Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Beer: Only three all-natural ingredients.

Netherlands-based international beer company Heineken is globally airing a series of advertisements — “There’s more behind the star”— starring actor Benicio Del Toro.

Why do I mention this?

Because, in one of the series, Mr. Del Toro, incredulous about the simplicity of Heineken's recipe for its beer, quizzes Heineken's brewmaster, Willem van Waesberghe, and because of how Mr. Waesberghe —definitely a macro-brewery tribune— answers the question ... even if his response is scripted.

Del Toro:
An original recipe brewed from only three all-natural ingredients. Only three ingredients? Come on; that's a typo.

van Waesberghe:
No, it's not a typo. Just water, barley, and hops.

Del Toro:
Come on, Willie. Water doesn't count as an ingredient. Water is water.

van Waesberghe:
No, no. Ninety-three percent of beer is water, so you'd better make it as pure as possible.

Del Toro:
How about you throw in a dash of, uh, lemon zest.

van Waesberghe:

Del Toro:
Ginger root?

van Waesberghe:
No way.

Del Toro:
How about wasabi?

van Waesberghe:
No f*cking way.

Del Toro:
Willem! Willie!

Just water, barley, and hops.

Yep. What Willie said. "Just water, barley [malt], and hops." *

Anything else is a condiment.


Monday, May 30, 2016

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 19/20, 2016.

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

Weeks 19/20
8 May - 21 May 2016

  • 20 May 2016
    Congress to allow doctors at the Department of Veteran Affairs to prescribe medical marijuana, pending budget approval.
    —Via Stars and Stripes.

  • 18 May 2016
    Beginning in late May and continuing through the American election season in November, Belgian-owned beverage conglomerate, Anheuser-Busch InBev, to re-brand "Budweiser," its flagship light lager beer, with the name..."America." Conservative political columnist George F. Will mocks the decision.
    Budweiser is the “king of beers” — we know it is because Budweiser says it is — but will not be saying so during this advertising campaign. The slogan will be replaced by “E Pluribus Unum.” This is Latin for “Perhaps a gusher of patriotic kitsch will stanch the leakage of our market share to pestilential craft breweries.”
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 18 May 2016
    There are limitless opportunities for brewers to experiment, create excitement, and push the envelope rather than resorting to 'extreme ridiculousness. [...] Inserting highly alcoholic beers into dead squirrels is a gimmick that I don’t think is very clever at a time when, in many parts of the world, there are people who are only too willing to attack the alcohol industry. [...] I personally feel that you can push barriers in sensible ways and you can push barriers in not so sensible ways,
    —Via Professor Charlie Bamforth, at Australian Brew News.

  • Toasting American Craft Beer Week 2016
  • 16 May 2016
    The [U.S.] Brewers Association celebrates American Craft Beer Week, 16-22 May 2016.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 15 May 2016
    Jane Little —the world’s longest-serving orchestra musician— 71 years a bassist for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, dies at age 87, while performing ..."There's No Business Like Show Business."
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 12 May 2016
    "Rotatation Nation": Millennials and the impermanence of 'craft' beer.
    This industry is not just being driven by Millennials. It’s now OWNED by Millennials. In other words, they’ve gone from being the main consumers to now dominating the ownership of breweries. [...] The many Millennials (and younger) that I know don’t see the value of permanence the way older generations do. They don’t build monuments to themselves — it’s all about the immediate cool experience and the story of the night. [...] THE HERE AND NOW. This is the mindset of these guys, and it’s reflective in the way they make and sell beer. They’re like, “Hey, let’s make something cool, and never make it again. Next week, we’ll make something else cool but totes different.” It’s all about the today, the moment, the right now. As such, rotation nation is probably here to stay for a while, despite the inefficiency it creates and lack of brand equity building.
    —Via Jack Curtain, at Liquid Diet.

  • 11 May 2016
    One for the ages. Washington Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer strikes out twenty in one nine-inning game; ties the Major League Baseball record held by only two other players in its history.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 10 May 2016
    When the city of Madison, Wisconsin, discovered tiny amounts of lead in some of its water pipes, it replaced all of the city's lead pipes. Contrast that with the terrible municipal water situation in Flint, Michigan.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 11 May 2016
    Inhumane conditions for chickens AND workers at U.S. chicken processing plants, Oxfam America reports.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 10 May 2016
    Dutch brewery, Bavaria, to acquire Belgian brewery, Palm (brewer of renowned Rodenbach).
    —Via Reuters.

  • 10 May 2016
    Toward one huge global beverage conglomerate: SABMiller & Coca-Cola receive regulatory approval to merge their African continent bottling operations.
    —Via Bloomberg.

  • 9 May 2016
    Beer blogger Bryan D. Roth asks: "Is the Brewers Association doing anything to further ethnicity or gender inclusivity?" A representative of the Association replies: "Organizationally, no, we don’t have a formal campaign in place, but we’re very aware of it."
    —Via This Is Why I'm Drunk.

  • 8 May 2016
    Beer wars. MillerCoors says it will stop brewing beer for Pabst (which has no brewing plants). Pabst sues.
    —Via Milwaukee Journal Sentinal.

  • 8 May 2016
    Officials fear Alberta, Canada, wildfire could double in size and reach a major oil sands mine.
    —Via ABC News.
    On May 1, 2016, a wildfire began southwest of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Canada. On May 3, it swept through the community, destroying approximately 2,400 homes and buildings and forcing the largest wildfire evacuation in Albertan history, 88,000 people. It continued to spread across northern Alberta and into Saskatchewan, consuming forested areas and impacting Athabasca oil sands operations. As of May 21, the fire was at a size of 1,246,510 acres. It may become the costliest disaster in Canadian history.
    —Via Wikipedia [accessed 27 May 2016].

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Be it Resolved: That the Senate commends the craft brewers of the United States.


2nd SESSION S. RES. 473

Expressing appreciation of the goals of American Craft Beer Week
and commending the small and independent craft brewers of the United States.



MAY 24, 2016

Mr. CARDIN (for himself, Ms. COLLINS, Mr. LEAHY,
submitted the following resolution; which was considered and agreed to


  • Whereas American Craft Beer Week is celebrated annually in breweries, brew pubs, restaurants, and beer stores by craft brewers, home brewers, and beer enthusiasts nationwide;

  • Whereas, in 2016, American Craft Beer Week is celebrated from May 16 to May 22;

  • Whereas craft brewers are a vibrant affirmation and expression of the entrepreneurial traditions of the United States—
    (1) operating as community-based small businesses and cooperatives;

    (2) providing employment for more than 120,000 full- and part-time workers;

    (3) generating annually more than $3,000,000,000 in wages and benefits; and

    (4) often leading the redevelopment of economically distressed areas;
  • Whereas the United States has craft brewers in every State and more than 4,400 craft breweries nationwide, each producing fewer than 6,000,000 barrels of beer annually;

  • Whereas, in 2015, 620 new breweries opened in the United States, creating jobs and improving economic conditions in communities across the United States;

