Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Michael Jackson vs. Conan O'Brien.

Michael Jackson, 28 March 1995.
People say if you don't drink you live longer.
That's not true. It just seems longer.

Michael Jackson —the ungloved one, the one who didn't drink Pepsi, but the one who drank beer and wrote about it, the Beer Hunter— was an erudite Yorkshire, England, newspaper reporter who was the prime promulgator, in several wonderful books, of the concept of 'beer type' or 'beer style,' a nomenclature based on geography and tradition, and ingredient and process.

Jackson was a man who wrote as well as he drank, who demonstrated that beer —and whisk(e)y— was easily wine's equal (or was that vice-versa?). His concept of 'beer style' —a novel idea in the 1970s when he wrote his first books— is now well-established canon, if twisted well beyond Jackson's original premise.

Michael Jackson appeared twice on "Late Night with Conan O'Brien": first in December 1998 and again, a decade later, in April of 2006. The first was funnier; the second snarkier and more mean-spirited toward Jackson.

Jackson, so public in his advocacy for good beer, long waged a private battle against Parkinson's Disease, its progressively deteriorating symptoms observable as slurred speech, rigidity, and herky-jerky movements. Even at that earlier point in 1998, Jackson was already suffering from Parkinson's effects, although subtly. By the second appearance, very noticeably.

Jackson had plans of writing a memoir of his battle with the disease that he would impishly entitle, "I Am Not Drunk." Not to be. He died on 30 August 2007, at the age of sixty-five.

You can help find a cure for Parkinson's. You can link your home computer into a worldwide distributed computing effort —Folding at Home —run by researchers at Stanford University to better understand protein folding errors, believed to be a cause of Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, and other neurodegenerative diseases. I have done so, in honor of Mr. Jackson and of my father —who also died of Parkinson's, five years earlier— in the hope that, someday soon, no one will any longer need to suffer from that scourge. Please consider doing so yourself. There is no cost.

From that evening in 1998, here's another exchange Jackson had with O'Brien. The latter was no match.
Jackson: "This beer was made with hot rocks. [...] Didn't you get hot rocks when you tasted it?"

O'Brien: "No. I don't have a sophisticated palate. I'm like a Pabst Blue Ribbon guy."

Jackson: "You get hot rocks when you wear short shorts. I think that's what you need to do."


Monday, August 28, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 31/32, 2017.

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

Weeks 31/32
30 July - 12 August 2017

  • 12 August 2017
    Man charged after white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, ends in deadly violence. Trump finds fault with both anti-white-nationalist protestors and KKK/neo-Nazi marchers.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 12 August 2017
    Glen Campbell, the sweet-voiced, guitar-picking son of a sharecropper who became a recording, television, and movie star in the 1960s and ’70s, whose hit songs bridged country and pop, and who waged a publicized battle with alcohol and drugs and who gave his last performances while in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, died in Nashville, at 81.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 8 August 2017
    Despite the eschatological presence of "fine English wines" served for the first time at the Great British Beer Festival, Goats Milk, a 3.8% (!) alcohol-by-volume bitter (cask-conditioned, of course) brewed by was produced by the Church End Brewery in Warwickshire, England, has won Champion Beer of Britain at the competition, celebrating its 40th anniversary.
    —More, via Roger Protz on Beer.

  • Beer is Best
  • 10 August 2017
    The demise and rebirth of the ten-sided pint beer mug ("lantern tankard" or "Queen's Choice"): the "iconic symbol of all that is great about British beer."
    —Via Martyn Cornell, at Zythophile.

  • 10 August 2017
    Constellation Brands (producer of wines, spirits, and the beers Corona and past 'craft' brewery Ballast Point) has purchased Funky Buddha Brewery of Florida because, the press release says,
    Constellation [a $7.33 BILLION-dollar company] and Funky Buddha [a small brewery capable of 45,000 barrels-per-year production] share a lot of the same ideals and passion for philanthropy, entrepreneurship and the art of craft beer. At the end of the day, we just really like the people we have met within the organization, each of whom share [sic] our dedication to making outstanding beer.
    Ha, ha! The purchase price was not revealed, but it most probably will not be one billion dollars —the amount that Constellation overpaid for San Diego 'craft' brewery, Ballast Point in November 2015.
    —Via All About Beer.

