20070129

Drop in for a short one


At the risk of making the maddening Disney song echo for hours in your head, it's a small world after all.

Last summer I wrote an item about a 64-square-foot former railroad signal box structure in Cleethorpes, England, that had earned the title of the world's smallest pub.

The other day I received an envelope containing a note, a letter and some photos. The note, from Frances Hynds of Delmar, NY, informed me she and her husband, Given, had met a couple from Cleethorpes while on a cruise and had struck up a continuing correspondence. "I sent your article, and I have enclosed their reply," she wrote.

The reply, from Mary Keeble, said in part: "I couldn't believe it when I read about the small bar in Cleethorpes. We went to look for it and found it. I thought I would take some photographs ... . The pub is a small signal box on the light railway that runs near our promenade. It is very good."



Thank you, Frances, and thank you, Mary.

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Corona boom becoming a job bank


Crossing the U.S.-Mexican border for jobs is in the news on virtually a daily basis. In the case of what is being trumpeted as the world's largest brewery, many of the commuting workers may be coming from the U.S.

The Grupo Modelo facility for brewing Corona beers will be built near Allende in the Mexican state of Coahuila, a short drive from such Texas border communities as Del Rio and Eagle Pass, about 250 miles southwest of Austin, the state capital.

Grupo Modelo brews a line of beers, but Corona is by far the most popular.

Guillermo Berchelman, economic development coordinator for northern Coahuila, said in a media interview that the project is divided into phases, the first of which will complete the basic plant, with a Grupo Modelo investment of $525 million. " ... The total plant, with the additional phases, could easily reach $1.5 billion.”

The water supply for the gigantic new facility will come from a cluster of five springs amidst five small towns southwest of the city of Piedras Negras. Modelo is building the water containment area now. It is expected that the first products will come out in early 2010.

The new facility was deemed necessary because of the continually increasing demand for Corona and Corona Lite despite a global decline in beer sales among all other brands. Grupo Modelo's various brands hold 56% of the Mexican beer market. Anheuser Busch, the American brewing giant based in St. Louis, MO, controls 49 percent of its stock.

In the same interview, Berchelman said, "Corona got caught up with excess demand. People were just buying out whole supplies, so they’re in a real rush. This beer is not popular, it’s very popular in Europe, Asia, the United States, and, of course, in Mexico ... but this product will be primarily for the U.S. market, liberating other plants to satisfy worldwide demand.”

The new facility, including transport staging areas, storage and water containment will cover 897 acres, with 270 of them devoted to the plant itself. An estimated 2,000 workers will construct the project, with about 2,000 jobs to be filled just to operate the first phase of the facility. Eventually, the work force is expected to grow to 8,000 people to handle such non-brewing activities as a glass plant and a cardboard box and container plant.

Initial annual production is expected to be about 264 million gallons, growing to 839 million when all expansion is completed.

In addition to work on the facility, a spillover economic impact will include construction of more rail containers at a 1,500-worker plant to be constructed nearby by Trinity Industries Inc. of Dallas, the largest U.S. producer of rail and tank cars.

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20070125

'Man Law' campaign repealed


We may be a nation of laws, as politicians are fond of pronouncing, but "Man Laws" no longer count.

Miller Brewing Co. has stopped, at least for now, its popular advertising campaign that revolved around macho types (such as Jerome Bettis, left, and Burt Reynolds seen here) sitting at a table making "Man Law" decisions to guide the behavior of the gender.

Reason? No evidence that the campaign has done anything to boost sales of Miller Lite.

"The competition has intensified within the segment so we've made a decision to transition to point out how and why Miller is different from the others," Pete Marino, spokesman for Miller, said in a press statement.

Miller says nearly half its beer sales come from the Miller Lite line, but sales have been lagging. SABMiller PLC, the London company that owns Miller, said Miller Lite sales rose 1.5 percent in the fourth quarter of 2006 after declining slightly earlier in the year.

The company said the "Man Law" campaign might return at the start of football season in the fall. The ads, which featured the likes of former football coach Jimmy Johnson and (seen here) football player Jerome Bettis and actor/ex-college football player Burt Reynolds, as well as various other "he-man" personalities, spawned a fan Web site.

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20070122

Um tesão de cerveja ... or


... in English, "A hard-on of a beer." Catchy and tacky all at once, which may attract some attention when the Brazilian beer that uses this slogan goes on sale in the U.S. -- especially among people who speak Portugese.

The artisanal beer is Devassa, which means "libertine" or loose woman.

It began in 2002 as a local brew sold at just a few places in Rio de Janeiro. Two years later, partners Cello Macedo, Marcelo do Rio and Joca Muller opened a brewing facility and began making three kinds of Devassas beer: blonde (pilsen), redhaired (pale ale) and brunette (dark lager).

Devassa's overall sales have jumped from 6,000 to 90,000 liters a month in the past three years. The partners have hired McCann Erickson, a major ad agency, to develop and oversee a U.S. sales campaign.

Industry analysts expect Devassa to show up first in the New York/New Jersey, Florida and Massachusetts markets which are home to the majority of the estimated 1.5 million Brazilians living in the U.S.

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Chileans dessert wines for spirits, beer


Much of the world knows Chile for its wines, but beer and spirits are doing much better with Chilean consumers.

