RBPMail 4.12, December 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 Often, links you will see are out of date, and businesses referred to may also be long gone.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:

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Just back from the Czech Republic, Celebrator Beer News publisher Tom Dalldorf reports the buzz on the street in Prague is about future "privatization" of Czech industry. This could lead to further purchases and "relationships" with respect to the country's highly respected brewing companies. Pilsner Urquell was privatized through investments from a Czech bank in 1991 -- just two years after the "Velvet Revolution" ended Communist control of indigenous industry. That Czech bank was recently purchased by the Namora Bank of Japan. Of primary interest is the future of Budweiser Budvar, the equally legendary brewery in Ceske Budejovice which shares the Budweiser moniker with Anheuser Busch of Saint Louis, Mo. A-B has been trying to purchase the Czech brewery for many years to czech-mate the ongoing trademark dispute with the Bohemian brewery. A recent report suggests that the Czech government and analysts agree that the country needs an inflow of foreign investment to help counter ongoing financial difficulties. This will include selling state assets, reorganizing companies and attracting foreign investment. The Bud v. Bud issue should come to a rolling boil next year.

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A new survey by market analysts Euromonitor found that Czech's were easily the world's biggest beer consumers in 1997. The study reported that Czech drank an average of 156 liters per person and German 130 liters each. In Belgium the per capita intake was 99 liters and in Great Britain is was 97 liters. The average in the United States was 84.7, while world norm was 25.3. India was at the low end of the spectrum with per capita consumption of less than 0.5 liters - the same amount in a year that a Czech drinks in a day.

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University of Barcelona researchers used a 3,100-year-old recipe to recreate a beer from the Bronze Age. The recipe was pieced together through microscopic examination of scrapings from the bottom of a red clay jar found at an archeological dig known as Geno, in Spain's northeast Catalonia region. Jose Luis Maya, a history professor, said the researchers turned to brewers at a nearby San Miguel beer plant for help in cooking up a fresh batch of old beer. Tests done on the Geno residue showed the brewers used barley and a kind of wheat called emmer. "They also added herbs as preservatives," Maya said. "That's the problem with beer. If you don't add preservatives, it goes bad quickly."

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The top breweries in Japan have begun to feel the ramifications of a slowing economy to varying degrees. Beer shipments by Japan's major brewers dropped 1.8% in September 1998 from same month in 1997. While shipments by smaller breweries declined -- at Sapporo, 23.7% and at Suntory, 7.4%, both Kirin, the largest in Japan, increased shipments by 3.8% and second largest brewer Asahi increased shipments by 5.1%. Kirin's increase was in part due to the rise in deliveries of its low- malt brew, Tanrei.

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German beer producers have learned that their beer is preferred abroad in bottles, not cans. Actually, French and Dutch beer drinkers do prefer cans, but British and U.S. consumers prefer their German beer in bottles, as reported by the German Federal Statistics Office. The United States imported 64 million liters of beer in bottles in the first six months of this year, but only 5 million liters of beer in cans. In the U.K., 24 million liters of beer in bottles were imported from Germany, but only 7 million liters in cans. Conversely, France imported 13 million liters of beer in bottles against 25 million liters of beer in cans.

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Earlier this year a U.S. district court judge struck down a Missouri law that would have required labels list where a beer is brewed, saying that such a law would most benefit the nation's largest brewery - Anheuser- Busch. England's beer consumer group (the Campaign for Real Ale - CAMRA) contends the opposite is true across the Atlantic: that major breweries must be held accountable about claims where beer is brewed. In the "1999 Good Beer Guide" CAMRA attacks British brewers for fooling consumers into thinking that major foreign brands are brewed abroad when in fact they are brewed in the UK. The Campaign drew particular attention to a Carlsberg television ad that showed Danes getting angry about their beer leaving the country. In fact most UK-consumed Carlsberg is made in Northampton.

