20070228

Mass.'s Berkshires getting another microbrewery


The Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts are getting another microbrewery, with the announcement that the Cold River Brewing Co. will be setting up shop in the old mill city of North Adams.

The facility will only make beer, unlike the nearby Barrington Brewery and Pittsfield Brew Works which also offer food on site. Cold River will produce craft beers, made with 100% barley or wheat malt. Plans call for initial production two days a week during its first year, with a 7,500-barrel output.

Christopher Post, of Becket, MA, and partners Allan Duvall, Chris Cuzme and Alex Hall, all of New York City, submitted the application for a 15-barrel microbrewery to be located in a 4,000-square-foot space once occupied by the Delftree Mushroom Factory's sanitation and packaging facility. Their proposal is scheduled to go before the city planning board on March 12.

Post, a native of the United Kingdom who was an investment banker, became a brewmaster in 2005 and worked at the Chelsea Brewing Co. in Manhattan and the Greenpoint Beer Works in Brooklyn, where Duvall was the brewmaster.

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Beer's additive best kept secret


It may not be a good idea to confuse beer drinkers with too much information.

Not that beer drinkers are any less intelligent and focussed than anyone else, but a research team claims its studies show that knowing the ingredients or manufacturer of a beer can affect their opinion about the brew,

In a study reveled in the December issue of the journal Psychological Science, a Columbia University team had 388 people taste two types of beer: a regular one and an "MIT brew," really the regular beer with several drops of balsamic vinegar.

The tasters were divided into three groups; (1.) Doing a blind tasting with no information about the vinegar, (2.) Doing the tasting after being told about it, and (3.) Being told of the additive right after tasting the "MIT" and before they listed a preference.

The results:

• Group 1, which did not know the additive, significantly preferred the MIT.

• Group 2, which knew about the vinegar beforehand, had a much lower acceptance rate of the MIT.

• Group 3, which tasted the beers then learned of the additive, also had a much lower acceptance of the MIT.

Apparently, the researchers concluded, while vinegar can improve a beer's taste, the timing of information made a substantial difference in beer choice. Patrons with prior knowledge of the ingredient showed a much lower preference for the MIT brew compared with those who learned of the vinegar after drinking it.

"One might say that beer companies should always get customers to taste their beer first, especially if it is a new beer or one that has unique ingredients, and let the customers decide how much they like the beer before revealing the beer's contents to them," study leader Leonard Lee told LiveScience.

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20070227

Tips from a beer sommelier


Back in the summer of 2002, I spent time with Filip Wretman, then the newly-appointed water sommelier at the Battery Park Ritz-Carlton hotel in lower Manhattan.

This was in the midst of America's embrace of imported waters, when everyone was trying to get in on the boom and well before the flavor-added, vitamin-added, everything-added waters hit the market.

Creating the position of water sommelier was a nice gimmick. In fact, the Philadelphia Ritz-Carlton later that same year created a hot chocolate sommelier for the holidays.

Most people know what a traditional wine sommelier does, selecting wines to pair with food, educating and guiding patrons who care for such service, and sometimes pushing certain wines with a higher profit margin.

The water and hot chocolate sommeliers, while not traditional by any means, thus had a model to follow. So, when it comes to an ancient beverage such as beer, there should have been beer sommeliers in large numbers long ago.

That situation may change if the idea of pairing alcoholic beverages with multi-course dinners, just as is done with wines, continues to grow. (Here's a look at a recent beer dinner I attended in San Antonio.)

Miller Brewing Co. is trying to get on the bandwagon, and its public relations people are pounding the drum for Ryan Johnson, whose job is to push this trend. Johnson, the U.S. trade brewer for Miller's International Brands Division guides people through beer dinners and tastings.

While much of Johnson's pitch is to plant the Miller brands, such as Pilsner Urquell, in consumers' minds, many of his suggestions and admonitions work with competitors' beers as well.

For example, Johnson says, "The insights I provide enable consumers to pair the original clear, golden beer with the ease and panache of a gourmet chef. Pilsner Urquell brings a pleasantly bittersweet flavor, delicate malt/hop balance, refreshing cascade of carbonation and crisp, rewarding finish to any dish. Consumers should follow these simple pairing guidelines when preparing an adventurous dinner at home or when dining out."

A few other points:

• Don't pair full-flavored beers with lightly flavored dishes. The nature of such beers cannot be balanced by anything less than a dish of equally complex flavor notes.