According to the leading newspaper, La Tercera, "Domestic pisco and wine consumption fell by 10 and 8 percent, respectively, in 2006. The dip marks the first decrease in either industry since 2002. Beer and hard liquor sales, traditionally a small market factor, saw dramatic increases."

Specifically, liquor sales rose 25% and beer sales 15% . Non-alcoholic beverages also saw a sharp market jump. Purified water grew by 60 percent and energy drinks, though a fraction of the market, grew by 124 percent. Chilean companies specializing in other drinks, says La Tercera, have begun taking advantage of the liquor trend by importing and distilling their own liquors, primarily rum.

Non-alcoholic beverages also have seen an increase in sales -- soft drinks by 5%, purified water 60% percent and energy drinks, though a fraction of the market, 124%.

Pisco continues to be claimed by both Chile and Peru as the national drink. It is a style of brandy: i.e., a liquor distilled from grapes and most widely consumed in Chile, Peru and Bolivia.

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20070110

This Budvar's for you


Anheuser-Busch continues making deals with foreign brewers that will serve to increase its already-gigantic share of the American beer market.

The latest is with Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar, which gives Anheuser-Busch importation rights to Czechvar Premium Czech Lager, previously sold in 30 states by Distinguished Brands. Czechvar is sold as Budvar in most countries, a marketing move that has been a matter of legal disputes between the two companies for years over the similarity of names.

"After years of differences, this is a meaningful step for two great brewers to form a relationship that is good for both of our businesses," August A. Busch IV, A-B's CEO, said in a press release. "For Anheuser-Busch, it also represents an opportunity to enhance our import portfolio with a super-premium Czech import. Working with our family of wholesalers, we look forward to introducing Czechvar to a new audience of beer lovers."

Czechvar still will be brewed in the Czech Republic.

A-B previously struck distribution deals with Stella Artois, Beck's, Grolsch, Tiger, Kirin and Bass Pale Ale among others.

ADDENDUM: On Jan. 11, a European high court ruled that Anheuser-Busch cannot sell beer under the brand name Budweiser in Portugal. The ruling upheld a 2001 decision by Portugal's Supreme Court that Budejovicky Budvar had the right to use the brand name under a 1986 treaty between the Czech Republic and Portugal. A-B had argued that the Portuguese ruling infringed on Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees individuals and companies protection of property. A lower chamber of the Strasbourg-based court had dismissed the company's complaint in 2005, and the court's Grand Chamber of 17 judges upheld that verdict on Jan. 11.

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20070108

Maine needs a sanity claus


For the record:

The controversial English beers known as Santa's Butt, Seriously Bad Elf and others of that ilk may now be sold in stores in Maine.

That's a decision made several days ago, too late to keep from impairing the distributor's holiday sales, but at least it was made.

The controversy began when Maine -- despite Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York having already plowed the same ground only to reverse the ruling -- decided the bottle labels were too racy and shouldn't be allowed to be sold.

The Maine Civil Liberties Union had filed a lawsuit on behalf of Shelton Brothers, the Massachusetts distributor that keeps getting hit with bans, accusing the state Bureau of Liquor Enforcement of censorship.

Daniel Shelton, who runs the distributorship, said it is too late to sell the seasonal beers and that the lawsuit will be pursued unless the state changes its rule allowing it to deny applications for beer labels because they contain "undignified or improper" illustrations.

Unlike the other states that tried, and failed, to ban the beers, Maine went even further. It denied applications for Les Sans Culottes, a French ale, and Rose de Gambrinus, a Belgian fruit beer.

Their crime: Les Sans Culottes used part of 19th century painter Eugene Delacroix's "Liberty Leading the People," (seen here) which includes a bare-breasted Lady Liberty figure. Good enough to hang in the Louvre, but too racy for Maine consumers, one supposes. The other beer has a bare-breasted woman in a painting commissioned by the brewery. Pigs!

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20070101

California OKs free beer


Free beer became the law of the land on New Year's Day. If that land is California.

The current prohibition on passing out free beer samples to patrons at restaurants and bars will be replaced by a new state law that will allow manufacturers and distributors to hand out their wares.

The move, known as Senate Bill 1548, was supported by major beer brewers who are laboring in an industry that has been steadily losing market share to spirits and wines, both of which may be offered as free samples to consumers in California.

The bill passed both houses with no opposition before Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed it into law.

The change, however, isn't totally supported by brewers. Smaller operations that say they can't afford to pay for tastings predict a competitive advantage for such giants as Anheuser-Busch which strongly supported the bill.

A-B responds that it will use the tastings only for new beers, such as its latest winter sampling.

"It's an opportunity for us to get consumers to sample some of our new products," said Andrew Baldonado, western region vice president of government affairs for Anheuser-Busch said in a statement. "The winter's bourbon cask ale is a seasonal beer that we're doing. The best way to introduce those new products to consumers is to be able to have them sample them."

The new law specifies that a beer tasting cannot exceed eight ounces per person per day and that the beer must be served in a glass, rather than a bottle or can. Tastings also will be limited to a maximum of one hour, and must be done as part of "courses of instruction." A manufacturer, importer or wholesaler cannot offer more than six tastings per year at any given establishment. Advertising is limited to signs inside a bar or restaurant.

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