20080329

The ultimate 'carding'

From the Canadian Press:

EDINBURGH, Scotland — An Internet campaign to ban Britain's treasury chief from the country's pubs seems to be striking a chord.

Earlier this month, treasury chief Alistair Darling (seen at right) raised taxes on cars and cigarettes. But it is his new alcohol duties -- which raised the price of a pint of beer -- that have Britons' backs up.

So, when a pub landlord here in Darling's hometown barred the chancellor from his establishment, drinking holes across the country followed suit. Many are posting pictures of the white-haired, bespectacled treasurer above the big red word "barred."

Bar manger Andrew Little at the Utopia pub, which kicked off the campaign, says the poster is "tongue in cheek." But, he says, it seems to have "touched a nerve."

Hundreds have joined Internet groups devoted to running Darling out of every pub in the country, and establishments from the Tap & Spile in the north England town of Lincoln to the Plough Inn in Finstock, near Oxford, said Darling would not allowed to partake of their booze.

The government has raised taxes on alcohol by 6% above the rate of inflation, which translates to an extra four pence (about eight cents Canadian) for a pint of beer, 13 pence (around 26 cents) for a bottle of wine and 55 pence (around $1.12) a bottle for spirits such as whisky.

The duties are scheduled to rise by another 2% above inflation in each of the next four years.

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Michelob moves into a new role

Anheuser-Busch is doing more with Michelob than simply brewing it.

The St. Louis brewing giant has created a separate entity -- Michelob Brewing Co. -- to combine creative activity with marketing in an effort to improve sales of the brand, including its original Michelob, Michelob Porter and AmberBock plus some yet-to-be-created beers.

Michelob, created in 1896 as a "draught beer for connoisseurs," is "a beer that's been around forever, but it's always sort of taken a back seat," said Doug Muhleman, vice president of brewing operations and technology at A-B's domestic beer unit, in an interview with the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Michelob's sales to retailers fell by "low single digit" percentages last year, despite Michelob Ultra's growth. Nevertheless, Muhleman said, A-B feels the Michelob nameplate is a solid platform for a "mega-branding" strategy — selling a variety of new beers under the Michelob umbrella.

One such brand about to be rolled out to the market is Michelob Dunkel Weisse, a "dark wheat" Bavarian-style beer, and Michelob Pale Ale will be expanded from a seasonal to a year-round offering.

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20080328

MGD 64 is not a spray lubricant

MGD 64 may not exactly rank up there with the catchy names of other brewed products, but it's working on it.

Miller Brewing Co. released the 64-calorie version of its Miller Genuine Draft Light last year as a test in the Madison, WI, area. This month, it is launching it in several Midwestern markets as well as testing it in San Diego and Sacramento, CA, and Arizona.

MGD 64 will replace Miller Genuine Draft Light, which has 110 calories, in those markets.

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20080325

Obama beer, when you're having more than one

When Jimmy Carter occupied the White House, his n'er-do-well brother, Billy, took advantage of his nearness to greatness to come up with his own beverage, a little something called "Billy Beer."

With Barack Hussein Obama getting close to snaring the Democratic Party nod to make the same leap as Jimmy Carter, a Brooklyn brewery is using his nearness to greatness to peddle "Hop Obama" ale in both New York and Massachusetts.

Sixpoint Craft Ales has just begun distributing the limited-edition beer. The 30-keg supply is estimated to be large enough to last only through the rest of the Democratic primary activities, which run through April 22.

Sixpoint brewmaster Shane Welch said that, in keeping with the Illinois senator's unifying theme, the "Hop Obama" is an indefinable ale that doesn't adhere to traditional style guidelines. The 5.2% ABV creation contains five different kinds of European crystal malt and three different kinds of Pacific Northwest Hops. It also includes a Scottish yeast strain for fermentation.

"Although we do not intend this beer to be a direct Sixpoint endorsement of Obama," Welch said, "we believe the delicious and refreshing quality it represents reminds us of the senator's successful grassroots campaign that positively blossoms each and every day."

The Brooklyn brew no doubt will be merely a tiny footnote in brewing and political history -- unless, of course, Obama becomes president and Sixpoint continues making the brew.

Billy Carter became a tiny footnote when his beer venture went bust, he had to sell his house to pay off back taxes, and he went public with his alcoholism before dying of pancreatic cancer in 1988 at the age of 51.

