Archive for the ‘News’ Category

I Am A Homebrewer

Monday, July 20th, 2009

In response to the video I Am A Craft Brewer that was released in April, a number of homebrewers from have produced their response, appropriately named I Am A Homebrewer. Sit down with a homebrew and enjoy.


Iowa High-Proof Beer Sales

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Tim Hynds over at Sioux Brew posted the numbers on the top selling strong beers in Iowa for the first half of the year. The top seller? Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo, outselling the second place Bigfoot (also from Sierra Nevada) by a factor of two to one. That in turn outsold third place Spaten Optimator by a factor of almost 3 to 1. Way to go Sierra Nevada, and keep bringing your big beers into Iowa! We appreciate it.

I Am A Craft Brewer

Friday, April 24th, 2009

Here is I Am A Craft Brewer, a short video made by Greg Koch from Stone Brewing. It is a heartfelt tribute to the American craft brewing industry (with a nod to the international movement), toasting the creativity, passion, and camaraderie of craft brewers. It was first shown to the brewers at this year’s Craft Brewers’ Conference, which ended today.


1337 Brewing

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

Researchers at Boston University deserve some sort of award. They have perfected control over flocculation, the process wherein the yeast cells clump together and fall to the bottom of the fermenter. By varying when (and if) the yeast flocculates you can exercise precise control over the flavor of the beer. If the yeast clumps together early and falls to the bottom it may leave a good amount of residual sugar in the beer and give it a sweet taste. On the other hand, if it fails to flocculate at all the beer will remain hazy and have a bready yeast flavor.

Anyway, James Collins led a team of synthetic biology researchers that have developed a kind of library of genetic “routines”. They have deconstructed much of the biological machinery that drives activation of genes. By using this library and lots of computer modeling they are able to assemble these component parts into what they call a gene network and have them behave in predictable ways.

So anyway, this team has used their library to produce a system quite analogous to an electric circuit that precisely controls the timing of yeast flocculation.

I wonder if anyone could get away with synthetic-yeast fermented beer?

The Moot Case Against Big Beer

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

The Independent today published a scathing analysis of the extreme beer “craze”. Among their points:

  • these beers have “intense flavours”, “alcohol contents of up to 12 per cent”, and “10 times as much hops as a traditional pint”
  • they are produced by “young entrepreneurs trying to capture the attention – and cash – of lager-guzzling twentysomethings”
  • drinkers may be “unaware of the strength of the new products” which may “exceed [the] daily recommended alcohol intake”

Most frustratingly, the article quotes the head brewer of BrewDog saying, “There’s no way someone can drink 20 a night. It’s probably the least economic way of buying alcohol. You can get a bottle of vodka for £5.” Somehow they just ignore this perfectly reasonable, well-articulated point.

Fortunately, there is some rational writing about beer out there as well. For example, that of Pete Brown. His clear, thoughtful, and bulletproof reply includes several important points:

  • “To suggest that stylish packaging can only be appreciated by the under-25s is patronising to the people these beers are really aimed at – affluent, stylish drinkers in their late twenties and older – in other words, your readership.”
  • “Thirdly, anyone who works in the drinks industry would tell you that the trend among young binge drinkers is for drinks that combine a high alcohol content with an unchallenging flavour. The whole point of these beers is that they are full-flavoured, designed for savouring and almost impossible to glug quickly.”
  • “Wine is sold in 75cl bottles, which are commonly shared between two people. If a 33cl bottle of beer at more than 10% is more than daily recommended alcohol intake (and almost all the beers you mention are not this strong) what’s half a bottle of wine (37.5cl) at 12-14%?”

Because it is so eloquent I will just quote entirely the last two bullet points (emphasis mine).

* Building on these points, Saturday’s Independent demonstrates breathtaking hypocrisy which does a disservice to its readership. The magazine carries its usual page of wine hagiography (funny how you hardly ever feature beer in this way, even though a cursory look at TGI readership data would show you that your readership are enthusiastic consumers of quality beer). This week Anthony Rose talks us through Italian whites. In total 18 different wines are given enthusiastic endorsement. There’s not even a single mention of the alcohol content of any of these wines. And yet I can promise you that every single one of them has a higher ABV than any of the “mindblowing” beers in your extreme beer article, three of which are illustrated with alarmist starbursts drawing attention to their alcohol levels – levels that are so low that if wine was to be produced to that strength, EU law would prevent it from being called wine because it would be too weak.

