I speak for every true potato-loving mick on the planet when I say that St. Patrick’s Day is a genuine Irish holiday that’s been corrupted into Amateur Drunk Day by us filthy Americans. Nobody in Ireland really cared much about it until dumb American tourists started going over there every March, demanding green beer and tunelessly bellowing “Danny Boy” out of their vomit-encrusted cakeholes. St. Paddy’s Day is fake. It’s Kwanzaa for white people.
Jim Treacher, “No True Irishman Loves St. Patrick’s Day”, The Daily Caller, 2016-03-17.
March 17, 2017
December 5, 2016
It’s from a brewer in Houston I’ve never heard of, so the chances that it’ll appear in the government monopoly liquor stores here in Ontario are pretty small:
A Christmas Story is such a staple of the American holiday season that in 1997, Turner Broadcasting’s TNT or TBS networks began running “24 Hours of A Christmas Story.” All day long on Christmas Eve and all day long on Christmas Day, you can turn on the TV and catch A Christmas Story. When the screaming kids have finally gone to sleep, and you’re done with all your wrapping, you can sit down and catch a true American classic that will let you unwind, make you laugh, and remind you of the Christmas frustration of kids everywhere.
When you sit down to watch the movie, grab a beer. It will undoubtedly help you relax. Christmas is stressful, especially as a parent. You can see this in the character of “the Old Man” in Ralphie’s story. His father is always trying to balance a battle against his angry furnace, the neighbor’s wild and hungry dogs, and the stress of balancing life with his kids and his job.
In the mid-twentieth-century, middle-America setting of A Christmas Story, “the Old Man” probably drank some pretty boring beer to relax at the end of a long day. You, my friends, have many more options. There are plenty of Christmas beers, and we’ll get into them in the coming weeks, but there is one you just can’t pass up if you’re a fan of A Christmas Story (and let’s admit, you all are).
Karbach Brewing Company out of Houston makes a beer called Yule Shoot Your Eye Out. With a wonderful reference to the classic line from A Christmas Story, the gang at Karbach take it one step further with a representation of the famous leg lamp on the can.
November 27, 2016
Jerry Weinberger reviews The United States of Beer: A Freewheeling History of the All-American Drink by Dane Huckelbridge:
In rich and full detail, Huckelbridge tells the story of America’s love affair with beer. Even before Europeans set foot on the new continent, Native Americans made beer for fun and religious purposes from a wide variety of vegetable matter. Our Dutch and English forbears brought their beer — and their beer preferences — with them. In 1620, the Mayflower landed in Plymouth, at least in part for want of enough beer for both passengers and crew. When the Arbella sailed into Boston Harbor in 1630, it was laden not just with Puritans but also with 10,000 gallons of beer and 120 hogsheads of malt. The English in New England drank dark and cloudy ales made from fire-roasted malt and top-fermenting yeast. The Dutch in New Netherlands preferred drafts lighter in body and mouthfeel; they added rye, wheat, and oats to the barley. The English put an end to New Netherlands in 1664, but that didn’t end the war — as it would eventually prove to become — between the light and the dark worlds of beer. Huckelbridge approaches his subject from a regional point of view. National tastes sprang from regional ones. Beer tides flowed North to South, turned westward to California, and then doubled back East in the late twentieth century.
Our English forbears came relatively late to the use of hops in beer, as was done on the European Continent in the ninth century. As late as the early sixteenth century, hops were thought of in England as “a wicked and pernicious weed.” In Europe, brewing was done by large, organized monasteries, while in England it remained largely a household craft. The larger European producers had to worry more about consistency and spoilage than did the home-brewing English; the hop, though essential to the taste of beer as we know it, was originally used as a preservative, with the appreciation of bitterness following on the utility of anti-sepsis. As English brewing took on a more industrial tone, the uses of the hop became clear, and so the Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower could drink safe beer rather than brackish and polluted water. By the time of the revolutionary crisis, English economic policy and regulation had increased the price of barley and hops so much that cider and rum began to edge out beer as the preferred drink of New Englanders. The Sons of Liberty — including Samuel Adams and John Hancock — rebelled for beer as much as for independence.
