California legalizes ‘free beer’

Beginning Monday, a new California law will allow manufacturers and distributors to give free beer samples to patrons at restaurants and bars, a marketing practice previously banned in the state.

Anheuser-Busch lobbied hard for the new law, but insists that it only plans to conduct small educational tastings about new beers, such as its latest winter sampling.

”It’s an opportunity for us to get consumers to sample some of our new products,” said Andrew Baldonado, Western region vice president of government affairs for Anheuser-Busch. ”The Winter’s Bourbon Cask Ale is a seasonal beer that we’re doing. The best way to introduce those new products to consumers is to be able to have them sample them.”

Brewers, particularly small ones, already offer tastings at their own facilities in much the same way wineries do. Even Anheuser-Busch offers free tastings at its plant in Fairfield. But state law did not allow for beer samples beyond a brewer’s own tasting room.

The new law specifies that a beer tasting at a bar or restaurant cannot exceed eight ounces per person per day and that it must be served in a glass.

Fred Jones of the California Council on Alcohol Problems certainly doesn’t give beer much respect in knocking the law.

”It was jokingly referred to as the ‘free Happy Hour’ bill (in the Capitol), so I think that gives you an image of what could happen,” Jones said. ”What is the reason behind giving someone eight ounces of beer free? One could argue that with wineries, each winery is different and every bottle is different depending on age or season. But we’re talking about beer here.”

And this guy lives in California? Apparently with blinders on.


Karl Strauss dies

Karl Strauss, consultant to scores of craft breweries and founder of San Diego;s first microbrewery himself, has died. He was 94.

Strauss was born in a small brewery in Minden, Germany, where his father was the president. He lived in the family quarters at the brewery while he was growing up, the went to study in Bavaria, where he earned his degree in the science of malting and brewing from the Technical University Munich at Weihenstephan.

The Strauss Brewing website offers a photo montage and “The Truth About Karl Strauss.”


What would Rocky drink?

The latest movie in the Rocky series, “Rocky Balboa,” raises an interesting question. What would Rocky drink?

Don Russell, Joe Sixpack, is on the case.

A powerful reminder that it wasn’t long ago regional beer brands mattered.

When asked the question, Sylvester Stallone answered “Rolling Rock” – but just because it was a Pennsylvania beer doesn’t mean it was a Philadelphia beer.

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Alaskan Brewing celebrates 20 years

Alaskan Brewing Co-founders and Co-owners Geoff and Marcy Larson and seven of the 10 original volunteers packaged 253 cases of Alaskan Amber to commemorate the first packaging of the flagship brew 20 years ago. “20th YEAR / 1986-2006” is printed on all the bottle labels in the limited-edition cases, and each case offers a free memento to the lucky person who buys it.

“We can’t believe our good fortune that we’re still here after 20 years,” Geoff Larson stated in a company press release. “We had a five-year plan when we started. We couldn’t fathom thinking ahead 20 years, but here we are.”

More from the release:

The Larsons said they came up with the idea of a special anniversary packaging of Alaskan Amber as a way to honor Alaskan Brewing’s 20-year history, their loyal volunteers and dedicated Brew Crew. “The giveaway in the special cases is a way to include our fans in our anniversary celebration,” Larson said.

The commemorative packaging run ran far smoother than the original one, according to Marcy Larson. “That first run took 12 people packaging by hand for 12 hours. Between the 1960s soda bottling machine and our inexperience, half the bottles were unusable,” she said. “Thanks to newer equipment and a well-trained crew, we now have a capacity of 300 bottles a minute.”

The last 10 of the 253 special anniversary cases were packed by hand like they were 20 years ago. “I’m sure glad we didn’t have to pack and stack all of them by hand this time,” said Win Germain. “Packing the entire run by hand would feel really different now than it did when I was 20 years younger.”

The nine members of the original packaging crew who attended the commemorative bottling run were: Win and Maggie Germain, Dayton Canaday, George Reifenstein, Larry Bussone, Marc Scholten, Vickie McMillan and Geoff and Marcy Larson.

