20070628

An ancient beer on today's market

In the competitive world of beer, most brewers are continually striving to come up with something new.

Not Sam Calagione. The owner of the Dogfish Head Craft Brewery in Milton, DE, is using a 9,000-year-old recipe for his establishment's latest offering, called Chateau Jiahu.

As he explains it:

"Preserved pottery jars found in the Neolithic villiage of Jiahu, in Henan province in northern China, has revealed that a mixed fermented beverage of rice, honey and fruit was being produced that long ago, right around the same time that barley beer and grape wine were beinginning to be made in the Middle East.

"Fast forward to 2005. Molecular archeologist Dr. Patrick McGovern of the University of Pennsylvania calls on Dogfish Head to re-create their second ancient beverage and Chateau Jiahu is born. In keeping with historic evidence, Dogfish brewers used pre-gelatinized rice flakes, wildflower honey, muscat grapes, barley malt, hawthorn fruit, and chrysanthemum flowers.

"The rice and barley malt were added together to make the mash for starch conversion and degredation. The resulting sweet wort was then run into the kettle. The honey, grapes, hawthorn fruit, and chrysanthemum flowers were then added. The entire mixture was boiled for 45 minutes, then cooled. The resulting sweet liquid was pitched with a fresh culture of sake yeast and allowed to ferment a month before the transfer into a chilled secondary tank."

The result is an 8% beer. The original label, shown here, was designed by aritist Tara McPherson, who has done other design work for Dogfish. The company, which also has a brewpub/distillery in Rehobeth Beach, DE, an alehouse in Gaithersburg, MD, and another being readied in Falls Church, VA, has a lineup of 26 kinds of beer and ale.

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Foster's: American for beer

"Foster's. Australian for beer."

That, said in a manly snarl, has become a familiar tagline for commercials for the popular Aussie brew. It may have to be changed.

Under a new 10-year licensing agreement between Foster's Group Ltd. and the Miller Brewing Co., an American company, Foster's lager will be brewed in the U.S. for the first time, beginning in November.

Miller will brew Foster's at facilities in Fort Worth, TX, and Albany, GA. Previously, it had been produced for the U.S. market by Molson Coors of Canada. Molson will continue to produce Foster's Lager for the Canadian market.

A Foster's spokesman said annual sales of Foster's Lager in the U.S. have run about six to seven milion cases. He said Foster's Lager would be positioned as a "trade up" brand for mainstream beer drinkers -- above U.S. domestic beer brands but below premium imported European brands.

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20070621

Book Review: A tasty brew of history


Beer & Food: An American History. By Bob Skilnik. Jefferson Press. 246 pp. $24.95 U.S., $28.95 Canada.

When the history of American whiskey is written, again, George Washington will have to play a more important role than ever. The recent opening of his Mount Vernon, VA, distillery that was rebuilt 200 years after fire destroyed the original brought back to public awareness what a major distiller he was in the new United States.

However, the history of American beer -- and its relationship to food as well as to society -- has been written, by beer writer and historian Bob Skilnik. And in this arena, Washington also plays a major role.

To wit:

"In 1769, George Washington, who had been enjoying his regular shipments of English-brewed porter, broken bottles and all, signed a non-importation agreement with fellow Virginians Patrick Henry, Peyton Randolph, Robert Carter Nichols, and Richard Henry Lee that reaffirmed the boycott of English goods, including 'either for sale or for our own use ... beer, ale, porter, malt.' Not to slight the boldness of their actions, but it might have been a bit easier fending off heady temptations from England, knowing that Philadelphia beer was coming into its own as a quality product. Washington lined up new connections with Philadelphia brewer Robert Hare, reputed to have been the first to brew porter in that city ... ."

That's merely one example of how smoothly Skilnik educates his readers, putting the necessary building blocks of his history into the context of the times.

Skilnik is a graduate of the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, the oldest brewing school in the U.S. In "Beer & Food," his sixth book, he continues to show his skills as both tireless researcher and clear writer. (However, in the passage cited above, I suspect he meant to refer to Robert Carter Nicholas, rather than Nichols.)

What he didn't do, however, was what I'd consider basic work: test the more than 90 beer-related recipes interspersed throughout the book and trumpeted on the cover. As we are informed in the acknowledgements section, "The author has not tested the recipes in this book, and therefore cannot make representations as to their results. However, readers are heartily encouraged to use these recipes verbatim ... ."

Why? This is, after all, a beer and food book. Both ends of the equation should receive equal attention from the author.

