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Apr 23, 2014

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RBPMail 4.03, March 1998

Real Beer Page Mail (RBPMail) began as a modest update to craft-brew events on the WWW. It evolved into a news digest and sometimes editorial forum. We present its contents here much as they were emailed to subscribers. Often, links you will see are out of date, and businesses referred to may also be long gone.

In this issue:


If you like what you read here and want more every week, subscribe to BEERWeek. Much of the content within is digested from BEERWeek, the paid subscription supported industry email newsletter. Get your free sample today at

http://www.beerweek.com

LEGISLATIVE ALERT FROM AOB

The following entreaty was posted on the IBS Forum for Institute For Brewing Studies members: CALL YOUR SENATORS! STOP NEW LAUTENBERG NATIONAL .08 PERCENT BAC MANDATE. We expect an amendment to be offered within 48 hours in the Senate to force states to adopt a .08 percent BAC standard or lose a portion of their federal highway funds. The Lautenberg .08 amendment will occur during debate on the federal highway bill. The proposed amendment will criminalize a 120-pound woman who consumes two glasses of wine within a two-hour period. It will do nothing to address the problem of the hard-core, high-BAC drunk Driver. We need you to call or fax your Senators to ask them to oppose the Lautenberg amendment. Scott Voss at (303) 447-0816 [scottv@aob.org]. For more information, go to:

http://www.probrewer.com/cgi-bin/probrewer/message.cgi

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PHILIPPINE BREWERY RUMORED FOR SALE

Shares of sequestered stock in the Philippines largest brewery and fifth- largest company, San Miguel, are rumored to be headed to the market. This is the result of continuing pursuit of assets of former President Ferdinand Marcos. The sale of such a large part of one of south east Asia's largest companies could have far reaching consequences. (Source: Hugh Filman, Business Week, February 2)

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SAN MIGUEL EARNINGS DECLINE IN 1997

San Miguel Corporation announced a profit of $75 million 1997, 51% less than in 1996, according to a February 9 Business Wire report. Foreign exchange losses, a beer price rollback, aggressive market building efforts in China and higher costs of funds and excise taxes have been cited as eroding overall gains in sales volumes. Beer sales, however, did post an overall growth of 2%. The company's international beer operations experienced a slower volume growth rate in the second half of the year. Volumes dropped sharply in Indonesia, but increased by 5% in China and 59% in Vietnam. In China, 11 more sales offices were opened for a total of 27. San Miguel is the largest selling foreign beer brand in Guangzhou and No. 2 in Beijing and No. 3 in Shanghai.

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LABATT BREAKING RECORDS; INCREASING SHARE

Canada's Labatt Brewing Co. Ltd. ended its 150th anniversary year with 15% annual increase in earnings. The company is embarking on a five-year ad campaign to challenge Heineken USA, which currently has 26% of the 167 million case import market. Labatt USA is fourth, with 12%. The company will increase spending to support its Mexican brews (Dos Equis, Tecate, Sol, Bohemia and Carta Blanca), Labatt Blue and Carlsberg, and will launch a new campaign for Rolling Rock.

http://labattblue.com

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CORONA PULLS INTO FIRST PLACE

U.S. sales of Corona Extra from Mexico's Grupo Modelo surpassed sales of Heineken in 1997 to make Corona the largest-selling import beer in the U.S., according to Impact, a leading beverage industry publication. The number-one position had belonged to Heineken since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, Impact reported.

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CHINESE COMPANIES PLAN ACQUISITIONS

China Food and Beverage Company has signed an agreement with Tiancheng Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of China International Trust & Investment Corporation to locate and assist in the acquisition of up to eight additional beer and beverage companies in the People's Republic of China. ITIC, a Chinese Government-owned corporation, was established in 1979 to engage in commercial activity as an agent in China's economic reform process. It is now the largest Chinese conglomerate in the world, and is involved with trade, finance, heavy manufacturing, services and technological development. China Food and Beverage is a public company which invests in or controls food and beverage companies, currently owning a majority interest in the Nantong Aitesi Beer Co., Ltd., and Sui Ning Beer Factory, both in China.

