More on Santa’s Butt

– The Wall Street Journal wraps up where things stand now in the Santa-on-a-beer-label debate. (Subscripton required)

– The Bangor Daily News gets right to the point with an editorial headlined “Maine’s beer label ban misguided.”

The state’s refusal to allow the label is reminiscent of Attorney General John Ashcroft covering the aluminum “Spirit of Justice” statue at the Department of Justice after he grew tired of being photographed in front of her naked breast during news conferences. He ended up drawing more attention to the statue for covering it, and that is what the bureau has done with its ban — provided more free advertising that any company could imagine.

Maine should not be in the business of censoring art or restricting silly holiday puns. It would do better to call the ruling an error made with the best of intentions and lift the bans before Maine becomes the butt of bad puns about its restrictive view of free expression.

– Most of the controversey surrounds labels on beers imported by The Shelton Brothers. Their blog has plenty on the subject.


Beer alert

Deschutes AbyssDeschutes Brewery continues to experiment with barrel aging, making an imperial stout called The Abyss its latest Reserve Series release (Mirror Mirror, an oak-aged barley wine was the first). The Abyss, 11% abv, is available in wax-dipped 22-ounce bottles and on draft at select establishments.

– Denver-based Flying Dog gives us an early heads up on 2007 releases. These will include will include a new summer seasonal, two Wild Dogs and a new addition to their high gravity series, Double Dog Double Pale Ale. Double Dog, 9.5% abv and 84 IBUs, will be sold in four-packs beginning in April. The first Wild Dog release will be a “whiskey barrel-aged” version of the popular Gonzo Imperial Porter, and is due to hit shelves in the early Spring. The beer has already been brewed and transferred into used whiskey barrels purchased from the neighboring Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey Distiller. Plans are still being put together for the brewery’s other specialty releases to round out 2007.

Oskar Blues in Lyons, Colo., has made Gordon its third year-round release. The 8.5% Imperial IPA was sold in hand-labeled cans last year. “The hand-labeled cans of Gordon we did last year got a bunch of big beer lovers really excited,” saids Oskar Blues founder Dale Katechis. “So we decided to put it in an official can, and work it into production throughout the year in some small fashion.”

Gordon is brewed in tribute to the late Gordon Knight, who founded several Colorado microbreweries. He lost his life in a 2002 plane crash while fighting a fire outside of Lyons, Colorado. “Gordon was a uniquely ambitious and giving man, and a hero to many of us here in Boulder County,” said Katechis. “He lived a very big life and loved big beer, this beer is our way of honoring him and how he lived.”


Small business mag meets big beers

Fortune Small Business takes a trip to Colorado and writer Christopher S. Stewart writes about “Small breweries, big beer” – giving attention to assertive beers from Great Divide, Oskar Blues and Avery.

He finishes with a sample of Avery’s The Beast (14.9% abv):

“At first there are outward signs of normalcy – the dark color, the unctuous texture and the fizzle when it’s poured into a glass. But when the smell of molasses gets in your nose, and the first thick drop hits the tongue, and you taste the myriad dark fruits and this buzz goes on in your head, it’s just not normal. But I like it. I think.”

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AHA membership up 20%

Celebrating its 28th birthday, the American Homebrewers Association reports membership has grown 20% in 2006.

“Today’s AHA has evolved with the times, recognizing the value of maintaining the tradition and quality of homebrewing in the USA,” said founder Charlie Papazian.

“In 1978 when the AHA was founded it was alive with the thirst for pioneering the original themes of flavor and diversity, says Papazian, “We were the original craft brewers with a passion for telling the world about great beer and how to make it at home.”


Bigger glasses headache for Belgian bars

Bigger glasses mean smaller profits for Belgian bars.

They’re not happy at InBev even though it pays for 3 million Jupiler glasses for the trade.

It began shipping the 25cl (8.45-ounce) glasses after changing the design of its Jupiler Bull logo. The new glasses are 10% bigger, and bars say they can’t raise the average 1.50-euro ($1.99) price without losing sales. Which means they are selling more beer for the same price.

