Monday, July 28, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 28/29, 2014

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 28/29
7 July - 19 July 2014

  • 18 July 2014
    Malaysia Airlines plane crashes in eastern Ukraine, killing 298. U.S. intelligence blames missile, fired from rebel-held region of Ukraine.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 17 July 2014
    Elaine Stritch was one of Broadway's 'Grande Dames.' She has died at age 89.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 16 July 2014
    In 2013, hops were planted in 39,000 acres in Pacific Northwest, and in 880 acres elsewhere in the U.S. The 2013-2014 Barth Report (a major hop merchant )shows that "crop year 2012 finally marked the end of the structural supply surplus of hops and alpha acid in the hop market; in other words, supply and demand are becoming increasingly evenly balanced, although demand for certain varieties may exceed supply. Planting of aroma/flavor varieties is on the increase worldwide, more than compensating for the clearance of bitter/high alpha varieties."
    —Via Stan Hieronymus at Appellation Beer.

  • 15 July 2014
    "One half of the book is disposable; the other is indispensable." Jeff Alworth, of Beervana, reviews "The Craft Beer Revolution", a business memoir and history of American 'craft' beer, by Steve Hindy, co-founder of Brooklyn Brewery.
    —Via Beervana.

  • 14 July 2014
    The Washington, D.C. City Council passes a law allowing production breweries to sell pints at tasting rooms. [Similar to the Maryland 2013 bill and Virginia bill in 2012.]
    —Via Washington Business Journal.

  • 14 July 2014
    Brewers Association asks 'craft' brewers for their "10 Bucket List Beer Bars." [Clarendon, Virginia's Galaxy Hut selected as one.]
    —Via Craft Beer.

  • 14 July 2014
    A “spoke of the tropospheric circumpolar vortex” cools the U.S. midwest and east coast. Used to be called a "Canadian air mass," or, simply "cooler weather."
    —Via Capital Weather Gang.

  • 14 July 2014
    Cave-aged? No! Belgian lambic brewery Cantillon is maturing some its barrels in a World War II bomb shelter in Brussels.
    —Via Chuck Cook "Belgian Beer Specialist" (in USA Today).

  • 14 July 2014
    A date which lives in foolishness. The National Minimum Drinking Age Act was passed by the Unites States Congress, 30 years ago, 14 July 1984.
    —Via Wikipedia.

  • 14 July 2014
    Is a merger of liquor-and-beer importer and manfacturer Diageo ($80.4 billion) with brewing conglomerate SABMiller ($52.6 billion) in the works?
    —Via The Street.

  • 13 July 2014
    Pioneering jazz bassist and bandleader Charlie Haden has died at age 77. "I want to sound like a rain forest."
    —Via Daily Kos and Billboard.

  • 11 July 2014
    Not an ESOP fable. Harpoon Brewery to become employee-owned, as co-founder Rich Doyle steps down as CEO, and 48% of stock sold to employees.
    —Via Harpoon Brewery.

  • 11 July 2014
    "Via a thin needle inserted through the foil capsule and the cork, Coravin extracts wine from the bottle, replacing it with inert argon gas to protect the remaining wine. Theoretically, a bottle could last indefinitely." Some wine bottles have exploded upon use of Coravin, which has determined that the bottles either were defective or had been damaged previously. Company has shipped Neoprene sleeves to protect bottles while wine is being extracted. Winesearcher said of remedy: “A giant bottle ‘condom’ is all Coravin needs to be safe.”
    —Via Dave McIntyre (Washington Post).

  • 09 July 2014
    A 6-reason listical on why to ignore wine ratings.
    • Points Don't Describe Wine
    • Points Make You Miss Great Bottles
    • Points Are Routinely Misused
    • Points Aren't Forever
    • Critics Retract Points
    • A Knowledgeable Merchant Is Always A Better Substitute For Points
    —Via wine writer Rolfe Hanson (at Huffington Post).

  • 08 July 2014
    Why do 'craft' breweries charge so much for their limited runs? Because, like boutique wineries, they can.
    —Via Boak and Bailey.

  • 08 July 2014
    Louis Zamperini, Olympic long-distance runner, who, during WWII, survived 47 days on a raft in the Pacific after being shot down, and, after being rescued, two years as a Japanese POW during WWII, has died at age 97.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 07 July 2014
    Compuserve was shut down five years ago, ending a a 35-year span as the first major online service.
    —Via Boing Boing.

  • 07 July 2014
    Anheuser-Busch InBev buys brewery Pivovar Samson in the Czech Republic town of Ceske Budejovice (Budweis, in German). Was the purchase a bid for the EU rights to the appellation of 'Budweis'-er?
    —Via Bloomberg.

  • 07 July 2014
    After its sale to Constellation Brands, is Corona running out of glass bottles for its beer? Owner Constellation says no, but analysts wonder.
    —Via Just Drinks.


Saturday, July 26, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: "Hello, hello .... hello?"