  • 8 August 2017
    The U.S. Agriculture Department is forbidding its civil servants from using the terms: “climate change” and “reduce greenhouse gases,” substituting for the latter with “increase nutrient use efficiency”.
    —Via The Guardian.

  • 8 August 2017
    New research —published in 2016 in Cell— has determined that nearly all modern beer yeasts are descended from merely two strains in the 1600s. The publication describes the assembly of four hundred fifty yeast strains into one family tree.
    A very large proportion of [modern] brewing yeasts in [Germany, the U.K., and the U.S.] descends from a single strain. Breweries somewhere in Europe must have, somehow, gotten hold of a strain that was then shared throughout four different countries, and that was also taken across the Atlantic to the US. You really have to wonder how and why that happened.
    —Via LarsBlog.

  • 8 August 2017
    A goddess has left this mortal coil. Barbara Cook, luminous singer of Broadway stage, has died at 89. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Cook was an American singer and actress who first came to prominence in the 1950s as the lead in Broadway musicals such as The Music Man (1957) for which she won a Tony Award. Cook was lauded for her excellent lyric coloratura soprano range, vocal agility, wide range, warm sound, and emotive interpretations. She continued performing mostly in theatre until the mid-1970s, when she began a second career as a cabaret and concert singer.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 8 August 2017
    The Beer Institute has come out in favor of the proposed U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rules on Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments, arguing that
    consumers should be provided with the highest standard of information for alcohol beverages on menus for chain restaurants and other similar dining establishments.
    The Beer Institute, while representing all U.S. breweries, comprises Anheuser-Busch InBev, Constellation Brands, Heineken USA, MillerCoors, and a few others which together produce more than 81% of the volume of beer sold in the United States.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 7 August 2017
    Current climate change is real, potentially dangerous, and man-made, says legally-mandated Climate Science Special Report produced by thirteen Federal agencies. Trump is considering his response.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • Judith Jones with Julia Child (c. 1959)
  • 2 August 2017
    Judith Jones, the legendary editor who rescued Anne Frank’s "The Diary of a Young Girl" from a publisher’s reject pile and later introduced readers to the likes of Julia Child (when books on French cooking for Americans were virtually non-existent) and a host of other influential cookbook authors, has died in Walden, Vermont, at 93, from complications of Alzheimer’s disease.
    —Via Joe Yonan at Washington Post.

  • 2 August 2017
    For the first time ever, scientists have genetically modified a human embryo. The details are reported in a study in the journal Nature.
    In their new paper, a consortium of scientists in California, Oregon and Asia detailed using the genome-editing technique CRISPR to repair DNA that causes a common genetic heart disease known as hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. This is only the fourth published study involving editing human embryos; the other three all took place in China.
    —Via MSN.

  • 2 August 2017
    Ara Parseghian —an American football coach who guided the University of Notre Dame to national championships in 1966 and 1973, noted for bringing Notre Dame's "Fighting Irish" football program from years of futility back into a national contender in 1964 and is widely regarded alongside Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy as a part of the 'Holy Trinity' of Notre Dame head coaches— has died at 94.
    —Via ESPN.

  • 1 August 2017
    The [U.S.] Brewers Association reported, that, as of June 30, there were 5,562 breweries in the U.S. (increased by 906 from a year ago) and 2,739 more breweries in planning. Craft beer sales volume increased 5% during the first half of 2017 [a slowdown from craft beer's double-digit growth rates of the past few years].
    The growth pace for small and independent brewers has stabilized at a rate that still reflects progress but in a more mature market. Although more difficult to realize, growth still exists
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 1 August 2017
    Another pioneering 'craft' brewery (in fact, the original pioneer) has been purchased by a foreign entity.
    In a statement released today, Japanese beer-maker Sapporo Holdings Limited announced it would acquire San Francisco, California-based Anchor Brewing, revered as a pioneer of American craft beer. The transaction is expected to close on August 31 will cost $85 million, according to a tweet from Bloomberg News’ Tokyo bureau chief Gearoid Reidy.

    Anchor was founded in 1896, though it entered its modern phase in 1965 when Fritz Maytag purchased a majority stake in the struggling brewery. Since then, the brewery’s iconic Anchor Steam and Liberty Ale have become ubiquitous and are credited by many with sparking the American craft revival. Anchor was the 22nd-largest brewery in the U.S. by volume in 2016, according to data compiled by the Brewers Association. It has been owned since 2010 by The Griffin Group, an investment and consulting company focused on alcoholic beverage brands.
    —Via DRAFT.