• Try regional food from beers' regions of origin. They have more of a natural affinity for each other and tend to bring out the best in both food and drink.

•  With different meats, try specific types of beers and ales. For example, roasted pork and zesty, spice-rubbed pork medallions bring an explosive flavor best paired with a well-balanced malt/hop pilsner. Marinate beef in a vinegar-based marinade or rubbed with spices, and served rare to medium to properly accentuate the delicacies of the beer and help ensure that the robust beef flavor does not overpower the palate.

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Spring Heat returning


Spring is still a ways away, but Anheuser-Busch is releasing a "sophomore" beer for that season.

When Spring Heat Spiced Wheat was introduced last spring, it won a gold medal in the Belgian Wit (White) category at the 2006 North American Brewers Association Beer Awards. The cloudy, unfiltered beer has a slightly citrus flavor because of the addition of lemon, orange and lime peels to the brewkettle.

The Belgian-style wheat brew will be sold on draught and, for the first time, also will also be sold in 12- and 22-ounce bottles.

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20070225

Is the drought ending in Ohio?


While it is true that there are many breweries and at least one winery in every state of the Union, they're not all treated with the same acceptance in their own geography.

Take Ohio, for example. Despite having an annual state fair as virtually all states do, it has in the past shunned showcasing any of Ohio's wines as well as its breweries, which is unlike other states' events where local wines and beers are sold.

This year, according to a report in the Columbus Dispatch, the oversight board of the Ohio State Fair has asked staff for proposals on serving Ohio-made beer and wine at this year's event.

Then-Gov. Bob Taft didn't support the wine and beer idea -- his wife, Hope, was involved in several causes to fight alcohol-related problems, so the Ohio Expositions Commission last considered beer and wine sales in 2003.

Now that Ted Strickland is the governor, the commission is hoping such a proposal will be better received as a way to increase the fair's revenue potential and boost marketing for the state's breweries and wineries, according to commission spokeswoman Christina Minier.

"Gov. Strickland will review all proposals with an eye toward tradition and protecting a family friendly environment at the fair," spokesman Keith Dailey told the newspaper.

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20070223

Home brewer is briefly big time


Home brewer Bruce Stott might have been a bit self-effacing when he named his beer Longshot, but he now has wound up head and mug ahead of a lot of his contemporaries.

The Cape Cod resident was one of two home brewers to win a national contest held in 2006 by Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams. As a result, his beer is part of a limited edition Samuel Adams six-pack being introduced in March.

Longshot is a Dortmunder Style Export rated 3.91 of a possible five points by contributors to Beer Advocate.com's rating system.

This year's Samuel Adams American Homebrew Contest will accept entries from April 15 to May 1. Winners will be announced in October at the 2007 Great American Beer Festival. Details are available here.

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20070215

A voice in your head


We've all heard a little voice telling us to be careful not to drink too much. Most of the time we didn't know where it was coming from. If you're a guy and find it happening in New Mexico, there's a simple explanation.

The state has shelled out $10,500 for 500 talking deodorizer cakes to be used in men's room urinals in bars and restaurants.

Recorded messages embedded in the sanitary supply tell the patron, in a woman's voice, "Hey, big guy. Having a few drinks? Think you had one too many? Then it's time to call a cab or call a sober friend for a ride home. Remember, your future is in your hand."

The program is an offshoot of the sort of thing used in anti-drug capaigns in various parts of New York, Colorado, Pennsylvania and in Australia.

New Mexico had 143 alcohol-related deaths in 2005, the country's eighth-highest rate, and men have 78% of all drunk-driving related convictions in the state.

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20070214

And now, ta da, the Sam Adams Glass


Sometimes it's about the bottle -- see my earlier post on Michelob's teardrop container -- but sometimes it's about the glass.

The Boston Beer Co. followed that line of logic this week by introducing a special glass for its Samuel Adams brand beer. Company spokesbeings say it's merely following the same logic as aficionadoes of wines and spirits who prefer certain thicknesses and shapes of glassware to best enjoy their drinks.

Jim Koch, company chairman and founder of the Samuel Adams beer brand, said in a statement, "It's a personal passion of mine to develop a beer glass that elevates the craft-beer drinking experience. We wanted to create a glass that offers beer lovers a full sensory experience by fully showcasing Samuel Adams Boston Lager's complex balance of malt and hop flavors."

The Samuel Adams Boston Lager Pint Glass will be available to the public beginning in March, priced at $30 for a package of four from the company Web site.

