RBPMail 6.04, April 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 emaaled to subscribers. Often, links you will see are out of date, and businesses referred to may also be long gone.

In this issue:



A European Union investigation into possible price-fixing agreement by European brewers widened last month when European Commission investigators raided the offices of several brewers. The officials raided the Dutch offices of Heineken, Carlsberg, Interbrew and Grolsch, among others. They also searched Heineken offices in Italy and are examining Peroni and Carlsberg in Italy, as well. "There are suspicions about possible agreements between the big brewers concerning fixing prices, sharing of the market and exchange of commercial information," said commission spokesman Michael Tscherny. "The investigation is not limited to Italy and The Netherlands -- some big companies like Heineken are present in several countries, so there may be cross-country links." The probe casts a shadow over the proposed takeover by Scottish & Newcastle of Kronenbourg, Danone's brewing operation.

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Scottish & Newcastle has struck a deal with French food maker Danone that will make S&N the second largest brewer in Western Europe, behind only Heineken. Scottish & Newcastle will pay Danone 5 billion French francs ($740 million) for control of its brewing assets in France (Brasseries Kronenbourg), Belgium (Alken Maes) and Italy (24% of Birra Peroni Spa). Officially, the two companies are combining their brewing interests, but S&N will have management control. Danone must decide by May 2003 whether to exit the partnership for 13 billion francs or keep a 25% stake.

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Brazil's antitrust agency has approved the merger of Brazil's two largest brewers, Brahma and Antarctica. It will make the new company, AmBev, the world's No. 3 brewer. The antitrust agency, the Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Economica (Cade), voted 4-to-1 in favor of the merger, with minor restrictions. Cade ruled that AmBev must sell two minor beer brands, Bavaria and Polar, with a combined 6% market share, to a brewer with less than 5% of the market share. AmBev will have to share its distribution network with the rival brewer for four years. Cade also told AmBev to sell five factories.

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Miller Brewing Co. hopes to double its sales in the German market within the next three years. Foreign sales (about half of them in Britain, Ireland and Germany) account for only 7% of the company's total sales, but are growing. "Sales growth generated on the international markets will in future outpace that of the U.S. market," chief executive John Bowlin told Handlesblatt. Miller Genuine Draft is currently the best- selling non-European beer in Germany. Bowlin did not rule out the possibility of selling Miller Lite in Germany. He also said that next year Miller would launch a plastic beer bottle on the European markets.

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A Chinese official predicts that his country will pass the United States as the world's biggest producer of beer in the next two or three years. Sun Jie, an official at the State Administration of Light Industry, indicated that Chinese production has been growing at an annual rate of 25% in the past decade.

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Ireland is on the verge of extending pub hours to be more in line with the rest of Europe. The Intoxicating Liquor Bill 2000 would allow pubs to remain open later than 11 p.m. and would also eliminate the so-called "holy hour" on Sunday. The cabinet already has approved the bill, and a justice department spokeswoman said it could be enacted by parliament before summer. It makes Ireland, most particularly Dublin, friendlier for European weekend tourists, who are used to later closing hours. The new bill extends trading hours by one and a half hours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and patrons will be given another 30 minutes to finish their drinks -- meaning everyone must be out by 1 a.m. It extends trading till 11:30 p.m. the rest of the week except Sundays, which retains the 11 p.m. law.

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Six bottles of 105-year-old beer, three full and three half-full, will be auctioned later this month. Diver Jim Phillips received considerable attention last year when he drank a bottle of the beer after it was salvaged from a shipwreck. The ship sank on its way from Glasgow to Adelaide in 1894 when it hit rocks off Thorn Island, Pembrokeshire. Much of the cargo, which included 7,500 cases of whisky and 7,000 crates of beer, was smashed or washed ashore. Phillips and fellow divers found eight pint bottles. When they surfaced, the cork in one bottle popped and Phillips gave it a taste. "The first thing I noticed was the very strong smell of hops. It certainly didn't put me off, so I took a swig," he said. It was then estimated that the bottle might we worth $1,600. We'll on find out April 29 at the Pembrokeshire Shipwreck Auction in Pembrokeshire, West Wales. The proceeds will go to finance this year's Adventurous Divers Club projects. The beer is a light ale brewed in the Glasgow area, and there will be no minimum bid. For more information, write