Meanwhile, in Kenya, the ancestral land of Obama's father, sales and consumption of something called "Senator" beer are hitting records.

The brew, named for Obama after his visit to the African nation and his success in a string of U.S. primaries, is being downed at victory parties and in taverns all across the land.

Here's a CNN report on the African "Senator" beer phenomenon:


What of Obama opponent Hilary Rodham Clinton when it comes to alcoholic products? More of a sweet tooth thing, as I reported on my "Taste for Travel" site a year ago.
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20080321

'Bama beer battle hits legislature

In most states there is no restriction on the types of beers consumers can enjoy. "Most" being the key word.

In Alabama, for example, it is illegal to drink beer containing more than 6% alcohol. Violators face a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

However, a bill in the state legislature would more than double the allowable alcohol content in beer. And legislators were recently treated to a beer tasting in Montgomery that offered numerous foreign and domestic beers well above the alcohol limit.

Stuart Carter, a Scotsman who heads a beer advocacy group called Free the Hops, says: "To people in Alabama it looks like there's a huge range of beers in the store already. They're saying, 'Wow, there's 300 beers.' From my perspective, being someone who came into Alabama more recently, I see 300 beers and think, 'Where's the beer?' "

National Public Radio has an interesting report on the topic. Go here to access it.

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Budweiser American Ale due out in October

It only took 11 years.

Back in 1997, Anheuser-Busch reportedly was considering creating a new brew called "Budweiser American Ale." Now, the country's largest beermaker has received label approval from the U.S. Treasury Department's Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau for a beverage using that name.

The product launch date is October 6. The ale is to have 5.1% alcohol by volume, about the same as standard Budweiser, according to label filings. A-B, ever attuned to market trends, apparently is jumping on the bandwagon of strong recent growth in the ale niche usually dominated by small craft brewers.

Curiously, the development was unveiled on Brewblog.com, a site run by rival Miller Brewing Co. That forced A-B to begin fielding questions about the new product before it planned to do so. In February, Miller began test marketing its three-label Miller Lite Brewers Collection of craft-style beers.

Marlene Coulis, A-B's vice president for consumer strategy and innovation, told Advertising Age the new ale will be a darker, richer brew than Budweiser lager.

Coulis said A-B's Michelob brand family, which has been spinning off new craft styles for more than a decade, was the real model for the new brew.

"Michelob was a perfect model for this," she said. "Obviously seeing the growth that's occurred in craft and micros, it's a perfect opportunity for us."

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20080317

The world needed a bottle opener/USB stick

Interested in combining beer or soda and a flash drive? Who isn't?

The Trekstor USB Bottle Opener offers precisely that with a new gadget you can out on the chain with your house and car keys -- an 8GB flash drive unit plus a bottle opener feature.

Trekstor is a German design firm specializing in electronic storage and audio devices. It already has won several awards for developing the USB stick.

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20080315

May I recommend the Beanz With Balls?

Over the years I've written about sommeliers in a variety of fields. Wine, of course. Beer, water, even hot chocolate. But beans?

Ever vigilant to promote its products, the mavens at Heinz have begun a marketing campaign in the UK utilizing the pairing of beer and beans to promote their “Saucy Beanz” range.

The Pittsburgh-based food giant is using top beer connoisseurs to recommend brews that best complemented their new range, including spicy meatballs, sausages and lamb meatballs (called Beanz with Balls, as shown in the accompanying photo). Other ranges are called Red Hot Balls and Big Saucy Bangers.

So, what sorts of combinations are the beans sommelier recommending? Beers dark in color with a light malty texture to complement the heartier bean products; a dark brown ale for the red-hot beans, and a standard brown ale that will complement rather than overpower the chili seasonings in another product.

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20080310

Brit pubs on endangered list

The iconic image of pubs as a part of England that will always endure is in trouble.

The number of pub closings last year hit a rate 14 times higher than the prior year, according to a new report just released by the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA).

The BBPA says 1,409 pubs closed in 2007, a rate of 27 per week.

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has published its own survey showing a slightly slower pace -- 57 a month -- but notes that 31% of those closed are being demolished, 36% are converted to shops, cafes and restaurants and 33% are converted to some other use, mostly residential.

It is this changeover that is concerning people who want to preserve the country's pub structure. CAMRA is pushing for changes to planning laws to prevent pub demolitions and change of use without planning permission.

So, what is causing the phenomenon?

BBPA Chief Executive Rob Hayward said he blames rising costs, falling sales and the impact of the smoking ban.

