St. Pauli Girl 2006

St. Pauli GirlWe learned long ago that the best time to buy beer at our local Oktoberfest is when the St. Pauli Girl shows up to sign posters – because that’s where the line will be.

So as a public service announcement we offer this: To mark the annual selection of a new St. Pauli Girl the brewing company will give away 400 free posters each day on the brand’s website. Additionally, from March through May, another 40 free posters will be given away each day to consumers on a first-come, first-served basis. And, a downloadable version will be available on the St. Pauli Girl Beer website as a screensaver.

By the way, Brittany Evans is model chosen to adorn the 2006 poster and represent the brand throught the year.

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Weekly Therapy: Why skunky beer is skunky

Cheers to the Wall Street Journal for a deciphering the code large brewers use in listing “freshness dates.” (Unfortunately, WSJ is a paid site, so we only linked to the front page).

It begins: “A loaf of bread has it. So does a carton of milk. But if you’re looking for the expiration date on a bottle of beer, forget about it — for many brewers, that information is a closely guarded secret.”

But reporter Bruce Knecht reveals some of the secrets. For example:

Take Sapporo, a Japanese beer we purchased in Los Angeles, which was imprinted with “K1205FL” on the bottom. Lost in translation? Well, the code indicates the beer was made Oct. 12, 2005. In the case of Sapporo, the first letter represents the month of manufacture: “A” for January, “B” for February and so on, through “M” for December. (As if the system weren’t complicated enough, this one, like many of these codes, has an extra twist: The month code skips over the letter “I” and uses “J” for September.) The next two digits, “12,” refer to the day of the month, and the two numbers after that, “05,” are the last two digits of the year.

Corona uses two different alphabetical codes. The year, the first character, is coded from A for 2001 to F for 2006, while the months go from L for January to A for December. The day of the month is expressed numerically. So the bottle we bought with the code “EE08” was made Aug. 8, 2005. The company doesn’t publicly disclose its code, but people familiar with the company’s practice confirm our translation.

Track down a copy of the Weekend edition if you can, or find it in your local library. The story includes a chart telling you how to read the code on 15 beers, ranging from Anchor to Tecate.

Although “skunky beer” is at the center of the story, it doesn’t exactly explain how that ties into freshness. So just in case you were wondering . . .

Few beer tasting terms are more descriptive or straightforward than “skunky.” Quite simply, a skunky beer emits an aroma it didn’t have when it left the brewery.

The smell is the product of the chemical reaction that takes place in the bottle when bright light strikes the hops, creating what’s technically known as “light struck” beer. The reaction is stronger with paler and hoppier beers. The resulting chemical is identical to that in a skunk’s defense system, and light-struck beer puts off one of the most powerful aromas around.

Green and clear bottles do little to protect a beer from skunking, and while dark brown bottles are much better they are far from perfect. Because many of the best known imports come in clear or green bottles consumers have come to associate a skunky aroma with imported, often more expensive beer. That doesn’t mean their brewers intended them to taste that way.

The brighter the light and the longer bottles sit in that light the stronger the skunky smell will be. Even dark brown bottles won’t guard a beer from the bright fluorescent lights popular in grocery stores and many other beer retail outlets for very long.

You don’t have to settle for that beer. In some stores you’ll see six-packs sitting on tops of cases. Don’t grab that one, but get your beer from inside the case. A sealed case is even better. If you want beer from the cooler don’t be shy about asking if there are unopened cases in the cooler and buying a six-pack from one of those.

Buying beer that has been kept out of the light gives you a better chance of getting a “skunk free” beer. It’s up to you to keep it that way — mostly by continuing to keep it out of direct light — until you drink it.


How tall is the lime?

Corona Extra, the best-selling imported beer in America, is buying big twin signs at Times Square. The signs, which are scheduled to go up on Monday, each measure about 92 feet high by 35 feet wide and show open bottles of Corona with limes wedged into the necks.

[Via the New York Times, free registration required]


Barley Wines of the Times

“Wines of the Times” means barley wines this month, as a New York Times (free registration) panelists curl up by the fireside with 25 or so.

The panel made Hog Heaven from Avery Brewing in Colorado its favorite, giving it 3-and-a-half stars. Flying Dog Horn Dog (Colorado), Anchor Old Foghorn (California) and J. W. Lees Harvest Ale 2003 (England) all received 3 stars.

The story notes:

The quality in general was so high that we could not possibly include all the ales we liked in our top 10. Not to be forgotten are ales like Dogfish Head’s Old School, which managed to mask its 15 percent alcohol behind fruitcake flavors; Young’s Old Nick, a creamy-rich British classic that is a mere 7.2 percent; and (Garrett) Oliver’s own Brooklyn Monster Ale, another creamy, balanced brew.

