RBPMail 5.11, December 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 Often, links you will see are out of date, and businesses referred to may also be long gone.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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The Confederation des Brasseries de Belgique has filed suit against Coors Brewing Co. It charges that the Colorado brewing company is misleading the American public into believing that Blue Moon Belgian White is brewed in Belgium instead of the United States. Blue Moon Brewing Co. is a subsidiary of Coors, and Coors makes those beers in Colorado and Tennessee breweries. The CBB asserts that Coors has damaged the market for authentic Belgian beer and is seeking an injunction to prevent Coors from "falsely and deceptively" labeling and advertising its beer as originating from Belgium. The CBB complained about the Belgian White last year to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which regulates beer labels. A Coors spokesman pointed out that the company then added the letters "U.S.A." and the phrase "Belgian-style" to the bottle. The wording, however, is small, and no changes were made to the six-pack carton or the advertising, said Bart Lazar, a lawyer representing the CBB.

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The Canadian Auto Workers union has launched a campaign to boycott beer from Molson Inc. as union members continue to occupy a Molson brewery in Barrie, Ontario. The 30 workers took over the brewery in late November and halted production. They are protesting job losses caused by Molson's decision to close the brewery. The CAW has run full-page advertisements in the Globe and Mail and National Post, national newspapers, and major newspapers in Ontario. In addition, the union is putting ads on billboards and bus shelters. "They're (ads) urging people to not purchase Molson products while this dispute is going on," said a union spokesperson.

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Anheuser-Busch terminated its six-year-old joint venture with Kirin Brewery Co. effective Jan. 1. A-B, the world's largest brewer, has been disappointed in the slow sales in Japan and will fire all but four of its current 96-person Japanese team at year's end. A-B volume sales in Japan dipped 15% last year to 4.5 million cases of Budweiser beer, or only 1.3% of the Japanese market, 40% of which was shipped from Los Angeles. A-B will discontinue two of its products in Japan, Buddy's low malt beer and Budweiser Fine Malt.

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The Finance Ministry of Brazil recommended that the merger agreement between Brazilian beverage companies Brahma and Antarctica will need to be altered before it will be approved. The sale of some assets belonging to the two companies, such as the Skol beer brand, is suggested so as not to create a situation where the giant conglomerate would control the Brazilian beer market. If approved as it stands, the agreement would create a company called Cia de Bebidas das Americas, or AmBev, the third largest brewer in the world and controller of 25% of Brazil's soft drink market and 70% of Brazil's beer market.

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The same group that bought the former Heileman brewery in LaCrosse, Wis., reportedly is negotiating a deal to acquire Genesee Brewing, which has operated in Rochester, N.Y., since 1878. Platinum Holdings -- which bought the Heileman plant from Stroh Brewery earlier this year -- would use the Rochester brewery to produce both beer and ethanol, according to industry sources. Reports are that if the sale goes through, Platinum Holdings would move some production of some of Genesee's beers, such as J.W. Dundee Honey Brown Lager, to the Wisconsin plant to minimize shipping costs in the West and Midwest. Genesee's core brands, including Genesee Beer and Genny Light, would still be brewed in Rochester as well as J.W. Dundee for the East Coast.

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South African Breweries indicates it is still hunting for European acquisitions, even after seizing control of two Czech beer companies in October. Graham Mackay, chief executive, said: "The Czech deal was very much in line with our strategy, but it doesn't mean we've got to the end of the journey." South African Breweries expects its purchase of Czech- based Plzensky Prazdroj and Pivovar Radegast to be completed in January. "We've put ourselves in London (where the company's stock is listed), with access to a large capital market. If the right projects come along, we will act," said Mackay.