* But it gets better. In the main paper, 24 pages after the “extreme beer” feature, there’s an article entitled ‘War of the rosés’, about a scheme to make French rosé wine more popular. Here is a direct quote from that piece: “If we are forced to put the word ‘traditional’ on our bottles, people will think, especially young people, that it is a fuddy-duddy wine, an old-fashioned kind of drink. That will ruin everything we have achieved.” That’s from a winemaker. And here’s the journalist himself: “Young people, especially, have taken to rosé as a fun drink, which is refreshing, uncomplicated and relatively cheap. (Anjou rosé sells in the UK at between £5 and £8 a bottle. Other French rosés sell for as little as £3 a bottle.)” Despite the clear admission that rosé winemakers are targeting younger people, despite the fact that rosé wine is being sold cheap and marketed in a contemporary fashion in order to lure these drinkers, there is no worried quote from Alcohol Concern. No sensationalist headline. No mention of the ABV of rosé wines. The attractive illustration of three glasses of rose – unlike your illustration of extreme beers – carries no bold starbursts. The inference is clear: when winemakers admit that they are selling cheap wine (12-14% ABV) and actively targeting young people with 750ml bottles for as little as £3, that’s OK. But when a brewer creates a beer (6-12% ABV) and sells it in a 33cl bottle that retails from £4 upwards, and tells you it is emphatically NOT targeting young drinkers, you run the piece with a ‘health fears’ headline and a subhead that claims the beers are, in fact, targeting younger drinkers – despite the fact that this is a lower ABV drink, being sold at a higher price.

Independent, you just got lawyered.

Also, finally some coverage (warning: website issues) in the “Newspaper Iowa Depends On” of Iowa’s big beer debate. Some background: in Iowa, any beer over 6.25% alcohol is considered liquor. There are three ramifications for this:

  • brewers wishing to make such beer must hold a distiller’s license (even if they don’t wish to distill)
  • strong beer must be sold through the state only
  • good beer is unavailable in Iowa, because brewers don’t want to deal with the state

The article doesn’t seem to take a position but what do you expect from the Reggie?

The Literal Temple of Beer

Friday, February 20th, 2009

Oh come on now, this is getting ridiculous!

monkA group of Buddhist monks in Thailand have built a temple from one and a half million beer bottles. It is composed of 20 buildings, including a crematorium, water tower, and monks’ quarters. Some great photos are here.

I just don’t know what to say. It’s too beautiful.

102-Year-Old Letter Found in Usher's Bottle

Saturday, December 20th, 2008

Workers expanding the Bowes Museum in Northern England have found a bottle containing a letter from the curator, speculating whether it will ever be read. The bottle was apparently from Usher’s Extra Hopped Beer.

More Thoughts on Prohibition

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

I’m not trying to rain on the parade of Nico and Shaun over at The 21st Amendment Brewery Blog or steal their thunder for the roundup of Session #22. However, on a few common themes I feel the need to elaborate. Here’s my original post.

Alan McLeod wrote a relatively thorough treatment comparing the history of Prohibition with the current drug war (this was touched on by Lew Bryson and Jay Brooks as well). Alan gets right to the most critical point: that smoking marijuana is a fundamentally “inherently personal” act and that its continued prohibition is a result of cultural precedence. That is, though Alan never explicitly states it, racism.

I was also glad to see I wasn’t the only one to make a comparison to Proposition 8, though Rob DeNunzio made only a hyperlink aside.

The biggest issue raised by the commentaries of many was the need to prove teetotallers wrong in their characterization of alcohol as evil. We as (let’s face it) professional drinkers must set the standard for responsible drinking and alcohol education. To that end I was buoyed by the mention of the Amethyst Initiative by both DeNunzio and E.C. Delia. For those who are unaware, the Amethyst Initiative is the all-too-overdue campaign to bring discussion of the drinking age back to the national spotlight. It is supported by (at this point) 134 college and university presidents and chancellors. From their website:

In 1984 Congress passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act, which imposed a penalty of 10% of a state’s federal highway appropriation on any state setting its drinking age lower than 21. Twenty-four years later, our experience as college and university presidents convinces us that twenty-one is not working. A culture of dangerous, clandestine “binge-drinking”—often conducted off-campus—has developed. Alcohol education that mandates abstinence as the only legal option has not resulted in significant constructive behavioral change among our students.

For their efforts the Amethyst Initiative has been given the new “Millstone Award” by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. That’s right, the group that largely gave us Prohibition has recognized this cause as promoting “unhealthy, illegal or immoral behavior that [they] believe places children at risk”. According to the post on their website, other organizations considered were “groups responsible for placing pornography on the Internet” and the Montgomery County (MD) Council, for their efforts to eliminate transgender discrimination. In my mind receiving this award seems like quite a high honor.

Additionally I’d like to point out this article over at Madison Beer Review. There are many exciting Prohibition-era bootlegging stories but this one is with the best of them. The Eulberg Brewery brewed full-strength beer illegally for 12 of the 14 years of Prohibition. Features a few good quotes from The Capital Times and the Wisconsin State Journal.

[edit: I originally misspelled the name of Shaun from 21st Amendment. In my defense, that’s how another Sessioner spelled it.]

Rate Beer is back up!

Thursday, November 20th, 2008

Finally, after a long wait caused by thoughtless crackers, RateBeer is back online. Let’s hope they can stay up this time.

Ralph Steadman Knows Good Beer

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

Check out the series of collages done by Ralph Steadman in Provence. The sun in the second one is a cap from a blonde from the infamous Westvleteren Trappist brewery.

How cool is that?