  • Whereas, in 2015, craft breweries in the United States sustainably produced more than 24,500,000 barrels of beer, which is 2,800,000 more barrels than craft breweries produced in 2014;

  • Whereas the craft brewers of the United States now export more than 446,000 barrels of beer and are establishing new markets abroad, which creates more domestic jobs to meet the growing international demand for craft beer from the United States;

  • Whereas the craft brewers of the United States support United States agriculture by purchasing barley, malt, and hops that are grown, processed, and distributed in the United States;

  • Whereas the craft brewers of the United States produce more than 100 distinct styles of flavorful beers, including many sought-after new and unique styles ranging from amber lagers to American IPAs that
    (1) contribute to a favorable balance of trade by reducing the dependence of the United States on imported beers;

    (2) support exports from the United States; and

    (3) promote tourism in the United States;
  • Whereas craft beers from the United States consistently win international quality and taste awards;

  • Whereas the craft brewers of the United States strive to educate the people of the United States who are of legal drinking age about the differences in beer flavor, aroma, color, alcohol content, body, and other complex variables, the gastronomic qualities of beer, beer history, and historical brewing traditions dating back to colonial times and earlier;

  • Whereas the craft brewers of the United States champion the message of responsible enjoyment to their customers and work within their communities and the industry to prevent alcohol abuse and underage drinking;

  • Whereas the craft brewers of the United States are frequently involved in local communities through philanthropy, volunteerism, and sponsorship opportunities, including parent-teacher associations, Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (commonly known as ‘‘JROTC’’), hospitals for children, chambers of commerce, humane societies, rescue squads, athletic teams, and disease research;

  • Whereas the craft brewers of the United States are fully vested in the future success, health, welfare, and vitality of their communities, as local employers that—
    (1) provide a diverse array of quality local jobs that will not be outsourced;

    (2) contribute to the local tax base; and

    (3) keep money in the United States by reinvesting in their businesses; and Whereas increased Federal, State, and local support of craft brewing is important to fostering the continued growth of an industry of the United States that creates jobs, greatly benefits local economies, and brings international accolades to small businesses in the United States:
Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) appreciates the goals of American Craft Beer Week, established by the Brewers Association, which represents the small craft brewers of the United States;

(2) recognizes the significant contributions of the craft brewers of the United States to the economy and to the communities in which the craft brewers are located; and

(3) commends the craft brewers of the United States for providing jobs, supporting United States agriculture, improving the balance of trade, and educating the people of the United States and beer lovers around the world about the history and culture of beer while promoting the legal and responsible consumption of beer.

Well, then!


Pic(k) of the Week: Success & dejection.

Success & dejection

Safety netting can't hide it. The batter walks to the plate, confident; the catcher, not.

As seen as the Philadelphia Phillies defeated the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field, in Atlanta, Georgia, on 12 May 2016.

Maybe a cold brew as anodyne afterward?


Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday Facebook wrap-up

YFGF has a Facebook companion page, reserved for quick posts of longer length than on Twitter. Here are a few of the topics I've been covering there recently.


Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act

With its 218th co-sponsor, the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (H.R. 2903) is now supported by a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives. As with the Small BREW Act before it, will a vote actually be taken?

Specific provisions of H.R. 2903 include:
  • Reducing the federal excise tax to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels for domestic brewers producing fewer than 2 million barrels annually.
  • Reducing the federal excise tax to $16 per barrel on the first 6 million barrels for all other brewers and all beer importers.
  • Keeping the excise tax at the current $18 per barrel rate for over 6 million barrels.
  • Reducing bonding and filing requirements for the 90% of American craft breweries that pay less than $50,000 per year in federal excise taxes.
  • Expanding the list of ingredients that could be automatically included in beer without federal government approval.
  • Allowing small, unaffiliated brewers to greater collaborate on new beers by giving them the flexibility to transfer beer between breweries without tax liability.
Read more at the [U.S.] Brewers Association.


Steam Powered Brewery

Thursdays are ‪#‎VeggieDag‬ at YFGF: stories about an animal-free diet and ecological and environmental issues. Sometimes that and beer (a fine vegetarian foodstuff) coincide. Such as this:
Alaskan Brewing Co. produces 140,000 barrels of beer annually and, as by-product, produces 4,500 tons of spent grain. Over the next 10 years, by re-utilizing their waste product as fuel, the brewery is set to save over 1.5 million gallons of fuel, reducing the company’s fuel oil consumption by 70%. Because this system runs entirely on dried spent grain, burning to create steam which powers their entire facility, less transportation of outside ingredients is required, further alleviating costs to this Juneau [Alaska]-based brewery.


Beer & Politics

John Hickenlooper —'craft' beer pioneer, Governor of Colorado, and potential Democratic vice-presidential candidate—was interviewed on National Public Radio's The Diane Rehm Show.
John Hickenlooper, the Democratic Governor of Colorado, did not take a traditional path to politics. In the 1980s, he was laid-off as a geologist in Colorado. He decided to open up a micro-brewery [Wynkoop] in Denver. The company played a key role in gentrifying downtown – and made him a popular businessman. He was persuaded to run for mayor and won. Hickenlooper’s knack for striking a deal appealed to democrats and republicans and helped him get elected governor. But he narrowly won re-election two years ago.

Hickenlooper's memoir, "The Opposite of Woe," was recently published, and timing is everything. Hickenlooper is considered to be a potential vice-presidential running mate for Hillary Clinton. That is, of course, if she secures the Democratic nomination for President.


The Metastasizing of Beer Styles

"The Growing Irrelevance of Beer Styles," by Craig Thomas of Cara Technology. Preach on brother; preach on!
Beer styles, whatever they come to be, used to be based on a number of things: history and/or provenance, ingredients, brewing technique, and overall sensory profile (I include basic specifications such as SRM and IBUs in this category). Thus, by citing a beer as a porter, you are at the very least signifying that it will be a dark, malt-forward beer that may display a bit of chocolate character. At most you are tapping into a customer’s knowledge of the history, ingredients and process of that style to contribute to their own enjoyment of the beer, or even build your brand’s own history and reputation. [...]

In the past five years (give or take) however, many of these things have been thrown out the window. Not only have we effectively eliminated the communicative efficiency and advertising capability that beer styles afforded us (‘It’s an IPA’ versus ‘Eh, it’s a hoppy beer that I made because I took inspiration from these British beers that were shipped to India that I read about’) but we also pretend that this method is still working, and even worth supporting, despite its proven track record of sowing confusion and discord in the ranks of today’s brewers and beer drinkers. [...]

Beer styles are no longer useful categorizations: they have become points of debate and have effectively shifted consumer and brewer conceptions of what good beer is into the realm of ‘new is automatically good’. The system is broken, and it’s time for a new one to come into play.

A Twitter-er had this to say in response: To which I would say this: Fair enough, but the 'style' specifications promulgated by the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) and the [U.S.] Brewers Association (for the Great American Beer Festival and World Beer Cup) often become the de facto references for beer styles in the greater 'craft' beer world.