“These figures show the reality of the pub trade today," he said, "in contrast to the hype surrounding the myth of '24 hour drinking'."

BBPA statistics say beer sales in pubs are at their lowest level since the Depression in the 1930s. Today's pubs are selling 14 million fewer pints a day than they did when sales were at their peak in 1979.

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20080307

When is a pint not a pint?

If you've ever traveled in the United Kingdom and wondered whether the pint drawn for you at one pub was a different sized "pint" than at another, you're not alone.

Paul Rowen, a member of Parliament (MP) from Roichdale is demanding pubs serve full pints of beer and stop short changing customers. In fact, he has signed a Parliamentary motion expressing concern that bar staff are legally permitted to sell a glass containing as little as 95% liquid as a full pint.

The early day motion claims the practice of selling short measures, whether intentionally or accidentally, costs drinkers £400 million every year.

The motion, signed by more than 40 MPs, supports a drive by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to push the government to legislate for a pint to be defined as 100% liquid.

CAMRA estimates short pours cost consumers more than $2 million US on a daily basis.

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Another 'green' brewery, another way

OK, I promise this is The Last One.

I've been reporting on breweries in the U.S. and U.K. going "green" (here, here and here).

Now comes word from Australia that the Fosters brewery making Cascade Green beer is following the same path but doing it by dint of paperwork.

The company says all the greenhouse gases produced through the life of a Cascade Green, from the picking of the hops to the empty bottle landing in the recycling bin, have been offset by purchasing certified carbon offsets from the government--accredited Hobart Landfill Flare Facility, which captures and recycles gases, on the island of Tasmania, where the Fosters-owned Cascade brewery is based.

Ben Summons, Cascade Green's marketing manager, said all of the carbon offset costs of the new beer will be absorbed by the company and will not be passed on to consumers.

The beer, which is also low carbohydrate and is classified as a "premium" beer, will sell for $17 US for a six-pack of 330ml bottles.

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20080304

Brewer trying for energy self-sufficiency

I've posted several reports (here, here and here) of U.S. breweries working to become "greener" facilities.

Now, an English brewer is going them one better, according to this report on the Energy Current news site:

Beer waste can power brewery

A U.K. brewery has taken a major step towards being self-sufficient in energy. Scottish and Newcastle (S&N) will be the first in the world to produce both electric and heat from spent grain, a by-product of the brewing process.

Wartsila has been awarded two contracts to supply and install equipment for two biomass-fuelled combined heat and power plants (CHP) at premises in Manchester. The CHP plants will each have a thermal output of 7.4 MWth and an electrical output of 3.1 MWe.

The plants, which will burn a mixture of spent grain and wood chips from local sources, are due to start operations in the first and second quarters of 2009, producing steam and electricity for the breweries' processes and exporting excess electricity to the local electricity network.

S&N will earn Renewable Obligation Certificates for its production of renewable electricity. These BioPower plants will help the UK meet its target of having renewables power 10 percent of the country's electric supply by 2010.

S&N Project Manager Andrew McMurtrie said, "We believe the investments make good commercial sense, providing some protection from the volatility of the energy markets, as well offering additional security of supply."

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20080303

Braille and beer mix well in Japan

Using Braille markings to help blind people read or navigate such things as elevator keypads and street crossings is fairly common around the world. But, in Japan blind beer drinkers are getting an extra aid.

Japanese brewers have begun stamping patterns of raised dots on top of their beer cans so consumers can differentiate between beer and non-alcoholic drinks in cans. In Braille, the dots read "alcohol." Kirin Brewery, however, has gone a step farther by spelling out "Kirin Beer" in Braille.

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20080301

Heineken BeerTender finally hits the U.S.

Photo courtesy of Heineken

Well, today is the day.

Some time ago I posted information on the Heineken BeerTender some people were anxiously waiting for to hit the U.S. consumer market.

It did. Today. Online at BeerTender.com and in Williams-Sonoma stores at a suggested retail price of $400. That will drop to about $299 on April 1 when the device will become more widely available.

The BeerTender is a special home tap setup that holds four-liter Heineken DraughtKegs and dispenses via the tap. The BeerTenders come with a five-pack of special tubes for the non-BeerTender-compatible DraughtKegs. You also can get them online.

The Dutch brewer says it will modify its Heineken and Heineken Light DraughtKegs with the larger pressure container to make them compatible with the new device.

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