It wasn't a call to the bullpen. Was it a call to the beer truck? "Send ... more ... beer!"

"Hello, hello .... hello?"

As seen at the Northern Virginia Summer Brewfest, at Morven Park, in Leesburg, Virginia, on 22 June 2014.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

The NeverEnding CaskAle Lesson

Cask-conditioned ale is a process that starts at the brewery and continues at the pub. Bad practices at either end yield poor cask ales. For example:

How NOT to cellar and tap cask ale

Were the casks improperly conditioned (or grossly over-conditioned at the brewery)? Sure looks like it. You have to feel sorry for the guy, but, still, hilarious.

In contrast,

How TO tap cask ale

Paul Pendyck —star of the second video— is the owner of UK Brewing Supplies. Based in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., he sell casks, cask equipment, and traditional British pub supplies. He dispenses (pun intended) excellent advice on cask ale, and has a few more cask how-to videos online.

Fobbing at the Tut: a series on cellarmanship.
Fobbing at the Tut:
A series of occasional posts on good cask cellarmanship.


Monday, July 21, 2014

What TIME got wrong about "5 beer trends you'll be seeing this summer."

When a mainstream publication takes note of a trend, it's a good bet that that trend has long gone to a 'been there, done that' stage ... or that the observations aren't quite correct. As is the case in TIME's online listicle, recently posted by its Money subdivision: 5 Beer Trends You’ll Be Seeing This Summer.

  • 1) The Craft Beer Motel

    Dogfish Head Brewing has opened a 16-room Dogfish Inn in Lewes, Delaware. The actual production brewery isn't exactly across the street: it's located six miles away, in the town of Milton, and the original brewpub is eleven miles away, in Rehoboth Beach.

    This is a fun thing, but it's one such thing, hardly a trendy trend. And, it's been done before. For example, the now-sold, legendary Brickskeller in Washington, D.C was a good-beer bar, restaurant, and an inn; or this Pensylvania cask-ale pub with an inn next door. Not to mention such establishments in Europe.

    UPDATE: Maybe I'm wrong! Bon Appetit has posted a slideshow listing "10 Great Beer Lover's Hotels Across America, from Vermont to California." Just one problem: I can click through the pretty pictures, but not the sidebar descriptions. I don't know where and what these beer-lover hotels are. Maybe that's incompatibility with the Chrome browser. And, then there's the the irritating nature of slideshows, but's that's a gripe for another day.

  • 2) Beer Camp

    Sierra Nevada has hosted brewers, beer writers, and other industry folks to Northern California for an intensive two-day retreat known as Beer Camp.

    Yes, Beer Camp might be a cool thing, but it's not a new thing: the first Beer Camp was held in 2008. As with the first 'trend', it's one event, not a zeitgeist tendency.

    Brad Tuttle, the author of this TIME Money piece, observes that Sierra Nevada is currently shipping 12-packs of beers called Beer Camp, beers that it has brewed 'collaboratively' with other 12 breweries, nationwide. Such collaboration beers have been with us, in a frenzy, for a decade or so. That would have been a better choice for a trend, even if a dated one, not new for the summer of '14.

  • 3) We’ve Got Monks Who Brew, Too

    Mr. Tuttle states that there are eleven extant Trappist monastery-breweries. He's incorrect. According to the very authority that licenses these things —the International Trappist Association— the number is ten.
    Ten trappist beers carry the ATP-label : the beers of Achel (BEL), Chimay (BEL), La Trappe (nl), Orval (BEL), Rochefort (BEL), Westvleteren (BEL), Westmalle(BEL), and the beers of Stift Engelszell (GER), Zundert (NL), and Spencer (USA).

    A “Trappist” has to satisfy a number of strict criteria proper to this logo before it may bear this name:

    The beer must be brewed within the walls of a Trappist monastery, either by the monks themselves or under their supervision. The brewery must be of secondary importance within the monastery and it should witness to the business practices proper to a monastic way of life.

    The brewery is not intended to be a profit-making venture. The income covers the living expenses of the monks and the maintenance of the buildings and grounds. Whatever remains is donated to charity for social work and to help persons in need.

    Mr. Tuttle may have been confused by the inclusion of Mont de Cats Trappist beer. If he had investigated just a wee bit further, he would have found that the beer is NOT produced at the Mont de Cats monastery. According to the 2014 edition of the Good Beer To Belgium, Monts de Cats beer is brewed for the monastery under contract by the monks at Chimay, which itself is a brewing Trappist monastery.

    So, to repeat, there are only ten Trappist brewing-monasteries, worldwide, and one of those —as Mr. Tuttle notes correctly, and with pride— is indeed found here in the U.S.: St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. The monks have been officially designated since 2013.

    Tuttle then compounds his error with a sin of omission: he overlooks the other American monastery-brewery. While not of the Trappist order (yet related), the Benedictine monks of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert have been brewing in New Mexico since 2006.