Alms for the ales

Ballast Point Brewery (of San Diego, California) has announced that it will be opening an East Coast brewery in Botetourt County, Virginia, located outside of the city of Roanoke. Ballast Point thus joins Deschutes Brewery, of Oregon, which, in March, announced that it will be building an East Coast production brewery in Roanoke.

Ballast Point is the 17th largest brewery in the country. It had also been considered the 11th largest American 'craft' brewery, until December, that is, when it was purchased by Constellation Brands (of New York).

Constellation is a wine and spirits brands conglomerate. In 2013, it became the brewer of Corona for the U.S. market (and thus the 3rd largest brewery in the country) after Anheuser-Busch InBev divested its import of Modelo Brewing beers into America to avoid federal antitrust problems when it purchased that Mexican brewery. As a result, the [U.S.] Brewery Association no longer considers Ballast Point to be independent and, thus, no longer 'craft.'

Ballast Point will receive a $2.4 million grant from the state of Virginia's Commonwealth’s Opportunity Fund to assist with the project and be eligible for a $250,000 grant from the governor’s Agriculture and Forest Industries Development Fund. Botetourt County will provide about $1.4 million in tax incentives, along with performance grants estimated at $650,000. This public largesse adds up to a cool $4.7 million.

Ballast Point/Constellation says that it will spend $48 million to open the brewery and taproom in a 259,000-square-foot former auto parts manufacturing building, and eventually hire 48 employees. No timeline has been announced, but occupancy can begin in September.

Deschutes — soon to be Ballast Point's Roanoke-area brewery mate— is the 12 largest brewery in the U.S., and, still 'independent,' the 6th largest American 'craft' brewery.


Sour grapes barleycorns

Chris Black of the renowned Falling Rock Tap House, in Denver, Colorado, is upset, very upset, that the Oskar Blues Brewing Company (also of Colorado, if not Denver) is building a taphouse in Denver that will compete with his. In one revealing sentence, he exposes the crybaby faux-purity of the 'craft' beer business:
In the Craft Beer Industry, it’s either you are WITH it, or you are AGAINST it, there really is no in-between.
Falling Rock may be one of my favorite taprooms in the U.S., but I'm not a fan of Black's comments. The emperor has no clothes. There is no 'craft' beer industry and there are no revolutionaries. There's a beer industry; there are beer businesspersons.

Read more (without my commentary) at The Full Pint.


The tyranny of the majority.

As if you needed any more proof that 'craft' brewery is a meaningless term, the Virginia Craft Brewers Guild has just declared Devils Backbone Brewing to be not 'craft,' and kicked the brewery out of its club, not because Devils Backbone's beer suddenly sucked, but because the brewery has experienced success beyond the scope that the Guild's members deem prim and proper. And, it has been forbidden the brewery from competing in the Virginia Craft Brewers Cup in August, which the brewery has been hosting on its beautiful grounds for several years.

The [U.S.] Brewers Association —the progenitor of this 'craft' purity— will continue to warmly invite Devils Backbone to participate in the Great AMERICAN Beer Festival (where the brewery has, for several years, won more medals of brewing excellence than all Virginia breweries combined).

But Virginia's guild? Oh, no. It's holier than thou. Nah, nahna nah nah.

Read more (without my commentary) at Virginia Craft Beer.


Nothing damns a 'craft' beer as successfully as its own success.

Bryan D. Roth, at his blog, "This Is Why I'm Drunk," writes about the strong dislike for Sam Adams beers held by a large subset of 'craft' beer drinkers. As example, he quotes Tony Magee, owner of Lagunitas:
Sam Adams has 'so little to do with what beer is doing today.' In other words, Sam Adams may have once been craft, but its size and lack of innovation mean it can no longer qualify.
Mr. Magee, as Roth points out, has since sold half of his brewery to Heineken, whereas Boston Beer, maker of Sam Adams, remains independent. Roth quotes others, who, although not as hypocritical, agree with Magee in animus. Then, weighing the particulars, he concludes:
The biggest beer enthusiasts are spending time calling out Sam Adams and those who appreciate those beers, but the truth is the brewery still sells a lot of beer. This is what happens when you build a successful business and accept that you can grow and people want you to grow. Just because those sales may focus more on Average Jane or Joe Drinker – who still constitute nearly all of craft beer purchases – does it now mean Sam Adams has entered the rarified air of Macro? I thought this kind of vitriol was only saved for AB InBev. Or maybe it’s befitting that we’ve arrived at this (somewhat) ironic point, where a beer brand named after one of America’s Founding Fathers causes such divisiveness it may be considered an act of treason to craft’s self-appointed protectors if you admit you like it.

As for me, I’ll just keep drinking IPAs that are good.
Me, too.


Sunday, May 22, 2016

'Craft' beer data, 2016 edition.

DRAFT Magazine recently published a concise summary of the state of 'craft' beer, as it was revealed in numbers, percentages, and statistics during the 2016 Craft Brewers Conference.

Beer By The Numbers

Forgive me, DRAFT; I've reposted the data here. The rest of you, please go to the original article, Beer By The Numbers, for more.
  • 1%:
    The share, in dollars, of the total beer market controlled by craft beer.

  • 12%:
    The share of the total beer market by sales volume.

  • 2.8 million:
    The growth in the number of barrels of craft beer sold over 2014’s numbers.

  • 25%+:
    the percentage of breweries that increased their brewing capacity by 50 percent or more in 2015.

  • $36.58:
    The average price of a case of craft beer.[That's $8.92 per six-pack. That's low; I don't know where they're shopping!]

  • 6,080:
    The number, as of December 2015, of active TTB brewery licenses.

  • 4,283:
    The number, as of December 2015, of operating breweries.

  • 1,797:
    The number of owners holding licenses for breweries they likely plan to open within the next two years.

  • 620:
    The number of breweries that opened in 2015 (this is actually down from the all-time high of 881 in 2014)
  • 67:
    The number of breweries that closed in 2015.

  • 3,925:
    The number of breweries in the U.S. producing between 0 and 7,500 barrels of beer each year. Together, these small breweries make up nearly 92 percent of the total number of beer producers in the country, but they only produce about 1.5 percent of all the beer we drink.

  • 21:
    The number of breweries in the U.S. producing more than 2 million barrels of beer each year. Though a fraction of the brewery total, these producers make 84 percent of all beer consumed in the country.

  • 26.5%:
    The percentage of supermarket beer sales, in dollars, owned by India Pale Ales. This means that more than a quarter of all craft beer sold at supermarkets is an IPA of some sort. The next closest style, “seasonal,” makes up about 14 percent of the dollar share.

  • 199%:
    The growth over last year, in sales, of session IPAs.

  • 250%:
    The growth, in sales, of “tropical-flavored” beer variants. (A little more about flavored beers: In 2015, sales of brews spiked with oranges and tea increased 70 percent and 719 percent, respectively. Apple-, raspberry- and blackberry-flavored beer sales decreased by an average of about 13 percent.)

  • 45%:
    The percentage of people over 21, according to a Nielsen survey, who said that whether a beer is made locally is “very important or somewhat important” to their purchase decisions. Narrow the respondents to those aged 21 to 34, and the percentage goes up to 53. Only 34 percent of respondents in the same study said that wine’s local production was at least “somewhat important” to them; 23 percent said the same about liquor.