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MOLOKAI DENIED LICENSE TO OPERATE IN HAWAII

The Molokai Brewing Co. was finally denied a liquor license by the Liquor Commission in Molokai, Hawaii, after ten years of planning and recent struggle to defeat anti-alcohol opposition in the community. Richard Stueven, aka "gak", will continue to expand on his love of beer with reviews -- rumored to have just passed 2400 tasted -- for the public at:

http://beerismylife.com

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ELECTRONIC 'NOSE' SNIFFS OUT BAD BEER

Researchers at England's Warwick University have developed an electronic sensor device to detect smells from growing bacteria that cause bad beer. The researchers realized that the device could be used to "sniff out" infection. Tests have shown the "nose" to be accurate with one species of bacteria 100% of the time, and another species with 92% accuracy. (Sources: New Science and Measurement Science and Technology)

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MAJORITY OF BREWPUBS STICK TO OWN BREWS

The Institute for Brewing Studies, Boulder, CO conducted a survey of brewpubs' policy on serving "guest beers" alongside their own "housebrewed beers" in brewpubs. Of 205 United States brewpubs responding to the surveys, the following statistics were collected:

13% serve other draft craft brews
10% serve draft beer from the large breweries
6% serve a draft import
9% serve either a can or bottled version of another craft brew
18% serve either a can or bottled version of a large breweries product
12% serve either a can or bottled version of an import
15% serve a non-alcoholic import
18% serve a non-alcoholic product from a large brewery.
( Source: 1996-1997 Industry Revealed)

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LAST HURDLE IN MISSISSIPPI BREWPUB LEGALIZATION

The state Senate has passed a bill to legalize brewpubs in Mississippi, a state notorious for its conservative views on alcohol. The bill now faces the scrutiny of the state House of Representatives. The sponsor of the bill, Senator John Horhn, D Jackson, called the legislation a money- smart step for Mississippi, adding that it had the support of businesses and casinos from across the state. Unlike previous versions of the legislation, this years bill includes casinos among the businesses allowed to brew their own beer. The strength of the brews would be limited to 4 percent alcohol by weight (5 percent by volume). Mississippi is the only state in the nation besides Montana where brewpubs are still illegal.

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***WEB WATCH***

THOMAS HARDY '94-96 AVAILABLE ONLINE

We rarely feature selected merchandise in this area, but the selection of Thomas Hardy available at The Horse Brass Pub's sister retail outlet, The Belmont Station, is one we want to share with readers after our palates. Limited supplies of each year is available and they won't come cheap, but a cellar full of Hardy is hard to beat. These bottle conditioned, individually-numbered "strong-ales" -- considered by some a barleywine -- are wonderfully complex and become more so with time in a properly cooled cellar. Get your orders in at:

http://www.horsebrass.com/belmont_station/

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GET SHOCKED BY DOS EQUIS

An innovative new website for Dos Equis offers a couple of killer online games that deserve their own recognition. More on the website is below in the Picks section. The games may be the most fun you'll have with this brand outside of the real world. Based on the brand's new advertising campaign, Viva La Revolucion, the games invite you to enjoy your part of the revolution of living life truly on your terms. The first game, ROUTINE: THE ENEMY, has you jumping over mindless worker drones who zap your energy as they try to shove you into the daily grind. Of course, you're better than that, and can power up with a refreshing Dos Equis. Watch out for the evil boss who has a way of throwing a wrench in your plans of getting to the end. You can find the game at:

http://www.dosx.com/routine.php

For a fun, quick routine breaker, play against the clock in a classic little applet called REINFORCEMENTS. Because living is thirsty work indeed.

http://www.dosx.com/reinforce.php

Both games require the Shockwave and could be the best reason to download the plug-in if you don't have it already.