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Paulaner Brewery's famous Salvator Beer Hall in Munich was destroyed by fire on Nov. 27. Three people were reported injured, and arson was suspected because the fire reportedly broke out in four different places simultaneously. Some 150 firefighters responded to the blaze. This reporter visited the fabled beer hall several years ago for the annual Salvator Bierfest held in February of each year. The hall was really several massive indoor halls adjacent to the Paulaner Brewery. The buildings were stuffed with German decorations and brewing collectibles. Damage to the structures is said to be in the millions of marks. (Contributed by Tom Dalldorf, The Celebrator Beer News and BEERWeek)

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The St. Louis Post-Dispatch recently hosted a blind taste-test to determine which beer drinkers prefer -- Budweiser from Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis or Budweiser Budvar from the Czech company called Budejovicky Budvar. Budvar is not available for sale in the United States, and the breweries continue to fight for use of the name "Budweiser" in countries around the world. There were four judges, two who brew their own beer and two who just like beer, with preferences for Bud Light and other Anheuser-Busch products.

The judges were asked to score each beer from 1 to 5 on color, aroma, bitterness, malt character and clarity. Budvar beat out its American competitor, garnering a third more points overall with the regular A-B drinkers giving it higher marks than the home brewers. Although Budvar won the contest, the judges didn't appear to be ready to pay much of a premium for the beer. The two A-B drinkers said they would pay $4 -- at most -- for a six-pack of Budvar. That's 49 cents less a six-pack than the price of the Budweiser used in the test.

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****WEB WATCH****


What's Santa's favorite beer? Beer Hunter Michael Jackson has the answer. How should you celebrate New Year's Eve, with a $200 bottle of beer or at a special party? There are plenty of answers this month in Spotlight.

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With only a limited number of shopping days until Christmas, Hannukah, and the Winter Solstice, there's little time to make a list let alone check it twice. So, to make things easier for you in shopping, we've organized a beer-lover's resource to locate all your presents on the Web.

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Get up close and personal with different vintages of Anchor Old Foghorn, BridgePort Old Knucklehead and Rouge Old Crustacean. In October, Real Beer hosted a Barley Wine Vertical Tasting during the Great American Beer Festival. Read the comments our guests offered about these beers.

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Stephen Beaumont asks and answers the question: What cork or cap should I pop when the clock strikes twelve on the 31st and, for the first time in one thousand years, all four digits on the calendar change over?

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Looking for more Beer News? Drop by the Real Beer Page News section for frequent updates put in perspective for beer lovers. For Beer News oriented toward the east side of the Atlantic check out the News Archive at BreWorld. And to receive news of a similar bent in your e-mail box, sign up for the newsletter at

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


You'll recognize the Flying Dogs labels -- created by Gonzo artist Ralph Stedman -- immediately. Just as important, you'll recognize these ales by their distinctive taste. The Flying Dog beers were born in an Aspen, Colo., brewpub but now come out of a full-fledged Denver brewery and are the No. 2 selling Colorado craft beer outside of the state. The website has a personality all its own, so head there. Make sure you check out the beer descriptions and you'll see what we mean.


The affection for Irish pubs has become a worldwide phenomenon, but there's still nothing like the real thing in the homeland. Irish Pub Tours offers travelers a glimpse of Ireland that many seldom see. The company has put together a special package that includes St. Patrick's Day in Dublin. Wouldn't you like to find that under the Christmas tree?

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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 Beer Calendar. Last month's winner was Alan Bona.

textWomen users now outnumber men at America Online, so we decided to check with RBPMail recipients to see what the mix is. Four out of five who answered are male.