  • 16:
    The number of states with 100 or more breweries.

  • 21:
    The number of states with at least two breweries per 100,000 drinking-age adults.

Brewers Association

The [U.S.] Brewers Association defines a 'craft' brewery NOT as a standard of quality —even though the term 'craft' is often brandished with fervid zeal as such— but as a requisite for membership in the association.
An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional.
  • Small:
    Annual production of 6 million barrels of beer or less (approximately 3 percent of U.S. annual sales). Beer production is attributed to the rules of alternating proprietorships.
  • Independent:
    Less than 25 percent of the craft brewery is owned or controlled (or equivalent economic interest) by a beverage alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer.
  • Traditional:
    A brewer that has a majority of its total beverage alcohol volume in beers whose flavor derives from traditional or innovative brewing ingredients and their fermentation. Flavored malt beverages (FMBs) are not considered beers.

That being said, there is no legal definition of a 'craft' brewery (or even a Brewers Association definition of 'craft' beer). There is, however, a tax-tier differentiation. 

Under current federal law, breweries making less than two million barrels annually pay seven dollars of excise tax per barrel on the first sixty-thousand barrels they brew, and eighteen dollars per barrel on every barrel thereafter. Breweries producing more than two million barrels per year pay eighteen dollars per barrel on each and every barrel they brew. 

Steve Hindy, owner/president of the Brooklyn Brewery, has defined 'craft' beer this way: "The beer drinker decides what a craft beer is." Today is the final day of American Craft Beer Week 2016. Enjoy it, however you might define it: 'pushing the boundaries' or just plain old brewing it tasty.


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Pic(k) of the Week: Two sours & a stout.

Two sours & a stout

A posed photo, yes, but these three beers had been drunk and enjoyed at the Inman Park Festival, in Atlanta, Georgia, on 30 April 2016.

The beers, left to right, were:

  • Evil Twin Brewing: Sour Bikini
    • contract brewery: Copenhagen, Denmark.
    • Sour Pale Ale; 3% alcohol-by-volume (abv)
    • Brewed and packaged by Westbrook Brewing, of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina.
  • Anderson Valley Brewing: Bood Orange Gose
    • Brewry founded in 1987 in Boonville, California.
    • Gose; 4.2% abv.
    • Gose (pronounced: GO zuh) is a light sour ale, brewed with wheat (and barley), salt, and coriander, and fermented with lactobacillus bacteria (and yeast).
  • Stillwater Artisinal Brewing: On Fleek
    • contract brewery: Baltimore, Maryland.
    • Imperial Stout; 13% abv.
    • Grist includes dark sugars and molasses.
    • Brewed and packaged at Two Roads Brewing in Stratford, Connecticut, in 'collaboration' with Casita Cerveceria of Greensboro Bend, Vermont.
And this, left to right, is how I perceived them:
  • Puckering;
  • Refreshingly sour;
  • Roasty, big, and funky.
Not all at our table enjoyed the beers equally well. Contrarians offered opinions that were, shall we say ['language' alert], salty. Not I. De gustibus non disputandum.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Toasting American Craft Beer Week

Enjoying the moment: toasting American Craft Beer Week —on Thursday, 19 May 2016, at 8 pm ET— nationwide and right here.

Toasting American Craft Beer Week 2016

Brewers, beertenders, and craft beer aficionados around the country can take this opportunity to collectively raise their glasses to our great American craft beer culture and the brewing pioneers that opened the door to the diversity of flavors and choices that we enjoy today.

We return you now to your regularly scheduled contretemps, beery or otherwise ...


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Eight facets of beer.

The Session: Beer Blogging Friday is a monthly blog-in, held on the first Friday of each month, in which beer bloggers write on a given beer-related topic. The topic on 6 May was "Surviving a Beer Mid-Life Crisis." At his blog, Literature & Libation, Oliver Gray, May's host, asked:

Recently, I’ve found my interest in said hobby waning. The brilliant luster of new beers and new breweries looks now, a few pounds heavier and a bunch of dollars lighter, more like dull aluminum oxide. Do you find it hard to muster the same zeal for beer as you did a few years ago? Are you suffering through a beer-life crisis like I am? If so, how do you deal with it?

I answered his question with a contribution entitled, "Enjoy the beer; forget the hype." But it was something I had written as an aside, weeks before The Session —as a comment at another beer blog— in which I may have better drilled down to the lode.

Call it the seven ur-facets of beer.
There’s beer as a business; beer as tax revenue; beer as science and technology; beer as one (small) study point in history; beer as an alcohol delivery system; beer as a diverting avocation. Each except the last is specific to a limited concern. A loss of interest in the last calls for a new hobby. There’s little semiotic about it.

I had forgotten that I had written that until Mr. Gray kindly reminded me. In his summary of the sixteen submissions to The Session, he found that almost all the contributors had written, independently, on an identical monad: "Embrace the mania."

Mania, indeed! Let's call pleasure the eighth ur-facet of beer. Then, let's go grab a beer.

Weizen al fresco


Tuesday, May 17, 2016

American Craft BREWERS Week

The American 'craft' brewing industry —and make no mistake, a business is what it is— congratulates itself this week during American Craft Beer Week (16-22 May 2016).

For the 11th year in a row, the [U.S.] Brewers Association has declared American Craft Beer Week (ACBW), the nationwide celebration of U.S. small and independent craft brewers. The weeklong tribute provides an opportunity for craft brewers to share their diversity, creativity and passion for the beverage they love with the greater craft beer community. From May 16 – 22, 2016, all 50 states will be holding events including exclusive brewery tours, special craft beer releases, food and beer pairings, tap takeovers and more to celebrate the ever-advancing beer culture in the United States.

In 2015, more than 60,000 beer lovers across all 50 states were also part of the ACBW Facebook Community. With over 4,100 craft breweries now open—an all-time high for our country—there’s even more to celebrate.

American Craft Beer Week is a fitting time to reflect on how craft brewers revolutionized not only the way beer is viewed, but also the landscape of American beer distribution and retail sales in a single generation. Consider that in 1980 there were a mere 42 brewing companies left after decades of consolidation producing, among them, a handful of different beer styles. Today we have more than 4,300 breweries—99% of them small and independent contributing myriad beer styles to a vibrant beer marketplace.

In the last four years alone, the snowballing interest in craft beer has resulted in a doubling of the number of breweries, while the mergers and acquisitions involving multi-national conglomerates and local favorites alike continue to create new challenges. There is little argument that craft beer is booming, but it’s imperative to understand how far we’ve come and do what’s necessary to protect the choices that our craft beer ancestors have enabled. Let’s celebrate and educate, all while inspiring others to join us—either through raising a well-crafted pint or pulling on those boots to brew themselves.

Big Week, Small Breweries

I'll commemorate these seven days in May in a different fashion.

I will not be honoring 'craft' beer's rock stars or its self-regarded revolutionaries; not the tribunes of "epic" nor the 'craft' solipsists; not the markete(e)rs, style promulgators, or experts.


