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News of 2004 Archive

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12/21/04: Appalachian Gettysburg and North Country both firing up in January. Talked to Artie Tafoya at Appalachian: the Mueller brewhouse at ABC Gettysburg is cleared for takeoff by the PLCB, and will begin brewing operations in January. Similarly, North Country Brewing, the very different, very cool-looking brewpub that's poised to open in Slippery Rock, will begin brewing operations in January. Exciting stuff! And there may be another brewpub opening in Pittsburgh later this coming spring. Uh-huh. And Jack Curtin is reporting the rumor of yet another brewpub possibly opening in Phoenixville besides Iron Hill. Just keeps rolling along. 

12/21/04: New brewhouse at Tröegs. I visited the Trogner brothers today, and John showed me his "beer porn;" pictures of the new 25 bbl. brewhouse being fabricated for Tröegs in Germany at (I believe) Braukunst. John explained to me that when brewery fabricator Beraplan went down, the former employees formed two new companies: Rolec, the company that did Victory's new brewhouse, and Braukunst. "Braukunst got all technical people," John said with a grin. As with Victory's Rolec system, Tröegs' new brewery is going to be quite technically advanced, but they're keeping their old system. With a 20 and a 25 bbl. system in place, they'll be cranking out the batches; tank-space is the only bottleneck. Where do you go from here, I asked. "We can always get more of the building," Chris pointed out. Considering that Tröegs is looking at doing 7,000 bbls. this year (!!), better keep that option open.

12/20/04: Leo Orlandini confirms the hire of Brandon Greenwood at The Lion. And Leo, a pretty well "be-medalled" brewer himself, teased me with news of a new beer he's got coming out: a doublebock. From The Lion. It's 7% and full of those juicy melanoidins, says Leo. I'm getting a sample when it's ready, and I will post a tasting note immediately.

12/7/04: Brandon Greenwood leaves Nodding Head: Got the following e-mail from be-medalled Nodding Head brewer Brandon Greenwood today: "Just wanted to give you all a heads up to the fact that later this month I'll be turning the brewery reins over to the very capable Gordon Grubb, the present Assistant Brewer.  Effective January 3rd I'll take over as the Brewmaster of the Lion Brewery in Wilkes-Barre PA." Brandon is a fully trained production brewer, and moving into Leo Orlandini's slot at The Lion makes sense. Jack Curtin has much more about this at his site, including the note that Leo moves up to plant manager, a new post. What does this mean for Nodding Head? Not a lot in the short run, as Gordon is quite a competent brewer and will do a fine job on Brandon's (and Gordon's own) recipes. In the long run, he will likely take the brewery's beers in different directions. Meanwhile...I'm looking forward to hearing how Brandon adapts to life in the Wyoming Valley. Congratulations to Brandon, Gordon, and Leo.

12/5/04: The Next Iron Hill: This one's straight from Mark Edelson's mouth, folks. The shoe has finally dropped: Iron Hill has signed a lease on a property in Phoenixville. It's on Bridge Street, near the 'famed' Colonial Theater (location of the "running out of the theater" scene from the 1958 crap sci-fi classic "The Blob"). It's a smaller site, Mark told me as we were sampling oak-aged beers at last week's Barrel Aged Beer event at Iron Hill North Wales (also attended by Jim Brennan (formerly of Manayunk and currently at Flying Fish) and Bob Davis (formerly at Weyerbacher, Red Bell, and most recently Black Rock), who was looking good). Smaller site? Need a smaller brewery, then...and Mark's working on a deal to pick up a used system, which would be a first for Iron Hill, where it's been all brand-new Specific Mechanical systems. But this used system is also a Specific, from a recently closed PA brewery...draw your own conclusions. Anyway, don't expect things to pop anytime too soon, but judging by Iron Hill's past track record, don't be surprised to see it open by this time next year. And likewise, don't be surprised to see another Iron Hill coming along: Mark also told me that they're still scouting in south Jersey.

