20061226

Nothing to Celebrate

Anheuser-Busch's Michelob gets a lot of grief for being a pale imitation of beer, but it seems to have outdone itself with something it calls "Celebration."

The concoction one hopes is merely a passing seasonal whim is made from adding vanilla beans to beer and aging it in used bourbon barrels, then putting the result in 24-ounce bottles and selling it to you.

I didn't make that up.

It has a secondary name, too: Michelob Oak-Aged Dark Vanilla Premium Lager.

Purists may have other names for it. I've seen several beer bloggers who do, and they're as imaginative as they are vulgar.

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20061221

Allergy avoidance goes national


Beer for everyone, even if they have allergies.

My prior post informed you about Dark Hills Brewery, a new boutique brewery near Fayetteville, AR, preparing to make gluten-free beers. Now comes word from St. Louis that industry kingpin Anheuser-Busch is making a brew for people with wheat/gluten allergies.

Redbridge -- which A-B claims is the first nationally available sorghum beer, and who are we to argue with them? -- is now being made available in various restaurants and stores selling organic products. In addition to sorghum, the lager is made from corn, yeast, hops and water, avoiding wheat or barley.

Sorghum is a grain, but does not contain the protein gluten that is found in wheat, rye and barley and which is harmful to people with celiac disease, an intestinal antipathy to glutens. Sorghum is widely used in many African beers, so using it in special domestic brews is not reinventing the wheel. A-B getting into the niche is news because all other domestic suppliers of gluten-free beer are, essentially, only regional in scope.

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20061212

Gluten-free brewery on the horizon


There may be a bright light in the Ozark Mountains of Arkansas for beer lovers who suffer from a disease that makes the brew unpalatable for them.

Dark Hills Brewery, now in the formative stages near Fayetteville, AR, will be cooking up beer brewed from rice, with no glutenous grains that affect people suffering from celiac disease.

Say the organizers: "Soon, our Viking-themed brewery will be operational. We hope to open our doors -- and bottles -- by Fall 2007. Until then, feel free to send us an e-mail stating what cities you would like us to service. We plan to offer as many beer styles as possible from Lite to Dark, but will not allow wheat, rye, oats, or barley through our doors!"

Dark Hills was co-founded by president Connie Rieper-Estes and brewmaster Leigh Nogy. As Nogy said in an interview with a local newspaper, "Not all Americans can enjoy a ‘nice cold one’ on a hot summer day. Many are finding out they have inherited an autoimmune condition know as gluten intolerance, or celiac disease. The remedy is a lifelong diet free of wheat, oats, rye, and barley. The problem is that all traditional beers are made with at least one of these ingredients. So conventional beer is off limits to celiacs.”

While Dark Hills will specialize in gluten-free beer, there are several other breweries that make it as a sideline. While you're waiting for it to begin production you can check out the likes of Ramapo Valley Beer in Hillburn, north of New York City, which makes Passover Honey Beer, and Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee that makes New Grist Beer.

Passover Honey Beer contains neither barley nor any grain. It's brewed with honey, molasses, hops, kosher-certified yeast and water. New Grist, which notes it is the first beer brewed without malted barley or any gluten-containing products to be recognized as beer by the U.S. government, uses sorghum, hops, water, rice and gluten-free yeast grown on molasses.

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20061202

Seriously bad governance


We may be seeing mass lunacy being acted out one state at a time.

Last November, the state of Connecticut slapped a ban on distribution of a series of seasonal English beers bearing such names as Santa's Butt, Bad Elf and Seriously Bad Elf. The idea, said state officials, was to protect curious children from being intrigued by the beer.

The distributor, Shelton Brothers, filed suit and Connecticut dropped the ban.

This November, New York State tried the same thing, based on the same quasi-logic. Shelton Brothers sued again. The state dropped the ban.

Now comes word that Maine is doing precisely the same thing, for the same reason, and a lawsuit has been filed once more.

Curiously, both Connecticut and New York dropped the ill-advised bans before the lawsuits made their way through the courts. In New York, the Sheltons are pursuing legal redress nonetheless.

In recent years, the company has had labels challenged in Ohio, North Carolina and Missouri as well.

“Last year it was elves. This year it's Santa. Maybe next year it'll be reindeer,” said Daniel Shelton, owner of the company in Belchertown, Mass.

The Maine lawsuit was brought by the Maine Civil Liberties Union, which says the beer labels are entitled to First Amendment protection.

“There is no good reason for the state to censor art, even art found on a beer label,” said Zachary Heiden, staff attorney for the MCLU.

The Santa's Butt Winter Porter shows a view from behind of Santa, with a pint of beer in hand, sitting on top of a 126-gallon barrel -- a container known as a "butt."

States have the power to regulate alcohol through the 21st Amendment, which repealed Prohibition in 1933. “But I don't know where they get the idea they can ignore the rest of the Constitution,” Shelton said.

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