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**********REAL BEER ONLINE POLL***************

The November Real Beer Page Poll confirmed that readers think beer goes with most of their favorite foods. The poll asked: What is your favorite food to have with beer. Pizza was the most popular answer, receiving 20% of the vote and barbecue garnered 16% of the vote. Many readers reminded us why we have this in the Fun area, as 9% voted for breakfast. This month you can let us know how many holiday beers you hope to try this season. Head to the Poll area, Spotlight or in any of our City Guides. Here's a shortcut:

*********** Brewed Fresh For You! **************

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

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A college professor paid $4,910 for bottle No. 1 of the new Sam Adams Millennium beer from Boston Beer Co. in a charity auction at The winning bidder, who prefers to remain anonymous, lives in Boston. He bought the bottle for his wife in celebration of their 10th wedding anniversary. Enthusiastic bidding for bottles of the Millennium didn't stop with charity. Bottles sold for more than $1,000 at both and, although prices realized have dropped since. In auctions that closed before No. 1 was sold, bottle No. 2020 (of 3000) brought $1,110 in a Yahoo! Auction, and a bottle fetched $1,025 on eBay. A few days later a bottle went unsold on eBay because it did not meet the seller's reserve despite drawing a bid of $560.

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BEERWeek, the leading beer industry news digest published jointly by The Celebrator Beer News and Real Beer, Inc., enters its fourth year of e- distribution this week. The publication targets industry professionals in need of timely news and is designed for the e-attention span. "We created a low-bandwidth solution for beer marketers, producers and distributors to keep abreast of the diverse and fast-moving business," said Tom Dalldorf of The Celebrator Beer News. "And we priced it so that everyone could afford it, and low enough that the guilt-factor would deter corporate users from passing it on without paying for an annual subscription." The proof of the concept is a subscriber base that doubles each year. BEERWeek is a lead source for RBPMail and offers free samples at:

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Not even Budweiser, the dominant beer brand in the United States, is immune to the growth of light beer sales. The good news for Bud producer Anheuser-Busch is that the light beer nipping at Bud's heals is Bud Light. The light beer category is even newer than craft beer, having been created 17 years ago with the introduction of Miller Lite. It will claim about 40% of the market when the 1999 figures are totaled. Since 1995, Budweiser case sales in supermarkets have fallen about 6%, and Bud Light sales are up 42%. Overall, A-B continued to claim a larger share of the U.S. beer market, increasing its stake to 46.6%. Beer Marketer's Insights shows the company's shipments to be up some 3.3% for the first nine months of this year.

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A new study finds that an occasional drink may lower the risk of having a stroke. Numerous studies have shown that modest drinking reduces the risk of heart disease. But until now, the evidence of an effect on strokes has been less convincing. The study, which appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that light to moderate drinkers can lower their risk by about 20% compared with teetotalers. It showed that as little as a single glass of wine or beer per week could significantly reduce stroke risk.

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The American Medical Association and other groups have petitioned the government to make the warning labels on beer, wine and liquor easier to find and read. The groups claim that the Treasury Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been lax in enforcing a 42-word warning since it was first required 10 years ago. The warning says that "women should not drink alcoholic beverages during pregnancy because of the risk of birth defects" and that drinking impairs the "ability to drive a car or operate machinery." The petition asks for something akin to the stark, rectangular warning labels that must appear on packs of cigarettes.

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Four out of five Americans surveyed know little about their own state's drunken driving laws. "Seventy-eight percent of the drivers who were polled did not know what constituted drunk driving," said John Lawn, chairman of the Century Council. The typical respondent to the survey put the maximum blood alcohol limit at .20 percent. In fact, 17 states and the District of Columbia use .08 percent, and 33 states allow .10 percent. Many drinkers pass out before reaching a blood alcohol level of .20 percent.

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Coors Brewing Co., the third largest U.S. brewer, filed a cease and desist order against Capital Brewery of Middletown, Wis., over the use of the Winterfest name for its seasonal brew. Capital, which has brewed beer under the Winterfest name for ten years, will comply, but will use the remainder of its stock of Winterfest packaging inventory. This year, the Capital beer will be available under the Winterfest name as well as the new Winter Skal (pronounced "skole") label.