Nevertheless, that decision doesn't negate the informative and entertaining aspects of "Beer & Food." Such seemingly mundane topics as the development of putting beer in glass bottles and pasteurizing the brews -- which gained widespread acceptance in the 1880s; how historic decisions such as Prohibition and our involvement in world wars affected beer manufacturing, advertising campaigns and so on, are made lively by Skilnik's solid way with anecdote and artwork.

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'Hopsicles' touch off a legal flap

An Alexandria, VA, restaurant that has been serving beer popsicles claims it is doing nothing illegal. The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control disagrees.

The flap began when the Associated Press wrote a story about Rustico and head chef Frank Morales (right).

A restaurant spokesperson told The Washington Post for a followup story that Rustico is "following the letter of the law" when it comes to the frozen treats. She said the restaurant's legal counsel says that because Morales is keeping beer that is being used for cooking — in this case for the popsicles — separate from beer that is being served at the bar, the "popsicles are an extension as a food item."

Not so, says ABC. Spokesperson Kristy Smith said the interpretation is off base and that the agency will send an agent to the restaurant in the near future for an inspection.

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20070620

Pizza beer is not a misprint

"The greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer. Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza."
-- Dave Barry

Beer and pizza go together as naturally as, well, pizza and beer. That led a creative Illinois real estate broker to try combining the two tastes. And, he succeeded.

Tom Seefurth of Campton Hills, a Chicago suburb, has been a longtime home brewer. In his quest for the perfect pizza-flavored beer, he began adding tomatoes, oregano, garlic and basil to one batch. The result is something he calls Mamma Mia Pizza Beer.

Walter Payton's Roundhouse in nearby Aurora has agreed to serve the pizza beer as long as the supply lasts. No word on what happens when it's gone.

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Original Guinness brewery in peril

Take a guided your of Dublin and one of the first things to be pointed out is the historic Guinness Brewery at St. James Gate, where beer has been brewed for 250 years.

If you haven't taken the official interior tour or at least seen the complex yet, better move fast. International conglomerate Diageo, which owns Guinness, is considering closing the brewery, reports the Financial Times of London.

Diageo is engaged in an "assessment of its investment options for its brewing operations in Dublin, Dundalk and Kilkenny to enhance the long-term competitiveness and sustainability of the business in Ireland," the article said, quoting the company.

David Gosnell, managing director of Diageo Global Supply, said, "Everything is on the table," including the possible closure of the historic brewery but added no final decision was likely before "well into 2008." The 56-acre Dublin site could be worth between $600 million and $700 million if sold.

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20070617

It's getting easier to get a cold one in Montana

It hasn't been a snap to get beer or wine at a restaurant in Montana. There are only 304 cabaret beer-and-wine licenses available in the entire state.

That, however, is about to change. The state legislature has created 165 new cabaret licenses. They differ from conventional all-beverage and beer and wine licenses by not allowing business owners to put in electronic gambling machines.

How great is consumer demand for such options? Mike Hampton, owner of Bullman's Wood Fired Pizza in Helena, told the Helena Independent Record, "We probably get 20 people a day that ask if we have beer. Some will leave (after learning the restaurant can’t sell beer), some, not a lot of people, will take the pizza home. Some will eat here and grumble.”

To qualify, a restaurant may not have a sit-down bar, and can serve beer and wine only to people eating meals at tables. At least 65% of the restaurant’s income must come from food, and it can be open only from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. People must apply by July 6. If a city has more restaurant applications than available licenses, a lottery will be held in late July.

If you're traveling through Montana, here's a checklist of where the additional licenses will be awarded, according to the Liquor Control Division, Montana Department of Revenue:

Billings: 21 current restaurant beer and wine licenses and will get 21 more after July 1 for a total of 42.
Bozeman: 14 current licenses, 10 new licenses after July 1 for a total of 24.
Butte: 10 current licenses, although only one is being used, 10 new licenses after July 1 for a total of 20.
Great Falls: 16 current licenses, 16 more after July 1 for a total of 32.
Helena: 10 current licenses, eight more after July 1 for a total of 18.
Kalispell: 11 current licenses, 10 more after July 1 for a total of 21.
Missoula: 17 licenses now (although it should be 14), 11 more after July 1 for a total of 28. Missoula has more licenses than it should because the allocations were based on census estimates and have been adjusted for the actual census.
Whitefish: 10 licenses now, eight more after July 1 for a total of 18.

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20070612

San Diego 's best comes from Maine

Maine's Seadog Brewing Co. certainly likes California.

The Portland brewer's Export Ale was named "Best of Show" at the San Diego County Fair Commercial Beer Competition on June 9. It also was awarded a gold medal in the English Ales category.

This follows a gold medal performance in May by master brewer Alan Pugsley's brew in the English Pale Ale category of the West Coast Brew Fest’s Commercial Craft Competition in Sacramento.

