RBPMail 7.11, November 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 emaaled to subscribers.

In this issue:
* Fake Beer Plagues German Breweries
* German Beer Slowdown Continues
* EU Considers Plan to Cut British Beer Taxes
* Interbrew-Beck's Deal Approved
* Small Australian Brewers Seek Tax Break
* Three Beer Brands in Exclusive $1 Billion Club
* CAMRA's Good Beer Guide Gets Facelift
* Beer-Drinking Lug Worms Fatten Fish
* British Organic Beer Competition Nov. 15
* Web Watch
    - The Rockies Rival to Rodenbach
    - Flying with Beer
    - The Truth About Dutch Beer
* Kim Jordan to Chair Brewers Association
* Chemists Say They've Found Source of Skunky Beer
* Pasteurizable PET Beer Bottle Launched
* Granite City Patents 'Fermentus Interuptus'
* Pennsylvania Groups Lobby for Tagging Kegs
* Stroh Stein Collections Brings $358,869 in Auction
* Editorial: It's the Beer, Stupid


German brewers suddenly find themselves defending their reputations because Berlin is being overrun with fake beer. The newspaper Bild estimates that one in five glasses of beer served in the Berlin area is a low grade "no name" beer. Erich Dederichs, manager of the German brewers' association, said that leading brewers such as Schultheiss and Kindl had fallen victim to the scam where "beer bandits" steal barrels and fill them with cheap beer. The fake beers have been offered to restaurant and bar owners who thought they were getting the beer whose name is on the barrels. "We have a problem, particularly in Brandenburg and Berlin," said Dederichs. "Those who get served up with this dishwater think it is Kindl and never touch the stuff again."

Warm summer weather prompted Germans to drink more beer in the third quarter than in the same period last year, but it wasn't enough to stem a longterm trend away from the nation's traditional brew as consumption fell over the year so far. Although consumption was up 2.9% compared to June-September of 2000, figures for the first nine months of the year showed beer consumption had fallen 1.9% to 82.4 million hectoliters (2.18 billion gallons), from 84 million hectoliters in the same period the year before.

Beer and wine prices could be slashed in Britain if tax changes being planned in Brussels are given the go-ahead, The Publican reports. The plans, which are being drawn up by the European Commission, are part of recommendations intended to stamp out alcohol smuggling. Britain has some of the highest excise rates for beer, wine and spirits in the European Union, but the plans being finalized by commissioner Frits Bolkestein could cut them dramatically. The proposals are due to be made public in the next few weeks but already insiders are hinting that the commissioner wants to harmonize tax by lowering duty levels in high-tax countries such as Britain and Sweden, and increasing the duty in low-tax countries such as France and Spain. However, chancellor Gordon Brown and the U.K. Government are expected to fight the plans. A spokesman for the Treasury said: "We are opposed to the harmonization of taxes."

The European Commission has approved Interbrew's acquisition of German brewer Beck & Co. By acquiring Beck's, the Belgian brewer hopes to boost its position against Dutch rival Heineken in the U.S. premium beer market. The Commission said it had cleared the deal after examining the situation in Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands and Italy. "While these two companies have overlapping activities in Europe in the production and supply of beer, in particular premium lager, the transaction does not raise any competition concerns," the commission said in a statement. Based in the north German port of Bremen, the Beck company was founded 128 years ago. Beck's is Germany leading beer exporter.

Eight Australian boutique brewers have formed an alliance to fight for a reduction in federal beer excise and improve their marketing and purchasing power. The Victorian Micro-Brewers Alliance wants the Federal Government to increase the beer excise threshold from its current level of 30,000 liters a year. An alliance member and the managing director of Grand Ridge Brewery, Eric Walters, said the present excise regime, which does not discriminate between small beer makers and the major brewers, was crippling the microbrewing industry. Walters said there had been an enormous growth in the popularity of boutique beers in countries such as New Zealand, Canada and the United States, in parts because governments in those countries have reduced the excise for small breweries.

Three beer companies are among the 43 consumer product brands that ring up annual sales of more than $1 billion each and can be considered truly global, according to a study released by ACNielsen. No surprises: They are Budweiser, Heineken and Guinness. "Despite a proliferation of brands in the marketplace and a focus by major manufacturers on being more global, there are relatively few global mega brands out there today," said Jane Perrin, ACNielsen Managing Director of Global Services, the sponsor of the study, Reaching the Billion Dollar Mark - A Review of Today's Global Brands. "We looked at well over 200 brands in this study and although more than half had a global presence, they just didn't have over a billion dollars in sales."

