RBPMail 5.02, February 1999

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 Often, links you will see are out of date, and businesses referred to may also be long gone.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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Shepherd Neame, the oldest independent brewery in England is going to court to challenge the government's decision to increase beer duty. Stuart Neame, vice chairman of Shepherd Neame, told the BBC: "We had two options, just to stand by and watch community pubs close and good licensees go bankrupt, or to do something about it." The High Court turned down the brewer's case last July. But since then another 1 pence a pint rise in beer duty went into effect Jan. 1. Shepherd Neame is using this to reinforce its claim that the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg should decide the issue. Shepherd Neame claims that the recent hikes in beer duty contradict the Treaty of Rome, which first established the European Community. The Treaty sets out the need to harmonize duties among member states. UK beer duty is equivalent to 33 pence a pint, more than six times the level in France and more than four times the European average. The EU "target" is 7.5 pence per pint. Only Finland (56 pence per pint) and Ireland (40 pence) pay more duty than the UK.

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Plzensky Prazdroj, the maker of Pilsner Urquell, hopes to expand its export business and take on a partner. Japan's Nomura Securities, the majority owner of Prazdroj, is looking for distribution deals with some larger global brewers to determine if one might work out as a future owner of Plzensky Prazdroj. Vladimir Perina, Chairman and chief executive of Prazdroj, said that the brewery wants "a strategic partner from the brewing industry." Some of the brewers being considered include Heineken, Anheuser-Busch, South African Breweries, Kirin and Guinness.

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Eurobiere 99, an international beer and beverages show April 24-28 in Strasbourg, France, has opened its doors to consumers as well as industry members and is particularly focusing on women. One of the themes for the fest will be "Woman, the future of beer," featuring posters of on the theme of women and beer from classical times to the present day. There will be a cooking-with-beer demonstration by famous female chefs, and a blind tasting competition with an exclusively female jury consisting of CEOs, master brewers, communication managers, export managers, journalists and chefs.

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Sleeman Breweries is acquiring Shaftebury Brewing of Delta, BC, and its brewing operation in Alberta. This move give Sleeman national distribution in Canada's major beer markets. "Shaftebury's products will continue to be brewed in British Columbia using the same ingredients and recipes," according to the company announcement. Sleeman is buying only the Shaftebury brands and not the brewing facility in Delta. Sleeman is the largest craft brewer in Canada and now owns Okanagan Spring Brewery in BC, Upper Canada Brewery ( in Ontario, La Brasserie Seigneuriale in Quebec and now Shaftebury.

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Boomerang, the 6.1% alcohol lemon malt beverage introduced by Quebec's La Brasserie Labatt, has been selling at ten times the rate predicted in the original sales forecast. Plans are being considered to roll out Boomerang across Canada.

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The Sarajevo brewery has begun to recover from the 3 1/2-year siege by the Serbians, and sales advanced enough in 1998 to boost production to 50% of its pre-war level. The brewery, which had been founded in 1864, stayed open throughout the siege. It produces Sarajevsko pivo, soft drinks and mineral water. The brewery is jointly owned by its 450 workers and the state. The company hopes to be fully privatized this year, which could attract interest from foreign investors.

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Kirin Brewery Co., Asahi Breweries Ltd., Sapporo Breweries Ltd. And Suntory Ltd., Japan's top four brewers, have predicted that 1999 will show at least a rise in shipments -- some as high as 16%. All but Asahi produce "happoshu," a low-malt beer that has been selling in great quantity. Part of the reason seems to be that the low-malt product comes under a low tax bracket and therefore costs the consumer less.

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****WEB WATCH****

The flap over Michael Jackson's appearance on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" may have overshadowed the rest of a trip to the United States in December, but he was busy tasting beer every day. For his notes on a trip along the East Coast and into the mid-South, stop by The Beer Hunter site.

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Hydrogen beer? Belching blue fireballs? Once again, Stephen Beaumont goes the extra mile to keep readers abreast with all aspects of the World of Beer. And he might be posting a new item in "Bright Beer" as you are reading this.

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There's a new store in BREWMall, the Beer Store. So if you are thirsty for a beer not available at a store near you, and over 21 over course, then you might want to check out the virtual shelves. BREWMall now has more than 2,000 items in stock, so allow yourself some time for browsing.

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*****************REAL BEER PICKS***************

A mere 387 years after Belgian brewers were recruited to sail on the Mayflower, authentic Belgian brewing returned to the United States when Brewery Ommegang opened in Cooperstown, N.Y. the brewery is a partnership between importer Vanberg & DeWulf and the makers of Affligem, Duvel and Scaldis. It's a farmhouse brewery on a traditional site (a former hops farm) and a virtual trip will probably make you want to visit in person. We hear Nolan Ryan, George Brett and Robin Yount already have books tours this summer.

