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News of 2003 Archive

11/5: Hooper's Hooch pulled from market: I like the guys at U.S. Beverage pretty much, but I can't help but dance all over the grave of Hooper's Hooch, which was pulled from the UK market today. Hooper's Hooch: a malternative, a 'pioneer,' a failure. Now, if we could just get the rest of that crap off our beer shelves, that would be progress.

9/4: Tom Fuchs leaves Capital Brewing: You may not even know who Tom Fuchs is, but his departure from the president's office at Capital Brewing in Wisconsin is significant. Fuchs took over the brewery's helm after a long history of top-notch beer and lukewarm sales, and quadrupled sales while maintaining the quality. 20 years in the wine biz gave him a different perspective on the business, and it's obviously one that worked well. I have long maintained that the beer biz -- in all its aspects, including writing -- could learn a lot from the wine biz. I'll miss Tom's perspective, and wish him well.

9/4: New England Brewing re-opens: I actually got this tip from Scott "Dude" Morrison back in June when we were brewing the re-born Belle Dock, but forgot to put it up. New England Brewing, which was one of the early New England micros, has been bought Rob Leonard and Pete Seaman, former employees of the former Norwich, CT brewery, which closed over two years ago after a long downward spiral marked by odd buisness decisions. Seaman and Leonard are taking it back to its roots: beer.  Draft-only Atlantic Amber shipped in June, and early reports are good. Good to see this name back in New England!

9/2: Empire Brewing Closing in Rochester: Got the following from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle: Empire Brewing Co. -- a microbrewery and restaurant in the heart of the High Falls entertainment district -- will close, co-owner Michael Hodgdon said.
The 200-seat, 11,000-square-foot restaurant opened in January 1997. Owners Hodgdon and David Katleski received tax credits and utility discounts under the state's Economic Development Zone program. It also qualified for $417,000 in federal and state loans under the Enterprise Community Zone program." No word on whether Empire Syracuse will also close. A loss; too bad.

8/18: Are You Diabetic?: If you or someone you know is diabetic and either missing the occasional beer or feeling guilty and scared about having one, check out this article in Beverage Business by Harvey Finkel, M.D. on diabetics and drinking. You're likely to be very surprised; Finkel thinks (and the literature supports him) that moderate drinking is an overall benefit for the diabetic. Note that overdoing it is proportionately more dangerous for the diabetic, and that Finkel recommends drinks that are low in sugars. Where's the Holsten Diät Pils when you need it?

8/17: Stop Me If You've Heard This Before...: There is (once again) a story out that Four Roses Bourbon will be returning to the U.S. market. I hope it's true, because it's a delicious whiskey, but this is about the third time I've heard this in five years, and I'm a bit suspicious. The story comes from Japan, which makes sense when you consider that Kirin owns the brand, having bought it from Diageo when Seagram slunk away from the booze business that had been the family's fortune. The whiskey has been an export-only product since 1959, selling largely in Japan, Spain, and France. Plans are for the bourbon to be sold only in Kentucky for now. Hope they have some when I get there in September, I really like the stuff, and I'm looking forward to getting another bottle.

8/15: Big PA News: Appalachian Brewing did a stealth opening on a new brewpub in Gettysburg August 4th. According to the Hanover Evening Sun, "The company signed a lease for its new property ­ the former Highpointe Restaurant on Seminary Ridge [401 Buford Avenue], for many years known as General Lee's Family Restaurant ­ Monday morning and opened the pub that night..." ABC Director of Operations Artie Tafoya said he and his staff will be putting the brewhouse in place in the coming weeks. The pub has an Appalachian Brewing sign out front already, so this was well-planned. Artie said that this expansion is part of a plan that includes "at least" two other area communities. One Gettysburg brewpub closes, another opens. It should be interesting to see what this opening means for Gettysbrew, the long-established brewpub that continues to receive bad reviews on its beer. A well-funded, experienced competitor in town could spell trouble.

