Note to brewers, distillers, importers, distributors, etc.: I much prefer to receive press releases by e-mail. I'm not a great filer of paper, but e-mail I can find very easily. Thanks!
12/13: Scott "Dude" Morrison fired at McKenzie Brew House: Got a call from the Dude last night: it's true, he's been fired from his head brewer position at McKenzie. I can't go into the details, but I can say that the issue was not at all about Scott's beer, brewing or packaging. Local brewery owners: if you want a maniacally hard-working, brilliant, dedicated and award-winning brewer...look no further.
11/9/06: 18 LDA remains the law of the land in Guam, New
Zealand: While we were changing Congress like a pair of dirty
underwear, the New Zealand Parliament was soundly defeating a
proposal to raise that country's legal drinking age from 18 to 20. "Members
of the New Zealand Parliament voted 72-49 to defeat the bill, which would
have reversed a 1999 decision to lower the drinking age from 20 to 18",
reported the New Zealand Herald (as summarized by JoinTogether.org, which
must have frosted their turnips). This, after months of hand-wringing and
optimistic anti-booze yahooing of how things were going to change (read
all about it). In a brilliant summation, the Herald nailed the real
reasons for keeping the 18 LDA: "But supporters of the age-20 law said
lowering the drinking age would just increase illegal, unsupervised drinking and
stigmatize responsible 18- and 19-year-olds. "We will strip away the
legal rights of adults," said Green Party MP Metiria Turei. "The
problem is the failure to enforce existing law -- there is less of that
than there was before 1999."" Rock on, Green Party MP.
10/4/06: Beer drops, crafts, imports, and Yuengling rock: This just in from justdrinks.com, a British drinks news service: U.S. beer sales in 2005 were down 0.4% overall, back to 2002 levels, according to the respected Adams Beer Handbook, a source of industry data. But there were bright spots: imports were up 6.5% (Corona grew a huge 8.1%), craft beers led the market at 9% growth, and Yuengling got its groove back: up 11% for the year. Light beers were up 1.7% as well. So where's the loss? How about low-carb: in what folks are calling "The Ultra Gap," Michelob Ultra was down 22.4%, a massive hole in beer's growth. What's heartening for brewers is that while people are buying less, they are buying better; folks are trading up. That bodes well for the continued success of the craft category -- which, by the way, posted an 11% growth rate for the first half of 2006. Please keep drinking!
10/3/06: Someone in Michigan gets it: I just read a great little story in the Port Huron Times-Herald about a local pizza shop trying to get a liquor license. The reporter presented a very fair picture of the owner's predicament. Casey Harris's family owns a pizza place in Indiana, where there are evidently no quotas on licenses: "It takes 48 hours and a background check, and they can get whatever kind of license they want," Harris said. But Michigan is like Pennsylvania: licenses are based on quotas, and owners can hold them in escrow and sell them, the going rate is about $50,000. If Harris has to pay that much, he'll have to sell a lot more booze, and he's sharp enough to know that. Harris said he doesn't mind paying for his license, but $50,000 is too expensive for him without changing his restaurant's family-friendly focus. "Do you know how much liquor I'd have to sell to make that back?" he said. If a -- forgive me. But if a damned pizza shop owner is smart enough to figure that out, why is everyone else so damned stupid about it? Harris puts his finger on what might be some of the problem: He said current liquor-license laws favor big chains with deep pockets over small business owners such as himself. "I'm just trying to give people the option" to have a beer with their pizza, Harris said, "but the government doesn't give you the option to get a license unless you've got the big bucks." Bingo, Mr. Harris. Current laws are killing the corner bar.
8/29/06: Men's Journal Magazine "25 Best Beers in America" with east coast knowledge: Most of these "best of" lists are whatever the writer likes, and I blow my nose on them. This latest list, from Men's Journal Magazine, is a bit different in that it actually has some East Coast and Midwestern brews on it. This is a real good list: good spread both geographically and stylistically, not top-heavy with crazy big beers or bottom-feeding with too many middle-of-the-road beers. Cheers, Men's Journal!
7/10/06: Penn State study finds no "targeting" of teens by booze ads: A study by Penn State professor emeritus of economics Jon Nelson finds that "Results from analyzing magazine characteristics and readership demographics ... fail to support claims of targeting youth." The study, "Alcohol Advertising in Magazines: Do Beer, Wine, and Spirits Ads Target Youth?", used economic analysis -- what advertisers actually spent, not what anti-alcohol 'researchers' believed they were thinking when they spent it -- and found that "Beer advertisers favor magazines with more young adults, male readers and larger adult audiences, but not teens." The study notes that the young adult population (ages 21-34) is 50 percent larger than the underage youth population (ages 12-20). The alcohol industry targets young adults because young adults drink more alcohol than older adults (duh...) and have not yet established brand loyalties. Advertising decisions are influenced more by the size of the adult audience and the price charged for an ad placement, rather than the size of the youth readership. "The percentage of youth readers is not significant in any of the economic regressions, regardless of the model," Nelson added. And here's my favorite line: "Policymakers would be well advised to turn their attention to other aspects of youth drinking behaviors, rather than decisions made in the market for advertising space." The study appears in the July issue of Contemporary Economic Policy, a magazine that apparently falls outside the usual circle of "you publish me and I'll publish you" anti-alcohol research journals. Wonder if they'll be quoting it?