10/27/04: Stoudt's update: Talked to Marc Worona this morning, and things are going so well at Stoudt's that they are in preliminary planning stages for a brewhouse upgrade; not just tanks, additional brewing vessels to allow 6 batches a day. Where to put that? Shuffling tanks around, maybe moving keg storage up to the big warehouse on the hill. Let's see...the Double IPA is out in bottles at 75 IBU, 10% ABV; "dry-hopped, and then dry-hopped again," says Marc. Looking forward to trying some of that. Fat Dog Stout and the Abbey Triple are also out in 12 oz., with spiffy new packaging. And the Winter Ale was being brewed: a tune-up of last year's rye ale, bumped up to 6.5% ABV and dry-hopped with Hallertauer. "It's almost like a rye altbier," Marc said. Good stuff!

8/14/04: Legacy update: Bill Moore is at Legacy, but only a couple days a week, and he's doing sales calls, not brewing. Evidently enjoying himself immensely, too. I tasted Legacy's new beer, Reading Pilsner, and was impressed enough that I took a growler along home that's going to go great with the chili tonight. It's classic stuff, Saaz-hopped and smooth as glass, but what you really want is the keller version. Scott Baver tapped me a tank sample of this wonderful stuff, unfiltered and brimming with hop aroma, and it is the way to go. I hope some forward-thinking bar owners demand casks of this stuff, because it is the very balls.

8/7/04: from Dave Gemmell at Legacy: the reborn Reading brewery has a new (but familiar) face in the brewery. Bill Moore has joined the Legacy team, presumably because of the shaky situation at Ortlieb's at Sunny brook. Pottstown's loss is certainly Reading's gain, and Bill has a great rep around this town.  What will this mean for Legacy? Hard to say. Admittedly, Bill's beers didn't always set things on fire during his tenure at Sly Fox, and his lager-love is well-known, a predilection that doesn't really jive with Legacy's current direction.  Wait and see, but remember: you heard it here first.

8/5/94: New brewpub in Erie, possibly by year's end. Direct from Chris Sirianni of Pop and Beer Warehouse on Peninsula Drive in Erie comes news of a planned brewpub in Erie: Turnpike Brewing. The brewpub will be located at 1402 Turnpike Rd. in Erie (14th St. between Peach and State Sts.); Chris tells me that Turnpike Road is the shortest street in Erie, about thirty feet! The building is a triangular brick building with the door at the streetside point of the triangle. They're hoping to be open by the end of 2004, with former Erie Brewing brewer Gary "Yes, I am a biker" Burleigh working on a 3.5 bbl. Price-Schonstrom system. They'd originally planned a BOP, but thing just grew. I had dinner with Gary (and his wife Marsha) on Thursday evening; he's very excited about this, naturally, and has plans for lots of British ales. Erie is ready for another brewpub; you heard it here first. 

8/5/04: North Country Brewing on track with Sean McIntyre: this Slippery Rock brewpub is looking good for an October opening. Plenty of beautiful details, largely in artistic wood-carving (think McMenamin's chain plus Adirondack influence), really neat back beer garden, cozy upstairs deck with a "beer porthole," and simple, traditional food. Don't worry about the beer: former Valhalla brewer Sean McIntyre is on the case, and does plan on staying for the long-term. Brewhouse is in and being re-plumbed, tanks are in. Sean had planned on a slow takeoff on beer styles, but is being strongly encouraged to jump right into full-bore beer by the success of his old buddy Matt Allyn at Four Sons in Titusville: Matt gave it to his beer-naive town undiluted -- triples, schwarzbiers, and big fat Scotch ales -- and they're loving it. Sean's reconsidering. Hey, you heard it here first.