When American beer recovered, it did so in the Midwest, and in a new form: lager. What we now think of as American beer (Budweiser, Busch, Pabst, Miller, etc.) sprang from the habits and tastes of German immigrants in Midwestern cities. Their lager beers were rich and full-flavored, but were somewhat lighter and milder than “the darker and more fragrant British-style” ales they eventually displaced. Huckelbridge describes in some detail the history of German brewing from Roman times through the sixteenth century, when lager yeast was discovered as an alternative to ale yeast. This new yeast strain originated in the cold forests of Patagonia and made its way by accident to Europe — and especially to Bavaria.
And how American beer got its (well-deserved at the time) reputation for blandness:
In the decades surrounding the turn of the twentieth century, two forces converged to transform our national drink: technological innovation and Prohibition. Before the Volstead Act went into effect in January 1920, technological and economic changes had been at work degrading the quality of American beer. New kiln technology made it possible to roast malts with no direct contact with the heat, which made for fewer notes of smoke and slag. Likewise, temperature controls made it possible to make lighter and “crispier” brews. The use of American six-row barley, which is higher in enzymes than German two-row barley, enabled brewers to employ cheaper, adjunct grains such as corn, wheat, and rice—all of which made for a sweeter and flimsier beer. Pasteurization increased shelf life, lessening the need for preservative alcohol and hops. Artificial carbonation replaced the traditional practice of adding live yeast to the finished brew, which improved taste but was less consistent than artificial carbonation. Add to this the advent of advertising and refrigerated rail transportation, and we were on the verge of becoming the United States of Bland Beer. Prohibition delivered the death blow.
After the Volstead Act’s repeal, America was in the grip of the Great Depression. Beer drinkers—and brewers—focused on the cheap and not the good. The result was a pale and watery brew “served up in cans across the county … and the final product bore only a passing resemblance to the rich and hoppy lagers that German immigrants had first brought to this country.” Prohibition ruined the beer industry nationwide and drove alcohol underground, producing a significant change in American tastes: speakeasies learned to disguise low-quality whiskey and gin in sweet “cocktails.” As a result, a generation of Americans came of age with sweet-tooth tongues allergic to the bitter hop or the malty malt. By the 1950s, America was the land of the macrobrew: thin and flaccid sweet suds, distinguishable only by the brand names on the can.
August 22, 2016
Sarah Boesveld interviews interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose:
And how’s your beer-pong game?
Are you kidding me? My beer pong game is AMAZING. We had a huge beer-pong tournament at Stornoway [in May] for the university campus clubs, and they were all in their little suits and stuff. We were like, “Take off your ties! Relax!” We set up this huge beer-pong table in the kitchen and there must have been 60 people shoved in there. I kicked BUTT. I crushed them, those poor kids. They were like, “How are you so good at beer pong?”
How are you so good at beer pong?
I said to them, “Here’s the big secret: Don’t drink the beer.”
This interview has been condensed and edited.
H/T to Small Dead Animals for the link.
July 26, 2016
At Techdirt, Timothy Geigner predicts that the craft beer market is getting close to trademark armageddon … they’re running out of punny names they can legally use for their beer:
With all the trademark actions we’ve seen taken these past few years that have revolved around the craft beer and distilling industries, it seems like some of the other folks in the mass media are finally picking up on what I’ve been saying for at least three years: the trademark apocalypse is coming for the liquor industries. It’s sort of a strange study in how an industry can evolve, starting as something artisan built on friendly competition and morphing into exactly the kind of legal-heavy, protectionist profit-beast that seems like the very antithesis of the craft brewing concept. And it should also be instructive as to how trademark law, something of the darling of intellectual properties in its intent if not application, can quickly become a major speed bump for what is an otherwise quickly growing market.