More PA News: There's also a new McKenzie Brewhouse coming, in Malvern, at 240 Lancaster Avenue (the location was already owned by McKenzie owner Bill Mangan Jr.).  Scott "Mr. Belle Dock" Morrison will be head brewer for both locations, which means there are a couple openings for assistant brewers. Scott's been brewing a lot of beer at McKenzie; the place has been a definite success, so it's no surprise that another brewpub was in the works. 

And some NY news (or rumors): I heard from a pretty reliable source in Syracuse that Syracuse Suds Factory, the town's oldest brewery, will be opening a second brewpub soon. More as I hear it. I heard from a different (but every bit as reliable) source in Rochester that one of the Wehle family (former owners of Genesee) is planning to open a brewpub in the south part of Rochester (hint to Mr. Wehle: please read up on the business history of another brewing family re-entry, Poor Henry's. I'll be happy to relate the story!). This one's pretty solid, and again, more as I hear it.

An Old Friend is Changing: Victory Brewing is reformulating their All Malt Lager. The delicious Export-style beer has been replaced with a Helles-style. Why the change? Ron and Bill realized that when they went to Germany, they spent a lot of time drinking the fantastic Munich hellesbier (and rightly so). As the All Malt Lager continued to slip further out of the Prima/HopDevil/Monkey-focused spotlight, the guys decided to make it up to the beer by remaking it in one of their favorite styles. Or, at least, that's what I think Bill was saying. He was obviously somewhat emotional when he penned the explanation. Anyway, it's out there, so let's get out the liter mugs and try it!

7/31: My Face is Red: Take a look at the June 5 piece below about Nat Collins and Keegan's Ales. Now wipe it out of your mind entirely, and let's start over. I got an e-mail from Tom Keegan pointing out all my errors, and I'd like to apologize to Tom and set the record straight. First off, the name of the place is Keegan Ales (which I happened to have confirmed a week ago; I stopped in to poke around, but it was a Sunday evening, and I guess even start-ups have to sleep sometime). Secondly, Tom Keegan does share a grandmother with the guys at Brickhouse, and if the woman's nickname is "Hurricane Kitty," I reckon she deserves immortalization in 12 oz. bottles, as Tom put it. More importantly, the newspaper article put an odd spin on things: Tom told me that Old Capital Ale, the "light-bodied, yellow, thirst-quenching beer for the masses," would better be described as a "light-bodied but flavorful beer." What really embarrasses me is that Tom actually bought the brewhouse from Nat Collins, not Kingston. I should have run that down before putting it up here. Tom, my apologies, and the best of luck to you. I look forward to a cold pint of light-bodied but flavorful beer the next time I'm in Kingston.

6/10: Solid news on the new Iron Hill: Got a press release from Iron Hill's PR people today: the newest Iron Hill brewpub is planned to open in November 2003 at 1460 Bethlehem Pike in North Wales, PA (there is also one scheduled for an August opening in Wilmington). As always, attention has been paid to the look inside: "Rich mahogany paneling, corrugated copper walls, gray slate floors and black wrought iron accents will create the handsome atmosphere of the 250-seat restaurant.  A large mahogany bar will be the perfect place for guests to congregate and enjoy a pint of fresh brewed Iron Hill beer..." Might as well put the planned hours in, too: "Iron Hill in North Wales will serve lunch, Monday to Saturday from 11:30 am to 2:30 pm. A light fare menu will be available between lunch and dinner. Dinner hours will be Sunday to Wednesday, 5 to 9 pm, Thursday to Saturday, 5 to 10 pm. A late night menu will be available seven days a week until midnight." As I replied to the woman who sent me the release, news of a new Iron Hill is always good to hear; news of a new Iron Hill in my town would be even better! 