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***REAL BEER PICKS***

AGER TANK EQUIPMENT

Ager Tank and Equipment is a Portland, OR based clearing house of new and used brewery equipment. The site allows you to navigate quickly scores of items in over a dozen categories and provides snapshots of selected categories. Buyers and Sellers fill out online forms to get their items listed or to purchase. Surf over to their site at:

http://www.ager-tank-equipment.com

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DOS EQUIS

USA's favorite Imported amber beer from Mexico is the Vienna style lager brewed for over a century under the sign of the two X's (ergo, Dos Equis) for the coming Millineum. Find out about the beers -- including a special lager and an equally special holiday brew, XX brewing history and where to find it. Send postcards, relate with other XX-philes, play games, contact the brand. And discover your own meaning for Viva La Revolucion. Live the Revolution online.

http://www.dosx.com

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ECO PAK PRODUCTS

Mike Galbierz and father, Richard, are the brains behind Eco-Pak Products and innovative packaging for the beverage industry. They developed and patented their paperboard carrier technology as a viable option for all packaging needs. The packages use less materials, showcase labels in a creative way and reduce slippage. If you work with a packaged product, you'll want to check out:

http://eco-pakproducts.com

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FRESHOPS

Freshops is hop supply house created by a homebrewer for homebrewers. And, one visit to the Freshops website will tell you how passionate they are about this ingredient. The pages are tailored specifically for your carboy-lugging, hop-smelling, boilover brewing experiences. A handy glossary, info on homebrewing, growing your own hops, and symptoms of insect and disease damage are available. And Freshops products are also available to order online.

http://www.freshops.com

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IMPERIAL TOUR & TRAVEL, INC.

If your feet are made for walkin' and you are determined to set off on a quest for good beer, these are the folks to contact. Imperial Tour and Travel, based in Portland, OR (probably where they developed a taste for good beer), have put together the first homebrew cruise starring brew guru, Fred Eckhardt. Get more information online at:

http://imperialtourtravel.com

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OAKEN BARREL BREWING CO.

Here's a website by brewers who know who they are and what they want to brew and are not afraid of taking shots at those nearby intent on confusing their consumers. "You don't have to be Bigfoot to enjoy big beer, but the search has left many Hoosiers dry. In spite of all the brewhaha about blushing dogs and angry frogs, central Indiana continues to be hoodwinked by big brewers with bland beers and colorful packaging. There is very little distribution of real microbrewed beers with interesting flavor or local identity." Fortunately, Indiana has Oaken Barrel. Check out the website. It tells a great story. It has a big heart. It implies having a good time is part of the quality. Like they say on their free-stuff page: "It's almost as good as swiping a handful [of coasters] from the bar but your lazy butt doesn't even have to leave your comfy chair."

http://oakenbarrel.com

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SANTA ROSA STAINLESS STEEL

A recognized as a wine industry leader in equipment manufacturing since 1968, Santa Rosa Stainless Steel's sterling record for high-quality equipment solutions to such a discriminating industry translates well into serving the needs of the brewing industry. SRSS manufactures custom steam-fired brewhouse equipment, fermentation and serving tanks. Check out what they have to offer your brewery at

http://www.srss.com

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QUICKIE EMAIL SURVEY

Thanks to all who have been replying to our Quickie Surveys. We draw one winner each month for the prize of Michael Jackson's The Great Beers of Belgium distributed by Vanberg & DeWulf (http://www.BelgianExperts.com), Importers of fine Belgian beers and now brewers of Belgian-style beer in their Cooperstown-based Brewery Ommegang. This month's winner is Ted Hull who seems to enter these surveys religiously and proves that luck has a favor for tenacity & persistence. Cheers, Ted!

Last month's question was what Mexican Beer do you prefer? It appears as though the deeper-colored Vienna Lagers lead Real Beer consumer preferences. Leading beers were:

Dos Equis:
Modelo:
Corona:
Bohemia:
Pacifico:
Tecate:
Other:
31%
28%
11%
9%
8%
7%
6%

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*** Brewed Fresh For You! ***

The Real Beer Page announces a diverse group of brew websites to check out:
http://www.beer-wine.com
http://cornucopia1.com
http://dmebrewing.com
http://www.greatlakesbrewing.com
http://hopunion.com
http://www.microbrew-invitational.com
http://www.homebrewsupply.com
http://www.yakimachief.com

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***BUSINESS WATCH***

BRIDGEPORT REPORTS 35% INCREASE IN SALES

BridgePort Brewing Company, Portland, OR, reports an overall 35% annual increase in sales for 1997 over 1996.

