Beer and food bonanza

Because sometimes you need a little nourishment before the next beer . . .

– What to serve with that turkey next week? The Brewers Association offers a primer: This Year Beer Goes With The Bird!

– Don Russell also mentione beer and turkey in his Joe Sixpack focusing on beer as a gourmet ingredient – recipes included.

– Britain’s Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) has a booth at this year’s BBC Good Food Show. Beer experts and best selling authors Roger Protz, Tim Webb and Jeff Evans will lead a variety of tastings for the Great British Beer Experience.

“Good food and good beer go perfectly together, so it makes sense that they should both be showcased under one roof,” said CAMRA Marketing Manager Georgina Rudman. “More than 130,000 people visit the BBC Good Food Show every year and we are extremely excited to have grasped the opportunity to bring real ale to those consumers who may not have tried it before.”


UK drinkers dial down the alcohol

Reuters reports on a trend toward lower alcohol beers in the U.K.

And they do mean low alcohol – as in 2% alcohol by volume. They are being compared to more commong 4% beers. How strong are those. America’s Budweiser is 5% and when Americans refer to “three-two” beer sold in Utah and Oklahoma they really mean 3.2% by weight, which is 4% by volume.

Analysts say there is a reaction against high-alcohol beers with UK drinkers demanding a “session” beer for drinking more on one night, while the lower-alcohol beers may encourage more “drinking occasions” and attract new drinkers such as women.

“Over the last three years we have seen a bit a pullback from premium beers to more sessionable beers amid a consumer reaction over excessive alcohol,” said one analyst.

The story points out that 50 years ago Britain’s traditional ale-type beers, typically drunk by heavy industry workers, used to be 3% or less.


Budweiser Bucks

Budweiser is basing the majority of its U.K. marketing plans for 2007 around “Budweiser Bucks,” a promotion that will allow consumers to exchange branded “beer tokens” for a range of prizes.

Good luck trying something like that in the United States. As it is “Budweiser Bucks” may prove controversial. News of the program comes just weeks after the Department of Health launched its “Know your limits” campaign, urging young people to drink sensibly.

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Illinois drinkers bid farewell to Bell’s beers

The Chicago Tribune (free registration) details the rather complicated reasons that Bell’s Brewery his quit shipping its immensely popular beers from Michigan to Illinois.

A funeral is under way at bars across Chicago.

The deceased is a lovely shade of brownish orange bubbling to a fizzy head in smooth pint glasses.

The pallbearers are the thirsty souls hoisting their last rounds of Bell’s beer, a stalwart on Chicago’s microbrew menu for more than a decade.

The cause of death is a dispute between Bell’s Brewery Inc. and its distributor.

Long and complicated and more about franchise law than you may want to know. It also examines just how loyal some Bell’s fans are – supporting the brewery even though the decision means they’ll have to drive to a nearby state to pick up the beer.

Or visit Bell’s brewery to get a discount.

Bell, who grew up in Park Forest and maintains a condo in Lake View, came up with an idea last week to show solidarity with his Chicago customers. Anyone presenting a valid Illinois identification at the brewery store gets a 15 percent discount on packaged beer.

“I feel bad,” he said. “If they want to come get it and spread it around, I’ll help ’em out.”

He calls it the bootlegger’s special.


Oregon beer just keeping getting better

Anybody who has been paying attention already knows that Oregon has a beer culture to envy.

The Register-Guard in Eugene (you may need to register – it’s free) reminds us with lengthy piece in the financial section about why craft beer makes for good business.

“More than anywhere else in the country, people drink craft brews in Oregon,” said Jamie Floyd, co-owner of one of the area’s newest breweries, Ninkasi Brewing Company. “I think people in the Northwest really like the fine things in life. They like really good coffee and good food.”


Widmer begins major $22 million expansion

Oregon brewer Widmer Bros. is beginning a $22 million expansion (via The Oregonian).

The company broke ground on a new building that will house fermentation tanks and an additional kegging line. Once the expansion is completed, the brewery will nearly double its annual capacity to 550,000 barrels.

The expansion will allow Widmers make and sell more of its hefeweizen – its distinctly Northwest take on a beer style originated in Germany – which accounted for 82% of its sales last year.

Widmer Bros. plans to emphasize its name more prominently on the label, with “Hefeweizen” a bit smaller, in hopes of training customers to ask for a Widmer rather than a hefeweizen, said co-founder Rob Widmer.


