Beer Hunter’s book wins Beard award

Congratualtions to Michael Jackson (aka The Beer Hunter) for winning the prestigious James Beard book award for Whiskey : The Definitive World Guide.

It won in the wine and spirits category, besting the much talked about Emperor of Wine.

Whiskey will remind you a little of Jackson’s Beer Companion, which we always thought should have won a similar award. Problem is that the publisher didn’t nominate it.

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A-B’s hometown winners

Following up on the Anheuser-Busch initiative that let drinkers in Ohio and New England choose a beer that A-B would brew for regional distribution.

The winning “hometown beers”:

In Ohio, Burnin’ Helles – “This rich and malty Bock-style lager will tempt you as it showcases the finest domestic malts and the best hand-picked Bavarian Hallertau hops. It’s a true salute to more than 200 years of Ohio’s proud brewing tradition. This beer will appeal to those who have ‘a bit of a devil in you.’ (6.3% alcohol by volume)”

In New England, Demon’s Hop Yard IPA – “Incredibly ‘hopped-up’ and citrusy ale — using domestically grown hops varietals to get the rich and robust flavor. Only one place in New England could provide us with hops this diabolical. (7% alcohol by volume)”

The beers are scheduled to go on tap June 26.


Schell Dark enjoys revival

Schell Dark is udergoing a bit of a revival in Minnesota’s Twin Cities. Call it a retro Pabst-related dark beer thing.

Launched in the 1970s, Schell’s Dark is what co-owner Marti describes as a drinkable dark beer. It’s sweet, smooth and creamy and lacks the bitterness that some dark beers have.

It’s done well with what advertising types call “independent influentials,” those who shun mainstream brands and embrace classics or originals. “There’s a group of people who like to discover old brands or unique brands that have a quirkiness to them,” said an agency account supervisor.

Schell certainly qualifies as an old brand. The New Ulm brewery is the second oldest still operating in the U.S.

[Via Minneapolis-St Paul Business Journal – free registration]


Wisconsin’s Capital needs more room

With sales of Capital’s Island Wheat soaring, Capital Brewery in Wisconsin needs to expand. For now that means adding on to its current facility in Middleton.

Long term?

“It’s somewhere down the road,” brewery president Carl Nolen said. “It could be a year from now or three years from now. The way craft brewing is going these days, you just never know.”

Capital production rose 10% in 2005, to more than 16,000 barrels.

[Via The Capital Times]


Chipotle Ale for Cinco de Mayo

And who doesn’t think of beer when it comes to Cinco de Mayo? It seems every brewery in the world large enough to have an advertising budget has suggested we drink its beer Saturday.

The San Francisco Chronicle has another suggestion: Rogue Chipotle Ale.

As the story notes “Rogue Chipotle Ale certainly does (go with food), with its smoky, subtly peppery palate matching the heat and spice of chile-based cuisine.”

Bottom line: Don’t try to down the heat on Saturday, pick a beer that stands up to it.


Lambics gone wild

Today a New York Times (free registration) tasting panel tackles lambic beers from Belgium.

Eric Asimov writes:

If you have explored beer and decided it’s not for you, well, I toast your open mind. But if you have exiled beers to parts unknown, I have a radical proposal: Take the time to seek out and try a few lambic beers from Belgium and tell me if these are not as complex and distinctive as many fine wines.

What makes this radical? Even many beer drinkers know little about lambic beer. It’s perhaps the most unusual beer around, truly made in the old-fashioned way. It is not at all easy to find. You will most likely have to seek out a shop specializing in great beers of the world, but I assure you it is worth the effort.

The panel breaks the beers into three categories. Favorites among the gueuze category are Cantillon Organic Gueuze and Lindemans Gueuze Cuvée René, both receiving three stars (out of four). Top dry fruit lambics: Cantillon Lou Pepe Kriek 2003 and Hanssens Oude Kriek, both with three-and-a-half stars.

Asimov touches on the issue of tradition when introducing the sweet fruit lambics.

Now here’s the sticky part, and the reason I hedged before in terming all these beers lambic. As in any community of passionate devotees, serious debate rages over what constitutes authentic lambic beer. This debate focuses on the most popular style, which has penetrated the beer market right down to the deli level. I’m speaking of the sweet fruit lambic beers, which often depart from the traditional methods by adding fruit juice or syrup to the brew, resulting in a sweet, sometimes cloying beer.

The favorite was De Troch Apricot Chapeau (three-and-a-half stars).


A-B goes it alone

The Associated Press examines why no other breweries are supporting Anheuser-Busch’s “Here’s to Beer” campaign.

Anheuser-Busch initially touted its “Here’s to Beer” campaign as a way for beer companies to set aside their differences and fight the common enemy of wine and spirits. The St. Louis brewer even sent a vice president around the country to drum up support for the campaign.

The response has been flat. No other brewer has pitched in money to help the effort. The Beer Institute trade group yanked its logo off the campaign after the first television ad ran during the Super Bowl.

“The reality of it is, this program really doesn’t need brewer support,” A-B vice president bob Lachky told the AP. “We kind of always envisioned this thing as being an Anheuser-Busch-led initiative.”


CAMRA picks best cider, perry

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) today announced the winners of its search for the best real cider and perry in the UK.

The winners are:

Cider: Hecks Kingston Black – Somerset

Perry: Seidr Dai – Cardiff

Gillian Williams, CAMRA’s Director of Cider and Perry campaigning said: “Commercial ciders are enjoying something of a boon at the moment thanks to lavish advertising, but it should not be forgotten that exceptionally high quality real cider is still being made all over the UK. Just squeeze the juice out of the fruit and leave to ferment naturally. At its best it is a wonderful drink allowing the true fruit flavour to come through to the full.

Visit CAMRA for complete results.


And the light beer winner is . . .

In the name of public service, Channel 3 in Philadelphia compares light beers, enlisting beer columnist Don Russell to conduct a blind tasting with his neighbors.

Could they offer a solid consensus?

Our taste testers were pretty much evenly split, preferring the Miller, Heineken and Amstel Lite beers.

Only America’s number one selling beer, Bud Light failed to get a thumbs up.

Until somebody tells us the best light beer to drink we’ll have to stay with something heavier.