RBPMail 7.08, August 2001

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.

In this issue:
* Interbrew Buys Beck's
* U.K. Prefers that Interbrew Sell Carling
* A-B Ordered to Pay Maris Family $50 Million
* Tsingtao Continues Acquisition Course
* Venezuela Breweries Battle over Returnable Bottles
* Grolsch, Miller Strike Brewing, Distribution Deal
* Brewery Ticketed for Destruction Brews British Champion
* Two Greene King Beers Kept out of GBBF
* American-Designed Beer Champion of London
* Pabst to Close its Last Brewery
* Craft Brewing Pioneer Bert Grant Dies
* Hopunion Craft Brewery Division Purchased by Growers
* Bridgeport Brewing Plans to Double Size
* Boston Beer Tests Sam Adams Light
* Fischer Brings Back Glacier Beer
* Belgian Microbrewery-Restaurant Planned in Florida
* Interbrew Consider Stella-Branded Bars
* Bar's Tips Contribute $100,000 To Children's Hospital
* Beer Provides Ingredients Good For Your Heart
* Editorial: Remembering Bert Grant's smile<


Interbrew, the world's second largest brewer, has completed a deal to buy Beck's, Germany's largest exporter. It's the Belgian brewer's second German acquisition in two weeks. It announced on July 27 that it bought 80% of specialty beer maker Diebels. With the purchase of Diebels, a maker of traditional German beer, and premium lager brewer Beck's, Germany's fourth-biggest beer maker, Interbrew has boosted its market share in Europe's largest economy and strongest beer market. As well as building a position in Germany, Interbrew adds to its portfolio of international brands. In recent years, the company has almost doubled in size. Half a dozen takeovers in Asia and Europe, including U.K. brewers Whitbread and Bass last year, have been aimed at helping Interbrew compete for market share against main European rival Heineken.

While Interbrew expands in other regions, its acquisition of Bass Brewers remains on hold. Of four options available to settle antitrust concerns, Britain's Office of Fair Trading is expected to recommend the "Carling Brewers" option, that allow Interbrew to retain the Bass Brewers business in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as the Bass ale brand, and sell the Carling brand, which holds a 19% U.K. market share, to a third party. The most likely bidders are Heineken and South African Breweries. Interbrew would rather pursue the "International Brewer" option where it would sell off Bass's Scottish and Irish divisions and several regional brands and retain the Carling and Bass brands.

A jury last week ordered St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch to pay $50 million to the family of late baseball great Roger Maris for improperly taking away a beer distributorship. The Maris family immediately questioned the award, saying it does not include $89.7 million from lost sales. The world's largest brewer took away the distributorship in 1997, prompting a $300 million breach of contract lawsuit from the family, which had run the operation in Gainesville and Ocala, Fla., for 29 years. Attorneys for the Maris family said Anheuser-Busch wanted to take over the distributorship to give it to family friends of chairman August Busch III. Busch attorneys denied the claim.

Tsingtao Beer Group has signed a contract with Zhangzhou Brewery Co. in Zhangzhou, Fujian province, intending to completely acquire Zhangzhou Brewery and showing signs of a long-rumored merger-and-acquisition campaign. Tsingtao earlier acquired a 51% interest just a few days ago in Tee Yih Jia (Fujian) Brewery Co., a wholly owned company of the Singapore-based Asia-Pacific Breweries Ltd.

Venezuela's two largest breweries -- Regional and Polar -- are locked in a knock-down, drag-out fight over empty beer bottles. It's part of their ongoing battle in the $1.7 billion beer market where consumers spend 24% of their food budget on beer. The basics: 85% of the beer sold is bottled in glass containers -- which are cheaper to manufacture than cans. Once the empties reach the warehouses, they are sorted out and returned to their original maker. Regional claims that Polar has been stashing thousands of Regional bottles in its warehouses, and has accused Polar of smashing Regional bottles.

Dutch brewer Grolsch has entered into a multi-year alliance to brew and bottle Miller Genuine Draft for various European, while it will also sell, market and distribute Miller Genuine Draft in the Netherlands and France. According to Grolsch spokesman Coen Thoenissen, Grolsch will brew and bottle Miller Genuine Draft for the Dutch, French and German markets "and a number of other markets, but that will be up to Miller to decide. We have agreed on a minimum volume, and to Grolsch it doesn't matter what language the label of the bottle is in."

