RBPMail 6.09, September 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 Often, links you will see are out of date, and businesses referred to may also be long gone.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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The European Commission has referred part of Belgian brewer Interbrew's acquisition of Bass to U.K. regulators. The referral only affects the parts of the deal relating to the U.K. beer sector. Stephen Byers, Secretary of State for Trade & Industry, had asked for the chance to investigate the deal. The Office of Fair Trading will now have four months to decide whether to allow Interbrew to hold on to a position giving it at least one third of the U.K. beer market. Interbrew will also hold supply agreements with about one quarter of the U.K.'s pubs.

Analysts speculated that U.K. regulators would force the Belgian brewer to dispose of some brands, leaving it with a market share of no more than 30%. Lobbying has already begun. Hugh Osmond of the Punch Group, Britain's biggest publican, said Interbrew and Scottish & Newcastle, the Edinburgh-based brewer, controlled more than 80% of this market and could prevent competitors gaining access to pub chains. "I think it is a pretty dubious thing to allow to happen," he said.

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Foster's may be Australian for beer, but from now on Beringer is Australian for wine. In a $1.5 billion deal that creates the world's largest purveyor of premium wines, Melbourne, Australia-based Foster's Brewing, snagged Beringer Wine Estates Holdings of Napa, Calif., one of the largest U.S. wine companies. Foster's, best known for lager beer in big cans and commander of 55% of Australia's beer market, will now be able to claim ownership of Beringer's stable of six highly regarded labels, among them Beringer, Stag's Leap and Chateau St. Jean. It was a Stag's Leap Cabernet that vaulted California into the top echelon of world winemaking in 1976 when it knocked off France's best Bordeaux wines in a blind tasting in Paris. The gives Foster's room to expand in the lucrative U.S. market, while Beringer will get its longstanding wish to grow internationally through Mildara Blass, which sells into 67 overseas markets. Beringer ships less than 5% of its wine outside the U.S.

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China's Tsingtao Brewery has reached agreements with a U.S. investment company to purchase its stakes in two Beijing breweries. The $22.5 million deal includes cash payment to Asian Strategic Investments Corp. for its 63% share of Beijing Asia Shuang He Sheng Five Star Beer Co. and its 54% stake in Beijing Three Rings Brewery, according to a Tsingtao spokesman. Foreign brewers have been selling their stakes in China for the past couple of years. Of the 60 foreign breweries operating in China, only one is profitable. The Beijing deal is Tsingtao's latest move to close the gap with rival Beijing Yanjing Brewery Co., currently China's largest brewer.

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American brewing giant Anheuser-Busch had mixed success at best last month in its continuing battle with Czech brewer Budweiser Budvar. The Court of Appeals in Finland ruled that the Czech brewery can continue to use its registered trademark Budejovicky Budvar when selling the beer in Finland, although it cannot include Budweiser as part of its name. Anheuser-Busch, brewer of Budweiser, took court action against the Czech brewery with the following aims: to forbid Budweiser Budvar from marketing and selling its beer under the brand name Budejovicky Budvar and a ban on the use of the trade name Budweiser Budvar; receive damages totaling 10 million Finnish marks; force the destruction of goods, advertisements and other documents bearing the trademark Budejovicky Budvar; and receive payment for legal costs. The Finnish court ruled in favor of Budweiser Budvar on all counts with one exception: the Czech company, which is still state owned, cannot use the word Budweiser.

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Guinness beer sales apparently fell in 1999, the first decline in the 241 years since Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease on the famous Dublin, Ireland, brewery. Diageo, which owns the Guinness brand, is expected to report a drop of 3-4%. Analysts indicate that even though Guinness spends 200m a year on marketing that it is fighting a change in drinking habits among those in its home markets of Britain and Ireland. Lorna Harrison, editor of the trade magazine Publican, said: "There has been an explosion in the choice of beers available to drinkers, particularly with premium lagers and pre- prepared cocktails. This is accompanied by the fact that women are the growth area and they don't want to drink something like stout. It all adds up to a hard time for Guinness."

