims' thirst was quenched and they had enough to enjoy the next evening when they arrived in Metz."

And, that's why he became a patron saint of brewers. Not a bad miracle to have in the family archives.

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Study: Draw one, mix one for health

We've been trying to keep up with the regular stream of studies suggesting wine has all sorts of magical, mystical medicinal properties that will lead to better health, longer life, etc. Now, brews and spirits are getting some extra support.

A two-decade study published in the January issue of The Journal of Studies On Alcohol and Drugs reports on connections between the moderate consumption of all types of alcohol and increased longevity.

It also supports the findings of prior studies that wine has more beneficial effects than any other alcoholic drinks. However, in a twist that always seems to pop up in any study, researchers said that may because the people who choose wine tend to be more naturally healthy anyway. Go figure.

The study of 802 men and women ages 55 to 65. Of that number, 281 "low wine drinkers" consumed less than one-third of their alcohol intake from wine, 176 "high wine drinkers" consumed two-thirds or more as wine, and 345 abstainers. The drinkers had one to two drinks per day, and researchers followed them for 20 years.

Among the findings: Wine drinkers lived longer than abstainers, and high-wine drinkers lived longer than low-wine drinkers.

Charles Holahan, a psychologist at the University of Texas and lead author of the article, said there may be benefits for older moderate drinkers no matter what kind of alcohol they consume. But, he cautioned, "The study does not encourage initiating wine consumption as a pathway to better health."

Ya gotta love those disclaimers.

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Barrel-aged beers gaining in Canada

From the Montreal Gazette

MONTREAL, Canada -- On the short list of things that get better with age, beer is not generally included. But with all the talk of oak-aging, vintages and grand crus in the brewery scene these days, it’s starting to sound a lot like wine or whisky. Beer that’s designed to be aged -- whether for months in bourbon barrels or for years in the bottle -- is in high demand this holiday season.

With the rise of the craft movement, sophistication among beer consumers has been growing, and with it the market for artisanal production. In the last few years, brewers around the world have begun taking a page from history, and experimenting with premium products aged in barrels.

Examples range from Innis & Gunn in Scotland, which uses Highland scotch, rum and Irish whiskey casks for its line, to Belgium’s formidable Cantillon brewery, which produces a rare and traditional oak-aged lambic called Bruocsella Grand Cru, to Sam Adams, the Boston-based label, which launched its Barrel Room collection a couple of years ago. With its active microbrewery scene, Quebec is right in the thick of things, reaping awards for innovative beers that make use of barrels that once contained Kentucky bourbon, white wine and apple brandy.

[Go here for the full story.]

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Some funny beer commercials

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Schumer pushes 'I Love NY Brew' campaign

Schumer at Brown's Brewing in Troy in February.
(Archival photo)
Earlier this year, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer toured a series of Upstate New York breweries to display his support of the industry. On Wednesday, he took the lead role in announcing creation of his “I Love NY Brew” campaign.

The campaign was created, says Schumer, to place more locally-brewed beer in restaurants, bars and store shelves around the state.

In a letter to the National Association of Convenience Stores and Fuel Retailing and to the New York State Restaurant Association, Schumer urged both associations to offer more beer brewed at the 77 micro-breweries, regional craft breweries, and brewpubs across the state that supports what the senator says is "nearly 60,000 New York jobs."

“Craft breweries have catapulted New York to the top shelf of beer states," the statement said, "and our beers are more than ready for prime time. Whether you are searching for a six-pack at your local 7-Eleven or grabbing Buffalo wings with a beer after work, you should have a wide assortment of locally brewed beers to choose from. I’m strongly urging New York restaurants, bars and convenience stores alike across the state to take a close look at New York’s beers, and consider putting them on their shelves or on their menu. It would be a win-win, both for those selling the beer, and for the breweries making it.”

David Katleski, president of the New York State Brewers Association, chimed in, noting, “The growth of the craft brewing industry in New York State is tremendous. Continued growth will greatly contribute to the number of jobs, tax dollars, and economic benefit to New York. Of all the beer sold in New York State, New York craft beer currently represents a 7.5% market share. One can only imagine the economic impact to our state if craft beer sales here reflected that of craft beer sales in Oregon, where they’re 30%.”