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If you love the road and believe that the journey is as engaging as the destination, you're going to love the Beer Travelers. The articles are written by authors, Daria Labinsky and her husband, Stan Hieronymus, and told with the joy of hearing a good story and sharing one's own. And, they also have one of the best list of good beer places, from tap houses to package stores, available anywhere. This month, the Beer Travelers are turning their spotlight on The Big Easy, New Orleans, in tribute to the coming Mardi Gras. Come party at:

Note: Stan's the editor at Real Beer, Inc. and is probably blushing that we included this pick, but wait until you see the site. It's worth the visit and hours you'll enjoy sifting through the expertise. As you'll see, we *had to* hire him.

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Thanks to all who have been replying to our Quickie Surveys. We draw one winner each month for a prize, which this month will be a Real Beer T- shirt. Last month's winner was Julie Jorgensen, who wrote: "Snowshoeing is my favorite winter activity. Get a good workout, enjoy beautiful scenery, and work up a good thirst for some great winter brews."

Last month we asked what single kind of activity you spend the most amount of time with. Your answers reflected the diversity of RBPMail readership. "Outdoors" received the most votes, but was followed closely by "music," "online" and "books."

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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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It depends whose numbers you believe, but they all point to one thing: Anheuser-Busch increased its share of the U.S. beer market in 1998. According to one report, A-B now has 46.7% of the market, while another puts it at 46.2%. Miller Brewing Co. lost share in 1998, to about 21.2%, as sales of Miller Lite, its flagship beer, fell 2.6%. Bud Light continued to gain and may soon pass Budweiser in sales. Adolph Coors increased its market share to 10.5%, while No. 4 Stroh Brewery suffered the most. Stroh sales were off 14% from 1997 and it now has just 6.7% of the market. A-B sales increased 3.1 million barrels for the year (to 92.7 million barrels, while the overall U.S. beer market grew by almost 3 million barrels.

Meanwhile, the Institute of Brewing Studies is totaling the growth figures for the craft-brewing industry and expects growth in that segment will be up 1% to 2% for the year. Preliminary numbers show 41 microbreweries opened in 1998 and 43 closed, while 115 brewpubs opened and 69 closed.

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A California law that goes into effect April 1 effectively ends all sweepstakes and prizes linked to beer, wine and distilled spirits. While recent attention was focused on Miller Brewing's successful legal efforts to conduct its Miller Lite Super Bowl Sweepstakes, that was a temporary victory. The California law bans the offering of free goods that are worth more than 25 cents for beer-related contests, $1 for wine and $5 for distilled spirits.

The statute limiting sweepstakes has been on the books since the end of Prohibition in 1933. Regulators considered it unenforceable until two years ago when Anheuser-Busch's Bud Gear campaign allowing consumers to redeem Budweiser bottle caps for merchandise sparked action. Critics called it a frequent drinker program. "Some of these sponsorships are clearly targeted at young people and make drinking look 'cool,'" said Harvey Chinn of the California Council on Alcohol Problems. "We think the state has a responsibility to protect the welfare of its citizens."

Winemakers are no happier than brewers with the ban. Many have major promotions planned in connection with the arrival of the Millennium. "We have a huge, year-long sweepstakes going on" with prizes like vacations, air travel, cruises and big-screen TVs, said Margie Healy of Korbel Champagne Cellars in Guerneville. "But we can't even hold it in the state where we produce our champagne, pay taxes and employ 500 people."

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Anheuser-Busch has been exploring the use of daytime TV advertising since early last year, when it tested marketed Catalina, a low-alcohol, low-calorie beer intended for females, middle-aged men and senior citizens. Now the brewery plans to advertise its Michelob Light to daytime TV viewers as well. The new ads target female audiences specifically. While almost all beer TV marketing has been aimed at a male audience, women represent nearly 20% of the beer market.

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Heineken USA is backing its flagship beer, Heineken, with a record $42 million marketing and advertising plan in 1999, twice what it spent in 1998. Heineken was replaced by Corona as the top US import in 1997 and fell farther behind the Mexican beer in 1998. Heineken claims that this will be the largest marketing program ever for an imported beer brand. Skewed heavily to television, its ads debuted on the NFC and AFC pro football playoff broadcasts. Heineken also will spend millions of dollars as part of the promotion for the movie, "Austin Powers -- The Spy Who Shagged Me." In addition, the importer will expand its marketing to the U.S. Hispanic market, sponsor major musical events and continue to sponsor the U.S. Open Tennis Championships.