In honor of the gals and guys who actually make our beer, I'll be commemorating the week, instead, as American Craft Brewers Week.

Thank you, brewsters and brewers, all 121,843 of you. This beer's for you.



Monday, May 16, 2016

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 17/18, 2016.

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

Weeks 17/18
24 April - 7 May 2016

  • 7 May 2016
    The biennial World Beer Cup was held in Phildelphia, Pennsylvania, concurrent with the 2016 Craft Brewers Conference. 6,596 beers from 1,907 breweries in 55 countries competed in 96 'styles.' 287 medals were awarded and six breweries were judged as overall champions.
    —Via YFGF.

  • Beer Flavor Map
  • 6 May 2016
    Two scientists have updated the Beer Flavor Wheel —thirty-seven years after its creation by brewing chemist Morten Meilgaard— with the Beer Flavor Map.
    —Via CraftBeer.

  • 5 May 2016
    The American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the [U.S.] Brewers Association, to document the history of brewing in the United States, including 'craft' brewing.
    —Via BeerPulse.

  • 5 May 2016
    In the U.S., Cinco de Mayo (the 5th of May) is celebrated with beers and margaritas, Donald Trump, notwithstanding. In Mexico, not so much. It's a 19th-century story of France, Austria, and Mexico, but not one of Mexican independence.
    —Via Long Beach Post.

  • 3 May 2016
    Antibiotic abuse and consequences
    • Nearly a third of antibiotics prescribed annually are not needed, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pew Charitable Trust. The finding, which has implications for antibiotics' diminished efficacy, translates to about 47 million unnecessary prescriptions given out each year.
      —Via Washington Post.
    • Antimicrobial resistance threatens the effective prevention and treatment of an ever-increasing range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi. Antimicrobial resistance is present in all parts of the world. New resistance mechanisms emerge and spread globally. It is an increasingly serious threat to global public health that requires action across all government sectors and society.
      —Via World Health Organization WHO.

  • 5 May 2016
    The American History Museum of the Smithsonian Institution, in collaboration with the [U.S.] Brewers Association, has announced its plans to document the history of brewing in the United States, including 'craft' brewing.
    —Via BeerPulse.

  • 2 May 2016
    Concerning eating well, Michael Pollan wrote: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Concerning drinking (beer) well, Jeff Alworth writes: "Buy local, buy good, drink on tap."
    —Via Beervana.

  • May is... American Mild Month 2016
  • 1 May 2016
    May 2016 is the second annual American Mild Month.

  • 1 May 2016
    On 1 May 1844, Bavarian workers rioted after King Ludwig I decreed a tax on beer. Civil order was restored five days later after the King decreed a ten percent reduction in the price of beer. Resentment remained. Four years later, in the aftermath of the Revolution of 1848, Ludwig I abdicated in favor of his son, Maximilian II.
    —Via Wikipedia.

  • Michael Ash (1917-2016)
    Photo: Lucy Ash, via Twitter.
  • 30 April 2016
    Michael Ash (1927-2016), the mathematician who invented nitrogen dispense for Guinness Brewing in 1959, has died at age 88. Many craft breweries and pubs today utilize similar nitrogen dispense for their beers, calling the procedure "nitro."
    —Via Jeff Alworth at Beervana.

  • 30 April 2016
    The era of big 'craft' beer is dead. RIP: 2005-2015.
    The big craft era of 2005-15 is relatively late to the game. And, let's be honest, if these guys didn't become the millionaires and billionaires someone else would have. It's not like they invented beer. Folk will say that good beer is in crisis and point to this odd news as some sort of life raft in an ocean of evil big beer and big money. Have none of it. This is just the new boss meeting the old boss all in the great cause of money. Which is good. Because that is success. Rejoice. Big craft is dead. Brewing continues to move on and on, becoming more affordable and more excellent and more diverse and more interesting because this era of craft is dead.
    —Via Alan McLeod at A Good Beer Blog.

  • 30 April 2016
    "Mr. Beer" and the rise of the "Aleholes." When the simple enjoyment of beer enjoyment becomes distracted by the complicated, the esoteric, and elitism.
    —Via Beer Simple.

  • 25 April 2016
    In December 2015, writer Dave Infante wrote an essay for Thrillist: "There Are Almost No Black People Brewing Craft Beer. Here's Why." In April 2016, the essay won a James Beard award for best writing on "Wine, Spirits, and Other Beverages." The James Beard Foundation Awards are annual awards presented by the James Beard Foundation for excellence in cuisine, culinary writing, and culinary education in the United States.
    —Via Thrillist.

  • 25 April 2016
    How can civil asset forfeiture not be a violation of the 4th, 5th, and 14th amendments to the U.S. Constitution? How police legally took $53,000 from a Christian band, an orphanage, and a church, none guilty of any crime.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 24 April 2016
    "The world’s biggest breweries now have diverse portfolios and brands that they bought and make within their massive facilities to sell to their extremely powerful and increasingly unilateral distribution networks. All of this is done in an effort to marginalize craft brewers’ access to ingredients and market."
    —Via Sam Calagione of Dogfish Head Brewery at Imbibe.


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Pic(k) of the Week: I am NOT a nugget!

I Am Not A Nugget (04)

Two chickens protest against fowl carnivores, marching for GARP (Georgia Animal Rights & Protection), as seen at the Inman Park Festival, in Atlanta, Georgia, on 30 April 2016.
GARP is a non-profit organization dedicated to the abolition of animal exploitation and suffering. GARP focuses on educating the public about the abuse and cruelty that is inherent in the use of animals for food, entertainment, research and fashion.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

The paucity of Mild (and why that's changing in the U.S.).

It's nearly the middle of May, and I have yet to drink one drop of Mild Ale this month. None of the breweries in Georgia brew one. And that's a pity. They haven't heard the news. [Happy update: They have!]

It's the second annual American Mild Month. Throughout the month of May and throughout the rest of the United States, breweries are brewing American Mild Ales.

May is... American Mild Month 2016

American Mild Month is the idea of Alistair Reece: an ex-pat Scotsman and past Prague resident, who now lives in Virginia in the U.S., where he blogs at Fuggled. The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has been hosting a "May is for Milds" campaign for many years. So, Reece thought, why not here in the U.S.?

What is Mild Ale? Start with the concept of 'session' beer. Lew Bryson, a long-time fighter for 'session' beer, defines American Session Ale as:
  • 4.5% alcohol by volume or less
  • flavorful enough to be interesting
  • balanced enough for multiple pints
  • conducive to conversation
  • reasonably priced

Before the 20th century (and even into it), Mild Ale referred to something very different than it does today: then, a non-aged ale, often quite strong. Today, it's a low alcohol, not bitter, often darker ale. Of Mild's character, I'll defer to British authors Jessica Bloak and Ray Bailey:
First, it has to put sweet malt and flavours from sugar at the forefront, but that doesn’t have to mean that it has to be sickly or lacking in character. Bitterness can work, but excessive perfume just seems wrong. Roastiness also jars, suggesting that some brewers remain in thrall to out-of-date history that declares mild to be a degeneration of porter, which it isn’t.