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PYRAMID BREWERIES SHOW STRONG 4TH QUARTER SALES

Pyramid Breweries Inc. reported net sales increased 22.4% to $6 million in the fourth quarter of 1997 compared to $4.9 million in Q4 in 1996. Sales of Pyramid Ales increased 9.5% but sales of Thomas Kemper Lagers were off some 47.5%.

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COORS REPORTS RECORD 1997 SALES

Adolph Coors Company announced net sales of $1.82 billion, a 4.6% increase from 1996. Sales volume was up some 2.7% to 20,581,000 barrels in 1997. The after-tax income was reported to be $68.3 million, a 44% increase from 1996.

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BUDWEISER SALES GROW, PRICE FALLS

Anheuser-Busch, Inc. reported domestic sales of a record 89,572,000 barrels. However, according to a February 5 article in the Wall Street Journal, AB reported that its net income fell 8.8% in 4th quarter 1997. The company stated that its net in 1996 was $150 million, and $136.8 million in 1997, and that deep price discounting negatively impacted its net income for that quarter.

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MOLSON ANNOUNCES THIRD QUARTER INCREASE

Molson Companies Ltd. announced net earnings for the three months ended December 31, 1997 of $22.6 million versus 1996 same period, $20.2 million. Net earnings for the nine months ended December 31, 1997 were $63.4 million; 1996 same period was $61.8 million. Operating profits for nine months ending December 31, 1997 declined to $108.7 million from $114.8 million for same period last year.

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BOSTON BEER CO. 1997: PRODUCTION UP, NET DOWN

Production for 1997 was 1,352,000 barrels up from 1,213,000 in 1996. Net sales were reported to be down at $183.8 million from $191.1 million in 1996. Net income decreased to $7.6 million from $8.4 million in 1996. The flagship Samuel Adams Lager reportedly grew faster than the category and represents a majority of the company's sales.

http://www.samadams.com

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ROCK BOTTOM Q4 AND YEAR END RESULTS

Rock Bottom Restaurants, Inc. announced year-end results for 1997. Revenues for Q4 increased 29.8% to $39.4 million compared to $30.3 million for Q4 in 1996. The company incurred a net loss for the quarter prior to a $4.5 million charge for restaurant closings. The company reported a net loss for Q4 1997 of $4.3 million.

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REDHOOK REPORTS DISAPPOINTING 4TH QUARTER

Redhook Brewery Inc. reported a net loss of $716,000 for 4th quarter 1997 and a net loss of $1,399,000 for year ended December 31, 1997. Total sales declined 8.1% compared to 4th quarter 1996. Sales volume declined from 58,100 barrels to 52,800 barrels for 4th quarter 1996 and 1997, respectively.

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***BREWSPAPER CHRONICLES***

CELEBRATOR CELEBRATES 10TH ANNIVERSARY IN STYLE

The Celebrator Beer News, the oldest beer newspaper in the real world and earliest beer newspaper online, celebrated its 10th anniversary in true, beer-lovin' form on Saturday, February 28th at the Pyramid complex in Berkeley. Eighteen legacy breweries from the west coast and three bands rocked the sold-out crowd of brewers, media and beer enthusiasts. Highlights included "The Rolling Boil Blues Band," a compilation of beer industry professionals from brewers to marketers to Celebrator publisher, Tom Dalldorf, fulfilling their rock & roll fantasies.

http://www.celebrator.com

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PRESSES RUMORED STOPPED AT NY BEER PUBLICATION

The Beer & Tavern Chronicle, a New York City based brewspaper that promotes itself as "Americas First Monthly Beer Periodical," failed to published its December 1997, and January 1998 issues, according to a report in ALExaminer, an e-mail beer newsletter.

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ROCKY MOUNTAIN BREWS CEASES PUBLICATION

Publisher AJ Feldmann has ceased publication of the Rocky Mountain Brews beer newspaper headquartered in Ft. Collins, CO. The publication was the brainchild of industry veteran and current AHA Director Jim Parker. Parker, who was a newspaper reporter and an early editor of the Celebrator Beer News, sold the paper when he opened Mountain Tap Pub in Ft. Collins. The publication was truly "America's First Monthly Beer Publication" but recently had been known to have an erratic publishing record. No confirmation was possible from the publisher as the phone has been disconnected.