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Britain's biggest regional brewer Wolverhampton & Dudley Breweries recently launched a hostile takeover bid for neighbor Marston, Thompson & Evershed. Marston rejected the offer calling it "wholly inadequate." Many industry analysts believe Wolverhampton will succeed in its effort, but will have to boost its bid. "The industrial logic is so compelling, the regionals need to consolidate to compete against the nationals and at last it is happening," said one leading drinks industry analyst. The bid if successful would create a big regional beermaker with three breweries and nearly 2,000 pubs controling 5% of the British beer market. It would be a strong competitor in central England to the four national beermakers which brew four out of every five pints drunk in Britain. "The logic of the deal is that the consolidation of regional brewers is the only way to cut costs and gain economies of scale to compete against the national brewers," said Wolverhampton's managing director David Thompson.

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The Campaign for Real ale claimed a victory when Castle Eden Brewery was sold to a consortium of local businessmen. CAMRA began a campaign, together with the local trade union and others, to keep the brewery open after the announcement in April that it was to be sold by Whitbread. Mike Benner of CAMRA said: "This is exactly the result we have campaigned for. I am confident that in the hands of the new management team led by long-time Head Brewer Jim Kerr, the brewery and beers will thrive. It just goes to show that asset-stripping viable businesses is not the best solution to the pressures faced by today's brewers."

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If you check the TV listings and notice Michael Jackson is scheduled on Late Night With Conan O'Brien for tonight, be advised that's THE Michael Jackson, not the Indiana crooner. What kind of questions should the Bard of Beer expect and what kind of answers will he come up with? We can hardly wait. And we sure hope he doesn't get "bumped." If he does get bumped, he may appear next Wednesday. Meanwhile, there are lots of new stories at the Beer Hunter site, plus a page that makes ordering Michael Jackson's books and publications easy.

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If you've ventured near a mall since Thanksgiving you know that it's crowded out there. There's a crowd at BREWMall, too, but the nice thing about virtual shopping is nobody gets in your way. One thing to remember, though, is that it takes time for retailers to deliver the items you order so drag your mouse not your feet. BREWMall--the world's largest catalog of beer merchandise anywhere--offers 1,995 items to choose from and a special Gift Guide to get you started.

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Newcastle Brown ale is looking for a few good alibis, and in return offering some nifty prizes and a bit of fun. If you've got a good alibi for showing up late, then enter the Little Brown Lie Sweepstakes. If you find yourself in need of such an alibi, say because you've lingered too long savoring the flavor of a Newcastle Brown Ale, you'll find some ready-made alibis there. You can also hang out with "those lads" from Newcastle, take their trivia quiz and sign up to receive their activity book. Here's a free alibi to get you started: "I'm allowing it to achieve the proper 'room' temperature."

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Meet Rene, who is ready to tell you everything you need to know about beer in Belgium. Interbrew, which imports four brands of Belgian beer to North America, has Rene greet you at the door of this site, which offers quizzes, a primer to help you pick the style beer you like best, information about where to find its products and plenty on the beers themselves:

Stella Artois
The beer, which took its name in 1926 from an exceptional Christmas beer, is now known as the "Beer from the land of beer." It is the No. 1 selling Belgian beer in the world, the top imported beer in England and is now available in the United States in New York and other selected markets.

The village of Hoegaarden was once home to 34 breweries, then none, before the "dead" style of White beer was revived here. Hoegaarden White continues to win awards and is the definitive beer for the style.

Abbey de Leffe
Leffe, traces its origins back to the Abbey Notre Dame de Leffe, founded in 1152 on the river Meuse in the province of Namur.

Lambics are unique, even by Belgian standards. The Belle-Vue beers are brewed by an extremely complex process that can last years.

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Words from the site: "It's the American Dream: Get married. Buy a house. Open a brewery." Dean Biersch and Dan Gordon opened their first brewpub in 1988 and today they operate brewery restaurants in five states. The places are equally known for their true-to-style lager beers and their excellent food. It's unfortunate that nobody has invented a browser plug-in that can let visitors sample a taste of the trademark Gordon Biersch Garlic Fries. We'll have ours with a Marzen.

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With offices in four countries and a site that provides information in five languages, Bavarian Brewery Technologies focuses on only one thing: building breweries. All are designed to comply with the Bavarian "Rheinheitsgebot" and in case you want to see what that word looks in Japanese, check out the overview page.