Reece interprets American Mild as a form of modern Mild Ale, but with an American twist: a "restrained, darkish ale, with gentle hopping and a clean finish so that the malt and what [American] hops are present shine through." I should add "would be," because American Mild has not yet been 'recognized' by this nation's beer-style poobahs.
  • Alcohol-content-by-volume (abv) of 4.5% or less.
  • Color greater than 17 SRM (i.e., darker than a golden ale).
  • Bitterness level of 30 International Bittering Units (IBU) or fewer. Thus, more bitter than an English Mild, but much less hoppy than an American IPA.
  • American —thus, not-so-fruity— ale yeast strains.
American Mild is not a hop bomb, but neither need it be a hop free zone. 'Low' is not the same as 'none;' it is all about restraint, and with the wide variety of American hops available the range of hop flavors is actually quite broad, whether its the spiciness of Cluster, the grapefruit of Amarillo, or the tropical fruit of El Dorado, there is room here for differentiation, and dry hopping is ok too.

Remember though, before going crazy with the hops, an American Mild is not a Session IPA, or a Session Cascadian Dark Ale, it's still a mild. Traditional English milds top out at 25 IBUs, but for an American Mild we would suggest an upper limit of 30 IBUs.

Alcoholic restraint is a hallmark of the modern mild ale, and we believe that an American mild should follow that tradition, topping out at 4.5% abv. We imagine most American milds would fall between 3.5% and 4.5% abv.

One major departure from the English mild style in a theoretical American mild is the yeast. The classic American yeast strain used by many an American craft brewery is known for being very clean, allowing the other ingredients to shine through without contributing the fruity flavors of the British yeasts.

American Mild Ale is NOT a 'session' IPA; it is not an over-hopped ale; it does not contain alcohol of greater than 4.5% by volume. Do any of those things, and you're playing with 'session' semantics.

Do things right, and Mild Ale — 'more-ish' and (ugh, how I detest this word) 'drinkable'— might just be the quintessential 'session' beer. So, why isn't your brewery brewing one?

Some brewers will tell you that the word "mild" itself dampens sales, as in mundane or not dangerous enough. A few years back, a Virginia brewer was experiencing slow sales of his draft and cask Dark Mild Ale, called such. He re-christened it as Atomic Monkey, and sales boomed.

So, U.S. breweries: call it what you will. Just please brew it! And please serve it cask-conditioned (without extraneous stuff). And please do it, now, in May, or, while you're at it, year-round. Please, and thank you.

Mild Ale for Mild Month (03)

  • *UPDATE. After I posted, I received this welcome Georgia update from American Mild Month: "Georgia has a mild going on tap today - Monday Night Brewing's Sad Stove Mild in their tap room."

  • American Mild Ale:
  • An in-depth examination of modern British Mild Ale, from Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey, at All About Beer: here.
  • Irony notwithstanding, these are the specifications for English Mild Ale, as defined by the [U.S.] Brewers Association.
    A. Subcategory: English-Style Pale Mild Ale
    English Pale Milds are light amber to medium amber. Chill haze is allowable at cold temperatures. Fruity-ester aroma is very low to medium low. Hop aroma is very low or low. Malt flavor dominates the flavor profile. Hop flavor is very low to low. Hop bitterness is very low to low. Very low diacetyl flavors may be appropriate in this low-alcohol beer. Fruity-ester flavor is very low to medium low. Body is low to low-medium.
    • Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.030-1.036 (7.6-9.0 °Plato)
    • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.004-1.008 (1.0-2.1 °Plato)
    • Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 2.7%-3.4% (3.4%-4.4%)
    • Bitterness (IBU) 10-20
    • Color SRM 6-9 (12-18 EBC)

    B. Subcategory: English-Style Dark Mild Ale
    English Dark Milds are reddish brown to very dark. Fruity-ester aroma is very low to medium low. Malt and caramel are part of the aroma while licorice and roast malt tones may sometimes contribute to aroma profile. Hop aroma is very low. Malt flavor and caramel are part of the flavor profile while licorice and roast malt tones may also contribute. Hop flavor is very low. Hop bitterness is very low to low. Very low diacetyl flavors may be appropriate in this low-alcohol beer. Fruity-ester flavor is very low to medium low. Body is low-medium to medium.
    • Original Gravity (°Plato) 1.030-1.036 (7.6-9.0 °Plato)
    • Apparent Extract/Final Gravity (°Plato) 1.004-1.008 (1.0-2.1 °Plato)
    • Alcohol by Weight (Volume) 2.7%-3.4% (3.4%-4.4%)
    • Bitterness (IBU) 10-24
    • Color SRM 17-34 (34-68 EBC)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Budweiser buys America.

Somewhere, Woody Guthrie is restless.

At first, I thought such self-indulgent pandering couldn't possibly be anything other than a joke. But, now, with enough 'credible' sources reporting on this, it does actually appear that Anheuser-Bush Inbev's pseudo-patriotic, tone-deaf marketing ploy is a true thing.

Anheuser-Busch InBevnot American-owned but a Belgian-owned beverage conglomerate— plans to re-brand Budweiser, its flagship light lager beer with the name ... "America" during the summer months, beginning in late May and continuing through the election season in November.

Budweiser buys America
Budweiser wants to cement its reputation as the quintessentially American beer, by re-branding itself simply as "America" this summer.

The change of label has been submitted for approval to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, according to Ad Age, which first spotted the filing.

The proposed new label will also give increased prominence to the Latin phrase which appears on the American seal: 'E Pluribus Unum" — meaning "One out of many."

Budweiser wants to further capitalize on the patriotic fervor of the Olympic summer by using the phrases: "From the redwood forest to the Gulf stream waters this land was made for you and me" and "indivisible since 1776."
Business Insider: 10 May 2016.

Will AB-IB also rebrand its lighter-than-light lager, Bud Light, as America Light, or, as one Twitter wag phrased it, 'Murica?

Budweiser buys America. Befits the times.


Monday, May 09, 2016

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 15/16, 2016.

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

Weeks 15/16
10 April - 23 April 2016

    500 years of Reinheitsgebot
  • 23 April 2016
    23 April, 2016, marked the 500th anniversary of the Reinheitsgebot, the German beer “purity law.” Why didn't Wilhelm IV, Duke of Bavaria, include yeast as an ingredient of beer?
    “in all our towns, marketplaces and the whole of the countryside, that beer shall have no other ingredients than barley, hops, and water be used and employed.”
    —Via Jeff Alwroth, at All About Beer.

  • 22 April 2016
    “The era of consumption without consequences is over.” 175 world leaders sign the Paris climate accord.
    —Via USA Today.

  • 22 April 2016
    Anheuser-Busch InBev purchases well-regarded Italian 'craft' brewery Birra del Borgo, adding to its portfolio of small European and American 'craft' breweries. Birra del Borgo, which produces about 13,000 hectolitres (11,100 barrels) a year, will become a wholly-owned subsidiary of AB InBev.
    —Via Brewbound.