When Alaskan Brewing Co. opened in 1986 it was the only operating brewery in Alaska and only the 67th in the nation. “When the brewery started up we all wanted it to be a success,” said Vickie McMillan. “We just never imagined how successful it would become.” Alaskan Brewing Co. is in the Top 10 out of 1,378 craft breweries nationwide, and it is the most award-winning craft brewery in the history of the Great American Beer Festival.

In 1986 George Reifenstein was a homebrewer who loved great beer. He said he volunteered in the early days of Alaskan Brewing, because he wanted to help make the first brewery in Alaska since Prohibition successful. Now the General Manager of Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway, Reifenstein said all of the Alaskan beers are sold at the Tramway and are very popular with guests. “It’s wonderful to see how the brewery has grown,” he said.

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Higher beer prices

Scottish and Newcastle has informed wholesalers in the UK that the cost of beer will go up 3.5% next year.

Chances are we’ll be seeing more of the same from brewers, small and large, everywhere.

A spokesman for Scottish & Newcastle said the entire industry faced cost inflation of between 7% and 9%, pointing to the rising of energy, aluminium, diesel and water.

“We’re trying to make our increases reasonable but have to acknowledge there’s been some huge inflationary costs on our business,” he said.


Here comes the brewery

Brewery delivered

Fifty Fifty Brewing in Truckee, Calif., took another step toward reality last week when equipment was delivered. We offer you the pictures because we we can never get enough of brewery pictures and because we thought we should update you. When we last reported on this brewery it was called Truckee Craft Brewery.

Don’t expect beer before February (and that might be optimistic) but the beer menu is already available.

Brewery delivered

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Brooklyn expands its market

A Reuters interview with Brooklyn Brewery co-founder Steve Hindy reveals that Brooklyn has expanded distribution into new states and headed to more.

Brooklyn – previously focused on the states closest to New York – has moved into Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Alabama, and plans to soon add Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.

In chronicling craft beer growth, the story does offer a cautionary note from Benj Steinman of Beer Marketer’s Insights.

“Some people might be getting ahead of themselves. There are a number of companies that are spending many, many millions of dollars to greatly expand capacity,” Steinman said, questioning whether there is enough demand to justify the added production. He did not include Brooklyn Brewery in that group.


American craft beer bound for China

The Brewers Association Export Development Program in partnership with American Craft Beer Partners announced the first, to their knowledge, mixed container shipment of American craft beers to be shipped mainland China.

An assortment of American craft beers from Rogue Ales Brewery, Brooklyn Brewery and North Coast Brewing Co. is about ready to go.

This shipment is a culmination of a three-year effort consisting of market research into opportunities for US craft beer in China and reverse trade missions to the US by leading Chinese beer distributors. Funds for this work came in large part from the United States Department of Agriculture’s Emerging Markets Program.

The beer will be available in early January at high-end bars and restaurants in Shanghai at a range of 35 RMB ($4.50) to 55 RMB ($7) per bottle. American Craft Beer Partners is working on agreements with on and off-premise accounts to order larger volumes if sales targets for the first shipment are met and distribution goes as planned.


Beer Risotto wins national cooking challenge

National Beer Wholesalers Association’s (NBWA) Cooking with Beer Challenge, the judges named a winner. Linda Rohr, a 53-year-old publicist and project manager from Darien, Connecticut, was won first place in the National Beer Wholesalers Association’s (NBWA) Cooking with Beer Challenge, earning her a trip to Cancun for two for her “Quick and Easy White Beer-Seafood ‘Risotto’ with Fresh Herbs.”

Rohr’s recipe, a quick and easy risotto-like dish made with orzo pasta, scallops and shrimp was praised by judges for its ease of preparation, versatile serving options and outstanding flavor. Unique to the recipe is the addition of a bottle of white beer, which is used to steam the seafood. Taking second place and a cash prize of $1,000 was Emil Topel, 36, a chef from Phenix City, Alabama for his “Lager-Steamed Thai Turkey and Shiitake Dumplings with Pale Ale Sweet and Sour Dipping Sauce.”

Ten finalists from around the country were chosen from hundreds who submitted recipes featuring beer. Beer was the only required ingredient in the recipes, and contestants were allowed to enter any type of dish in the contest.