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A longtime California political activist has threatened to lead a nationwide boycott of Miller Lite beer because he calls a company's attempt at humor insulting and racially discriminatory. Reuben Martinez of Santa Ana, Calif., wrote Miller in protest because the company printed the Spanish words meaning "Do not use in pinatas" on the bottom of cans intended for sale to the Hispanic market. A Miller spokesman said the message was intended as light-hearted humor. Marketing strategists noted that Miller's target audience, young Hispanics, probably won't be offended by the off-beat humor and the company was unlikely to alter its packaging.

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'T'Owd Tup' from Cumbrian brewer Dent was chosen the Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain 1999 by a panel of expert judges during last month's Great British Winter Beer Festival. The stout is described as having a roast coffee aroma with a warming sweetness and a raisiny, fruitcake taste. Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) Director John Holland congratulated Dent on its ability to produce beers to perform on the national stage with companies a hundred times their size. The Silver prize went to Norfolk brewers Woodforde's with their old ale, Norfolk Nog and the Bronze award went to Daleside brewery from Harrogate for their hoppy and fruity strong ale, Monkey Wrench. The competition was judged by a panel of CAMRA experts and beer writers at the Great British Winter Beer Festival in Manchester.

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Sonoma Mountain Brewery of Glen Ellen, Calif. announced that it is discontinuing beer making and will convert the brewery property to high- end wine production for the Benziger Imagery Series. The Benziger winemaking family committed their full resources to the brewery project, which opened July 11, 1997, but recently realized that the timing of its entry into the beer industry proved to be too great a challenge. "When we were building, the industry was robust. Had it not been, we might not have gotten involved," brewery CEO Tim Wallace told BEERWeek when the announcement was made. The 50-barrel brewhouse and fermentation equipment will be converted to wine production. The bottling line may be sold or converted, according to Wallace.

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The Dubuque Brewing Co. in Dubuque, Iowa, has ceased brewing beer. Dubuque is owned by MicroStar Breweries Inc., a recently dissolved corporation based in the state of Washington. When MicroStar dissolved, Dubuque lost sales and marketing dollars, and company president Ron McCarl attributed the brewery's problems to lack of marketing. He said he hopes somebody will purchase the brewery locally. Dubuque produced 25,000 barrels of beer in 1995 and 1996 when it was brewing beer for national chains such at TGI Friday's and the Marriott hotels, but brewed just 5,000 barrels in 1998. The building that houses Dubuque has been a brewery under various owners for nearly 100 years. As well as making beer for other brewers, the brewery also produced local brands such as Dubuque Star, Big Muddy Red Ale and Ice Harbor Lager.

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Hudepohl-Schoenling, the oldest link to Cincinnati's long beer-brewing heritage, is selling its name and its beer brands to a newly formed Cincinnati company. Royal Brewing has agreed to acquire Hudepohl-Schoenling's beer division. Royal will do business under the Hudepohl-Schoenling name and continue making the historic brewer's traditional brands. "We're very satisfied with the taste and brewing quality of these brands and consumers can rest assured that their Hudy Delight, Little Kings and Christian Moerlein will not change," a spokesman said. The main Hudepohl-Schoenling brands will continue to be brewed under contract by Boston Beer Co., which purchased Hudepohl-Schoenling's brewery in 1997. Hudepohl was founded in Cincinnati in 1885. The Schoenling Brewing Co. was founded in 1933 after the repeal of Prohibition, as was Burger Brewing Co., still a company brand. Later, Hudepohl and Schoenling merged.

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Bardo Rodeo, one of the nation's most unusual and best-known brewpubs, has packed its brewing kettles and left Arlington, Va. Bardo will collocate with an Italian restaurant in nearby Falls Church. The transformation should be complete in the spring. Opened in early 1993, Bardo was once one of the largest brewpubs in the United States. Occupying the premises of a defunct Oldsmobile dealership, the brewpub had recently shrunk significantly in size, and the brewery was moved to owner Bill Stewart's farm in rural Rappahannock County. The new Bardo will feature a pool room and beer garden.

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Beer Notes, Inc., publishers of Midwest, Rocky Mountain and Northwest Beer Notes, has newly appointed Bill Urseth as president and John North as Northwest advertising representative. Bill Urseth has an extensive background in marketing and advertising and has been involved in the craft brewing industry for some time. He was an early investor in the Summit Brewing Co. of St. Paul, Minn. He founded Upland Global Corporation, a publicly-traded Canadian company which has purchased the Hart Brewing Company of Ottawa and Le Chaudron Brewing of Montreal. Tod Fyten, a long-time advertising consultant, has left to open his own microbrewery in St. Paul, Minn. "He's done a lot to make Beer Notes what it is today," managing editor Mike Urseth said. "We wish him well. Look to Beer Notes for news about the progress of the Fytenburg Family of Beers." For more information write Mike Urseth at:

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The first year of a new "national" homwww.ebrew.competition comes to fruition next week in Houston when the final judging is held Feb. 12-13 for the Masters Championship of Amateur Brewing (MCAB). MCAB is the new "national" homwww.ebrew.competition (including both the United States and Canada) whose method of selecting top honors for North America's best home brewers aspires to the highest standards in organization and judging. MCAB uses a "masters" format for the competition. Beers qualify to enter by first winning in any of 11 regional qualifying events, held throughout the year. North America's best home brewers convene in Houston for the chance to win top honors in the final masters round. All entrants are admitted based on their previous wins in qualifying events, but have been free to brew a fresh beer -- even a different recipe -- within the same style category that qualified them for MCAB. More information about the event (as well as a list of competitions where beers qualify for the MCAB finals in 2000) is at:

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For up to the minute event listings of your area and wherever you may travel, check out:

February 6, 1999 - Blenheim, New Zealand
Blues, Brews and BBQ's Beer Festival
Contact Email:

February 6, 1999 - Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Food & Froth Fest Beer Festival
Contact Phone: (414) 278-2728

February 7 - 13, 1999 - San Francisco, California
Toronado Barley Wine Festival
Contact Email:

February 12 - 13, 1999 - Woodstock, Ontario, Canada
Parade of Beers Beer Festival & Technical Conference
Contact Email:

February 17, 1999 - Washington, Washington DC
Redhook Tasting with Paul Shipman at the Brickskeller
Contact Phone: (202) 293-1885

February 27, 1999 - Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada
"At The Hops" MicroBrewery & Leisure Festival
Contact Email:

February 27, 1999 - Berkeley, California
Beer Festival, Dinner & Bash
The Celebrator Beer News 11th Anniversary Party
Contact Phone: (800) 430-2337

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Imagine the fuss that would follow if a scientific commission for education spent U.S. public funds in taverns. We wonder because in the UK, a program called "The Pub Understanding of Science" has been launched in 50 British pubs. And frankly, we think it's appropriate and brilliant.

A science-book illustrator and a plant biologist cooked up the idea and received a $19,000 millennium grant from Britain's Millennium Commission, which funds projects to bring science to local communities. Each week, coasters ("drip mats" in England) are printed with a science question and distributed to pubs in Britain's north and southeast. The answer is posted on the pub menu boards a week later.

The creators picked pubs first of all because they spend time in their locals. "Most people, after a few beers, have discussions about cosmic things," Mic Rolph (the illustrator) said. "When the Hale-Bopp comet came, there was debate in my local pub about how fast it was going." The Millennium Commission simply saw the program as an opportunity to promote science. "Science is seen as very highbrow, but this shows that it doesn't have to be all equations," said Judith Moore, a commission spokeswoman.

The questions are usually alcohol-related. For instance, one asked what you would get if you could join two atoms of carbon together and add six atoms of hydrogen and one atom of oxygen. The answer is alcohol.

We fear such a program stateside would be greeted by howls from neo- Prohibitionists who would cry that public money was being spent to promote drinking. After all, mom or dad might take the coaster home, figuring Johnny would learn something and next thing you know he'd be in the basement putting together a still.

Next, somebody would suggest a compromise to save the program, like making sure the questions and answers always emphasize information about the ills of drinking. Or perhaps the coasters could also include a chart that combines information about body weight and beers consumed to give you an idea of how much alcohol is probably in your blood stream. We think such compromises are silly.

Of course, we don't support driving while intoxicated. The fact that we have to include this kind of a comment suggests we're proactively parrying the dumbed-down and anticipated counter-arguments of the neo- prohibitionists. It seems as if you advocate alcohol communications or awareness, you've got to tag on one of the moderate messages as well. Fact is, we're adults talking to adults. You can make up your own mind about responsible enjoyment. We believe that anyone more informed and educated about a subject tends to treat it with greater respect.

So, yes, we think it is fine to put those charts on the menu, on the chalk board, wherever. But that's not the point. The point is that a pervasive alcohol temperance attitude exists among U.S. policy makers and influencers. President Clinton's recent push for national .08 BAC restrictions demonstrates what one wine industry expert asserted in a recent address: "Prohibition still works in the halls of Congress." A program like Britain's The Pub Understanding of Science" would be great on this side of the pond (this is the part where we raise our voice) without changing a thing.

"When you're in a bar, waiting for a friend, you can read the beer mat and appear to be occupied," Rolph said. "You might even strike up a conversation with your neighbor -- 'Do you know the answer to this?' It gives you that kicking-off point."

The Pub Understanding of Science promotes science and conversation, and hence civility. That's good enough for us.