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It looks like a small 150-year-old family store from the outside because that's what it is. Inside, though, you'll find hundreds of beers to choose from, unique food choices and a knowledgeable staff. The web site reflects this, including a history of the store, a fine beer education area, glassware for sale and notes on the special beer Stone City Brewing made to mark the 50th anniversary of John's Grocery. The store was founded in 1948 in a former tavern, while the building itself dates back to 1848.

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This more-than-a-homebrew store has been serving customers since 1972, so its mail order department is adept at dispatching orders to anywhere in the world. Not only will you find everything you need to brew beer, but also to make wine, make cheese, grow mushrooms, create vinegar, etc. The business is based in Woburn, Mass., and offers secure on-line ordering.

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*** Brewed Fresh For You! ***

The Real Beer Page announces a diverse group of brew websites to check out:

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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 (, importers of fine Belgian beers and now brewers of Belgian-style beer in their Cooperstown, N.Y.-based Brewery Ommegang. Last month's winner was Robert C. Crittenden, who said email is the only way he participates in online discussions, because he has no time for other ways.

Last month we asked if you used other means than email to participate in online discussions. More than half of you keep it simple, using email only or subscribing to mailing lists. However, more than 10% of you use all the options the Internet has to offer and 25% use newsgroups.

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The Oregon Brewers Guild has begun its program to require beers to be laboratory and taste tested before receiving the guild's "quality mark" for use on a breweries' packaging. Beers found to have gross faults or judged guilty of making false claims on their labels won't make the grade. "It is a very touchy thing to tell an artist how to paint or a brewer how to brew beer, and that's not our intent," said Mike Sherwood, director of the guild. Because of brewers' concerns, it took two years to get the program set up. Forty beers made by 10 Oregon brewers have already undergone earned the quality mark. Laboratory tests performed by Analytical Labs in Corvallis check beer on a variety of parameters, such as color, bitterness level and alcohol content. Then the beers face blind taste testing by industry experts. The quality mark is already being added to Full Sail, Saxer, Nor'Wester, Deschutes and Widmer's packaging.

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While rumors continue to swirl that Stroh Brewery Co. will be sold, the Detroit-based company announced it's closing its Tampa, Fla., Brewery. The brewery is the company's smallest, with annual production capacity of 1.5 million barrels of beer. The company said it is closing the brewery because of the recent loss of the Pabst contract brewing deal to Miller Brewing and overcapacity in the Stroh system.

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Pennsylvania's D.G. Yuengling & Sons, Inc., may keep its slogan, "America's Oldest Brewery." Canada's Molson Breweries, which is 212 years old, had objected on the grounds that "America" refers to North America. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ruled that the term "America" means the United States, not Canada, for most buyers. Yuengling had been using its slogan on "beerware" since 1957. Molson does have the option of appealing the case to a federal court.

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Denmark now has its own beer consumer group, similar to organizations in most of Europe's other countries. The association notes: "An increasing number of Danes have discovered the great diversity of quality beers coming from many other countries. The beer enthusiasm in USA microbreweries, the huge support for real ale in United Kingdom, the Belgian revival of small breweries etc. inspires also the Danes to a renewed interest in quality beer and beer traditions."

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New Belgium Brewing Company has been named one of America's most successful small manufacturers in the November issue of Industry Today. The Fort Collins, Colo., brewery was one of 25 small companies around the United States selected by the publication.

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When Harbor Docks Seafood & Brewery in Destin, Fla., changed hands earlier this year, brewer Gary Essex had to dump 1,500 gallons of beer down the drain. The new owner didn't have its liquor and brewing licenses in place so Essex had only a few hours to think about disposing of the beer before it had to be flushed. "I didn't really take into account we were putting all that beer down a 4-inch sewer pipe," Essex said, chuckling as he recalled the day. "I had a woman come out of the women's room and say foam was coming out of the toilet." The brewpub is due to reopen as Morgan's Sports Bar & Brewpub early in 1999.

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In anticipation of the 1999 Super Bowl, Anheuser-Busch has brought its 11-year-old Bud Bowl promotion to the Internet. A-B offers sweepstakes tickets and entertainment at that requires your browser be fully modified. The promotion is not available to California residents.

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* "The Homebrewer's Garden," by Joe Fisher & Dennis Fisher. Originally intending to discuss brewing herbs, the Fishers discovered the ease of growing one's own barley and hops. Details are provided on growing, tending, harvesting and using hops, six different grains and 42 varieties of herbs.