  • 1 August 2017
    Today, in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln enacted the first-ever American federal excise tax on "beer, lager beer, ale, porter": $1 per barrel. Enacted to fund the military actions of the U.S. Civil War, the tax has never been repealed, but increased. The Civil War ended in 1865.
    —Via Tom Acitelli, at All About Beer.

  • 28 July 2017
    People who drink three to four times a week are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those who never drink, according to a new study conducted by the National Institute of Public Health of the University of Southern Denmark.
    The researchers concluded that drinking moderately three to four times a week reduced a woman's risk of diabetes by 32% while it lowered a man's by 27%, compared with people drinking on less than one day a week.
    • Wine appeared to be particularly beneficial, because polyphenols, particularly in red wine, play a role in helping to manage blood sugar. Red wine is thought to help with the management of blood sugar.
    • When it came to drinking beer, men having one to six beers a week lowered their risk of diabetes by 21%, compared to men who drank less than one beer a week - but there was no impact on women's risk.
    • Meanwhile, a high intake of spirits among women seemed to significantly increase their risk of diabetes - but there was no effect in men.
    —Via BBC.

  • 27 July 2017
    Sam Shepard, film and stage actor, author of forty-four plays, several books of short stories, essays, and memoirs, and Pulitzer Prize winner (in 1979 for his play Buried Child) has died of complications associated with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Geherig's Disease), at age 73. Shepard's
    hallucinatory plays redefined the landscape of the American West and its inhabitants
    —Via New York Times.


Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hurricane Harvey: how to help its victims.

Hurricane Harvey continues to pummel Texas during the early hours of Sunday morning, dropping 20 inches of rain on Houston and causing dire, and deadly, flash floods. Forecasters expect 15 to 30 inches of rain in many areas, with as much as 40 inches in isolated regions, according to the National Weather Service.

The Weather Channel has posted links to a few organizations to which you can donate to help victims. That list and the need will grow.
Red Cross

The Red Cross is mobilizing trained Red Cross disaster relief workers to support this response effort, and has more than shelters ready to open and support thousands of people if needed. Trailers full of shelter and relief supplies have been pre-positioned including cots, blankets, comfort and cleaning supplies. Donate: Visit, call 1-800-RED CROSS or text the word REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation.

Salvation Army

The Salvation Army has already begun collecting funds to help those affected by the storm. Though most people think of donating clothing or household items first, spokesperson Alvin Migues said physical donations can be a challenge during a disaster. “Then you have to spend manpower to deal with sorting and other things as they come into the warehouses instead of having those folks out in the field doing the work," he said. "So, we always asked people to send a cash donation instead,” he said.

Donate: You can donate cash online at or by phone at 1-800-725-2769.

South Texas Blood and Tissue Center

The STBTC is in dire need of blood donations to prepare South Texas Hospitals for Hurricane Harvey. The center says although O negative and O positive blood is at critically low levels, all blood type donations are welcome. The center says less than a day's supply is available. The center is asking the public in the San Antonio and New Braunfels areas to donate right now.

Donate: Visit or call 210-731-5590 to schedule an appointment to donate blood.

Texas Diaper Bank

"Diapers are not provided by disaster relief agencies," the TDB posted on Facebook Friday. To alleviate that need, the TDB is requesting donations of cash and diapers to provide emergency diaper kits for families that are being displaced due to Hurricane Harvey.

Donate: Visit the donation page at and designate your donation for Disaster Relief.


Saturday, August 26, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Totality -minus 5 minutes.

Totality -minus 5 minutes

An eerie pall, then, almost instantly, darkness. Majestic, mysterious, and awful (in its deific sense) beauty.

Along the shores of Lake Hartwell, at the conjunction of northeastern Georgia and South Carolina, the Great American Eclipse 2017 began on the afternoon of Monday, 21 August, at 1:05 pm and ended nearly three hours later at 4:01 pm. Totality —complete eclipse— was briefer, beginning at 2:35:46 and ending at 2:38:21.

Despite having done what I thought to be due diligence, I, a piker, failed to fully comprehend the great degree of difficulty I would have, while wearing darkened eclipse glasses, to actually find and frame the sun via my camera's LCD screen. 

That being so, I dud manage to snap a few photos of the gathering eclipse (such as above, at 2:30 pm, five minutes before totality), a handful of my fellow eclipse-watchers, and a few shaky shots of the sun when totality struck.

