20080224

Letters: Drinks list for a new restaurant

Bill:

I am opening a "global" themed restaurant North of Boston in two months and am attempting a beverage/whiskey list that represents accordingly, and strays from the norm of same ol' menu selections.

Any direction you could provide would be appreciated. Thank you.

-- Scott Plath, Lowell, MA

Dear Scott:

I'd suggest keeping really "up" on what is going on in emerging markets such as the tequilas of Mexico, the sochus of Korea, the caçhascas of Brazil and neighboring lands.

Each can do wonders for cocktail recipes when used with always-fresh ingredients (fruits, herbs, the occasional veggie like cucumber) and creating such a list not only would pair nicely with global cuisine, but would be a great selling point in getting noticed.

In addition, for the non-cocktail portion of your drinks list, I'd strongly suggest getting into a wide range of teas. They're becoming extremely popular all over the U.S. and wildly popular in many European and Asian markets.

Good luck with your project.

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Specialty beer part of a shell game

Beer and seafood usually go well together, but I'm not sure I'd enjoy the special beverage brewed up for a scallop festival in Kent, England.

The beer, called Scallop Stout, is shellfish flavored.

Stewart Martin, representing the Shepherd Neame brewery, the nation's oldest, said, "There's a hint of smokiness and a slight taste of the sea, but no fishiness."

The 3.7 per cent Guinness-like stout is made using traditional methods. The extra kick comes from a handful of scallops thrown in for an hour.

Shepherd Neame was founded in 1698 in Faversham. It has a wide range of beer brands that do not include seafood, including Spitfire, Kingsfisher and Bishops Finger and the UK run of foreign brands such as Samuel Adams, Asahi and Oranjeboom.

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20080220

States probing brewers' energy drinks

From Advertising Age magazine:

Attorneys general from New York, Maine, Maryland, Iowa and Arizona are asking Miller Brewing Co. and Anheuser-Busch for internal documents related to their marketing of alcoholic energy drinks.

They are looking into what they say are misleading marketing claims made by products such as Miller's Sparks and A-B's Bud Extra.

The AGs first challenged the marketers over these products last August when they wrote a letter to the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau -- which approves product labels -- asking it to investigate misleading marketing claims made by products such as Miller's Sparks and A-B's Bud Extra.

In their letter, the attorneys general singled out Sparks and Bud Extra, as well as a third company, Charge Beverages, for having "taken advantage of the youth appeal by engaging in aggressive marketing campaigns ... (that) claim that such beverages increase a person's stamina or energy level. However, they do not mention the potentially severe, adverse consequences of mixing caffeine with alcohol."
Go here for the full story.

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20080219

Wine startup takes tips from beer world

Excerpted from the online Fog City Journal:

The MAS Wine Co., which brews its red and white wines MAS Vino and MAS Vino Blanco at the Jepson Winery in Hopland, CA, is seeking to spread the word about its unusual products.

MAS distributes nearly all its wines in something near and dear to the beer brewers' and lovers' hearts -- stainless steel kegs, a far cry from cork and bottle and screw tops in the wine domain. ...

"Through our colleagues in the beer industry, we've placed our red and white kegs in stores and restaurants in all of the Bay Area's nine counties, Eureka, Mendocino and Sacramento County. We're off to a great start," said MAS President Andy Woehl.

MAS is an 18-month-old startup with officers and investors based in San Francisco, Sacramento and Sonoma County. The company has a Web site and a mailing address in Cloverdale where its winemaker and production chief live.

"No bricks and mortar. Just wine," Woehl says.

The company's airtight, 15-liter kegs hold 20 bottles of wine and keep wine fresh for 60 days. The company is also introducing 11-liter kegs that hold 15 bottles of wine. The kegs are manufactured in Germany and reduce energy consumption and waste associated with packaging, delivering and storing glass bottles. The kegs are delivered in a just-in-time distribution system. The wines are blended with grapes grown in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties.

"We went to the beer industry because they are the people who know all there is to know about selling beverages in kegs to a large customer base," Woehl said.

The company's main product is wine by the glass from kegs directed at a target audience of young professionals 25-40 years old who are educated, interested in wine and eat out several times a week. The kegs are at two-dozen restaurants, hotels and other eating and drinking establishments in the Bay Area.

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20080216

Beersicle battle heats up in VA

At any given moment, somewhere in the world someone is trying to create a new product containing alcohol.

At this particular moment, let me direct your attention to the Commonwealth of Virginia. There, General Assembly House Billl 1075 is a hot topic because, if passed, bars and restaurants will be free to serve beer popsicles and other alcohol-laden foods.

The bill states that the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) cannot prohibit the sale of food products containing alcohol, as long as those products are being sold to persons over the age of 21.

It's in response to the ABC attempt to prohibit the sale of beer popsicles -- called "hopsicles" in some accounts -- at a Northern Virginia restaurant. The ABC said such items violated current law that requires alcohol be served in its original container, or be poured from a tap.

Some supporters of the bill -- which on Friday was passed by the Senate Committee on Rehabilitation and Social Services -- worry that a law outlawing beer pops would ban other popular food items such as tiramisu and rum balls.

