UK to boost tax on beer

UK Chancellor Gordon Brown’s new budget includes index-linked increases to duty on beer, cider and wine.

Britain’s brewers, pub owners and beer drinkers quickly mounted protests.

“This is a slap in the face for one of Britain’s world beating businesses,” said Mark Hastings, British Beer and Pub Association director of communications. “Gordon Brown has chosen to turn his back on a brewing sector facing intense pressure from rapid cost inflation and the forthcoming smoking ban. Once again, the Chancellor has battered beer and favored stronger alcoholic drinks like spirits.”

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) slammed the increase as “false economy.”

CAMRA Chief Executive Mike Benner said: “This is a false economy for the Government as we may now see an exodus from pubs after beer prices rise.

“This is bad news for the millions of people who enjoy British pubs but will now face a higher cost to visit them. Therefore trips to the pub will become less frequent and the revenue the Government makes from VAT will suffer.”

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A-B wins a round in Bud battle

Another round in the centurylong dispute between Anheuser-Busch Cos. and Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar is settled, with the win going this time to the American beer-maker.

Anheuser-Busch said Wednesday an Italian appeals court ruled in its favor, ordering cancellation of three registered trademarks held by Budejovicky Budvar, including two for Budweiser Budbrau and one for Budweiser Budvar.

The whole story.


Texas won’t run out of Shiner

Were Texas beer drinkers ever worried that an announcement the Spoetzl Brewery would begin selling beer in Chicago meant there might be a shortage in their home state?

“I can assure you that we will always make sure that Victoria and the state of Texas will have plenty of beer,” marketing director Charlie Paulette said at a gathering in Victoria. “We are fully staffed and have plenty of capacity, so there won’t be a shortage of Shiner beer in Texas.”

Paulette did go into surprising details about marketing plans for the Windy City. A few highlights:

– He said the natural reaction of distributors in the past has been to place Shiner in country-western bars and steakhouses with a “Texas” name. “And then they think they’ve done the job,” he said. “Actually, the places that originally made Shiner popular were those real, authentic music clubs, like in Austin, and the neat, eclectic places around the state. University of Texas grads really helped us establish the brand originally.”

– He said Paulette said the company would be concentrating on its lead product, Shiner Bock. The consumers are people who have experience with the beer – graduates of the University of Texas, North Texas State, Texas A&M and Texas Tech who live in the Chicago area. He said contact would be made through offers of beer donations to alumni group functions and e-mail “blasts” to members of those groups.

– Chicago was selected quite a while ago, Paulette said, and will be the only market expansion for Shiner beer this year. “We tried to move into Atlanta in 1995 and into San Francisco about six years ago and weren’t very successful,” he said. “You would now be hard pressed to find Shiner Bock in either of those cities. But Chicago is the third largest market in the country and the third largest market for craft beers, so it can be a place where we are successful. And we’re always getting asked by people from that area when they were going to start getting Shiner beer.”


Boulevard goes Lunar

Lunar AleBoulevard Brewing Company has announced the release of its first new year-round beer in more than a decade – Lunar Ale. An unfiltered brown ale, Lunar is brewed with two-row malted barley and a small amount of dark roasted German malt, giving the beer its characteristic color.

The recipe also includes substantial quantities of Midwestern wheat, producing a distinctive natural haze. Fermentation employs a special strain of Belgian yeast, which imparts subtle aromatic notes.

“Never has there been a better time in our history to introduce a new year ‘round beer, especially one that we believe will have such widespread consumer appeal,” said Bob Sullivan, Boulevard’s vice president and chief marketing officer. “Lunar is truly in a class by itself, stylistically speaking. It’s as approachable as our popular Unfiltered Wheat Beer, but offers its own unique harmony of flavors, with an alluring cloudy brown color. We think it’s out of this world, and we hope consumers agree.”

Boulevard recently completed a major expansion and now may use its former brewhouse to produce specialty beers. One reason Boulevard drinkers haven’t seen a new year-round beer in 10 years is the brewery has struggled to keep up with demand. The Kansas City Star (free registration) reports a new Smokestack Series should start shipping in summer.