    Our products are brewed on the grounds of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert in Abiquiu, New Mexico and also under special agreement in Moriarty, New Mexico [at Sierra Blanca Brewing]. At both breweries, Abbey Brewing Company [controlled by the monastery] directly controls all aspects of the brewing process including the formulations and brewing process details. Abbey Brewing Company is directly responsible for sourcing all ingredients and packaging materials at both breweries. The brewing equipment on the grounds of the Monastery of Christ in the Desert is entirely owned by Abbey Brewing Company. At the brewery in Moriarty, some of the major brewing equipment, such as the fermenting vessels, bright tanks, kegs, and hop storage freezers, as examples, are owned by Abbey Brewing Company.

    Brothers, forgive him!

  • 4) Sour Beers

    Although sour beers have been with us since beer was first brewed millennia ago, modern production has long relegated them to a specialist niche. And, although, Belgium and Germany (and Africa and Central and South America) have been producing sour beers in more modern history, it is only recently that U.S. 'craft' brewers and drinkers have given 'sours' widespread attention.

    I'll 'give' Mr. Tuttle this one, with a proviso. He quotes one sour beer description as "horse butt dabbed with vinegar and blue cheese." Sour beers are, to be expected, tart; but they are not all funky (although they might be). Reading one of the sources he links to —the Brewers Publications' American Sour Beers— might have been helpful.

  • 5) The Sad (But Righteous) Decline of Light Beer

    I'll give him this one, too.
    Any beer nerd worth his salt wouldn’t bother talking about a pathetic pale American "beer" like Coors Light or Bud Light Platinum. [...] Light beer sales have been declining for years, as has the market share for big beer brands in general, but lately the drop must put the world’s biggest brewers in an especially bitter mood. Businessweek recently cited data indicating that light beer sales fell 3.5% last year, including a 19% dip for Bud Light Platinum, and that domestic light brew sales will hit a 10-year low in 2015. And in beer-crazed places such as Oregon, more than half of the draft beer served is now craft product that’s brewed in the state.

    But, please, TIME. Ditch the misuse of quotation marks as "emphasis" 'emphasis.' And, please check your facts. That's your paid job; I do this gratis.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Perusing a Belgian beer list (at a Belgian beer book signing).

CAMRA Books —the publishing arm of the Campaign for Real Ale— has just published the 7th edition of the Good Beer Guide to Belgium, written by Tim Webb and Joe Stange. It's available for sale in the U.K., but not yet in the U.S. ... except at book signings arranged over here by co-author Stange.

He, and his wife Kelly, were recently in Washington, D.C. to do just that, at Churchkey, one of that city's new wave of good-beer bars.

Perusing the Belgian beer list

In the photo, Mr. Stange and a good-Belgian-beer fan stand just to the right of a stack of his books, perusing a Belgian beer draft list. Mrs. Stange, to the left, had already made up her mind.

Kelly is an officer with the Foreign Agricultural Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Joe has served in U.S. embassies. His research is avocation accompanying vocation. At his blog The Thirsty Pilgrim, he writes on beers Belgian and not, at which, he's never at a loss for pithily-worded opinions. The book's co-author, Tim Webb, is British.

The list of beers on draft that day —thirty-five of them— was itself a special thing, as collated and presented by Greg Engert, Churchkey's Beer Director. Engert oversees not only that bar & restaurant, but sixteen other restaurants and emporia in Washington, D.C. and northern Virginia, including a brewpub in the city. Engert contributed a short essay for the book, on "What do I eat with that?"

And, oh, yes. I did buy my own copy of Good Beer Guide to Belgium there and then.

Good Beer Guide to Belgium (front cover)

Stange autographed and inscribed it, finding little common cause between poorly adulterated cask-conditioned ale, as found here, stateside (a point of mutual indignation), and properly adulterated good beer from Belgium (an obvious point of mutual admiration).
Please enjoy, from possibly the original home of beer with cocoa puffs and dingleberries... (with coriander).
Indeed! I can recommend Good Beer Guide to Belgium, with or without immediate travel plans.


Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Thank you, Mr.!

Many unpaid enthusiasts encourage and nurture 'craft' beer in Virginia, but maybe not to the extent of Edmond Medina.

For five years, at his website —— Mr. Medina has collated, comprehensive calendars and announcemetns of Virginia 'craft' beer events statewide, and blogged on Virginia breweries and their emergence. It's been Mr. Medina's labor of beer love; his Twitter handle might reveal the reason —@VA_beergeek. Sadly for us in Virgina, he's moving on from that endeavor (figuratively and literally: to North Carolina), and has turned over his website's domain to the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild.

Good on you, Edmond. Your efforts are now part of the ongoing legacy of good beer in Virginia. Thank you.