The bill is here "to make it possible to serve desserts with alcohol in them," says Delegate Adam P. Ebbin, D-Arlington, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Beersicles do exist. In fact, there are a number of online sites describing how to make them (as the fellow above is doing). Here's one such.

Fans of the beer-centric TV sitcom "The Drew Carey Show" may remember one episode in which the topic of beersicles came up.

Drew: "This is it, the world's first beersicle ... Doesn't look very good ... Looks like something your older brother would tell you is a popsicle ... (Oswald and Lewis taste it.) ... I don't want to overstate this, but it's almost as if all of human history has been building to this one moment ... IT'S NOT BAD ... Mmmm, tasty, now if we could just put nicotine in this and wrap it in a Lotto ticket, everyone in the world would want one!"

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NY brewery gets grant for 'green' project

Brewery Ommegang, located in the small Central New York town of Milford, has been awarded a $4,000 grant to help plan an environmentally responsible expansion project.

The money, awarded by the Southern Tier Regional Planning and Development Board and the local soil and water district, will be used to minimize the project's environmental impact. The expansion will incorporate a water-permeable parking lot and a sod, or "green'' roof to minimize runoff. The roof also will conserve energy, and an on-site power plant that uses brewing byproducts will help reduce the use of other fuels.

As I reported in earlier postings, the green movement is growing among breweries, such as in Oregon and Massachusetts.

The Ommegang microbrewery was opened in the fall of 1997 five miles south of Cooperstown, home of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and near Oneonta, home of the National Soccer Hall of Fame. Its architecture is based on traditional Belgian farmhouse architecture, and set on a former hop farm. The company brews five Belgian-style ales.

The facility is open to the public year-round, for daily tours and tastings. Hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Memorial Day to Labor Day, and noon to 5 p.m. otherwise.

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Canadian brewery owner trying to regain control

From the Toronto Star:

Frank D'Angelo, whose former juice and beer companies collapsed under more than $120 million in debt, is buying back the assets of one of them.

A judge has approved a deal whereby (an) Ontario company owned by D'Angelo's family will purchase D'Angelo Brands, which is currently shut down and under court protection from creditors. ... Meanwhile, the future of the other insolvent company, Steelback Breweries, remains uncertain. Court filings show management has temporarily ceased operations and is looking at options. ...

The two companies have acknowledged revenues didn't meet projections; advertising and marketing costs did not reflect sales; production was inefficient and expenses too high and a strong Canadian dollar slashed margins on packing agreements with U.S. customers.

Steelback, brewer of 11 brands, decided to close its small Tiverton brewery in central Ontario until the end of March because inventories can meet demand. It has cut more than 20 jobs there.

(The full story can be read here.)

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20080213

A-B joins Miller in chill-ing out

Imitation definitely is the sincerest form of flattery in the beverage industry. It means you're on top of a fad and a competitor wants to join you before the next fad comes along.

The latest proof of that is Anheuser-Busch's announcement that it is sending Bud Light Lime to the market. It's a natural lime-infused beer similar to the Miller Chill product rival Miller Brewing Co. took national last year, selling 450,000 barrels so far of its lime-and-salt beer.

"Our extensive consumer research indicates that the Bud Light Lime concept and taste are off the charts with today's consumers," said a company memo. "This insight will allow us to take Bud Light to the next level."

The memo said the brand's "consumer target" were light-beer drinkers ages 25 to 54 who prefer a "sweeter" beer.

Should you wonder about the use of the term "chill," it's a derivation of the Spanish chelada, meaning beer with salt and lime.

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20080212

Drink calorie listing nears in NYC

Food calories have been getting most of the coverage in news about New York City's new regulation requiring chain restaurants to display calorie information. However, the rule includes cocktails, sodas and other beverages that appear on menus as well.

The law is scheduled to go into effect March 31, in place of a different version that was struck down last year by a judge.

However, the New York State Restaurant Association has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the latest regulation which would require restaurants with more than 15 outlets across the country to be in compliance.

Giving consumers information about the calories in what they're drinking can help them make better choices, Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told Business Week.

"We've gotten to the point in our food culture where people expect to have a sweetened beverage with their meal," she said. "People end up drinking a lot more calories than they think."

An 8-ounce margarita on the rocks has 290 calories. That size is the equivalent of a cup, but in many restaurants, drinks come in much larger sizes.

"It's really a shock to see a drink is 500, 600 calories," Nonas said. "That's almost a third of what you should eat for the day."

New York City, which banned trans-fat-laden cooking oils from all restaurants last year, is the first U.S. city to enact a regulation requiring calories on menus.

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20080208

Cheers awards go to top chains

Fourteen awards were handed out as part of the 2008 Cheers Awards for Beverage Excellence, sponsored by the industry magazine Cheers, at its recent annual beverage conference in Miami.