All of this appears to have caught the eye of Sara Randazzo, blogging at the Wall Street Journal, who notes that the creatively-named craft beers that have been spewing out of microbreweries across the country may be running out of those creative names.
As today’s Wall Street Journal explores, legal disputes in the beer world are becoming the norm as new craft breweries spring up at a rate of roughly two per day. Trademark lawyers have gotten so used to the beer disputes that they are now turning on each other. Some dozen lawyers are contesting San Diego lawyer Candace Moon’s attempt to trademark the term “Craft Beer Attorney,” which she says she rightfully deserves.
Within the rest of the post, Randazzo highlights one dispute between craft brewers in order to give a sense of just how small these belligerent parties are. It’s a dispute that escaped even my radar, despite what has become something of my “beat” around Techdirt. Three professionals with day jobs decided to make a go at brewing craft beer and named their company Black Ops Brewing, the pun resting upon “hops” used in their beer, while also serving as a nod to their family members that served in the military. Three guys making beer, but the trademark dispute came almost immediately.
The problem is that once you’ve been granted a trademark, you have to defend it early and often or you’ll lose it. This means tiny companies with a couple of trademarked products are pretty much required to lawyer-up and threaten to go nuclear at the faintest hint of an infringement for fear they’ll lose the right that they’ve claimed. The gains from pursuing a possible infringement are usually tiny and the legal costs almost always outweigh any “winnings”, but the risks of not doing so are potentially huge. This is an example of a perverse incentive in law.
March 30, 2016
Matt Allyn lists quite a number of craft breweries in the United States that are no longer independent or were never independent of the big brewing corporations:
It matters who owns your beer, says Carol Stoudt, founder of Stoudt’s Brewing, “The passion is lost when the people running a brewery don’t have ownership, and then quality suffers.” A bigger concern, one echoed by brewers like Stoudt and Dogfish Head’s Sam Calagione is that the larger companies also have the power to manipulate markets. The chief example, one cited by Calagione, is that corporate brewers will sell their craft-like ale well below the cost of true craft beer to push them off a bar tap line.
The Brewers Association trade group defines a craft brewer as small (less than six million barrels), traditional, and independent — with less than 25 percent ownership by a non-craft brewer.
Here are the current “craft” brewers who don’t meet that ownership criterion:
10 Barrel Brewing — Anheuser-Busch InBev
Ballast Point Brewing — Constellation Brands
Blue Moon Brewing — MillerCoors
Blue Point Brewing — Anheuser-Busch InBev
Breckenridge Brewery — Anheuser-Busch InBev
Camden Town Brewery (U.K.) — Anheuser-Busch InBev
Cervejaria Colorado (Brazil) — Anheuser-Busch InBev
Dundee Brewing — North American Breweries
Elysian Brewing — Anheuser-Busch InBev
Fordham and Dominion Brewing — 40 percent owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev
Founders Brewing — 30 percent owned by Mahou-San Miguel
Four Peaks Brewing — Anheuser-Busch InBev
Golden Road Brewing — Anheuser-Busch InBev
Goose Island Beer Company — Anheuser-Busch InBev
Kona Brewing — 32-percent owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev
Lagunitas Brewing — 50-percent owned by Heineken International
Leinenkugel’s Brewery — MillerCoors
Magic Hat Brewing — North American Breweries
Meantime Brewing (U.K.) — SABMiller
Mendocino Brewing — United Breweries Group
Olde Saratoga Brewing — United Breweries Group
Portland Brewing Company (formerly MacTarnahan’s) — North American Breweries
Pyramid Breweries — North American Breweries
Redhook Brewery — 32-percent owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev
Saint Archer Brewing — MillerCoors
Shock Top Brewing — Anheuser-Busch InBev
Widmer Brewing — 32-percent owned by Anheuser-Busch InBev
March 1, 2016
Lester Haines on the recent decision by BrewDog to open source their entire beer recipie list:
From humble home-brewing origins, James Watt and Martin Dickie have grown BrewDog to an international craft beer operation. Along the way, they’ve claimed the “world’s strongest beer” title twice, firstly with the 41 per cent ABV Sink The Bismarck!, and then with the liver-bashing 55 per cent ABV The End of History.