Quick and Easy Seafood “Risotto” With Fresh Herbs
Serves 6

1    12-ounce bottle White Beer
½ cup   fish stock
12 large   scallops, halved
12 large   shrimp, shelled and deveined
3 TBS   olive oil
1 cup    thinly sliced shallots
4 cloves   garlic, minced
1 (5.4 ounce) pkg   Boursin-style herb and garlic flavored cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup   julienned sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained
3 cups   hot cooked orzo
2 cups   baby arugula
¼ cup   freshly snipped basil, divided
2 TBS   minced cilantro, divided
2 TBS   freshly snipped dill, divided
¼ tsp   freshly ground pepper
1 tsp   smoked sea salt or kosher salt
2 TBS   olive oil
¼ cup   freshly shaved Parmesan cheese for garnish

Place white beer and fish stock in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer. Add seafood and cook just 2-3 minutes or until just opaque. Remove seafood with slotted spoon and set aside. Increase heat; bring liquid to a boil, reducing by half.

Meanwhile, in a large deep skillet, sauté shallots in olive oil until caramelized. Stir in garlic and cook 1 minute more. Stir in cheese, sun dried tomatoes, beer and stock reduction, orzo and seafood. Heat through. Stir in arugula, fresh herbs (reserving 1 tsp of each for garnish). Season with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Divide among six plates. Garnish with more fresh herbs and Parmesan cheese.


The future of beer

Consider this scenario:

”Frat guys, 2021: Dude, it was so weird. My frat brother John had his wacky uncle Russ in town, and he came to our Alpha Alpha October bash. Old dude, in his 40s, but still likes to party. He actually brought an entire keg of beer to the party. Who was going to get through that? I think we all had one or two, but it doesn’t mix well with vodka, so there was a ton left over. You know anybody who still drinks this stuff?”

Futurist Eric Garland offers this in the book ”Future Inc.: How Businesses Can Anticipate and Profit From What’s Next.”

The book isn’t really about beer, but Garland uses beer often to illustrate points. The same method that he uses to forecast the future of beer, he writes, can be applied in all other spheres. The crucial element of that kind of ”futuring,” Garland writes, is thinking of everything within the context of society, technology, economics, ecology and politics.

What he writes about beer – that it continues to lose ground to wine and spirits – is hardly news. However he does see globalization as the hope for the future of American brewers.

”I have heard of Americans visiting Ireland expecting to see everyone drinking pints of Guinness, and instead shocked to see people in dance clubs pounding Budweiser and Bud Lights,” he writes.


Mmmm! Vinegar beer

This little piece of light reading: “The Influence of Expectation, Consumption and Revelation on Preferences for Beer” looks like it will be fun to study when we can track down the December issue of Psychological Sciences.

For now there’s the New York Times summary (free registration). Here’s the nut:

In previous studies, psychologists had found that putting brand labels on containers of beer, soft drinks and other products tended to enhance people’s subjective ratings of quality. But the new experiment demonstrates that this preference involves more than simple brand loyalty. It changes the experience of taste itself.

“It’s a clean demonstration that what we think is going into our mouth actually changes what we taste, down to the level of the taste buds themselves,” said Michael Norton, an assistant professor of business administration in the marketing department of the Harvard Business School.

Leonard Lee, a recent graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, conducted the tests by having participants taste two beers each, one a regular draft of Budweiser or Samuel Adams, and the other the same beer with a few drops of balsamic vinegar added.

When they tasted blind 60% of participants preferred the balsamic “M.I.T. Beer.” Knowing which beer had the vinegar before tasting changed he results. Only about a third of the patrons who were told the identities of the beers beforehand then chose the M.I.T. beer.

Like lambic brewers didn’t already know that.


Try this job: Craft brewer spend the day with Maria Poulinas, head brewer at John Harvard’s Restaurant and Brewery in Framingham, Mass., documenting it in photos.

Poulinas previously worked as a civil designer.

She also feels her work is “much more appreciated here. No one cares about your design for a new office park,” she says. “But the customers are enthusiastic about the beer.”