RBPMail 6.02, February 2000

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 Often, links you will see are out of date, and businesses referred to may also be long gone.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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Beer enthusiasts around the world hope that an Internet-inspired campaign will save one of the world's classic beers from extinction. At stake is the future of Rodenbach Grand Cru and quite possibly two other outstanding beers from Belgium, Oerbier and Stille Nacht from De Dolle Brouwers. Dann Paquette, head brewer at North East Brewing Co. in Boston, began spreading this news in late January. "Yesterday I got five emails while I was writing just one," Paquette said just a week later. He began by posting one message in an Internet newsgroup and sending a few individual emails.

They reported that the Palm Brewery, which acquired a controlling interest in Rodenbach less than two years ago, already stopped making Rodenbach Alexander and reportedly put the Grand Cru on a one-year trial. Palm also informed De Dolle that it would no longer receive yeast from Rodenbach. De Dolle is a small brewery and has none of the technology to repitch its yeast; without the distinctive Rodenbach yeast, it may not continue making Oerbier or Stille Nacht.

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Siebel Institute of Technology, the last of the founding brewing schools of the 1800s, ceased most of its operations last month. In a letter addressed to friends of the Chicago-based institute, chairman and CEO Bill Siebel wrote that all courses, programs and other education activities were ended. Siebel was more than a North American brewing school -- it attracted students from more than 60 countries. Enrollment had dwindled, however, from a high of 1,200 in 1997 to 500 last year. In the weeks since Bill Siebel made his announcement, many interested parties have discussed efforts to save the school, but there are no indications that any of the plans will bear fruit.

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The London Telegraph reports that South African Breweries (SAB) and Bass have held preliminary discussions about SAB acquiring Bass Breweries. SAB acquired the Czech Republic's two largest breweries, Pilsner Urquell and Radegast, just a few months ago. Bass plans to sell its brewing interests to concentrate on its hotels and resorts business and managed pubs; however, it wants top dollar for its beer business -- apparently more than SAB has offered. Speculation holds that Heineken may also enter the bidding for the Bass beer business. Analysts have been predicting widespread consolidation in European brewing with SAB, Heineken and Interbrew all interested in making acquisitions.

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The debate over a merger that would create the world's third largest brewing company took another detour when Brazil's federal police asked the Justice Ministry to suspend upcoming deliberations over the merger while it conducts an investigation into alleged influence-peddling surrounding those deliberations. Brahma and Antarctica announced the merger last summer that would create a new company, AmBev. Justice Minister Jose Carlos Dias has asked Gesner Oliveira, the president of the Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Economica (Cade), the Justice Ministry's anti-trust agency that will rule on the AmBev merger, to suspend deliberations until the police probe is over in 30 to 60 days. The federal police are investigating an allegation that a Cade board member had been warned by a third party of an attempt to influence the Cade board's vote on the brewery merger. The Justice Ministry advisory board has recommended that AmBev sell one of its three brands -- Brahma, Skol or Antarctica -- to gain approval for the merger. AmBev has indicated it will contest that ruling and take its case to Cade.

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The Mexican government launched an investigation after the country's two leading breweries both raised domestic beer prices within a day of each other. The Federal Competition Commission (CFC) "launched an investigation over the identical beer price hikes," said a spokesman for the agency. Modelo and Femsa dominate the market, selling 99% of the beer Mexicans drink. They typically raise prices by the same amount each year, but this price hike drew authorities' attention when the nearly identical increases were announced within a day of each other.

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The European Commission suspects Dutch brewer Heineken and French food company Danone of running a price-fixing cartel in France's beer market. EU officials searched the offices of Danone's Kronenbourg brewing unit in Strasbourg, France, and the Paris offices of Danone and Heineken as part of the investigation. "We suspect a cartel," said spokesman Michael Tscherny. "If they have a cozy relationship about prices ... or how not to compete unnecessarily with each other, you can imagine the impact on consumers." The two companies account for as much as 80% of the French beer market, he added.