The other gold medal winners by category:

Light Lager: old: Munich Helles, Ballast Point Brewing Co., Hot Rail Helles.
Pilsner: Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Sierra Nevada Summer Fest.
Vienna Lager: Huntington Beach Beer Co., Vienna Lager.
Dark Lager: Lakefront Brewery Inc., Eastside Dark.
Bock: Boston Beer Co., Sam Adams Double Bock.
Light Hybrid Beer: Widmer Brothers Brewing, Widmer Hefeweizen.
Amber Hybrid Beer: California Common, Lakefront Brewery Inc., Riverwest Stein.
Scottish & Irish Ale: Strong Scotch Ale, AleSmith Brewing Co., AleSmith Wee Heavy.
American Ale: Maui Brewing Co., Maui Pale Ale.
English Brown Ale: Pizza Port, Good Grief Brown.
Porter: Lightning Brewery, Black Lightning Porter.
Stout: Deschutes Brewery, Abyss Imperial Stout.
India Pale Ale: Pizza Port, Wipeout.
German Wheat & Rye Beer: San Pedro Brewing Co., Harbor Hefeweissen.
Belgian & French Ale: Allagash Brewing, Allagash White Whitbier.
Sour Ale: No award.
Belgian Strong Ale: Port Brewing Co., Lost Abbey Judgment Day.
Strong Ale: AleSmith Brewing Co., Old Numbskull American Barleywine.
Fruit Beer: Belgian Ale with Raisins, Port Brewing Co., Lost Abbey Cuvee de
Tomme.
Spice/Herb/Vegetable Beer: Maui Brewing Co., Coconut Porter.
Smoke-Flavored & Wood-Aged Beer: Alaskan Brewing Co., Alaskan Smoked Porter.
Specialty Beer: Organic Imperial Weissen, Schneider Weissbierbrauerei, Schneider Edelweisse.
Open Category Mead: Redstone Meadery, Sunshine Nectar.
Fruit Cider: Fox Barrel Cider Co., Fox Barrel Pear Cider.

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20070611

Minnesota Fair going full strength

If you're planning on visiting the Minnesota State Fair but lamenting it sells only 3.2% "near beer," relax. Things have changed.

Fair officials have announced they will allow full-strength beer at the August event in response to fairgoers' complaints about paying full-beer prices for half-strength beer.

Officials say they don't expect problems with drunkenness, and point out that strong beer is already available at other Minnesota events including Taste of Minnesota, the Basilica Block Party, and at the Metrodome.

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20070610

Nuns show beer can lower cholesterol

For all those people who attended Catholic schools and remember getting their knuckles rapped by nuns, here's something nuns did that may please you.

A study funded by the Spanish Beer Makers' Association showed a group of 50 normally non-drinking Cistercian nuns had their cholesterol levels reduced by an average of 6% when they drank a regular half-liter of beer for 45 days.

Would nuns lie?

Apparently, the hops are the catalyst for the cholesterol loss, and beer need not contain alcohol or be consumed in large quantities to be effective, according to something called the Centre for Information on Beer and Health which conducted the study.

The Spanish nuns drank a half-liter of beer a day for 45 days, then stopped for six months. Then they took 400 milligrams of hops daily for 40 days. The cholesterol reduction was the same both ways. Which probably came as good news for at least one participant.

"To be honest, if I needed it to reduce cholesterol or whatever I'd continue to drink it, but I wouldn't just drink beer (for itself) because I don't like it," Sister Maria Jose told Spanish state television RTVE.

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20070609

Stella!


If you've been having trouble getting a Stella Artois, Bass, Beck's or other beer made by Belgium's InBev SA, you're not alone.

Since Anheuser-Busch became the exclusive U.S. importer of 19 InBev brands in February it has run into all sorts of distribution problems.

As The Wall Street Journal reported:

"At the root of the supply problem are the complicated rules of the U.S. beer business. Under a U.S. law dating to the end of Prohibition in the 1930s, brewers generally must sell their beers through wholesalers, who distribute to bars, restaurants and retailers. Anheuser ... is known for its vast network of distributors, many working exclusively for Anheuser. Anheuser had acquired the right to import InBev beers, but which companies would distribute them in the U.S. remained to be nailed down."

The Journal quoted Dave Peacock, an A-B executive, as saying his company and InBev are working "to accelerate deliveries" to the U.S. "and have taken multiple steps to relieve the delays as quickly as possible."

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20070606

Letters: Searching for gluten-free beer

Dear Mr. Dowd:

Do you happen to know of any bars or restaurants in (my home area) PA, that serve gluten-free beer? I have been trying to find some information, but have not had any luck.

Thanks for your time.