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The opposition calls her "Brutal Brigita" for her budget-slashing ways, but Slovakia Finance Minister Brigita Schmognerova is now promoting an effort to cut some of the froth off Slovak bar tabs. The Topvar brewery has launched "Brigita" beer for about half the price of other local beers. Schmognerova -- known for recent tough austerity measures, although not a beer drinker herself -- said she was lending her name to the brew for free.

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German researchers are working on a genetically modified beer with a long-lasting froth, New Scientist magazine reports. Ulf Stahl and a team of scientists at the Technical University in Berlin have produced a brewer's yeast used in the fermentation process that is enhanced with a gene called LTP1 to produce a better froth. The genetically modified brewer's yeast secretes so much of the froth-making protein, the beer will produce the same amount of foam regardless of the quality of the barley. Stahl said German brewers had expressed interest in his work but at the moment they don't think there is much of a market for the beer because of the German public's opposition to genetically modified food.

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****WEB WATCH****

Canada had almost as quick a jump onto the craft brewing renaissance bandwagon as did the United States -- several small breweries had already been established across the country as early as 1985 and have been making distinctive beer ever since. Check out the Canadian Beer Index in English or BiereMAG in French.

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You can win a 6-pack of your favorite beer simply by telling us what that beer is. We had so much fun reading the responses to our quickie email question last month about the beer readers would pick for a deserted island, we decided to keep the dialogue going. As an incentive, we're giving away 6-packs (or something comparable) of your favorite beer. Just vote for the beer you'd most like to share an uninhabited island with and we may buy you that beer.

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There's something new -- and then some -- every day at Real Beer. To help you be certain you don't overlook a particularly interesting feature or miss a news item, we've added Editor's Choice, which will change almost daily. You may access it from the front page or from the left sidebar of any top-level page. Take a look at:

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For most of the first half of April, Stephen Beaumont will be travelling around the Belgian countryside with a vanload of journalists. It's part of a press trip called "Belgian Beers and Gastronomy -- A Perfect Match." You don't have to wait for the trip to end to read his reports. He's already started posting diary entries at:

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Michael Jackson writes: "It would soon be time for dinner and I proposed a glass of the very hoppy Shepherd Neame Spitfire as an aperitif. My friends Ms. Timidity Thinlady and her laddish boyfriend, Jack Behaving- Badly were horrified at such a suggestion. They had all sorts of reasons why a classic British ale was inappropriate." He offers 12 reasons why they were wrong.

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As many of you readers know, beer and good health mix just fine. Real Beer Author Bernie Kilkelly is celebrating his 40th birthday by running the Boston Marathon. He's also participating in the race to raise money for the National Spinal Cord Injury Association.

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

Cemcorp specializes in complete plant designs, from brewpubs to microbreweries and large commercial breweries. You'll find lots of nifty high-tech stuff here, like PCbrew, PC-computer control systems including hardware and software based on flow logic for precise control. There's also an absolutely essential primer for anybody thinking about starting a microbrewery or brewpub.

Arizona is not known for its barley or malting plants -- in fact, Arizona Micro is Arizona's only malthouse. But the owners found Harrington barley likes the climate, and with the help of a deep well and a lot of hands-on care the resulting malt has many of the attributes of a British "floor" malted barley. Because Arizona Micro is small it caters to small breweries and even home brewers.

Brewers Wholesale Supply uses warehouses in four locations to supply a wide range of fine quality malt, hops, and clarification products. In the Northeast all products are delivered in company trucks. Outside of Rhode Island, products are warehoused in Denver, Sparks, Nev., and Ann Arbor, Mich.