My first post was July 22, 2009. I started this site to help promote Virginia Craft Beer. Living on the East Coast, I was tired of hearing how good the beer on West Coast and felt we had some thing to offer as well. Back then the Richmond beer scene consisted of two Capital Ale House locations, Legend Brewing, Richbrau, Hops and Extra Billy’s BBQ. Mekong was here but wasn’t the power house it is today. As for Virginia breweries Starr Hill, Devils Backbone and Blue Mountain were either just starting off or slowing building their fan base. Old Dominion Brewing was just sold and moved out of state and public worried about would happen to the Tuppers brand.

I would publish articles, reviews and eventually events to help get the word out. I met many of you at events, bars, breweries and even at my local gym. I am proud of the work I did and to see the scene grow. I’ll cherish the memories of stepping into a brewery having the owner or brewer recognize me and offer a private tour or special taste of some thing. I never accepted cash or sponsors even though I poured many hours a week into the site. So to say good bye is going to be difficult. Even today I contemplated delaying my hand over of the domain to the Guild. Don’t worry Cassidy, it’ll go as I planned!

I have seen the craft beer market grow leaps and bounds and I know that the folks who are as passionate as I am (and even more so) will keep pushing the scene to grow. Breweries like Starr Hill, Devils Backbone, Blue Mountain, Port City, Alewerks Brewing, Hardywood Brewing and Lickinghole Creek keep winning awards. And others like Strangeways, Lost Rhino, Mad Fox and Adroit Theory keep pushing the envelope on innovative techniques and brewing ingredients. Virginia can stand tall with states like California, Colorado and Oregon as providing some world class beer.

I am not sure where the future will lead me but I’ll always a special place for Virginia. I’ll return from time to time. I got to get my Hardywood Gingerbread and Rum Pumkin and Alewerks Bitter Valentine, Cafe’ Royale and Bourbon Barrel Porter. Oh yeah, there’s the one off releases from Strangeways and Lickinghole Creek that’ll keep me coming back too.


Monday, July 14, 2014

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 26/27, 2014.

Clamps and Gaskets: weekly roundup
A bi-weekly, non-comprehensive roundup
of news of beer and other things.

Weeks 26/27
22 June - 5 July 2014

  • 2014.07.05
    Legal specificity! It's now legal to have a glass of beer or wine ... at hair salons in Montgomery County, Maryland.
    —Via NBC4 TV

  • 2014.07.04
    Independence Day and Labor Day are the two top days for beer sales in the U.S.
    —Via Nielsen (at YFGF).

  • 2014.07.02
    Forty Virginia breweries are expected to participate in the 3rd annual Virginia Craft Beer Festival, 23 August 2014, on the grounds of the Devils Backbone Brewing Company, in Roseland, Virginia.
    —Via Virginia Beer Trail.

  • 2014.07.02
    If growth in the U.S. craft brewing industry continues between 10 – 15 % per year in 2013, and if hop varieties in demand do not change to include those from other countries or those harvested earlier or later, fierce competition for limited production and higher prices of hops are inevitable. This does not take into consideration the return of the multinational mega - brewers en masse into the alpha market.
    2014 State of the U.S. Hop Industry (pdf), via Hops 47.

  • 2014.07.02
    Pumpkins will not be harvested until late September at the earliest, and, yet, Southern Tier Brewing (of New York) has trumped all other 'craft' breweries, shipping its pumpkin beers ... on 1 July.
    Instagram of case stack at a Pennsylvania beer store.

  • 2014.07.02
    Maryland's 4th 'farm brewery' to open in Howard County, that jurisdiction's first: Manor Hill Brewing.

  • 2014.07.02
    Two anniversaries on 2 July.
    • 2 July 1776: Second Continental Congress votes to approve independence from Britain. Via Washington Post.
    • 2 July 1964: The signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Via Wikipedia.

  • 2014.07.02
    Brown-Forman —American liquor producer conglomerate— has fears that the legalization of marijuana poses a threat to its business, as drinkers may switch from booze to pot.
    —Via Yahoo News.

  • 2014.07.01
    What is the number 1 selling beer brand in the world? Which country spends the most per capita on beer? Which nation is tops in terms of total beer consumption per year? Which nation's citizens drink the most beer per person per year?
    —Global beer statistics, via YFGF.

  • 2014.06.30
    The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Federal government cannot require closely held corporations with religious owners to provide contraception coverage for their employees.
    —Via Huffington Post.

  • 2014.06.29
    After suffering on-line registration problems in 2013 that prevented many breweries from registering for the Great American Beer Festival (GABF) that had wanted to, festival organizer Brewers Association instituted new procedures this year to facilitate registration for any brewery that wished it. 1,360 breweries responded, 81% more than in 2013, and a record number for participation. The GABF is the considered by many as the premier national U.S. beer festival and brewery competition.
    —Via Denver Westworld.

  • 2014.06.27
    Bobby Womack, "poet of soul music," has died at age 70.
    —Via Chicago Tribune.

  • 2014.06.27
    Peter Swinburn, the current CEO of Molson/Coors, thinks that 'craft' breweries are over-valued. "While demand for small-batch beers is growing in the U.S. and Canada, the companies that make them are typically too expensive to justify an acquisition," he said. He just doesn't get it ... thank goodness.
    —Via Bloomberg News.