And it only gets worse for the bar owners, because the taxman is also involved. Belgian authorities tax most bars based on the number of 25cl glasses they sell from a 50-liter keg. Taxes are based on the old average of 192 servings per keg, while the new glasses yield 175, says Laurent Wysen, a Liege, Belgium-based lawyer at Misson, which represents the Federation Horeca Wallonie.

It means bar owners are taxed for beers they don’t even sell.


Santa, banned labels, Part XXV

In the week plus since Beer Therapy wrote about the state of New York planning to ban beer labels with Santa, elves and other holiday character on them it seems there is a new related story every day – or sometimes the old story with a different deadline.

Rather than us beating you over the head with developments – the state of Maine getting involved and the labeling issue going beyond images of Santa are both worth paying attention to – here’s a bookmark for you.

Search Google News for Santa + Beer.

(Do that as this post is typed and the first link sends you to “all 266 news stories” so pour yourself a pint before proceeding.)


All Arrogant, all the time

Dayton, Ohio, pub Boston’s Bistro and Pub has won the title of “Most Arrogant Bar in America” by selling sold more Stone Arrogant Bastard Ale from Nov. 3-9 than 46 other national competitors during a brewery-sponsored challenge.

Boston’s has 12 beer taps and two beer engines for cask-conditioned ales. However, choices were few during Stone’s “Most Arrogant Bar in America” Challenge. “We took every single tap off and all we had was Arrogant Bastard,” said head bartender Mark Zimmerman.

Pints of Arrogant Bastard Ale sold for $2 each and 64-ounce growlers for $7. The bar went through 18 kegs. views this competition with particular affection since it grew out of our Challenge Cup, an event we sponsored during American Beer Month each July (ABM sine became American Beer Week and moved to May).


Belgian brewery wins ‘brut’ battle

BreweryA small Belgian brewery won an important victory in its battle to maintain the right to describe its beer in champagne-like terms. De Landtsheer Emmanuel has been selling a beer produced with champagne-making methods under the name “Malheur Brut Reserve,” describing it as the world’s first “Brut” beer and the Veuve-Clicquot of the beer world.

French champagne producer Veuve-Clicquot Ponsardin then took action against De Landtsheer Emmanuel for infringement of trademarks and breach of rules on consumer information and comparative advertising.

Even after De Landtsheer Emmanuel stopped making references to Veuve-Clicquot, the champagne maker wanted to halt Emmanuel’s references to “method traditional,” “brut” and “reserve” in its marketing because they were words associated with champagne. But Advocate-General Paolo Mengozzi said because there are many makers of champagne the marketing did not violate the law.

“Such a reference cannot constitute an implicit identification of a competitor or the products offered by a competitor,” the advocate-general said in a statement.

Landtsheer Emmanuel now uses the champagne method in bottling three of its beers, and a second brewery headquartered in the small town of Buggenhout – Brouwerij Bosteels – produces a “brut” beer. This one, called DeuS, has received considerable attention because of its high price.


Beer alert

New beers – first time releases – to be looking for:

– The “Otter Creek World Tour” Brew Series continues with a stop in Finland- and then Scotland. “Helsinki Gold” is a golden ale is brewed with rye and juniper, and was inspired by the traditional Finnish beer “sahti.” Deliciously refreshing, with subtle undertones of juniper, Helsinki Gold will be available through December. The 6th new beer on the tour, “Otter Kilter,” a Scottish-style Wee Heavy, is set to release early January. The brewery is also handpacking special gift packs of favorite “stops on the tour.” The “Otter’s Selection” package includes four 22-ounce bottles.

Iron Hill beersIron Hill Brewery & Restaurant has introduced Iron Hill Reserve. Each handcrafted beer comes in a cork finished, 750 ml bottle and ranges in price from $18.50 to $22.50. Iron Hill Reserve beers are available for sale exclusively at Iron Hill’s six regional locations. “We’re bottled up what our friends have told us are Iron Hill’s best beers,” says Mark Edelson, Director of Brewing Operations. “They are the perfect holiday gift for any beer lover.” For the first bottling, Iron Hill’s head brewers selected their top 10 beers.