Schumer is asking the New York State Restaurant Association (NYSRA) to encourage member restaurants to offer locally-brewed beer on their menu. In addition to getting more beers into restaurants close to where it is brewed, Schumer will be pushing the New York City members of the NYSRA to consider offering beers brewed across Upstate New York and Long Island. While some beers like Genesee and Saranac have gained popularity in the downstate market, Schumer and New York brewers believe this market is vastly underutilized and represents the chance to dramatically grow craft brewing across the state.

Here is Schumer’s breakdown of local brewing businesses and their production levels by region:

• In the Capital Region, six breweries brewed 4,922 barrels of beer last year, and there are plans to open two new breweries.

• In Central New York, six breweries brewed 287,883 barrels of beer last year, and there are plans to open three new breweries.

• In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, four breweries brewed 511,063 barrels of beer last year, and there are plans to open three new breweries.

• In the Southern Tier, 11 breweries brewed 42,279 barrels of beer last year, and there are plans to open seven new breweries.

• In Western New York, four breweries brewed 31,349 barrels of beer last year, and there are plans to open two new breweries.

• In the Hudson Valley, seven breweries brewed 11,895 barrels of beer last year, and there are plans to open seven new breweries.

• In the North Country, five breweries brewed 8,728 barrels of beer last year, and there are plans to open at least one new brewery.

• In the New York City, five breweries brewed 132,073 barrels of beer last year, and there are plans to open nine new breweries.

• On Long Island, 10 breweries brewed 54,122 barrels of beer last year, and there are plans to open five new breweries.

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Smuttynose Brewery expanding in NH

• From seacoastonline.com

HAMPTON, NH -- The moving of an old farmhouse this week on a 14-acre property on Towle Farm Road signaled the official start to the construction of a new $16 million Smuttynose Brewery and restaurant.

Smuttynose owner Peter Egelston said the farmhouse is being moved 40 yards east to make room for the new 42,000-square-foot brewing facility. Building will begin in spring 2012.

"We will be jumping into this full force in the spring time, and we hope to be moving into a new brewery by the summer of 2013," Egelston said. "What we are doing now is getting a little bit of a head start before the winter sets in, as we all know it will."

Crews are working this week to jack up the farmhouse, raise it from its foundation and roll it to its new location.

[Go here for the full story and photos.]

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Texas brewmaster headed back to PA

Jaime Jurado  
(William M. Dowd photo)
JENKINS TOWNSHIP, PA -- Jaime Jurado is headed back to Pennsylvania.

Jurado, who had been the master brewer at the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre from 1985-91, is joining the startup Susquehanna Brewing Company, located at 635 South Main Street in this community northeast of Wilkes-Barre.

The site is the former warehouse of United Beverage, the wholesale beer distributor.

Since his Wilkes-Barre days, Jurado has developed a reputation as one of the nation's top brewmasters while he plied his trade in San Antonio, TX, where I first met him, with the Gambrinus Company. (See "Beer Dinner in the Texas Hill Country.")

Jurado has been director of brewing operations at Gambrinus since 1997. His new gig becomes official on January 1, 2012, as operations manager and master brewer.

Gambrinus is the sixth-largest beer company in the nation. Its portfolio includes the Spoetzl Brewery in Shiner, TX, the Bridgeport Brewing Company in Portland, OR, and Trumer Brauerei of Berkeley, CA.

The new Susquehanna brewery was founded by Ed Maier, great-great-grandson of Pennsylvania brewing icon Charles Stegmaier, son Fred Maier and partner Mark Nobile. Their initial investment in the craft brewery will be $8 million to $10 million, they said. The German firm BraKon GmbH is the designer and builder of the brewhouse. Plans are to produce four or five year-round beer brands as well as seasonal beers.

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Resurgent Genesee eyes restaurant next

A vintage print ad.
ROCHESTER, NY -- The Genesee Brewing Company has a long and storied history. It also has received a $20 million investment in upgrades over the past two years by its comparatively new owner, North American Breweries.

So, what next? How about a place to dine?

The company, established in 1878, has decided to convert one unused building on its manufacturing to a two-story bar/restaurant and visitors center to be called the Genesee Brew House.

The $2.6 million project would also see demolition of a cluster of two other unused buildings at the St. Paul Street site, according to a report from WHEC-TV.

Rich Lozyniak, CEO of North American Breweries, said that while North American has invested heavily in the once-struggling brewery, that spending has largely been on efficiency and product quality upgrades and the Genesee Brew House project would be the first "serious investment in connection with our consumers."