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A German court in Erfurt has ruled that two retired brewery workers should receive 264 pints of free beer a year as part of their pension package and also receive back pay for three unpaid years worth of beer. The retirees spent three years in court fighting for the beer. The brewery originally promised workers and retirees 422 pints of free beer a year, but reneged after changing ownership.

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****WEB WATCH****

Get out the lederhosen and get ready for the beer and sausages. The original and biggest Oktoberfest begins Sept. 16 in Munich, Germany, but there are Oktoberfests all across North America most weekends from now until the end of October. We've got the history, a calendar of events and even a primer on how to do the Chicken Dance.

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An extraordinary exhibition of historic beer posters in St. Louis gives Real Beer good reason to look at not only classic beer posters, but also beer labels -- many of them works of art themselves on a three-by-four inch canvas. You can even win your own set of labels from My Own Labels.

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Michael Jackson reports live from Leipzig on a major new brewpub reviving a classic style. A new brewery and pub specializing in the salty, coriander-spiced, acidic, wheat beer called Gose is the centerpiece in the restoration of a city landmark: the former starting point and terminal for one of Germany's most important north-south routes, the Saxony-to-Bavaria Railroad.

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In "The Premium Beer Drinker's Guide" author Stephen Beaumont focuses exclusively on the biggest, boldest, strongest, most expensive and most interesting beers in the world. He explains why and writes more about the book at

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Not only has the World Beer Tour been renamed the Real Beer Tour, but the web site has been totally overhauled. Stop by to learn about the club or just to poke around. Be sure to take the virtual tour at

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*****************REAL BEER PICKS***************
Derek Hamilton began designing equipment for home vintners and brewers in 1987, out of necessity, so he'd have tools he wanted to use himself. Fermtech's product line then expanded with the same main objective: To ease some of the repetitive chores so the homebrewer or winemaker can enjoy the hobby to the fullest.

The big draw is an event for adults called "The Texas Chainsaw Pumpkin Carving Contest." But you'd expect something different in a neighborhood that bills itself as the center of the universe. Fremont Oktoberfest includes beer from 25 local breweries.

The "King of Kits" specializes in both home brewing (72 kits) and wine making (65 kits). The kits are put together from fresh supplies and can be customized, serving both new and advanced brewers. Of course there's also a full inventory of equipment and ingredients beyond the kits.

Mixology's has remodeled its store, adding to its already gigantic inventory of barware for use at both home and upscale drinking establishments. Also new are drink-related features with tips on travel, festivals, drink history and more.

These small-batch labels look like they are your own and custom made because that's just what they are. Labels add a special touch to gifts from cooks and winemakers as well as brewers. Picking out a design, adding your name and choosing colors is almost as much fun as brewing -- and it takes a lot less time.

Rapids began serving the beer industry more than 60 years ago and today sells a full line of restaurant and bar supplies from three different locations. Its catalogue features everything from beer faucets to frying pans to neon signs.

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Thanks to all who have been replying to our Quickie Surveys. Each month we draw a winner from those who respond. This month's drawing is for a Real Beer T-shirt. Last month's winner was Karen Robertson.

If you take beer to a party, are you likely to take a more expensive beer than you drink at home or a less expensive one? 59% of those who voted said they would take the same price beer, while 17% said they would take a more expensive beer, 12% less expensive and 12% would take homebrew.

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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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A management-led team has completed arrangements to buy the Genesee Corp. brewing unit, maker of Genesee beers. The Rochester, N.Y., company said it agreed to sell its brewing arm to a group led by Chief Executive Samuel Hubbard Jr. for more than $22 million as part of its plan to sell all of its assets. The No. 5 U.S. brewer said it also would sell its Ontario Foods division to Ralcorp Holdings Inc. In addition to making its Genesee, J.W. Dundee and Michael Shea's brands, Genesee is under contract to brew Samuel Adams beer for Boston Beer Co. Pabst had offered to buy certain Genesee labels, but the brewery would have closed if that deal had been consummated.

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A report from the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to Congress on the "hard-core drunk driver" concludes that an increased focus on those hard-core types, rather than an across-the-board tightening of laws, is the best way to fight drunk driving. The NTSB recommends: frequent and well-publicized sobriety checkpoints, not limited to holiday periods; penalties that include vehicular impoundment for repeat offenders; legislation to require that repeat offenders maintain a zero blood alcohol content while driving; higher penalties for BAC above .15%; restrictions on plea bargaining in drunk-driving cases; and alternatives to jail time, such as house arrest or "intensive probation."