This was the first total eclipse to traverse the entire continental United States since 1918. The wait for the next totally-American total eclipse won't be quite as long. It will darken the width of the continent twenty-eight years from now, on 12 August 2045. *

I'll be ready.

  • * The next total solar eclipse to be visible over North America (but not exclusive to the U.S.) will be even sooner yet: 8 April 2024.
  • More of my eclipse photos, as they were: here.

  • Pic(k) of the Week: one in a weekly series of photos taken (or noted) by me, posted on Saturdays, and often, but not always (as is the case today), with a good fermentable as the subject.
  • See the photo on Flickr: here.
  • Camera: Olympus Pen E-PL1.
  • Commercial reproduction requires explicit permission, as per Creative Commons.

  • For more from YFGF:

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Grow up!

The ugly, distasteful, entitled (dare I say, Millenial?), ultimately self-defeating attitude of some of 'craft' brewing.
This is a small batch brewery. The amount of time a beer spends in a tank, sometimes due to limited human resources, variances in ingredients, and other shit like this affects the beer. We do not have hops contracts this year. We are small so we get the shittiest pick of hops. Grain does not all come from the same field.

We tinker with all inputs to work to improve the beer. This is part of what makes small batch brewing and craft brewing what it is. I know there are a lot of experts out there, so to you, if you want to get schooled on this, drop by and speak to Travis or one of our other biologist [sic].

On the other hand, if you want more consistency, you can find plenty [sic] brands that never try to improve. Brands that have the money and access to gigantic tanks that they can blend into to make more consistent beer. We will gladly give you some recommendations.

BTW, other craft breweries have these issues. Exploding cans, srm/color variances, haze variances…give them a break. Don’t think this is professional, well that’s good cause I am not a professional, I am a fucking scofflaw. #webrewbeerforgeorgia
Scofflaw Brewing (Atlanta, Georgia)
as posted to Facebook (15 August 2017).


YFGF responds

I now reside in Georgia and, no, you do not brew for me: not with that condescension, not with that sheeple 'craft-oblige.'

Ask me to give you my good money for your defective product? No. Ask that I accept your sanctimonious pontification that poor brewing and risk of consumer injury is what 'craft' is? No, I won't. That is not 'craft.' It's crap (and, in the case of the latter, it's a large bowel movement: a potentially brewery-shuttering lawsuit).

It doesn't matter if I or any of your potential consumers am/are or were brewers or not (and, in fact, I was a brewer when you were in diapers and possibly even before then). Packaging a beer in a can or bottle or keg (and don't get me started on casks) requires a whole new set of understanding, technology, and yes, funding. If you can't do it right, don't do it. Or at least don't get upset when consumers aren't pleased with sub par results. It's their cash, your problem. You operate a factory. Learn how it works.

Beer Packaging

In the 2014 edition of their book, Beer Packaging, Ray Klimovitz and Karl Ockert wrote:
Packaging is the most expensive aspect of brewing, representing up to two-thirds of the cost of beer production. It is also one of the least forgiving steps in the brewing process.

Maybe, you might read their book, first. (I could loan you my copy.)

You say that your 'birdie-fingers-in-the-air' photo was a joke. Maybe, but childish. But when you accompany it with a pathetic 'poor-poor-pitiful-me' routine [as above], it appears to be not a joke but an obnoxious whine.

On your Facebook page, you say to a customer: "skip ours and buy something else." Agreed. There are thousands of other 'craft' breweries who give a damn. To be fair to you, they too may occasionally suffer similar brewing and packaging follies, but a difference between you and them is that they 'own' their errors and correct them. Too bad for you.

Put on your big boy pants. Grow up.

  • I attended a Scofflaw pre-opening release-ceremony, in August 2016, pleased, then, to sample the wares of a new brewery. Such a consequent social media stance is ill-advised.
  • My usual modus operandi is to mention when praising, keep obscured when castigating. The idea of the thing is often the thing, rather than the thing itself. In this case, however, the sheer gall of this social-media posting required application of caustic in bright light, even if the brewery's' puerile behavior might be rewarded with clicks and views as the result.
  • This post was originally published, in slightly different form,  at YFGF's Facebook page: here.
  • Read Paste Magazine's coverage: here. (It was their story that alerted me to the situation.)
  • Read Scofflaw's post at its Facebook page: 15 August 2017.