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20070213

Malt Mich on tap for troubled A-B


Anheuser-Busch is geared up to introduce its new all-malt Michelob and Michelob Light on Feb. 26, thereby reversing brewing history.

The new formula will be sold in the teardrop bottles A-B is bringing back. It also will be selling an all-malt Amber Bock, but not in the same shaped bottle.

The teardrop bottles were introduced in 1961 when A-B began using rice in the formula for its "super premium" beer it introduced in 1896. The return to malt is, in the words of a company statement from Doug Muhleman, vice president of brewing operations and technology, for a taste that "will reflect the basic style that Michelob is known for -- but with an added dimension of taste intensity. The beer will have a rich toasted maltiness, a balanced hop profile from the use of noble aroma hop varieties, a rich color and a smooth velvety finish.”

It will be interesting to sit back and watch the reactions roll in to this attempt at craft brewing from a mega brewer.

Noted beer writer Lew Bryson says, "I see this as the latest sign that craft beer's tide is rising faster and stronger than anything can slack it, and A-B is taking the shift in consumer mood seriously enough that they are re-tooling one of their major marques to meet it."

Obviously, the formula change isn't just on a whim. As Mike Beirne reports in Brandweek, "With the exception of Michelob Ultra Amber —which made its debut last February supported by a Super Bowl XL TV spot -- ... the Michelob family has been sliding. Michelob Light dropped 9.8% from 2005 to 2006, Michelob Lager is down 16.3% and Michelob AmberBock slipped 2.4% ... . And Michelob Ultra declined 9.2% despite raising media spend from $39 million in 2005 to $45 million January-November 2006."

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20070207

Miller brewing up Mexican-style beer


Miller Brewing Co. will put a new beer, Miller Chill, in test markets next month in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Florida and the San Diego, CA, area.

The 110-calorie brew will be marketed as an upscale light beer, cheaper than most imports but costlier than most domestic beers. It is a chelada-style beer, infused with salt and lime.

Although the advertising campaign will have a tagline of "Se habla Chill," Miller insists its target audience is not just Hispanics despite the concentration of Hispanic people in the test markets.

Pete Marino, a Miller spokesman, said in a statement, "We're trying to court the market in general, not just Hispanics. ... We are going after mainstream domestic brands. This will be a more refreshing light beer experience. It's a very different type of product."

Last month, it began importing Aguila, Colombia's top-selling lager which is brewed by parent company SABMiller Inc. The company is also importing two SABMiller beers from Peru -- Cristal and Cusqueña.

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20070204

Watch beer being made


Not everyone gets to see what goes on inside a brewery. Now, thanks to the National Association of Manufacturers, you can.

Go here to view a video of the process at the Yuengling brewery, America's oldest.

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20070202

Moosehead regains its U.S. rights


A Texas brewer and importer is selling U.S. import rights to Moosehead back to the Canadian Brewer.

The Gambrinus Co. of San Antonio made the deal with Moosehead, effective March 31. Gambrinus has imported Moosehead Lager for the past 10 years.

Moosehead Breweries is Canada’s oldest independent brewery.

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Beer dinner in the Texas Hill Country

Jaime Jurado (William M. Dowd photos)
SAN ANTONIO, TX -- After 20 years of moving from one hotel kitchen to another, chef Jeff Foresman thought he'd seen it all.

Foresman trained in the respected Johnson & Wales University culinary program in Providence, R.I., then moved among eight Hyatt Hotels from Florida to Hawaii to California to San Francisco to Washington. D.C.

Things changed when he met Jaime Jurado (seen here), director of brewing operations for The Gambrinus Co. Jurado holds master's and doctoral degrees in engineering but worked his way through college in breweries in Maryland and Florida. When it became clear his career preference didn't involve a drafting table, he went off to study brewing in Munich, Germany.

Each man went on to establish credentials as among the best in their field. Both wound up here in San Antonio -- Jurado some years back, Foresman eight months ago -- but their paths didn't cross until a major wine competition in January at the posh Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa here.

A wine event might seem an odd place for beer to be spotlighted, but those involved in judging large competitions are known to prefer anything but wines after a day swirling, sipping and spitting sometimes hundreds of them.

Thus, the 7th annual San Antonio Express-News Wine Competition that drew an international field was ready for a beer dinner for judges -- including yours truly -- and staff.

Jurado is an erudite and voluble beer advocate who, rather than merely having each course paired with a particular beer, wanted brews used as an essential ingredient in every dish.