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Ray Daniels has taken the job as editor-in-chief of The New Brewer and Zymurgy magazines. Amahl Turczyn will join Daniels as the associate editor of both publications. Daniels wears many hats in the beer world. He is an award-winning home brewer, was 1998 Beer Writer of the Year (he's written three books and is a frequent contributor to several periodicals), is an active member of the Chicago Beer Society and organizer of the Real Ale Festival in Chicago.

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The Santa Cruz Brewing Co. & Front Street Pub has now served five million pints of beer since opening in 1985. The California pub passed the landmark Nov. 4. Anticipating the event, the pub offered a contest to guess when pint No. 5 million would be served. Joseph Jonstone of Santa Cruz won a growler of fresh beer a month for the next year for ordering the magic pint. Pub customer Roger B. of Santa Cruz won a choice of a case of beer, a growler a month for a year or a pitcher a month at the pub for a year because he guessed closest to the date.

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Alaskan Brewing Company raised over $1,400 in 5 hours for the Juneau Raptor Center. Alaskan donated 100% of the proceeds from its beer garden at the Juneau Empire's Food Fest '99 to the Juneau Raptor Center's building fund. The center is dedicated to the treatment, rehabilitation and release of injured or sick birds of prey in Southeast Alaska.

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This is the season when we like to look back at the past year. As Y2K nears, however, it's hard to consider the past year without first viewing it from perspective of what's occurred in the past century.

In 1900, 1,758 breweries operated in the United States. Less than 20 years later national Prohibition struck. After Prohibition ended in 1933, the number of operating breweries quickly grew from zero to 756 by 1934. A 50-year decline followed. By 1984, just 44 brewing concerns in the United States operated a total of 83 breweries. And only one company, Anchor Brewing in San Francisco, was brewing beers other than brewing international/industrial pilsners.

Earle Johnson, who has been serving real beer at Quenchers Saloon in Chicago for more than 20 years, didn't like what he saw. "We were moving to all mainstream beers. There wasn't much choice," he said.

Yet the sum of U.S. breweries in operation increased in 1985, and again in 1986, and we may soon reach the same number of breweries as there were in 1900. By mainstream media coverage, however, you wouldn't know that the number of breweries is still growing, that import, craft and specialty beer sales continue to increase or that the interesting choices available to beer drinkers is expanding. Because the heady 40% per year growth rates of the mid-1990s in the national craft segment have slowed to a trickle, many are ready to write off the craft category.

Such nay-sayers need to put things in perspective. Sure, a list of the top 10 U.S. beer stories would include the rise of Anheuser-Busch to its position as the world's dominant brewer, but the emergence of craft brewing would be there too. Meanwhile, non-mass-produced beer played a roll in many of the top beer stories of 1999.

* 1999 brought the completion of the three-way deal involving Pabst Brewing, the Stroh Brewery and Miller Brewing. As a result, Stroh no longer exists, and Miller is brewing more beer (Pabst bought the Stroh brands but not its breweries and has contracted with Miller to make more beer). One historic brewery, the Blitz Weinhard facility in Portland, Ore., was lost in the process. However, after closing briefly, the Stroh-Heileman plant in LaCrosse, Wis., opened under new ownership -- and now that investment group is looking at Genesee Brewing in Rochester, N.Y., an old regional brewery whose financial woes have been well detailed. Another former Stroh brewery stayed in the beer business when Pennsylvania's Yuengling Brewing bought Stroh's Florida plant, in order expand its market but also to keep up with demand at home. On the downside: One other regional brewery, Dubuque Brewing in the Iowa city of the same name, was lost. On the whole, about 10% of the U.S. national beer capacity was squeezed from the system, one of the reasons the largest breweries successfully implemented price hikes (see next item).