The recipes for both (albeit with somewhat less lethal ABVs) are available on BrewDog’s “DIY Dog” PDF (see here), along with other tempting tipples such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin and Albino Squid Assassin.
January 18, 2016
In The Guardian, Alec Luhn reports on the rise of craft brewing in the heart of vodka-swilling Russia:
It is a drizzly Monday night, but Craft rePUBlic is boisterous with the chatter of brewers and beer aficionados. Those just walking in are greeted with a half pint of Red Nelson, a saison beer made with hibiscus tea and orange peel by local brewer Alexei Sazonov, who is celebrating his birthday at the craft beer bar.
Sazonov works at Bottle Share, one of a growing number of microbreweries driving what has been dubbed the “craft revolution” here, but he created Red Nelson at home under his nickname, Big Hedgehog. Sazonov says of the major Russian beer brands, whose bland lagers dominate store shelves and taps: “They boil it quickly, ferment it quickly and sell it quickly. A microbrewer brews beer he wants to drink himself.”
Russia, of course, is known for vodka rather than beer, and a popular saying holds that “beer without vodka is throwing money to the wind”. According to the latest World Health Organisation data from 2010, 51% of alcohol consumed in Russia was spirits and only 38% was beer. This vodka culture has had deadly consequences for Russian men, whose average life expectancy of just 64 years lags behind that in European countries due mainly to heavy drinking and tobacco use.
Now a new generation of “beer geeks”, as they dub themselves, is working to change Russians’ approach to beer – and to drinking in general. With a focus on savouring the taste rather than drinking to get drunk, at least two dozen craft bars have opened in Moscow since the summer of 2014, serving Russian and foreign microbrews. They’re getting so numerous that the cultural magazine Afisha declared in August that it was “refusing to write reviews of the craft beer bars that are opening every week”.
Few expect beer to displace vodka as the national drink, especially after the government reduced the minimum price of the spirit in 2015 amid economic troubles. But there’s a long tradition of homebrewing in Russia, and the growth potential of craft beer is huge thanks to its relative affordablity; local craft brews typically sell for between 200 and 300 roubles (£2-3) a pint. Moreover, it’s easy to start a craft bar: no liquor licence is required if an establishment serves only beer, and startup costs are minimal, since a large staff, kitchen and lavish interiors aren’t typically necessary. As a result, craft bars are spreading from Moscow and St Petersburg to the regions.
December 26, 2015
Aaron Carroll debunks some myths about booze and health:
Over the past year, I’ve tried to clear up a lot of the misconceptions on food and drink: about salt, artificial sweeteners, among others, even water.
Now let me take on alcohol: wine, beer and cocktails. Although I have written about the dangerous effects of alcohol abuse and misuse, that doesn’t mean it’s always bad. A part of many complex and delicious adult beverages, alcohol is linked to a number of health benefits in medical studies.
That doesn’t mean the studies provide only good news, either, or that the evidence in its favor is a slam dunk. You won’t be surprised to hear that, once again, my watchword — moderation — applies.
Research into how alcohol consumption affects health has been going on for a long time. A 1990 prospective cohort study included results of more than 275,000 men followed since 1959. Compared with those who never drank alcohol, those who consumed one to two drinks a day had a significantly reduced mortality rate from both coronary heart disease and “all causes.” Those who consumed three or more drinks a day still had a lower risk of death from coronary heart disease, but had a higher mortality rate over all.
A 2004 study came to similar conclusions. It followed about 6,600 men and 8,000 women for five years and found that compared with those who drank about one drink a day on average, those who didn’t drink at all and those who drank more than two drinks a day had higher rates of death. Results like these have been consistent across a number of studies in different populations. Even studies published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research agree that moderate drinking seems to be associated with a decreased risk of death over all.