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British regulators plan a review of restrictions on the number of pubs that a brewery can own or have an exclusive beer supply agreement with. The implementation of the Beer Orders Act in 1989 forced many British breweries to sell off thousands of pubs. The Beer Orders were designed to cut beer prices and improve consumer choice by increasing competition between pub operators. Large brewers now own only 16% of U.K. pub licenses, compared with 50% 10 years ago. One analyst said that if the review results in a relaxation of the Beer Orders Act that it could open the door for international brewers to accumulate large pub chains. "Once the act is reviewed and the competition rules are newly defined, companies such as Carlsberg and South African Breweries might take a new look at the market," the analyst said.

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Lion Breweries of New Zealand is suing a local farmer in an effort to obtain the use of for its Internet website. The Lion, which brews Steinlager beer, is filing an action with the Swiss-based World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) to claim back the Steinlager domain name. Wallace Waugh registered the site more than two years ago. He and his son use the name for an electronics business. "We actually needed that (site) for a job and we got it. A considerable time later (Lion) rang up and said they wanted it," Waugh said. "They tried to bully us into it. I said, 'no.' We had spent $20,000 on developing our website on it, and they offered me beer." Graham Seatter, Lion corporate affairs director, said the company was willing to compensate Waugh for any costs in establishing and maintaining the domain site, but no more.

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****WEB WATCH****

No other country has among its native styles of beer such diversity, individuality, idiosyncrasy and color as Belgium. Nor does any other country present beers so beautifully. Real Beer's Spotlight focuses on the country, its unique beers and its influence on brewing in the United States.

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Just about anywhere you order a beer in Belgium you can expect the beverage to be served in its own brewery-personalized glass. In that tradition, New Belgium Brewing Co. commissioned one of Europe's most respected glass purveyors to make glasses bearing the company's logo. Real Beer and New Belgium are combining to give away some of those glasses. Enter to win at:

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In taking a look at the breed of new beer drinkers, Michael Jackson also offers tips on where to drink and what to sample in 10 cities around the world. It's one of several new stories posted at the Beer Hunter. Start with the Hops Spots at:

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Inaugurated just last year, this event was established to promote the brewing industry in its entirety from hops to the finest beer. The awards, of course, are at the center of attention and this year there are 28 categories in four sections. The competition is April 13-16, but the deadline of March 10 is fast approaching and the details are at:

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

Kona Brewing has been supplying Hawaiians with local beer since 1994, and tourists tend to haul home both its beers and distinctive merchandise. Kona also operates the only brewpub on Hawaii's Big Island. A virtual visit makes an in-person visit more tempting, and you can stock up on plenty of Kona wear and accessories at:

If you've seen Louie's Louisiana-made tap handles before you'll remember them well. They are turned from solid hardwoods and stained. Then labels are affixed and a plastic-like coating is applied. The finished product looks just like the beer it represents and good enough to drink. For a look, grab a spot by the bar at:

What is Beer Camp? A weekend of learning about beer -- how beer is made, the history of beer, beer styles, beer ingredients, beer and food, and just about any other excuse you can think of to drink beer. Coming off hiatus, it returns March 24-26. The time to start training is now, the place to find out how is at:

Schreier Malting's redesigned website reflects its dedication to quality. The new site is more than just good looking -- it's easy to navigate, offers the latest Schreier news right up front and plenty about malt throughout. Visit the line of custom processed Schreier Specialty Malts, exclusively imported Belgian malts from DeWolf-Cosyns and extensive line of Brewer's Grains at:

Newcastle-upon-Tyne has more than 300 licensees in 1 square mile, which is a big part of the reason it was voted one of the top 10 cities in the world for partying. That gives Newcastle Brown's website something to live up to, and the Ultimate Party does. You can download a rave to your desktop, play interactive darts or a sport trivia game, win a trip to Newcastle, send some quite nice postcards ... and learn about one of America's fastest growing imports.