* "Brew Your Own British Real Ale," by Graham Wheeler & Roger Protz. Consisting largely of recipes, the book now includes U.S. measurements. The recipes are all-grain, but several include methods for converting to malt extract recipes also. Some of the recipes: Ringwood Old Thumper, Tolly Cobbold Bitter, Morland's Old Speckled Hen and Adnams Bitter.

* "Clone Brews," by Tess & Mark Szamatulski. Basically a collection of recipes, Clone Brews features homebrew recipes for commercial beers from around the world. Instructions in each recipe, however, are clear and instructions for extract, all-grain and mini-mash methods are provided.

These books and others are available at BREWMall:

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As Kenneth Starr headed before the Grand Jury to submit his case against the President, craft and specialty beer companies have started to present their cases to the beer wholesale trade. The two groups probably have more in common than you imagine. As is often the case, what shows itself in one art form expresses itself across others. Carl Jung, a founder of the modern science of psychology, suggested that these synchronous expressions represent manifestations of a collective unconscious. Bear with us as we pursue the comparisons between Oval Office high drama and the divine comedy of the better beer category.

Starr's work has come from a single minded-obsession for the last several years. He's staked his reputation and made a name, for better or worse, from his efforts. His quest seems heroic, if in a somewhat tragic way, because he's working on taking out the big cheese. Old No. 1. The top dog.

The micros and the imports have established a name by making the big cheeses of the beer business, industrial brewers in general and A-B specifically, their foil. And the sometimes bumbling, sometimes clever industrial brewers proved to be a good foil at that. The results earned press if for no other reason than the polarity of a "David vs. Goliath" fairy tail. Like Clinton, the big beer companies have struck back with campaigns to legislate, confuse, diffuse and, in rare cases, harvest the success of the specialty segment.

Like Starr, the specialty segment has been given the validation of media discussion and some momentum of success. However, few know, nor want to, the back room deals and strange bedfellows earned through their pursuit of the top. To recap some of the bedfellows from the last year or so:

* Corona & Modelo fell to A-B's international expansion campaign, surrendering 51% of its shares to the top U.S. brewer. Redhook and Widmer joined A-B's camp as well via investment and distribution deals. A-B launched a competitive "Mexican Micro" named Azteca to ride the wake of Corona's success and a new hybrid beer/tequila product aimed at increasing its already impressive total share of ethanol delivery.

* A-B backed Corona knocked Heineken off its top import spot and shows no sign of looking back. From the other U.S. border, Interbrew-owned Labatt charged past Molson for the No. 3 import spot and top Canadian import crown. Samuel Adams claims the No. 3 spot in sales if you expand the definition from import beer to "better beer."

* Meanwhile, The Gambrinus Co. -- East Coast importers of Corona, Modelo & Moosehead and owners of BridgePort and Shiner -- acquired the Pete's Brewing brands.

* In Europe, the Czech Republic's anti-monopoly office banned a merger of Plzensky Prazdroj AS and Pivovar Radegast AS, two of the country's largest brewers. Bass Plc (U.K.) controls the country's second largest brewer, Prazski Pivovary AS, and opposed the merger.

* Feldschloesschen-Huerlimann Holding AG, Switzerland's biggest brewer and beverage group, signed a deal with Anheuser-Busch to distribute Bud to retail outlets, restaurants and bars in Switzerland. F-H claims 50% of the Swiss beer market and was formed in 1996 by a merger of rivals Feldschloesschen and Huerlimann. The latter brewery created the venerable Samichlaus beer which was discontinued in the shadows of the A-B notice.

* The United Brewing Group, Sausalito, Calif., acquired Carmel Brewing Co. in Salinas, Calif., with company stock, wrapping up a craft acquisition spree of Mendocino and Ten Springs Brewing Companies along with several failed overtures to breweries such as Humbolt Brewing and Nor'Wester. UB Group's departure from the Nor'Wester deal delivered the death blow for the struggling brewer, and Saxer Brewing bought the brands from the bankrupt concern.

* Riverside Brewing of Riverside, Calif., and Heritage Brewing of Lake Elsinore, Calif., combined to form the West Coast Brewing Company.