"Beer, like wine, has enough different properties to enhance food in the preparation stages, not just in accompanying what you're eating,'' Jurado said.

"For example, you might use an IPA (India Pale Ale), which is hoppier and more bitter than other beers, in an oiler course using a vinaigrette. Or, you can take into account beer's chemical properties and how they'll affect other food ingredients in the cooking process.''

Foresman was a bit gunshy at first, despite Jurado's international credentials as one of the stars of the elite Master Brewers Association of the Americas.

"It took a while to experiment with precisely how to use the beer,'' Foresman said. "For example, for the jumbo prawns hors d'oeuvres, it wasn't difficult to figure out how to use the beer in the basic preparation, but we wanted to stretch what we did and how to go about it.''

Jurado and Foresman collaborated on scripting a five-course dinner that incoporated a line of Shiner brand beers brewed by The Gambrinus Co.

The Texas-based firm also brews Pete's Wicked Ale in Utica, N.Y., Bridgeport Ales in Portland, Ore., and Trumer Pils in Berkeley, Calif., as well as Tappeto Volante of Italy and Moosehead of New Brunswick, Canada, and is the importer for Groupo Modelo's Corona beer for the eastern U.S.

The aforementioned prawns canape was one of two butler-passed hors d'oeuvres.

"We boiled the prawns with their shells in a court boullion of water, Shiner Light Beer, pickling spices, peppercorns and parsley stems, then chilled it overnight in the broth,'' Foresman said. "Then we spread a mixture of cream cheese, whipped at high speed with lemon, salt, pepper and light beer, on toasted bread rounds, put the shrimp atop them and brushed a bit of a beer reduction on top.''

The trick in this dish, Foresman said, was to use only a dot of the reduction "because in the reducing process it became bitter -- almost unpalatable as far as drinking it would be concerned, but just enough body to sink into the shrimp when brushed on.'' A mango chow-chow was the final topping.

The second canape was strips of portabella mushroom, brushed with olive oil, herbs and garlic, seared on a flat-top grill, skewered then drizzled with the light beer as the strips became soft. They were served with a grilled red bell pepper dipping sauce.

The four courses of the plated dinner were nicely balanced among simple and rich offerings. A superb shellfish chowder, presented en croute, relied on Shiner Bock, the company's flagship brew. Bits of Texas lump blue crab, scallops and shrimp were added to a thickened broth of shrimp/lobster stock and beer, topped with a leek and aged cheddar crust.

A simple salad of hydroponically-grown local lettuces served with fried brie croutons and a Shiner Blonde/lemon vinaigrette set up the next course, a hickory grilled ribeye steak.

A thick, succulent piece of aged Texas beef, cooked medium-rare, was served with a compound butter utilizing herbs and Shiner Hefeweizen (German for "yeast wheat beer''). The same beer was used to steam the vegetable accompaniments as well as to help caramelize garlic which was then pureed and added to mashed potatoes.

The dessert course was one Foresman balked at, at first.

"Jaime wanted me to use a seasonal Shiner Dunkelweizen in the batter for a warm flourless chocolate torte,'' the chef said. "I didn't think it would work, but he asked me to indulge him. So, I tried one with beer and one without. The beer version poofed up nicely and became lighter. We're thinking of using it regularly.''

The cake had a liquid chocolate ganache center plus a drizzle of pistachio creme Anglaise, all of which went superbly with the rich, dark wheat beer and its inherent caramel notes created by strong hops mostly from the Mt. Hood, Ore., hop fields.

Foresman's summation: "This was quite an experience, and we all learned a lot. It was our first beer dinner, but it certainly won't be our last.''

Lobby of the host venue Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort & Spa.

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20070201

Milking beer for all it's worth


Ulcer sufferers who can't give up their scotch have been known to lace their milk with it.

Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney liked to mix Pepsi-Cola and milk on their old TV sit-com.

Now, in that tradition of strange brews, a brewery in Nakashibetsu, Japan, on the country's northern island of Hokkaido, has whipped up "Bilk," a beer brewed from cow's milk as a way to use up surplus liquid. It went on sale today.

While the precise formula isn't being made public, it is known that the new brew contains the same ingredients as beer -- except for the milk -- and it looks like regular beer after fermentation. Various consumers who have tried the beer say it tastes fruity, with a distinctive aftertaste.

The beer is being sold in one-third liter bottles for $3 a bottle. For the time being, it will be marketed only on Hokkaido. Consumer response will determine whether sales will expand.

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