Beverage Machinery supplies a wide range of engineered products for the brewing industry. It offers a comprehensive and versatile line of filtration systems, as well as filling and kegging machines. The quality of its work is affirmed by its customers -- who range from microbreweries, brewpubs and contract breweries, to soft-drink companies located throughout Canada, the United States, and other countries around the world. See who they are and what Beverage Machine offers at:

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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 2000 Calendar. Last month's winner was Kevin Brown, who wins a Beerheads 2000 calendar.

Last month we asked about your level of education. Almost four of five of you who answered have a college degree or advanced degree.


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

Real Beer readers certainly like their draft beer. A resounding two- thirds who visited our Voting Booth in January noted they prefer draft/keg beer, while 30% voted for bottled beer and just 2% for beer from a can. This month you can let us know how many brewpubs you hope to visit in 2000. Head to the Poll area, Spotlight or vote in any of our City Guides. Here's a shortcut:

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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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Oregon breweries Portland Brewing Co. and Saxer/Nor'Wester Brewing Co. of Lake Oswego plan to merge. Specific terms of the deal have not been disclosed. But Saxer president Steve Goebel said Portland Brewing Co. now owns the intellectual rights to the 13 Saxer and Nor'Wester brand beers. In exchange, Goebel and his wife, Liz Goebel, become "significant shareholders," and gain a shared seat on Portland Brewing's board of directors, said Tony Adams, Portland Brewing Co.'s president, chairman and chief executive. The combined company has a brewing capacity of about 75,000 barrels. It will be the 12th largest craft brewery in the United States and third largest in Oregon.

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U.S. beers sales increased 1.6% in 1999, the biggest jump since 1990, according to Beer Marketer's Insight, an industry newsletter. Anheuser- Busch was the biggest beneficiary, selling 96.8 million barrels of beer to increase its market share to 47.5%. Overall, beer sales rose from 196.6 million barrels to 198.8 barrels. Second place Miller Brewing gained 1.6 million beer-barrel sales, primarily because of its purchase of brands such as Henry Weinhard's and Mickeys from Stroh Brewery Co. Miller sold 44.6 million barrels and boosted its market share to 21.6%.

In order, the top selling companies were: 1. Anheuser-Busch (96.8 million), 2. Miller (44.1), 3. Adolph Coors (21.9), 4. Pabst (14.0), 5. Heineken (4.0), 6. Labatt USA (3.6), 7. Gambrinus (3.4), 8. Barton (3.1), 9. Guinness (1.6), 10. Genesee (1.3). Both Gambrinus and Barton import the popular Mexican beer, Corona.

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Are higher taxes an effective way to regulate consumption of alcohol? Recent studies come to conflicting conclusions.

- Two economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research received national attention for a report that determined that for every 10% rise in the price of beer, the percentage of students who commit violent and nonviolent campus crimes would be lowered by 4% overall. Michael Grossman and Sara Markowitz correlated the price of beer in different regions of the country to a variety of behaviors, such as getting into trouble with police or other campus authorities, arguing verbally or fighting physically, damaging property, pulling a fire alarm and sexual misconduct.

- Meanwhile, two Florida State University economics professors have published research that refutes the belief that higher taxes on beer and other alcoholic drinks reduce drunken driving traffic fatalities, BEERWeek reported last month. David W. Rasmussen and Bruce L. Benson noted that after researching other factors that contribute to beer consumption, like religious beliefs and beer market regulations, taxes "simply didn't matter."

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Much of the attention on Super Bowl advertising focused on Anheuser- Busch and "dot-coms," but Corona did a little end around to get beer drinkers' attention during the game. Gambrinus Co., which distributes Corona in 26 states, bought local advertising time in 15 major markets to debut a new commercial during the Super Bowl. Corona couldn't advertise nationally because A-B was the exclusive beer category sponsor. "This is an opportunity to jump-start our activities earlier in the year," said Don Mann of Gambrinus. Historically, wholesalers don't start making a push to sell Corona to stores, restaurants and bars until spring. The Super Bowl tie-in was designed to "motivate the wholesalers to get out and sell now."