Imagine a map of California with more than two dozen breweries on it. Then start picking beers from the breweries. That's sort of what a visit to Beer on the Wall is like. It's both a beer of the month club and a California microbrew store that offers plenty of different ways to pick beer.

No, the Party Pig is not Spuds MacKenzie's country cousin. For the record, the Party Pig is a self-contained beer packaging/dispensing system. It replaces bottles and/or kegging systems for finishing and serving beer. One pig holds 2.25 gallons, and scores of brewpubs and microbreweries across America use them to sell beer-to-go. They appeal just as much to home brewers tired of dealing with bottles. Head for the Pig Farm at:

Chrislan has been turning out some of the most unique and attractive tap handles around for more than 10 years. Now the company offers new ceramic plaques -- with 22KT gold and a large custom decoration -- that bar owners are happily putting on display. Find out why the company motto is "NO HANDLE ... NO TAP" and check out classic handles, plaques and more at:

Two-thirds of those voting in a recent Real Beer Page Poll indicated they prefer draft beer to that from bottles or cans -- and the popularity of draft beer puts a premium on dispensing it properly. An integral component of a draft system is the gas that is used to "push" the product from the keg to the tap. The Pure Draft product line provides just the right mixture of CO2 and nitrogen. You can see how it works and what that means 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 Sean S. Flint, who wrote: "If I could have only one beer while stranded on a tropical island it would be any of the Paulaner Weizens. Crisp and flavorful, but not too heavy to get old."

Imagine you are on a three-hour tour, and the boat is destroyed in a storm. Good news though -- you and you alone safely washed ashore on an uninhabited island. And on that island there is an endless supply of beer, but only one beer. What beer would you like it to be? We received hundreds of answers. Guinness received the most votes and Sierra Nevada the second most. We had so much fun reading the answers we have opened the voting to all visitors at Vote and win a chance to receive a free 6-pack of the beer you vote for:

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

Readers who voted in our March poll -- and a record number visited the voting booth -- let us know they consider Guinness and stout to be synonymous. A solid 53% voted for Guinness, well ahead of Murphy's 15%. This month you can let us know about which style of Bock beer you like best. 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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The craft brewing industry got back on track in 1999, according to figures released by the Institute for Brewing Studies in Boulder, Colo. After a flat year in 1998, domestic specialty brewing sales were up 2%. IBS figures show that brewpubs, microbreweries, regional specialty breweries and contract brewing companies sold 5.7 million barrels in 1999, compared to 5.6 million in 1998. Market share remained at 2.9% of the total amount of beer sold in the U.S., the same share as 1998. Of the top 50 companies in the craft-brewing industry (based on barrels shipped), 25 enjoyed double-digit growth in 1999. Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co. experienced the most dramatic jump, growing 41%. All the numbers are at:

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Pressure from anti-drunken driving activists forced an animal-rights group to discontinue its "Got Beer?" advertising campaign after only a few days. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said it stopped the campaign out of respect for concerns raised by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The "Got Beer?" campaign -- parody of the dairy industry's "Got Milk?" advertisements -- generated plenty of attention for PETA. In it the group urged college students to replace their milk mustaches with beer. PETA contends that milk cows and their calves suffer on factory farms and that the fat and cholesterol in milk make it less healthy than drinking beer. Although the campaign makes it clear that juice, water, soda and soy milk are preferable to beer, it was quickly attacked by MADD.

"MADD got their message out; we got our message out," said Bruce Friedrich of PETA. "Our goal was always to raise awareness about the suffering of cows and their calves, and we've certainly done that." The Norfolk-based group will give MADD $500 collected from employees and include a link to MADD on its website as goodwill gestures.

