20090129

Kansas debating stronger beers

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TOPEKA, KS -- The state of Kansas has never really made the jump from being a "dry" state to one that allows full-strength beer to be sold in supermarkets and liquor stores.

Now, both houses of the state legislature are considering bills that would end the requirement that beer sold in such outlets may not have an alcohol content greater than 3.2%.

Senate President Steve Morris said similar bills have failed before and he foresees well-organized resistance again from businesses seeking to avoid competition.

The weak beer, also known by the rather unappetizing name of “cereal malt beverage,” came into vogue as a way to sold legally, then as an exception to selling to people under age 21.

However, advocates for the change point out that the market for 3.2 beer, first introduced in 1937, largely disappeared in 1985 when the state raised the minimum drinking age to 21.

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20090128

Firefighter charity brewer on the grow

The Hook & Ladder Brewing Co., which says its beer "benefits more than your belly," was founded by firefighter Rich Fleischer and his brother Matt Fleischer.

Their commitment: Through its give-back programs, "A Penny in Every Pint" and "A Quarter in Every Case," Hook & Ladder donates a portion of every sale to injured firefighters and burn victims in each community in which the beer is sold.

The company was founded in 1999, ceased West Coast operations then re-started in Maryland in 2005.

So far, Hook & Ladder, headquartered in Silver Spring, MD, has donated more than $60,000 to burn centers throughout the country. Primary areas funded include new equipment for burn units, clinical research studies for burn treatments, educational opportunities to improve burn care, and direct support of burned firefighters and their families.

The beer initially was distributed by just one wholesale partner, in the Washington, DC, area. It now is distributed by 120 dealers in 26 states. According to the Brewers Association, it experienced 688% growth in 2007, the biggest percentage increase among craft brewers providing beers solely through a distribution network.

Hook & Ladder makes Golden Ale, a Great American Beer Festival gold medalist; Hook & Ladder Lighter, a lowered-calorie ale, and Backdraft Brown, champion of the 2008 Washington Post Beer Madness competition. In addition, it makes a line of seasonal brews.

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20090126

Suds & Snacks Day nearly upon us

It's almost Suds & Snacks Day, better known as Super Bowl Sunday. For the non-believers, SB XLIII (43) will be played this coming Sunday when the Arizona Cardinals take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in Tampa Bay.

According to the folks at Nielsen, who measure everything from TV viewership to consumption of corn chips, mass merchandiser stores such as Wal-Mart recorded snack sales of $595 million in the two weeks leading up to last year’s game, up 5% from the previous year.

To wash down all that junk food, Super Bowl Sunday ranks as the eighth-highest beer-selling day of the year, with 51.7 million cases sold last year. That's behind the No. 1 selling day, July 4th.

And where is most of the beer sold? In the city that hosts the game and in the two cities that are home to the participating teams.

Eatswise, potato chips topped the list with a sales volume of nearly $147 million, although that's a slight dropoff from the prior year while tortilla chips jumped 20% to come in No. 2 at $125.5 million.

Once past the beer gut .. er, glut ... wine is doing better with Super Bowl Sunday drinkers. According to Nielsen, NFL fans spent 14% more on wine in 2007 than in 2006, outpacing the U.S. wine growth overall by 14%.

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20090120

Beer slump hurts Guinness plans

It has been two decades since a major brewery has been built in either Ireland or the United Kingdom. Now, because of the global slump in beer sales, a planned new Guinness brewey outside Dublin probably won't be built.

Diageo, owner of Guinness, had announced plans for an $855 million brewery complex last spring as part of restructuring the historic St. James's Gate brewery in Dublin.

However, on Monday the company said it is reevaluating the plans.

“The world has changed,” the company said. “We want to pause for breath.”

Diageo, which also brews such beer brands as Carlsberg and Heineken under license in Ireland, said the review would take several months. Among its options: building a smaller new brewery, delaying construction until the economic climate improves, or scrapping the plans altogether.

Diageo, which also owns beer brands such as Harp and Kilkenny as well as Guinness, brews about one-third of its beer in Ireland, shipping much of it to North American markets as well as supplying Ireland and the UK.

The company declined to comment on whether plans to close Irish breweries in Kilkenny and Dundalk as part of the St. James’s Gate restructuring would be scrapped.

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20090116

Eire's oldest brewery may become tour center


The Beamish & Crawford brewery in Cork

CORK, Ireland -- Brewing giant Heineken is considering a proposal to redevelop Ireland’s oldest brewery, Beamish & Crawford, in Cork as a tourist center similar to the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin.

A heritage group set up to save the South Main Street brewery complex in the city center held what it described as “a very fruitful meeting” with the directors of Heineken yesterday at Heineken’s Cork headquarters.

Heineken Ireland announced in December its intention to close the brewery, with the resultant loss of 120 jobs. A committee comprising representatives of three heritage groups has since been set up in an effort to save the brewery building with its distinctive mock-Tudor facade.

National Conservation and Heritage Group chairman Damien Cassidy was part of the delegation that met with Heineken directors yesterday. He said the company had promised to “give close consideration to a sensitive development of the site” during a very positive meeting.

Cassidy said the delegation was taken on a tour of Murphy’s brewery and was impressed by the way in which Heineken had restored the historic building since it took over the company 10 years ago.

He said Beamish would continue brewing at the Cork site until March and the heritage group had asked Heineken to then consider transforming the property into a visitor center and microbrewery.

“The Beamish & Crawford brewery is either 300 or 400 years old. Nobody can be sure but it’s certainly the oldest brewery in Ireland,” he said.

The Cork Lord Mayor Cllr Brian Bermingham already has endorsed proposals for a heritage or tourism complex at the site as an aid to Cork tourism.