Twelve program awards and two individual awards were presented by editor Donna Hood Crecca. They were:

Best Chain Beverage Menu: Outback Steakhouse
Best Chain Beverage Merchandising: Hard Rock Café
Best Chain Drink Program: Ruth’s Chris Steak House
Best Chain Signature Drink: Walt Disney World Resort
Best Chain Adult Non-Alcohol Drink Program: ESPN Zone
Best Chain Spirits Program: Bennigan’s Grill & Tavern
Best Chain Beer Program: Buffalo Wild Wings
Best Chain Wine Program: Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Best Chain Hotel Beverage Program: Hilton Hotels
Best Chain Multi-Concept Beverage Program: Back Bay Restaurant Group
Best Chain Overall Program: Walt Disney World Resort
Best Chain Responsible Alcohol Service Training Program: Applebee’s International
Raising the Bar: Patrick Henry, Patrick Henry Creative Promotions
Industry Innovator of the Year: Ann Rogers Tuennerman, Tales of the Cocktail

They were selected from a field of 110 entries from 47 restaurant chains. The competition was open to all chain restaurants, defined as an operation with five or more locations in two or more markets. The chain must be in existence for at least three years. Awards criteria include the program’s creativity, originality and impact on the sales and profitability of a full-service restaurant operation. Other factors considered are the level of marketing support, staff training and overall operator commitment to the initiative that lead to its success.

The entries were evaluated by a judging panel that included previous Cheers Awards for Beverage Excellence winners and other leading operators.

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'Green beer' movement expanding

Back in December I reported on a "green" beer that had nothing to do with St. Patrick's Day. It was a move by the Barrington Brewery in Massachusetts' Berkshire Mountains to solar panel collection as part of an eco-friendly business environment.

Now comes word that the Lucky Lab Brew Pub in Hawthorne, OR, near Portland, has become that state's first to use a solar thermal system to brew their beer. A line of solar collector panels dominates the brewery's roof. A traditional water heater is the backup source for the properly heated water for brewing.

Gary Geist, co-owner of the company, said they anticipate relying on the new system in the summer but have been able to make good use of it since it went in place in December.

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20080207

Bolyarka: It's comin' to America

A growing Bulgarian expatriate community in Nevada has prompted a Bulgarian brewer to target the U.S.

The Bolyarka VT Brewery, located in the medieval Bulgarian capital city of Veliko Turnovo, will begin exporting beer to U.S. vendors this spring.

"Our first target of Bolyarka will be the gambling capital Las Vegas and the state of Nevada in general because of the many Bulgarians who live there," said Anton Nenov, brewery director, in an announcement.

Bolyarka will export all types of its products including pale beer, bock beer, and special beer. It is the largest Bulgarian beer exporter, and has the fourth largest share of the Bulgarian beer market at about 12%.

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20080204

Brewers hoist one to lowest common denominator

The days of Schultz & Dooley or Bert & Harry (seen here) are dim memories, if many people even remember at all the beer mugs and animated characters who peddled Utica Club and Piel's beer.

These days, with the latest assault courtesy of the Super Bowl commercialfest that was occasionally interrupted by football activity, we're treated to supreme idiocy in the service of those trying to peddle their brews to a public they obviously don't
respect.

It's likely you caught the new beer ads, given that viewership of the Super Bowl eclipses that of any other activity in mankind's experience: The guy who breathed fire all over his girlfriend and her cat; the clods who sneaked beer into a wine and cheese party; the foreign students whose rudimentary English skills hampered their pickup lines in a bar; a guy given the ability to fly because of the beer he chose being sucked into the engine of a jet airliner ... . (You can see all the Super Bowl ads online.

Beer advertising in the past decade or so has become something that frequently appeals to the lowest common denominator.
Interesting that in the same period sales and consumption of beer have steadily declined.

I'm not laying all that on the ad agencies' lack of intelligent creative work -- smarter marketing by wine and spirits makers, stricter DWI laws and other factors play a part in the market slippage, but continually reinforcing the idea that beer and
boorishness go hand in hand doesn't help.

Anheuser-Busch is perhaps the most schizophrenic. It continues to give us those heart-tugging vignettes about draft horses and dalmatians, none of which say anything about their Budweiser products, as a counter-balance to their commercials featuring unshaven slobs whose main purpose in life is to consumer more beer than others of their ilk.

The preservation of some semblance of class seems to be coming from craft brewers or the major brewers who are trying to squeeze deeper into that niche.

For example, the August Schell Brewery of New Ulm, MN, which has been making beer for 147 years, quietly advertised the making of its one-millionth case of beer.

That's a drop in the mug to the brewing giants of the world (Anheuser-Busch, for example, sold 122 million cases last year), but it's a pretty significant mark for a craft brewery -- and one that was achieved and celebrated without buffoons and balloons.

And, the huge Miller Brewing Co. has so far been restrained and professional in marketing its new Miller Lite Brewers Collection, a line of three craft-style light beers that is going out to test markets this month.

The lineup includes a blonde ale, an amber and a wheat. It is being tested in four markets -- Baltimore, Charlotte, San Diego and Minneapolis. The target audience is mainstream light-beer drinkers.

"We're seeking to establish a whole new category for the industry … craft-style light,'' said Miller Chief Marketing Officer Randy Ransom.

And, one hopes, a whole new attitude toward one's customers.

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