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First the good news: Researchers have discovered that beer contains a powerful antioxidant more potent than those found in red wine, soy, even green tea. Now the bad: They estimate you'd need to drink 117 gallons of beer a day to obtain the maximum health benefits of the compound, which is derived from the hops in beer. "I tell people they can't cure their disease by drinking beer, but it might just help," said Donald Buhler, a professor of environmental and molecular toxicology at Oregon State University in Corvallis and lead author of a report on the substance in the September issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. "The bottom line is that you're going to get some, but not preventative, levels of antioxidants by drinking beer," Buhler said.

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Mitchell, Iowa, tavern owner Stan Walk has sued an underage drinker for ordering a beer. Dustin Weiner, a 20-year-old Iowa State University sophomore, said the suit is "really unfair" and intends to fight it. "I ordered a beer, I was playing Foosball and I was arrested and went to jail," said Weiner. "Now I'm getting sued." Usually, Weiner would get a $100 fine for his first offense. Walk says it's unfair that businesses stand to lose their liquor licenses for selling alcohol to minors. "Bars have always just taken the heat," Walk said. "We said to heck with that. He (Weiner) really threatened my livelihood." Walk wants Weiner to pay $2,500 for accusations that a bartender did not check for proper identification, and an additional $60 for time he spent convincing prosecutors that the allegations were false. Weiner showed fake identification in his bar, according to Walk, but the college student claims that police didn't find a fake ID when they searched him.

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The Coors Brewing Co.'s brewery in Golden, Colo, accidentally dumped 77,500 gallons of beer into the creek last month, killing thousands of fish and prompting health warnings. Spokeswoman Aimee St. Clair said an employee flipped the wrong switch, emptying beer from fermenting tanks and washing it through a wastewater treatment plant before it ended up in Clear Creek. "Somebody made a mistake," she said. "We're trying to track down how it happened so it doesn't happen again." Officials with the state Division of Wildlife could not give an exact number of fish killed, but estimated it was thousands.

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Miller Brewing Co. is the latest brewer hoping to squeeze additional sales from a popular drink trend by introducing a lemonade alcohol in the Pacific Northwest. The new brand, Henry's Hard Lemonade, will be available in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Alaska. The lemon- flavored malt beverage is part of Miller's Henry Weinhard's brand franchise and is designed to tap into the rapidly growing taste for lemonade alcohol, said Rob Gregg, Weinhard's senior brand manager. The nation's top four hard lemonade brands -- Hooper's Hooch, Mike's Hard Lemonade, Two Dogs Alcoholic Lemon Brew and Jed's Hard Lemonade -- posted a sales volume of 320,000 barrels in 1999. Those sales drove a 10% increase in 1999 alcohol refreshment beverages -- a segment that includes wine coolers, hard ciders and other flavored malt beverages, such as Adolph Coors Co.'s Zima brand. By comparison, overall U.S. beer sales grew 1.6% in 1999.

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A California beverage maker is serving up an alcoholic concoction for people who are looking to get a buzz without losing their energy. Hard E Beverage Co. of Corona, Calif., is marketing what it calls the world's first "hard energy" malt beverage, a mixture of beer, vodka, vitamins and ginseng, which the company believes will appeal to partiers in their 20s and early 30s. Scientists say the manufacturer's claim that Hard E will keep consumers both tipsy and peppy is suspect and that the drink may actually be dangerous. "People are taking illegal drugs to dance all night. This is an alternative," said Mark Hall, senior vice president of marketing for Hard E Beverage, a division of Hansen's Natural Corp. that has contracted with Gluek Brewing Co. of Cold Spring, Minn. to produce the drink. "It might mislead people into thinking they actually could drink more without becoming impaired at the same rate as drinking anything else," said Mark Willenbring, who has studied alcoholism extensively as an associate professor in psychiatry at the University of Minnesota. "If they've got a beverage that's about 5% alcohol ... there's no difference in the level of intoxication that occurs."