  • 2014.06.26
    Oregon has the largest number of breweries per capita in the U.S. and the highest percentage of dollars spent on craft beer in the U.S.; Portland, Oregon has more breweries than any other city in the world; and, as of 2013, Oregon had the highest percentage of locally-produced, locally consumed beer in the nation: 18%.
    —Via Brewbound.

  • 2014.06.24
    A brief history of the hops industry in New York State: its perigee in the early 20th century; how downey mildew, aphids, and Prohibition engendered its demise; and, how, now, it is undergoing a small comeback due to New York State's farm-brewery law, government largesse, and growing population of small brewers and hop farmers.
    —Via Poughkeepsie Journal.

  • 2014.06.25
    "When you have to shoot, shoot. Don't talk." Eli Wallach, a prominent and prolific character actor for more than 60 years, died at age 98.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 2014.06.23
    A history of glass and its discovery; the science of glass, and why glass is transparent; and how glass radically changed how beer is drunk.
    —Via Brain Pickings.

  • 2014.06.22
    Rumors reappear about a brewery mega-merger: $60B AB-InBev takeover of SAB/Miller.
    —Via Brewbound.

  • 2014.06.22
    Expanding resource. List of mobile beer canning companies in U.S.
    —Via Craft Beer.

    Respect your (Pliny the) Elder
  • 2014.06.22
    The top 10 U.S. beers, and the top 5 U.S. breweries ... according to U.S. homebrewers. Number 1? Russian River Pliny the Elder, for 6th year in a row.
    —Via American Homebrewers Association.

  • 2014.06.22
    German breweries in Lower Saxony appear to be winning their battle against Exxon-Mobil to forestall fracking throughout Germany.
    —Via The Guardian.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Storm A-Brewing

Storm a-brewing

One hot, muggy early July evening, a storm blew through the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area, with severe straight-line winds. Here it is, as it appeared, entering north Arlington County, Virginia.

The photo was taken from within the dry, if not 100% safe, confines of an automobile.
8 July 2014.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

#VeggieDag Thursday. Taking photos of your food.

VeggieDag Thursday
VeggieDag Thursday is an occasional Thursday post
on an animal-free diet and ecological issues.

That taking-pictures-of-your-food thing. Is it food snobbery? Dining boorishness? Here's what celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain —never at a loss for words— had to say on the topic:
Look, I’m guilty of it, too. I think it’s worth making fun of. We deserve to be mocked. It’s a dysfunctional, even aggressive practice. Why do we Instagram pictures of our food? It’s not to share. It’s to make other people feel really bad. … It’s basically a f— you. You say, “Look what I’m eating, bitches.” You don’t want people to be eating dinner with you when you Instagram a picture of your food. You want them to be eating a bag of Cheetos on their couch in their underpants. It’s a passive aggressive act.

That said, I do it all the time.

Me, too, Anthony. Especially of vegetarian dishes.

But maybe I'm also engaging in a bit of non-meat-eating advocacy. And maybe I'm doing a bit to praise those chefs who 'veg' creatively, when, more often than not, I encounter the opposite. (Veggie burgers? Salads? Pretzels? Really? Come on...)

And, yes, okay, maybe I am engaging in some 'so-there-ishness.'

At her blog Healthy. Happy. Life., author/blogger/vegan Kathy Patalsky proffers a list of 15 food photography tips for amateur photographer/bloggers like me, accompanied with vegetarian food photography, done gorgeously.

I've uploaded twenty-four thousand photos to Flickr (not all of food!), but I'm a poseur not an artist, and often violate these 'rules.' Now and again, however, I do get lucky: when the lighting is right, when I focus correctly, when the meal is beautiful or interesting, and when I take the shot with a 'good' camera. (Even though cell-phone cameras these days can capture good photos, I use an Olympus Pen E-PL1, a not quite point-and-shoot digital camera, not quite DSLR camera, but good 'enough' for me.)

Here's an image I took at a beer-pairing dinner in early July, at Lyon Hall, a brasserie-styled restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. Chef Matt Hill created several vegetarian options for me, tasty and creatively appealing. This was the sweet pea agnolotti with an herb salsa verde.

Sweet Pea Agnolotti

Now, here's Ms. Patalsky on food photography:
Warning! Dear artists, read my tips with an open mind. As an artist myself I am incredibly passionate about not having too many rules when it comes to critiquing any sort of art - paintings, photography, music, writing and more. I'm with you. There is really no right or wrong way of producing art. So my number one tip to you is to take these tips with a grain of salt...

Now before you proceed you'll want to make sure you have three things:
  • a good camera
  • lovely lighting
  • beautiful food to photograph

As to "lovely lighting": compare the photo, below, of a cauliflower 'cutlet' —lit with flash (and posed at probably too overhead of an angle)— with the agnolotti, above —illuminated by the light of a setting-sun through the windows. Night and day, so to speak.