  • For more from YFGF:

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets was eclipsed.

Due to foreseen circumstances, Clamps & Gaskets —a bi-weekly news roundup of beer and other things— did not make its regularly scheduled appearance yesterday. It will return next Monday, 28 August 2017 (and, to catch up, again, on the following Monday, Labor Day).

Totality, now (that is, yesterday)!

Eclipse viewers


Sunday, August 20, 2017

Drink beer. Win acclaim!

Beer ye, beer ye! Do you write, blog, or podcast about beer?

If yes, you have until this Friday, 25 August, to enter the 2017 North American Guild of Beer Writers competition. The NAGBW has announced its 5th annual Beer Writer Awards. Or more accurately, its 5th annual awards for beer writers and bloggers and broadcasters, and, yes, authors.

North American Guild of Beer Writers
Through this annual writing competition, the Guild aims to broaden the conversation about beer and brewing, raise the standards of writing, and provide leadership and continuing education for practitioners of our profession, while also encouraging and supporting more participation throughout all media channels.

To be eligible for consideration, entries must have been published between 1 July 2016 and 30 June 2017. But to be judged, entries must be submitted by this Friday, 25 August 2017. There are eleven categories in which to enter:
  • Best Beer Book
  • Best Beer Podcast
  • Best Beer Blog
  • Best Beer and Food Writing
  • Best Beer and Travel Writing
  • Best Local Reporting
  • Best National/ International Reporting
  • Best Short Form Writing (fewer than 600 words)
  • Best History Writing
  • Best Technical Writing
  • Best Beer Criticism or Commentary
It'll cost you $30 per entry. If you're a member of the NAGBW, however, that's only $15. Furthermore, there's only one article or item allowed per entry per category and only two entries are permitted per person.

Submissions will be judged by these criteria and to these weights:
  • Readability: 25%
  • Voice and style: 25%
  • Knowledge of subject/accuracy/factual content: 20%
  • Creativity/originality: 15%
  • Interest/newsworthiness: 15%
Finally, whether or not you submit, why not join the Guild? Membership is open to all writers and content producers who cover beer and brewing.
We are professional beer writers.

We make our living, or at least a substantial portion of it, writing about beer and brewing. We are authors, writers, publicists, bloggers, columnists, critics, cheerleaders and more. We tirelessly cover the brewing industry undefined and those who appreciate beer undefined across North America.

Many of us are self-employed or do this as a side "gig" in addition to our "real jobs." Some of us are employed by breweries, beer distributors, beer bars, stores and restaurants. Still others are publishers and event organizers, while some work for newspapers, websites, magazines and other media outlets.

We are an all-volunteer group dedicated to elevating the level of our craft as we cover the art of brewing. We are serious in our purpose, but strive to enjoy ourselves in doing our jobs.

Please consider joining with us to help shape our efforts to support and nurture better beer writing in North America.

Indeed and good luck.


Saturday, August 19, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: When the dew point tops 24 °C.

Draft Pilsner in Sam Adams glass

When the dew point tops 24 °C...

A beer not murky; not ugly; not fowled with chicken parts.


A draught of pilsner-style lager.


Dewdrops condensed. Such a lovely thing.


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

"And beer is all there is."

I don't know how many bottles of beer
I have consumed while waiting for things 
to get better
I dont know how much wine and whisky
and beer
mostly beer
I have consumed after 
splits with women-
waiting for the phone to ring
waiting for the sound of footsteps,
and the phone to ring
waiting for the sounds of footsteps,
and the phone never rings
until much later
and the footsteps never arrive
until much later
when my stomach is coming up
out of my mouth
they arrive as fresh as spring flowers:
"what the hell have you done to yourself?
it will be 3 days before you can fuck me!"

the female is durable
she lives seven and one half years longer
than the male, and she drinks very little beer
because she knows its bad for the figure.

while we are going mad
they are out
dancing and laughing
with horney cowboys.

well, there's beer
sacks and sacks of empty beer bottles
and when you pick one up
the bottle fall through the wet bottom
of the paper sack 
spilling gray wet ash
and stale beer,
or the sacks fall over at 4 a.m.
in the morning
making the only sound in your life.

rivers and seas of beer
the radio singing love songs
as the phone remains silent
and the walls stand
straight up and down
and beer is all there is.