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Colorado's New Belgium Brewing Co. began its first Tour de Fat on Labor Day Weekend, a six-city festival tour and tribute to the classic cruiser bicycle. Tour de Fat began Saturday in Seattle. The New Belgium tour crew now heads east through the Bitterfoot Range to Missoula, Mont., for the second stage on Sept. 9. Two Saturdays later, Sept. 23, they hit the Kansas pastures of Lawrence then go south toward the border for the Austin Tour de Fat on Sept. 30. Then they venture west along Route 66 to the mountains of Arizona and Flagstaff Oct. 7, and finally bring the festival finale to the front lawn of the brewery in Fort Collins Oct. 21.

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Pete's Brewing Co. is giving consumers a chance to win a part in the next Blair Witch movie, due out in 2001. Pete's and Artisan Entertainment are teaming up on the Pete's Wicked Ale Halloween promotion, with a sweepstakes and special rebate offers for a copy of the original "Blair Witch Project" on video or DVD. In addition to a part in "Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows," sweepstakes entrants can win cast-signed posters of the second movie, videos, DVDs and video games. Rebate offers and sweepstakes entry pads are available on special Pete's displays. Online sweepstakes entries will be accepted beginning in mid-September.

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This week we launch a new newsletter from Real Beer called Beer Break. It will focus on beer tasting and beer appreciation. As you know, this is hardly new territory for us. The Real Beer Network is stocked with resources focusing on appreciation -- from Michael Jackson's Beer Hunter to Beer Is My Life, from Stephen Beaumont's World of Beer to Beer Travelers.

Last month we turned over our Spotlight section to a collection of primers intended to sharpen your tasting skills. We'll offer more beer education features soon -- that's both school for newcomers and continuing education for you Master Beer Drinkers -- and Beer Break fits right in there. We don't mean to sound like Al Gore or George W. Bush, but we are committed to education. Teaching people to appreciate beer is vital if the specialty beer segment is going to continue to grow.

Stephen Beaumont makes this point very well in the preface of his new book, the "Premium Beer Drinker's Guide":

"Confronted by an ever expanding list of beers, we often close our minds to the new possibilities and turn instead to the tried-and-true brand that fits us as comfortably as an old sweatshirt. Still, forever lurking behind that safe decision is a nagging doubt: What if that other beer really is better?"

Don't worry, Beer Break won't be snooty (or elitist, to use a snooty word). Yes, we may offer tips on what Belgian beers go well with pate, but we may take a look at beer and pizza as well. We hope the newsletter will broaden your understanding of beer and expand, not narrow, your interest. That's why it will include tips for aficionados and novices alike. That's also why it will be short -- so you have more time to put the lessons to use.

The fact is that beer has all the complexity and variety of flavors that wine has. We can celebrate that without giving up the fact that beer is also the world's favorite alcoholic drink, a truly democratic beverage. Curiously, we feel we must reassure you, our regular readers, that we haven't gone snooty on you. Meanwhile, there are still plenty of folks who react to the concept of "beer appreciation" by asking if we'll link to film clips of Homer Simpson in action.

The newsletter wasn't created to change those silly notions. However, there's an exhibition of beer posters in St. Louis right now (see story above) that is doing just that, and had we been publishing Beer Break a month ago we probably would have made the display a featured topic.

"At first, I thought, beer posters -- whoa!" said Gerald Brooks, the director of marketing and public relations for the St. Louis Public Library. "But people will be surprised. It's actually art, and some of it is really fabulous."

We expect to offer that kind of surprise on occasion, and good advice all the time. Within the first month or so, for instance, we plan to:

- Give you a simple way to test your tasting skills.
- Provide a list of beers to bring home from Colorado (useful if you are attending the Great American Beer Festival or know somebody going to Colorado).
- Help you count calories, and figure how beer and a diet may go together.
- Tell you how to get the most out of a beer festival or wine tasting.
- List tips for storing your beer (for the short or long term).

And that's just for starters. We'll welcome your input along the way. In case you haven't noticed, or have just been too polite to point it out, we've got a lot to learn too. That's probably why we're doing this.