Vegetarian 4th course

Read all fifteen of Kathy Patalsky's useful, and relatively painless, tips for bloggers: here. And, then consider one more tip: be polite to your fellow diners.


Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Your beer and excise taxes.

The next time you grumble about the cost of that beer you're holding, remember that, contrary to how much 18th century writer Samuel Johnson may have salivated, there are few in the 'craft' beer business growing "rich beyond the dreams of avarice."

So why is that beer expensive? One reason is taxation. Excise taxes, to be precise: the somewhat hidden, partial cost of a beer.

An excise tax is a Federal or state tax imposed on the manufacture and distribution —not the sale— of certain consumer goods, such as that beer you're holding (or glass of wine or shot of liquor). When you buy a beer, you can easily see —on your receipt— the sales tax you're paying. The excise tax, you won't see; it's already been figured into the cost of that beer.

The Federal Government's Take

The current Federal excise tax on beer is $0.58 per gallon ($18 per barrel). *

In contrast, wine is taxed at $1.07 per gallon, and spirits at $13.50 per 100-proof gallon (i.e., 50% alcohol). Per serving, that's 5¢ for a 12-ounce beer, 4¢ for a 5-ounce glass of wine, and 13¢ for a 1.5 ounce shot of liquor.1

In 2012, federal excise (and import) taxes on beer procured $3.6 billion for the U.S. government's coffers, $1.036 billion from wine, and $5.4 billion from liquor. As much as that might appear, excise taxes accounted for only 9% of the total Federal taxes collected that year.2

Don't Forget The States' Cut

The states want in on that money pile. Under the Constitution, they cannot impose tariffs on goods brought in from other states. But they can charge excise taxes on those goods —like beer, wine, and spirits— if they're made in the state or distributed within the state (a distinction which might seem a bit like constitutional semantics, except that, unlike excise taxes, tariffs can only be levied by the Feds, and only on foreign goods, sometimes selectively or punitively).

Tennessee has the highest beer excise tax rate of any state in the country: $1.17 per gallon. Wyoming, the lowest: 2¢ per gallon.3 YFGF's home territory is Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia. In those jurisdictions:
  • The District of Columbia excise tax on beer is $0.56 per gallon, one of the higher rates in the country.
  • The Maryland excise tax on beer is $0.44 per gallon, also high, but less than D.C.'s.
  • The Virginia excise tax on beer is $0.26 per gallon, lower than its neighbors, and right in the middle, nationally. (In contrast, Virginia's excise tax on wine, and on liquor, is $20.91 per gallon. Both of those rates are the third highest respectively, among all states.)
So, doing some back-of-the-bottle calculations, when you pay for a bottle of beer in Washington, D.C., 10¢ of that cost is for excise taxes —Federal and city— and this excludes the sales tax. In Maryland, the total of Federal and state is 9¢; in Virginia, 7¢.

Except not. You're actually paying more, even though not all to the government.

The Multiplier Effect

When a brewery sells a beer to a wholesaler, it marks up (increases) the total cost of the beer, including the taxes, by a certain percentage, to cover costs and make a profit, i.e., pay the brewers, etc. The wholesaler does the same, by a certain percentage. And a store or restaurant does the same. It's a multiplier effect (a non-governmental Value-Added Tax, if you will) which can add 40¢ or more (or much more, as in Tennessee) to the price of that bottle of beer, just from the excise taxes alone.

Size Matters

* I stated, above, that the Federal excise tax rate was $18 per every barrel of beer that a brewery produces. That statement was not precisely correct.

If a brewery produces fewer than two million barrels of beer per year, its Federal marginal excise tax rate is $7.00 per barrel for the first 60,000 barrels it brews that year, but $18 per barrel for any production above that. But, if that brewery produces more than 2 million barrels, its rate is $18 for each and every barrel.

Thus, by tax rates, the U.S. government can be said to define a small brewery as producing fewer than 2 million barrels of beer. In contrast, the Brewers Association —the advocacy association for small, 'craft' U.S. breweries— defines a small brewery as producing 6 million barrels or fewer.4 (Among 'craft' brewers, only Boston Beer (maker of Sam Adams) and Yuengling produce in excess of 2 million barrels.)

Excise Tax Reduction

There are moves afoot to reduce those beer-excise taxes, at least on the Federal level.

The Brewers Association supports what is known as the Small BREW Act, excise tax relief for small breweries.
The Small Brewer Reinvestment and Expanding Workforce Act (Small BREW Act), HR 494 , was introduced in the 113th Congress, on February 5, 2013, by Representatives Jim Gerlach (R-PA) and Richard E. Neal (D-MA). Joining as original co-sponsors of the bill were Representatives Peter De Fazio (D-OR), Erik Paulsen (R-MN), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) and Patrick McHenry (R-NC).

On May 9, U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Maryland) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced S. 917, and were joined by 16 of their Senate colleagues who signed on as original co-sponsors.