However, alcohol seems to have different effects on different diseases. Almost all of the major benefits of drinking are seen in cardiovascular illnesses. In fact, with men, even consumption of a surprisingly large amount can seem protective.
November 25, 2015
Eric Boehm on how well-intentioned laws can still have significant and unforeseen negative side-effects:
Brewers are facing the prospect of spending potentially thousands to determine calorie counts for every variety of beer produced. Unless they spend the money to provide the information, breweries may never get their products into chain restaurants, like Buffalo Wild Wings and Applebee’s.
As is often the case with regulations, smaller breweries stand to lose the most.
“A regional craft brewer or a major brewery can spread the cost over a much larger volume of sales and it’s not so unreasonable for them,” said Paul Gatza, a former brewer who now heads the Boulder, Colorado, based Brewers’ Association, an industry group.
“Smaller guys that are just trying to sell a keg or two here or there, they have a decision to make on whether it is worth the additional cost to try to get their beers into chain restaurants,” Gatza told Watchdog.
The Food and Drug Administration is in the process of finalizing menu labeling rules that were part of the Affordable Care Act. Intended to make Americans more aware of their dietary choices, the rules are subject to controversy on several fronts, and the FDA announced in September that implementation of the new rules would be pushed back one full year, until December 2016, as the feds try to work out the kinks.
My favourite local brewery isn’t even a micro-brewery (they’re somewhere between a pico- and a nano-brewery): every week when I drop in, there are three or four new batches ready to sample (and it’s rare that there’s anything left of last week’s offerings). If they had to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars to comply with detailed labelling requirements for every small batch they brewed, they’d never stand a chance of making a profit. I understand the urge to ensure that people have a chance to avoid ingredients that might make them ill, but this is the sort of regulation that tilts very heavily toward the big companies that have regional or national markets. A thousand dollars per product isn’t even a drop in the bucket to them, while to a small local business, that might be more than their profit margin when you require it be done for everything they produce.
November 15, 2015
Pulkit Chandna reviews the “Brewie”:
In the future, at-home beer brewing will be a set-it-and-forget-it cinch, and not the convoluted mess we have always known it to be. That’s the feeling one gets from looking at Brewie, the latest in a series of countertop appliances designed to automate the process of beer crafting.
The Hungarian startup behind it claims Brewie is better and more automated than the competition — including the PicoBrew Zymatic home brewery we reviewed back in June. That lofty claim has helped the company secure hundreds of pre-orders, worth more than $600,000, across two crowdfunding rounds on Indiegogo. It concluded the first leg in February with a funding tally of $223,878, only to return to the site late last month in search of yet more pre-orders. (Indiegogo, as part of its “InDemand program” allows project creators to accept contributions or orders even after their crowdfunding campaign has ended.)
The Brewie is said to distill the whole brewing process down to a series of simple steps requiring negligible human input, such that even the most hopeless of aspiring brewmasters can get started with it in no time at all. You can control the unit either through its 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen or via the companion app over Wi-Fi.
October 29, 2015
Timothy Geigner on a remarkably sensible trademark judgement from a BC court:
For this, we travel up to Canada, where a Federal Court judge presided over a trademark dispute between Pacific Western Brewing and Cerveceria del Pacifico over the branding of their brews. At issue was the labels on packaging for PWB’s Pacific Pilsner and Cerveceria’s Pacifico Clara. PWB argued at court that the branding and language was too similar and would confuse customers. Here are samples of each beer’s branding.
So, yeah, other than roughly similar uses of the word “Pacific”, there’s not a whole lot of similarity here. Normally, this is about when we’d hold our collective breaths and wait to see if the court comes down with a sensible ruling based on the likelihood of customer confusion, or if the court instead chooses the over-protectionist route, focusing on the common language and nothing else. In this case, Justice Luc Martineau appears to have gotten every last bit of it right.