8/1/04: from Mark Thompson at Starr Hill. "Starr Hill has just purchased the old Fordham/Native Brewery in Alexandria, VA.  We are going to move the brewery back to Charlottesville, basically as we speak.  Starr Hill Brewery is moving into the old Con-Agra frozen foods plant outside of town; the new brewery address is 3391 Three Notch Road, Crozet, VA .  Starr Hill's new brewery is a state of the art 25bbl system with about 8-10,000 bbls. of fermentation capacity, and a Krones bottling line with less than 400 hours of usage." That's big beer news for Virginia, and you heard it here first.

3/9/04: Smithwick's finally in the U.S.: Press release from Diageo/Guinness USA relates that Smithwick's, the Irish red ale that was never available in the U.S., has arrived. Smithwick's (pronounced "SMIDT-icks") was kept out of the country by the then Guinness Bass Import Co. because they thought it would cut into sales of Bass. Morons. A secondary effect of the Guinness Bass two-headed monstrosity becoming Guinness USA is that now the "official Black & Tan" has suddenly become Guinness and Harp instead of Guinness & Bass. Marketing boneheads. Do they think no one will notice that the 'tan' is now 'yellow?'

2/29/04: Andy Tveekrem starts at Dogfish Head tomorrow: Andy Tveekrem, the man who made his mark at Great Lakes Brewing and then, seemingly inexplicably, went to Frederick for four years, starts at Dogfish Head tomorrow, replacing Production Ops head John Giloolly (who apparently wanted to return to the West coast). Andy is really looking forward to "getting the juices flowing again," he told me.

2/24/04: Booker Noe is dead: We just got word that Jim Beam Distiller Emeritus Booker Noe died in his sleep last night. I got to read a copy of Jim Kokoris's eulogy for this great man, and I was in tears. Booker was a good man, a man who knew what his life was and took great pleasure in it. He was unfailingly profane, and just as unfailingly polite. Kentucky will just not be the same for me without him. Go with God, Booker.

2/18/04: Sneaky tax legislation raises hackles in PA : In the wee hours of the night, Pennsylvania legislators made a small, significant change to the state budget. There was a renewal of a state tax credit for small brewers that allowed brewers with an annual capacity of 300,000 bbls. per year to directly subtract the costs of new equipment (including kegs) from their state tax bill. The credit was the result of a 1988 compromise on a previous version that allowed the tax credit to all the state's brewers; Miller Brewing sued, claiming that credit was in restraint of interstate commerce. The renewed credit has increased the limit to 1.5 million bbls., just enough to cover Yuengling (1.4 million), Latrobe (1.2 million) and Pittsburgh (600,000 bbls. (on a good day...)). 

Guess what? Miller's suing again! Same grounds, and Miller will probably be joined by A-B, Coors, and perhaps some of the bigger importers. You can see their point; it's a state subsidy for PA beer. But...screw 'em. The states are allowed to enact all kinds of screwy regulatory laws on alcohol, why not one that actually makes sense? 

But the state's microbrewers are nervous also. They're concerned that when the big boys tussle, the end result may be an end to the tax credit altogether, and that would be very tough on them. Hard to say how it will all fall out.

2/17/04: Neo-Drys Running wild: There’s some really annoying news from the anti-alcohol front. A lawsuit has been filed against major brewers alleging that they target minors with their advertising. The suit, filed in California, claims damages against Anheuser-Busch and SAB/Miller for aiming at underage drinkers with drinks like SKYY, Doc Otis (remember that? Seen any lately?), and Bacardi Silver, the drinks marketers call FABs (flavored alcohol beverages) and the neo-drys call "alcopops." A-B and Miller also allegedly design advertising and promotions to appeal to minors. The suit seeks $4 BILLION in "disgorgement of profits."

Miller says the suit is frivolous and without merit; bravo, Miller. The Federal Trade Commission issued a review of alcohol beverage industry trade practices last year that addressed these issues, a review done at the urging of anti-alcohol groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and at the cost of you and me and all the other happy taxpayers. The FTC found that there was no merit to such claims, a conclusion that is sure to figure in this case.