  • 22 April 2016
    A people's definition of 'craft' beer.
    Craft beer is a beer that's not a light beer and costs more than one. Consumers don't care where it's from.
    —Via Lew Bryson, at YFGF.

  • 22 April 2016
    A beer can be Kosher, but, during Passover, no beer is Kosher.
    —Via Steve Frank and Arnie Meltzer, at YFGF.

  • 21 April 2016
    The recording artist known as Prince has died at age 57.
    —Via AP.

  • 21 April 2016
    The Chicago Beer Riot began today in 1855, caused by prejudicial actions against immigrants (German, Irish, Catholic) and large fee and tax increases on beer and taverns.
    —Via Encyclopedia of Chicago.

  • 20 April 2016
    Abolitionist and former slave, Harriet Tubman, to replace slaveholding President Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill; Alexander Hamilton to remain on the $10. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced "the most sweeping and historically symbolic makeover of American currency in a century," also adding women and civil rights leaders to the $5 and $10 notes.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 20 April 2016
    How April 20 ("420") came to be ‘Weed Day,’ and 4:20pm the time of day to smoke marijuana.
    —Via Huffington Post.

  • 19 April 2016
    A successful brewer resigns from [U.S.] Brewers Association Board of Directors because ... he is successful.
    With his craft beer company being acquired by [Anheuser-Busch InBev] the world’s largest beer producer, Devils Backbone Brewing Co. co-founder Steve Crandall is relinquishing his position on the board of a trade group for craft beer makers. “It was a requirement,” Crandall said of his decision to resign from the board of directors of the Brewers Association, which represents craft beer companies across the nation. “We are considered no longer independent,” he said of Devils Backbone, Virginia's largest craft beer maker by volume.
    —Via Richmond Times-Dispatch.

  • 18 April 2016
    1,400 activists have been arrested at the Democracy Awakening and Democracy Spring protests in Washington, D.C., but few in the media have covered it.
    The march and arrests were the culmination of Democracy Awakening, a weekend of workshops, rallies, speeches, and demonstrations of civil disobedience that brought thousands of activists from across the country together in DC. They are fighting to protect voting rights, to end the corrosive influence of big money on the political system and to force Republicans to confirm Barack Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.
    —Via The Nation.

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev's 'Craft' America
  • 16 April 2016
    Anheuser-Busch InBev's America: map of its 'craft' beer acquisitions, as of April 2016.
    The one category of interest that these acquisitions bring to mind has to do with strategy, future acquisitions, and timelines. How many breweries does Anheuser-Busch InBev need to complete their 'High End' portfolio? What do they plan to do with these beers? How will the US strategy unfold as ABI pairs the 'High End' brands with the flagship mass market lagers? All interesting stuff. We have begun to suspect that ABI is looking to knit together a portfolio of regional breweries, so looking at the map might suggest where they're headed next. We know that they tend not to purchase very large breweries--50,000 to 100,000 seems to be the range.
    —Via Jeff Alworth, at Beervana.

  • 15 April 2016
    After twenty years together, Lew Bryson and Whisky Advocate magazine have parted ways. Reading that the Whiskey Advocate is "going in a different direction" and no longer requires the services of Mr. Bryson —one of America's foremost writers on beer and whiskey— is like listening to a lecture on bourbon with only a glass of water to drink.
    —Via Lew Bryson, at Seen Through A Glass.

  • 14 April 2016
    Is Anheuser-Busch InBev about to "steamroll craft beer into submission?"
    • The sheer number and regularity of AB InBev's craft beer buys has been overwhelming. Starting with Goose Island in 2011, the craft portion of AB InBev's craft and European imported beer unit, The High End, is now approaching one million barrels a year. [...] (To compare, Boston Beer's volumes last year were 4.2 million barrels).
    • A likely strategy from a company that already owns the biggest-selling beer in the US and controls a portion of the industry's route-to-market through its owned-distribution network [...] appears to be the following: position Goose Island as the national craft beer while using the smaller brewers as a network of local brands that will eventually - after future acquisitions - cover the whole country.
    • The crowded middle-ground of brewers - those a few notches below Boston Beer and Yuengling - are under pressure to get big while they still can or stay local and hunker down.
    • The combined clout of The High End unit - with Goose Island leading the way - will come in useful as the US craft beer scene becomes more competitive. Expectations are that a shake-out will send a lot of the smaller brewers to the wall as high growth in consumer demand slows and costs rise.
    —Via Just-Drinks.

  • 13 April 2016
    The Centers for Disease Prevention confirms that the Zika virus causes microcephaly and other severe fetal abnormalities; the epidemic that has spread to more than 40 countries.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 13 April 2016
    There were 4,824 breweries operating in the United States at the end of 2015, says the TTB (the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury). Together, these breweries brewed 175,243,006 barrels of beer. In addition, there were 1,811 more breweries not yet brewing but with their licenses in hand. That's 6,080 "permitted" breweries already on the playing field in the U.S. for 2016.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 12 April 2016
    The [U.S.] Brewers Association identifies eight new beer 'styles'; releases its 2016 Beer Style Guidelines, describing one-hundred fifty-two beer 'styles.'
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 11 April 2016
    Some members of Congress plan to affix the Craft Beverage Modernization and Tax Reform Act (CBMTRA) as a rider to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Reauthorization Act of 2016, "a 'must-pass' bill that would reauthorize the FAA and specified FAA programs."
    As written, CMBTRA reduces the federal excise tax to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels for domestic brewers producing fewer than 2 million barrels annually. It also reduces the federal excise tax to $16 per barrel on the first 6 million barrels for all other brewers and all beer importers. “There are some tax provisions in the FAA Act which make the craft beverage bill a potential add-on,” Beer Institute president Jim McGreevy told Brewbound. “We have a lot of support in the Senate and a lot of support in the House. There are a lot of members of Congress that think beer tax reform is a good idea, so I am hopeful.” “We are working with our congressional supporters to have it added to the FAA act,” said Brewers Association CEO Bob Pease.
    Important to the 'craft' beer business, but under what logic is it essential to air traffic safety?
    —Via Brewbound.

  • 11 April 2016
    Lithuania and its peculiar, little-known farmhouse ales: kaimiskas.
    When we name the world’s great beer-drinking people—the Czechs, Germans, Belgians, Brits, and what the hell, Americans, too—we probably ought to include the Lithuanians.
    —Via Joe Stange, at DRAFT Magazine.

  • Pulled pint of Bulldog Bitter
  • 10 April 2016
    What is British Bitter?
    American drinkers, unless they travel frequently to the UK, will struggle to get to know Bitter. It doesn’t translate well into bottles and the best examples derive their character from the gentle carbonation and an almost-but-not-quite imperceptible funk imparted by cask-conditioning; from subtle variations between house yeast strains; and, crucially, from context. [...] Bitter is the quintessential English beer. Low in alcohol, light bodied, typically amber-brown in color, it seems to represent the essence of a country where pubs are Victorian and emotions are kept in check. [...] Today in the UK, Bitter is not a strictly governed style and beers bearing that appellation might be golden to red, drily bitter or honey-sweet, rich in hop perfume or rather austere. Depending on strength, they might be called “Ordinary,” “Best,” or “Extra Special Bitter (ESB).” [.. .Exploding] in layers of flavor —hay, earth, newly mowed grass, orange marmalade, and baking bread. [...] There is no shopping list of grocery store flavors and aromas here: it tastes and smells like beer, with a stolid, single-minded bitterness that defies pretension.
    —Via Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey, at Beer Advocate.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

And yet, she still blooms.