The Good Beer Guide, the flagship publication of the Campaign for Real Ale, has been given a complete overhaul for its 29th edition. It's part of the drive by CAMRA to shed the "beards-and-anorak" image beloved by satirists, and to prove that real ale is the smart drink for young people. The guide still includes 5,000 of the best pubs serving cask- conditioned beer but many of them now have much longer descriptions. "The old GBG descriptions, such as 'friendly back-street boozer', will no longer do for today's more sophisticated drinkers," notes editor Roger Protz. "They want to know more about the history, the architecture, the welcome, the food, and facilities for families when they choose which pub to visit."

Scientists at Newcastle University in Scotland have found that beer really is good for you -- as long as you're a lug worm. Lug worms fed on brewery waste can grow three or four times faster than they do in the wild. And researchers believe that the worms, fed on waste produce from Gateshead's Federation Breweries, may revolutionize the world of fish farming. The beer-fed worms produce omega oils that make them a perfect food source for fish. At present fish farms feed their stocks with omega oils from wild fish. This means that they kill nearly as many fish as they breed. The worms are grown by Seabait, an offshoot company from Newcastle University, based in Lynemouth, Northumberland. The company is now ready to start supplying ale-guzzling lug worms to fish farms in Ecuador and Mexico.

The Society of Independent Brewers will conduct the Organic Beer Competition on Nov. 15 at the Marble Brewery, Manchester. The list of entries has grown from 22 to 30 in one year. Beers will be judged in three categories, ales, lagers and specialty beers, with the overall champion being awarded a listing with Safeway.

********************WEB WATCH*******************

Michael Jackson visits a thoroughly modern microbrewery that also features magnificent, ceiling-high, oak tuns maturing a range of unusual beers. (Hint: It's in Colorado.) The story.

Speaking of the holidays, this is one of our favorite times to haul home beer we collect on trips, or to take special beers to special friends. How have changes in airline regulations since Sept. 11 affected flying with beer? Real Beer readers tell us about their experiences. The story.

When most people think of Amsterdam, beer is not the first thing that comes to mind. Amsterdam is usually thought to be synonymous with Heineken, but Stephen Beaumont discovers there is a hidden layer of Dutch beer culture that begs investigation. The story.


Kim Jordan, president and co-founder of New Belgium Brewing Co. of Fort Collins, Colo., was elected its chairman by the 15-member board of the Brewers Association of America at its 60th Annual Convention in Chicago, "I am honored to be chosen to lead America's small brewers at a time of so much promise for our industry," said Jordan. "We're proud to have Kim assume leadership of the small brewers' trade association," said Daniel Bradford, President of the BAA. "Her work already demonstrates success in the market and her commitment to the category." Jordan has committed to increasing the involvement of the board in the small brewers' category, bringing the BAA closer to its constituency, taking a leadership role in small brewers' issues and focusing the association's efforts on improving access to market for small brewers.

Chemists at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill say they have figured out precisely what goes wrong with beer to give it that offensive "light-struck" flavor that is often referred to as "skunky." Much of what they learned is not new. "This light problem is a phenomenon that was reported in the literature as early as 1875, but until now the detailed mechanism has not been unraveled," said Dr. Malcolm D. Forbes, professor of chemistry. "The final product of the reaction turns out to be what we call "skunky thiol," an analog of a compound found in skunk glands that produces a very bad taste and smell. This molecule has an extremely low taste and smell threshold in humans, just a few parts per trillion." He added that Understanding mechanisms behind changes in beer tastes is important "because the world beer industry is hoping to save money by storing, shipping and selling beer in less expensive clear glass."

Crown Cork & Seal Company, Inc. has launched a resealable, pasteurizable PET plastic beer bottle that can withstand the rigors of the tunnel pasteurization process. The new pasteurizable PET bottle has completed successful line trials with Abita Brewery of New Orleans. Testing with other undisclosed brewers is underway as well. The new package will be available to consumers in early 2002. "We were very impressed with the performance of Constar's PET pasteurizable bottle in manufacturing tests and consumer trials," said David Blossman, president of Abita Brewery. Packaging beer in plastic is not new -- Miller Brewing Co. has used PET bottles since the late 1990s and Anheuser-Busch has tested PET bottles -- and appeals to brewers because using plastic saves on material and shipping costs and also allows consumers to drink beer places (like golf courses). Several small breweries that do not pasteurize their beer have already begun using PET bottles.

Founders Food & Firkins Limited, doing business as Granite City Food and Brewery, has announced a patent pending brewery process for microbrewing for multiple locations. The brew process is patented under the name "Fermentus Interuptus" and is designed to transfer unfermented liquid wort from one plant to other locations where the brewing process will be completed. The process is designed to improve the economics of microbrewing for multiple locations by eliminating the initial stages of brewing and storage, reducing development costs at new restaurant locations. The process will begin at the Sioux Falls, S.D., brewery. The wort will be trucked to Granite City Food & Brewery in Fargo, N.D. where it will be fermented. The Fargo location is scheduled to open this month. The Sioux Falls brewery is large enough to service as many as 15 brewpubs using the new system. The Blue Rooster Brewhouse in Asheville, N.C., operated under the same principle briefly a few years ago and called itself a "fermentationpub." Its beer was brewed 20-feet away by the Highland Brewing Co., then pumped through a wall to fermentation tanks.