Boulevard brought test batches of some of these beers to the Great American Beer Festival last October. A beer to be called Saison-Brett, which as the names implies is brewed in the saison style with Brettanomyces (a wild yeast) added during secondary fermentation, was particularly well received.


St. Peter’s plans new brewery

A UK brewing company that recently considered selling the business instead plans to build a new £3 million brewery. Construction may not start for two years.

St Peter’s Brewery at South Elmham, near Bungay, has reached full capacity on its 13th century rural site as the firm’s beers are sold across 22 countries.

“We’re delighted that St Peter’s beers are proving so phenomenally popular, not just across the UK but worldwide,” said managing director Colin Cordy. “Our big challenge though is to keep meeting that demand and the next natural step is to build a completely new brewery. The construction process would take up to a year and our aim is to start production at the new site about two-and-a-half to three years from now.”

St Peter’s was put up for sale with a £20 million price tag in summer 2005 but taken off the market a few months later when directors decided to continue running the business independently.

Founded in 1996 by John Murphy, the award-winning company is based in St Peter’s Hall, a half-moated manor house surrounded by converted outbuildings.


Banned in Utah

You have to think there is a homebrewer or beer lover in Utah who is cringing to see the attention a vanity license plate with “merlot” on it received this weekend.

Glenn Eurick’s 1996 Mercedes has had the license plate reading “merlot” for 10 years. He says the plate never got a lot of notice until the Utah Tax Commission told him last week that he had to remove it because the state doesn’t allow words of intoxicant to be used on vanity plates.

Eurick was fine until an anonymous caller told the state that merlot was an alcoholic beverage.

Will somebody driving around with plates that read zymurgy or porter be next?


CAMRA begins beer club

You’ve got to live in the UK to enjoy this, but . . .

The Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) is launching a new Beer Club that delivers a 20-bottle case of beer each quarter.

The explanation why is here.

Here’s the place to sign up. As an incentive to join, the first shipment will include a “Taste of America Four Pack.” The four beers pictured are Goose Island IPA, Anchor steam, Brooklyn Lager and Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.


Heineken targets airport bars

A new bar at Hong Kong’s international airport serves up as much Heineken branding as it does beer. Bar stools reflecting green neon match the Heineken-logo T-shirts for sale. TV screens show Heineken ads and sports events sponsored by the company. While the bar sells other beers as well as wine and spirits, only Heineken-owned brands are available on tap.

The Wall Street Journal (subscription) reports that Heineken plans a series of bars like these around the world.

This is a little different, but not entirely different, than breweries liscensing their name for use in U.S. aiports. This has been common for years, whether it is a Samuel Adams Brewhouse, Anheuser-Busch or a locral brewery. In St. Louis you can find a Schlafly pub, for instance. The Minneapolis-St. Paul airport has both a Rock Bottom Brewery Restaurant and a Leinie Lodge.

But Heineken seems to have high expectations for its own efforts. “If you enter the Heineken Bar, you enter the world of Heineken,” said one manager.

BTW, best fact hidden deep in the story: Beer is the second most consumed beverage after coffee.


Toasting the tastemakers has put together a list of “Tastemakers” for wine, beer and spirits.

The list includes four beer guys: New Glarus Brewing co-founder/brewer Dan Carey, Boston Beer (Samuel Adams) founder Jim Koch, Garrett Oliver of Brooklyn Brewery (and plenty of beer writing) and Michael Jackson, the world’s leading beer writer. OK, he writes a little about whiskey, too, but we’re claiming him.

So, with apologies to Here’s to Beer, which one would you most like to have a beer with?


From the beer business wires

– A strong fourth quarter wraps up an excellent year for Boston Beer, producer of Samuel Adams beer.

Bud.TV got off to a slow start. Part of the problem is the registration process. “The first week after Super Bowl, the site got an average of 20,000 visits a day, but only about 800 to 1,000 a day were registering–we think because of the registration process,” reported A-B vice president Tony Ponturo.