Love is A Dog From Hell (published, 1977)

Charles Bukowski (16 August 1920 – 9 March 1994)
German-American poet and novelist

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994)


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Street scene al fresco

Street scene al fresco

A 'street photography' shot of the patio of a restaurant and the street beyond. No humans, but a high-contrast early-evening sky, bright primary colors, and phone-camera faux high-dynamic-range imaging.

And redundantly entitled.

In the East Lake neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia, on 4 August 2017.


Friday, August 11, 2017

In the real ale world, regular order is restored.

GBBF 2017

The Great British Beer Festival (GBBF) is Britain’s largest beer festival, with over 50,000 attendees. On the festival tasting floor, there are over 900 (cask-conditioned) real ales ranging from
microbreweries to the most well known British brands, and hundreds of bottled and foreign beers, and a selection of real ciders and perries.

It's also a competition among British brewers for national bragging-rights. Last year, Binghams Brewery's Vanilla Stout won the judging with a cask-ale pickled American-style with vanilla beans, cocoa, chocolate 'essence,' and 'natural' plum flavoring.

Upon hearing that, I bemoaned, "Oh the humanity." The beer reporter for the Washington Post took me to task for that, accusing me of demeaning the skills of the brewers and judges.

Stuff and nonsense, as if holding an opinion would be prima facie wrong, and expressing one, insulting. I don't much like extraneous nonsense tossed in a beer I drink. I do much enjoy the uber-freshness of an unadulterated cask ale. And I freely stipulate to that.

This year —despite the eschatological presence of "fine English wines," for the first time in the London beer festival's forty years— regular order has been restored. A 3.8% (!) alcohol-by-volume bitter (cask-conditioned, of course) has been crowned Champion Beer of Britain.
A bitter beer first brewed as a one-off for a pub in Lincolnshire has walked away with the prestigious Champion Beer of Britain award at the Great British Beer Festival at London Olympia. Goats Milk was produced by the Church End Brewery in Warwickshire for the Goat Pub in Market Deeping in Lincolnshire but proved so popular that it’s become a regular beer in the brewery’s range.

Head brewer Carl Graves says the 3.8% beer has a simple recipe of Maris Otter pale malt with a touch of crystal malt and malted wheat and is hopped with American Cascade and Chinook hops.

The judges on the final panel said the beer was the stand-out one among the six finalists and praised its fine balance of malt and hops and refreshing palate.

This year, like last, I was not fortunate to be there to taste the winner. But (risking re-opprobrium from the 'mainstream media') I'll still exult that an unpolluted bitter —a moreish session beer— has bested stronger zymur-sisters and brothers, resting victorious atop its stillage.

All is right with the world, at least for a moment.

Queue for American casks at Great BRITISH Beer Festival
Even so, a long line stood for a stand of
AMERICAN cask ales (exhibited but not judged).


Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Beer Institute, the FDA, and transparency in beer labeling

The Beer Institute (BI) has come out in favor of the proposed U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) rules on "Nutrition Labeling of Standard Menu Items in Restaurants and Similar Retail Food Establishments." Its argument is that

consumers should be provided with the highest standard of information for alcohol beverages on menus for chain restaurants and other similar dining establishments.

Keep in mind that the Beer Institute, while representing all U.S. breweries (as well as beer importers and beer industry suppliers) comprises—
  • Anheuser-Busch InBev
    (including 10 Barrel, Blue Point, Breckinridge, Devils Backbone, Elysian, Four Peaks, Golden Road, Goose Island, Karbach, and Wicked Weed)
  • Constellation Brands
    (including Ballast Point)
  • Craft Brew Alliance
    (including Kona, Redhook, and Widmer)
  • Heineken USA
    (including Lagunitas)
  • MillerCoors
    (including Saint Archer and Terrapin)
  • North American Breweries
    (including Genesee, Pyramid, and Magic Hat)
These company-members produce more than 81% of the volume of beer sold in the United States. Thus, buried deep within its letter to the FDA, the Beer Institute, by inference, makes common cause with its member Goliaths versus 'craft' brewery Davids.
Only very rarely, the BI supports disclosure of a single calorie reference for a category or group of beverages alcohol products, provided all products have the exact same nutritional values for each serving size provided to the consumer. This would only be acceptable in instances when this disclosure provides the consumer with the maximum amount of information. But we wish to reiterate our opposition to the use of a single, limited disclosure based on averages for all beer, wine, or drinks made with distilled spirits.