The best 10 beer cities in the world

MSNBC has a list of the “Top 10 cities for beer lovers,” which was compiled by

The cities are listed in alphabetical order so Amersterdam is first on the list and Sapporo is last (of the 10, still pretty heady terriroty).

Two American cities earned spots – Portland, Oregon, which is no surprise. And Burlington, Vermont, which is a suprise. Burlington is a delightful beer town and Magic Hat deserves the attention it gets in the story, but where is Vermont Pub & Brewery? After all, founder Greg and Nancy Noonan helped get brewpub legalized in Vermont and its impossible to overestimate how many brewer Noonan has influenced.

We’ll quit nitpicking now and leave it to you to answer questions like “If you were to pick one German city which would it be?” or “If you were to pick on Belgian city which would it be?”


Bryan the Brewer heads west

Bryan Pearson, well known in craft brewing circles for his award winning beers at Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, is headed to Colorado.

Pearson is joining Brewing Science Institute (BSI), which sells yeast to craft brewers across the country. He told the Pittsburgh-Post Gazette he’s looking forward to “spending a lot more time in the mountains skiing and hiking and playing with the dogs.”


Wood and Barrel-Aged winners

Rock Bottom Brewery in Chicago won best of show at 4th Annual Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beer in Chicago. The festival attracted 71 different wood and barrel-aged beers. Twenty-eight different breweries, representing 14 states, participated.

Rock Bottom’s Clare’s Thirsty Ale won the experimental category, then BOS. The brewery has won Best of Show at two of the four festivals.

All the results.


Shouldn’t Dikta be a beer brand?

This is just plain wrong.

Lyke 2 Drink reports that Mike Ditkta has his own wine and that Mike Ditka Kick Ass Red and will retail at between $40-$50 per bottle.

Ditka has become a brand outside of football. His name is on a successful Chicago steakhouse and on frozen pork chops, barbecue and steak sauces, and cheese spread. He also has a brand of cigars set to debut.

All that’s fine, but his own wine? Shouldn’t it be beer?


Study Break IPA

In the breweryColorado State University students got their hands pleasantly dirty when their Brewing Science and Technology class visited Odell Brewing in Fort Collins. The students worked closely with brewery founder Doug Odell to brew Study Break IPA on the brewery’s five-barrel pilot system.

“This was so much more than a field trip tour of the Odell brewery,” said professor Jack Avens. “The students definitely enjoyed actually brewing their own ale. Doug Odell has participated in my food science courses on multiple occasions, and has always projected a professional image of the brewing industry and enhanced our teaching program in Food Science at CSU. This is a unique learning opportunity in the students’ curriculum at CSU.”

“CSU and the local breweries are an important part of our community. It was great to see the students brewing on our five-barrel system. I wish the Food Science and Human Nutrition Department offered the class when I was at CSU,” said Brendan McGivney, head of production at Odell Brewing.

Study Break IPA will be available in the Odell Brewing Tasting Room soon.


More success for smaller guys

The Denver Post profiles Jeff Coleman and Distinguished Brands, the importing company her runs.

The story reminds us of the role the big players play in the beer buisness. The three largest brewers in American bre 81% of the beer sold here. The top five importers accounted for almost 80% of the more than 25 million barrels of imported beer sold in 2005.

DBI is definitely one of the little guys (seeling comparable to 47,000 barrels), but like American craft brewers its brands see sales surging: Fuller’s is up nearly 21% in the past year, O’Hara’s is up 53%, and Czechvar is up 36%.

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Put down the mussels and pass the Duvel

Philadelphia’s Don Russell (author of the Joe Sixpack column) has the second in his series about the relationship of good beer and good food.

Today he collects suggestions from chefs and beer writers, including descriptions that will make you hungry and thirsty. For instance, chef Sanford D’Amato of Coquette Café in Milwaukee pairs St. Amaud French Country Ale with smoked, oven-dried tomato and chevre tart with fresh thyme.

“This beer has a rich, deep red, ripe fruitiness with anise licorice hints that is quite delicious, but a bit heavy and cloying with some foods. With the tart, the smoked tomatoes swallowed up a good part of the sweetness of the beer, standing right up to it, and the combination of the slightly bitter smokiness of the tomatoes and the goat cheese’s acidity brought out a mid-range of delicious flavors in the beer that were barely detectable before. The beer tasted much spicier and the tart’s flavors were brought together. For my taste, each made the other better.”

As the authors of “What to Drink with What You Eat” write: “One plus one equals three.”