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The Associated Press reports a growing number of pubs in Philadelphia boycotting some products from the Guinness Import Co. At least 10 bars, mostly Irish, have joined the protest of the company's involvement in starting new Irish theme bars around the country -- particularly the Philadelphia area. Most of the pubs have discontinued the sale of Bass and Harp, which Guinness also imports, but four have even taken the popular Guinness Stout off tap. The bar owners are upset with Guinness's commercial development division and its relationship to the Irish Pub Co., which has built hundreds of Irish theme pubs around the world since 1991. The pubs represent new competition for existing Irish pubs.

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Schirf Brewing Co. and Salt Lake Brewing Co., Utah's two oldest microbreweries, are merging. Schirf, which makes Wasatch beer, and Salt Lake, which brews Squatters beer, has begun operating as the Utah Brewers Cooperative. The brewery will be located in Schirf's plant and expects to produce about 20,000 barrels of beer per year. The two breweries will still market their owns lines of beers. Bottles, however, will bear a Utah Brewers Cooperative logo. Squatters brewpub in Salt Lake City and the Wasatch brewpub in Park City will continue operating, but the Salt Lake City brewery will close.

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Miller Brewing Co. has begun selling Miller Lite, Miller Genuine Draft and Icehouse beers in recyclable plastic bottles, making it the first brewer to offer widespread distribution in plastic in the United States. "We understand the skepticism," Miller spokesman Scott Bussen said. "There is a longstanding emotional bond between adult beer drinkers and that glass bottle. We don't see plastic replacing aluminum or glass. But we do think there is a place for it. It offers a flexible packaging choice we think was missing in the beer industry." Recycling officials point out that the bottles are not totally "recycling friendly." The Miller plastic bottles are brown, and brown plastic bottles cannot be recycled with other plastic soda and water bottles. The cost of separating the brown bottles will be economically unfeasible for many recycling programs.

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Portland Brewing Co. will soon be the first Northwest microbrewery to can its craft beer. The brewery plans to release its most popular brand, MacTarnahan's, in 12-ounce cans. Cans allow MacTarnahan's to penetrate "can-only" markets where craft beers have minimal representation, including airlines, golf courses and marinas. The bright green cans will be available this spring throughout the West. "The notion that you can't put a craft beer in a can is ridiculous," said Portland brewmaster Brett Porter. "There are a lot of great canned beers out there, like Boddington's and Guinness, but they're not coming from the Pacific Northwest -- the center of American craft brewing. It's time for MacTarnahan's."

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Georgia beer lovers will have to wait at least another legislative session to enjoy beer stronger than 6% by volume. The bill that the state's House passed, which would have permitted sale of stronger beer, died in a Senate committee. The House voted 126-42 to alter Georgia's definition of "malt beverages" and allow stronger beers to be sold. Currently, state law prohibits selling beer that contains more than 6% alcohol by volume (Budweiser is 5%). The measure passed by the House would boost the limit to 14% and charge twice the state tax on the stronger beers. After the House passed the bill it received considerable attention, causing neo-Prohibition organizations and church groups to protest. That gave it little chance of getting out of committee in an election year.

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Anheuser-Busch continues to roll out malt beverages that don't resemble traditional beer, last month launching Tequiza Extra and in May introducing a lemon-flavored alcoholic drink called Doc Otis. Tequiza Extra has a stronger tequila flavor than Tequiza. Tequiza -- whose name is derived by combining "cerveza," the Spanish word for beer, with tequila -- is made by blending beer with blue agave nectar and a natural flavor of lime and imported tequila and has been wildly successful since debuting last year. Doc Otis is made with real lemon juice.