This was Gene's African violet in November 2015.

Mom's African Violet, in November 2015.

Transplanted and relocated, this is Gene's African violet, today, in May 2016.

Mom's violet blooms (05)

And yet, she still blooms.

Happy Mother's Day,
Genovaite (Gene) A. Cizauskas!


Saturday, May 07, 2016

The 2016 World Beer Cup.

Since 1982, the [U.S.] Brewers Association has hosted an annual championship of American beer: the Great American Beer Festival (GABF). Since, 1996, it has also organised an international beer championship, the World Beer Cup (WBC).

The GABF is held every year in September or October, in Denver, Colorado. The World Beer Cup, in contrast, travels around the United States, and is held concurrently with the Craft Brewers Conference, but in alternating years. The 2016 edition has just concluded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

There is a whiff of American exceptionalism to the World Beer Cup: the bias of an international event held in the U.S., categories based upon American interpretations of world beer 'styles,' the cost of international shipping and transportation to the U.S., the deleterious effects upon beer from that travel. Be that as it may, at this year's competition, there were 6,596 beers —from 1,907 breweries in 55 countries— judged in 96 'style' categories.
  • The average number of beers entered per category was 69, up from 50 in 2014.
  • The category with the most entries was American-Style India Pale Ale with 275 entries.
  • The second most-entered category was Imperial India Pale Ale with 181 entries.
  • The third most-entered category was American-Style Pale Ale with 167 entries.
Judges (75% of whom were from outside of the United States) awarded bronze, silver, and gold medals in each category (other than the "Fresh or Wet Hop Ale" category, in which no gold recipient was selected). Out of 287 medals awarded, American breweries received 231, or 80% of the total; breweries from other nations, 56, or 20%. (Germany had the second highest total after the U.S., at 17 medals, or 6%.)
  • Gold
    A world-class beer that accurately exemplifies the specified style, displaying the proper balance of taste, aroma and appearance.
  • Silver
    An excellent beer that may vary slightly from style parameters while maintaining close adherence to the style and displaying excellent taste, aroma, and appearance.
  • Bronze
    A fine example of the style that may vary slightly from style parameters and/or have minor defects in taste, aroma, or appearance.
Additionally, 6 overall brewery champions were selected (all from the U.S.), based upon their size and a complex algorithm.
Breweries are awarded points based on medals won, and these points are tabulated to arrive at the results. Here are the criteria used for awarding points, and the tie-breaking system used to rank breweries.
  • Most Total Points – breweries are awarded points based on the number of gold (3 points), silver (2 points) and bronze (1 point) medals won in the competition.
  • Most Gold Medals
  • Most Medals
  • Most Total Entries in all Medalled Categories
  • Number of Entries in Gold Medalled Categories
The second and third criteria have the effect of making a gold and two bronzes worth more than a gold and silver, while two golds would be worth more than a gold, silver and a bronze. The fourth and fifth criteria recognize overall competitiveness by achieving medals in categories with more entries than others.

Depending upon the audacity of their marketing departments, each of these six breweries ...
  • Very Small Brewing Company Category: Arch Rock Brewing Company
    brewer: James Smith
    Fewer than 1,001 barrels per year (1,190 hectoliters)
  • Small Brewing Company Category: Noble Ale Works (Anaheim, California)
    brewers: Evan and The Giants
    1,001-15,000 bbl (1,191–17,600 hl)
  • Mid-Size Brewing Company Category: Brewery Ommegang (Cooperstown, New York)
    brewers: Brewery Ommegang
    15,001–6,000,000 bbl (17,601–7,040,000 hl)
  • Large Brewing Company Category: Miller Brewing Company (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
    brewers: Miller Brewing Co. Brewing Team
    Greater than 6,000,000 bbl (7,040,000 hl)
  • Brewpub (A restaurant-brewery that sells 25% or more of its beer onsite):
    • Small Brewpub Category: 12 Degree Brewing (Louisville, Colorado)
      brewers: Jon Howland and Tor O'Brien
      Fewer than 1,201 bbl (1,408 hl)
    • Large Brewpub Category: Beachwood BBQ & Brewing (Long Beach, California)
      brewer: Julian Shrago, Ian McCall, and Gene Wagoner Greater than 1,201 bbl (greater than 1,409 hl)
... could claim the mantle of Best Brewery In The World, and, more so, Noble Ale Works, which not only brewed the gold-medal winning IPA —'craft' beer's most popular 'style— but the bronze for its Imperial IPA. I'd lay a wager that Miller Brewing —before it's subsumed into the Anheuser-Busch InBev hegemon— will claim the "World's Best" title.

That is, until May 2018.


Pic(k) of the Week. A silo for 5 Seasons.

5 Seasons' silo

Many 'craft' beer drinkers tend to pay hops a lot of attention, yet barley malt not so much. Incorrectly. Hops are herbs, spice in beer. It is malt that is beer's fermentable foundation —its quiet soul.
Woe to the malster, brewer, or distiller who simply treats malt as a commodity ingredient. Understanding the relationships between hydration, food reserves, and enzymes within the cereal grain can make the difference between a good tasting product and a great tasting product. The role of maltsters, brewers, and distillers [is] one of "fashioning into a scientifically controlled industry, the noble art of converting barley malt into a wort upon which yeast may feast and ultimately fatten into a beverage with character."
The Craft Maltster's' Handbook.
Dave Thomas. White Mule Press (August 2014).

Pictured above is a grain silo holding barley malt for a later brew at the 5 Seasons Brewpub, as seen on 22 April 2016, under a deep blue sky in Sandy Springs, Georgia.

But what is barley and what is barley malt? The National Barley Growers Association has a pithy answer:

No Barley, No Beer

The The Oxford Companion to Beer (Oxford University Press, 2012) provides more depth:
Barley is the primary cereal grain used as the source of carbohydrates for brewing beer. It is designated Hordeum vulgare, and originates in the fertile Crescent of the Middle East (formerly Mesopotamia and its surroundings, now Syria, Iraq and surrounding lands). [...]

Malting is the process in which raw barley or another grain is made ready to become the main ingredient in the brewing process. It is essentially the first step in beer making. The grain is steeped in water, then rested under precise conditions to encourage germination, and finally dried in a kiln and/or a roaster. One of the key functions of malting is to degrade the grain's proteins and to create the enzymes and modify the starches needed for the brewing process. Professionally, the person responsible for this process is known as a maltster.

Returning to the silo above and referring to its brewpub, a question might arise: What is the fifth season?

The answer is ... beer-drinking season, of course. You can thank a barleycorn for that. And a farmer. And a maltster.