– The St. Louis Brewery has released the first two beers in the Schlafly Reserve Series, both packaged in 750 ml silk-screened bottles with a decorative box. The beers are a 10.6% abv Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout and and Oak-Age Barley Wine (10.2%) , which was aged on new Missouri oak.


BIG Beers

The New York Times (free registration) features “big beers” today, focusing first on the beers of Great Divide in Colorado.

Great Divide founder Brian Dunn explains why American brewers have embraced strong beers with particular vigor.

“I feel like the craft brewing industry is responding to a demand for more and bolder flavors,” he said. “I also think that brewers like to sell the beer that they like to drink. And as people who can and do drink beer all day long, it’s obviously more interesting for us to drink big beers that are long on flavor and complexity.”

The story reminds us that San Diego’s 10th Annual Strong Ale Festival begins Friday.


Friends teach friends to homebrew

The numbers are in from the American Homebrewers Association 8th annual Teach a Friend to Homebrew Day. Homebrewers from 29 states as well as the Yukon Territory in Canada, South Africa, Nigeria, and England, participated at 128 sites.

The AHA began the event – always held the first Saturday in November – as an international effort to introduce people to the homebrewing hobby and establish relationships with local homebrew supply shops and homebrew clubs. Basically, those who already know how to brew help those who don’t brew a batch of beer.

This year the AHA counted 786 participants at the 128 sites with an estimated 260 new homebrewers being introduced to the hobby.


No, that’s not bootlegging

A Toledo Municipal Court judge ruled that the Ohio law that prohibits the state’s consumers from legally purchasing alcohol from retailers outside the state to drink in Ohio is unconstitutional because it interferes with federal interstate commerce law.

There are similar laws on the books in other states, so this might mean you can buy beer in another state and not worry about the laws in states you drive through on the way home.

Ohio law states that all alcohol consumed in the state must be purchased from a state-licensed establishment.

Agents with the Ohio Department of Public Safety’s Toledo enforcement office have used the law to crack down recently on underage drinkers who cross into Michigan to buy kegs of beer.

[Via the Toledo Blade.]


Brewery employees donate beer for troops

Employees at Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto will donate one week’s worth of staff beer rations to soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, and the company has vowed to match those donations.

While alcohol is not readily available in the Muslim country, troops are allowed to have liquor on the base three times during the year, including Christmas. The Toronto brewery gift will include limited edition Steam Whistle pilsner holiday 12-packs wrapped in festive colours and topped with a gift tag.

Toronto Star.]


NY opposes Santa, elves on beer labels

Santa's ButtHere we go again.

Last year Connecticut wanted to ban a label for “Seriously Bad Elf” beer, saying it appealed to children – but then backed off.

Now the New York State Liquor Authority has indicated it will not allow six beers with holiday-themed labels to be sold in the state. An authority representative said that the labels could not be approved for sale because Christmas imagery would “appeal to underage drinkers.”

Shelton Brothers, importers of the beers, have retained attorney George Carpinello to seek a court ruling overturning the decision. Carpinello was the lead attorney for the plaintiff in the case of Bad Frog Brewing Co. v. New York State Liquor Authority, which culminated in 1998 in a decision by the federal Court of Appeals holding, among other things, that the brewery’s First Amendment right to use the label image of its choosing could not be infringed by the SLA on the assumption that the image would appeal to younger people.

Five of the six banned beers are brewed by Peter Scholey of Ridgeway Brewing in the U.K., with label artwork by a Massachusetts artist, Gary Lippincott. The sixth, Rudolph’s Revenge, is brewed at the Cropton Brewery in the U.K.

They are Santa’s Butt Winter Porter, Warm Welcome Nut-Browned Ale, Very Bad Elf Special Reserve Ale, Seriously Bad Elf English Double Ale, Criminally Bad Elf Barley-Wine-Style Ale, Rudolph’s Revenge Winter Ale.

“These labels were always intended to appeal to adults, not kids, and they have in fact been wildly popular with the over-21 crowd that has the money to afford them,” said Daniel Shelton of Shelton Brothers. “They usually run to about five or six bucks a bottle, after all.”