Under North American, Genesee has returned to its roots with its iconic “glass can,” the stubby bottle it made famous decades ago.

It recently released the Genesee Heritage Collection, a limited-edition pack featuring Genesee Beer, Genesee Cream Ale and 12 Horse Ale. The latter is the brewery’s most requested legacy beer. It was first brewed in 1933 after the repeal of Prohibition. It has not been brewed for years.

“We’re seeing all generations responding to the nostalgia and tradition,” said Janine Schoos, brand manager. “Genesee is taking off all over the country. We hope to be where we were back in the ‘80s when we were synonymous with good times and great American traditions.”

Genesee Cream Ale, also in the Heritage Collection, was first brewed in 1960 and has won numerous awards, including two gold medals at the Great American Beer Festival. All three beers in the Heritage Collection are embossed with a signature letter “G” for Genesee, and adorned with classic labels reminiscent of the packaging used at the height of the beers’ popularity.

The Genesee family of beers has the highest growth rate among the Top 10 selling brand families in its category between 2010 and 2011.

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Insider research: Spirits are kicking beer's butt

Frank Coleman, vice president of the Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS), passed along this article from Beer Business Daily -- and, given his affiliation, who could blame him?

Spirits Taking Us for a Ride More Than You Think

"Wine and particularly spirits have been kicking our tails. And they have done it by a systematic strategy of increasing its availability in accounts, by investing much more as a percentage of revenue than beer has in its marketing, in growing all of their price segments, in consistently and constantly coming out with new flavors, brands, and packages, and in creating a cocktail culture that appeals to a very broad base.

"That was the intuitive findings of Heineken USA (HUSA) chief Dolf van den Brink at the California Beer and Beverage Distributors annual convention yesterday.

"Dolf had sobering news for beer guys: Through HUSA's proprietary internal research, which he was good enough to share, he showed that we as an industry simply haven't kept up with wine and spirits, particularly when it comes to young Millenials, ethnics, and women. And until we rectify this disparity, it will be difficult to get beer growing no matter what the economy is doing.

"First, Dolf showed that wine and spirits' growth has come almost entirely through getting new drinkers entering the market at the 21-29 age. Over the last seven years, spirits has gained 4.1% of consumer penetration points in the 21-29 age group, coming ominously close to beer's penetration. But the really scary metric is the 2001-2011 percent change in the preferred drink:

"For Millenials, beer is down 14% and spirits is up 13%. In other words, spirits have picked up nearly all of beer's slack. It's a direct trade off.

"Beer lost drinkers in all other age groups to spirits and wine as well, but it was most pronounced in young people. Since in the past young people drink beer and then switch to wine and spirits as they get older, this doesn't bode well, since they are already starting with cocktails. And don't get me started with African Americans. Beer penetration has lost 15 points of penetration while spirits has gained 15%.

"In the general market, beer has lost 8 points while spirits has gained 6. As for gender, beer has lost 13 points for males while spirits has gained 9, and with females spirits has gained 4 points while beer has lost 4 points. This metric, as Dolf said, is very indicative of  "intent to purchase" and so is very distressing to see.

"Across occasions, beer is now only the preferred drink in one occasion: pub/dining with food. In all other occasions, wine or spirits is the preferred drink. What's the world coming to?"

There's a lot more, but you get the idea.

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Tweeting office beer machine a hit

Ordering a beer from Arnie.
BOSTON -- The advertising agency Arnold Worldwide has an employee perk a lot of people would like to have in their workplace.

It's called Barnold, an in-house bar where employees can socialize and share ideas.

Recently, several employees decided to build on that idea by creating a beer vending machine stocked with agency-brewed and -themed beers that staffers 21 and older can access with a swipe of their key fobs.

They call the machine Arnie, and have given him a touchscreen interface, temperature awareness and a Soundtube speaker.

Arnie also talks, addressing the user by name recognized when the key fob swipe is made. Arnie's touchscreen also handles Twitter communication -- Arnie can tweet you -- and data such as how much beer was consumed each day of the week.

In addition, there’s an "Alepedia" that provides information about six different beers the agency has created, including Arnold Pilsner. According to a spokesperson, the agency "also has experimented with a variety of ale styles, and will be able to brew beer styles specific to seasons, events, people and even clients."

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