JHB brewed by Oakham of Peterborough was judged to be the best beer in Britain by a panel of brewers, beer writers and journalists at the Great British Beer Festival. Oakham's brewery site is earmarked for demolition to make way for a new shopping center. The company is hoping that the publicity can help its battle for survival. Partner Jake Douglas said, "Hopefully, Peterborough council will recognize that this is a prestigious award that honors the whole city and see what a valuable contribution we make. People come to Peterborough specifically to drink our beers and we believe the pub and brewery could easily be integrated into the development plan." Complete GBBF results.

Suffolk brewer Greene King was furious when its Ruddles County and Old Speckled Hen beers were prohibited from the Great British Beer Festival. Festival producer Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) said the ban was necessary to protect Britain's brewing heritage. It explained it had banned the beers because production had been moved to a different site, changing the "natural ingredients" and "local taste" of the beer. Greene King, which acquired Oxfordshire-brewer Morland along with the two beers two years ago, was told they could not be displayed because CAMRA "doesn't approve of companies that buy breweries for a brand name and then close a brewery and move production to another site." But Greene King said the public wanted to see these beers "celebrated, not banned." Since acquiring the two ales that were in serious decline, Greene King has boosted sales of Old Speckled Hen by 31% and Ruddles by 50%.

A beer designed by an American has been judged Champion Beer of London. The brew was created by Grant Johnston, formerly of Marin Brewing in California. The British award is for the Pale Ale he designed for ZeroDegrees, a brewpub. Michael Jackson reports.


Pabst Brewing Co. will soon be a "virtual brewer," marketing beer made by Miller Brewing Co. The San Antonio-based company -- once part of the thriving brewing community based in Milwaukee, Wis. -- has notified 400 employees at its brewery near Allentown, Pa., that the facility will be closed by mid-September. Production will be moved to various Miller breweries, which already make 80% of Pabst beers. Pabst announced earlier this year that it would close its 115-year-old San Antonio plant, the historic Pearl Brewery, putting the last 80 employees out of work. More than 400 Pabst employees in Pennsylvania will lose their jobs. As a result, Miller expects to brew an additional 2.4 million barrels of beer yearly for Pabst and a total of more than 10 million.

Craft brewing pioneer Bert Grant, who founded the first modern day brewpub in the United States, is dead at 73. Grant had been ill for two years and died last week at the University of British Columbia Hospital in Vancouver. He had moved to that city a year ago to be close to his children. When Grant founded his brewpub in Yakima, Was., in 1982 there were fewer than 50 individual brewing operations in the U.S. Today there are more than 1,500. That brewpub expanded to become a bottling microbrewery, selling about 10,000 barrels of Bert Grant's Ales in 2001. He sold the brewery to Chateau Ste. Michelle wines in 1995, but Grant remained an active spokesman until being slowed by illness. The family suggests that donations be made to the Audubon Society, 700 Broadway, New York, N.Y., 10003.

HopunionUSA, Inc. has agreed to sell its Craft Brewery Division to six hop growing families. The growers involved operate hop farms in both Oregon and Washington. Ralph Olson, who as directed the craft brewery sales efforts for HopunionUSA for several years, has also acquired an ownership interest and will serve as general manager of the new company. "I am pleased to announce that the Craft Brewery Operations of HopunionUSA has been purchased by an enthusiastic group of hop growers -- most of whom I have sourced specialty hops from for many years. In addition, our experienced staff of trained professionals, including Ralph Woodall, will continue to serve our brewery customers as in the past," Olson said.

BridgePort Brewing Co. of Portland, Ore., has begun an expansion that will double the brewery's capacity from 50,000 to 100,000 barrels per year. It is the second major expansion for BridgePort since The Gambrinus Co. acquired the brewery in 1995. "The strong sales growth of BridgePort IPA and the overall BridgePort brand in the market demands doubling the capacity of the brewery," said brewmaster Karl Ockert. BridgePort sales have consistently registered in the double-digit range.