Martineau said the first impression given by the label Cerveceria uses for its Pacifico brand “is of its obviously foreign origin” and that it’s “highly stylized, with many distinctive design elements, including strong and contrasting colours and font in red, gold, blue, green and yellow.” He further said the label “differs visually, phonetically, and semantically” from all of the marks PWB uses for its Pacific brands of beers.
Martineau also dismissed as without merit PWB’s argument that contrary to a statement on the register, Cerveceria del Pacifico was not first sold in Canada as early as April 1986. He noted that an affidavit from Cerveceria stating the beer was introduced at Expo ’86, where it was sold at a Mexican restaurant called Ole Cantina, was not challenged by PWB counsel. By December 1989, Pacifico was listed with the B.C. Liquor Distribution branch and in August 1990, a registration protecting the mark was issued.
“The delay of almost 25 years before attempting to invalidate the registration weighs heavily against a finding of confusion,” Martineau said of PWB’s action.
October 10, 2015
Published on 3 Oct 2015
Craft Brewery tourism is on the rise. Ontario Craft Breweries are opening throughout the province; eventually there will be one in every community. These breweries are a catalyst for economic growth. They have become sought-after tourist destinations, event venues, culinary centres.
September 26, 2015
Published on 24 Nov 2014
A documentary exploring the peculiar system of alcohol retail and distribution in Ontario.
The beverage alcohol system in Ontario is unique in the world. A government monopoly and a few private companies enjoy preferential access to the province’s consumers. Meanwhile, about 300 Ontario breweries, wineries, and distillers face a number of bureaucratic and structural barriers that effectively shut them out of the market in Ontario. This film tries to explain the origins of the beverage alcohol system in Ontario, and what it means for producers and consumers in the province today.
H/T to Eric Beiers for the link.
September 24, 2015
At the Toronto Beer Blog, a less-than-enthused look at the latest changes to minimally change the just-barely-beyond-prohibition-era rules for selling beer in Ontario:
This has been a noisy day in the wonderful world of beer sales in Ontario. The Liberal government released the details of the new 195 page master agreement between The Beer Store, the Province (LCBO), and the new kids on the block, grocery stores.
Much of the information is what we heard when they announced it with the budget. Some more details have come out. If you read my thoughts in April, you will remember I was not happy. I’m still not.
The good from today’s news is there are some clear definitions of what constitutes a grocery store (10 000 sq/feet dedicated to groceries, not primarily identified as a pharmacy); that the 20% craft shelf space is for both grocery stores and The Beer Store, and that there cannot be a fee to get listed (though we all know how effectively the province enforces pay-to-play in bars around the province); and that they have some novel system to divide sales licenses between both huge chains and independent grocers.
The old news about shared shipping for smaller breweries and no volume limit for a second on-site retail location are accurate, and very good news.
But here’s the thing: This is just more Ontario political craziness.
This is to “level the field”, apparently for small brewers, who nobody would suggest get a fair shake in the current system.
But what could have been an actual leveling of the playing field, turned out to be more insanity and government control and meddling. And remember, I’m saying that as a sworn lefty nutjob, who generally thinks having controls and regulations is a good thing.
Remember, these are not the ravings of a far-right-wing free-enterprise-maniac … these are the regrets of a self-described “sworn lefty nutjob”:
A level playing field would be one where anybody could apply for a license to sell beer, and do it. A brewery can pick and choose who they sell to, as a retailer can choose who they do business with. Nobody would need to guarantee a percentage of shelf space, because the market would control what products were successful and got shelf space.
This isn’t a level playing field, it’s just a bunch of new rules to try to counter how horrible we’ve allowed our playing field to get. Yes, it will be more convenient for people who shop at one of the 450 stores that have a license. But the agreement still favours The Beer Store heavily (for instance, grocers are limited in the volume they can sell. They can exceed the limit, but then have to pay a fine to the LCBO who distribute it to, you guessed it, the breweries who own The Beer Store to offset their lost sales. Seriously).