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OWNERSHIP CHANGE AT YANKEE BREW NEWS

Yankee Brew News has been purchased by investors currently involved in beer publications. Yankee Brew News, founded in 1989 by Don Gosselin, is one of the nation's oldest beeriodicals and covers the New England states. The new owners own Southwest Brewing News, founded in 1993, and covering the Southwestern U.S. Bill Metzger, one of the investors, owns and publishes Great Lakes Brewing News.

http://www.yankeebrew.com
http://realbeer.com/glbn/

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FINLAND JUMPS ON BEER FESTIVAL BANDWAGON

The first Helsinki Beer Festival will be held 2nd - 4th April 1998. It will be an annual fair for both the trade and private beer consumers, featuring beer, wine, cider, and whiskies. Helsinki Beer Festival will be the first "real" international beer trade show held in Finland.

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CANS TALK BACK

Brazilian brewer Brahma has launched a promotion in Venezuela, featuring two thousand talking beer cans. Emblazoned with a grinning mouth, the red and gold cans contain a light-activated recording that announces in a tinny voice prizes ranging from $50 to $2,000 when opened. South America's largest brewer launched the $800,000 campaign at the beginning of February. (FW: Kurt Epps)

http://realbeer.com/rbp/authors/epps/

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*** Celebrity Spotlight: FRED ***

WSJ REVEALS CRAFT-BREW FAVORITE TO PUBLIC

On Monday, January 26, the Wall Street Journal ran an article about Fred, a brew produced by the Hair of the Dog Brewery in Portland, OR. The Journal became interested in Fred when they heard about Hair of the Dog's unprecedented move of releasing the first bottling to the general public before releasing to retailers. Customers lined up outside the brewery and snatched up the 110 cases and 120 magnums available in less than an hour. Fred is a Golden Strong Ale measuring 11.5% alcohol by volume and was previously available only on draft. The beer was created to honor Portland-based beer writer and historian Fred Eckhardt. Alan Sprints, of Hair of the Dog, reports that the article has also generated interest from distributors in other states and an exporter to the Japanese market.

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ORIGINAL FRED HOSTS HOMEBREWING CRUISE TO MEXICO

Fred Eckhardt will host the first AHA-sanctioned homebrewing competition to be judged at sea. The First Annual Brew Cruise will stop at Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan and Cabo San Lucas. Eckhardt will present seminars and beer tastings, and there will be a homebrew competition. The cruise is $1299 per person plus airfare and includes all brew cruise activities and an oceanview stateroom. It is offered by Imperial Tour and Travel, 1-800-888-2887.

http://www.imperialtourtravel.com

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FRED INSPIRES BEER LITERACY IN OREGON

The Oregon Brew Crew homebrew club reports in its monthly newsletter that they will be donating books on beer and brewing to the Multnomah County Library. The funds are from the club's cash surplus carried over for the past few years. The American Homebrewers Association has agreed to discount books purchased by the club for the library. The idea for donating books was suggested by beer writer Fred Eckhardt, who had pointed out to the club severe budget and personnel suffered by the library.

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SMOKING PROHIBITION REVIEWED BY CA LEGISLATURE

California's recent prohibition of smoking in all public buildings has met fierce defiance by tavern owners, publican's and customers. The California Assembly voted last week to repeal the ban on smoking by a vote of 42 to 24. The measure to repeal now goes to the State Senate where the bill's fate is doubtful.

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CA REJECTS BILL TO CONTROL ALCOHOL ADS

California's state assembly rejected bills proposed to restrict advertising messages by alcohol companies about beer. One bill, introduced by Assemblyperson Dion Aroner, D-Berkeley, suggested an advisory committee to set guidelines for child-friendly material in alcohol advertising. Another, by Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, D-Pacoima, recommended drastically increasing license fees for convenience stores . (Source: Hayward Daily Review, January 13)

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FOUNDER LEAVES MENDOCINO BREWING CO.