Boston Beer Co. is test marketing Sam Adams Light in Providence, R.I., and Portland, Maine. "I think beer drinkers will be surprised when they discover how great our light beer tastes," Boston Beer founder Jim Koch said. It is the company's second foray into the light beer market, which accounts for about half the beer sales in the United States. Boston Lightship received high marks from tasting panels comparing low- calorie beers before being discontinued in the late '90s. Getting consumers to accept a light beer from a company known for its full- bodied products might be a challenge, said Benj Steinman, editor of Beer Marketer's Insights. "There's a bit of a disconnect, but it's sort of a necessity" for Boston Beer to be in the light beer category, because of the category's growth potential, he said.

Fischer Beverages has announced it will bring back 63N 46W beer, which drew international attention when it was first sold at the end of 1999. The beer is brewed with water collected from the glaciers of Greenland at polar coordinates 63 North by 46 West. In these extreme regions, the ice lying dormant thousands of meters below the surface may be up to 250,000 years old. The beer is being sold in select European locations and through the Fischer Internet website.

You may recall that a few years ago the Sterkens Brewery in Belgium, maker of the St. Sebastiaan ales, was looking for American partners who wanted to run brewery-restaurants with Sterkens providing the brewing expertise. They never quite found the right match. Now co-owners Serge Van Limbergen and Leen Sterkens are making plans to open St. Sebastiaan Belgian Microbrewery, complete with a 320-seat restaurant in Spring Hill, Fl. With initial help from her uncle, who will fly in from Belgium, Sterkens, 24, will be in charge of brewing the beer and will use recipes not used at the family's other nine breweries. The brewery is due to open next February.

Interbrew is considering launching Stella Artois-branded bars in the U.K. The female-friendly bars would promote Stella heavily but not to the exclusion of other brands -- Interbrew also owns Boddingtons, Murphy's Wadworth 6X and Rolling Rock. It would be part of an ongoing push to positioned Stella as an upmarket lager. Interbrew recently launched an ornate 1-litre bottle of Stella to encourage people to drink the lager with their meals at home or in restaurants. And the company continues to look for other ways to target the over-50s crowd.

Since 1977, Bob Wawrzeniak has been donating the tips at Bob's Bar in Glassport, Pa., to the Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh Free Care Fund -- and that spare change has added up to more than $100,000. "This is all due to the people that walk in that door," Wawrzeniak said, referring to the 15 or 20 regular customers who contribute most of the money. "There's no hype. They know what I do and they help."

Beer may provide the same "good for your heart" ingredients as fortified grains and green leafy vegetables. "Folate from beer may ... contribute to the protective effect of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular disease in population(s) with generally low folate intake from other nutrients," according to a study by Dr. O. Mayer Jr. and colleagues from Charles University in Pilsen, Czech Republic. Their conclusions were study published in the July issue of the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The study measured blood levels of folate, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine) and vitamin B12 in 543 residents of Pilsen, an area with one of the highest rates of beer consumption in the world. The B vitamins they measured are linked to lower levels of homocysteine, a compound in the blood associated with increased heart disease risk.


Perhaps you've been to a small brewery where the brewer is wearing a T- shirt that reads: "We drink what we brew, we sell what's left over." Or you've heard brewers like Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski of Victory Brewing Co. in Downingtown, Pa., say that their first rule when it comes to brewing is to make what they like.

Bless them all, because they tend to brew beer we want to drink, too. They, like us, owe thanks to those who made such an attitude possible. Bert Grant, who died last week, was one of those men. The list of his accomplishments would fill a book -- in fact, his autobiography, The Ale Master, goes great with a hoppy beer -- but nothing was more important than the fact he brewed beer he liked to drink.

It sounds simple, but when Grant opened Yakima Malting and Brewing in Yakima, Wash., in 1982 there were fewer than 50 independent brewing operations in the United States. It seemed we were well on the way to one national beer style -- the American light lager. It was outlandish to think you could operate a brewery making beer you liked rather than a product formulated by the marketing department.

Instead Grant and brewers like him revived styles that had vanished from the American beer landscape, and sometimes from almost anywhere else either.

You'll see many tributes to Grant in print through the next few months (start with Michael Jackson's). His impact cannot be overstated. We thought about trying to reflect the magnitude of his work by collecting tributes to run in this space, but instead decided to share one memory:

We watched Bert Grant enjoy more than one beer, and we never saw him fail to smile when he took a drink of one of his own.