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Wine enthusiasts in five states have sued to overturn state laws that prohibit adults from buying wine from out-of-state sources. Another in Kentucky launched a grass roots effort to get legislators to rescind a similar law. Those who buy beer through the mail or over the Internet would also be affected if the laws were changed. Suits have been filed in New York, Indiana, Virginia, Indiana, Texas and Florida. An Indiana judge ruled that state's law was unconstitutional, but the state has indicated it will appeal. In Florida, six Florida residents have filed a civil-rights complaint that the state is violating their constitutional right to engage in interstate commerce by preventing them from ordering fine and rare wines that are not available from in-state retailers. Lauren Abel, who collects wine, chose to try to change the Kentucky law through legislation rather than a lawsuit. That law prevents residents from ordering wine from out-of-state sources and having it shipped directly to their homes. She is circulating petitions in an effort to get the law overturned.

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An Arizona police officer who made 85 DUI arrests during the holiday season added a few more strange ones to his list. Officer Tim Gaffney has made nearly 3,000 drunken-driving arrests in his career with the Mesa police force. Among the drivers he arrested this most recent season: one was passed out at a traffic light; one was arrested twice in an hour; and another had pulled over to throw up. He arrested at least five people who were sipping beer at traffic lights. Statewide, police made 2,754 DUI arrests over the Christmas and New Year's holidays, the most in five years. Several intoxicated drivers pulled into task force command centers, asking where they could find a bar. A man who had been drinking at a Christmas party called his wife while being pulled over to tell her to pick up his car. When she got there, officers arrested her for DUI as well.

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A roast honoring/skewering world beer authority Michael Jackson is set for March 3 at the Pennsylvania Museum of Archeology and Anthropology in Philadelphia. The event will feature many beer industry professionals and consumers celebrating Jackson's 10 years of tutored tastings as part of Philadelphia's The Book and the Cook and his contributions to the world of beer. Proceeds from this evening benefit the work of the Sumerian Dictionary Project of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. Sumerian tablets with the earliest known commercial beer transactions (3400 B.C.) will be on display. The Black Tie event is open to the public at $150 per person. For details, call 215-898-4089.

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In case you've been wondering about when Guinness will provide entry information for its annual contest to win a pub in Ireland -- it won't. After six years, Guinness has put the contest on the shelf for 2000 at least. "It was really captivating and made a major contribution to our double-digit growth over the past few years," said Guinness marketing director Howard Pulchin. More than 70,000 contestants entered last year. Guinness will focus on its Great Guinness Toast this year, set for Feb. 26.

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Fuller's is to launch what it claims to be the world's first organic honey ale in March when it revamps its Honey Dew ale as Organic Honey Dew. "This is our first move into the organic sector and we were determined not to launch a 'me too' ale," said Fuller's beer and brands director John Roberts. "By using honey in the brew, we are able to offer consumers a distinctly different organic product and a delightfully flavoursome beer." Organic Honey Dew, brewed to 5% ABV, will be available in 500-ml bottles and as a limited edition spring beer in cask at a slightly lower 4.3% in selected pubs. (breWorld BeerBulletin, Jan. 31, 2000)

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An Irish woman who was locked overnight in a pub was awarded $5,135 in damages from the pub's owners. Marian Gahan fell asleep on the toilet at Searsons Pub in Dublin. When she awoke at 2 a.m. the pub was locked. She sued Guinness Ireland Group, which owns the pub, for failing to check the toilets before locking up.