Michael Lovett has resigned from Mendocino Brewing Company in Hopland and Ukiah, CA. Michael said that he was given an opportunity to stay in a diminished capacity (and at a salary level of some three years ago) by the new management but felt it was better to leave the brewery he helped to found in 1983. Both Michael Lovett and Master Brewer Don Barkley (who remains in his position at Mendocino) came from the first microbrewery in the U.S. --New Albion in Sonoma, CA. When it closed in the early 80's, Michael and Don took some of the equipment and went north to Hopland, CA, to help found the first brewpub in California, Mendocino Brewing Company. Controlling interest in Mendocino is held by Indian beer and spirits conglomerate United Breweries of America.

http://mendobrew.com

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FAMED SAN FRANCISCO BEER FESTIVAL SCUTTLED

KQED television has announced the cancellation of their annual beer festival, held for years during the weekend after the July Fourth holiday, and at its height drew over 300 exhibitors. More than quantity, the event served as an organizing community force for the beer industry in Northern California.

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TENNESSEE BREWPUB CHAIN EXPANDS

Big River Breweries, Inc. has gone public with its decision to add two Florida brewpubs to its growing portfolio of restaurants. The acquisition of seafood pubs Ragtime Tavern in Atlantic Beach, FL, and A1A Ale Works in St. Augustine, FL, both founded and operated by successful Florida restaurateurs Tom and Bill Morton, indicates Big River's solid presence in the region.

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TORONADO BARLEY WINE FESTIVAL WINNERS

On Sunday, February 15 a panel of homebrewers and beer writers judged 33 strong beer during the 5th Annual Barley Wine Festival at the Toronado in San Francisco. Best of show was Hair of the Dog Adam, Batch 29 from the tiny brewery with the big reputation in Portland, Oregon. Second place went to Old Crustacean 1995 from Rogue of Newport, Oregon, and third position went to Old Bawdy from Seattle's Pike Brewing Company.

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CO. BREWERIES BREAK GROUND FOR NEW FACILITIES

Left Hand Brewing Company, Longmont, CO, president Eric Wallace and Tabernash Brewing' Co.'s, Denver, CO VP Jeff Mendel turned the first shovels of dirt to initiate construction on their new facility in Longmont. The building will expand Left Hand's current building from 56,00 square feet to over 12,000 square feet. The added space will house a new bottling line, additional fermentation and conditioning tanks, larger cold storage and new office space. Once the new facility at Left Hand is completed, all Tabernash brewing will move to Longmont and Tabernash's Denver facility will close. Project completion is scheduled for this summer.

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MILLER SEEKS TO BRAND AN ERA

According to an article in the January 26 Ad Age by James B. Arndorfer, Miller Brewing Company is working with the U.S. Patent Office to get itself branded as the official sponsor of the "Millerennium," a name it is looking to trademark. (M&M/Mars is already running a commercial declaring itself the official candy of the Millennium.)

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CRAFT-BREW TAKES TO THE SKIES

Northwest Airlines announced today that it has reached an agreement with James Page Brewing Co., of Minneapolis MN, to offer its Iron Range Amber Lager to Northwest passengers on domestic flights beginning this spring. The airline selected the microbrewed lager after detailed evaluation of the products from several leading microbreweries in the Twin Cities area. A brewery spokesman expressed his delight with the selection.

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HOLLYWOOD BLONDE BREWER GRABS LAT COVERAGE

Maribeth Raines-Casselman, cancer researcher and brewmaster for The Great Beer Company, brewers of Hollywood Blonde Kolsch- style beer, was featured in an article in a February 4th L.A. Times article under the headline, "Beauty and the Yeast."

http://greatbeerco.com

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EDITORIAL: REAL BEER ENCOUNTERS

While traveling on vacation in Mexico last fall I had a couple of real beer encounters -- events that would never had taken place without the pursuit of our passion. These encounters play into a larger theory I've been working on about what happens on the path...