It also points out the difference between British and American offerings:

I was mightily impressed by the entire field. These ales were superbly brewed, and the range of styles was fascinating. Some – the British versions in particular – were sweet and creamy, yet not cloying, their complexity offering enough intrigue to keep me coming back for more. The American ales tended to be dryer, more robust and spicy, with heavy doses of American hops, which offer piney aromas and a pleasing bitterness.

Must be time to see if 2006 Sierra Nevada Bigfoot has arrived at the local beer store.

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Blind Tasting Test

Oregon Craft Beer Week gets more packed with events every year.

News comes from Portland that the Oregon Brewers Festival has added a fundraiser the evening before the festival officially starts. The inaugural OBFl Blind Tasting & Test, a benefit for the Oregon Blind Commission, will take place from 5-9 p.m. July 26 on the festival grounds at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

The Blind Tasting & Test begins with the tasting portion, in which a total of 24 different beers will be served: 12 IPAs brewed in Oregon, and 12 Pale Ales brewed in Oregon. Beers will be served on a tasting tray in two-ounce samples. Patrons will be encouraged to vote for the “People’s Choice,” one vote for each of the two styles. Following the tabulation, the winning brewery from each beer category will be announced, with the two winners receiving a trip to a European beer festival for the brewer and a guest.

For the Blind Test, patrons will be asked to identify each of the 24 beers served. Votes will be tabulated, and a winner from each category will be selected. The two winners of the identification test will also receive a trip each to a European beer festival for themselves and a guest.

At the conclusion of the blind test, all 24 of the beer taps will be opened and the attendees will be invited to sample beer in their souvenir mugs until the taps close at 9 p.m.

The festival itself runs July 27-29.


Weekly Therapy: Books and history

You might already know that the name of bock beer comes from the German town of Einbeck. But did you know this?

“About the composition of Einbeck beer we learn that is was made two-thirds of barley malt and one-third of wheat malt, but lightly kilned, and was brewed only in winter. Of course, it was a top-fermented beer, ‘but very different from the top-fermented beers of nowadays,’ and is said to have been hopped very strong, and with hops that grew in the environs of Einbeck, where numerous hop-yards were in cultivation.”

Origin and HistoryJohn Arnold wrote that in Origin And History Of Beer And Brewing, one of two books rich in beer history recently made available in reprint form from The other is Louis Pasteur’s Études sur la Bière (Studies On Fermentation).

BeerBooks.comfounder Carl Miller said he has seen a strong and growing demand for rare and early brewing literature in recent years. We hope this is a sound business venture, because we’ve long benefited from his affection for beer history. Visit to see what we mean.

“We’re reprinting these works because beer enthusiasts have become more sophisticated in the types of material they seek out,” Miller said. “Many have moved beyond the contemporary books on brewing history, and want to go a little deeper. They want to get closer to the roots of the subject, and these books help them do that.”

Miller contracted with a leading library preservation institution to digitally scan, enhance and reproduce each book directly from a first edition copy. “We want readers to see the pages as they were first published,” he said. “Illustrations, original pagination, even graphic style and page layouts can be almost as important as the text itself.”

Arnold makes the scope of his book apparent in the introduction, writing he was guided by “the conviction that a history of beer ought to be written only by duly weighing the intimate connection existing with the general cultural history of those race, nation, peoples who habitually make and consume it, in so far at least as it is a history dealing not merely with the technical development of brewing.”

The book doesn’t contain much that happened after the 18th century and doesn’t try to be a comprehensive history – for instance, leaving much of what occurred in England to other texts.

Pasteur coverIt’s hard to imagine now, but before Pasteur proved them right in the mid-19th century, the few biologists who held that yeast was the cause of, and not the product of, fermentation were ridiculed. Manufacturers of wine, vinegar and beer didn’t know if a week or two after production they’d have something they could sell or would have to dump – and the scientific establishment offered no help.

That set the state for Pasteur to prove that living cells (yeast) were responsible for forming alcohol from sugar, and that contaminating microorganisms turned the fermentations sour. He identified and isolated the specific microorganisms responsible for normal and abnormal fermentations in production of wine, beer, and vinegar. He showed that if he heated wine, beer, and milk to moderately high temperatures for a few minutes, he could kill living microorganism and thereby sterilize (pasteurize), the batches and prevent their degradation.

It should be surprising that the sub-title of Studies on Fermentation is The Diseases of Beer, Their Causes, and the Means of Preventing Them.

In the preface, he writes: “I need not hazard any prediction concerning the advantages likely to accrue to the brewing industry from the adoption of such a process of brewing as my study of the subject has enabled me to devise, and from an application of the novel facts upon which this process is founded. Time is the best appraiser of scientific work, and I am not unaware that an industrial discovery rarely produces all its fruits in the hands of its first inventor.”

