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
FAKE BEER PLAGUES GERMAN BREWERIES
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."
GERMAN BEER SLOWDOWN CONTINUES
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.
EU CONSIDERS PLAN TO CUT BRITISH BEER TAXES
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
INTERBREW-BECK'S DEAL APPROVED
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
SMALL AUSTRALIAN BREWERS SEEK TAX BREAK
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 BRANDS IN EXCLUSIVE $1 BILLION CLUB
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."
CAMRA'S GOOD BEER GUIDE GETS FACELIFT
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."
BEER-FED LUG WORMS MAY LIFT FISH FARMING
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.
BRITISH ORGANIC BEER COMPETITION NOV. 15
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.
THE ROCKIES RIVAL TO RODENBACH
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.
FLYING WITH BEER
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.
THE TRUTH ABOUT DUTCH BEER
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 TO CHAIR BREWERS ASSOCIATION
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 FIND SOURCE OF SKUNKY BEER
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."
PASTEURIZABLE PET BEER BOTTLE LAUNCHED
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
GRANITE CITY PLANS 'FERMENTUS INTERUPTUS'
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
PENNSYLVANIA GROUPS LOBBY FOR TAGGING KEGS
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."
STROH STEIN COLLECTIONS BRINGS $358,869 IN AUCTION
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.
EDITORIAL: IT'S THE BEER, STUPID
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
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
, 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
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.