6/3/06: Penn Brewing celebrates their 20th anniversary this weekend: It was 20 years ago today...Tom Pastorius launched his Penn Pilsner, and now this month, Pennsylvania Brewing becomes the first PA micro to hit 20 years. Things have changed -- they've got their own brewery, a pub, a very successful series of festivals, and a LOT more beers -- but others haven't. Tom still makes beers he'd like to drink, in German styles, and the beer's still top-notch. I hope that never changes, and I'm pretty sure it won't. Congratulations to Tom and Mary Beth!
6/3/06: Western PA avalanche begins: Sprague Farm & Brew Works now has beer in kegs. I got this e-mail from Brian Sprague early this morning: "First beer is in kegs. This is a robust porter we are calling Hellbender. The hellbender is an extra large salamander that resides in French Creek, which is very close to the brewery. We taste-tested last night. Early opinions are good. Very smooth ,lightly hopped (we used full flower hops) but with definite hop presence, good coffee/chocolate combination, a very balanced beer. Matt [Allyn] knows his stuff. Next brew tomorrow: this will be an amber we will call Rustbelt. We are planning to sell directly out of the brewery, kegs and growlers, and will have our beer featured at a local restaurant /golf club: The Venango Valley Inn. Your suggestion about large bottles is appreciated. We will most definitely pursue this line of packaging. I hope that we can get that accomplished by late July. Till then we will have brewery tour hours on Fridays from 4:00pm till 7:00 pm and Saturdays from 10:00am till 2:00pm starting June 17. We are planning to have a sort of grand opening on July 14th. This happens to be my birthday and it is a Friday in the middle of National Beer Month . I guess if we needed a reason to celebrate those are 2 good ones. We have not worked out all the details so it will probably be very low key casual affair as we need to stay within the allowances of our license. Cheers, Brian Sprague"
Hear that rumble? That's the brewing scene in western PA about to explode. Check it: North Country, East End, Hereford & Hops; Penn's 20th anniversary; and now the impending arrival of Sprague Farm, Voodoo Brewery, and Union Station, and then the mother cataclysm next spring when Hofbräuhaus Pittsburgh opens. Stand back, folks, this is the official notice of a new hotbed of craft brewing.
5/19/06: It's official: A-B buys the Rolling Rock brands: A-B has bought the Rolling Rock brands for $82 million from InBev USA... but not the Latrobe brewery. The brewery, with over 200 jobs, will close by late July. Bad news for western PA. Still hope someone buys that brewery, it's a beauty. Rolling Rock and Rock Green Light will be brewed at A-B's Newark, New Jersey facility. So much for the glass-lined tanks of Old Latrobe.
5/9/06: More on that Rock story...: It was reported that Pittsburgh A-B wholesaler Frank B. Fuhrer Wholesale had bought the rights to Rolling Rock from Barkley Distributing. Barkley is the Rock distributor in Latrobe, so you'd think they'd know what might be going on and this is pointing to an A-B takeover. However, Barkley owner Geano Agostino said that negotiations were also in progress for Fuhrer to purchase Barkley's Labatt distributing rights as well... No one's heard that InBev is dumping Labatt. Is Barkley just selling at a good time? The plot thickens...
5/5/06: Okay, not news, but strong rumor: A-B may be considering buying Latrobe Brewing. Rumors are flying about A-B buying the Rolling Rock brands and the Latrobe brewery from InBev. InBev has been considering what to do with Rock; it's not a great fit for their portfolio, and most of the speculation has been that they will sell it. The A-B scenario seems to come wholly from one analyst's recent report; if she's right, what does this mean? Rock has slipped recently, down to about 850,000 bbls. a year from a high of 1.1 million a few years ago, but the beer still sells at a premium compared to Bud; that's money in A-B's bank. If they can put a proper amount of support behind the brand -- which InBev never really did -- they can make a nice little profit. And no one ever accused A-B of being shy about profit. I just hope they keep the brewery in Latrobe open, though I'm not optimistic about that in this case. What I'd like to see is a PA group with money enough to market take over the brewery and take it independent again, and maybe bring back the fantastic Latrobe line of specialty beers; the time is right.
3/8/06: Old Dominion Brewing Company to be sold in-house.