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You don't have to wait for St. Patrick's Day to drink stout in Boulder, Colo. Mountain Sun Pub and Brewery kicked off its Seventh Annual Stout Month on Feb. 1. Twelve of Mountain Sun's taps did a "fade to black," carrying local and regional dark beers. Included are Mountain Sun's own Double Imperial Stout, Anakins Dark Lager and Dandelion Stout. Featured guests are Zonker Stout from Snake River Brewing, Alaskan Oatmeal Stout from Alaskan Brewing, Obsidian Stout from Deschutes and Shakespeare Stout from Rogue. Local favorites include Left Hand Brewing's Imperial Stout, Redfish's Swollen Delta Stout, H.C. Berger's Chocolate Stout, Oskar Blue's Cherry Stout and Avery's Out of Bounds Stout. (BEERWeek TM, Week of Jan. 24-31, 2000)

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Fans of Rodenbach Grand Cru mounted a vocal campaign in the last two weeks to save it after reports that Rodenbach might discontinue brewing the classic Belgian red ale. Even beer drinkers who don't like Rodenbach Grand Cru -- and more don't than do -- should care just as much. There is more at stake than a single beer.

It sounds alarmist to suggest that not only a 4-star beer but eventually a treasured Belgian brewery and perhaps even a beer style might be lost. The reports are not confirmed, and right now the brewery continues to craft the beer. Generations of Americans, however, have suffered through the mainstreaming of beer. Thus when it appears others may be headed down that ugly road it's hard not to run out, arms waving, yelling, "No, no! Don't do it!"

The Palm Brewery has made changes since it took controlling interest in Rodenbach less than two years ago. Now come these reports that it has already discontinued making Rodenbach Alexander and put the Grand Cru on a one-year trial.

"Rodenbach has been losing share in Belgium," said Wendy Littlefield of Vanberg & Dewulf, which imports Rodenbach to the United States and has not been informed of the rumored changes. "Children are growing up with Coke, developing sweet tastes and they don't have the palate for these sour beers." Beer drinkers have always hated or loved the distinctive West Flanders sour beers. Today, it seems fewer than ever love them.

Littlefield's husband and partner, Don Feinberg, was recently in Belgium. Palm officials told him they want to concentrate on using the beer known simply as Rodenbach to build its brand. Rodenbach currently is a blend of two beers: one stronger and aged from 18 to 24 months, and the other not quite as strong and aged five to six weeks.

The aged beer, unblended, is bottled as Rodenbach Grand Cru. Clearly, the future of Rodenbach (often referred to as Rodenbach Classic in the U.S.) comes into doubt if the older portion of the blend is eliminated. Michael Jackson describes these West Flanders red ales as "the most refreshing beers in the world."

"We've been getting calls from bars across the country," Littlefield said. "It's obvious that people in the states want (the Grand Cru)." Most learned of its possible demise through the Internet. Dann Paquette, head brewer at North East Brewing Co. in Boston, began the grassroots campaign after returning from a trip to Belgium where he was told about the changes.

In little more than two weeks, his original message was forwarded thousands of times and copied into numerous newsgroups, inspiring even more messages. Some have focused on saving the beer, others on attacking Palm. Littlefield said the attacks are unfair. "There are white knights and not-so white knights and Palm is one of the good guys," she said. "Palm and Duvel have really championed the independent breweries."

The Rodenbach Brewery and its Grand Cru are both treasures. Rodenbach's maturation halls are spectacular; one holds more than 100 oak tuns. One tun dates back to 1868, many to the turn of the century and it takes four coopers to maintain them. Oak, multiple yeast strains and multiple fermentations are the keys to producing Rodenbach's unique beers.

"There isn't a brewery like it in the world," Littlefield said. "Nobody would open a brewery like it today."

Paquette agrees. He knows that if Grand Cru production were halted, it likely would not be revived and would be nearly impossible to duplicate elsewhere. "You don't just start up a new brewery like that," he said. "Once they stop doing what they are doing the way they are doing it, it's gone."

Grand Cru isn't gone yet. "It will make a difference if thousands of emails demonstrate the seriousness of people's affection for this beer," Littlefield said. Vanberg & Dewulf will collect any emails sent to its website ( and forward them.

Many may choose to contact the brewery directly at:
Brouwerij Palm N.V.
P.R. Department-Peter Buelens
Steenhuffeldorp 3
B-1840 Steenhuffel
tel: 052/31.74.67
fax: 052/31.23.44