6/8: New brewpub in Johnstown! I kept hearing rumors of a brewpub in Johnstown, PA, and after the Penn Fest I decided to go check them out. Johnstown Brewing Company has opened for restaurant business up on the hill at 942 Pine Grove Lane (814/536-3525), the old Bethlehem Steel manager's club building, and it is sweet. The place is run by the Lovette brothers, Ralph and Pat, and their wives, Karen and Susan. This great old building (100 years old next year) is decked out with donated pieces of steel-town history: hard-hats, tools, signage, and lots of the massive wooden patterns from steel casting. The brewery, a 7 bbl. steam-heat Specific Mechanical system, is being built onto the downhill slope of the building. Experienced pro Brian Neville will be the brewer; he comes with years of experience at Spanish Peaks Brewing (and learned to brew with Artie Tafoya of Appalachian). Brian hopes to start brewing in late July (they've been delayed by the unusually heavy rains), an array of "color beers," as Ralph Lovette put it: light, gold, amber, brown, pale ale and stout. Johnstown's not quite up to speed on advanced beer yet, so there will be a learning curve. But Neville plans to have six full-time beers and a seasonal on once he gets rolling.  I'll be back to visit this one, it's looking good. Brief notice: I talked to new brewer Matt Allyn of Erie Brewing at the Penn Fest, and he's working on opening a brewpub in Titusville, hopefully by August (Four Suns Brewing), and another in Erie sometime later ("further down the line"). Things are happening in the hinterlands!

6/5: Hosed Again: Looks like New York Breweries is out of date before it's released. No surprise, of course, that's how books go, and that's why I've got this website. Here's the story. Nat Collins, former owner/brewer at Woodstock Brewing in Kingston, had a deal with Brotherhood Winery to put a brewery in. He was going to get the old equipment from the city of Kingston, after it had seized the equipment from the brewery's new owners. Okay, I wrote it up in anticipation, largely because I loved Nat's beers at Woodstock. The deal apparently fell through, the city found another buyer: Tom Keegan, former brewer at Blue Point, who will be brewing Keegan's Ales at the old Woodstock facility. Brewing begins next month with Old Capital Ale, a beer described somewhat disappointingly as "a light-bodied, yellow, thirst-quenching beer for the masses." How many times has that worked for a microbrewery? He also will be brewing a beer named Hurricane Kitty, "named after his grandmother." Odd, someone at Brickhouse Brewing in Patchogue must have the same grandmother! Hey, best of luck to Tom, truly, and I hope he can make a go of it. I'll start working on the second edition next week! 

6/5: The Return of The Native: I just found out yesterday that Tom Stevenson's replacement as brewer at the Triumph is none other than pioneering New Jersey brewer Jay Misson. I can't wait to meet this guy, because he's all I've been hearing about in New York. A number of brewers have a connection to Misson, who brewed at the seminal Vernon Valley brewpub and at Mountain Valley. John Eccles of Hyde Park Brewing remembered those days. "Jay was using all wooden fermenters, a cascade wort chiller, all the traditional Czech lager brewing equipment," John said with reverence. "It was a hazy, lightly filtered beer, way ahead of its time." Great lagers, they were (I got a chance to taste them), and Misson has been working for Gordon-Biersch since then. Is there a sea change ahead for Triumph's beers? Will we see more lagers? Time will tell; so will Misson. I'll track him down and get the goods. 

6/4: John Hickenlooper, brewpub owner, is the new mayor of Denver! In a run-off election held Tuesday, Hickenlooper (owner of the Wynkoop brewpub and 7 other restaurants) decisively beat city auditor Don Mares (Hickenlooper scored 65% of the votes) in an off-beat campaign. Hickenlooper is no joke: he has been a major mover and shaker in the renovation of Lower Downtown in Denver. Hickenlooper has no government experience, but the man thinks clearly on urban issues. I've said for years that brewpubs are strong medicine for ailing cities; John Hickenlooper is a full-spectrum antibiotic. Watch for interesting things in Denver. 