As Randy Mosher points out in Radical Brewing, ancients were clearly aware of the magic yeast (the Sumerians had 50 words for it) performed. But today we’re happy today to still marvel at that magic and not end up with sour beer (unless, of course, that’s what you want). You don’t have to read Pasteur to understand why, but it’s as close as we’ll ever come to listening to him discuss his breakthrough work.

Be warned that these books are neither light nor necessarily easy reading. Pasteur was writing late in the 19th century, in French and interested in communicating with scientists and brewers trained in science. Arnold first wrote Origin and History in German, then it was translated into early 20th century English.

And, for obvious reasons, you won’t find anything about modern brewing practices or beer’s role in contemporary society. Arnold makes reference to the temperance movement that would soon bring Prohibition to the United States, but obviously you won’t find him comparing the roles of spirits, wine and beer in American society with that after Prohibition was repealed.

You’ll have to connect the dots. If Miller is right, a growing number of beer enthusiasts are inclined to do that.


It’s the chips, dummy

A Danish study published in a British Medical Journal reports that people who buy wine also buy healthier food and therefore have healthier diets than people who buy beer.

Note that the issue is that bag of chips you have along with beer, not the beer itself. We must admit that there are tradeoffs when it comes to beer and your health. Here’s one point and countrpoint:

Beer contains significant amounts of magnesium, selenium, potassium, phosphorus, biotin, and is chock full of B vitamins.

Alcohol destroys Vitamin C and Vitamin B complex. Drinking beer that has not filtered out the Vitamin B (such as English “real ale,” many microbrewed beers and homebrew) will help combat the effects of alcohol — most notably a hangover.

More comparisons.


Barley wine tops at CAMRA festival

A Over T from Hogs Back Brewery, Surrey was named as the Supreme Champion Winter Beer of Britain 2006 by a panel of judges at CAMRA’s national winter celebration of beer. A Over T, which stand for Aromas Over Tongham, is a barley wine.

Gales Festival Mild won the silver. “Congratulations to Hogs Back. A Over T is a fantastic Barley Wine that fully deserves this accolade. I hope this will encourage more beer drinkers to try this style of beer,” said Steve Proscott, festival organizer. “It is also excellent news that Gales Festival Mild won the national Silver award. We hope this recognition will encourage Fuller’s to continue brewing this excellent brew at Horndean in Hampshire.”


A gathering of St. Louis breweries

Poor Richard’s Ale, made by about 100 breweries across the country to makr the 300th anniversary of Ben Franklin’s birth, let to a surprising gathering of breweries in St. Louis. The Post-Dispatch reports:

A Schlafly beer served at the St. Louis tour center of Anheuser-Busch Cos., the nation’s largest brewer? Tom Schlafly, owner of the St. Louis Brewery Inc., sipping an Anheuser-Busch product?

These sights might cause people to do a double take, but that’s what happened Tuesday afternoon, when staff from Anheuser-Busch and St. Louis Brewery, the maker of Schlafly beer, gathered to toast Benjamin Franklin’s birthday.

A-B is lobbying other breweries to get involved in a campaign to boost the image of beer, and this reflects their effort.

“There are things we can do together that could make our overall industry get a higher profile in consumers’ minds,” said Bob Lachky, executive vice president of global industry development at A-B’s domestic brewing unit. “And everybody (in the beer industry) would benefit.”


Beer not included

Once again, Saint Arnold Brewing Co. in Houston is actioning off the rights to name a fermenter. Racing to keep up with rapid growth, Saint Arnold has installed its first 120 barrel fermenter and as it did in 2004 the brewery us auctioning the naming rights on eBay.

This is actually the third time Saint Arnold has offered customers the opportunity to become a part of the brewery. Previously:

– In 2004, the brewery held a similar auction for one of its tanks, which led to the christening of the “St. Gonzo” tank.

– In 2003, the brewery’s supporters gladly handed over close to $7,500 to help the brewery pay for a reverse osmosis system to purify its water. Those who donated to the cause have their names displayed on the water tank.


Weekly Therapy: Poor Richard’s Ale

What would Ben Franklin have drunk?

Poor Richard's AlePerhaps something like Poor Richard’s Ale, the beer that officially goes on tap tomorrow to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Franklin’s birth (Jan. 17). OK, some of the 100 or so breweries across the country that brewed this special beer already have it on at others the beer isn’t quite ready to serve, but the Tuesday is the day to raise a glass to Ben.

So before you ask, here are a few answers.

Where can I find the beer?

The Brewers Association has compiled a list.

Even brewing giants Anheuser-Busch is involved. Its St. Louis Brewery will offer Poor Richard’s Ale to guests who visit its Tour Center from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A special toast led by a Benjamin Franklin historical role performer and A-B brewmaster will be conducted at 1:30 p.m. to honor the real Benjamin Franklin.