* The Big Three of Anheuser-Busch, Miller and Coors increased both prices and profits. According to Benj Steinman of Beer Marketers' Insights, the basic structure of the business remains a dominant A-B with 47% share of the market, Miller with 21% and Coors at 10.5%, for nearly 80% of the market. Large brewer price gains include A-B up 2%, Coors up 4% and Miller, though not disclosing these numbers, estimated at 2% increase. On average prices are up 4% this year and 5% at peak sales seasons. The impact of these price increases have A-B up 13% in profit from nearly $2 billion in sales, Miller up 9.8% from $451 million and Coors up 15% from $123 million in sales for Q1 1999. In addition to decreased brewing capacity, a big reason they were able to post these gains is that micros and imports have taught consumers it is OK to pay more for beer.

* Imports continued to claim a bigger share of the market as Corona, in particular, maintained a stunning growth rate. Heineken, which lost its position as the No. 1 import to Corona in 1997, fought back with a $42 million ad campaign. The Dutch brewery reported increased sales and increased profitability in the states because -- you guessed it -- it was able to successfully institute price hikes.

* Beer was big business around the world. South African breweries struck a deal to acquire Pilsner Urquell and Radegast, the Czech Republic's leading two breweries. Brazilian brewing giants Brahma and Antarctica planned a merger that would make them the third largest brewing company in the world. In England, control of breweries and pub chains continued to change hands. Around the world, skirmishes between Anheuser-Busch and Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar continued for the rights to use the name Budweiser. And so on.

* Brewpubs were big business. The Florida-based Hops chain opened its 50th brewpub and kept right on going, with plans to reach 300 or more. Big River Breweries Inc. of Chattanooga, Tenn., purchased all 12 Gordon Biersch Brewing Co. brewery restaurants in a deal industry insiders said was in the $50 million range.

There were plenty of other significant stories, but also those that just made us smile. Mississippi became the last state in the union to legalize brewpubs; both the Boston Beer Co. and Dogfish Head brewed beers stronger than ever made commercially, just to do something special; Full Sail Brewing Co. became employee owned.

Peeking ahead, we see that demographics are on our side. The population of those in the prime beer-consuming category is growing. "Nationally there will be no restraints on the growth of the high price segment," says beer industry economist Robert Weinberg. "The general outlook for the brewing industry is going to be sensational out to 2010."

We see no reason to think that beer with flavor won't claim its fair share of that growth -- and believe that those brewers who have proven themselves adept will do even better. This includes both imports and U.S. craft beers. "I think imports are eating your lunch," Weinberg told craft brewers in May. His point was that it could change. Imports moved quicker, at least recently, to take advantage of growing demand in the high price arena and have invested significantly in building brands in the U.S. "It is important to have a notion of your market potential," Weinberg said, "and a notion of how timely the potential is."

There probably was no better beer story in the '90s than when New Belgium Brewing Co. Jeffrey Lebesch and Kim Jordan started the brewery in a tiny commercial space attached to their home in 1991. By 1998 they'd outgrown two breweries and production had passed 100,000 barrels. Weinberg likes to point out that it's easier to celebrate large percentage growth -- as craft beer did in the mid-1990s -- when it is off a small base.

After a brewery reaches 100,000 barrels it gets tougher. Sure. New Belgium expects the final numbers will show 1999 production up almost 40%, to about 145,000 barrels. "People say, of course New Belgium is growing, they are adding markets," said Greg Owsley of New Belgium. Actually, New Belgium began distribution in just one state, Texas, in 1999. Sales in Colorado, its original market, were up a healthy 10%.

Why hasn't New Belgium hit a wall? "As does Sierra Nevada, as does Deschutes and some others, we've done a good job of staying regional," Owsley said. "We're not throwing a net farther than we should."

Of course, there's another reason too. "Hey, the beer still has to taste really, really good," he said.

That was the lesson somebody should have learned somewhere along the line this century. When French chef Paul Bocuse was asked his thoughts about the future of food in the new millennium, he said, "In 1942, I was told we'd be eating pills in the year 2000. We're on the eve of that year, and we're still eating real food."

And drinking Real Beer.

Next month: The Real Beer Page in 1999 and 2000.