This whole thing is ridiculous. Studies of such advertising have shown time and time again that it serves only to influence brand choice, not the generic decision to purchase alcohol itself. The whole idea that the ads are "targeted" at minors is about as ridiculous. How do you write an ad that hits a 21 year old...but doesn’t interest him the day before his 21st birthday? As an adult who reads comics, the idea that every ad that contains animation or a cartoon must be aimed at 14-year-olds is insulting; if you have a Far Side calendar on your desk, you probably feel the same way. And alcopops? Sorry, ladies, but they’re aimed at you, not kids.

The whole thing reeks of the kind of baseless do-gooder speculation that led to Prohibition, it reeks of "save the children" hysteria, and it reeks of lottery-playing trial lawyers. The fellow who filed the suit, Steve Berman, made a boatload of money suing tobacco companies. Now he’s after A-B and SAB/Miller’s money.

I’d really rather not see a dime spent on this kind of exploratory litigation. Everyone whines about the loss of production jobs in America; A-B and Miller are production industries. They MAKE stuff. It looks like Steve Berman makes UP stuff.

One more: the Utah House has passed a bill that lowers the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration from the normal 0.08 to 0.04 for drivers with children in their car. Even MADD has stepped back from this one, as did the state attorney general. Utah district attorneys have called the bill unenforceable. But the legislators sure felt good when they passed it. This reminds me of the "Baby on Board" inanity.

Let’s be cold: a drunk driver endangers children who aren’t even in her car. Why not make the level 0.04 for everyone? That’s where this is headed...and that’s the wrong direction, as Pennsylvania’s new 0.08 law acknowledged. The law knuckled under to federal blackmail and accepted the 0.08 BAC limit, but also stiffened penalties substantially for repeat offenders and "super offenders" with BACs over 0.15. That’s the kind of law I support; one that works.  (Update: the Utah House has amended the bill to 0.05 BAC for second-time offenders with children in the car, and added testing for illegal drugs and penalties for drivers caught with suspended licenses. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Dana Love (R), had originally proposed 0.02 BAC for first offenders...The bill goes on to the Senate, passed unanimously by the House. I saw this story in the Salt Lake Tribune.)


1/16/04: Musical brewer chairs in PA : Just after we learned that Carl Melissas was leaving the Bullfrog in Williamsport and Larry Horwitz was leaving Manayunk Brewing for Iron Hill North Wales and Bob Davis had left Weyerbacher for Red Bell's Manayunk and Wachovia Center pubs...comes news that Terry Hawbaker has turned in his resignation at Black Rock, and will be taking over Carl's place at the Bullfrog. Terry's excited, he's found quarters in Billsport already, and he'll be running through familiarization on the Bullfrog's Bohemian brewhouse with ex-Bullfrog brewer (and Otto's partner) Charlie Schnabel. Evidently the parting of the ways between Melissas and the Bullfrog was not as smooth as it could have been, so they asked Charlie to do the honors; no surprise, the genial Charlie consented. Terry was blunt about why he left Black Rock: "Take your pick of reasons. There was the license problem last summer...I guess I'm just tired of waiting for everyone else to get their shit together. This could be a great place, it's a real diamond in the rough, but it's still waiting for everything to come together. I got tired of waiting." So with one last hoppy blast -- his Phukenhoppy ESB ("And it is," Terry said with a laugh) -- Terry heads west.


1/7/04: First Sign of Spring -- New Belgium is releasing their annual Spring beer, Bier de Mars, and with the temps here looking to stay below freezing for the next five days (at least), I could use it. Good thing they're sending me a sample. Tasting notes when I get it! 


1/7/04: Musical Brewhouses -- Larry Horwitz leaves Manayunk Brewing in Philadelphia to take over at the soon-to-open (2/15) Iron Hill North Wales; Karl Melissas leaves Bullfrog Brewery in Williamsport, PA, for parts unknown (though there are rumors of him going to Philly...). Replacements for both are yet to be determined (complicated by the December death of Manayunk Brewing owner Harry Renner IV). Wouldn't it be nice if Karl landed in Manayunk?


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