The Small BREW Act seeks to reduce the small brewer federal excise tax rate on the first 60,000 barrels by 50 percent (from $7.00 to $3.50/barrel) and institute a new rate of $16.00 per barrel on beer production above 60,000 barrels up to 2 million barrels. Breweries with an annual production of 6 million barrels or less would qualify for these tax rates.

Then, there's the BEER Act (Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act), an excise tax reduction for all breweries, large and small. It's promoted and supported by the Beer Institute, a trade association putatively for and of all U.S. breweries and beer import companies, but founded by the large brewing companies in 1986 (whose dues are still its major driver).
The Beer Institute supports the Brewers Excise and Economic Relief Act of 2013 (BEER Act). This bipartisan, bicameral legislation would reduce excise taxes for all brewers and beer importers, and ultimately reduce taxes for all beer drinkers.
  • Small brewers would pay no federal excise tax on the first 15,000 barrels;
  • Small brewers would pay $3.50 on barrels 15,001 to 60,000;
  • Small brewers would pay $9 per barrel for every barrel over 60,000 and up to 2 million barrels;
  • For brewers producing more than 2 million barrels annually, and for all beer importers regardless of size, the federal excise tax rate would be $9 per barrel for every barrel.

These bills have been in front of Congress for a few years now, and nothing has come of them. If you believe that such excise tax reductions would be a good thing for breweries —and for you, the beer consumer— contact your Representative and Senators about supporting one of these provisions.

Taxes, revenues, mark-ups. After all of these, I think that now would be a good time for a beer.


Saturday, July 05, 2014

Pic(k) of the Week: Wearing USA colors at Abita Brewing Beer Dinner.

Wearing USA colors at Abita Brewing beer dinner

Possibly forlorn about USA's 2-1 loss to Belgium in the 'knockout' round of the soccer World Cup, this Star-Spangled-Bannered fan may have taken solace in the beer dinner he attended, immediately following the game, at Lyon Hall Restaurant, in the Clarendon neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia.

For the dinner, Lyon Hall's executive chef Matt Hill had designed a 5-course menu. In return, David McGregorLyon Hall's Beer Director— selected a Belgian beer for each of the 5 courses. In competition, Brendan Cahill —the Washington, D.C.-area representative for Louisiana, USA's Abita Brewing— chose an Abita beer for each.

Then, at the dinner, the diners voted for their preferred beer-with-meal pairings. It's a clever concept, and one that Lyon Hall has executed on several prior occasions, with other breweries.

On this evening, it was schadenfreude. Abita Brewing —of the USA— 'defeated' Belgium.

The menu

Abita Brewing may have 'won' the vote, but the applause at the dinner's end was strong for Chef Matt Hill and his menu. And, in defense of the flag-bedecked gentleman above, the bag to his right was not his man-purse.

1 July 2014.


Friday, July 04, 2014

Beer Blogging Friday. The Session #89: Why Beer History?

The Session #89 - Beer in History The Session is a monthly event for the beer blogging community, begun in March of 2007 by Stan Hieronymus of Appellation Beer and Jay Brooks of the Brookston Beer Bulletin.

On the first Friday of every month, a pre-determined beer blogger hosts The Session: Beer Blogging Friday. He or she chooses a specific, beer-related topic, invites all bloggers to write on it, and later posts a roundup of all the responses received. For more information, view the archive page.

Bill Kostkas —at the blog Pittsburgh Beer Snob— was the host of the 89th iteration of The Session. For July 2014, his topic was "Beer in History"
I love history. There's just something about it. It's fun. It's interesting. It even gives me goosebumps. So, I only saw it to be fitting that I choose the topic of Beer in History. <...>

At many points in history you can look back and find alcohol intertwined. A lot of times that form of alcohol is beer. Beer is something that connects us with the past, our forefathers as well as some of our ancestors. I want this topic to be a really open-ended one. So, it should be fairly easy to come up with something and participate.<...>

Friday July 4 is the date I will look forward to reading all of your posts on the topic of Beer in History.


Beer in history; beer and history. What better person to address those topics than a historian herself, a historian of beer? Which is why I asked Baltimore, Maryland, historian Maureen O'Prey 1 —author of Brewing in Baltimore— to offer her thoughts on this 4th of July Beer Blogging Friday. She graciously accepted.

Why Beer History?

Asking why beer holds such a place of import to humans seems rhetorical, but it most certainly is not.

For millennia, beer has woven its way through the tapestry of civilization from ancient Egypt to America. Beer has long been a staple of the diet, whether used as a nutritional supplement when grain was lacking or compromised, as a curative treatment, or often in place of water that was almost always tainted. Historically, people don’t consume something for nutritional value alone; it must also possess a component of flavor, or at least something pleasurable to the palate, which beer provides. The brewing of beer has witnessed various incarnations over time, but the fundamentals remained the same, even when styles changed.

The reason beer has such great significance to humanity has as much to do with the brewers as it does the countless benefits beer offers. Brewing was a fixture of home life from the ancient world to the middle ages, and the duties usually fell to the wife.