– Miller Brewing is giving a national push to Miller High Life’s “Take Back the High Life” campaign. The company reports “Midwestern customers are swapping trendiness for value, so the brewer is taking its promotion of the lower-priced beer nationwide.” Kinda like this headline: Miller: Midwesterners Appreciate Lower-Priced Beer.


Getting ready for the green

So Saturday will you be a) watching your NCAA bracket picks go down in flames? b) drinking green beer in a bar decorated with shamrocks? c) doing something more enjoyable?

A rhetorical question and excuse to give you these St. Patrick’s Day links:

Taste for Guinness wanes in changing Ireland

Recipes for St. Patrick’s Day

Erin go blah.

Irish pubs: Stouts and craic (plus a list).


Oregon beer production up 16.5%

Oregon brewers made 16.5% more beer in 2006 than 2005. That’s all craft beer because since the Blitz-Weinhard Brewery closed in 1999 the only breweries in Oregon are craft producers.

Total beer production for the state was approximately 796,000 barrels, according to figures released today by the Oregon Brewers Guild. That is an increase of more than 113,000 barrels, up from 683,000 barrels in 2005.

From the press release from the Oregon Brewers Guild:

Portland, Oregon has 28 microbreweries within its city limits which is more than any other city in the world. The Guild anticipates four more breweries opening within the city limits in 2007, bringing the total to 32.

The Portland metro area is the largest craft brewing market in the United States (U.S.). It is the only area to sell more than 1,000,000 cases of micro brewed beer according to Information Resources Inc. Seattle and San Francisco are the second and third largest markets respectively.

“Portland has more breweries than any other city in the world. Portland is the largest craft beer market in the U.S. Oregon is the second largest producer of craft beer in the U.S. and Oregon is the second largest craft beer market in the U.S. No wonder Oregon is known as Beervana and is a destination for craft beer lovers from all over the U.S. and the world” said Brian Butenschoen, Executive Director of the Oregon Brewers Guild.

“Our healthy brewing industry is good for not only beer drinkers, but the state as a whole, because it provides almost 4300 family wage jobs, a lure for tourism and an outlet for local products such as hops, malted barley, yeast and glass” he added.

He also cited the fact that almost 11% of all beer consumed in Oregon is Oregon-brewed craft beer. The national market share for all craft beer is 3.5%, according to the Brewers Association.


Malt Madness

The Washington Post has already begun its beer tie-in to the NCAA basketball tournament, starting with 32 beers in its bracket. Panelists determined the winning beers, but the Post also allows readers vote for which beer they would have picked.

You may recall that we had our own tournament at for four years, calling it Battle of the Beers. We retired the tournament, and the trophy, after Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA won three straight years.

We’re partial to a tournament beginning today in Albuquerque, because it involves drinking and voting. Il Vicino Brewing’s tournament runs almost daily through March 28. Customers at the brewery taproom (the company has three restaurants in New Mexico) receive a sample of two beers, vote for their preference and the winner advances.

Today Il Vicino’s flagship West Mountain IPA meets Stock Ale.


Here’s to Beer: Part II

Anheuser-Busch has revamped the Here’s to Beer website.

Jay Brooks offers a rather complete review.

See what he has to say and check out the site. That’s what we’re doing here at (just found out it is illegal to serve beer to a moose in Fairbanks, Alaksa). Then we’ll have more comment.

One thing Jay doesn’t point out is that A-B has also struck a deal with social network Mingle Now.

“MingleNow came to us when they were still in the developmental stage,” said Tom Shipley, A-B’s director of global industry development. He said the overture came as the brewer was trying to decide, “How are we going to get into social networking in a way that’s not typical banner ad or homepage takeover?”

Another factor in picking MingleNow was the site’s focus on 21- to 35-year-old nightclub demographic — the same group “Here’s to Beer” is targeting. Shipley said that helped reduce the brewer’s fear of accusations that it’s targeting minors. The company faced such charges as recently as two weeks ago, when the Attorneys General of 21 states sent a letter to A-B stating the company’s new broadband site was too accessible to underage viewers.

What does this all mean? Beer is changing – Real Beer has been tracking that since 1994 – and the Internet is changing (we’ve been here as long). Anheueser-Busch doesn’t want to be left behind.