(from a press release posted on BeerAdvocate.com,
with my comments added in italics) Ending weeks of speculation over
a possible buy-out by Anheuser-Busch, "Old Dominion Brewing Co. announced today that
the company will be sold. Old Dominion President Jerry
Bailey reports that the company's Board of Directors has agreed to terms with
Old Dominion Director of Marketing Terry Fife and business partner Kip
Upon completion of the sale, Olson and Fife will assume management duties of Old
Dominion. Bailey will remain with the company in a part-time capacity. Kip Olson
has been a Managing Partner at the Capital Grill in Tysons Corner, VA since
2000. Prior to that, Olson was with the Clydes Restaurant Group for 12 years [this
bodes well for OD's on-site pub].
Terry Fife has been with Old Dominion since 1996. [Before that,
according to DC sources, he was pushing good beer at the Hard Times Cafe in
Clarendon...so he's got good roots.] "We are fortunate",
says Fife, "to be purchasing a company with great products, a great
reputation, and tremendous brand recognition. We hope we can continue Jerry
Bailey's amazing legacy". Olson and Fife also point out that they have few
changes planned for the company. [Ending geek speculation that Old
Dominion will add crazy monster beers to their line-up...I hope.] "Kip and I feel that we have some of the
finest beers and best brewers in the country. We expect that both will remain
intact for the foreseeable future", adds Fife. Jerry Bailey founded Old
Dominion Brewing Co. in 1989. The company now produces more than 20 beers and
three sodas. With a production of 27,500 barrels of beer in 2005, Old Dominion
is one of the 50 largest breweries in the U.S. by volume."
1/31/06: Alcohol causes cancer, but doctors say "Keep on drinking." According to a study published in The Lancet Oncology, "excessive" alcohol consumption appears to be directly linked to a number of cancers, including "mouth, larynx, esophagus, liver, colon and breast. It may also be linked with cancer of the pancreas and lung." This isn't really big news; excess alcohol consumption has been known to be a factor in cancer for years. What struck me was that these European doctors took a rational stance on the total risk-management picture by following this statement with this bit of advice. "Total avoidance of alcohol, although optimum for cancer control, cannot be recommended in terms of broad perspective of public health, in particular in countries with high incidence of cardiovascular disease," said Dr. Paolo Boffetta of the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France. The Reuters story I saw went on: "In developed countries in 2000, the World Health Organization estimates that alcohol caused 185,000 deaths in men and 142,000 in women, but it prevented 71,000 male deaths and 277,000 female deaths in the same year." So it's about a wash. I don't trust public health figures coming from the anti-alcohol goons at PIRE, but the guys who killed smallpox, the guys who are gunning for polio? Yeah, I believe them.
1/18/06: Victory to release a "doppelsticke alt beer for 10th anniversary. As I look out the window at today's lashing rain and high winds, it's easy to remember the flooded day 10 years ago when I first made my way to Victory, about a month before they opened. And now they're going to be celebrating that 10 years of very successful operations with a special beer, 10 Years Alt. Appropriately, it is a German style, a beefed-up version of a "sticke" alt, which is itself a beefed-up version of an altbier; also appropriate is that the alt style is a hybrid of the ale and lager types of beer...and this one's all Victory. Expect 8.5% and soundly hopped, expect crisply lagered and roundly malty, expect the best. The first tapping will be at the BeerAdvocate Extreme Beer Fest in Boston on February, the official tapping will be on February 15th (the opening day of the brewery back in 1996) at the brewpub. Festivities will continue that weekend, with the Victory Ten Years New Party, including a test of beerly skills they're calling the Beerathalon. Mark your calendars.
1/6/06: Neill Acer closer to opening new brewery. I hope you all remember Neill Acer from his run at Ramapo Valley: Neill made some great beers there before leaving to brew two-at-a-time at the West End BC in Manhattan. Rumors of Neill opening "his own place" started circulating almost immediately, and it looks like they're right. More information soon on the Defiant Brewing Co. of Pearl River, NY.
1/6/06: Brandon Greenwood lands in Rochester. Forgot this tidbit in the trip-to-Germany rush: Brandon "Wee Heavy Boy" Greenwood has taken the Technical Brewer position at the High Falls brewery in Rochester, NY, under Dave Schlosser. Brandon told me he was happy with the position, which put him in a large brewery that is doing some innovative stuff (aluminum bottles, major extensions to the Dundee line) without big management responsibilities. And...he intimated that a wee heavy might join the Dundee seasonal lineup. Wee Heavy in aluminum bottles?
1/6/06: Kennett Square: the new brewpub capital? Fairly solid rumors coming out of Kennett Square indicate the possibility of two brewpubs coming to town, perhaps as early as late 2006. One, still in the exploration stage, would be a branch of a local chain (Hmmm, wonder who?), but the other, further along in negotiations, would be a brewpub expansion for an area production brewery. Exciting stuff; more when I get confirmation. CORRECTION! Both breweries in question (and there are others, as well) are looking at the same property in Kennett Square. So that's one possible brewpub. Sigh...
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