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Rogue ale to honor Oregon's 150th

Rogue Ales, the Oregon label that has become one of the Pacific Northwest's top craft beers, will be marking Oregon's 150th anniversary of statehood with a special brew.

Oregon 150, the organization responsible for planning the state's sesquicentennial celebratio, has selected Rogue to brew a special commemorative ale for the occasion.

Sesquicentennial Ale will be available beginning February 14 -- Valentine's Day and the state's birthday -- on draft and in limited edition 22-ounce serigraphed bottles. It will debut at Oregon 150 celebrations in Salem and Portand, and be featured at the Oregon Brewers Guild open houses at Rogue’s Newport and Eugene breweries that weekend.

Sesquicentennial Ale will be on sale until December 31 at Rogue’s pubs in Newport (Bayfront Pub, Brewers on the Bay), Portland (Rogue Distillery and Public House, PDX Airport Pub and Green Dragon), Eugene City Brewery and Rogue Public House in Astoria.

Rogue Brewmaster John Maier used five Oregon-grown ingredients in the ale: two-row and Munich malts, Willamette hops, Rogue’s proprietary PacMan yeast, and free range coastal water.

“With Rogue’s deep roots in the Oregon brewing community, their years of award-winning beers, history of charitable giving and new foray into growing their own malting barley and hops, they were the natural choice to brew Oregon’s sesquicentennial beer,” said Melisa McDonald, executive director of Oregon 150.

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20090114

Feds put a cork in Obamagang beer

Business usually goes pretty much the way Brewery Ommegang wants it to.

The Belgian-owned brewery located near Cooperstown, NY, has always had a solid cult following for its Belgian-style brews. But when it decided to put out a special beer called "Obamagang," the government stepped in to say "No way."


The single-batch brew was whipped up to coincide with next week's presidential inauguration of Barack Obama. However, the feds at the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau said it is not permissible to use anyone's name or likeness for commercial purposes without their permission.

Ommegang Marketing Director Larry Bennett said the brewery has decided to re-name the beer Inauguration Ale 2009, with 600 kegs of it being made available to select bars in Syracuse, Chicago, Boston, Washington, Philadelphia and New York.

"The TTB won’t let us call the beer Obamagang on the keg label. So it will be known legally as Inauguration Ale 2009, but the tap handles will be more ... um ... direct," Ommegang said in a press statement. "The style lies between a porter and stout, with a bit of Kriek and a touch of chocolate blended in.

"We will donate a percentage of sales to charities in the respective cities where the beer is sold, and we’ve asked our distributors to match our donations and pick the local charities."

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20090113

A-B eliminates its free beer

There's no such thing as a free beer under brewer Anheuser-Busch's new owner.

InBev, or formally Anheuser-Busch InBev, has stopped the practice of giving free beer samples in hospitality centers at its SeaWorld theme parks in Orlando, FL, San Antonio, TX, and San Diego, CA, and its Busch Gardens parks in Tampa, FL, and Williamsburg, VA.

You still can get beer at those parks. Now, however, it will cost you because beer still is being sold at those venues.

Fred Jacobs, spokesman for Anheuser-Busch Adventure Parks, said the free samples had a narrow appeal among park customers. He also said the Belgian company plans to build more restaurants and other venues geared toward families with children.

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20090103

A Legend growing in Richmond

From the Richmond (VA) Times Dispatch:

Fans of locally brewed beer have at least one good thing to look forward to in 2009.

Even with the economy in a downturn, managers at Legend Brewing Co. in South Richmond say they are forging ahead with plans to add production capacity at its brewing operation adjacent to its pub on West Seventh Street.

The microbrewery, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year, sells its beer at retail stores in 22-ounce bottles now. But in the next few months, Legend is planning to start selling at least some of its beer in six packs of 12-ounce bottles.

Asked what the recession means for the business, Legend President Tom Martin had a straightforward answer: "There is a lot of bad news in the economy, but people still need to live, and they still want to have a good time."

Consumers typically keep hoisting the beers during a downturn, according to industry observers. The Nielsen Co., a consumer research firm, considers beer one of the most recession-resistant consumer products.

The Brewers Association, an industry trade group, reported that sales of craft beer -- beverages made by more than 1,400 regional, independent breweries in the U.S. -- were up more than 6 percent by volume in the first half of 2008, after growth of about 12 percent for all of 2007.

[Go here for the rest of the story.]

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1st new microbrewery of the year

Unless some other contender steps up, Mark Shrader's and Peggy Coburn's new establishment in the college town of Blacksburg, VA, has the title of "First New Microbrewery of 2009."

The Bull & Bones Brewhaus and Grill opened New Year's Day, with Jim Strickland as brewmaster and bartender Jason McGraw drawing the first glasses.

The opening-day festivities, timed for when the local Virginia Tech football team played in the Orange Bowl (defeating Cincinnati, 20-7) , raised $3,200 in donations from 400 visitors to go to the ALS Association to help fight Lou Gehrig's Disease (amyotropic lateral sclerosis), which claimed Sharder's mother five years ago.

The 10,000 square foot Bull & Bones is located in Blacksburg's First & Main shopping center, and includes a meeting room, formal dining room and sports bar with pool tables and 20 high-definition televisions.

It does stock several commercial beers, but its main appeal is a half-dozen of its own -- All Nite Light, similar to a traditional light American lager, Lunch Pale Ale, Maroon Effect Ale, Sun Lit Wit, Strick's Dark Lager, St. Maeve's Stout -- plus a non-alcoholic brewed root beer. It also has a full spirits bar.

Brewmaster Strickland studied brewing at the American Brewer's Guild in California and worked as a professional microbrewer in California and Pennsylvania. His beers are all-malt, with no rice or corn fillers. They have not been pasteurized.

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