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After a 16-month hiatus, Chicago's Real Ale Festival returned for its fourth edition last month, this time at Goose Island Wrigleyville. The event featured 147 brands of cask conditioned ales including entries from across America and special guest beers imported straight from Britain, as well as 55 bottle-conditioned beers. "The overall quality of beer this year was quite remarkable," said Steve Hamburg, cellarmaster for the event. "It is clear that American brewers are mastering what it takes to serve beer in casks and that was very much evident." Competition results:

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The American Homebrewers Association (AHA) will hold its third annual Big Brew Celebration on May 6, which is National Homebrew Day. For last year's Big Brew, 2,180 registered participants gathered at 265 brewing sites in 47 states and 8 foreign countries. During Big Brew, home brewers from around the world gather at local sites for a day of brewing and celebration of the hobby. Participants will brew from the same recipe and share in a simultaneous toast at noon (CST). The official Big Brew 2000 recipe is based on the 18 attempts of Chris P. Frey of the Ann Arbor Brewers Guild and Fermental Order of Renaissance Draughtsmen (FORD) to emulate Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.

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The Ohio Division of Liquor Control has banned the label for Manneken Pis beer because it was deemed "offensive and not in good taste," according to a Paulaner North America and Intermountain/RKH press release. The label portrays a statue of a little boy urinating. Manneken Pis has been one of Belgium's best selling beers, and the statue is one of Brussels' oldest landmarks and is considered its official mascot. Ohio officials stated that the label depicted the statue of a "child who is obviously relieving itself" and that the name of the beer was a "play on words." The label was banned in Pennsylvania two years ago. (BEERWeek TM, Week of March 27-April 3, 2000)

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During months like March we are reminded of what a great perch we have at Real Beer. Favorable reviews in major publications such as USA Today, Maxim Magazine and the Los Angeles Times brought many new visitors to, and they provided interesting input. Meanwhile, our RBPMail readers responded with great answers to our quickie email question about a single beer for a deserted island (see above).

Readers write from around the world, and our content covers the entire world of beer and beer culture, but this coming July we will pause to look specifically at the American beer landscape. Sometimes we are so busy editorializing about how to make it better, or how to deal with those who would limit our choice, that we may not appreciate what we have.

We should. It was less than 20 years ago that Michael Jackson -- a protagonist in the Better Beer Movement -- wrote the following in his 1982 Pocket Guide to Beer:

"The overwhelming majority of beers produced in the U.S. are of but one style: they are pale lager beers vaguely of the pilsener style but lighter in body, notably lacking hop character, and generally bland in palate. They do not all taste exactly the same, but the differences between them are often of minor consequence."

Jackson will be the first to point out how things have changed. Those from other beer producing countries who laugh at the lack of beer culture in the United States are stuck in the '80s. Not Carlo Petrini of Italy, a European leader in promoting pleasure through good eating. He'll be among the speakers in June at the World Beer Cup Awards in New York City. "The United States has become a type of Noah's Ark for beer making traditions of the world that are on the brink of extinction," he said.

That's just one of the reasons the Institute of Brewing Studies (IBS; Boulder, Colorado) and brewers' guilds across the nation have selected July for the first-ever American Beer Month. The promotion has been designed to raise awareness of the variety and quality of American craft beers.

We at Real Beer can barely wait for American Beer Month to arrive and will offer the IBS and guilds our full support. We view it as a celebration of American beer culture. We're not advocating becoming jingoistic about it or asking you to give up your favorite Belgian ale or German lager for the month. After all, these imports inspired many American brewers, and some great American beers are made from imported ingredients. We do think it's time to acknowledge that we drink these beers not only because they are local, but because many are world class.

We think this should be a national event. We also think it should not be disregarded by those who point out that American craft brewers produce only about 3% of the beer consumed in America, because that still amounts to something on the order of 1.8 billion 12-ounce servings. Beer is part of the American fabric. A conversation in a tavern is a conversation in a tavern, no matter what flavor beer the participants are buying.

Much of the celebration during American Beer Month will focus on drinking beer (thank goodness), but that's the last step. Let's not overlook the fact that farmers in the Northwest grow some of the best hops in the world. Or that barley fields stretch across the plains. Or that American artists produce everything from engaging coasters to tap handles. Or that many publicans in the United States know much more about beer than their counterparts elsewhere.

Hey, it's a big deal. We've begun our planning, but as we've seen in the last month, Real Beer readers are a source for great ideas. Send any of your own to

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