* Specialty brands looked for creative ways to address a noisy and crowded wholesale distribution channel. Rogue partnered with US Beverage, started by former executives from Seagram Distributing (Seagram imports Grolsch and recently Steinlager and markets Devil's Mountain). Anchor expanded its distribution relationship with Labatt USA.

* Frederick absorbed fellow Mid-Atlantic brewers, Wild Goose and Brimstone Brewing and moved its Hempen brew to national distribution.

* Denver-area craft brewers Left Hand Brewing Co. and Tabernash merged to earn production and marketing efficiencies and find strength in combined market share. They then joined with two other breweries -- Bristol Brewing and Avery Brewing -- to form a distribution alliance.

* Rumors remain strong that Stroh Brewery, the fourth largest in the nation, will be sold. Whether it goes to Pabst or Miller Brewing or is involved in some sort of three-way deal, it seems likely that much of the beer currently brewed by Stroh will soon be made by Miller. Stroh currently produces most of the beer sold by Boston Beer Co. and Pete's Brewing.

* In Pennsylvania, first it was Independence Brewing and Pittsburgh Brewing that were going to merge, then it was Red Bell Brewing getting ready to take over Lion Brewery. But eventually, Red Bell and Pittsburgh Brewing agreed to merge, with Pittsburgh (an old regional brewery with roots that stretch back to 1861) becoming the subsidiary of Red Bell, the upstart micro. Meanwhile, Red Bell also said it will continue to pursue Lion Brewery Inc. of Wilkes-Barre in an effort to expand its product line to malt and non-alcoholic brews.

* Never far from beer industry deals, on July 1, more than 1,500 company employees toasted their own Price Waterhouse-Coopers & Lybrand merger with a signature beverage created for the event by the Bonaventure Brewing Co. of Los Angeles.

* Even industry vendors were at it as advertising firm Lois/USA Inc. (Corona's agency) merged with its newly acquired Scaros & Casselman (formerly the Bass Plc. agency).

Beyond strange bed-fellows and guerrilla warfare, the beer industry and Starr investigation/hunt share another common phenomena: people on the street have a strong opinion about the outcome of the conflict. And they're tired of -- and retaliating against -- dirty smear campaigns. With beer, people voted with their pocket books and drove the specialty and craft industry to an all-time high.

When you combine imports, industrial brewer-backed brands such as Killian's and Michelob Specialty products, regional brands and brewpubs, you can see that the better beer category is healthy and growing. Meanwhile, back in Milwaukee at Miller's HQ word's out that the sexy but vapid "Macrobrew" ads -- pitted against the micro renaissance -- is getting the ax.

In the next year, we predict that you will see several Industrial brewer-backed brands drift into anonymity and eventually die, as the big brewers pull back marketing, advertising and sales support from brands that draw focus away from the flagship beer(s). We won't point fingers, but you'll know who they are and will find yourself asking, "Whatever happened to such-and-such beer?" The good news may be that more shelf space and support will be created for strong import and regional brands. The bad news may be that there will be a glut of bad, aging, poorly developed "concept beers" priced to move.

Buyer beware. The beer will suck and it could sour new consumers from getting the same exciting first impression you had when you tasted your first real beer. If you're ever caught wondering if a brand is a real beer or not, we encourage you to search Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter website, Gak's Beer Is My Life, the Beer Expedition and the search engine available on the front page at to research some expert information about the brewer. Chances are, if it's available in the North America, we're covering it.

As with the Starr Investigation, there will probably be many innocent bystanders involved and forever damaged by the warfare. Some of those will be poorly financed or managed breweries. And some of those will be dear to us in palate and friendship.

As consumers and voters, we still have a voice in the outcome of the beer industry war for market and mindshare. As we encourage every year about this time, when you head home or out for the holidays, bring better beer with you. Get Dad, Aunt Jane and Cousin Bubba to trade up for a real beer. Let them know that it matters. You may get in trouble trying to make political converts out of friends and associates, but you can't when it comes to beer.

Have a safe, happy and prosperous holidays. Coming next month, Year in Review, Part II: What's been brewing online.

Cheers! Your friends at Real Beer.