The large brewing companies and conglomerates which comprise the BI have the financial wherewithal to pay for lab analyses and label changes. Requiring smaller breweries to provide this information could be onerous: the cost of analysis for each and every beer could be beyond their means.

The FDA, showing small-business beneficence, however, will offer relief. If a specific type of wine, beer or distilled spirit offered for sale in a restaurant matches the description of the type of beer (wine or spirit) in the USDA database, that generic nutritional information can be used.

And the effect upon Mom & Pop, single-site, and small-chain restaurants? The mandate would apply only to restaurant chains with more than 20 locations. Appleby's has the cash. Businesses have until July 2018 (or July 2019 for businesses of less than $10 million in annual sales) to bring their Nutrition and Supplement Facts labels into compliance.

In light of the FDA regulations, it's interesting to recall that a quarter-of-a-century ago, in 1992, 'craft' beer pioneer Bert Grant voluntarily (others would say provocatively) put nutritional information on the label of his Grant's Scottish Ale. But, back then, the U.S. government told him to immediately cease and desist.

Going further, the Beer Institute, in 2016, created, what it called, the Brewers’ Voluntary Disclosure Initiative.

Brewers' Voluntary Disclosure Iniative

Participating breweries will voluntarily disclose
calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, freshness dating; and alcohol by volume (ABV) on all labels in the form of a serving facts statement, and disclose ingredients in products on either the label or secondary packaging via a list of ingredients, a reference to a website or a QR code.

Again, easy for the big boys; difficult for the little guys. But you know what? As a beer consumer, I'd welcome transparency and honesty from the 'craft' breweries about their beers. Especially concerning the freshness of their beer or lack thereof. And make this declaration easy to see; easy to decipher. And I'd like to see that on both the can or bottle and on the carton.

I'd like to see that before I spend my $15 for a six-pack. (Kegs, too.)


Monday, August 07, 2017

Clamps & Gaskets: News Roundup for Weeks 29/30, 2017.

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

Weeks 29/30
16 July - 29 July 2017

  • 28 July 2017
    Millennials consume 42% of the wine sold in the U.S. What that might mean for 'craft' beer?
    According to Wine Spectator, the U.S. wine market is expected to expand 1.1 percent and spirits are set to rise 2.5, while beer is estimated to decline by 0.7 percent. Volumes for these three options are wildly different to be sure – beer is cheaper and more readily available in simple terms of ounces – but in broad thematic terms, sets up a worthy discussion.
    —Via Bryan D. Roth, at This Is Why I'm Drunk.

  • 27 July 2017
    Sam Shepard, the experimentalist cowboy-style poet who became one of the most significant American playwrights of the 20th century, honored with the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for drama for his play “Buried Child” and with an Oscar nomination for his acting role as aviator Chuck Yeager in the 1983 film “The Right Stuff,” died July 27 at his farm in Kentucky, from complications of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease). He was 73.
    —Via Washington Post.

  • 26 July 2017
    Another craft brewery sale. Short's Brewing Co., which until last year used the slogan "Michigan only, Michigan forever," announced Wednesday that it plans to sell a 19.99% stake to California-based Lagunitas Brewing Company. But as Lagunitas was recently bought out by Heineken, that chunk of the celebrated Michigan brewery will actually be in the hands of big beer. Still 'craft'?
    —Via Detroit Free Press.

  • John & Kristen Bates
  • 22 July 2017
    A Baltimore, Maryland, good beer man has died: John Bates (1960-2017).
    In lieu of flowers or donations, John would most appreciate random acts of kindness.
    —Via YFGF.

  • 19 July 2017
    The [U.S.] Brewers Association rolled out its Certified Independent Craft Beer (upside-down-beer-bottle) seal on 27 June 2017 Since then, the association reports, more than 1,250 U.S. breweries (out of more than 5,400) have either adopted it or committed to.
    —Via [U.S.] Brewers Association.

  • 18 July 2017
    Miller Coors CEO Gavin Hattersley refers to 'craft' brewers as "internal assassins" for their criticisms of the mainstream beer business. Blames them and other factors for Miller Lite's declining sales. But not his beer.
    —Via Hey, Beer Dan.

  • 18 July 2017
    Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.” Free speech, decency, Flying Dog Brewery, & the [U.S.] Brewers Association.
    —Via DC Beer.

  • 17 July 2017
    New Belgium for sale? To Anheuser-Busch InBev?
    —Via Forbes.