A Pennsylvania coalition of groups opposed to underage drinking is lobbying lawmakers to act on legislation requiring beer distributors to put registration tags on all kegs they sell. That way, if the keg turns up at a party with drinkers younger than 21, police can trace its purchaser and cite him. The proposed law is similar to provisions adopted by 15 other states and the District of Columbia. The Malt Beverage Distributors Association of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Beer Wholesalers Association oppose the legislation, as do individual distributors. They argue that the law is impractical because it adds another layer to Pennsylvania's myriad liquor regulations. They also point to testimony from law enforcement in states. "I would not put this on my list of the Top 10 things to do to stop underage drinking. I still think it's a good idea. It's just not on my short list of strategies," said Lincoln, Neb., Police Chief Tom Casady, who testified in favor of keg registration in Nebraska in 1993. "You can always get your beer in cans or bottles."

American Breweriana magazine reports that the Stroh Brewing Co. collection of more than 250 drinking vessels sold for $358,869 in an auction conducted by The Stein Auction Co. The collection had its origin with the late Rudolph Schaefer Jr., whose family had been brewers in New York since 1842. The Schaefer collection was noted for its strength in 18th century Faience and in fine 17th century pieces including Apostle, Planet and Family Crests from the Creussen Factory. The Stroh family ultimately acquired the Schaefer collection, then Stroh collection became available after the family solid its brewing business to Pabst. Creussen steins from the late 1600s sold for prices ranging between $4,830 and $24,100.


If you saw the Budweiser and Bud Light commercials during the World Series you had to appreciate the terrific job they do of reminding us that drinking beer can be as much about fun and camaraderie as it is the beer itself. But it should come as no surprise that we think they should talk more about the beer.

For more than 20 years those in the United States who brew and sell specialty beer have made education an essential part of the deal. John Hickenlooper, one of the founders of Wynkoop Brewing Co., puts it perfectly when he thinks back to when Wynkoop opened in 1988: "People forget you had to explain beer styles 50 times a night. It was like being the first one on the Santa Fe Trail ... a lot of boulders to move."

The need for ongoing beer education is as big as it always has been, as Michael Jackson made particularly clear in a recent column:

"'Grapes can show great individuality, but hops are capable of more,' (Sean) Franklin concludes. He still finds himself matching grape and hop varieties to explain aromas and flavours. Even people who don't aspire to connoisseurship have heard of grape varieties; hardly anyone outside the brewing industry can name a hop. Wine presents itself as being worthy of knowledge, and therefore respect; the lesson should be learned by beer, much more popular but far less valued."

Part of our mission at Real Beer is to further such education, and we encourage you to do the same. It's pretty simple, because talking about beer facilitates the same camaraderie you see in Bud and Bud Light commercials. With that in mind, here are two quick statements and related facts guaranteed to spark conversation -- where it goes from there is up to you.

- Imported beers are stronger than American beers.

Drinkers in the United States get confused because the alcoholic strength of wine the world over and beer almost everywhere outside of the United States is measured by volume. The U.S. legal standard (many states regulate the strength of beer) is by weight. If you know the alcohol by volume (abv), multiply that by .8 and you'll be pretty close to the alcohol by weight (abw). Inversely, multiply the abw by 1.25 to find the approximate abv. Thus Guinness Draught (4% abv) is what they call a 3.2 beer in Oklahoma.

- Beer brewed according to the "Reinheitsbegot" is more traditional.

Only if you are talking about German beers. This 1516 German law requires that beer be made only from water, malted grain and hops. It was struck down by the European Union. Curiously, in the early '90s some brewpubs and microbreweries marketed the fact they adhered to the Reinheitsgebot in order to set themselves apart from large American breweries that use adjuncts such as corn and rice. However, most brewpubs pride themselves in serving British-style ales, and the Brits have never been shy about using adjuncts (though seldom corn or rice). Nor are the Belgians.

You'll find plenty more ideas for conversation in our weekly Beer Break newsletter , but some of the best are probably right in your head.

Make the conversation local -- like does Pete's brewpub down the road or Sam's around the corner brew better honey ale? Make it geeky -- can you taste the difference between a beer brewed with all Cascades hops and one brewed with both Cascades and Amarillo? Or pretty much impossible to answer definitively -- does draft beer or bottled beer taste better?

The important thing to remember is that if the beer in your hand is worth drinking it should be worth talking about, and vice versa.