-- Christine (Chrissy) Paternostro, Philadelphia, PA

Dear Chrissy:

I'm not sure of any locally-made, gluten-free brews in Philadelphia, but Anheuser-Busch just came out with one called Redbridge that is being shipped to specialty and health food stores all across the country. I suspect any smart tavern or restaurant owner will be stocking it as well, especially if you suggest it.

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Agri-shift to raise German beer prices

Luckily for beer drinkers, there are about 20,000 different brands in the world. So, if you begin finding the price of your favorite German import creeping up, you'll have an alternative to simply paying more.

What's going on? German brewers likely will raise prices in the next few months because of a shortage of barley.

The shortage is caused by the German government's subsidy of bio fuel for domestic use. One-sixth of German farmland now is used to grow crops that can be used for making bio fuel rather than beer, and that amount is growing by about 5% a year. It's all part of a European Union push to reduce reliance on fossil fuels.

"Many brewers have no choice but to raise their prices. They decided not to pass on the 3% rise in value-added tax (VAT) that came into force in Germany on Jan. 1, but in this case they have no alternative," said Kai Schuerholt, German brewers' association spokesman.

Bio fuel’s impact also may be felt in the price of bakery products due to reduced production of grain.

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This %#@*&%_ Bud ad's for you

Beer sales may be on a slow decline worldwide, but beer commercials remain among the most entertaining things on television.

Doubt that? Take a look at this one.

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20070605

Judge tops beer thief in Beatles knowledge

See that unsmiling face over there? That's the image of a defendant who was a little too flip with the judge and found himself overmatched in Beatles knowledge.

Andrew McCormack, 20, was asked to tell a Montana district court judge in writing what he thought his sentence should be for stealing beer. McCormack wrote:

“Like the Beetles say, Let It Be.”

Judge Gregory Todd, 56, responded in a sentencing memorandum:

“Mr. McCormack, you pled guilty to the charge of Burglary. To aid me in sentencing I review the pre-sentence investigation report.

“I read with interest the section containing Defendant’s statement. To the question of ‘Give your recommendation as to what you think the Court should do in this case’, you said, ‘Like the Beetles say Let It Be.'

“While I will not explore the epistemological or ontological overtones of your response, or even the syntactic of symbolic keys of your allusion, I will say Hey Jude, Do You Want to Know a Secret?

"The greatest band in rock history spelled their name B-e-a-t-l-e-s.

"I interpret the meaning of your response to suggest that there should be no consequences for your actions and I should Let it Be so you can live in Strawberry Fields Forever.

"Such reasoning is Here, There and Everywhere. It does not require a Magical Mystery Tour of interpretation to know The Word means leave it alone.

"I trust we can all Come Together on that meaning.

"If I were to overlook your actions and Let It Be, I would ignore that Day in the Life on April 21, 2006.

“Evidently, earlier that night you said to yourself I Feel Fine while drinking beer.

“Later, whether you wanted Money or were just trying to Act Naturally you became the Fool on the Hill on North 27th Street.

"As Mr. Moonlight at 1:30 a.m., you did not Think for Yourself but just focused on I, Me, Mine.

"Because you didn't ask for Help, Wait for Something else or listen to your conscience saying Honey Don't, the victim later that day was Fixing a Hole in the glass door you broke."

"After you stole the 18 pack of Old Milwaukee you decided it was time to Run For Your Life and Carry That Weight.

“But when the witness said Baby it's You, the police responded I'll Get You and you had to admit that You Really Got a Hold on Me.

"You were not able to Get Back home because of the Chains they put on you.

“Although you hoped the police would say I Don't Want to Spoil the Party and We Can Work it Out, you were in Misery when they said you were a Bad Boy.

"When the police took you to jail, you experienced Something New as they said Hello Goodbye and you became a Nowhere Man.

"Later when you thought about what you did you may have said I'll Cry Instead. Now you’re saying Let it Be instead of I'm a Loser.

“As a result of your Hard Day's Night you are looking at a Ticket to Ride that Long and Winding Road to Deer Lodge.

"Hopefully you can say both now and When I'm 64 that I Should Have Known Better."

McCormack’s sentence was probation, community service and a fine.

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Cider tops beer among UK first-timers

People who have a strong impression of UK drinkers' preferences will have to reorder those thoughts after a new Nielsen report. The study lists the top at-home alcoholic beverages as:

The report shows that cider has experienced the biggest year-over-year increase in sales, jumping 29%. And, cider outstrips beer among people buying an alcoholic beverage for the first time.

1. Wine
2. Lager beer
3. Blended whiskey
4. Vodka
5. Cider
6. Ale
7. Champagne

Go here for a tasting report on American ciders made with Old Europe apples and methodology.

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