How was the recipe chosen chosen?

The Brewers Association held a competition to identify a suitable recipe. A panel of award-winning brewers and others with an eye toward history chose the recipe for Poor Richard’s Ale.

The winning recipe came from Tony Simmons of Pagosa Springs, Colo., who is in the process of opening a microbrewery. Simmons carefully researched his recipe, citing more than a dozen publications when presenting his entry. He wrote:

“Ben Franklin’s favorite type of beer could have been similar in gravity and strength to the modern version of an Old Ale (1.060 to 1.086). Franklin’s own writings refer to, ‘the type of strong, harvest-time ale, or October ale.’ Yet, his regular drink couldn’t have been excessively strong because he was known to have intellectual discussions in Taverns while, ‘lifting a few pints of ale,’ and Franklin felt (along with many of the time) that ale was a healthful tonic if consumed in moderation. In researching the era, I believe that due to the high cost of imported hops and the documented hop shortages in Colonial America, the hopping rates would have been appreciably less than that of Old Ale and more comparable to a Strong Scotch Ale.”

Bill Brand, who writes for the Oakland Tribune and maintains a Beer Blog, was one of the judges and described the decision process, concluding:

“John Harris loved number two (the eventual winner) and eventually he brought the rest of the panel around. He blew away my phenol argument. This was Colonial Philadelphia, he said. Beer was made quickly, placed in wood casks and served in a tavern without benefit of refrigeration. An off-note or two was to be expected, he said. The problem with number three was it was too perfect; it was an excellent, very drinkable beer. Could it have been produced in Franklin’s day? That argument carried the day.”

What makes the beer different?

For one thing, molasses and corn. As Simmons noted, “Modern appreciation for the characteristic molasses flavor is limited at best.” However both were common in ale during colonial times and each would have helped to reduce the colonists’ dependence on imported British ingredients.

Will every batch taste the same?

You already knew the answer was no, but one brewery had a particular problem following the recipe. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported:

All of them except one will follow a recipe for Poor Richard’s Ale that emulates a beer the forefathers might have enjoyed after a heated democratic debate.

The exception – you guessed it – is Utah, where not even American history can trump the 3.2 beer law.

“The rest of the country is going back to colonial times, but we’re going back to Prohibition,” joked Matt Beamer, head brewer at Park City’s Wasatch Brew Pub, the only Utah brewery participating in the anniversary celebration.

Beamer said he would love to join his national brewing colleagues and make the original ale, which contains 6.6 percent alcohol. But since Utah liquor laws prevent that, “I’ve just decided to have fun with it,” he said.

The best part is that this beer will be enjoyed on draft in pubs and taverns, where people still gather to talk – about beer, the football playoffs, maybe even revolution – just as Ben Franklin and his friends did nearly 300 years ago.


Draft Celebrator returns

Finding an old favorite on tap is as exciting as discovering a new beer, so it’s nice in winter to run across the draft version Ayinger Celebrator in a limited number of bars.

The Munich-area brewery only ships kegs of the doppelbock to the United States in winter. A few bars, like Falling Rock Tap House in Denver, stock up and keep it on tap all year. More often, it’s around only a short time and gone.

A few places to look for it: Seattle (Pike Pub), the greater Boston area (Hoseshoe Pub in Hudson, Ana Cara in Brookline, Moan & Dove in Amherst), Conneticut, Virginia (Capital Alehouse in Richmond), North Carolina (both Tyler’s), Georgia (Summits Wayside Tavern, Brick Store), Texas (Double Dave’s in San Antonio, the Ginger Man and Flying Saucer chains) and southern California (Heroes in Los Angeles, Forever Fondue in La Jolla).


A dilemma for beer drinkers and sellers

An excellent question from the Accidental Hedonist:

Is it socially acceptable simply to say “I drink alcoholic beverages” and leave it at that?

Or are qualifiers like this necessary? “What I’m trying to say is this: I drink alcoholic beverages. I do so for a variety of reasons, including taste and for the slight buzz it may bring. I endeavor to drink responsibly, and I never drive after drinking, nor drink if I’m driving.”

The article points out how American culture has changed in the last 50 years. Beer culture certainly has. In the 1950s the beer industry worked together to provide advertisements that said “Beer Belongs” and a message that beer was the beverage of moderation.

Now, a new move afoot would boost beer’s image, but there’s much work to be done, according to an article fromt he Wharton School of Penn University. Marketing professor Patricia Williams says breweries “have trended cruder and cruder” in an attempt to break through the clutter of TV ads and have dug a deep hole for themselves. “They have just descended into the depths as a product category. Unless that stops, no industry ad campaign will do it for them. I don’t see that happening.”