6/4: Dope from Old Dominion: First, Jerry Bailey is stepping down as CEO, though he'll remain as Chairman and president, "both of them are largely ceremonial," according to Bailey. Who's the replacement? Jerry doesn't know yet. "I'm too busy doing the stuff I'm not going to be doing to search for some guy I probably won't like to do them." Jerry has always been extremely candid. That's when he told me about the changes going on at the Birchmere/Southern Beverage Co. Seems Fordham is pulling out of their lease arrangement there with plans to open a production facility in Dover, DE. The new brewery is supposed to open in September, and that's going to be a close fit, timewise. Can it be done? Sure. Will it be done? Wait and see. 

5/31: Good News from the 'Dacks: Great Adirondack has re-opened in Lake Placid! After some serious work by all involved, the kitchen and restaurant have been rebuilt from the January fire. Kudos to the Kane Family, brewer Rob Davis, and all involved. I've kept an eye on the weather in Placid since the fire, and until about mid-April there were three days when it got above freezing. Ouch. Good to see you back, folks, I'll be dropping in this summer!

5/20: Secret revealed: Yes, those of you who guessed are right: Pretzel City is back! Except Scott Baver and Dave Gemmell have a new company, and a new name: Legacy Brewing. I had the first batch of their Steamhorse Lager, a big burly steam-style beer (think Anchor after a year of Bowflex), brimful of malt character and enough hops to keep it honest. The boys are brewing on Bill Moore's system at Ortlieb's brewery at Sunnybrook in Pottstown, PA, for now. Unfortunately no Duke of Ale for Friday the Firkinteenth, but it is on its way. Still the best news I've had in a while, honestly. 

4/23: I can only say so much on this one: the former owners of a closed Pennsylvania microbrewery are working with a well-known Pennsylvania brewer to bring back their brands under a new name, still to be determined. The first batch of beer will be kegged on May 5, and will be the brewery's flagship "California Common" beer, to be followed by "something Belgian" (if I know these guys, it's probably a Wit). Some of you have probably figured this out already, and may be salivating, so I'll confirm your hopes: their beloved IPA will make a re-appearance later in the year, in keg and in cask. I'm leaning heavily on them to have it ready for June's Firday the Firkinteenth: don't know if I can persuade them or not, we may have to "Duke" it out. I'll decloak on this as soon as possible, but for now, that's all I can say.

4/14: Pleasant news for Massachusetts beer fans: Mercury Brewing, the company that took over the Ipswich Brewing facility and brews the Ipswich, Stone Cat, and Dornbusch brands, is now officially the owner of the Ipswich brands. A fairly excited Rob Martin told me the news just yesterday: "We bought the brands back from U.S. Beverage." This is a kind of vindication for Rob. Mercury has been brewing Ipswich (along with Clipper City, under contract) for U.S. Beverage for a few years now, but they've always considered the brand to be theirs: now it truly is. Those big growlers won't taste any different, but I know I'll feel better drinking them. Congratulations!


3/19: It's official: Philadelphia beer enthusiast/writer/promoter Jim Anderson is leaving town to run an inn/hotel in Inverness Scotland (owned by partners Tom Peters and Fergus Carey, of Monk's Cafe), as of April 1. Good luck to Jim and wife Ann in this new venture. Tough luck for anyone who was planning on attending Anderson's Split Thy Skull draft barleywine mini-fest here in Philly; he's apparently promoted it while planning to abandon it. Here's hoping someone picks up the pieces, this was a good event.  4/8: UPDATE!!! I just got an e-mail from Philly bartender/beer enthusiast CHRIS MORRIS:  Split Thy Skull is ON, for April 19, Easter Saturday (the usual day), at Sugar Mom's Church Street Lounge (the usual place) at 1:00 PM (the usual time). BE THERE! Be interesting to see what this will be like without JA.


GOLDEN AGE OF PHILADELPHIA BEER TOUR. Come along with me on one of  beer enthusiast Rich Pawlak's annual beer tours of Philadelphia. For $85, you get lunch at Ludwig's Garten, dinner at Independence, plus beer and food at all the stops in between: McGillin's, McMenamin's, Standard Tap, Yards, and the Grey Lodge Pub. Details available here. See my account of March 15's tour here.