The setting was the Mexican states of Quintana Roo and Yucatan, perhaps better known for its resort destination of Cancun or visually as the big toe of the Mexican stocking. Darci, my wife, and I, prefer less- traveled designations, and had decided to go snorkeling in some semi- remote caves in the Maya jungle. About 8 miles north of Telum and two miles by Indiana Jones-like 4x4 buggy, we reached the Tak Bahai and Dos Ojos caves (http://www.xaac.com/dosojos/). These caves have been formed in the jungle-covered limestone shelf of Quintana Roo by millions of years of rising and diminishing water table levels. Descending into a cave gave respite to thick swarms of mosquitoes following us through the jungle trek. Below, a magical setting was provided by the sounds of bats and birds and the elegant formations of stalactites joined by sturdy tree roots snaking below the surface in search of water. Our guide, Cecilia, lit the caves and our snorkeling excursion with a hand-held lamp which ran out of power after our first hour around a cave lake (called a "cenote").

As we waited above for a new battery to be delivered, we began to converse with an expatriate tradesman breaking from welding some stairs and scaffolding for another cave entrance. His name was Mark Kale and he had just packed up, given away or sold all of his worldly goods to move down, live in a trailer on the beach and work on developing the dive and snorkel business. He had left Tempe, AZ and his last project there was a microbrewery. My ears perked up. My wife's eyes rolled (she's become accustomed to these "coincidences" to the point of recognizing that they are not accidents and, for Pete's sake, we *were* on vacation after all...).

And Mark and I began trading names and beer stories. Jim and Dan over at Four Peaks, the microbrewery he worked on in Tempe, AZ. We met them when we were getting started in '94. How about Barry John, the guy from Samuel Smiths, retired but assisting with their formulations? Damn good Scottish Ale. Great Oatmeal stout. How about that Elvis shrine they've got going? Mark said he contributed a couple rare singles to the growing Elvisiana. Did he know that beer writer/author, Patrick Higgins', first book was called "Before There Was Elvis There Was Nothing?" That's in the shrine, too. And Jerry Grant from Copper Canyon in Tempe -- friend, cool cat and fellow brewer -- how was he doing? And on and on. We had a great time sharing experiences about the brewers in Arizona in the jungles of Mexico, miles from a phone but never far from our passion.

A week later we headed across Yucatan to Chichen Ittza, one of the best restored Mayan/Aztec/Toltec cities. While waiting for a guide, a large English-speaking tour group came filing by us. Noticing my Real Beer hat, an excellent protection from the intense Caribbean sun, one of the tourists approached me and asked if I knew the Real Beer page. "Know them? I'm one of them," I replied. "Hey, honey!" he yelled. "Get the camera over here. It's the Real Beer guy. He's famous" I recognized the rolling of eyes from his wife, but good sportsmanship prevailed. "It's a digital camera," he explained. "I go to your pages all the time. I've got a half-barrel system in the garage." The pictures and email exchange were brief because his tour was about to leave. The razzing I get from my wife about the incident may last a lifetime. I wasn't surprised to find an email with jpegs attached upon my return.

These stories bring together some themes I've been watching ferment in my mind for awhile:

First, that truth resides in the center of a diamond, and no matter what facet you use to peer into that center, with clarity of purpose and purity of development, you can get there. Be it through science, religion, art, brewing, math, alchemy, humor, appreciation, sports. Where ever the passion drives you, that's where truth is. That's why we've been known to have said that beer is our subject, but life, politics, art, truth and sensuality is what we're writing about. It may have been beer traveling that put us in Everywhere USA, and in being there we were able to have other incredible life experiences.

Second, that being on your path and following your passion brings its own rewards. I have a theory -- and it's been covered by more credible and researched fields -- that whether you know it or not, you're bearing gifts for others you will meet. It may be an idea, knowledge, friendship or something even more tangible.

Third, the WWW makes the first two all the more immediate. It is a network where people of similar passion find themselves and form communities around their passions. They share what they have and learn what they can and become more substantial in the process. That's why it's not surprising when the real world emulates what happens every moment online.

Our real beer encounters were hardly accidents. As some real beer friends fondly state in their sig file: Beer is our Bond. (Gratis to Maura Kilgore and Patrick Higgins). Cheers!

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