A notable example was Katerina Von Bora, wife of Martin Luther. Her brewing prowess was known throughout Wittenberg, and her brews were some of the most sought after. The mother of the Reformation had an impact due not only to her brewing ability, but her care for the infirmed. Her recipe, a closely guarded secret, is held by the one brewery that still produces her beer 500 years later. 2

As the shift from home brewing to industrial brewing took hold in Europe, America followed suit. By the early 19th century, a smattering of industrial breweries had been established, many by German brewers who immigrated for greater freedoms and opportunities. Some founded entire towns, pivotal agents fomenting the growth of their communities. Brewery owners and their employees lived, worked, played, and worshiped together.

Gunther Brewry advertisement: Baltimore, Maryland, 1877
Gunther Brewery, 1877 3

Many founded the earliest churches, like the Barnitz family that emigrated from Falkenstein, Germany to Baltimore. John Leonard Barnitz established Baltimore’s first brewery and built Zion Lutheran Church, affectionately known as the ‘Brewer’s Church’ where myriad brewers worshiped for more than 250 years. Barnitz’s great grandson Michael would help found the town and city of Westminster, Maryland, as a brewer, a judge, and the founder of a preparatory school. There are countless examples of brewers developing the communities they brewed within. It was more than building an economy; it was a partnership intertwining the fortunes of the breweries and the towns they served.

As a historian, my mandate is to unearth the accounts of these brewers and share them with the world. Every brewer’s story should be documented, however grand, or seemingly inconsequential.

Today, breweries are just as vital to the neighborhoods they operate in as their predecessors were. Many modern brewers not only help grow the economy, they engage in philanthropic endeavors, from oyster recovery to supporting veterans, fostering a sense of ownership in their communities. Their legacies should be recorded and preserved for the future so all may know their contributions.


Tuesday, July 01, 2014

What nation drinks the most beer? And other fun global beer biz stats.

In 1998, total worldwide beer production was 1.1 billion barrels. By 2012, 14 years later, that had increased 50% to 1.66 billion barrels. That's according to The Motley Fool —a privately-held financial-services company— in a recent column about the global beer business.

For example, what is the number 1 selling beer brand in the world? What's #2? From China, it's Snow and Tsingtao, respectively. American, er, Belgian, Budweiser is only third.

Here, as of 2012, are the rest of the world's top 10 beer brands (as compiled by Finances Online):

Best selling global beers 2012

Which country spends the most per capita on beer? It's Australia. The U.S., while in the top 10, is 'only' 7th. Again, from 2012, via Finances Online.

Nations with high per capita beer spending 2012

Why Australia? Because folk there are drink a lot of beer (if not the most per capita) and pay a lot for it, the eighth highest cost per beer in the world, which is due, in part, to high excise taxes on alcohol. (Iran pays the most, but, then again, not much beer is consumed there.)

price-of-beer globally 2012

Which nation is tops in terms of total beer consumption per year?

That would be China, drinking, nationally, 370,687,902 barrels of beer per year (44,201,000 kiloliters). The United States was #2, way down at 202,833,000.

Here, from research published by the Kirin Brewery, in 2012, are the top 25.

Which nation's citizens drink the most beer per person per year?

That would be the Czech Republic, at 39 gallons of beer per capita per year (and has 'finished' first for twenty years), followed by Austria, Germany, Estonia, and Poland. The United States? It's a lowly rank of 17. We drink 20 gallons of beer per person per year. (China, although tops in total beer consumption, doesn't even crack the top 35 of consumption per capita, whereas no. 1 Czech Republic is also 21st in total national consumption).

Again, via Kirin, from 2012:

As has been reported often, the 'craft' beer business in the U.S. is booming. And, it was the per capita spending figure of the U.S. that particularly intrigued Sean Williams, the author of the Motley Fool piece. He observed that the largest U.S. 'craft' brewery, Boston Beer —brewer of Sam Adams beers— upped its income in the first quarter of this year by 35% to revenues of $183.8 million.
And not only is revenue rising, but Boston Beer was able to pass along an average price increase of 2% during the quarter. If beer drinkers have proven anything, it's that they're willing to pay a premium for craft beers, which are perceived to be more full-flavored.

The Brewers Association (BA) —the primary national lobbying and advocacy group of small U.S. breweries— counted 2,832 breweries here at the end of 2013, most of them small, independent, and traditional, the associations's definition of craft. At the current rate of brewery expansion, the U.S. could be home, by 2025, to 6,500 breweries. Compare that to the fewer than 100 breweries in the U.S. in 1979, the year that homebrewing was, nationally, de facto legalized.

Why was all of this interesting to The Motley Fool? Follow the money ...
Understanding which countries' citizens are more apt to spend their hard-earned money on beer could cue investors in to regions where global brewers plan to focus moving forward. It can also give us insight as to where future acquisitions are most likely to occur.