3/5: As reported in the first issue of The Occasional Pint,  my e-mail newsletter (sign up here) -- Strange news: I heard through the brewer-line that long-time brewmaster Dr. Bill Pengelly has left Deschutes Brewing, in Bend, Oregon. I have NOT confirmed this, as it's a bit outside my bailiwick, but the source is quite reputable and should know what he's talking about. Bummer and a damn shame if it's true, particularly since Deschutes is in the midst of a major expansion. Cross your fingers. 
(I've since heard from multiple sources that Bill Pengelly was at the Real Ale Festival in Chicago last week, and he was telling anyone who asked that he was fired from Deschutes for refusing to dumb down--er, make the beers more quaffable. I find it difficult to entirely credit this statement: Gary Fish and Deschutes have always been very savvy about their beer and their market. I strongly suspect there is more to it than this. A friend of mine in the beer press told me this: "My contact at Deschutes said that nothing would change with the lineup or their quality control." Note that nothing was said about formulation of the lineup, however. This one's murky and not a little bit troubling.)


2/13: GOVERNOR PATAKI PROPOSES FURTHER NY STATE BEER TAX CUTS! -- That's right, I said "cuts."  The New York Daily News reported on Feb. 9 that Gov. Pataki's new budget proposal includes a cut in the New York beer tax from 12.5¢ a gallon to 11¢ a gallon. As anti-alcohol legislators squealed about loss of tax revenues (an estimated $2.6 million) in the face of an $11.5 billion budget gap, and cried about the negative impact on alcoholism (Please. 1.5¢ a gallon is gonna make a difference?), Pataki's office responded thusly: "The governor made clear we should move forward with all the tax cuts that are scheduled to take effect this year. That is in contrast to the prior administration, which often delayed promised tax cuts year after year." Since Pataki took office in 1995, the tax has fallen from 21¢ a gallon! All right, George! Maybe he read my editorial


THIS SITE IS OFFICIALLY UP AND RUNNING! launched February 11, with a mailing to over 500 beer and spirits lovers. 


2/10: Pennsylvania enters the 20th Century (and no, that's not a typo): The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and the State Store system have decided to ease Pennsylvania's liquor laws out of the immediate post-Repeal era, starting with small steps. First it was sales, then it was an expanded number of "specialty stores." Now a small number of State Stores (61 out of 638) will be open on Sundays!!! Yippee. This is a two-year pilot program, and you have to ask: why that long? Do six months and give in to the inevitable. As could be predicted, the only people who are really against this are the blinker-eyed drones in the State Store employees' union, who are against any kind of change whatsoever, because they know it brings the day that this ridiculous system closes down forever and they'll have to find a job in the hard cold world of free enterprise. 

2/5:  Bad news in the 'Dacks: Lake Placid's Great Adirondack Brewing Co. suffered a fire a few days ago. A friend of mine, Joe Meloney, who travels to Placid often, talked to brewer Rob Davis and reports that the restaurant was gutted by a kitchen fire; the brewery was also damaged. Extensive smoke and water damage will need some serious work to repair, but the good news is that the Kane family will rebuild. I have to admit, it makes me sick to think of all the antiques and just neat stuff that decorated the place going up in smoke: a damned shame. But I'm sure Rob will have a Phoenix Ale on tap by summer, and the Smoked Porter might be more popular than ever. Best of luck to all involved.

2/4:  Brewery Ommegang sold! Ommegang has been sold entirely to minority shareholder Moortgat, the Belgian brewer of Duvel. Moortgat also purchased the import rights for Duvel for the eastern U.S. This puts former brewery owners Don Feinberg and Wendy Littlefield in the market for a new project, and I can't wait to see what that is. For now, they're consulting for Moortgat. Don told me that Moortgat does definitely intend to continue brewing on the site. I'm curious to see how everything will shake out: Ommegang was one of the very best tours in the business, and I only hope the Belgians can keep that up.

Copyright © 2008 Lew Bryson. All rights reserved. 
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Revised: January 28, 2005