  • 16 July 2017
    “They're coming for you, Barbara.” Film director George A. Romero created the modern zombie genre with his 1968 cult film, “Night of the Living Dead,” which influenced generations of horror enthusiasts. Romero died 16 July 2017 in Toronto at age 77.
    —Via New York Times.

  • 16 July 2017
    I drink what I want, when I want [—but—] while the beer is likely to be good from both independent and Big Beer-affiliated breweries, that’s not the issue. Transparency also matters. Honesty matters.
    —Via Andy Crouch, at Beer Advocate.

  • 16 July 2017
    From Coors to Ball Corporation to Flying Dog Brewery to Lost Abbey to the American Brewers Guild and Brewers Association, to craft distiller Cutwater Spirits in San Diego, California, scientist Gwen Conley has made a career of identifying flavors (good and off) in food, beer, and spirits.
    —Via SevenFifty Daily.


Saturday, August 05, 2017

Pic(k) of the Week: Earth Goddess in summer

Earth Goddess in summer (04)

The Earth Goddess 'living' sculpture, as seen in the Cascades Garden, of the Atlanta Botanical Garden, in, naturally, Atlanta, Georgia, on 30 July 2017.
The immense Earth Goddess has become a signature exhibit at the Garden. The living sculpture, installed in 2013, was originally designed and fabricated by artisans from Mosaïcultures Internationales de Montréal. Mosaiculture is the centuries-old horticultural art of covering fabricated steel forms with a planting material and "plugging," or planting, it with tens of thousands of tiny plants.

At 30 feet wide by 25 feet tall, the sculpture weighs nearly 29 tons and holds more than 18,000 individual plants, which are trimmed weekly to maintain the flowing lines. Some of the plants used for a palette of color and texture include Pilea glauca, Lantan camara (Florida Red Mound), Alternanthera (Petites Feuilles Verts), Ipomoea batatas (Sweetheart Purple), Durante erecta (Lemon Lime), and Hypoestes sanguinolenta (Splash Select Pink).


Thursday, August 03, 2017

Drinking, again! Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest.

Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest: July (!) 2017.

In Munich, Germany, Oktoberfest will run for eighteen days this year, from 16 September through 3 October. In North Carolina, Sierra Nevada Brewing packaged its Oktoberfest-style lager for this year ... on 7 July 2017. Calendar creep.

Back when I was flogging beer in northern Virginia, the beer-buyer in one particular shop would admonish me in summer: "No mention of Oktoberfest (or pumpkin beer) before 1 August." Sierra Nevada (and others) yearly jump this red line. Way too soon, but way so delicious.

Limpid, light-amber color. Nose of toasted marshmallow and herbs. Sweet, baked-shortbread middle. Drying slug of finishing hops. At 6.1% alcohol-by-volume, on the higher end: festive, indeed. Worth the early taste.

The brewery's website displays a bottle with the name of Germany’s "Brauhaus Miltenberger" emblazoned below the word "Oktoberfest." The beer can does not (with, instead, the word, "Festbier").
This year, we’re collaborating with Germany’s Brauhaus Miltenberger, whose approach to the classic style we’ve long admired. The result is a festival beer true to their style—deep golden in color with deceptively rich malt flavor and balanced by traditional German-grown whole-cone hops.
  • 6.1% alcohol-by-volume (abv)
  • 30 IBUs (international bittering units)
  • Bittering hops: German Magnum
  • Finishing hops: German Select, Tettnanger, Spalter
  • Malts: Two-row Pale, Steffi, Pilsner, Munich
Despite a resurgence of lagers among small American 'craft' breweries, it still appears difficult for many of them —if for technical and brewing-philosophical reasons— to produce elegant lagers such as festbiers.

For example, one datum. In 2016, I purchased a locally-brewed Oktoberfest-style lager, a mere three days after the brewery had canned it. It tasted like a Belgian sour beer gone bad, like a melon left out too long. A (very) small sample size, yes, but twelve-dollars was wasted. Rarely is that a problem with Sierra Nevada.

Even with modern refrigeration and technology, there is at least one beer style that remains naturally dependent on the calendar. And so, I wait for autumn-harvest beers brewed with picked-that-day, uncured, hops. I anticipate the fresh-hopped beers of September and October.

A series of occasional reviews of beer (and wine and spirits).
No scores; only descriptions.